ApocaPi Now Is A Cyberdeck For What Comes After

The end of the world seems closer now than ever before, even in the 1980s. But you, dear Hackaday reader, will want more than just a bug-out bag full of C-rations and waterproof matches. You will need the technological version of a bug-out bag — a mil-spec-esque cyberdeck, which is exactly what [hammerandhandmi] is in the middle of perfecting.

That’s not some kind of fancy cake pan — it’s a Pelican 1170 case lined with conductive foil tape. You see, [hammerandhandmi] has various reasons not elaborated upon for doing this, including EMP protection. Inside is an 8 GB Raspberry Pi 4B donning a Pi Juice UPS HAT and sipping from a fancy power supply. The main charging source for the old Mac book battery is solar via a large panel that’s external to cyberdeck. A smaller, secondary panel lives inside for backup purposes. There’s also an MPPT charge controller for to support the different battery chemistries. [hammerandhandmi] chose the Pelican 1170 because they need to mount it to the back of an LC2 Alice rucksack frame. The 1170 is wider than the popular 1150, and is in fact almost the exact width of the LC2 frame.

The point of this build is to maintain power for the purpose of preserving knowledge — all that stuff we’ll need to rebuild humanity. There will be much information available up via FOSS offline browser Kiwix, plus an atlas, some military field manuals, a lot of survival info, all of the books Project Gutenberg has to offer, plus a handful of movies and a few game ROMs so [hammerandhandmi] can live out the rest of their days in what is hopefully some kind of solar punk utopia.

Provided there’s enough time to implement it all, [hammerandhandmi] plans to add an SDR with antenna hookup, GPS unit, 12 V port, a couple of SSDs, a powered USB hub, and maybe an RFID reader. But the coolest part is that they ultimately want to connect everything up to a HUD mounted in a ballistic helmet. See? The apocalypse could be awesome. It’s up to us!

We often see cyberdecks with mechanical keyboards, like this cherry Pi number. But the salvaged keeb from a 1989 Compaq laptop might be just as future-proof.

Rugged Cyberdeck Makes The Case For Keeping Things Water-Tight

Many people build cyberdecks just for the heck of it, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. On the other hand, [cyzoonic]’s rugged ‘deck is a bit more purpose-built. In this instance, the purpose is software-defined radio.

Underneath those sweet custom-cut panels lies a Raspberry Pi 3B and a BOM full of parts that can be had on Ali Express. There’s also an ESP32 that takes input from the keypad plus the 5 buttons that control the display, and the two potentiometers. [cyzoonic] can dial in frequencies with the knobs, or by punching in digits on the keypad.

One of the problems with using a Pelican case is this — how do you install any type of panel without compromising the case’s water-tightness? [cyzoonic] mentions in the comments that Pelican makes a bracket that allows for panels and things to be screwed down without breaching the case. But in this case, [cyzoonic] made their own brackets in a similar fashion.

Another problem with Pelican cases (and cyberdecks in general that are built into hinged boxen) is something that doesn’t get enough attention: typing ergonomics. Personally, we take comfortable and ergonomic typing fairly seriously, and would love to see a cyberdeck that speaks to this issue.

In the meantime, we’ll have to take [cyzoonic]’s word that while it’s not terribly comfortable to type with the ‘deck on a tabletop, sitting on the floor hunched over the thing like a true hacker is much better. This is a work in progress (at least the IO project anyway), so we’ll be tuning back in occasionally to see if any more instructions appear.

Speaking of ergonomic cyberdecks, here’s the one that drew the line in the sand for us — [Tinfoil_Haberdashery]’s lovely ErgoDox-based NUC machine.

Alien Inspired Cyberdeck Packs Vintage Atari 800XL

Sticking a Raspberry Pi in a Pelican-style case and calling it a cyberdeck has become something of a meme these days, and while we certainly don’t look down on such projects, we recognize they can get a bit repetitive. But we think this one is unique enough to get a pass. Sure [eizen6] mounted a Pi inside of a rugged waterproof case, but it’s simply serving as a display for the real star of the show: a vintage Atari 800XL computer.

The overall look of the build, from the stenciled Nostromo on the back to the self-destruct warning sticker over the display is a reference to Alien. Partly because both the film and the Atari 800 were released in 1979, but also because [eizen6] says this particular aesthetic is simply the way computers should look. The visual style is also meant to signify that the project embraces the old ways despite the sprinkling of modern technology.

A custom cable lets the 800XL run on USB power.

To that end, retro aficionados will be happy to hear that the Atari appears to be completely unmodified, with [eizen6] going as far as nestling the nearly 40 year old computer in foam rather than permanently mounting it to the case. The various cables for power, video, and data have all been terminated with the appropriate connectors as well, so everything can be easily unplugged should the 8-bit machine need to be returned to more pedestrian use.

In the top half of the case, [eizen6] has mounted the Raspberry Pi 3B+, a seven inch touch screen, a USB hub, and a SIO2SD that allows loading Atari disk images from an SD card. Using a USB capture device, video from the Atari can be shown on the Pi’s display with a simple VLC command. With a USB keyboard plugged into the hub, the Pi can be put to more advanced use should the need arise. It’s also worth noting that, thanks to a custom cable, the Atari is running off of a USB power bank. With a second USB power bank dedicated to running the Pi and its LCD display, this retro cyberdeck is fully mobile.

We’ve seen plenty of modern builds that try and recapture the look and feel of retro computers, but very few that actually integrate the genuine article. While the aesthetic might not be everyone’s cup of tea, we can all appreciate the respect shown for the original hardware in this build.

This Ruggedized Raspberry Pi Was Built To Be Copied

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a wave of impressive rugged mobile computing devices based on the ubiquitous Raspberry Pi. Sometimes they involve repurposing an existing heavy duty enclosure, and in others the Pi takes up residence in a 3D printed case which may or may not be as strong as it appears. In either event, they usually don’t lend themselves to duplication because of the time and expense involved in tracking down or printing all the parts required.

But the Raspberry Pi Quick Kit by [Jay Doscher] may change that. It represents what must surely be the simplest and fastest route to a building a rugged mobile ARM computer for your hacking adventures. Beyond the Pelican 1150 case that serves as the outer enclosure, you only need three printed parts and a handful of fasteners to complete the build. Of course you’ll need a Raspberry Pi and the official touch screen as well, but that’s sort of a given.

Electronics mounted to the 3D printed frame.

All of the electronics mount onto the three piece 3D printed frame, which is then press-fit into the opening of the Pelican case. Since you don’t need to pop any holes through the case itself, the assembled unit remains water and air tight. While [Jay] has recently shown off a very impressive 3D printed Pi enclosure, there’s really no beating a legitimate heavy duty storage case if you’re trying to protect the hardware.

When you want to use the Pi, just open the case and plug your power and accessories into the panel mount connectors under the display. There’s no integrated battery or keyboard on this build, but considering how small it is, that shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

[Jay] is targeting the Pi 4 for the Quick Kit, so that means WiFi and Bluetooth will come standard without the need for any external hardware. It looks like there might just be enough room to include an RTL-SDR receiver inside the case as well, but you’ll need to do a little redesigning of the 3D printed parts. If you do modify this design to pack in a few new tricks, we’d love to hear about it.

The Quick Kit is a greatly simplified version of the Raspberry Pi Recovery Kit that [Jay] unleashed on an unsuspecting world late last year. We’ve seen numerous variations on that original design sprout up since then, so we’re very interested to see what the response will be like to this much cheaper and easier to build version.

A Mobile Terminal For The End Of The World

If civilization goes sideways and you need to survive, what are the bare essentials that should go in your bunker? Food and fresh water, sure. Maybe something to barter with in case things go full on The Postman. That’s all sensible enough, but how’s that stuff going to help you get a LAN party going? If you’re anything like [Jay Doscher], you’ll make sure there’s a ruggedized Raspberry Pi system with a self-contained network¬†with you when the bombs drop.

Or at least, it certainly looks the part. He’s managed to design the entire project so it doesn’t require drilling holes through the Pelican case that serves as the enclosure, meaning it’s about as well sealed up as a piece of electronics can possibly be. The whole system could be fully submerged in water and come out bone dry on the inside, and with no internal moving parts, it should be largely immune to drops and shocks.

But we imagine [Jay] won’t actually need to wait for nuclear winter before he gets some use out of this gorgeous mobile setup. With the Pi’s GPIO broken out to dual military-style panel mount connectors on the front, a real mechanical keyboard, and an integrated five port Ethernet switch, you won’t have any trouble getting legitimate work done with this machine; even if the closest you ever get to a post-apocalyptic hellscape is the garage with the heat off. We especially like the 3D printed front panel with integrated labels, which is a great tip that frankly we don’t see nearly enough of.

This is actually an evolved version of the Raspberry Pi Field Unit (RPFU) that [Jay] built back in 2015. He tells us that he wanted to update the design to demonstrate his personal growth as a hacker and maker over the last few years, and judging by the final product, we think it’s safe to say he’s on the right path.

Pelican Case Becomes Thumping Bluetooth Speaker

Pelican cases are great if you need a rugged enclosure to protect some sensitive gear. They’re also highly moddable, and can make a great base for a Bluetooth speaker build.

Like many modern builds, this is very much a case of wiring together a series of off-the-shelf modules into a larger whole. A Tinyshine Bluetooth audio board is hooked up to a Dayton Audio Class D amplifier. Class D amplifiers are a great choice for any portable audio application for their compact size and good power efficiency. Power is supplied by a hand-built 3-cell 18650 pack, while a standard buck converter and battery protection board are subbed in to make sure the batteries stay happy.

Not wanting to skimp on audio quality, a pair of Dayton Audio full-range drivers are installed, negating the need for a crossover install, or multiple drivers per channel. There’s a third passive driver on the back side as well, though we’re not 100% clear on its purpose. If you’re clued in, let us know in the comments.

It’s a project that serves as a great blueprint for anyone wanting to build their own high-fidelity Bluetooth speaker. The relevant modules are all readily available – it’s just a case of hooking them up to a nice amp and a decent set of speakers. The design is all up to you – whether you go for a pipe, a bag, or something altogether entirely. Happy hacking!

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Raspberry Pi Field Unit (RPFU)

Raspberry Pis are great for tons of projects, but if you want to use them outside, you’re going to need a waterproof enclosure. Not happy with what was available, [Jay Doscher] went all out and created the Raspberry Pi Field Unit — a piece of tech that looks straight out of the Call of Duty franchise.

Wanting it to be extra durable, [Jay] started with a Pelican Case 1300 — the standard in electronics protection. These come with a Pelican panel mount, so he had some plastic laser cut specifically to fit the panel mount, and attach all of his components. Speaking of components, he got only the best — inside is:

  • A Raspberry Pi 2 with a few PIHATs (permanent prototyping shield)
  • A 10.1″ IPS display
  • A high power wireless USB dongle
  • Weather proof USB and LAN connectors
  • An RTC for when it’s off the network
  • A 12V power supply for running off solar panels
  • DC-to-DC adapters to bring it down to 5V
  • A whole bunch of hardware from McMaster-Carr

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