With AI systems getting smarter every day, one might wonder if they might someday evolve into a sentient Skynet-like system and try to take over the world. We’re not sure how close we are to such a situation, but we do know that if the robot apocalypse were to happen, we would want to stay close to [LordOfAllThings], who would likely be carrying the Black Beast. This scary-sounding machine is in essence a Raspberry Pi-based portable computer built inside an outdoor carrying case, with a wide range of unusual peripherals that make it the digital equivalent of a Swiss army knife. In other words, it’s a cyberdeck built for end times — and whatever comes after.
For example, an array of ESP32-based modules plus an SDR module allow you to intercept and analyze hostile robots’ communications, whether they’re using Bluetooth, WiFi, LoRaWAN, or anything in the 433 or 868 MHz ranges. An FM transmitter comes in handy for reaching out to fellow citizens who are trapped with nothing more than an analog radio receiver, while a suite of environmental sensors (including a Geiger counter) should help determine if Skynet has released any harmful substances to flush out those last few pesky humans. (Ed. note: No marigolds in the promised land and all that.)
If you manage to find a wired Ethernet connection somewhere, a built-in five-port gigabit router lets you set up a local network, obviously with a custom network analyzer to detect any unwanted intrusions. A storage compartment contains every kind of cable you could need, as well as useful gadgets like flashlights and, indeed, an actual Swiss army knife.
Well, that de-escalated quickly! It was less than a week ago that the city of Shenzhen, China was put on lockdown due to a resurgence of COVID-19 in the world’s electronics manufacturing epicenter. This obviously caused no small amount of alarm up and down the electronics supply chain, promising to once again upset manufacturers seeking everything from PCBs to components to complete electronic assemblies. But just a few days later, the Chinese government announced that the Shenzhen lockdown was over. At least partially, that is — factories and public transportation have been reopened in five of the city’s districts, with iPhone maker Foxconn, one of the bigger players in Shenzhen, given the green light to partially reopen. What does this mean for hobbyists’ ability to get cheap PCBs made quickly? That’s hard to say, at least at this point. Please feel free to share your experiences with any supply chain disruptions in the comments below.
Better news from a million miles away, as NASA announced that the James Webb Space Telescope finished the first part of its complex mirror alignment procedure. The process, which uses the complex actuators built into each of the 18 hexagonal mirror segments, slightly moves each mirror to align them all into one virtual optical surface. The result is not only the stunning “selfie” images we’ve been seeing, but also a beautiful picture of the star Webb has been focusing on as a target. The video below explains the process in some detail, along with sharing that the next step is to move the mirrors in and out, or “piston” them, so that the 18 separate wavefronts all align to send light to the instruments in perfect phase. Talk about precision!
Is a bog-standard Raspberry Pi just not tough enough for your application? Do you need to run DOOM on a platform that can take a few g of vibration and still keep working? Sick of your Pi-based weather station breaking own when it gets a little wet or too hot? Then you’ll want to take a look at the DuraCOR Pi, a ruggedized chassis containing a Pi CM4 that’s built for extreme environments. The machine is in a tiny IP67-rated case and built to MIL-STD specs with regard to vibration, temperature, humidity, and EMI conditions. This doesn’t really seem like something aimed at the hobbyist market — it’s marketed by Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, a defense contractor that traces its roots all the way back to a couple of bicycle mechanics from Ohio that learned how to fly. So this Pi is probably more like something you’d spec if you were building a UAV or something like that. Still, it’s cool to know such things are out there.
BrainLubeOnline has a fun collection of X-rays. With the exception of a mouse — the other kind — everything is either electronic or mechanical, which makes for really interesting pictures. Seeing the teeth on a gear or the threads on a screw, and seeing right through the object, shows the mechanical world in a whole new light — literally.
And finally, would you buy a car that prevents you from opening the hood? Most of us probably wouldn’t, but then again, most of us probably wouldn’t buy a Mercedes EQS 580 electric sedan. Sarah from Sarah -n- Tuned on YouTube somehow got a hold of one of these babies, which she aptly describes as a “German spaceship,” and took it for a test drive, including a “full beans” acceleration test. Just after that neck-snapping ride, at about the 7:20 mark in the video below, she asks the car’s built-in assistant to open the hood, a request the car refused by saying, “The hood may only be opened by a specialist workshop.” Sarah managed to get it open anyway, and it’s not a frunk — it’s home to one of the two motors that power the car, along with all kinds of other goodies.
The proliferation of desktop 3D printing and powerful single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi has given rise to an absolute explosion of small bespoke computing devices. Whether or not you think these cobbled together devices are close enough to Gibson’s original vision to call them cyberdecks, it’s a remarkable shift from the norm that brings us closer to the “High Tech, Low Life” philosophy so prevalent in cyberpunk literature and films.
[Jay Doscher] has been on the front lines of this movement for some time now, producing several very popular designs. His latest creation leans hard into the more utilitarian aspects of the cyberpunk ethos, inspired more by the grit of The Expanse than the lusciously upholstered interiors of Star Trek’s Enterprise-D. The culmination of lessons learned over the last several years, the new Kuiper Deck is cheaper and easier to build than his previous designs, thanks at least in part to the fact that you no longer need to go out and get an expensive Pelican case.
Like his previous designs, the Kuiper Deck makes extensive use of 3D printed components. But this time around, [Jay] is using an array of smaller pieces that are bolted together on an acrylic front panel. This not only means the project is compatible with a wider array of machines, such as the Prusa Mini, but it’s also easier to print as larger parts have an annoying tendency to warp. The downside is that you’ll need some way to get the acrylic panel cut to shape, though you can buy one through him if you don’t have any way to get it made locally.
In place of the Pelican case his previous designs used as an enclosure, [Jay] has found a heavy-duty stackable plastic tote available from McMaster Carr for $12 USD. It’s not particularly nice looking, nor is it waterproof. But that’s also sort of the point. If you’re just trying to put together a small computer that you can toss around the shop and not have to worry about breaking, the Pelican case was always a bit overkill.
The electronics bill of materials is similarly sparse, comprising mainly of the Raspberry Pi 4, a cooling fan, and a 10 inch LCD from Pimoroni. Everything gets screwed to the rear of the panel and connected with pre-made cables, making assembly very simple. That said, there’s still plenty of room inside the case for custom hardware should you want to put something custom together such as a mobile software defined radio rig.
Over the last year we’ve seen a wave of portable computer builds that center around the Raspberry Pi taking up residence inside a commercial heavy-duty storage case. It’s not hard to see why; whether you spring for the Pelican case or get a cheaper alternative, these water-tight cases are far stronger than anything you’re going to 3D print or otherwise cobble together in the home shop. Especially if you can avoid popping any holes in the side.
Inspired by these builds but looking to make it even easier and cheaper to roll your own version, [Dmitry] recently took the wraps off of what he calls the Militarish Pi. You don’t need a CNC to cut out any face plates or a 3D printer to create an internal framework for all your components. You could even do it without soldering anything, if you really wanted to. Short of just buying one of these rigs pre-built from somebody, it’s hard to imagine it could get much easier than this.
Most of the effort involves cutting the PVC foam sheet that holds the Raspberry Pi, battery pack, and the driver board for the LCD in the bottom of the $15 USD case [Dmitry] managed to track down on AliExpress. The “carbon fiber” sticker he put on the PVC sheet won’t do much for the structural integrity of the build, but it sure looks nice. Of course if you have access to the appropriate tools, you could certainly cut the plate out of something stouter. As for the display, the nine inch LCD is perfectly sized to press fit into the lid.
Rounding out the build, [Dmitry] found a cheap Android phone case that included a tiny USB keyboard which plugs right into the Pi and he’s looking to add a BlackBerry trackball to the setup down the line. We especially like the large open area that he’s kept around the Raspberry Pi’s ports that allow you to easily hook up to the network or plug in a flash drive. It could also be a nice compartment to keep your RTL-SDR for some mobile radio work.
For those that don’t mind spending name-brand money and have access to a 3D printer, the Raspberry Pi Quick Kit by [Jay Doscher] is another great way to get yourself a rough and tumble Pi without reinventing the wheel.
Less than a decade ago, building a completely custom portable computer was more or less out of the question. Sure you could have cobbled something together with a Gumstix board and the dinky NTSC/PAL screen pulled from a portable DVD player, but it wouldn’t exactly have been a daily driver. But now we have cheap high definition LCD panels, desktop 3D printers, and of course, the Raspberry Pi.
We’ve seen these elements combined into bespoke personal computing devices too many times to count now, but very few of them can compare to the incredible YARH.IO. It’s been designed from the ground up for easy assembly and customization; you don’t have to worry about getting custom PCBs made or tracking down some piece of unobtanium hardware. Everything inside of the 3D printed enclosure is an off-the-shelf module, needing little more than the occasional scrap of protoboard to tie them all together.
One glance at the rugged design of the YARH.IO, and it’s clear this device wasn’t meant to live on a shelf. Whether it’s getting tossed around the workbench or thrown into a bag on the way to a hacker con, the militarized design of this portable is ready for action. Using appropriately strong materials such as PETG and ABS, we have no doubt the enclosure will survive whatever the on-the-go hacker can throw at it.
But what’s arguably the best feature of the YARH.IO also happens to be the least obvious: the modular design of the enclosure allows you to remove the lower keyboard section and use it as a battery powered Linux tablet (albeit a rather chunky one). Whether the keyboard is attached or not, you still have access to the Pi’s expansion header thanks to a clever pass-through.
Like with the Mil-Plastic that [Jay Doscher] released recently, we know these 3D printed kits will never be as strong as the real military gear they’re emulating. But let’s be realistic, none of us keyboard warriors will be taking them into an actual battlefield anytime soon. What’s more important is that their modular construction allows them to be easily modified for whatever the user’s needs might be. With as far as the state-of-the-art in DIY bespoke computing as come in the last decade, we can’t wait to see what the future holds.
While hackers and makers have a tendency to focus on functionality above all else, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some visual flair. A device that works well and looks good will always be more impressive than the bare bones approach, but the extra time and money it usually takes to polish up the visual component of a build means it’s often overlooked. Which is exactly what [Jay Doscher] wanted to address with his Mil-Plastic project.
On the surface, the Mil-Plastic is yet another entry in the rapidly growing and often ill-defined world of cyberdecks: custom computing devices that forgo the standard laptop and desktop dichotomy and instead explore the road not taken by mainstream consumer electronics. To that end, it’s a solid build more than worthy of praise. But more than that, it’s also a lesson on how 3D printing and some clever design can create a truly impressive visual for little more than the cost of a spool of PLA.
The Mil-Plastic, as the name implies, looks like it was pulled from a Humvee or an Abrams tank. While the gorgeous olive green PETG filament that [Jay] has stumbled upon certainly helps, his eye for detail and design chops aren’t to be underestimated. He’s given the case a rugged and armored look that simply screams “Your Tax Dollars At Work”, complete with faux cooling fins running along the back and a generous application of low-profile stainless steel fasteners. We’ve taken a close look at the decadence of military engineering in the past, and the Mil-Plastic could hang with the best of them.
Most importantly, [Jay] has given us all the tools and information we need to recreate the look on our own terms. You don’t have to be in the market for yet another Raspberry Pi gadget to appreciate the Mil-Plastic; the design can serve as the backbone for whatever you happen to be building. The printed case not only looks impressive, but can easily be modified and expanded as needed.
We’ve reduced printed circuit board design to practice so much that we hardly give a thought to the details anymore. It’s so easy to bang out a design, send it to a fab house, and have ten boards in your hands in no time at all. All the design complexities are largely hidden from us, abstracted down to a few checkboxes on the vendor’s website.
There’s no doubt that making professional PCB design tools available to the hobbyist has been a net benefit, but there a downside. Not every PCB design can be boiled down to the “one from column A, one from column B” approach. There are plenty of applications where stock materials and manufacturing techniques just won’t cut it. PCBs designed to operate in space is one such application, and while few of us will ever be lucky enough to have a widget blasted to infinity and beyond, learning what’s behind space-rated PCBs is pretty interesting.