Whether or not you’re into playing video games, you have to admit, that the Steam Deck is a pretty interesting piece of hardware. We’ve seen hackers jump through all sorts of uncomfortable hoops to get Linux running on their mobile devices in the past. The fact that you can pick up a fairly powerful x86 handheld computer right now for a reasonable amount of money is certainly exciting. The Linux steam deck gets even more enticing when you consider the software support it enjoys thanks to its large and vibrant user community. No wonder we’ve started to see them dotting the workbenches during Hackaday Supercon.
If there’s a downside, it’s that the Steam Deck was very clearly designed to be a handheld gaming system, not a portable computer. Sure you can plug in an external monitor and keyboard, but things can quickly become ungainly. This is why a printable dock from [a8ksh4] caught our eye.
It’s officially designed to let you mate the Steam Deck with the Corne keyboard, a split ergonomic design that’s graced these pages a few times in the past. [A8ksh4] has included links for all the hardware you’ll need outside the printed parts, from the hinges and keyboard PCBs, all the way to the keycaps and stainless steel screws. If you’re looking for a turnkey experience, this is it.
Although some of the first Android-powered smartphones had them and Blackberries were famous for them, physical keyboards on portable electronics like that quickly became a thing of the past. Presumably the cost to manufacture is too high and the margins too low regardless of consumer demand. Whatever the reason, if you want a small keyboard for your portable devices you’ll likely need to make one yourself like [Kārlis] did for the Steam Deck.
Unlike a more familiar mechanical keyboard build which prioritizes the feel and sound of the keyboard experience, this one sacrifices nearly every other design consideration in order to be thin enough to fit in the Steam Deck case. The PCB is designed to be flexible using copper tape cut to size with a vinyl cutter with all the traces running to a Raspberry Pi Pico which hosts the firmware and plugs into the Steam Deck’s USB port. The files for the PCB are available in KiCad and can be exported as SVG files for cutting.
In the end, [Kārlis] has a functioning keyboard that’s even a little more robust than was initially expected and which does fit alongside the Deck in its case. On the other hand, [Kārlis] describes the typing experience as “awful” due to its extreme thinness, but either way we applaud the amount of effort that went in to building a keyboard with this form factor. The Steam Deck itself is a platform which lends itself to all kinds of modifications as well, from the control sticks to the operating systems, and Valve will even show you how.
We were fortunate to run into [Sp4m] at DEFCON31 and see his Modular Cyberdeck Creation Kit in person. In fact, he was wearing it around the hallways like a rogue decker in search of fellow runners. Holding the unit feels like a serious tool because of its weight, mainly from the battery. Everything hangs from a single-point sling on a metal handle, probably from the cabinetry aisle, and we could move silently and comfortably. The sling is firearm-rated, which is appropriate since he has a printed Weaver rail on top. It just needs a flashlight/laser combo.
[Sp4m] aims to create printable parts that combine any on-hand materials into a usable cyberdeck. In this iteration, he uses a wired Apple keyboard and trackpad he found in the trash, so we have to assume he works in IT. Most of the trackpad is covered, but enough is accessible to scroll and maneuver the mouse, saving almost six inches. The Steam deck is the current head but is removable so that this hardware collection can work for many USB-C tablets without fuss.
The eye-catching white/orange is no accident and may earn it a top spot in the Icebreaker category of the 2023 Cyberdeck Contest. The judges are currently deliberating, so keep an eye out for an announcement about the winners shortly.
There are some projects that initially don’t seem to make sense, but actually turn out to have valid use cases. ChimeraOS appears to be one of those. The idea is that if you own a gaming PC, but it is not necessarily located where you want to be all the time (like in a gaming den or office for example) then ChimeraOS allows you to play games on it remotely via a local machine. That machine may be a media PC attached to your main TV, or perhaps a mobile device like a steam deck.
With support for AMD GPUs only, there is one issue with deployment — if you’re an Nvidia owner you’re out of luck — the premise is to be able to boot up into a gaming-friendly environment with minimal fuss. Hook up a controller and you’re good to go. Support is also there for a few mobile devices, specifically some Aokzoe, Aya Neo, and OneXPlayer devices as well as some preliminary support for the Asus ROG Ally not to mention the Steam Deck as we touched on earlier. From a software perspective, it obviously supports the Steam platform but also Epic Games, Good Old Games (GOG), and tentatively a mention of console platforms. Sadly the website doesn’t mention much detail on that last bit, but there are some tantalizing hints in the project’s Twitter/X/whatever feed. Reading the release notes, there are mentions of PCSX2 (Playstation 2) Super Game Boy and Atari platforms, so digging into the GitHub repo might be instructive, or you know, actually installing it and trying. This scribe doesn’t own an AMD GPU so that isn’t an option, but do drop us a line in the comments if you’ve tried it and how it works for you.
It’s no secret that the Steam Deck is a powerful computer, especially for its price point. It has to be capable enough to run modern PC games while being comfortable as a handheld, all while having a useful amount of battery life. Thankfully Valve didn’t lock down the device like most smartphone manufacturers, allowing the computer to run whatever operating system and software the true owner of the device wants to run. That means that a whole world of options is open for this novel computer, like using it to set up an 802.11ah Wi-Fi network over some pretty impressive distances.
Of course the Steam Deck is more of a means to an end for this project; the real star of the show is DragonOS, a Debian-based Linux distribution put together by [Aaron] to enable easy access to the tools needed for plenty of software-defined radio projects like this one. Here, he’s using it to set up a long-distance Wi-Fi network on one side of a lake, then testing it by motoring over to the other side of the lake to access the data from the KrakenSDR setup running on the Deck, as well as performing real-time capture of IQ data that was being automatically demodulated and feed internally to whispercpp.
While no one will be streaming 4K video over 802.11ah, it’s more than capable of supporting small amounts of data over relatively large distances, and [Aaron] was easily able to SSH to his access point from over a kilometer away with it. If the lake scenery in the project seems familiar at all, it’s because this project is an extension of another one of his DragonOS projects using a slightly lower frequency to do some impressive direction-finding, also using the Steam Deck as a base of operations.
[Parker] runs the RTAB-Map software package on his Steam Deck, which captures a point cloud and color images while he pans the Kinect around. After that, the Kinect’s job is done and he can convert the data to a mesh textured with the color images. RTAB-Map is typically used in robotic applications, but we’ve seen it power completely self-contained DIY 3D scanners.
While logically straightforward, the process does require some finessing and fiddling to get it up and running. Reliability is a bit iffy thanks to the mess of cables and adapters required to get everything hooked up, but it does work. [Parker] shows off the whole touchy process, but you can skip a little past the five minute mark if you just want to see the scanning in action.
Wonderful things happen when we read the documentation. For instance, we’ve all seen a Raspberry Pi work as an Ethernet adapter over USB, or a ESP32-S2 presenting as a storage device. Well, [parkerlreed] has made his Steam Deck work as a USB printer after reading the Linux kernel docs on the USB gadget configuration, and all it took was some C code and a BIOS setting change.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if our USB tablets exposed a fake printer interface and saved the received documents as PDF?” With a SteamDeck, you can do just that – thanks to the g_printer kernel module. The C code is fairly straightforward, and even lets you configure some aspects of the printer device.
Of course, there’s gotta be a cherry on the cake, and [parkerlreed]’s shell script hides an addition that makes your PDF printing experience all that more realistic! Not to spoil it too much – you should watch the video of the script in action, showcasing both the ease of use and the added realism.
Jokes aside, the usefulness of this script is undeniable, and owners of USB-device-capable portable Linux devices will find this script a must-have. It’s seriously cool when someone dives into documentation and pulls out a clever solution to a “wouldn’t it be cool” idea – fundamentally, it is the same mindset that gave us the venerable RTL-SDR. What’s your favourite ‘dig into docs and figure out a clever feature’ hack?