Back in 2019 we first came across the mutantC, an open source 3D printable Raspberry Pi handheld created by [rahmanshaber] that took more than a little inspiration from Sony’s VAIO ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs) from the early 2000s. It was an impressive first effort, but it clearly had a long way to go before it could really be a practical mobile device.
Well after two years of development and three iterative versions of this Linux powered QWERTY slider, [rahmanshaber] is ready to show off the new and improved mutantC_v4. Outwardly it looks quite similar to the original version, with the notable addition of a tiny thumbstick and a pair of programmable buttons on the right side that can be used for input in addition to the touch screen. But inside it’s a whole other story, with so many changes and improvements that we hardly even know where to start.
Probably the most notable improvement is the addition of an ESP32-S2, specifically a bare ESP-12K module, to the main PCB. Previous versions of the hardware used an Arduino Pro Micro to interface with all the hardware, but the added horsepower of the ESP32 should come in handy with the array of sensors, controls, and NeoPixels that [rahmanshaber] has tasked the chip with. There’s even a buzzer and a coin-style vibration motor in there to provide some feedback to the user. While the board has changed significantly, it still retains compatibility with the Pi Zero, 2, 3, and 4.
Another notable addition is the expansion connector on the bottom of the handheld that has pins for I2C, UART, and 3.3 V. In the video below, [rahmanshaber] mentions that this feature was previously implemented with a standard 2×6 female header block, but is now using a far slimmer female USB-C port. We do wonder if it’s not a bit confusing to have this faux-USB port right next to the real one that’s actually used to charge the system, but with such cramped quarters occasionally you’ve got to make some tough decisions like that.
Last year, we brought you word of the MutantC by [rahmanshaber]. The Raspberry Pi handheld was more than a little inspired by the classic T-Mobile Sidekick, with a sliding display and physical QWERTY keyboard. The design was a little rough around the edges and missing a few key features, but it was clear the project had a lot of potential.
The major improvement over the original is the inclusion of a battery, which makes the device truly mobile. This was something that we mentioned [rahmanshaber] was working on back when he released the first version, as it was easily the most requested feature from the community. We certainly wouldn’t say a miniature handheld computer is completely useless if it has to stay tethered, but there’s no arguing that being able to take it on the go is ideal.
This upgraded version of the design now officially supports the Raspberry Pi 4 as well, which previously [rahmanshaber] was advising against due to overheating concerns. Slotting in the latest-and-greatest edition of every hacker’s favorite Linux single board computer will definitely kick things up a notch, though we imagine the older and less power hungry iterations of the Pi will be plenty for the sort of tasks you’re likely to be doing on a gadget like this.
Over at the EeeUser forums, [PvP_lostnight] is designing a kit to convert your EEEPC to a different form factor. He is modeling the design after the Samsung Q1 UMPC. The kits will eventually be for sale, but as you can see from the pictures, there’s a long way to go. He seems to be taking lots of input from the forum members, so go there and help him make it perfect.
Jkkmobile has just posted their touchscreen hack for an Eee PC 900, and it looks great. Installation of this kit is pretty easy, just fit the panel to the screen, connect the controller to the USB lines, close it up, calibrate it, and you’re done. The controller board is placed on top of the WiFi card. Jkkmobile has informed us of touchscreens for older Eee PCs before, but this is one of the first we’ve seen for a 900+ model. The post lists a few sources for touchscreen kits, but no word on which one they used.
Those of us who have been eagerly waiting to get their mitts on an MSI Wind can see some light at the end of the tunnel, as it is currently under review for domestic sale by the FCC. The Wind is MSI’s answer to Asus’s game-changing ultraportable, the Eee PC, and has slightly better specs. It features an Intel Atom 1.6GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM. It also has built in bluetooth and webcam. Check out a few shots of the Wind’s internal parts at jkkmobile or grab them all from the FCC’s site.
Ubuntu MID edition has been released for handheld Mobile Internet Devices. It’s targeting devices based on Intel’s A100/110 and the new Centrino Atom platforms. Successors to the UMPC, MIDs are usually small formfactor and have a touchscreen, plus a physical keyboard. UMPC portal has a examples of devices that are currently supported by this release, inluding plamtops like the Kohjinsha SH6. This release is only for x86 devices, so don’t expect it to be ported to the ARM based Nokia N800/810. The user interface is based on the Hildon framework and we’re glad people are attempting to think beyond a standard UI. We hope they plan on punching up the use of the color brown in the final though; it just wouldn’t be an Ubuntu release without it.
[ThoughtFix] sent in our first ever UMPC hack. It’s along the lines of laptop mods we’ve seen before, but he deserves credit for opening up the already tightly packed inside of his UMPC, tapping the USB interface on his bluetooth card, adding a hub and an internal usb flash drive to provide readyboost to speed up Vista.