Cyberdeck Brainstorming Hack Chat

Tough times breed tough computers

Wednesday, August 10, 2022 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Join us this Wednesday, August 10 at noon Pacific as we brainstorm cyberdeck construction!

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If there's one thing for sure about Hackaday, it's that we keep a finger on the pulse of the hardware hacking community. Trends come and go, but they rarely slip by us, thanks to the constant supply of tips to hot projects that our loyal readers send in. It's great to get a first look at these projects and see what kind of trends they represent, and to see how the community reacts to them. Some trends fade quickly, some catch on for a bit, and some really catch fire.

One trend that's gotten pretty hot lately is the cyberdeck. Finding ways to squeeze a computer into a compact, field-ready package and make it useable is a challenge right off the bat. Adding the suite of sensors and peripherals that have become de rigueur for cyberdecks adds another level of complexity, and taking the build across the finish line with the proper cyberdeck aesthetic makes these gadgets super-fun to build and (hopefully) to use.

If cyberdecks sound like fun, you're right! And to help us all get onboard the cyberdeck train, we're going to mix things up with this Hack Chat. Rather than putting one person in the hot seat for our usual AMA-style discussion, we thought it would be fun to get everyone into a chat and brainstorm some cyberdeck designs. And to help seed the discussion, we've invited a bunch of hackers whose cyberdeck builds we've featured before:

We're not sure everyone will be able to make it, but we are sure that the more cyberdeck-adjacent people we have in the chat, the better. Whether you're a veteran builder or just starting your first build, you're going to want to stop by this Hack Chat and get in on the discussion. Particularly because we're just kicking off our upcoming Cyberdeck Design Contest, and this'll be a great way to get going!

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 4

    Dan Maloney08/10/2022 at 20:11 0 comments

    bootdsc12:51 PM

    bootdsc12:51 PM

    thesebelik12:51 PM
    the problem that i'm solving with my deck (my car radio sucks) could've been easily solved with an off the shelf android auto head unit for like $250, but i've already spent more than that on parts for my own solution (not to mention the countless hours learning and buidling). building your own is way more interesing, educational, and the final product will be way cooler and way more "me" than anything you could buy

    Glinek12:51 PM
    @Tom Nardi my deck has a one of dis 7,9 inch screens and as much as i like look of it, i found it impractical for me

    Tom Nardi12:51 PM
    Ah, yeah I could see the small screen being an issue long-term

    cyzoonic12:51 PM
    @Glinek my Problem ist the Pi3 is too dam slow

    bootdsc12:51 PM
    impractical is my middle name

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:51 PM
    @Will Sebelik I'll see if I can find a photo of my old ahdroid tablet head-unit...

    Glinek12:52 PM
    and keyboard is not really well made, also it uses 3b+ and for me it is kinda slow. Thats why i am making another based on pi 400

    io Tenino12:52 PM
    See, the problem with cyberdecking in general is that we've kind of already converged on a couple "perfect" form factors for computers

    Glinek12:52 PM
    @cyzoonic that is true

    io Tenino12:53 PM
    the laptop, and the smartphone.

    cyzoonic12:53 PM
    I am waiting to get Pi4, some day, when they are in stock...

    Glinek12:53 PM
    for me decks are more like testing my skills

    H3lixFossil12:53 PM
    agree to a point. phones were better when there was a tactile keyboard

    io Tenino12:53 PM
    Me too

    pcadic12:54 PM
    it is fun to learn anyway.

    thesebelik12:54 PM
    building a deck is a great learning experience

    cyzoonic12:54 PM
    I made a bot last week so I can filter rpilocator for my location and get a notification as soon as available.

    Glinek12:54 PM
    @cyzoonic i was thinking on pi 4 but pi 400 was way cheaper in my country

    H3lixFossil12:54 PM
    @cyzoonic that's a great idea

    thesebelik12:54 PM
    i've learned so much about hardware design from making my deck

    io Tenino12:54 PM
    @H3lixFossil sure. But if you learn to swipe, or learn to use voice-to-text, then having a flat glass keyboard is superior.

    pcadic12:54 PM
    there are RPI alternative we can try. D1 chip is cool .

    bootdsc12:55 PM
    It's been fun meatbag and cyber life forms. Until next time, stay weird.

    io Tenino12:55 PM
    I 100% agree with the learning experience, I've learning so much going from my first deck to the joopyter

    cyzoonic12:55 PM
    @bootdsc see you on the discord

    Inne12:55 PM
    @io Tenino But only for using computer software. What if you go to some highly specific use case. Like setting up some data recording for your sports club for example, then it could be easier to find some quality of live improvements

    io Tenino12:55 PM
    Cya boot!

    Dan Maloney12:55 PM
    Thanks @bootdsc!

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:55 PM
    @Will Sebelik

    io Tenino12:57 PM
    I think that trying to find unique use cases for cyberdecks can be really important, how can we make this a tool that makes our lives better rather than a fancy computerized prop.

    Dusan Petrovic12:57 PM
    Thanks @bootdsc and everyone who participated!

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:57 PM
    The old nexus 7 tablets, you could pull out the battery and hard wire power to the bms board, and then usb audio and stuff.

    io Tenino12:57 PM
    not that there's anything wrong with fancy computerized props

    H3lixFossil12:57 PM
    later you high tech lowlifes. gonna take care of my hounds

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:57 PM

    io Tenino12:57 PM

    thesebelik12:57 PM
    @Dan (a8ksh4) that's sick! what is that port in the back? does it talk to your car's CAN?

    cyzoonic12:57 PM

    Inne12:57 PM
    *also waves*

    nick_meynen12:58 PM
    bye, thanks for the inspirational chat!

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:58 PM
    That was for the clock and emergency flasher you can see on the front. Factory stuff.

    thesebelik12:59 PM
    oh ok, i see. thanks!

    io Tenino12:59 PM
    I've gotta head to work, see you guys, thanks for great chat!

    Dan Maloney...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 3

    Dan Maloney08/10/2022 at 20:09 0 comments

    Inne12:25 PM
    @Hugh Mungis A cyberdeck device that drills he connectors back in :D.

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:25 PM
    @io Tenino You can use a buck boost converter in front of a charger and as long as it supplies enough current, it'll give some flexibility.

    thesebelik12:26 PM
    I am thinking I might need to have some kind of battery backup system for mine. since it's going in my car i can power it off the 12v from the car battery 99% of the time, but i'm pretty sure my car cuts all power to everything but the starter when i turn the car on. For my work I end up turning my car on and off frequently, so i'm wondering how to keep a reliable power supply for those moments? i would like to avoid shutting down every time i turn my car back on.

    bootdsc12:26 PM
    Whats everyones favorite form factor for computing devices? For me its the netbook.

    ajlitt12:26 PM
    @io Tenino USB-C triggers are pretty sweet

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:26 PM

    Inne12:27 PM
    @Hugh Mungis conecerning silicone: Well for instance adding soft robotic components like grippers to mount your divice to something. Or using air pressure as an input method.

    Inne12:27 PM


    Soft Robotic Gripper

    Soft Robotic Gripper : The field of soft robotics (robots made from intrinsically soft materials such as silicons and rubbers) has been growing rapidly in recent years. Soft robots can be advantageous in comparison to their hard counterparts because they are flexible, ada...

    Read this on Instructables

    H3lixFossil12:27 PM

    H3lixFossil12:28 PM
    there's u/dungeon_master_dan 's HMD

    cyzoonic12:28 PM
    @Inne Was looking into making silicon buttons for a movie prop i'm working on, but its quite complicated.

    H3lixFossil12:28 PM
    but he has a power bank and the pi AND infrared lamps on it

    H3lixFossil12:28 PM
    i think he had it set up so there would be a HUD as he walked around

    thesebelik12:29 PM
    what does he use it for?

    H3lixFossil12:29 PM
    but there was a significant enough delay that he said he wouldn't go running with it

    H3lixFossil12:29 PM
    I don't think he had a use case in mind when he made it (like many of us)

    nick_meynen12:29 PM
    Except from peli cases are there any other (cheaper) brands that are suitable? Which ones are you guys using?

    H3lixFossil12:29 PM
    he just wanted to make some cool cyberpunk shit that gave him a HUD irl

    thesebelik12:30 PM
    that's a very valid reason!

    DeltaWhy12:30 PM
    harbor freight sells some similar cases

    H3lixFossil12:30 PM
    @nick_meynen literal pizza boxes

    jk. depends on what you want to do with it

    thesebelik12:30 PM
    harbor freight <3

    Inne12:30 PM
    @cyzoonic are the keycaps silicone or is the goal for the whole switch mechanism to be silicone based. Either sounds cool what where your challenges??

    io Tenino12:31 PM
    I have a friend that got a used pelican case from the DA's office in my town. Worked pretty well for his deck

    H3lixFossil12:31 PM
    peli cases are awesome for ruggedization, but i think it's rare that an individual will actually abuse a deck enough to necessitate that level of protection

    H3lixFossil12:31 PM
    great for prepper kits though

    io Tenino12:31 PM
    Getting them new is pretty expensive I believe, but reusing something is in the cyberdeck spirit, ya know

    H3lixFossil12:31 PM

    cyzoonic12:31 PM
    @Inne I am not quite sure as I don't know how it was done on the prop. As of right now I have surface mount buttons so the silicone would just push that down

    H3lixFossil12:31 PM
    i got a few on facebook marketplace for super cheap

    cyzoonic12:32 PM
    @Inne My challange is I have no idea where to start. I have never done silicon casting. I also have to find the right silicon (in Europe) and somehow add lettering as well.

    H3lixFossil12:33 PM
    I think there's a lot to be said for finding old laptop shells on the internet and gutting them and replacing the innards with your own ideas

    H3lixFossil12:33 PM
    assuming that waterproofing isn't on your "requirements" list

    Dan (a8ksh4)...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney08/10/2022 at 20:06 0 comments

    H3lixFossil12:08 PM
    i think msg uses his daily? might be mistaken

    back7.co12:08 PM
    @Hugh Mungis I literally made a cube :)

    cyzoonic12:08 PM I am trying to figure out how to get nice lettering on a lasercut peice of aluminum thats powder coated

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:08 PM
    I think a truly functional build for me would need a 10" display and an x86 cpu.

    Dan Maloney12:08 PM

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:08 PM
    The smaller displays are easier to work with though.

    back7.co12:08 PM
    @cyzoonic you'd probably be better off with stickers

    MakeNModify12:08 PM
    @Dan Maloney ... working on something similar but will take forever

    cyzoonic12:09 PM
    @Dan (a8ksh4) I put an 11.6" into my cyberdeck but I am missing a mouse, if you need that :)

    H3lixFossil12:09 PM that's a cube with lattice work and you can actually see some PCB and cables though, which is cool. That definitely still has points in the "form" category

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:09 PM
    I've wanted to do one like that but with style like a sun microsystems pizza box.

    H3lixFossil12:09 PM

    DeltaWhy12:10 PM
    I've seen quite a few cyberdecks built for SDR, any other purpose-built machines? like maybe a groovebox with custom MIDI built in alongside/in place of a keyboard

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:10 PM
    External mouse is okay. :) There's new stuff with trackpads starting to pop up in the custom keyboards this year.

    io Tenino12:10 PM

    H3lixFossil12:10 PM
    didn't we have a user submit an actual cardboard pizza box?

    io Tenino12:10 PM
    @Michael Limiero I feel like most functional cyberdecks get used intermittently based on their functionality. I use the Joopyter for typing out grocery lists

    io Tenino12:10 PM
    which isn't everyday, but it can be useful

    back7.co12:10 PM
    I have some surprises planned but it will take me most of the fall and winter to do. I think there are yet more surprises to be had in deck design

    bootdsc12:10 PM
    yes there was an actual pizza box deck

    H3lixFossil12:10 PM
    @io Tenino gian is that you?

    bootdsc12:10 PM
    i think it was a pizzahut large

    thesebelik12:10 PM
    I imagine I will use the deck i'm building every day. It's going to replace my car radio to play music on my car speakers

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:10 PM
    The little keyer I'm doing is hopefully going to be a dream logger for late night typing and a general purpose calculator.

    Dan Maloney12:11 PM
    @io Tenino - that's the one I forgot! Sorry about that, welcome!

    io Tenino12:11 PM
    @H3lixFossil yes! I use the name io now

    H3lixFossil12:11 PM
    I'm still holding out for someone to make the literal toaster computer to play League of Legends on

    H3lixFossil12:11 PM

    Dan (a8ksh4)12:11 PM
    So not generally useful, but fits a purpose.

    io Tenino12:11 PM
    haha, that's alright, hi!

    DeltaWhy12:11 PM
    I've gone down the mechanical keyboard rabbit hole far enough that I think it would be cool to have a portable built around a nice ergo keyboard. choc switches + a cirque trackpad with like a 40% layout would be neat

    DeltaWhy12:12 PM
    or perhaps a small trackball instead of the touchpad

    MakeNModify12:12 PM
    @Hugh Mungis My brother had his computer in a toaster... and I in a mailbox ... early 2000 xD

    back7.co12:12 PM
    I am on a break from keyboards, we are not currently talking :D

    H3lixFossil12:12 PM
    there was a video a while ago of this japanese "band" that was using CRT monitors and a bunch of other very hacky "instruments" to make music. reminds me of the guitar-shaped deck that someone made

    Inne12:12 PM
    I have seen the occasional cyberdeck pass my feed, but am still a bit unfamiliar with the concept. Is it a portable way (device) to interface with the cyber?? Could the builders describe what the concept is to them, what is something you frequently base your project around (either

    component or concept.)

    H3lixFossil12:12 PM
    music counts as a function right?

    mike in kent12:12 PM

    thesebelik12:13 PM
    it seems like the mechanical keyboard circle and cyberdeck circle overlap quite a bit

    back7.co12:13 PM

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney08/10/2022 at 20:04 0 comments

    Jame511:51 AM
    A cyberdeck already exists for the billions it's called a laptop

    jordanbrandes11:51 AM
    a laptop lacks expression

    cyzoonic11:51 AM
    All my work is open source.

    back7.co11:51 AM
    Some of my work is open source, :D

    jordanbrandes11:52 AM
    having finally built my own cyberdeck I can say there's far more too it. It's a chance to be truly artistic and creative and push the limits of what's available. My cyberdeck can be worn on your head.

    back7.co11:53 AM
    I tend to think of them as part art project, part movie prop, part productivity device, and part expression (as how you share or present it). Different people and different projects have different ratios of those things

    cyzoonic11:54 AM
    It's also a lot about the process of building it. Once done, it's not as exciting IMO.

    jordanbrandes11:54 AM
    lol you're mostly right @cyzoonic

    back7.co11:54 AM
    once you're done, it's time to start thinking about the next one :D

    Dan (a8ksh4)11:54 AM
    It's not easy to capture the utility of the average laptop in a cyberdeck. :)

    Dan Maloney11:54 AM
    I think I'm more attracted to the functionality of cyberdecks. I love the idea of a complete kit of sensors and real-world interfaces (RTL-SDR, etc.) built into the device. Laptops are boring by comparison

    H3lixFossil11:55 AM
    🐸 it is wednesday my dudes

    cyzoonic11:55 AM
    @jordanbrandes of course there is also feature creep :)

    jordanbrandes11:55 AM
    I wanna use them to push the boundaries of the user experience

    back7.co11:55 AM
    Hey Hugh

    back7.co11:55 AM
    I know that avatar

    H3lixFossil11:55 AM
    @cyzoonic we have a saying about feature creep in the cyberdeck discord lol

    H3lixFossil11:55 AM
    heya back7

    H3lixFossil11:55 AM

    cyzoonic11:55 AM
    @Hugh Mungis I havent heard it yet, I guess I need to spend more time in the cyberdeck discord

    Tom Nardi11:56 AM
    The name may change, but the Pokemon is eternal.

    MakeNModify11:56 AM
    hehe exactly

    back7.co11:56 AM
    I think you will find that even amongst the speakers today, we bristle at a single definition of what a cyberdeck is, and have very different approaches

    H3lixFossil11:56 AM
    ```I must not add features.

    feature creep is the project-killer.

    feature creep is the project-death that brings total deck abandonment.

    I will face my original plans.

    I will permit them to pass over me and through me.

    And when it has gone past, I will turn decker's eye to see its path.

    Where the unnecessary features have gone there will be nothing. Only a completed project will remain.```

    jordanbrandes11:57 AM
    how long did it take you guys to build your decks? What gave you inspiration?

    Dan (a8ksh4)11:57 AM
    @Dan Maloney my first deck build was for a packet radio setup. turned out it was more fun making the deck than playing with the radio though.

    Dan (a8ksh4)11:57 AM
    Usually takes a couple months if I don't run into issues I can't work around.

    H3lixFossil11:57 AM
    1st deck probably took me a month between ordering parts and actually cutting plastic/soldering

    H3lixFossil11:58 AM
    but it was mega jank

    MakeNModify11:58 AM
    the first one was a side project over 2 years I think xD

    back7.co11:58 AM
    @jordanbrandes a good timeline of my projects is here:

    bootdsc11:58 AM
    feature creep is the mind killer

    cyzoonic11:58 AM
    @jordanbrandes It took me about a half a year, just lots of trying out things, waiting for parts, ordering PCBs etc. Main inspiration for me was another deck I saw inside a Pelican case.

    Dan (a8ksh4)11:58 AM
    Last change I made to my printer was a .8mm nozzel and high flow end so I could pump out big parts (deck shell) in a few hours instead of overnight.

    H3lixFossil11:58 AM
    sup boot

    jordanbrandes11:58 AM
    @bootdsc i know your work :) you do great stuff

    bootdsc11:58 AM

    back7.co11:58 AM
    My first one is still here, but is a mess of wires inside and took a few months. No 3D printing at all, and was back in 2015

    cyzoonic11:59 AM
    I wasted a lot of time because I didn't plan ahead as I didn't really know what I was going...

    Read more »

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