Home made laptop

Can a home made laptop finally cost less than a commercial one?

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The age of laptops dominated when lions were routinely commuting & needed the same confuser at home & work.  The need peaked when commuting to the city.  Commuting started declining in 2018 & may finally be over for the kinds of things lions have done for the last 20 years.  There may still be a need for a laptop, but nothing as regularly used or as powerful as before.  

Years ago, a pretty competitive laptop was only $400.  Nowadays, nothing below $1000 is anywhere close to what a developer would need.  Tablets are nowhere close to even the cheapest laptop.  What's over $1000 is still manely what lions already had 6 years ago.  Keeping an old laptop from 6 years ago working may be more practical than buying any new one.   It got the lion kingdom wondering if a home made laptop can finally do better.

Reviewing the

modular laptop, it's not much different than the others, very small screen, very bulky, no stated battery life.  There was also the raspberry pi laptop, the OLPC laptop, the netbook laptop.  The problems come from trying to use general purpose components.  Laptops just can't be every high performing unless every piece is purpose built just for 1 laptop.

Lions believe the ideal laptop is a bare screen & keyboard with no confuser.  The confuser would be a separate brick which would fit in a backpack or a pocket.  Maybe the confuser could be a phone.  The different parts would need their own batteries.  Everything would be connected over wireless.

The display

Suspect the most compact display would be a used laptop LCD with an HDMI converter, but there have recently appeared portable 15.5" 1920x1080 monitors for under $150.  This one burns 5V/2A from a USB connector & weighs 1.8lbs

Wireless HDMI

is another $150.  It's gone from something that was being marketed towards consumers 15 years ago to a boutique item for content creators, thus much higher prices.

The keyboard

There are el cheapo bluetooth keyboards, el cheapo bluetooth touch pads, or combos for tablets.  It might be more ergonomical to connect a wired keyboard & track pad to a microcontroller.  ($50) Keyboard/touch pad combos are 8.8oz.

The keyboard & monitor would need some kind of structural support.  If they're joined together, they could share a battery.  The structure might be 3D printed or it might be wood.  It could also be some kind of wearable.

The confuser

This continues to be the most expensive part if a development machine is desired.  The mac mini has recently attracted some competitors.  They're all made by Beelink with a boxy form factor sized to accomodate a 2.5" hard drive.

While they're expandable to SSD & RAM modules which are bigger than a 6 year old macbook, there's no way to get a bare confuser without pitiful SSD & RAM modules included in the price ($470).  If a 2TB SSD ($200) & 32GB RAM ($200) get added on, it's $870.  It needs 19V 3A.  It might be hackable to 12V.  It weighs 2lbs.

Of course, there's always minimally viable portable confusing based on a raspberry pi with 8GB RAM & 64GB SD card ($100).  A raspberry pi + battery is still big enough to require the confuser to be a separate module from the monitor & keyboard.  This is why raspberry pi laptops are always bulky.

The confuser could itself be modularized into a removable storage unit & confusing unit.  The storage unit would plug into a raspberry pi when on a train & into stationary PC's in the 2 locations.  This would reduce...

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  • Minimal enclosure

    lion mclionhead06/09/2022 at 22:33 0 comments

    The project got shelved again because the lion kingdom discovered yet 1 more laptop in a corner of the room.  It's mane use would be an emergency job interview or a radio test.  Otherwise, it's worth zip, but not until after some more notes.

    Reusing a 10 year old keyboard would require a 26 pin 1mm pitch FPS connector.  A wireless user interface is highly desirable to reduce the cabling.  There is a very klunky keyboard/trackpad for just making it work:

    It's 1 pound.   Maybe it could be hacked into a more desirable trackpad arrangement.  The raspberry pi & battery could go next to this style keyboard, but the compute module is still going to be a giant brick.  A brick battery is far cheaper than anything flat.  

    The enclosure wouldn't bother covering any electronicals except where protection is needed.  Plugging stuff in would entail accessing ports inside the enclosure.

    The Dell Griffith Mark 1 shower curtain rings

    proved an interlocking slider mechanism could work for holding up a folding display.

    The battery would use standard RC charging practices.  It would be taken out to be charged & stored in the freezer most of the time.  A diode would switch between manes & battery.  There would have to be a coulomb counter

    & a buck converter to power the keyboard.  An adapter for micro HDMI is already in the apartment.  All this stuff would just be thrown in a big old case next to the keyboard.  It would be as simple & bodged as possible.  

  • Macbook dead again

    lion mclionhead07/24/2021 at 21:33 0 comments

    After spending 2 years doing nothing but sitting on the floor as a file server, running ADB, minicom, & fastboot, sucking 15W, the lion kingdom's macbook battery puffed again.  It was originally a way to connect the home network to LTE, but this was eventually replaced by wifi on the piano signal processor.  It was never completely discharged.  It only got discharged a few hours for testing radios.  So interest in a home brew laptop returned.

    The lion kingdom has all the bits required for a minimal laptop.  There's now a recycled 1366x768 panel, HDMI converter for the panel, odroid from many years ago, raspberry pi model 4B, 16GB SD card, touchpad, keyboard, random batteries, random buttons.  The touchpad & keyboard just need a microcontroller to translate the HID protocol.  The HDMI converter needs 8V.

    The odroid was so expensive it burned a hole in the lion kingdom's pocket for many years, but it's a loss because of its 2GB of RAM while the pi has 4GB.  In some far fetched idea, it could be a headless server of some kind running along side the raspberry pi.  Raspberry pi 4B's now all run 64 bit linux.  

    The macbook's mane value was its 1TB SSD & it's going to be a loss.  Salvaging it would require converting the macbook interface to USB.  

    This particular conversion would cost more than a non scam 2TB drive.

    Most of the 2TB drives being sold today are scams.

    It's nearly impossible to get 1TB in an SD card.  Any replacement would be USB while the SD card would store the executables.  The raspberry pi can also boot off of USB.

    This leaves an enclosure. The simplest solution is packing the raspberry pi in the keyboard instead of having a separate box.  The screen hinge is the biggest challenge.

    The lion kingdom could migrate to a headless raspberry pi right away.  

  • Wireless HDMI notes

    lion mclionhead05/28/2021 at 02:01 0 comments

    Potato Guy had some news about wireless HDMI.  The mane problem is they have latency.  The latency of a camera viewfinder alone was 65ms.  An $1800 LCD monitor + camera got his latency to 135ms.  The monitor + camera + $650 wireless HDMI was 180ms.  So the high end wireless HDMI was 50ms.  A low end HDMI would be higher, so it wouldn't be very fun to type on.  A cheap monitor probably has the same latency as the $1800 monitor, because it's all in the camera's HDMI driver.

    The best lions can gleam about the cheap HDMI bridges is they've gone up 50% in price like everything else in the last 6 months & their latency depends on range.  At short range, they don't have enough latency for the reviewers to complain.  The cheap ones have to be within a few feet or line of sight, which is good enough for lion applications.

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Ken Yap wrote 05/04/2021 at 01:56 point

I doubt if you'll ever be able to compete with a commercial laptop when the hassle factor is factored in. I'd much rather pay a few hundred more for a properly designed product. Hobby products are fine for home use but for travel/commuting a home brew laptop will be a kludge.

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Zigoto wrote 05/03/2021 at 21:11 point

Please do not use Li-POs for a laptop. Better life span, energy density and safety with Li-Ion. For a cheap and available battery pack 5s*4.15v(=18-20v) use power tool batteries. Makita, Ryobi....... Good luck, Cool project!!!

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