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Julien Goodwin
Crust, my Raspberry Pi laptop 
28th-Oct-2012 12:07 am
southpark cartoon
(if you like the wallpaper how about the rest of my machines)

This weeks project was building a Raspberry Pi laptop. Inspired by other's early attempts and the new v2 boards that are designed to allow reverse power feed from the USB host ports (saving the need to hack up USB cables), and the cheapness of the Motorola LapDock's on eBay (mine was < $80 at the time, although they've gone up quite a bit recently as it seems other's have had the same idea.


From the back you can see how it's put together, the pi is inside a 3D printed case (Thanks to Jan at work who has a makerbot at his desk, and responded to my my "hey would someone consider helping me with this" with "I've done a test print, come try it!"), and that case is simply attached to the outside screen portion of a Motorola LapDock (the early Atrix version) which I purchased on eBay for less then a hundred dollars shipped.

From there it's a few simple cables and adapters to use it:
  • MicroHDMI female-female adapter & HDMI to microHDMI cable
  • MicroUSB extension cable & USB-A to microUSB female adapter

I purchased these all from eBay as well for a total of about $10


I did remove the dock part of the lapdock to achieve a more solid design, and then used Sugru to make the connectors and cables into one solid unit.

There are a few issues with this:
  • Battery life is fairly low, I suspect swapping out the linear regulator as others have tried would help a fair bit.
  • Closing the lid interrupts power, crashing the pi (and corrupting the root filesystem fairly often), adding a supercap to the pi has solved this for others.
  • Power is controlled by (un)plugging the HDMI connection between the two, this is a pain, and not trivially solvable.
  • Although this is a 512MB pi the firmware needed to use the other half of memory hasn't hit the Raspbian repo's yet, and I would rather keep an updatable Raspbian then get the extra ram.
  • The keyboard, whilst better then the netbooks of old, is still tiny and hard for me to type on.
  • The touchpad is giant, but low sensitivity to movement, but high sensitivity to tapping, this is probably fixable in config.
  • Need to find a good pi-compatible wifi adapter.


Ultimately while this is a nice project to use as a platform to demo the pi, if you actually wanted a decent ARM netbook/laptop I'd just go buy one of the new Chromebook's, which already have docs up on how to run your ARM-capable distro of choice.
28th-Oct-2012 01:07 am (UTC)
Wow.. Do you really need a:

I did contemplate making a laptop from a PI that I have yet to buy. But the power issues you indicated are a bit worrisome. I also wondered how easy it would be to scoop out the contents from one of the current laptops I use..

How did you go with getting the monitor connections working? I imagine the keyboard would have been difficult to?

Return picture of my work space:
Work Mobile .Net development platform, work Mac book, 1001 Greatest Albums book which I look up on youtube to listen to while working. :)
28th-Oct-2012 03:04 am (UTC)
Of course I don't need the SpaceNavigator, but it is a fun toy (makes zooming around in Google Earth so much fun)

For this case it's just HDMI and USB so trivial to adapt, doing anything else (LVDS for the most laptop monitors for example) would probably require far too much effort to be worth it.
28th-Oct-2012 03:09 am (UTC)
Ah right. I guess that makes sense.. I couldn't help noticing that you did this at work during daylight. That's cool.

How has the PI as a platform served you so far?

1st-Nov-2012 08:33 am (UTC)
And.... happy birthday!
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