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DIY guide to building a portable computer

By Chris Williams. Published: 30th May 2005, 15:00:19 | Permalink | Printable

Swap 'portable' for 'luggable'

Wes K's laptopBuilding a DIY laptop is probably at the top of the todo list for a number of engineering minded RISC OS users. Up until now, we've seen a few photographs and one or two comments on various attempts at crafting a 'portable' RISC OS machine. Wes Kilford has now gone one step further and thoroughly detailed his laptop adventure.

Whilst we wait for the more ingenious A9home beta-testers to create or hack together a true portable computer, Wes has managed to pack a StrongARM RiscPC and LCD monitor into a rugged 15 x 12 x 4.5 inch (aprox 380 x 305 x 115 mm) flight case, with a keyboard. Unlike Rico's 'portable', Wes' machine isn't battery powered and requires a mains supply.

"Earlier this year, I saw that Drobe had highlighted Rico Naf's excellent homebrew laptop. I was so impressed with his efforts, that I decided to have a go myself. It's now working and complete," says Wes. He's also hoping to bring his work to the next Southampton Acorn user group meeting later this month, once the evening is confirmed.

Wes added: "Hopefully it might help others also thinking about making their own homebrew portables, and maybe even inspire someone to modify the A9home when it's available?"

Links

DIY RISC OS luggable - photos, instructions and more

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Discussion

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Hey That's exciting. Any one else, we should stire up each other. But the LCD problem is still to be solved, who can challenge on that one A shame A9 is around the corner, it makes allmost no sense to go for a Risc600. But if you are on a tight budget, they are getting cheap now. Not to mention what you can learn through such a project.

 is a RISC OS User1234 on 30/5/05 4:47PM
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That's quite an impressive piece of work.

There do exist luggable PCs based on ATX motherboards ("Lunchbox PCs").

If the cases are available, (though I suspect they are very expensive), they should be able to house a risc os ATX system.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 30/5/05 11:22PM
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Thats very cool. Can't wait to see a DIY A9Home laptop mod :)

 is a RISC OS Userhelf on 31/5/05 4:39AM
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Has anyone throught of getting a defunct PC laptop, which still has a servicable battery and decent screen, but hopelessly obsolete (i.e. 2 year old) processor, and investogating if the a board the shape of the A9 could be accomadated in the case after removing the intel rubbish? It might require a lot of bodging, but maybe less than homebrewing the entire thing.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 31/5/05 9:37AM
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I have a defunct laptop or two here at work, but not the technical knowledge.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 31/5/05 9:43AM
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I think the 2 biggest challenges to getting an A9 into a PC laptop would be space and the connections to the screen. 99.9% of laptops now use digital signals to drive the screen rather than analogue VGA. Fitting a Bodgeboard that converts between Anaglogue VGA and the digital TFT signal would be difficult. The A9's graphics chip might have the circuitry to drive the screen directly, but I doubt they would be easily accessed on the board, no nice header socket no doubt...

Then there's the difference in the holes on the back of the laptop for sockets compared to the spacings of the A9 ports (USB, serial, Kbd etc.) To fit that in would either mean cutting out new holes in the back (weakening the hinge to the screen) or having all the ports connected to a single large multiway socket on the side of the case and having a "breakout box" that converts that connector back to the regular ports.

I guess we will only know for sure once the public have their hands on the said A9 :)

 is a RISC OS UserMooJuicey on 31/5/05 11:25AM
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druck: Hopelessly obsolete? Calm down and be sensible, man.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 31/5/05 12:04PM
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I have a defunt (400MHz) laptop - time to bid on ebay :@P

ooo we even have a 200MHz one here :P one to try with and one to do it with.

Any way of getting a laptop keyboard to work as well?

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 31/5/05 1:36PM
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I don't think a laptop keyboard would be too challenging, although I could imagine a lot of variation between different systems, but I suspect it boils down to PS/2 in most cases, which is supported on RiscPC, A9 and Iyonix (although not brought out on the board).

The biggest problem remains the video. In theory, you could rehouse a standalone TFT display in a laptop lid, but the physical fit would be challenging to say the least.

The best route might be to wait for something a little bit more suitable from Ad6.

Amd whilst a RiscPC is clearly suitable in terms of CPU for a portable RISC OS machine, and the effort is certainly novel, I can't say that the luggable form factor particularly appeals, personally.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 31/5/05 2:23PM
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I wonder if we might be obscuring an opportunity by trying to reproduce what already exists. I use an Acer laptop which is very heavy and has a psu almost as big as the A9. I also have a portable dvd player and a broken Ericsson MC218 (Psion 5MX). I wonder if a concept something like a 'dvd player' style computer with some of its gubbins externally, and optionally, positioned is worth kicking about?

 is a RISC OS UserXinoyi on 16/6/05 2:13PM
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