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Reply to topic GDR Forum Index -> Game Developer's Refuge -> Cyberdecks and alternative form factor computers
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PoV
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 12:12 pm    Post subject: Cyberdecks and alternative form factor computers Reply with quote

I stumbled across a reddit called /r/cyberdeck, which is totally ludicrous, heh.



The group itself is pretty dead, but there's still some neat things archived. As I've mentioned I'm a fan of Neuromancer and many cyberpunk games.



Obviously 80's computers like the Commodore 64 and Amiga are a big inspiration on the aesthetic. You might even say by association that computers like the Commodore 64 and Amiga 500 are 'cyberdecks', just without the cyberspace. ;)

There's also a VR connection too, but frankly I'm not sure I care enough about VR right now (I have gear but it's too expensive). I think revisiting the form factor itself is the fun part.

There are still some computer+keyboard hybrids floating around.




IMO a deck needs a screen though. It can plug in to TV sure, but it should be standalone like a laptop.

So why not a laptop?



Here's an interpretation, the lunchbox computer.


Practically speaking though yes, the laptop form factor is superior. I use a Lenovo X230 T as my daily machine, and I'm super happy with it.



It's an older machine, but frankly I don't need anything better.


But hey, if I was to design a computer, I'm thinking "cyberdeck" might be a fun path to consider. :D


Here's another interpretation, like the headline image above, it's a C64 case with a pull-out screen.



I gotta give this guy points (C64!) but frankly I'm not sold on pull-out screens.


Some concepts are a bit more bulky.







Monstrosities basically.


Anyway, as I stare across the room at my Amiga, C64's, VIC20's, I'm thinking to myself "hey it might be cool to design something like that". Who knows if I ever will, but just saying, "cool".
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PoV
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, so I'm going to have some fun thinking about this. ;)


IMO there's 2 ways to go when designing a deck. You either start with a Mechanical Keyboard:



Numeric keypads not required, but good arrow keys are. ;)

If I was to go with a mechanical, I would pick something like this. The keyboard really dictates the rest of the design.


The other alternative is a good laptop keyboard.



I am rather partial to the Lenovo's, i.e. the former IBM. Actually now that I mention it IBM style for keyboards (i.e. both mechanical and laptop) seems to be ideal to me.

I like the X230's keyboard, it's chicklet which is blasphemous to some, but honestly I prefer it now to the old style. This one is especially nice as there isn't any Lenovo, IBM, or ThinkPad branding on it anymore. In later iterations they got rid of the Function Key row too, which is lame. The parts are plentiful and reasonably priced from China. Plus this has trackpoint built in, so it's perfect IMO. ;)

I have a slight ergonomic note though. My actual X230 laptop has a 2-2.5" gap beneath the keyboard. This is extremely comfortable for typing, as my wrist rests right on this (typically the trackpad goes beneath the trackpoint). So one downside of this design is that IMO I might want the gap still. I dunno though. That makes the case larger. :|

The X230 keyboard base is nice because it also takes care of mouse input.


Now I need to acknowledge another style.



This is a Logitech k400. There are a few different designs, but generally the shape is the same. What's notable is the trackpad on the right, and a mouse click button on the top left. IMO this is super nice as a keyboard for the TV (if only the range wasn't shit). I usually hate trackpads, but a thumb trackpad isn't so bad. Moving the cursor with one thumb, clicking with the other.

If the weight of the computer product was light, I could see this as an option. But in practice probably not though.

Anyway, all I'm saying is side-trackpad isn't the worst idea.



Or perhaps even side touch-screen?


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Screens and Guts
*********************

I found a variety of Raspberry Pi LCD screens, ranging quite dramatically in size. 5" and 7" seem to be about the sweet spot for what I'm thinking.



This is a 5" module, 800x480 resolution, but notably it's a touch screen. It also has HDMI in so it's rather multi-purpose.

The main downside is it's TFT, not IPS, meaning viewing angles are junk. Also the connector the back for the Raspberry Pi is an SPI connector, meaning the maximum bandwidth is pretty low, maybe 17 FPS.

They can be had for ~$25 though.


Another interesting option are small USB screens.



This one is only 3", but I like it because it doesn't waste the video out port. That said the framerate is in question. USB 2.0 is pretty quick (might be faster than SPI), but who knows.

https://www.dfrobot.com/product-1062.html


Raspberry Pi's and similar SBC computers are kinda crappy though, as they can really only drive 1 main LCD at full framerate (i.e. via HDMI). An extra screen can be driven via SPI (i.e. on the expansion connector), or any number of tiny monochrome low refresh rate displays via I2C. Also adding USB displays is an option, but it starts to exhaust the USB bus (only a problem if the SBC uses a USB HUB for its added USB ports).


A better option might actually be to sacrifice a laptop. :D

One example is this.



http://www.canadacomputers.com/product_info.php?cPath=710_577_367&item_id=103032

This is a cheap (EOL) laptop with a Celeron CPU (i.e. Intel product codes go Atom, Celeron, Pentium, i3, i5, i7, i9), so it's a machine that sits between the lowest end Atom and an i3. Perfectly fine for a vanity computer.

Notably this sacrificial machine has 2 GB of RAM, HDMI out, both a USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0 port (wow), Intel GPU, and a 32GB eMCC Hard Drive (i.e. SSD). People complain it's not fast enough, but that's what you get when you run Windows (ha). Plus it's a laptop so it already includes a screen. 11.6" here, probably a bit larger than I'd like, but I have some ideas. It also has a battery, which means the hard part about making it truly portable is already solved.

And key: it can drive 2 displays out-of-the-box at full speed (the LCD and something via HDMI).

One downside though, the LCD is probably TFT again.


A Netbook might make a good sacrificial machine too. The only downside is a netbook would typically have an Atom CPU, making it slower overall. I like that the above is a Celeron. A netbook would have a 9" or 10" screen, which I think suits the size I'm thinking better.

I got some weird ideas. ;)
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So apparently this is a thing that exists.



China only, but there is a similar product named the Yoda keyboard. Downsides: arrow keys are Fn'd on WASD, and it costs $300+.

Not within any budget I'd have for a silly project. ;)
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Realistically, if I'm going to build something like this, it should be made from spare parts I have laying around.

So I dug through my crap and here's what I came up with.



Ignore the wire. Obviously this is just a pile of things, but the point was to mockup the shape (to show why it's more interesting than a regular laptop).



Another terrible mockup (drawing on my laptop's screen overhand, lol), but it's something to demonstrate what the other mockup is trying to show off.


The point I'm trying to demonstrate: rather than having a screen slide out of the back (like the red design above), change the case to be a laptop with a super-fat keyboard, and use the additional space for "science".

The "science" corner where all the fun is though. :)

I had a 3" LCD screen and some numbers that I just dropped in there (propped up on a batter charger) just to show you want to put some crazy stuff in the corner. In true cyberdeck fashion you want a heart rate monitor/EEG somewhere. ;)



Practically speaking you could throw some other fun things in the corner too, like an amp-meter, PC usage monitor, etc.

The point: you want some sciency shit going on. Maybe some knobs and connectors. That's what makes it cool. :D


I would definitely want to spend more time deciding what's going in the science corner. Maybe an XLR or MIDI cable socket marked "brain interface" or such. ;)




Anyway, if I was to make a "Cyberdeck" out of junk, that's probably what I'd do. ;)
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh interesting.

So the junk computer I grabbed was an old Acer Aspire One ZG5 (i.e. the original Aspire One Netbook). Did a bit of Googling on the system and discovered that this is the motherboard:



Notably, it comes in 2 parts!

That's super useful, 'cause it means as long as that bridge cable is long enough, the entire set of ports can be mounted any distance away from the main motherboard. Excellent. No need to create my own daughterboard. :D


Actually the other part I forgot: it's often cheaper to buy a working laptop motherboard than it is a whole computer.


This Aspire One netbook of mine might be the perfect little computer to use for such a science experiment like this. I actually have two of them, so if need be I have more parts available to me. They've been sitting in a storage for 7-8 years now. Even if I did break it, it'd be no big deal.

So if I do make this weird-ass monstrosity, I like that nothing valuable is lost.


Though technically I could probably sell that keyboard for $50, it kinda sucks though (it has a USB Hub built in, but it's designed in such a way that keyboard isn't working during BIOS bootup, So no F1 or DELETE key pushing).
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh, more practicality notes.

- keyboard: 15" x 6"
- netbook: 9 3/4" x 6 3/4" (under 10" x 7")

That's notable because my 3D printer only has a 7" by 7" print area (and you typically want to print smaller than that). So that means to print the case, the new chassis for the LCD screen would need to be printed in 2 parts per side, and the keyboard in 3 parts per side, plus the science area.

That's 12 full print-bed sized parts to print the case.

That's not really a problem, other than the amount of time it'll take (2-5 hours each).
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jesus Christ. See what happens when I disappear for a few days?

SCIENCE.

Or lack thereof.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sirocco wrote:
Jesus Christ. See what happens when I disappear for a few days?

SCIENCE.

Or lack thereof.


Your avatar is very fitting right now :D
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