Minimalist Cyberdeck

A Cyberdeck is a mobile computer you will be able to build, modify and repairs yourself. In the Cyberpunk context this portable device will allow you to connect to the cyberspace with a VR headset or brain Interface but also equipped of a keyboard and extra hacking tools to gain access to lower levels. That’s why it usually incorporate special components you will not find in a standard Laptop.

They are great Cyberdeck projects described on cyberdeck.cafe, it’s really a nice source of inspiration. But most projects need special skills and 3D printing. So I wanted to propose a more accessible Minimalist Cyberdeck project built only by assembling existing parts. Modularity will remaind important and it must stay open to personalisation and evolution. Also I liked to keep something small enough to fit in my backpack, or that I can wear with a shoulder strap or harness system.

My actual setup powered by an USB PowerBank, and cheap VR headset (ARCHOS VR Glasses + Android Smart Phone).

The Keyboard :

I choose one of my old HHKB (Happy Hacking KeyBoard) Lite 2, the cheaper version of the famous HHKB Pro (because it didn’t use the Topre Key switches but membranes system). As mine is an old PS2 version with not removable cable, I made some modifications : I dismounted the keyboard case, removed the PS2 cable, incorporated an USB/PS2 converter and a micro USB breakout inside the case accessible from the left side. This way it is easier to connect to the Raspberry Pi in that configuration. But any keyboard of your choice will work.

A little hole on the left side of the keyboard to give access to the micro USB breakout board …
… the micro USB cable connected to the Raspberry Pi.

The computer board :

The Raspberry Pi 4 with its 4GB RAM and quad core CPU is a really capable and popular board. It give you the choice of severals Linux distributions, and the GPIO system allow a large variety of extension HAT to be added.

The Screen :

The Official Raspberry Pi 7” Touch Screen Display (800×480 Pixels). This screen didn’t have highest resolution for this size, but it have good readability. A ribbon cable connect the screen directly to the DSI port present on the Raspberry Pi. Moreover the Touch capability is supported by most of Linux distributions available for the Raspberry Pi.

The SmartiPi Touch 2 case :

I like this smart case because not only it host a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ or 4 board with the Official 7” Raspberry Pi LCD Screen. It come with a feet attached to the case with GoPro compatible hinges, 2 different back door that maintain the Raspberry Pi Board in place (one with a Fan), severals front left panel (Lego or normal mount, with and without emplacement to host a Raspberry Pi camera), and all the cables you need. Also the accessibility to the Raspberry Pi is really good, and the case feel robust and didn’t flex like some others.

Back of the SmartiPi Touch 2, with back door opened to give access to the Pi.

The GoPro Hinges :

I found some extra GoPro compatible hinges extensions that allow to extend the distance between the SmartiPi Touch case and its feet. This way the 2 added pairs of articulations allow to close the case nicely over the top of the keyboard.

In closed positions the extra hinges allow to fit the case over the keyboard.
In open position, ready to use.

Assembling all together :

Just follow SmartiPi Touch 2 instructions to assemble the LCD screen, the Raspberry Pi and the Case together. Then add the extra GoPro hinges between the case and the feet to allow the SmartiPi case to close nicely over your keyboard. When you found the right set of hinges combinaison that fit your configuration then simply use a good quality double-sided tape to assemble the keyboard over the SmartiPi feet.

Under view of the keyboard and the feet.

Stickers :

Give some style and personnality to your cyberdeck by adding some nice stickers 😇

Always look better with some stickers …

Power Source :

To keep thing simple I didn’t incorporated the battery to the system. So you are free to use any kind of external power source that fit the Raspberry Pi 4 needs : the standard USB-C power Supply, or a strong enough USB Power Bank (mine is a 15000mAh with 5V/3A USB-C output).

The Minimalistic Cyberdeck running Kali Linux, battery powered from USB PowerBank.

OS choice :

What you see on the photos is a personalised Kali Linux but I also use other Linux distributions : the official Raspbian, Arch Linux, Manjaro … I have severals set of microSD cards and like to test and experiment. Your choice will depend of your usage and preference. Also I like to customize each distribution at some points : I replace the default window manager with ratpoison (a light weight window manager all controlled with keyboard) with special configuration to match some the key binding I’m also using on tmux. All my config files and special scripts are stored on a private git repository to sync with all my computers. Therefore it made thing easier to manage and deploy everywhere.

Evolution and extensibility :

This minimalistic setup must be seen as a base system and an invitation for more fun. The Raspberry Pi GPIOs will allow you to connect more electronic. The back of the SmartiPi have a VESA mount that can be used to attach more gear. SmartiPi also sell 2 special extra back covers of different size adapted to this case : So it give more space to host your stuff. We can also incorporate a battery system but it will better fit under the keyboard to keep the Cyberdeck stable because of the weight. The actual weight without the battery is a slightly over 1Kg (1164g). The HHKB Lite 2 is relatively light because is mostly made of plastic and use membranes cheap system. A real mechanical keyboard will be more heavy for sure.

With the smallest additional back cover fixed to the VESA mount.

List of all the parts :

Now it’s time to build your own Cyberdeck and have some fun exploring the cyberspace and Hacking the Planet 😉