Gadgets
Design
Laptops
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System administration
Comments 56
+7
It looks like a render. I mean, a bad render. For example, you've suggested to mount it on tripod. Is it good idea?

Let's do the math.210/2 = 105mm, Tripod mount is about 30mm (15 mm radius). It's about 7 times difference. If I press with 1kg of force on enter (a bit heavy stroke, but nothing unusual) it would cause 7kg force on one size of pad. How thick bottom part would be? How quickly screw hole loose it's threading?

The next thing is a cover. You have keys right to the side, and then you have a lid trim with supersmall thinkness. With zero tolerance. Fail.

Thickness of the bottom part, according to the placement of the ethernet jack is about… well, less then 1mm. Same for the back if we look at USB on the side.

Sorry, it's a magical render, not a prototype.

0
Of course, this is a render, not a finished prototype.

As for the tripod, a sleeve is provided inside the case into which the thread is cut. Thread depth — 5mm and can be increased.

«Supersmall thickness» = 1 mm. If this is not enough, it's possibe add stiffeners that will fit between the outside keys.

The case thikness is various — from 1mm to 2mm (stiffeners).

In general, I am more interested in functionality. The design of the case is not too important. The case can be slightly increased if necessary.
0
I would buy this just for the built-in tripod mount alone. If I can use this for a on-field monitor during tv production or studio photography that would be so so awesome.

Only thing I would add is glove-compatible touchscreen, and it really will be perfect.
0
C-Fu, tripod doesn't need to be a built-in feature. For any ThinkPad that supports an Ultrabase, it should just be a matter of making a tripod adapter that fits to the four hook points (two docking connector, two front-edge).
0
Don't know, but the OLPC shows that unconventional things can be done with a mic port. On the OLPC, you can read a voltage straight off the jack…
+2
Look at those ports. It is absolutely impossible to place even a small fraction of them into this tiny thing. But I still love it!
0
This is possible. I made a 3D model based on the actual size of the connectors. Processor, memory, Wi-Fi card, 3G modem, SSD, battery cells — all sizes are real. The power supply is an approximate size, with some margin.

Unfortunately, I do not know how much space is needed for other electronics on motherboard except SOC. Therefore, reserved for it the entire bottom of the motherboard. Even if there is not enough space, it's possibly to remove half of the battery, 2-3 audio connectors and a MicroSD reader.

Of course, I do not exclude the possibility that I am wrong :)
0
This looks suspicious to me.

image

Even if dimensions match there, I absolutely do not understand how and where the body is fixed with screws. Though I did not really read the text.
0
The body is one detail. This is a rectangular aluminium box without a lid. Hinges are inserted into it and fastened with screws (its can be seen in the pictures). Then the keyboard is inserted and fastened with screws in the feets and a screw located in deepth of the tripod hole.

How exactly to make the body depends on the amount of manufactured products. In small quantities, it is advantageous to mill out of a solid aluminum plate. If the quantity increases, stamping or casting under pressure becomes more beneficial.

Of course, I'm not a technologist. And I did not develop the whole process of making a laptop. But I hope that I could foresee the most important points.

Thanks for the careful analysis.
0
The hot elements on the bottom of the motherboard dissipate heat through the bottom of the body. They are pressed to the bottom through thermal grease.

Elements at the top of the motherboard dissipate heat, nestling on the bottom of the keyboard through heat-conducting rubber. I hope this will be enough.

If not, one of the four battery cells will be replaced by a fan. The air intakes will be located below or in front, the exit — under the display.
0
This brings two thoughts to my head. Can you really kickstart something like this? And when will we be able to produce real DIY notebooks? 3D print the casing with some opensource design tools, order parts from Aliexpress/Ebay? 2050?
0
I think, to have a concept is not similar to have posibility for an industry organization. TC hope that his idea inspire some person, whoes compitetions and resources will make posible to start production.
+5
Your concept looks fine and dandy at first glance. The recent sway in the industry away from having any meaningful amount of I/O ports provokes a very natural response: brutalist design aesthetics and as many ports as hardware allows. It's easy to go overboard however.

I lack any knowledge in industrial design to criticize your concept in depth. However it does feel overengineered with its numerous I/O ports. One thing stands out: the concept lacks fan vents or, at the very least, to my eye existing exhaust holes feel inadequate for prolonged CPU load. It's true that CPU you suggested peaks at 7 W, but personally I'd be far more comfortable with some heat pipes and a small fan since usage scenarios are not going to be light. In addition to that, typically hardware manufacturers couple i5-7Y57 with a SATA SSD, since this CPU isn't fast enough to take full advantage of NVMe speeds. By the way, NVMe SSDs tend to get hot under continuous data loads.

I do believe that a couple of USB Type-C connectors (USB and HDMI/DisplayPort with a cheap adapter) and a few regular full-size USB ports shall be enough for anything you may expect from a 9-inch device. Add an Ethernet port and an RS-232 serial — and this device is now considered to be a pocket multitool for a sysadmin. Audio output with TRRS connector is an industry standard at this point, 4 audio jacks is an overkill. Having a full-sized SD slot seems excessive, and ability to take microSD cards would resolve any issues with expandable storage. A pocketful of passive (and therefore cheap) adapters would satisfy most connectivity needs.

As for battery, 42 W·h capacity feels unrealistic. I think, something in 20—30 W·h range may fit into this form factor. 2 A at 5 V is not enough to both recharge the battery and work on this thing, the screen takes a few watts, too.

A tiny laptop is easy to lose or steal, so it probably needs some hardware encryption and security features. A TPM 2.0 chip is a must here.

GPD, a Chinese company, previously released a number of gaming-oriented Windows 10 powered tiny 6-inch laptops with x86 CPUs. Later they made something similar, but for productivity: they simply removed joysticks and put a trackpoint instead. There is something similar to your concept upcoming: GPD MicroPC. This thing does have a COM port and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with them in any way, I stumbled upon this campaign preview yesterday.
0
About the fan. Lenovo Yoga and Asus Transformer work without it. Note that Asus Transformer Pro has a processor with a thermal capacity of 7.5-25 Watt. So I think the 3.5-7 Watt processor in my case will also be able to work without a fan. But I still provided the possibility to add a radiator.

This SOC has two SATA ports. One of them is brought outside. The second is connected to connector M.2 type M, where the SSD is inserted. Sorry, I forgot to mention this — SSD can be both SATA or NVMe.

About adapters. I don't like them. The volume of adapters and cables that I have to carry with me, exceed the size of the laptop.

Right now I have two devices on my desk. One is connected to the laptop via the UART adapter, the second is via the RS-485 adapter. Moreover, these adapters occupy USB ports. There are only 4 of them on my laptop. Just connect the keyboard and mouse — and that's it! The free USB ports on my work laptop are out.

It's good that I have a docking station.

By the way, I also use two LAN ports. And for this, I also have an adapter: (

That is why the adminbook has so many USB ports, audio connectors and two SD card readers.
Although, I agree — I overdid it with audio connectors :)

In general, I want to have a universal computer. Not only for system administration.

Accumulator — 4 cells of the size 5.4x55x90mm. 2900mAhх3.7Vх4 = 42Wh

2A at 5V is not enough, but it will reduce the discharge of the battery during operation. Or will give the possibility to charge the battery when the laptop is not working.

GPD Micro PC is an interesting device. But its keyboard is terrible.

Thank you for the detailed comment.
+2
I have never had to much laptop battery capacity. As the design is right now I would leave the power supply in my service van or even at home and rely on the battery and some complemental USB charging from the charger I anyway need for the mobile phones and other tools. If the laptop has to much battery capacity it would still be useful as a replacement for that charger.

As far as I can see has no one asked for GSM/3G/4G/5G wich I find wise since getting it right is a major design effort. Myself I carry multiple smartphones that use different carrier network to be able to almost allways find some internet service at various locations and the I connect the laptop via Wifi.

Having two ethernet connectors in the laptop is realy nice for making it easy to lend a connection at a site while using the laptop as a pass thru switch. For this to allways work it needs to be able to handle 10/100/1000 Mbit/s and not only 100/1000.
0
It's great to see, that good publication lives and evolves, that with migration on other langаuge it's multiply new ideas and additional graphic material. Great thanks to TC.
0
I think type-C hub\power\station is actually possible. In both meanings — as possible hardware and as a sellable product.

Without PC parts (processor, battery, memory, antennas, and keyboard) this can fit the size, durability and fanless goals.

You have a phone to add everything missing. Or cheap 8" tablet. Or anything, that already on market. And for holding features — you have endless options to create a case for any personal phone.
0
Yes, you are right. Perhaps they simply did not come up with applications for laptops.

However, on the Kaby Lake SOC scheme I saw an NFC module, connected to the processor via SMBus. And I decided to use it.
0
First reaction undoubtedly
image

Of course, it needs a lot of work, and a lot of features aren't exactly implementable, but it looks great!
+1

Ok, my POV:


  1. fullHD screen — useless for for such size, dimensions aren't exactly what admin would work with.
    ^ switch to lower resolution, prefer 3x2 screen(like surface lineup) over 16:9


  2. too many IO ports. And too little airflow.
    ^ reduce total quantity, avoid wasting space for inputs/outputs handled by type-C kinda dongle


  3. consider ribbon cable/typeC dongles for such inputs
    ^ avoid turning laptop into stationary machine,
    workflow should not be obstructed with HDD case hanging, attached directly to laptop


  4. consider moving cool stuff like COM2 either to front-panel or top(where fingerprint sensor is)
    ^ "use it as 8 outputs for Bit-bang / GPIO." < consider, how inaccessible these are


  5. led indicators duplicate information, provided on device's screen
    ^ prefer either customization options or discuss actually meaningful options
    for example: internet access(rather than network), VPN status, hotkey "depth", router-mode, etc.


  6. HQ cameras on laptop, designed for users and use-env.s clearly affected by NDA
    ^ why? windows-hello for admin-device? Nope, consider removing cameras altogether


0
1. 3x2 is good. But with this format, the display has a wide side frames. It’s better not to waste this place. Resolution can be made less. For the 3D model, I took the size of the real screen. He was FullHD.

3. Of course, the hard disk is connected to the notebook not directly, but by cable. These can be separate SATA data cables and SATA power or combo cable.

4. Good idea! Thanks
0
Would it be plausible to put battery behind screen?
It would make it thicker but don't think adminbook should be aerodynamic in first place

About connector-bloat: One side of the book could have rails to snap additional modules, nintendo switch style. In my quick thinking, it would only take the rails and USB3 contact pads to do this, so non-module users could still have some ports there.
Thoughts?

0
I thought about something similar. But really — who will produce these modules?

And for mounting self-made modules you can use the mounting holes available in the adminbook. There are enough USB ports too.
0
Someone will do them if this concept becomes reality, I'm sure of it- They would sell on tindie.com quite well.
Modules should be quite easy to do, as cheap, custom PCB's are here to stay just like 3d printing.
Only thing that needs some engineering are the rails -for modules that is.
0
IMHO, the idea to create this device as a notebook is very attractive, but not very realistic. Mostly because of projected cost of production.

I think, better chances would have a device that implements all the features that you have invisioned, but without it being a stand-alone notebook. i.e. core functions of a notebook (screen, main cpu and main battery) could be done on an external device — a tablet or a smart phone (or even regular notebook).

Your device would have some low energy CPU (like Raspberry PI) and communicate with the external unit via some kind of remote desktop protocol and implement wifi router capabilities, for connectivity in the field.

It could have a keyboard, additional batteries and some kind of an adjustable mounting grip/plate.

That would allow you significantly decrease a potential price for the device and reuse a device (like smartphone) that a person carries anyway. Also, lifespan for your device will be much longer, because you can replace your phone, while keep the unit and reliability would be higher (less parts to fail).

It could be even used as an advanced KVM or a universal monitoring device, through some kind of cloud service, if not willing to expose it via a public IP.
0
Amazing blog post. Thank you for writing it. I don't have any clue about the HW side of all this but I liked reading this whole thing.
+1
A very interesting, if unrealistic, set of renders. I'm especially interested in the video input feature and the «use as USB keyboard/mouse» mode. However, I agree with amarao, geisha, and atomlib in their concerns that the device looks too packed with ports. If a 16:10 or 3:2 display were used instead of your 16:9 FHD display, with similar width to the 16:9 display, the Adminbook could be made a little longer and have slightly more room to spread out the ports. This would also provide space for a seventh row on the keyboard, like on your X200, with the PgUp/PgDn/Home/End and Menu keys returning to their normal positions.
0
About «normal position for PgUp/PgDn/Home/End».

Look how they are located on the desktop keyboard: right above the arrows. This is reasonable, because all movement control is concentrated in one place. To press all these keys don't need to reach somewhere far away. Everything is near.

In my opinion, to place these keys in the seventh row is wrong. Everything should be in one place.

I have two ThinkPad, with both the classic and the new keyboard. I like work on the old keyboard, because it's really cool. But I noticed that to press PgUp/PgDn I need to look at the keyboard. Because it's need to take your hand away from the table, move it far away and exactly press the right key. And on the new keyboard, these buttons are located directly above the arrows. And I don't need to look at the keyboard — I press them without looking.

However, the Home/End buttons on the new keyboard are worse than the old ones. They are located approximately in the same place, but don't differ from other keys in the same row.
0
Your adminbook can be easily replaced with a modern day dongle. The face of the laptop is not attractive at all and the color scheme is confusing. The keyboard is convoluted and eye-singeing.

Also, this laptop would be insanely niche. No admin would «need» this laptop, although it seems you have designed a laptop you yourself would like.
0
I think this is a great idea! This would help me in so many situations when i would need to find an extra keyboard or monitor. If this is ever made it will be something I will be sure to get.
+1
Brilliant! I would buy one today if it were available.

The comments from the naysayers are amusing. They don't seem to realize that many of the additional features you're suggesting already exist in $3 Arduino clones, $1 shields, and adapters that fit inside of USB connectors. All of these features are both cheap and tiny; they just aren't currently put in laptops. This design looks entirely doable to me, and I wouldn't expect it to cost much more than a typical notebook.

One additional suggestion: Add a permanent ROM-based OS that can optionally be booted from via a BIOS option. Perhaps a stripped-down secure version of Linux like Tails. And one that runs entirely from RAM once it is booted, like Puppy Linux. (Puppy Tails?) The OS must be true-ROM-based, so it can't be flashed, corrupted, or overwritten. Yes, it would get out of date in a hurry, but you would have confidence that it hasn't been hacked. It would give you the tools you need to do a lot of diagnostic work even if your main OS is having a problem--especially then. SSD is flaky? No problem, run the ROM OS until you can replace the SSD. Main OS has zonked itself? Boot into the ROM OS, fsck the disk, hand-edit some files, replace others, rinse and repeat until the main OS is happy again.

Thanks for the great idea and all the work and thought involved in making it almost real! I hope that a manufacturer like Lenovo or Toshiba sees this and runs with it!

+1
I thought about permanent OS. However, I decided that it was unnecessary, because the adminbook already has the ability to boot from any image that is on a dedicated partition with images. Of course, this does not help if the SSD fails. But it is simply impossible to reserve everything.

In my sysadmin practice, only the server cases did not fail. Processors, memory, hard drives, power supplies, motherboards, fans, even SATA cables — everything dies.

Have you ever seen a carton box from CRT monitor, filled to the top with keyboards that had keys wiped through to holes? :)
0
I have two questions about the keyboard:

1) what is the caps lock key for?
2) the key between esc and f1, is it possible to squeeze that in below esc and left of 1 instead? That will throw a lot of things off…
+1
1) Most people use it to turn on the upper case lock. I use this key to switch the keyboard layout.
2) If this key is to the left of 1, the size of the keys in this row will decrease. And this row is used much more often than the function keys and should consist of full-size keys.
0
Good idea. Probably I'll buy it in a case if it has good price ($3k too big price, $2.5k-$1.5k probably I'll buy it, 1k$ — I'll buy it immediately)
Is it possible to implement support of external video card, and pci-passthrough it inside VM (good iommu groups, etc)? And I want to have hardware switcher for integrated monitor — between integrated video and external.

PCIe x4 is routed outside through this connector. Thus, it's possible to connect an external U.2 (directly) or M.2 type (through an adapter) drives.


Please put this one in an external iommu group. Not only for video cards, but also for some kind of devices, which supports, for example, only Windows (in a case if we use Linux in this laptop)
0
I did not find this SOC in the list of Intel processors, supporting IOMMU. In this list — only server processors and most powerful processors for desktop workstations.
+1
I reaaaally like the idea of this. Had quite a few thoughts on it, you were quite detailed in your thinking but not in how it could actually be theoretically built.

I really like the detail in your models, especially the logos. Very pretty work. I feel like a device like this with such a characteristic look can really start to feel like «home» after you get used to it.

A few ideas I thought of:
1. ports on the front! like a combination headphone/microphone jack in the front middle seems like a great place to plug your headphones/earbuds if you're stuck having to use them
2. speakers on the front! the front is very empty…
3. more grooves on the device so you can more easily open it without prying with your fingernails
4. moving the delete key further away from backspace so you're not accidentally hitting it. Some laptops put the power button above backspace… which is even worse

I think it also really needs to be bigger to be a good computer, for these reasons.
1. You said it should have a 1920x1080 screen, but on 9 inches if you're ever forced that you can't use scaling in your operating system (required for a lot of enterprise windows software) then it's too tiny to see anything when set at native resolution. And a 16:10 aspect ratio would really be nicer to work with, even if it does hurt compatibility with external video inputs more than a 16:9 aspect ratio already does.
2. with all the ports you're including, you have to keep in mind that they can only be soldered to the PCB in certain positions. I know you can get USB C connectors that mount to the top of a PCB, the middle, or bottom, but not all the connectors in your renders have these options and a lot of these placements are unrealistic. Also I'd prefer to avoid in-set connectors, since big VGA plugs may not fit for example. Also a lot of the connectors you show aren't designed to be on the outside of a device, especially one like this that's going to be used in-the-field a lot. Maybe it's worth designing a water-resistant cover that flips from the bottom of the notebook. When flipped open, it could act as a rubber foot for the device.
3. With the vent-holes, with implied fans inside. all the ports, and their needed space on the motherboard for their traces. all the functionality you're wanting to include, keyboard with water-passthrough (and capslock LED, NFC, trackpoint, etc.), full X86-64 computer, and to also fit a battery (or seperate batteries) big enough, and out of the way, to power this for more than 2 hours is… probably not possible?

I also don't think this is realistically powerable off of just POE… but if it is then that's a damn cool idea.
And in your update you said it will charge with «QC 3.0 charging standard» but that is a standard only supported by QualComm mobile SOC chips. I think you meant USB Power Delivery, which is part of the USB C spec and supports rapid charging (both directions!). If you want to support windows, you're not going to be using a qualcomm processor lol

Overall I fricken love this project. So thought-provoking, and I love daydreaming about this stuff. Clearly so do you. Thank you!
0
1,2. Yes, the front is really empty. But inside the case near the front wall is the battery. It takes up all the space from the speaker to the speaker.

I also wanted the speakers to be forward. But there really is no place to arrange them that way. Unless it will be absolutely tiny dynamics. But… Read below :)

3. The hooks on the lid are spring loaded. When you open the latch — the lid rises. I take care of your fingernails :)

4. It's traditional position for this keys. And to reduce accidentally hitting they are made in different sizes and colors.

1. What resolution do you think is suitable for such a screen? 1280x800, like on ThinkPad x200? This, of course, is better than 1360x768, but almost any web site has to be scrolled. There is also a compromise option — 1440x900 (it is 16:10).

In general, I guessed that not all programs will correctly perform scaling. Therefore, I added the combination Fn + Space in advance, which causes the screen magnifier.

2. Yes, you rightly noticed that the images show the internal versions of the SATA and SFF connectors. This is done for several reasons:
— any system administrator already has an internal SATA cable, it is not necessary to buy it additionally
— the external version of the SFF connector is larger, in addition, the cable is more expensive

Probably need to protect these connectors in some way. Or alter the connectors in the external version.

3. A couple of days ago, this site described a 14 inch Dell laptop with a battery of the same capacity (42W*h), but with a 15-watt processor. That laptop worked from the battery of 9-10 hours.

So, I think it makes sense to reduce the adminbook battery by half. At the same time there will be a place for the front audio jack and the speakers can also be turned forward. It will even give the possibility to add a fan that so many people ask for.

Powered by POE is absolutely real. Some wireless bridges consume up to 50 watts and are powered by POE.

As for QC 3.0. I have a noname Chinese phone charger that supports this standard (and it really works). I think it’s also not difficult to support this standard «at the other end of the cable». Although there may be problems with Qualcomm licenses. Therefore, charging by QC can be removed — other power supply options are sufficient.

Thanks for the comment
+1
The screen resolution can not be too big but the sampling function for the screen to act as a monitor need some clever user interface and robust function for displaying lower resolutions with the whole screen. This cleverness ought to add much more deleopment cost then the additional unit cost for a higher resolution screen.
+2
Take my money.

I'd really like something to fill the gap left now that the Thinkpad X series are skinny ultrabooks. The 51nb motherboards are interesting but long term we will need new hardware.

A smaller option like this would also be great (though I'd love a 12" version). I like the idea that it can be used as a keyboard/monitor terminal for a server (hopefully this works on HDMI for RasperryPi and similar machines).

Also as its a bit small for 'real work' I wonder if it needs such as powerful CPU. Would be good to consider an ARM option which could reduce need for cooling and battery size.
0
Even if you had to double the size to fit all the suggested ports and functionality, I would be seriously interested in purchasing/kickstarting such a device.

Is there a serious intention to bring this to market? If so, on what kind of timeline?
0
Communication with the developers is not over yet. Preliminary time is next year. This year is definitely not.

But all this requires money. Damn a lot of money!

And a huge amount of management work.
0

There is one cool feature that exists on some IoT boards but lacks on PCs: USB client mode and software defined USB hardware. Adminbook can be used as a CD drive, a keyboard, a mouse or even as a videocard and these devices can be combined into hybrid usb device.

+1
I realy love your project but I would of course buy two of them to have a spare tool for my toolbox. Please do not make it simpler with less I/O ports. Myself I would love to ask for wired m-bus but it is electrically awkward and as far as I know there are no volume efficent implementations of m-bus drivers suitable for this project.

Please pay attention to reasonable moisture resistance with component coatings etc and gracfull failures if I/O connectors get soaked with conductive fluid. I would also realy like some ruggedness in hinges etc and having it fully screw driver dissassembleable(is that an english word?) to aid reapirs and cleaning after unfortunate soaks.
0
It is supposed to make it as maintainable as possible. Up to the point that you can replace worn or broken connectors yourself.

In general, all moving parts should be easily replaceable — cable to the built-in monitor, cables to antennas, monitor hinges, keyboard.

I don’t want to use a fan at all. It makes noise, consumes energy, sucks dust into the case and requires holes in the case. I will try to do passive cooling.

M-Bus will definitely not be here.
+1
Passive cooling will work but it sets a limit on the ambient temperature, especially when put on a thermally insulating table. Wonder what a heat pipe capable of efficiently getting thermal load to two of the chassis edges would cost?

This reminds me about leg scalding consumer laptops and the «pillows» with a fan sold as burn protection.
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