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atrix laptop dock

Turn The Raspberry Pi Microcomputer Into A Low-Cost Laptop With This Atrix Dock Hack

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The $35/$25 Raspberry Pi microcomputer is being used by hardware hackers to power all sorts of creative projects. Including, in the above instance, a Raspberry Pi powered laptop, created by developer Eric Chou — principally by tying in the Motorola Atrix laptop dock. Which surely must be the coolest use of that piece of kit to date.

The smartphone that the dock was intended to be hooked up to has since been discontinued but as Adafruit Industries points out in the below ‘how to’ video, the laptop dock can still be picked up via various online outlets. Its Micro USB and Micro HDMI jacks offer a neat, relatively straightforward way to turn a Pi into a laptop. Adafruit’s video shows which connectors to get and how to splice them together to plug in the Pi and get the DIY laptop working.

Chou, meanwhile, has costed out his version of the Pi laptop hack — including an optional Airlink WiFi module. In total the components costs around $125, plus the cost of the Pi — making it cheaper overall than the build costs of the XO ‘One laptop per child’ laptop (the XO apparently costs around $200 to make). It’s also a lot more accessible to individuals and small groups, being as the latter machine has to be ordered by the thousand so is generally restricted to government-backed mass education projects. Go the Pi-powered DIY route and so long as you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do a little hacking, much smaller batches of low-cost laptops can be put together and put to work where they’re really needed.

The Raspberry Pi’s potential as a low-cost computing platform for developing countries is pretty exciting. Pis are already being used to power a school computing lab in rural Cameroon, thanks to a Belgian volunteer project which involved a suitcase full of the microcomputers being taken out to Africa and set up with monitors and keyboards acquired locally. It’s a great fixed-location learning solution, but couple in a bit of kit like the Atrix dock and portability could really extend the usefulness of the device.

A Pi-powered laptop wouldn’t need to be tethered to a classroom location, but could be taken home by kids so they can carry on learning (the dock also contains a battery so even without any electricity at home it would offer some hours of use). The not-for-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation, which created the Pi with the hope of getting more U.K. kids learning to code, has said it is keen to look for ways to get more Pis out to developing countries this year, where the need for a low-cost computing solution is even greater.