Dual Screen Laptop03 Oct 2017
Sunday’s Reading included a video about making a portable monitor out of the screen from a dead laptop. I am in the middle of that project. However, along the way that project has become a test bed for a different idea and possibly part of it. The first thing was I noticed good condition, ie one or two scratch, versions of the same monitor are actually as inexpensive as the controller board for the monitor. I suddenly thought, I could build two.
Now I want to build a dual-monitor laptop. Actually, laptop is a mis-nomer. This will be a portable computer but not in the sense of an 80s lugable. It will be mor like two copies of the portable monitor connected by a few cables where the core parts of the computer are mounted on the back of each. The current monitor integrates certain features of the follow-up video on converting the original into a portable, battery powered smart TV. I am skpping the TV but adding batteries and my own kickstand design.
When I considered the dual-monitor idea the first step was to find a motherboard. Naturally, my first thought was a Raspberry Pi but none have two video outputs. I did find the Matrox Dual Head2Go adapter which tricks the computer into seeing two monitors as one big one (there is also a triple version) but its street price is $140. Combined with the power of the Pi I decdied to look at other options.
The option I have found is the UDOO X86. The Advanced Plus is a little less than a Pi 3 plus the Matrox and has 4GB of memory as opposed to 1GB. The last is a big consideration for me as even running Debian with Openbox I had issues with a 2GB Chromebook and swam up to one I could put 16GB in. I seem to only use between 4 and 6GB. I also would have a third video output if I wanted to pack the monitor I am working on now instead of recycling it. I would need to purchase the separate wifi kit adding a bit less than $20. If money, allows, I would probably get the Ultra for its 8GB of memory. This project is in the very early stages so other boards may come under consideration. If you have any suggestions please leave a comment.
Building a method to flip up and expand the dual screens from one screen width to two is perplexing. This is why I am looking to leave the laptop form factor. Instead I plan to build two mirror image monitors with extra space beside the screens on the left and right outside edges when deployed. They would align for carry screen to screen and the sleep and shutdown circuit would be controlled by a contact switch along those outer edges. When you pull them apart to set up they machine will boot.
The keyboard and mouse will be separate wireless or bluetooth items. The mouse will almost certainly be my current wireless model I use with my Chromebook. While I can use a stock keyboard a side project might be The Key64 or similar project. I had researched it while thinking of keeping the laptop form factor.
I have also been learning more than I thought I would want to know about 18650 battery usage.
My one concern with this design is thickness and weight. The current monitor is using plywood as the main structure material. Originally the partial cover was to be of the same material but I am using sheet metal. This will still result in a nearly 1″ thick item. If I move to sheet metal with thin insultion of rubber or cork I can probably get that closer to 7/8″ but that will still mean a thicker than most laptops machine plus a keyboard.
I am happy to read any suggestions along the way. Thursday I will have pictures of the first few steps in the new monitor. As I said, it is a testbed for some of this and I expect it may go through several evolutions.