I wasn't really ready to begin this instructable; I'm still in the developmental phases of this project. However when I saw the contests for the Make It Real Challenge and the Shop Bot Challenge; well I just had to get this 'ible started early.
I have a CarveWright, version B, which I intend to use to carve the custom wooden case for this tablet. If I can win either a 3D printer, or a ShopBot, I will almost definitely be using one of those superior machines to fabricate the case.
I had started to write a build log for the design phase of this project. For now I will be posting that, with each step as an entry in the log. As I actually move beyond design and into practice, I will update this with as many photos and as much documentation as I can.
The first image in this 'ible is a model I made in 123D, and can be found in their gallery here
The second image on this step is the latest version of the rough drawings I made for the external layout of the tablet.
The front view shows the screen in the center which will be 12" by 24" x 2.5" overall, incorporating an 18.5" LCD with touchscreen, a pair of Harman Kardon stereo speakers to either side of that with a brass/gold grill accent, a partially disassembled but still functional pocketwatch as a timepiece (lower left), a power button (top left), mute button and volume scroll wheel (top right), and four directional buttons (lower right) to manually rotate the screen. The directional buttons may be unnecessary, if so that area will be open for something else (or just left as plain wood).
The side view shows (from top to bottom) four USB ports, audio in/out (headphone/mic), HMDI out, universal card reader, and AC in ports.
I labeled the image itself, but having seen so many 'ibles with the labels misplaced or nonfunctioning, I thought it best to add this redundancy.
I have three entries to the build log so far, I'll post them as steps 1 -3 for now. Much more to come, soon!
Oh yeah, *PLEASE* vote for me in either or both the contests; Make It Real Challenge and/or ShopBot Challenge!!!
Step 1: Custom tablet Blog entry One (Saturday, February 04, 2012)
Okay, as I know I am overly long winded, I will begin with the TL;DR: "I wanted a tablet PC, but bigger. I had a spare laptop 18.5". I decided to make it into a tablet."
If you happen to enjoy long winded minutia, proceed on below. Else, skip to the next step. ;)
In shopping around for a tablet that would satisfy all of my wants and desires for such a device (to be honest, I had no needs of one, just wants and desires), everything I saw fell short. I came close to deciding upon one or another several times, but always with reluctance and hesitation.
Finally, I realized what the issues were. Basically, I am not desiring an android or ios style tablet; no - I *am* desiring that style of device; but not the operating system/functionality found on those devices.
The majority of what I want to do with a tablet is use it as an ereader as well as use it to surf the internet, watch movies, and play simple games (just about any tablet would work for these things, to varying degrees, though as always I am of the opinion that bigger is better, and the 7-10" offerings available... well that's the size I want my smartphone to be, not a tablet).
I also wish to use it to occasionally do a bit of work or keep myself organized. And having used an android phone for a while now, and with my wife using an iphone to see its functionality, I know neither will make me happy when I want to launch any productivity type software.
I also have a few games as well as productivity type applications which are web based, and use either Silverlight or Flash, and which do not function well in a tablet/mobile browser environment.
My last laptop was a Toshiba P505, an 18.5" behemoth of a portable computer. A few years ago it was the best of the best. Dual core CPU, lots of RAM, huge screen, nice graphics card... it would be an adequate desktop replacement for many, not me; but for me it was an adequate laptop.
Through a series of events I'll just hand-wave as 'life' without going into a lot of unnecessary detail, my laptop became my wife's laptop. Okay, a modicum of detail; in short order both her desktop and her laptop died... leaving me two computers and her none. And she, as one of the 'many' found my laptop to be an adequate desktop replacement... with the added benefit of being portable (even if she complained of its mass and weight constantly).
My wife isn't particularly careless or abusive, nor would I say she is clumsy. But somehow, most every technological device she uses on a regular basis develops problems of one sort or another. As she always still thought of it as my laptop (and indeed I had to borrow it back whenever I actually NEEDED portability), she did her absolute best to take extra special care of the laptop. And for about two years, it worked well for her, and developed none of the typical symptoms of electronic death most things she uses would have experienced in half that time.
After two years though, of course right about the time the three year warranty was expiring (I had it for about a year before she got it full time), a few issues developed. And I do not hold her responsible; when a warranty expires, it is some sort of natural law that electronics have to develop problems. Namely two issues that are unrelated, but very related.
First, the battery clip in the laptop was somehow sheared off, to the point it no longer kept a battery in place. I couldn't buy a new battery, I had to send the laptop in for repairs. It was only about $150 to get it fixed, but between a tight budget and my wife not desiring to be without a computer for a week or more (and Toshiba, while they make wonderful machines, has a notoriously poor customer service and slow repair time)... well it never got fixed.
I used duct tape to hold the battery in place, which */seemed/* to work just fine.
The other issue was the right hinge between the monitor and the laptop cracked - and while it works, the case lost some integrity, and of course that corner is the spot that the power plug is located. It is a very rare issue, but on occasion it won't recognize the power, and you have to toy with it, much like a shorted wire, to get it to work. Most of the time it is fine, though.
It would seem a third problem developed a couple months later - the laptop began overheating and wouldn't run for more than a minute or two before shutting itself down. I opened it up enough to check the heatsink, and blow clear the exhaust fans/ports... but the heatsink seemed to be fine, and the exhaust seemed relatively clean. And it still overheated.
So we set it aside for a month or so, and my wife and I shared my desktop. I then was toying with it a and noticed the battery was swollen. I pulled it out, and it wasn't swollen much, but just enough to be noticeably damaged.
I pulled the battery and booted the laptop on just AC power (luckily it works with no battery installed), and sure enough - the thing ran fine with no overheating. I did some software maintenance and handed it back to my wife, who has been using it for the past few months (if you're keeping track, it is now almost 4 years old).
What does all this rambling have to do with anything? Perhaps nothing - I do enjoy rambling. But my intention in stating all of the above was to lead up to this point... I've decided to get my wife a chromebook she's been drooling over, and take my laptop back.
Yet I still have an urge to have a shiny new touchscreen tablet. And one sleep deprived morning, I decided I was going to hack apart my laptop, fix the case issues by building a new case, and in the process make an 18.5" widescreen touchscreen tablet.
It will run Windows 7 just fine (and hopefully Win8 once that is released and relatively bug free), it has enough processing power to do all the things I need (okay, want) a tablet to do, and as an added benefit, with a USB (or bluetooth) keyboard and mouse, it will be just like my favorite old laptop which I haven't really used for a couple of years!
Wow, speaking of rambling, my intention here was to just write a one paragraph (or so) introduction to my build log. See, this is going to be my first ever build log; I don't do much in the way of journals, logs, blogs, vlogs, or anything of the sort. I don't even 'microblog' (that's the original term for what is now known as tweeting) - I am just not terse enough to pull off any sort of logging without a lot more time and commitment than most would put in.
I am very excited about this project, so much so that I am to the point that I have decided I will take the time and effort to record it from start to finish. I've even had a few stray thoughts of replicating the process with newer (and probably smaller) laptops; making custom touchscreen capable tablet style cases for them and reselling them. Not sure if I will or not, but the seed has been planted.
So, how do I intend to do this? I am not a complete stranger to microelectronics; I've never before 'modded' a computer or video game machine, etc. as such - but I build them (PCs, not game consoles) all the time. I am an amateur (very amateur) woodworker and metalworker, and I love crafty type stuff. So I have the basic skill sets. And a decent assortment of tools.
I had found an article online about a guy who made a carbon fiber tablet out of a PC. It will be a reference point. But I don't want carbon fiber. I have a 'CarveWright' - a commercialized home hobbiest (hobbyest? neither spell checks) 3-axis CNC router. I plan to use it, and my not-so-poor graphics design skills, to carve the case from wood.
I believe I will be going with an overall 'steampunk' look and feel; with the incorporation of my company logo (a flying lion) into the wood and brass (or, more likely, silver) elegance of a Victorian-era science fiction machine.
I have already ordered a touchscreen, I have about a week to wait (as I write this) before it arrives. After a ton of research and talking to sales reps and tech geeks from 3 different touchscreen manufacturing houses, only to find nothing quite fit or worked as I wanted, I went with the WinTouch 18.5" USB Touchscreen kit.
I found it at an amazing price on ebay; it seems that while it is the perfect size for several behemoth desktop replacement laptops such as mine, while the laptop is still a laptop, the touchscreen's huge bezel prevents one from using it properly. And next to nobody has an 18.5" wdescreen monitor - they're almost all 17", 19", or 20+". So it is less than I was initially hoping for, but at the price I paid, I can easily throw it away if it doesn't work and move on to a custom screen by a better company.
Everything else is still up in the air - I have loose plans, but until my wife gets her chromebook in a couple of weeks... I can't disassemble the laptop and get the exact layout ... laid out.
I intend to have access to at least one USB port, as well as the 'universal' (as of 4 years ago) card reader (it at least handles SD cards fine, never tried anything else) as external ports. I don't know if I will keep the HDMI port available... but I see no reason not to (yet!). Internally, I will be using a USB bluetooth dongle, upgrade the wifi card to wireless N (possibly via USB, if I can't swap in an actual card), and swap in one or more SSD drives in place of the HDD.
The battery (or possibly two, depending on space, weight, and heat constraints) will be fully internalized; not permanently attached, but not something to be swapped in and out as the laptop had done. I've never had a desire to remove or change a functioning laptop battery; so I don't see that I will change my habits with this tablet.
I'd like to access the built in accelerometer - by default used to park the heads of the HDD if a drop is detected, and use it instead (since I am swapping HDDs doe SSDs) as a tablet's accelerometer - to rotate the screen and hopefully as an input device (perhaps with a button to enable/disable the function). I am of two minds on the optical drive, and the keyboard. Perhaps three minds...
One option I am considering is to be more of a Tablet PC than a Tablet - with a built in base. It would store the battery, the optical drive, a keyboard, etc., and could be just a fancy wooden laptop case; but then the screen swivels, and folds up, and it is just a thick tablet. This is the least likely option (aside from the fact I don't know how I would physically rotate the screen/hinges, I don't want that aesthetic.)
Second is to build a 'dock' which housed the optical drive, perhaps an extra SSD, possibly an extra battery, etc.; and which allows the tablet to 'dock' to it. More likely than the first, but not really my goal right now.
So number three is the most likely, and that is to just forgo an optical drive. If I *really* need one for some reason, I'll have a USB port open. I also briefly considered a slot-loading optical drive in the tablet, but between their notoriously poor longevity and functionality, and a dearth of space in the case... that option is not on the table.
Oh, and as an aside ... see what I mean about my lack of brevity? This was supposed to be a paragraph or two of an introduction, and I am in the middle of page four in MS Word.
So here I will try to wrap up this 'brief introduction' with the last thought I have for design aesthetics... I intend to use some purple heart wood I have laying around as accent, with cherry or mahogany for the main body (it will have a deep burnished mahogany stain in the end, no matter the wood used)
I will probably substitute silver for brass, as I am not a lover of gold or gold-like metals. Rubbed/Oiled Bronze (which is more a grayish brown than a gold metal) and/or Hematite (metallic black) are other accent metals I have thought of, but availability will necessarily dictate what I actually use.
I also plan on my first major leathercrafting project, and have a custom carrying case for the tablet; but that will certainly wait until after this build is done and running!