Introduction: The LittleBox | a Raspberry Pi PC

About: A passionate make of things. I spend my time developing new ideas and looking for ways to improve old ones!

Over the last year and a half I have bought four Raspberry Pis. Each Pi has been the centre piece of four different projects.

The first Pi navigates the FishPi Proof-Of-Concept Vehicle, the second manages the FishPi POCV Base-Staion, the third has been tightly packed into the worlds first Raspberry Pi Netbook, and the fourth now powers the LittleBox prototypes.

So what is a LittleBox?

  • Raspberry Pi Powered All-In-One Desktop PC.
  • 14" Widescreen LED Back-light LCD.
  • Resistive Touch Screen.
  • Integrated Amplifier & Speakers.
  • Integrated USB Hub.
  • Built-In Power Converter.
  • GPIO Header.
  • Laser Cut Birch Plywood Frame & Stand.
  • Build-It-Yourself Kit.
  • Runs from a 12v PSU.

This instructable follows my development of the LittleBox from a thought bubble, to a prototype, and finally to a KickStarter project.

The LittleBox came runner-up in the Epilog Challenge V! Thanks to everyone who voted |

Please help support my work here on Instructables and on Thingiverse

by using the following affiliate links when making purchases. Thanks :) | | |

Step 1: The Thought Bubble

Crossing the Atlantic is a complicated challenge, and one that I have decided to accept. The FishPi Project hopes to use a Raspberry Pi to navigate a drone across the Atlantic Ocean.

The first step in this quest has been the building of a Proof-Of-Concept-Vehicle (POCV), and a controlling terminal called the Base-Station.

The Base-Station is an aluminium flight case fitted with a Raspberry Pi, a screen, keyboard & trackball, a USB hub, and a wireless router. It will be used to manage the POCV, handle the telemetry, and monitor the POCV's performance.

I'd like everyone to be able to follow the POCV during testing, watch as the FishPi makes it's way across the Atlantic Ocean, and monitor our progress along the way. What if everyone had their own Base-Station to do this?

To build the FishPi Base-Station has taken over a year. It's also designed for a specific purpose; that of controlling the POCV. Any Base-Station for use by everyone else would not need to be quite so specific in its use.

Better yet, rather than a Base-Station, what about a Raspberry Pi Desktop PC?

Brilliant idea!

So what would I want from a Raspberry Pi Desktop PC?

  1. I'd want to be able to build it myself. The Raspberry Pi has sparked a maker revolution, it would be rude not to design a Build-It-Yourself kit.
  2. One thing I learnt from the Base-Staion, the POCV, & the LapPi Netbook is that you'll always need access to the components. I spent a lot of time taking the three apart just to wiggle a wire, or change a part, so the LittleBox electronics must be easily accessible.
  3. The SD Card must also be easy to reach. I'd like to be able to swap SD Cards around so I can have multiple Operating Systems and distributions easily available.
  4. Not too big, or not too small. Screen Size. Widescreen so I get the best cinematic experience if I want to watch films on the LittleBox, but I don't want it too heavy or cumbersome in case I want to take my LittleBox out to a HackSpace or a friends house.
  5. I'll need sound to go with the films. Decent speakers and an amplifier are essential.
  6. Powered USB, the Raspberry Pi suffers if too much current is drawn from it. I'll need a powered USB Hub, and I'll need a power source to drive it.
  7. Access to the GPIO Header. I don't want to have to poke around if I fancy plugging in the GPIO header to a breadboard. I'll need to bring the GPIO in from the cold and out in front of the LittleBox.

Now if I can get all of that into one design I might be onto a winner!

Step 2: The Basics & First Preparations

After some thinking I have decided that the LittleBox is to be built around a 14" LED Back-light LCD. I've also chosen a matching touch screen. I've gone for a smaller screen so the LittleBox is lightweight and easy to handle.

The design is based on the All-In-One PC form-factor. I'll have amplified sound via the headphones socket on the Pi, a USB Hub, access to the GPIO, and an in built power supply to change from an input of 12v DC down to 5.2v for the USB hub and the Raspberry Pi. I'm hoping to find a USB hub which can back-power the Raspberry Pi as the Pi's Micro USB power port will be obstructed by the LittleBox case.

The LittleBox case is to be laser-cut from plywood and assembled in layers. A single layer will hold all the components and the frame will be bolted together.

I've assembled most of the major components already. Time to get on with things. I have picked the RKAmp2 2 x 2.5 watt amplifier from RK Education. I used the smaller 2 x 1 watt amplifier in the LapPi Netbook.

In the Beginning.

The RKAmp2 comes in a kit, so the first step is putting this kit together. There are no step-by-step instructions provided with the kit, but there is documentation on the RK Education Website.

When finished making the amplifier it's always a good idea to test it. Connect a set of wires to the speakers, try and solder them so that the negative & positive wires are the same on both speakers.

Once the amplifier has been tested as working now would be a good time to plug together the Raspberry Pi, LCD & control boards, and any ancillaries you plan to use with your design, such as USB Hubs, keyboards, mice etc.

During this checking stage I tested different configurations in the /boot/config.txt file on the Raspbian SD Card to find the best settings for the LCD.

Step 3: On With the Prototyping

I have had some trouble finding a USB Hub which would be suitable for the job. I was looking for a hub with a low profile, and one which could feed back +5v to the Raspberry Pi. The first Hub I tried had four ports, I thought I could use two; one for four internal ports, and another for four external ports. The Basic USB Block hub was exactly as it described, basic. I quickly ruled it out as too flimsy.

The next was the Belkin F5U701-BLK. It looked perfect for the job, but after checking the list of RPi Verified Peripherals it turns out that that particular Hub does not work well with the Raspberry Pi. I should have probably checked the list before buying one!

The third is a generic 7-Port hub. It is both low profile, and it feeds power back to the Raspberry Pi. The other point I needed to check was availability, and there are lots of them around so we are ok on that point too.

I've plumped for a 12v feed from a mains powered PSU to power the LittleBox. This will keep the high voltages away from anyone building, and using, a LittleBox. I'll be using a 12v DC DC converter which is capable of out-putting 5v @ 5A. That should be plenty.

I did some testing with the LCD and while the manufacturers datasheet for the LCD logic board states it will function at 5v, I found that the screen flickered at 5v, but not at 12v. So I decided on using a 12v input, directly powering the LCD and also directly supplying the DC DC converter with 12v too.

Using the DesignSpark PCB software I drew up a simple circuit. This circuit will help keep the wiring tidy, and safe. It essentially routes power from the PSU to the DC DC Converter, takes a feed back from the converter and then allows for up to three devices to run from a +5v supply. There is also a +12v feed for the LCD. Both circuits pass through rectifier diodes to protect against reverse polarity.

Step 4: Where to Start

I'll be using laser cutting technology as the manufacturing method for the LittleBox, but before we can start we need to know what our design constraints are. After doing some research on the internet I found a company called Cut Laser Cut. They are based in London so they should be perfect for my needs.

They have a section explaining their design requirements, They also have a huge list of materials to choose from, and most importantly they have prepared templates so you can plan your design to work within your chosen material's sheet sizes.

I have decided to try and use a single 1500mm  by 1200mm sheet of 3mm Birch plywood to make one LittleBox. The LittleBox is to be built up in 3mm layers. The first of these layers is the front fascia. From the Fascia I will create all the other layers building up the LittleBox in 3mm steps.

My first try at this I just copied the previous layer, but any minor differences and errors were exaggerated with each copy & paste of the last layer. The solution was to use a master copy, in this case the Fascia, and copy & paste from that. That meant that the Fascia had to be perfect, and it would need to have all the recurring features so they could be accurately transferred to the other layers. I must admit it took me a few goes to get it right.

I want to engrave the front Fascia with the LittleBox logo. Having the layers all pointing up means that I can raster engrave the plywood with instructions for when I come to build it. I can also number the layers too. When the LittleBox is assembled any laser engraving will be hidden apart from the logo on the Fascia.

There are several factors which need to be considered while drawing the Fascia. Firstly there is the difference between the LCD's outer dimensions, and it's viewable area. Because of this the Fascia will have a larger border than the following layers. Next we will need to consider the cable connector from the touch panel. We will need a cut-out so the cable can pass unhindered otherwise we risk damage to the touch panel. Lastly we will need somewhere for the speakers to go.

Now that we know what to plan for and what restrictions we are under we can get started with the LCD.

1 | To begin measure the dimensions of the viewable area of the LCD. The simplest of methods is to turn the LCD on and then measure with a ruler.

2 | Transfer the measurements into a digital medium. There are plenty around.

3 | Measure the LCD's outer dimensions.

4 | Next are the outer edges. I have given the LittleBox a 10mm border around the edge of the LCD. Remember that the viewable area is smaller than the actual outer dimensions of the LCD so it will appear to have a larger border around the LCD.

I found it helpful to have both measurements viewable at the same time, that way you are able to see if you are going outside the bounds of the border. On the next layer the edges will be more obvious as we will no longer be working with the viewable area.

5 | The Speakers measure 28mm square, To allow for a bit of inaccuracy in the manufacturing I went with a cut-out size of 28.5mm square. To keep things simple I decided to have them positioned below the screen. The Speakers have a 10mm border around them too.

6 | I have chosen M3 (3mm) screws to hold the LittleBox together. I marked 3.25mm bolt holes along the 10mm Border around the LCD & Speakers. The hole centres are 5mm from the outside edges.

7 | The cable for the touch screen extends past the outer dimension of the LCD. A cut-out has to be made into the outer border to allow the cable to pass through. We don't need a cut-out in the fascia but the next few layers will do.

I now have the master template, the Fascia, ready.

8 | Copy the Fascia and paste as a new layer. I have called mine layer One.

9 | Layer One needs to have the full LCD dimensions, so the border is 10mm wide. The cut-out for the touch cable is required on this layer too.

The combined thickness of the LCD with the Touch Panel is approximately 6mm. To give room for the cable which will plug into the LCD I will add an extra 3mm layer giving a total height of 9mm. My plan is to use strips of 3mm foam behind the LCD to keep it in place.

10 | Create a new layer, Two, and past from the Fascia Master copy.

11 | Layer Two will be modified to include screw holes for the speakers. I filled in the four corners of the speaker cut-outs and marked 0.6mm holes for M1 (1mm) self tapping screws. Make sure to take measurements from the speakers to ensure accurate mounting of the speakers.

12 | Create layer Three. Layer Three requires no modifications and is identical to layer One, apart from the numbering.

The Fascia and the three layers are enough to keep the Touch Panel & LCD firmly in position. Next we'll add a layer for the electronics to attach to, and continue to layer up the LittleBox.

Step 5: Layer Cake

The traditional method for a Nut & Bolt fixing, is a Nut & Bolt. However I am going to test a different method; Insert & Bolt.

Threaded Brass Inserts as they are known to those in the know, provide fixing points inside all manner of products. You're most likely to find them in plastics, in Laptops for example, which is where I know them from as I spent six years working as a Laptop engineer.

Tappex are a UK company which manufactures Threaded Brass Inserts. I will be using their line of Microbarb inserts as anchor points for the screws and bolts holding the LittleBox together. The Inserts are captive so if for any reason I need to take apart the LittleBox I shouldn't lose any fixings, which is what might have happened had I decided on using nuts.

Layer Four of the LittleBox will not have the centre cut out like all the other layers. I will cut holes to take a selection of inserts which will act as anchors for screws holding the electronics in the LittleBox. The Tappex website provides specifications for the diameter of the holes needed for each insert size. For example an M3 Microbarb brass insert requires a hole of 4.66mm. Having previously checked the cutting specifications (Kerf) with CLC I know to expect a loss of material of approximately 0.1mm. Taking those specifications for an M3 insert hole I drew a hole diameter of 4.6mm (whether this is too large a hole I will see when the relevant parts arrive).

1 | Create layer Four. Make sure to remove the cutting lines for the viewable area of the LCD and the LCD's outer dimensions. You should have a solid layer where we can mark cut-holes for the inserts. Leave the touch cable cut-out and of course the speaker cut-outs.

When marking cut-holes for mounting the PCBs remember that you are looking at the layer from the front and that the PCBs will be mounted from the back. Any cut-holes are mirrored looking at them from the front.

2 | Turn the LCD face down. Position the PCBs on the back of the LCD where you want them to go. I placed the Raspberry Pi so that the SD Card sticks out the middle of the LittleBox at the top.

3 | Mark cut-holes for each of the PCBs that are going into the LittleBox (remember to mirror the holes). Don't forget a cut-out for the LCD harness to pass through. Each hole has text next to it saying which Microbarb insert should be fitted.

I took measurements for the Raspberry Pi from a template, measurements for the Logic Board are included in the datasheet, and the rest I had to measure by hand. Remember when placing the PCBs that you'll need to leave at least a 10mm gap around the outer edges. Consider to, the connections to the PCBs like headphone jacks, power inputs, and USB plugs, they all need clearance from not only the sides but each other.

All the PCBs sit on 3mm spacers, with the exception of the M4 mounted PCB (RKAmp2) which rests on 4mm spacers.

4 | Copy & Paste the Fascia into layer Five.

5 | Create cut-lines at the top for the SD Card to go into the Raspberry Pi.

6 | Draw two cut-lines 5mm apart on the centre of the upper boarder for the two speakers. The speaker wires will pass through these holes.

The USB Hub has no mounting holes so we have to get creative. I'm going to alter the border so it can be used to hold the hub in place. I'll have to take into account the M3 screw which will have to be routed between the lower two USB sockets. I'll be using an 18mm M3 spacer so the plywood isn't bent when the screw is tightened.

On the base of the USB Hub's PCB I plan to stick some strips of 3mm foam. This wil help to hold the hub but also keep any through-hole wires off of layer Four.

7 | Measure the Hub.

8 | Draw two cut-lines making space for the hub.

9 | Copy & Paste the Fascia into layer Six.

10 | Duplicate the cut-lines for the Hub. Centre of the 10mm border around the base of the speakers draw two cut-lines 10mm apart. This will create a hole to help improve the speakers bass performance.

11 | Copy & Paste the Fascia into layer Seven, and duplicate the cut-lines for the USB hub.

12 | Copy & Paste the Fascia into layer Eight.

13 | Alter the border so that the plywood slots between the USB sockets.

14 | Create two cut-outs for M2 Microbarbs, to help strengthen the assembly.

The LittleBox has a stand, and the stand will enclose the DC DC Converter and the Power PCB designed in Step 3. The stand has to attach to the screen pack so we must add brackets to do so. We'll be using M6 Microbarbs as part of the brackets.

I put the brackets for the stand near where the M3 screws are to go. Doing so should help combat any stresses in the wood and increase the strength around the bracket area.

15 | Modify the cut-lines around the two top and bottom centre M3 holes so that you can fit in brackets to hold  four M6 Microbarbs.

16 | Copy & Paste the Fascia into layer Nine.

17 | Duplicate the alterations for the USB Hub remembering to reduce the M2 hole sizes, but do not copy the brackets.

18 | Copy & Paste the Fascia into layer Ten.

19 | Duplicate the alterations for the USB Hub, and the brackets remembering to reduce the size of the M6 holes.

20 | Copy & Paste the Fascia into layer Eleven.

21 | This is the final layer so we wont need to make any alterations but you will need to remove the cut-lines for the speakers, and increase the size of the M3 holes to take Microbarbs. I also put in a note to say the brass inserts should be inserted from the other side.

Step 6: Standing Orders

When I began with the stand I had an idea of what I wanted to do already formed in my head. Several factors I had to consider were to make the connection between the stand and the foot-plate as low as possible. Why? Well the screen pack needs some forwards & backwards adjustment, to help with viewing angles etc, but I also want to have a breakout board for the Raspberry Pi's GPIO header accessible from in front of the screen. If the point of rotation is high up then when the screen turns the bottom edge of the screen pack could very well hit against the GPIO break-out. So if I put the hinge low down there will be the smallest amounts of travel when the screen pack is tilted back & forth.

In addition to the hinge I also needed to find a home for the DC DC Converter, the Power PCB, a switch, and two input sockets (DC & CAT5e). I wanted to have all of this hidden away as much as possible.

The last consideration was the change in plane of the layers, from the face down position of the screen pack to the upright and vertical stance of the stand.

To hold the stand to the screen I have sandwiched four layers of 3mm ply, two on the screen back. Which is why layer 9 didn't have the brackets added but layers 8 & 10 did. The brackets will be held with M6 metal bolts. Then several uprights are glued to the brackets. You'll have a better idea of what I have done by looking at the drawings and of course looking at the finished stand & foot plate assembly.

In the end I came up with a single board onto which I would attach the DC DC Converter & the Power Board. To make them fit I have them positioned either side of a single main board in the stand. I've then added slats behind and on top of the assembly to hide the electronics whilst still giving plenty of space for air movement around the components.

The foot plate features some 36 M1 self tapper screws which hold 3 layers of 3mm plywood together. There are two 9mm (3 x 3mm) brackets which the stand uses to connect to the foot plate. I've also put in spaces for four rubber feet.

To save wood I put all the parts for the stand and what I could of the foot plate inside the screen pack frames.

Throughout the three weeks it took me to come up with the design I have had to refer to countless datasheets, schematics, and Google to find the best suited components for the job. If I have done my job right everything should go together without a problem. LOL.

The next thing to do now that the design is all done, is to get it laser cut, a total of 54 parts!

Step 7: 3D

While I waited for the post to arrive I loaded up Autodesk 123D and began to model the LittleBox in 3D.

It's very simple to use, free, and you can get some very good results!

I have attached two zipped Autodesk .123dx files. They are of the LittleBox exploded view, and the LittleBox assembled. The models aren't 100% accurate, they are for display purposes only!

Step 8: Frickin' Laser Beams

There's 53 parts there, technically 54, but you'll have to be extra sneaky to spot the last one.

The guys at Cut Laser Cut priced up my design with all the raster engraving I had done and advised me that I could make quite a large drop in cost by using vector lines instead of full engraving. So I have swapped all the words, instructions, and numbers to RGB Blue vector lines, but I left the LittleBox logo as is!

I'm very pleased with the results. There are some alterations to do, especially around the LittleBox Powered By Pi plate. Some of the gaps need widening too. The final version will be cut on a different laser machine so there should, I am hoping, be considerably less burn marks. It was explained to me that for this run there might be quite a few. It's not a problem at this stage.

The raster engraved LittleBox logo is very clean cut, it looks very good.

Cut Laser Cut sent all the scraps from the inside of the layers with all the parts I wanted.

Step 9: Assembly | the Screen Pack

There is something to be said about the combined emotions of excitement & fear. The LittleBox is ready to be built, but it is untested and I have quite a lot of time and money invested. What if I have got it wrong!

The best way to alleviate my fears and to help manage my excitement, is to begin with the build. I start with the fascia face down, and begin slotting in screws. It took a bit of practice to get them all in. The problem is that as you lift the fascia up to pop in a bolt, one that you put in before drops out. Anyway with a few minutes practice I managed to get all 18 in.

To my relief the touch panel & the LCD fit perfectly. The cut-out for the touch cable is also in the right place.

Layer four needs some Microbarbs fitting. I used a hammer and knocked the inserts into the plywood, I placed a scrap bit of plywood between the hammer and the inserts to prevent any damage to the brass. The inserts have a flange which sits against the plywood so the inserts are not pulled through when they are tightened up.

I have some 12 x 3mm neoprene foam strip to stick to the front of layer four. The foam will press against the LCD holding the panel firmly in place. I only want the foam around the edges of the LCD in case it puts too much pressure on the LCD causing damage. I had to draw pencil lines onto layer four so I knew where to stick the foam. I have altered the vector lines so that the production run will have the guides vector engraved onto the layer.

When I first fit layer four it turned out that the 12mm x 3mm foam was too thick. I swapped it for 10mm x 2mm. I also left most of the lower edge of the screen clear because there are some delicate cables which I don't want to get damaged.

The USB Hub fits between some of the layers so it must be installed now. I stuck some 3mm neoprene foam to the underside of the hub's PCB, and to the back of each of the upright USB ports, and a strip of 2mm foam on the outside edge of the first and last ports. Two 2mm Allen bolts hold three of the layer together.  An 18mm spacer goes between two USB ports. I Had make a cut-out to leave space for the PCB. The USB Hub should be pretty much immovable.

So far, so good!

Well just one error, the cut-out in layer four where the LCD harness passes through needs moving over a little bit.

Throughout the assembly I'll be tweaking the design, and correcting any errors I find along the way.

Step 10: Assembly | the Stand Power Pack

The stand power pack is probably the most complex sub section of the LittleBox.

I began by making the two sides. I've used three strips to make sure the distance are correct. I let the glue dry on each step before moving onto the next.

One silly mistake I noticed was leaving out enlarged holes for the two M6 brass inserts which will be used to clamp the stand, I even wrote instructions on where to fit the inserts, but then left out the actual space for them! Luckily the clamping bolts are long enough that the brass inserts can be used like nuts and will work without being pressed into the plywood.

I have left the two centre strips above where the DC DC Converter will be bolted unglued so that when the time comes to fit the electronics I can still get to the bolt holes. The strips will stay put even without glue.

I built the stand power pack on an old bit of toughened glass. The glass is perfectly flat, and wood glue does not stick to it.

Step 11: Assembly | the Stand Base

The stand base is the simplest sub assembly. Around the edges are some holes. The holes are to take M1 5.5mm self-tapping screws. The screws serve two purposes, decoration, and to help align all the parts together.

It is important to keep the stand base flat while the glue is getting. Four rubber feet go into the holes at each corner of the underside. I found that I had to do a fair bit of sanding to the uprights for them to fit into their holes. I have altered the design and widened the holes a little.

Step 12: Assembly | All

It's always good to check that everything fits together before fitting the electronics. There is a risk that something could be damaged if you need to start cutting and sanding with the electronics in the way.

It's a good thing I did. On the screen pack the upper brackets hit against the stand power pack. The fix was to square-off the upper brackets on the screen pack. The fit was still a bit tight so I sanded down the gap between the brackets on the stand power pack.

Step 13: Electronics | the Screen Pack

All of the PCBs, with the exception of the USB Hub, rest on 3mm spacers, nylon screws bolt the PCBs to the brass inserts in layer four.

If I have all my measurements right, the bolt holes should line up with the screw holes on the PCBs.

I accidentally knocked an M3 insert out of its hole. Using a paper clip, a spacer and a screw I pulled it back into the plywood. I have changed the hole sizes for the M3 brass inserts so they press tighter into the plywood.

I tried looking for some USB cables, and a 3.5mm stereo cable of the right lengths, but couldn't find anything. USB plugs, and headphone jacks are readily available so making some up wasn't a problem.

I spent even longer looking for a suitable HDMI cable. I couldn't find one, but what I did find were the cable ends. HDMI plugs that you can solder onto your own cable. Perfect!

Step 14: Electronics | the Power PCB

The power PCB took about 4 weeks to arrive once ordered.

After soldering all the components to the PCB I checked the outputs with a multimeter.

The output is a little low, I'll meter the USB Hub outputs once everything is together.

Step 15: Electronics | the Stand Power Pack

The power PCB fits to the underside of the stand power pack. On the opposite side bolts the DC DC Converter.

The CAT5e (Network) socket, the DC Jack, & power switch panel has been swapped around so that in the production version the CAT5e socket, and power inputs are on the same side as the Raspberry Pi, and the DC in for the power PCB. As they are now they are on opposite sides so the wires cross over.

The RKAmp2 amplifier does not have the DC socket soldered on, so in this case I have used the screw terminals. In the production model the amp will have a DC socket, and of course a feed from the power PCB will have a DC Jack rather than just bare wires.

I had to unplug the two USB cables in the Raspberry Pi to fit the Stand Power Pack onto the screen pack. the cables were plugged back once the stand power pack was fitted.

Step 16: Electronics | the Stand Base

From the very beginning of the LittleBox idea I wanted access to the Raspberry Pi's GPIO accessible. The GPIO header from RK Education fits front & centre.

Step 17: Electrical Testing

Testing is an important step in development. The Raspberry Pi is know for having power issues so I must make sure we can generate enough power, and at the right voltages.

The DC supply shown in the first two images can be set to a specific output voltage, in this case 12v & then 5v. The supply also gives a meter reading of how much current the connected device is drawing.

With everything in the LittleBox wired together, but without any USB devices or any sound being generated, the LittleBox draws 720mA at 12.1v, a total of 7.1 watts. The USB Hub & the Raspberry Pi on their own require just 3.3 watts.

During Step 14 when I was assembling the Power PCB there was a concerning voltage drop. Testing the power output on the USB Hub shows there is only 4.7 volts available. This simply isn't good enough.

My first thought was that the DC DC Converter I had wasn't up to the job, it only supplies 5v anyway. So I looked for another. What I found was an adjustable DC DC Converters. I could fine tune it to output 5.2v.

When the new converter arrived I plugged it in, adjusted the voltage and took a reading. 4.7v still! After a bit of poking around, and metering various points along the power lines the problem was traced back to the Power PCB. Time to look through some data sheets.

The problem was the 8A rectifier diodes, The datasheet details the expected voltage drop out, which between the two equates to about .5v which is the difference between the DC DC Converters output, and what is being measured on the USB Hub.

The fix is simple enough; increase the output on the DC DC Converter by 0.5v to 5.7v. Hey presto we now have the correct voltage coming from the USB Hub's ports.

I'll need to alter the Stand Power Assembly to take the new DC DC Converter, I'll also alter the Power PCB to compensate for the different power input and output screw terminal positions.

The speakers, I have to change them, Unfortunately they don't produce a loud enough sound. As much as I like the way they look they are after all for making sound and if they don't do that well enough then replace them I shall.

I've tested with larger 70mm x 30mm 3w speakers. Even outside of the LittleBox frame they are vastly superior to the smaller 28mm x 28mm speakers.

My search for a USB Hub has come to and end too. The Hub I have found is still 7 ports, but the PCB has holes for screws so it will be bolted down instead of being held in with foam pads like the current version.

In the next step I'll go through all the changes that have been made to the LittleBox's design.

Step 18: Operating the System

The Raspberry Pi Foundation recommends Raspbian, a version of Debian Linux developed specifically for the Raspberry Pi.

Before the LittleBox will function correctly, and to enable the touchscreen we have to go through a few steps to firstly update the OS, and then to install the touch screen drivers.

It took a while to figure it all out. I'll detail exactly what I do to get the LittleBox to work.

The basics.

After downloading and writing the Rasbian image to an SD Card, insert the card into the Raspberry Pi and turn on your LittleBox.

Your LittleBox will need to be connected to the internet.

At the setup menu expand the root partition to use all of the SD Card, change the memory split to 128mb from 64mb, and set it so it boots to the desktop.

When it loads into the desktop you might find a black border around the screen. We need to increase the screen size, or if you want the technical term, change the overscan.

1 | Double-Click on LXTerminal on the desktop

2 | TYPE: sudo nano /boot/config.txt

3 | move the cursor down and remove the # signs in front of


4 | Change the four values from 16 to -46

5 | Hit CTRL & X to exit, select Y to save the file.

6 | TYPE: sudo reboot

The LittleBox will reboot and there should now be no border around the edges. If you find that there is no image on the screen you might need to remove the SD Card and edit the config.txt file on another PC to alter the overscan so it correctly fits the screen.

The audio for the Raspberry Pi is set by default to use the HDMI digital audio output. To make sure the sound comes through the headphones socket and out the the amplifier we need to change the audio configuration.

7 | Double-Click LXTerminal on the desktop

8 |TYPE: sudo amixer cset numid=3 1

Linux needs updating before we install any programs, or drivers.

9 |TYPE: sudo apt-get update

10 |TYPE: sudo apt-get upgrade

If this is your first time running the upgrade command it can take a while, 10 minutes or more, for the process to complete.

Next we'll install an updater for the Kernel.

11 | Double-Click on Midori on the desktop, this will open a browser window.

12 | goto

13 | Follow their instructions!

That is it for the basics. Next we'll get the Touch Screen working.

sudo gives you administrator privileges (link).
nano is a terminal text editor (link).

amixer controls the audio (link).
apt-get is a command-line program manager (link).

The Touch Screen.

The TouchScreen Controller is an eGalax Inc. USB TouchController, You can confirm the controller is correctly connected by typing lsusb at the command line.

This process can take several hours, about six of them, so make sure you can leave your LittleBox switched on for a long time. I would recommend leaving the LittleBox to compile overnight. This process can be done on another Linux machine but for the purposes of this instructable I will assume another Linux machine is not available.

14 | Double-Click LXTerminal on the desktop.

15 | TYPE: wget

wget will download to your home directory (if that is the directory you are in), the latest Raspberry Pi Kernel source from GitHub. You can read more about the Kernel by visiting their page on GitHub,

16 | TYPE: tar -zxvf rpi-3.6.y.tar.gz

Tar will take a few minutes to extract the archive.

We need to install some dependencies before we can compile the Kernel;

17 | TYPE: sudo apt-get install git libncurses5 libncurses5-dev qt4-dev-tools build-essential

18 | TYPE: cd linux-rpi.3.6.y/

19 | TYPE: make mrproper

That will clean the source before compiling.

20 | TYPE: cp arch/arm/configs/bcmrpi_defconfig .config

This will copy the default configuration into the install folder.

21 | TYPE: make xconfig

This will load a GUI Kernel configuration. There are other options available, for further information open the README file in the ~/linux-rpi.3.6.y/ directory.

22 | Click on the Folder Icon to load the default configuration (.config).

23 | Navigate to Input Device Support in the left tree.

24 | Scroll down to Touchscreens in the right tree.

25 | Scroll down to USB TouchScreen Driver and click the tickbox.

There should now be a selection of drivers ticked in the tree.

26 | Click the Floppy Disk Icon to save the configuration.

27 | Close the configuration GUI.

28 | TYPE: make

The Kernel will now compile. This really will take several hours. Go make a cup of Tea.

29 | Drink your Tea.

If there are any errors when compiling the Kernel, check over the instructions and confirm all the dependencies are installed.

30 | TYPE: sudo make modules_install

That will install the Touchscreen drivers, amongst others.

Next we copy the newly built kernel to the boot folder

31 | TYPE: sudo cp arch/arm/boot/Image /boot/new_kernel.img

To make the new Kernel load at boot we'll have to add an entry to the config.txt file

32 | TYPE: sudo nano /boot/config.txt

33 | TYPE: kernel=new_kernel.img

34 | CTRL & X, and then Y to save

The Kernel and modules should be installed & correctly configured, to load them you need to restart.

35 | TYPE: sudo reboot

If the LittleBox doesn't reboot, turn off the power and remove the SD Card. Put the card into another machine and edit the config.txt file. Comment out, place a # in front of,  kernel=new_kernel.img replace the SD Card in the LittleBox and try again. You will need to carry out some troubleshooting to find out why the new Kernel has not booted.

If all has gone well when the LittleBox boots to the desktop you should be able to touch the screen and move the cursor. 

We'll now need to install a program to calibrate the screen.

36 | Double-Click LXTerminal

We need to install some more dependencies.

37 | TYPE: sudo apt-get install libx11-dev libxext-dev libxi-dev x11proto-input-dev

38 | TYPE: wget

39 | TYPE: tar -zxvf xinput_calibrator-0.7.5.tar.gz

40 | TYPE: cd xinput_calibrator-0.7.5

41 |TYPE: ./configure

42 | TYPE: make

43 | TYPE: sudo make install

Once the install is finished the calibrator should now be ready for use.

44 | To load the program click on the program icon in the bottom left corner of the screen, go to preferences and click on Calibrate Touchscreen.

45 | Touch the four calibration points with either a stylus or your finger. Try to avoid using a pen or any sharp pointy thing.

When the calibration is complete a terminal window will open with the calibration information. This needs to be permanently saved to a calibration file.

46 | TYPE: (in a different LXTerminal to the one with the calibration information) sudo mkdir /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d

47 | TYPE: sudo nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-calibration.conf

48 | On the calibration terminal highlight the text;

Section "InputClass"
    Identifier    "calibration"
    MatchProduct    "eGalax Inc. USB TouchController"
    Option    "Calibration"    "78 1970 1805 136"

The numbers and options may be different for your calibration.

49 | Click Edit - then Copy on the Calibration LXTerminal menu bar.

50 | Click Edit - then Paste on the 99-calibration.conf LXTerminal menu bar.

51 | CTRL & X then Y to save.

That's it!

Confirm the touchscreen is working and the calibration has corrected any inaccuracies. if you're happy;

52 |TYPE: sudo reboot

When the LittleBox boots back to the desktop check the calibration settings have been saved and all is well, then;

53 | Hack the planet.


Step 19: Alterations

We'll start with the Power PCB.

I've shifted the feed from the PSU to the far side, this should line up better with the power switch. The connections to the DC DC Converter now sit at opposite ends of the PCB. They should align with the input & output of the converter. Rather than having three +5v feeds there are now only two, and the 12v now has two outputs instead of just the one. This has been done so that the amplifier is now powered from the 12v supply. The replacement DC DC Converter is only rated at 3A and I didn't want to stress it by having the DC DC Converter powering the amplifier, which will now draw more current due to the larger speakers.

The Screen Pack.

The most obvious change is the speakers, from 28mm x 28mm to 30mm x 70 mm. A consequence of the speaker change is a reduction in the number of M3 bolts from 18 to 17. I've also softened the corners with a 10mm beveling.

The LittleBox logo, which was to be raster engraved has been swapped over to vector engraving. I think the vector engraving gives a much stronger result, and will hopefully stand up better to painting, and to general use.

There will be two versions of the LittleBox, the first with a Touch Screen, and the other without. To allow for the two versions, what was previously layer Three has now been renamed as TOUCHSCREEN SPACER [2A], the following layers have had their numbering altered.

Layer Three (Previously Four) now has vector engraved guide-lines for the 10mm x 2mm neoprene foam strip which holds the LCD secure. Two more M2.5 holes for the new USB Hub, and notes about the Touch Screen Controller are now included.

Layers Four to Ten have their internal corners beveled to match the exterial corners.

Whereas before there were 6 layers modified to account for the USB Hub, now there are only two, layers Five & Six. There are four ports which will be facing out from the LittleBox. The Hub has been positioned with two ports either side of the M3 Bolt. I will again use an M3 spacer, but rather than it being 18mm tall it will be only 6mm.

I've split the layer numbering for Layer Five so that when the SD Card is removed from the Raspberry Pi you can't see the engraving, which you could before.

The brackets on layer Nine for the stand have been clipped. There was the problem in Step 13 where I had to shave off the end to fit the stand. This should fix that problem.

The Stand Power Pack.

I've increased the number of rear slats, adding the extras to the bottom and rounding off at the base. There's an extra slat at the top too.

The DC DC Converter has an LED voltmeter read-out, so the slats have been modified so the display is visible form the rear.

Where there was only a single power plate before, there are now two. The Power PCB, and the DC DC Converter now both have a specific plate. Each plate has cut-outs so cables can pass between the Power PCB & the DC DC Converter.

The Powered By Pi logo plate letter spacing has been changed, and the screw holes have been removed.

The Input board connections are swapped round so things line up better and the CAT5e socket has been raised slightly to give more room for the cable.

The Stand Base.

Again the corners have been beveled softening the base. I've also cut out some of the excess from the centre, and added two more rubber feet.

The base brackets have had a similar treatment and I've removed a section from their insides.

The GPIO header bracket has been altered in the same way by softening the edges and removing some excess plywood.


Some of the holes from the brass inserts have been tweaked, a few of the holes were too big and the brass inserts fell out.


I've sent the modified design off to Cut Laser Cut, it will be a week or two before I have the parts in my hands. Once they're here I'll begin the process of final assembly, checking, testing and then final approval before moving on to KickStarter.

Step 20: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, Cutting.

Big thanks to Ed Clark at Cut Laser Cut for the action photos of the LittleBox being cut.

As you can see I've spared no expense and gone for both compressed air and a protective backing (which you can't see, it's on the back). This copy has been done to the same standards as the final production models.

Step 21: Mk II | Unboxing

The softened edges of the updated version definitely improves the LittleBox's lines.

Improvements to the logo-plate have also enhanced the overall quality, combined with the cleaner-cut that comes with using compressed air the LittleBox is vastly improved on the previous version.

I have laid out the complete LitteBox kit, and according to my parts list there are 237 individual items!

Step 22: Mk II | Pre-Build

First things first; removing the protective backing. Protecting the back from laser-flares makes a noticeable difference to the final finish, well worth the extra cost.

The new Power PCB, updated to work with the different DC DC Converter, goes together without fault. Checking the voltages there is a smaller voltage drop over the lesser rated diodes. Setting the DC DC Converter to 5.3v outputs 5.121v to the power rail. Remember to have the screw terminals facing the correct directing before soldering them to the PCB.

Both the TI LM2596 DC DC Converter and the TEA2025B Stereo Amplifier recommend passive cooling when running at higher power levels. To help combat the excess heat I have attached a heat-sink to each IC using Thermal Adhesive, I'll be supplying adhesive tape with the LittleBox kits.

Step 23: Mk II | the Screen Pack

Immediately the difference in finish between the Mk I and the MK II is apparent.

Time again to put the screen pack together. I have another batch of Microbarb samples from Tappex, the correct 10mm x 2mm neoprene foam strip, and all the vector engraved markings on layer Three to make sure everything goes together correctly.

Step 24: Mk II | the Stand Power Pack

Step 25: Mk II | the Stand Base

Step 26: Mk II | Electronics

The electronics are essentially the same as before, but I have swapped the nylon screws for metal screws.

In the Screen Pack all that has changed is the USB Hub.

The Stand Power Pack however has been reconfigured for the new DC DC Converter. There is a viewing window for the DC DC Converter's on board voltage meter.

Step 27: Mk II | Final Assembly & Power-Up

The new 70mm x 30mm speakers aren't as photogenic as the pretty little 28mm x 28mm speakers, so I've made some speaker guards to cover them up.

The guards will be covered with acoustically transparent cloth. The new speaker guards are pressed in the fascia and aren't glued in. The cloth covering is glued to the guards with contact adhesive.

With the speaker guards in place the screen pack is finished, and now we can do the final assembly of the LittleBox!

Step 28: Comparison & Testing

Hooking the Mk II up to the same DC power supply that was used to test the first LittleBox.

This time I have a 4gb USB Pen Drive, Wi-Fi, and a 2.4ghz transceiver for a keyboard and mouse connected to the USB Hub. Together the total draw is slightly under 1 amp @ 12 volts. I'll be recommending a 2 amp 12 volt power supply be used with the LittleBox kits.

To make sure all the components work together and that they are able to work for long periods without issue I left the LittleBox powered up and running Albert@Home on Boinc. Boinc is running the CPU at 100% constantly.

I was happy with the stability of the system and closed the test after nearly 8 days of continuous operation.

Step 29: Work & Play

The LittleBox is ready. It's tested working, runs for days at a time without problems, produces great sound, and looks great. So what now?

Well there is a whole internet's worth of fun and frolics to have with a LittleBox & a Raspberry Pi. Below is just a small snippet of what's out there!

Tricks & Tweaks

Steves Computer Vision Blog -

Adafruit's Onion Pi -

Cool Projects

FishPi -

Albert@Home -

Adafruit WebIDE -

Build your own Google TVwith Remote -


Elite -

Descent -

Minecraft -

Quake II -

Quake III Arena -

Open Arena -

Operating Systems and Distributions

I have tested Raspbmc and OpenELEC on the LittleBox, but XBMC causes the screen to go blank. I think its to do with the XBMC overlay which loads after boot, going out of the monitors range. I'm hoping that a solution will be forthcoming with the wider release of the LittleBox.

Android -

Arch Linux -



PwnPi -

PiBang -

There is an extensive list of available distributions at the eLinux.Org Wiki.

Step 30: LittleBox | the DIY Raspberry Pi All-In-One Desktop PC

Kickstarter, and your chance to build your own LittleBox.

I hope you like the LittleBox, and If you like it enough to want your own, then the LittleBox is on Kickstarter now.

There are three LittleBox kit options available;
  1. Complete Kit.
  2. Non-Touchscreen Kit.
  3. Hardware Kit.

Rewards start from as little as £5!

Kickstarter :

Although the LittleBox didn't reach its funding target on Kickstarter the LittleBox is still available as a bare-bones kit. Details are at

The LittleBox came runner-up in the Epilog Challenge V! Thanks to everyone who voted |
Epilog Challenge V

Runner Up in the
Epilog Challenge V