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How do I stablize a small laptop so I can write while traveling on a cummuter bus? Answered

I have a one-hour commute on the city bus to work. I would like to work on my laptop, but cannot stablize it in my lap during the bumpy ride. How can I build a small portable tray that can hook to the seat in front of me, with vibration suppression (rubber shock absorbers)?



9 years ago

I can totally relate to your situation.!

I used public transit exclusively while living in Seattle, and some of the buses and drivers were like sitting on a motocross motorcycle's handlebars.  I swear I have some loose fillings from the commuting.

I tried a good number of "lapdesk" and other items.  I had this really cool one for going on the backs of seats or steering wheel of a car when you're on the road, however they all have a basic and important flaw.


The "Vibration Suppression" you are thinking of would have to be better than Monster Truck suspension to dampen all the vibrating that is transferred through the seat you are attaching to.

If you ever look at your screen and it feels like your eyes are being shaken out of your head, even though the screen is mounted tightly to the seat in front of you, try leaning forward (at least your neck).  Your body has it's own vibration dampening muscles that will keep your teeth from breaking.  You want to duplicate those muscles.

The commercial products really didn't do it for me.  Too heavy, Too bulky, Too expensive.

I wanted to be mobile and not have to lug a bunch of junk around with me (teaching computer classes throughout Puget sound) as I jumped from one bus/ferry to the next. 

I used my jacket on my lap and my "Man Bag" as an impromptu lapdesk.   These worked passably well.  Most of it depends on your laptop, mine (IBM Thinkpad) had a screen that shook and wobbled so bad I couldn't read it.  Letting the screen rest against the back of the seat in front of me helped.

The softer the material between your lap and the laptop the better.  This doesn't keep your screen from wiggling though.

The hard top and bean bag bottom of the lapdesks you can buy just didn't work to dampen the vibration.  They are comfy when you end up in that coffee house, but not on the bumpy commute. 

If you replaced the "Bean" material with a softer spongier material:
- Fiberfill (Used in pillows and sewing projects), look at JoAnn fabrics
- Foam padding cut into small (2"x2") squares would work if they were REAL soft not the hard stuff you sleep on.

Sounds like fodder for a new instructable.  If I do one I'll post it for you.

Happy Commuting!


10 years ago

You're overcomplicating it, and surely the bus driver will question you when you whip out a strange gadget and start attaching things to his vehicle. Just use a lap desk. The simplest ones are a pillow on one side and a board on the other. More advanced models are made specifically for laptops and offer some storage or are designer cases. If you're concerned about having a business-like appearance, I've even seen some high-end laptop bags and briefcases that transform into lap desks with minimal effort. My laptop bag, by Hedgren, has hard foam ridges on the front. They hold a laptop in place and allow air to pass under it when using the bag as a lap desk. Unfortunately my bag breaks rule number 2 below with it's nylon slipping off of my lap easily. Lap desk shopping or making suggestions/rules : 1. Avoid too big or too heavy. A lot of the cheaper commercial lap desks are either huge or weigh a ton. They're designed for home use and aren't always exactly intended for laptop use. Aim for a lighter one just large enough for your laptop (and a mouse if needed). 2. Avoid slippery materials. The pillow shouldn't move around on your lap and the laptop should stick to the hard surface. Wood tops, leather(ette) or fabric-covered tops usually work well. Hard plastic is ok, but some kinds are slipperier than others. Cotton, suede, or denim work well for the pillow, while nylon and satin don't work so well. 3. Most of the commercial lap desks are foam-bead pillows for good reason. These conform to the shape of your lap and will sit in a stable position easily. Fiber-filled pillows don't work as well. If you're making, you can buy foam beads at almost any craft store nowadays.