ISlack - Laptop Anti-Idling Device

DISCLAIMER: I claim no responsibility for any unsafe, unethical, scandalous, or morally ambiguous use of the iSlack which could result in job loss, hair loss, HR write-up, divorce, ennui, electrical shock or any other issues. Space Dog reminds you to please - Slack Responsibly.

The iSlack - It does the work. You do the SLACK!

Ever wished you could step away from your laptop for longer than 2 minutes without being locked out of Windows, and showing as idle on your CORPORATE SERF MONITORING/Instant Messaging client? Well, with the iSlack and +5VDC, now you can! The iSlack also works great as a way to keep your laptop unlocked and displaying your Inbox as you work to appease your Corporate Overlords on a separate device.

Basic requirements:

  • A laptop or desktop with a (capacitive) touchpad.
  • Ability to drill holes, connect a jumper wire, and upload code to an Arduino using the IDE.

Required Parts:

  • Arduino (I used one of these cheap knock-off Nanos, but any Arduino will work.)
  • Project case (Again, this is the one I used, but any would work as long as your Arduino fits.)
  • 3"x3" strip of tin foil
  • 1 male-to-female jumper wire
  • Electrical Tape
  • USB Cable (If you're using a Nano/bootleg Nano, make sure to get a USB A to Mini B cable such as this one)
  • Wall outlet USB charger or USB port. Note: If you're using the iSlack on a corporate device, I would recommend you do not use the USB port on the corporate device, and instead use a wall charger or another device/USB port, otherwise the Arduino may show up as an "attached device".
  • Optional: Gorilla Glue/Super Glue/etc.

Required Tools:

  • Power Drill
  • 3/8" or 1/2" bit, and optionally a 1/4" Drill Bit
  • Sewing needle, or other very thin, sharp, pokey implement.

Why the iSlack (and not software)?

The iSlack is intended for laptop situations where you don't have the access to change the Energy Saving/Battery settings in the OS, or to install anti-idle/cursor moving/desktop automation software. Conversely, if you just need a way to keep the screen active on your personal laptop - I highly recommend going with software, unless you just really like Jugaad solutions.

Why this particular hardware?

It was laying around. I also figured it would be nice for people who can't/don't want to solder. You could easily achieve the same effect using a 555 Timer, cheap microcontroller chip, or similar hardware for sure. I leave it to you and Google if you want to go that route.

Why?

42.

Step 1: Prepare the Case

For the USB Cable/Power I recommend using at least a 3/8" bit, if not 1/2" - especially if you're going to need to remove the cable to use it for other things on occasion. You can use a smaller bit for the jumper hole if you'd like, such as a 1/4" bit.

After both of those holes are in place - viola, the case is ready.

Step 2: Jumper Wire/Foil Pad Assembly

Cut out a square of tin foil roughly 3"x3". Fold it up until you have a square roughly the size of a postage stamp, approximately 1/4" thick.

If you'd like, you can now test your foil square on the touchpad to see if it will work as a conductive device. You should be able to move the cursor on the laptop by gently running the foil square over the surface of the touchpad, while pressing down very slightly. If the foil square fails to move the cursor, you may need to make a larger one (e.g. 4"x4") so that the foil square is thicker.

Once you're happy with your foil square, create a crease in the center large enough for you to poke a hole through. Using your sewing needle/sharp poking device, punch a hole through the crease. Make sure the hole is wide enough for you to run the jumper pin through. Insert the jumper pin through the hole, then flatten the crease/foil square as much as possible, so that the jumper pin is flush with the foil square.

If you have some Gorilla Glue/Super Glue, you can apply a small drop over the pin/jumper connector to help secure it to the foil.

Step 3: Arduino/Code Stuff

A word of caution regarding the knock-off Arduino Nanos I listed in the parts. You may have to install drivers for the CH430g chipset to get them to work/appear in your OS. There are plenty of tutorials and guidance out there on how to do that, and it's not a big deal if you're fairly I.T. savvy, but non-tech'y folks will want to buy a "real" Arduino (i.e. something with the logo on it) for this project if you're not sure.

Start a new Sketch, and clear its contents.

Paste in the following code (after the "Start Code", and before the "End Code" sections, respectively):

//-----START CODE..-------

int OUTPUT_PIN = 6; // Digital Pin #6 on the Arduino. You can use any digital pin you'd like though.

void setup() {

pinMode(OUTPUT_PIN, OUTPUT);

}

void loop() {

digitalWrite(OUTPUT_PIN, HIGH);

delay(1000); // Send a pulse out on the output pin for 1 second simulating a "click" on a touchpad.

digitalWrite(OUTPUT_PIN, LOW);

delay(1000); // Send nothing on the output pin for 1 second.

}

//----END CODE------

Not too scary, right? Note: As written, this code will send a pulse out every other second. The "delay" function uses milliseconds as it's unit of time, so if you'd like to send a pulse every 5 seconds, you would change the delay statements to: delay(5000);

Once your code looks good, upload it to the Arduino.

Step 4: Final Assembly

Remove the lid from the project case.

Run the female (non-foiled) end of the jumper wire through the hole you made for the jumper, and into the case.

Run the Mini-B end of your USB cable/5V USB Power Supply through the other hole and into the case.

Connect the female jumper connector to (digital) pin #6 on the Arduino (unless you chose a different pin).

Connect the Mini-B connector to the USB port of the Arduino.

Optional step: You can use electrical tape to secure the Arduino to the inside of the case, but this can make removing the USB cable a slight pain in the arse.

Re-attach the lid to the case.

Place the jumper/foil square against the bottom of the case, so that the jumper is against the bottom of the case, and the foil is facing up. Using a couple strips of electrical tape, tape the foil square down to the case. Leave as much foil exposed as you reasonably can.

You can also tape the jumper wire down to the case a bit if you'd like at this point.

You should now be able to test the iSlack by dragging it over the touchpad and verifying that it moves the cursor.

Step 5: Using the ISlack for Effective Screen-Slacking

For best results: While the laptop is unlocked/logged in, place the cursor in a non-interactive area of the screen. Do not place the cursor over an interactive area like the "[X]" button, etc - as the iSlack essentially performs a left-click every other second.

For example, if you'd like to keep MS Outlook open, place the cursor at the top center of the screen near the word "Inbox".

Once your cursor is set, plug in the iSlack, and then place it so that the foil square is close to the center of your touchpad (see picture above). Your laptop should now keep from idling until either power is removed from the iSlack, or X-Day comes.

That's about it. Have a good one, slackers.

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