Sun 2020-06-21 08:06

I really need to stop reading the news, as it does nothing but depress me and cause me to wax philosophical and write long-winded political screeds.

So instead, here's a fun project I've been working on lately:

Hacktop 2020

Hacktop open Hacktop closed, front Hacktop closed, rear

This is my new mobile computing platform and smartphone replacement (for data services - I still use a phone for voice and SMS).

It's a GPD MicroPC UMPC with an Intel N4100 CPU, 8GB of memory, and 256GB SSD. It has on-board dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as features you won't find on any smartphone such as a physical keyboard and trackpad, an RS-232 serial port, a full-sized HDMI port, a wired Ethernet port, and three USB 3.0 type A ports. Those USB ports provide tons of expansion options. I've added a Yubikey 5 Nano smartcard for private key storage and attached a USB 3.0 hub with hardware switches and SD card reader slots to the lid. The hub provides ports for a ZTE MF833V LTE modem and U-blox7 GPS module, each of which can be manually turned off and on only when needed.

Best of all, the unit runs my standard desktop OS: openSUSE Tumbleweed. All the portable data connectivity of a smartphone (and then some) but with no need for mobile apps, app stores, etc. I just use all of my standard FOSS applications, including GNU Emacs. With Syncthing and generous internal storage, my hacktop has all of the same files as my other desktops and laptops.

Battery life on the device is limited to about 5-6 hours. That may not sound great compared to a smartphone, but consider that it's 5-6 hours of active use time. The hacktop suspends when the lid is closed, with standby time of up to a week in my bag.

Speaking of bag, the obvious downside is that the hacktop won't fit in your pocket. But considering the security, privacy, and performance benefits - it's a trade-off I'm willing to make. Plus, I just love the look of the thing. It's bulky, hacky, and has a definite bolted-on quality that I find appealing - in contrast to the streamlined but boring aesthetics of modern consumer electronics.

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