A Raspberry Pi Laptop from a Motorola Atrix Lapdock

Introduction

Before I even owned a Raspberry Pi, I was browsing some excellent posts with videos that described how to purchase the right parts to turn a Raspberry Pi into a cute little Linux Laptop.  One of the videos (from Adafruit along with an Adafruit forum post with comments) described a process to cut and solder various cables together, and another (from Rpidock) described a method which only required opening one cable to cut a power connection.

But when I learned that my daughter was taking a college course that required them to purchase a Raspberry Pi, I was ready to purchase, but I was also trying to avoid cutting and soldering.   Here is the list of parts from my final working combination.

Parts Needed:

  1. Cana Kit Raspberry Pi with Preloaded OS, power supply, and plastic case.( From Amazon.com)amazon-canakit-rpi-with-case
  2. Motorola Atrix 4G Lapdock (from sources like Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com and Ebay source 1 and Ebay source two) and Ebay Source Three) – From USA or Israelamazon-motorola-atrix-lapdock
  3. USB 2.0 A Male M to USB 2.0 A Male extension Cable (from Ebay) – from USA         ebay_usb2_a_male_to_male_extension_cable
  4. USB 2.0 A female jack to USB Micro 5 Pin jack female Adapter (from Ebay) – From China        ebay_usb2_a_female_jack_to_usb_micro5_female_jack'
  5. New Gold Plated Micro HDMI Female to HDMI Male Converter Adapter (from Amazon USA) –  from China       ebay-female-micro-hdmi-adapter-to-male-hdmi
  6. Cable Adapter Set for Motorola Atrix 4G – Micro-HDMI (M) to Micro-HDMI (M) Cable and Micro-USB (F) to Micro-USB (M) Cable  (from Amazon USA)amazon-micro-usb-and-hdmi-cable-set

I admit that I only used one portion of this last order – the Micro-USB female cable to Micro-USB Male cable.  I did not use the Micro HDMI male cable, so this other piece was “left over”.

Alternative:

This is another part I purchased, thinking that it might be helpful.

8. USB 2.0 A Female to Micro USB B Male adapter for Google Nexus 7 (from Ebay)

amazon-Y-cable-usb-2-micro-female-to-usb-a-female-and-micro-usb-male

Assembly

First, I must admit that after the Raspberry Pi and the Atrix Lapdock arrived, I had a few weeks of trial and error purchasing certain parts, waiting for them to arrive from distant locations, and then trying them out, and then searching for other parts if the first attempt did not work.

The method I used is slightly different, and requires no cutting or soldering, but it does require some parts that need modification.

The Micro HDMI female adapter has a very thick casing and I had to use a knife to shave off some of the plastic to allow the Micro HDMI adapter to fit on the Atrix Lapdock at the same time as the Micro-USB female adapter.

Here are the steps I recommend:

  1. Open the Atrix Lapdock and connect the power adapter.  Open the flap in the rear which displays the USB and HDMI connectors.  Connect a USB mouse to the USB port on the lapdock if you choose to use one.
  2. Using a knife, cut part of the plastic away from the HDMI female adapter where it connects to the Atrix Lapdock.  You need to reduce the amount of plastic on the side closest to the other micro USB jack on the lapdock.
  3. Connect this HDMI male adapter male into the Raspberry Pi HDMI port.  The Raspberry Pi should have the SD card inserted, but nothing else.
  4. Fit the female end of this HDMI adapter on to the micro HDMI connector – on the back of the Atrix Lapdock – this connector is on the right as the keyboard is closest to you, looking over the screen.  This essentially “mounts” the Raspberry Pi on the back of the Atrix lapdock with not much room for movement.
  5. Fit the USB female cable on to the Micro USB male adapter on the back of the Atrix lapdock.
  6. Fit the Micro USB female adapter to Female USB A adapter on the end of the USB cable from the last step.
  7. Connect the USB A Male-to-Male cable into the Female USB adapter from the last step.  Connect the other end of this cable into the USB port on the Raspberry Pi.
  8. If you wish to use networking, connect an ethernet cable to the Raspberry Pi.
  9. Open the screen of the lapdock, and as you make sure that all connections are secure, the Raspberry Pi should display a light and the OS should boot!

Pro and Con

Advantages: No cutting or soldering!

Disadvantages:

  1. The first disadvantage is that you must unplug the USB connection from the Pi to make sure the power is disconnected and turned off.  The USB male cables carry 5.0 Volts from the lapdock to the Pi, so the Raspberry Pi power supply is not even required.
  2. The second disadvantage is that the parts I have working now do not permit the Raspberry Pi to be enclosed in a nice plastic case.  The Raspberry Pi itself is connected via a very short Micro-HDMI female to male adapter, which essentially “mounts” the Pi on the back of the lapdock, and the connection can be wiggled back and forth which might cause your Pi to shut off unexpectedly, so be careful.

Project Ideas for Next Time

I also was searching for many things using google and amazon searches the availability and pricing of these parts may vary- so keep searching.

One thing I found but was out of stock when I made my raspberry Pi purchase is an excellent kit with a breadboard and jumper cables for building electronic circuits and allowing the Raspberry Pi to interface with other devices.  If you like building circuits, this might be for you!

  • CanaKit Raspberry Pi Ultimate Starter Kit (from Canakit on Amazon.com)

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to the authors of the Rpidock post, they inspired me to keep going and helped me greatly to find a working combination to finish this laptop.

There are many other projects and methods that people have used to create interesting and useful displays for the Raspberry Pi, which can be found from PCWorldInstructables, RobPol86, Tech Crunch, LiliputingArc Software Consulting, Raspians, Slashdot and Hack-a-day.

Further Reading

And don’t forget to visit the forums at Element14, and the official Raspberry Pi forums.

This post from ARS Technica really set me to dreaming about the excellent things we can accomplish with the Raspberry Pi, including pictures from space!  Just google “top ten raspberry pi projects” for lots more ideas than I can list.

Have fun and let me know how it works for you!


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