A small notebook for a system administrator

    I am a system administrator, and I need a small, lightweight notebook for every day carrying. Of course, not just to carry it, but for use it to work.

    I already have a ThinkPad x200, but it’s heavier than I would like. And among the lightweight notebooks, I did not find anything suitable. All of them imitate the MacBook Air: thin, shiny, glamorous, and they all critically lack ports. Such notebook is suitable for posting photos on Instagram, but not for work. At least not for mine.

    After not finding anything suitable, I thought about how a notebook would turn out if it were developed not with design, but the needs of real users in mind. System administrators, for example. Or people serving telecommunications equipment in hard-to-reach places — on roofs, masts, in the woods, literally in the middle of nowhere.

    The results of my thoughts are presented in this article.

    Figure to attract attention

    Of course, your understanding of the admin notebook does not have to coincide with mine. But I hope you will find a couple of interesting thoughts here.

    Just keep in mind that «system administrator» is just the name of my position. And in fact, I have to work as a network engineer, and installer, and perform a significant part of other work related to hardware. Our company is tiny, we are far from large settlements, so all of us have to be universal specialist.

    In order not to constantly clarify «this notebook», later in the article I will call it the “adminbook”. Although it can be useful not only to administrators, but also to all who need a small, lightweight notebook with a lot of connectors. In fact, even large laptops don’t have as many connectors.

    So let's get started…

    1. Dimensions and weight


    Of course, you want it smaller and more lightweight, but the keyboard with the screen should not be too small. And there has to be space for connectors, too.

    In my opinion, a suitable option is a notebook half the size of an x200. That is, approximately the size of a sheet of A5 paper (210x148mm). In addition, the side pockets of many bags and backpacks are designed for this size. This means that the adminbook doesn’t even have to be carried in the main compartment.

    Though I couldn’t fit everything I wanted into 210mm. To make a comfortable keyboard, the width had to be increased to 230mm.

    In the illustrations the adminbook may seem too thick. But that’s only an optical illusion. In fact, its thickness is 25mm (28mm taking the rubber feet into account).

    Its size is close to the usual hardcover book, 300-350 pages thick.

    It’s lightweight, too — about 800 grams (half the weight of the ThinkPad).

    The case of the adminbook is made of mithril aluminum. It’s a lightweight, durable metal with good thermal conductivity.

    2. Keyboard and trackpoint


    A quality keyboard is very important for me. “Quality” there means the fastest possible typing and hotkey speed. It needs to be so “matter-of-fact” I don’t have to think about it at all, as if it types seemingly by force of thought.

    This is possible if the keys are normal size and in their typical positions. But the adminbook is too small for that. In width, it is even smaller than the main block of keys of a desktop keyboard. So, you have to work around that somehow.

    After a long search and numerous tests, I came up with what you see in the picture:

    Adminbook keyboard
    Fig.2.1 — Adminbook keyboard

    This keyboard has the same vertical key distance as on a regular keyboard. A horizontal distance decreased just only 2mm (17 instead of 19).

    You can even type blindly on this keyboard! To do this, some keys have small bumps for tactile orientation.

    However, if you do not sit at a table, the main input method will be to press the keys “at a glance”. And here the muscle memory does not help — you have to look at the keys with your eyes.

    To hit the buttons faster, different key colors are used.

    For example, the numeric row is specifically colored gray to visually separate it from the QWERTY row, and NumLock is mapped to the “6” key, colored black to stand out.

    To the right of NumLock, gray indicates the area of the numeric keypad. These (and neighboring) buttons work like a numeric keypad in NumLock mode or when you press Fn. I must say, this is a useful feature for the admin computer — some users come up with passwords on the numpad in the form of a “cross”, “snake”, “spiral”, etc. I want to be able to type them that way too.

    As for the function keys. I don’t know about you, but it annoys me when, in a 15-inch laptop, this row is half-height and only accessible through pressing Fn. Given that there’s a lot free space around the keyboard!

    The adminbook doesn’t have free space at all. But the function keys can be pressed without Fn. These are separate keys that are even divided into groups of 4 using color coding and location.

    By the way, have you seen which key is to the right of AltGr on modern ThinkPads? I don’t know what they were thinking, but now they have PrintScreen there!

    Where? Where, I ask, is the context menu key that I use every day? It’s not there.

    So the adminbook has it. Two, even! You can put it up by pressing Fn + Alt. Sorry, I couldn’t map it to a separate key due to lack of space. Just in case, I added the “Right Win” key as Fn + CtrlR. Maybe some people use it for something.

    However, the adminbook allows you to customize the keyboard to your liking. The keyboard is fully reprogrammable. You can assign the scan codes you need to the keys. Setting the keyboard parameters is done via the “KEY” button (Fn + F3).

    Of course, the adminbook has a keyboard backlight. It is turned on with Fn + B (below the trackpoint, you can even find it in the dark). The backlight here is similar to the ThinkPad ThinkLight. That is, it’s an LED above the display, illuminating the keyboard from the top. In this case, it is better than a backlight from below, because it allows you to distinguish the color of the keys. In addition, keys have several characters printed on them, while only English letters are usually made translucent to the backlight.

    Since we’re on the topic of characters… Red letters are Ukrainian and Russian. I specifically drew them to show that keys have space for several alphabets: after all, English is not a native language for most of humanity.

    Since there isn’t enough space for a full touchpad, the trackpoint is used as the positioning device. If you have no experience working with it — don’t worry, it’s actually quite handy. The mouse cursor moves with slight inclines of the trackpoint, like an analog joystick, and its three buttons (under the spacebar) work the same as on the mouse.

    To the left of the trackpoint keys is a fingerprint scanner. That makes it possible to login by fingerprint. It’s very convenient in most cases.

    The space bar has an NFC antenna location mark. You can simply read data from devices equipped with NFC, and you can make it to lock the system while not in use. For example, if you wear an NFC-equipped ring, it looks like this: when you remove hands from the keyboard, the computer locks after a certain time, and unlocks when you put hands on the keyboard again.

    And now the unexpected part. The keyboard and the trackpoint can work as a USB keyboard and mouse for an external computer! For this, there are USB Type C and MicroUSB connectors on the back, labeled «OTG». You can connect to an external computer using a standard USB cable from a phone (which is usually always with you).

    Right side of adminbook
    Fig.2.2 — On the right: the power connector 5.5x2.5mm, the main LAN connector, POE indicator, USB 3.0 Type A, USB Type C (with alternate HDMI mode), microSD card reader and two «magic» buttons

    Switching to the external keyboard mode is done with the «K» button on the right side of the adminbook. And there are actually three modes, since the keyboard+trackpoint combo can also work as a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse!

    Moreover: to save energy, the keyboard and trackpoint can work autonomously from the rest of the adminbook. When the adminbook is turned off, pressing «K» can turn on only the keyboard and trackpoint to use them by connecting to another computer.

    Of course, the keyboard is water-resistant. Excess water is drained down through the drainage holes.

    3. Video subsystem


    There are some devices that normally do not need a monitor and keyboard. For example, industrial computers, servers or DVRs. And since the monitor is «not needed», it is, in most cases, absent.

    And when there is a need to configure such a device from the console, it can be a big surprise that the entire office is working on laptops and there is not a single stationary monitor within reach. Therefore, in some cases you have to take a monitor with you.

    But you don’t need to worry about this if you have the adminbook.

    The fact is that the video outputs of the adminbook can switch «in the opposite direction» and work as video inputs by displaying the incoming image on the built-in screen. So, the adminbook can also replace the monitor (in addition to replace the mouse and keyboard).


    Left side of adminbook
    Fig.3.1 — On the left side of the adminbook, there are Mini DisplayPort, USB Type C (with alternate DisplayPort mode), SD card reader, USB 3.0 Type A connectors, HDMI, four audio connectors, VGA and power button

    Switching modes between input and output is done by pressing the «M» button on the right side of the adminbook.

    The video subsystem, as well as the keyboard, can work autonomously — that is, when used as a monitor, the other parts of the adminbook remain disabled. To turn on to this mode also uses the «M» button.

    Detailed screen adjustment (contrast, geometry, video input selection, etc.) is performed using the menu, brought up with the «SCR» button (Fn + F4).

    The adminbook has HDMI, MiniDP, VGA and USB Type C connectors (with DisplayPort and HDMI alternate mode) for video input / output. The integrated GPU can display the image simultaneously in three directions (including the integrated display).

    The adminbook display is FullHD (1920x1080), 9.5’’, matte screen. The brightness is sufficient for working outside during the day. And to do it better, the set includes folding blinds for protection from sunlight.

    Blinds to protect from sunlight
    Fig.3.2 — Blinds to protect from sunlight

    In addition to video output via these connectors, the adminbook can use wireless transmission via WiDi or Miracast protocols.

    4. Emulation of external drives


    One of the options for installing the operating system is to install it from a CD / DVD, but now very few computers have optical drives. USB connectors are everywhere, though. Therefore, the adminbook can pretend to be an external optical drive connected via USB.

    That allows connecting it to any computer to install an operating system on it, while also running boot discs with test programs or antiviruses.

    To connect, it uses the same USB cable that’s used for connecting it to a desktop as an external keyboard/mouse.

    The “CD” button (Fn + F2) controls the drive emulation — select a disc image (in an .iso file) and mount / unmount it.

    If you need to copy data from a computer or to it, the adminbook can emulate an external hard drive connected via the same USB cable. HDD emulation is also enabled by the “CD” button.

    This button also turns on the emulation of bootable USB flash drives. They are now used to install operating systems almost more often than CDs. Therefore, the adminbook can pretend to be a bootable flash drive.

    The .iso files are located on a separate partition of the hard disk. This allows you to use them regardless of the operating system. Moreover, in the emulation menu you can connect a virtual drive to one of the USB interfaces of the adminbook. This makes it possible to install an operating system on the adminbook using itself as an installation disc drive.

    By the way, the adminbook is designed to work under Windows 10 and Debian / Kali / Ubuntu. The menu system called via function buttons with Fn works autonomously on a separate microcontroller.

    5. Rear connectors


    First, a classic DB-9 connector for RS-232. Any admin notebook simply has to have it. We have it here, too, and galvanically isolated from the rest of the notebook.

    In addition to RS-232, RS-485 widely used in industrial automation is supported. It has a two-wire and four-wire version, with a terminating resistor and without, with the ability to enable a protective offset. It can also work in RS-422 and UART modes.

    All these protocols are configured in the on-screen menu, called by the «COM» button (Fn + F8).

    Since there are multiple protocols, it is possible to accidentally connect the equipment to a wrong connector and break it.

    To prevent this from happening, when you turn off the computer (or go into sleep mode, or close the display lid), the COM port switches to the default mode. This may be a “port disabled” state, or enabling one of the protocols.

    Rear side of adminbook
    Fig.5.1 — The rear connectors: DB-9, SATA + SATA Power, HD Mini SAS, the second wired LAN connector, two USB 3.0 Type A connectors, two USB 2.0 MicroB connectors, three USB Type C connectors, a USIM card tray, a PBD-12 pin connector (jack)

    The adminbook has one more serial port. But if the first one uses the hardware UART chipset, the second one is connected to the USB 2.0 line through the FT232H converter.

    Thanks to this, via COM2, you can exchange data via I2C, SMBus, SPI, JTAG, UART protocols or use it as 8 outputs for Bit-bang / GPIO. These protocols are used when working with microcontrollers, flashing firmware on routers and debugging any other electronics. For this purpose, pin connectors are usually used with a 2.54mm pitch. Therefore, COM2 is made to look like one of these connectors.

    USB to UART adapter
    Fig.5.2 — USB to UART adapter replaced by COM2 port

    There is also a secondary LAN interface at the back. Like the main one, it is gigabit-capable, with support for VLAN. Both interfaces are able to test the integrity of the cable (for pair length and short circuits), the presence of connected devices, available communication speeds, the presence of POE voltage. With the using a wiremap adapter on the other side (see chapter 17) it is possible to determine how the cable is connected to crimps.

    The network interface menu is called with the “LAN” button (Fn + F6).

    The adminbook has a combined SATA + SATA Power connector, connected directly to the chipset. That makes it possible to perform low-level tests of hard drives that do not work through USB-SATA adapters. Previously, you had to do it through ExpressCards-type adapters, but the adminbook can do without them because it has a true SATA output.

    USB to SATA/IDE and ExpressCard to SATA adapters
    Fig.5.3 — USB to SATA/IDE and ExpressCard to SATA adapters

    The adminbook also has a connector that no other laptops have — HD Mini SAS (SFF-8643). PCIe x4 is routed outside through this connector. Thus, it's possible to connect an external U.2 (directly) or M.2 type (through an adapter) drives. Or even a typical desktop PCIe expansion card (like a graphics card).

    HD Mini SAS to U.2 cable
    Fig.5.4 — HD Mini SAS (SFF-8643) to U.2 cable

    U.2 drive
    Fig.5.5 — U.2 drive

    U.2 to M.2 adapter
    Fig.5.6 — U.2 to M.2 adapter

    Custom adapter to PCIe from U.2
    Fig.5.7 — Combined adapter from U.2 to M.2 and PCIe (sample M.2 22110 drive is installed)

    Unfortunately, the limitations of the chipset don’t allow arbitrary use of PCIe lanes. In addition, the processor uses the same data lanes for PCIe and SATA. Therefore, the rear connectors can only work in two ways:
    — all four PCIe lanes go to the Mini SAS connector (the second network interface and SATA don’t work)
    — two PCIe lanes go to the Mini SAS, and two lanes to the second network interface and SATA connector

    On the back there are also two USB connectors (usual and Type C), which are constantly powered. That allows you to charge other devices from your notebook, even when the notebook is turned off.

    6. Power Supply


    The adminbook is designed to work in difficult and unpredictable conditions, therefore, it is able to receive power in various ways.

    Method number one is Power Delivery. The power supply cable can be connected to any USB Type C connector (except the one marked “OTG”).

    The second option is from a normal 5V phone charger with a microUSB or USB Type C connector. At the same time, if you connect to the ports labeled QC 3.0, the QuickCharge fast charging standard will be supported.

    The third option — from any source of 12-60V DC power. To connect, use a coaxial ( also known as “barrel”) 5.5x2.5mm power connector, often found in laptop power supplies.

    For greater safety, the 12-60V power supply is galvanically isolated from the rest of the notebook. In addition, there’s reverse polarity protection. In fact, the adminbook can receive energy even if positive and negative ends are mismatched.

    Power cable
    Fig.6.1 — The cable, connecting the power supply to the adminbook (terminated with 5.5x2.5mm connectors)

    Adapters for a car cigarette lighter and crocodile clips are included in the box.

    Adapter to crocodile clips
    Fig.6.2 — Adapter from 5.5x2.5mm coaxial connector to crocodile clips

    Adapter to a car cigarette lighter
    Fig.6.3 — Adapter to a car cigarette lighter

    The fourth option — Power Over Ethernet (POE) through the main network adapter. Supported options are 802.3af, 802.3at and Passive POE. Input voltage from 12 to 60V. This method is convenient if you have to work on the roof or on the tower, setting up Wi-Fi antennas. Power to them comes through Ethernet cables, and there is no other electricity on the tower.

    POE electricity can be used in three ways:

    • power the notebook only
    • forward to a second network adapter and power the notebook from batteries
    • power the notebook and the antenna at the same time

    To prevent equipment damage, if one of the Ethernet cables is disconnected, the power to the second network interface is terminated. The power can only be turned on manually through the corresponding menu item.

    When using the 802.3af / at protocols, you can set the power class that the adminbook will request from the power supply device. This and other POE properties are configured from the menu called with the “LAN” button (Fn + F6).

    By the way, you can remotely reset Ubiquity access points (which is done by closing certain wires in the cable) with the second network interface.

    The indicator next to the main network interface shows the presence and type of POE: green — 802.3af / at, red — Passive POE.

    The last, fifth power supply is the battery. Here it’s a LiPol, 42W/hour battery.

    In case the external power supply does not provide sufficient power, the missing power can be drawn from the battery. Thus, it can draw power from the battery and external sources at the same time.

    7. Display unit


    The display can tilt 180 degrees, and it’s locked with latches while closed (opens with a button on the front side). When the display is closed, adminbook doesn’t react to pressing any external buttons.

    In addition to the screen, the notebook lid contains:

    • front and rear cameras with lights, microphones, activity LEDs and mechanical curtains
    • LED of the upper backlight of the keyboard (similar to ThinkLight)
    • LED indicators for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDD and others
    • wireless protocol antennas (in the blue plastic insert)
    • photo sensors and LEDs for the infrared remote
    • gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer

    The plastic insert for the antennas does not reach the corners of the display lid. This is done because in the «traveling» notebooks the corners are most affected by impacts, and it's desirable that they be made of metal.

    8. Webcams


    The notebook has 2 webcams. The front-facing one is 8MP (4K / UltraHD), while the “selfie” one is 2MP (FullHD). Both cameras have a backlight controlled by separate buttons (Fn + G and Fn + H). Each camera has a mechanical curtain and an activity LED. The shifted mechanical curtain also turns off the microphones of the corresponding side (configurable).

    The external camera has two quick launch buttons — Fn + 1 takes an instant photo, Fn + 2 turns on video recording. The internal camera has a combination of Fn + Q and Fn + W.

    You can configure cameras and microphones from the menu called up by the “CAM” button (Fn + F10).

    9. Indicator row


    It has the following indicators: Microphone, NumLock, ScrollLock, hard drive access, battery charge, external power connection, sleep mode, mobile connection, WiFi, Bluetooth.

    Three indicators are made to shine through the back side of the display lid, so that they can be seen while the lid is closed: external power connection, battery charge, sleep mode.

    Indicators are color-coded.

    Microphone — lights up red when all microphones are muted

    Battery charge: more than 60% is green, 30-60% is yellow, less than 30% is red, less than 10% is blinking red.

    External power: green — power is supplied, the battery is charged; yellow — power is supplied, the battery is charging; red — there is not enough external power to operate, the battery is drained

    Mobile: 4G (LTE) — green, 3G — yellow, EDGE / GPRS — red, blinking red — on, but no connection

    Wi-Fi: green — connected to 5 GHz, yellow — to 2.4 GHz, red — on, but not connected

    You can configure the indication with the “IND” button (Fn + F9)

    10. Infrared remote control


    Near the indicators (on the front and back of the display lid) there are infrared photo sensors and LEDs to recording and playback commands from IR remotes. You can set it up, as well as emulate a remote control by pressing the “IR” button (Fn + F5).

    11. Wireless interfaces


    WiFi — dual-band, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with support for Wireless Direct, Intel WI-Di / Miracast, Wake On Wireless LAN.

    You ask, why is Miracast here? Because is already embedded in many WiFi chips, so its presence does not lead to additional costs. But you can transfer the image wirelessly to TVs, projectors and TV set-top boxes, that already have Miracast built in.

    Regarding Bluetooth, there’s nothing special. It’s version 4.2 or newest. By the way, the keyboard and trackpoint have a separate Bluetooth module. This is much easier than connect them to the system-wide module.

    Of course, the adminbook has a built-in cellular modem for 4G (LTE) / 3G / EDGE / GPRS, as well as a GPS / GLONASS / Galileo / Beidou receiver. This receiver also doesn’t cost much, because it’s already built into the 4G modem.

    There is also an NFC communication module, with the antenna under the spacebar. Antennas of all other wireless interfaces are in a plastic insert above the display.

    You can configure wireless interfaces with the «WRLS» button (Fn + F7).

    12. USB connectors


    In total, four USB 3.0 Type A connectors and four USB 3.1 Type C connectors are built into the adminbook. Peripherals are connected to the adminbook through these.

    One more Type C and MicroUSB are allocated only for keyboard / mouse / drive emulation (denoted as “OTG”).

    «QC 3.0» labeled MicroUSB connector can not only be used for power, but it can switch to normal USB 2.0 port mode, except using MicroB instead of normal Type A. Why is it necessary? Because to flash some electronics you sometimes need non-standard USB A to USB A cables.

    In order to not make adapters outselves, you can use a regular phone charging cable by plugging it into this Micro B connector. Or use an USB A to USB Type C cable (if you have one).

    USB A to USB A cable
    Fig.12.1 — Homemade USB A to USB A cable

    Since USB Type C supports alternate modes, it makes sense to use it. Alternate modes are when the connector works as HDMI or DisplayPort video outputs. Though you’ll need adapters to connect it to a TV or monitor. Or appropriate cables that have Type C on one end and HDMI / DP on the other. However, USB Type C to USB Type C cables might soon become the most common video transfer cable.

    The Type C connector on the left side of the adminbook supports an alternate Display Port mode, and on the right side, HDMI. Like the other video outputs of the adminbook, they can work as both input and output.

    The one thing left to say is that Type C is bidirectional in regard to power delivery — it can both take in power as well as output it.

    13. Other


    On the left side there are four audio connectors: Line In, Line Out, Microphone and the combo headset jack (headphones + microphone). Supports simple stereo, quad and 5.1 mode output.

    Audio outputs are specially placed next to the video connectors, so that when connected to any equipment, the wires are on one side.

    Built-in speakers are on the sides. Outside, they are covered with grills and acoustic fabric with water-repellent impregnation.

    There are also two slots for memory cards — full-size SD and MicroSD. If you think that the first slot is needed only for copying photos from the camera — you are mistaken. Now, both single-board computers like Raspberry Pi and even rack-mount servers are loaded from SD cards. MicroSD cards are also commonly found outside of phones. In general, you need both card slots.

    Sensors more familiar to phones — a gyroscope, an accelerometer and a magnetometer — are built into the lid of the notebook. Thanks to this, one can determine where the notebook cameras are directed and use this for augmented reality, as well as navigation. Sensors are controlled via the menu using the “SNSR” button (Fn + F11).

    Among the function buttons with Fn, F1 (“MAN”) and F12 (“ETC”) I haven’t described yet. The first is a built-in guide on connectors, modes and how to use the adminbook. The second is the settings of non-standard subsystems that have not separate buttons.

    14. What's inside


    The adminbook is based on the Core i5-7Y57 CPU (Kaby Lake architecture). Although it’s less of a CPU, but more of a real SOC (System On a Chip). That is, almost the entire computer (without peripherals) fits in one chip the size of a thumb nail (2x1.6 cm).

    It emits from 3.5W to 7W of heat (depends on the frequency). So, a passive cooling system is adequate in this case.

    8GB of RAM are installed by default, expandable up to 16GB.

    A 256GB M.2 2280 SSD, connected with two PCIe lanes, is used as the hard drive.

    Wi-Fi + Bluetooth and WWAN + GNSS adapters are also designed as M.2 modules.

    RAM, the hard drive and wireless adapters are located on the top of the motherboard and can be replaced by the user — just unscrew and lift the keyboard.

    The battery is assembled from four LP545590 cells and can also be replaced.

    SOC and other irreplaceable hardware are located on the bottom of the motherboard. The heating components for cooling are pressed directly against the case.

    External connectors are located on daughter boards connected to the motherboard via ribbon cables. That allows to release different versions of the adminbook based on the same motherboard.

    For example, one of the possible version:

    Adminbook A4 (front view)Fig.14.1 — Adminbook A4 (front view)

    Adminbook A4 (back view)
    Fig.14.2 — Adminbook A4 (back view)

    Adminbook A4 (keyboard)
    Fig.14.3 — Adminbook A4 (keyboard)

    This is an adminbook with a 12.5” display, its overall dimensions are 210x297mm (A4 paper format). The keyboard is full-size, with a standard key size (only the top row is a bit narrower). All the standard keys are there, except for the numpad and the Right Win, available with Fn keys. And trackpad added.

    15. The underside of the adminbook


    Not expecting anything interesting from the bottom? But there is!

    First I will say a few words about the rubber feet. On my ThinkPad, they sometimes fall away and lost. I don't know if it's a bad glue, or a backpack is not suitable for a notebook, but it happens.

    Therefore, in the adminbook, the rubber feet are screwed in (the screws are slightly buried in rubber, so as not to scratch the tables). The feet are sufficiently streamlined so that they cling less to other objects.

    On the bottom there are visible drainage holes marked with a water drop.

    And the four threaded holes for connecting the adminbook with fasteners.

    The underside of the adminbookFig.15.1 — The underside of the adminbook

    Large hole in the center has a tripod thread.

    Camera clamp mount
    Fig.15.2 — Camera clamp mount

    Why is it necessary? Because sometimes you have to hang on high, holding the mast with one hand, holding the notebook with the second, and typing something on the third… Unfortunately, I am not Shiva, so these tricks are not easy for me. And you can just screw the adminbook by a camera mount to any protruding part of the structure and free your hands!

    No protruding parts? No problem. A plate with neodymium magnets is screwed to three other holes and the adminbook is magnetised to any steel surface — even vertical! As you see, opening the display by 180° is pretty useful.

    Fastening with magnetsFig.15.3 — Fastening with magnets and shaped holes for nails / screws

    And if there is no metal? For example, working on the roof, and next to only a wooden wall. Then you can screw 1-2 screws in the wall and hang the adminbook on them. To do this, there are special slots in the mount, plus an eyelet on the handle.

    For especially difficult cases, there’s an arm mount. This is not very convenient, but better than nothing. Besides, it allows you to navigate even with a working notebook.

    Arm mountFig.15.4 — Arm mount

    In general, these three holes use a regular metric thread, specifically so that you can make some DIY fastening and fasten it with ordinary screws.

    Except fasteners, an additional radiator can be screwed to these holes, so that you can work for a long time under high load or at high ambient temperature.

    RadiatorFig.15.5 — Adminbook with additional radiator

    16. Accessories


    The adminbook has some unique features, and some of them are implemented using equipment designed specifically for the adminbook. Therefore, these accessories are immediately included. However, non-unique accessories are also available immediately.

    Here is a complete list of both:

    • fasteners with magnets
    • arm mount
    • heatsink
    • screen blinds covering it from sunlight
    • HD Mini SAS to U.2 cable
    • combined adapter from U.2 to M.2 and PCIe
    • power cable, terminated by coaxial 5.5x2.5mm connectors
    • adapter from power cable to cigarette lighter
    • adapter from power cable to crocodile clips
    • different adapters from the power cable to coaxial connectors
    • universal power supply and power cord from it into the outlet

    17. Power supply


    Since this is a power supply for a system administrator's notebook, it would be nice to make it universal, capable of powering various electronic devices. Fortunately, the vast majority of devices are connected via coaxial connectors or USB. I mean devices with external power supplies: routers, switches, notebooks, nettops, single-board computers, DVRs, IPTV set top boxes, satellite tuners and more.

    Power adaptersFig.17.1 — Adapters from 5.5x2.5mm coaxial connector to other types of connectors

    There aren’t many connector types, which allows to get by with an adjustable-voltage PSU and adapters for the necessary connectors. It also needs to support various power delivery standards.

    In our case, the power supply supports the following modes:

    • Power Delivery — displayed as [pd]
    • Quick Charge [qc]
    • 802.3af/at [at]
    • voltage from 5 to 54 volts in 0.5V increments (displayed voltage)


    7-segment indicator
    Fig.17.2 — Mode display on the 7-segment indicator (1.9. = 19.5V)

    Front and top sides of power supplyFig.17.3 — Front and top sides of power supply

    USB outputs on the power supply (5V 2A) are always on. On the other outputs the voltage is applied by pressing the ON/OFF button.

    The desired mode is selected with the MODE button and this selection is remembered even when the power is turned off. The modes are listed like this: pd, qc, at, then a series of voltages.

    Voltage increases by pressing and holding the MODE button, decreases by short pressing. Step to the right — 1 Volt, step to the left — 0.5 Volt. Half a volt is needed because some equipment requires, for example, 19.5 volts. These half volts are displayed on the display with decimal points (19V -> [19], 19.5V -> [1.9.]).

    When power is on, the green LED is on. When a short-circuit or overcurrent protection is triggered, [SH] is displayed, and the LED lights up red.

    In the Power Delivery and Quick Charge modes, voltage is applied to the USB outputs (Type A and Type C). Only one of them can be used at one time.

    In 802.3af/at modes, the power supply acts as an injector, combining the supply voltage with data from the LAN connector and supplying it to the POE connector. Power is supplied only if a device with 802.3af or 802.3at support is plugged into the POE connector.

    But in the simple voltage supply mode, electricity throu the POE connector is issued immediately, without any checks. This is the so-called Passive POE — positive charge goes to conductors 4 and 5, and negative charge to conductors 7 and 8. At the same time, the voltage is applied to the coaxial connector. Adapters for various types of connectors are used in this mode.

    The power supply unit has a built-in button to remotely reset Ubiquity access points. This is a very useful feature that allows you to reset the antenna to factory settings without having to climb on the mast. I don’t know — is any other manufacturers support a feature like this?

    The power supply also has the passive wiremap adapter, which allows you to determine the correct Ethernet cable crimping. The active part is located in the Ethernet ports of the adminbook.

    Back side and wiremap adapterFig.17.4 — Back side and wiremap adapter

    Of course, the network cable tester built into the adminbook will not replace a professional OTDR, but for most tasks it will be enough.

    To prevent overheating, part of the PSU’s body acts as an aluminum heatsink. Power supply power — 65 watts, size 10x5x4cm.

    18. Afterword


    “It won’t fit into such a small case!” — the sceptics will probably say. To be frank, I also sometimes think that way when re-reading what I wrote above.

    And then I open the 3D model and see, that all parts fits. Of course, I am not an electronic engineer, and for sure I miss some important things. But, I hope that if there are mistakes, they are “overcorrections”. That is, real engineers would fit all of that into a case even smaller.

    By and large, the adminbook can be divided into 5 functional parts:

    • the usual part, as in all notebooks — processor, memory, hard drive, etc.
    • keyboard and trackpoint that can work separately
    • autonomous video subsystem
    • subsystem for managing non-standard features (enable / disable POE, infrared remote control, PCIe mode switching, LAN testing, etc.)
    • power subsystem

    If we consider them separately, then everything looks quite feasible.

    The SOC Kaby Lake contains a CPU, a graphics accelerator, a memory controller, PCIe, SATA controller, USB controller for 6 USB3 and 10 USB2 outputs, Gigabit Ethernet controller, 4 lanes to connect webcams, integrated audio and etc.

    All that remains is to trace the lanes to connectors and supply power to it.

    Keyboard and trackpoint is a separate module that connects via USB to the adminbook or to an external connector. Nothing complicated here: USB and Bluetooth keyboards are very widespread. In our case, in addition, needs to make a rewritable table of scan codes and transfer non-standard keys over a separate interface other than USB.

    The video subsystem receives the video signal from the adminbook or from external connectors. In fact, this is a regular monitor with a video switchboard plus a couple of VGA converters.

    Non-standard features are managed independently of the operating system. The easiest way to do it with via a separate microcontroller which receives codes for pressing non-standard keys (those that are pressed with Fn) and performs the corresponding actions.

    Since you have to display a menu to change the settings, the microcontroller has a video output, connected to the adminbook for the duration of the setup.

    The internal PSU is galvanically isolated from the rest of the system. Why not? On habr.com there was an article about making a 100W, 9.6mm thickness planar transformer! And it only costs $0.5.

    So the electronic part of the adminbook is quite feasible. There is the programming part, and I don’t know which part will harder.

    This concludes my fairly long article. It long, even though I simplified, shortened and threw out minor details.

    The ideal end of the article was a link to an online store where you can buy an adminbook. But it's not yet designed and released. Since this requires money.

    Unfortunately, I have no experience with Kickstarter or Indigogo. Maybe you have this experience? Let's do it together!

    Update


    Many people asked for a simplified version. Ok. Done. Sorry — just a 3d model, without render.

    Deleted: second LAN adapter, micro SD card reader, one USB port Type C, second camera, camera lights and camera curtines, display latch, unnecessary audio connectors.

    Also in this version there will be no infrared remote control, a reprogrammable keyboard, QC 3.0 charging standard, and getting power by POE.




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    Comments 57

      +7
      It looks like a render. I mean, a bad render. For example, you've suggested to mount it on tripod. Is it good idea?

      Let's do the math.210/2 = 105mm, Tripod mount is about 30mm (15 mm radius). It's about 7 times difference. If I press with 1kg of force on enter (a bit heavy stroke, but nothing unusual) it would cause 7kg force on one size of pad. How thick bottom part would be? How quickly screw hole loose it's threading?

      The next thing is a cover. You have keys right to the side, and then you have a lid trim with supersmall thinkness. With zero tolerance. Fail.

      Thickness of the bottom part, according to the placement of the ethernet jack is about… well, less then 1mm. Same for the back if we look at USB on the side.

      Sorry, it's a magical render, not a prototype.

        0
        Of course, this is a render, not a finished prototype.

        As for the tripod, a sleeve is provided inside the case into which the thread is cut. Thread depth — 5mm and can be increased.

        «Supersmall thickness» = 1 mm. If this is not enough, it's possibe add stiffeners that will fit between the outside keys.

        The case thikness is various — from 1mm to 2mm (stiffeners).

        In general, I am more interested in functionality. The design of the case is not too important. The case can be slightly increased if necessary.
          0
          I would buy this just for the built-in tripod mount alone. If I can use this for a on-field monitor during tv production or studio photography that would be so so awesome.

          Only thing I would add is glove-compatible touchscreen, and it really will be perfect.
            0
            C-Fu, tripod doesn't need to be a built-in feature. For any ThinkPad that supports an Ultrabase, it should just be a matter of making a tripod adapter that fits to the four hook points (two docking connector, two front-edge).
            0
            Good idea
            +5
            I… have only one question. Why 4 audio connectors?
              0
              Don't know, but the OLPC shows that unconventional things can be done with a mic port. On the OLPC, you can read a voltage straight off the jack…
              +2
              Look at those ports. It is absolutely impossible to place even a small fraction of them into this tiny thing. But I still love it!
                0
                This is possible. I made a 3D model based on the actual size of the connectors. Processor, memory, Wi-Fi card, 3G modem, SSD, battery cells — all sizes are real. The power supply is an approximate size, with some margin.

                Unfortunately, I do not know how much space is needed for other electronics on motherboard except SOC. Therefore, reserved for it the entire bottom of the motherboard. Even if there is not enough space, it's possibly to remove half of the battery, 2-3 audio connectors and a MicroSD reader.

                Of course, I do not exclude the possibility that I am wrong :)
                  0
                  This looks suspicious to me.

                  image

                  Even if dimensions match there, I absolutely do not understand how and where the body is fixed with screws. Though I did not really read the text.
                    0
                    The body is one detail. This is a rectangular aluminium box without a lid. Hinges are inserted into it and fastened with screws (its can be seen in the pictures). Then the keyboard is inserted and fastened with screws in the feets and a screw located in deepth of the tripod hole.

                    How exactly to make the body depends on the amount of manufactured products. In small quantities, it is advantageous to mill out of a solid aluminum plate. If the quantity increases, stamping or casting under pressure becomes more beneficial.

                    Of course, I'm not a technologist. And I did not develop the whole process of making a laptop. But I hope that I could foresee the most important points.

                    Thanks for the careful analysis.
                    0
                    what about temperature control? you can put all this parts in one box. but will it work when you start it?
                      0
                      The hot elements on the bottom of the motherboard dissipate heat through the bottom of the body. They are pressed to the bottom through thermal grease.

                      Elements at the top of the motherboard dissipate heat, nestling on the bottom of the keyboard through heat-conducting rubber. I hope this will be enough.

                      If not, one of the four battery cells will be replaced by a fan. The air intakes will be located below or in front, the exit — under the display.
                  0
                  This brings two thoughts to my head. Can you really kickstart something like this? And when will we be able to produce real DIY notebooks? 3D print the casing with some opensource design tools, order parts from Aliexpress/Ebay? 2050?
                    0
                    I think, to have a concept is not similar to have posibility for an industry organization. TC hope that his idea inspire some person, whoes compitetions and resources will make posible to start production.
                      0
                      Yes, you are right
                    +5
                    Your concept looks fine and dandy at first glance. The recent sway in the industry away from having any meaningful amount of I/O ports provokes a very natural response: brutalist design aesthetics and as many ports as hardware allows. It's easy to go overboard however.

                    I lack any knowledge in industrial design to criticize your concept in depth. However it does feel overengineered with its numerous I/O ports. One thing stands out: the concept lacks fan vents or, at the very least, to my eye existing exhaust holes feel inadequate for prolonged CPU load. It's true that CPU you suggested peaks at 7 W, but personally I'd be far more comfortable with some heat pipes and a small fan since usage scenarios are not going to be light. In addition to that, typically hardware manufacturers couple i5-7Y57 with a SATA SSD, since this CPU isn't fast enough to take full advantage of NVMe speeds. By the way, NVMe SSDs tend to get hot under continuous data loads.

                    I do believe that a couple of USB Type-C connectors (USB and HDMI/DisplayPort with a cheap adapter) and a few regular full-size USB ports shall be enough for anything you may expect from a 9-inch device. Add an Ethernet port and an RS-232 serial — and this device is now considered to be a pocket multitool for a sysadmin. Audio output with TRRS connector is an industry standard at this point, 4 audio jacks is an overkill. Having a full-sized SD slot seems excessive, and ability to take microSD cards would resolve any issues with expandable storage. A pocketful of passive (and therefore cheap) adapters would satisfy most connectivity needs.

                    As for battery, 42 W·h capacity feels unrealistic. I think, something in 20—30 W·h range may fit into this form factor. 2 A at 5 V is not enough to both recharge the battery and work on this thing, the screen takes a few watts, too.

                    A tiny laptop is easy to lose or steal, so it probably needs some hardware encryption and security features. A TPM 2.0 chip is a must here.

                    GPD, a Chinese company, previously released a number of gaming-oriented Windows 10 powered tiny 6-inch laptops with x86 CPUs. Later they made something similar, but for productivity: they simply removed joysticks and put a trackpoint instead. There is something similar to your concept upcoming: GPD MicroPC. This thing does have a COM port and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with them in any way, I stumbled upon this campaign preview yesterday.
                      0
                      About the fan. Lenovo Yoga and Asus Transformer work without it. Note that Asus Transformer Pro has a processor with a thermal capacity of 7.5-25 Watt. So I think the 3.5-7 Watt processor in my case will also be able to work without a fan. But I still provided the possibility to add a radiator.

                      This SOC has two SATA ports. One of them is brought outside. The second is connected to connector M.2 type M, where the SSD is inserted. Sorry, I forgot to mention this — SSD can be both SATA or NVMe.

                      About adapters. I don't like them. The volume of adapters and cables that I have to carry with me, exceed the size of the laptop.

                      Right now I have two devices on my desk. One is connected to the laptop via the UART adapter, the second is via the RS-485 adapter. Moreover, these adapters occupy USB ports. There are only 4 of them on my laptop. Just connect the keyboard and mouse — and that's it! The free USB ports on my work laptop are out.

                      It's good that I have a docking station.

                      By the way, I also use two LAN ports. And for this, I also have an adapter: (

                      That is why the adminbook has so many USB ports, audio connectors and two SD card readers.
                      Although, I agree — I overdid it with audio connectors :)

                      In general, I want to have a universal computer. Not only for system administration.

                      Accumulator — 4 cells of the size 5.4x55x90mm. 2900mAhх3.7Vх4 = 42Wh

                      2A at 5V is not enough, but it will reduce the discharge of the battery during operation. Or will give the possibility to charge the battery when the laptop is not working.

                      GPD Micro PC is an interesting device. But its keyboard is terrible.

                      Thank you for the detailed comment.
                        0
                        GPD Micro PC is an interesting device. But its keyboard is terrible.

                        Take an existing device, and design a keyboard replacement for it is way more easier, isn't it?

                        +2
                        I have never had to much laptop battery capacity. As the design is right now I would leave the power supply in my service van or even at home and rely on the battery and some complemental USB charging from the charger I anyway need for the mobile phones and other tools. If the laptop has to much battery capacity it would still be useful as a replacement for that charger.

                        As far as I can see has no one asked for GSM/3G/4G/5G wich I find wise since getting it right is a major design effort. Myself I carry multiple smartphones that use different carrier network to be able to almost allways find some internet service at various locations and the I connect the laptop via Wifi.

                        Having two ethernet connectors in the laptop is realy nice for making it easy to lend a connection at a site while using the laptop as a pass thru switch. For this to allways work it needs to be able to handle 10/100/1000 Mbit/s and not only 100/1000.
                        0
                        It's great to see, that good publication lives and evolves, that with migration on other langаuge it's multiply new ideas and additional graphic material. Great thanks to TC.
                          0
                          I think type-C hub\power\station is actually possible. In both meanings — as possible hardware and as a sellable product.

                          Without PC parts (processor, battery, memory, antennas, and keyboard) this can fit the size, durability and fanless goals.

                          You have a phone to add everything missing. Or cheap 8" tablet. Or anything, that already on market. And for holding features — you have endless options to create a case for any personal phone.
                            0

                            You must have researched this, is my understanding right that NFC is rather rare on laptops?

                              0
                              Yes, you are right. Perhaps they simply did not come up with applications for laptops.

                              However, on the Kaby Lake SOC scheme I saw an NFC module, connected to the processor via SMBus. And I decided to use it.
                              0
                              First reaction undoubtedly
                              image

                              Of course, it needs a lot of work, and a lot of features aren't exactly implementable, but it looks great!
                                +1

                                Ok, my POV:


                                1. fullHD screen — useless for for such size, dimensions aren't exactly what admin would work with.
                                  ^ switch to lower resolution, prefer 3x2 screen(like surface lineup) over 16:9


                                2. too many IO ports. And too little airflow.
                                  ^ reduce total quantity, avoid wasting space for inputs/outputs handled by type-C kinda dongle


                                3. consider ribbon cable/typeC dongles for such inputs
                                  ^ avoid turning laptop into stationary machine,
                                  workflow should not be obstructed with HDD case hanging, attached directly to laptop


                                4. consider moving cool stuff like COM2 either to front-panel or top(where fingerprint sensor is)
                                  ^ "use it as 8 outputs for Bit-bang / GPIO." < consider, how inaccessible these are


                                5. led indicators duplicate information, provided on device's screen
                                  ^ prefer either customization options or discuss actually meaningful options
                                  for example: internet access(rather than network), VPN status, hotkey "depth", router-mode, etc.


                                6. HQ cameras on laptop, designed for users and use-env.s clearly affected by NDA
                                  ^ why? windows-hello for admin-device? Nope, consider removing cameras altogether


                                  0
                                  1. 3x2 is good. But with this format, the display has a wide side frames. It’s better not to waste this place. Resolution can be made less. For the 3D model, I took the size of the real screen. He was FullHD.

                                  3. Of course, the hard disk is connected to the notebook not directly, but by cable. These can be separate SATA data cables and SATA power or combo cable.

                                  4. Good idea! Thanks
                                  0
                                  Would it be plausible to put battery behind screen?
                                  It would make it thicker but don't think adminbook should be aerodynamic in first place

                                  About connector-bloat: One side of the book could have rails to snap additional modules, nintendo switch style. In my quick thinking, it would only take the rails and USB3 contact pads to do this, so non-module users could still have some ports there.
                                  Thoughts?

                                    0
                                    I thought about something similar. But really — who will produce these modules?

                                    And for mounting self-made modules you can use the mounting holes available in the adminbook. There are enough USB ports too.
                                      0
                                      Someone will do them if this concept becomes reality, I'm sure of it- They would sell on tindie.com quite well.
                                      Modules should be quite easy to do, as cheap, custom PCB's are here to stay just like 3d printing.
                                      Only thing that needs some engineering are the rails -for modules that is.
                                      +1
                                      Regarding 'rails to snap additional modules,' I was thinking that something like the mounting system for the Keyport multi-tool/ kickass gadget might be the way to go.

                                      www.oxgadgets.com/2017/09/review-keyport-pivot.html

                                      Specifically, their mounting system for the Keyport Pivot and its add-on modules:
                                      www.mykeyport.com/pivot
                                      0
                                      This exceeds my daily dose of cringe, by a vast margin.
                                        0
                                        I love it, and I would be happy to help turn this into reality. I have sent you a PM.
                                        • UFO just landed and posted this here
                                            0
                                            Amazing blog post. Thank you for writing it. I don't have any clue about the HW side of all this but I liked reading this whole thing.
                                              +1
                                              A very interesting, if unrealistic, set of renders. I'm especially interested in the video input feature and the «use as USB keyboard/mouse» mode. However, I agree with amarao, geisha, and atomlib in their concerns that the device looks too packed with ports. If a 16:10 or 3:2 display were used instead of your 16:9 FHD display, with similar width to the 16:9 display, the Adminbook could be made a little longer and have slightly more room to spread out the ports. This would also provide space for a seventh row on the keyboard, like on your X200, with the PgUp/PgDn/Home/End and Menu keys returning to their normal positions.
                                                0
                                                About «normal position for PgUp/PgDn/Home/End».

                                                Look how they are located on the desktop keyboard: right above the arrows. This is reasonable, because all movement control is concentrated in one place. To press all these keys don't need to reach somewhere far away. Everything is near.

                                                In my opinion, to place these keys in the seventh row is wrong. Everything should be in one place.

                                                I have two ThinkPad, with both the classic and the new keyboard. I like work on the old keyboard, because it's really cool. But I noticed that to press PgUp/PgDn I need to look at the keyboard. Because it's need to take your hand away from the table, move it far away and exactly press the right key. And on the new keyboard, these buttons are located directly above the arrows. And I don't need to look at the keyboard — I press them without looking.

                                                However, the Home/End buttons on the new keyboard are worse than the old ones. They are located approximately in the same place, but don't differ from other keys in the same row.
                                                0
                                                Your adminbook can be easily replaced with a modern day dongle. The face of the laptop is not attractive at all and the color scheme is confusing. The keyboard is convoluted and eye-singeing.

                                                Also, this laptop would be insanely niche. No admin would «need» this laptop, although it seems you have designed a laptop you yourself would like.
                                                  0
                                                  I think this is a great idea! This would help me in so many situations when i would need to find an extra keyboard or monitor. If this is ever made it will be something I will be sure to get.
                                                    +1
                                                    Brilliant! I would buy one today if it were available.

                                                    The comments from the naysayers are amusing. They don't seem to realize that many of the additional features you're suggesting already exist in $3 Arduino clones, $1 shields, and adapters that fit inside of USB connectors. All of these features are both cheap and tiny; they just aren't currently put in laptops. This design looks entirely doable to me, and I wouldn't expect it to cost much more than a typical notebook.

                                                    One additional suggestion: Add a permanent ROM-based OS that can optionally be booted from via a BIOS option. Perhaps a stripped-down secure version of Linux like Tails. And one that runs entirely from RAM once it is booted, like Puppy Linux. (Puppy Tails?) The OS must be true-ROM-based, so it can't be flashed, corrupted, or overwritten. Yes, it would get out of date in a hurry, but you would have confidence that it hasn't been hacked. It would give you the tools you need to do a lot of diagnostic work even if your main OS is having a problem--especially then. SSD is flaky? No problem, run the ROM OS until you can replace the SSD. Main OS has zonked itself? Boot into the ROM OS, fsck the disk, hand-edit some files, replace others, rinse and repeat until the main OS is happy again.

                                                    Thanks for the great idea and all the work and thought involved in making it almost real! I hope that a manufacturer like Lenovo or Toshiba sees this and runs with it!

                                                      +1
                                                      I thought about permanent OS. However, I decided that it was unnecessary, because the adminbook already has the ability to boot from any image that is on a dedicated partition with images. Of course, this does not help if the SSD fails. But it is simply impossible to reserve everything.

                                                      In my sysadmin practice, only the server cases did not fail. Processors, memory, hard drives, power supplies, motherboards, fans, even SATA cables — everything dies.

                                                      Have you ever seen a carton box from CRT monitor, filled to the top with keyboards that had keys wiped through to holes? :)
                                                      0
                                                      I have two questions about the keyboard:

                                                      1) what is the caps lock key for?
                                                      2) the key between esc and f1, is it possible to squeeze that in below esc and left of 1 instead? That will throw a lot of things off…
                                                        +1
                                                        1) Most people use it to turn on the upper case lock. I use this key to switch the keyboard layout.
                                                        2) If this key is to the left of 1, the size of the keys in this row will decrease. And this row is used much more often than the function keys and should consist of full-size keys.
                                                        0
                                                        Good idea. Probably I'll buy it in a case if it has good price ($3k too big price, $2.5k-$1.5k probably I'll buy it, 1k$ — I'll buy it immediately)
                                                        Is it possible to implement support of external video card, and pci-passthrough it inside VM (good iommu groups, etc)? And I want to have hardware switcher for integrated monitor — between integrated video and external.

                                                        PCIe x4 is routed outside through this connector. Thus, it's possible to connect an external U.2 (directly) or M.2 type (through an adapter) drives.


                                                        Please put this one in an external iommu group. Not only for video cards, but also for some kind of devices, which supports, for example, only Windows (in a case if we use Linux in this laptop)
                                                          0
                                                          I did not find this SOC in the list of Intel processors, supporting IOMMU. In this list — only server processors and most powerful processors for desktop workstations.
                                                            0
                                                            Hmm… It seems it was an outdated list.
                                                          +1
                                                          I reaaaally like the idea of this. Had quite a few thoughts on it, you were quite detailed in your thinking but not in how it could actually be theoretically built.

                                                          I really like the detail in your models, especially the logos. Very pretty work. I feel like a device like this with such a characteristic look can really start to feel like «home» after you get used to it.

                                                          A few ideas I thought of:
                                                          1. ports on the front! like a combination headphone/microphone jack in the front middle seems like a great place to plug your headphones/earbuds if you're stuck having to use them
                                                          2. speakers on the front! the front is very empty…
                                                          3. more grooves on the device so you can more easily open it without prying with your fingernails
                                                          4. moving the delete key further away from backspace so you're not accidentally hitting it. Some laptops put the power button above backspace… which is even worse

                                                          I think it also really needs to be bigger to be a good computer, for these reasons.
                                                          1. You said it should have a 1920x1080 screen, but on 9 inches if you're ever forced that you can't use scaling in your operating system (required for a lot of enterprise windows software) then it's too tiny to see anything when set at native resolution. And a 16:10 aspect ratio would really be nicer to work with, even if it does hurt compatibility with external video inputs more than a 16:9 aspect ratio already does.
                                                          2. with all the ports you're including, you have to keep in mind that they can only be soldered to the PCB in certain positions. I know you can get USB C connectors that mount to the top of a PCB, the middle, or bottom, but not all the connectors in your renders have these options and a lot of these placements are unrealistic. Also I'd prefer to avoid in-set connectors, since big VGA plugs may not fit for example. Also a lot of the connectors you show aren't designed to be on the outside of a device, especially one like this that's going to be used in-the-field a lot. Maybe it's worth designing a water-resistant cover that flips from the bottom of the notebook. When flipped open, it could act as a rubber foot for the device.
                                                          3. With the vent-holes, with implied fans inside. all the ports, and their needed space on the motherboard for their traces. all the functionality you're wanting to include, keyboard with water-passthrough (and capslock LED, NFC, trackpoint, etc.), full X86-64 computer, and to also fit a battery (or seperate batteries) big enough, and out of the way, to power this for more than 2 hours is… probably not possible?

                                                          I also don't think this is realistically powerable off of just POE… but if it is then that's a damn cool idea.
                                                          And in your update you said it will charge with «QC 3.0 charging standard» but that is a standard only supported by QualComm mobile SOC chips. I think you meant USB Power Delivery, which is part of the USB C spec and supports rapid charging (both directions!). If you want to support windows, you're not going to be using a qualcomm processor lol

                                                          Overall I fricken love this project. So thought-provoking, and I love daydreaming about this stuff. Clearly so do you. Thank you!
                                                            0
                                                            The ten-inch Panasonic Let's Note has 16:10. No trackpoint though.
                                                              0
                                                              1,2. Yes, the front is really empty. But inside the case near the front wall is the battery. It takes up all the space from the speaker to the speaker.

                                                              I also wanted the speakers to be forward. But there really is no place to arrange them that way. Unless it will be absolutely tiny dynamics. But… Read below :)

                                                              3. The hooks on the lid are spring loaded. When you open the latch — the lid rises. I take care of your fingernails :)

                                                              4. It's traditional position for this keys. And to reduce accidentally hitting they are made in different sizes and colors.

                                                              1. What resolution do you think is suitable for such a screen? 1280x800, like on ThinkPad x200? This, of course, is better than 1360x768, but almost any web site has to be scrolled. There is also a compromise option — 1440x900 (it is 16:10).

                                                              In general, I guessed that not all programs will correctly perform scaling. Therefore, I added the combination Fn + Space in advance, which causes the screen magnifier.

                                                              2. Yes, you rightly noticed that the images show the internal versions of the SATA and SFF connectors. This is done for several reasons:
                                                              — any system administrator already has an internal SATA cable, it is not necessary to buy it additionally
                                                              — the external version of the SFF connector is larger, in addition, the cable is more expensive

                                                              Probably need to protect these connectors in some way. Or alter the connectors in the external version.

                                                              3. A couple of days ago, this site described a 14 inch Dell laptop with a battery of the same capacity (42W*h), but with a 15-watt processor. That laptop worked from the battery of 9-10 hours.

                                                              So, I think it makes sense to reduce the adminbook battery by half. At the same time there will be a place for the front audio jack and the speakers can also be turned forward. It will even give the possibility to add a fan that so many people ask for.

                                                              Powered by POE is absolutely real. Some wireless bridges consume up to 50 watts and are powered by POE.

                                                              As for QC 3.0. I have a noname Chinese phone charger that supports this standard (and it really works). I think it’s also not difficult to support this standard «at the other end of the cable». Although there may be problems with Qualcomm licenses. Therefore, charging by QC can be removed — other power supply options are sufficient.

                                                              Thanks for the comment
                                                                +1
                                                                The screen resolution can not be too big but the sampling function for the screen to act as a monitor need some clever user interface and robust function for displaying lower resolutions with the whole screen. This cleverness ought to add much more deleopment cost then the additional unit cost for a higher resolution screen.
                                                              +2
                                                              Take my money.

                                                              I'd really like something to fill the gap left now that the Thinkpad X series are skinny ultrabooks. The 51nb motherboards are interesting but long term we will need new hardware.

                                                              A smaller option like this would also be great (though I'd love a 12" version). I like the idea that it can be used as a keyboard/monitor terminal for a server (hopefully this works on HDMI for RasperryPi and similar machines).

                                                              Also as its a bit small for 'real work' I wonder if it needs such as powerful CPU. Would be good to consider an ARM option which could reduce need for cooling and battery size.
                                                                0
                                                                Even if you had to double the size to fit all the suggested ports and functionality, I would be seriously interested in purchasing/kickstarting such a device.

                                                                Is there a serious intention to bring this to market? If so, on what kind of timeline?
                                                                  0
                                                                  Communication with the developers is not over yet. Preliminary time is next year. This year is definitely not.

                                                                  But all this requires money. Damn a lot of money!

                                                                  And a huge amount of management work.
                                                                  0

                                                                  There is one cool feature that exists on some IoT boards but lacks on PCs: USB client mode and software defined USB hardware. Adminbook can be used as a CD drive, a keyboard, a mouse or even as a videocard and these devices can be combined into hybrid usb device.

                                                                    +1
                                                                    I realy love your project but I would of course buy two of them to have a spare tool for my toolbox. Please do not make it simpler with less I/O ports. Myself I would love to ask for wired m-bus but it is electrically awkward and as far as I know there are no volume efficent implementations of m-bus drivers suitable for this project.

                                                                    Please pay attention to reasonable moisture resistance with component coatings etc and gracfull failures if I/O connectors get soaked with conductive fluid. I would also realy like some ruggedness in hinges etc and having it fully screw driver dissassembleable(is that an english word?) to aid reapirs and cleaning after unfortunate soaks.
                                                                      0
                                                                      It is supposed to make it as maintainable as possible. Up to the point that you can replace worn or broken connectors yourself.

                                                                      In general, all moving parts should be easily replaceable — cable to the built-in monitor, cables to antennas, monitor hinges, keyboard.

                                                                      I don’t want to use a fan at all. It makes noise, consumes energy, sucks dust into the case and requires holes in the case. I will try to do passive cooling.

                                                                      M-Bus will definitely not be here.
                                                                        +1
                                                                        Passive cooling will work but it sets a limit on the ambient temperature, especially when put on a thermally insulating table. Wonder what a heat pipe capable of efficiently getting thermal load to two of the chassis edges would cost?

                                                                        This reminds me about leg scalding consumer laptops and the «pillows» with a fan sold as burn protection.

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