The Raspberry Pi – I just can’t stop tinkering with it. Fresh from setting it up as a media centre and a retro games console, I’ve recently started looking at the possibilities of the device as something more important.
You may have seen one of our earlier posts about the unusual uses for a Raspberry Pi. One of these was using it as the computer in a low-budget space program, something that would make the Pi more portable than most computers on earth! Sticking to the point, however – there are several ways in which a grounded Raspberry Pi can break free of power supply and its compact little Perspex or Lego case and be used as a an actual laptop computer.
That isn’t to say that the Raspberry Pi can exist without the power supply, HDMI cable and USB keyboard – certainly if you’re using the computer for earthly tasks, you’ll need all of these, and perhaps more…
Raspberry Pi + Kindle = Kindleberry Pi
Two of the most compact names in computing – wouldn’t it be great to put them together?
As it happens, there are a couple of ways in which the Raspberry Pi can be paired with a Kindle reader, the latter becoming a display for the low cost minicomputer, which would need to be powered by a battery pack or from the mains.
Due to the regular updates to the Amazon Kindle range, you will need to make sure that the model you are using is the same as one of those featured here, or else trouble may ensue. To put it another way, we cannot be held responsible for anything going wrong with either device if you get this wrong.
If you are an owner of the Kindle 3 (the model with the built-in keyboard) then you will no doubt be interested to learn more about the original Kindleberry Pi project in which you can quickly establish a wireless connection between the two devices to produce an e-ink display for your Raspberry Pi.
Reading books on the Kindle Paperwhite? A revision to the original project also enables you to connect the Pi to the Paperwhite – and this time, it’s wireless!
What about the other Kindle devices? Well, things change, so take your query to Google…
Using a Kindle as your Raspberry Pi display might be pretty l33t, but you will be heavily restricted with what you can do – it’s the command line or nothing, unfortunately – and mouse support is non-existent.
For more complete control over your Raspberry Pi, why not connect it to a Motorola Lapdock, a sort of “empty” laptop used for docking Android phones that can be purchased online for under $100. With the right USB and HDMI cables, you can connect the Pi to the Lapdock, even running the minicomputer from the Lapdock’s rechargeable battery.
Full configuration steps, including help for HDMI over audio and configuring Wi-Fi, can be found at rpidock.blogspot.co.uk.
The Port a Raspberry Pi Project
A third option, and one that pays heed to the power requirements of portable computers that don’t ship with onboard batteries, is the Port a Raspberry Pi Project, the details of which you will find at Instructables.
Using a portable DVD player display and a wireless, handheld keyboard along with a rechargeable portable UPS and various cables, the Port a Raspberry Pi Project has successfully turned the Pi into a computing device that can go beyond the length of your mains extension cable and out into the big, wide world.
Port a Raspberry Pi Project is perhaps the toughest of the three listed here, so if you are planning to give it a go make sure you thoroughly read the Instructable link and comments before starting!
Conclusion: The Pi Is Now Portable
I’ve remarked on the continuingly surprising nature of the Raspberry Pi several times on this pages, but the sheer ingenuity that this little computer inspires in people truly is something to behold.
I know for a fact from meeting Eben Upton of the Raspberry Pi Foundation that the developers are just as surprised (although thrilled), but ultimately the sheer flexibility of the computer is testament to their design.
The fact that this tiny PCB is can be connected to such wildly different display units and act as a portable computer is very exciting, and I hope hints at a future of ad hoc connectivity between otherwise disparate hardware…