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This Hacker Turned A Raspberry Pi Into Tablet Computer

This homemade Linux tablet looks good enough, and–bonus!–it would breeze through airport security.

This Hacker Turned A Raspberry Pi Into Tablet Computer
[Photos by Michael Castor]

Not satisfied with the tablets available on the market? Don’t rule out building your own.

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Michael Castor, an evangelist for Make magazine’s online store Maker Shed, did just that, putting together a Raspberry Pi-based tablet he dubbed the PiPad, complete with a handsome wooden frame that looks professional enough to take through the airport without a second look from the TSA.

“I wanted an all-in-one system that was usable, portable, and Linux based,” Castor wrote in a post for Make. “Additionally, it had to look good. Since I wanted to use it on flights, the device couldn’t freak out the TSA or the old lady sitting next to me.”


Starting with the $40 credit-card-size Raspberry Pi Model B, Castor started putting together parts early last year, finding a Pi-compatible, 10-inch touchscreen from the Malaysian vendor Chalk Electronics. Other parts, which he helpfully listed on his blog, included a Wi-Fi adaptor, a USB hub, and heat sinks for the Pi. A 10,000 milliamp-hour battery keeps the tablet running for about six hours on a charge, and the initial prototype cost about the same as an iPad Mini.

He designed the birch wood case with the Vectric Aspire CAD package, carving it with a CNC router and adding holes for the SD memory card and USB connection. There wasn’t room for the Pi’s ethernet port, but the rest of the components fit into the case, held in place with a mix of hot glue, foam tape and double-sided tape.

“The display was affixed ‘Apple-style’ using some crazy strong permanent tape around the inside edge,” Castor wrote. “I clamped the battery and screen down and allowed the tape to cure over night to ensure a good bond.”

Castor wrote that he hasn’t had any issue taking the PiPad on flights–the only attention he got was a compliment from a flight attendant on his choice in movies–and Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton even autographed the tablet’s carbon-fiber backing.

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The PiPad isn’t the first Pi-based tablet–a team from Oracle released plans and software for the $370 Java-powered DukePad last fall–but it may be the fanciest-looking.

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