If you are making a handheld Linux device, going with the Raspberry Pi Zero W, with its built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and HDMI output capabilities, would be an excellent choice for the device’s heart. It might seem like a simple task to put something like this together, but getting a guide is very helpful. For a cleverly designed ultra-portable Linux box, look no further than NODE’s Zero Terminal.
In addition to the Pi’s capabilities, the device features a full QWERTY keyboard, a 1500 mAh battery, and a 3.5″ screen with 480×320 resolution. Everything fits into a 3D-printed enclosure, which is designed to allows access to a full-sized USB port, a mini HDMI port, microSD card slot, and a micro USB port. The frame is glued onto an iPhone 5 keyboard case, where the power switch is cleverly aligned with the hole for a camera.
The use of this keyboard case, designed to slide out underneath an iPhone 5 for physical input, is perhaps the most clever part of the build and really simplifies the construction. Instead of trying to figure out a sliding or folding mechanism, this part can simply be purchased. Since the iPhone 5 has been available for quite some time, these cases are inexpensive, and, since it’s a very common model with consistent dimensions, any iPhone 5 keyboard case should work with this terminal.
In fact, because of the device’s clever design, NODE reports that although the planning and designing took many hours, the build process itself only took an hour or two. It’s way easier to create a custom 3D printed case which combines with a sliding keyboard case than spend lots of time modifying an existing casing (like the two hard drive enclosures used for the previous versions).
So, like many maker projects, it’s fun to make something new and unique. Just try to consider what is already available in order to make your project better, cheaper, and easier to pull off!
This is NODE’s third try at a portable terminal. His first version, based around a Raspberry Pi A+, looks similar, but is a bit bulkier. The second version uses a Raspberry Pi 2 and has a similar flip-screen design as the first. Instructions on how to build his second version can be found here.
When comparing his latest terminal to Versions 1 and 2, NODE says, “There are still things to improve, but overall, I like this one the most. I like having this as an extra Linux system that I can use on the go, or hook up to a screen and use like a regular computer. I also enjoy playing Tetris on it.”
It’s a great looking device, and I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with. He’s planning another Zero-based system, which he hopes to make as thin as an actual smartphone, as well as a Pi3 version with more features (like a higher-resolution screen).