Making a Raspberry Pi Laptop or just how damned hard is it to find female connectors, anyway?

Motorola-Atrix-Laptop-DockSince purchasing the Raspberry Pi, I have marveled at the very creative things people have done with the little computer. Since I got mine, more or less, for education use, I’ve not had the same creative juices flowing. Instead, I’ve admired the work others have done and move on. However, in my travels, I kept seeing one specific project over and over…turning the little computer into a laptop using a discontinued Motorola Atrix accessory.

The Laptop Dock from Motorola was discontinued in early 2012. This device, a very clever one at that, allowed one to dock an Atrix smartphone and use that phone as a true computer. The dock is an 11 inch LCD screen with a nice keyboard and track pack. It has its own battery and also has two USB 2 ports. There is no intelligence in the device: that is supplied by what ever is docked to it, in this case, the Atrix phone.

The magic, here, is in the dock connectors: a micro HDMI and a micro USB.  The HDMI port is for audio and video and the USB port is the actual interface from the phone and dock. The reality is that ANY HDMI/USB device can use this thing.DSC_4341

During my travels, I also discovered that these once $299 accessories were going for as little as $30 on eBay. AHA! Bells went off, rockets flew…and a few atoms were sacrificed.

I set about to find me one. Since all of the fire sales were  over, new-in box docks had gone up to over a hundred bucks again (I’m guessing because the are getting scarce now) which I did not want to pay. So, a few eBay auctions later, I got my dock.

It arrived safe and sound and in great shape. A couple of blemishes on the bottom, but otherwise it looked fantastic. A little elbow grease brought out its shine and it actually looked better than the eBay photo. Great! Now I just have to buy that micro FEMALE to FEMALE adaptor and I’m set.

HA!

Do you know how damned difficult it is to actually buy a micro-HDMI female anything? I went to Radio Shack, Best Buy, Target, Lowes, Home Depot, even Wal-Mart and no one had them. I tried a couple of local computer shops…zippo! Nothing. Nada. Zilch. OH, most of them told me the same thing: “oh, I’ve had several people ask for them” or “you are the xx person to ask…maybe I should carry them”. Gee, you think? This is something that seems so basic, yet is really esoteric. Why? I have no clue.  So…back on line I go.

Amazon and eBay both had them. I did a ‘buy it now’ on eBay. The connector was about ten bucks with shipping.  Great! Oh..wait..it’ll get here when? The estimated delivery date…end of March! I ordered on February 23rd! I go to Amazon. That was better and I ended up ordering the actual Atrix cable kit as well. That had the USB cable I needed. By the way, a FEMALE micro USB cable is just as hard to find. What the hell? It’s like the retailers are afraid of the female connectors. I don’t get it.

Anyway, the cable kit arrived but the female Micro-HDMI coupler won’t arrive for a few more days. It’s like they have to custom make the damn things!  UGH.

Anyway, when it does arrive, I’ll be able to not only use a nice LCD panel (and one that I can actually see the Pi on) but use a really nice, full size keyboard and trackpad. Oh, and I can even power the Pi from the battery. So, I’m just a few days away from the Pi Laptop. Not as exciting as the arrival of my son in a couple of days, but it’s up there.

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