Creating A Budget-friendly Pc Workstation With Diy And Upcycled Materials – Field work is difficult. You are on an open ship in the wind, rain and salt, sometimes in the Atlantic Ocean. You and your team will lose. But you’re there because there’s science to be done.
But your equipment is controlled by a computer and you need a computer to enter the data, which means you have to have your precious laptop with you. For graduate students and early career scientists, this can be a dilemma. I’ve seen calculations made when my colleagues are preparing for the field: I’ll take my only computer into the field and risk damaging it, or I’ll brute force the sample without it. That is, if they are lucky, they can use alternative methods. Some teams have no choice but to bring a computer.
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This equation, on the other hand, gets worse. Our sensors, samplers and scanners are getting cheaper and lighter. Instead of buying a $20,000 piece of hardware, you can get a $20 chip, but there’s a trade-off, and the trade-off is that chip-based systems rely on external processing power, need a general-purpose computer, and that means your laptop comes with you.
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I don’t like going out in the water with my laptop. Losing it is frustrating and takes time. It’s hard, but not as hard as nails. And it’s certainly not cheap.
So I took the wealth of Maker experience I’ve accumulated over the last few years and built a new one using a single board computer, peripherals, and a 3D printer. And I put everything in the Pelican box. Say hello to the BeagleBox, an affordable and rugged field computer for around $200.
Building a BeagleBox is very easy. The heart of the machine is the BeagleBone Black, a small single-board computer. Sure, its 1GHz processor won’t blow you away, but we’re not building a high-performance genome analyzer here, we’re building something that can do the basics and be beaten to hell. Here is the list of materials:
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All told, the BeagleBox tips the scales at a touch more than $212, and that’s if you buy it new. To connect all the electronics, I first soldered a 12V to 5V converter directly to the 12V and ground outputs of the JB Tek control board, then pulled the barrel plug from the 5V AC adapter and connected it to the output of the converter. The result is that you can now power both a display that needs 12V and a BeagleBone that needs 5V with a single AC adapter. As an added bonus, the BeagleBox now requires 12V DC power, so you can run the computer from a boat battery, car battery, or any number of different batteries without special converters. All you need is a matching plug or clamps. . (and of course check out those amps).
The BeagleBone sends video via a micro-HDMI port, the monitor accepts standard HDMI, so you’ll need a suitable cable to connect the two. After that, all you need to do is connect the USB hub to one USB port and you are ready to configure the software.
I’m using the latest Debian image from BeagleBoard.org (did I mention it’s a Linux machine?) combined with LXDE’s lightweight GUI. If you’re new to Linux, now is a good time to read up on the basics of the operating system and learn how it works, but once you install LXDE, you’ll have an intuitive desktop to boot from. bar. and some basic programs. You’ll need a mouse and keyboard, any USB device will do, but I like this one for its simplicity. If you want to use it for something other than mainly data entry (like flying an OpenROV), one of these guys will do the Pelican’s job with everything.
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Now for the fun part, 3D printing. I designed the Pelican 1200 case. It’s just the right size for the screen and gives you plenty of extra space to store everything you need to keep in the box. Shapefills are available from YouMagine. I printed everything on the Simple Metal PrintrBot, no problem.
I use SciGrip4 acrylic solvent and hot glue to assemble the case, but any adhesive will do. Hot glue seems to take PLA especially well. Small tab brackets are located on the back of the screen mount and both hold the frame together and hold the screen in place. The base shells fit into the Pelikan hull and help with a little hot glue. The USB hub slides through the large rectangular port, and the power cable comes out of the small semicircle. Everything should be very comfortable.
And with that, the basics are done and you have a simple field computer. Not only that, but at the end of this build, you should be sure to expand this design. There are a million ways to change it to suit your needs.
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Before we get too excited, let’s talk about limitations. BeagleBone Black is slow to boot. It takes more than a minute. Once it works, it’s good. Not mind-blowing, but excellent service is possible. You can’t use everything in it, but you can run a lot. You’re stuck in the Linux ecosystem, but many see that as an advantage. There is a learning curve.
There are a few important things I didn’t include in this build. Obviously no WiFi capability. This can be easily fixed with a USB WiFi dongle of your choice. Although there are plenty of power options, there are no batteries. This first build tried to make the machine work, the next one tries to perfect it.
What I would like to add: a 5mm barrel connector on the outside, so I can connect different power options without opening the box, and an on/off switch (now, when plugged in, “on” is activated. this is enabled) . I’d like to add a long-range Wi-Fi antenna, both for signal and remote OpenROV flying, as well as a more convenient Ethernet port.
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When closed, the box is waterproof and very sturdy. Even when open, there are no moving parts to break. If a component fails, it is easy to replace. The BeagleBone may be a limitation, but there are dozens of other single-board computers you can use instead, and even some complete PC-on-a-stick systems plug into this setup, and more are being added every month. ‘p things will come. The BeagleBox is infinitely customizable to meet your field needs. But most importantly, it is cheap.
You’ll notice that I’ve used Amazon affiliate links throughout for clarity. I receive a small commission when you purchase something through these links, which goes toward server costs and other fees associated with running Southern Fried Science. If you decide to build your own BeagleBox and get the parts through Amazon, use one of these links to help us out. Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission if you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website.
Desktop computers don’t have to be absolute beasts built for speed if you’re only going to use it for things like word processing and web browsing. In fact, you can save a lot of money by buying a PC without the extra calls that you know you’ll never use.
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The best budget PCs offer the reliability and performance of a good desktop computer, while simplifying the features and functions you need. These computers are great for typing, checking email, streaming video, and basic design and editing. Most of these models can handle some mid-range games, but that’s not what they’re usually designed for. However, desktop computers are often upgraded, and you can buy parts like extra RAM, a more powerful graphics card (just make sure it’s compatible with other parts), and an extra fan or two, and make it faster first. you can set – Individual shooters and multiplayer online games.
Even if you don’t like to play games, having the same speed and processing power will help you with whatever tasks you want to do on your new computer. A budget desktop is great for things like managing thousands of photos and videos. Unlike a laptop, since it sits somewhere on your desk or workstation, weight isn’t an issue.
Most desktop computers these days have at least a few USB ports, as well as auxiliary jacks and Ethernet, HDMI, and SD card readers for quick and easy connections to your peripherals like phones and cameras. Additionally, some offer built-in bonuses like a DVD burner.
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Another note when shopping for a budget PC: Don’t get carried away with cheap extras like fancy flashing lights. Some manufacturers charge their own personal computers
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