Griz Sextant Cyberdeck Build

a laptop of my own


I've been interested in a more self-reliant computer for some time. By that I mean, if you have a laptop from a typical company and the case or screen cracks, it's basically trash. The battery will eventually not hold a charge and usually the battery is specifically for that laptop so eventually they'll stop making them.

I want computer that if something goes, I could fix on my own. There's been some computers coming out lately that fit that.

Probably one of the most popular and closest to what I was interested in was the MNT Reform. This is a custom laptop that's completely open. Other's can use their design files so you could get new parts from third parties possibly. It uses 18650 batteries so replacing those is not an issue.

However, there wasn't much of an ecosystem around the MNT yet in terms of software or hardware. Also the price was too high, but it's understandable for a completely custom laptop.

There's also the idea of a cyberdeck, the computer used by hackers in cyberpunk stories. They come in all shapes, but the typical form is just a keyboard and a screen at the top. I'm not talking about a clam shell like a typical laptop, you just carry around the thing with a keyboard exposed.

That makes a great visual but I wanted a clam shell. There are also simple builds that are just a screen, bluetooth keyboard, and a Raspberry Pi. That's pretty DIY, but I wanted something less slapped together.

That's when I saw the Griz Sextant, and I knew that's what I wanted to build. It's repairable, modifiable, has a good form. And has a retro look which is even better.

The designer put a lot of work in to it, and did a great job. He released the files here.

This page will document my work on my own build. My hope is that I can contribute by recreating the build and see how it is for someone other than the designer to build it.

My first step was ordering everything from the BOM. That was straight forward, there were links for just what to buy with some alternatives. I noticed the switches for the keyboard were no longer available, but Amazon showed I could buy the same switches but in a different quantity so I went with that.

This will also be my first build of a custom keyboard, something else I've been interested in doing. That's why I'm going with the same switches, I'm not familiar enough yet with building keyboards to know that a different switch would work.

I also saw some of the HDMI cable parts weren't available at Adafruit. I'd prefer to support them over Amazon, but I want my parts soon. Also, it looked like I'd have to build the HDMI cable from seperate parts if I ordered from Adafruit which I don't see why I'd want to build my own cable.

This is also a good excuse to get my 3D printer operable again. I'm using a PowerSpec 3D printer from Micro Center. I found out you can get a really good deal on this if you buy refurbished. There would be nothing wrong with the printer itself, but it seems many people returned these so Micro Center would sell them refurbished at a big discount.

It turns out all that was wrong was the instructions missed a step to plug in a cable. That cable was labeled something like "D" and the only port it dangled right next to was also labeled "D". Some people missed that and returned it.

The biggest pain of this printer is calibrating the bed so it's the right length away from the print head around the entire bed. It's at least 8x8 which the Griz parts are for so it should work, but being that big it's even more important that it's calibrated correctly.

It will be annoying for all the parts to be delivered at different times, but I'll have printing the parts to keep me busy for the time being.

I did recieve my screws already which was impressively fast. But then I realized McMaster has a distribution center in Aurora, Ohio, about 30 minutes away from me.

I'll update this post with more as I go along. I'll post the updates to the RSS feed.