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Cost effective portable Terminal?


Since the most nerdy and knowledgable people i know are around here, i figured it didn’t hurt to ask you.

I’m looking for a “machine” of some type that offers me a portable Linux solution. By portable i mean, phone or Nintendo 3DS size. Not a 12" laptop. It does not need any power. It’ll be used for SSH, some vim, org-mode, taskwarrior. So terminal tools only. If it can run a WM, i’ll take it, but it isn’t required. It should feature some kind of keyboard and a screen that’s readable (let’s say above 4" or so). Wifi should be included, LAN or Cellular are not, but are nice to have.

All of that in a package as cheap as possible. I’m willing to go new, used or mildly diy. If it’s open source, that’s a bonus.

I’m aware of the Pyra, Pandora and the GPD win/Mini. All of which are above 500€, so really expensive. The Gemini looked great, but is expensive too.

A Raspberry Zero with screen would do. But sourcing a case and keyboard that does make a singular portable unit is tough and can get expensive really fast.

So, are there any options for my requirement? A Linux Terminal to take anywhere.


It’s not an ideal solution, but:

It has repos and I built some c programs on my phone with clang lol. Very cost effective though, it’s free, provided that you have an Android phone. Could just try it out.


RIP Ubuntu touch tablet with Bluetooth keyboard… it is a chain around my neck ( gathering dust in a drawer)


Yeah, that also came to my mind. :+1:

I don’t have a lot to contribute otherwise because of

but I am interested what @domsch1988 goes for in the end


Yeah i tried that a few times. It mostly boils down to touch keyboards being meh for terminal work and no solid options to make a phone into a “clamshell” device. I’m not keen on a BT keyboard, as the would mean i can only use it when there is a table or such around. Plus an additional stand for the phone.

I also looked into some of the portable Pi Projects. But since i don’t own a 3D Printer, case get expensive fast (like, 100€-200€ expensive). A decent screen is another 50-100. At this point i could just get a GPD Mini.

I have an old Sony Vaio P Series lying around at home, where the hdd isn’t working anymore. That was a decent formfactor (though a bit wide). But those 1.8 inch HDDs are unobtainium nowadays, so i don’t think i’ll be able to fix it. Plus Batterylife tended to be sub par.


Anything you’d recommend if i wanted to go “highly” diy?


I would argue that for most work other than scrolling feeds kind of “work”, yeah.

How portable do you want it to be?

Also have you heard of EOMA68? The laptop option is pricey, but the actual computer is cheap and slim. So maybe adding a kbd and screen wouldn’t be too hard.~

Oh wait nvm, it doesn’t have a battery…



As you mentioned the raspberry pi route:

I have modded a USB keyboard in the past when the first Raspberry Pi came out. It was essentially a 84-key keyboard with a raspberry pi, a LiIon battery, a wifi antenna and a flash drive build in. For the display I made a small cutout at the top of the keyboard and glued in a reflective LCD (that was connected to the PI). I used it mostly for electronics prototyping and note taking at the time but there is no reason it could not be used for ssh.

Currently I don’t have access to the photos of the project but I think you you can imagine how it roughly looked like. The requirement for me at the time were that the display is easily readable in the sunlight, have a good keyboard, wifi and 48 hour battery life. Yes, a full sized keyboard is not the most portable thing in the world but this was not something I was willing to compromise on. You absolutely could do the same thing with a smaller keyboard though.

As a bit of a teaser:

my next big pet project

I am in the process of working on my own little diy mobile compute ecosystem and part of this is version 2 of that project. This time I’m going to use e-ink displays. :sunglasses: At the moment I am mostly still planning and sourcing parts because I don’t have a lot of time to work on this at the moment. This is gong to be my pet project for the next year.

regarding this problem:

I am not sure what tools you have access to but for custom casings I always use MDF and wood glue and spray paint over it. You can’t get very thin with that though, so for my next project I plan on using PU resin and shredded fibre glass.