Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Outdoor Screen Mod -- prototype

I heard Tridge mention in a presentation that they had solved their outdoor PC screen viewing problem by removing the back of their laptop.  I couldn't find any other references on the internet to this kind of procedure, so I thought I would give it a try and report on how it went.

tl;dr:  seems to work well, waiting for a sunny day to take it out and try it.

This laptop has a non-functioning battery and not enough memory to run the ground station, but seemed to be a good candidate for an outdoor viewing enhancement.  The basic idea is to cut the back off, and let the sunlight enhance the LCD backlight.  It was pretty straightforward on this Dell.  Pop the rubber caps off the bezel and remove the screws.  Jiggle the bezel and it will come loose.  Remove the screws holding the screen in.  They are all perpendicular to the screen.  There are some side-screws that hold the mount onto the screen itself, but you don't need to loosen them.  Once everything is off, you can fold the LCD down and away from the back panel.  Cover everything with blue tape and saran wrap.  I used a dremel with a large cutting wheel to cut a rectangle out of the back panel.  Be careful not to let the metal dust get into the laptop.  Reattach the LCD and the bezel.  Later I'll epoxy a plexiglass panel to the back -- now I've just got it covered in tape.

Here's a picture of the back when the laptop is powered on.  You can see the control wires, etc.

Here's a front view.  It seems a bit darker than usual (because it's not getting reflected light?), but still quite good, especially for an older model laptop.
Waiting for the rain to go away for testing, but holding the laptop up to an incandescent light makes everything brighter.  You can see the control wires shading the display.

More later, including a walkthrough, but for now this looks promising.

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