Tuesday, October 11, 2011

rugged laptop for live usage

About a week ago i got an old Compaq EVO N610c laptop from my brother to see if it was good enough to run Hydrogen for live usage. Specs : P4 2GHz, 512 Mb ram
I started by installing standard Ubuntu 11.04, applied all the usual audio tweaks and found out that i could get the Jack latency down to about 10ms without running into any X-runs. Not bad, not bad at all :-)
Next i copied all the Hydrogen songs and the playlist from my main laptop to the EVO, connected my midi keyboard (to simulate the midi drum that would normally be connected to this laptop to trigger sounds and patterns) and i was rockin' !

With all the software in place i wanted to go just one step further and see if i could 'ruggedize' the laptop to make it suitable for live usage. I also wanted to see if i could reduce the setup time (connecting cables) and make it as reliable as possible.

This is what i came up with :

I used a simple flightcase that was sitting in the attic and started cutting away at some firm white packaging foam.  I payed special attention to the 'hot' areas of the laptop (HD, fan) and tried to avoid any contact between those areas and the white foam.

(the temperature underneath the laptop went up to about 36 dergrees @ ambient temp of 24 degrees after a couple of hours)

I mounted the power supply in the case cover also to avoid any extra heat being generated underneath the laptop :

The power connector and the USB cable are nicely kept in place.  I used a USB extension cord so the laptop never needs to be taken out of the case to connect an external midi device.  This minimizes the risk of damaging the power- and USB connectors.

Hydrogen in action :

Update : i added some other bits and pieces here


  1. Nice! I've exactly the same laptop, exept it is broken and it had goddamned Windows (2k)... If I could fix it, I'd place Arch linux on it :)

  2. Hi Ruben!
    To be completely honest with you : mine is still also running W2k, but don't tell anyone! ;-)
    Seriously : the laptop works fine, but i have to confess that the battery is dead, so the laptop needs to be plugged in all the time :-( but that's no showstopper for me.

  3. Great idea! Batteries always die after about 3 or 4 years unfortunately :( You didn't face any issues regarding buzzing or humming? With all my notebooks I have to use ungrounded power connectors or ungrounded multiple sockets, otherwise the buzzing is unbearable.

  4. Hi Autostatic,
    nope, no humming/buzzing, but i know what you mean. Previously i was playing around with a Toshiba laptop. It had better specs than this one, but a soon as i plugged in the AC power it started humming pretty bad!
    That said, the audio quality of this one is not fantastic either, but for playing live i'm quite sure that nobody will ever notice it ;-)

  5. Great idea for using an old laptop. These days you can use a tablet to get much the same thing. ultimate would be to have 2 tablets. one setup for playing the drum machine, plugging guitar or keyboard into. and the 2nd one with foot controller for all your sheet music.
    nice job on your laptop. all the best.