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MacBack (a.k.a. MacSplat) – the swiss-army knife for your MAC.

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MacBack

A Raspberry PI based Backpack for your MAC

Why? Macs have no GPIOs!

Mac’s have no GPIOs.  In addition they run BSD, and don’t have nearly the level of package development or support that the Raspberry PI community is pouring into their boards.

Maybe it should be called the MacSplat!

It aint pretty.  But its oh, so useful. 😉

IMG_20170520_213437

Notice the Zero is completely protected, and its still able to transfer its heat, and provide access to the important parts.

How? Lots of sugru…

The MacBack takes advantage of the new Macbook Pro’s USB-C ports to keep an add-on Raspberry PI Zero up and running.  It also uses the fact that the MacBook’s Aluminum Oxide case is non-conductive.  So the PI can rest the back side of the board easily against it without worry of shorting out pins.

In addition, since the Raspberry PI can perform as an AP its easy to share files, provide pass-through internet connections, and host webservers. (Note, when you use the code I provide in that perform as an AP article you’ll need to change the code to use wlan1 instead of eth0.  Since wlan1 is now going to be your connection to the outside world.)

The Parts…

First… you’ll need the USB-C to USB Micro Cable.  A nice short one.  I found this by searching for “Right Angle Micro USB to Type C”:

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http://www.ebay.com/itm/301996172236

It is the perfect length.  Check it out:

Then you’ll needs LOTS of sugru.  This isn’t the prettiest job, but it ensures that none of the components on the USB hub or the PI will be exposed to the harsh conditions of my backpack.

I used a whole pack of white and black:

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Sugru

To make sure I could get at the USB ports in the future, I also soldered a USB Hub to the exposed test pads.  The HUB I used was Zero4U from Adafruit:

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Zero4U USB Hub

The tricky part there was to snip the Pogo Pins, and use their pads to solder jumper wires.

Then you’ll need to add a USB Wifi adapter to allow your pi onto two networks.  I used this one:

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Miniature WiFi (802.11b/g/n) Module: For Raspberry Pi and more

What can it do?

It performs several functions for me.

  • File backup – even without internet
  • Docker Registry – stays on even when I close my laptop
  • Web Server
  • GPIO Control – lets me work with servos, I2C, SPI and other devices from my mac.
  • Long term project play.  I’m never without a PI now, and its always ready to go.

Now, when I want to play in Raspberry Land, I switch my wifi access point to run through the PI, and I’m in.

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