We feature lots of cyberdecks here on Hackster and almost all of them contain Raspberry Pi single-board computers (SBCs) running Raspbian, which is a Debian-based Linux distro. That setup is so common because Raspberry Pi models are affordable (current supply shortage aside) and compact. But there are many other SBCs on the market and some of them are capable of running operating systems that aren’t Linux. YouTuber iketsj took advantage of that fact and used a LattePanda Alpha SBC to build a unique cyberdeck that runs macOS.
For much of Apple’s history, their computers used PowerPC processors with RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) architecture that was not compatible with Intel’s x86 architecture. Because they were compiled for RISC architecture, early versions of Mac OS X (from 10.0 “Cheetah” until 10.4 “Tiger”) could only run on Macintosh hardware — not “generic” Intel or AMD hardware. But in 2006, Apple made the switch to Intel processors. That let users build “Hackintosh” computers with standard off-the-shelf hardware that ran Mac OS X (later called “OS X” and then “macOS”). Today, many computers with 64-bit Intel processors can run macOS, including the LattePanda Alpha SBC.
All of the current LattePanda models feature Intel processors and can run both Windows and Linux operating systems. And while there isn’t any official support, they can also run macOS. This cyberdeck does so with the LattePanda Alpha connected to a 5” LCD display. It also features an inexpensive mechanical keyboard (practically a necessity for a cyberdeck) fit into the 3D-printed enclosure. Power comes from a trio of 18650 lithium-ion battery cells through a nifty power board that shows up as a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) in macOS.
There isn’t a built-in mouse/touchpad or any speakers, so it is a pretty minimalist cyberdeck. But we’re excited to see a cyberdeck project with something other than the normal Raspberry Pi/Raspbian combo. To make it genuinely usable, iketsj can connect an external monitor and a USB mouse. The onboard 5” screen continues to work when the external monitor is connected, which offers some cool dual-screen opportunities.