Chap turns busted laptop into phone keyboard, in Himalayan book-rescue mission

Kind of a hacker-MacGyver story

We all know that sinking feeling when you realise your laptop screen is broken and you need to use it sooner than you can get it fixed.

So has Thomas Buckley-Houston, who's written a MacGyver-esque how-to for getting to his phone from the laptop's keyboard (going the other way via VNC is easier) – when he couldn't see the lappie's screen.

Why bother? Because Buckley-Houston was in the Himalayas at the time, in Ladakh in Northern India, two days by bus from repairs.

He writes that the phone had the things he wanted most, and while browsing doesn't need a keyboard, writing book chapters and blog posts is painful on a phone screen – hence the painstaking effort to hack the laptop into a keyboard for the phone.

“I use the phone for multiple interfaces, yes VNC, but more often using my laptop’s keyboard to interface to the phone’s existing apps, Termux (to SSH into my laptop), Chrome, Gmail, Whatsapp, etc.”

Sorry to say, part A is always going to be painful – actually starting the laptop blind – and with a tiny screen area working he could remember how to get to the Linux desktop and a terminal screen.

“By a huge stroke of luck I had the extra good fortune to have two text lines worth of working pixels at the top of the screen. Well I say working, they didn’t automatically update, I had to sort of twist the screen with my hands and at some point they’d decide to update.”

To present the laptop's login interface via the phone, he had to install an OpenSSH client (also a blind install), and here's an important lesson for everyone: “always setup an SSH daemon with a strong password on a new laptop”.

For “normal” operations, though, Buckley-Houston wanted to get the laptop's keyboard working as a Bluetooth keyboard to the phone.

By now, though, he's got a screen – so it was just a matter of testing various packages to see which worked best, and settling on one called Hidclient.

The Register won't be trying this ourselves any time soon, but we're sure some of our readers will want to top this experience. We're always listening. ®


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