Computing on the couch without a laptop
August 24, 2010 3:56 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to be able to use my desktop computer while i'm sitting on the couch. I've got an idea on how to do it, but maybe you do too?

I can store the desktop right next to the couch under a side table and it will be hidden from view. All i need to do is have a monitor / keyboard in my lap while sitting on the couch.

So, the idea I have is this: to mount a keyboard and an LCD inside a briefcase. When i want to use the computer, i just get out the briefcase, pop it open, and off i go. I'm guessing total cost will be somewhere around $100 for everything (keyboard, used lcd, briefcase).

Another idea that would work in theory is to have some kind of collapsible / hideable stand that will hold a standard monitor & keyboard. Unfortunately, i haven't yet really found one that fits these critera.

Any other ideas out there that are simpler/more elegant/cheaper?

Note: i don't want to get a laptop. I like my desktop - it's powerful, cheap to upgrade, etc.
posted by escher to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
I was using my laptop on the couch, but the keyboard had some dead keys and I had a perfectly good LCD monitor sitting around, so I moved the laptop off to the side and hooked it up to an LCD screen on a small Ikea table, and used a keyboard in my lap and mouse on the dropdown table in the middle of the couch.
The mouse is the trickiest part, as it really has to be at a good level or your wrist/back will hurt. I'd recommend sitting on one side of the couch and fitting up a book or something on the arm as a mouse pad area.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:00 PM on August 24, 2010

we have our tower next to our big ass hdtv - we run wireless mouse/keyboard. we have a second computer just hooked up to a monitor on a side table.
posted by nadawi at 4:03 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's an RDP client for the iPad as well as a VNC client.
posted by GuyZero at 4:06 PM on August 24, 2010

Do you need to do media-rich things like games or fullscreen video? Because if not, a junker laptop with NX or VNC or Windows Remote Desktop would let you run a remote session to your desktop from the laptop. Bonus: Don't need to move the desktop machine.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:06 PM on August 24, 2010

Something like this plus close-by monitor or computer hooked up to the TV?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:13 PM on August 24, 2010

A projector and a keyboard like that which Threeway Handshake suggests.
posted by chiefthe at 5:06 PM on August 24, 2010

What you want is called a rack console. They start around $500 or so. A briefcase with a monitor along with a keyboard, mouse, wires, etc will cost you what a non-beater laptop costs you. Except the laptop has a battery and can use wifi. I can't imagine building a briefcase rack console, it sounds borderline crazy.

A beater laptop does all this and more and you can simply access your desktop with VNC or Remote Desktop. Or plug your desktop into the TV and use a wireless mouse and keyboard.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:28 PM on August 24, 2010

i use my netbook with vnc as a remote control for the media centre pc. Works quite well.
posted by the noob at 5:55 PM on August 24, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas so far! Unfortunately the vnc/remote desktop options don't work as I want to use it for media rich applications (like gaming and video editing). Using the TV for the display won't work either as the missus is likely to be watching TV.

Damn dirty ape: it does look like a rack console is close to what I want (other than the cost and KVM type features). I'll look around to see if I can get one on a budget.
posted by escher at 7:05 PM on August 24, 2010

You don't actually want to put the screen and keyboard as close to each other as a laptop or briefcase would force them to be. You may think you do, because that's what laptops have accustomed you to, but you're wrong.

What you actually do want to do is get an old microphone stand, or something with a similarly wide and heavy base and stem, and mount a decent size LCD monitor on it. That, plus wireless keyboard and mouse, should work quite well.
posted by flabdablet at 7:32 PM on August 24, 2010

With the briefcase idea I'd imagine you'd have difficulty with it being unbalanced because the monitor will be much heavier than the keyboard. You ought to try it out first with a textbook or two in place of the monitor.

I have a setup for basically the same purpose. I got a rolling laptop desk like this (though the linked one looks a bit less sturdy than mine) and used four nylon cargo straps (the kind you'd use for tying stuff to the roof of a car) to fasten the monitor flat on its back the desk, which makes the tilt of the monitor adjustable.

I've got a little keyboard of a sort that seems to have been designed to be small and comfortable in your lap. For the mouse I initially had gotten a PS3 controller and a driver that allows me to use it to control the mouse pointer; but for some things I've found a trackball to be better so I switch back and forth.

It took a bit to get used to the PS3 controller as mouse. The driver I'm using in Ubuntu is very configurable and so I've rigged it so that with the right joystick the pointer accelerates quickly while the left joystick moves it slowly for precision movements.
posted by XMLicious at 8:34 PM on August 24, 2010

fasten the monitor flat on its back to the desk
posted by XMLicious at 8:35 PM on August 24, 2010

I think maybe you have a solution in search of a problem. What do you actually want to do while sitting on the couch? I'm willing to be that you'll be able to do 95% of what you want with either a netbook or an ipad.
posted by empath at 6:20 AM on August 25, 2010

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