Minimalist Docking Station

My first laptops came with docking stations - hefty beasts you clip your laptop into with USB, DVI, power, printer and possibly even RS-232 connectors. Convenient at the desk but too bulky to travel with so it sits on my desk at work and doesn’t come home with me (or sits at home and …)

My MacAir doesn’t have an Apple approved docking station and, while there are beautiful aluminium and white rubber third-party stations, they’re still a bit bulky to carry between home and work - especially relative to the 2.5 pound, A4-paper size of the laptop itself. So it looks like I really want two docking stations.

Now, what features do I need? My RS-232 peripherals have long since disappeared into the great junk box in the sky (or, more accurately, my loft) so most things connect with BlueTooth, WiFi or USB. I also need a power cable and a DVI connector. Oh, and I’d like to save some desk space by standing it upright when it is in clamshell mode.

Over the weekend, I decided that the easiest thing to do would be to just make my own docking station. I was able to obtain a length of extruded white PVC in regulation Apple white into which I fashioned a slot to hold the base of the laptop. The PVC has been extruded in a circular pattern which echoes the near circular shape of the Apple logo on the top of the laptop. Minimalism being the key to Apple accessories, I used a 50mm length which is just sufficient to hold the laptop stably as long as the slot is a snug fit. Finally, I padded the parts which would contact the body of the laptop with some Sugru. If I were an Apple purist, I would have used white - but I craved some primary colours and used bright blue. To keep the Sugru off the laptop while I worked, I covered it in cling film (aka Saran wrap).

Docking Station

To use the docking station, you put the power cable and USB cable through the dock (this is a one off installation effort) and place the laptop at a jaunty angle in the slot. Done!

If you want to make your own, you can get 40mm plumbing pipe from B&Q (Home Depot) in convenient 2 metre lengths - enough for your whole family (assuming a family of 10 each wanting 4 docking stations). Or, if you have cats, you might want to use a longer section of pipe to increase stability.

Written on May 28, 2013