Building a better mouse-trap (or a stylus-trap)

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A few weeks ago I got a Surface Pro along with some of the folks here at Building Clouds. The first thing we did was to install Server 2012 on them and run some Shared-Nothing Live Migrations. You can read about that here. But what I found after using the Surface Pro pretty regularly was that:

  • The stylus is an awesome tool.
  • I can never find my stylus.

Part of the reason for this is that I am a little scatterbrained, the other part of the reason is that the stylus for the Surface Pro is designed to rest in the power port. As a few blogger have pointed out there are two problems using the power port as the stylus dock.

  1. I often need to plug my Surface Pro in, which displaces my stylus (after which I end up misplacing it)
  2. When the stylus in the power port, it doesn’t take much to dislodge the pen – especially when it’s in my bag.

I was sitting in a training session watching someone with a Samsung ATIV Pro (Shawn, actually) as he deftly tucked his stylus away into his device. I was filled with envy.

I examined my Surface Pro and realized that it’s state of the art construction left no room for the stylus to be concealed in the case. What the Surface Pro and Surface RT do have though (that some of the fruity tablets of the world do not) is a USB port.

Hmmm. I Binged a few times to try and find a pen or stylus holder that was attached to a USB device.

Nothing.

Unable to buy a ready made holder, I set out to make one. I shuffled through my bag to see what sorts of USB sticks I had. I had big ones, ones that looked like credit cards, blinky ones, oh… and a little tiny one.

The tiny one is an elago Mobile Nano mircoSDHC car reader. It’s 17mm long (about ¾ of an inch) and when inserted the devices leaves a slim 5mm extending out of the device. Very tiny.

It occurred to me if I could attach a small amount of elastic material to the USB nub, I would be able to attach the stylus to the Pro via USB and have some extra storage in the process (and free up the power port). I put one together – it looks like this:

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Want to make one yourself?

Here’s what you need:

  • USB drive, smaller the better. (I used the elago Mobile Nano)
  • Elastic for the pen loop (I cut some out of a portfolio I had)
  • Sewing kit – (left over from a stay at the Marriott)
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • White glue (Optional)

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The process:

  1. Cut a section of elastic material about 40mm long (1.5”). Try to cut the ends as perpendicular as possible. Then loop the elastic over on itself to form a loop (if one side is more attractive you can have that face out).
  2. Optional – Apply white glue (like Elmer’s) to the cut ends to keep them from fraying. Allow time to dry. You can also accomplish this through the application of heat to melt the ends a bit –  but glue is much safer.
  3. Sew the two ends together. Try to keep the stiches within 4mm (3/16”) of the end, enough to hold fast without losing too much of the loop. I chose a white string so my piping would match the highlight in my material – follow your heart when selecting the color.  NOTE: You can also use hot glue to bond the ends, if you have a precise glue gun and steady hands. (I opted for the stitching for that retro feel)Mount the pen loop on your USB device. Apply hot glue to the 4mm where you bound the two ends, this will act as the connector. Mount the loop carefully.

Give some thought as to which direction you want the loop facing when you insert it in the device. All-purpose hot glue will work for this purpose (its surprisingly strong) but if you have stronger bonding hot glues, feel free to use them.

That’s it. Enjoy your new storage device/stylus holder!