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Old 1st Sep 2011, 10:11   #1
Autti
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Zen and the Art of Modding: an Amateur Foray - SketchUp

Zen and the art of Modding: an Amateurs Foray

As you can see, my title is based of a somewhat famous book, I havenít read it but the title is cool. Technically Iím not judging a book by its cover; Iím just judging the cover, semantics anyhow.

I need a hobby. Iím a young commerce student halfway through my degree with a well paying job working 20 hours a week and studying hard all the while and getting good-ish grades. Lovely. Well sort of, its great but work and more work gets a bit boring and drinking pints all weekend while fun lacks a certain Ė I donít know Ė productiveness? Fulfilment?

So this brings me to the start of my journey. Well actually I started a while back when I was looking for a good hobby, and being a barista and a self confessed foodie I thought as all young adolescents do: ALCOHOL! But homebrew is boring and overdone so I went hardcore. Spirits. Then I found out that distilling in Australia is very much illegal and frowned upon. Then I thought screw it and did it anyway, with the help of a friend who is a brewer we made our own still and Vodka was flowing. But distilling, while great fun and makes you a popular man (who wouldnít want to be friends with that guy who makes vodka for $7 a bottle, yeah everyone does) ultimately ends the same as drinking pints all weekend. But replace the beer with vodka, and the hangover with well, you get the jist.

Adrift as I was I wanted something to do, something productive and something rewarding. If you guessed that Iím starting a fledgling career in modding well done, did the title give it away? But I am. Even better, Iím starting a journal of my journey (journaley or journeyal, I should make that a word) through this wondrous new world. Iíve been reading and following the modding scene from the bit-tech forums for a couple of years now and itís truly amazing work being done. I want to make something awesome and cool, and hell, lets chuck a computer inside it because wtfn (abbreviated curse phrase for kids reading).

I mean how hard can it be? Bold last words I know. I have set my sights high and will be document almost all of steps on the way in my jorneyal (pat pend.). Now some if not all of you will say, great look forward to it, have you done something like this before? To which I reply well no but Iím very positive and have plenty ideas. Queue rolling eyes and looks of amusement as a grand thinking amateur falls flat on his face. Well that may be, and the likelihood of me failing in a spectacular manner (I predict a homer-esque rage attack on my mod, followed by sale in a art gallery) is quite high. Ok very high. But failure is no deterrent to me, no sir. My last hobby involves highly flammable liquids and the risk of dying in a horrible moonshine explosion or imprisonment (may be exaggerating) modding seems positively rosy.

Failure or not I will write about it nonetheless for your amusement and documentation for future generations of how NOT to cut your hand off with a dremel. Hopefully in periodic instalments providing work and uni chug along nicely. So consider this entry number one into my journeyal and my first step towards modding stardom, or the hospital.
First on my list, designing. I should be back within the week with plans and plenty of ideas (Iíve been working on it for about a month now). Oh but obviously there is a catch, and a large one at that. I have never modded before, never built a computer before and havenít used power tools for probably 4 years. Yeah you can see now why the hospital is a likely outcome. But all is not lost. My brother is a carpenter which should prove helpful, my grandfather was an architect and quite a good one at that who taught me quite a few things on design. Add to this list the fierce determination and pride and it doesnít seem so bad.

I will be relying heavily upon and advice and feedback I can get, hopefully a lot, to guide me along the way and general information I have been learning. I guess thatís it, hope you enjoying reading this, and any hints are greatly appreciated. Until next time.

Last edited by Autti; 3rd Sep 2011 at 06:36.
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Old 1st Sep 2011, 10:21   #2
alecamused
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If you mod like you write this will be an enjoyable journey. Even if you totally screw up but keep writing like that i'll be a happy passenger.
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Old 3rd Sep 2011, 07:06   #3
Autti
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Well Iím back, and sooner than expected. Admittedly I had put a fair amount of work into the project before I posted, so they 3 days for initial design isnít an accurate representation. Anyhow, it went kind of well. First time using sketchup which was a gradual learning curve but I soon discovered its limitations, namely the lack of curving ability, and my case features many a curve. Bummer.

Also I hope Iím not the only person who gets lost INSIDE his own model. Well thatís not completely true. The way I went about it is to place the components first (which I took from the SketchUp Components Collection (SCC) which is a very hand bit of community work, kudos to everyone involved)) and then design the case dimensions around them. I soon discovered that building a case around it is tedious and my MBP beachballs every time I move large components. Always a pleasant experience.
So I thought I would be clever and design my case of to the side, and then simply move the hardware in once complete, great plan, nothing to go wrong. But every time I was moving around adjusting curves and failing to make nice surfaces I would accidently orbit into my hardware model, and it proved to a rather large black hole. I would be sandwiched between the RAM and the PSU with no way out because the pan orbit and zoom tools appear to be relative to what your looking at, so when my virtual face is smooshed in-between my ram heat spreaders my pan is millimetres at a time. Tedious. I fully recognize that this is probably just me doing it wrong; as Iím sure someone will point out.

However, in between my journeys to a black abyss I managed to be quite productive and have made the basic design of the case hopefully some pretty pictures can boost my readership, everyone likes pictures as opposed to my bland wall of text. Although thanks must be given to my first reader alecamused for his kind words, I dedicate this to you (not really).



Looks all right at this point. The side panels will be curved though, which I canít do in SU properly.
Now is the part where one considers ďhmm doesnít look overly complex, perhaps a first timer could pull this offĒ Iím assuming youíre all optimists and encouraging because that just makes me feel better. Well hold that thought because you will be very much wrong.

Lets get some basic principles out of the way, but I do want to leave some suspense in to what it is. Firstly it will be all aluminium, made of 8 main pieces and who knows how many minor each of which will require extensive machining. Secondly there is an enormous amount of cable routing to do, not limited to PSU modifications, those connectors down the bottom will be wired through the base (USB, audio and power switches) I/O ports will pretty much have to be completely moved OFF the motherboard (sounds fun). There is in fact a full-length graphics card in there if you were wondering. Oh and the icing on the cake, itís water cooled (CPU only) which will require some more major modifications.
I might have bitten off more than I can chew.

Nevertheless, onwards I march. Iím in the process of detailing blueprints for each major piece and sourcing aluminium (not as easy thing to in Perth, Australia). But Iím faced with one major problem, measurements and dimensions. There really is very little room for errors in this design, and I require precise measurements of the components, which I canít really do UNLESS I buy them, which I will start doing soon. Oh and I need to gain access to a mill and drill press and bending equipment and a TIG welder.
Typing this down really doesnít make me feel confident, optimism optimism optimism optimism. I CAN do this.

Also, 3 days in and no hospital, thatís a good sign (my metal ruler is mighty sharp).

Thanks for reading, any and all comments are welcome.
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Old 5th Sep 2011, 09:08   #4
mat0tam
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mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!mat0tam - it's over 9000!!!!!!!!1!1!1!!!
Im really looking forward to this mod

Welcome to my subscriptions list =]

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Old 5th Sep 2011, 13:52   #5
Nanosec
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Well, I will be along for the jorneyal (used with assumed permission). I also find your writing enjoyable, even better with a few pictures splashed in for texture. Sub'd and +rep.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 15:15   #6
Autti
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I apologise in advance for not having any nice pictures for everyone, as I know few if any can be bothered to read a wall of text written by some guy you don’t know, but I’m nice and apologetic for my visual aids failure.

Anyway back on topic: the build. I had penned out 80% of my blueprints and had sourced a local supplier of aluminium (not an easy thing to do in Perth) and all was well. But then my proverbial hurricane struck, my design did not actually fit what I needed for my build. I very much like the design and I had something I was actually confident I could build, but it wouldn’t be a useful computer in the long run. It was tailored to specific hardware (itx, minimal graphics card room, sfx PSU) and allowed me almost no upgrade path. So as a one time thing it would be amazing, but I don’t want a case that will be used once and I can’t continue to put new things in it, I’m just not that rich. I need something more flexible and expandable for the future. So the inevitable happened, my design with approximately 50 hours work put into it was scraped. Not physically, I have kept it all in case I do have the money and time to build it one day, but today is not the day.

Right now I am positively certain there is a teacher or lecturer out there going “I told you so” as it’s a very simple lesson and everyone has heard it, establish a criteria for what you want and how your going to go about it. Well that man who wears shorts for his professional career really did get one up on me, as I failed to outline what I wanted from the start and it has dearly cost me a lot of time and effort.

The positive: I learnt not to do this again, and hopefully some of you – my cherished readers – will not repeat my mistakes. So I’m in the early stages of creating my new design, mATX with the option for 2 GFX cards, ATX sized PSU and 4 hard drives.

I also had my first injury, not strictly related to modding however. I was getting peckish on Saturday afternoon so I put some party pies (miniature pies) in the oven to eat. Out of the oven, very hot, lots of sauce cooled it down. Oh until I bit into one and the boiling mince went out the other end onto my hand and burnt my fingers very badly.
I guess it serves as a nice metaphor for my current situation, I rushed into things and I’m now I’m left with a mess of boiling hot mince searing into my fingers, oh and my lunch is on the floor.

Hopefully I will have some good progress for my next update, apologies again. Should be in about 2-3 weeks, as I have mid-semester exams currently.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 15:40   #7
GuilleAcoustic
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Damned, I'm trully sorry for what is happening. I know that feeling. But the more important is to always learn from our experiences.

Maybe it could help you ... but for my designs I always start with boxes that have the exact size of the hardware I'll be using. The I move them until the layout suits my needs and aestetic goals. And when it's done, I build the outter design around this layout.

Saves lots of time and you have a nice idea of the final size.

Examples :

from this ...



to this ...

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