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Project: Blue Penguin (Mini ITX)

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by solar, 25 Sep 2004.

  1. solar

    solar What's a Dremel?

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    I have emailed this project to mini-itx.com and they said they'd put it up, but that was weeks ago and there's still no sign of it so I've decided to put it up on here.

    I'm a computer science student and my university department uses Linux extensively for teaching. I find it a better environment for programming than Windows, and though it may not have quite caught up on a sheer beginner's ease-of-use level, it feels far more powerful. My laptop is currently set up to triple-boot between Windows XP, Red Hat 9 and Slackware 9.1, but I was getting annoyed at rebooting it every time I wanted to use Linux. Also, due to the laptop's none-standard hardware, it was very difficult to get working properly, so I decided it was time to build myself a second PC just to run Linux.

    Hardware

    I wanted something small and quiet, and I've always liked the idea of the Mini-ITX motherboards, so I decided to order an Epia 800 - quite enough power to run Linux happily. I don't really need a CD-ROM drive as the PC is going to be networked, so I only needed a 55 watt power supply. A 30gb laptop hard drive and connector cable, and 256mb of RAM finished off all the internal parts. I also splashed out on a great-looking 14" TFT monitor, tiny keyboard and an optical mouse.

    Software

    I love the simplicity and speed of Slackware, and my decision to build this PC coincided perfectly with the release of Slackware 10.0, so I downloaded the ISOs and burned myself some install CDs. I didn't fancy trying to get to grips with a network install, so I just connected up the CD-ROM drive from my brother's PC to do the install.

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    Building The Case

    I wanted as small a case as possible, and it had to show off the insides of the PC. Perspex was the answer - but how to cut it? Fortunately my brother's college have a very expensive CNC laser cutting machine which we could use for free, saving hours dremmelling and polishing. I originally planned to use totally transparent perspex, but unfortunately the college was out of stock. They did have some lovely looking dark blue translucent, though, and with hindsight I think it looks much better than the transparent would have done. The CNC machine is connected to an ordinary PC and is installed as a printer. We simply drew up the designs in a CAD package and set it to cut. It is very precise, and we designed some smart little vents to keep the case temperature down.

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    To assemble all the sides of the case we decided to build some corner pieces to bolt all the perspex to. These were easy to cut from angle aluminium on the bandsaw.

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    After all four of these were made, it was just a case of drilling them out. We used a brand new, sharp drill bit designed to drill metal so that it would make very clean holes in the perspex. We used a CD pen to mark the positions for drilling so that they wouldn't rub off the perspex. M3 (3mm) nuts and bolts were used throughout to hold the case together.


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    The motherboard was attached to the bottom using the same nuts and bolts, with tiny pieces of foam to keep it raised above the perspex. Finally, the hard drive was screwed onto the top and the top and bottom bolted on to the ends of the aluminium corner pieces. The power supply is just fitted in without support, as it fits very snugly it doesn't rattle around at all. Ice blue LEDS (one for power, one for HDD activity) pushed into the holes on the front really finish off the project nicely.

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    All that remained was to make sure everything still booted up as it did before I fitted it all into the case! I reconnected all the wires and it loaded up perfectly. A tiny, quiet and great-looking Linux workstation built for less than £500 and in only a few days!

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    Last edited: 25 Sep 2004
  2. Ligoman17

    Ligoman17 What's a Dremel?

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    Awesome looking mod, very clean. It always helps to have family w/ access to cnc machine tools. I agree that transparent blue probably looks better than just regular clear would have. All it needs now is some case lighting. :thumb:
     
  3. H2O-G33K

    H2O-G33K What's a Dremel?

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    Gorgeous - I love it!! Really nice little box you've built there. I too like Linux, I'm just not very good with it (yet) :)
     
  4. solar

    solar What's a Dremel?

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    Thanks!

    Unfortunately there is no room in there, it was enough of a squeeze to fit all the components in! The ice blue LEDs do look pretty good though :D
     
  5. mrplow

    mrplow obey the fist!!

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    Very nice :dremel:
     
  6. SJH

    SJH Minimodder

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    I seriously would sleep with that case.

    So sexy ;)

    Nice work :D

    -Sam
     
  7. crimandevil

    crimandevil What's a Dremel?

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    That looks really cool
     
  8. ¿þŘΩĐĮĢΫ?

    ¿þŘΩĐĮĢΫ? What's a Dremel?

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    very very nice work, clean lines, and nice and small, i like it, you should put some cosmectics on it
     
  9. CYRiX

    CYRiX What's a Dremel?

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    lol i was about to say "Why is "penguin" in this" and I remember your using linux, very clever name. :idea: :clap:
     
  10. a9on87

    a9on87 ...

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    Nice work there, I agree that the transparent blue looks better than clear.

    :thumb:
     
  11. nleahcim

    nleahcim What's a Dremel?

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    LOL I love how you ghetto rigged the laptop hard drives 44 pin connector. That must have been quite the PITA! I can't imagine why you wouldn't have just gotten an adapter though...
     
  12. OdDBaLL_MoD

    OdDBaLL_MoD Always planning something...

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    Great case there solar :thumb:, and that blue is fantasic! :rock:


    It is on an adaptor, it's just that it's the cable version of an adaptor,

    well, I think it is?!
     
    Last edited: 26 Sep 2004
  13. solar

    solar What's a Dremel?

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    Yup you're right, Maplin's finest :D

    Thanks for the comments everyone! :rock:
     
  14. vetlel

    vetlel What's a Dremel?

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    Looking great!

    Just shows easy is sometimes the best way...

    Maybe one small hint though, wouldn't you want to use countersunk screws? And use four to mount the harddrive? (come to think of it black, countersunk allen screws... mmmmmm)
     
  15. solar

    solar What's a Dremel?

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    That was basically driven by the materials I had - I didn't have any coutersunk M3 bolts! Also it would've been really difficult to accurately countersink the perspex without marking it. I actually like the "industrial" look, it kind of sets off the shiny plastic IMO. And who needs 4 screws to mount a tiny laptop hard drive?
     
  16. vetlel

    vetlel What's a Dremel?

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    you could always -lasercut cnc-machine- them *useless remark*

    Not to press you more then I already did, but when you first drill the 3 mm. holes and after that use that hole to position a drill with the diameter of the screwhead you should end up just nice.

    The industrial look was exactly what i had in mind, been working at major aerospace and automotove plants, you'd love all the jummy bits and bops they have there...

    It's just to keep the whole look symmetrical. And besides, who needs screws when there's duct tape? :naughty:

    Please understand me, i love the looks of the case, these were just a few "finishing touches" , the screws are the only things showing the DIY ingredient here.

    congrats with a great case...
     
  17. KingofHearts

    KingofHearts What's a Dremel?

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    I like your corner brackets. simple and functional. Looks great. enjoy your new pc!
     
  18. Mr. Red

    Mr. Red Minimodder

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    :thumb: I like it just the way it is! Couple of questions. How is the temp? Is it super quiet (i see a small fan)? Good job!

    BTW: Did ya get the pleasure of smelling the plexi burning with the laser? :D
     
  19. solar

    solar What's a Dremel?

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    The temperature is fine - I designed the layout of the internals so that there's a big space around the processor fan and direct access to one of the side vents. It gets quite hot when doing things like compiling programs etc but not too hot. I would tell you the temperature but (AFAIK) the boards don't have temp. sensors on (if I'm wrong please let me know!).

    As for the fan itself, it is very tiny and very quiet, hardly even audible unless you are very close.

    And yes, I did get to smell the burning plexi :D mmmm :hehe:
     
  20. H2O-G33K

    H2O-G33K What's a Dremel?

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    Does the CPU fan blow upwards or downwards? You might find it works best with the fan blowing upwards and a vent above it.. probably too late now though eh? ;)
     

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