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Moviebox


I recently finished my moviebox. The idea was to make a box using old computer-components I had lying around, putting it underneath my TV, and thus being able to watch DVDs, DVD-backups, present slideshows, listem to MP3-music, create a juke-box, etc... on my TV.

The reason I made it is simple: my computer weighs about 25Kg, and I'm tired of hauling it from my desk to my TV 4 times a week. Since all I needed to buy to realise this is a new, very cheap motherboard that supports my old SDRAM and celeron (socket 370) processor, I decided to just do it.
Later, I would upgrade practically everything: The old Cely 433-CPU was too slow, on-board sound was too much of a CPUTime-burden, RAM was cheap, so I added some, the harddisk was too noisy, so I replaced it. The mouse was too clumsy, so I found another solution.
I started off with a Celeron 433@541, 384MB SDRAM, a 20.4GB Maxtor harddisk, on board sound, a Logitech cordless mouseman wheel and a standard keyboard.

Some specs of the current setup: AOpen AX34II motherboard, 300W ATX PSU, Celeron 900@1008, 768MB SDRAM PC133, Seagate 80GB 7200RPM ATA100 harddrive, ATI Rage 128 / 32MB VGA-card, 4.1 soundcard (Safeway), a pioneer 16X DVD-drive (region-free of course), 10/100Mbit NIC (Safeway).
The reason I used safeway cards, is that they're the only cards that are low enough to fit underneath the DVD-player (+- 4 cm above the PCI-slots). As far as I know, no other manufacturer has a soundcard that's low enough for that.

As a base, I used a wooden plate. On that, I attached the front and rear alu plates, and made sure they're well in place. 3 fans cool the setup: One 80mm for intake, one 80mm for outtake, placed in series for minimal noise production. One 60 mm fan at 7V cools the CPU. You'd be surprised by how little heat a celeron produces... The harddisk is 'glued' to the top panel, because I just couldn't fit it anywhere else. The DVD-drive was very tricky to install, but I found a way, and now it's attached to the front, rear, and base sides. Quite sturdy.

Celeron-cooling:

The buttons: I wanted a look that's as stealthy as possible, so I wanted to see only three things on the case: 2 buttons and the DVD-drive slot. I came up with a very simple system to use the power / DVD-LEDs as on/off / open/close buttons respectively. I can change the button functions by switching the plugs: plug 1 goes to the motherboard, plug 2 to the DVD-drive. Socket 1 is the blue LED/button, socket 2 the green one. Maybe I'll put in an orange LED later...


The connections at the rear of the case are also extraordinary: I reconnected the PS/2 outlets, the RJ45 network outlet, put in a power inlet / button with a fuse, and connected the SVHS and stereo-jacks from my hardware to a SCART-plug. The black block is an entrance for a normal VGA-connector. Easy access for formatting or other maintenance. This way I won't need to plug in all those connectors...

I heard it's bad for a device as complicated as a PC to not earth to one central point. So I made some extra cables that came together on one screw at the base. I had problems while testing with what looked like static interference when the box was connected to the TV. After changeing the earth-point-setup, the problems were gone. Maybe there is some truth to it after all ;)

The Soundcard: A Safeway model, the only one to fit underneath the DVD-player...

The Software:

Windows XP Pro (slimmest possible setup), Codecs, players (Winamp, WMP, Elecard, ...), RTVNC. For the time being, I use a keyboard with a very long cable and a Logitech Cordless Mouseman. I plan on getting a IR-keyboard/mouse set, but don't know when that's going to happen...

The DVD-drive, open and ready for action!

The Keyboard is another special mod. I used a cordless mouse in the beginning, but it has some disadvantages: You have 2 cables and an extra block (receiver) laying around in front of the TV, you need room to manoeuver the mouse (Not easy on a table with beer, crisps, etc...), and you cannot use it properly when laying down. So, the ideal solution is to use a touchpad. Oh, it does have its disadvantages, but I thought the advantages outweighed them easily...
I bought a cheap keyboard (€5), stripped it down, dremeled away some plastic, end desoldered the wires. I did the same with an extra touchpad I had in my magic box of hardware... Since your standard PS/2 device uses only 4 pins of its 6 pin + earth connector, I needed a cable with 8 wires... What else has 8 wires? Right! UTP. So I dug around in one of my boxes again, and came up with 5 metres of flexible UTP Cat. 5. The ideal victim. I soldered together the wires, connected the PS/2 plugs, and after a few cases of trial and error... it worked!

Another global pic...

I plan on doing something to the exterior of the case, but don't know what yet. It looks very rough and unfinished now, but maybe I'll get someone to sandblast it or buy a can of spraypaint...


Some news:

Moviebox II !

As I bought a new PC, and the money I would be getting for my old one was just ridiculous, I thought I might turn it into a new MovieBox.

First, I cut up an old case. This was once an Aopen desktop case. I threw out the front, cover, and nearly all the rest that was inside. I shortened the case to about 23 centimeters.

Remember kids - always use protective stuff when using powertools!

I wonder if this voided my warranty :)

A keyboard I bought, basically it's a laptop keyboard in an external housing, using 4 AAA batteries and an USB dongle. I bought mine at CaseKing.de. Check out the manufacturer's website if you want to know more...

The top of the box: I customized a fax to blow fresh air onto the passively cooled graphics card. Also note the USB card with internal USB connector, which holds the dongle to the keyboard. (on the left) I did however use only Coolermaster fans, which are ultra-quiet.

Note the Internal USB hub I used, to be able to get front USB ports. Also look at the QuietDrive housing around my harddisk: this is a way of making your drive more quiet and still being able to cool it sufficiently. Works quite well, but unfortunately it's very expensive. I will need to have a new front made, but I'm not sure what I want it to look like yet...


 

 
 

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