Introduction: Guitar PC Kiosk
A kiosk that lives in a music store and blends in with the surroundings: it's a PC stuffed in an acoustic guitar, with a monitor on a music stand, and a tambourine mouse pad!
Important: No guitars that didn't suck were harmed in the making of this instructable : The donor axe was pronounced crappy by several reliable sources (and at least one quasi-reliable source); un-tunable and beyond repair. Please don't try anything like this on a viable instrument, or you'll suffer eternal damnation on a special plane of hell where they alternate between Rick Astley's "Never gonna give you up" and Rebecca Black's "Friday" over the loudspeaker, 24/7. Don't tempt fate.
"I see a kiosk made out of a guitar and I want it painted black..."
Another note: Die-hard nit-pickers may notice that this isn't really a step-by-step, but is rather more of an in-depth tour. "Why not do a slideshow instead?" they might ask. To them I say, "I am far too long-winded for a mere slideshow. And don't you have something you can go alphabetize?"
Indeed, I won't be going "in order," because the order doesn't matter much. Instead, each "step" will address a different chunk of the project, and how I ended up addressing said chunk.
Step 1: Overview
I've been inspired by the many fine projects I've seen out there to build a PC into a guitar (Like this one and this one and this one and this one), so I was happy when circumstances provided the following excuse to do so:
I run a "labor-of-love" website devoted to promoting the music and musicians of Humboldt County, California. One of our local music stores graciously offered to devote some of their retail space to allow our website to have a presence in their store. The ensuing project proved to be an entertaining mix of challenges both predictable and unpredictable, and I think it turned out pretty cool!
Most of the donor parts were musical gear that had been replaced (but not thrown away, of course!) because it was no longer reliable. The PC was an "extra" that we had on hand, the speakers were available (and of halfway decent quality, for PC speakers). The guitar stand and music stand were both tweaked. A touchscreen would certainly have been nice (and would have eliminated the need for a lot of the engineering involved), but big touchscreens tend to get pricey, so I went with a "normal" LCD monitor and a mouse-driven interface.
While the parts are certainly sturdily attached to one another, this is pretty flimsy by "public kiosk" standards: you could break it if you wanted to. Luckily it's considerably safer than most because the store is staffed by folks who can keep one eye on any evil weasel weeniehead who might wish to do harm to the hardware or software, but in truth it's only slightly resistant to real malice.
-Care And Feeding:
None, if possible. Ideally this fires up and runs all by itself, and requires no interaction by the store's staff: they have more important things to do. Any maintenance would be done by me (remotely when possible).
Software: Full-screen browser with no access to the address bar. On-screen keyboard.
Hardware: No keyboard; mouse only (with right-click disabled). Note: This Instructable accidentally happened during the creation of this kiosk, but I hope you won't hold that against me.
-Structure: I knew I needed a strong base, and I knew that the donor music stand would need some support if it was going to hold up a flat screen monitor. I knew that I would need a surface to use as a mouse habitat, so I designed a plywood assembly that served as a table for the mouse as well as a sturdy structure to which all of the other bits could be mounted.
I did a whole lot of doodling, including a stab at Sketchup... I'll post said doodles when I find said doodles.
Your mileage will vary, but here's what I used:
-Donor PC & music gear :
With the exception of the PC, monitor, and speakers, all of the items donated for this project were sufficiently wonky to warrant their retirement from use, and were therefore either cheap or free:
PC: a desktop with sufficient "oomph" to run a browser, wireless connectivity. Mouse, no keyboard (er... sort of)
Monitor: 17" LCD.
Speakers: Decent Advent PC speakers
Guitar: an unplayable Peavey (with a fatal flaw in how the neck meets the body), but no obvious cosmetic issues.
Guitar stand: with an unreliable locking pin
Music stand: an old brass stand with a serious wobble that I couldn't manage to correct (which incidentally led to this instructable)
Tambourine: a cheap import taking up space in my family's collection of noisy objects
USB Wireless adapter: the store has a wireless router and we had this USB wireless network dongle on hand.
-Other materials :
Plywood: 3/4 inches thick. I had some good-quality "A/A" on hand, but any grade would work.
Misc. wood pieces: for inside the guitar, to hold the PC bits
Wheels: four casters (two of which lock to prevent rolling)
U-bolts: for fastening the guitar stand to the base, attaching the music stand, and keeping the power cable where it belongs
Misc. screws, nuts, bolts, washers
Split loom tubing: for cable management (four feet or so)
Cord grommet: more cable management
Misc. zip ties: because zip ties hold the universe together
Extension cord: with three-way splitter: power for the monitor, speakers & PC
Paint: black spray paint, black latex gloss house paint: for camouflaging ugly stuff
Button: red momentary switch: on/off for the PC
Magnet, metal plate: Closure for the "door" that allows access to the PC
Hinges: also for the flap
Rubber Mouse pads: used in the monitor mount
Step 2: Axe Hacking
This guitar happened to feature a bolt-on neck, so I liberated the neck from the body. Not completely necessary, but it made my life a bit easier.
The first thing to do is cut the back right off. It feels utterly sacrilegious and wrong, but also slightly awesome, in a Jimi-at-Monterey kind of way.
I jigsawed the whole thing, about 1/2" in from the edge. I ran into trouble where the neck meets the body, and just cut around it (none of this is pretty, but that's why they invented PAINT).
"...I see a half-assed hack job and I want it painted black..."
I saved the resulting panel so I had a surface for the motherboard, and painted the 1/2"-wide edge black.
Step 3: Hide the PC
I lined up the motherboard's ports with the bottom of the guitar (so I could hide the connections), and had to cut away some wood so that the ports were close reachable from outside the "box" of the axe.
Luckily, motherboards are full of holes. I exploited this by screwing the motherboard onto a few wood scraps which were glued and/or screwed to the guitar back in a few strategic locations on the piece cut from the back of the guitar.
The original design (i.e. my scribbles) specified that the power supply be nestled inside the guitar, but I was forced to move that outside when I figured out that there really isn't much room inside a guitar. But everything else: the motherboard, hard drive and "front panel" bits are all nestled in the guitar body. No CD or floppy drive was needed. I placed the hard drive at an angle above the (empty) PCI slots, suspended on a luxurious cushion of 1"x1" lumber.
I screwed four 1x1" wood bits to the guitar back, sized to allow the PC-laden panel to drop back into the guitar "box" and sit flush.
I set the fan into the guitar's sound hole, because that's cool.
Step 4: Hide the PC Better
"...I see a half-assed hack job and I wantit painted black..."
To hold in the PC and camouflage the ugly, I cut a piece of thin plywood to the shape of the entire back of the guitar and screwed it into place. Then, following Mr. Jagger's advice, I painted it black.
I made a door to allow access to the PC's front-panel ports, where the speakers, mouse, and wireless adapter connect. I used two small hinges, and made a closure using a tiny metal strip and a little magnet. This I painted green, then blue, then yellow, but then I finally settled on... black.
I got an extremely bitchin red button for use as a power switch, and wired it (via salvaged CAT-5 cable) it to the two points where the original front-panel power button hit the circuit board. Regardless of your PC situation, I do recommend replacing your stock power button with an extremely bitchin red button.
I painted the power supply with an intricate Celtic knot pattern that took several weeks, but then went with... black.
Step 5: Fix the Broken Stuff
To correct an increasingly leaning neck problem (which actually smooshed the first fan I placed into the sound hole), I added a turnbuckle between the added back panel and a point above the spot where the neck connects.
This proved to be a perfect solution, pulling the neck back into place and allowing the strings too look right (though they will always sound like vomit). An added benefit of this addition: before this change, if someone were to try to turn the tuning keys too far (in a noble but misguided attempt at tuning), the neck would bend more and more and could conceivably break (even before the strings!).
"I see a turnbuckle and I want it painted black..."
I painted it black.
Step 6: Assemble
I had some specific challenges with wobbly donor hardware, the need for a mouse surface and the weight demands of the LCD, and I met these challenges with plywood.
The base is just a rectangle. The "table" holding the tambourine is also just a rectangle, but it has a half-circle at one end, cut to fit the tambourine... so I suppose it's a few notches cooler than an ordinary rectangle.
I wanted the main vertical part to be narrow enough so it didn't obstruct the guitar too much, but not so narrow that it was wussy. It is supported by two semi-triangular braces joining it to the base. The mouse habitat is stuck to the top edge of the main piece, and supported from below by another semi-triangular brace.
After the plywood was cut, I patched the imperfections with plaster spackly stuff, sanded, and...
"I see a cumbersome plywood apparatus and I want it painted black..."
The music stand and the guitar stand are both U-bolted to the plywood, and the result is pretty sturdy. Wires are all black or hidden in black split loom tubing (attached by black zip-ties), so painting the plywood black provided a clean finish that camouflages everything (including my shoddy workmanship) nicely...
Step 7: Wire It Up
The USB Mouse and speakers were connected through a hole in the access door in the back of the guitar.
Power and video cables run down the music stand, then power goes through a hole in the plywood base to the power cord underneath, and video heads through the hole in the bottom of the guitar.
The power for the speakers runs down to a wall-wart DC adapter (which was white, until I applied Mr. Jagger's advice). I wanted to hide all power underneath, but the wall wart was too thick to allow clearance for the wheels, so there sits the wall-wart.
Power for the PC goes through the hole in the base.
Extra cable was tucked away into the space under the base of the music stand.
Black split loom tubing and black zip ties were used liberally for prettification.
Step 8: Mount the Monitor
LCD monitors are usually easy to remove from their stands, and mine was no exception: the screen snaps onto tabs on a metal plate on the stand.
I removed the metal plate and screwed it to the music stand using a sandwich of plywood and foam rubber (ex-mousepad).
This allows the monitor to be removed for transport.
I adorned the plywood with a complicated paisley pattern, but then decided to paint it black.
Step 9: Mouse Habitat & Speakers
The plywood stand features a "table" cut to fit the diameter of the tambourine.
The speakers have threaded holes in them, and I found some 1/4" bolts that fit the threads, and bolted them upside-down to the aforementioned table. Due to their wedge shape, they sit nicely side by side and point out at angle from one another.
The speakers are connected to each other via an RCA cable (coiled tightly and tucked away). The power cord runs down to meet the extension cord (painted black), and the 1/8" speaker wire run down the split loom along with the mouse's USB cord, through the "door" in the back of the axe.
The tambourine has real critter skin on it and has a slight "give" if pushed, so I placed a couple of lengths of 2x2" under the tambourine for support. The mouse cord travels into the "thumb hole" of the tambourine, then through a hole in the aforementioned table.
"I see an aforementioned table and I want it painted black..."
Step 10: De-Brand; Re-Brand
"I see a black mouse and I want it painted black..."
There were visible logos on four different pieces of the kiosk. These logos were removed and replaced with black paint and/or the logo of our website, via innovative "Bumper Sticker" technology.
1. On the head of the guitar, I unscrewed the little panel between the tuning keys and slipped a slice of sticker there.
2. I ground down the raised "Dell" logo from the monitor bezel, and stuck a similar slice of sticker.
3. Both the guitar stand and the mouse dared to have logos on them, so they were both punished with a blast of black spray paint.
Step 11: Software
On startup, a script runs which tries to reach the interwebs (through the series of tubes). If it can't, it tries renewing the IP and such, then tries again until it connects. If all goes well (and the USB wireless adapter connects), the browser launches and we're off and running.
Full disclosure: not quite there yet - there's a reliability problem. Yeah yeah, I know: "I should have used Linux..." well, I didn't: it's XP, because that's what was on the machine to begin with, and I'm lazy. Anyway, I believe that the issues are more with the wireless dongle than anything else: once it's connected, it's pretty solid... but sometimes it takes a few tries before it manages to connect (I'll keep you posted on that). For a more reliable connection, I considered hiding another wireless router underneath the base for use as a bridge, then CAT-5-ing to the ethernet port... but that opens another can of insecure worms so I'm sticking with the dongle for now.
Originally I was trying to assemble a collection of Firefox plugins to do the job, but then Firefox 4.0 came out, and almost none of the plugins I had scouted were supported for Firefox 4 (as of the writing of this 'ible). As it happens, Internet Explorer 8 has a pretty decent "Kiosk mode" built in, and with a few tweaks I was able to remove all browser controls.
An on-screen keyboard allows for entering text within the website, but there is no way to enter a URL directly into the address bar. Again, I'm sure it's still hackable by persistent weasels, but what isn't?
Remote administration via "GoToMyPC"-style software.
Other tidbits: After a bit of inactivity, an exe runs which closes any open windows, then opens the browser back to the homepage.
Step 12: Other Ideas...
I'm working on getting the kiosk to "phone home" by hitting a webpage which logs the date/time so I can monitor that it's running without always having to log in remotely.
A touchscreen would have simplified the logistics, but the downside is: it would have simplified the logistics.
My keyboard hack was a cheesy solution and I would do it "right" if I felt like it, but I don't.
The software will be a work in progress: I don't have a "Deep Freeze" solution for rolling back to a set config on each reboot - that would be a swell idea.
I'm still not to happy with the reliability of the connection on startup via the wireless USB dongle, and haven't completely ruled out hiding a bridge underneath... we'll see.
Any suggestions, folks? As of the writing of this 'ible I have not yet deployed my kiosk into the wild, so there's still time to weave the collective genius of the Instructables readership into the project!
Take care folks, and as Mr. Jagger said: "Paint it Black!"