The said machine:
800 MHz processor
128 Mb RAM
Unfortunately I did not start this project with doing an instructable in mind, however, here is a rough listing of materials and tools required:
- Aging laptop
- Clear plastic Shadow Box, 11 x 14 (Available @ Michael's Craft Store)
- Precision screwdrivers
- Masking Tape
- Tiny screws and nuts
- Drill with small bit
- Glue gun and hot glue
Step 1: Install a lightweight operating system (Linux)
After toying with various lightweight linux distributions, I settled upon installing Xubuntu (which required the no-gui alternate install CD) with Fluxbox as the window manager. I later discovered this is a fork in its own right (Fluxbuntu). This may be stretching the capabilities of the machine anyhow; if you are more knowledgeable and attempting a similar project with an old machine, I would recommend installing a distribution such as DSL, ArchLinux, Vector, Crunchbang, etc.
Installation was straightforward without hang-ups. I simply selected all the default options.
Step 2: Disassemble the laptop
You will also need to completely remove the plastic casing from the LCD so that you only have it and the inverter (which you should be very careful with).
It goes without saying that this step should be done with the computer unplugged.
I will not go into the details of the disassembly as it is fairly straight-forward. Just let it be said that if you look carefully with your local search engine, using specific search terms, there is a Sony service manual in PDF format giving detailed step-by-step instructions on how to disassemble this particular laptop (hint: the search begins with "pcg-fx210" and ends with "service manual").
Step 3: Purchase and prepare custom case
Drill holes in the front of the shadow box for the screws which will attach the monitor. You'll also need to drill holes in the bottom to attach the motherboard, and slots for the fan, ports and DVD drive, PCI slot, etc. You'll need to position everything first and mark out what you need. As always, mark twice, cut / drill once (not the other way around)!
The motherboard should face away from the LCD so that the top is toward the back (open end) of the shadow box.
Step 4: Reassemble
Reassemble and reattach everything to the motherboard before placing it atop the LCD. Attach the motherboard to the bottom of the frame by using the screw holes at the back of the board. Affix the board with the power button to the front of the box by using tape or hot glue (you will need to plug it in and wrap the wires around the bottom of the frame first).
I found the DVD/CD drive did not sit proper and so fashioned a bracket.
Step 6: Profit!!!! (Endnotes)
I later bought a picture frame holder (also at Michael's) and flexible keyboard. After adding a wireless mouse that was hanging around, the end product is actually fairly close to an iMac (?) as you can see in the picture.
I learned a lot doing this project and comments, criticism and suggestions for improvement (I can think of many) are welcome.