Introduction: Multimedia PC / Low-Power File Server, Recycled
Use a small formfactor motherboard that may be collecting dust in your garage, a handful of other components from your PC junkbox, and some simple HTML and script code, put together the "Midnite Boy" (Mb).
My Mb sits next to my TV, is controlled by my TV/DVD/Stereo/Mb universal IR remote, can play Internet radio stations, MP3s, AVIs, show info from the web, and sit there just as a low-power, full-time, file share.
Step 1: The Guts
Find some parts. In my case, I'm using a VIA EPIA M10000 motherboard (mobo), an old Quantum 30GB harddrive, a US Robotics USB/WiFi adapter, an IRA-3 IR receiver, and a neat little ATX power supply from my junkbox.
The mobo's overall size is about 6-3/4" square which happens to fit nicely on top of the power supply.
The IR receiver module is epoxied to the inside of the front panel. The IR sensor of the receiver module sticks through a hole drilled in the panel.
I put an acrylic sheet between the mobo and components on the back for electrical isolation and some structure to mount things to.
The USB/WiFi adapter is zip-tied to the acrylic sheet.
The harddrive is bracketed to the mobo and power supply using hand cut and bent sheet metal brackets.
The front panel USB connector is epoxied to two small wood blocks and the front panel through a square hole in the front panel.
The LED is hot glued into one of the grill holes in the front panel.
Step 2: Making the Front Panel
The enclosure is made from 1/4" hardboard which is cheap and easy to work with. A 2' x 2' sheet was more than enough for $3 at the local hardware store.
The overall dimensions of my front panel is 9-1/4" x 5" with cutouts for the IR port, USB connector, and grill. Tip: Design the grill on 0.1" centers then use a piece of perfboard as a drilling guide. I've used this technique several times with excellent results.
Next, use your favorite image editor and do something cool. The second image is an overlay printed on glossy stock with an inkjet printer. You can look around the web for photos of differnt types of wood (even inlay work) or photograph some yourself and layout a cool looking panel over the dimensions.
The printed overlay can then be glued to the front panel with 3M spray adhesive, or similar. Then take care of the cutouts with a sharp blade. I used a drill bit manually to cut the small grill holes out of the overlay.
Step 3: Mounting the Front Panel
Two brackets secure the front panel to the guts. Each are hand bent and cut. You may need to be patient with adjusting them for fit.
The first is an 'L' screwed to a corner mount on the mobo and epoxied onto the front panel.
The second is a 'C' screwed to the power supply and epoxied onto the front panel.
Step 4: Mounting the Harddrive
The harddrive is bracketed to the mobo at one point at the top of the board. It's secured to the power supply at two points along its bottom edge.
I bent up two similar brackets (one for the front of the harddrive and one for the back). Each of these brackets secure the harddrive, mobo, and power supply to each other at one point.
Step 5: Finishing the Box
The enclosure (minus the front panel) is a simple 4-sided box (I left the back open) of the same 1/4" hardboard glued together using wood glue.
Just like for the front panel, glossy stock prints of wood are glued to the sides of the box.
Four small rubber feet are stuck to the bottom.
Two pieces of hardboard are glued to the inside of the box to give a more snug fit for the power supply.
Step 6: Software
The rest of the project is software: install an OS, install the IR command application and configure it to understand commands from your universal remote, go to DeviantArt and hack the Windows bootscreen, setup Winamp to start up with Windows, set it up to find your WiFi router and share its drive on your home network, ...
The menu is based on HTA (HTML for applications). Google it. Some code's attached. I had some concerns early on about HTA performance. But, it runs wonderfully and is simple to work with.