Introduction: Multimedia PC / Low-Power File Server, Recycled, #2
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 MidniteBoy...Again!
This is another version of a project I posted about 18 months ago, the "MidniteBoy" (Mb):
I took the last one apart and re-used the parts with some additions in a new design. I call it "MidniteBoy2" (Mb2).
The main changes are an integrated LCD panel (yes, I had one from a project that became scrap), some improvements on the simulated wood technique, a fan to deal with the added heat, much better user interface software, more Windows chrome removal, and a few other interesting tricks.
Also, this version is made to hang on a wall like a painting instead of sit on a shelf like a PC-style box next to a TV.
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Step 1: The Design
I have a bunch of sketches I made while I was trying to figure out what I wanted here. I also did some research into the art of Marquetry and wood inlay designs. From the sketches, I went to Photoshop with some very good images of real wood textures from the web. Using the "Image" search features on Google, Yahoo!, etc. were tremendously helpful.
In the whole design, I tried to keep the look consistent with how I would make this sort of thing by hand with real wood. To do that, I selected a finite set of natural-looking wood textures. These gave me my four colors to work with.
I then used the texture images and cut out shapes for the design and put them together into single, high resolution images. It was awesomely fun. I highly suggest it.
Step 2: The Screen
Mb2 adds an LCD screen as shown. This was mounted using four, flushed, screws through the sides of the box. To hold the top edge better, a metal bracket was glued to the top edge of the box and screwed into the back of the screen. I also used the screen chassis to mount hanging brackets to.
The top and bottom panels leave a slot when the back is on so the fan, in a later step, can pull air up through the bottom slot and out through the top slot.
Step 3: The Computer
The PC part of the guts are basically the same as in the Mb. However, it is re-formed to fit into the new box.
There is new bracketry mounting the PC to the LCD chassis and to the box.
The WiFi stick is mounted to the LCD chassis too
Step 4: Paint It Black!
To start with, the whole box surface, inside and out, was painted matte black.
For this design, I wanted to end up with a satin finish on the box. To get this, I used matte surfaces then finished the whole thing with a satin protective coat.
After getting the design I wanted for the wood parts, I went to my local print/copy shop and got very high quality prints of my artwork on tabloid-size sheets (11 x 17) for about $2 per page. They came out beautiful too.
The artwork pages were trimmed and glued to the box using 3M spray adhesive.
Step 5: Cover Ups
The wood trim on the sides was notched and inlaid by knife and hand to hide the countersunk screws holding in the LCD.
I also hid the power supply reset button underneath a wood patch. In the finished product, pressing on the correct wood patch on the trim operates this reset. It's neat. It's a secret button.
Holes in the grille for the IR remote receiver, standby power LED, and power-on LED were drilled from the front (carefully) to make sure they were perfectly on the respective grille hole. The LEDs and receiver were then hot-glued into place and wired in.
I used red LEDs and controlled their brightness with different resistor values to blend them with the color of the enclosure. I also did not want the LEDs to be so bright that they were annoying. The mission was accomplished after messing around with them for a while.
Step 6: The Fan
A PC ISA slot blower fan was added. These are great. They plug right into a standard PC power supply drive connector, are quiet, move a good bit of air, and are cheap.
This one is glued to the inside of the box in such a way that it will blow out a 1/4" gap I left in the top, back edge of the box. In this box design, air will enter in a similar 1/4" gap in the bottom, back edge of the box.
Step 7: The Back
The back rests on the hanging brackets and a couple of cletes I glued to the inside of the side panels of the box.
I then used recessed screws to screw the back to the brackets.
Step 8: The Software
The software of Mb2 is a major upgrade to that of Mb.
I spent lots of time scouring the web looking for customizations for Windows XP (Mb2's OS) to do things like changing boot screens, getting rid of the progress bar during a hibernate power down, hiding the mouse using a script, etc.
The UI is very customizable. For instance, the custom Winamp skin, media list, and CD cover use some alpha blending. A background can be defined under the UI. I prefer the black background at this point.
Having the unit hanging on a wall like this is more entertaining than the last method. It works more like an appliance since I don't have to turn on more than one thing and the hibernate power off of Windows XP lets it boot up in a mere 4sec, or so. Using it feels more like using a radio than a PC. It's a lot of fun.