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.

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.

Aside from that, the UI is an HTA with a bunch of JavaScript and some VBScript which uses CLamp and Winamp.

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.



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    15 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 8

    Hi! I love your project. I'm aiming to make something similar, becuase i have recently salvaged some parts. I have a LC monitor and a micro-atx board with an ye old pentium 4. All i really need hep is recommendation with the software. Does your OS boot directly into the music playing software, or do you have to load it up yourself. I tried looking around for OSes that are nothing more than music players but no luck so far. I have XP in hand and ready, if you can lend me any help. Thanks and once again, Great Project.


    9 years ago on Step 8

    This project is REALLY cool, I'm thinking of something similar (more "old jukebox"-y like, though). I have question: could you elaborate a bit more on the HTA and the stuff you've added?

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 8

    It's quite a bit of stuff actually. Basically, I followed these steps: - Get rid of all "chrome". You know, Windows splash screens, BIOS startup stuff, etc. Search the web for customizing Windows (I used XP) and you'll find techniques. - Get (or build) an IR remote interface and software to use it. There's some open-source stuff available too. - Look for how to make a skin for Winamp and make something that integrates well into your jukebox. - Write some HTA to operate Winamp on keystrokes sent to the HTA from the IR application. If you are new to HTAs, look around, it's primarily HTML (including java/vb scripting). So, you are building a webpage and running it in windows directly (outside a browser).


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This and the first version look like a great way to recycle those old pc's + laptops many of us have hidden away because we can't bring ourselves to throw out something that still works even if is now longer "useable".  In the first version it looks like you used a Mini-Itx motherboard but in this version it looks like you used the bits from an old laptop.  Is that correct?
    Could you add something next time into the finished article photo for perspective?  Maybe a ruler or a soft drink can or .....
    Great Instructable and it has given me an idea of what to do with 3 old laptops........

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comment. I'll have to remember that---to show scale in the finished photo---great idea. To give you an idea of scale, it's about 2' tall.
    The board is actually the same mini ITX from the first version and the screen is a spare desktop LCD monitor.
    It works well for me as a media server too. I sometimes leave the motherboard on and blank the screen. It's harddrive has my album collection in a Windows shared folder. I can access them from my other home PCs and laptops.


    9 years ago on Step 8

    You might try adding a planar transducer or two to this for sound.  You'll need amplification of some kind, but assuming it will all fit, you could use it as a wall-mounted stereo, as well.  See Parts Express for a cheap pair:  You should be able to get a small automotive amp that would also fit and run off the power supply.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I use one of the older Philips Prestigo universal remotes. Any universal remote will work. I have the PC's IR software configured to operate on the "DAT" keys of the universal remote. So, the same remote controls all my devices (PC included).


    10 years ago on Introduction

    yeah its very convenient to have a party but we need more details about the OS and the software. Good really good


    10 years ago on Introduction

    you could do this using an old TV and put a tuner card in it and did something like this


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Good points fellas. The software would need a howto of its own--maybe later. The box design and mounting I'll think about how to add reasonably. Thanks for the comments!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Pretty cool, but I agree qith jnrok...not nealry enough info regarding OS/software, etc.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Looks pretty slick. You should add more details on design of box & mounting/modding the hardware. Also a full howto on your software setup alone would good as well (since it seems very customized as well).