Cabinet ‘Commodation Part 5: My 99% Perspiration is over with… Thank Christ…

Bedside PC with mounted Monitor Arm

Well, it’s official:  The Bedside Cabinet PC is complete!  Learn about what’s inside from it’s entry on the Muh Regs Page.  Before we get to the close-ups, here’s some interesting facts about this rough-and-ready machine:

  • The motherboard tray is secured by two bolts which don’t need nuts to secure them; they are held in place by friction against the sides of the PC compartment!
  • The bizarre combination of construction methods is the result of me not really planning them; I essentially used this project to test ideas for construction work in future projects, for instance, the front panel is made up of 12 separate cuts of 6mm plywood, in order to test the idea of constructing complex 12mm panels by doubling the 6mm parts up.
  • I was considering building an AMD APU machine originally, using the A10-7850k as the central component.  This machine would have probably had an entirely 3D-Printed case (another experiment I ought to get around to), and would have simply resided on top of the bedside cabinet.  This idea was scrapped mostly because the parts I had lying around (from my old Serious Rig) would serve just as well once underclocked.

As is appropriate for such a victory, a parade of photos is in order:

Bedside PC Front Panel
Probably should get around to remove those marking-out lines…
Bedside PC Nest of Cables
…not to mention tidying these cables.
Bedside PC Rear Cables
On the plus side, this is a lot tidier than I was expecting 🙂

To end on a scientific note, I’ll show you a couple of tests I did to gauge the effectiveness of the underclocking.  Both GPU and CPU under full-load would have originally overwhelmed the PSU, thus I had to be sure that I could get them in a state where both could be under duress without any risk of freezing mid-game.

Underclocking notes Bedside PC
Saved ~100W through that. Might have saved a little more if MSI Afterburner had let me snip off a little more GPU voltage.

Stay Curious.

Cabinet ‘Commodation Part 4: I have returnded… to talk about stuph I should have mentioned a month ago…

Bedside Cabinet PC Structurally Complete

Well, it’s been a month since I actually completed my Bedside Cabinet PC Case.  It’s far from operational, but it’s in a state where I can playfully press the power and reset buttons while I envision it in service 🙂

So how did I find the project?  It’s mentally invigorating to actually build something serviceable following no concrete plans, crossing all bridges as you come to them no matter how close they are to collapse; Some may call that careless – perhaps even unprofessional – but answer me this; what do you do when (not if, when) your finest plans get burned?  Without some human improvisation, what’s the case for the droids of the future to keep us around, even if only as pets?

Lessons:

  1. If you want a perfect construction, start anew – this affords you intimate knowledge of what materials are in the build, before you commit jigsaw to MDF.
  2. If you are dead-set on modifying an existing piece of furniture, it is wise to run tests on scrap material, especially when you are cutting a precariously-thin part, BEFORE you attack the part in question – If you don’t, only humiliation will likely result…
  3. Epoxy is an extremely poor choice for affixing acrylic windows – use nuts and bolts and stud lock should you need a permanent window.
  4. Lighted Vandal-Resistant switches are a superb solution for power and reset functions – ModMyToys and Lamptron do some awesomely tactile power switches, while KustomPCs.co.uk also do some pre-assembled cables with the required connectors for instant fitment, no soldering required.
  5. Epoxy is bastard-hard to spread over large surfaces.
  6. Making open plywood panels in pieces, and assembling them using epoxy or other assembly methods, is a very effective way of saving space; it does however introduce potential failure points, and it makes the final dimensions of the part more unpredictable if you’re building by hand.
  7. If all else fails, superglued nails solve everything 😉

The last stages of the build were actually a lot easier than the planning made them out to be, the challenges along the way usually having deceptively-simple solutions:

Bedside Cabinet PC Hardware Installed
A single Air Penetrator wafts air over the Graphics Card, a configuration chosen to give the PC a monocular look!
Bedside Cabinet PC Rear View
This is how I’ll be viewing the machine every morning, apart from the inevitable nest of cables!

The only major question that remains is should I go with old guard Windows, or build a Box of Steam?  Well, that and should I control it with an Xbox controller, if I can get past the bizarre typing controls.

Cabinet ‘Commodation Part 3: Wood of the Ply

I remember mentioning in this post that I couldn’t expect to build my Bedside Cabinet PC anytime soon due to job resignation; let me correct that – I can build it (as evidenced by two Cabinet ‘Commodation posts in a row!), but I may have to operate it in a lesser state than originally planned.  Capital is elusive in my world, so a £120 passive edition of the nVidia GTX 750 Ti is well off the cards in spite of the nought-decibel nirvana it offers.

Instead, I’ll inaugurate the new system with the guts from my previous Serious Rig, which involves the use of a GTX 560 that has borne witness to the hilarious failure of a paper cooling shroud (I thought this would work.  Seriously.).  The wireless gaming peripherals will also have to wait, pity, that Steelseries Sensei Wireless looks sweet.

For your delectation, my progress on the wooden things in my hack-job; click the image for commentary:

So you see, it’s not all hopeless, I’ll just have to accept the fact that I built it.

Cabinet ‘Commodation Part 2: Apply the Powerrr…

Bedside PC PC60 Mobo Tray

What you see above you is the birth of a procrastination station.

The initial specs are pretty much the same as my old Main PC; Core i5-2500k, 8GB DDR3 1866MHz, Nvidia GTX 560 (non-Ti), ASUS Xonar DG Sound Card and I’ve sourced an old 2.5″ 320GB HDD for storage.  All of this is hooked up to a 300W Silverstone SFX PSU – wait, what?  300 Watts?  The GTX 560 has a TDP of 150W alone!  Aren’t you breaking the 50% rule of PC power draw?

It seems so, but I’ll rely on a little dirty word called Underclocking.  My target frequencies are 2.5GHz for the 2500k and 600MHz/3000MHz on the 560 (down from 3.3GHz and 800/4008MHz).  It may not be a perfect solution, especially with regards to bedside gaming, but remember for example that the HST was initially a stopgap solution before a series of 140mph trains hit both the ECML and WCML; only now are these old goats being replaced with the Hitachi Super Express!  So there may be life in these boards yet.

Surgery on the Tray

Being the lazy Gibbon I am, I reckoned it was easier to cut an aperture and 4 screw holes for an ATX to SFX adapter, then secure it using screws laced with Stud Lock.  These plates are stamped en-masse by a huge press, so they contain features that would be impossible to make by hand, like those stiffening channels you find in most motherboard trays.  With this in mind, I marked out the hole and aperture locations, as well as where the tray will be trimmed to fit into the space the Bedside Cabinet provides.

PSU mounted on mobo tray
I’m aiming to make this PC reside on the Mobo Tray as much as possible – this move alone saves much hassle.

What follows is some fairly straightforward metalworking procedures, so I’ll tell the story via this gallery:

So you see, being lazy pays dividends in many cases.  As long as you don’t jeopardize vital aspects of your construction, going for “that’ll do” can actually be the best option, especially if you’re spread around your projects like Thermal Paste; like I am.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to revert to age 12 and pour Wonka Nerds into model train wagons pretending I’m hauling them along the little railway I imagine around my dream home.

Cabinet ‘Commodation Part 1: Immobile Computing for them vegetable days…

Bedside Laptops.  An instantly recognizable fixture of the Bedroom, dying thanks to the influx of tablets, but we’ll gloss over that.  Indispensible for… I’ll stop talking now.

Tablets are on the march to glory over laptops for the simple reason that they are simpler machines, but, in fulfilling the Gibbon part of my name, I’d like to pursue the opposite direction – Bigger, beastlier and made of of old bits.  I see many problems with a bedside laptop; the keyword being I:

  1. Their hardware is largely fixed; with the exception of memory, network cards, hard drives and if you’re fortunate, CPUs, it’s mostly impossible to upgrade a laptop.
  2. Whenever I upgrade my main machine, the parts therein are far from the end of their service life, so it seems such a waste to see them consigned to eBay so soon.
  3. If your laptop happens to be noisy (like mine is), there’s precious little than can be done about it without either cooking it or putting it out of your reach entirely.

The natural Helipad of the Bedside Laptop is, of course, the Bedside Cabinet.  And this has got me thinking – if a bedside laptop virtually never leaves the bedside, might it as well be a PC inside the cabinet?

Bedside Cabinet for Gaming PC
Small, pointlessly ornate and begging for bodging. Oh yeah.
Lian Li PC60 ATX Motherboard Tray
So much work evaporated in an instant, phew!

I’m sure you’ve seen the back of ATX PC Cases, so many complex folds and rivets to make them slots and holes it’s untrue, surely this project is dead in the water?  Wrong.  A trip to KustomPCs.co.uk will see to that – they sell Lian Li motherboard trays in EATX, Standard ATX and Micro ATX sizes.  I got the ATX tray from the PC60, and lo and behold, it fits!

Lian Li Motherboard Tray fits into Bedside Cabinet
If it fits, it sits.

It might not have escaped your attention at this point that the motherboard tray does not hold the PSU (vital) nor the SSD (double vital!) and HDD (just kinda there).  Don’t worry, the modding scene has us covered.  The PC60 tray has an 80mm fan mount above the I/O Panel, ample room for an SFX PSU which, amazingly enough, I have – 300w on tap, not a great amount (originally for the SLA 3D Printer PC), but it’s a semi-passive Silverstone unit.  The Storage options are seen to with a Mounting Plate that fits into one of the PCI Slots; the upshot is that it is entirely possible to build a PC into the cabinet that can be removed as a unit for servicing.

Front of Bedside Cabinet PC Mod
Ahh, didn’t take them fans into account, should there be No Fans? A suicidally tempting proposition…
Read of Bedside Cabinet PC Mod, showing SFX PSU hack
Nevermind, extension cables ought to sort that out.

Okay, that’s the main unit sorted, what of the Monitor and Peripherals?  Good question, one that needs answers.