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E.E.L. Ambiense

Completed Log Scratchbuild Project BluBawx by E.E.L. Ambiense

log_banner1.jpg

Completed Log Feb. 2009

Here I am again to start off the new year with a new build. But it's not going to be huge. Not this time. I love large full-towers full of 800 lbs. of liquids and heat-producing hardware, sure, but I've decided to go the exact opposite direction. I've always wanted to build something small; like really small. I just never got around to it. And I was waiting for the hardware to get up to snuff for what I wanted to do with this vaporous idea of a build that had been bouncing around in the noggin. I think it's finally here. And a few of my piers on Bit-Tech have repeatedly stated for me to do a scratch-build, so I'm relenting. I'm throwing caution to the reckless wind. I'm just going to see what happens. This will be a HTPC build. And I've been hard at work on it already. Hell, I even scratch-designed a quasi-Blu-Ray font for the build's name because I'm anal. :lol:/> And yes, the "I" in the name signifies that I may continue to build future editions of it if this one works out well.

Anyways, I present to you my first 'scratch-build' project.

I'm going to be designing and cutting this thing out of different kinds of acrylic. Namely, transparent blue, solid black, and a cool mirror-blue acrylic for accents I've been itching to try. I may change things; I may not. Just have to see how it goes, ya know? ;)/>

This build will comprise a few familiar parts. Namely, the motherboard. Bit-Tech was kind enough to review this board and what they found really perked my ears up (and eyes, if that's possible). Finally, a board that can get desktop performance out of a mini-ITX board, and fullHD playback too. ;)/> Of course, I speak of the J&W® Minix™ motherboard.

System Specs (subject to change since it's not totally set in stone yet):

Motherboard: J&W® Minix™ mini-ITX 780G AMD board
CPU: AMD X2 5050e 45w AM2
RAM: GSkill DDR2-800 4gb SO-DIMM kit
HDD: Western Digital Scorpio Black 320GB 2.5" SATA II
Optical: LG GGC-H20LK Blu-Ray Disc / HD DVD / DVD combo unit SATA
OS: not decided on yet, but probably Vista Home Premium 32-bit
PSU: not decided on yet, but I have an idea

Let's get started, shall we?

Here's a concept of what I'm going to build...

blubawx_concept1a.jpg

It's been interesting, to say the least. I've probably revised things with this build design over 17 times at this point. :hehe: I keep going tiny, then I expand it back out because I want more airflow, then I shrink it back down because of size. I've had designs with fullsize PSU's in it; others with 5 HDDs in it; even one with it on water with a custom chipset block, etc. I just realized I wanted to keep it simple and easy to maintain. As well as reasonably efficient, but mostly QUIET.

While I'm working on finalizing intricacies with the design, I'll start with some of the actual hardware.

Here's the motherboard. Bit-Tech was right; neat packaging!

mobo_box1.jpg

mobo_out1.jpg

Here's a CD-R on top of the box for size comparison. It takes a bit getting used to looking at, I know. :lol:/>

mobo_out2b.jpg

Here's some more of the junk-- er, stuff going in the build...

periphs1.jpg

HDD chosen....

hdd1.jpg

Let's have a closer look at the chipset on the board. Hmm... I'm curious as to why this thing seems to cook so bad.

chipset_cooler1.jpg

Let's pop the stock sink off and have a look, shall we?

chipset_cooler2.jpg

facepalm.gif That would be part of the problem. Augh. Okay, let's fix this up a bit.

...I really hate this stuff. Frackin' dried-bubblegum-under-the-lunch-table-at-a-filthy-elementary-school-style TIM... ugh.... It's turd.gif!

After a quick cleaning with some TIM cleaning solution, this should make it a bit better.

chipset_clean1.jpg

And a little bit of some Céramique...

chipset_thermalmat1.jpg

And pop the sink back on. I haven't been able to check on temps because I haven't actually run electricity through it at this point, but later on I was able to check power at the wall. Seems like the system under OS install was hitting 141w according to my Back-UPS. I don't think it's that high, TBH. Have to think I only have one HDD, and it's a 2.5". As well as one optical unit, 45w CPU and I'm not OCing or anything of that sort, and two 120mm low-power fans. Anyways, after I got into BIOS and let it sit for a while, BIOS was reporting that the NB was running around 52-degrees with a fan gently blowing over it. That seems consistent with others who have this board, but I haven't been able to flex the system's muscles just yet, so I really have no idea, lol. You're stressing me out, stop asking! :lol:/> System idled at 95w or so, according to the Back-UPS. Again, I don't think it's that accurate. I really hope the PSU I'm thinking of going with will handle this system fine! :worried: I'll get to that later.

Installing the RAM... angle insert...click!

install_ram1.jpg

Let's install the CPU...

cpu_install1.jpg

And some TIM of choice...

cpu_install2.jpg

There we go. All done.

Here's the CPU cooler I've tentatively chosen. The Silverstone SST-NT07-AM2 1U cooler for up to 65w CPUs. Seemed to fit the bill fine what I need.

cpu_coolerbox1.jpg

cpu_cooler_unbox1.jpg

Fitting on top of board to see if I have any clearance issues. Everything looks fine. Looks like it'll fit like a glove in there. I'm thinking of tossing the stock fan also for a thicker 25mm 80mm fan. I'll get to that later on though.

cpu_cooler_testfit1.jpg

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Until the next update, I got nuthin'. :thumb:

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Alright, didn't get a whole lot done on the build due to other...issues...but I won't get into that.

I did finally get a hold of the fans I've been wanting to use though. Awesomely quiet fans too. The fans are Noiseblocker BlackSilentFans. They fit the build theme perfectly too, but the bonus is that they are really quiet while moving enough air.

fans_package1.jpg

I love that color!

fans_closeup1.jpg

Let's sleeve these. I figured blue sleeving with black shrink. Not that it really matters though; you won't see it much.

fans_sleeveprep1.jpg

...And all sleeved. I can't believe how quiet these things are.

fans_sleeved1.jpg

...And the replacement CPU fan installed. Really quiet. Slightly slower spin with slightly more airflow, probably due to the thicker fan.

fan_cpu_replace1.jpg

Next up: case!

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Until the next update, I got nuthin'.

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Alrighty. I know I said I'd be showing the case next, but....I lied. LOL. There's a reason. In order to finalize my design on the case proper, I needed to verify that the PSU I chose is going to work and stand up to the beating the system is going to give it.

Just to show I haven't been sitting idle here, I've acquired that PSU candidate and have been actively testing things. I also finally purchased a copy of Vista Home Premium SP1 32-bit for use with this HTPC build. I installed that and installed all the software for it aside from updates, because I can't set everything up next to my ethernet port, unfortunately. That also presented a problem with the LG drive needing a firmware update in order to play the only BD software I have with me right now, a copy of Ghost In The Shell 2 (which was expected since it was just released, and the LG drive is a few months old so I'm sure the shovelware with it is a bit out of date).

Anyways, I hooked up the system itself to the Kill-A-Watt in order to answer some Q's I myself was asking; "just how much juice does this sucker need?"

Well, let's find out!

My impromptu 'test-bed' set-up. :lol:/>

psu_test1.jpg

Here's the system on the desktop and idling for a while...

killawatt_system_idle.jpg

...System running with Prime95 spooled up and torture-testing. Both cores saturated as well as memory...

killawatt_system_prime95.jpg

...And system running with Prime95 spooled up and torture-testing; both cores saturated as well as memory, and a DVD playing in full-screen as well...

killawatt_system_p95_dvd.jpg

I was off a slight bit on what I was expecting, but I also rounded up on power requirements. Paranoia and padding the amps, if you will. :lol:/> I'd expect BD playback to be slightly more over-all, but I wasn't planning on Priming as well as HD playback simultaneously anyways. ;)/>

I'll chime back in when I have something of substance.

-------------

Until the next update, I got nuthin'. :thumb:

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Alrighty. Things have been weird around these parts but I was finally able to spend a little time on the Bawx. Now for an update.

After the successful PSU test, I went forward with the acrylic. It's all cut and looking fine, and looks like the measurements were pretty close. I probably could have even tightened up the size a little more, but it's fine! I think it'll look great sitting on my component stand by the LCD TV.

acrylic_cut1.jpg

First thing's first, I need to tap the holes for the mobo's standoffs. Have to start somewhere, right?

standoffs1.jpg

And with my trusty 6-32 tap, I get to work on it...

tap1.jpg

And after carefully cutting some threads, I installed the first standoff to make sure it's fine. Yup!

standoff_threaded1.jpg

Now, let's finish the rest of them as well...

tap2.jpg

standoff_threaded2.jpg

tap3.jpg

standoff_threaded3.jpg

tap4.jpg

standoff_threaded4.jpg

Exciting, eh? :rolls eyes:

And a quick install of the mobo to make sure it's fine. Looks good!

mobo_testfit1.jpg

And I went ahead and tapped all the holes for the PSU to sit as well. Standoffs installed.

standoff_threaded5.jpg

And installed the PSU as well...

mobo_psu_testfit2.jpg

I also began marking, drilling, and tapping other holes for the structure as well. Here's a quick mockup of the pieces roughly where they'll be...

mockup_fit1.jpg

And a quick shot of the backplate area. Rastering came out great!

backplate_raster1.jpg

I'll update again when a proper update has coalesced.

-------------

Until the next update, I got nuthin'.

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Update time!

Yes, you read that correctly. Another update, but a bit smaller. Right onto that, since I have nothing sarcastic to say; it's been a long day.

I needed to mark out, drill and tap the 'rails' for the optical drive to sit up under the top...

tap_opticalslots1.jpg

And after a test install, looks like it's correct. Now to finish tapping the other one...

tap_opticalslots2.jpg

And a quick drop-in with the optical drive with screws installed. Looks fine. There's a subtle gap between the drive's sides and the actual rails, as I planned on putting some foam or something on the sides of the drive to cut down on possible jittering.

otpicaltop_tapdone1.jpg

Dropping the top onto the case, even though it's not totally assembled. It's been bothering me if the drive was going to line up or not. It's not perfect; looks like I could actually drop the rails down a tad, but looks like the tray itself will open and close unhindered, which is what matters most.

front_opticallineuptest1.jpg

Also, I dropped in the 16mm power switch to make sure everything's fine for clearance. Fit snug and perfect.

powerswitch_testinstall1.jpg

And a teaser shot in the midst of a test assemble as well as marking for drilling...Man, I hate the idea of having to strip it all back down just to remove all the protective paper, lol.

test_acrylicbuild1.jpg

I'll update again when I have some more stuff of substance.

-------------

Until the next update, I got nuthin'.

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Okay. Got a little more done. I'll get right to it.

For mounting the HDD in the chassis, I needed standoffs to allow some airflow around the drive itself, so why not use motherboard standoffs!

hdd_prep1.jpg

Simple, and universal.

hdd_installtest1.jpg

...And mounted in the test-assembly. Works perfect!

Now, let's start doing what I've been wanting to do... taking off the protective film.

I wasn't looking forward to disassembling the whole thing after I just finished putting it together, but it's a necessity to be sure.

And like a career in fast-food, I started at the bottom and worked my way up! The case feet going on it are simple stick-on jobs that definitely do...the job. I loved opening the package for these, because it immediately started to smell like a tire store. Or as my best friend put it, "that poop and rubber smell". :hehe:

casefeet1.jpg

And installed.

casefeet_install1.jpg

Anyways, here's the front plate...

frontplate1.jpg

...And the majority of the chassis....

chassis_assemble1.jpg

I did have a small problem. Because the holes were all hand-drilled and tapped, after I reassembled it I had issues with occasional holes not lining up exactly perfect, and unfortunately I had a couple spots crack after re-threading the screws into them. :wallbash:

It sucks, because had I just assembled it with the protective film removed in the first place and not needing to reassemble the box, I probably wouldn't have had a problem. It's really not bad, and with the top and bottom installed, you can't even see inside the chassis without a halogen bulb, lol. But I'm thinking I'll cut a modified front black piece to cover the small crack up because I know it's there. I'm thinking I'll even make one for the back as well, so it doesn't look totally off with just the front having a plate. But really, you can't tell. Had I gone with solid acrylic instead, I'd have never known. Come to think of it, I really don't know why I went with transparent blue, because there are no lights inside the chassis, being a HTPC and wanting it nondescript for the most part! I guess I'm just an idiot. :D/> Any possible future Bawx's I build will probably have threaded inserts instead of tapping the acrylic directly. LOL. Revisions before the original is even done!

Anyways, back to the meat of the matter. I also finished the crown for the front of the box; the stealth-cover for the drive tray. I'll just let the pic show everything instead of trying to explain... :D/>

tray_stealth_assemble1.jpg

-------------

Until the next update, I got nuthin'.

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Another Update!

Yup, two in one day! :)/> It's not much. Just a few pics of the system as it sits right now. I may replace those pieces I'm not totally happy with; I may not. Just depends. I'm thinking I should test-drive her for a while and see how she does in her spot I have for her at home.

I just had her running so I can connect to the net and update Vista as well as flash the firmware on the Blu-Ray Disc drive so I can actually use the thing, lol. I had a DVD playing, and the CPU didn't top 30°, lol. Looks like the chipset floats around 50-52° regardless of load it seems. Board's other sensor says it's around 23°, whatever that is. HDD runs around 26°; a bit higher than I expected, but certainly tolerable! I'm happy with the temps, considering I can't really hear the fans at all unless I have my ear against the case. Trust me, from 10-12 feet away it won't make any noise at all! Should be a bit of an improvement over the PS3 in terms of noise, lol. That thing kicks up bad after a while, simply because of the placement of the vents in that room more than anything else.

But that's a whole other issue entirely. Let's get back to the Bawx!

Here's some pics of her polished up and ready to go home for a stretch...

system_tentatively_done1.jpg

system_tentatively_done2.jpg

system_tentatively_done3.jpg

system_tentatively_done4.jpg

I don't want to call her totally done just yet, so there will probably be another update. The only 'lights' anywhere on the case is the ring around the power switch, which glows a subtle blue and the LED on the optical, which a strategically placed tiny hole on the front plate allows a small amount of the light to leak through instead of the bloody aircraft landing lights the manufacturers all like to put on those things, lol.

I was originally going to sleeve the PSU, but it's pointless, really. You can't see it anyways. Maybe in a future Bawx I do (if at all) I'll make things even more elaborate. I just did some functional cable-management inside to allow maximum airflow through her. Zipties FTW!

She's purring like a kitten!

-------------

Until the next update, I got nuthin'.

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One final little bump to the thread before I let it rot in past-project purgatory.

The Custom PC Magazine article for this project has finally been published and is available on newsstands now! If interested, pick one up. You can throw darts at it or have an E.E.L. pic-burning ritual in your backyard; just make sure to dig a fire-trench around the fire-pit to eliminate possible fire spreading to the surrounding neighborhood. Regardless, the mates and friends over at Bit-Tech / Custom PC will greatly appreciate it if you picked one up. Issue #77 for the infinitely-lazy like myself.

bawx_spread3.jpg

As a surprise, the project's also in the run for Mod of the Year '09 over at B-T, but we all know there's no way in hell that'll happen. The competition is astronomical. It's a complete and vast honor to just get the mention and being along side the 'cream of the crop' mod-gurus in the list. But, I've already added my loser-tag status on the site for it. As my bro Craigbru said, I'm the Susan Lucci of modding! :lol:/>

bawx_spread2.jpg

And a quick preview of the spread. Kudos to Antony and Rich on the team there! Thanks a million, guys!

bawx_spread1.jpg

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Starting to look at some of your older projects and they are quite impressive. I Thoroughly enjoyed reading through the log.

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