Is it a PC or is it interior design?

Show off your quiet rig.

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justblair
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Is it a PC or is it interior design?

Post by justblair » Fri Jul 15, 2005 3:47 pm

Hi All, and firstly thanks....

This Website has been an inspiration to me, and my downfall!!! I've read similar on a ton of posts....

First of all, my rig...
http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/blairt ... pg&.src=ph

You can see I have made myself a complete piece of furniture, with a pc built in there. The inspiration was a hotel room I was staying in for a very long time. I realised that wall mounting my desk eliminated the need for legs... In hotels of course this is to make the maids job easier, and being a home automation freak, I reckoned that when I eventually get my robo-vacume, this will help. From a design point of view, there is another benefit. The illusion of space. You can see the floor right to the skirting boards and by making the desk smaller than most people are used to, The eye is fooled into thinking the space is bigger. This does (I sleep here, I know) work. But thats not what this site is about... I'll move on.

This caused me a major problem! The space I had to squeeze my entire rig was limited, 245mm(h) x 495mm(w) x 300 mm(d). Not a standard pc case.

I had two choices

1) Buy a mini atx system - too expensive
2) Build my own case

So the case it was. Time to visit B&Q

6mm MDF was my first choice, it's easy to work with, I had used it already for making drawers in the unit, and it didn't take up too much valuable space. Most importantly, its reasonably dense, so hopefully quiet. I did make the lid and the base out of melamine board... I had some lying around, and it supplied rigidity to the box.

http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/blairt ... pg&.src=ph

The box itself is simple. I started by cutting up a midi ATX case brought out retirement. This gave me the mobo mounting points, the pci mounting points and a PSU space, with minimum fuss. Also it squared the case for me, usefull when my DIY isn't the best.

The rest of the box was easy, although space was tight as you can see. I smothered everything in Akasa sound matting.... Its probably not the most effective, but I sell it and get a discount. Its £9.99 per pack at "The computer Shop" at the moment. Thats where I work.

A thicker sheet of mdf was used for the front, a 5 1/4' bracket was drilled out from another case, this screws to the front panel and holds the DVD and the HD. The bottom was cut out of the bracket (after a bit of experimention) to improve airflow in, as this bracket is mounted close above the air intake, and also to allow the thermaltake fan to blow upwards onto the HD.

http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/blairt ... pg&.src=ph

The HD (Seagate Baracuda 80gb v. quiet) I decided to enclose in a molex silentdrive enclosure, mostly because I could pick one up from maplins for only £12.99. This was effective to say the least at reducing search/read noise, but didn't effect the chugging when writing. A length of knicker elastic (Woolworths £2.99), as described in the site, suspends the drive now... Silence!!

Next, the processor... Its an AMD 1400, spare from another machine. First I tried an Akasa 825 heatsink and fan, described on the box as low noise... (17db claimed) Hmmm, not low enough for my liking but i sell them, so got it for £6.50 on my staff discount. First, I added a duct to move the fan away from the alloy heatsink, good reduction on noise there. Next I swapped the Akasa fan for another of the thermaltake fans. The reason was this, the Akasa fan comes with two ways to control speed, thermistor or by variable resistor. However to get it to spin at its lowest speed, you have to use the thermistor. Problem is that it spins up at even low temps. So you never (at least on Athlon) get the slowest speed. The thermaltake, is controlled only by dial, and as I am feeling brave, I'm running at its slowest. This is giving me an idle temp of about 56c rising to 59c on my normal use.

http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/blairt ... pg&.src=ph

Maplins came up trumps again, this time with a thermaltake passive heatsink for my graphics card a 128mb ti4600 from Nvidia. A little fiddly to fit, but hey, totally silent. Love the heatpipes, and a quick feel tells me they are not a gimic.

http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/blairt ... m=e244.jpg

Power supply time, and a poor purchase made here. I bought a FIC 550watt supply. It was £49.99 and described itself as silent. I purchased it before discovering this site. I knew at the time it was overrated for my system, but it was cheap, quite a bit quieter than my old one and available when my last one gave up the ghost. On one hand, it made me really think about noise, search the web, discover this site etc. On the other, it was damm loud after I had killed so much other noise. My solution...

MODIFY!!!

I was terrified, read, read and read again the articles here. Tried first of all prying out the inbuilt thermistor.... a little success but nowhere near enough... Time to borrow a voltmeter. I measured the thermister, compared to a selection of variable resistors bought from maplins, realised that none were right, then realised that the thermaltake controller already in use was not far off the mark. I snipped the little terminal off the controller, and soldered it into the board... I mounted the fan with a 12cm rubber mount (Maplins £2.99)

Before you try this, visit the PSU section and get instructions!!! You can kill yourself, set fire to stuff, open the gates of hell etc.

Its a decision I was glad I made... The sound level now is now perfect for me... The PSU seems to be running at a similar temp to before, I'm still alive, and no sign yet of the riders of the apocalypse.

The other mods I made were rounded IDE cables (The Computer Shop £4.99), I changed the power switch for one from maplins £1.99, sprayed silver as the LED was keeping me awake.

This was my first quiet pc build, and I am delighted!!! If I were doing it again, I would probably do it differently. I learned a few lessons. Now in my living room, I have a CD player with matching DAC. The DAC is faulty, so I think you may just see photos of the two welded together, and a passive 2100 athlon system inside!!!

This is an illness!!!

ps I could not have done it without this site, the advice was invaluable.

Justblair

*** 19/07/05 Just bought myself a Dremmel. Getting the living room project underway, started though with a bit of practice on the PSU, got rid of that grill you see on the bacK. Didn't make things noticebly quieter, but putting a hand (carefully now) to the back of the PSU, the airflow is better. Case Temp came down 2c according to speedfan.***
Last edited by justblair on Tue Jul 19, 2005 8:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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qviri
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Post by qviri » Fri Jul 15, 2005 4:04 pm

I love that keyboard. Is it ripped out of an old laptop or something?
Thinkpad X200 – aging fan, T60p – Core Duo whine :(
Nothing endures but change

justblair
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Post by justblair » Fri Jul 15, 2005 4:36 pm

No, it's bought from maplins. Made by Keysonic (ACK-540 ALU)

Cost £49.99 although it was £39.99 when I got it.

Made from aluminium, with a laptop style mousepad...

Looks and feels cool, mostly I liked it though because of the size.. Everything on the build was deliberately undersized, it furthers the illusion of space in the room.

Thanks
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qviri
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Post by qviri » Fri Jul 15, 2005 4:59 pm

Well, personally I'm a sucker for computers built into furniture, so I love this one.

I would build one myself, but I will be moving 13 times in the next five years... Yay, the joys of being a co-op student.
Thinkpad X200 – aging fan, T60p – Core Duo whine :(
Nothing endures but change

justblair
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Post by justblair » Fri Jul 15, 2005 5:09 pm

It started off, as I think I said, as a bit of furniture... The computer bit sort of developed to take into account the practicalities. I've got a subwoofer in there too.

I'd do it again in an instant... only better.

Oh no, My Gf will flip if she reads this!

JB
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Post by StarfishChris » Fri Jul 15, 2005 6:33 pm

Nice job! What's the hard drive temperature like?
It's coming back

hyperq
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Post by hyperq » Fri Jul 15, 2005 8:41 pm

I love the design. It is clean and neat.

However, while not trying to pour cold water over your enthusiasm, I couldn't help wondering why not just get a Thinkpad? The newest Thinkpad X or T series are small, light, and very capable. The best part of getting a laptop is, you can take it anywhere you go. For today's mobile knowledge workers, building a PC into furnitures isn't very practical. What if you move?
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chylld
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Post by chylld » Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:09 pm

i think it's more of a case of "because we can". :) laptops these days aren't that much more expensive than pc's, are much more mobile and often just as quiet - but you can't tinker with them nearly as much. there's a lot of satisfaction and uniqueness you get from doing projects like these!

btw i love the lighting under the table - really helps create the illusion of space. when i first read your post though, i thought that since you said that legs weren't needed to hold the table up, you were going to build the computer into the legs!! hehe what a surprise.

i'm in the middle of planning to build a rather 'special' computer into a coffee table at the moment, so i thoroughly appreciate the effort that goes into figuring what goes where and how (literally). well done!

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Post by justblair » Fri Jul 15, 2005 10:19 pm

Ok,

Chris... The temp is sitting ata steady 38c. Before I decoupled, it was 32c. Yes I think this is a little on the hot side, I plan to keep it decoupled, but add a heat sink soon.. My jigsaw gave up so i cant cut the metal at the moment.

Hyperq you wrote

"However, while not trying to pour cold water over your enthusiasm, I couldn't help wondering why not just get a Thinkpad? The newest Thinkpad X or T series are small, light, and very capable. The best part of getting a laptop is, you can take it anywhere you go. For today's mobile knowledge workers, building a PC into furnitures isn't very practical. What if you move?"

Simple answer... My Parts bin is full, my wallet sadly is not! lol

As for building into furniture.. You have a point about the moving bit.. This design is integrated to my room, and would be junked or left to a new owner if I went.

1) I dont plan in moving for a while, I love my flat here.

2) If that had not been the case, a standalone desk would have been the answer.

3) See chyllids answer.. Cause we can

Chyllid.

I had also wondered about doing the coffee table. What put me off, was getting power to it without trailing cables. Any ideas on that one?
[url=http://www.justblair.co.uk]www.Justblair.co.uk[/url]

justblair
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Post by justblair » Fri Jul 15, 2005 10:21 pm

err... Point 3 makes no sense!!

i mean, I can just make another one elsewhere..

I am a muppet!
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chylld
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Post by chylld » Fri Jul 15, 2005 10:35 pm

justblair wrote:Chyllid.

I had also wondered about doing the coffee table. What put me off, was getting power to it without trailing cables. Any ideas on that one?
that one has absolutely baffled me as well. i want to be able to move my coffee table from room to room (as well as make it for other people) and the variety of different floors that the power cable must run across makes it seemingly impossible to come up with a decent solution :(

i'm not giving up on this one though, especially since i want to incorporate an audio-out in my coffee table that runs to my lounge room's 6.1 sound system. so not only do i have to get power to my coffee table, i need to get audio out of it...

and then there's the issue of running power cables parallel to signal cables...

*thumbs up* i'll find a way :) somehow.

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Post by lenny » Fri Jul 15, 2005 11:11 pm

Nice! My first thought was "that really looks like a hotel room" - glad to read that is exactly what you're trying to achieve.

In picture 5, wire mismanagement, is that a UK version of a X-10 controlled switch? What is it controlling?

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Post by justblair » Sat Jul 16, 2005 10:07 am

lenny wrote:Nice! My first thought was "that really looks like a hotel room" - glad to read that is exactly what you're trying to achieve.

In picture 5, wire mismanagement, is that a UK version of a X-10 controlled switch? What is it controlling?
Thanks Lenny, kindest comment you could make.. :D

Yes, There are two x10 devices plugged in there, The one with the batteries showing, is the computer interface, lets me control the house lights over the flat. The smaller one lets me switch the floor lights... Remote switches are on my alarm clock (Switches by the bed follow the hotel room feel) I have a lamp module to control the desk lamp, just got to put in a larger multi gang plug to take it... Pesky PSU doesn't have a through port for the monitor power cable, so i'm an available plug down from when i started.

JB
[url=http://www.justblair.co.uk]www.Justblair.co.uk[/url]

justblair
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Post by justblair » Sat Jul 16, 2005 3:36 pm

that one has absolutely baffled me as well. i want to be able to move my coffee table from room to room (as well as make it for other people) and the variety of different floors that the power cable must run across makes it seemingly impossible to come up with a decent solution :(

i'm not giving up on this one though, especially since i want to incorporate an audio-out in my coffee table that runs to my lounge room's 6.1 sound system. so not only do i have to get power to my coffee table, i need to get audio out of it...
Argh, I have been thinking about this problem all day... Three things spring to mind.

1) Run power across the floor at low voltage. either as strips of foil glued to a hard floor, or under a carpet. I remember seeing this solution used somewhere (possibly on a TV program called Tomorrows world, BBC). The strips were placed set distances apart, covering the whole floor and when a light was placed on them, with contacts the same set distance apart, a contact was made. However this relied on the fact a lightbulb doesn't care what way the current flows through it to work. This clearly wouldn't work on something sophisticated without a circuit to send the right voltage +/- etc to the right place on the board. Would be a cool on a carpeted floor though... doesnt solve your sound issue though... way to hard to design. Though streaming sound to a dedicated computer attached to your hi fi via 11g wireless could get round this

2) rely on batteries... So the table could be charged when you were out, at night etc. But then why not buy a cheapo laptop. I sell laptops from £369, not sure how that spends in Australia. Car bats could be used with a power invertor if you had to go ATX

3) Build a windows MCE machine and plant it next to your hi fi. Plug it into
a reasonably big TV and use remote Keyboard/mouse.... Quiet PC do a gorgeous ATX form unit standard hi fi sized for about £135. This is the route I am planning to go... Of course being me... I'm going to modify my old cambridge Audio CD4 and DAC to make a ATX form Hi Fi style MCE PC. I believe you can also use a network to control this Via a Tablet PC. So you could at least build that into your table.
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chylld
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Post by chylld » Sat Jul 16, 2005 5:39 pm

hmmm the problem for me is that my coffee table will be drawing about 5A @240V at startup and about 2-3A constant thereafter. i think that might be beyond the capabilities of that foil strip idea? also my mum will kill me if i tear up the carpet in the lounge room so it has to be something above the carpet, which means it'll have to be something that the vacuum cleaner can easily go over.

i'm thinking some kind of semi-hard clear plastic strip that's mountain-shaped, so that cables can pass through the middle. that's really the best solution i can think of, apart from some kind of wide clear sticky tape... but while that's fine for hard floors, it doesn't work well on carpet because the sticky stuff can stay on the carpet once it's been peeled off and make it a very unpleasant area to walk on :(

wireless streaming for the audio signal sounds like a great idea - one less cable to worry about, and then all the user would have to do is plug the power cable in when he/she wants to use it. wonder how expensive those are..

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Post by lenny » Sat Jul 16, 2005 9:55 pm

justblair wrote:Pesky PSU doesn't have a through port for the monitor power cable, so i'm an available plug down from when i started.
Do you keep your PC powered up most of the time, or only part of the time? If it is on all the time, don't bother reading further.

Since you're into home automation (me too), which means you try to look for the most complicated way of solving a problem to make life simpler :-) how about using a DPST relay that is controlled by the 5V power from an unused USB port to power the monitor? Use a capacitor to smooth out the 5V if necessary - not sure if it switches on and off rapidly on startup. I must admit my idea is not original - I saw a gadget sold by thinkgeek.com that's probably identical inside, but since it's for US voltage, I figure it might be easier rolling your own.

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Post by justblair » Sun Jul 17, 2005 1:29 am

Since you're into home automation (me too), which means you try to look for the most complicated way of solving a problem to make life simpler Smile how about using a DPST relay that is controlled by the 5V power from an unused USB port to power the monitor?
I do tend to reach for the sledgehammer, when there are nuts to be cracked, but enough is enough :) I think that a 6 gang multiplug will be cheaper. Stop trying to corrupt me further!! lol I'm already clearly not well.... Good suggestion though Lenny

Chylld. I've seen those used in offices. It wouldnt suit me, not neat enough, and coffee tables (Ive heard rumours anyway) get moved around to be cleaned under. But yes I think that your idea is far more realistic, I get carried away with the mental gymnastics!!
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Post by vapb400 » Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:35 pm

thats awesome man, good job.

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Post by justblair » Sun Jul 17, 2005 7:00 pm

vapb400 wrote:thats awesome man, good job.
Thanks mate... :D
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Post by Number12 » Wed Jul 20, 2005 6:21 am

jb, this is pretty inspirational. I was also looking at incorporating a HTPC into existing living room furniture, so your project has given me more insights. Congrats :)

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Post by justblair » Thu Jul 21, 2005 12:24 am

Number12 wrote:jb, this is pretty inspirational. I was also looking at incorporating a HTPC into existing living room furniture, so your project has given me more insights. Congrats :)
Well, tell me what you come up with, and see if we cant do a little mutual inpiration?... Thats the beauty of this site... Not only are the patrons comunually knowledgeable, but also very creative problem solvers. Compare it to the overclockers sites.... They tend to go for the buy big and push it approach... Fine for them, but I find that pretty unimaginative!

JB

ps. My next project... "The Beast" is underway, case wise, it's slightly (but only slightly) more conventional. But I'm keeping the twist a bit of a secret just now... Just in case I fall flat on my face in the implementation :?
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Post by Big Pimp Daddy » Thu Jul 21, 2005 3:01 am

Very very nice setup! It's pretty difficult to get your rig into a victorian tenement without it being obtrusively noticeable, but that is super-stealth. Very impressive.

chylld - with regards to powering your coffee-table computer, have you considered powering it by induction panels under the floor? Of course it would be ludicrously expensive, and i'm not even sure if it would be safe and/or work.
Audio out is a lot easier, get a usb fm radio transmitter, just tune in any radio(s) in your house and get streaming audio from your pc. A whole lot more efficient than streaming over 802.11 to another pc. Cheaper too...
[size=75][b]Main:[/b] E8400, TR IFX14, GA-P35-DS3R, 4Gb OCZ, Radeon 5850 + Accelero S1 + VRM R4, 60Gb OCZ Agility, 250Gb WD Blue, Nexus 120mm PWM, Jeantech Phong, Antec Neo HE 430W.
[b]Server:[/b] Sempron 140, ASRock A780GM-LE, 2Gb Kingston, 6TB of Assorted hard drives, 3x 120mm Fans.
[b]HTPC:[/b] Epia MII 10000, Zalman NB47J, 512Mb Kingston, Toshiba 40Gb 2.5", Morex Cubid 3688, No Fans.[/size]

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Post by justblair » Thu Jul 21, 2005 3:47 am

Pimp Daddy...

Gues your a Brit, perhaps even Glaswegian? Always impressed at architectuarily (real word?) aware people.

Thanks for the kind comments.

Regards the USb tranmitter? Are those things legal? Thought that broadcasting FM was regulated.

No actually... Who cares... Rage against the machine!!!

JB
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Post by justblair » Thu Jul 21, 2005 3:50 am

Doh.. Pimp, I wasn't paying attention to the left hand box, Where in Glasgow you from? Perhaps a collaborator for future projects?

JB
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Post by chylld » Thu Jul 21, 2005 5:06 am

induction panels - i hadn't considered that, no. it's a very interesting suggestion and had me thinking for a while, but there's the same problem of ripping up the carpet (and god forbid having to move the coffee table around and ripping the carpet up again!) hard floors wouldn't exactly be easy either.

audio over fm is a bit iffy, it's certainly easy and cheap but i plan on using a soundcard with a digital-out... so the old analog radiowaves aren't very suitable.

cheers for the tips though, looks like this one's going to be a toughie...

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Post by Big Pimp Daddy » Thu Jul 21, 2005 5:27 am

JB - I'm not a true glaswegian, just there for my degree, which i've just finished. Was staying in various flats in the west end, with all the other studenty-types. I'm pretty sure those usb transmitters are legal as it's only small scale, not pirate-radio style, plus they seem to be easy to come by. Even if it is illegal, just add it to the list... Though chylld has a point, it is not the best quality, and not much use if you're using more than 2 channels.
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[b]Server:[/b] Sempron 140, ASRock A780GM-LE, 2Gb Kingston, 6TB of Assorted hard drives, 3x 120mm Fans.
[b]HTPC:[/b] Epia MII 10000, Zalman NB47J, 512Mb Kingston, Toshiba 40Gb 2.5", Morex Cubid 3688, No Fans.[/size]

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Post by Aleksi » Thu Jul 21, 2005 5:32 am

Hi justblair,

nice looking project. I must say it's refreshing to see something original in the midst of all the P180s.

Keep up the good work!
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Post by justblair » Thu Jul 21, 2005 10:31 am

Thanks Aleksi

Yea, I have noticed it seem to be the weapon of choice the p180. I can see why, the layout allows a lot of stuff in there. And the gallery photos show that cats get skinned in so many varied ways.(And I dont just mean lack of fan grills :twisted: )

But hmm, that just doesn't make me happy. I'd rather get inventive, the planning is twice as good as the result...

My next system is in progress at the moment. I scrapped the idea of using the hi fi units mentioned on the origional post. I am converting a midi tower into a hoizontal HTPC. By good fortune the height of the tower is 440mm, The same width as my amp.

I was considering chopping the width down (height in new config), but instead realised that I could go passive lotsof space inside for heatsinks, Part made a case roof so far, and am getting a passive psu sorted out in the next week (DIY) And hopefully a bit more of the case fabrication soon after, I'll post pictures soon in cases and damping, perhaps I can survey you all for creative designs.

This is starting to sound like a Blue Peter script.

JB
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Post by StarfishChris » Thu Jul 21, 2005 1:46 pm

justblair wrote:This is starting to sound like a Blue Peter script.
Today we're going to build a computer! All you need is a shoebox, some sticky-back plastic and 'gubbins'. Here's one I made earlier...
It's coming back

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Post by ijgs » Thu Jul 21, 2005 3:43 pm

Wow, mate that's proper stealthed! I'd be happy to stay in a hotel with a suite like that in it. A nice case of understated style (pun absolutely intended!).

Have been thinking about doing a case somewhere between this and Rusty's "quiet In-Desk PC" for a while, needs to sit in the corner of my living room, hold CDs/Books and, above all, stop sounding like an airconditioning unit!

anyhow, many congratulations - will be referencing this and Rusty's desk as my new form factor!!
[color=blue][size=75]ASRock VSTA 939 MOBO with all the bells & whistles, Socket 939 AMD Athlon 64bit 3200+, 1 GB RAM, 160GB Samsung Spinpoint HDD, 80GB Seagate Barracuda (version 7 I think...). Windows XP64, Ableton 5 Live, Reason 2.5[/size][/color]

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