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PC In An XP Box

Hemos posted more than 10 years ago | from the teh-joy-of-machinery dept.

Toys 296

wolrahnaes writes "There is an article up on mini-itx.com explaining how to fit a fully functional PC based on a VIA M10000 EPIA board in to a Windows XP box. The author even explains how he then fit it in to a Red Hat box and used a sensor to tell the bootloader which OS to run based on which box it is in."

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It's ironic... (5, Funny)

ralphb (15998) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709115)

...that one of the most expensive component of the project is the box itself.

Re:It's ironic... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709240)

No, I'd say the most expensive thing when I work on an ITX box is my time doing modifications on the box so that various cards will fit correctly and at the same time not overheat the box. ITX boxes are great for dummy displays but when the resolution gets higher than 1600x1280 the motherboard video card just won't hack it. Its actually sort of fun to use a hacksaw to cut a hole in the box and then using silver braze or even plain old solder to close it up airtight. Why? Many of the displays that I've had to build work in an industrial environment (I even have to put cheap foam filters over the vents) using wireless NICs. The airborne dust would kill the computer. But in reality, a $500 box that you can run an X session on and forget about it is fairly cheap. Of course, the $3000 flatscreen monitors are another thing.

Re:It's ironic... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709254)

no the most expensive part was forgoing a girlfriend.

this costs us geeks dearly.

if we don't procreate...who will be the geeks of tomorrow?

Re:It's ironic... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709259)

Don't worry about that. I'm a geek and I hump your mom daily, so there will be at least a few geeks of tomorrow.

FP BIATCH (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709117)

suck deez nuts yo

First Post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709119)

Woohoo!

eh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709122)

well, someone might as well do it

ASP.NET Overtakes JSP and Java Servlets (-1, Troll)

Sla$hd0tSux0r (762264) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709125)

Re:ASP.NET Overtakes JSP and Java Servlets (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709157)

That's because ASP.NET is basically C# for the Web and you can develop the stuff as classes, use standard library functions and what not.

JSP is a hack, it's not even Java, and half of the Java 1.4 libraries do not work under JSP. If the study was ever done between the suicide rate and number of JSP implementations, the researchers would find out a correlation.

PC in an Xbox? (-1, Offtopic)

peterprior (319967) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709127)

I thought an xbox WAS just a pc in a box.... or am I missing something here..

Re:PC in an Xbox? (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709147)

yes you are, read it again carefully. I read it the same way you did at first.

Re:PC in an Xbox? (0)

peterprior (319967) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709167)

Dammit.. NEED MORE COFFEE

Re:PC in an Xbox? (-1, Troll)

Seoulstriker (748895) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709158)

You're certainly missing something... Have you had your head examined? :)

Re:PC in an Xbox? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709178)

I thought an xbox WAS just a pc in a box.... or am I missing something here..

Yes

Re:PC in an Xbox? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709198)

I thought an xbox WAS just a pc in a box.... or am I missing something here..

Yup, you're missing reading the headline, reading the article description, and reading the article.

Pretty good effort all up!

when Peter can't read (1, Insightful)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709227)

I too at first read it as in an Xbox, but I looked at the article rather than rushing to post something that showed my ignorance.

The irony is that an XBox actually costs less than an XP box!!!!!

That sounds cool. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709130)

I'll go read the article now. Be right back.

I FAIL IT... (-1, Flamebait)

Stupid American (766263) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709133)

because I am Stupid American

Re:I FAIL IT... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709211)

Even if you're stupid, just being American makes you better than all the other people on the planet.

OHHHHHHHHH THE FAGOTRY (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709134)

Of it all. I just can't get over how GAY this is! A puter in an Windows XP box that runs Winblows!!! OMG GAY!

Re:OHHHHHHHHH THE FAGOTRY (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709175)

your mom said "puter" once.

once.

repeat post? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709135)

hmm... this is familiar...

Now... (5, Funny)

Bishop, Martin (695163) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709138)

Now I just have to find an OS/2 box...

Re:Now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709341)

I've got one if you want it.

Welcome (3, Funny)

jstrain (648252) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709140)

to the wonderful world of people who have too much time on their hands!

Re:Welcome (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709226)

Yes, but we call it "slashdot" for short ;)

FINALLY! (5, Funny)

PFactor (135319) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709143)

A Windows XP box worth the retail price!

cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709148)

That is cool. I particularly like the little flip sensor to decide which os to boot.

KARMA WHORE ALERT! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709246)

warning parent is whoring!!

IDIOTIC NEWBIE AC ALERT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709305)

Warning parent hasn't been around Slashdot long enough to know you can't karma whore as an AC.

Dur-di dur-di dippity dur-di-DUM.

Dang! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709150)

I could have been first. When I clicked on the link and saw nothing there I thought something was broken and just sat there like a deer in the headlights.

A dupe? (1)

Rectum2003 (686009) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709155)

I remember having seen it on /. a while ago. Cool stuff however.

Re:A dupe? - Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709217)

Yep; this project is months old.

Monopoly (5, Funny)

kettch (40676) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709156)

Microsoft will definitely get into trouble when they start bundling computers with purchases of Windows.

deary me (5, Funny)

slayer99 (15543) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709160)

"Windows XP Box" By Andy France - Posted on 1 December 2003

Slashdot: Always first with the news ;)

Re:deary me (5, Funny)

old7 (564621) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709202)

And the second, too.

Re:deary me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709317)

Even though it's an old story, the site is slashdotted. Here's a mirror [google.com] .

Re:deary me (1)

Bull999999 (652264) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709362)

Slashdot believes in recycling articles because it's good for the envirnment.

And the point of this is? (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709164)

Ok, so we all know that you can get small motherboards and shove them into odd things..

This *might* have been interesting 2 years ago, but at this point.. so what?

Anyone can do this if you want to waste the cash and time.

Re:And the point of this is? (4, Insightful)

deadgoon42 (309575) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709200)

The most interesting part of this article was the part where he customized the bootloader to read his sensor and tell which box the system was in. That was pretty innovative if you ask me.

Re:And the point of this is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709229)

Really though, what's the point of most hacking projects like this? If anyone can do it, then it would've been done before, and this certainly seems to be the first i've seen of it.

Give some people credit for being creative..

Not the first PC in a cardboard box (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709328)

Iv'e seen them shoved in Pizza Hut boxes.. and cereal boxes.. and cigar boxes...

So the printing in this case says XP... same concept.. sill boring.. the entire idea of shoving a pc into a wierd case isnt really interesting at this point.

Though personally i never saw the point, but at least 2 years ago it was unique.. now its like all the kids with the annoying light kits on their stupid rice burners..

Re:And the point of this is? (1)

prockcore (543967) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709257)

Anyone can do this if you want to waste the cash and time.

Funny enough, this can be said about everything in life.

Re:And the point of this is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709347)

Yeah but it's in an XP box so now we can make fun of him.

lol. wind0wz suxs. install linux.

PC Mods.... (1, Interesting)

objekt404 (473463) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709166)

I don't see how this is that great of a mod. Big freakin' deal, its in a WinXP box, someone tell Virtual Hideout....

Next on Slashdot, a PC mounted in Sun External CD-ROM?

Re:PC Mods.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709223)

Damn, and to think I spent all that time, and it wasn't an original idea.

Re:PC Mods.... (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709349)

Ohh...a LAN network on an external SCSI bus. Sounds fun. :)

Obligatory Question: (-1, Redundant)

amigoro (761348) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709174)

yeah, but does it run Linux?

Moderate this comment
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Wow! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709177)

Too bad most Slashdotters who use XP won't actually HAVE an XP box...

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709262)

Hey! I got my LEGAL copy from the MSDN Academic Alliance. But no, there was no box involved.

Re:Wow! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709307)

Ummm...yeah, I have rarely seen what retail cds of most products even look like. And the funny part is that *most* of my burned copies are legal under the MSDNAA too. Even then, you can download images directly form Microsoft's site.

Even all of the companies I have worked for kept real copies in the tape safe with the lost PFY trainee, and use burned stuff.

Get the legal unboxed OEM version (4, Insightful)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709316)

Too bad most Slashdotters who use XP won't actually HAVE an XP box...

Well, it's not really too bad, since having a box is a sign you gave Microsoft lots of extra money. While I expect you intended to imply that some slashdot readers pirate Microsoft software, many know that they can legally buy OEM copies of WInXP with some hardware for a lot less than they would pay for a boxed retail copy of XP. In some cases that hardware can cost as low as a buck. And whatever it costs you get the same software, a legal unique ID for it, extra hardware and a lower total cost. So unless you want to display that box as a sign of shame for paying too much for the software, (or get great rebate deals on other products that effectively make the retail box free, as happened when XP first came out) why would anyone buy the retail box?

Re:Wow! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709318)

> Too bad most Slashdotters who use XP won't actually HAVE an XP box...

That's true for most of the population, since most XP installs are preloads.

Way too much time on their hands... (2, Insightful)

zoloto (586738) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709182)

The final step was to take an assembly language MBR boot loader program and modify it to read the state of the tilt switch and make it boot the partition containing Windows XP or the partition containing Linux. To those that don't know the secret of how it works it looks like magic. It boots the right O/S for the box it is in.

Is it just me, or do these guys have way too much time on their hands? I mean... what in the world do they hope to accomplish besides a (+5, HOLYSHIT) moderation?

Hmmm (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709183)

So, Bob, what did you do this weekend?

Oh, you know, barbeque with the friends, fucked the wife, usual stuff. You?

The usual, drank a bunch of jolt, wacked off in the basement to anime and wrote an article about a useless PC mod.

Re:Hmmm (1, Flamebait)

Listen Up (107011) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709272)

Too bad the guys with Jolt, anime, and useless PC mods are the ones powering the next generation. The old way of life is dying slowly and thankfully.

Without the innovative ideas coming from people such as basement dwelling computer geeks, you wouldn't be typing your moronic post on Slashdot right now.

Re:Hmmm (0, Redundant)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709310)

Too bad the guys with Jolt, anime, and useless PC mods are the ones powering the next generation. The old way of life is dying slowly and thankfully.

Without the innovative ideas coming from people such as basement dwelling computer geeks, you wouldn't be typing your moronic post on Slashdot right now.


Thank you, come again.

Re:Hmmm (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709314)

Too bad the guys with Jolt, anime, and useless PC mods are the ones powering the next generation.

Although they like to think so, this isn't true.

The ones whacking off to anime porn and making PC case mods aren't doing anything much other than fooling around. The ones truly powering the next generation are those who are fucking their wives and pitching to CEOs.

Re:Hmmm (2, Funny)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709320)

If they keep whacking off in the basement to anime, the next generation isn't going to be around to power anything! :)

Some pepole have... (0, Redundant)

sofist (556213) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709187)

TO MUCH time on there hands...

Re:Some pepole have... (5, Funny)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709260)

TO MUCH time on there hands...

You must be very busy, what with the nine word post that has three mistakes in it.

bah (5, Funny)

Dreadlord (671979) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709189)

Yawn, that's nothing, wake me up when they manage to get a working PC with Windows in it.

Two Words: (5, Funny)

Bingo Foo (179380) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709195)

"Recycle Bin."

*Waits in the shadows* (1, Funny)

-kertrats- (718219) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709196)

I'm waiting for someone who hasn't RTFA to come out trying to make some 'yes, but does it run linux?' joke. Come on, /., don't fail me now...

Re:*Waits in the shadows* (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709313)

Yes, but does it run linux?

(Did I say that outloud?)

Re:*Waits in the shadows* (0, Funny)

simcop2387 (703011) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709344)

who cares about linux? does it run *BSD?

What the hell? (0, Informative)

thelexx (237096) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709213)

What is a 'Windows XP box'? A computer running XP I would think at first glance. And they are installing a _second_ motherboard in one? I'd RTFA but it's down. So just what in the hell is this story about anyway? It far, far from clear based on the blurb.

Re:What the hell? (3, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709234)

You know, that cardboard box that windows comes in when you buy it from a retail store.

In hacking up the box... (1)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709220)

does he still have the orig warranty in effect? Or has this modificaiton nullified the warranty?

-Grump

My first thought from reading the headline: Huh? (1)

Sensitive Claude (709959) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709225)

Also, even though I didn't understand it, I was thinking: Why?

Then I read the article, and can see from the picture that by XP Box they mean the box that the software for XP comes in. OK, so that's making a little more sense.

Now, considering the article that was posted just prior to this one [slashdot.org] I'm wondering if this is a fire hazard?

Not the best box to leave (running kazaa all night) unattended on.

And there is no explanation to Why, except the person is a geek, which I can understand, but most of society wouldn't.

Now the only question remaining is, why would he want to run Windows XP?

Re:My first thought from reading the headline: Huh (4, Informative)

prockcore (543967) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709332)

I have to wonder why everyone thinks that paper and computers are a fire hazard. I've never seen the little stickers on my ram, cards and motherboards burst into flames.

The average case temperature is 35deg C. Paper, wood, tinder, sawdust, none of it will burn at 35deg C.

When the SCO guys come (3, Funny)

amigoro (761348) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709232)

When the SCO guys come to find you, just show them the box and says it runs XP.

Moderate this comment
Negative: Offtopic [mithuro.com] Flamebait [mithuro.com] Troll [mithuro.com] Redundant [mithuro.com]
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Re:When the SCO guys come (-1)

ClickWir (166927) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709289)

Take that Moderate this comment crap out of your post. It's stupid and annoying.

use cardboard (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709237)

this means he paid for XP. and that isnt nearly as bad as paying for redhat

in other news... (2, Funny)

Chuck Bucket (142633) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709249)

still no cure for cancer.

seriously, wouldn't time be better spent on other, more worthwhile projects than building a computer in a box?

CB

Re:in other news... (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709369)

Well, if you build your computer "out of the box," you'll certainly get better airflow for cooling, but I hardly think that's worth the extra space taken up.

Not really conducive for Folding@HOME clusters...

Re:in other news... (1)

slide-rule (153968) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709370)

Ahh a classic troll... maybe this guy doesn't have education, skills, and interest in curing cancer. Maybe he does, OTOH, have what it takes to pull off an amusing "case mod". Sheesh... lighten up already... it's pretty funny, and that made it worth *my* time. :)

Next weekend's project, the benchies! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709250)

...

That's not a small computer, THIS is a small... (5, Interesting)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709251)

I thought that project was kind of dull when I first saw it. It's not improved with time. On the other hand, I really like the look of the new Nanode PC from Mini-ITX (same site), designed by Hoojum.

Take a look at this picture [mini-itx.com] and the cat. Now look at your desktop PC and imagine a cat standing next to it. The nanode really is that small.

I want one.

The site with the rest of the info is here [mini-itx.com] .

D.

Re:That's not a small computer, THIS is a small... (5, Funny)

crackshoe (751995) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709277)

little did you know that that is, in fact, a giant cat of death. they just pu a fake nanode case around a minivan.

Re:That's not a small computer, THIS is a small... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709290)

> Now look at your desktop PC and imagine a cat standing next to it. The nanode really is that small.

Much way easier to get a sense of the size of the new Epia-N: just stack a bunch of cd jewel cases.

Another idea for an mini-itx box (1)

mst76 (629405) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709261)

Why not use the actual box [google.com] from the motherboard? They look attractive enough to me. If I had enough spare time, I might setup one myself.

i got stoned with my mom... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709263)

...back in the seventies. It was different than new school. [washingtontimes.com]

Is Christianity becoming the American taliban?

New moderation options needed (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709283)

Score: -1, WTF

And I thought they meant... (1)

altek (119814) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709284)

A PC inside another PC, as in a recursive PC.. box inside a box. Guess I must not have ever actually seen a a Windows XP cardboard box ;)

Re:And I thought they meant... (1)

cixelsyd (239) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709353)

You're not the only one. My first impression was "SWEET! Now I can run 2x the VST plugins!"

haha huh? (1)

gr0k (113968) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709285)

At first I thought this was some kind of a joke making fun of a Windows "box" (computer) that I didn't get. I actually had to stop and think if it was April 1st already.

I didn't realize it was like a cardboard box till I went to the site. *slaps forehead*

What about... (0)

atomic-penguin (100835) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709287)

Ok, so If the switch is pointing up, it boots XP. If the switch points down it boots Linux.

What if you put either box on it's side?

FedEx box (4, Interesting)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709291)

This is a more refined version of what I did recently, mounting a standard ATX motherboard (with integrated video), a sideways-mounted ethernet card, a 1U power supply, and a 20GB hard drive in a FedEx box, with a power and reset switch and an HD LED on one side. I had room in the box for a stock CD drive, but didn't bother, since I rarely use removable media. I did leave an unused IDE cable and power lead available near the opening in the end of the box, just in case (since the IDE connectors on the motherboard are inaccessible).

One substantial difference is that I used only the cardboard box itself as a mounting infrastructure; I didn't build a little case and then wrap the Windows or Linux box around it, like this does.

*yawn* (5, Funny)

Lane.exe (672783) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709292)

When he packs a Mac into an apple, let me know.

"Too many users" (1, Interesting)

jaydeejee (731720) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709297)

Google cache [66.102.9.104] it, then follow the links as normal. The site is still very responsive. It looks like only the main page is being blocked. Perhaps they are checking referrers...

MY EX-GIRLFRIEND HAS AN "XP BOX" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709298)

eXtremely Pungent

What's next? (1)

Bendebecker (633126) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709311)

Someone puts a mb in a capt. crunch box and it starts whistling? Really, this is like the time back in high school when one of the non-techies discovered he could set up his computer so that the cpu could be seen outside the box. The big answer was: so what? It's just a stupid little square. Same here. What's next? Putting it in a carboard cut out of britney spears?

website slahdotted again (0)

fugspit (632645) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709319)

I was looking around the (very slow) website and found this nugget, note the date...

Where's the rest?
Hastily posted at 3am on October 25, 2003
The rest of this page has been temporarily cropped to reduce bandwidth (shouts to The New York Times, slashdot, slashdot japan, and news.com).

Article text color? (-1)

ClickWir (166927) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709322)

Is it just me or is putting black text on a dark brownish background really hard to read?

A Mac OS X Panther box (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8709337)

A Mac OS X Panther box would be even cooler!

Scotty, we need more power! (3, Informative)

Ian Peon (232360) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709342)

Text, sans really cool pics. When he writes "Windows XP Box" he means the cardboard box that Windows XP comes in.

Introduction

I needed a small Windows XP machine and a Mini-ITX board was the obvious choice. So I decided to build my "Windows XP Box" in a Windows XP box. The external dimensions of the box are a tiny 243mm x 200mm x 48mm.

My requirements were:

* Use as powerful a motherboard as possible for the size i.e. a Nehemiah EPIA M10000.
* It must have an internal CD drive (this size eating requirement turned out be be very hard to meet).
* No bits could be cut off the motherboard to make it fit.
* The box must not bulge in an unsightly way, nor can the box be made bigger.
* It must not burst into flames when working hard (this should always be a requirement of a computer project).

Fortunately there is no longer any requirement for an internal floppy drive. That would have have defeated me.

Construction

The bits arrive and it looks like an impossible task, with too many bits to fit in a small space.

I nearly gave up and decided it was an impossible task. The Windows XP box was 3mm thinner and 12 mm narrower than the Adobe Acrobat box I had measured up when first deciding if the project was going to be possible. The challenge was to arrange the components into a 3D jigsaw, then decide how to build enough of an internal support case to get everything to stay in place.

Eventually it looked like I might have a possible layout, but the tolerances were tight. I had 6mm to spare on the long internal dimension of the box and only 3mm to spare on the thickness of the box, and this was not allowing for any thickness for the internal support case that holds everything in place.

In order to mount all the bits I was going to have to make an inner support case that would tightly slide into the cardboard box. I chose Wonderboard plastic as my construction material because it is reasonably strong and very easy to work with (it cuts with a Stanley knife). It would have been nice to use aluminium, but the cramped design made the chances of a short circuit too great.

The first construction step was to cut out a base plate the exact size of the inside of the cardboard box and double check where the bits will fit.

As the Wonderboard was 3mm thick this reduced my tolerance in two dimensions to zero. The CD drive would touch one side of the inner support case. The deep part of the CD drive would touch the heat sink on the motherboard, with the narrow bit being able to overlap it, and the far side of the motherboard touches the other side of the Wonderboard case. In the other dimension it was even harder. The top of the sound connector would touch the support case, and the underside of the motherboard would touch the cardboard box. Fortunately the hard drive can slide under the motherboard as this is above (below?) the unused PCI slot. The only place left for the PSU was above the hard drive with the bulky connectors facing down towards the CD both to the front and the back of the hard drive.

Now I could position the CD drive hard against the side and start assembling the support case. In the next picture you can see the step up between the thin part of the CD drive and the thicker part of the main body of the drive. The heat sink on the Mini-ITX board touches this step.

After much cutting and half a tube of glue the case was finished. I built pillars to support three corners of the motherboard and the power supply and added brackets to support the CD and the hard drive. In such a compact design cooling was a concern so I made fan mounting points in opposite corners of the case. To keep the CPU nice and cool I cut a hole for it it the side of the case and glued in a couple of plates to act as ducting so the CPU fan will only suck in cold outside air. The other two fans are the exhaust points. The fan guards were cut out of a metal speaker grill using an angle grinder as neatly drilling that many holes is just not fun. Angle grinders are almost as much fun to use as chain saws.

[page 2]
I had hoped to use that back panel that came with the motherboard, but it was too high so I had to make a new one. This was handy as it allowed me to fit the power connector on to it.

The case looked very dull in white so I painted it metallic green before starting the assembly, fitting the front panel switches and LEDs.

Next I added the case fans. They are wired together to a single connector.

The CD and hard drive fit in next after splitting the 40 conductor ribbon cables near the connectors after every five wires to make them more flexible. You can get away with this with low speed 40 conductor IDE cables. [ I don't know about the faster 80 conductor cables but suspect that it would do bad things to the transmission characteristics especially if you don't keep pairs of conductors together. ] Cables take up a lot of space, especially when they go around corners.

Before adding the PSU board I put some insulator on top of the hard drive as the PSU components are very close.

Once the PSU was in place it started to look very cramped. The hard drive and its IDE cable completely fill the space between the PSU 12 volt in and ATX power out connectors. Fortunately the only thing left to add is the motherboard :-(

[page 3]
I connected up the IDE cables and the front panel connectors before rotating the motherboard into its final position, remembering to connect the fan and ATX power on the way. If you look at the picture closely you will see there is no memory DIM installed. This was because it needs ultra low profile memory which is quite hard to get hold of and I wanted to be 100% sure that the design worked before getting it.

Rotating the motherboard into position was not easy as all the wires have to be guided into free space otherwise the motherboard won't drop down onto the mounting pillars. But after less than a hundred attempts I managed to get all the wires into sensible places.

The end result is a very tight fit with almost no free space. This has to be one of the smallest ever Mini-ITX projects that includes a hard drive and a CD. The only usable free space is a few spare millimetres beside the power supply. This is handy as the power supply does need space around it to let cooling air flow.

Cutting the holes in the cardboard box was easy, but this made it very weak so I covered it with self adhesive plastic film to give it extra strength and durability.

The support case slides easily in and out of the box, and here is the finished result viewed from the front:

The back, where you can see that it really is a PC.

The photogenic view from the left:

[page 4]

And from the right to show the CPU fan and prove there are no unsightly bulges:

Finally the ultra low profile memory I was waiting for arrived and so at last I had Windows XP running inside my "Windows XP Box", and one of the most compact Mini-ITX projects ever. The cooling solution with two case fans and a ducted CPU fan works like a dream and is both quiet and effective. So far it has shown no tendency to burst into flames.

Finishing Touches

Windows XP is fine, but sometimes it's nice to be able to run Linux too. A dual boot system is the obvious solution, but it could provoke attack if I had Linux running in my "Windows XP Box". The only solution was to take a Linux boxed distribution and cut it to fit the support case to make a "Linux Box". There is a definite lack of industry standardisation in software distribution boxes. I was able to find a Red Hat Linux 9 boxed distribution that was 4mm narrower than my XP box, but obviously this was not usable as I had no room to spare and needed something the same size or bigger. But not too big as it would look silly to put the tiny support case into one of the massively wide Linux boxes that comes with dozens of manuals. In the end I was given an old Linux 7.1 box that was 15mm wider than the Windows XP box but otherwise the same depth and width. I used some roughly cut bits of Wonderboard to make packing pieces that would fit inside the Linux box on either side of the support case, and then cut the box to fit the support case.

The problem now was that I ran the risk of accidentally booting Linux from the "Windows XP Box" or even worse, booting Windows from the "Linux Box". That would not be good. It needed to be fool proof.

The solution is already visible in the picture of the Linux Box. It is cut for the inner support case orientated upside down from the way it is in the "Windows XP Box" (hint: the CD drive is at the bottom instead of the top).

In order to detect which way up the box is I built a little detector module. This is made out of a tilt switch and a resistor soldered on to a 10 pin IDC plug. This fits onto the internal serial port COM2 header on the Mini-ITX board just behind the parallel port connector. The resistor connects between the serial port DTR (Data Terminal Ready) output pin and the CTS (Clear To Send) input pin. The tilt switch connects between CTS and the serial port ground pin. By programming DTR high I can read the state of the tilt switch directly from the CTS line. It's a very small assembly so this photograph doesn't help much.

The final step was to take an assembly language MBR boot loader program and modify it to read the state of the tilt switch and make it boot the partition containing Windows XP or the partition containing Linux. To those that don't know the secret of how it works it looks like magic. It boots the right O/S for the box it is in.

So here we have it, Windows XP Professional running in a Windows XP Professional box ..... ... and Red Hat Linux 9 running in a Red Hat Linux box.

Suggestion for use of this mod (5, Funny)

Joey Patterson (547891) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709356)

Use a box [funkyfresh.com] to build yourself a new box [slashdot.org] so you can run Box [sf.net] inside of Bochs [sf.net] on your box!

Behind the times. (1)

rebe01 (665657) | more than 10 years ago | (#8709359)

That project has been up there for a LONG time, so it's hardly news. Besides, the only interesting part is how the creator designed the computer to either start into Windows or Linux depending on the orientation of the case inside the box (refer to the article), but he didn't even explain how he did it beyond a vague overview.
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