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Friday, December 30, 2011

Hitch Hiker's Guide Case Mod (AKA "Mostly Harmless") - Part 2

Part 2 - Reconstruction

Work log 06-29-08

A panel is cut out of sheet steel and attached to the bottom of the case with
a length of piano hinge. Aluminum angle provides reinforcement along the cutoff
sides and provide a flat surface the panel will close against. The original
side panel of the case is cut to add an extension to the bottom on the opposite
side, and triangular sections of sheet steel added at the front and back. Aluminum
angle is riveted to the sides to provide additional support. Screw holes are
then drilled and tapped at the top edges of both panels.

The power supply was opened and mounted to the internal motherboard tray. Power
wires are run to the rear of the case and wired to the power connection and
switch. Push buttons are installed for the system board power and reset switches.
(One for power and two for reset.)

A power supply is installed in the case, with the power connection socket and on/off
switch extended to rear panel connections.

Side panels are attached with length of piano hinge anchored with pop-rivets.
An opening is cut though the interior panel for the DVD drive. The original
case panel is split for the guide panel, with the lower vented section on the

The second panel is made from a piece of galvanized steel sheet, and is also hinged for access to the system board and drives.

Work log 07-05-08

A slot is made in one side panel for DVD drive to eject through. Openings for
a Matrix Orbital MX620 LCD display and a big red button are made in the front
panel. The diameter of the red push button assembly is an odd size, so instead
of a hole saw, multiple drill holes are made, and the mounting hole is cut with
clippers before grinding it smooth.

Both the button and LCD module must be installed below the power supply, but
above the DVD drive.

After these minor modifications, I started construction of the base plate assembly.
This is made from two sections of 1/2 inch MDF with a thick acrylic core. The
clear core is made from two pieces of 0.20 inch acrylic glued together with
rough-ground edges to scatter the light. 36 yellow LEDs are hot glued into the
hole in the acrylic panel, and wired together in 12 groups of three.

Two layers of acrylic are sandwiched in between the MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard),
and illuminated by yellow LEDs.

The MDF needs to be sealed to accept paint smoothly like non-porous plastic
and metal, so a coating of epoxy is applied. The epoxy thickened with talc and
tinted with a little yellow tempera paint.

Yellow epoxy seals the MDF to create a smooth, non-porous surface for painting.

Work log 07-06-08

The guide is assembled from a small 7" LCD touchscreen and a tiny
USB thumbpad that tested fine as a basic PC keyboard. I attached the
keypad to the screen with a dab of superglue, and then trimmed a piece
of PVC sheet to round out the lower section. A plastic floor protector
is attached to hold one of the HHG badges. An on-off button (yellow)
and momentary-contact button (red) are installed for the LED base and
DVD tray. Gaps are filled with epoxy colored with aluminum powder.

The Guide -- before and after touchup with silver paint. A magnet from an old
hard drive is hot glued into the disk to hold the badge in place without glue
or physical alteration of the back.

Work log 07-13-08

Drive preparation: The switch and LED are removed from the optical drive and
wires attached to connect to the button on the guide. Although two standard
drives could be wedged inside the chassis, I elected to install a pair of 2.5
inch notebook drives. The drives are mounted slightly offset to keep the cable
connector spacing close. To prepare the case for detailing, thin sheets of plastic
are attached to the sides and front of the case with epoxy.

Wires are attached to the DVD-RW drive and will be connected to an LED and button
assembled into the guide.

Two 40GB notebook drives are mounted with an air gap for improved cooling and
a slight offset to keep the cable connectors closer.

(The two IDE drives were later replaced with dual SATA drives for better performance
and more space.)

Epoxy is used to hold styrene sheet to the metal panels of the case. Openings
can be traced and cut before positioning the sheet, or after it has been attached
to the case, by drilling through the openings from inside the case. Detail will
be added to the plastic surface using plastic cements that will not bond to
metal securely.

Epoxy does not adhere particularly well to sheet metal and some plastics (or
any non-porous material that has a very smooth or polished surface.) Roughing
the metal and plastic surfaces with a grinding wheel creates a texture that
helps, and cuts through the beige paint of my reused case panel.

Work log 07-20-08

Kit bashing and other stuff: Using cutout pieces of white styrene sheet,
printer parts, and assorted pieces of plastic stuff in one of my scrap
boxes, I built up some patterns and symbolism from the Hitchhiker books
and game. Additional parts were used from some Walthers Cornerstone
Series kits (933-3114 - piping kit and 933-3126 - transformer kit.)
Douglas Adams fans know the ultimate answer is "42" so this
was used for the first layer. Other variations such as patterns of four
and two, and even a binary version appear on this side of the case.

Bottom fan: A small 80 mm fan is added on the bottom, positioned in
the opening that was left in the MDF and acrylic base. Power still needs
to be run for the lights and fan, but it's one more thing out of the
way. The DVD drive is mounted in the base of the case and the light
assembly reattached. The DVD tray is shimmed out to the level and angle
of the side panel. Kit bashing continues on the Guide side of the case...

Plastic parts from old printers, toys, and other scrap parts add surface detail
to the case panels. Sheet styrene is used to form geometric shapes and simple
patterns. A visit to the local hobby store turned up a variety of scale-model
parts and textured sheet used for creating buildings and industrial settings
for model train layouts.

Evolution of the 42 side panel. Yes, that's a big "42"
across the surface. Some of the shapes are just to add interest and texture
to the panel, but other arrangements include at least two groups of four large
bars with two small bars, a stylized "6x9?", and the number
42 in binary ("00101010").

Work log 07-22-08

Well, that's not going to work... While I was working on adding detail
to the sides, I realized that the large cover on the optical drive would
prevent opening that side panel of the case. Ripping off the cover plate,
I modified it with two pairs of magnets and a strip of plastic to keep
the panel aligned. The drive cover can now be removed to access that
side of the case or to get to the tray-ejection hole in the drive.

More printer parts and flat shapes fill the Guide's side panel with patterns.
I built up several layers of styrene on the DVD tray to match the angle of the
case, and to extend the strip slightly above the surface.

Problem: The drive cover was glued directly to the tray, until
I realized I wouldn't be able to open that side panel with it there.

Solution: A couple of rare-earth magnets hot glued to the tray and to the cover
allows the DVD tray cover to pop on and off as needed.

Work log 07-24-08

Prime Coat: I finished up the panel detailing during the week and masked out
the openings and any embedded hardware (i.e. The Guide, DVD tray, etc.) to prepare
for painting. A gray printer went on first, followed by a single coat of yellow.
Since I will be aging / weathering the case detail next, I deliberately used
only a single coat of yellow, creating a slightly uneven, shaded appearance.
Some final touchup and dry-brush work should finish off the shell.

I took the HHG Case outside for painting, with the buttons, guide openings masked.

After primer-coating the case panels. The two MDF base panels have been removed
for priming and painting separately.

A single coat of yellow goes on over the primer coat.

A view of the front and rear after coating with yellow paint.

The base panels receive a coat of yellow. The uneven shading is very noticeable
without the distracting patterns and shapes.

Next, the panels are masked and a coat of metallic gold paint is added to reflect
the light from the LEDs.

Maximum PC Mod Shop Games Challenge:

Create your best mod featuring a brand,
character (or characters), or theme from a game of your choice.

Green Guy: The front of the case (with the red button and Matrix display)
will have the round, green, grinning character logo near the top. I considered
a couple of different approaches to his creation, and decided to do one in clear
acrylic with LED backlighting. Three layers of 0.20 in. acrylic were glued together.
A printout of the logo was taped to the back, and the shape rough-cut on the
band saw. This was then rough-shaped using metal burrs, and then detail added
and smoothed with fine burrs. A good rubbing with brass brushes results in a
soft, frosted finish that will diffuse the LED lighting better. Paint over the
rear gives the acrylic color when the LEDs are off, and some black and white
paint accent the mouth and teeth.

A matching hollow opening behind the mouth is carved to embed the LEDs in.
A 3 mm Red LED is embedded in the base of the tongue, and three wide-angle,
green LEDs are positioned in the opening. Hot glue fills the opening, holding
the LEDs in place and insulating the contacts. A Molex connector is attached
to feed 12 volts to the three green LEDs (connected in series) and the 5 volts
connects to the red LED. I toyed with the idea of connecting the red LED to
the hard drive LED pins, and could still do this at a later time by wiring
things separate.

I don't have any 1/2" acrylic to carve, so three layers of .20" are glued
together. After gluing a copy of the character to the back, the shape is rough
cut on the band saw.

Using metal burrs and a flexible shaft, the 3-D version of the character takes
shape. The paper pattern is removed, and the back of the carving is painted
green, the tongue red, teeth white, and the open mouth black. Green and red
LEDs with their current-limiting resistors are hot-glued into the rear.

Power-testing the final carving. The green LEDs are connected to the 12 volt
(yellow) wire, and the red LED is connected to the 5 volt wire (red). (The red
LED could be connected to the Hard Drive panel connection if desired.)

Next time: construction wrap-up, screen savers, and LCD panel programming.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Basic Router Troubleshooting

After going through IP address troubleshooting or isolating a router as a cause for your computer being unable to get online, this guide will walk through basic troubleshooting steps for a router.
  1. Verify the hard wired connections to the router.
    • Unplug all network cables from the modem, computer, and router.
    • Unplug the power from the modem and the power from the router, then shut down the computer
    • Take one end of an Ethernet cable and plug it into the modem in the Internet port then plug the other end of that same cable into the WAN or LAN port on the router. This is usually an isolated port, separate from 4 numbered ports.
    •  Take a second Ethernet cable and plug one end into one of the four numbered ports on the router and plug the other end of that same cable into the computer.
    • Plug the power back into the modem, wait one full minute, then plug the power into the router, wait one more full minute then turn the computer back on.
  2. Run the setup disc for the router again
    • If the disc cannot connect to the router to change the settings after verifying the hard wired connections, then the router is likely defective.
    • Verify any connection settings and credentials with your Internet Service Provider when running the setup disc.
  3. Verify a second computer is able to get online (if possible).
    • If neither computer is able to get online then the router or modem is the cause of the problem.
  4. Go through IP address troubleshooting steps
    • If after going through IP address troubleshooting and basic router troubleshooting the result remains the same, contact your Internet Service Provider or your router manufacturer for additional assistance.
For more assistance contact Technical Support here.

Hitch Hiker's Guide Case Mod (AKA "Mostly Harmless") - Part 1

Part 1 - Game concept and case deconstruction

Mostly Harmless background: I provide computers and system support for
a local SF convention's (Marcon) art show; at this year's con, I tried out a
NAS drive enclosure as the file server. All of the systems could access the
drive over the network just fine, but when it came time to start processing
data in and out of the shared database, the file quickly became corrupted. I
ended up moving the database to a spare notebook system (running Windows XP
Pro) to resolve the access problems. I decided then that I needed to assemble
a small dedicated file server that would provide some data redundancy
and handle the necessary client connections. The other phrase that kept crossing
my mind during the convention setup and troubleshooting was "don't panic..."
That started me thinking about using the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (AKA
HHGG or H2G2) as a case mod theme for a project.

Maximum PC Mod Shop Games Challenge:

Create your best mod featuring a brand, character (or characters), or theme from a game of your choice.

This can be a video game, board game, pen and paper, or card game: anything goes! Upload your rig, including pictures, specs, and a work log, to Mod Shop and tag it "gameschallenge". All entrants must be created from scratch for the contest - no previously created mods, please!

Your first sketch is due on your rig’s profile by July 4th, 2008 to be considered eligible for the contest; your rig must be complete, with photos, worklog, and specs posted as a Mod Shop rig profile no later than midnight on Friday, August 1st, 2008.

The contest will be judged by a panel of experts and esteemed judges and they will be basing their decision on the following criteria: craftsmanship, design, adherence to contest theme, and originality.

About the game: Hitchhikers Guide is an old Infocom text adventure
game published way back in 1984 (shades of George Orwell!) I ran the CP/M
version on an Osborne CP/M computer back then. (Wow! 64K of RAM – who would
ever need more than that?) "In those days spirits were brave, the stakes
were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures
from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri"
[Douglas Adams -The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy]. The red and yellow
button came with the game; the blue and white version was passed out by Infocom
at Comdex that year.

Mostly harmless System Specs:

  • PC Chips M861G system board

  • AMD Athlon 3200+ CPU

  • Zalman CNPS7700 CPU cooler

  • 2GB OCZ DDR-800 memory

  • ATI Sapphire X1650 512MB Video

  • Two 40 GB 2.5in notebook hard drives

  • Samsung DVD-RW drive

  • Matrix Orbital MX620 PLED display

  • Pyle PLVG7IR LCD Touch Screen monitor

  • Mini-Key USB Keyboard DGPN-570

  • 500 Watt PSU

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy game and literary references:
An integrated "guide" using a small LCD monitor and keypad
"42" (What do you get when you multiply six by nine?)
"Don't Panic" in large friendly letters (Original "Don't Panic" button from Infocom game)
The little green guy, featured on the game box and early books
A yellow slab-like appearance (AKA Vogon Construction)
A large ("do not push") red button, that does not affect the computer operation (We have problems with kids and other guests pushing buttons on my other case
mods which are being used as client systems for data entry.)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text game (Infocom) available for play using WinFrotz and special version.
Windows slideshow screen saver with Rod Lord (BBC series) illustrations, game box art, screen grabs from BBC online HHGG game version, and several (custom) related images.
Microscopic space fleet landing bay? (skip - how could you tell?)
Video clips of original (Rod Lord) animations used in first (BBC) HHGG video series. (Pending; to be integrated as custom screensaver.)
H2G2 "42" screen saver (available, not used.)
HHGG Screen saver with slideshow illustrations (by Rod Lord) from HHGG series. (Available, not used.)

Construction of the H2G2 File Server

As indicated in the rules, Maximum PC wanted a sketch posted to their profile
site. After studying the chassis I was going to use, I roughed out two different
views with some of the game and reference ideas I came up with.

Planned front view of the HHG case mod shows the iconic "green
guy" and a large red button with a message display next to it.

The side panel should have numerous references to the "ultimate answer"
to "Life, the Universe, and Everything".

The back panel view illustrates the system board placement with
the rear I/O panel on the top left, and expansion bays at the bottom.

The power supply will be mounted in the top front of the case, with an extended
power plug and the panel switches on the rear, away from little hands.

On the opposites side panel, I plan to create an embedded version of the Hitch
Hiker's Guide, complete with a miniature screen and keyboard.

Work log 6-28-08

I took a (slightly damaged) small form factor chassis and stripped off
about everything I could. The top power supply tray and dual 5.25” drive
bays came off clean. I placed the micro ATX system board with heat sink
inside and marked its position to get an idea of clearance for drives
and the power supply. The angle of the case is such that a power supply
unit will just fit in front of the system board and leave clearance
for air flow out of the case. However, the power plug and switch will
have to be relocated so they are not positioned on the top of the case.

A short desktop case was stripped of the top PSU/drive tray, and the open side
cut at an angle.
The original cap plate was cut down and riveted to the remaining sheet metal.

The mini-ATX board was placed in the case and a mark made to determine where
other parts could fit.

There is just enough room for a power supply and DVD drive to fit in front of
the motherboard.

Next time: Reconstruction of the case.