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Thursday, December 29, 2011

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.

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