View Full Version : Odd hardware project.

02-19-2012, 04:45 AM
I think I'm going to cram a spare VIA EN1500 Mini-ITX motherboard in an ancient DEC Multia case (that I already gutted years ago) and run the thing off CompactFlash. Why? Why not! I have a 16G CF card I can't use in my camera, a pile of CF-to-IDE adapters and my homedir lives on my file server. Of course, I'll run FreeBSD on the thing. I haven't had a stand-alone FreeBSD desktop machine here for a few years and I already have all the crap to build this one...

I'll update with pics for people to laugh at later.

02-19-2012, 06:14 AM

UDB/Multia case (with EN1500 package):


UDB from the rear:


Empty case:


The board will fit quite nicely, but I have work to do. Here's the board in the case for scale, with the IDE-to-CF reader I have:


Here's my first seriously-technical issue: the IDE-to-CF adapter is too tall for the case with the card installed:


So I have a few things to do.

Make a motherboard tray. I doubt I'll make it removable; I might just tack-weld the damned thing in. The original motherboard slid into the case and had its own stand-offs, but the VIA board won't fit in the slots for the original board cause the board is too crowded...There's components too close to the edge of the board. I could potentially just drill the case for stand-offs and screw them in to the bottom of the case...Not a bad idea.
Get the motherboard I/O shield in to the removable rear panel of the case. Shouldn't be that difficult.
Power button on the case is just a button, but it has an LED in it as well. I think I can use the button as-is since the rod on the back side comes out easily. I'll have to rig some sort of bracket for a regular PC switch and solder on a longer pigtail for the LED that will reach the motherboard header. I'll have to find some way to keep the power button from falling out the front of the case.
IDE-to-CF adapter can't be used directly in the IDE slot. Maybe I can run an IDE cable somewhere and find a male-to-male IDE adapter. Such a critter must exist somewhere. Also, the adapter requires a floppy cable for power...More on power in a sec.
HDD LED and maybe some others will go in to some of the holes in the front of the case below the drive bay. I might try to get the mic and headphone jacks to actually work.
I'm not worrying about a CD drive; I'll probably throw a card reader into the drive bay...Or just make a block-off plate.
I have a 256M DIMM in the thing...Finding a bigger one might be useful.
Power. I have this odd contraption I got with the board that lets you run a 20-pin ATX motherboard off a single transformer...Except I don't know what voltage I need to run in to the thing. I don't really want to run a full-on PSU inside the case, cause that would be noisy.

This is a dumb project. :) But I need something to do after my girlfriend goes to bed that's not overly noisy or costly.

02-19-2012, 05:17 PM
1. A Real Man would print a SPARC decal to replace that Alpha one.
2. I'd just use a punch or a drill and plastic standoffs (http://www.amazon.com/StarTech-Plastic-Motherboard-Standoffs-Computer/dp/B00032Q33S) where you need em. Quieter, less of a PITA than brass or a weld ;)
3. Do what the pros do and hot glue that switch in place
4. Male to male IDE is a PITA because you typically have to flip the power cables manually. That said, I have no idea on a good cable setup.
5. One of dese (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816321020)?

02-19-2012, 05:27 PM
Ha, I'm a fan of the Alpha. I've had an Alpha in my possession since the late '90s. When the 64-bit AMD CPUs came out and everyone was going, "wow, 64-bit," I was going, "what's the big deal?" :)

Plastic stand-offs would be nice, but making pockets to retain them in the case would be more work than just drilling a few holes and anchoring some brass stand-offs. Plus, I'm sure I have the four brass stand-offs on hand already. I could use two brass stand-offs/screws and two plastic stand-offs, but...Why?

Hot-gluing may work; we'll see. Not a bad idea.

Still not sure on the IDE-to-CF fix. I'll get it figured out.

My adapter is different, but I suspect it need 12V DC.

6 Speed
02-19-2012, 07:00 PM
If standard DDR, I think I have a couple 512mb sticks floating around

02-20-2012, 04:38 AM
come on you know there room in there for a SSD!

02-20-2012, 05:08 AM
Why would I bother with an SSD? It'll run just fine from CF and all of my user data is on a file server anyway. SSD destroys the "being cheap" idea, too.

02-20-2012, 11:46 PM
Well, so much for that project.

Amy decided she wanted something in the closet the motherboard was residing in. Long story short, she knocked the box the board was in off a shelf in the closet to the floor.

I put the board in an empty case and got it going...Updated the BIOS...It's now no longer reporting RAM properly---confirmed with four different sticks---and won't boot from any USB drives, the CF-to-IDE device with a CF card in it or from an attached SATA hard drive. Oddly enough, it'll boot from CD-ROM.

I've done all the diagnostics I can do at this point and I think the board is just hosed.

I'll stick the UDB case back in the closet and trash the board...Maybe something else small and interesting will come along. Maybe I'll buy another Mini-ITX board one of these days. Who knows?

02-21-2012, 12:24 AM
define in-expensive? How about: http://www.logicsupply.com/products/en12000eg ? I've ordered a few things from Logic Supply - to me, they are the "NewEgg" of mini-itx.

02-21-2012, 12:37 AM
btw, for a kewl build, if you have not seen it already, watch the following video:


02-21-2012, 01:32 AM
Thinking of something like this (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813121442). Will probably run a lot better than the VIA CPU, too. I'll have to get different RAM, but that's not a huge concern.

02-21-2012, 01:42 AM
That Black Dwarf build was pretty neat. Interested in what board he used.