Mini-ITX Project

I've recently become interested in making some of my computers be a little smaller, and suck a little less power, so I started looking at the VIA Epia motherboards (Mini-ITX form factor) to be used in replacing the large power sucking systems.

My first candidate will be replacing my BBS computer. This poor system has been chugging along for a long time now (Pentium 100, with many OLD hard drives and an ISA USR modem. It's been long overdue for an upgrade, so it seemed like a good candidate.

May 6, 2003

During a trip to the local Fry's Electronics, I noticed that they had some of these boards for sale, but not much in the way of small power supplies. With this knowledge, I ordered a 60W power supply, a PCI riser card, and 2.5->3.5 HDD adapter kit from SolarPC and waited for a paycheck to pick up the board and a laptop style HDD from Fry's.

May 12, 2003

Ok... Fry's can be evil. I ended out leaving there with an EPIA 8000, an IBM Travelstar 40G drive, and enough other stuff (not relating to this project) to take about $300 out of my bank account. I was going to wait until the parts from SolarPC arrived, but I just couldn't wait any longer! I shut down my main workstation and used the power supply to power up the EPIA and get Debian GNU/Linux installed.

May 13, 2003

I needed this system to run standalone.. so after enough whining, my good friend, Nick, pulled a power supply out of a computer he wasn't currently using and let me borrow it until my other supplies arrived. A full sized ATX power supply is just overkill with this board, but at least I could keep it running without taking down my workstation.

May 14, 2003

The parts finally arrived from SolarPC! Apparently they had been swamped with orders and had to wait for more power supplies to come in before they could ship my order. Everything was in good condition, and it didn't take long to get the new power supply connected. Now that all these relativly small parts were sitting there, I need to find a case to put this stuff in.

During a totally unrelated trip to Linen's N Things, we found what looks to be the perfect case! We were, of course, looking at just about everything that might work when this 10" bamboo steamer called out to me from a display... "Pick me!!! I'm the case that you've been looking for!"... now since I've never been lied to by a bamboo steamer before, I figure that it must be telling the truth. And at only $15, the worst thing that could happen is that I end out with a bamboo steamer.

After getting the steamer home and checking sizes, it's obvious that the steamer is just a hair too small for what I was thinking. The current plan is to mount the motherboard upside down in the lid, put the power supply and HDD in the bottom tray, and remove part of the middle tray to accomodate the PCI modem. I will probably have to notch the bottom edge to allow wires to run out the bottom nicely, but otherwise the modifications should be minimal.

May 15, 2003

I stopped at Technology Partners on the way to meet Joy for dinner, and picked up a PCI modem. After argueing for a while that I did NOT want to get the crappy $13 software modem, I finally walked out with the modem I wanted. I'll probably have to go smack them around later and try to explain the difference between a hardware and a software modem.

After test fitting the motherboard and modem into the lid, it once again became obvious that it wasn't going to fit easily. The backplate on the modem was going to have to come off. This called for some slightly more heavy duty modifications due to the fact that USR used rivets rather than screws to attach the back plate. Now I'm pretty sure that this modification will void any warrenties, but everything still seems to be functioning fine after the surgery.

June 7, 2003

Stopped by Fry's Electronics and picked up a couple modular jacks and a small box to mount to the bottom of the case. This is allow all necessary external connections to be hooked up easily without taking the whole system apart. Now I just need to counter sink the box in the bottom so that the steamer can sit flat again.

Ken Bowley