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 Post subject: My silent HTPC
PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2007 2:05 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:59 pm
Posts: 98
Location: Battlefield, MO
My apologies to those who have seen me post this on other forums, but I just love this HTPC because it's soooo quiet and cost me so little to build. Even though a year has passed since I completed it, I'm still very happy with it. The specs are very modest: Celeron M 1.4GHz on an Asus P4P800-VM mobo w/CT-479 adapter, 512MB RAM in dual channel, MSI Geforce 6200, Seagate 160GB SATA, Twinhan 1025 DVB-S, and Dvico FusionHDTV5 Lite. Its primary function is a Media Center DVR for HDTV and DVD playback on my projector, and it works wonderfully for that.

I can't take credit for the silence. This was an old Zapstation PC-based MP3 player that I gutted and rebuilt. I really did nothing to make it silent, Harmon Kardon did a really good job designing the case. It has rubber bushings suspending the HD (the HD does not make any metal-to-metal contact with its tray). The original cooling of the case is interesting, there is an inner wall with perforated holes in it and maybe 3/16" airspace between the inner walls and the outer cover which just has small holes along the bottom. It doesn't seem like that would be sufficient, but even after being on for several days, CPU peaks at 34C, GPU at 57C, and HD at 42C. The GPU and HD temps are kind of warm, but well within acceptable limits. It's so quiet, I can't even hear the hard drive. There is no HD LED so I have no idea when it's being accessed! It's so quiet the front panel LEDs are the only indicator it's on. Most of my efforts with this case was to make the VFD, front panel buttons, and original Zapstation remote work with MCE.

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More pics here:
http://s2.photobucket.com/albums/y15/GnatGoSplat/Zapstation/

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2007 6:59 pm 
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hmm, bare PSU. I love it.

I've just upgraded to Vista, and never going back.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 6:19 am 
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Location: Grand Rapids, MI
That's pretty sweet. I can't image the CPU HSF is very quiet, but if it's quiet enough for you...

How did you manage to configure the VFD to work with MCE? It seems like that would be pretty difficult to get the right software to work with specialized hardware like that. I though about doing something like that with an old Sony CD-MegaChanger, but the difficulty if using the VFD and the drive tray mechanism seemed like too much work and no guarantee of it working the way I wanted it.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 2:44 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:59 pm
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Location: Battlefield, MO
Yep, the bare PSU came with the case. It's a 166W audio grade PSU with isolated ground. Using a Mobile CPU wasn't just to make it cool & quiet, it was to prevent the PSU frying!

The HSF is surprisingly quiet, at least with the lid on. I think it runs at a fairly low RPM to begin with since it's designed for a Mobile CPU (came with the Asus CT-479 kit). Even then, virtually no sound escapes this case. Even the paint on the case has some dampening (it has kind of a rubbery feel). My other PC in an Ahanix MCE301 HTPC case is considerably louder.

The VFD was a fun project! The entire front panel is connected via serial port. I found one of the former owners of the Zapmedia company that built the Zapstation, and he put me in contact with one of the former programmers. That programmer sent me info on the VFD protocol. I also downloaded the MCE State SDK. Using those two things, wrote a VB.NET tray application using Visual Studio 2005. For the front panel buttons and remote, I used HyperTerminal to log the datastream for each individual key, deciphered the individual keycodes, and the same app translates those into MCE keyboard shortcuts. It actually works better than the MCE remote, because an MCE remote needs the PC to be in S3 suspend before it can turn it on remotely. The Zapstation panel has a power button output and it can turn the machine on from a completely off state.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:52 am 
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Location: Grand Rapids, MI
That is very cool indeed. Way over my head, but cool nonetheless.

GnatGoSplat wrote:
It actually works better than the MCE remote, because an MCE remote needs the PC to be in S3 suspend before it can turn it on remotely. The Zapstation panel has a power button output and it can turn the machine on from a completely off state.


Unless you have an IRTrans VFD which connects to the ATX plug to allow the system to be started from a cold state.

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HTPC: OrigenAE X11|Gigabyte GA-MA785GPMT-UD2H|Phenom II x3 740BE w/AC Freezer 7|150GB Velociraptor|Corsair VX450
Main: Antec 300 (SlipStream @ 800rpm/140mm @ 5v)|Asus M4A88TD-M|Phenom II x4 945 (Mugen2 pass.)|Asus EAH6850|Samsung 830 128GB|Antec TP750
WHS: DF-85|P8H67-M Pro|I5-3450S/Hyper 212+|Corsair AX650|Sandisk Extreme 240GB, 2xWD20EARS, 2x WD15EARS, WD15EADS


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 9:10 am 
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That looks very nice. :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:24 am 
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Love the open-PSU, the noob-level is pretty high though:P

But if it works, then it's good enough. "Silencing could be addictive", I read somewhere on the site. So I guess you know when to stop :lol:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 4:28 am 
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Location: South Florida
wow nice work man. congrats on getting the vfd working.. i wouldn't of even known where to start for something like that.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 7:49 am 
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Joined: Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:59 pm
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Location: Battlefield, MO
s_xero wrote:
Love the open-PSU, the noob-level is pretty high though:P


High noob-level, ouch! :lol: I'd better take care of that, what would you suggest?

Yeah, the open PSU was fun. I accidentally touched the heatsinks on it a couple times which had no effect, but once I accidentally touched both a heatsink and the case at the same time which must have completed a circuit because I got quite a buzz. :shock: I learned real quick not to leave it plugged in when tinkering.

Quote:
Unless you have an IRTrans VFD which connects to the ATX plug to allow the system to be started from a cold state.


Thanks for the tip, that might come in handy for my other HTPC.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 10:11 pm 
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Location: Wausau, WI
GnatGoSplat wrote:

Yeah, the open PSU was fun. I accidentally touched the heatsinks on it a couple times which had no effect, but once I accidentally touched both a heatsink and the case at the same time which must have completed a circuit because I got quite a buzz. :shock: I learned real quick not to leave it plugged in when tinkering.


The two large input caps (opposite side of where you'll find the output leads) are the ones that posse the real danger, even when its unplugged.


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