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Project: Poor Man's EPIA
Written by SurlyJoe   
Sunday, 20 March 2005 11:51
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SurlyJoe has been busy in his lab again putting some aircraft aluminium to good use, not to mention the odd can of beer! But, what on earth could he have possibly built with this crazy material?

Read his latest article and see for yourself...

photo of aluminium material

Project Introduction

Having abolished TV from my house, The family relies on our library of movies and music we have accumulated over the years. This includes a couple hundred VHS cassettes and DVD's along with music CD's and a bunch of stuff that's been ripped to DivX/MP3 over the years.

Eventually the wife was lamenting she needed a DVD player to go with her 13" tv/vcr combo in the bedroom because she was sick of all the tapes, I mentioned a PC and she rolled her eyes and went on about the 5 or 6 we already have. As usual I went into the big sell of how great it would be to have all the media right there in the bedroom and on a TV friendly interface, She could do it all with a remote! That all sounded good, but what was it going to cost? I lied and said "same price as a DVD player!! Well, a good one.."

I had some of this crazy aircraft aluminum sandwich in the attic from -cib-waterboy's dad that I have been itching to use for something, It is super rigid and weighs almost nothing, so brushed aluminum would be the theme!

aircraft aluminium

I just needed to make it look like the cute little EPIA's I had shown her for around $150. So, I had the metal, a slim DVD and a 250w PSU, a Duron 1100 and a Rage 128 AGP with the theatre chip and TV out.

The Motherboard

Obviously, my budget didn't include an EPIA, so I started looking around for an MATX board I could stick the old Duron in, and an AGP riser for a Rage128 theatre card I had when I came along the $70 MSI K7N2GM2-LSR with on board GF4 and TV-out.

MSI Motherboard

I was all too eager to scrap the riser and get some GF4 in the process! A $40 Htatchi Deathstar 80 GB HD and I pretty much had everything and money for screws and beer! I grabbed an old ATX board and cut 3" off the bottom and started to size up the parts in the smallest stack I could make. 13" x 12" x 2.75" was gonna be my inside dimension

Building the Custom Case

After trying multiple ways to cut the honeycomb sheet a carbide scribe proved to give the best results.


and with a little relief work with the router and some industrial hot glue it bent around quite nicely.


The Power Supply

I was set on using two temp controlled 60mm fans for everything but the way I had to mount the PSU wasn't gonna work for cooling so I decided to move the mosfet's to a heatsink on the outside of the case, a little wire and take some from there and...

PSU with cover removed

Modified CPU Cooler

One of the case fans would have to double as the CPU fan so I modded up an old coolermaster unit to duct out the side.

CPU cooler

Case Front and Back Plates

I badgered an old friend to cut me some 3/16 plate for the front and rear to the right size so all I had to do was round the corners and cut the holes.


Here's a shot of my homemade lighted button made from some 3/16" acrylic rod to match the one for the DVD cover:


After a bunch of wet sanding its time to get it together! Here's the power supply going in:


...and the bottom half pretty much ready to go in:


External CMOS Reset Button

you can see my little CMOS reset button going to the back, wouldn't wanna have to crack it open for a bad O/C!


...and a shot of the back, the little reset hole is just left of the mains plug:


Final Assembly

Here's the top all cabled up and ready to mate:


...and the front without the plate:


CPU Air Ducting

Here you can see the CPU duct lining up to the rear fan and the 1/16" between the RAM and the bottom of the DVD.


Up and Running

All buttoned up and loading Windows!


and a few pics in the wild:


I loaded it up with Mediaportal and mapped it to the media folders on the HTPC in the front room and she is all set. . I have yet to find a remote I really like, so that's next! SJ

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