LEGO Computer Case

With over 40,000 pieces in his possession, [Mike] is definitely a huge fan of LEGO. Given that he’s also very much a fan of technology, it’s no surprise that he has built more than one type of LEGO computer case. He wrote in to tell us that he’s finished work on a well-rounded system designed for everyone.

[Mike] is no stranger to interesting case builds. In the last couple of years, he’s also made a functioning wind tunnel case and a bio computer that uses generated heat to warm soil for wheat grass plants. In the course of planning the LEGO computer, he thought a lot about heat and airflow, ultimately deciding on a top-down cooling path.

He’s quoting custom LEGO computer builds, providing the choice between an i3, i5, or i7 with either 8 or 16 gigs of RAM. They will run Linux or Windows 7/8 and are 10-compatible. There are a few choices for the top of the case: classic LEGO brick, the industrial look with diagonal slats, and a colored, tiled top. These systems are completely upgradeable and are held firmly together with great engineering and the occasional support rod.

A Laptop with an External Graphics Card?

It used to be that desktop computers reigned king in the world of powerful computing, and to some extent, they still do. But laptops are pretty powerful these days, and in our experience, a lot of engineering companies have actually swapped over to them for resource hungry 3D CAD applications — But what if you still need a bit more power?

Well, [Kamueone] wasn’t satisfied with the performance of his Razer Blade GTX870m laptop, so he decided to hack it and give it its own external graphics card.

Now unfortunately this really isn’t quite a simple as running some PCIE extender cables — nope. You’ll have to modify the BIOS first, which according to [Kamueone], isn’t that bad. But after that’s done you’ll also need a way to mount your graphics card outside of the laptop. He’s using an EXP GDC Beast V6 which uses a mini PCIE cable that can be connected directly to the laptop motherboard. You’re also going to need an external power supply.

[Kamueone] ran some benchmarks and upgrading from the stock onboard GTX870m to an external GTX 780ti resulted in over three times the frame rate capability — 40fps stock, 130fps upgraded!

Hard Drive Becomes Hard Drive Activity Light; Stores no Data

A while ago [Frank Zhao] built a computer in an aquarium. It’s exactly what you would expect – a bunch of parts stuffed into a container filled with mineral oil. Yes, there’s an i7 and a GTX970 in there, but there’s also a bunch of neopixels and a neat little bubbling treasure chest. That wasn’t enough for [Frank], and he wanted to add a HDD activity monitor. What’s the most absurd activity monitor for an SSD? An old platter-based drive, of course.

The build is relatively simple and something [Frank] put together from spare parts in a day. After cracking open an old PATA hard drive, the voice coil for the hard drive arm was connected to the motherboard’s HDD activity signal through a few MOSFETs. The platter motor is controlled by an MTD6501 motor driver, set to spin up when the circuit is on.

It’s a kludge as far as controlling the components of a hard drive go, but that’s not really the point. It’s just a neat project to show when the SSD in the aquarium computer is being accessed. That said, the activity monitor is currently disconnected because the old HDD is so freakin’ loud. It looks really cool, though.

Sliding Minimalist Computer Desk Starts Life As Ikea Shelf

Where are you right now? You’re probably sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen. Us tinkerers/makers/hackers/diyers use computers all the time… they are a great tool and an easy way to spread and gather information. Since we spend so much time sitting at a computer, why shouldn’t the computer’s desk be made to enhance the experience?

Self-proclaimed web guru [Ellis] admits to being a minimalist and wanted a super sleek computer desk. He couldn’t find a commercially available model that he liked so he built his own.

The desk started as an Ikea floating shelf. The shelf comes with a metal bracket that secures to a wall, then the shelf completely slides over the bracket so that the shelf looks as if it is floating in air. Once the u-shaped bracket was installed to the wall, a custom compartment was made to fit in between the bracket’s arms. This compartment will hold a power strip, mini Dell computer and other accessories. On the outside of each bracket arm, [Ellis] mounted drawer slides. The stock shelf was then modified to mount to the newly added drawer slides allowing it to be pulled forward for typing or to expose the hidden compartment. When closed, the shelf-desk looks clean and blends into the wall color.

A wide screen monitor is mounted directly on the wall just above the desk and a wireless keyboard/mouse combo supports the clean look. [Ellis] now has the minimalist computer desk he’s always wanted that doesn’t distract him from his work (or ‘net browsing).

Hackintosh Project Looks Like a Mac, Smells Like a Mac…

It’s not often that you find a Macintosh dumped out on the side of the road. [GrandpaSquarepants] was one of the lucky individuals that did. Being the good friend that he is, he made his roomy carry the 50 lb behemoth back to their apartment. Not surprisingly, the machine didn’t boot up and ended up sitting around the apartment for a few years.

HackintoshFast forward from 2012 to present day and [G.S.] decided it was time to do something with that G5. That “something” wasn’t about fixing it. Instead, it was gutted to turn it into a Macintosh-cased Hackintosh. If you’re unfamiliar with Hackintosh, it’s a term used to describe a project that gets Mac OS to run on non-Apple hardware.

[G.S.] could have just crammed everything into the G5 case and called it a day but he decided to spend the time to make it look supremely presentable. The case was significantly modified to fit the non-Apple computer components, including the addition of a custom rear panel made from aluminum to mount the power supply, cooling fan and to allow access to the motherboard connectors. Take a close look; there are two CPU coolers in there. It was such a close fit that there is only 2.6mm (.1 inch) of clearance between the cooler and the case.

Two Dell U2415 monitors and an Apple wireless keyboard and mouse make up the rest of the setup. Overall, [G.S.] is happy with the final outcome of his project, well… except for the Apple mouse. He says that has got to go!

[via reddit]

Hacking Your Coworkers Label Makers

Finally, a real hack! [PodeCoet] wrote in to tell us about a little fun he had recently in the workplace… He discovered the label makers everyone uses are all IP-enabled… and well, he took advantage of that.

His long but utterly delightfully written blog post is actually a tutorial on how to hack into Zebra-brand printers. From the realization of this possibility, to the first test print, to spoofing his MAC address, [PodeCoet] had a blast doing this — evident in his lovely descriptions of the events — like after he made first access to a printer over IP.

I’m now tripping absolute balls with excitement, and time seems to dilate as I rush to get to the car to drive home.

Unable to contain my excitement during the 20 minute drive, I pull over into a laneway, browse Zebra’s website on my smartphone, and download a copy of the “Zebra ZPL Programming Guide”.

Talk about excitement! Oh and did we mention he originally planned on getting fired by doing this?

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Dashboard PC Case Build Utilizes Honda Civic Gauge Cluster

The last thing you’d expect to see adorned on a computer case is an Indiglo gauge cluster straight out of a Honda Civic…. but that is exactly what [Envador] has created. He was driving around town one evening when a car past him. The blue glow of the passing car’s dash board was extremely noticeable and caught his attention in a positive way. Any computer nerd would, of course, immediately think “hey, that would make a cool computer case“. [Envador] then set out on a mission to make it happen.

Clearly, the focus of the case is the gauge cluster. It was taken out of a Honda Civic found in a junkyard. And it just wouldn’t be cool enough to just have the gauges light up, they definitely had to display some sort of info from the computer. CPU, RAM and hard drive usage seemed like pretty good parameters to display. [Envador] expected that each of the 3 gauges would accept a pulsed signal to move the needle. After tearing down the gauge panel he found only the tachometer worked that way. The other two gauges worked by some unknown means. Instead of messing around with figuring those two out, the mechanical components of the rogue gauges were replaced with those of two aftermarket tachometers. The stock needles and indiglo backlighting were kept.

To move the now-3 tachometer needles, [Envador] used a product called PCTach that connects to the PC via serial cable. It works with accompanying software to monitor PC information and output the necessary signals to make the tachometers move according to the PC’s performance. The computer case, itself, was fabricated from smoked acrylic behind which sits the gauge cluster. A matching backlit keyboard finishes off the look nicely.