Super Computing with Mini ITX Cluster

[Colin Alston] was able to snag a handful of Mini ITX motherboards for cheap and built a mini super computer he calls TinyJaguar. Named partly after the AMD Sempron 2650 APU, the TinyJaguar boasts four, yes that’s four MSI AM1I Mini-ITX motherboards, each with 4GB of DDR memory.

A Raspberry Pi with custom software manages the cluster, and along with some TTL and relays, controls the power to the four nodes. The mini super computer resides in a custom acrylic case held together by an array of 3D printed parts and fasteners.There’s even a rack-like faceplate near the bottom to host the RPi, an Ethernet switch, an array of status LEDs, and the two buttons.

With 16 total cores of computing power (including GPU), the TinyJaguar is quite capable of doing some pretty cool stuff such as running Jupyter notebook with IPyParallel. [Colin] ran into some issues getting the GPU to behave with PyOpenCL. It took a bit of pain and time, but in the end he was able to get the GPUs up, and wrote a small message passing program to show two of the cores were up and working together.

Be sure to check out [Colin’s] super computer project page, specifically the ten project logs that walk through everything that went into this build. He also posted his code if you want to take a look under the hood.

Custom Video Streaming Box

There are a lot of options out today for streaming video to your Internet-connected devices. Whether it’s Hulu, Netflix, Slingbox, or the late Aereo, there is no shortage of ways to get your TV fix. However, [Jaruzel] wasn’t happy with any of these services and wanted a more custom solution, so he built his own TV-streaming box out of hardware he had lying around.

[Jaruzel] gets TV from a service called SkyTV, but wanted to be able to stream it to his tablet, laptop, and XBMC. While rummaging through his parts bin, he came up with a WinTV tuner card for capturing TV and a Mini-ITX board to process everything and stream it out over his network.

Once the computer was put in a custom enclosure, [Jaruzel] got to work installing Puppy Linux. He wrote a boot script that configures the WinTV card and then starts VLC to handle the streaming service which allows him to view the TV stream over HTTP on the network. This is a great hack that would presumably work for any TV stream you can find, even if it’s just an over-the-air source.

Raspberry Pi, now in a Mini-ITX form factor

Shown above is a fairly simple Raspberry Pi setup. There’s the Raspi itself, a 2.5″ hard drive, a USB hub, GPIO expansion, and wireless and Bluetooth adapters. Throw in the power supplies for all these devices, and you’ve got a real mess on your hands. There is a solution to this problem of a Gordian knot of USB and power cables: the Fairywren, a board that turns your Raspberry Pi into a Mini-ITX computer.

The basic idea behind the Fairywren is to take the basic outline of a Mini-ITX motherboard and add goodies like a real-time clock serial port, and USB hub while providing a secure mounting place for a Raspberry Pi. It turns a Raspberry Pi into a proper computer, with all the ports in the rear, and is compatible with a whole slew of Mini-ITX cases.

At £40, the Fairywren isn’t exactly cheap. In fact, it’s more expensive than the Raspberry Pi itself. That being said, you do get a whole lot of hardware for the price, and if you already have a small Mini-ITX case lying around, it may be just the thing to clean up the mess on your electronics bench.

DIY MP3 player shows that no hack is ever obsolete


[Ole Wolf] wrote in to tell us about a project he has been working on for several years now. The Wacken Death Box serves as a reminder that once you start a DIY project, it’s probably a good idea to finish it in a reasonable amount of time, lest it risk becoming obsolete.

His Death Box is an MP3 player that he takes along on his annual trip to the Wacken Open Air Festival. His goal was to construct a portable amplified music player that could be powered from either a car battery or charger. A Via EPIA Mini-ITX computer serves as the brains of the device, blaring his tunes from a set of car loudspeakers via a two-channel 100W amp.

[Ole Wolf] used the music player for a few years, improving it as he went along. He does admit however, that with the continually dropping prices of MP3 players, he decided to bring a small portable unit along with him to the 2010 festival, leaving his box at home.

Given the fact that far smaller and more portable devices make his music box seem clunky and obsolete in comparison, you might ask why he even keeps it around. We think that every hack has its place, and while you won’t be strapping the Death Box on your back for your morning jog, it fits quite well in a variety of situations. This rugged music box would be an appropriate choice to use in your workshop, at the beach, or even on a construction job site – places where you might not want to use your comparatively fragile iDevice.

Shiny acrylic MAME box

This nice table-top MAME arcade features a two-toned acrylic case. [Fabricio] spent about 50-60 hours designing the 29 parts that make up the enclosure. Originally the sides were meant to be orange but one design flaw meant he had to have them recut and only had enough black stock for the job. But we like it this way. The screen is just over ten inches and inside you’ll find a mini-ITX motherboard with a gig of ram and a solid state drive. The seven page build log features some bending, glue, screwing, and wiring that really show off the depth of the project.

This results a very modern look but if you like your retro gaming to appear vintage we recommend this cocktail cabinet.

Give 1984 Mac a Leopard makeover

[Jake Howe] brought his 1984 Mac up-to-date by cramming new guts inside of the classic case. The goal from the start was to run OS X Snow Leopard on the machine without altering the externals. He heated and formed acrylic around the original CRT screen to make a bezel for the replacement LCD screen. The floppy drive slot was used to hide an SD card slot and USB port. The original serial port openings were even outfitted with their own USB ports. In the end he did a brilliant job of hiding the Hackintosh mini-ITX board and components inside this iconic enclosure.

Cambridge Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

The Cambridge Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, built for the SAUC-E Challenge, is a fantastic example of UAV construction. The competition is to build a UAV that can complete an underwater assault course. This baby has a full computer inside it, based off of the worlds smallest full featured x86 motherboard, the Pico-Itx.  It has a 1GHz EPIA PX 1000 Board, 1 GB of RAM, Wireless Network capabilities and runs Ubuntu server 8.04.

The CUAV suffered from leaks which ultimately cost it the competition, but the information on the build is fantastic. They have detailed pages upon pages of information about the Mechanical, Electronic, and Software aspects of the design.  They even went back in and added notes from what they learned during the competition.  The project is also outlined in much shorter form on the mini-itx website.

[thanks Vesaines]