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January 1, 2011

Project Mac Cube

Project Summary:

In Project Bad Apple I took a standard Apple Powermac G4 case and converted it to pc use. Now I want to go down the apple route again. Taking the fabulous Apple Powermac Cube case I intend to convert it to pc use. The final aim is to have a small pretty file server for all my movies etc.

Project Mac Cube:

2005-06-29

I’m nearly finished on Project Little Devil I just have a few minor bits still to finish when I pull my finger out.

So with that in mind I started thinking about my next project, I have two other ones on the back burner but neither of them really inspire me at the moment or suit my needs. What I really need is a fileserver that small and good looking. With this in mind I started coming up with some idea’s as to what to do.

My original plan was to do a smaller version of Project Mini Me which was a shuttle flex atx sized based project. I liked this idea but I couldn’t decide what to do with the externals to make it nice. The plan was to spray paint it but after Project Little Devil I’ve had enough paint fumes in my lungs over the last few weeks to last me a lifetime hehe.

So I set about trying to find some other idea, I stumbled across Sun’s Cobalt Qube 3 these would be great to convert into a file server. The only problem is they go for far too much money on ebay to make it worthwhile.

Now with my current Apple switch in progress I was having a look at older mac’s on ebay to see what we could sell my girlfriends Powermac G4 for. When I did this I stumbled across some mac cubes. They are Powermac g4’s crammed into a cube space. These were the very first SFF computer and are still ahead of the current sff’s in many ways.

I’ve spent the last month or two trying to find a well priced Apple Powermac Cube and finally I found a great donor case. It was a incomplete cube with just the motherboard , cpu and psu included. This suited my needs perfectly and after a short bidding war I won the auction!

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

I picked up the cube two days ago from the courier and set about taking it apart. I realised the previous owner had really abused it when removing some of the components, the inner chassis was missing some parts and others were damaged grrrrrrrr. It didn’t bother me too much as I wouldn’t be using most of the insides anyway.

I started taking the cube apart which is no easy task, the cube drew blood in my battle with it but I finally got it into is components.

The perspex has a few scratches and has some dirt so it needs work but for the most part its in excellent condition considering its age.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

I’ve taken out most of the parts I won’t be needing now here’s the parts I will be using. including the very clever handle and locking mechanism which is going to be hard to use but worth the effort.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

The black item in the first picture is the heatsink believe it or not! Its massive and a structural part of the chassis. So I will have to make something up to replace it as it takes up too much room!

The original cube is very well built the motherboard is amazing its very nice indeed. How they shoehorned a fully working g4 in there all those years ago is amazing particularly when it was running 100% passive.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

Here’s a couple of final shots of the motherboard to compare it to the mini-itx board that will be replacing it and a shuttle motherboard for comparison.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

The first task for me to complete was to replace the missing top chassis plate , I’ve started work on cutting and bending a piece of aluminium to replace this section. After that I need to find a way of replacing the huge heatsink to allow me too shoehorn 2 hard discs in there. I ideally want 500gb of storage in the cube so I will use 2 x 250gb ide hard discs along with a laptop combo drive for optical storage.

I hope you like the project so far let me know what you think.

Project Mac Cube: First update modding with Ovens!

2005-07-04

Well its time for the first update on this project and its something I don’t normally do thats for sure!

I had a play with the internal layout and I worked out that I can fit 2x hard discs and one laptop optical drive in the cube chassis whilst still using the heatsink/structural element with a few changes. The advantage of this is that I dont have to machine a whole new structural element. It would be a nightmare to recreate. The only issue was that the bottom section of the heatsink would have to be removed.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

You can see the bottom section in the second picture above. At first I thought it was screwed into place but I quickly realised it was soldered in place. This gave me some second thoughts on the idea but I came across the idea of heating the whole heatsink till the solder melted….

So for the first time ever for me I had to use my oven for modding 280 degrees of modding power hehe!

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

I wrapped the heatsink in foil to save my oven, apologises for the sorry state of the oven its in desperate need of a clean hehe. After five minutes in the oven the parts fell apart in my oven mitts!

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

I’ve also started to create the new top chassis plate along with the motherboard plate. During the creating of the motherboard plate I discovered that the chassis is 16.7cm thick on the base and barring in mind the dimensions of the motherboard is 17.0cm that creates a small problem. I will have to sand back the area where the motherboard will fit to squeeze it in.

I’ve not taken any pictures of the plate so far, but I will do that tomorrow.

Project Mac Cube: Motherboard tray making

2005-07-06

I’ve had a chance to do a few more bits on this project, first thing to do was to make a motherboard tray after a couple of different designs I got one that worked. I had trouble finding a method of fitting it to the heatsink whilst still being able to mount the motherboard standoffs. I realised the best way round this was to use existing threads and I found three in the middle of the heatsink and even more luck they were m3 threads!

So I went about putting the heatsink and the handle mechanism back together this was far from easy!

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

Then the motherboard tray was attached to the heatsink. It sits flush to the heatsink which will help cooling I hope.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

With the motherboard in place it works a treat.

Project Mac Cube

I then did a test fit of the heatsink/motherboard tray combination and it fits perfectly. I didn’t test fit the motherboard as it wont fit without the port cutouts that was next!

Project Mac Cube

I’ve started on cutting a rectangle into the chassis, I used a nibbler tool which takes little “bites” of metal so its great for this sort of thing. The only problem is that it gives nasty blisters without gloves and I hate using gloves grrr. I’d forgotten how hard steel is compared to aluminium this was hard work. It needs finishing yet but a particularly nasty blisters has stopped me for the day.

Project Mac Cube

Thats all for today I hope to get the motherboard into place tomorrow and then finish up the motherboard tray.

Project Mac Cube: Major Progress

2005-07-17

After working on project little devil mainly over the last week or so it was time to get back onto Project Mac Cube. I’ve made some real progress over this weekend. The main task was to get the optical drive and two hard discs mounted onto the chassis, along with making a blanking plate for the motherboard ports and stuff.

The first thing I made was the blanking plate, for this I used the proper one as a template to make a copy out of aluminium. I used a nibbler , a drill and a set of needle files to create it.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

I then sanded back the interior of the chassis to gain the 2-3mm I needed to fit the motherboard into the chassis. I did a quick test fit and it was perfect.

Project Mac Cube

As you can see the two ps2 ports are blocked but I don’t have any use for them so I’m not bothered in the slightest. I then mounted the blanking plate for a test fit. It needed a bit of fiddling with but now fits perfectly.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

After this I set to work on the mountings for all the drives this was far more work than I imagined. At first I tried to make it as simple as possible with all 3 drives held in by just two brackets.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

This was nice and easy to make well not that easy but I had to change my plans as this setup wouldn’t work the inner hard disc fouled the mechanism for inserting the chassis into the cube, so it wouldn’t work. grrr

So I had to make set of plates for the two hard discs and a separate mounting for the optical drive so I could place it centrally without having the two hdd’s off center. In order for the optical drive to be mounted correctly I had to use three brackets but it works perfectly and the drive allows you to insert a disc when dropped in with no problems yeaaaah!

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

Its a cosy fit with everything in place but when I did a test fit into the cube chassis it works perfectly! You can see the original handle mechanism is still working you whip the cube over and push the handle in and it pops out. Then pull the inner chassis out. A great design. This works just as it does in the original.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

Thats the progress to date, next up on the list of things to do is to mount the power switches and led’s and to look at the cabling. In the original cube design there is a plate on the top of the inner chassis. I’m not sure if this is actually needed other than to hold the power switch in place so I’m going to look at what is actually required. The cube came without this piece so I’m going to have to make my own if I do want to use it.

Project Mac Cube: Wiring and Problems

2005-08-04

This project hasn’t had an update for the last few days or so because I’ve been waiting on parts and hit some problems.

Last time I had completed the wiring rigs with some nice blue cable, this was fine until I tried doing a test fit of the cube and the wiring rapidly became a nightmare. I also created a plate for the switches and led’s to fit into. I wanted to use the chassis itself, but drilling the led holes showed that that wasn’t possible so I created a little plate to go onto the chassis like the motherboard I/O plate.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

In order to fit the wires for the switches in I had to redo the wiring loom with far thinner wire. I used some nice blue and green wire but I wish I could use the blue see through stuff but it cant be done.

The parts I was using for the test fit are required for another project I am doing so I had to order a new mini-itx board and some other parts. I discovered the new VIA Epia SP8000E , this is a passively cooled mini-itx board with sata and all other new bits. Great I thought sata would be much easier to wire for. The snag I hit though was that the plug-in power supply wouldn’t fit this board nor was there any other ones out there. 🙁

So I had to go back to my original plan of a VIA Epia MII6000 board. This is identical to the one I was using before but only 600mhz and passively cooled. I also got a new plug in psu for this board. I takes up no more room that the mini-itx board does already.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

I’ve got a few more bits arriving over the next couple of days, I will redo the wiring to try to make it more managable. I’ve worked out that the wires will fit if I use the smaller wiring so it should all be easier this time.

Project Mac Cube: Booting!

2005-08-13

Ok a short text update on my progress pictures will follow tomorrow. The first thing is that it is now on and booting! The end is near!

I’ve had a few problems since my last update, the first was that the I/O I made was made worthless as the psu manufacturer decided to change the connector design grrr, So I had to remake the I/O plate with this change.

Next all the wiring was redone to allow me to fit it all in. Making all the wires fit took me several hours this evening but I got there in the end! It booted up on first try (thats a first for one of my projects hehe),but I’ve hit a snag the two 250gb drives are being detected as 137gb drives 🙁 I believe there is a solution using partition manager so I will have to see if it can be overcome.

So far the cooling seems to be fine its not getting too hot but I will have to monitor this when I get it fully up and running.

Project Mac Cube: Final Bits and Bobs

2005-08-14

Time for the pictures. I’ve not got any shots of it hooked up yet but it looks ace. I’ve been out since 5am so I’ve not had a chance to do any proper in situ shots yet. I also need to play with the power led as its lighting at present.

Pictures of the building and it all inside the chassis, the wiring is mostly hidden from view when you remove the inner chassis. Just the bare minimum shows.

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube
Project Mac Cube

Project Mac Cube: Complete!

2005-08-15

Now that the project has been completed I have taken some more shots of the cube in place on my desk as well as a couple of other shots. I’ve also done two video’s one of me removing the components from the cube to show how easy it is and another to show the cool effect of the leds.

mac cube

mac cube

mac cube

mac cube

mac cube

mac cube

mac cube

mac cube

And the two video’s right click and select save as to download them.

Video 1: Taking it Apart (5.10mb)

Video 2: Blue Leds in action (2.84mb)

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