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Article -> Hardware

Atom D510 Home Automation Server - Hardware

Read previously published articles in this series:
Atom D510 Home Automation Server - Prelude

VFD fitted

Last time we put together the motherboard and all the accessories in a very compact form. This time we're going to create a custom case for this hardware to protect and show off the future home automation server. The requirements are as follows:

  • Protect
  • Provide air flow
  • Show off
  • Wall-mountable

At the local hobby store I got two pieces of acrylic glass and a long threaded pin and a bunch of M3 nuts. I already had some motherboard spacers to use but I had to purchase a new M3 tap. The acrylic sheets are 20x30 cm which was much bigger than I initially wanted but as I didn't want to cut them they had to do. In the end the extra 10 cm or so happened to become a pretty cool desk stand and cable guide, especially for when it's not wall-mounted.

Threading motherboard spacer holes

Drilling and threading holes for the four motherboard mounts was a bit tedious but came out all right in the end. Additional holes were drilled but not threaded at the edges of the acrylic sheets for bolting the two sheets together as some kind of hardware enthusiast sandwich. Also, on the bottom sheet two pear-shaped holes were created, hidden from view by the motherboard, to easily hang the thing on a wall.

Fitting motherboard

The design is really extremely simple. I spent roughly $15 including the taps and it took about two hours to construct. There's basically nothing I would do different in hindsight - except perhaps add an old Cisco cable guide to one of the bottom sides to hold the cables.

Fitting the other sheet

The open sides provide plenty of air flow and the server has been running non-stop for a week eight months now without showing any stability problems. Of course, doing it this way and not using an RF shield of any kind isn't exactly the best way to house computer parts but it sure looks pretty good. I will hang it on a wall somewhere, probably above the entrance door where it will be visible enough without being distracting.

Initial result

Notice in the pictures that I didn't initially mount the VFD display properly but in the end I drilled a few holes for it and fastened it against the upper acrylic sheet for good measure. I think it looks pretty interesting.

CCFL mounted to PCI riser

I mounted a 10 cm blue CCFL on the actual PCI riser's inside and its power converter is visible on the outside. Together with the VFD and the red X-Fi light this creates a wonderful lighting ambiance which I didn't manage to capture in any of the pictures.

Blue glow from CCFL

Also, most of the cables will obviously not be needed in the end. Only power, network and audio will be connected and the rest on the pictures is just for the initial installation.

Ambient lighting

So, the basic hardware is complete and thus the real fun begins.

Software

To begin with, I felt the VFD display needed something more Windows Server-friendly than the existing applications that seemed to presume everyone is still running Windows 95 and want a systray application instead of a real Windows service. Using .NET, C# and a 64bit compatible version of inpout.dll I quickly hacked up a service to control the display and output system/service status to begin with.

VFD display service

For the music playback I am currently using Winamp with the Resumer and AjaxAmp plugins running as a service installed by Microsofts SrvAny utility.

The net result is that the display is initialized and displays some basic system status when the server boots up - without any need whatsoever for anyone to login interactively to a desktop on it. The Winamp service also starts up and starts pumping out my DI.fm premium playlist - but can still be manually controlled using a web browser thanks to AjaxAmp.

AjaxAmp

In short, two of the four basic features are already working and light control is mostly a matter of interfacing with the Tellstick API in another or the same service - and of course creating a neat user interface.

Booting Windows

But more about the software in the next article, which will include some code and downloads. I'm contemplating writing my own automation service and include streaming and playing back shoutcast streams to gain better control over the process. The .NET library NAudio might make this possible and rapid to develop.

by Oskar Duveborn - 11 revisions
Published 2010-04-02, updated 2010-12-15