Project: Blackbox

Discussion in 'Portable & Small Form Factor' started by Blinky, Oct 4, 2010.

  1. Blinky

    Blinky Member

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    I've had a few blackbox's in the past two of which were commercial options, the Asus B202 and a Fit-PC1. A blackbox by nature should be small and robust designed to be shoved somewhere and "just work".

    The current 'blackbox' needed to acquire & route Bigpond Next G signal through both a wireless and ethernet interface. It also needed to run remotely and therefore by powered by DC voltage. Linux compatibility of hardware. You could do any manner of things but this is what I went with:

    M350 case
    Intel D510M motherboard
    Pico PSU dc-dc version
    2.5" Laptop drive (sata)
    10/100 low profile Realtek NIC
    Azurewave AR-5B91 mini PCI-e wireless NIC
    2 Mini PCI U.FL to RP-SMA WiFi Antenna Pigtail Adapters
    DDR2 800 ram

    Most of the stuff, pics and info is listed at http://www.mini-box.com.au (it's not where I bought from). You can find a lot of it locally, or on-the-net depending on how much you want to pay - I'll leave that up to you.

    To fit it all into the case required some tiny mods, very simple and repeatable ones, which is what makes it a good choice of gear.

    The back plate and inside 'before' pics.

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    The is where our first problem occurs. The motherboard has a PCI slot, but the case doesn't support one. Also the area we need is the STD position for the DC power input, so we'll need to move that.

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    Simply take the mounting bracket off of your ethernet NIC and cut it down to size, then use it as a template to cut a hole in the case. You will also need the make the centre hole in the I/O plate larger to suit the DC power socket.

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    Throw it altogether now. The pico PSU mounts like an older PSU plug using only 20 pins instead of all 24. The SATA 2.5" drives mounts upside down to a plate supplied with the M350 m-itx case.


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    All done now, not room to swing a cat though...
    This shot shows the two external sideways mounted USB sockets which hide under the front clip on cover - handy if you don't want them bumped and it saves on overall length of your project. After all it's M-ITX format for a reason right !?


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    If you remember back to the project scope outline it had to route a Next G connection, it lives under the front cover and uses an external yagi antenna so we must allow for a patch lead. You need to notch out a groove in the base of the front cover for the cables to pass through.

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    Power is supplied by 250 Ah deep cycle batteries. Our batteries show a full charge level, with a voltage of 13.85v

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    The battery box is a free broccoli box with lid. Batteries don't like to be cold (produce less power) and they need a spill container - so use something that won't leak.

    I wired in a fuse & amps meter to work out the wattage being used during the testing phase.

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    The draw wasn't too bad for the working system. It will draw 2 amps under load while writing to disk.

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    Last edited: Oct 9, 2010
  2. davros123

    davros123 Member

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    Hi Blinky, thanks for the build info.

    I am considering a similar low power/fanless build for an Asterisk (Elastix) server.

    Can you (or others here) post or PM me the details of where you bought as the prices seem to vary alot.

    At the moment I am settling on the following from this seller (mitxpc) on ebay for about $260 delivered.
    * M350 case
    * Intel D510M motherboard
    * Pico PSU dc-dc version
    * 1GB mem
    plus...
    * OCZ Onyx 32GB SSD - $79

    Note re. the SSD, I know I could go a laptop drive or a CF, but hey, I just want it :)

    The ebay deal looks cheaper than mini-box.com.au (who are oos of the ac/dc adapter anyway).

    Thoughts?
     
  3. OP
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    Blinky

    Blinky Member

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    Sorry I never did finish it off.
    I used the PicoPSU-120-WI-25,12-25V Wide Input ATX Power Supply

    Most of the stuff did come from that guy, http://stores.ebay.com.au/MitxPC
    he is a very safe bet. I've bought from him a few times.

    I didn't realise that he did the bundle you linked until now -duh- I had bought all the stuff separately and he emailed me after the purchase, offering to put it all together and test it for free to save on postage, I can see why now.

    HDD, wireless nic and ram were all pinched from other machines here, so $0 outlay.
    The wireless pigtails were an ebay $1 type of thing.
    The batteries are about $250 - $300 each new, Trojan T105. They are the best bang for buck in deep cycle lead acid batteries.

    One thing I have found is that, that motherboard does not like booting from any of my USB sticks. It's weird, changed to a different BIOS and everything. It will boot to an external USB DVD drive no probs.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2010
  4. davros123

    davros123 Member

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    Cheers. Thanks for the prompt reply.

    Will put in my order tonight. Got to love the AUD/USD at the moment!
     
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    Blinky

    Blinky Member

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    PayPal exchange rate:1 AUD = 0.959870 USD (Oct 9th 2010)
    Cool, what else can I buy? ;)

    Something that is important to note, is that I really should have bought some super short sata cables.
    http://cgi.ebay.com.au/5-127mm-Shor...810?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19be6337e2
    It is very cramped for room in there, so much so that short SATA cables are almost a must. The HDD mount upside down just underneath the lid (top of the case) the 5" one would do the left side but I think you would need the 8" one if you were going to mount the 'extra' drive on the other side.
    http://cgi.ebay.com.au/8-Latch-SATA...666?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19b021f84a
    Don't be tempted to buy the right angled ones they won't fit, make sure you buy ST-ST not ST-RA.

    You would also need to buy the extra HDD bracket for the second drive.
    http://cgi.ebay.com.au/Hard-Drive-M...978?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1e574caa32
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2010
  6. warhead

    warhead Member

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    I've built mini boxes using the same case before that run off 12V batteries. My first one used the same pico PSU as you're using and I found that it didn't like it when voltages fell below about 11.5V. PC would occasionally reboot randomly.

    Upgraded to the M3 automotive PSU ( same size and style ) and problem went away. Something to look out for down the road.
     
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    Blinky

    Blinky Member

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  8. davros123

    davros123 Member

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    Holy smoke batman, now it's 1 USD = 0.989513 AUD

    ordered mine the other day...~257USD delivered (incl. short sata cable). Very exciting.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2010
  9. Snoops

    Snoops Member

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    Out of interest - why wouldn't you just use a high-end opensource based router? -- Think TP-Link 1043ND or similar More than enough CPU power to route a 3g connection and OpenSSH VPN.. And you can run it straight off 13.8v without any conversion??
     
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    Blinky

    Blinky Member

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    Yes, absolutely.
    The BYO method just extends your options; run squid, use different and multiple radio cards, etc.
     

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