This is what home computing should look like…
Reminiscent of a Memorex commercial (for those who can remember that iconic commercial with the fellow sitting in his lounger and being blown away).
There’s no point in building out a kick ass liquid cooled blinky light PC if you’re not going to show off your work. So, I got to thinking about the piece of furniture that was going to showcase the build, and I came up with this design. It’s built out of 2×4 lumber and MDF, because that’s the stock I had in the garage, and I needed to get rid of it to make room for more…
My design goal was a workbench like thing whose sole purpose would be to act as a computer work table/cabinet thing. I don’t need a ton of drawers, I can simply stack plastic bins in there, or outside, if I feel I really need them. I wanted an ample keyboard/mouse surface, because sometimes I need to place another laptop on the surface, or write stuff, and it’s nice to have the room to just push the keyboard back and use the worktop as a worktop.
I started out with a fairly standard looking garage workbench carcass.
I put that power strip in there because it’s totally hidden when the workbench top is on, and it provides enough outlets, spaced far enough apart, that I can plug in the computer, 2 or three monitors, extra lights, speakers, and other stuff that might so happen to be sitting on the work top.
The thing is roughly 36″ on a side, with the worktop being 36″x33″ if memory serves correctly.
This is in my ‘home office’ room, so there is carpet. I had the dilemma of how to cart the thing around, because fully loaded, it’s quite heavy, and unwieldy. I had a package of those furniture moving pads in a drawer, so I whipped those out, and they work a treat! Each pad has a vinyl plate bottom, with a rubber top. The 2×4 lumber sits nicely in the rubber, and I can easily move this thing all over my office all by myself.
With the demands of family, this took roughly two days to assemble. Now that it all works, I can think about actually finishing it. The things I want to do are to make it more like furniture, and less like something you’d find in the garage. That means, doing some sanding, mahogany staining, varnish, and the like. I’ll top the 3/4″ MDF top with an 1/8″ piece of hard board, and put some trim around the edge, to act as a buffer, and to hide the seam between the hardboard and MDF. This makes for a nice durable surface that I can tape paper to every once in a while if I so happen to do any gluing or other craft work.
I’ve added the speaker system to the workbench, but right now it’s just kind of there, with the wires hanging all over. I’ll have to drill a couple of circular holes for wire pass through. To further make it kid proof, I’ll add some plexiglass siding, to keep their delicate little fingers out of the silently whirring fans.
Putting the computer in the corner as it is, is a pretty good thing. It’s not taking up main floor space like the desk I was using. That gives me a ton of space to do other stuff, like setup a mini 3D printer farm. There’s a corner over by the window ready for exactly that.
In a fit of inspiration, I also removed the couch and chairs, which more often than not were collection places for junk. Now I have an entirely open wall, ready for yet another workbench something or other. Oddly enough, the wall on that side of the room is totally bare, and would be a perfect place to receive a 150″ micro projected image, as a large book case is on the opposite wall. Perhaps that would be good for video conferencing in the large?
At any rate, the killer PC is getting a custom built piece of furniture. I’m getting a new perspective on my home work space, and life is grand.
Well, it’s finally done
I began this journey with creating the excuses for doing the build in the first place, and then purchasing the various parts.
Now here is the fully assembled thing. Some final thoughts. The scariest part was doing the water cooling piping. I practiced tube bending on a waste piece before embarking on the final pieces. Like a plumber, it’s helpful to plan out where the pipes are going, do some measurements, then do bending on cutting. Really I was afraid that once it got assembled, it would be springing leaks all over the place ruining the fairly expensive electronics. When I first put the tubing together, I tested by running some distilled water through the system to flush things out.
In the end, there were no leaks, and everything runs beautifully, and cool. Having done this once now, I can see redoing the tubing at some point to make it more fancy, but for now, it works just fine, and looks cool.
One thing of note, this thing is really quiet. You literally need to almost stick your ear into the various fans to hear them at all. The power supply fan is dead quiet. This is dramatically different than the power supply on my shuttle PC, which I thought was fairly quiet. Now the Shuttle PC sounds like a jet engine in comparison.
The fans on the cooling radiator are whisper quiet as well, and provide those cool lighting effects to boot. Really this thing shows off best in a fairly dark room where the various glowing light effects can be seen.
The noisiest part of the entire build is actually the disk drive. You wouldn’t normally think of that, but when things are absolutely silent, to the point where the AC fan in a room is way louder, in a quiet room, the steady rumble of the disk drive is the most notable sound.
I’m loving it so far. I feel a sense of accomplishment in putting it together. I got to use it as a visual aid for the latest cohort of the LEAP class. Having a transparent case makes it easy to point at stuff, and the liquid cooling just adds a nice wow factor.
As far as the OS is concerned, I installed Windows 10 Pro. I figure even if I want to run Linux, I can simply use Hyper-V to create Linux VMs and go that way. Given that the graphics card can run 4 monitors at a time (I think), that’s more than enough to give me the illusion of a common desktop, with two Windows screens, and a third with Linux on a VM. So, it’s a sweet combo.
As for the excuse to be able to run the Vulkan API on a modern graphics board, that’s coming along. I had to install Visual Studio, build a LuaJIT, and dust off the cobwebs of my Vulkan ffi binding. All in due time. For now, the screaming machine is being used to type this blog post, and otherwise sitting beside my desk looking cool. I’ll have to design a desk specifically for it just to add to the DIY nature of the thing.