By Chris Phillips -
Posted on October 28, 2003
A diskless EPIA 800 Net-Booting Linux all housed inside a Super Nintendo.
I found that these Mini-ITX systems existed when I spotted the E.T. stuffed toy project on a news site, and fell in from there. I always wanted to be able to watch my DivX videos on our big old main TV, rather than having to sit in a noisy study to watch my Futurama back catalogue on a PC screen. And when I was given one for my birthday, all systems go!
Some Mini-ITX.com projects seem to be preoccupied with the case they use, and very little about the system as a whole. My project was about much more than a cute little mobo in a novelty box, I wanted a fully network driven system, meaning no IDE devices at all, making the system super low power and super quiet, and reliable. But first - that novelty case!
There was really only one contender that I ever wanted to use, a SNES (Super Nintendo - European PAL version of course, not those hideous US ones). The case measures about 18.5cm wide, so that's only a touch wider than the board itself, so a perfect fit really.
One made-to-measure case!
As the box is fixed with some funny hexagonal screws [edit: a very boring friend of mine says they're "Torx" screws] I had no chance of undoing, access was gained to the box via the wonders of my soldering iron, and a peg on my nose. Working the iron round the edge of each screw hole eventually got me in. Everyone else seems to swear by Dremels, but the shop was more than 100 metres away so that was a non-starter ;-).
After getting it is was basically a case of gutting it totally. The inner workings of the console were unsurprisingly highly mechanical in terms of power switches, for example the reset button on the base had a 3cm pole on the back which eventually lead to a button on the single PCB. I'd planned to try to save these buttons, but they were too physically embedded to reuse the switches etc.
I managed to add in some secure mountings for the mobo itself using some of those funny gold screw extensions. These fixed to the case via screw sized holes created with a very hot crosshead screwdriver. The connectors for the system were then made accessible by hacking off the entire grill on the back of the SNES, which was again a perfect fit.
The Morex 55W PSU and ATX conversion board was a late arrival to the equation (thanks to payday) and it took a while to work out were to put it. Eventually I decided to physically mod the PSU board, by bending the power lead connector 90 degrees in order to make that end of the board much lower. This done it then really neatly fits in the space under the mobo itself, although the connector doesn't stay in place well, but never mind. Personally I can't see how people can suffer an external standard PSU and a bunch of ATX wires going into their case
Morex board fixed to base of the casing.
Extra power leads saved for a rainy day.
A few final touches like managing to glue a push-to-make power switch so that it can be pressed by the original power switch on the case (the one button I could save), and connecting the power LED up (only the crudest solutions need apply) and that's about it. Looks as good as new from the front and pretty neat from the back.
Power switch and LED leads glued in place (and soldering iron wounds)
Back view, removed blanking plate to increase airflow.
None! Unless you want to be petty and count a keyboard. If you missed it the first time: Extra hardware = None!