The "Osh-Kosh"
By Dustin Smith, Washington, DC
Posted on October 24, 2003
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For those thinking of building a mini-itx project, I've summarised the process below:

1) Come up with a good idea
2) Recognize that the good idea actually sucks
3) Come up with a great idea
4) Spend 3 days surfing the internet for parts
5) Realize Velcro will work better than 90% of those parts
6) Make 10 trips to the hardware store for the wrong size screws, nuts and bolts
7) Burn out the motor on your dremel
8) Repeat steps 1-7 for each portion of the project

I noticed several years ago how much better a party was when you had a massive hard drive full of MP3s to DJ from instead of a pile of badly organized cds. This was no problem when the party was at my house, but what to do when its somewhere else? Moving a whole PC setup across town (or cross-country) was too much trouble. I considered getting a laptop, but they seemed too expensive, have small hard drives, and aren't upgradable. Then I stumbled upon <cue church music>.

I was very impressed with the Lunchbox PC. Compact. Stylish. It didn't look like an insane amount of work. As I shopped around for the right box (Underdog, Hong Kong Phooey, etc) and measured out what I wanted to put inside it, I realized a lunchbox wasn't going to be large enough. Even if I managed to squeeze in a dvd player, I'd still need to carry around something to put the mouse, keyboard, and power cables in.

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I spent the next 2 weeks critically examining any object bigger than a lunchbox, but smaller than a PC. Finally, wandering through a thrift store, I found it - a vintage Osh-Kosh vanity case. It was perfect - sturdy construction, plenty of room, portable, retro stylish, and slightly absurd.

The Construction

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The lid was begging to have a monitor built into it. Not wanting to spend a fortune, I was about to buy a crummy 5" playstation monitor when I came across this 10.5" LCD for $100, which fit the lid precisely. As an interesting bonus, the monitor is powered from its own pci card -saving me the trouble of another wiring connection.

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I stripped the LCD panel out of its casing and screwed it to the lid. The bezel was cut out of Lexan, masked, and painted blue.

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Now it was time to break out the dremel and cut holes for the various ports. You'll notice from the photo that I didn't do the best job here. It turns out the reason the luggage is so sturdy is because the walls are made out of 1/8" hardwood - which made it difficult to get the motherboard and the holes lined up. I cut a hole in the front for ventilation intake, and one in the back for the power plug.

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Here's a shot of the motherboard installed.

The more observant among you will have noticed notice 2 large slots cut out above the standard ports. One of these is for the DVD player. The other is for an AVI All-in-Wonder VE video card. Why did I need another video card (considering I already had 2)? During early testing using a video projector, I noticed that while the M-9000 plays MP3s with no difficulty, it was excruciatingly slow at running Winamp's Milkdrop visualizations. Now, I really like funky lights with my music, so adding a video card with better 3D graphics became a high priority.