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Building an XBMC 12 Home Theatre PC

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August 06, 2010
Building a Green PC

February 15, 2010
Building an ION powered HTPC with XBMC

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The "Cambridge Autonomous Underwater Vehicle 2008"

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May 25, 2005
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January 30, 2005
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December 03, 2004

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August 26, 2004
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August 25, 2004

August 13, 2004
The "Quiet Cubid"

August 06, 2004

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The "Moo Cow Moo"

July 02, 2004
The "Mini Mesh Box"

Full alphabetical archive on right hand side of page...

Nehemiah M10000 Review
Posted on May 19, 2003

Board Connectors, Headers & Jumpers

The interesting part of the EPIA M motherboard

As with previous EPIAs, VIA have managed to pack a lot of connectors and headers into a small space. The EPIA Ms have the following connectors:

2 x IDE Hard Disk connectors, both supporting Ultra DMA 33/66/100/133. Up to 4 hard drives, optical drives or other IDE devices can be connected (2 per channel, configured as a Master and a Slave drive)

Case Connectors - somewhere to plug your Power and Reset switches, LEDs for Power, Hard Disk activity and Sleep mode (when the power is on but the machine is suspended), and a case speaker.

Fast IrDA Infrared Module Connector (FIR). We would recommend a USB-based ATI Remote Wonder to solve your remote control needs - it also works round corners...

PS2 Header (called the Consumer Infrared connector/CIR header on the classic EPIAs). This is the block of 4 red jumpers in the picture, which connect the mouse and keyboard sockets to the VT1211 Super I/O chip on the motherboard. By removing these jumpers you could bypass these sockets and connect a custom input device directly to the motherboard. Don't forget the pins are at a 2mm pitch and pullup resistors are needed between the +5v and the four data pins - 10kOhm should do it.

USB 2.0 header, to attach 2 additional USB 2.0 ports. This is the yellow header in the picture. The provided USB 2.0 and Firewire module (2 of each) plugs into this, or you could use the connector on your EPIA M compatible case. This is an improvement over the previous EPIAs, which have a non-standard USB 1.1 pin-header.

Wake-On LAN connector - attaching this to a WOL compatible network card allows the system to be powered up when a signal is received through the card. On the classic EPIAs this is called Wake-On Modem and doesn't have the natty plastic housing the EPIA M has.

There are no physical Firewire (IEEE1394) connectors on the board, but 2 can be added using the twin Firewire headers. The provided USB 2.0 / Firewire module attaches to this, colour coded again to minimise explosions. They're the two white headers on the left of the picture - classic EPIAs don't have Firewire capabilities.

The EPIA M has a second serial port in header form, COM2. Useful for any number of serial applications without tieing up the external COM1 port. Another feature missing from the classic EPIAs.

Chassis Intrusion Detector - when we see a case with a chassis intrusion sensor, we'll tell you what this does. You probably know anyway. It's the two white pins in the middle of the picture.

Floppy Disk Drive Connector - for connecting 360K (!) to 2.88M floppy drives - thankfully not present on the classic EPIAs. Here at Mini-ITX we don't really see the point in floppy drives any more. The sooner they are eradicated from the world, the better. We've got the internet, CDRs are ten a penny and hold a bazillion times as much information, and we can even emulate a floppy over a LAN using PXE. It's the evil looking black mass in the middle of the picture, but don't look at it directly - it'll put a hex on you.

CD-In Connector. Another connector that used non-standard pin spacing on the classic EPIAs, but in EPIA M format uses standard spacing. An appropriate audio lead would usually come with your CD or DVD drive.

I2C Connector. A Small Area Network (SAN) is used to connect the Integrated Circuit (IC) components on a circuit board, or within a box or system. Components can be the PC, a keypad, LCD display, status indicators or switches and sensors. I2C is one such system - it's an Inter-Integrated Circuit Bus (geddit?). The classic EPIAs don't have this. Pretty useful if you're making a robot.

Front Audio Connector - working much like the PS2 header, the rear audio connectors can be disabled and routed to a front panel for convenient connection and control of audio devices. The black header at the top left of the picture.

Gaping hole

Gaping hole for an optional LVDS Module Connector. Low Voltage Differential Signaling is a low power method for high-speed (gigabits per second) data transmission. LVDS is interesting because it uses 3 voltage levels instead of the usual binary method to encode data. at a higher maximum transfer rate. Used extensively in laptops as a flat panel display interface. Unfortunately, we've never seen an LVDS Module equipped EPIA M in retail, and unless someone makes one, that old VAIO can breathe easy. Super-small 10x5mm connector with 40 pins - not present on the classic EPIAs, but they have the equally unused Video In Connector and PCI Riser Card Connector instead.

There are two jumpers on the motherboard. The first clears the CMOS RAM, useful for clearing your BIOS settings after a disastrous RAM tweaking attempt. Only do this when the system is off. The second selects between RCA Video or S/PDIF output on the dual-purpose Video/Audio rear connector. It's the single red jumper, and starts life in the RCA position. Can anyone spot the deliberate mistake in the EPIA M manual?

The classic EPIAs have several more jumpers than the EPIA Ms, for selecting the FSB of the motherboard, enabling auto rebooting after power failure, enable/disabling CPU Strapping, and enable/disabling the Disk on Chip BIOS that 99.9% of them don't have anyway.

All EPIAs have ONE PCI Slot. Choose your card wisely. This isn't as bad as it sounds - USB sockets can be turned into second and third ethernet interfaces with appropriate adapters, and there is already on-board audio and a whole slew of standard interfaces. Probably the best use of the slot would be with a PVR card, or a decent 3D card (or a card supporting both functions). A two slot right-angled riser card is available, but no mainstream cases currently support it.

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