AROS – Musings



Recently I have been looking at the AROS Research Operating System. As some of my readers will know, i do like my Amiga’s. I currently on the look out for a new video card for my A3000. When i find one, expect to see a review of the installation. In the mean time, i thought it was about time i sampled the newer Amiga inspired operating systems. Especially after using the Amiga 1200 online and discovering how limited my browsing was with the dated Ibrowse software.

So in the coming week i plan to try out the AROS liveCD on the Nomad and see how we get one 😀

Constructing a front panel




Taking on the task of building a machine in a customised case is not without it’s challenges. As I soon discovered when I came to designing the front of the machine. With six LED’s, two switches and one illuminated power button. I had plenty to fill up the flat blank looking facia. But how was I going to go about it? I knew I wanted lettering under the various lights and switches to indicate function. But how exactly was I going to do it, without it look awful. Someone with money to burn, might have paid for chemical etching or some method that paints the letters on. On a budget I faced using a label maker and sticking labels on to the front facia. This was definitely not the look I was aiming for. The Altair had a wonder front to it and I wanted something similar.

It was then when I had an idea.

Placing the front panel under the flatbed scanner, I made a reasonably high resolution copy. I then loaded the image up and began designing where all the LED’s and switches would go. Having already sketched a rough design out on paper, with measurements of the panel and the components. I had a pretty good idea where things would be installed, which meant building it on the computer was fairly straight forward.

Printing a template out on my laser printer, I cut it out and taped it to the plastic panel. Then using a dremmel and a drill piece, I bore out holes for all the components. The LED’s where the trickiest part, make the holes to large and the LED’s would fallout, the fitting needed to be snug. With the holes made, I used a file to clean the panel up and removed the paper template. Offering the switches and light up, I found more filing/drilling was needing. So back to the dremmel I went.

It took a good hour of fiddling before all the components slipped in to their designated openings, but soon it beginning to look Altair-ish. I wont deny a sense of pride filled me, when I saw the front panel with all the components sitting in the case for the first time. Up until that point, the project had felt more a less like a pile of components. So seeing it come together for the first time was pretty satisfying.

With switches and light installed, I used a hot glue gun to secure the LED’s. With the wiring I know the chances of them falling out would be inevitable.

The next step was the actual facia or cover. Now this was the clever bit which I mentioned earlier. Having made a template on the computer, I had also incorporated in to the template all the various labels. Printing out another copy, I cut the out the holes for the LED’s and switches and offer it up to the front panel. Almost all the components pushed through the holes where they should. But several of the LED’s did not line up. As I had been cutting out the holes by hand with the dremmel, I guess I should be pleased at most of them aligned at all.

Taking measurements I went back to the computer and altered the layout, spacing the LED’s farther apart. This took me several attempts and many templates before I finally had one that worked. Finally with all the parts pushing through where they should. I was ready for the next stage. Making a final panel cut out, using thicker, high resolution card. When the printer spewed forth the finished version I saw a problem. Unlike normal paper the high resolution card had given the black ink a gloss look. With no way around this, I took a leaf out of my prop making skills and made a gamble. Using some Matt varnish spray I use for for water sealing decal paper. I sprayed the facia with three coats, with 4 minutes between coats. I then used a hair dryer to gentle dry the varnish. After 20 minutes it was dry to touch and had to my joy given the printed panel a Matt finish!

Using some 3M adhesive spray, I mounted the facia to the front of the case. Definitely heart in your throat work, as fowling up at this stage would have meant a big mess. As it where, it went on without a hitch.

One thing I was aware of when making the cover, was the need for it to be 3-4mm smaller then then actual plastic panel. As the panel it self, slid inside channels cut out along the front of the bottom and top sections of the case.
With the card attached the panel would have been to thick to fit. As the facia only needed to cover the visible surface of the front panel, it wasn’t much of a problem. Thou when the lid finally did go on, some trimming was need before everything went on properly. Even the best laid plans can run fowl!

Lets look inside Nomad the final chapter

With a melted PCB the front panel was as dead as an Aqua concert. So now I was faced with the prospect of having to rewire everything with a fresh LED PCB, providing I was able to get one.

Luckily as it was and I ended up buying two, as I knew what my luck was like.

Rewiring the front panel for a second time actually turned out to be very useful. As I was not only able to shorten the wires going from the regulator to the PCB, but also those from the PCB to the 4 LED’s on the front panel. Allowing me this time, the ability to mount the PCB on to the rear of the front panel. Once more using the handy retro 70’s solder/ray gun. I was able to get the whole job done in a surprisingly short space of time, not to mention ease.

Having done my research, I installed a 20 ohm resistor between the voltage out of the regulator and the PCB, preventing the circuit from drawing to much current. I had infact bought a 15 and 20, in anticipation of a 20 ohm resistor making the LED’s too dim. Luckily this wasn’t the case. After a quick test on the low voltage PSU proved the new circuit was working properly, I went about testing the larger Uniross. It was some time after all this, that I was to discover the Uniross was not actually powerful enough to boot the motherboard, not even as far as posting. But now I’m wondering off, so back to hooking things up.

With everything wired up on the kitchen side, I held my breath and press the power button, at first nothing, but then pressing a little harder the front panel came to life. five minutes passed and the blinkers where still working, I flicked through the patterns for a good 10 minutes, waiting for signs of over heating. Not a hint, the 20 ohm resistor had done it!! Hurrah

Powering the machine down, I went about placing the case back together. While the biggest hurdle was now over with, the next challenge, the one I had been dreading was finally upon me. Finishing the front panel. While the LED’s blinked, the Power LED worked, the Reset and Pattern change toggle switches worked. But the one thing which it needed was writing under each LED and switch, indicating what they where. How the heck was I going to do it? Decal’s? No, as I didn’t own a printer capable of printing white ink and yes they do make them. Etching? no as that would cost me a fortune and this was a budget, home brew project. It had to be something I could do myself. So after a lot of thinking, I stole and idea from my prop making skills.

In my next post I shall cover how I designed the front panel, it was a pretty simple job, time consuming, but a project that could be undertaken by anyone.

Updates for October – New Vintage computer “Nomad”

Greetings programs!

As there haven’t been any recent posts, I thought an update on just what HAS been happening behind the doors of Byte-my-Vdu was deserved.

I’m pleased to report the vintage “mini ITX” machine I was constructing, was completed over the weekend. With the front panel lights and the regulator now both working properly. The major burn out that was suffered several weeks ago, was a result of the current from the ITX PSU overloading the tiny LED pcb. Originally I had been testing the front panel circuits using a generic universal power supply, which had a maximum output of 9v 1.5mah. When I hooked the circuits up to the ITX psu, it didn’t occur to me until it was too late, that the current (amps) going through the regulator would have altered. The result was the tiny microchip on the led pcb cooked itself.

Luckily the circuit was pretty cheap to buy, I returned to the store and purchased another two sets of cycle lights, there’s now no shortage of illumination at our house that’s for sure. Given the fun I had wiring the pcb the first time round, I was prepared for something going wrong. As it happened, nothing did. The new circuit looked much better then the original, as I had trimmed down the length of the wires going from the pcb to the LEDS on the front panel. This was actually a tricky job, as the LED’s had been hot glued in to the front panel so they didn’t move about or fall inside the case.

With thanks to Thrashbarg, I wired a 20 ohm resistor in line with the positive feed from the regulator. This would control the current being drawn through and prevent the PCB burning out again. It’s been suggested that with the cycle light originally used the 2 AA batteries for regulation. With these removed, the resistor now did the job. As my understanding of electronics is still on the learning curve, you will have to bare with me when describing some of this.

Name of the beast! Nomad!

Nomad From The Changling

Error error!

For as long as I have been building this machine, I have been trying to come up with a name for it. Simply wiring components together and hooking it all up with the MSI fuzzy board wasn’t good enough. As I was using the Altair for inspiration, I wanted to find a name with a similar air to it. I finally came up with something while visiting a StarTrek event in Manchester. What if I called it Nomad, the name of the artificially intelligent probe the Enterprise beams aboard. It was a lot better then the name I originally came up with “EPIA”, the name of the mother board I had originally planned to use for the project. Plus “Nomad” seemed pretty fitting, especially as Altair is also a Startrek reference.

Today I hope to have the badge finished and glued to the front panel of the machine. I spent last night designing it before bed. Next it will be printed on to decal paper and then attached to silver card, to give the fake impression of metal. As I sadly don’t know where to locate a 20mm x 90mm strip of aluminium.

And below is the front panel logo in all it’s glory.