ComputerSphere – modding the original base to include a DVD burner

I thought for a change in scenery, I would look at modding the original square base. The square base was an attachment that could be used to support the Videosphere, it wasn’t needed if the Videosphere was hanging. To keep with this idea, I decided to make the base a removable DVDRW drive, with a connection to a standard USB, the base could still be removed and was not essential to the operation.

The original Videosphere base after polishing

I purchased a slot load DVDRW drive from eBay for $50 and a USB slim laptop drive SATA adaptor for around $10.

Slot load DVD burner with USB adaptor

First I glued some wooden pieces to the inside of the base, and this provided me with mounting points.

Glued some wooden pieces for mounting supports

I created some brackets for the DVD drive from some quarter channel aluminium and a hacked older CD drive.

Brackets on the DVD burner for mounting

With the position of the DVDRW drive now know, I cut a slot into the plastic square base with a Dremel.

Rough cut of the slot on the base with a Dremel

Once the slot was large enough it was cleaned up with a file.

The slot on the base neatened up with a file

The DVD burner mounted inside the Videosphere’s base.

Mount the DVD burner into the Videosphere base

The work in progress.

The finished product

Next post I will look at fixing up the USB cable at adding some obligatory lighting to the base.

ComputerSphere – restoring the original knobs and dials

The two large knobs were the reason the project stalled for so long, I initially planned to use the knobs to control the LCD TV, interfacing the knobs to the digital up/down buttons.

The idea was, since the knobs are rotary, I needed some way to convert the clockwise and anticlockwise directional rotation to two corresponding digital pulses. Searching the internet, I found an incremental quadrature rotary encoder could be used to achieve this.

I initially purchased two inexpensive mechanical quadrature rotary encoders for roughly $3 each and a couple of “and” gates, with information found on the internet I put together a simple quadrature decoder  with two LEDs that would light up depending on rotation direction, unfortunately, this didn’t work.

Basic PCB mount rotary quadrature encoder by Alps
Alps rotary encoder mounted with And gates

This lead me to thinking that the mechanical bounce was the problem, so I purchased two Grayhill 62P22-H0 optical rotary encoders for $10 each from RS Components, this also didn’t work.

62P22 optical rotary encoder with quadrature output

I was then thinking that my “and’ gate setup was causing the problems  so I purchased two quadrature clock converter ICs from LSI chip model LS7083, these cost about $30 including shipping to Australia. These chips allow for a rotary encoder with quadrature output to connect directly to the IC, the chip then converts the clockwise and anti-clockwise rotation to up/down pulses. Unfortunately, this still didn’t work.

Breadboard with two And gate chips and LEDs for direction indication
Slightly heavier mechanical rotary encoder

This was enough for me to drop the project, hence the long leave of absence.

What made me restart the project was I found some rotary switches from company Taiwan Alpha part model 105-SR10030F-PS. What makes these rotary switches so special is they directly output on/off pulses when rotated, they don’t output a quadrature signal, so there is no need to have any hardware that decodes the quadrature signal. This cost me around $50 including shipping. When they arrived I restarted this project.

Rotary switches from Mouser SR10030F

As it turned out,  since I couldn’t use the analogue tuner of the LCD any more (analogue was phased out by digital free to air), I had no more need to convert the volume and channel controls.

So below is a straight forward restoring of the original knobs.

The original two knobs from the Videosphere
Mounting the two knobs on the original Videosphere bracket
The view from inside, Via Epia M motherboard visible
View of the two knobs from the outside

I’ve also starting thinking about what to show on back of the Videosphere, things like power buttons, power connectors and cables. I have an idea to have only USB plugs available. In the square base there will be a slot load DVD-RW drive connected via USB.

Back of the original Videosphere

ComputerSphere – testing the Via Epia M output on the LCD

A quick update.

Before I went through the process of installing the operating system on the computer, I thought I should quickly check the VGA output and make sure everything was normal.

BIOS output of the Via Epia M on the LCD.

Testing the Via Epia M output on the LCD

Secondly, I decided to shorten the VGA cable to a more manageable length.

First splicing the cable.

Splicing the VGA cable

Then rejoining the individual cores with heatshrink.

Rejoining the VGA cable

Finally, a bit of aluminium foil as a crude shield before taping it all up with electrical tape.

A bit of aluminium as a crude shield

ComputerSphere – mounting the VIA Epia M motherboard

A quick post on the progress made to mount the VIA Epia M motherboard inside the Videosphere.

Firstly, the VIA Epia M motherboard, chosen as I had it from a previous project and it was the perfect size, well, it was a little bit too big, but it still did fit nicely.

The VIA Epia M motherboard

Fitted with a single stick of 512mb memory and currently in the process of purchasing a small (capacity wise) solid state disk. The power supply is a tiny module that connects directly to the ATX plug. Everything is on-board which is good.

The VIA Epia M motherboard

I hack an old PC case motherboard try and get left with a square with four mounting screws for the motherboard spacers.

A mounting plate from an old case

This is a photo of the LCD TV’s PCB before covering it with the motherboard mounting plate. I have connected the LCD cable and a power cable, I make a late decision to not use the LCD TV’s tuner, mainly because I left this project so long that we don’t have analogue free-to-air any more, what I will do instead is purchase a digital USB TV tuner dongle.

The LCD TVs PCB with VGA a power attached

Now a photo with mounting plate and VIA Epia M motherboard mounted.

Mounting plate attached with wires for LCD control

The mounted VIA Epia M in the ComputerSphere

Now that I won’t be using the analogue TV tuner, I don’t know what to use the two large knobs for now, one can still be used for volume control with a pot but not sure about the other one.

Next post should see a test run of Windows on the ComputerSphere, but still heaps more to go before finished, including all the connections for the back.

ComputerSphere – converting the knobs to buttons

Before I can mount the motherboard, I needed to return the three knobs back to their original location as I wouldn’t be able to do this with the motherboard in the way.

Originally these knobs were used for volume control, and some form of picture fine tuning.

As we are all in a digital age, I didn’t have anything that I could control with pots, and the two things I do have (channel and volume, both up down buttons) will be controlled with the two main knobs (coming soon). So I came up with a very simple crude method to convert the knobs to more useful push-buttons.

Here is the assembly of the original potentiometers (one black knob missing).

The original Videosphere tuning knobs

Here are the standard red push-button switches that I had lying around.

Three generic red push-button switches

And here is the idea, cut the original black knobs in half and mount the push-button switches underneath.

The concept, the knobs converted to buttons

I create a basic bracket from some folded sheet metal and mount the push-button switches.

The knobs mounted in a sheet-metal bracket

On first test the black knobs were slipping of the head of the push-buttons as there was too little surface area. To solve this I epoxyed some small sheet metal channels to the base, this stopped the knobs slipping off.

Here they are all sitting on the heads of the push-button switches.

The push-buttons with the knobs sitting on top

What is looks like inside when mounted to the Videosphere.

The whole thing mounted inside the Videosphere

And what it looks like from the exterior, looks pretty much the same as it originally did, except we have three useful buttons.

Looks exactly the same viewed from outside

Now what’s going to be connecting to the buttons, well, the LCD TV has seven buttons already, two for volume up and down, two for channel up and down, one for ‘menu’, one for ‘power’ and one for ‘TV/AV’. The three buttons will be used for the later, with the power button of the LCD TV sharing the same button as the computer.

Here is a shot of the original LCD button PCB, I keep the whole thing and mount it inside as it allows me to trouble shoot things. The IR receiver for the remote I thought of keeping, but couldn’t think of anywhere good mount it, plus having already mounted the LCD made it very difficult to drill holes anywhere close to the LCD.

The LCD TV control panel PCB

The following shows the button PCB mounted and buttons wired up, also added the VGA cable.

The original TV LCD control panel PCB mounted and wiring started

ComputerSphere – Installing the LCD electronics and testing

After a very long break, I’ve decided to complete this mod once and for all.

This update is mainly to make sure the LCD is still working after sitting around for a number of years, and confirm I still have all the parts.

Firstly, let’s make sure the LCD is still working.

A quick test of the LCD making sure it is still working

Now we need to create something to mount the various parts, which include LCD circuit board and motherboard. I thought of an easy solution, use the existing CRT mounting holes to create threaded stands that all the components can be suspended from.

I picked up some 65mm threads and matching bolts from the local hardware store, these were threaded into the original plastic bezel holes.

65mm bolts and nuts used as the main mounting supports
Screw the bolts into the existing CRT mounting holes
All bolts screwed in, but need to  remove the bolt heads

A Dremel solves the problem of the original bolt heads in the way.

A Dremel easily solves the removal of bolt heads

Mount all the LCD TV’s hardware on the first metal sheet.
Mount the LCD TVs electronics, insulating certain areas with tape

I give it a test run and notice a strange vertical white line running down the centre of the LCD, I thought some connection must be loose, but all the wiggling and playing around I was not able to resolve it.

Run another LCD test, for some reason there is a strange white line

I will just have to leave it for now and come back to it later.

Next step is working on the buttons and knobs.

Finishing the bezel and mounting the LCD

A small update to keep things rolling.

I finished sanding the bezel to a state I was quite happy with. The hole was then trimmed as it was slightly too big and the sides were uneven.

Pictures below just before painting.
Computersphere bezel after sanding and trimming
Computersphere bezel after sanding and trimming

First a white undercoat, 2 layers.
White undercoat applied to bezel

Coat of matt black, 2 layers.
Matt black applied to bezel

Final photos of the Videosphere shell with new bezel.
Completed Computersphere bezel
Completed Computersphere bezel

The LCD screen, after having the corners trimmed.
Trimmed LCD corners to fit in the Videosphere
Trimmed LCD corners to fit in the Videosphere

The LCD screen was glued in place, will be cleaned of glue smudges as the end.
LCD screen glued into place, inside of Videosphere
LCD screen glued into place, front of Videosphere

Next, I am looking at connecting the LCD circuitry.

Integrating an LCD TV with the Videosphere

As I previously posted, I purchased a 8.4″ LCD TV for around $150.

Here is the last update for the year, going on holidays and won’t be back till mid January.

I have started to try to mount the LCD TV into the Videosphere. Firstly removed the LCD from the plastic housing
Removing the LCD from the plastic housing

This is a photo of the back of the LCD
Underside of the LCD

First fit test. You would not believe how close this panel is to not fitting. When choosing the TV I only was concerned about the LCD size fitting the hole, I did not think about the housing. Being a cheap quality LCD the housing protrudes a fair bit. You can observe that the housing isn’t quite flush and this is for two reasons, the LCD is slightly too big, and the hole is actually curved due to the curved screen of the original CRT.
Fit testing the LCD to the Videosphere

The way I solved the LCD size problem was grinding the corners down. This was fairly dangerous as it was easy to damage the LCD, I still haven’t tested the LCD to see if it still works. Before grinding I disassembled the metal housing, this was so that I could see where the glass was as you do not want to be grinding that.
Removing the metal housing from the LCD

Here is a photo of the ground corners of the metal housing; I will explain what the cardboard is for next.
Metal housing with corners ground down

This now solved the LCD not fitting problem. The next problem was the gaps caused by the curved hole. This was solved by using car body filler. First I made a cardboard template with the exact same size hole as the Videosphere.
You can observe the LCD metal housing on top of the cardboard below.
Cardboard template created from the metal housing

It was secured to the Videosphere with some tape.
Cardboard template secured with tape
Front of Videosphere with cardboard in place

Car body filler was applied liberally over the cardboard.
Car body filler applied to Videosphere hole

And the sanding process began.
Initial first phase of sanding

I decided to buy myself an early Christmas present to speed things up. $125 from Bunnings, includes the Flex Shaft and 55 accessories.
Dremel 300 boxed

This was the finished results after another layer of car body filler. It took me a while to get used to the Dremel as I was taking too much out of some areas and leaving indents.
Finished result after sanding

I am quite happy with the results so far. This will be painted black making any imperfections harder to see. Below is a photo of the LCD metal housing over the hole. The hole is slightly uneven and small and that will be fixed up next year.
Back of Videosphere with metal housing used for comparison