Look – no fans!

Fanless PC

So I finally changed the last parts in my media center to make it completely silent. I have already installed two 300w Silverstone fanless power supplies. Why two? Because one power the mainboard, graphic card and boot disk. The other one power the extra disks and the DVD drive. Now I installed a Thermaltake Sonic Tower on the CPU and a Thermaltake Schooner fanless cooler on the graphic card.

The graphic card cooler needed some horrible and very manual hacks to fit on my old Geforce 6600GT AGP. Anyway, now my system has only one fan. A 120 mm that is running very slow to push some air over the CPU cooler. I tried without any fans as well. It gave 70 degrees celcius on the CPU during 100% load over several hours. That’s a bit high. Even for my old AMD Athlon XP 3200+

With the fan (that is practically noiseless) the CPU temperature is about 50 degrees during 100% load and 35 degrees during normal use. The graphic card stays at about 60 degrees. It can manage very high temperatures, so 60 is no problem.

The result is that the media center now is completely silent and 100% stable. It can run 24/7 in our living room without anyone noticing it.

If you want to know how to mount a Thermaltake Schooner CL-G0009 on an XFX GeForce 6600 GT AGP please drop me a line in a comment. It’s ugly, but it works. Have a look at the images and you understand.

Modified GPU cooler Modified GPU cooler

And, to fit the Thermaltake Sonic Tower CL-P0071 on the CPU I had to modify the north bridge cooler on my ABIT-AN7 mainboard as well…

CPU Cooler Thermaltake Sonic CPU Cooler Thermaltake Sonic

Now I think I’ll let that box alone for a while. The next upgrade will be some kind of digital decoder to replace the Hauppauge PVR-500 card and maybe some testing of SageTV

Look – no fans!

The multi touch screen revisited


Link to video.

I guess many of you have seen this video on YouTube already. An amazing piece of input device. It is on display here at Siggraph and I can’t say much more than WOW! After trying it I can confirm that it works just as well as it looks like in the video.

The guys behind it are setting up a company and hope to put it into production. Where can I buy shares?

The multi touch screen revisited

A cheap portable DVD and DivX player

Thomson DTH620
Thomson DTH 620
Travelling with kids can be anything from very rewarding and fun to a complete nightmare. Kids are in general very curious and easy to please as things happen around them on the way to a new destination. You always have the traditional games of spotting and counting special objects, following the map, telling stories etc.. If you combine these methods with some new technologies like MP3-players, iPods and portable DVD-Players you could end up managing even quite long trips with no problems.

I have written about the long plane ride and the iPod. In our car we have used a ridiculously cheap little LCD that I bought on eBay connected to my video iPod to show movies. Now the youngest one is old enough to understand what’s going on and we needed a second screen. I don’t want anything very expensive lying around in my car, so I went completely against my own rules of buying quality goods and bought a cheap portable DVD player as the second monitor. I haven’t put it on any hard tests yet, but it seems to fit in perfectly well in our media system in the car.

Thomson DTH 620 connectorsQuick specs:
– 7 inch widescreen
– DVD Player
– Supports DivX, Xvid, MP3, WMA
– Composite video out
– Stereo audio out
– Digital audio out
– Composite video in
– Stereo audio in
– Two headphone connectors
– A three hour battery

It connected to the old Eddie Bauer LCD with no problems. The old screen is NTSC only, but you can choose what signal the DTH620 will transmit on the video output.

So, pop in a DVD in the Thomson player, connect it to another screen as well, and you have the movie on both of them.

LCD screen connected to an iPod VideoConnect it to the video output on your video iPod and you suddenly have a 7 inch portable screen for your iPod. The battery life of the screen is three hours. Probably longer when you use it as a screen only (as long as your iPod provides the video the built in DVD player in the DTH 620 is at rest).

The fact that it plays DivX and Xvid is very nice. I encode my DVDs using AutoGK and end up with between 5 and 10 complete movies on one data DVD (450-700 mb pr. movie is more than enough for this little screen). The DTH620 shows a list of what’s on the DVD and let you choose movie. And I can fit in enough MP3 music and audio books for a veeeery long trip on one DVD as well.

The only problem I have found so far is that I can’t figure out how to get the right aspect on DivX movies that is encoded in true 16/9. It seems like the player only support anamorphic 16/9. Using AutoGK to encode I fix this by hitting Ctrl-F9 to bring up the “hidden options” and check off “.aspect” – Override input AR – Original. Then AutoGK will make a nice anamorphic 16/9-movie that plays fine on the DTH620.

I also miss a loop-through possibility that would let me input video from my iPod and loop it further on to the next screen. To feed both screens with one iPod I need to split the signal (not good) or buy an active video splitter. Anyway, right now the youngest boy wants to look at Teletubbies while the older one watch Nemo or Madagascar. One from a DVD and one from one of our iPods.

It came with a bag and a strap to mount it on the headrest. As well as a charger and connector for the car. I bought mine in Norway at the sometimes horribly expensive and sometimes very cheap Elkjøp for NOK 1295,- (about $200).

Time will show how long this player will last…

A cheap portable DVD and DivX player

Building a quiet bleeding edge PC

Zalman CPU Cooler

Yesterday ExtremeTech featured an article about building a quiet but high performing computer for gaming. When building a computer that you want to place in your living room as a media center the question of noise is more important than the question of performance.

You need some power, but not the same kind of bleeding edge processor and graphics that gamers need to drive their advanced 3D action.

That’s why it’s interesting to have a look at people that have tried to silence a very powerful PC. By using the same methods and simply replacing some of the components with slightly lower performing components you can end up with a seriously silent media center PC.

Of course there’s always the question of looks. The important wife acceptance factor (WAF). The computer that ExtremeTech have built does not fit in on top of your amplifier. It looks too much like a regular PC. To solve that, I can simply recommend my own solution: a well ventilated cabinet with a silent fan in a noise reducing mount.

(Via Slashdot)

Building a quiet bleeding edge PC

Recommended HTPC hardware


Because hardware changes fast it is difficult to make a list of recommendations that will last more than a couple of weeks. But people keeps asking, so here’s a quick list of some good equipment if you want to build yourself a home theatre computer.

The expensive but perfect:
mCubed HFX

The cheaper one:
Silverstone LC03 (review)

Power supply
Silverstone ST30NF (review)

Hauppauge PVR-500

Screen card
Nvidia GeForce 6600GT (review)
I don’t know if this card fits in any of the cabinets recommended here. My main message is: choose a Nvidia GeForce 6600GT that is as silent as possible but still will fit into the case you choose.

As powerful AMD Athlon 64 as you can afford. The AMD processors has a “cool’n quiet” technology that makes them perfect for HTPCs. Lately people have also started using Pentium M processors in HTPCs. The selection of mainboards that support the Pentium M is not big, but this processor is perfect for a silent computer for your living room.

at least 512 MB (preferably 1 GIG)

As large as possible. Cool. Quiet. In general the seagate Barracuda 7200 disks has been quite good. The best qolution is to mount the disk in a 5 1/4″ bay in a special silencer to avoid vibrations. The Nexus DiskTwin is a good choice.

Fans and coolers
Zalman has a good selection of silent coolers and fans

Complete systems
Hush Technologies has fanless HTPC systems
In Norway a company caled Vendur can deliver complete fanless systems
For small media servers Mini-ITX.com is a good source
Niveus media has some beautiful and expensive systems
Voodoo Media Centers are also worth a look

But these things change fast and you should always do a bit of research before buying. Some good resources:
Good Media Center Blogs
AVS Forum

Recommended HTPC hardware

The silence of the fans

Cabinet Closed Cabinet Open

I have my HTPC and the amplifiers inside a cabinet in the living room. The cabinet is well wentilated and has a specially mounted fan in the bottom to push air though it.

I have described the cabinet here and the mounting of the fan here. To put it short the fan is mounted in rubber bands to eliminate vibrations and noise.

Rubber bands

However, I should have said “was mounted”. The problem is that rubber bands need maintenance. Of course I could try to find better quality rubber bands, but I have choosen another soultion. It works fine so far, so I decided to post a little “How-to” for the people that might want to build something similar.
To fix this mess I used a perforated strip and some parts from a kit for silencing fans and hard drives:


Mounting the fan using these parts you get rid of nearly all vibrations and can have a fan that push a lot of air through your cabinet. I’ll let the pictures talk for themselves and keep the comment option open for the people that have questions.
Continue reading “The silence of the fans”

The silence of the fans

My brief encounter with a Creative Zen Touch

I recently bought a Creative Zen Touch. My plan was to use it for podcast listening, audiobooks and music. A good price, 24 hour battery life and a nice and sturdy construction tempted me. As my regular readers may know, I run a quite advanced media system at home, built on Windows Media Center Edition. The only reason for not buying an Apple iPod was that I wanted a player that could communicate as seamless as possible with my existing media. The Zen Touch plays WMA including the files with DRM. According to all the reviews I found a firmware upgrade was due some time late 2004 to make the Creative Zen Touch fully Microsoft “plays for sure” compliant.

And, yes. I was naive. I did not do my homework…
Continue reading “My brief encounter with a Creative Zen Touch”

My brief encounter with a Creative Zen Touch