Creating the Mona-Server Mounting a WHS on plexi-glass & hanging it on the wall by “jvk.”
I’ve never been a traditional type of guy, I guess that is why I’m taking on this project. While listening to podcast #93, someone (I believe it was Jim) mentioned that he was thinking of mounting one of his servers on plexi-glass and hanging it on the wall. Absolutely brilliant!!! I just happened to have a lot of hardware laying around that I will be using to build my next WHS when vail is finally released as a product, so I thought why not, lets build the Mona-Server and make a piece of art out of it (form and function in one).
To build the Mona-Server I bought a piece of Plexi-glass at home depot and a cheap frame at Ross.
A quick cut with the circular saw and I have the plexi-glass mounted in the frame.
To hide some of the wires, and make the frame appear to float on the wall, the frame will be attached to a 3/4″ piece of plywood.
The plywood backing will also give me a place to mount the DVD drive in. Here the recess for the drive is being marked.
This is a shot of the backside of the frame with the plywood backing attached and the dvd recess cut.
The picture below shows the dvd drive mounted in the frame.
Here is a side view of the dvd drive mounted in the plywood backing. When the dvd drive is closed it will not be visible since the side of the plywood backing will be painted black to match the frame and dvd drive bezel.
This picture shows the general layout of the main components (Motherboard, dvd drive, and hard drive.
So that is as far as I have gotten this weekend. The next steps are to lightly sand the plexi-glass so that it takes on a frosted appearance. The plywood frame will be painted black on the side and back, and the face that is visible thru the plexi-glass will be white. The motherboard will be mounted on standoffs that will be glued to the plexi-glass using a product called “weldon #4″. I used this stuff before on my salt water reef tank, and basically it chemically melts the two pieces of plexi-glass together. The server will be set up to accept 3 or maybe 4 2.5″ hard drives and they will be mounted to plexi-glass drive cages that will also be glued like the Mother board standoffs. a large hole will be drilled in the center behind the motherboard to allow for wires to pass thru. A hole will also be drilled behind each drive for the power and SATA cables. I am also thinking about putting some LED lights around the perimeter of the plexi-glass so that it kind of glows and maybe a few LEDs behind the frame so it has an indirect lighting affect. As far as a powersupply is concerned, I really don’t want to mount a bulky ATX powersupply on the wall so I am opting for a Pico PSU. Basically, the Pico PSU clips into the ATX motherboard connector and the actual powersupply itself is an external brick.
Here is a picture of a Pico PSU I have mounted in another project.
I know what you are thinking, will it have enough power? The Pico PSU puts out 160 watts, and by my calculations, the computer with 3 drives, a dvd drive, the dual core CPU, Memory, and the Motherboard itself will draw about 140 watts under load. Additionally my current WHS (a single core in a chenbro case) with 3 3.5″ drives runs on an external powersupply, and my media center PC in the bedroom also runs on an external brick powersupply.
Here are the hardware stats…
ASUS M4A785-M motherboard
AMD Athlon II X2 250 3.0GHz Socket AM3 Dual Core Processor
2 GB RAM
3 2.5″ Hard Drives
Slim DVD writter
PICOPSU-160-XT Powersupply with external PowerBrick
Here I have a drive mounted in one of the cages. This cage will later be glued to the plexi-glass surface along side the motherboard.
You might notice that I “frosted” the plexiglass by lightly sanding it.
The picture below you can see one of the drive cage parts before and after sanding
All the plexi-glass will be sanded in this project, this serves 2 purposes. First it helps me hide imperfections in my work as well as it helps to disguise the locations of wires. Second, when I get the LEDs put in the side of the frame, the rough surface should help pick up and reflect the LED light.
The only other thing I did today was begin to markout where on the Plexi-glass face the mother board will be mounted. I also drilled the main wire pass thru hole that will be used to run the wires behind the motherboard.
Tomorrow I’m off to home depot again to get some hardware and acrylic rod which I will use 9/16″ lengths of to act as Mother Board standoffs. I also placed an order yesterday with Directron.com for the Lights, powerswitch for the lights, a DVD riser card for the slim dvd drive and finally a powerswitch for the computer itself.
I was wondering how I was going to attach the frame to the plywood backing, first I thought of using glue, but then that would be permanent and if I needed to take it apart to swap out the dvd drive, I would be out of luck. In keeping with the form and function in one theme, I decided to thru-bolt the frame to the plywood backing with atique brass looking furniture fittings.
Here you can see the frame attached to the plywood backing for the first time…
Here is LED Lighting power switch with some scrap hardware I had laying around to serve as a mount.
Here is the switch and mounting hardware assembled.
Motherboard Power switch and LED lighting switch installed in plywood backing.
This is the glue that I am using to weld acrylic to acrylic.
Notice that label… I accidently dripped a little and it is very destructive. If you ever try to use this stuff, use it at your own risk!!! I am in no way qualified to be working with this stuff and I take a lot of care to use gloves and eye protection. If you would like to learn more about working with acrylic I highly recomend checking out Melev’s Reef. This guy is a master at working with acrylic!
It might be hard to see, but here I have glued small brackets to the acrylic face to serve as shims to hold the acrylic tightly between the frame and the plywood backing.
I finally got everything marked out the way I want it. We have decided to go with 3 2.5″ drives. The mother board (a micro ATX) will be mounted in a diamond shape, and the drives will be along the perimenter. I/O Ports will be facing down towards the DVD drive so I can plug cables in easily if necessary.
Marking everything was a snap since the acrylic is clear… Mark it on the back with a dry erase marker, and you can see it from the front. When things are glued up, just erase the lines on the back.
Here the first hard drive is being glued to the acrylic face.
After the glue dries a few hours later, this is the result. (The drive is screwed to the acrylic mounts so it can be easliy removed.)
Here you can see how the wires are run behind the drive. I chose a yellow SATA cable in honor of the Lakers Win!
This is what the drive cage looks like from the side.
In this picture, you can see the 1/2″ long acrylic standoffs that I made versus more traditional motherboard standoffs (sometimes called “jack screws”)
I needed my standoffs to be taller so I can run wires behind the motherboard. I happened to be pre-drilling the holes for the motherboard screws when I noticed that the LED light on my cordless drill was illuminating the acrylic. This is the exact effect that I am going for when I mount the LEDs to the Mona Server in the future.
Notice that the sanded acrylic rod picks up the LED light and reflects it, pretty cool! Hopefully my LED lights will have the same effect.
Another angle of the illuminated acrylic.
I also worked on the last bit of fabrication of the plywood backing.
This hole will hold the power plug from the brick powersupply.
This shot shows the power plug installed and wires fished thru the plywood backing.
Finally done with the fabrication, now on to the paint booth (my patio next to the BBQ grill).
I also finished sanding or “frosting” the plexi-glass today.
Here you can see all the motherboard standoffs and drive cage brackets attached and sanded
Here you can see the motherboard attached to the acrylic (this shot is taken from the back side)
The 1/2″ space between the acrylic backing and the motherboard serves as a great place to run wires.
With the motherboard and two hard drives mounted, I can begin to run wires. The goal here is to hide as many of the wires as possible.
I kind of want to use this as a teaching tool to people that don’t know that much about computers or windows home server. We are going for a simple clean look that will make it easy for people understand how it works. For example, different colored SATA cables help viewers follow which wire is for what drive.
This is one of the custom wiring harnesses that I made, this particular one powers 2 hard drives…
Here is the plwyood back board freshly painted. Just a little touchup and then I’ll attach the DVD drive…
Here is a shot of the back of the Mona Server – the silver brackets at the top hold it to the wall.
And Finally I get to hang Mona on the wall!
It really took a moment for me to re-assure myself that it was ok to let go when I hung it on the wall, I mean, what would happen if it dropped. The mounts are screwed into the studs in the wall so it is very sturdy.
A Side view of Mona
Here the DVD drive is open… If you look close, you can see a fresh copy of Vail Beta in the drive
Believe it or not, this is the side that the DVD drive, power switch, and LED light switch are on. They kind of disappear into the shadows.
And now the moment everyone has been waiting for…
I took it off the wall to do the install… actually I put it on the floor.
A picture of the DVD drive humming along…
A Closeup of the Pico PSU and memory…
The plans are that when VAIL is a real product, this will be my new WHS. When it comes time, I’ll probably move it to a better location on the wall and modify the wall to have a little inlet where there will be a plug and network port built in behind the Mona Server.
I decided to glue the LED lights into the acrylic backing and partially into the motherboard standoffs. To do this I drilled small holes into the acrylic for the LEDs and then glued them in place. Originally I tried hot glue, but I was concerned about how permant the bond would be. Additionally I was worried that if the LEDs got too warm, the glue might melt, so instead I opted for plain old Krazy glue (cyanoacrylate)
Gluing the LEDs inplace…
Here the LEDs are begining to be soldered
And here is the custom wiring job after the soldering and heat shrinking is complete… I know, it is a lot of wires but all of them are hidden from view in the front.
So its done!!! I tested the lights with a pair of AA batteries (putting out 3 volts combined) and the lights look sweet! All that is left to do is plug it in for a final time and test the operation of the light switch and we are done!!!
So I put mona on the floor so I can plug in a mouse, keyboard and a monitor to do the final test.
USB mouse plugged in…. check
USB keyboard plugged in…. check
VGA monitor cable plugged in…. check
Network cable plugged in…. check
Brick powersupply plugged into mona….
Thats funny, when I plugged in the brick powersupply I got a spark where the brick plugs into the special round power fitting in the plywood backing of Mona and all the blue LED lights that I just installed flashed for a second. Oh well, its plugged in now, but Mona didn’t power on. With this model Pico PSU, the first time it gets plugged in, it always powers on the computer, but mona isn’t turned on. Hmmmm…. I push the power button and Mona doesn’t turn on.
Ok now I’m starting to get worried. I unplug the power cable from the surge protector and plug it into another plug and it was like the 4th of July. All the Blue LED lights started twinkeling (which they are not supposed to do) and smoke starts emnating from the back of the acrylic panel where the LED lights are glued. (insert your favorite combination of explectives here…) I’m frying mona! Quickly in a panic I flip off the LED light switch but it was too late, smoke was now lingering in the air and the smell of buringing Krazy glue now stained my pride in the Mona-Server project. Not Mona, it can’t be!!!!
With my head in my hands, kneeling on the floor, I think to myself how could I be so stupid, why didn’t I check the voltage of the SATA power wire that I tapped into to power the LED lights? Why didn’t I spend the time to calculate the voltage loads, why why why!!! Now my project is ruined… but wait, what is that sound, i look up at the Motherboard and see that the CPU fan is still spinning, and the red light on the back of the DVD drive is still on, and the little green light on the mother board is illuminated, I don’t know what it means, but it is on!!! Could it be? It can’t be… but a glance at the monitor confirmed my hopes, this windows home server logon screen!
Mona didn’t experience a toasty demise after all!!! Lesson learned, never again will I trudge along without testing twice before turning on the power switch, especially after “McGyvering” something together.
Editor note: The day-to-day building of Mona-Server by “jvk” can been seen in the forums here.