This is the story of making the new Tiny computer and how it ended up quiet, small and perfect for our needs.
Some years back I made a computer that we called "Tiny". Tiny was to store every document we wanted to keep. Nothing was to be stored on our PCs. That way when we have problems with one of our PCs we can simply reinstall the operating system and any required applications and nothing will be lost.
Tiny had to be always on so I wanted to make it very power efficient. Tiny had to be nice and secure. Tiny had to make our data easily accessible. Tiny had to be easy to back up. But, Tiny should have been nicely packaged and never was. I always figured I'd make the case myself and it was always too challenging and it never got done. Also Tiny should have been quiet but never was. The hard drives were always noisy and Tiny's CPU fan got noisy too.
Even so I'd say that Tiny was a pretty big success. Its very unlikely that a single disaster could wipe our of photo collection or important documents now. Our music is really accessible. We really do put most of our files there out of habit now and our desktops and local document folders are for the most part empty.
When Tiny started to run out of disk space our relatives, visiting from Taiwan, bought us a new drive (this was before we had discovered Akihabara). But unfortunately they bought SATA when Tiny needed IDE so they did not fit. The smart thing to do would have been to just buy a SATA to IDE adapter, but instead I went out and bought a new small motherboard, a silent one with no fan and a nice case to put it in.
The physical assembly of Tiny wasn't too hard really. And given that the first Tiny was such an disaster in that regard the results were tremendous. I wish I had done this ages ago.
What I used:
Via Mini ITX motherboard
Noah compact case
SATA Hard Drive
Internal Power Cable
Compact Flash Adapter*
Compact flash 256 MB*
*you don't need the last two. In fact since I still haven't got them working some might argue its a waste of money.
Here is a look inside the case after I tied off all the cables.
The only tricky part was the internal power cable for the drives (cleverly not pictured here). You'll probably need to screw around with multiple cables to get this right. I got lucky and found an almost perfect cable lying around. It was so perfect I wondered if it came from the case box, but I don't think it did.
Here is the finished physical build of Tiny. Normally, Tiny does not have anything except a network cable attached. If I need to do some work on it then I either SSH into it from my main PC or if need be (hopefully almost never) attach a keyboard, mount and monitor to it and use it like a normal PC.