Category Archives: Projects

I built an HTPC from an old VCR

My latest grand project has come about from a desire to have an integrated home entertainment solution and an inability to find any off-the-shelf product that handles media the way I want it to.wpid-wp-1427424367999.jpg

My first impulse was to build an HTPC in a traditional desktop-style case, but I could not locate one that would fit in my IKEA Besta TV stand. As it happens, I had a cache of old VCRs taking up space in storage after my VHS digitising project, so I grabbed one that would suit well and got to tinkering.

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A few hours of Dremel work and the original RCA and Coaxial ports are replaced with USB and HDMI.
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The front RCA ports made a convenient location to add a couple front USB ports.

┬áThe form factor of the VHS turned out to fit an mATX motherboard and power supply side-by-side almost exactly. Thankfully, there was still plenty of clearance for fans and other internal bits as well. Best of all, the case pays homage to a time in my childhood when the VCR (actually, this exact VCR) was the focal point of entertainment–perhaps even more than the NES that sat next to it. After all, you can’t play Super Mario Bros. and build Lego models at the same time!

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Still a slightly jumbled mess inside, but it works.

With the internals completed, I set about assembling the software suite. XBMC provides the main interface while Firefox and RetroArch supplement functionality for most streaming services and video games. The biggest decision I’ve had to make was whether to build the system on Linux or Windows. I’ve completed comparable versions under both, but I eventually paid for a Windows 7 license to take advantage of the superior graphics processing compatibility provided by Microsoft DirectX as well as eliminate the headache of futzing around with Wine compatibility settings.

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Original serial number and patent labels joined by the ubiquitous “Intel Inside” decal.

The end result is an all-in-one streaming media, local media, classic and modern gaming machine that evokes an aesthetic of an era that is quickly fading into the annals of history.

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The original date of manufacture label: June 1993.
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21 years of reliable service and counting!
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The unit’s cassette door broke off sometime in the late 1990s, so I 3D printed a replacement to seal the innards from dust. I also replaced the original 7-segment display with a USB liquid crystal display.

VHS catalogue digitised. Be on the lookout for some crazy retro nonsense via YouTube in the near future! My parents MIGHT have caught a few of you at Still Elementary sometime in the late 1980s….

VHS catalogue digitised. Be on the lookout for some crazy retro nonsense via YouTube in the near future! My parents MIGHT have caught a few of you at Still Elementary sometime in the late 1980s….

Remember: Keep the tip nuts tight!

This sums me up pretty well

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A still from the never-quite-completed “Math Video.”

The long-lost “lightsaber” sequence.

Just finished a couple of new models

The Munsters’ Coach
Dragula!

Yeah, that’s right, I have an Ubuntu key

Working In The Armoury

What better way to spend a Saturday evening than in your friend’s basement cleaning and restoring weapons?

Meet Eva, a GEW Model 1888 German Commissioned rifle.

Eva is an heirloom weapon, a trophy of war that my grandfather pulled off a dead Nazi somewhere in France. She hadn’t been fired since 1944 and 60+ years in storage had taken its toll on her.

Eva’s disassembled bolt.

In addition to the years of dust and chemical deterioration, Eva’s bolt assembly had fallen apart. Adam did a little research and managed to find a compatible replacement.

Eva’s old, broken firing pin and her new, functional one.
Adam works on Eva’s bolt assembly.

After some minor restorative work on Eva, I needed to do a little work on my Tokarev. I purchased her at a gun show a couple weeks ago and needed to perform a little maintenance after taking her to the range.

Meet Shenyi, a Tokarev Model 238 Chinese 9mm variant. The “contour grips” are original, but I didn’t think they felt right.
This is one of Shenyi’s clips. That earwax-looking stuff on the spring is a substance called Cosmolene. It’s basically a preservative–keeps the metal from corroding while the weapon is in storage. This is why this clip hasn’t been actioning as well as it should.
Disassembled clip soaking in paint thinner to remove Cosmolene.
Look out! Naked Shenyi!
Shenyi with replaced “classic Tokarev” grips. They feel better and keep her balanced better in my small hands. Sure test will come at the range.