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Project Iceberg (v1)

The Hardware...

Of course, no matter how desirable the case is, it is only a home for the boards and hardware that constitute a computer. The system I put together is as follows:

  • Antec 480W TrueBlue PSU
  • Leadtek WinFast K7NCR18D Pro motherboard
  • AMD Athlon XP 3000+ CPU
  • 512Mb DDR RAM (PC2700)
  • ATI Radeon 9700 Pro (128Mb DDR)
  • Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2
  • Maxtor 80Gb 7200RPM HDD ATA133 (x2)
  • Toshiba DVD ROM
  • Matshita DVD Multi Drive
  • Akasa 80mm "Nebula" Fans
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional

With the components mounted, I experienced the "beige curse" again. The FDD and optical drives looked really ugly. Beige and silver just don't compliment each other. I hit Google and searched the planet for drives with silver fascias. Unfortunately, with almost no success. Returning again to the Cool Case Gallery (I really should make this my browser's default page), I looked a little more closely at how others had addressed this problem. Many had simply settled for silver paint. Some had performed the so-called "stealth" mod. Others had employed stick-on bezels. Personally, I didn't like any of these solutions - the painted drives never matched the finish of the case and I am too lazy (and inept) to have tried to stealth the drives. I tried the stick on bezels, but they were nasty, looking very tacky in my opinion.

I finally decided on employing black drives. These are relatively easy to obtain and work really well with the aluminium. I bought a black 3" FDD as a proof of concept. Yes, I liked it, it would work. I will replace the beige optical drives as soon as I can afford to. A black blanking plate for the remaining 5" bay is available from Lian Li.

During the course of my "research" in the Cool Case Gallery, I was intrigued by several computers that had smart, backlit LCD displays in them. These can be programmed to display a wide variety of information, from system stats to local weather reports. Naturally, I wanted one. The Canadian company Matrix Orbital are well known and highly respected for their LCD/VFD displays and I quickly found one I wanted, the BVK202A-4BR-BK. This particular display is easy to install and has a neat programmable keyboard with which all kinds of operations can be performed. I use a program called LCDC to control the display. LCDC interfaces with the motherboard monitor and a multitude of plug-ins in order to present a wealth of information on the LCD - from system information to a WinAmp spectrum analyser. I programmed mine to display, amongst others, the date and time, system uptime (great for bragging), LAN activity and, most importantly, temperatures, voltages and fan speeds. As an added bonus, this module has a black fascia and a blue backlight and thus integrates seamlessly with colour scheme I had chosen with the PC-6089.

The computer had been delivered with a set of Creative Inspire 5.1 (5100) speakers. Once I had transplanted the hardware from its original case into the PC-6089 the smart black speakers complemented the system perfectly and promised a thrilling 5.1 surround sound for games and movies. However, once I'd played 2 or 3 MP3's, I realised that their sound quality was hideous. Music lacked bass, emotion and vitality. Worse still, increasing the volume to Guns 'n' Roses levels and the sound broke down completely, with massive distortion. They were binned immediately and I connected up my trusty Cambridge Soundworks PCWorks FourPointSurround set. I have had these speakers for years, they sound great and can generate a lot of loudness before they start to degenerate. So, I'll stick with these until I can find a 5.1 speaker set (in black or silver) that sounds as good or, hopefully, better (the Klipsch ProMedia DD 5.1 system looks promising...)

The final components of this new system were the all important input devices, the keyboard and mouse. A cordless keyboard and optical mouse set were supplied with the computer. Unfortunately I had two complaints: I don't like cordless peripherals, I have used them in the past and was alarmed at the frequency with which I had to change the batteries, dismayed at the unpredictability of the devices when the batteries began to decay and horrified that the batteries always seemed to die just when I was at my busiest and invariably when the stores were closed. Complaint number two? In-line with the ugly PC case, the keyboard and mouse were, inevitably, beige. Were they binned? Of course...

A little more shopping (by this time my flexible friend was starting to lose its flexibility) and I acquired a Logitech Elite Keyboard and a Logitech Wheel Mouse Optical. I also added a Ratpadz GS mouse-mat ("gaming surface").

The keyboard is terrific and the multimedia control keys are a gift from God. No longer do I have to Alt-Tab through dozens of windows to locate the controls of my media player; I can stop, start, pause, next track, previous track, mute... I can even control the volume... all from a cluster of dedicated keys. What's more, the controls map to various applications, so they work equally well with Windows Media Player as they do with PowerDVD. The keyboard is, however, a dust magnet - you have been warned!

The mouse is accurate and responsive. It's also optical - at last, no more periodic cleaning of a mechanical mouse, the most tedious computer maintenance task of all.

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