Saturday, January 14, 2017

PC Upgrade - Mounted System Stats Display

I have been running my current Custom PC setup for about 6 months, and for the most part, have been very pleased with everything.  The only issue I have faced, is the small display I mounted to show system stats has very poor viewing angles, making it hard to see from where I sit/stand.

I also have received more questions about that particular part of my system than any other post both on this blog and my YouTube channel. So I decided to upgrade that particular component, and archive the entire process.  In addition to the info on this post, I will also make an overview video and posts it at the bottom.

The previous display was a 9in LCD panel. The new one, is a Toguard 10.1 Inch IPS display.  Here is the Amazon Link.  It is almost twice the cost of the 9in one, but the panel quality is a LOT better, so worth it in my opinion.

Here is a picture from the back.  The 9in was a bit easier to mount as it had a camera/tripod mounting hole, that I secured it to the GPU bracket with.  This new display has no such mount, but does have 4 mounting holes on the back of the display.

From the bottom you can see the various connectors.  All I am concerned with are the 12V DC power port, and the HDMI input.

The front plastic made to look like brushed aluminum. I probably would have left it as is, if it weren't for the TOGUARD logo. So I covered just the front bezel with my Carbon Fiber Vinyl wrap.

I gave it a quick test before making the mounting bracket just to verify everything would work the way I needed it to.  Here we are showing connections from the PC to the Display.  Note the 12V DC  plug is coming directly from a 4pin Molex connection that I wired specifically to power this display.

The initial tests passed with flying colors.  Not yet mounted, but running CAM perfectly.  On to the mounting bracket construction.

To make the bracket, I grabbed some sheet metal that I had left over from another project.  I measured both the exterior dimensions and the location of the mounting screw holes.

Once I had everything marked, cut out the piece, drilled the holes, and used my bench vise to make a nice 90 degree bend to accommodate mounting the display under the GPU bracket.

To secure the display to the mounting bracket, I am using M4-7 socket cap screws, and a few washers.  The length was a bit too long, as the mounting holes were not very deep, so I used some nuts to shorten the length of the screws.

After everything was drilled, cut, and bent, added a few passes of black spray paint to match the color theme of the PC build.  Also shown here is the 6mm screw I used to secure the mounting plate to the GPU bracket.

Here is the hole I drilled in the GPU bracket.

And here is where the 6mm screw will go.

With the mounting plate secured the the GPU bracket, we can now attache the display.

Here is a shot from the back to show how the screws are securing the display to the case.

And a final shot from the front to show the new upgraded display installed and running CAM.

I will show in the video more detail on how to get the NZXT CAM Monitoring software up and running, but just for reference, here is what my displays look like, with this new on set up as the 4th monitor of my system. Desktop Screen Capture of all 4 monitor.

Here is the video.  If you have any questions be sure to hit me up in the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

TableTop Arcade - Final Build Pics

Project Index

Final Build Pics

Thanks for sticking it out for the duration of the build log.  Here are the final build pics from various angles. 




Thought it would also be appropriate to add some "in-action" pics as well.  On the left my 4yr old daughter playing "Bonk's Adventure", on the right my 7yr old son and some neighbor friends enjoying some multiplayer battles on "Golden Axe". 

I am going to put together a video walk-through of the cabinet, and hope to have it posted soon. Thanks for taking a look, and if you have any questions, hit me up in the comments below.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

TableTop Arcade - Wiring and Wrapping Up

Project Index

Button and Joystick Wiring

Almost done! Adding the buttons on top of the acrylic went pretty well, but I lost the use of 2 buttons. My measurements didn't account for the fact the bottom of the joystick is pretty deep, and it conflicted with one of the buttons.  Not a huge deal, as it was only to change "Save States", but still a bummer when things don't go as planned.  As can be seen below, using a plug in the hole since a button won't work. 

In an earlier post, I showed the USB Encoders that came with my Button kit.  All the gaming buttons worked great with the existing encoders, and most people would be perfectly fine with that kit.  My issue is they didn't allow for the use of "Admin" buttons which is what I was planning on using the 5 buttons on the front of the arcade cabinet for. So instead of losing the functionality of all those buttons, I decide to upgrade the USB Encoders to an Ultimarc I-PAC 2.  Also ordered a few wiring kits to go with it.  I could have done it myself, but saved myself a ton of time by just spending an extra $5 on the kits instead. 

Setup is pretty stright forward.  Each of the button switches has a ground terminal and a signal terminal. I ran a daisy-chained black wire as my ground between the buttons and back to the 1st pin on the IPAD "GND".  Then I ran the color wires from the signal terminals of the switches back to their corresponding pins on the IPAC. Player 1 controls are on the left, Player 2 controls on the right.  Bottom 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B are some of the "Admin" controls I mentioned earlier.  Scroll down a bit for a more detailed explanation and diagram of how I wired stuff together. 

This is a picture of the cabinet on its back, bottom facing out.  Although I have an access panel cut in the back to allow for quick changes, the amount of wiring I just did justified more space to work in. Cleaned everything up the best I could using Velcro ties and adhesive Velcro strips to mount the Raspberry PI and Power Strip. 

With all the wiring completed and the cabinet 95% put together, had to do a bit of work on the control configuration for the new USB Encoder.  The default settings worked fine for some gaming systems, but others were having a hard time as some of the action buttons were being seen as keyboard keys such as "Shift", "Ctrl", "Alt", etc.  Using the IPAC programming utility, I changed some of the pins to read as different keys that were more universally friendly, and made sure my admin buttons were set to function as I originally intended.  

Below is a screen shot of the Excel document I put together to help me sort out what needed to be changed, and verify that everything was matching up to where it should. 

With that completed, there will still be a few configuration items I will have to address due to the new USB Encoder for the actual gaming systems, but those are simple enough and I will take care of that at a later time. 

Finishing Touches

With all of the internal parts of the build taken care of, moving on to a few remaining items to close out the project.  The access panel was cut and painted already, but took the time to add a piano hinge and latch to the back.  

Since the innards are done, I also went ahead and attached the bottom to the arcade cabinet.  Didn't use glue or brad nails here, just small wood screws.  Screws were used so that I can easily access the wiring area if I ever had to made any large changes again, or repair anything that would be too difficult to get to via the access hatch. 

With that, the build is done!  Next post, FINAL BUILD PICs, and a video walk through of the completed cabinet. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

TableTop Arcade - Artwork, Speakers, Marquee

Project Index


    With the cabinet assembled and painted we can now wire up all of the buttons and joysticks. Before I can add the buttons, we need to apply the vinyl artwork to the controller top and front panels.  We will also install the side panel artwork and marquee logo. 

    Using Photoshop I built templates for all of the included parts. Using a dark background for the sides, I started adding layer after layer of classic gaming characters.  My kids had a say in a few of them, but most are from before their time.  

    For the top of the Controller Board, I found a template that I modified to work for my panel.  I am already doing a black /blue theme, so I am good with the design. Also added some button labels to make it easy to identify certain actions. 

    The front Controller Board was a mixture of design elements. I found the background online, and really like the high res Mario World look it has. It was a bit sparse so I added a few characters from the Mario catalog, along with some more labels fir various menu buttons. 

    The last bit if artwork will be for the back lit marquee.  I will be installing and LED light strip behind it so it will glow when turned on. I wanted it to have a similar look to the classic NES logo, but still incorporate the name and color theme of this project. I was able to find a similar font to the original logo, and come up with this. 

    After finishing all of the different parts, I added them to a 48in x 24in canvas, doing some tetris work to get them to all fit. I then flattened all the layers and exported to an Adobe Illustrator format so the vinyl printer could use it.  Printing cost for adhesive vinyl was about $50 for the entire project. 

    Turn around time was only about 2 days. Ended up doing a matte finish as I didn't want it to be overly shiny.  Here is the adhesive vinyl roll that I picked up once the artwork had been printed. This particular kind of vinyl has micro openings across the surface, making it easier to work out air bubbles during application. 

    Application was pretty easy, just took a bit of prep work and time.  After cutting out all of the individual pieces, I prepped the wood painted surfaces by lightly sanding with 220 sand paper.  This light sanding just ensures I don't have any paint bumps under the vinyl. 

    After sanding, wipe the surface down with a wet rag and allow to fully dry.   Peel the vinyl along one of the longer straight edges and line it up with the panel edge.  Slowly work your way along the surface, using a rag to push out any air bubbles that get caught underneath. Depending on how good the artwork / panel measurements line up, you may have to do some trimming.  A hobby knife made the few areas I had to fix, very easy to work with. Be patient with both application and trimming, and you will have a great looking applied in no time. 

    With the vinyl installed, we will put the acrylic on top of both the controller boards (top and front). This will not only protect the artwork, but keeps the surface smooth after hours of dirty kids hands mashing buttons. We will show that in more detail once we install the buttons. 

    Speaker & Marquee Installation

    I already showed how I made the speaker grill in a previous previous blog post.  Now that everything has been painted, I can add the USB speakers that will provide sound for the arcade cabinet.  Before I can attach the speakers, I need to add the lighting elements for the marquee.

    The vinyl has been applied we can sandwich the acrylic on top of the controller areas and start adding the buttons. 

    In an attempt to get a more uniform light source, I added reflective tape to the inside of the marquee area of the cabinet. Applied it to the back, and the top then ran the adhesive LED strips along the back.  I cut the LED strip into 2 parts, and wired them to allow for 2 rows along the back. 

    With the light strips installed, I can now add the USB speakers.  There are lots of ways I could have done this, but decided to just use a hot glue gun to secure them in place.  I then ran the cables out the hole in the picture to be plugged into the Raspberry Pi at the bottom of the cabinet. 

    With everything secured and the light source installed, I had to figure out a way to attached the acrylic panel and the marquee artwork. I didn't want this to be a permanent install as I might need to get in there and change things in the future.  So I decided to go with some magnets and washers superglued to the acrylic to hold everything in place.  

    I was a little worried they wound't be strong enough, but after everything dried and I was able to test it out, no worries at all.  It locks in place really well, and I can take it on and off with out issue. 

    Here is a picture of the marquee installed with the magnets.  Not showing the light source behind it in this pic, but will be sure to do so in a later post. 

    Now moving on to button install and wiring everything up. 

    Friday, November 18, 2016

    TableTop Arcade - Assembly, Electrical, and Painting

    Project Index


      Now that all of our wood pieces have been cut out and prepped, its time to start putting this thing together!  This part was a bit more tricky than I had anticipated, and took a lot of trial and error to get everything to line up perfectly.  The idea is to use small wood "batons" to act as supports and stops for the various panels.

      The picture below shows how they are used to block the various panels into place.  The key is to stat with one side first, get everything lined up how you want it, and mark your joints.  Then mark those same joints on the other side before you start gluing or nailing anything down.  I used painters tape to hold everything together while testing out the fit of my markings just to be sure.

      After you have marked both sides, and are pleased with the fit, its time to secure everything to the panels. I used a combination of wood glue and brad nails. You can probably get away with just using wood glue, but with an air compressor, putting in a few brad nails for extra support is an easy task.

      Once all of the batons were secure and in place, its time to begin putting everything together. Starting with the monitor panel, I worked my way around the cabinet, gluing and clamping down the various pieces as can be seen below. If your measurements are good, everything will fit together neatly.  Keep things clamped together for at least a few hours before you move the cabinet.  I recommend letting it sit with the clamps on overnight.

      Electrical Wiring

      With the cabinet assembled and the glue drying, it went ahead and added the modular power inlet.  This using a standard computer / monitor power cable, which I then wired directly to a surge protected power strip.  

      Pretty simple to install, just cut a hole to fit, and after a bit of file work, made sure that it went in nice and snug. Don't screw it in yet, as we need to paint before securing this to the cabinet. 

      Once I was sure it could be mounted in the hole correctly, I started the wiring process.  I removed the wall plug end from the power strip and wired it to the inlet switch as shown below.  I chose to use female spade adapters instead of directly soldering the connections.  Note that there is more than one way to wire this switch, but the way shown here will allow the switch to light up when turned on. 

      Painting & T-Molding

      With the cabinet fully assembled and the glue dry, its time to paint!  I have seen people use cans of spray paint for this part, but this MDF really sucks up the paint, and you will go through a lot of cans of spray paint to cover properly.  My wife had recently painted all of our interior doors black using a sprayer, so I used the left over paint and her sprayer to take care of my paint job.  Would have done it outside, but the temperature has started to drop, so did it in the insulated garage, with some plastic protection applied.

      I gave the paint a solid 24 hours to dry before I moved the cabinet from the garage, back down to my project room.  With everything coated in a nice black finish, next step is to add the T-Molding.  I am using 3/4in T-molding to match the width of the side panels. Using a rubber mallet, I slowly worked my way around both sides.  When getting to a corner, I nipped a bit of the insert to make it easier to get flush corner bends as shown below. 

      Here we have a picture of everything painted black, and the T-Molding installed.  If you have seen any of my other projects, you will know that I am a bit fan of Black/Blue themes.  It looks great with the T-Molding installed against the black paint.  The T-Molding also served as protection for the edges of the MDF, and adds a bit of grip to the bottom keeping the cabinet from sliding around.

      With most of the exterior work completed, next step is to install the display. This was tricky due to the built in speakers this monitor has.  I'm not  planning on using the built-in speakers but they increase the length of the monitor enough that I couldn't mount it without conflicting with the controller board buttons. 

      The solution was to flip/rotate the display 180 degrees as shown below.  I used the existing VESA holes on the back of the LCD to mount a piece of pine to the back. Then used additional wood pieces to create a bracket, using glue and brad nails to keep everything secure. 

      And here it is, with the screen installed. As mentioned before, I had to rotate the display 180 degrees to make it work in this cabinet. Doing this on the Raspberry Pi is really easy, and here are the steps:
      • Plug in a USB keyboard and power on the Pi
      • Once EmulationStation has booted, hit F4 to launch the command console 
      • Type the following in the command line to edit the Configuration file:
        • sudo nano /boot/config.txt
      • Now add the following to the bottom of the configuration file and save:
        • display_rotate=2

      Go ahead and reboot, and the display will show right-side up (on your upside down screen)! If you ever need to revert back, setting display_rotate to 0 or deleting the line will set everything back to normal.

      Next up is the artwork and installing all of the buttons.