The last addition to the "new case" project (my, how it expanded!) was a USB memory card reader that caught my eye in the recent Maplin sale. Although the driver software for my vintage DC120 digicam has coped admirably with Windows 2000, the performance of it's serial interface left a lot to be desired. A new camera is definitely on the cards at some point, but in the meantime even USB V1 performance is a massive improvement. It's advertised as supporting five different formats of memory card, but in effect Secure Digital and MMC are identical, and IBM's MicroDrive is a Compact Flash device, so together with SmartMedia it really only understands three. Even so, this covers my options well - I'm not keen on Sony's proprietary Memory Stick format because of its hard-wired copy protection, so all my current and speculative hardware will be provided for.
The card reader is a wonderfully obscure Far East device, but I finally managed to track it's "KU5 in 1" model number to a company named Avision Labs... Or possibly KingByte. There's a definite connection with the former, as I managed to source (non-working) driver files with their name all over them, but you wouldn't think so from the range of high-end scanners featured on their web site. The latter proved to be a better source, however, providing various driver suites each with their own quirks and irregularities. Eventually I hacked the INF files around enough to combine the driver that didn't take twenty minutes to recognise a newly-inserted card, the device icons that didn't look as if a six year old had designed them, and the uninstaller that was actually capable of finding it's own entries in the registry. It's not perfect, but it's working well enough now and it was extremely cheap...
While I was in the process of rearranging both the PC's internals and the entire room, a huge upcoming delivery of PCs at work prompted an enthusiastic spring-cleaning of the store room to make space for them all. Among the evictees were a handful of wall-mounting 19" network cabinets, retired when their contents grew to overflowing under my care and nurture. My needs at home are a little more modest, however, and I eagerly fell on them to cherry-pick the best of the bunch. It fit very nicely into the gap envisioned for it, and fitted equally well into the ethos of my home network by over-heating almost immediately and forcing me to remove the rather elegant smoked glass door.
The immediate urgency has faded with the summer heat, but I'm still not comfortable stifling it further by replacing the door, and I'm aware that once we turn the central heating on I'll probably have to do something more drastic... a large, slow, mains fan in the roof should cope well enough, I think, without adding significantly to the noise levels - something I'm keen to avoid after such success at reducing the noise from the PC itself. It will make a nice cold winter weekends project
Overall, I'm extremely happy with the new PC. Kustom did a very satisfactory job of pre-modding the case for me, saving me many hours of work and many new frown lines, and I thoroughly recommend the quality of both their work and their expertise.
The SuperFlower case itself is also very well made, and considerable attention had been paid to detail long before Kustom attacked it with saws and files... The aluminium chassis is stiff and stable in spite of it's comparatively light weight, and all the case panels and components click in and out very satisfactorily. The exterior finish is smooth and sexy, and as far as I know the all-black interior is currently unique.
I'm pleased enough with my original design for the system, too, which (somewhat to my surprise, I have to admit!) seems to have exceeded the capacity and usability of the old configuration in a significantly smaller package. All the fiddly wiring and neatening work proved to be very worthwhile, the look of it is extremely pleasing to my eye, and all-in-all it will do very nicely as a first draft.
I'll have to open it up when the tape drive finally arrives, and I'll finalise and tidy the wiring when I install the second pair of lights sometime after that, and there's still the LCD to be installed... but the entire system is virtually at capacity now and I really don't envision much more.
Famous Last Words...
Dominic C. Thomas, October 2002