Electronics kick: Quiet computers and Arduino kits?

Good old power wires for the CPU motherboard. These things always confuse me because they look so similar and could plug into the mobo pins easily. Thankfully, they are labeled. Photo: Edmund Tse, CC BY 2.0

Been busy lately looking into building computers and Ardunio kits. Yep, I’ve been on an electronics kick. The break from everything has been good and I thought I’d provide a little info here about what I’d learned.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

I bought some new speakers a while back for the living room. I considered an under $200 bookshelf project for the living room but choose a brand at a local store and ended up paying a lot more. That’s not to say cost = better. It’s just that they were expensive.

They sound good but I don’t have my digital music in the living room and I would like to add a small PC in there.

I don’t have a lot of room and know that small is the keyword here.

A home theater computer — i.e., HTPC — is the answer. They’ve been around a while, and from what I’ve read they are quiet and unobtrusive.

I’m sure you know that it seems like most computers are so loud with their fans whirling at a million miles a minute and not to mention hard disk drives.

So I’ve been reading. Reading a lot. One site is silentpcreview.com. I’ve also came across a couple other good ones.

On one of the sites, I read that a good alternative to loud fans is using good, quiet computer fans rated at lower RPMs. The voltage can be lowered to make them spin slower with a fan controller or a little wiring changes.

One bad thing I found is that 120mm or 140mm fans, which normally spin slower from the start, don’t normally fit in a small HTPC case, which sucks — unless you plunk down some serious coin or build your own case.

There are some really cool designs out there as well as DIY information about getting the quietest possible unit by using those quiet fans but also trying to minimize heat in a CPU. One way to do that is use high quality thermal paste.

There’s a lot of comparisons about thermal paste and its benefits on the Web.

It’s also good to pick a CPU that uses minimal wattage, which decreases heat, and choosing to use the onboard video can reduce the need for a graphics card and make it a little easier on the wallet because of other projects like an arduino kit.

Arduino’s an open source company and community that designs and makes micro-controller kits that allows you to build small computers and program it to do cool stuff. There’s a ton of examples on the Arduino site but a small computer fan controller is one that interested me.

I also saw a video about a guy who automated a chicken coop so he does not have to feed them or shut or open the door every day. It’s total automation and pretty cool.

This kind of sparked the imagination. Just using the “related videos” on YouTube, I ended up finding a lot of cool projects like the automated chicken coop.

Another one that I liked was about an oscilloscope. If you ever look at the prices of oscilloscopes, it’s expensive as all get out.

While I was looking at electronics bits, I came across a guide to buying a hobbyist oscilloscope and I also came across a couple YT videos. Here’s one of them.

It was like $60 bucks or so to build according to the uploader. Not shabby when cheap ones cost $500 bucks and high end ones cost 4 and 5 figure amounts.