Chuck's Cool Reviews and Info

Projects, news and stuff going on. Pictures link is to the right.

Construct A Portable Cooler Stereo

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--Chuck Update from the future-- 1-26-2022 - I still use this cooler every time I am in the garage. It is still awesome. I did have to replace the amp in it at some point along the way, but it is still operating great with the same speakers and battery from 2009 when this was built.

I saw something similar to this awhile back at a tailgate and decided that I wanted to make my own cooler modified into a speaker system capable of playing audio from any MP3 player. Below is how I went about constructing this and will soon contain pictures of the end result.

Here is what you will need:

  • Cooler with a latching lid. - I choose an Igloo brand sold at Target. I wanted one with wheels for easy transport.
  • Car Speakers - I chose marine grade 6x9 inch speakers made by Polk
  • Car Amplifier - I chose a Pioneer model that was 2 channel and about 70 watts per channel. You will want to be sure you get one small enough to fit in your cooler. Watts output isn't such a big deal here, as more will suck your battery quicker and even 20 watts will put out lots of sound. I recommend getting one with bass boost, as you might want that.
  • Battery - I chose a smaller sealed deep cycle battery from Battery Source. You will want a sealed battery regardless since you will be transporting this rig and don't want an acid spill.
  • Some charging mechanism for the battery - I am using a battery tender that will charge and keep the battery charged as long as it remains plugged in.
  • Power wiring for the battery and amp including a fuse
  • On off switch
  • Caulk
  • Stick-on plastic wall hooks
  • Audio cable that takes your MP3 player's headphone output and converts it to RCA male for amp input
  • Tools

Let's get to building! I laid out the 6x9 speakers on the front of the cooler to select positioning and space requirements and then marked their cutout with a sharpie. Your speakers should come with cutout templates to use for marking and cutting holes.

I used a jigsaw to cut the holes. This is a messy job and insulation went everywhere, so do this outside.

I mounted the 6x9 speakers initially with only caulk around the edges. Be sure to allow for more caulk around the edges where the speaker edge meets a cooler ridge so that there are no air leaks. I ended up getting 3 inch screws to use for screwing in the speakers. This might be overkill for your install, but my cooler was thick and the speaker grills were as well. Screwing into the plastic cooler holds fine. I had considered placing something on the inside of the cooler for the screws to bite to, but the plastic was sufficient. If you are planning on really beating your cooler around, you might want to consider this and use something like a wood block on the inside of the cooler to screw into.

Next I laid out the amp position and the battery position. I decided to mount the amp to the wall of the cooler to allow for more room to place dry goods into the cooler for easy transport. (The cooler can no longer be a true cooler once we are all said and done though of course.)

The battery is the heaviest component, so I chose to mount it to the floor of the cooler and as close to the wheels as possible to minimize weight on the handle. I initially used the caulk to hold it down, but this did not hold, so I switched to liquid nails.

I laid out the wiring and used stick on wall hooks to stick to the inside of the cooler at various locations and allow for wires to be zip tied to them for a neater installation. This worked well. The wires are protected from disconnecting and are out of the way.

I drilled a hole in the center of the front of the cooler for the on off switch. I chose this location since the grills stick out and I wanted to make sure the switch was semi-protected from being turned on during transport in a car or otherwise. I think this location works ok and the switch has a light on it so I can easily tell when the power is on. For long term storage, I will take the fuse out of the main power wire to avoid any accidents.

The MP3 to RCA cable and battery charging cable will be run inside the cooler by utilizing the cooler's water drain hole.

The sound of the cooler is pleasant and can get really loud. The bass is boomy with the cooler closed and latched. Opening the cooler reveals just how much bass the cooler is creating by being a speaker box for the system. The is a neat project and I am going to use mine as a stereo in the garage when it is not at the beach. I am happy with the result and it makes for an interesting conversation piece.

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How to build a wall mounted computer

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Desired result: Space saving, quiet computing IPCop firewall server. Extra points for cool looks the girlfriend doesn't mind looking at.

*EDIT 11-23-10 See below for version 2 of this wall mounted solution. I build one for my home VMware ESXi rig. Details are at the end of this post.

Sitting around drinking beer one day a buddy and I thought we needed to make something cool to house his IPCop server. He had it in a case on a shelf in his laundry room, but this was not pretty, quiet or cool. I said, why not mount it to the wall or something, and then we started drawing. After much discussion and a discovery trip to the hardware store, this is the result:

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Build list: Plywood Acrylic sized to plywood 1/2 inch copper tube from the plumbing section Various rubber washers from plumbing section 1/2 inch screws 4 inch screws Wall anchors Zip ties Gloss black spray paint and primer Double sided tape

Computer: Intel Atom dual core 1 gig RAM 40 gig hard drive PicoPsu 60 watt and AC to DC power supply Zalman chipset heatsink for Atom chipset to replace stock heatsink and fan so it is quieter PCI riser cable Dual NIC

Photos of the build:

enter image description here Laying out parts on painted plywood.

enter image description here Motherboard and NIC mounted using rubber washers to make them standoff from the wood. We didn't want to but realized that we had to mount the NIC upside down. Oh well. Notice this NIC is older than dirt and has coax input. It is a 16 year old 10Megabit card, but it is still going strong. His internet comes in at 3 Megabits, so no speed bottleneck there.

enter image description here Hard drive mounted with double sided tape. This hard drive will be replaced with a 3.5 inch drive at the last minute when we got lazy and used the drive that was serving IPCop when it was in the normal case so as to save time not having to install it to the laptop drive. (I got overruled here. I thought we should use the laptop drive to make it a quieter system that used less electricity. Ultimately, it was Steve's computer so his choice.)

enter image description here Acrylic mounted using 4 inch screws and copper pipe as standoffs. There is room here to stick a hand in to do maintenance without taking off the acrylic.

enter image description here Almost finished. Got it all installed, and need to drill holes for hard drive led and power switch.

enter image description here Mounted to the wall using screw in drywall anchors. The computer weighs less than 20 lbs. Power comes from a laptop type power brick included in the PicoPsu kit.

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The builders Steve and Chuck

Final thoughts: Using the Atom saves electricity and allows for a fanless solution. There is enough room between the wall and the acrylic for air to pass through and heat to be dissipated. The hard drive is the only moving part. Next time maybe we will mount a CF card so that there are no moving parts. The old NIC is there due to the fact that the onboard NIC wasn't supported in IPCop, we would have had to add a 2nd NIC via the PCI slot anyways, and it was a nice excuse to put the old dual NIC to use. The PCI riser was what saved us and allowed us to mount it onto the wall nicer.

This would be a good solution for an ESXi box or a Windows Home Server box too. Moving and maintenance are more of a pain, but it doesn't take up floor space. The PicoPSU is a good solution where you aren't using a gaming PC since it provides solid power with no noise and good efficiency to lower wattage computer loads.

*Chuck's ESXi wall mounted computer. Take two of Steve's IPCOP wall mounted rig. Simpler and quieter. I decided to build one of these after staring at my ESXi box sitting on the floor and wondering why it is sitting on the floor.

Went through the same process as above, but simpler. Didn't bother with the acrylic cover and used a rubber band hard drive mounting solution for the drives to reduce noise due to drive vibration. The only moving parts in this solution are the drives. No fans, no power supply fan either thanks to the picopsu power supply.

This rig pulls 25 watts of power at the outlet when idle. It has 4 gigs of RAM and a dual core Intel processor. Can't remember the model, but one of the ones that Toms hardware put up against the Atom processor as just barely pulling more watts, but blowing it away in performance.

2x 1TB Western Digital green hard drives.

These aren't as fast as other drives, and might not be the best choice for an ESX box where VMs are sharing the drives, but when you look at the stats and don't get bogged down in numbers, the real world speed difference between these drives and others are minimal and acceptable for the power savings.

As you can see below, I decided to take the CPU fan off. This CPU cooler is overkill when compared to the stock CPU cooler, the processor is 45nm and power efficient not overclocked, and I want it quiet and I enabled overheating processor throttling in the BIOS. I also turned the cooler so that the natural heat rising is able to radiate from the cooler as efficiently as possible.

None of these things matter really though, as the CPU and cooler just don't get hot enough for any throttling or heat related issues. It all works quietly and flawlessly. This isn't for everyone though, you may not want to take this risk and will want to test this to be sure that it is acceptable for your installation.

Note those are 3 inch screws and the hard drives do not touch anything solid. They are fully isolated by the rubber bands. This is the same idea as some of the quietly designed Antec cases. They mount the hard drives with similar rubber bands.

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Here is an interesting product I ran up on that keeps birds from running into large glass doors or windows. My folks have a place in the mountains with lots of glass that birds run into very often. They have tried placing decals on the glass with mixed results. I sent them info on this product and they are going to try it out. Birds see UV light that we do not see. The decals reflect the sun's UV light so that the birds see the glass and avoid it.