Kiosk PC

Front Page | Recent Changes | Title Index | User Preferences | Random Page | Help
Difference from prior major revision.
minor diff author diff hide diff
Hi Pat, i donno how, but i am able to edit this page and save it. Just thought 
you might want to know. before someone works a mischief on it.
I've always thought it is a pity that digital pictures just stagnate on my hard 
drive.  Sure we send some of them to [ Kellards] to have 
prints made, but by and large if I don't put them on a web site they just get 
You can buy a digital picture frame.  But they cost hundreds of bucks for a 
decent one, and the size and resolution is kind of small, and you can't do 
anything else with them.  I've seen wall mounted PCs that replicate what I've 
built that are priced at over $3000.
Why not build a really small and weak PC, slap a nice wood frame around it, and 
do oh so much more?  I got some plans from a copy of Popular Electronics or 
some such journal (article no longer available) for doing just such a project.  
To summarize the hardware design, it is a mini-ITX motherboard with an 
integrated fanless CPU, a low power fanless power supply, and a 15 inch LCD 
monitor.  With no fans, it is as close to silent as possible; you have to 
strain to hear the hard drive running.  I attached a CD ROM drive just to 
install the operating system and then removed it.  You don't need a Pentium 4 
if all you need to do is display pictures and a few web pages.  The Mini-ITX 
motherboards are used for a lot of custom small form factor PCs.  They are the 
favored platform for building custom car PCs for example.  This was a fun 
project as I was able to combine my dual passions for woodworking and 
technology.  It also made good use of some nice bits and pieces of walnut that 
Rick Stover, a former co-worker, gave me when he was cleaning out his garage.
The case is in two pieces, one piece is the front that is built to look like a 
picture frame.  Mitered corners, reinforced with biscuits.  There is a separate 
back piece that covers the PC guts.  The finish is polymerized tung oil and 
paste wax.  Threaded inserts in the front piece let me attach the pieces 
together with machine screws.  I mounted some buttons on top for power and 
running a set of macros to launch programs -- that's the "kiosk" bit 
of the design.
A view of the back.  I had some nice 1/4" cherry plywood laying about so 
used it for the back panel.  I routed slots in it for ventilation, and cut a 
hole out for 2 USB ports so I can hook a keyboard and mouse up should I need to 
do some maintenance.  Normally it won't have a keyboard or mouse.  And really I 
can use remote desktop for most maintenance tasks.
Here are the guts.  I used a 6 GB hard drive from an IBM laptop, bought on EBay 
and an 802.11b USB wireless network card.  It has onboard ethernet but with the 
wireless adapter I can put the thing anywhere there is a power outlet.  I made 
extensive use of velcro and zip ties to hold everything together.
I didn't want it to be limited to strictly timed slideshows of digital 
pictures.  That seems like a waste of a PC.  I thought it would be nice if 
there could be a very simple way to bring up other applications to display 
information you might want to refer to without having to trek down to the 
basement to one of the regular PCs.  Traffic for example -- if we are running 
out the door it would be nice to pull up the WSDOT real time traffic conditions 
map.  I didn't want to ruin the clean looks by parking a keyboard in front of 
it though.  After consulting with Dex I thought I could use a similar approach 
to what the MAME console builders use.  I found this handy piece of hardware 
called a [ KeyWiz] to solve my problem. 
It connects to the keyboard port on the motherboard and has spots for you to 
solder wires going to your own buttons.  Press a button and the PC sees it just 
as if someone typed the "A" key or whatever.  The KeyWiz can take up 
to 32 buttons, far more than I need.  I could only really think of the traffic 
web site initially, but I mounted some additional buttons, reserved for future 
use.  I use [ Girder] 
software to handle the macro automation, binding keyboard press of the A key to 
run a program.  It is pretty sophisticated, I use it for the Home Theater to 
handle HTPC automation by infrared remote control.  I bought the buttons from 
[ Mouser] and put a red on on there for a power button.
I've got one button that brings up the traffic web page, one that brings up a 
web page where I can control the Squeezebox digital music player we have in the 
living room, and one that brings up the main news page.  I thought it 
might be nice to have a family calendar on there too, but I don't think I can 
get Kim off of paper and haven't found a great simple way to securely synch 
with my work calendar.
Here are the USB connectors from the inside.
Here's my best recollection of what the materials cost:
  * [ Via Epia 5000 
Mini-ITX motherboard] with bundled 60W mini-ITX power supply and AC/DC power 
adapter, about $150
  * Salvaged memory from a junk PC, $0
  * 6 GB IBM hard drive from EBay, $25
  * [ KeyWiz], $35
  * Salvaged USB ports from junk parts box, $0
  * Push buttons from Mouser, $20
  * Dell monitor bought on EBay, $200
  * USB adapter for motherboard pinout and power cable splitter, $20
  * Windows XP Pro from Microsoft Company Store, $25
  * Netgear USB wireless network adapter from Newegg, $25
So the total is about $500.  Not bad for a PC with monitor.  And it is really 
fun to see it randomly scroll through hundreds of digital pictures from 
vacations, family gatherings, milk carton boat derbies, and other assorted 

Front Page | Recent Changes | Title Index | User Preferences | Random Page | Help
Edit this page | View other revisions
Print this page | View XML
Find page by browsing, searching or an index
Edited December 12, 2005 (hide diff)