Things I built and kept myself busy during 2020 lockdown

Living room friendly server rack

This is just a cheap flatpack book case. The back wood plywood piece is missing, done deliberately. I need to eventually make a piece of metal to reinforce the thing vertically.

This has my two HP Proliant Microserver G8 cube-shaped server computers. Top one has i3 processor, 16Gb of RAM, with Server 2019 and Hyper-V, and 6.5Tb (500, 3Tb and 3Tb) disk space. I use it as a file server and have virtual machines with it. I can stream video to my Samsung smart TV.

The bottom one is similar with 8Gb of RAM, 2Tb of disk space (4x 500gb) and Server 2019, and runs Microsoft SQL server 2019 on it. I use this to learn database work. The days of oversized huge tin box tower computers are gone. These are small, neat and expandable. A few years ago, a basic model one of these was about £150 new, you have to supply your hard drives. In the past I ran VMware ESXi 7.5 which runs great. Now HP’s current iteration of the G10 plus Microserver is more like £500 sadly.

There is a small HP Laserjet printer up the top, its just black and white and costs <1p per page to run, there is an 8 port switch and a TP-Link AC 300 class wireless router.

This provides an extra wireless connection which the BT/Virgin routers may not cover a whole house. A network connection comes in through a Powerline adapter from the ground floor. The network switch, (thing with the blinky lights) provides 8 network cables to be connected, to run all the servers and printer.

My laptop computers connect to these using RDP, therefore they don’t need a keyboard, mouse or screen.

1952 wireless radio

This radio I bought from ebay, had been relisted at least 4 times as no one wanted it. It was collect only so I had to drive to the other side of London to get it. I then removed most of the innards (it was broken) and fitted inside some Altec Lansing speakers which are held in with screws and cable ties. The power switch and volume potentiometers were rerouted to the front the unit. the front fascia was scratched and had the wooden veneer broken, so this was removed off and painted. I added the four large black knobs. The the two left ones are power switch and volume, the two right ones are purely a façade and are not connected. The channel meter thing had the needle broken, but it does light up with a white LED, as I soldered this onto where a green LED was on the computer speakers. This requires two generic USB phone adapters to operate.

This reborn 1952 radio uses a Google Chromecast audio for me to listen to music and podcasts while I’m working from home. There is a non functioning record deck under lid. I’ve put a 7″ record on it, but all the circuitry to run the turntable has removed so its just for decoration now. Sadly Google have discontinued CCA which means they can only be bought used on eBay for higher than the were new.

Table top retro arcade game system

I bought this iCade games dock in 2014 and then abandoned it, only to finish it off this year. Its a small arcade game system specifically to be used with an iPad which would sit where you would expect the screen to be. Most people who bought these grew tired of it, as the bluetooth connection for the joystick and buttons was laggy making the game experience below par.

Instead, I dismantled an old Acer Aspire One netbook (actually three as I accidently fried the motherboard on one, and they were all a bit broken to start with) The screen of the laptop was detached, and I binned the keyboard, battery, palm rest, web cam, hinges and other pieces. This means the screen and base have about 30-40cm of cable in between. The 10.1″ screen is neatly fastened to the front and the laptop chassis sits behind with a 64Gb SSD drive and 2gb of RAM it runs Windows 7 Starter, AdvanceMAME arcade emulator and AttractMode front-end system. Joysticks and now wired via USB. I have most of Atari’s back catalogue of games, and although the PC has a weedy Intel Atom 1.6Ghz processor games older than 1994 all work very nicely on it.

The speaker ‘shelf’ section, was made from some pieces of balsa wood (crate of cherries from fruit and veg market) with some USB speakers dismantled and fastened on with some bolts. Front is covered with grey fabric (from a free t-shirt I got from an IT convention)

It needs finishing off aesthetically still, but its great fun to play. I need to fabricate a plastic sign of the top above the speakers. There is a LED light to illuminate this. I wanted to show this to my nieces are Christmas the games Daddy and Uncle Jonny played, but not this season sadly.

Home built table lamp

I like old lamps especially Middle east, Chinese or Victorian. Mainly as I found an amazing shop in Morocco with dozens of exotic ones, these were too large and fragile to take home, so I later bought a smaller one when I went to Turkey.

I also wanted to experiment with these modern replicas of these beautiful Edison bulbs I’ve seen recently and I used this wooden jewellery box I bought from the popular UK retailer “The Works” this was covered with oak coloured varnish, a suitable socket and electrical cord with gold coloured fabric was sourced from eBay.

Spending the whole time dwelling on the news, Brexit, US election, vaccines and conspiracy theories gets tiresome so instead I find making and repairing things satisfying. I particularly like mixing up old an new technology together.

I’ve got some more ideas for 2021, with another creation on the go already.