ARTiGO Pico ATX Setup

A while back my dad got a nice LCD television for Christmas and immediately wanted a way to view pictures, play music, and surf the web from the couch. Of course The TV is mounted on the wall and he didn't want any wires showing or a loud screaming computer sitting around. Enter the ARTiGO A1000 builder kit.

ARTiGO A1000 in the palm of my hand.

Since dad wanted a full functional computer connected to his TV but still needed it hidden, it was off to search for a viable solution. After looking at all the new small form factor designs, I finally found the the Pico-ITX was actually small enough to fit behind an LCD with a standard wall mount.

EPIA Pico-ATX Motherboard

I was surprised when I opened the box. The A1000 builder kit from VIA comes with everything you need besides your storage device and RAM. However, the distributor I bought my kit from included 1GB of RAM. That was a plus. The main board was tiny, who would have thought you could squeeze everything onto such a small board. If you look at the top you can see the one small heat-sink fan and a bunch of pins where you connect all the components.

Bottom of Motherboard.

The bottom of the main board is where you throw in the single SODIMM module. I do wish it would support a little more than 1GB of ram, but hey I'm not complaining at this size.

Small Enclosure

The little enclosure that came with the kit is fairly pleasing to the eye. It has some basic connections for USB and simple audio. The motherboard has a VGA and network connection built on and it also supports DVI and multi channel audio though the case doesn't have quite that much room.

20GB 2.5" IDE Hard Drive

I had a spare 20GB 2.5" IDE hard drive I decided to use with the enclosure. The drive sits just under the main-board in the enclosure and connects with a little riser that came in the kit. Even though I used an IDE, the board does support SATA too.

All components installed.

All the components fit snugly in the 5.9"x4.3"x1.8" enclosure and is about the same length as my screwdriver. I do like the fact it has the ability to run directly off DC power, just in case I need to use one as a carPC. In the picture above you can see the mainboard with all the case connections made and the DC power supply to the right.

Everything in the kit.

Overall the kit is a really good deal. It fits behind the LCD TV and connects via VGA and simple audio. I loaded Windows XP off a USB drive and the system seems to run smoothly. It does struggle with some of the higher definition video formats and can stutter audio in certain situations. I was lucky enough to have run a network connection when the TV was mounted, so there wasn't a need for trying to wirelessly connect it. But, you could easily use a USB wireless adapter or VIA does sell a wireless kit to plug right on to the motherboard. One other thing I wish VIA included was on-board bluetooth support. I like using bluetooth keyboards with my media computers and had to stick with using a USB adapter for that. Also, as far as noise goes, the system isn't too loud. The loudest part is the old hard drive I used, had I opted for a solid state type storage device, it would probably be quite silent.

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"MacGyver" Ceiling Mount

Not long ago we came across an old projector at work and decided it would be pretty cool to setup a makeshift conference/presentation center. It also works for the occasional lunch-time entertainment too. So, what do you do when you need a projector mounted quickly without a lot of money? Just take a look around and think WWMD (What Would MacGyver Do)?

"MacGyver" Ceiling Mount

Not long ago we were cleaning up our shop area at work and came across an old Epson LCD projector that was actually still functional. Figuring it probably wouldn't be used for anything if we just stowed it away on the shelf again, we decided to setup a little presentation center.

Now if you've ever been in the market for a projector ceiling mount, you know they can get pretty expensive and most are made for specific models of projectors. We just needed something to keep it above everyone's head and still be somewhat adjustable. After a quick survey of the shop area, I managed to scavenge up a small piece of 1/4" ply-board, some kind of 3/4" pine board, and some nylon string that we used as pull string when using conduit.

First I used a recip-saw and cut the long 3/4" pine board into two equally short sections and drilled holes into the ends about and inch from the edge. The holes only needed to be slightly larger than the nylon pull string. While the drill was out, I drilled the same size holes in each corner of the 1/4" plyboard.

Next, I cut four equal length pieces of string roughly 36 inches long. I ran the strings up through the the four holes in the pine board and tied a secure knot so the string cannot be pulled back through.

After the stings were tied, I screwed the board onto the ceiling. Luckily there was a large wooden rafter screw to, otherwise we would have needed to use some large drywall anchors.

Now it was time to attach the plyboard. I just took the dangling strings, stuck them down through the four holes in the plyboard and tied the two strings of the left and right side together with a secure knot. This will allow the plyboard shelf to be placed at an upward or downward angle.

Once the shelf was suspended it's sturdy enough to hold the small projector. The mount does allow for most types of adjustment too. You can angle the shelf up or down and there was plenty of room to shift the projector from side to side slightly or rotate the projector to hit the screen.

Even though it may not look like much, the mount is quite functional and we've been using it a lot lately. If you are looking to save a little cash on mounting a projector, this suspended shelf design could be made to look a little more appealing. In the future we may decide to paint it or even round the edges off. But hey, it works and it only took a few minutes to build from junk.

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