Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Few Last Shuttle Mods...

Now that my confidence has been restored on the home Shuttle system, I've decided to make one more modification to it.

Cooling the Shuttle Down...

As shared before, it is a Shuttle SK41G system. It is a very compact system and temps can get pretty warm in there.

These units utilize "heat-pipe cooling" which works pretty well. Cool air is drawn into the case from a row of holes on each side of the case. Air then is passed across the system board and then out through the internal fan and forced over the heat-pipe fins and out the rear. The BIOS can be set to adjust the internal fan speed automatically, but I have always left it set manually on "high" to get better cooling. It's a touch noisier but I feel better with it running cooler.

The (standard) PSU unit also serves to draw air in and force it out the rear using the PSU fan.

After watching my system fail to boot once due to cheap cpu-heatsink paste, monitoring the core and case temps has been a critical issue for me.

I've been using Motherboard Monitor almost from day one to monitor system temps.

Generally the Shuttle's CPU temp was running at 50 degrees Celsius. The case temp was running at 42 degrees Celsius. Hard processing tasks might see a bump in the temps by a degree or two each.

Once I installed the bigger PSU and added intake holes in the case side to accommodate the air-flow, the temps dropped down to about 48 and 40 degrees Celsius, respectively. The beefier PSU fan was probably responsible.

I had seen an easy cooling mod a long time ago where a modder had cut the rear aluminum case grill cover out, then mounted an additional fan on the outside of the case to help pull additional air volume out and help the internal heat-pipe fan out.

So, I finally decided to try it out as well.

Here is a nice picture of the rear of a standard Shuttle SK41G system so you can follow what I'm describing.

I measured the fan mounting size since I wanted to try and use the four original fan mounting screw holes. Then I went by the local Good Purchase electronics store and found an Antec 80mm LED TriCool case fan for about $12. The blue LED matched the blue power light on the front and would add a custom glow to the rear desk area. And the three-speed switch would allow me to adjust the "noise" factor easily. I also went by Lowe's to grab some new machine screws as I knew the standard tool-less ones used to hold the heat-pipe fin shroud to the case rear wouldn't be long enough.

I got home and punched out the top parallel-port hole from the case rear (in the picture linked, it's right underneath the top-center case cover screw).

Next I unscrewed the four fan-shroud mounting screws. I decided not to try cutting out the punched rear venting case holes out as some users do to increase the air flow volume. I'm not sure what combo would cool better. Removal of that section would allow a greater volume of air to be moved, but at the same time, my unscientific mind would think that the holes actually speed up the air passing through the smaller spaces, thereby increasing cooling at the fins. Anyway, I left it in place.

I had bought a bag of 1 inch 6-32 machine bolts that matched the stock screw threading, but ended up wishing I had bought the longer 1 and 1/2 inch lengths instead, as the fan itself was about an inch thick. So I had to carefully feed the bolts through the lower holes in the fan instead of going through both sets of holes. Fortunately it wasn't too difficult and I soon had the fan perfectly mounted in the stock holes to help the primary fan pull air out of the case.

I fed the wires through the parallel port hole and into the case. I then taped off the hole to avoid air pressure loss as the hole was kinda big and I didn't want to circulate warm air back into it.

A quick connect to a power plug and I was back in business.

Once powered up the blue LED looked pretty cool and the sound isn't too much louder than before, even with them both running on high.

A quick check of my temperature readouts shows that my CPU core is now running at a nice and steady 44 degrees Celsius while the case temp is at 34 degrees Celsius.

Not a massive drop, but considering how cheap and easy the mod was to do, not a bad decision! And as any pc geek knows, cooler is better!

Sudhian Forums has a ton of posts about Shuttle issues and mods...while Modtown does their own mods on a SK41G system. Nice!

Adding a new XP system Theme...

Earlier this week Long Zheng at the istartedsomething Windows watch blog posted a link to Royale Noir: secret XP theme uncovered. Turns out this was an official Microsoft XP theme that never got finished. It looked pretty nice, but as it was in an unfinished state, I passed.

I've been on the record for a long time about absolutely despising the Candy-Land colored standard XP Luna themes. Ugh. I have always switched my themes to the "Classic" (aka Windows 2000/98ish) system themes instead. The blue and greens just really irritated me.

I have been very impressed with the darker Vista theme, however and really enjoy them in the Vista Beta releases I have been getting to know.

Imagine my delight then, when I found notice that Microsoft had released a new "Zune" theme for XP! Dwight Silverman has some more nice screenshots of it in action on the TechBlog.

I've since downloaded and installed it on all my XP home and work systems. It is very refined, but not too dark.

And switching from the "Classic" to this Zune XP theme, it feels (visually) like I've done an major OS upgrade! Funny how a little thing like that would work.

Anyway, if you are running XP, I encourage you to go and try it. You might like it!

Hopefully that will be the end of system mods for least until Vista gets released.....

See you in the skies,


No comments: