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LCD Window Kit

It used to be that the true measure of a computer geek was what they had done to mod their system. One of the more challenging mods was the infamous (more than famous) window kit. Using some Lexan and aquarium striping, the window kit was born. Well, some corporate marketing executive caught wind of this trend and decided it would be a good idea to mass market it. Nowa days its nearly impossible to get a case with out a window kit, and the prestige has long since died. Well with this project I will attempt to bring back some of the glory of the good ole days with a new window kit that has much more flexibility and power than we could have ever dreamed back then.

Overview:
They Say 1 Human Year is equivalent to 20 Computer years. My experience in the industry confirms this with fads changing several times a year. So it was the attitude of “I better do it before some one else does” that spurred this project forward.

As with any project found on this site, remember that there is some inherent personal risk in doing it. Power tools should not be taken lightly: they can hurt, mame and kill. Some basic skill is required to handle the tools and resources used in this project, and if you have any question on how to do something, ask some questions before you potentially do damage to your self or your project.

All the materials for this project are easily available. Costs are moderate on this project because lets face it, LCD’s aren’t cheep yet. I am sure this same rig can be made much cheaper, there are many surplus outlets that have used LCD equipment surprisingly cheep. Although on this project I recommend newer parts than older ones. So with no more delay, on to the parts for this project.

The Case:
As we wanted this to be a lan party capable system I choose an aluminum case. Aluminum cases are very light compared to their steel counterparts, and moding aluminum is much easier than steel cases as its much softer, and they tend to come in lighter gauges. I picked up a generic aluminum mid tower. It set me back about $40.00 and it really a nice case. Although I have no clue who made it as it wasn’t branded anywhere.

The LCD Monitor:
It just so happened I had a KDS Rad5c 15″ Monitor just laying around. It had some back light issues. So I opted to do some moding to the monitor itself to make it more palatable to the entire mod. As most monitors use the same LCD panels and controllers, you can safely assume that most LCD’s will fit the bill for this mod. Now while I had at one point gamed on this monitor, its refresh rate is sickly at best. If you chose to use a monitor with a 8 ms refresh rate, you could build the ultimate self contained LAN party rig and be competitive. Just remember: the larger the monitor, the more heat output you will have. As we will be using this for eye candy and proof of concept the KDS will work just fine for us.

Optional Components:
Cold Cathode Kits (white)www.logisyscomputer.com
USB Web Cam

The Operation Begins…
So, why the KDS Rad5c? Well there are many factors. First and foremost: I had it laying around. The back light and inverter were shot, and I had taken it apart a few times trying to fix it. So I wasn’t going into this totally blindly, I had a good knowledge of the limitations and perks of using this monitor. So what perks made this monitor mod worthy? Well, one was the disposable nature of it. LCDs aren’t cheep. Secondly is the ability to remove the VGA and power cables from the monitor itself. Lastly was the very thin design, and the ability to scrap alot of the parts in this monitor inside knowledge

Most LCD’s are in the 1-5 Lb range. More than half of that weight is in the base of the unit, this monitor had about 1 lb of lead in its base. This is not an important part of the mod, unless your one of those weird geeks that melt down every drop of lead you can get your hands on to make musket balls for civil war reenactment… so the crowd that is using this site right now, just toss it and make it a distant memory.

There is a large metal panel in this monitor covering the electronics (as is found in most) that acts as shielding. The side speakers are also accessible, as are the monitor display controls. I start with removing the shielding, and as this will be in a case that is grounded, it should be good enough to not worry about keeping. Its also surprisingly heavy so it saves some weight.

Below it are the main controller board, and inverter board for the cold cathodes. Now on this monitor the inverter and tubes are bad. So I will be tossing it here. One note of caution at this point, not only do the main boards have lead that is accessible on them, remember to wash your hands when handling lead. It is actually really dangerous to handle. Never touch mucous glands, your eyes, mouth or food with lead on your hands. But the cold cathode tubes have mercury vapor in them. When removing them use the utmost caution or you run a chance of your retarded brain children being more literal than figurative.

Now for this mod, I really really really didn’t want that onboard sound, so I ended up tossing them all together. So remove them if you want, and there are 4 screws holding the steel frame around the lcd to the plastic facade. Remove these and toss them as well. This will allow the LCD to be removed from the monitor. Now even though there is a steel frame around the lcd its self, use caution as you really don’t want to damage it.

So abracadabra and it pops out. Carefully set this on a clean level surface, there is about 1/16 of an inch between the delicate monitor face and any surface you set it on. Make sure you don’t set it down on a screw as it would mar the surface really easily.

With the monitor on a clean, stable surface, locate the 4 screws holding the steel frame to the plastic internal frame of the lcd itself. Carefully remove the screws as they are located near the data ribbons, and if one was poked too hard, it would result in lines in the monitor. I recommend a screwdriver with a mild magnetic charge to it so you can remove the screws with minimal risk to the monitor.

Before you go any further find a nice sharpie and mark the top of the steel frame clearly so you dont forget where the top is. Carefully remove the LCD from the frame. The best technique for this is to hold the monitor like a platter one handed and let the frame drop down your arm, then carefully set the monitor back down. Now its time to get your tools out.

Take the steel frame and place it on the inside of the panel. Make sure you have the panel facing the top appropriately here on this step or you will mount the monitor forever upside-down. With great care, center the frame in the center of the panel, and trace a line in the inside of the frame. This is the hole you need to cut for the LCD to shine through. Also, mark on the panel the 4 holes that were used to mount the assembled LCD to the old monitor facade. Finally take the frame and re-assemble the LCD taking care near the data ribbons.

Using your dremal tool, carefully cut out the hole taking extra time at the corners so you dont over cut and make it look like crap. Once you have the hole cut, I don’t care how steady your hand is, you will most likely have a wavy cut, using a palm sander, or even a sanding block and some 220 sandpaper, lightly sand your cut to remove any unevenness in it. It really makes it look more professional, and any imperfections are really noticeable with the screen turned on. Finally, take and drill out the holes you marked. You will want a fine thread screw that fits the hole you have at about an inch long.

Place the monitor on the panel and make sure your holes line up and that the top is pointing to the top. If it dosent… you’re screwed. Mount the controls at this point also. If you want them on the side of the case start the mod to make the holes. Or do what I did: mount it to the monitor its self.

Carefully thread the screws. I had to use nuts to insure the screws I used would not pull out of the steel frame. One other note here is to be careful not to over tighten the screws as it can cause the soft aluminum to cave in.

Finally, mount it to the case to test for fit. I ended up taking and running a very fine bead of black silicone around the edge as I had some light gaps that were noticeable. I would recommend running the system with a thermostat to monitor the system’s temp before you really button up this project as the monitor and cable obstruct airflow. Also, given that the monitor is another heat source in the case, great care must be taken to not fry your system. (Funny, that gives me an idea…. the aluminum case skillet, now that could be fun. Breakfast as you compute. I smell a new project… mmmmm project…)

Any who… if you have heat issues, adding fans is your most likely candidate for taking care of it. If your case doesn’t allow that… get a case that does.

Harnessing the wire monster.
With this mod there are a couple challenges. Getting wires where I want to go and airflow not being obstructed by mountains of cables. Neither of these are to hard to take care of. A few supplies will make life real easy. Tin snips, zip-ties, and some good case fans.

Now I didn’t have time to get some custom cables made. On the LCD I chose, the VGA cable actually detaches from the monitor, this allows me to get a shorter cable made. Now this is not always the case with LCD monitors, and on the cheaper monitors is almost never the case. So I have assumed that you will be having some extra cable to wrangle. Now why is it important to get it in a manageable state instead of leaving it flopping around in your case? Simply put, something flopping around in your case is always bad (e.g. loose cables, fans or hamsters).

Most motherboards, and more commonly in the higher end motherboard, they use the electrolytic capacitors all over the board. And while this usually is a sign of a quality board, it is an achilles heal as well. It doesn’t take much force to damage one of these components, and they usually stand about ¾ of an inch off the board. Having something with the heft of a monitor cable hiting one of these capacitors is a trip to the IT department waiting to happen. For this reason I feel that zip-ties are a geek’s best friend. Secondly, unmanaged cables can actually obstruct air flow in the case either directly by jamming or stalling a fan, or by diminishing the ability of the air to circulate in the case. The LCD we have mounted into the case does also put out a fair bit of heat, so I would recommend some good thermaltake fans to insure you have enough airflow to vent that out. As it is close to your CPU, bus and ram, take special note to clearances and air flow volume to prevent tragedy.

Now we are going to be cheating on this project to get it out to you all sooner than later. I will be keeping the original power supply intact, and using adhesive Velcro to mount it to the back of the case. I have removed 2 of the PCI slot covers and cut the structural peace between them near the case screws. By slightly bending it into the case you should be able to pass the power cable and video cable into the case. Pull the slack into the case and use zip-ties for cable management. If you pulled the structural peace of the case inside when you put one of the PCI slot covers back and screw it, in it will be very hard to see that you even had to cut it at all to get it into the case.

Finally, on our monitor, as with most, we have the control set. I could have cut some holes in the case to allow it to mount to the case, but as it is, it just works. And it automatically fits the screen each time it’s powered up. It really wasn’t an issue, and I just left it in the case. With other monitors this can be an issue, but you can easily make the holes you need with your handy dremel tool.

Place the monitor on the panel and make sure your holes line up and that the top is pointing to the top. If it dosent… you’re screwed. Mount the controls at this point also. If you want them on the side of the case start the mod to make the holes. Or do what I did: mount it to the monitor its self.

Carefully thread the screws. I had to use nuts to insure the screws I used would not pull out of the steel frame. One other note here is to be careful not to over tighten the screws as it can cause the soft aluminum to cave in.

Finally, mount it to the case to test for fit. I ended up taking and running a very fine bead of black silicone around the edge as I had some light gaps that were noticeable. I would recommend running the system with a thermostat to monitor the system’s temp before you really button up this project as the monitor and cable obstruct airflow. Also, given that the monitor is another heat source in the case, great care must be taken to not fry your system. (Funny, that gives me an idea…. the aluminum case skillet, now that could be fun. Breakfast as you compute. I smell a new project… mmmmm project…)

Any who… if you have heat issues, adding fans is your most likely candidate for taking care of it. If your case doesn’t allow that… get a case that does.

Harnessing the wire monster.
With this mod there are a couple challenges. Getting wires where I want to go and airflow not being obstructed by mountains of cables. Neither of these are to hard to take care of. A few supplies will make life real easy. Tin snips, zip-ties, and some good case fans.

Now I didn’t have time to get some custom cables made. On the LCD I chose, the VGA cable actually detaches from the monitor, this allows me to get a shorter cable made. Now this is not always the case with LCD monitors, and on the cheaper monitors is almost never the case. So I have assumed that you will be having some extra cable to wrangle. Now why is it important to get it in a manageable state instead of leaving it flopping around in your case? Simply put, something flopping around in your case is always bad (e.g. loose cables, fans or hamsters).

Most motherboards, and more commonly in the higher end motherboard, they use the electrolytic capacitors all over the board. And while this usually is a sign of a quality board, it is an achilles heal as well. It doesn’t take much force to damage one of these components, and they usually stand about ¾ of an inch off the board. Having something with the heft of a monitor cable hiting one of these capacitors is a trip to the IT department waiting to happen. For this reason I feel that zip-ties are a geek’s best friend. Secondly, unmanaged cables can actually obstruct air flow in the case either directly by jamming or stalling a fan, or by diminishing the ability of the air to circulate in the case. The LCD we have mounted into the case does also put out a fair bit of heat, so I would recommend some good thermaltake fans to insure you have enough airflow to vent that out. As it is close to your CPU, bus and ram, take special note to clearances and air flow volume to prevent tragedy.

Now we are going to be cheating on this project to get it out to you all sooner than later. I will be keeping the original power supply intact, and using adhesive Velcro to mount it to the back of the case. I have removed 2 of the PCI slot covers and cut the structural peace between them near the case screws. By slightly bending it into the case you should be able to pass the power cable and video cable into the case. Pull the slack into the case and use zip-ties for cable management. If you pulled the structural peace of the case inside when you put one of the PCI slot covers back and screw it, in it will be very hard to see that you even had to cut it at all to get it into the case.

Finally, on our monitor, as with most, we have the control set. I could have cut some holes in the case to allow it to mount to the case, but as it is, it just works. And it automatically fits the screen each time it’s powered up. It really wasn’t an issue, and I just left it in the case. With other monitors this can be an issue, but you can easily make the holes you need with your handy dremel tool.

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Inventgeek

Inventgeek

I am in many respects the text book example of someone who shouldn’t be successful. I was an outcast in my grade school years, and a poor performer in school, unable to fit the standard mold. Fortunately I found small opportunities that I took advantage of, and coupled with hard work they have guided me to where I am today. I spend my time running several businesses I own, developing new products and sharing what I have accomplished with those that deserve opportunities that they wouldn't get any other way. InventGeek has been a step on a path that has helped bring me success and confidence by the simple act of doing. I encourage our readers to do what they can to better themselves a little each day, because overtime it's amazing what you can do!

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