Early this summer, the music PC at my ski place was "borrowed" by an unexpected visitor. So, I decided to build a replacement.

The system used a micro-atx board in a small pc chassis. It worked fine, but the appearance was - well, it looked like a small cheap black PC case. There are cases designed to look like components, but they're $$$. While I was casting around for ideas, I noticed the broken Pioneer Elite DVD carousel player sitting underneath my workbench. Hmm...

And so, my first casemod was born.

The first step was to rip out all the guts. Unlike most DVD players - which these days are constructed mostly of air - this one had a lot of components. The internals were nicely designed, but there was one curious feature. Attached to the bottom of the unit was a 1/16th inch steel plate. The "make it worth the money" plate that differentiates the Elite series players from the others.

Okay, to be fair, the electronics are better as well, but they don't weigh much more than the cheap ones.

Once I got it ripped apart, I had to order up some components. Off to newegg I went, and picked up the following:

  • Duron 1.6 GHz
  • 256M Memory (Kingston)
  • Atrix 200W Power supply (quiet...)
  • Masscool cpu fan (also quiet...)
  • BIOSTAR M7VIG400 motherboard

The total price was $245.58, including shipping.

After they showed up, I realized that I forgot a DVD drive, so I picked up a cheap one locally.

I then had to try to fit them into the case. One of the advantages of using a big carousel player is that there is a fair bit of room. I could easily fit the motherboard and power supply side by side, which left room for the disk drive. After some thought, I realized that I didn't really need a DVD drive after I put windows on the system, and decided not to mount one in the case.

Then I ran into the first problem. The bottom of the dvd player chassis has a lot of indentations to fit the internal components in, but nothing lined up with the motherboard screw locations. What I needed was a flat piece of metal to use as a motherboard tray. Something the same size as the chassis.

Something like the "make it feel expensive" plate. Which, amazingly, slid right into the chassis perfectly.

I attached the headers to the motherboard and made a template of their locations out of paper. I punched holes in the paper with a punch, and then marked the exact locations of the holes on the paper. Attached the paper to the plate, marked the holes, drilled them, and then tapped them (#6-32). I tapped some headers into the chassis, and used that to attach the plate to the chassis.

Next was cutting out the holes in the back of the chassis for the motherboard plate, and holes and screws for the power supply.

Finally, I drilled mounting holes in the side of the chassis to mount the disk drive, and made a plate to mount the other side of the disk to the motherboard plate.

Here's what the layout looks like:

and here's a picture from the back:

The next problem was how to control the music player. The software that I wrote supports control through its UI, through a web interface, and through an infrared remote control. I could have done the second or the third, but there were some nice panel buttons on the DVD player.

Which explain my parallel port article.

I took the front panel off and did a lot of tracing, and then hooked up the points that I needed to a ribbon cable. The points I hooked up were:

  • Power LED + and -
  • Disk mode + and -
  • Ground
  • Power switch
  • Disk change
  • Play
  • Pause
  • Next Track
  • Previous Track

The first four are connected to headers that hook up to the motherboard, and the last 5 are connected to the parallel port connector you can see in the photos. I considered soldering the wires directly to the inside side of the connector, but decided not to mod the motherboard.

Then, it was putting Windows on, copying over my MP3 collection, and doing a small modification to my player software to support the parallel port. The software autoplays on startup, and I enabled remote desktop so that I could use it without the monitor/keyboard/mouse.

Here's the front view. When I bought the player, blue LEDs were new, which is why the power led is blue.