Nowadays I rarely mod computers for myself. Not because I do not want to, but because I have no real need for any more computers at home. Back in the days of Macro Black I was modding what would become my main PC. Almost everyone in the family has a PC these days so as a consequence I am usually modding for others or working on commissions.
You may be familiar with some of these past projects. The Hidden & Dangerous 2 Ammo Boxes I made for Take 2 caused a bit of a frenzy when given away in PCZone and PCGamer magazines - I'm told they received something like double the normal number of competition entries that month.
More recently I got involved with Creative to oversee the creation of three themed cases for the launch of their SoundBlaster X-Fi range. The first I built myself, the Creative X-Fi "Music Creation" Mod made from an old guitar amplifier. Fans of that will be pleased to know the worklogs for the other two systems are not far away.
I prefer each mod to be different from my previous mods so when Foxconn approached me to ask if I could put a computer inside a football - I thought, why not? As far as I am aware, no one had done such a thing and I thought it might prove to be an interesting challenge. Aside from obviously actually getting a working PC inside inside a match-sized football, there was the challenge of keeping the ball inflated!
Fortunately for me, the problem of finding components that would actually fit inside the ball was solved by using one of the new Nano-ITX mainboards from VIA. These little beauties are a mere 12cm x 12cm square and have a very low-height profile.
I decided to use the 1GHz processor version of the board, which requires a tiny fan on the heatsink for cooling. There are two versions of this particular board: one with VGA, USB etc. connectors onboard and the other with pin headers instead. The latter version allows for the connectors to be brought out on cables. Not being sure which model would be most suitable I got one of each.
In the end I went with the onboard connector version although some of the pictures in this article show the other version since I actually tried the mod with both types.
Another neat little gizmo which helped me to maintain miniaturisation was the PicoPSU power adapter, as seen in Micke's EPIA Alloy mod. This converts a single 12V DC source into all the required voltages, 5V, 3.3v etc. and meant I could save a huge amount of space compared to even a m-ATX PSU. They're perfect for small form-factor mods and you can pick them up from Mini-ITX.com for under £50.
The only component required by the Nano-ITX board is the addition of memory. This has to be inserted before fitting the CPU heat sink.
A quick smear of the supplied thermal compound and it is time to fit the heatsink. Note that the single heat sink covers both chips.
With the heatsink in place, the system board was then tested to check all was fine.