Home DIY Rack Wins Creator a £20K Car

 DIY 19 Inch Rack

Submission by Simon Smith – Many years ago I discovered the Automated Home site, and within it was the Node Zero gallery. The projects in that gallery inspired me to build my own.

The opportunity came up when moving into my current home – an old semi-detached house needing a little work. There was a period of several weeks between owning the house and moving in that meant that I could go crazy with installing cables without anything getting in the way.

There is no room in the house that could be used as a dedicated location for Node 0, so all of the cables ended going to my bedroom. I ran the 24 cat5 cables and 4 pairs of speaker cables to selected parts of the house and guestimated the length needed to reach the non-existent cabinet. Adding the ports was left till after moving in.

I had been keeping my eye open on ebay for some bargain racks, but with a budget of less than £200 and being very picky about the appearance (Dell black perforated door racks preferred) opportunities were few and far between. There was also the logistics of handling delivery and getting something that’s really quite heavy up some narrow stairs and onto an old wooden-beam floor. In the end I decided to build my own rack from scratch.

DIY 19 Inch Rack

The rack is built from wood, brackets and plastic from my local branch of Wickes, paint and handles from Homebase and the rack rails from Maplin (the only place I could find that sells proper vertical rails at retail). The doors were veneered in ash to match the fitted wardrobe I made previously (an experiment/prototype for construction of the rack).

DIY 19 Inch Rack

In the months since building the rack I’ve made progress on installing the network points, speakers and most of the equipment in the rack. There is currently (bottom to top) a UPS, a self-built rack fileserver, a self-built testing machine, 4u of reserved space for another computer, an APC remote reboot switch which will be used to switch the amplifiers of the WHA (Whole House Audio) system on and off as well as provide a remote reboot facility for the computers, a keyboard/trackpad with 19″ monitor, the 24 port patch panel, a 4 port gigabit switch, a cable tidying brush strip,  a 24 port 10/100 switch, a 5 port gigabit switch, router, cable modem, WAP, a 240W rack-mounted amplifier, an 8×8 matrix switch for the WHA system, 2 more amplifiers and to top it off a fire suppression system found on eBay.

DIY 19 Inch Rack

The WHA system will eventually involve 4 audio zones – lounge, dining room, kitchen and master bedroom. So far the cables are in place, the basis for the software to control the matrix switch has been built, and 1 pair of speakers has been installed. The system will be controlled using small touchscreen computers located around the house and probably an iPod touch for portable control over wifi.

Recording of TV is handled by a MythTV installation on a lovely little box that sits behind the lounge TV. A lower-powered Media MVP (running mvpmc) provides a front-end for the master bedroom. This will hopefuly be expanded in the future to include another frontend in the dining room running off a standard PC hidden away in the adjacent pantry. The kitchen will probably receive the gift of another Media MVP.

DIY 19 Inch Rack

Also in the pipeline is the addition of active ventilation in the rack and some lights to make it look even cooler.

To a lot of people this project seems insane, but it’s already paid off. I entered it into the Homebrew Challenge at ZDNet UK and won the grand prize of a new car! That’s kinda been my justification for continuing to spend money on something that’s really just a geeky experimental indulgence.

I’m keeping a record of my progress through my blog at www.killswtch.net, which contains many photos and a couple of videos of what’s been done so far.”

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