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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:47 am 
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I'm rigging up a computer inside the wooden housing of an old 1930s floor-standing radio, to use as an MP3 jukebox. I would like to preserve as much of the radio's original look as possible, and part of this includes having functional volume/tuning knobs. Ideally, I'd like to find a couple of USB knobs to fit in where the original knobs are currently.

One is going to be for volume control, and the other is going to serve as menu navigation... so at least one of them would have to have a "click" function.

The Griffin PowerMate is perfect in terms of functionality, but it is much larger and a little more expensive than what I'm looking for. Does anyone sell just cheap little programmable USB knobs like this?


Last edited by DaMadFiddler on Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 2:19 pm 
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The only ones I've ever seen are that expensive. If you're not afraid to hack apart stuffs, you'd probably be much better finding some sort of keyboard, joystick, or other device with a knob built on. The only problem is that the drivers for such things tend to not be anywhere near as flexible (and it would require some knife work, maybe some soldering).

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 2:43 pm 
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To be honest, I wouldn't even mind the price so much if I could get it in a smaller size. I'm trying to preserve the original look of the console as much as possible.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 3:26 am 
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I'm fairly sure you'd be able to take the knob part off to get to a standard pot rod, which could be attached to the actual/original knob/switch.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:50 am 
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Quzar wrote:
I'm fairly sure you'd be able to take the knob part off to get to a standard pot rod, which could be attached to the actual/original knob/switch.


That really all depends on how the device is assembled... and $50 is a fairly substantial amount to gamble on an assumption like that.

To give a better idea:

Image

The idea is to take something like this, clean it up, and remove the electronics. Put a small LCD where the dial is mounted, and the knobs sort of depend on what case I end up settling on... but using this one as an example, I'd probably take a router and cut a slot for CDs across the middle two knob holes, then mount working knobs in the outer two knob holes to serve as volume and menu navigation. The inside would consist of an amplifier and speakers, a Mac Mini, the knobs, the LCD, and whatever other connections I may need.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:51 pm 
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http://forums.bit-tech.net/showthread.php?t=86820

keep us updated.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 11:56 pm 
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Zealous zerotype wrote:
http://forums.bit-tech.net/showthread.php?t=86820

keep us updated.


Interesting article. But how would the computer do with two of these, plus a possible Bluetooth pointing device (for the rare occasion when actual computer-y things need to be done with it)? It seems like the concept behind this is just to rewire the scroll wheel from a mouse for a different sort of interface, without having to work out any custom control mapping. But I'd want two knobs, with separate functions assigned to each.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:01 pm 
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Yeah it is, but I'd look into multi mouse mapping and such to accomplish those things I'm sure somebody has had the problem of 2+ mice I know I saw an application for osx that is made for using 2 mice and them both being active at the same time. So, check that (I'll find a link if I can).

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:43 pm 
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Well, I found a radio case to start with. A guy near my office was throwing this out:

Image

Image

It's in pretty rough shape... needs to be cleaned up and reglued, the radio itself is rusted to hell and the wires have decayed, the needle is bent, and the speaker is trashed. And at some point in its history, some idiot painted the veneer finish red. You can still make out the RCA Victor logo and the knob labels underneath, but it looks pretty trashy.

The first step will be to partially disassemble, strip, and refinish the case.

While that's going on, I can plan out my modifications. I want to mount a Mac Mini where the radio guts are, rig up new speakers, cut and line a slot for feeding discs to the disc drive, and rig up my knob controllers. I also need a new cloth for the speaker grille, as the original had rotted away.

This is what it originally looked like (top right):

Image


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2009 6:47 pm 
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I suppose this should be moved to the hardware mods forum.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2009 10:00 pm 
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The condition I got it in:

Image Image

Ready to be cleaned up, stripped, and refinished:

Image Image

A last look at the original hardware:

Image Image


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2009 11:31 pm 
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Brass trim, after a vinegar bath and some olive oil:

Image


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 5:17 am 
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Looking very nice thus far

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 11:58 am 
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Someone in my neighborhood is selling a G4-based Mac Mini for $250. Is that too much? I would have liked to keep it under $200 (it only really has to run iTunes and Front Row, after all), but I can't really find a good reference point for pricing used Mac Minis.

One thing I really like about the Mini, though, is that its case bears a passing resemblance to the radio chassis (read: featureless, squat metal box). Might be kind of cool to fake some tubes on the top of the computer, so if you turn the "radio" around it looks semi-authentic.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 4:20 pm 
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According to online prices it isn't /that/ bad (actually is a good deal, but I would never pay the high prices online sites want for used macs), but I'd personally try and get him down to 225 or 200 even if possible 225 would be pretty good if it had an airport card. I would look into an hackintosh, personally. The msi wind I built is barebones at about 100ish and it even runs snow leopard form what I have heard you just add a harddrive (or a flash card 8gig and up to run it from that) and all you need is a thumbdrive big enough to install the msiwindosx.iso (4gigs) and then you can run it headless pretty easy.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 5:45 pm 
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Zealous zerotype wrote:
According to online prices it isn't /that/ bad (actually is a good deal, but I would never pay the high prices online sites want for used macs), but I'd personally try and get him down to 225 or 200 even if possible 225 would be pretty good if it had an airport card. I would look into an hackintosh, personally. The msi wind I built is barebones at about 100ish and it even runs snow leopard form what I have heard you just add a harddrive (or a flash card 8gig and up to run it from that) and all you need is a thumbdrive big enough to install the msiwindosx.iso (4gigs) and then you can run it headless pretty easy.


It does have an AirPort (though no Bluetooth), and it has 1GB RAM and an 80GB hard drive. Pretty much its sole job is going to be to act as an iTunes server/jukebox. I'd prefer a Mac, since all our other computers are Macs (plus we'd like it to sync to the Time Capsule for backups just like everything else, so if we swap it out later we can quick-restore everything to the new machine).

One of the reasons I like the Mac Mini for this, actually, is because its case is reminiscent of the original radio hardware--just a short, squat block of solid metal. I'm debating the possibility of rigging up some fake tubes and such on top, so that if you look in the back of the radio it looks semi-authentic.

Plus, the purpose of this project is to give new life to unwanted items. A Mac Mini G4 is old enough that people don't really want them to use as computers, but still perfectly adequate for iTunes duty. This finds a new use for something old, as opposed to just adding more junk to the world. I always sort of had a Mac Mini in mind for this project; I just wasn't sure how to price them.

The guy has his G4 posted on Craigslist for $250, with Leopard, a CRT monitor, and Office 2004. I'll see if I can talk him down by leaving Office and the monitor out, since I don't really need them.

* * * * *

In other news, I got the paint-stripping supplies today. I'm going to do a test with one of the smaller pieces, and finish stripping it tomorrow if all goes well. My goal is to have the wood all stained and refinished by the end of the long weekend.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 5:29 am 
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Yeah, I understand you wanting to breath new life (I've got an emac, 800mhz g3 ibook and dual 1ghz quicksilver), but yeah I just find mac minis seem to go for more than they are worth (I see people trying to sell g4 minis for 250-300+ around here all the time) which is a shame when I bought my quicksilver w/ marathon rackmonuts for 200 or the dual 1.42MDD I got for 125. I'd buy a mini in a heart beat if I could get it for around 100, since I thats all I'd pay, but I really think 200-225 is what you realistically are going to have to pay.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:20 am 
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All right; faceplate and top panel are stripped. Tonight I take on the main bulk of the case. It's been a slow, painstaking process, as significant portions of the case are veneered, and I don't want the stripper to lift the veneer. Means I can't really sand it down much either, for fear of sanding through the veneer.

Stripping the case is a little sad, because I lose the classic labels (the RCA Victor logo, the dial labels) along with the paint. It's a real shame the previous owner painted this thing.

I'll have more pictures once the whole thing is stripped.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:34 am 
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You might want to work around the labels and take care of them later with even more care, if you want to keep them. Q-tip with the stripper might do it (hehe).

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:21 pm 
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