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Some old guy's Mac Cube

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Found a Cube in the towns recycling trailer . Needed a good cleaning but looked to be in pretty good shape so I took it home . Got rid of a TV and got a Cube. No power supply but I figured could make something out of it . Beside , I never saw one in the flesh before.
Did some research and found Neilhart and GordyHand's Cube mods and realized that it's possible to make a usable machine out of what I had. Also discovered Tony's Custom Mac Mini .... H67N-USB3-B3 , i3 2105 , 3000 graphics . Decided that this would be my Cube build . So I ordered the parts , plus a lowprofile Gelid fan and started planning and measuring.



Looking down from the top of the Cube's internal cage , I decided that the fins on the huge heatsink had to go , cut 'em out and put 2 hard disks in their place. The touch switch had to stay , and work , and light as much as possible to the original



Looking at the bottom , I decided that the latch mechanism should remain operational as original and that any openings in the base for the motherboard backplate should allow the plate to appear unaltered and allow the plate to be removed without difficulty in event of a mobo swap.



Decided to use the wiring slot that Apple engineers thoughtfully provided to get SATA and power wires around the latch mechanism.

Once the parts came in and the cage got stripped of electronics , i got several reality checks ...



When the power supply , a PicoPSU 160w, plugs into the power connector , the wiring sticks out to the left and will interfere with cage insertion to the case. This means using a psu extension and routing the psu to the other side of the latch/heatsink . Not really a bad thing as it'll allow me to pick up from the extender the +5 voltage the power switch needs.



Thought to put the mobo on the same side that the original was ( the right ). 2 big problems popped up . The distance from the inner surface of the base to the lowest point on the power board ( the led leads ) was 164-165mm. The distance between the lower edge of the ports and the upper edge of the top memory stick is 167mm. I want the switch to work with the led so the top memory bank has to remain empty . Also , once the backplane is in place in the base , there'll be almost no air circulation inside that part of the case , the motherboard being installed against the heatsink.

After a LOT of thought , measurements and some AutoCAD sketches I came up with plan B , which should work just fine ( maybe) . The scheme is as follows...



Take the case bottom and rotate it 180 degrees . This puts the port openings below the frame for the optical drive ,and moves the latch frame/former heatsink over to the left a bit . This makes about 15mm more space available for motherboard cooling and will allow for around 4 rows of air holes to remain after the backplane cut is made . Not a lot but better than the no holes we had in the first design . There's also the possibility of forced ventilation. Even though the power circuit board is farther from the motherboard's location against the heatsink , the top memory stick will still hit so the top bank is still unusable . On the plus side , everything in the cage should line up in the end save for the 2 top screws for the latch cage . But now the latch won't work as the bottom plates rotation has changed the location of the latch cage . There's a fix for this , but it'll take some care in doing.



Looking inside the case can , theres a plate with 2 ears sticking up . The latch mechanism grabs through the holes in these ears to lock the cage and its electronics into the case.



In order to get these ears into alignment with the latch , the plate has to be rotated 180 degrees like the base was . There are 4 holes for locating pins and a cutout that have to be transposed in a mirror image to the appropriate opposing points so they'll line up right and the pins will locate the plate where it should be.
So this is where I am right now , first order of business once the holidays are done is to get the latch working .... everything else will be easy . Hope you were taking notes , there may be a quiz later.
 
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Good luck.

I can see a lot of thought is going into the re-purposing of this case. Looking forward to the first cuts!

BTW, I can't believe someone threw that away.......you must live in a great neighbourhood.
 
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Thanks .... working on a jig that'll enable me to do the cuts accurately . The tolerances seem to be pretty tight regarding locating the latch plate into the can so that the latch fingers engage as they should . Don't trust myself to do the cut layout via measurement .
As far as a great neighborhood , it's OK , certainly not a rich one . But the town got hit with about a 3-4 foot tidal surge after last September's storm and , in the affected areas , all sorts of stuff got chucked in the few weeks after. Or maybe the cube was just dead and taking up space , and someone's "little lady" may have had her way. ( When are you gonna get rid of that thing!!!???)
 

eelhead

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Looking good!
Cant wait to see the end results as well. It will be nice to see your space management along with mine during our builds :D
 
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OK... so I made up this jig out of plywood to enable me to accurately drill the holes for the locating studs in their reversed positions .



Drilled everything out and it worked pretty well , everything critical aligned up right . put in into the case , tried it out and it latched!! ... and even better unlatched!



Getting ready to make the cut for the mobo backplane and thought ... better check if the case will close . The 2 ears that the latch mechanism grab onto extend some distance on both sides from the central axis of case . So I made a couple of marks on the underside of the cage top plate that aligned with the flat on the back of the heatsink , which the motherboard plate was going to screw into . Dropped the plate into position inside the case , hoping the line would fall outside the latch ears .....



Oh Well.....there goes another loser ..... got around 1" of interference . Good thing I checked before I cut . On to Plan C. ..... relocate the mobo to the far right of the cage , up against the two uprights .

 
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61mg73,

I like the new idea on having the mobo against the uprights. Now I know you have obviously cut all the fins out of that heatsink, so this suggestion probably isn't what you'd want to hear (!) - but I couldn't help but think wouldn't it be great to have a few U-shaped heatpipes going now from the top of your CPU and actually using the original Cube huge heatsink. I'm talking about using something like this perhaps:

http://www.hfx.at/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=123&Itemid=139



Use the CPU block, drill and tap the Cube heatsink to take the included heatpipe adapters, carefully give the pipes an extra bend.....and suddenly you could have a completely silent Apple Cube with the lovely heatsink and chimney working the way that Apple always intended.

It'd probably be a b*st*** to do the final assembly of the heatpipe adapters onto the heatsink but with small fingers, a lot of swearing and nifty Allen key use it might just work.

As I said, probably not the way you'll want to go now, but might be nice for someone to give a whirl if they place the board like you're intending.

I think it should just be doable (and besides I love the name of that cooler "Borg" as it looks just like the mothership).
 
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Looks like a pretty neat piece of hardware , but , as you said , I've pretty much committed myself to another plan of action . Don't think it'd be too entertaining getting the thing into the case and installed ( I've got the swearing and Allen keys , but unfortunately have big hands , I'd have to find a leprechaun to do the work ) It seems that the key work for builds in Cubes is just , either it just fits or it just won't . Anyway , with a little bit of luck , and some thought , the new mobo location might have a whole lot more airflow than either of the 2 previous options . Should have it in by the end of next week .
 
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Yes, must admit on my Cube adventure a few years back the Zotac board I was trying to get in just seemed to give me too many compromises - and when I did get it in it ran too hot for my liking - and that's why I ended up shoving in the Mac mini and some hard drives instead (old style Mac Mini is an almost perfect fit).

Think I'd be brave enough to revisit one if one fell into my lap, but they certainly are a challenge.

Good luck guys.
 
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Did some more work over the last few days . Made up a couple of pieces of acrylic for motherboard plate mounts , screwed them into the case bottom and uprights . Mounted the plate and motherboard , measured and cut the opening in the bottom plate for the backplane . Gotta do some cosmetic surgery down the road to deal with those old port openings , and clean things up a bit.


Did a preliminary assembly.... lots of airflow , got a grip on wiring , lots of room...except that the upper memory socket now interferes with the power switch circuit board big time.



Also did some work making up a piece for the laptop SATA drive i'm using which will turn an irregularly shaped drive into a nice rectangle that I can mount into the existing drive bay .

So the search is on for a more friendly mobo .... maybe the Intel board Neilhart is working with or one of the similar Intel boards . Gonna do a full scale printout of whatever I choose and check it to the case before I buy .
 
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