Modern American Desk

Posted by: KnifeLord

Modern American Desk - 10/02/09 04:02 AM

Hello MacMod community!
I am beginning the brainstorm of a new build. This build will be a custom desk integrated with a computer. The desk will not be a wonderbread creation of particle board and plastic screws, but instead modeled after the great American Desk design. You know, those big oak desks, with the two major pedestals, three drawers each, and dead solid.

But I need help brainstorming the specifics. I am planning to build the desk from Ash (because that is what I have available, it will be just as tough, if not tougher.)and have a Bakelite top. I find Bakelite to be a very pleasant and acceptable writing surface.

What I want advice on- Type of computer. Should I put in an old G4, maybe network a few together? Or should I get a brand-spanking-new server blade? I've been entertaining the idea of using one of the two sets of drawers as a server holder, having a drawer-pull facade that exposes a steel rack with a water-cooling system control. Though that might be a bit out there.
Also what do you use most on your desk? What features should I include? Do you like having five drawers, or can I kill the file-drawer? Is a pull out keyboard tray necessary? Should I have a screen that hydrolicly lifts from the back and hides away when I'm not using it? Should it be a roll top, or just a flat surface?

Sorry about the huge entry post, I'll stop talking and start listening. smile


This sort of desk is my preferred-
Posted by: KnifeLord

Re: Modern American Desk - 10/02/09 04:04 AM

Then I came across this with the barrel roll... I'm not that advanced at carving, but if you are perhaps we should collaborate?

Posted by: TonimusMaximus

Re: Modern American Desk - 10/02/09 11:38 PM

A gear driven hand crank hidden flat screen would be neat. If you built yourself enough room for a G3/G4/G5 tower, you'd have about enough room for anything you might want to go to later. As for drawers, I seem to favor drawers about 8 inches deep or so.
Posted by: manhackman

Re: Modern American Desk - 10/03/09 05:47 PM

I love this idea!!!! I would make a specialized compartment for the computer... maybe completely hidden behind one side of drawers, with airflow through the bottom and rear.... usb/fw extentions to the top!
good luck!
Posted by: w2ed

Re: Modern American Desk - 10/05/09 11:19 AM

First off, this idea has been done before - someone did it back in 2004, and it was featured in not only the magazine Maximum PC, but in a book by that publishing company that came out later (that I have and remembered it from.) Unfortunately, if Barney Lascolais on the internet, he has kept himself pretty hidden; however, the PDF to the magazine is online in case you want to see the Mod:

Second, I love this type of idea - I hate when modders just solely do a look/speed-boost mod that is very typical of both Macs and PCs. If you're going to mod, why not tailor it to your needs and/or add functionality that you can use and can't currently get? A desk computer, be it PC or Mac, provides a lot of practical use and saves a lot of space, so it makes perfect sense to me.

Third, go with what you need and what you know you will use it for - but at least get an Intel-based machine. Yes, it'd be cheaper to go with an old G3/G4/G5, and for what you may need it may be perfect, but as software continually gets updated and and grows, your machine can only grow so far. Even though there's no guarantee that going completely new will make you safe from upgrades, you're guaranteed at this point, with developers abandoning Tiger and the PPC platform, to be safer.

Fourth, as a suggestion, make everything easy to upgrade. The bad thing about a mod like this is that, because it is furniture, you're going to expect to keep this around for a while - possible longer than the computer guts you're putting inside of it. Making it easy to upgrade and prepare for future changes now will make work when the hard drive dies or there's a new machine to replace the insides with a whole lot easier. Even if you have absolutely no plans or desire to upgrade this machine once you are done, having this covered will save you a lot of time.

Finally, build this to what you want and think you will need. A hidden screen is cool, but is it something you either want or need? A vented desk drawer(s) or built-in USB and Firewire is cool, but once they're added, do you plan to use them? Think about all of the things you find inconvenient now with computing the way you do that making this mod can fix, and implement those - you'll find the list of features, and the things you most want and need, easily available to you.

Hope this helps, and good luck!
Posted by: KnifeLord

Re: Modern American Desk - 10/09/09 05:25 AM

Through some of my own thought I've debated a roll-top or a flat top, but I'm sticking with that first style of desk I posted. I feel that it is the most American of designs, and it's simplicity mimics that of Apple's newest computers.

TonimusMaximus- Interesting, I like that thought, but I may go for chain or belt drive coupled with gearing.

manhackman- Yeah, thats one of the top ideas, but I liked something different PC mod that W2ed mentions, I'll get to that. For that idea though I was thinking that I should use either the right or the left set of drawers, and I am in the debate making it a server rack. Which side do you all use your drawers the most? Can servers go sideways? I also think a water-cooling system in that same assembly would be pretty nice.

W2ed- Nice, I like this mod. The glass showcasing the computer is awesome. I personally prefer a large straight desk to an L desk, I feel it makes it a little more long-term use able, that way it can be against a wall, corner or in the middle of the room without being too much a bother. But this guy's ideas are sound.
Secondly, thanks, yeah I've been thinking this idea secretly for a few years, but I haven't really had the supplies at hand, so I'm pretty psyched to be discussing it. I'm thinking it may be both Mac and PC, perhaps a good Linux system- I would need advice on that point.
Thirdly I agree, my current laptop is a MacBook Pro, and I noticed the 24" screens now have great hook-up-ability to these. I am debating making a server-rack in the side, but perhaps wait a couple years till I can afford a proper server, and in the mean-time use it as a fancy-screen-desk. Perhaps once I have a server in place my laptop will be outdated enough to join it on the rack. (Again, can racks go sideways?)
Fourthly- I figure the guts need to be upgraded from time to time, and I feel the screen can be fully built-in, I doubt it will be outdated quickly, do others disagree? Plus the rising screen is the most entertaining part of a desk-puter!
Fifthly- The ports kept me from replying earlier, I've thought a lot about it. I feel the most logical idea is to have a small spring-loaded (like a cd-player's lid that you press down and it pops up) access panel. It would have a removable bezel that could be replaced when wiring changes. I'm not sure if I want it on the right side or the left side. I'm right handed, and I tend to stuff the most junk on the left side of my desk so perhaps the right side is the proper choice.

Sorry bout the long post,)
Posted by: KnifeLord

Re: Modern American Desk - 10/09/09 06:21 AM

Does anyone know if it's possible to have a graphics card server of sorts? One which I could plug into my laptop and control multiple screens? If it doesn't exist yet, could one plausibly be built, how?

Posted by: w2ed

Re: Modern American Desk - 10/09/09 07:15 AM

Hey, so long as I am not tired I am a fan of long posts - it shows the person puts a lot of thought into what is said. smile

Glad you like the suggestion I made about the PC Mod - I've been wanting to do an entertainment center mod with a similar idea of having two computers (one as a server/MP3/MP4 converter, one as the front interface, complete with game emulation), but money and time have always been at war with me. (The economy couldn't have gone south at a worse time! LOL) Maximum PC and CPU, both PC magazines, have a long-standing relationship with Modders, and both used to showcase a mod-of-the-month in the pages of their magazine. (CPU - short for Computer Power user - still does.) It's worth going through their archives to see what others have done; in the same book that made me think of that desk PC was a person who built their computer inside of a working aquarium. Hope no fish or motherboards died there!

One mod you may want to look for as far as a dual-machine setup is a cube mod where someone put two computers into one machine - again, similar concept to mine, but it was built within an existing cube-floor server. I don't have any info at hand to help you, but my gut feeling is that one of those two sites will have it. (If I recall, I saw it a few years ago in Maximum PC.)

Considering how I've seen motherboards and hardware mounted, unless there is some weird reason (such as oddball liquid cooling setups, which would be rare, especially on the Mac), mounting it sideways, upside down, or any way you wanted to should be no problem. (You could probably look at mods on this site to see it!) Just make sure everything is easily accessible when you need it and that there is proper ventilation for the heat.

As much as I like the idea of a built-in screen, I would advise against this, especially if the source for the screen is what I think it will be. (If I am wrong, please correct me on this.) A lot of laptop parts are proprietary, and even when, such as the graphics cards, they follow the same standards, manufacturers tend to mess things up enough so that only the memory and hard disk are upgradeable. If you should decide to use the screen in your Macbook on a newer machine, you may find hooking it up to be difficult.

Even if you're using an external screen it'd probably be better not to break the screen out of its molding. Instead, I'd suggest using an LCD Mount that you modify to get the screen-rising-out-of-the-desk that you want - keep the part that attaches to the LCD Normal for future use and upgradeability.

There are two other ideas I could suggest, as far as screens. The first is a dual-screen setup using the built-in screen, since it sounds like you're going to build the MacBook Pro into the desk. (If you're not, I'd handly suggest a docking mechanism built into the desk so that you can still utilize both monitors.) The second, though, is to either buy a Touch-Screen Monitor or get some touch-screen film - especially if you do my first idea. With the amount of work being put in those technologies now, and the number of different ways it'll be put to use, it'd be a step up towards the future.

As far as the ports, great idea, and another place for suggestion: dig through the junk yards. A lot of computer manufacturers have implemented the ideas you want to do, and it'd be easier to use one of those mechanisms than to build it yourself. (Plus, it'd be way cheaper than to steal it from a newer tower, as far as cost!)

Finally, as I said before, build it to your needs - in other words, it sounds like you should put your ports to the right. smile

Keep me updated - sounds like a good idea.

-- Since you updated while I was writing this, I'll take the time to give a quick response: there may be solutions through NVidea, but the cost of doing them (and having them work within reason) may not be worth it. One solution would be something such as a USB-DVI hook-up, though (as you can imagine) the display response may be slow - it depends on what you want to use the display for. (The solution's good for small touch-screens, though - one of the things I am considering if I decide to do a carputer.) The best advantage to the USB-DVI is the price: the adapters can usually be found for less than a hundred, whereas a dedicated external graphics setup would cost in the thousands.

However, since you said you were possibly doing two machines, there is another solution: Software exists that allows a machine to be a dedicated second monitor (great for older laptops and people wanting to build 19-monitor setups - don't ask.) I don't know if there is Mac-compatible software, but one of the two mags I've suggested recently (as in the last couple of months) had an article on doing that - I'll post a link as soon as I find it.

Speaking of links, I figure this would be handy: Amazon has the book I've been pulling the modding info from, and even though it was published back in 2005, its ideas and advice is very sound for hardware mods, even today. It's called "Maximum PC's guide to Extreme PC Mods":