- DVD Player -

My DVD Player Project

This is a project I took on several years ago. I was annoyed with what consumer DVD players could or more correctly, couldn't do.

Regular consumer DVD players, at least back when I made it, could rarely reliably play DVD-Rs, CD-Rs, MP3 CDs, and finding one that would play iTunes music like .m4a and .m4p files was impossible. On top of that, I wanted to be able to play all my other random video and audio files I have made over the years, like my iMovie projects, those rarely play in their native format on a consumer DVD player. Also the overheating and freezing and bad UI design on most consumer devices makes navigation a bigger chore than it's worth.

So, a DJ friend of mine gave me a bunch of broken CD and MiniDisc players, I selected an old Sony CD player box because it was big enough to fit most of my components, and I started cutting away at it. I removed all its innards, carved a hole for the motherboard's jacks, fixed together a mounting system that is rather crude but functional given what items I had available at the time to build it.

The system was built around a VIA Mini-ITX motherboard using a Via C3 Ezra processor at 932MHz - which can be software-overclocked to 1066MHz I later found out for a slight speed boost. I selected this board because not only is it very tiny, but it also has all the ports needed for a media box, including S-Video out, composite video out, 5.1 analog audio out, and PCM digital audio out for a surround sound processor! On top of all this, it has integrated MPEG2 decoding, so DVD player applications can play back DVD movies without having to bog down the processor with decoding!

I only put 256 MB RAM in it as it was just going to be a media playback box, nothing serious, maybe one or two programs running at a time. I put a 6 GB laptop hard drive in the back of it, and took apart and modified a desktop DVD-ROM drive to fit into the opening where the original OEM drive went. I then took the real Sony drive cover, and modified it to mount onto the DVD-ROM drive tray so I could still make it look like an OEM Sony CD player. I also took the front cover off the DVD-ROM drive and soldered wires directly to its eject button circuit, and then to the Sony's control panel eject button. So when you press eject on the CD player, the DVD-ROM opens. I cut holes in the front for the front-mount USB2 and FireWire jacks the motherboard came with (it's fully loaded!) and set it up so it could stream media over 100-T ethernet off my desktop/server in my room.

The power supply posed a problem as I had originally intended on using a miniature power supply designed for the Mini-ITX boards, but they were sold out at the time (for a long while) and wouldn't have enough power to run the desktop-size DVD-ROM drive I had used. So I found this strange small power supply in an old 133 MHz Pentium box I had laying around from MTU - drilled holes to mount it onto the back of the Sony where the original power jack snaked in, and then hacked off it's motherboard power cable to lengthen it.

To make that cable longer I individually added new wires to each wire on the motherboard power connector, as it wouldn't reach across the system case otherwise, so it now snakes and coils around the middle of the system. After that, I also took apart the Sony's DPST fixed on/off switch and broke the mechanism that locked the switch in it's on or off positions, so it would become a momentary on/off switch that could be used to power the motherboard on and off. I wired it to the motherboard's power switch pins, and set up the DVD player's operating system to go to suspend-to-disk when I push that button. So when I'm done using it I can push power just like the other devices on the entertainment center and it will shut down and power up just like them. (Albeit a little slower due to disk writes.)

Soon after building it I found out that it would easily overheat in that case with no ventilation, so I cut vent slats in the side and top around the processor, and installed a 5" RadioShack muffin fan into the lid to suck cool air in the side, across the processor heatsink and southbridge heatsink, and then up out the top. Totally fixed the problem!

Since the original project, the 6 GB hard drive died, which I replaced with an old 30 GB hard drive. Apparently it also took the primary IDE controller with it, so I ended up getting a new 80 GB hard drive for it (before I realized it was actually the controller that had died) and wired both the hard drive and the DVD-ROM to the secondary IDE controller.

I also for a while added a TV tuner card to it's PCI slot with a PCI slot cable-extender to lay that card overtop the motherboard when my TV died, so I could use my old 19" monitor for a TV ($25 for the card versus buying a TV! Awesome!) until I could afford to get a new TV the next year.

The TV card is now in my desktop so I can watch TV in both rooms of my new apartment, and the system just chills in the living room for watching TV or streaming iTunes music. It has survived several years of flawless service now, and even served as my desktop computer for a while when my primary laptops have gone belly-up. (As always, click thumbnails to see bigger pics!)

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