38 Photos - Jun 26, 2012
Photo: An older photo, but still a good one. This is the outside of the book. deviantART link if people are in to that thing: http://riumplus.deviantart.com/art/Myst-Book-Preview-186272308  The book is a copy of the same book Cyan used for a real-life prop of the Myst book. It's over 130 years old and is the equivalent of a Reader's Digest 6-monthly compilation. The paper is incredibly thin, delicate newspaper print with cross-hatched fibres that makes it incredibly difficult to slice smoothly. The most recent monthly editions were collected & bound together by local bookbinders using whatever bookbinding materials they had handy. This means there's many different versions of the same book, each slightly different... My searching has revealed there's at least 17 variations of this book, with by at least 8 different bookbinders (or at least 8 major differences likely to be different bookbinders). Finding which one is the correct one is just a little difficult.Photo: This will be the "front" of the book - as in, what you see when you open it up to the first page. The black styrene backing is the main mounting point for a lot of this book's electronics. I experimented with many other materials (even sheet Titanium) but plain old 2mm sheet styrene worked the best. What you see here will be covered by paper when it's installed in the book.  This styrene sheet represents the *entire* footprint I have to build this computer. That is seriously it. Everything has to fit within that space - battery and all. I wasn't joking when I said I was shrinking everything down as much as I could.  The main user input method (a touchscreen) has been tested, installed, then tested again. Hooray, it works! Protective plastic covers are still in place on the screen to protect it for as long as I can; when removed the glass is 98.5% transparent. The remaining colour tint will be calibrated for in the graphics card's LUT.Photo: The back of the book, closed. This is one of those photos that's more important than it first seems. I've had a break from the main parts of my book for a few days while I think things over. Basically things that I thought would fit, didn't. I used this time to do some other preparation work that I know I'd need if I was going to finish the book, no matter how I solved the problem.  I finally found a solution that works. This photo was taken while everything is inside the book and the book is smoothly closed. Phew, disaster avoided!Photo: The back of the front - this will be inside the book's hollow. The touch panel itself is a 4-wire resistive glass touchscreen. Its technical specs when paired with its controller are a 2048x2048 touching resolution, update frequency of 160 points/second with 35ms of lag, 80 grams of touching force required to activate it, with 25-point linearity drift compensation. Its thickness is 2.5mm & the active area is roughly 5 inches diagonally.  It was custom-made to my specifications, to perfectly match my LCD screen. They screwed up slightly & it's not square by 0.8mm.. Oh well, I'll live. It's excess glass outside the touch area, anyway.Photo: This screen took me a little over a year to track down. There's very few screens in the world that are close to the right size of a linking panel for the actual Myst book. There's even fewer that have the tech specs I need. As far as I'm aware only three suitable models have ever been made, by any manufacturer, anywhere in the world - two of which are no longer available. This is one of the models that's no longer available.  Testing again to check that the display plus its driver hardware all works, so I thought I'd take a photo of a familiar sight. You should be able to see some jagged edges on some of the pixels. That's because this display is 640x480... The native resolution of original Myst. 1:1 resolution, everything will look super-crisp and *exactly* like the original. Even the jagged pixel edges.  The screen protector is still on, which is responsible for some minor colour tinting/fuzziness & a big number 3 in the top right corner.  (note - the background has been brightened)Photo: Screen is installed, yay! It's not completely aligned but it's within half a millimeter. I'm too picky.  You can see now why I keep the protective screens on as long as possible... keep everything clean & pristine while the dirt work is going on. I checked quickly to make sure; the screen underneath is completely dust, scratch & smudge free. It's all on the protector.Photo: The back once again, showing the raw LCD panel. This is how I bought my screen - in individual pieces! This will be coated for protection (against both physical & electrical damage).  The screen itself is a roughly 5" diagonal a-Si TN-TMR TFT LCD (yay acronyms!). Its native resolution is 640x480, 16.7 million colours with a 500:1 typical contrast ratio. It's LED-backlit with a maximum brightness of 200cd/m^2. Combined with its driver board, it will accept any VGA signal up to 2048x1536 & downscale as necessary. Combined power consumption of the screen plus its driver should be around 1.6 watts at peak, 0.9 watts average. Compare that to an average desktop monitor's ~60 watts... this may be smaller but it's not 1/60th smaller & it still needs almost the same driving circuitry!Photo: The sound system has been installed & tested. The speakers have a weird mounting system keeping them elevated from the styrene but not completely decoupled. The cones can come in contact with the styrene if the volume is cranked or certain frequencies are predominant. This is by my design.  I had to kludge together the audio a little - my donor parts required a secondary mini lithium battery for the amplifier, something I was hoping to avoid. The audio quality drops after running it for an hour or so, too. There's not much I can do about this, I don't have time to find a suitable replacement and for the first hour it works *beautifully*.Photo: The front of again with the speakers installed. Holes were drilled to allow the sound to pass through. Don't forget the black styrene will be covered in paper so the soundwaves will have to pass through the paper. This is yet another thing that will be corrected for in software with a system-wide equaliser adjustment.  The sound fantastic. They can be very loud; a lot louder than many laptop speakers. :D  I can no longer rest the circuitry on its back to take a photo of the front. Time to fix that by installing it in the book...Photo: Styrene sheet & its accompanying electronics have been mounted in the book, yay! This is what the book looks like. I've hollowed out as much as I feasibly can. I have a little over 4 centimetres (1.5 inches) of depth to work with. I wasn't lying when I said it was going to get squishy...Photo: Display driver circuitry has been installed. This is the stuff that turns a video signal into actual pixel on/off values on the LCD panel. Together, these two make up what most would call a normal monitor - give it some power and a video signal and it displays it. Again with everything being so cramped, the best way I could install it while putting the minimum stress on the ribbon cable was at an angle while pushed up against the book's wall. The PCB was snipped back by half a millimetre to gain a little more space.  There's some sheet styrene between the LCD panel & the display driver circuit board. This acts as structural, electrical & physical barriers between the driver board & the LCD panel. You don't want the circuit board's spiky through-hole solder joints to cause any problems. For those keeping track, this means that area is currently stacked 8 layers thick: styrene, touchscreen, glass backing, LCD panel, electrical tape, styrene, electrical tape, display driver board.Photo: Power on and.. the LCD is receiving data from the display driver board, yay! Now to add something that provides a video signal... This display driver board is set up to receive any video up to 24-bit 2048x1536 60Hz over a VGA connection & downscale it to the LCD's native resolution. DVI may be a better, lossless signalling protocol but it just wasn't an option at this scale. VGA gear is much more compact (you don't get much signal degradation at slow-&-tiny 640x480 anyway, it's only 25MHz compared to the board's supported 250MHz+)Photo: Let's just borrow my netbook and feed it a video signal to test it... Oh hey it works! I tested the sound too. They both work *perfectly*. The screen is as crisp as can be, the sound is loud and clear, everything is perfect!Photo: I'm about  a third of the way through now. I still have to fit the power supply, the motherboard, the adapters, the OS, the software, the front cover, the charging solution, temperature checking, structural reinforcing... but so far it's promising!Photo: EMF shields have been installed over some of the more sensitive areas. The touchscreen controller has been glued in place on the lower right with its accompanying cables. The touch controller's USB cable was both shortened in the middle & had its head trimmed back - its connection is a little flakey but I don't have time to redo it. The VGA cable hanging out the top of the book has been rewired & the screen's display buttons have been routed to their final location (still to be glued in place). Slowly, every speck of spare space in this book is getting filled...Photo: All computers need a power supply to create the different voltages needed. On the right is a standard OEM PC power supply - a very large, very heavy brick. On the left is my book's power supply. The wires on my book's power supply still need to be trimmed & adapted but it's pretty obvious how tiny it is in comparison. This is what happens when you don't need a transformer or bridge rectifier & you increase the power supply's efficiency to the point that it doesn't even need passive cooling (94% efficient - draw 100 watts through this thing & it'll only emit 6 watts of heat).  The big white connector coming out from the old PSU plugs into the motherboard. The blue connector on my mini PSU is the same plug - except you literally plug your entire power supply into the motherboard, rather than keeping it as a separate brick. This 20-pin blue connector will be trimmed back to just 6 pins, since I've done away with the need for the rest. Gotta save as much space & weight as I can.Photo: My power supply, side-on. Two circuit boards sandwiched together, each one dual-sided with components on all four surfaces. This power supply is rated at 95% efficiency and can provide up to 125 watts of power, though I won't be using anywhere near that much juice. Miniaturisation at work, yo.Photo: On the left is a regular, modern desktop motherboard (for an Intel Sandy Bridge CPU actually). On the upper right is my 10" Netbook, Yoctopus. On the lower right is my book's computer. This 12cm (4.7") board contains everything a computer needs - CPU, GPU, RAM, hard drive, the myriad of ports and adapter plugs... everything. It's easily the most advanced part of this book. You may have seen Intel demo their tiny NUC computer, due out the end of this year. I had this in my hands in February. (Also, the CPU's the upper heatsink - tiny AND low power!)Photo: The front of my motherboard, what a tiny thing it is. 12cm by 12cm, everything you need.Photo: Back of the motherboard. I had already installed the RAM in this shot. The CompactFlash slot leads straight into the IDE connector on the motherboard, meaning you can boot from it without any problems.Photo: Another example in my quest for saving space. This is a tiny male->male converter for a VGA plug. I was planning to use it to simplify the plug process. I couldn't use it in the end because I couldn't spare the extra space the plug took up. Yes seriously, *this* was too much space. I ended up cutting the VGA cable & resoldering a male plug onto it. Soldering wires that have to cleanly carry an analogue signal at 25MHz is difficult, especially given my dodgy equipment.Photo: Here's my soldering iron tip. This is a cheapo no-name wand-style soldering iron. The tip's plating has completely gone and the tip is visibly corroding, to the point that there's a bite-sized chunk corroded *right through it*. This is what I'm using to solder all of my gear together, on a project as involved and as difficult as this one... I need a new tip, preferably a whole new soldering iron!Photo: The batteries that power everything. This is three raw Lithium-Polymer pouches bundled together. They're rated at 11.1V, 2200mAh (24.4Wh of juice). The big thing about these batteries is they're rated to deliver a sustained 45 Amps of current, with a momentary peak of 65 Amps.. quite a sizeable kick for something so small. There's no protective plastic case around these, again for space-saving reasons... Instead I just try to be *very* careful when handling them. They'll be completely fine once they're installed in the book, for now they live in a "fire-proof" bag (better described as just fire-resistant; it's not like you can hold back a Lithium chemical fire).  I accidentally punctured one of these while cutting something. I don't recommend anyone does that, it wasn't a fun experience.Photo: Another example of saving space. This is the USB cable for the touchscreen controller. The cable needs to make a 180' bend and it was too sharp... So I trimmed away 1/4 of the plug so the cable has more room & length to bend. There was originally a big flex-protector on the plug's end, you can faintly see a line remains on the cable. The USB cable itself was also shortened by 90% (but in the middle & not the end, also because of the sharp 180' bend)Photo: In my quest for saving space I had to even trim back the cables. This is the power cable for the speaker amplifier. It's normally a very long cable that ends with a USB plug - now I'm just going to run the amplifier straight into the common 5V power rail without worrying about the USB port. Waste no space.Photo: With everything positioned so close together, you have to start taking some extra stuff into account. This is a home-made EMF shield. It's just a sheet of Aluminium foil sandwiched between two pieces of paper that's been superglued together. You might think I'm using overkill here, but putting your power supply three millimetres from your sensitive electronics will create some problems if you don't do something to isolate the two.Photo: Thermal imagery of the motherboard running while sitting on a bench uncovered, ~5 minutes after turning on. This one has a different temperature scale to the others since it was so cold. You can see some power regulators heat up quickly but the rest of the board remains pretty cool.Photo: After 30 minutes, things have heated up a little. Interestingly enough though the whole board is fairly even - heatsinks match the PCB, which is interesting. I may need to install some active cooling since this is a bit warm in an open environment.Photo: Back of the board, 30 minutes. The CF card in the upper right seems to be thermally separated from the rest of the board. Meanwhile, the RAM on the upper left is almost invisible, everything is the same colour. It really seems that the whole PCB is acting as a heatsink, not just the actual heatsinks. Two voltage regulators again are the hot spots.Photo: Front of the board, 90 minutes, no active cooling at all for any of the time. This is very close to the 30-minute test, meaning a stable operating temperature has been reached in this environment. Now I know it really does consume so little power! I still think I may need a cooling fan, we'll see how well it holds up actually inside the book.Photo: It boots! Huzzah! Just a quick test into DSL, but a boot nonetheless! Now to switch to my actual OS. (Excuse the messy table, I'm too busy to keep things tidy right now)Photo: The rest of the EMF shielding has been put in place and the power supply has been installed. The power supply's wires were greatly trimmed back because I had so little space. The amplifier & the display have been soldered directly into the power supply's wiring. The whole system was then tested with the battery and... everything ran without a hitch. The first test that was entirely self-powered. :DPhoto: My presentation's in under 12 hours so I figured I might as well upload this photo early to the people who've been following me.  Unphotoshopped. Not a still photo, taken while it was running realMyst PC edition. At ~20fps. Completely self-contained without any assistance from anything external (no wireless connection to a master computer, no power cables, nothing). You play the game by just touching the touch-screen. Aside from no sound, everything works. It's done.Photo: If you get a chance, check out the latest issue of MAKE Magazine - Volume 34, pages 26-27. Somebody has a 1.5-page spread ;DPhoto: Digging through my archives, I found these silly self-portraits I apparently staged at 3am while constructing my Myst book. I don't remember taking these photos, but I used the front linking panel page before it was inserted into the book.

First and only time someone will ever get a proper linking book portrait with an "actual" Myst book, without any photoshopping. :pPhoto: "Bring me the white page? Nah, I've already got one of those. Bring me the donuts!"Photo: "See I've got a blue page too. Bring me the Big Macs. And the fries."Photo: Myst-Inception. Just like Atrus' first age.