Ben Whittle’s Latest Uber Computer Update

Ben has now moved the location of the UPS battery compartment to the section on the right hand side underneath the painting. It is now completely isolated from the heat of the other components and is still easily accessible by removing one of the underside panels should it ever need changing.

Ben has also been working on the section which will house the SATA SSDs for the secondary storage. The plan is to use 2 high end SATA SSDs in RAID0 for increased throughput (this could also be reconfigured to use RAID1 for redundancy should the need ever arise). As the primary storage will be a NVMe based PCI-express storage device, it will not trigger the HDD LED to flash when it is accessed as it will not be using the motherboards integrated storage controller. As the only drives which will trigger the HDD LED header will be the SSDs this gave Ben an idea for some lighting effects.

As the SSDs will be housed in front of the SATA connectors to which they will be connected Ben thought it would be quite neat to route out a channel from these connectors on the motherboard leading to the connectors on the SSDs. Ben has routed the channel to two depths, one 5mm in order to provide a shelf for some frosted acrylic to sit on and another 15mm to house a strip of RGB LEDs.


RGB LEDs consist of a red, green and blue LED housed in one unit and can produce a huge range of colours by varying the brightness of these three colours. This is actually the principle behind AMOLED displays found in mobile devices like phones and tablets, they are just made up of thousands of tiny RGB LEDs to produce an image. If red, green and blue are all illuminated at full brightness, white light is produced. Just red and greed produces a yellow light, blue and red produces purple and so on…

As the colour scheme for the desk is red and black Ben will simply have the red LEDs powered up constantly when the system is on. He will also be connecting the green portion of the LEDs so that they will be triggered only when the HDD LED header is activated. As the red LEDs will be constantly powered up, this will have the effect of the strip flickering between red and yellow when the two SSDs are accessed. Below is a photo which will give a rough idea of the desired effect, although the acrylic will be flush with the surface when it has been properly cut to size.


Unfortunately controlling the green portion of the LEDs will not be quite as simple as hooking it up to the header on the motherboard. This header is designed for 5 volt LEDs and the LEDs in the RGB strip are 12 volt, also the header would not provide enough current to illuminate multiple LEDs. Ben has designed a circuit to control the lighting using a P-Channel MOSFET. The circuit will have several modes selectable using DIP switches, including the ability to switch each colour in the strip on or off and the ability to change how the LEDs respond to the SSD activity. By linking an avalanche diode in series with the gate pin on the MOSFET the circuit can produce a pulsating effect when the drives are accessed as opposed to the quick on/off blinking characteristic of a normal HDD LED. The scheme will generally be red / yellow but Ben thought it would be nice to have the option to change it.


To keep things neat Ben has designed the circuit on a single board which will also house components to control other parts of the desk such as general lighting, cooling and the touch sensitive power switch. These are separate systems but Ben will be manufacturing a custom wiring loom which will be cut to length and will link all of these components together in order to save space and simplify cabling. Below is a photo of the finished board with all of the components and connectors soldered.


Ben has tested some of the functions of the board by linking it to his existing PC and was pleased to find that controlling the LED strip using the signal from the HDD header and the power switch input with the Piezo touch sensitive switch works perfectly.


Ben will now have to measure the distance between all of the components and make the wiring loom which will be linking it all together. As for the desk itself, the cutting and routing stages are almost finished with only the rear cooling vents/connection panel and front control panel left to cut out. Once these have been cut out and the legs attached Ben will be dismantling the desk and painting all of the panels.

Stay tuned for more Ben Whittle’s Uber Computer Updates

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