Saturday, February 20, 2016

New case for AmigaOne A1222

Since I received my AmigaOne A1222 it has had a temporary home in my Sam 460 tower case, but that was never the final location planned. I needed a new case for the A1222 and recently I came across a very cool Mini-ITX case that I believe suits the A1222. The case is a In Win H-Frame Mini-ITX, and It arrived this week. Build time!

The case came in a neat box, and given how small it is, it is not your average pc case box:

On opening the case I was greeted with the glass panel for the case, carefully positioned to avoid damage, the manual and tools and accessories to build the case:

Once free of the packaging, the case looks great and very small:

The panel covering both sides of the case are removable by unscrewing the four hex screws holding them in, which look rather nice in my opinion:

The case itself is thermal material designed to direct heat away from the case, and it does this with a design that means it is quite an open case, which makes it look very different from the usual cases:

I had to pick red for the case as the A1222 will be running AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition. There is also blue and green colours available, which use a different colouring for the thermal structure of the case that matches. More details about the case are on In Win's website here.

It is almost like someone knew about NG Amiga when making this case - Red for AmigaOS 4.1, Blue for MorphOS, Green for AROS :-)

It comes with a 180W power supply, and this is important as we need a reasonable amount of power to power the A1222 and all the associated hard disks, graphics cards, dvd drives, etc.

Once I open the red cover, I can see the mini-itx bay and associated cables for connecting everything in:

This case has covers on both sides. The other side has locations for 2 SATA hard disks and a Slim DVD drive. You will note that the SATA power and data cables are already in position, ready to slot the drives straight in.

This method of placing is clever, since undoing the panels on both sides makes all components easy to change out in what would otherwise be a hard case to work on:

Given the Slim DVD requirement, I purchased a Silverstone DVD-R slim SATA drive to fit into this case:

I had to go with slot load obviously, for extra coolness :-)

Here is the DVD drive installed in the case. Literally slide in as all the connectors are already in the correct position out of the box. No screws needed for the DVD. Love it - easy to do:

Next up was the hard disk. Now I took a 320GB Sata 2.5 Hard disk I used to use in another computer for this build. I connected to the A1222 in the old case and prepped the hard disk and transferred all the contents across from the 3.5 Hard disk I was using before.

Here is the 320Gb SATA disk installed in the system. (The hard disk does need screws to secure it which are included)

Note the position of the hard disk above, as the other data hard disk slot cabling is not long enough to reach the data port connectors on the A1222. It needs a SATA data extender cable if you want to use the hard disk in that position.

Keeping in mind that the A1222 has 2 SATA ports, the other connection will not be used anyway, so it is not a big deal.

Flipping the case over, I now start work on fitting the A1222 board inside:

As you would expect, it is a snug fit in this very small case, but everything does fit well. The case is designed to make cable routing around the outside of the board easy to accomplish, which is important if you plan to use the glass cover to show off your build!

I also need to install the PCI-e graphics card into the PCI-e graphics slot on the A1222. My Radeon 5450 PCI-e card I was using for the A1222 needs to be slimmed down first to it's low profile form to fit in, which is easily done:

Here it is, installed. As you can see you can only install a low profile single slot graphics card in this case, but that is perfect for the A1222 as it has only one PCI-e slot:

View of the back of the system case, showing the A1222 board and PCI-e card installed:

One more detail needs sorting out though - the case comes with two front USB3 ports only, with a corresponding USB3 connector to connect to the motherboard. However the A1222 motherboard has a USB2 port connection, which means I can't use the front ports as it is. (only the rear 2 USB ports)

I picked up a USB3 to USB2 port converter to solve this problem as shown below:

So now I can connect the front USB3 ports to the A1222 motherboard:

With everything connected up, I put on the optional glass cover to show the system off:

Alternate view from the top - note the case includes a small grill at the top to stop dust falling on the motherboard:

I then put the red cover back on, as I prefer it this way:

View of the back with the red covers on - you can see how open the case is:

First power on and amazingly (for me) the system worked straight away - all present and correct.

With Debian 8 Linux booting up fine on the new hard disk, I could breath a sigh of relief. I was most worried about the hard disk transfer process not working properly, but fortunately it did work fine.

I put in a Lizardking cd to test the new DVD drive, which I pleased to say works great:

The USB 3 ports on the front also work fine on the A1222 with the converter I installed:

The A1222 system is whisper quiet in the new case! I am also pleased to report no issues with power supply - 180w is fine for this configuration.

I am very glad this week to get the AmigaOne A1222 system into an appropriate Mini-ITX case that will be it's permanent home!

I still have to put the sam 460 back into it's original system, but I think this is enough builds for this week!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ghan Preservation Museum Alice Springs

I have been a bit busy of late, but finally got some time together to cover the Ghan Preservation Museum in Alice Springs, which I visited in late December 2015 as part of my Ghan trip.

The Ghan preservation museum is located on the site of the MacDonnell railway siding, which was part of the original narrow gauge railway line from Adelaide to Alice Springs, which was operational until 1980 when it was replaced by the rerouted standard gauge line via Tarcoola.

A few years ago now I travelled on the Pichi Richi railway from Port Augusta to Quorn in South Australia's Flinders ranges area, which is the southern preserved section of the original Ghan narrow gauge railway line to Alice Springs. In between this museum line and the pichi richi railway line terminating station, the narrow gauge line has been ripped up.

An old narrow gauge Commonwealth railways locomotive is used to point the way to the museum on the Stuart Highway heading south from Alice Springs.

Here we are at the entrance.

The narrow gauge railway line is still here, disconnected from the standard gauge railway line that runs nearby. You walk over the line to enter the museum.

Interestingly the narrow gauge line exists from the station for around 40 kms to the south of here, and terminates at a small siding. For a while after the museum opened, they used to run short train trips on the original narrow gauge line using the original narrow gauge locomotives and rolling stock.

Unfortunately due to lack of funding and volunteers to maintain the track, the original line is no longer able to be used for this purpose and the rolling stock is displayed statically these days. Maybe one day it can run again? I would love to see it.

As mentioned, the museum exists on the original MacDonnell siding on the narrow gauge railway line.

The impressive railway station built here was not originally at this location. In fact, this building is the original Alice Springs (Stuart) railway station that was never actually built in Alice Springs!

When this museum started they decided to build it here exactly to the original plans for the railway station to recreate the narrow gauge era. Great idea!

No. 58 Narrow gauge Diesel Locomotive in front of the Stuart railway station:

When entering the museum you can turn left for the railway museum or turn right for the truck museum. There is an entrance fee to go into the museum - I only went into the train museum so it was cheaper!

Here is the entrance to the Stuart Railway museum building, which contains a lot of memorabilia from the narrow gauge railway days of the Ghan. Note that Alice Springs was originally called Stuart.

Here are some photos from the inside of the railway station museum, showing some very interesting artifacts:

This map shows the original narrow gauge line through to Alice Springs (then called the Central Australia Railway), and the proposed extension to connect to the North Australia Railway (isolated line from Darwin).

Finally in 2004 it was all connected via standard gauge line from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs! The Commonwelath Railways to Australia National / National Rail era is also covered in this museum. It covers the period after the transition to standard gauge on the Ghan railway line occurred in 1980.

More Ghan memorabilia, and some Trans Australia railway posters (later called the Indian Pacific):

Not shown in my pictures, but there is also a browsable library of rare train books you can pull up a chair and read while at the museum!

Moving outside now onto the MacDonnell siding railway side, I took some more pictures:

Some of the signboards for long disused sidings are included on the building:

Interestingly enough, Marla is still used by the Ghan today on the standard gauge, as I found out in December when we stopped there to view a beautiful sunrise in the desert.

Here are some close ups photos of the NSU58 Diesel Locomotive used for many years as the Ghan on the narrow gauge, actually on the narrow gauge line itself:

As you can see these locomotives were made in England:

You can also see above their is a small kids railway line alongside the narrow gauge, which is used for kids small train rides - unfortunately it was not running when we were there.

Behind the NSU58 was an original Commonwealth Railways Lounge carriage:

Love the stained glass window:

Behind this is some open air rolling stock (presumably used for freight) which have had seats installed (I assume for when the museum ran trips on the narrow gauge):

I could also see a carriage I hadn't seen before in other museums:

You can go inside these carriages too - here is a view towards the Stuart railway station building, showing a commonwealth railways dining car closest to us:

Here is the inside of the dining car:

Moving down the carriage:

There is also a full kitchen in here:

Original air conditioning system built in London. How times change.

Moving to the next carriage is the lounge car:

You can see there is a small cafe in the car, the original fans and a more modern air conditioner too - definitely travelling in these cars in the desert heat back in the day must have been horrible:

Also in the car is a toilet, with what looks like most of the original fittings:

Having reached the end of the carriages, I worked my way back towards the other end, and that curious carriage I hadn't seen before:

Turns out this carriage was originally an Employee Van, NEA Class car called "Marree". Marree was one of the towns on the Ghan narrow gauge line in remote northern South Australia.

A plaque explains this and shows the original layout. Very interesting!

These days though this carriage has been setup as a sort of dining car:

Seems from the poster in here that the old train was still running from the museum in 1993. Heh, I lived in Alice Springs back then and didn't even know you could ride it!

View from the carriage window, looking south towards Adelaide.

Walking further around the museum there are plenty of older freight carriages on display, not on the main narrow gauge line - just on static display:

I also found the W924 Steam locomotive on one of the siding lines - I gather it used to be used as the Ghan in the steam days:

More CR passenger cars, but unfortunately could not go into these ones:

There are various other carriages and locomotives dotted around the place, outside the area that can be viewed directly by the public - such as these ones, which I used a zoom lens to capture - clearly in various states of disrepair:

Continuing around the museum are some interesting maintenance railway vehicles:

And even older horse drawn carriages too:

The small kids railway line moves around throughout the museum, with some nice train themed Ghan displays:

Interestingly you can also stay at the museum - there are powered caravan sites, and also some guest only carriages you can enjoy:

As usual when I finished looking around I went a little crazy on the train souvenirs in the gift shop:

I have to say I really enjoyed going to the Ghan preservation museum in Alice Springs - it was definitely worth the trip! I hope one day they can run the locomotives again on the narrow gauge - that would be fantastic!