When beginning my sophomore year at RPI, I thought it was about time I built my
own computer. My trusty Thinkpad was still serving all my personal computing
needs, but I was starting to envision fun uses for a dedicated server. My
jet-setting college lifestyle necessitated that the computer be built into an
aluminum briefcase for easy transport.
Even though it was my first computer build, I knew the assembly of the computer
would be simple. It was integrating into a custom case that freightened me.
From the beginning, I was fairly certain that I would foul things up (usually
my visions included a fractured motherboard). For this, I designed a budget
system, with an Intel Celeron processor as the core. Unfortunately, it wasn’t
until just after purchasing the hardware that I would take a course (Computer
Organization with Christopher Carothers)
which mathematically detailed exactly why the Celeron’s low price is not worth
it. Oh well!
Despite my worries, the process was really very simple. I screwed the
motherboard, power supply, and hard drive to an aluminum sheet, which I then
attached to the briefcase. This ensured that all the components were properly
Airflow was the only other concern, and I placed a single intake fan (with blue
LED’s, of course) directly over the hard drive. The air flows from the hard
drive, across the mother board, and out of the case via the power supply’s fan.
This clockwise current is encouraged with a wall isolating the hard drive from
the power supply.
Because of its portability and headless nature, I set up dynamic DNS through
No-ip.com for the briefcase. This meant that I could
carry the computer with me anywhere, plug in power and ethernet, and
http://briefcase.no-ip.com would resolve to the server (barring firewalls, of
Over the years, the briefcase has served as a private file server for my
friends, a media server for my family, and a personal Linux test-bed (it was my
first Linux computer, after all!). It is currently gathering dust, but I do
like to take it out from time to time when I’m feeling like spy.