Housing an aquarium computer

As mentioned before, I purchased a Lattepanda as a single-board computer for running Windows 10. This works great, although the Intel Atom chip runs a little hot and needs extra cooling.

The main purpose of this is to run my Seneye aquarium monitor, so it needs to fit under my aquarium along with the other items that I’ve built to automate my fish hobby. This means an IP56 custom housing which presents me with a challenge: how to get heat out of a sealed box?

IP56 LattePanda case

In the end I have decided that a completely sealed box is unreasonable, although you could imagine a small water-cooled one with the radiator external to the sealed box. Air holes drilled into each end and push/pull fans drawing the air past the computer board seemed to be an excellent idea as the Intel chip runs very hot. There were some challenges:

Getting a USB cable through a grommet

Did you spot my problem? It is in the bottom right of the photo. I was able to get a small micro-USB through a 10mm grommet by removing the sealed cable end, however I now have a bigger problem in that I need to get a USB-A type plug through to service the Seneye SUD device. For that I am using an external USB female panel mount and connect that to the USB input on the computer.

Switching it on and off

Another issue is that the LattePanda has a curious boot-up sequence. First you ‘switch it on’ by supplying power to the USB lead which goes through a sequence of blinking red and blue LEDs, then into a quiescent state of blue LED only waiting for you to trigger the Windows boot. This is done by pressing the ‘on’ micro button on the side to start the boot. But the real issue is that in a sealed box this will not be possible – I have to find a way to click that micro-button externally.

Any ideas?

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Lattepanda

I purchased a LattePanda using Bitcoin.

lattepanda-logo

The Bitcoin part is unremarkable – I don’t speculate on it nor use it as a store of value, just for transactions. Buying via a maker web site was simple (their shopping cart software is Shopify and they use BitPay as a payment cartridge). But what really intrigued me was the Lattepanda itself.

It’s pretty cool.

You may know that most single-board computers (SBCs) run on ARM chips. ARM cornered the market for low-powered devices and most mobile phones use them. So too most SBCs including the well known Raspberry Pi. My collection of Beaglebones, RasPis, Odroids and others is now joined by a SBC powered by an Intel. Harking back to an earlier post, this is mostly brought on by a couple of things: a need to run some trenchant Windows software. I’d also like to play movies through it, if possible.

That second need is brought on by never really getting my Plex project working: I could get the recording part through my HD Homerun TV recorder working, and storage wasn’t a problem – it was just that the particular box I chose to put it on wasn’t strong enough to do the transcoding needed to play back the movies on different devices. Perhaps also the Lattepanda won’t be sufficient as I notice that the Atom chip runs REALLY hot and I’m just fitting it with a fan to take some heat away. Let’s see if that helps, but I may need to invest in an Odroid XU4 or something to really get the power boost my home media systems require.

For now I am gearing up the Windows platform on the Lattepanda and installing all the necessary updates, then putting it in a case and under my aquarium where it will run the Seneye Connect software and possibly a webcam on my fishes.