Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Got my Thermaltake DH-101 case with iMon LCD

I'm currently in the process of building a dedicated frontend box for my living room. Choosing most of the hardware was easy, since I'm modeling this after my other myth boxes. However, for the case, I wanted something that would blend into the entertainment center a bit better.

After looking for options for several weeks, trying to decide which HTPC case I like, I finally settled on the Thermaltake DH-101 case. It arrived yesterday, and I quickly began putting it together. Once it was up and running, my first task was to figure out how to get the new hardware features (the LCD and front panel control buttons) working. It's been tough, but I'm making progress.

iMon hardware is not linux friendly

Not that it was any surprise, but Soundgraph (makers of the iMon hardware) have been less than helpful with using the iMon hardware on linux. They refuse to release a linux driver for the hardware, and that's really not such a big deal. There are plenty of people willing to write the drivers for them (as is usually the case for hardware under linux). However, they also refuse to release the protocol for the hardware. Thats not such a big deal either. Again, plenty of hardware hackers out there enjoy reverse engineering this stuff.

The thing that is most annoying is that, after people went through the processes of reverse engineering the protocol and writing the driver for it, Soundgraph decided to suddenly change the hardware's protocol, thus breaking a lot of the work that had been done. Luckily (as can be expected) people have already gotten underway figuring things out again.

The forums over at have been filled with discussion about the iMon hardware, with lots of helpful advice on getting the hardware working. There's even info and patches that explain how to get the new iMon hardware (denoted by the hardware ID 15c2:0038). I wasn't having any luck at first, but I'm starting to make some progress here. I'll post more details in the coming days as I come up with a more concrete description of just what it takes.

Initial impressions on the case

The case is very nicely constructed, and looks even better in person that what I had thought from the photos. Assembly was nice and easy, organization of the case was very good. However, I do have a few complaint. First, the stock fans are quite loud. I'm going to have to replace them with something else if this is to go in the living room. Second I'm a bit disappointed with the LCD. Besides the fact that I ended up with the new "redesigned, for more difficult linux compatibility" model, I'm also disappoint by which LCD color they used.

The photos on the Thermaltake website all show the system used with the Soundgraph negative white LCD. However, the one I got is using the negative blue. Negative white has a dark, unlit background, so all you really see is the lit up elements (text and symbols). The negative blue, however, has the whole display backlight with a dimmer blue light. That has 2 downsides. First, it gives off more light. When you are in a datk room watching a movie, the fewer sources of bright light, the better. But more so than that, having the whole background lit up means less contrast for the characters being displayed.


Kim said...

I've been looking around a bit at this case. How did it end up going? In relation to fans have you tried cutting the wire and soldering a low-resistance resistor across it? Lower voltage / fan speed = lower noise. It doesn't look like it would have much too trouble with overheating.

eric said...

Hey. Just built one of these myself which I'll be using for a front/backend combo. How did programming the LCD and presets go? Any advise?