My father, the casemodder

My father, the casemodder

Summary: I love hearing about these wacky aesthetic computer modifications that people do. While a lot of them definitely have the "cool" factor, most aren't exactly useful or practical.

TOPICS: Health, Hardware

I love hearing about these wacky aesthetic computer modifications that people do. While a lot of them definitely have the "cool" factor, most aren't exactly useful or practical. But when I heard about one particular "casemod" from one of my readers, I was intrigued. It just so happened that this particular ZDNet reader was my dad.

My father, a retired family dentist is far from the average sedentary senior citizen. He plays tennis (although he managed to get himself a nice knee injury recently and needed to have surgery because he was playing too hard) and teaches at the local dental college. In particular, he teaches students how to use dental software and the dental school's Intranet site. He has also been a tinkerer and a modifier of practically everything he can get his hands on for as long as I can remember.

Being a general practicing dentist or oral surgeon requires the use of a lot of specialized equipment. It's a profession where being good with your hands is an absolute necessity, and I'm not just talking about working inside someone's mouth. The motorized dental chairs themselves cost many thousands of dollars and when they break, you really don't want to have to call a technician in to fix them, you need to be self-reliant.

If you're a dentist, you'd better get to know the guys at the local hardware store and Radio Shack real well. He also used to treat chronically ill elderly patients in nursing homes, and although it wasn't actually part of his job, would make special modifications of wheelchairs to fit special patient needs. Before he retired he was also an avid boater, which involved a lot of 12-volt and marine electronics repair and constantly fixing stuff that deteriorates because its sitting in salt water and exposed to the elements.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

This combination of  hobbies with being a dentist leads to some very interesting results.  Dentists frequently fabricate things like temporary dentures out of fast-curing dental acrylic , a powdery substance that when mixed with a liquid catalyst forms a pretty strong plastic -- its the veritable Duct Tape of plastic repair. Dad frequently used it to fix or modify just about every plastic toy and model kit that my brother and I managed to break. When we cracked one of the wings off, we ended up having the only X-Wing fighter on the block with external bomb racks and missile launchers with a custom paint job.

So in regards to the "casemod", here's what my dad did. He bought himself a new Dell D530, and decided to hook it up to his new La-z-boy recliner so he could compute with a full sized monitor, keyboard and speakers and watch TV at the same time.  Cool!

I love the D530. Made some modifications to use with my Lazyboy. Modified my TV table I was  previously using for my laptop. The Hanns-G 17" LCD from COSTCO works great and is only 7.5 lbs. It's a bargain and great picture. I fastened it securely to the TV table with some screws through the base. Also secured the two speakers to the ends of the table top. I got a 6 foot extension  cable for the monitor to attach to the PC box at the side of my chair. Ordered a 3 foot, 1" wide loop cable cover and cable clamps to tighten everything together.  I secured the side diagonal support  bars with dental acrylic to support the weight of the monitor and speakers. If you can't get dental acrylic, fiberglass repair compound could also be used. The unit cannot collapse now. I am using Linksys wireless-G connection for mobility. Bought Logitech cordless EX 110 which is another bargain for wireless keyboard and mouse. Only major cost is the monitor ($149) and wireless keyboard ($25). Table is available at Stacks and Stacks for ($50), VGA extension cable ($20). $245 and your existing PC and you have a great modification for the disabled.

Disabled? Hell, I want one for my living room. Somebody help this guy get this thing commercially produced!

Done any interesting casemods yourselves? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Health, Hardware


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Two mods

    Instead of attaching the whole PC to the La-Z-Boy maybe a thin client connection to the PC in the home office would be cleaner.

    Also, I'm thinking of those newer couches where you have the table that can be folded down in between the two reclining ends. Build an LCD into that fold down part (the LCD would flip up and could rotate for either side to use and stash the wireless keyboard and mouse in there too.
    Robert Crocker
    • Two Mods

      The Dell D530 was not attached to the
      LazyBoy. The PC box is totally independent and free-standing. The design was made to be the simplest and most economical.The Monitor and accessories (speakers) are the only attached hardware to inexpensive TV table.
      Also I find it very ergonomic and extremely comfortable for long periods of use.I designed the concept so the LCD could be fixated (custom fit for each client)and that personal viewing would be enhanced.
      • I like his idea about thin clients though

        His idea to use a "Thin Client" instead of a PC is a good idea, however. Instead of hooking up your VGA and wireless keyboard to a PC, its hooked up to a small, low power box that communicates with a PC in another room. Like one of these:

        So if you ran a hospital or an entire nursing facility you could put a PC on each floor with wireless, but give a patient a cheap and small $100-$200 solid state box connected to wireless with monitor and keyboard and your special table, with castor wheels on it. Then you could share that single PC with 25 beds no problem
  • Previously, I put an embedded Linux project

    in an old Mac IIci case, not wacky or too exciting. Currently, I bought the Atom MB from that you pointed out in a another post. I want to install it into my car and the site has good product support to accomplish this. I put OSX on a CF card (a poor man's SSD). It's fast flash but sometimes I have to wait a second for something to happen. I hear of people putting Mac Mini's in their car but to me that just sounds crazy. I am now going to have to learn how to drive and post (JUST KIDDING, OK?).
    Mac Hosehead