Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A little case surgery

I'm beginning to run out of expansion card space in my system case with multiple graphics cards, tv tuners and hard drive controllers already installed and possibly more to come.

While my motherboard has 6x PCIe slots and a PCI, it's starting to get tight in there.

I've gone for the Octopus system from Digital Devices for TV & Satellite tuning. This  allows me attach up to 4x dual tuners to a single PCIe x1 card. It's possible to fit two cards per full-height bracket but even at that, I'm occupying a valuable space with a card that doesn't need to plug in to a slot.

So over the weekend I broke out my trusty Dremel and hacked out part of my Zalman GS1000 case above the existing PCI cards. This allows me insert the DVB-T card horizontally above these cards and access the connectors while freeing an actual PCIe space for a card that needs the slot.

For now, the card is held in place with a couple of twisty cable ties (!) and I need to McGyver a more permanent mount but it works great. It's so light, there's no problem with it staying in place.

The only downside is that it obviously blocks access to the PCI slots but I don't intend moving those about much (as it messes up the PCI addersses and thus hardware passthroughs to my virtual machines).

Photo of how it currently looks below. The cards installed, (from left to right) are;

  • PCIe SATA/eSATA Controller (2 channel)
  • Radeon HD4xxx Series GPU (currently DOM0 but planned to passthrough to a ManjaroBox VM)
  • Octopus PCIe host and DVB-S tuner stack
  • Radeon HD5xxx Series GPU passed through to Windows 8 HTPC VM
  • PCIe Firewire 800 card passed through to Windows 7 VM, used for external timeshift and recording drives in 2x Firewire Caddy
  • Radeon HD5xxx Series GPU planned for pass through to second Windows 8 HTPC VM
  • Empty PCI slot (maybe USB card or NIC) 

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