Friday, September 28, 2007

The Plug: Part 3

It's installed - and more importantly, it works! Or at least it seems to work - no sparks, no smoke and the SmartStrip has power so I'm reasonably sure the installation was done properly. After much discussion about the right and wrong way to wire this thing over at BYOAC we collectively figured out which wires from the SmartStrip should be connected to which wires on the plug recepticle (I hope). The last step to installing the plug recepticle was to cut a rectangular hole 1-1/16" x 1-13/16" out of the back panel.

Easy, right? Wrong. It took over 2 hours to cut out the hole accurately. After laying out the hole I started by drilling out as much material as possible using a large drill bit in each corner. Then using a very small keyhole saw I connected the holes to remove most of the material. That wasn't so bad - what was excruciating was trying to square everything up to the lines. I ended up using a metal file because I couldn't get one of my chisels in there to really do anything due to the small size of the hole. I thought this would take 5 minutes!

Here's the hole pre-installation:

It's probably the ugliest part of the entire cabinet - I've tried to plan each cut out and make the lines as clean as possible but this is just a mess. Thankfully there is a bezel around the plug recepticle that will hide everything.

And here's the hole post-installation - I secured the plug recepticle to the cabinet using two screws and then added some screw caps for a "finished" look:

Here's a close-up without the screws holding it in place:

And here's a super close-up of the finished installation. I still have to erase the layout lines that I made since I couldn't decide where to put the thing and still leave room on the inside to mess around:

It looks pretty nice.... or at least nicer than a round hole with a plug hanging out.

The only thing left to do was crawl inside and connect the wires. I reversed the black and white wires from my previous post - this is what all the discussion over at BYOAC was about. We were having a hard time figuring out which wire was "hot" and which was the negative one. Turns out U.S. Electrical Code mandates that "hot" wires are black, white wires are neutral and green wires are ground.

Finally, here are some shots of the inside - as you can see it's quite a mess. I mounted the Smart Strip on the inside of the cabinet - it's ready for the computer! I also used some velcro to hold the plastic box containing the wire hack against the side panel.

Maybe I'll paint the interior of the next cabinet I build to really give it a professional look but that's probably crazy talk.

I did take the time to test everything - I hooked up the computer and played a few games of Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga. I have never been more excited about this hobby than I was when I fired it up for the first time and everything worked like it should - with the press of a button, the marquee light, speakers and monitor came on and the computer booted straight to a random game on my gamelist - the cab is fully playable and it's awesome. I still have some software tweaking to do and I have to hook up the coin door but I'm 99.9% done. What a feeling!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Plug: Part 2

It's about time. After a month I finally manned up and cut open my SmartStrip plug. The goal is to splice the plug to a recepticle on the exterior of the rear panel of the cabinet. I'm still a little nervous about this process but I'm reasonably positive (99%) that I did this safely and correctly.

I bought a plastic box at Home Deopt for $2 and the idea is to completely seal off the wiring block and any chance of someone touching a live wire. The wire from the SmartStrip goes in one end and the wires from the plug recepticle go in the other - pretty basic stuff. This is about as safe as I think I can make it.

Here's the box:

And here is kind of sort of what I'm trying to accomplish... actually, I don't even know why I took these pictures but here you go:

Here's the exciting "before" picture of the plug. Wow.

And here is the "after" shot. It was like ripping off a band-aid. I just closed my eyes and made the cut with my trusty utility knife.

At this point there was no turning back. Inside, there were three wires representing positive (white), negative (black) and ground (green). The next step was stripping each of these wires to expose about 1/4" of the interior copper wire. Thie next picture shows the three wires (but not stripped).

I matched these wires up to the wires in the wiring block that spacies from BYOAC set up for me. All I really had to do was screw them into the wiring block attached to the plug recepticle. This is how it ended up before I closed the plastic box:

Here are the final shots of everything all closed up:

I'm not totally finished with this (I should be tonight) and I plan on wrapping the wiring block in electrical tape before closing up the plastic box for good. Also, the last thing I want to do is somehow cover the back of the plug recepticle with either electrical tape or some sort of foam - I can still see metal sticking out and I can only assume that once the cabinet is plugged in it will be "hot" all the time whether the computer is on or off.

I want to be sure 1000% sure that there is zero chance of something going wrong or someone getting hurt. My daughter is only 3 and she's curious. If she managed to open up the door on the front and crawl inside I don't want to have to worry about her getting hurt.

That's all for now.