The Return of the IceBox!
Now, there are a number of approaches to dealing with such a problem, but I have never been one to take the easy or, for that matter, sensible approach to life. So, rather than try to do something conventional, I decided on another course of action. To wit: I decided to build a computer in a refrigerator.
I shit thee not. As I reported, my effort initially met with considerable success. My specially-trained stunt-computer handled its new frosty environment with considerable aplomb. Later, of course, it began behaving oddly despite my best efforts but I eventually traced that to a power supply problem. My experiment was successful, but only to a limited extent. I had shown that a computer could be built in a fridge, but the computer itself was a pathetically underpowered machine. What about one of today's more powerful computational devices? Would they be at home in a fridge?
Alas, time and money intervened to prevent me from finding out. Specifically, I lacked the money to just buy a new computer for the purpose, and had not the time to devote to the project. So, the IceBox languished away in a corner of my kitchen, awaiting a brighter future.
That future came this summer. My year-long efforts to acquire more advanced components, and my long-wait for a more flexible schedule finally bore fruit. I had both the time, and the equipment, to build a newer, more powerful system into my mini-fridge.
So what do I mean by "more powerful?" Well, I mean a 2.4 Ghz Pentium 4 running on an ASUS mainboard with an 800 mhz frontside bus. I mean a full 1.0 GB of RAM, an ATI Radeon 9600XT videocard, a SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS soundcard, two hard-drives (80 GB and 40 GB), two optical drives, a floppy drive, and Windows XP-Pro. All this hardware was, believe it or not, surprisingly cheap. It's amazing what you can accumulate via ebay and rebate sales over the course of a year.
As a side note: yes, I said XP-Pro. The Linux weasels in the audience can save their objections, and claims of superiority, for their own hangouts because I just don't care. Seriously, I don't object to Linux, and don't exactly love suckling at the teat of Microsoft, but I'm really not interested in participating in yet-another argument about Linux. It's an operating system, people, not the fucking messiah, okay?
In any case, the reincarnated IceBox is by no means a top of the line system for this year, or even last year, but it is a major improvement over the stunt computer I had originally built into my fridge. The question, as before, was this: could the fridge remove enough heat, per unit time, to keep the computer cool? Or would the computer generate more heat than the fridge could deal with, causing the internal temperature to gradually rise?
Well, it took some time to find out. First off, cramming all that hardware into a mini-fridge is no mean feat. Secondly, building a computer without a case means building it without a front panel. Which, you know, means building it without a power switch. It took me a little while to properly wire up a switch of my very own that wouldn't short out the mainboard. Third, I was only able to purchase an upgrade edition of XP-Pro, rather than the standard "Windows XP-Pro Ridiculously Priced" edition. So, I had to install an old copy of Windows ME and then upgrade to XP-Pro. As some others have noted before, this can be a somewhat difficult process. Yet, as you can see, I did manage to get the system up an running on Windows ME and, shortly after, on XP-Pro.
As you can see, I once more had access to sophisticated temperature-monitoring and humidity control technology:
Ah, arm & hammer: is there no end to your uses?
And, just for fun, take a closer look at the actual guts of the IceBox Mk. II:
An advanced device, to be sure. So what happened? What sophisticated tests did I run to ascertain the value of the fridge? Eh. Not a lot, really. After all of that work, the damned thing started to over-heat before I could get an operating system fully installed. By my estimation with the refrigerator door closed the internal temperature rose by about ten degrees every five minutes. Since this rate of heating was largely the same even when the computer was idling (i.e. not doing much of anything except be switched on) I can only assume that attempting to play any sort of advanced game would cause catastrophic overheating. Certainly there are approaches to dealing with similar deficiencies in computers, but I don't think any of them are likely to prove helpful to me. So, in short, the effort to build a computer in a fridge must be reported as a failure. The only computers that can exist safely in such an environment are precisely those that do not require it in the first place.
I suppose I should provide an epilogue to my little adventure, and tell you what has become of its players. The original stunt computer, having outlived its functionality, was retired to the verdant pastures of a distant landfill. There it will enjoy a well-deserved rest. The brave little computer that took its place inside the fridge was removed and built into a sexy little burnished aluminum case. It now serves as the primary computer for my Sainted Girlfriend who, even now, taps away at it in the other room. What does she do with such a mass of powerful equipment?
All I'm going to say is that she's getting suspiciously proficient at spider solitaire.
As for the fridge itself- I patched the hole I drilled in its side (using both dryer lint for insulation, and duct tape for the patch itself) and carted it into my office. There it will live out the remainder of its days as a graduate student fridge. Doubtless in time it will come to play host to the same creeping (and by "creeping" I mean "probably under sentient control") slime that carpets the majority of grad student fridges the world over. So, it will be abused, but well-loved. I suppose there are worse fates for a brave little refrigerator.
I hope you have enjoyed the ongoing, and now completed, saga of the IceBox. It's been a wild ride, but all good things must come to an end. Farewell, IceBox: you will always be near to our hearts.
And, as it happens, near to my lunch.