Hide a Hub in a Humidor?

Computers don't have to be ugly. One case-modder thinks outside the beige box to build an art deco wireless hub.

Illustration by MCKIBILLO

Illustration by MCKIBILLO

Dept.: You Built What?!

Investigator: Paul Wallich

Hardware: Wireless hub humidor

Time: 30?35 hours

Downside: Cigars fry

Jeffrey Stephenson's polished wood and chrome humidor sits gracefully in his living room, holding four dozen cigars, all dried to a crisp. That's because under the smokes lie a DSL modem; firewall and cache with 20GB of disk space; and a wireless hub streaming bits to and from every computer in his house.

While many case-modders cram PC components into toasters or motorcycle helmets, Stephenson goes for class. (His other projects include a humidor PC that fits in the palm of a linebacker's hand.)

Mini-motherboard maker VIA provided its latest server design and the cigar vault came from eBay. Stephenson just had to make it all fit.

THE SECRET UNDER THE STOGIES

A Thompson Broadway art deco humidor.

B Clock to replace superfluous hygrometer.

C Chrome I/O panels, with dual 2.4GHz wireless data antennae (removed from wireless hub), multiple Ethernet ports, and a DSL jack. Video port connected to 8-inch Hall Research cable.

D DSL modem receiving 700-plus-Mbps Internet through incoming DSL line.

E 802.11b wireless access point, delivering 11 Mbps to all computers in range. AP and router cases removed, both chassis screwed to inside bottom of humidor.

F Toshiba 20GB notebook hard drive, screwed to bottom of humidor tray.

G VIA EPIA CL 1GHz motherboard with 256MB RAM, running firewall, router, cache, and anti-spam and antivirus software.

H 12-volt 60-watt power-supply board, serving the motherboard, hard disk, DSL modem and wireless hub, with 45 watts to spare.

I Crystalfontz preproduction LCD screen with four buttons to control power, reset and status of CPU, modem and access point.

J 48 Wal-Mart cigars, baked at 95