Author Topic: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build  (Read 15126 times)

Ari Altman

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The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« on: March 04, 2014, 01:50:14 PM »
Here's the thread to discuss the "Home Office Mini-ITX Build" on The Tech Buyer's Guru.

The original article can be found here:

http://techbuyersguru.com/miniITX3.php

Feel free to start your own threads to discuss your personal builds in this category!
« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 08:06:06 AM by Ari Altman »

Ari Altman

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2014, 01:48:16 PM »
We just received a very helpful e-mail from one of our readers, and thought it was worth sharing with the community. Our response can be seen in the next post.


"Hello,
 
I really enjoy your site. It has given me several ideas to build pc's.
 
I was curious if you would one day highlight a pc build that comes somewhat close to a macmini with internal drive.  There currently is nothing like the mac mini available for pc builds but there are a few that look nice and seem to come close. (You did mention the antec isk 300 but didn't spotlight it as a build).
 
http://www.streacom.com/products/fc8-evo-fanless-chassis/
 
Looks like cyberpowerpc is using this case:
http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/LandingPages/ZeusSFF/
 
Another case that's similar.
http://viako.en.ec21.com/Viako_Mini_Letter_SELF_DIY--4327891_4327902.html
 
Viako also makes one that's called the letter case which is pretty similar to mac mini style with no cd drive.
 
Thought it would interesting to spotlight an article on building a pc for those that want to come somewhat close to the appearance of a mic mini with and without optical drive. Although I think the Antec isk 100 you highlighted is pretty close to one having no optical drive."

Ari Altman

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2014, 01:56:37 PM »
Here's our response to the above reader inquiry:

"Thank you for your very thoughtful e-mail! The ISK300 option was added a
while back based on reader input, similar to yours. The reason it's not
highlighted as a separate build is that it has a couple of drawbacks: (1)
it's relatively large due to the use of a full-size DVD burner, and (2)
the power supply may be a bit buzzy. We built up a system using a case
nearly identical to the ISK300, and just weren't happy with the power
supply noise. That's a risk you run with very small power supplies using
small-diameter fans that spin at high RPMs. The Mac Mini is a great
design, but adding an optical drive within its dimensions would be
difficult. And at this point, the Intel NUC designs have really gone
beyond what Apple was able to do in terms of compact dimensions.

We do highlight the Zeus in our pre-built Desktop Buyer's Guide:
www.techbuyersguru.com/DesktopAdvice.php, but unfortunately it has become
harder to find in stock since we published that guide. This is sadly all
too common in this very niche market - just not enough volume to keep
products for sale. The higher-end version is still available on the
CyberPowerPC website, as you found, but it's a bit expensive for
non-gaming HTPC use. The case is also available for sale, but it's VERY
expensive:
http://www.rakuten.com/pr/product.aspx?sku=262923880&listingId=335505130#.

Have you considered the Silverstone ML05? Here it is:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DU6RVK8/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00DU6RVK8&linkCode=as2&tag=thtebusgu-20&linkId=5F6UBT7AJ7KWSDMX

This case probably offers the best combination of small size, low noise,
and an optical drive at a reasonable price. It's quite a bit bigger than
the Mac Mini, but still relatively small - in fact, it's nearly identical
to the ISK300 in size."

Ari Altman

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2014, 07:38:38 AM »
More info from our reader on the NUC!

"Intel has an ecosystem catalog for their NUC series. It has a lot of different cases. There is one that I like a lot, however it seems like it's only in Japan.  The Abee NE03.
 
Here's the catalog if you've never seen it:
http://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/technical-specifications/nuc-ecosystem-enabling-technical-spec.pdf
 
And here is a good picture of the Abee. The NE04 is neat too.  I don't know where to find them in the US though and they are pricy.
http://www.abee.co.jp/Product/nuc/NE03/index.html"

Ari Altman

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2014, 10:17:42 AM »
Following up on the e-mail exchanges above, I decided to do a bit more research on what it would take to build a "Mac Mini-like" system. I found that Amazon in fact does ship a version of the Streamcom case for a very reasonable price:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00958D9LA/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00958D9LA&linkCode=as2&tag=thtebusgu-20&linkId=IIHAXRZUKS2CKDQK

Now, the trick with this kind of system is the cost of the other miniature components:

(1) A slot-loading DVD burner is $70:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004X9PHFC/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B004X9PHFC&linkCode=as2&tag=thtebusgu-20&linkId=IH7W553FOLUPEU5J
(2) The Pico PSU 90W internal components are $33:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005TWE3ZM/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B005TWE3ZM&linkCode=as2&tag=thtebusgu-20&linkId=HZVX5TMDDDTVARTP
(3) The Pico PSU external components are $25:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A4HLOTU/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00A4HLOTU&linkCode=as2&tag=thtebusgu-20&linkId=5YK3LF3J27GYQGWE

So you're at about $220 before motherboard/RAM/CPU/SSD/OS. Roughly speaking budget an extra $450-500 for that. Also note that you'd need a splitter or adapter to power both a SATA SSD and SATA DVD burner, as the PicoPSU has only one SATA power cable.

Interesting, but not particularly cost-effective. This build probably isn't going to show up in our official build guides any time soon, but it's an option for any builders out there who want a truly custom feel.

Ari Altman

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2014, 02:11:28 PM »
Here are some additional thoughts I had as I worked with a reader to find the right compact HTPC for him.

Among the ideas were several of the pre-built systems profiled in the TBG Desktop Buyer's Guide: http://techbuyersguru.com/DesktopAdvice.php

For anyone looking to buy/build a small HTPC akin to the MacMini, the Asus VivoPC in particular might be a great choice. It's much smaller than even the Antec VSK 110-based Home Office Mini-ITX Build on The Tech Buyer's Guru. There is a trade-off, of course - it offers processing power closer to the tiny NUC, rather than desktop-class power. Also, it has no SSD, but it's easily upgradeable, and of course it comes ready to run. Might be a good compromise for a lot of people.

Here's a direct link to the VivoPC: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J2FA7TS/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00J2FA7TS&linkCode=as2&tag=thtebusgu-20&linkId=UQBY6HRUYXQMYUJS

wvc

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2014, 10:21:47 AM »
Howdy,

I'm a complete noob when it comes to PC building.  I wanted to take a crack at the Home Office Mini-ITX listed in the guide.  It didn't list anything about a component for wireless connectivity, though.  Do you recommend a mini-PCIe card that would be suitable for this build?  Would the Intel Network 7260 Wireless AC recommended in the NUC build be appropriate?  Also, in the description update you say you changed the processor to a Core i5-4150 dual-core, but I think that's a typo and you meant the Core i3-4150 (that's the actual component linked to down below).

Perhaps I'm starting out too deep?  Should I just go for a NUC?  It's a debate I've been having for some time now.

Thanks.

Ari Altman

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2014, 10:50:33 AM »
Howdy,

I'm a complete noob when it comes to PC building.  I wanted to take a crack at the Home Office Mini-ITX listed in the guide.  It didn't list anything about a component for wireless connectivity, though.  Do you recommend a mini-PCIe card that would be suitable for this build?  Would the Intel Network 7260 Wireless AC recommended in the NUC build be appropriate?  Also, in the description update you say you changed the processor to a Core i5-4150 dual-core, but I think that's a typo and you meant the Core i3-4150 (that's the actual component linked to down below).

Perhaps I'm starting out too deep?  Should I just go for a NUC?  It's a debate I've been having for some time now.

Thanks.

Great question! As a matter of fact, the Home Office Mini-ITX system has an option for built-in 802.11ac wireless. Just pick up the Gigabyte H97 motherboard listed as an option in the motherboard section. The Intel AC card listed in the NUC guide actually won't work for this build, as it requires a mini PCIe connector that most mini-ITX boards don't have. Another option is to use a USB wireless receiver that you can buy separately - you can read more about those options in the Wireless Buyer's Guide.

And to answer your question about the NUC - it's an awesome feat of engineering, and it's far smaller than any ITX build. But it's expensive for the performance. You have to weigh the value of a palm-sized computer against the cost. The Core i3-4150 desktop processor in the ITX build will be about twice as fast as the NUC's Core i5 laptop processor.

Oh, and thanks for catching that typo! Yes, it is indeed a Core i3 in the Home Office Mini ITX build.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2014, 11:02:08 AM by Ari Altman »

wvc

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2014, 11:40:16 AM »
Thanks.  I'm going to go for it.  From a cost stand point, it seems like the better deal, and I guess I have to start somewhere.  I did have on additional question.  I was exploring the possibility of using my old 21.5" iMac as a monitor for this build, and since it's a pre-thunderbolt iMac it actually might work if I can hook up to a mini display port.  By chance, does the motherboard you recommended support a mini display port?  The display mode on the iMac doesn't appear to work with HDMI, at least not so far as I can tell.

Ari Altman

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2014, 11:54:49 AM »
Thanks.  I'm going to go for it.  From a cost stand point, it seems like the better deal, and I guess I have to start somewhere.  I did have on additional question.  I was exploring the possibility of using my old 21.5" iMac as a monitor for this build, and since it's a pre-thunderbolt iMac it actually might work if I can hook up to a mini display port.  By chance, does the motherboard you recommended support a mini display port?  The display mode on the iMac doesn't appear to work with HDMI, at least not so far as I can tell.

Well, I can't promise that the iMac will work as an external monitor over DisplayPort, but it could if that's an input and not an output on your iMac. My bet is that it's an output, unfortunately. All you'd need to try it is a DP to mini-DP adapter, like this one. You might want to research this in your iMac manual before spending the money on the adapter, though.

Also, the Gigabyte H97 board actually has dual-HDMI ports, but does not offer DisplayPort. So you'd need to change that too, and I'd recommend the ASRock Z97E-ITX/AC, which is a higher-end board but very competitively-priced. It was showcased in my Project ITX article. While there may be other ITX boards that offer both DisplayPort and 802.11ac 866Mbps, it's a bit hard to find that second spec, and I know the ASRock has it because I've tested it.

Edit: Looks like Apple has some helpful information on Target Display Mode using mini-DisplayPort: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3924#1

It seems it was limited to 27" models. In that case, it looks like you'll need a new monitor. Sorry! By the way, I personally only buy motherboards with DisplayPort, as I often use a 2560 x 1440 monitor, and HDMI won't support that. So keep that in mind if you do end up shopping for a new monitor.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2014, 02:32:05 PM by Ari Altman »

wvc

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2014, 03:42:36 AM »
I've ordered the components, and I went ahead and picked out one of the monitors you recommended.  We'll see how it goes.  I'll let you know how the build turns out, and in the likely event I have more questions I'll be back even sooner.

Ari Altman

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2014, 05:55:19 AM »
I've ordered the components, and I went ahead and picked out one of the monitors you recommended.  We'll see how it goes.  I'll let you know how the build turns out, and in the likely event I have more questions I'll be back even sooner.

That's great! If you'd like to add your system to the User Gallery on The Tech Buyer's Guru after you've built it, just send an e-mail from the contact page, including a couple of pictures of the system. It would be great to profile one of these builds for our readers!

And if you encounter any issues, just post them here and we'll figure them out.

rabarrett

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2014, 07:05:32 PM »
Hi,

I'm leaning toward doing something very close to this build, but I have a few questions about possible modifications.

(1) I want to use 2 monitors via hdmi or display port and display port looks like a better long term option.  Ideally, I might even get a third display port, because I've been toying with the idea of adding a third monitor.  I'm guessing this means I have to choose a different motherboard.

(2) I'm leaning toward upgrading it to a i5 processor (again, a different motherboard).  If someone has a good argument for why it isn't worth the money, please let me know.  But I don't think it ups the cost that much.  I'll also probably more the RAM up to 8 or 16GB.  The main reason I'm upgrading is that my old (Velocity Micro built ~2006) intel dual core 2.0GHz and 2 GB RAM is constantly near it max of RAM used because I like to keep lots of programs (and browser tabs) open at once, switching from one to another.  Now it crashes sometimes when I have a lot open (especially webpages with a lot of flash or javascript and libreoffice).  I also think my nvidia graphics card may be to blame for some of these problems and I've had some compatibility problems with it at times (it's the GeForce 8600 GT), so I'm planning on avoiding that problem by just going with onboard intel graphics.

(3) Other than that, I'd like it to be quiet and energy efficient if possible.  I'd pay more for an especially quiet fan or power supply if that helps.

(4)Beyond that, I'm not too picky, but I have a list of things I'd like if possible:
-wireless & ethernet
-in front 2USBs plus 2 USB 3.0
-audio jack in front
-small size (which is why I chose this build)
-space for at least 1 2.5 internal SSD and 1 internal SATA harddrive would be nice, but I suppose I could get along with internal SSD and external for backup.

It's being used primarily for web research (which is why I like to keep many tabs open at once as I track down the most useful leads and slowly close less fruitful ones), word processing, powerpoint making (libreimpress), pdf files.  But little to no serious gaming.

I'm currently running arch linux as my main OS, but I also sometimes use win7, lubuntu, or another linux distro (mainly as a way of trying to learn more about them).

I always try to choose very widely used components and peripherals with it because I'm not an expert with linux and can trouble shoot better when a product (video card, scanner, etc.) is more widely used.


Here are my questions:

1)  I've been thinking about using one of the cases you mentioned (leaning to the Antec ISK 300-150, but I also have considered one of these because I like the small form factor with 4 USB ports on the front, and a tight and solid look.  I haven't decided which way I'll set the computer on my desk, but I'm used to vertical orientation (and both of my monitors are set up in portrait mode 90% of the time).
- http://www.amazon.com/IN-WIN-Desktop-Case-Cases-CE685-FH300TB3/dp/B00J8LZDSG
- http://www.amazon.com/-Win-USB2-0-Ports1x-Speaker1x-Desktop/dp/B00502CAYW/ref=sr_1_4?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1411921500&sr=1-4&keywords=in+win+case
- http://www.amazon.com/-WIN-MicroATX-Desktop-Black-BL647-FH300TB/dp/B00JHME4UY/ref=sr_1_2?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1411921471&sr=1-2&keywords=in+win+case
Thoughts on other case options?

On the two you listed, are 90 or 150 watts enough for what I'm talking about? 
Also, are they _both_ really quiet (I remember only one being commented on in the article)?

2) This would be my first home build.  Any estimate as to how long it might take me and whether I'm likely to run into any serious issues?
One of the reasons I like the idea of going with your build is that you've tested it and know all the parts work well together.  If I went with something else, I'm worried about getting the components and finding out they won't all work together.  In the back of my head, I'm thinking "Yeah, I could have that up and running in a few hours"  but maybe I'm kidding myself.  I've changed out processor for a new one before, a CPU fan once, and frequently swapped out drives and video and audio cards, so I think I've done most of it piecemeal before.  But I've never messed with a powersupply or needed to know anything about how well different parts mesh.

Any thoughts or advice is much appreciated,

Rick
« Last Edit: September 30, 2014, 09:21:42 AM by Ari Altman »

Ari Altman

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2014, 10:06:11 AM »
...

Here are my questions:

1)  I've been thinking about using one of the cases you mentioned (leaning to the Antec ISK 300-150, but I also have considered one of these because I like the small form factor with 4 USB ports on the front, and a tight and solid look.  I haven't decided which way I'll set the computer on my desk, but I'm used to vertical orientation (and both of my monitors are set up in portrait mode 90% of the time).
- http://www.amazon.com/IN-WIN-Desktop-Case-Cases-CE685-FH300TB3/dp/B00J8LZDSG
- http://www.amazon.com/-Win-USB2-0-Ports1x-Speaker1x-Desktop/dp/B00502CAYW/ref=sr_1_4?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1411921500&sr=1-4&keywords=in+win+case
- http://www.amazon.com/-WIN-MicroATX-Desktop-Black-BL647-FH300TB/dp/B00JHME4UY/ref=sr_1_2?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1411921471&sr=1-2&keywords=in+win+case
Thoughts on other case options?

On the two you listed, are 90 or 150 watts enough for what I'm talking about? 
Also, are they _both_ really quiet (I remember only one being commented on in the article)?

2) This would be my first home build.  Any estimate as to how long it might take me and whether I'm likely to run into any serious issues?
One of the reasons I like the idea of going with your build is that you've tested it and know all the parts work well together.  If I went with something else, I'm worried about getting the components and finding out they won't all work together.  In the back of my head, I'm thinking "Yeah, I could have that up and running in a few hours"  but maybe I'm kidding myself.  I've changed out processor for a new one before, a CPU fan once, and frequently swapped out drives and video and audio cards, so I think I've done most of it piecemeal before.  But I've never messed with a powersupply or needed to know anything about how well different parts mesh.

Any thoughts or advice is much appreciated,

Rick

I think I can help you with most of these questions.

(1) With regard to the cases, while I haven't tried the In Win cases you listed, I have built up a system with the In Win BP655. It's a great case - very compact and stylish - but the power supply is slightly loud. I would be a bit concerned that the same could be true of the ones you listed. Also note that those are large in comparison not only to the BP 655, but especially versus the Antec cases. In fact, the last one you listed is Micro ATX - that's going to very large, relatively speaking. Remember that the Antec ISK110-VESA has no internal optical drive or power supply - that makes it much, much smaller than most other ITX cases.

The Antec ISK110-VESA is also the only case that will be silent, as it has no fans. The other Antec ITX cases would take a close second in that regard. Note that there's actually a newer version of the Antec ISK 300 called the ISK 310. It has USB 3.0 front ports, which you mentioned you want. The older Antecs don't have that.

As for using a standard quad-core, well, it's been done on the ISK 110-VESA's 90W power supply, but I would not personally try it and don't recommend it. On the other hand, the Intel "-S" edition processors cap power at 65W, which is a better fit for that case. The Core i5-4590S is a good chioce. The ISK 300/310 will easily handle any Intel quad-core, due to the larger 150W power supply provided. Intel's Core i3 dual-cores are excellent CPUs - I've used them extensively and think they offer great bang for the buck. But given that you've kept your current PC for 8 years, I'd say the investment in a quad-core is a good one. It will be more future-proof, even if you don't need the power right now. By the way, you won't need more than 8GB any time soon, so I'd stick with that setup for this system rather than 16GB. You could always start with a single 8GB stick (like this Crucial 8GB low profile model) and see how it works for you, leaving you the option of upgrading later if you need to.

The most important upgrade you can make to silence a system is the CPU cooler. The standard Intel cooler works just fine, but it's pretty loud. The Noctua NH-L9i is the best (and quietest) low profile cooler on the market.

(2) As for how long the process would take to build a PC like this, I'd say about 2-3 hours. You're not dealing with many parts, especially with the Antec ISK110-VESA. The hardest thing will be routing cables, as all of these systems are relatively compact inside. That's more about patience than anything else - it doesn't require that you've built a system before. Remember that you need to install the drivers off the CD included with the motherboard, or else download them ahead of time from the motherboard manufacturer's website and store them on a USB stick. Many first-time builders forget to do that, and it causes lots of problems. The chipset (INF) drivers, ethernet drivers, Intel graphics drivers, and audio drivers are critical, for instance.

Also, you mentioned the use of DisplayPort. I agree that it could be a wise investment, as some newer monitors are dropping HDMI for DisplayPort. Motherboards with built-in DisplayPort usually cost just a bit more than those without it, though, so you have to weight the cost versus benefit to you. I've personally tested and can recommend the ASRock Z97E-ITX/AC, but being Z97-based, it's probably more than you need for your purposes. Perhaps consider the MSI H97I-AC. You don't have to worry too much about going with a different motherboard than the one recommended in the build guide. They are all the same size and the components you're using will all be small, minimizing the chance of overlapping parts that more often comes with ITX gaming systems. The greatest challenges might be the position of the main motherboard power supply connector, the USB 3.0 header, and the SATA ports, which vary from board to board. Before installing the motherboard, step through the process to see if it makes sense to connect the cables before installing due to tight clearances.

Hope that helps - definitely post back if you have other questions.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2014, 10:13:07 AM by Ari Altman »

rabarrett

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Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2014, 10:40:24 PM »
This is very, very helpful.


I think I'm going to try to order the parts this weekend.  I'll probably go with the Antec ISK 310 (though I want it in the all black variety--the link seemed to be silver on black).

Then I'll go with most of the parts you mentioned, including the Noctura NH-L9i (also 1x8GB RAM, i5-4590S). 

It looks like I'll have to examine some motherboards and see which one I like the most.  If I want to consider other options than the ones you mentioned, is there a particular search term I should use to make sure it fits the ISK 310?

I'll also have to figure out what wiring to order.  Off the top of my head, I can only think of these:
-SATA 3 cable from board to SSD 2.5 drive
-SATA 3 cable from board to 3.5 HD
-power cables from the board to these drives (I have no idea what search terms to use for those, SATA iii or 3 doesn't seem especially useful
-I'm guessing the fan comes with it's own power cable, but maybe I need to be sure it works with my board or power supply
-I have an old SATA (SATA 2, I believe) (or for that matter also an old IDE) DVD drive, I can use with this I think, assuming the SATA 3 is backward compatible
-I have the 2 display port cables
-that's all that is coming to mind now for cabling, but I suspect I'll also need some cable to run from the motherboard to the front USBs, and probably there are others I'm forgetting.

Maybe I can make a list with links to parts and run it by you before I order?  (I'm happy to use your links if the companies, like Amazon, give you 6% or something for the referral.)


Should I get a special anti-static surface to put it together on or is my wooden desk ok if I ground my hands every so often?