We’ve covered rack rigs for rack-mounting PCs, Power Macs, and even Mac minis for the stage for a while. Now, I’m going to go an extra step, and actually build a machine step-by-step here on CDM. But instead of making a rack-mountable machine, I wanted something even more portable. I want a desktop-class PC I can carry around on a subway. And, no, a laptop ain’t gonna cut it, because I want the whole system to be upgradeable (particularly the video card, for running high-quality 3D visuals simultaneously with sound).

The basis for this machine is already on its way, Shuttle’s SN26P barebone. It’s friendly to my 3D requirements down the road, with two PCI Express x16 slots and SLI. (For those who have no idea what I just said, suffice to say this is an unusually high-end graphics configuration to see in a small form factor PC.) Integrated RAID, FireWire, USB 2.0, and digital audio all keep up with the audio side. But the whole package fits in a backpack (which Shuttle also makes). The one thing you lose with a laptop, of course, is an integrated display. Carrying around cheap LCDs is a no-no, because they aren’t generally built to move, but fortunately Shuttle has that base covered, too. If I do this successfully, the result should be a dual-boot Linux/Windows audio/visual “performance fragbox.” After calling Shuttle, I learned plenty have gone this route already, including a recent Native Instruments tour for Traktor. (They used the SN25, minus the beefed-up graphics capabilities, which makes sense for an audio software developer.)

I’m spec’ing out what goes inside, so if you have any requests of gear you’d like to see in the CDM Mobile Dream Machine, hit comments.

Oh, and don’t worry — my Macs aren’t going anywhere. (Actually, that was the initial problem. Yes, I’m looking at you, Power Mac G5.)

As always, stay tuned . . . and watch for special YouTube videos of me struggling like an idiot with a screwdriver. Okay, maybe not.

  • ive been running protools on my shuttle for 4 years now, in many sessions and enviroments, and it has always worked. my box rocks…. word up, fill the ram, works much better…………

  • Terrific! Yeah, 2 GB is my minimum these days. It also happens to be the maximum on this machine, but that's about right.

  • Adrian Anders

    If you want Peter, I could post pics of my 2 year old Shuttle rig. I've even got cute carrying cases for the PC and LCD monitor. I do like it, and it's cheap, but man is it limiting sometimes. I just hope you know that going in that you'll be limited to a single PCI card and a single AGP card in the back.

    But it is easy to carry.


  • Not any more . . . dual PCIe x16 slots with SLI. That's the advantage of the SN26P. If it had a third PCI slot (i.e., legacy PCI), it'd be damned near perfect. But I can live without that; it's the only real limitation for me (other than a more next-gen mobo, which would have made the whole thing too expensive for me, anyway)

    But please, let's see the photos, for sure!

  • Nik

    What's holding me back from using a Mac Mini is the 2GB RAM limit. I do audio only so don't need the graphics you're seeking so the Mini would be perfect if only it could have a decent amount of memory