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Project: Light Up Your Case

With so many options for lighting available these days, it's possible to be extremely creative. Don't limit yourself to simply adding a light inside your case. Use the lighting to enhance certain areas or to add special effects to graphics you have created, such as window etchings. I'll discuss three lighting categories: light emitting diodes (LEDs), neon, and electroluminescent wire (EL). Each has its own strengths.

LEDs

LEDs have a focused area of light that can be very good for highlighting a component or adding light to a window etching without lighting up the rest of the case. You can use individual LEDs, ones that come in prebuilt clusters, or even ones with built-in controllers. LEDs are very cheap, have extremely low power consumption, generate very little heat, and have a very long life span.

Lazer LED

Lazer LEDs range from $13.99–17.99 and are made to plug into your computer. They come with a prewired Molex connector and are mounted in a block that contains the three LEDs. Each side light is angled at 45 degrees from the center light to spread the light more evenly. Lazer LEDs are a nice option because they install in less than a minute. Lazer LEDs come in red, green, and blue as well as multicolored and ultraviolet (UV). For more information, visit http://www.xoxide.com/lazerled.html.

MADLights

MADLights gave me a first look at its new product ($59.95), which takes a series of LEDs and the company's custom controller to make animated lighting sequences. Hooking them up is easy. Each kit contains four 18-inch leads with red, green, and blue LEDs on them, two switches with 24-inch leads, and a controller board. The switches control the program and speed. They work quite well. The length of the leads allows them to be placed far apart, letting you customize your lighting theme to suit your taste. To mount the switches requires drilling two holes. The kit comes with mounting tabs with double-sided tape for the controller board and LED leads. MADLights is a well thought-out product and proves to be a good value for what you get. For more information, visit http://www.madlights.com.

Neon: Cold Cathode Lights

Neon lights have been around for a while. The idea to add neon lights to computers could have been inspired by what people saw in Times Square or hanging from the window of the local pub. Either way, neon lights are a cheap, easy mod. Cold cathodes are available in a variety of colors; they even come in multicolored and UV varieties. One of the newest additions to neon lighting for modding is cold cathodes mounted to fans. They are very useful for lighting the interior of a case because they are typically very bright. For more information, visit http://www.xoxide.com/coldcathodes.html.

Electroluminescent Lighting

Cool Neon makes a unique form of lighting. It is a flexible phosphorescent wire that glows very bright when current is applied to it. It is also known as EL wire. This product is good for uses that require lighting specific complex shapes. It can be bent, twisted, or manipulated to suit your needs. It can be used in any length up to 330 inches, depending on the driver unit you use. Cool Neon also makes a flat light called FLAT Lamp. For more information, visit http://www.coolneon.com.

FLAT Lamp

FLAT Lamp works on the same principle as the EL wire, but it is just 3-inches wide and 0.01-inch thick. That's about as thick as a heavy weight paper. FLAT Lamp can be cut shorter, but unlike the EL wire, you can't resolder the remaining pieces.

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