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Thread: Using cheap tablets as thin clients/dashboards

  1. #1
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    Using cheap tablets as thin clients/dashboards

    Preface: Woot had the Velocity Micro Cruz T301, a 7" android tablet, for $75 shipped a few days ago, so I jumped on the deal. After purchasing, I did some research and found that it was 533mhz MIPS processor, which limited the apps available significantly. Since I have a lot of laptop hardware laying around, and the tablet has a capacitive screen, I figured: why not use the tablet as a dumb interface?

    My idea is to mount the tablet in the double-DIN opening of my car and cram a netbook, amp, and router somewhere behind the dash or in the trunk. The router will serve to send a Wake-On-Lan signal to the laptop and to provide wifi to the tablet, the laptop will host media and anything else I can think of, as well as bridge my phone internet connection to the router. The tablet audio connection will be routed through the laptop audio in to accommodate any apps I run native on the tablet. The tablet does not have GPS, but I'm thinking there might be a way to share GPS data from a usb dongle on the laptop to the tablet via bluetooth.

    I'm thinking that if I have a power supply that provides 5v for the router and Tablet, and 19v for the netbook, the power-up sequence would look something like:
    router receives power and send WOL signal | Tablet receives power, begins to boot | netbook receives power
    netbook receives WOL signal and begins to boot
    netbook finishes booting, initializes bluetooth
    phone detects bluetooth MAC and uses tasker to share data connection to the netbook
    netbook bridges data to router
    tablet detects router wifi and auto connects
    tablet launches laptop controller app

    Has anyone tried something like this?

  2. #2
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    It's been pondered upon, but i think the limiting factor is the fact you must maintain a network connection, which can be tricky in the car. Also, what are you gaining by going this route? One of the primary benefits of a tablet is that its either always on or very quick to boot. In your setup, you're still going to be dependent on a PC booting/resuming.

    I guess it would be ok assuming you're not planning to do anything mission critical (does your tablet come with GPS?)
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  3. #3
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    The router actually provides two things, in theory: a cheap way of reliably booting the netbook, and constant wifi connection.

    I admit that the setup is more complicated than it would be with a more capable tablet, however, I had plenty of hardware sitting around and the tablet price was right. I am aware that the boot time of the system overall might be an issue, but I think I can live with that. I am also pretty sure that in the setup above, the only thing that I would be waiting on is a stable data connection and whatever services I have the laptop provide, so I could still at least play audio/use tablet native apps while that is coming up. The only time I don't think it would be acceptable is if I managed to serve a backup camera to the tablet via the laptop.

    The router does not have any GPS that I'm aware off, but I will know once it arrives in the mail.

  4. #4
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    Experiments with this configuration have proven unfruitful. I have tried running XMBC and Boxee on the netbook, and using the respective remote application on Android to control them, but both media centers seem to over tax the hardware. The advantages of running the media on the netbook are having much higher quality audio compared to the cheap Android tablet and having the ability to utilize a USB soundcard, if necessary.

    The specs for the netbook are: 1.33 Ghz dual core Atom, 1GB Ram, Intel integrated graphics, Ubuntu
    Does anyone have an ideas for improving the performance of either Boxee or XMBC on such a system? I have looked extensively and found only disabling vsync in Boxee and trying different skins in XBMC. Another solution would be making Pandora available via UPnP somehow, but that looks like re-inventing the wheel.

    Any suggestions (other than buy better hardware)?

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