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August 8, 2008 - Nick's post

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by , 08-11-2008 at 11:20 AM (1677 Views)
My name is Nick or Reno91011 on the forums. I'm a summer intern with Mp3Car. Before hearing about Mp3Car through my brother, I had no idea of what was possible with an in-car computer, but after reading through a large amount of the forums during my research, I found out how creative one can be with a simple starting point. I was hired primarily for my software knowledge and to be a dedicated person to develop and analyze the online content of Mp3Car. I spend most of my days working in front of 3 monitors with headphones on and editing HTML, Javascript, PHP, MySQL, and vBulletin code. Much of the smaller and larger changes in online content in the past few months have been my work, such as this blog.

After starting working for Mp3Car, I have since begun work on my own car computer and am hoping to get it installed by the end of the summer. It will pretty much be an AOpen miniDuo 945-X, 512mb of ram, 80gb hard drive, a 7" non-touchscreen monitor, and a customized XP installation. I know that nearly everyone on the forums will ask "Why go with a non-touchscreen?" I have two reasons for this 1) I am cheap and the more money I invest now in a car with nearly 150,000 miles, the worse I will feel when it dies and 2) I like an extra challenge.
Coming from a purely software background, I will eventually design a lightweight front-end to do all of the things that only I think are necessary. Since I don't have the time to spend in development, and I wasn't really impressed with any of the options for free frontends, I'm going to go with the most complete application for video and mp3 playing available that I can find. I am currently looking at Moraff's Freedom Player , well described by the simple sentence "If a typical media player is a kite, Moraff's Freedom Player is a 747!"

I spend most of my free time playing video games and coding/learning new languages. I actually got involved in computer science due to my interest in video games, but after two internships in the field, saw and experienced the difficulty involved in game creation. Aside from schoolwork for my senior year as a computer science major, I am also involved in two startup companies and do a little contracting on the side to help pay for my computer purchases. My next big buy is an ATI Radeon HD 4850.

Well, that's pretty much it for me. Expect another post pretty soon from me or one of the other staff here about the next few addons that I'll be making for the site in this last stretch before college starts up again.

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Updated 10-20-2009 at 06:09 PM by Heather

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Hands down, that guy wins the contest. Amazing!
Here is a note to the Fusion Brain guys from a farmer, telling of how the Fusion Brain allow the tractor to run on autopilot.

The farmer set up a computer in his tractor, and uses GPS waypoints and a fusion brain to steer the tractor. The computer calculates whether the current position is left or right of the desired track, and triggers the fusion brain to turn on a solenoid that actuates the steering in either the left or right direction... so it's autopilot, for a tractor.

This video was taken in April before we started planting. You can see the right tire on the edge of the road, and the relays clicking to turn the wheels to keep it on the line.

I didn't take much video during the season mainly because I wasn't happy with the level of control. The system was "hunting" from one side of the line to the other. This was largely due to the method I was using for control, which I've completely changed over the summer.

This video is late in the planting season, and I had moved the GPS receiver to the front of the hood to reduce the hunting. It looks a little strange. Our planter has markers that we use to get the distance right, but we broke one this day, so we were planting exclusively by GPS. The rest of the season we had been using both GPS and markers, as a way to tell how well the GPS was doing. The last clip in the video shows this, and you can see the markers aren't being used.

As I said, I have made some significant changes over the summer to make steering control much smoother. The system is installed in a combine, which we'll begin using in about 2 weeks. I hope to get some good video of that.

I (Nick) have a couple on my couch for developement, but also am implementing one for remote control of various items in the house.

With the new Remote Control section of the software (available now), I can log into my Fusion Brain instances from anywhere in the world on any web device, and control anything. One problem around here with the proximity to NORAD (US Air Force base built inside a mountain and I can throw a rock at the security gate), is that they like to swamp the area with random EM noise. So garage doors dont work far, phone and wifi get low signals everything. Dont even bother with the door opener if a government official like the President is visiting, because then it goes into overdrive! So my plan is to hook it up to my garage door and by using my cell phone through the GPRS connection, open and close the door.

Other things I will be controlling include my air conditioning unit which has a rudimentary on/off timer but gains a complete freedom with the Fusion Brain, as well as for energy efficiency I will be placing lights on controlled circuits to turn the lights off (as well as electronics such as TV's and radios) when I leave the room, and reinitialize them when I enter.

So many possibilities, so little time...