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  1. Hardware Review: IEI 140W DC/DC Power Supply IDDV-6304140A

    by , 11-24-2009 at 12:30 PM


    The IDDV-6304140A is a 140-watt DC/DC Power Supply with intelligent power handling.

    The Verdict:

    The IDDV-6304140A is a solid competitor in a suddenly flourishing car PC power supply market. It attempts to add small and useful features to a tried and true form factor, and succeeds in powering a pretty power hungry setup effectively and efficiently.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.



    What’s in the box?


    The IDDV-6304140A comes neatly and securely packaged with the PSU, instruction manual, and cables for motherboard ON/OFF switch, external optional power switch, optional led and amplifier turn on delay.

    Description:

    The IDDV-6304140A is a fully RoHS compliant DC/DC ATX converter module capable of powering computer systems with up to a 140-watt demand. Right out of the box, the IDDV appears identical to other PSUs already on the market with its similar form factor to the M2 and GP83 devices. It does however come with some original and interesting features, most notably the ability to control the PSU with an infrared remote control. Simply connect GND, VCC, and IRRX to the board’s 3-pin connector and you can turn your car PC on/off with the push of a button. This feature overrides ignition on/off status, but it does not ignore the built in thermal and voltage sensing kill switches programmed into the unit. The IDDV promises to shut down any power when then temp range exceeds -20°C – 85°C or when battery voltage sensed is
  2. Hardware Review: Intelligent DC-DC converter with USB interface by Mini-Box

    by , 11-10-2009 at 07:47 AM
    I was looking for an alternative to power my brand new Zotac A-U board. Mp3car.com gladly sent me the device in exchange for a review. so here it is.
    The device: The Intelligent DC-DC converter with USB interface by mini-box.com is a buck/boost converter/regulator that can be used for a wide variety of application, it can be used to power any device that needs 6-24VDC, and the input range can be anything from 6VDC to 34VDC. The device can also send ON/OFF signals to motherboards based on IGN or ACC voltages.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.

    The box: UPS brought me a box that weight a little more than air itself, i was wondering if there is actually anything inside. before filing the claim that somebody stole the device out of the box i decided to open it anyway (; there it was, a small green board with a few short cables and a little bag with a few tiny jumpers. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it and test the &*%$ out of it, but to my surprise there was no manual, no CD, no USB cable. i found a very basic manual on the mini-box.com site and the journey began.

    The work: Without the availability of the USB cable and lack of software, i went ahead configuring the device to my needs with a basic manual and a few jumpers. I need 19VDC to power my Zotac A-U mobo, the device CAN produce this voltage but with the USB software, i set the device to output the nearest voltage that can be set with jumpers which is 18VDC, the multimeter shows 18.24VDC i then set the device to operate as a regular converter/inverter and connected it to my mobo. pushed the power button, the fan started to spin, and the mobo seems to run just fine. +/-1VDC inst crucial for this mobo. i then tested the output voltage range of this device and the device does what it is suppose to do. no matter of the input (as long as its within range) the output voltage will be what it is set to be. then i set it to automotive mode which adds timing options along with ON/OFF pulses to the mobo. i set the timing to send off pulse to the mobo as soon as ACC is off and completely turn off the device after a minute - it did just that. my Zotac now powers on and off automatically. because of the wide input range the device has absolutely no problems surviving engine crank. however once the device starts the timer, it cannot be interrupted, meaning that if i shut off ACC the timer will start and will count a minute, in this time frame if i turn the ACC back on the device will not power up the mobo, nor send on/off signals. but if i leave the ACC on until the timer finished it will power up the board and send ON signal. temperature wise this device does just well, it get a bit warm when powered for a long time, but absolutely nothing to worry about and nothing that will require additional cooling. in my setup the device does exactly what it is described to do.



    The good: The device can be used for a wide variety of applications, it is very accurate, small profile, easy to setup,survives engine crank, appears to be reliable (i used it a few days already and it powers up and shuts down every time without problems) and the price is right.

    The bad: I am not sure how it is shipped from mini-box.com but the device should most defiantly come with advanced documentation or at least some documentation. even though most of us SHOULD have the proper USB cabe, it should be included in the package, the configuration software should also come with the device or at least be available for easy download. otherwise more configuration options should be available on the device itself. mini-box.com use jumpers that are smaller then the regular computer jumpers, i don't see a reason for this, should just use regular jumpers.

    The truth: All in all the device is great, does what you configure it to do and does it well. for this price ($59+shipping) you cant go wrong with it. though with more documentation, software and USB cable the package would be complete.

    The rest: (from mini-box.com) - Applications: powering motherboard with single rail power from any voltage to any voltage, laptops, custom electronics. This module can be used to convert any voltage ranging 6-34V to any output from 5-24V. The DCDC-USB has 4 models of operation: - Dumb mode: Acts as a regular DC-DC converter with wide input (6-34V) and produces a fixed 12V output (or any output from 6-24V) - Automotive mode: Acts as an intelligent PSU, ignition aware, will send ON/OFF pulse to the motherboard to turn ON/OFF. Standby power consumption is well under 1mA. - UPS mode: The unit will act as an intelligent UPS unit, will shut down at prescribed battery voltages. - Script mode: Unit can be programmed to wake up, sleep, based on pre-programmed scripts. Additional features of DCDC-USB: - Remote ON/OFF switch capable of switching up to 6A, 8A peak. - Can control motherboard ON/OFF pins - Fused input, TVS protected - USB mini, type B - All Solid Polymer Capacitors, SVPD series, Sanyo, Japan.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.
  3. TouchScan OBD-II Software - OCTech: Forum Product Review

    by , 10-23-2009 at 10:35 AM

    Welcome to my review of the TouchScan OBD-II monitoring software. First off I would like to thank mp3Car and OCTech for donating TouchScan for me to review. I've written this as somewhat of a walk through of the program, sharing my findings along the way with plenty of visual aides. First off is the installation. It is the same as pretty much any other windows application and only requires a few clicks of the next button and an agreement to the usage license. The serial number is entered upon starting the program for the first time. If you don't have a serial number the program will operate in demo mode.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.


    After entering your serial number you are prompted with a warning about using a touchscreen while driving. I found the option to disable this a nice feature, often software leaves the user no choice due to liability concerns.
    Once you click past the dialog you are greeted with a nice left side menu and top tab interface. After a few exploratory passes through all the options TouchScan has to offer (There are a lot!) I found it pretty easy to find what I was looking for in the menus. My TouchScan journey began in the Setup section where I was easily able to select my desired Com Port and Baud Rate. I had no problems connection to my generic ELM327 in my vehicle nor my ELM323 software emulator that I use for testing. I should note however that it was a little difficult to select the correct radio or check mark boxes in the setup section under the Connection or PID Monitor tabs with a touchscreen. It's nothing too serious since you will likely only visit these sections once. I had no problem hitting most of the other buttons in the interface with my finger. After successfully connection to my ELM I proceeded to look through the PID Monitor and PID Setup tabs where you are able to adjust a variety of options, including polling settings, dwell time to adjust update rates, as well as the polling rate for each individual PID. I found the individual polling rates to be an exceptionally nice feature that allowed me to retrieve the core values and well as secondary ones without sacrificing speed as much if I polled for all of them at the same interval.
    The General tab allows you to adjust the unit system and switch between day and night mode, as well as adjust remembering preferences. While the Device Info tab lists the type of device you have connected.
    Clicking the Diag Icon brings you to the set of tabs which allow you to read/clear trouble codes and monitor PID values as well as view the raw hex traffic between TouchScan and the ELM. I had no trouble codes to read so I was unable to test that feature but I found the PID Values to update relatively quickly, and do so at a rate in tune with the polling rate as things should be.
    Next up is the Dashboard section which is what is likely desired by most. MPG broken down by total, instant, and trip is displayed as wekk as fuel consumed and distance. In addition to the numeric displays are gauges representing RPM, Engine Load, Temp, and MPH. The possible dealbreaker for some is the fact that a MAF sensor readable through the standard PID is required in order to calculate MPG with TouchScan. Unfortunately, my Honda was not equipped with a MAF sensor so I had to test the MPG feature with a software emulator instead. Testing showed the calculated numbers to be consistent with those generated by Bruce Lightner's formula, MPG = 710.7 * VSS / MAF, so they should be pretty accurate.
    The last, but far from least section is Logs. Selecting the Logs icon presents you with the Plots, Plot Config, Data Logging, and Stats tabs. While the names are fairly self explanatory I found the plotting function to be nicely configurable with adjustable scales and sampling time and support for what appears to be as many plots as you have PIDS available. The Data Logging option is also a plus for analyzing data at a later time. And I found the Min, Max, and Mean shown under Stats to provide a nice snapshot of your overall trip.

    In summary, if you have a MAF sensor in your vehicle that can be read via the standard PID I would definitely recommend you take a look at TouchScan. The Dashboard was easily visible on my 7" touchscreen and I see no problems embedding the app into RideRunner or any other frontend as everything is resizeable. If your vehicle lacks a MAF you need to determine how important MPG calculations are to you, as you will be unable to receive them with TouchScan.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.
  4. OBDlink CI - Scantool.net Forum Product Review

    by , 09-09-2009 at 04:37 PM
    I was recently given the opportunity to complete a review of scantool.nets OBDlink CI by mp3 car. After having tested The OBDlink CI on multiple makes and models I've found it's limited to vehicles newer than 2004. It does however work very well on all the U.S. Models as well as Honda's and Toyota's. This tool is also very simple to work with, after loading the software and choosing the correct com port I was up and running. It picked up multiple trouble codes and monitored each sensor on the vehicle just as accurately as my $2000 snap on scanner.

    See the full version OBDLink scan tool on the mp3Car Store here or the product review here. (this model is compatible with most cars 1996 and newer)



    After trying a couple more things to get the scanner to work on older vehicles and failing I contacted Vitaliy through the scantool.net forum because the new CI can have firmware upgrades made to it. I thought he would have some insight as to how I could set up the CI to work on vehicles like my 2001 Focus, or my fathers 2002 Cadillac DHS. Instead I was delightfully surprised at how personable and helpful he was (customer service is worth more than anything to me these days). Although there was no software or means to get the unit to work on older vehicles hen explained people that purchased the Cl were eligible to get a discount on the new OBDLINK which was coming out soon. We however worked out a deal where I would also get to review the new OBDLINK. So the pluses are; Easy to load software, Easy to hook everything up, works great on vehicles newer than 2004. Easy to read sensor information, DTC's are not only shown but the description is given as well. Negatives; This unit only works on vehicles newer than 2004.

    Updated 12-26-2009 at 08:42 AM by Jensen2000

    Categories
    Product Reviews
  5. Hardware Review - SheevaPlug Development Kit

    by , 08-12-2009 at 09:00 AM

    Review by Gary, aka chunkyks

    Thanks to some work I'd been doing, I found myself targeting the
    SheevaPlug http://www.plugcomputer.org/ for a project, despite
    not actually having one of these plugs myself. mp3car.com very
    generously offered to send me one, as part of a process to
    provide innovation grants to forum users. I cannot thank them
    enough for the opportunity.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.



    I'm a long-term unix and Linux software developer, so anticipate
    this review leaning in that direction.

    features

    Low Energy ARM chip [entire device is rated at 5W]
    Small Form-factor [entire computer inside a regular sized power brick]

    Comes with Ubuntu 9.04, but trivially reflashable

    Communications with the outside world: Gigabit Ethernet,
    USB2.0, SDIO. Also has a USB slave port as a serial console

    512M DDR2, 512M Flash

    pros

    Excellent documentation
    Does exactly what you'd expect. No less, and probably a little more
    Extremely affordable
    Stock Ubuntu install.

    Zero configuration. Out of the box it boots and can be logged into

    cons
    There's an expectation that you are familiar with Linux.
    Slow boot times and disk access
    Lack of useful kernel modules in the box
    Occasionally the plug feels warm to the touch

    The Short Review:

    I love this device, and everyone should get one. It's a fully
    functional Linux box, and magically Just Works for all my needs.

    See our forums for the Full review, details, and thoughts for the future and follow up with conversation


    Full Review:
    Right out of the box, it does exactly what I expect a modern
    computer to do. You can log into it, install software from the
    Ubuntu repositories, and run stuff on it. The software corpus
    available for easy download is massive, and includes all the
    usual development tools and user programs you'd expect or need.

    The plug is running an ARM chip - as is common for low-power
    embedded devices. The ARM architecture is a little bit different
    from your typical desktop computer. To me, this is a Good Thing,
    as I subscribe to the belief that portable code running on more
    architectures is better than code that doesn't. [Notably, while
    porting to other architectures, bugs often surface that otherwise
    wouldn't have]. On the downside it means that occasionally, you
    may find software that doesn't work for you on the plug. During
    testing I found nothing I needed that didn't work immediately,
    but the potential is there.

    It's absolutely worth starting with the new plugger howto [http://www.plugcomputer.org/plugwiki...Plugger_How_To
    ] and making a couple system changes to ensure you won't run into
    problems. There are apparently some situations where an
    inopportune update immediately after getting the plug can render
    it un-bootable. It's easily re-flashable, but it's a lot easier to
    just edit a couple files first.

    The plug wiki and documentation tends to assume that the user has
    a certain level of familiarity with Linux or unix. Most notably,
    the wiki in a few places [not the least of which is the new
    plugger howto] just said ‚Edit this file, without further
    elucidating. Anyone familiar with unix will recognize this;
    editing text on unix is historically a matter of both holy wars
    and extreme difficulty to the novice user. This reviewer has
    edited the wiki to provide a little more help, but as a whole a
    small amount of Linux knowledge is certainly helpful.

    Something I haven't commented on up until now is that there's no
    easy way to plug a screen into the Sheeva. This is self-evident
    from looking at the device, but bears mentioning. I successfully
    used remote X over ssh with the plug, but primarily the Sheeva is
    a command-line device that you ssh into - again, a level of unix
    familiarity cannot hurt.

    Up to now, everything I've commented was things that are ‚good‚
    in my view, but some of them may be perceived as problems. There
    are a couple of real downsides to the plug:

    Boot times are noticeable [on the other of 20-30 seconds, which
    feels high for a small embedded device] and large un-cached disk
    accesses tend to be pretty slow. This is because the plug uses a
    file system called jffs2, which is very good for wear-leveling
    and error handling in flash, but can be slow. There are good
    alternatives [eg, ubifs], but switching to them again requires
    re flashing the plug, something I will almost certainly be doing
    in the near future. If you plan on doing a lot of disk writes, or
    large disk writes [as I do], then it's definitely better to pick
    up an SDIO card or a USB flash drive, and write to that. Those
    are supported out of the box.

    The plug feels warm to the touch. I believe it's still not using
    much power, but there's obviously some inefficiency somewhere.
    Some mp3car forum users have converted their plugs to run off 12V
    as provided by their car, and apparently the new 12V PSU
    dissipates less energy in the form of heat.

    3.3 Running my own software

    The specific goal for me on the plug is to run my pet project,
    OBD GPS Logger. Due to past experience with portable code, I was
    happy to see obdgpslogger build first time on the plug, after
    installing the requisite tools [six packages plus their
    dependencies, starting with what was in the box]. I didn't build
    the GUI tools [no need for them here] but obdsim, obdgpslogger,
    and the conversion tools worked immediately. On the CD in the
    box, or for free download, are cross-compiling tools;
    obdgpslogger also builds just fine using that environment.

    One problem was that as it comes in the box, the Sheeva doesn't
    have the necessary kernel modules [aka “drivers”] that an mp3car
    reader might need; specifically, ftdi for an OBDPro scantool [http://www.obdpros.com/
    ] or similar, or any bluetooth modules. Since the OBD devices I
    have are all either ftdi or bluetooth, this was an issue. This
    has been discussed on the Sheeva forums [http://plugcomputer.org/plugforum/index.php?topic=84.0
    ], where the best [only] proposed answer was to reflash the
    kernel on the device.

    While that's not difficult in practice, that's kinda fearsome to
    someone unfamiliar with Linux or serial consoles. I came up with
    a somewhat different solution to the ftdi problem: I wrote a
    small userland tool using libftdi [which is available in the
    Ubuntu repositories] to proxy my ftdi device to a unix
    pseudoterminal. At time of writing, it's not fully working with
    obdgpslogger yet, but it works enough to access my OBDPro
    scantool.

    Overall, I found the Sheeva a fantastic tool; it really is a
    complete Linux system that does everything I need.

    4 Future Uses

    In writing this review, I found myself coming up with various
    ideas for using the plug, beyond a simple host for obdgpslogger.
    Of particular interest is that it's simply a low-cost device that
    you can run always-on and always-connected-to-the-internet for
    cheap. For want of a number, a quick back-of-the-envelope
    calculation says that it costs me about 1.7 cents per day to run,
    or about six dollars a year... and I live in a part of the US
    where electricity is relatively expensive.

    Some food for thought for others picking up one of these plugs:

    Webcam. The plug can run a webcam and either host a live
    stream, or regularly upload photos to another site. Great for
    those of us with jobs and dogs. This way my power-hungry
    desktop can remain asleep during the day and I can still watch
    my dogs.

    Storage server. Plug a huge external hard drive into it and use
    it for network attached storage. Typical uses might include a
    streaming server for a PS3 [using the fantastic mediatomb http://mediatomb.cc/
    a backup server, or a bittorrent tracker or downloader.
    Combine a few of these things and you get:

    Leave an RSS reader running on the plug all day, reading
    streams from torrent sites and automatically downloading
    things you like. When you get home in the evening, turn on
    your TV and PS3 and start watching. Imagine if your cable
    company's on-demand didn't suck - that's what this is.

    In the past, I've used squid to block ads and as a network
    cache; the Sheeva is perfectly placed to handle that. Nowadays,
    fast internet and intelligent browsers make a lot of that moot,
    but squid can still pull off some pretty neat tricks.

    Home automation. It's nice to have something you can ssh into
    before leaving work, perhaps to start a coffee machine or
    something. The Sheeva could perhaps control some X10 devices.

    For people interested in a whole new worldview of instant
    messaging, the Sheeva makes a great Bitlbee server.

    Similar to DD-WRT, it's not hard to imagine complete images to
    flash to the device. The RSS-bittorrent-PS3 configuration above
    could easily be prepared to an image, and have end-users simply
    download and flash the whole bundle.

    On the topic of DD-WRT, some people don't like to reflash their
    wireless routers or similar devices; the Sheeva could run all
    the services you otherwise would have liked your wireless
    router to do [such as DHCP with static allocation - the main
    reason I upgraded to DD-WRT in the first place]

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.

    Updated 12-26-2009 at 08:45 AM by Jensen2000

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    Product Reviews