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  1. Free Ground Shipping, All Orders Above $50

    by , 01-05-2010 at 03:16 PM
    Free ground shipping in the Continental U.S. on all orders above $50 now through January 31, 2010 at the mp3Car Store. Use coupon code "NEWYEARSHIPPING" upon checkout.

    SHOP NOW


  2. Hardware Review: PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi OBD Scanner

    by , 01-05-2010 at 11:00 AM


    What is it?

    The PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi is an easy to use wireless OBD-II scanner which connects to iPhone and iPod Touch Devices.

    The Verdict:


    The PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi OBD-II scanner is a handy device, which makes OBD scanning and code reading simpler than it’s ever been before. However, its wireless accessibility is both a blessing and a burden. I would recommend this device based on its code-reading abilities more so than its day-to-day data reading capabilities.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.


    What’s in the box?


    The Kiwi Wifi comes with the main OBD-II Module, a 6-foot OBD port cable, and a simple yet effective set of instructions.

    Description:


    The Kiwi Wifi device is a plug and play tool used to scan OBD-II data from modern automobiles using either an iPhone or iPod Touch (not included). The magic in the device is it uses an 802.11x wireless signal to send the data read from your OBD-II port to the Apple device. This means you can simply connect the OBD-II cable to your vehicles port, and tuck the Kiwi away. The device has a switch to turn the Kiwi on/off. This may come in handy if you are worried about power consumption (the device does constantly pull power from the OBD port in its ON state), but for most applications it shouldn’t be necessary. The only other notable features of the device are a red light indicating the device power state and a green “LINK” light that indicates an iPod connection is present.




    To complete the setup, one need go to "settings" on your iPod or iPhone device. Turn on wifi, and a wireless signal named “PLXDevices” should display after a quick signal search. Connect to that device (no encryption needed), then click the blue arrow to enter that particular connection’s settings. Click the “Static” button then enter an IP address of 192.168.0.11 and a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0. Save, and the setup is complete.



    The Kiwi device is supported by various applications from the iTunes store. The instructions indicate that both popular apps, Rev and FuzzyCar, support the Kiwi. FuzzyCar supports all PID data and is quite a bit cheaper than the paid-for version of Rev, so that was my app of choice. Once installed, FuzzyCar ran a quick scan of my vehicles supported PIDs. Once the scan was done the information was displayed in a neat and clear fashion.








    The ease of use of the Kiwi Wifi when paired with an iPod is amazing. The instruction booklet reads “This Won’t Take Long” in bold print and it couldn’t be more correct. Still, there are two issues that need be mentioned. In order to use the device, you must first manually connect to the “PLXDevices” wifi connection each time you want to use it. It would seem the applications should automatically switch when they are started but this is not the case. The bigger issue is the speed at which the information is updated. A standard serial OBD-II port will update information at nearly once per second. The Kiwi Wifi appears to be hindered by the wireless connection, as the information updates at close to once per ten seconds in my testing with FuzzyCar. This obviously makes information such as RPM and engine load % worthless. Even still, the PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi handles OBD-II well and does an excellent job of adding a handy feature to an already potent Apple device.

    The Positive:


    • Super-fast installation routine
    • Supreme portability
    • Seamless integration with iPhone/iPod Touch
    • Wireless means less wiring and easier to stow away
    • Power switch to conserve energy
    • Bus (OBD-II) powered

    The Negative:


    • Requires an external device (iPod or iPhone)
    • Slow data updates
    • Requires manual connection of the wireless device
    • No free application. Adds to the cost of the device.

    The Verdict:


    The PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi OBD-II scanner is a handy device which makes OBD scanning and code reading simpler than it’s ever been before. However, its wireless accessibility is both a blessing and a burden. I would recommend this device based on its code-reading abilities more so than its day-to-day data reading capabilities.

    Specifications:


    SSID: PLXDevices
    IP: 192.168.0.10
    Subnet: 255.255.255.0
    Port: 35000
    Range: 50 ft (line of sight)
    Antenna: Internal
    Power Consumption: 0.7 Watts
    Wifi Standard: 802.11a/b/g
    Operating Temp: -15 to 100° C
    Dimensions: 2.75x1.25x0.6 Inches

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.

    Updated 01-05-2010 at 11:08 AM by Jensen2000

    Categories
    Product Reviews
  3. Software Review: Centrafuse Auto Navigation

    by , 12-30-2009 at 07:17 AM

    What is it?

    A front end software that sits on top of Microsoft Windows, an interface between you and your car's infotainment. It allows you to play music, watch videos, assist in GPS navigation, listen to satellite radio, communicate with your bluetooth cellphone, respond to voice commands, display rear view camera, multiple media zones, etc. With it's strong emphasis on making it easy for programmers to make plugins, it can be used for controlling anything that's attached to your carpc through one common interface.

    The Verdict:

    Buy the software without GPS navigation and use a third party GPS navigation software. With the multitudes of plugins, integrating third party GPS software is easy and works well. Loading times are the longest I've experienced with any front end software but this won't be much of an issue if you use hibernation or suspend. If you don't have the time to make those other front end work correctly and just want something that works with support then I highly recommend you go this route. I like to thank mp3car and Centrafuse for this opportunity to make this review.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.


    What's in the box?

    I didn't receive a box or anything physical for this review, just an email message from mp3car.com with a serial key and where to register/download. I downloaded the software from www.centrafuse.com and registered my carpc hardware ID to it. A quick start PDF manual can be found after installation. For more documentation see the FAQ on their forum.

    Description:

    Test machine:

    Intel D945GCLF2 dual core 1.6Ghz Atom processor, 512MB ram, 80GB Seagate EE25 Automotive HD 5400rpm, GPS BU-353, Windows XP

    Set up:

    Installation starts by visiting www.centrafuse.com and creating an account (not to be confused with the forum user account). Select the link called "Looking for your 2.0 licenses?". It will give you a link to download the 3.0 software by clicking on the "Get Installer Files". This is also the same web screen you use to register your hardware ID -- more on this later.

    Before you install Centrafuse on your carpc, I highly recommend reinstalling a full copy of Windows if you plan on using voice control. My previous install of TinyXP Windows edition didn't allow voice control to function. If voice control isn't important to you and you want to continue using TinyXP, then you must enable "Windows Management Instrumentation" service for the hardware ID to function properly.

    Installation is straight forward. Click on Centrafuse_30_1106.exe. It first installs Microsoft's framework 2.0 and SP1, reboots Windows, and restarts the installation again. Next, it will ask if you want optional voice control and blue tooth to be installed before finally installing Centrafuse. The next step is to install the GPS navigation portion by clicking on Centrafuse_NA_30_part1.exe. Installation took a while, but it required no further reboots. Software installation total time was eight minutes. When you run Centrafuse for the first time, it will inform you of your hardware ID. Write this down and visit www.centrafuse.com again to obtain a license. Centrafuse will email you a license file that needs to be copied to "\Program Files\Centrafuse\Centrafuse Auto".

    Video:

    Centrafuse does so many things so I figured it would be best if I'd make a short 17 minute video exploring what it does.






    The screen shots from centrafuse are much better than mine, so please check them out here.

    The Positive:


    • Extremely touch screen friendly with large buttons. You do not need a mouse in your car.
    • Bluetooth cell phone interface
    • GPS navigation lowers volume progressively before announcing next turn.
    • Configuring the software is straight forward and very easy to do with it's nice GUI interface. No confusing .INI files to edit.
    • Changing the current song to another is very easy to do without disrupting your current screen. For example, you're entering in an address in the navigation window and suddenly there's a song you don't want to listen to. No problem click on a music button and you can quickly switch to another song. Click on the button again and you're back to where you left off, undisturbed.
    • Customizing the default skin can be modified easily if you want to rearrange some of the menus.
    • Voice control works well, although I couldn't request a song by title (someone would need to write a plugin)
    • No unexpected crashes, works well.


    The Negative:


    • GPS navigation has many disappointments. Maps are dated from 2007. North America maps are divided into 10 regions, making things cumbersome. For example, you cannot select a destination to Detroit, Michigan from Windsor, Ontario because they're in different regions. Selecting gas, food, or hotel points of interest doesn't work if your map is set to Canada (bug). GPS navigation didn't work after immediately configuring the GPS device. I had to restart Centrafuse for the new settings to take effect.
    • My loading times are a bit slow; 25 seconds from a cold start, or 14 seconds on a reload. My other front end software loads in about half the time.
    • Memory usage has been 153 to 160 MB, about triple to what the other front end use. This higher memory usage directly influences the longer hibernation and read/write times. It takes approximately two seconds longer for hibernate to resume.
    • No gestures feature -- a minor inconvenience
    • Surprised to see a slight pause between main menu screen changes, this either suggests I need either a more powerful graphics card or better CPU. This popular dual core Atom has never shown any weakness until now.


    The Verdict:

    Buy the software without GPS navigation and use a third party GPS navigation software. With the multitudes of plugins available, integrating third party GPS software is easy and works well. Loading times are the longest I've experienced with any front end software, but this won't be much of an issue if you use hibernation or suspend modes. If you don't have the time to make those other front end software applications work correctly and just want something that works and has support then I highly recommend you go with Centrafuse Auto. I'd like to thank mp3car and Centrafuse for the opportunity to make this review.

    Specifications:

    Minimum: 1GHz processor, 256 MB RAM (note: my system required 351MB for Windows XP + Centrafuse 3)
    Recommended: 1.5GHz processor, 1 GB RAM
  4. Hardware Review: USB-SA Andrea External USB Soundcard & SuperBeam Microphone Bundle

    by , 12-30-2009 at 07:05 AM

    What is it?

    A USB based sound card with SoundMAX Superbeam array microphone.

    The Verdict:

    Most parts for any CarPC tend to run for a minimum of $50. With the bundle coming in at just less than $50, this is a value for anyone looking to add a sound card and microphone to a system. The microphone is clearly the more valuable part in the bundle and works very well in most environments. The straightforward installation and good sound with impressive microphone pickup make this a good buy.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.

    What’s in the box?

    PureAudio USB Sound Card
    Soundmax Microphone
    CD Driver(Mini CD – Won’t work in slot load CDRom)

    Description:

    This product is very basic, almost too basic. With only headphone and microphone jacks you are not able to add additional audio in connections. Because of this all testing of the sound card was done on a home PC, the microphone was attached to the internal sound card in my CarPC. This allowed for Audio IN and my HD Radio to continue to work. The cable on the microphone is long(~84”), this is very handy when connecting to a sound card that is in the trunk.

    The Positive:

    The microphone works very well, and the length of cable is very helpful. The install is also very easy once you download the software from their website (http://www.andreaelectronics.com). I tested voice commands with the top down on the convertible in a very loud garage and it recognized all the commands on first try. This is a drastic improvement over most microphones I have used.

    The Negative:

    The shape of the microphone is designed to sit on top of a monitor, but it does not come with any double sided tape or Velcro to keep it in place. The sound card works but without an Audio In, I am unable to connect external radio sources to my PC.

    The Verdict:

    Most parts for any CarPC tend to run for a minimum of $50. With the bundle coming in at just less than $50, this is a value for anyone looking to add a sound card and microphone to a system. The microphone is clearly the more valuable part in the bundle and works very well in most environments. The straightforward installation and good sound with impressive microphone pickup make this a good buy.

    SuperbeamArray Microphone Specifications Acoustic
    Microphone ConfigurationTwo unidirectional microphones with

    individual channels to a stereo outputRecommended operating distance12” - 48” (Varies with application)Acoustic signal reduction @ 1 KHz and 180º>10 dBElectrical Characteristics
    Mic bias Supply Voltage for rated 4 VDC

    sensitivity4 VDCOperating Mic bias Supply Voltage Range 2.5 to 5 VDC

    (with up to 3 dB sensitivity variation)2.5 to 5 VDCSupply series resistor2 KOhms +/- 0.5KOperating Current (each channel)0.6 mAOutput Impedance @ 1 KHz
  5. Onstar GMLan & CAN bus GPS hacking

    by , 12-28-2009 at 02:52 PM
    A clever engineer over at radioetcetera has released code to convert Onstar / GMLan bus to plain NMEA data. There is a little bit of work left to be done, but it looks like most of the heavy lifting has been completed. Why would you want to do this?
    • GM has put a great external GPS antenna in your car. Why do you need to buy another one?
    • It is fun weekend project and a great exhibit of your geek talent
    • Using an external GPS should give you much better reception

    All someone needs to do is make a single wire CAN to RS-232 adapter and tweak the provided code to finish the project. The guys over at hack a day say Andy is having a baby and has to stop working on the project. Maybe some mp3car CAN gurus could pick this up? We might consider issuing an innovation grant if cash is an issue. Let the discussion begin!

    Updated 12-29-2009 at 08:45 AM by Fiberoptic

    Categories
    mp3Car News