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  1. 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

    mp3Car News
  2. How the CarPC Saved Christmas!

    by , 12-27-2009 at 09:45 AM
    Here is the untold story of How the CarPC saved Christmas:
    Twas the night before Christmas, when out in my car
    The circuits were buzzing, even wireless from afar
    The wiring was tucked away nice and neat with the USB hub, hidden under the seat.

    When out in the yard I heard such dismay
    some swearing and cursing, Santa had lost his way
    His navigation was failing was said sorta quip
    He was using outdated MS Streets and trips.

    with Santa explaining He had just had enough
    I ran in the house to gather some stuff
    First a power supply, rated 12 volts you see
    as the Sleigh had no means for 110 volt AC

    Then with a case for his new SleighPC
    and lots more goodies, to help set Santa free
    then on with a touchscreen, at ten inches wide
    to put in his dash, to really pimp out his ride

    I returned with an armful of parts from afar
    as They had all been purchased from MP3Car
    the wires I ran for his new fusion brain
    to turn on the wipers when it started to rain

    Then on with Skype to install in a flash
    so he could coordinate with Mrs. Clause right from the dash.
    I loaded the drive with custom media you see
    as tons of Christmas music there just had to be.

    Then on with the sensors to help him to park
    not to close to the chimney, but just on his mark
    To the back of the sleigh I attached the GPS Puck
    With a clear view of the sky, to ensure a good lock

    Then I turned on the power to this new SleighPC
    and a splash screen of Road Runner now filled screen
    Now Santa was so occupied with his new pimped out ride
    that I left him alone, and went back inside.

    moments later I heard, as he steered out of sight
    "Turn left in 100 meters", echoing through the night.

    Updated 12-27-2009 at 09:58 AM by Heather

    Tags: Christmas, CarPC Add / Edit Tags
    mp3Car News
  3. Hardware Review: Intelmatic XF700 Industrial Sunlight Readable Touch Screen Monitor

    by , 12-26-2009 at 07:52 AM
    What is it?

    The Inelmatic XF700 is a 7” 16:9 high-brightness touch-screen monitor. This monitor has multiple output options, transflective technologies, and a unique and optimized form-factor.

    The Verdict:

    The Inelmatic XF700 is a well thought-out piece of automotive computing hardware. From the screen to the shell you can tell Inelmatic designed it for Car PC use. If it can survive the name-recognition of competing devices, I truly believe there is a new “best of class” in the 7” touch-screen market.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.

    What’s in the box?

    The XF700 comes with an instruction manual, VESA mount, an attachable stylus pointer, and a unique single-loom wire which includes connectors for power, USB, VGA input, composite input, S-Video input, rear camera input, and a current-sensing auto-switch wire.


    The XF700 is the latest of the high-brightness touch-friendly monitors to hit the mobile computer scene. Upon opening the box and getting the monitor in my hands, I immediately noticed how solid the monitor feels. This indicates to me that the build quality should be stellar and that the XF700 could potentially be built to withstand the harsh automotive environments. Another improvement that immediately stood out is the single-wire design. There is only a single wire protruding from the back of the XF700. The wire is flexible, and sticks out of the rear of the unit, allowing for greater installation flexibility than most competitors offer. This wire then latches securely to its counterpart, which allows an array of connection methods. The XF700 offers VGA inputs, 2 sets of composite video inputs, 1 set of audio inputs, a separate rear camera input, and for even greater flexibility the manufacturer has included a single wire current-sensing switch wire. In fact, the only connection method that seems to be missing is DVI. Powering the device is more flexible than its competition as well, as the XF700 allows any power source from 9-30VDC. This removes the requirement of a stable 12v source.

    Of course, the most important feature of any touch-screen monitor is what’s on the screen, and XF700 shines through in this regard. The touch-screen is transflective and appears to shy away dust and fingerprints better than competing units. Installation of the touch-screen is plug-and-play, and the software which controls the touch-screen is the same as the Lilliput and Xenarc units. The high-brightness of the LCD provides a crisp and beautiful display even in direct sunlight. The 629 Lilliput in my car couldn’t come close to matching the brightness and image quality of the XF700.

    Even my “sunlight readable” Acer laptop doesn’t match the quality of the XF700 in the brightest conditions.

    The native resolution of the XF700 is 800x480, however it seems to handle 800x600 and even 1024x768 without much hassle. The display quality is the best I’ve seen to date within the 7” monitor market.

    The XF700 has several buttons on the front, which at first detract from the beauty of its design. However, I find the buttons work better in the car than those of the Lilliput and Xernarc devices. They sit flush on the frame of the monitor, and provide a very tactile “click” each time a button is pressed. The buttons do things like power the display, toggle the built-in 3-step gamma, and open up the on-screen menu. This menu allows far more customization than competing units.

    The Positive:

    • High-quality beautiful display even in direct sunlight
    • Installation-friendly wiring
    • Built-in rear camera support, with multiple auto-switch options
    • Easy to use 3 stage gamma
    • 500:1 contrast ratio
    • Native resolution of 800x480 • Auto-power on when VGA signal is detected
    • Flexible wiring options
    • Shock and vibration resistant for reliable car installations

    The Negative:

    • No DVI input
    • Still has the bright blue “No VGA” screen at upon powering the device
    • No remote control?

    The Verdict:

    The Inelmatic XF700 is a well thought-out piece of automotive computing hardware. From the screen to the shell you can tell Inelmatic designed it for Car PC use. If it can survive the name-recognition of competing devices, I truly believe there is a new “best of class” in the 7” touch-screen market.


    Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Colors: 256k Native Resolution: 800x480px VGA Modes: 640x480 to 1024x768 Contrast: 500:1 Inputs: VGA, 2 x Composite Video Optional Audio: 2 x 1W (stereo) Touch Panel: Resistive 4 wires. Endurance >2M Touch. Optional 5 wires Power Supply: 9-30VDC automotive car/truck suitable Power Consumption: 6W Dimensions: 183x125x31mm Dimensions (screen): 152x94mm Enclosure: Aluminum chassis/rear. PVC-ABS front Operation Temperature: -20°C to 70°C Max (-10°C to 60°C continuous) Vibrations: 1G 2-500Hz Shock: 20G 11ms Drop: 10cm Max

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.
  4. Hardware Review: OBDLink by

    by , 12-23-2009 at 01:15 PM

    What is OBDLink?

    OBDLink is the latest in a line of PC based “scan tools” manufactured by A “scan tool” is a device which can be used to gain access to vehicle onboard diagnostics and engine management systems to acquire data on engine faults and real time engine running parameters and can also be used for data logging and dyno-testing (dependent on software application used).

    The Verdict:
    In my opinion OBDLink is a great device, in fact probably the best I have come across without having to spend lots of money. OBDLnk is compatible with a wide range of vehicles, can be integrated with a vast number of software packages, and can even be used on the new Windows 7 operating system. The device is very easy to set up and use. Great value product, excellent warranty and excellent product support.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.

    Package Contents (Basic package):

    Regular Price: $99.95
    • OBDLink scan tool
    • 1.8m (6 feet) USB cable
    • 1.8m (6 feet) OBDII Cable
    • Quick start guide
    • Installation CD

    The Plan:

    From the offset I was aiming to make this review as clear and informative as I could manage with the hardware and software at my disposal and also trying to think of any questions that someone may ask so….. Here goes.

    • Operating systems: XP and Windows 7
    • Software packages: (free), ScanXL Pro, Touchscan and ScanMaster.
    • The test vehicles: manufactured between 1997 and 2008 in the European sector.

    Specification (from manufacturers’ website):

    • USB Interface
    • Bluetooth (optional extra) up to 100m/330Ft
    • Baud rates from 9600 to 1.4M Baud.
    • Supports ALL legislated OBD protocols
    • Compatible with more software than any other scan tool
    • Extended command set allowing the tool to perform enhanced diagnostics that are not possible with ELM327 based scan tools.
    • User upgradeable via free downloads
    • Can be powered from OBD or USB for even easier firmware upgrades.
    • Improved automatic protocol detection algorithm
    • Smart keep-alive algorithm helps ensure a stable connection on ISO and KWP vehicles
    • Large CAN memory buffer allows the scan tool to receive large amounts of data
    • Greatly increased data throughput delivers faster screen updates and more graph points
    • Dimensions: 3.75" x 1.7" (95 mm x 43 mm)


    • Right angled OBD connector $4.95
    • Bluetooth transceiver (Integrated into OBDLink) $49.95
    • Bluetooth dongle (For the computer side) $14.95
    • protective carry case $39.95

    OBDLink Setup:

    Upon opening up the package I set about the first installation on a system running XP. Following the quick start guide I was able to quickly and easily install the drivers and the free software provided with no problems. This took approx 2-3 minutes to install, very quick and easy.
    I did however notice that steps 2 (Connecting interface to the car) and 3 (Finding the Diagnostic socket) were the wrong way around on the quick start guide. I informed Vitaliy and the quickstart guide has been revised..

    1. Insert the disc provided into the disc drive

    2. The disc should open automatically. If not, go to “My Computer”, right click “CD drive” and click “Explore”. Then, double click on “setup.exe”.

    3. When the opening screen pops up, select the OBDLink interface from the list on the left of the screen.

    4. The next step is to install the drivers, in the top right hand side of the screen under the “DRIVERS” menu select the system you are running.

    NOTE: If you are running Windows 7, then the drivers contained within the disc won’t work. I contacted Vitaliy who informed me that the Windows 7 drivers can be downloaded from and will be available soon from

    5. Click on the “next” button to install the drivers.


    In the case of any problems arising when using OBDLink there is plenty of help available to get the problem sorted.

    Available for download on the website is two flow charts to help diagnose connection trouble. These can be found under the download section or by using the links bellow.


    Also available for troubleshooting is two programs provided on the disc supplied with the interface. One of the programs is used to find he device “COM” port and Baud Rate to enable communication between the interface and the computer.

    The second program is used to troubleshoot ECU connection problems.

    Also on the disc is a link to the support forum where assistance can be sought from other members or staff.

    Assistance may also be sought from the forum.

    Firmware update

    Firmware updates are made available for download from the website to fix bugs, add new features, etc.

    These firmware updates can be found here.

    The firmware updates come as a compressed ZIP file, so the first step to perform the upgrade is to extract the contents of the ZIP file. To extract the files you can either click on the button at the top of the screen with “Extract all files” or you can click on the file with name “StnFirmwareupdater”.

    Once the files are extracted to a folder of your choice, open the folder and click on the “STNFirmwareUpdater” file and the updater application will launch.

    In order to perform the update you will have to specify the “COM port” for the device.
    If you are unsure of which COM port the device uses, you use the “STN Finder” utility on the disc supplied with the interface.

    Once you specify the COM port, click “Update Firmware” and the application will commence the update.

    The freeware:

    When you open up the free software package provided with the interface, you are required to select the COM port and baud rate for the interface.

    If you are unsure about either of these, the data could be found using the link on the driver CD. Click on “STN Finder” and follow the instructions.

    For some reason, I could only get the interface to work at 38,400 Baud with the free software. No faster, No slower.
    I contacted Vitaliy who came back with “The free software does not switch the device baud rate, like for instance ScanXL does. The bottleneck is on the OBD side, and we found that increasing the baud rate from say 38.4k to 115.2k increases performance only marginally (in most cases, not noticeable for the end user)”

    In the free software package the freeze frame and test data are not implemented in the current version. The free software is only useful for the basic reading and erasing trouble codes and viewing sensor outputs.

    Purchase software:

    I tested the OBDLink interface with additional software packages to test the functions, the packages I used were: ScanXL Pro, TouchScan and ScanMaster. All three of these packages worked fine with the interface. So although the free software provided with the device is pretty limited to what it can do, there are a vast number of packages available to utilise the full functionality of the device and to meet your specific needs.

    ScanXL Pro:
    Price: $119.95

    Installation: ScanXL Pro was pretty straightforward to install and register and only took a few minutes to complete. I also successfully installed ScanXL Pro onto my system running Windows 7.

    Details: ScanXL Pro has a wide range of functions (as shown in the screenshots bellow) to utilise the full functionality of OBDLink, these functions include:
    • View and record sensor data
    • Read and delete error codes
    • Read freeze frame data
    • Dyno and drag performance data,
    • Dashboard / gauges
    • Vehicle manager
    • Alerts to give audible indication when a specified parameter goes outside its normal operating range
    • Customizable graphs, maps and gauges

    ScanXL also has plug-ins to enable enhanced diagnostics on GM and Ford vehicles.

    When using the dashboard function the gauges move pretty smoothly, which greatly improves the appearance of the dash (jumpy gauges are very annoying).

    The Dyno performance data can only be used with vehicles with manual transmission. To use the dyno function you will have to enter the weight of the vehicle and the wheel sizes.

    Most parts of the software can be customized or configured enabling you for example to change the colour to match your dash, or scaling items into proportion for your screen.

    I have successfully installed ScanXL Pro onto a system running Windows 7.

    ScanXL Pro would be good for integrating into a carputer system; however it may be a little fiddly pressing some of the tabs along the top of the screen using a 7” or 8” touch screen due to the size of the tabs.

    Price: $69.95

    Installation is fairly straightforward; it only takes a few minutes to set up the package then register your license information.

    • Automatic, hands-off protocol detection
    • Real-time data, available in the form of tables, graphs, and gauges
    • Reads all generic and manufacturer-specific DTC's
    • Database of over 4200 generic DTCs, and over 3600 manufacturer-specific DTCs
    • Can be used to turn off the "Check Engine" light (MIL), and clear all emissions-related diagnostic information
    • Oxygen sensor test results
    • Continuous and non-continuous monitor test results
    • VIN, Calibration ID, In-Use Performance Tracking
    • Multi-language support: Croatian, Czech, Danish, English, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Serbian, and Spanish.
    • Metric and English units of measure
    • Printable diagnostic reports
    • Data logging in CSV format
    • Dynamometer
    • Fuel gauge

    ScanMaster is a fairly basic package and does not include many graphics and not very driver friendly. Not suitable for use on a small touch screen due to the tiny buttons/tabs along the top of the screen. ScanMaster would be more suited for use on a laptop for diagnostic purposes only.

    The package offers a limited customizable skin where you can choose one of 36 colour schemes.

    Price: $24.95


    Description: TouchScan has a fairly limited set of functions, such as:
    • Basic reading/erasing of trouble codes
    • Logging vehicle speed and fuel rate (gal/hr)
    • Digital dashboard

    This software package could be useful for a dedicated digital Dashboard.
    The buttons/tabs on the screen are well sized for easy use on a 7” touch screen.

    Vehicle compatibility:
    I tested the OBDLink on several cars of different manufacturer, produced between 1997 and 2008:

    * 2008 Honda Accord 2.2 (diesel) * 2007 Peugeot 4007 2.2 (diesel)
    * 2005 Subaru Impreza 2.0 (petrol) * 2001 Renault Clio 1.2 (petrol)
    * 2001 Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 (petrol) * 2000 Toyota Yaris 1.0 (petrol)
    * 1997 Volkswagen Golf 2.0 (petrol)

    All the cars I tested the OBDLink on with exception of the VW Golf worked fine with the interface. The problem I found with the VW Golf was that it was not fully OBDII compliant.

    The right angled OBD connector and Bluetooth option would be useful for integrating OBDLink into a Carputer setup.
    In vehicles where the diagnostic connector is located under the dash you will find that when using the straight connector it sticks out close to your knee and the cable hangs down into the footwell. The right angled OBD connector will help keep the cable out of the way under the dash away from your legs etc also making it easier to hide away the cable/connector.

    By using the Bluetooth option the installation speed and ease is improved. You can save yourself time and effort by not having to rip off some of your trim to feed cables to your computer setup.

    The Bluetooth option would be good for use on a laptop to perform diagnostic tests. What I found when going to take the vehicle for a test run is, where the diagnostic socket sticks out under the dash, the cable hangs over the drivers’ legs and across the gear stick/handbrake to the passenger seat where the laptop is. The interface would still be in the foot well area but it can be tied up out of the way. It will also give you more mobility, e.g. you can have the laptop in the engine compartment when you are testing sensors etc.

    • 90 day unconditional money back guarantee
    • 3 year repair/replacement warranty
    • Compatible with a vast amount of software packages
    • Great customer support via forum
    • Great quality product
    • Easy to install and use
    • Works on Windows 7 (additional drivers required, see above)

    • Larger than ElmScan 5 serial

    The Verdict:
    In my opinion OBDLink is a great device, in fact probably the best I have come across without having to spend lots of money. OBDLnk is compatible with a wide range of vehicles, can be integrated with a vast number of software packages, and can even be used on the new Windows 7 operating system. The device is very easy to set up and use. Great value product, excellent warranty and excellent product support.

    I would like to send out a big thanks to for the opportunity to review this product, Vitaliy from for all the support provided during testing and to Palmer Performance Engineering (scanXL), WGSoft (ScanMaster) and OCTech (TouchScan) for donating some additional software to assist the review.

    If anyone has any queries regarding anything I have written or need assistance with something let me know and I'll help if I can.

    I will be carrying out more testing/ reviewing of OBDLink, ScanXL, ScanMaster and Touchscan and will post my progress on the forum. If anyone has any questions that they would like answers to, let me know and I'll do some testing to try and find out the answer.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.

    Updated 12-26-2009 at 08:15 AM by Jensen2000

    Product Reviews
  5. Hardware Review: Infrared, Night Vision, Waterproof, High Resolution CMOS Camera

    by , 12-22-2009 at 12:07 PM

    What is it?

    This is a CMOS night vision camera sold by MP3Car. Night vision is through the front mounted IR LEDs. It's advertised purpose is mostly for surveillance, but as we will see in the review later on, this camera is actually better suited as a parking cam. The store's heading for this product advertises it to be a CCD camera, but the specifications mention that it is a CMOS (which is what this camera actually is). The camera runs on 12v and is waterproof.

    The Verdict

    This low cost CMOS camera is best suited for use as a parking camera. The reversed image and on-screen trapezoid for judging distance is an indication of this. Video quality is comparable to a higher quality CCD camera in the daytime, but at night, images are fuzzy.

    Forum Member Feedback

    Mp3Car forum member, Deric, says, "Good review! I've been looking for a low cost backup camera and may give this one a shot when I rebuild my system over the winter.

    Mp3Car forum member, Larzfromarz, says, "Thanks- i bought one but have not installed yet. Intend to use as you state, actually a trailer hook up camera. I can see I'd rather have a ccd but for $40..."

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.

    In the box
    Here is a picture of the box and what's in it:

    Very basic stuff. You get an RCA cable, a sliced power cable, a sheet of paper as the manual, and of course the camera itself. The manual is written in chinglish with obvious grammar mistakes, but it's not that bad and completely understandable.


    First of all, I'd like to comment on the difference between a CMOS and a CCD camera. CCD is better quality and more expensive than a CMOS. The benefits of CCD technology over CMOS is that they are better under low light situations and overall better picture quality from lower noise. This infrared camera that I am reviewing is CMOS based and Ill be comparing it to a Sony CCD camera that I bought off eBay a while ago and have been using in my car's surveillance system. Although this camera is advertised to be a surveillance camera, I actually think it would be best suited as a parking cam instead. If you look at the video footage below, you'll see there is actually some sort of permanent trapezoid shape on the video output of the camera which I am assuming is to help you judge distance.

    IMPORTANT POINT #1: the manual recommends running it off a 12v regulated source. Im assuming the camera has no internal voltage regulation, so you probably do not want to plug it straight into the car's electrical system. It probably would work fine, but who knows what long term effects all those voltage irregularities will have on the camera. To play it safe, I'll be running the camera on 12v regulated. This shouldnt be a problem for more CarPC'ers as you can just easily tap into the +12v of your PSU.

    IMPORTANT POINT #2: If you look at my video footage (it looks like I am driving on the wrong side of the road), you will see that the image from the camera is actually REVERSED. For this reason, I do not recommend using the camera as surveillance or as a front mounted dash cam. It's only really suited to be used as a parking camera. Here is some video of the CMOS camera:

    CMOS Camera in daytime:

    CMOS Camera at night:

    and as comparison, here is some sample video footage from my Sony CCD camera. Note that at the end of the night-time video, I am driving in a completely pitch dark construction zone. There is no lighting other than my headlights. You can see me playing around with the different headlight settings on my car in 0:36. In pitch dark conditions illuminated by only my headlights, I was unable to see anything with the CMOS camera, it was just all noise and fuzz. Interesting thing to note, I actually found myself glancing down on my screen when driving down this pitch black road because my Sony CCD provided better night vision than what my human eyes can see.

    Sony CCD camera at night:

    Sony CCD camera in the daytime:

    Although the MP3Car camera has IR illumination, they are practically useless in far range situations. The reason is that the CMOS image detector itself is not as sensitive as CCDs and the IR illuminators simply are not powerful enough to illuminate far distances. As a parking camera, your rear tail-lights will probably provide more illumination than the IR LEDs. Night time driving shots are decent enough, and in fact, this camera is much better than my previous CMOS camera in low light conditions. However, the CCD camera is much better for low light situations. If low light quality is important, then I would recommend using the camera only in closer distances where the IR illumination actually has any effect. The CMOS camera is actually usable in pitch black conditions, but of course, only when the surroundings are close enough to be lit up. Just to give you guys an idea of how bright the IR LEDs are on the CMOS camera, here is a picture I took with my digital camera (in case you guys dont know, most digital cameras can "see" into the infrared region). The lights on the left are from the camera and the single light is a standard TV remote. You can see that they are pretty much similar in brightness.

    The IR on this camera is controlled by a small photoelectric sensor, so the IR only comes on when it's dark. I also did a power consumption test. At 12V, the camera draws 100mA (so 1.2W) in the daytime with the IR off and 111mA (1.3W) at night when the IR is on. In comparison, my Sony CCD camera draws 0.15mA (1.8W). Nevertheless, video quality in the daytime is very similar to a CCD. CMOS technology is inherently noisier than CCD but that is not very noticeable in the daytime. As for mounting the camera, you can see in this picture how the little rings slide off. You simply drill a hole, silicone the surroundings, slide in the camera, then tighten up the rings.

    The Positive

    -Low price
    -Durable, waterproof. I wanted to take the camera apart to see what's inside, but the camera is so sturdily built that I cant find a way to take it apart.
    -Very good quality for a CMOS camera. Quality in lighted conditions is very similar to a CCD camera -IR illumination for night vision even in pitch black (only useful if the surroundings are close).
    -Trapezoid on-screen guide to help judge distance (a positive only if you are using as a parking cam)
    -Image is reversed (a positive only if you are using as a parking cam)

    The Negative

    -Night vision is limited by how far away the surroundings are.
    -In low light conditions, the camera is very "noisy" and resolution is not very good. Still much better than most CMOS cameras.
    -Not very practical for use as a surveillance cam.
    -Requires regulated +12v power, meaning it might not be a good idea to hook this up straight into your car's electrical system without some sort of voltage regulator inline.

    The Verdict

    This low cost CMOS camera is best suited for use as a parking camera. The reversed image and on-screen trapezoid for judging distance is an indication of this. Video quality is comparable to a higher quality CCD camera in the daytime, but at night, images are fuzzy.


    (the MP3Car store has slightly different specs listed, I will post the ones from the manual)
    -CMOS technology, PAL and NTSC
    -Input voltage: 12v regulated -1 inch diameter mounting hole -Pixels (H*V): 628*582 PAL, 510*492 NTSC
    -Resolution: 380 TVL (Enhanced)
    -Viewing angle: 120 deg
    -Video output: 1.0 Vpp composite video at 75 ohm
    -Min illumination: 0.1 lux (IR on)
    -Operating temp: -20C to 70C -Weight: 300g

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.