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  1. Mp3Car Offers Customers Greater Choice – Centrafuse Front End Added to Line-Up!

    by , 07-15-2008 at 10:06 AM
    The Mp3Car store strives to be the leading online source for cutting edge, low power computing technologies. The addition of Flux Media’s Centrafuse infotainment and telematics interface is yet another step in offering a diverse selection of products specific to the low power computing market.

    With over 200 products in stock, the Mp3Car store is searching every day for that next innovation, collaborating with leading companies and innovators from around the world. The Mp3Car store was created to meet the overwhelming demand among hobbyists for products that allow mp3s to be played in the car. Today the Mp3Car store supplies car computing hobbyists with products that allow them to do far more in the car than just play mp3s. Hobbyists use their car computers for navigation, infotainment management, and real time engine tuning just to name a few applications – and we are just getting started!

    “Mp3Car has come a long way – growing with the car computing hobby,” says Heather Sarkissian, Mp3Car Manager, “We are really excited to offer Mp3Car customers the opportunity to choose – in this emerging market it will be the choices of customers that define the future of low power computing. We are pleased to offer Centrafuse as a front end that has been designed with extensive input from the hobbyists on the
    Mp3Car Forums.”

    And what do the guys from Flux Media/Centrafuse say about joining the Mp3Car store?

    “We are very excited for this opportunity to offer Centrafuse as part of the Mp3Car store line-up of cutting edge products. Mp3Car is an ideal distribution partner for us as knowledge leaders in the mobile computing space.” says Reagan Cooper, Director of Channel Sales at Flux Media.

    The Centrafuse Mobile Desktop™ is a complete software front end for Windows XP and Vista-based mobile PCs such as the CarPC and the Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC). Centrafuse seamlessly integrates entertainment, navigation, and communication functions into an intuitive user interface designed for safe and easy touch and voice control. With Centrafuse, you will have quick and easy access to all of your music, pictures and video as well as GPS navigation, AM/FM radio & Satellite radio with pause/replay, DVD, Bluetooth phone integration, WiFi manager, web browser, email, engine diagnostics and much more, all easily accessible with the touch of a finger.

    Interested in buying Centrafuse now?

    Follow this link and add your desired edition to your cart!
    Discuss this news item on our forums!

    Updated 09-17-2009 at 02:36 PM by ecog

    Categories
    Products and Technology
  2. MP3Car and StreetDeck Developer Part Ways

    by , 07-13-2008 at 09:38 AM
    MP3Car and StreetDeck Developer Part Ways after Two Year Partnership to develop Mobile Platform
    After over two years of partnership to develop the StreetDeck software mobile platform, MP3Car, Inc. and the creator of the software, DigitalWheelz, LLC, have decided to part ways. This strategic decision was reached after years of investment and support of the StreetDeck software by MP3Car.
    Over the last year, MP3Car and DigitalWheelz have diverged in terms of vision and goals. It is expected that this decision will benefit each company’s respective customers by allowing MP3Car and DigitalWheelz to focus on providing better products and services going forward.
    “While the decision to separate has been a difficult one to make,” said Robert Wray, owner of MP3Car, “we are confident at MP3Car that this is the best decision for StreetDeck customers and the future of MP3Car. It is time for MP3Car to focus on the needs of the forum users and provide better support to the forums.”
    MP3Car has decided to shift away from product development and toward supporting innovators via the MP3Car Forums and the MP3Car online store. DigitalWheelz will continue to pursue StreetDeck software development initiatives.
    MP3Car and DigitalWheelz recognize that this announcement follows six months of silence regarding the future of StreetDeck. However, with this decision, StreetDeck users can expect support and communication to improve immediately. “DigitalWheelz is very excited about achieving StreetDeck’s full potential and we will begin the process immediately.” says Chuck Holbrook, creator of StreetDeck and managing member of DigitalWheelz, LLC. All inquiries regarding StreetDeck software products and services should be directed to [email protected]s e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . It is expected that StreetDeck will continue to be sold at MP3Car.com as well as through other venues.

    Updated 09-17-2009 at 02:19 PM by ecog

    Categories
    mp3Car News
  3. Mp3 Car at SEMA

    by , 11-06-2007 at 09:35 AM
    Here is a video that was shot at the 2007 SEMA Show, the world's 'Premier Automotive Specialty product Event' - or for us laymen - the biggest car gadget love-in anywhere in the world. The video is all about Mp3car and VIA's involvement in the Car PC industry and in particular the new G4 from Mp3car, a powerful VIA C7-based multimedia Car PC that fits into the dashboard of your car.

    This car PC uses a 1.5GHz VIA C7 processor, 512MB – 1GB of system memory, 6.5" LCD touch screen, high-def audio, a 40GB – 250GB hard drive, a DVD ROM, internal GPS module and Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) receiver and the first ever HD radio receiver. It takes up the space of 2 DINs, in other words double the space of your regular car CD player or radio. So what kind of man (or woman) needs a PC in his car?

    While the car PC is still very much an enthusiast level purchase we have to bear in mind that cars have been using computers for more than a decade now, and that many high-end sports cars and SUVs today require a PC to simply keep the engine running smoothly. This is where having the PC on the dashboard can have its advantages. In many custom sports cars the PC can handle the running of engine and various other components of the car as well as in-drive entertainment and GPS etc.

    And people want to be entertained. Just because you're on the road doesn't mean that we can't watch a DVD or surf the net, especially where we are talking about road trips with the family. Driving to music is not a new idea, but how’s about having high-def sound pump out your entire music collection, stored on the hard drive of your car PC? Hmmm...
    While car PCs are a popular past time for hobbyists around the globe, the Infill PC is a complete solution that promises easy installation and ease of use. The touch screen lets you navigate around Windows XP and do everything you'd usually do, but there's also a custom application called StreetDeck which is optimized to suit people with their hands on the wheel. With gesture recognition and simple, larger menus, StreetDeck would appear to make driving while using the PC reasonably safe.

    The Infill G4 is an excellent example of what we at VIA are striving to achieve. Smaller devices and machines that use electricity sparingly and fit snuggly into our daily lives without using any cooling fans - making it more rugged and useful in situations like a moving vehicle. By developing systems that use less power and therefore create less heat, VIA is able to offer systems that run much cooler and can exist in some quite surprising places.

    The car PC is only the beginning.

    Updated 09-17-2009 at 02:18 PM by ecog

    Categories
    Technology Events , mp3Car News
  4. Car Computing 101

    by , 08-22-2007 at 09:40 AM
    Car PC's are custom installations. Beyond the basics of ensuring that a car PC is installed safely, there is no 'right' way to do it. Some hobbyist prefer their installs to appear as if they came from the factory while others don't care if there is a tangled mess of wires strewn across the dashboard. It's all up to your personal preference.
    This means a considerable amount of research and planning must be undertaken by the hobbyist to solve specific problems associated with placing a computer in a mobile environment.
    Below is a list of things that a carputer can (possibly) do. This list is by nature never complete.
    Why would anyone want a computer in their vehicle?

    The answer can be summed up in one word:
    Convenience
    This may seem contradictory, considering that computers require a good deal of maintenance in order to maintain stability. There are software updates, new hardware, the occasional system crash, and other aspects of computing that make it far from convenient. The goal of every vehicle computing hobbyist is to minimize the need for all of these, and there are a variety of approaches to do so.
    The convenience comes in when you have a centralized system for all the functionality you want from your PC, as opposed to multiple gadgets for each function. A single PC can provide music file playback, DVD playback, satelite radio, GPS navigation, diagnostic information from the vehicle (usuall OBD-II), internet access and hands-free cellphone operation. In order to achieve all that with individual products, you'd need a high-end audio/video system, a GPS system, a satellite radio receiver, a scan tool for diagnostics, and a device capable of internet access such as a PDA or a laptop. The PC will usually be cheaper than all the gadgetry involved for all that functionality, not to mention you'll have central control of all the functions, ideally through a safe driver-friendly interface.
    Show cars are increasingly using computer control for many systems, including operation of mechanical systems such as power windows and locks, actuators to open hatches or doors, and so on.
    One of the favorite responses among CarPC hobbiests when asked what ll they can do with their CarPC:
    Anything you can do with a desktop computer can be done with a vehicle computer.
    The only limits to what you could have your carPC do are in your own imagination.
    Typical system

    A typical Carputer system is composed of four parts:

    • Machine


    • Laptops / Notebooks
    • Apple / Macintosh
    • Windows
    • Linux
    • DOS
    • Displays
    • Interface Hardware
    • Power

    Machine

    The machine is the heart of a carputer system. Based on budget, enthusiasts can easily incorporate and install essentially any computer. Back in 1999 - when hardware prices were still pretty high and laptops were thousands of dollars, the first carputer systems were based on hardware such as 233 MHz desktops. Prices have come down so much on small form motherboards that even those on a budget can build a small machine for little money. There is a growing market of used carputer hardware for sale - which helps the beginner afford a system and learn the ropes.
    In 2007, many carputers run at CPU speeds in excess of 2 GHz. Typical memory varies from 512MB to 1GB. As always, performance and flexibility will be a function of the available processor and memory resources.
    However, there is a point of diminishing returns here. As a user, you will need to ask yourself if that 3.4GHz Hyper Threaded processor is going to gain you any benefit in the car. You will have to figure out how to cool it adequately and how to power it since CarPC power supplies are not all that powerful at this time.
    The machine can run on any platform including Apple / Macintosh, Windows, Linux, or even DOS.
    Displays

    You have to be able to command your carputer system. Preferably, this process should be as easy as possible. Initial carputers (pre-2000) typically used LCD or VFD character displays to interface and play music. Commands were typically sent to the carputer by means of a keyboard. Not far after the initial advent of the carputer, many people started using a wireless serial port remote to control their machines. This was about the time that small TV screens became affordable. The majority of the first (affordable) carputer screens were RCA video input only, not VGA input. To learn about the differences between VGA and RCA screens, please see this FAQ.
    This awkward phase of sub-par display devices was frustrating to the carputer community. Users had difficulty justifying $1000+ for a VGA Touchscreen, and for the most part, screens that nice were rare or just unavailable. Modern screens are leaps and bounds better than those of just a few years ago.
    The most common modern-day screen that people use is the 7 inch VGA touch screen. One of the issues that still make these screens less than ideal is daytime visibility. Now even solutions to this problem are surfacing. There are transflective options as well as other enhanced screen options. This is sure to improve at a rapid pace as the demand for more viewable daytime screens increases.
    Interface Hardware

    In addition to the touchscreens, many other options exist to interact with a CarPC in a manner that does not distract the driver from the most important task - keeping the car on the road.
    Wireless keyboards are commonly used in the CarPC environment to manage and maintain the system.
    Other alternatives for control involve the use of either IR or RF connected remote controls for hands-only, driving-friendly control.
    Another notable mention, although technically a software more than hardware, but a very versatile & popular interface option is Girder, which will allow almost unlimited control integration of hardware to software control. It will allow you to custom program a remote control, or integrate many different possibilities of hardware button controls, from a custom built button interface using anything from a keyboard matrix to a simple keypad. Girder is worth checking out if you are after custom controls.
    Power

    Once you have your machine and your displays a long with all of the other gadgets that you want for your carputer you will need some way to power it.
    It all comes down to two options:

    • A power inverter
    • A DC-DC power supply

    Your car's battery puts off 12 volts of DC electricity. Computers natively utilize DC power as well. Because most computers are used in the home or office, they must be able to convert the electricity that comes out of the wall (which is AC curent) to DC current. This is where you will need a power inverter to convert the DC current from the car to AC current that the computers power supply can utilize. Then the computer power supply converts the AC power back into DC power so that the computer components can utilize it. In short, if you choose to use a standard computer without a CarPC specific power supply you will need a DC-AC inverter.
    Your other option is to use a DC-DC power supply (such as a M2-ATX) which will allow you to connect the 12 volt DC power from your car to your computer. Most DC-DC power supplies have other features such as an ignition switch which will turn your computer on when your car is started and will send a signal to go through a soft shut-down process or put the computer into stand-by or hibernation. Most of these DC-DC power supplies also incorporate an amplifier turn-on signal which is timed to not send a turn-on signal until the CarPC has alredy started the boot-up process. This feature is usually configured to prevent amplifier turn-on thump which can not only be very annoying, but can also damage your speakers.
    To learn more about the various DC-DC power supplies, you can read in this fourm: PSUs. You can also purchase many of these power supplies here on our very own MP3Car.com store.
    Considerations in Choosing Hardware

    Space Availability

    There is a limited amount of space available in any vehicle for installation of any additions. For a computer installation, "smaller is better" is the general rule. The smaller form factors of motherboards and systems make popular choices for vehicle installations. Not only for space, but for power requirements and for heat generation.

    • Pico-ATX

    Pico-ITX motherboards are new to the market and are now the smallest motherboard avaliable on the market. With a form factor of only 4.5" X 3.3" (10cm x 7.2cm) these boards are ideal for vehicles with little space. You can read up on this form factor here.
    • Nano-ITX

    Nano-ITX motherboards are another small form factor. As with all small-sized electronics, they are more expensive. Due to the limitations of the small size, they are also lower in computing power compared to a typical desktop PC. Nano-ITX motherboards measure 4.8" X 4.8"(12cm X 12cm). You can read up on this form factor here.
    • Mini-ITX

    Mini-ITX motherboards are small enough to fit in a standard DIN-sized dash opening. Via makes a range of motherboards with built-in CPUs that range in speed from 600mhz to 1.5Ghz. There are also models that will accommodate a P4 CPU. They measure a little less than 6.7" X 6.7" (17cm X 17cm). You can read up on this form factor here
    • Micro-ATX

    Micro-ATX motherboards are designed to mount in a case designed for its larger ATX counterpart, yet still be smaller in size. The official specification calls for a maximum size for 9.6" X 9.6" (24.4cm X 24.4cm), although many are not as large as the maximum specification. Micro-ATX motherboards exist for any CPU manufactured.
    • Flex-ATX

    Flex-ATX motherboards are an addendum to the micro-ATX standard. They will mount to a full-size ATX case, but the specification calls for a maximum size of 9" X 7.5" (22.9cm X 19.1cm). Like Micro-ATX motherboards, there are models to accommodate any CPU on the market.
    • Shuttle

    Shuttle brand motherboards and PCs do not fall into any of the form factors above. They utilize their own mounting scheme for motherboards and cases. There are Shuttle models that are compatible with every CPU manufactured. A Shuttle form factor motherboard measures just under 8" X 8" (20.3cm X 20.3cm). It is important to note that Shuttle also manufactures motherboards in other form factors such as MicroATX and ATX.
    Heat Dissipation

    Heat is the enemy of all electronics. Keeping a computer cool is necessary in order to keep it stable and trouble-free. Computer components generate heat that must be be removed from the general vicinity of the component(s). Generally, lower-power hardware generate less heat, but it still must be dealt with to ensure stable, reliable operation.
    Power Consumption

    There is a limited amount of electrical power available in a vehicle and there is a limited amount of power avaliable through the currently avaliable DC-DC power supplies. As such, the amount of power drawn by the PC must not overload the vehicle electrical system or DC-DC power supply so that the important systems of the vehicle will be able to operate.
    Computing Power

    Every task a computer performs utilizes CPU cycles and memory. The faster the CPU goes through the cycles, the faster the task will be performed. For a vehicle installation, the CPU needs to be able to perform all of the processing tasks required in the vehicle. Some tasks, such as DVD playback and video recording, require a good deal of CPU speed, while other tasks such as music play back and internet access do not.
    One of the more common motherboards used in vehicle installations, the EPIA M10000 by Via, has a 1Ghz C3 CPU and is adequate for most vehicle tasks.
    Obviously, faster CPUs will result in faster performance.
    Other Aspects of a Carputer Install

    Sound

    Most motherboards include on board sound. They can range from 2 channel up to 8 channels depending on the motherboard. Some include SPDIF (COAX or Toslink optical out) as well. You can however upgrade your sound card to achieve better sound results or to do features that on board sound cannot do. You should plan ahead and figure out if you only 2 channel, 4 channel, 5 channel, or more depending on how you want to control the speakers in your car. A common question that arises is:
    Should I use onboard sound or an upgraded PCI or external soundcard?
    System Features

    NOTE: Some of the features/ideas below may be illegal to run while a vehicle is in operation. Users should always check current local laws regrading proper use of their systems.
    Music


    • Play music from CDs, hard drive (MP3s, other compressed files) or external device (USB/PCI FM radio receiver, etc.)
    • Benefits over a head unit with music file (MP3/WMA) playback:


    • Support for additional formats, such as loss-less OGG, as well as DRM-protected files (via iTunes or WMP).
    • Faster indexing of songs (useful when there are hundreds or thousands of songs).
    • Ability to directly download songs (via cellular data connection, or Wifi if close to an access point).
    • Faster, easier playlist management
    Video


    • Play video from DVDs, VCDs, or from the hard drive.
    • Install DLP or LCD projector to create a mobile "drive-in" movie theater.
    • Create a mobile video production system (Capability to pull video from a camera, edit it, compile it, and burn it to DVD).
    • Real time monitoring of webcam and/or DVR video feeds, & can be reason enough to install a webcam or DVR.
    • View over the air tv channels (regular and HD) with a tv tuner.

    Audio Tuning via Software

    • Use ASIO to allow you to use VST plugin effects.
    • More Advanced Equalizer - parametric or up to 61 bands of adjustment.
    • Crossovers and filtering to run an active crossover system dividing the audio frequencies and sending them to specific speakers.
    • Time Alignment to delay sound coming from different speakers in different locations, but make it appear as if the sound is coming from a central location or more realistic soundstage.
    • RTA or Real Time Analyzer helps you smooth out the frequency response of your system by measuring the response with a microphone and software to aid in adjusting your EQ.

    GPS Integration


    • Provide GPS Tracking/location tracking, route planning and GPS navigation, etc.
    • Using your GPS receiver, store logs of locations vs speed and time of day. This could be uploaded to a collaborative site for predicting travel times vs time of day (very useful in areas where freeway congestion is variable).
    • Provide real-time tracking of vehicle location.
    • Get live traffic data (requires GPS that supports this feature)
    • Combined with wireless internet use mapping software (e.g. Google Earth) or web pages with live display or to route or do geographic searches.

    Satellite Radio


    • Satellite radio through external receivers.
    • View XM's NavTraffic via your carpc.

    Wireless Internet

    Note: This topic includes both wireless cellular services such as GSM, Edge, and EVDO as well as local wireless ethernet Wifi (802.11, access point) connections which are different and should not be confused).
    • Internet browsing through an eligible cell phone or wireless 802.11 connection.
    • Wireless synchronization of files between desktop and carpc.
    • Wardrive: Use your 802.11 b or g wireless connection and GPS, locate and log locations of wireless access points.
    • Use broadband internet phone options with cellular data card (Note that quality will be limited since cellular data normally has high latency).
    • Download traffic/weather information from internet.
    • Wireless Mobile Routers (e.g. Kyocera KR1) when used with a wireless broadband card can turn your car into a wireless access point.

    Cell Phone Control


    • Hands free cell phone control via software with Bluetooth.
    • Connect to a mobile phone or other device using Bluetooth (useful for voice and data communications and synchronizing with PDA's, etc.)
    • Send & Receive text messages via your connected cellular phone using your carpc
    • Enhanced contact list with large pictures

    On-Board Diagnostics


    • Connect with your car's OBD-II, J-1850, CAN, i-Bus, or Consult interface and display real-time data on all diagnostic information available. (RPM/Temps/Speedometer/etc.)
    • Pull and clear error codes immediately.
    • Find 0-60, 0-100, 60-0, 100-0, 1000', 1/8 mi, and 1/4 mi times (Use GPS to mark ideal performance testing sites)
    • Find vehicle horsepower and torque
    • View live data with graphs of fuel injector pulse widths, knock adjustments, O2 sensors, etc.

    Video Games / Emulators


    • Play video games
    • Run an emulator and have accessibility to any game that you have a backup copy of. This can range from Atari 2600 and Sega Master System to Nintendo 64 and Playstation. The emulator you can run is only limited by the systems resources. Alternately include an actual gaming system in the car.
    • Connect a controller from the system of your choice to your CarPC. Microsoft Xbox controllers are very simple to modify yourself and drivers are readily available. If you prefer a controller from another system there are companies that sell them with USB connectivity pre-wired.
    • Install multiple monitors and controllers for mobile multiplayer gaming

    Cameras


    • Display video from car mounted camera for backing up. (infrared cameras are available for backing up at night)
    • Record video from a webcam/mini-dv camera and store it to the carpc for later perusal. (good for recording close calls on the freeway - setup a rolling buffer which stores the last X minutes on button press)
    • Provide night vision capability with infrared cameras.
    • Process video from car in real-time using image recognition software. Capture license plates and store in database with GPS location.

    Vehicle Control


    • Control windows and locks via relays.
    • Control Climate Control via software.
    • Control exterior show lights (under glows and accent lights) via relays.

    • Gain control of ignition timing, air/fuel maps, shift points, boost control, top speed, rev limits, etc. (WARNING: This requires a thorough knowledge of vehicle systems and should only be attempted by qualified individuals)

    Other Devices


    • Radar Detectors (e.g. the Valentine V1 by using the remote display)
    • Add a small printer to print a map for someone else, or print a quick report for work.
    • Media players via remote control
    • PDAs

    Updated 09-17-2009 at 02:16 PM by ecog

    Categories
    How To Videos
  5. Intel Chopper

    by , 05-13-2007 at 09:27 AM

    Intel notes that the versatility of the SwitchBack-PC is nearly “boundless,” and the modularity of the Black Diamond solution creates a lot of optionsvfor the design of the chopper. “Instead of a computerized dashboard affixed permanently to the bike we can use the BackPack technology to make it portable,” explains Intel’s Reed. “So theSwitchBack-PC not only controls and monitors the chopper, and integrates with its electronic subsystems, but it also functions as an Ultra Mobile PC, allowing the user to surf the Internet, do email, write reports, and so forth. You can snap it off and take it with you, preventing any unauthorized person from operating the vehicle.”

    But it’s not just a snap-on PC either. “Everything on the bike is integrated with the computing system, and vice versa,” explains Justin Dyster, president of Black Diamond. What that means is that the ignition system is controlled by fingerprint recognition software. The sunlight viewable digital dashboard displays all of the traditional vehicle indicators like speedometer, tachometer, fuel and oil gauges, battery life, and turn signals. Black Diamond used StreetDeck* infotainment software to integrate audio and video applications like GPS navigation, Wi-Fi connectivity for quick updates on traffic and web-surfing, and touch-screen access to the radio and MP3 files, all of which are also integrated with the handlebars and headset in the helmet. Rear-mounted USB cameras replace standard rear-view mirrors to display rear-view images on the digital dashboard. This “dashboard” is also a fully functional PC, complete with QWERTY keyboard that can be disconnected from the vehicle and taken with you, to create, edit and view presentations, spreadsheets, do email, and so forth.

    Dyster also notes that the SwitchBack-PC used on the Intel Chopper is just like the off-the-shelf version that Black Diamond makes for other applications, with a few minor differences. “We used a custom paint scheme, and we increased the performance of the SwitchBack with the new Intel® Core™ Duo processor to allow for more features.” Battery life of the SwitchBack-PC has been extended in several ways. Besides the engineering efficiencies that give the device a long battery life to begin with, hot swap capabilities allows the user to replace the battery on the go. Plus, the SwitchBack-PC battery will be recharged while the bike is operating. So the user will always start with a fully charged battery when the UMPC is detached from the vehicle.

    Updated 09-17-2009 at 02:14 PM by ecog

    Categories
    mp3Car News , Technology Events