Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Tom's Hardware Guide - Mp3car.com and the Car PC Project article

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Tom's Hardware Guide - Mp3car.com and the Car PC Project article

    Hello everyone,

    My name is Don Woligroski, I'm a senior editor at Tom's Hardware Guide (www.tomshardware.com). If you haven't heard of us, we're one of the top PC Tech websites on the net, with over 30 million unique visitors a month.

    I'm putting together a Carputer Project article and it made sense to talk to the knowledgeable people at mp3car.com, who in turn suggested that I get some feedback from the experts on these forums before we go ahead. With that in mind I'll list my objectives below, and what I think I need and how I think I'd set it up. I'd appreciate it if you good folks could offer insights and point out any newbie mistakes and bad assumptions on my part so I end up with the best plan possible.

    Objective:
    ---------
    The vehicle is a utilitarian family SUV, a 2011 Ford Escape. My goal is to run Windows 8 Professional via a touchscreen in the front seat, where I could access media and movies, GPS software, a rear-view bumper camera, and even launch games for the kids to play in the back seat via wireless game controllers. The PC should support a WiFi connection so I could tether it to a smartphone for internet access. Ideally the front passenger could have comfortable access to the touchscreen to browse the internet and navigate, although It's important for the driver to have access and a good view, too. The vehicle's audio system does not need to be upgraded.

    Proposed Design
    ---------------
    The following design might not even be reasonable as I don't know all that much about in-car hardware, but this is what I have in mind. In the front seat, a fair sized touchscreen (8" to 10") is mounted on an adjustable arm that allows the screen to face the driver at the middle top of the dash (or perhaps by console), and be able to extend to a comfortable usage position at the center of the front-seat passenger. Preferably the touch screen would have a native resolution of at least 1024x768 for Windows 8 use.

    In the back seat, a single 8" to 10" screen (not touch-enabled, 1280x720 resolution target not as critical) so that rear seat passengers can watch media or play video games. I don't want to obscure my rearview mirror, so I'd prefer to have this screen mounted on the rear of the console, ideally on a mount that allows the screen to be folded down and out of the way when it's not being used.

    The system would be driven by a very small but relatively powerful micro-sized PC. I've lined up a Zotac Zbox Nano for this purpose, about 4"x4"x1" in size. I'm not sure if I want to mount it in the console (the escape has a very large console with a large compartment under the regular compartment that holds stuff), under the dash, or under a seat. Other than power converter stuff, I'll need a USB GPS module and a rear-facing bumper camera would be nice. And of course mounting hardware for the screens.

    Proposed Parts List:
    -------------------

    Host vehicle: 2011 Ford Escape

    PC: Zotac Zbox Nano (Core i7-3537U/HD 4000 graphics, Bluetooth, WiFi, 2 display
    outputs, SSD for longevity in auto environment)

    Software: Windows 8 with media center, GPS trip software, USB cam software,
    games.
    Will experiment with front-end software such as Ride Runner, FreeIce, Driveline, Centrafuse during review process.

    wireless USB game controllers:
    *two* F710 Wireless Gamepad (2x $50)



    Front capacitive multi-touch display:
    Lilliput FA1012-NP/C/T 10.1" LCD Touch Screen Monitor With Multi Touch DVI HDMI ($274.95 On Sale)

    Rear touchscreen display:
    Lilliput FA1013NP/H/Y 10.4" Non-Touch Monitor ($206.95 On Sale)

    USB GPS receiver:
    BU-353-S4 Weather-proof USB GPS Receiver ($38.95)

    USB rear bumper camera:
    CMOS Waterproof, High Resolution Backup Camera, License Plate Mountable ($34.95)

    *Two* HDMI Right Angle HDMI Adapter (2x $6.99)

    *Two* HDMI Cables (will source locally)


    PC Power button

    adjustable arm mount for front display

    powered USB Hub (if necessary)

    DC-DC power supply/adapters, etc.



    -------------------

    That's what I have so far. If there's anything I'm not thinking of, any detail that is poorly thought through, or anything I've missed, please let me know! I really appreciate your feedback.

    Kind regards,

    - Don Woligroski
    Senior Hardware Editor, Tom's Hardware Guide
    www.tomshardware.com

    Click image for larger version

Name:	Escape-back_sm.jpg
Views:	1
Size:	46.8 KB
ID:	2310023
    Click image for larger version

Name:	Escape-Front_sm.jpg
Views:	1
Size:	63.0 KB
ID:	2310024
    Last edited by Cleeve; 07-20-2013, 03:06 PM. Reason: update components

  • #2
    few quick tips


    you speak of power converters but you would be much better off using a dc-dc power supply and run it off the vehicles 12v system rather than using a converter or inverter to step p to 110v ac and then back down again, much more efficient and the dc-dc power supply can also do auto startup shutdown procedures

    infrared camera will do nothing for you, infrared is only good when you need to see in the dark, the infrared illuminates the subject at a spectrum of light not visible to humans, so if you need an area to remain dark (to the human eye) but still monitor video thats what infrared is for, once your headlights are on the infrared will do nothing, maybe you are thinking about a thermal imaging camera? this is what would be used for night vision and is very different from infrared but also way more expensive and probably not going to find any thermal imaging cameras that are usb
    MY NEWEST INSTALL:modded infiniti fx with big screen

    first windows carpc install........my liquid cooled LVDS screen :D

    Comment


    • #3
      I would suggest a "Front-end" software.

      ie: Ride Runner, FreeIce, Driveline, Centrafuse etc.

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks guys,

        Turbocad: I appreciate the thoughts, parts list edited accordingly

        Rawpwr: I'd like to try the windows 8 touch interface first, and if I find it lacking I'll definitely give those front-end interfaces a try

        Comment


        • #5
          If possible, your hard drive should be an SSD for durability and longevity. Mechanical hard drives can become damaged from bouncing/vibrations, and they can freeze up in the winter.

          With a good automotive DC/DC power supply, you won't even need a power button unless you lock up the PC.

          Hubs tend to complicate things. I recommend using as many of the on-board USB ports as you can. You'll be surprised how many USB devices some of us have hooked up:
          Touch-screen(s)
          GPS
          OBD-II interface
          Bluetooth
          WiFi
          Camera(s)
          Tire Pressure Monitors
          Parking Distance Sensors
          Radios (XM, HD Radio, DAB Radio)
          Plus you may want some ports available for a thumb drive, or USB tethering to a phone (WiFi tethering chews up phone battery), or to hook up keyboard/mouse for testing.
          Looks like you've got Bluetooth and WiFi integrated already though.

          Powered hubs are usually a better choice than non-powered hubs, but require a little more wiring.

          If you want to keep the stock head-unit, you'll need some way to get the audio into the head-unit. Either an AUX port if it already has one, or an aftermarket adapter to add an audio input.

          Comment


          • #6
            Cleeve, I have no suggestions per se - the others on mp3car are the gurus for that! - by I just wanted to endorse & compliment Tom's Hardware Guide.
            A few here know my my views on the plethora of misinformation and bad sites in webland, but Tom's Hardware Guide is one (of the few?) I hold in high regard.
            Coincidentally I looked at some of Tom's advice recently when adding an SSD to my 3rd-gen i5 Windows7 & Linux (Mint xfce) PC.

            Apologies for the interruption.


            Best wishes,

            Peter the OldFart.

            Comment


            • #7
              Kudos for the cross site promoting(here and there)! Like Peter, I like Tom's Hardware and lurk there sometimes, awesome site. Looks like you have a good project, and definitely pay attention to the advice, so much stuff to read on here and a lot of great projects

              Comment


              • #8
                Clockwork: yes, SSD for sure, I updated the PC spec.
                USB hub: Yes I'll avoid it if I can, but I plan to use a powered hub if necessary

                Oldspark and piercedmikey: Thanks for the kind words! I hope you guys have the same good opinion of us after the Car PC is completed.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I won't - I don't even have a car PC! (LOL - I reject that sort of techno... well, sort of... it's a "punk" thing...)

                  But you'd have to do a heck of a lot more "bad" to impact my opinion of Tom's.
                  Besides, IMO this thread proves (er... supports) that Tom's uses great sources, so yet another brownie point.


                  BTW - I am not harping myself. I am merely competent on certain power & 12V issues. It's the others hereon that I hold in high regard.
                  But enough admiration. I saw my chance to give another long overdue song of praise. And in case Tom's is another that does not get due praise, or does not realise just how bluddy good and influential they are (IMHO of course).
                  And I am proud to see others here seem to agree. But, I am here aren't I? (I only remain on 3 car and one other electrical public forums.)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    without being too prying or indelicate is the angle of the article 'hey look at this awesome build that was sponsored by the fine folks at intel and zotac' or is it more of 'i did this in my family's suv and you can too' because hot damn you're using the newest $600 minipc out there. the hardware specs that you're throwing out there are certainly ambitious if not borderline overkill. i don't want to veer too far off topic, but i think this is one of the main reasons we are seeing a rise in android tablet installs as opposed to traditional pc's. for the price of the box and the ssd you could probably throw a nexus 10 up front and one in the rear and be well ahead in the cost department.

                    back on topic, you might want to give some additional thought to the rear display.
                    if you're running it as an independent display then you/they will need to control it somehow. also how are you feeding the video to it?
                    if you're running it as a mirrored display you'll most likely need to get a hdmi splitter. then you're dipping your toe into the black hole of hdmi sync.
                    if they're playing games back there, do you really want to see fruit ninja or dora the explorer (i'm not sure if dora's big up there or not) on the front monitor as well?
                    also if you're running it mirrored you'll want to think of dual zone audio / wireless headsets for that zone due to the fruit ninja / dora situation.

                    if the build is a money is no object build you could probably retrofit a cadillac or audi pop-up motorized display to be built into the back of the console. adios cup holders. or more sensible would be to run the rear monitors mounted in the backs of the headrest(s) like rap stars do.

                    ps love the site and have used it for years
                    Last edited by daclothe; 07-11-2013, 10:46 PM. Reason: kind words about tomshardware

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by daclothe View Post
                      without being too prying or indelicate is the angle of the article 'hey look at this awesome build that was sponsored by the fine folks at intel and zotac' or is it more of 'i did this in my family's suv and you can too' because hot damn you're using the newest $600 minipc out there."
                      The angle is "We're using the best damn tiny PC we can find, but that doesn't mean you can't use whatever you like and it won't be fine, too".

                      We're doing it because we can, but I would never suggest it's the only way to go. As for a tablet, we're a PC-centric site. Anything less than Windows isn't ideal for our readership, or my sensibilities as a PC enthusiast for that matter.


                      Originally posted by daclothe View Post
                      back on topic, you might want to give some additional thought to the rear display.
                      if you're running it as an independent display then you/they will need to control it somehow. also how are you feeding the video to it?
                      if you're running it as a mirrored display you'll most likely need to get a hdmi splitter. then you're dipping your toe into the black hole of hdmi sync.
                      if they're playing games back there, do you really want to see fruit ninja or dora the explorer (i'm not sure if dora's big up there or not) on the front monitor as well?
                      also if you're running it mirrored you'll want to think of dual zone audio / wireless headsets for that zone due to the fruit ninja / dora situation.

                      if the build is a money is no object build you could probably retrofit a cadillac or audi pop-up motorized display to be built into the back of the console. adios cup holders. or more sensible would be to run the rear monitors mounted in the backs of the headrest(s) like rap stars do.

                      Hmmm. Well, the rear display has been a source of some indecision, I'll admit. But I was wondering if we should have one on each seat or a larger display in the middle. I think one larger display would provide a better experience for the passengers, and it'd be great if we could fold it down when not in use.

                      The Zbox has dual display outs, so we're OK there. The rear passengers would basically see what we put on for them (thinking kids here), although windows gives us the control to duplicate or have separate screens. No interactivity except maybe for game controllers... as for games, I was thinking split-screen racing and lego star wars clone wars, also split screen. Audio... I assumed we'd simply change the fade cointrols to the rear if we didn't want to hear it. Headsets sound like an awesome idea but might raise the clutter factor, which I'm probably pushing already with the game controllers.

                      Pop-up motorized stuff, eh? I'm more of a utilitarian fellow... I mean, I want it to look slick, nice, and integrated. I appreciate other folk's pop-up bling, but not my style.


                      Originally posted by daclothe View Post
                      ps love the site and have used it for years
                      Again, thanks!

                      And thanks for your helpful insights!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cleeve View Post
                        Proposed Design
                        ---------------
                        The following design might not even be reasonable as I don't know all that much about in-car hardware, but this is what I have in mind. In the front seat, a fair sized touchscreen (8" to 10") is mounted on an adjustable arm that allows the screen to face the driver at the middle top of the dash, or extend to a comfortable usage position at the center of the front-seat passenger. Preferably the screen would have a native resolution of at least 1280x720.

                        [ATTACH]69750[/ATTACH]
                        [ATTACH]69751[/ATTACH]
                        Don, I've frequented Tom's Hardware for more years than I care to remember, I respect your web site a lot.

                        Regarding your above plan to mount the screen on an adjustable arm, I don't think that will capture the true essence of what the majority of the people over the years have tried to achieve with their builds. Most have tried to achieve something that looks as OEM as possible or at least does not look like a Garmin GPS from Walmart stuck on the dash. I believe people that read your build will say "that's cool- a PC in a car, but I wouldn't want that big honking monitor stuck on my dash" then discount this as a quirky thing for only hardcore techies.

                        Having said that, I understand you want to focus on the PC build and not the audio or vehicle wiring however I think you could present a clean install without taking the build to an insane level of customizing the dash or pumping up the audio system.

                        By utilizing one of these to install the monitor:

                        http://www.metraonline.com/part/99-5814S

                        or this if it is correct for your vehicle:

                        http://store.mp3car.com/Direct_Fit_D..._p/dsh-175.htm

                        you would have a fast monitor install and position it as "it's as easy to install as an aftermarket stereo"

                        A small interface module for the Escape and a small amp that could mount right in the dash or a small PC amp and you would be fully integrated with a professional install without taking the audio system "to the next level".

                        This would also then give you voice navigation that turns down the audio when announcing a turn so truly an OEM experience. Pandora would be possible, satellite & HD radio, however far you wanted to take it.

                        Regardless of how you do it, thank you for noticing and spot-lighting our unique corner of the PC market!
                        My 2007 Ford F350 Work Log located HERE

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by PhilG View Post
                          Regarding your above plan to mount the screen on an adjustable arm, I don't think that will capture the true essence of what the majority of the people over the years have tried to achieve with their builds. Most have tried to achieve something that looks as OEM as possible or at least does not look like a Garmin GPS from Walmart stuck on the dash. I believe people that read your build will say "that's cool- a PC in a car, but I wouldn't want that big honking monitor stuck on my dash" then discount this as a quirky thing for only hardcore techies.
                          I hear where you're coming from. From my end, though, the objective isn't to capture the essence of what anyone else is doing, the objective is to suit the needs as outlined above.

                          Having said that, I've considered and will continue to consider other possible setups - that's why I'm here. But the idea of a smaller screen that can't be oriented towards the driver or passenger is unappealing to me. Here's the closest thing I've seen so far that syncs up with what I've imagined:

                          http://www.carelectronicsworld.com/flx21.html

                          I do admit though, the OEM-look you describe also sounds appealing. I don't understand the mechanics of how that'd work though, and I'd like to get a better grasp before I lock down the target.

                          You mentioned "A small interface module for the Escape"... how would that work and what would it do? Would it allow me to control the escape's built-in stereo system without the dash controls I'd have to remove, and if so, how would I switch between the escape's interface and the PC interface?

                          You also mentioned a small amp... would this be to upgrade the audio system, or is there another application I don't understand?

                          Thanks Phil!

                          - Don
                          Last edited by Cleeve; 07-12-2013, 02:56 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Hi Don, I read over your proposed system, and all the replies, and one thing I wanted to suggest you explore more, is the screen resolution required for windows 8 Metro vs the Front End software available.

                            I built an in-dash (7" screen) windows 8 system over the past winter, and discovered that I could not use the native 800 x 480 resolution of my screen with Metro, so I had to set the resolution higher. Although this worked, it was difficult reading on a small screen. Also of note, you will find most touchscreens (resistive) do not work very well with the Metro interface, so you will have to find a multi-touch screen. Remember, you will want to do some things while you are driving, and you will not be able to slide through screens and do navigate windows like you can on Microsoft Surface Tablet.

                            That said, using a Front End software proved the safest and easiest choice for my carpc. I also interfaced the steering wheel buttons through a USB port, to control things like audio source, station seek, mp3 file seek, volume control, etc. This is something you will want to do too, as your eyes can still be on the road while you change tunes, etc.

                            With the front end software comes a more automotive style interface, with larger easy to see buttons, and it has gone through years of evolution so all the really cool stuff a PC can do is already well laid out for you. If you are doing an article on carpc's, and your focus is to suit the needs you outlined in previous posts, you really should spend as much time researching Front Ends as you do the hardware.

                            I am a newby here myself, but I have already been through my first build, and thanks to the suggestions from the senior members here, I was successfull in assembling a system that did what I wanted, and was well integrated into my car.

                            By the way, I have been reading Tom's, as well as Anands, and HardOCP since the mid '90's too. Thanks for all your contributions to the hobby.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rray View Post
                              Hi Don, I read over your proposed system, and all the replies, and one thing I wanted to suggest you explore more, is the screen resolution required for windows 8 Metro vs the Front End software available.
                              I will do that as part of the review process, once it's built, I think.

                              I want to give Windows 8 a real shot as the touchscreen interface is a big part of why we've decided to try making a car PC happen, but I'll definitely assess usability after it's installed. The beauty is, software front ends should be easy to tack on and experiment with later.

                              Thanks Ray!

                              - Don

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X