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The RadPC - CarPC that never made it to the car

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  • The RadPC - CarPC that never made it to the car

    Started this a loooong time ago but by the time I was truly finished I bought a new car and my plans went out the window. The main goal was a system that could go from my home, to the car, then to work without much hassle. Yeah, I know, buy a laptop. But I wanted something different, something with a little style.

    Previously I had used some old Civil Defense CDV-715 Radiation Meter cases to build USB 2.0 and firewire hard drive enclosures. Worked great for ferrying data and music back and forth to work. Couple pics.

    At one point I found an Advantech PCM-5820, an embedded board using a Geode 233MHz CPU that's the size of a 3.5" drive. Since I had spare radiation meter cases, I got an idea to build a PC in one of those.

    Well, that took forever to get started. First thing I found was that the Geode just didn't cut it for what I wanted. Next up was a Commell LE-370, a 3.5" board for Pentium-M CPUs. Plenty of power, but at first I just couldn't make my design work. Then I found a 3.5" PIII board, which was ditched to go back to the LE-370. Then I broke my arm, which set things way back.

    Anyway, when I got it all done I had this.

    Has a 2GHz Pentium-M, 512MB DDR, 80GB drive, 802.11b/g wireless, and a hell of a lot of character.

    The original plan was for a homebuilt console for the original vehicle. There would be a "dock" of sorts the PC would fit into. The dock would also hold a USB DVD drive as well as a 15" touchscreen LCD. I actually have the touchscreen yet, painted to match the RadPC. Once that vehicle was gone, there wasn't much reason to build the console anymore.

    Right now the RadPC is on my desk doing nothing. It does get used, but has never actually been run in a car. Eh, I tried, someday I'll keep a vehicle long enough to get a CarPC installed.

    More pics of the RadPC here,

    And yes, the guages work on all the cases. They can be pretty easily hooked to the HD activity LED header. Whenever the drive is accessed, the needle will twitch. I also backlight all the guages with LEDs, most have been blue so far.

  • #2
    nice work!
    ever vist the projects here?
    maybe you can send them yours.


    • #3
      That's awesome!
      Pico-ITX / XP Home with EWF-HORM / RR v12/02/2009 / Winamp v5.13 / RRMedia v1.2.2


      • #4
        Great work Widefault. I can't believe you can fit so much grunt into such a small box. Are the mobo's you used very expensive? Where do you find them?

        Since you originally intended to use this set-up as a carpc what did you plan to do about sound & video?
        Carputer Haiku (thanks Ian Hughes)
        Serious error.
        All shortcuts have disappeared.
        Screen. Mind. Both are blank.


        • #5
          Motorcity, been to Mini-ITX many times. Lots of nice stuff, but I don't much care for the ITX form factor. Too big.

          MrJamieR, I usually buy new from but also keep a close eye on ebay. The ones I've used aren't too expensive in the world of embedded boards, but they are when compared to regular size boards. The Pentium-M board sells for a bit over $300 without CPU. The VIA C3 boards I've also used are in the same range. For a 3.5" size board you're pretty much certain to pay $300+ new, but occasionally there are good deals on used ones.

          The Pentium-M board has built-in sound and video. Sound would have just been cabled into the aux inputs of the head unit. Video was to be regular old VGA hooked to a 15" touchscreen. Way too big, but since the previous vehicle was a minivan I had the room. Have a feeling it would have been a target for some of the local, uh, problem children which is another reason I never finished.


          • #6
            Nice. It looks great, and in a small form factor!
            Fusion Brain Version 6 Released!
            1.9in x 2.9in -- 47mm x 73mm
            30 Digital Outputs -- Directly drive a relay
            15 Analogue Inputs -- Read sensors like temperature, light, distance, acceleration, and more
            Buy now in the Store


            • #7
              Ahh. The $300 price tag explains why I haven't seen more carpc's using this sized board. I think you made the right move not installing it in the car. Having problem children in the neighbourhood probably makes the choice of a fluro yellow box an interesting one!
              Carputer Haiku (thanks Ian Hughes)
              Serious error.
              All shortcuts have disappeared.
              Screen. Mind. Both are blank.


              • #8
                My bigger worry was the LCD since the RadPC itself is quite portable. Just unplug a couple cables and away it goes. The LCD isn't quite as portable.

                Honestly, the little boards are worth the money. Pricewise they're not much more than a Pentium-M mini-ITX board but are practically half the size. It's also very comparable to Via's nano-ITX in price and size, but with much better performance.

                One of the other things I like about using embedded boards is the choice in CPUs. Anything from a 386 to a Core 2 Duo not to mention ARM, Motorola, etc.

                I may actually attempt another CarPC one of these days with a spare Via C3 3.5" board I have, but that will have to wait for me to finish building my new work PC. Going from a dual core P4 to a Core 2 Duo setup. Building a custom case, will be 1/8 the size of the P4 box yet about 50% better performance.


                • #9
                  Damn, your cases would have come in handy when I was building my nuclear stereo install with PC. I was going for a nuclear look. I bought those aluminum tool cases and slapped some nuclear stickers on the outside. You can't see that from the pics, but these were taken at night to show the "nuclear green glow".

                  Where did you get those cases?
                  Attached Files
                  System always under construction


                  • #10
                    I found mine on ebay. Originally I bought a Victoreen-made meter and used that for my very first hard drive setup. Bought a second Victoreen, which turned out to be 1/8" narrower than the first. Those both have stamped steel bottoms and a cast aluminum top. I was able to get my hands on some meters made by Landers, Frary, and Clark which have stamped aluminum bottoms. Much easier to work with, but a pain to find and a lot more expensive than the Victoreen models.

                    Sort of hoarding the few I have left, the hard drive cases are easy to build and make good gifts/prizes for computer geeks.


                    • #11
                      Cool. This reminded me of what I was going to do a long time ago. Not quite as fancy of a case, but now it got me thinking again. Thanks.
                      System always under construction


                      • #12
                        Hey Wide,,, I just did an install (Im an installer) on a '07 Suburban with a LE-370 in the glove box (pics tomorrow) and just wanted to find out how your install went.
                        Mine was a nightmare setting up since it had issues recognizing and working well with a cdrom, it just wouldnt see like 3 that I had, and finally wound up using an old 5.25" cdrom that I pulled out from an old case I had laying around. Im thinking now it could've been a master/slave issue but tha'ts just thinking after the fact since there's only one IDE cable.
                        I was wondering if you had similar issues and if and what cdrom/usb external cd source you are using. What OS do you use?
                        I was thinking of putting an external USB DVD drive but it wouldn't boot with it and tomorrow I'm gonna install it. Ill check back.
                        Just wondering what your overall impressions were with it.
                        08 Lincoln Navigator


                        • #13
                          Holly cow. Thats awesome


                          • #14
                            MobiTekLink, I never got around to using it for a CarPC. Sold the vehicle it was intended for and I have a different plan for my current car. Now it sits on my desk, pretty but not very useful. I did have it running for a while on the desk, but I didn't really plan properly for cooling. As a result, it either runs too hot for my liking, or too loud with the fans at full speed. Even then I need to put it on risers, just not enough airflow.

                            I never really had any issues with it, only problem was finding decent DDR. I did my last software install(XP Home) with a cheap $10 USB slim-CD adapter and an old Samsung 24X CD drive. Before I had the case done I was using a Quanta laptop DVD-ROM along with the 2.5" hard drive on one cable. The Quanta had a 44 pin adapter, so there was only the one cable. Once I figured out how to get the drive into slave mode it worked perfectly.

                            I'm a big fan of this board. I've tried other 3.5" Pentium-M boards, but none really match up. I do wish it had DVI or a TV-output, but that's about all I'd want.

                            Working right now on a small form factor setup using Commell's LS-371, which is pretty much the Core2Duo version of the LE-370. That one does have everything, one hell of a board.