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1999 Corolla Mac Mini install

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  • 1999 Corolla Mac Mini install

    If I had to summarize the dashboard of my Corolla in a word, it would have to be "compact." Everything fits perfectly just the way it is, and there really is no more room for anything else. For this reason, the install requires extra planning-- and I still managed to get it a bit wrong.

    I measured the size of everything on the dashboard and the center console, as can be seen by my rough sketch below. My main problems stem from the fact that I didn't measure the inside of the dashboard. More on this later.


    I ordered all my parts, starting with a 1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo Mac Mini. I went with a Mac Mini for four reasons:
    1. Compact size
    2. Near-instant boot time of OS X
    3. Relatively easy to hook up for power
    4. No need to locate components all over the car

    However, I realized I couldn't use OS X as my main operating system, as there are few Front Ends and GPS options for it. I decided to run Windows under Parallels, to get the "best of both worlds." This is where the first of my "compactness" problems started. I have a little box in the center of the dashboard where I wanted to locate the Mac Mini. I measured everything, and it was perfect. It wasn't until I tried actually fitting the Mac Mini in that I realized that the inside closes in a bit. I really want the Mini in-dash and hidden, so I'll likely have to pull out the dremel. Fortunately there is a little extra room on either side outside the box.

    I decided that I would have to go with a slide-out screen unless I wanted to do some serious fabrication work. I went with a Xenarc 700IDT, since I haven't heard great things about motorized units, and I really wanted reliability. This was my second, more major, size problem. Apparently, the depth of the single-DIN slot is really shallow. The screen, of course, is not. The back runs right into the air conditioning duct... and that's without even attaching any cables! I may need to reroute the ducts, and that's a more major project than I (or my wallet) feel comfortable tackling. In case that wasn't bad enough, the Xenarc is slightly too large to fit through the single-DIN opening in the trim, which will likely require me to file it out a bit.

    Since I had to ditch the head unit in order to have room for everything, I picked up a Radioshark 2, which seems to work decently at home, but I haven't tried it in the car yet. I plan to use the external antenna connector to connect it to the car antenna. I'm thinking I should be able to just splice the car antenna's Motorolla connector onto the end of a (preferably gold-plated) audio extension cable and simply plug it in. I'll be working on this later.

    For power, I ordered a CarNetix P2140. I was originally going to go with a P1900, but I decided to get the P2140 for the USB connection... and it was only $35 more. This may actually be easier to hook up than I initially anticipated. Since I'm removing the head unit, I should be able to just wire everything up to the (now disused) wiring harness... right??? It's got +12V, ground, ignition, everything I should need... I just need to make sure the wiring/fuses can handle the load.

    I have a GPS receiver already, the Pharos iGPS-360. It currently has a CF slot and I don't have a drivers disk, so I'm going to try to locate a USB adapter (I know they make such a thing) and drivers online.

    I also still need to order an amp. I have no idea what to get. I think there are only 4 speakers in the car, and I don't need something amazing... I'm thinking of something like this right now, as size and cost are issues, though of course I'd need it to do four speakers. I'll likely pick something up within the next week, because I really can't start running cables until I know how big everything is/where everything is going.

  • #2
    I have worked on Corollas in the past and wiring a deck, amp and power wires was a B*#@^ I guess only because the interior pieces were put together much better than my 15 year old Honda...

    That being said I was able to fit a Pioneer AVIC-N2 in the DIN opening with a little bit of fitness. The install took longer than I originally expected, but overall not that difficult.

    It may not be what you want, but I think fabricating a 7 inch touchscreen in the area would look much better, but again it is a matter of opinion and budget I guess.

    As for the amp you reference, I have never seen something so small. You definitely will not get 500W out of that thing. However it may be a cheap and small solution to power your factory speakers off of your carputer.


    • #3
      Originally posted by sophistications View Post
      ...I was able to fit a Pioneer AVIC-N2 in the DIN opening with a little bit of fitness. The install took longer than I originally expected, but overall not that difficult.
      How did you manage to get it in? Did you have to trim the opening slightly?

      ...I think fabricating a 7 inch touchscreen in the area would look much better, but again it is a matter of opinion and budget I guess.
      That was my original idea, but I have never fabbed anything before, there is no place to relocate the vents to, and I realized it was a 10-year-old car, and thus the install didn't have to look *perfect*.

      You definitely will not get 500W out of that thing. However it may be a cheap and small solution to power your factory speakers off of your carputer.
      I don't need 500 watts, really. I'm not one of those people who turns their stereo up all the way and annoys the hell out of other drivers. I _do_ need the amp to support all 4 of my speakers though, and I may end up having to spend more for that.


      • #4
        Well, I have an update. I was forced to scrap my original plan of putting the Mini into the dash box, because it simply will not fit without a ton of dremeling, and then the box won't have enough structural rigidity to support the weight of the Mini. So instead, I've decided to mount the Mini in the glove box. My main concern with this is "snatch-and-grab" thieves typically search the glove box; they might not even notice the dash box. For this reason, I want to hide it well enough that it looks like a factory CD changer that they might not care about. Right now I'm considering covering the top case in Bondo, painting it to match the inside of the glove compartment, and bolting the Mini to the glove box. Of course, I have never worked with Bondo before, and I have no idea how I would set up the hardware (being that I can't screw things through the side of the Mini with the top on), but this is the plan as it stands.

        There is another issue of concern. The wires have to run along a very narrow area, or else they hit the air conditioning compressor (at least that's what I think it is) right behind them. At the very least, I need to run a power cable, a VGA cable, an audio cable, and two USB cables (for a USB hub and power, since I didn't get a P5V, figuring I could use a USB-powered hub). You can see where the wires have to be run in the attached image (I didn't want to reduce it in size or much detail is lost).

        Also, I have ordered my amp. It is like the one I showed in my previous post, but it has four channels (but is still cheap and compact ). That being said, it is still a bit larger than the two-channel one, thus making it harder to place.

        Something else I found out while driving around today-- apparently, unless the hazard light button is connected, my turn indicators don't function I have heard of this happening to other people (from BugByte actually, I think), but forgot until it was too late. Sorry!
        Attached Files


        • #5
          Everything has changed. I made a simple discovery that makes me really wish I had researched the car more before starting the project. I took off the brackets on the sides of the dash box, and started playing around with them. Little did I know, there's enough screw holes in the right places to fit a double-DIN unit. This means I could have kept the stereo. I can fit the Mini in there. I could've even put the screen in there (though I prefer having it higher up, so maybe that wasn't a complete mistake). Now, I'm left with a RadioShark that I don't really want and likely can't return (I threw away the packaging), and I have an amp coming that I don't really need, and I likely can't return that either as it's from eBay and coming from Hong Kong. So, lesson learned: Research your car before you order parts. I could've saved more than $60 had I done that. Now, I'm torn as to whether or not to go ahead with my original plan or use a head unit.

          One thing is for certain, though: The Mac Mini will be going in place of the dash box, at the very least. Therefore, the glove box should be back in the car by the end of the day (I was never very fond of that idea in the first place).

          Images are all attached, as I didn't feel like going through and reducing their sizes
          Attached Files


          • #6
            Today I went down to Pep Boys and got me some wiring. I picked up 17' of 4-gauge wire (as part of an amp kit) with an 80-amp fuse, a Power Distribution Box, and four 60-amp fuses for the distribution box.

            I also went to Home Depot to get some parts for my Mac Mini enclosure. I got two sheets of plexiglass, as well as some 3/4" bolts, some nuts, and some self-tapping screws (for securing the fuse boxes). The plan is to use the first sheet of plexi to fill in the gaps on either side of the Mini, and to use the other sheet to make a faceplate. I'm planning to do the same thing Apple used to do, and paint the other side of the plexiglass black (or maybe gray), so it gives a nice clear-casing effect, but people can't see the Mini. Now all I need to decide is whether I want the Mini in the top DIN slot or on the bottom (I'm leaning towards the top).
            Attached Files


            • #7
              I started running the wire today... or at least I tried to start. After a bit of searching, I found a good location for the fuse, on top of a secondary fuse box. Problem was, the box was too small to mount the fuse to, so I made a mount out of plexiglass that screwed to the fuse box cover which I was able to screw the fuse holder into. I measured and cut a wire to lead to the fuse holder... and then spent two hours trying to unbolt the bolt on the top of the positive battery terminal. After I finally managed to get it off and get the wire attached, I found the red cover wouldn't go back on properly, so I just put it on as best I could. I then started to look for some sort of opening through the firewall through which I could run my cable, but I couldn't find anything large enough and with a rubber seal that I could easily run the cable past. It seems all the power cables run into a hole above the wheel well, and then I can't find where they come out on the other side (the last picture). I may be forced to drill my own hole, and that prospect is quite daunting

              I plan to look on Toyota forums to see how others have run cable, but I likely won't be doing that soon. I'll be gone for most of the rest of the week, and next week I'll likely be fabricating a bezel and mounts for the Mac Mini.
              Attached Files


              • #8
                I looked on ToyotaNation and found that there is this little rubber plug I can remove that gives me a nice hole to run my cable through. I did this, and now I've attached one end to the fuse holder and I have the other end dangling out of the dashboard. I cut up the rubber plug to make a nice weather-tight-ish seal around the cable. Hopefully within the next couple days, my amp will arrive, meaning I can mount it, the power supply, and the distribution box, and get it all wired up.

                Meanwhile, I was working on my Mac Mini mount. I realized I had made a stupid mistake when I first calculated, and I would need 5 sheets of plexiglass to fill in the 0.5" gap properly (this plexiglass is 3/32" thick, so I will be 1/32" short, which I can live with). Three sheets are going on the left, and two will be on the right. I also didn't realize just how thick the casing of the Mini is, and the screws are too short on the side with 3 pieces of plexi. I'll run down to Home Depot soon and get new screws (for the third time!) as well as some dark gray spray paint for the plexiglass faceplate.

                EDIT: I also noticed that, because I'm mounting the Mini at the top of the double-DIN bracket, once I pop the guts in, I'll have no way of reopening it. Likely what I'll do is remove the top, so I can pop the tabs from there if need be. Any other suggestions are appreciated....
                Attached Files


                • #9
                  I've done quite a bit since I last posted. I looked around a bit for potential locations of the power supply. I thought about mounting it above the left aircon vent, but the cable leading to the Mac Mini was just a little too short, and I really didn't want to deal with extending it. I also thought about mounting it to the right of the center vents, but that put it really close to the airbag, something I wanted to avoid. I realized just how much space there was behind the instrument gauge cluster, and I was able to not only mount the power supply there, but the fuse distribution box as well.

                  That settled, I moved on to mounting the Mini. I screwed it into the brackets, and it fit quite nicely when installed behind the plexiglass front. Then my amp arrived, and I decided the best place to mount it was underneath the Mac Mini, where it would be hidden by the plexiglass. This meant I had to trim the spacers on either side of the Mini to accommodate the amp (in hindsight, I have no idea why I extended them so far down). Then, to hold the amp, I disemboweled an old radio and used the casing as a mount. I then simply held it to the base with zip ties attached at a slight angle inwards (so they don't fall off).

                  I also realized another stupid mistake I had made. When I built my plexiglass bezel (that I was quite proud of, mind you), I had forgotten to leave an opening for the cup holders. I had to VERY CAREFULLY trim an opening, and it didn't come out too terribly, if I may say so myself.

                  Also very carefully, I cut a slot for CDs. That, unfortunately, didn't go quite so well, as there was a little bit I accidentally cut too low, so now a small bit of aluminum is visible.

                  I then set about mounting the screen. I thought this would be the easiest part of the entire project. Naturally, it wasn't. First, I found that I would have to trim off this small part of metal on either bracket, designed to fit into a disused screw hole that wasn't present on the 700IDT. Then, I realized that my screws couldn't be deep at all, or else they would hit the side of the screen when it was docked. Being the cheap bastard that I am, I decided to use some longer screws that I already had, and just put washers outside to make them the proper length. This meant I hit a bracket where the OEM faceplate mounted. The only way to combat this was to dremel an opening in the bracket. Of course I couldn't do this through the front, or the faceplate would never hold. So I went through the top, and now the screen sort of drops in. It fit quite nicely... until I tried to attach the split cable to the back. Now I'm about 1/2" short. I'm working on a solution. I cut off the plastic stress reliever on the back, but that didn't buy me much space. I'll likely have to reroute the cable out the side or bottom of the connector.

                  I also attached longer wires to my wiring harnesses, and I've hooked everything up power-wise. I also ran a USB extension cable down to this area behind this storage door to the left of the steering wheel (where the fuse box is), so if I ever want to plug in a USB device, I just pop out the compartment, plug in, pop the compartment back in and put whatever device I have into the compartment. I like to think of it as "USB ready"

                  I also got some velcro-like fasteners to attach my USB hub to the underside of the dash. So far it seems to be working well. I secured the cables to the underside with electrical tape which should hopefully hold....

                  Tomorrow I will likely focus on making that cable smaller. I really want to get something installed already
                  Attached Files


                  • #10
                    subscribe to see finish product


                    • #11
                      So it's been over a year since I last posted, and in that time, things have changed. Drastically. I did manage to get the computer installed and working, and I have pictures of the process. However, I'm not going to bother posting those photos because of just how drastically everything has changed.

                      As I said, I had the computer up and running. It was a very rough install, nowhere near final. It still lacked such components as the GPS, which I was unable to locate a USB adapter for, and I hadn't reinstalled any of the trim pieces except the surround for the screen (necessary in order to route the air conditioning properly). There were, however, a couple of more major problems. The first thing that happened to the amp when I connected it was the fuse blew out. My best guess was there was too much interference from the power cables hidden in the dashboard, since there was a high-pitched shriek that sounded like a load of interference right before it died. So basically, I never had a working audio output. Then, about a week later, the LCD died. I RMA'd it, and I received the repaired one some months ago, but I never bothered to put it in. These two issues plus the lack of a GPS receiver meant that the entire setup was pretty much useless. I really only wanted a CarPC for music, nav and internet, and even before the screen broke the only thing I could use was the internet, which of course I'd have to be pulled over to use. At this point I was quite annoyed, and I decided my setup was overly complex. So I did what any good engineer would do: simplify. I realized my needs weren't that complex, and they certainly weren't anything I needed a full computer to accomplish.

                      So I bought an iPad.

                      I pulled everything from my Mac Mini install out of the dashboard, and I sold the Mac Mini to purchase the iPad. As the pictures show, I had severely butchered the case of the Mini, but I was fortunate enough to come across a nonworking Mini on Freecycle that I salvaged a new case from.

                      Even though I was moving to a simpler, all-in-one solution, I didn't want to settle for a simple mounting bracket. I wanted to actually build a dock into the dashboard. I'm still in the process of doing that, but I've been taking photos along the way, which I'm going to put into a new thread with an appropriate title. So that's the end of this thread. If anybody is doing a similar carputer install and would like to see photos of the semi-finished product, let me know, but otherwise I'm moving on to the improved concept.