I've loved cars and computers for as long as I can remember. I've recently tried to advise people who want to use their iPod in their car, and it made me realize what dearth of proper solutions there are. I read that Chrysler is going to start offering a Nav/MP3/TV Tuner system in Europe maybe in the US too and read about the Aztek (?) CarPC which is like $2,000 and I thought that was ridiculous for what is essentially a laptop with a small screen. So I started looking around, lamenting the cost of small LCD touchscreens to put in my Hyundai... and then I found an open-box one on eBay for $156 shipped. Then I HAD to get a computer and found used "CarPC" 100W desktop on eBay also... and I was started. I wonder if the previous owner of this slightly mangled beige slim desktop PC isn't a regular here. Anyone sell a WindowsXP Pro 1.2GHz Duron with 384Mb of RAM and a 12V-12V PSU that doesn't fit in the case, recently? Well I have it now. I plugged it into my cheap $6 FM transmitter which keeps drifting frequencies every 10 minutes (!!), and I managed to shove the LCD screen stand into a crevice in the dash such that it looks bad but hasn't fallen yet. I call this CarPC v1.0 because it smells like it's temporary.
So first I had a couple of weeks to test running this SBO2 E0294 7" LCD touch-screen with my laptop and power inverter. It worked fine at 800x600 but the laptop wouldn't give me 640x480 as an option, and the laptop was too nice to bolt into the car permanently. So I bought the computer.
I tested the computer out shortly after getting it. The PSU was missing some adapter so i had to go all Radioshack on it and make my own and tape it on there. Some sort of Molex-like connector I still haven't identified. I already had a power inverter wired into the cig-lighter circuit behind the dash, and the wires inside the center console to the back seat, so adding another few wires and sticking a button on my dash to power it on was no big deal. It worked well, for a few days or weeks but then the HDD started to act up. The dreaded "clicking," and failure to detect on boot. I thought it might be a power issue so I downgraded the CPU from 1.2Ghz to an 850Mhz Duron. But the problem returned, causing crashes, no-boots and so on. An older 6GB IDE drive (which works on AC) blew out the 15A fuse. Twice.
In the meantime I also borrowed a USB WiFi card, which turned out to be a 802.11b and kinda slow/intermitent, and I even tried a webcam I had at home. The combination exceeded the USB bandwidth; so I got a PCI WiFi card for $35. It works fine, reception is still kinda poor with the little antenna inside the trunk (duh). It doesn't fit the "slim," case though, so some sawing is going to be necessary.
Most recently (weekend) I got a new HDD from a friend. It's a pity I'll probably lose the MapPoint 2004 software that came installed on the CarPC but oh well. I got DeLorme Earthmate GPS and Street Atlas 2007 also.
DeLorme Street Atlas 2007 with Earthmate GPS receiver: It wouldn't install on 640x480 and resized my screen to 800x600. However, if you change it back, it will run just fine after a nag screen about screen resolution. I also had to upgrade the .NET 2.0 framework before it would work but that took 10min to figure out. After that, the GPS navigation, routing and turn-by-turn directions worked great with the bundled GPS receiver ($99 total). It even re-routes if you miss a turn. The interface could be better - the buttons are small and cryptic, there's a menu and several side-panels you can resize but not get rid of. I'll get some screenshots later for reference. The size of the remaining map is still acceptable. Also, the optional high-contrast color scheme is perfect for night driving (black background). One annoyance is the GPS is disabled by default when the programs starts, so you have to turn it on every time as far as I know. The reading voice is Microsoft's default Sam, Mary or Mike... which sound bad but do the job. I've heard better. Overall I'm satisfied. Maybe I expected a cleaner interface, fewer buttons, auto-GPS and a better reading voice... but that's OK for $99 with the receiver!
OK, that's how it stands right now. It doesn't hang much anymore with the new drive. The screen is forced to 640x480 with the WinXP /basevideo boot switch and the WiFi works, so I can get email, Web while I play MP3s and use the Street Atlas GPS nav just fine. I'll add some pictures soon.