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Rugged Vehicle PC with Front End (Links @ end / Long Post)

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  • Rugged Vehicle PC with Front End (Links @ end / Long Post)

    Hello fellow CarPC enthusiasts,

    The first part of this post is a long drawn out sob story of another CarPC meeting its maker. Just skip down links for setup I found.

    I am in the midst of doing a complete overhaul of my TruckPC since my latest configuration has succumbed to the tortures the abusive automobile environment. I am in wireless construction by trade (23 years), and complete projects for major mobile carriers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Due to nature of work, I have to travel quite a bit up dusty, rough, unimproved roads to get to tower sites, and encounter temperatures below zero in winter and above 100 degrees in summer.

    Because of this, I have to take great care to protect my system and usually shut down when off-road & do not boot up in winter until things have warmed up enough to do so. Never had any issues with overheating in the summer. Useless most of the time I know, but have been an advocate for integrating computer functionality into my mobile environment for over 20 years now. My first mobile PC was a Zenith ZWL-184-95.

    Just for S & G here are her specs – 8OC88-2 16-bit at 4.77 MHz with 8087-1 co-processor, 640KB System/1MB Dynamic RAM, 3.5” 720KB FDD, 3.5” 10MB HDD, external 5.25” 360KB FDD, 10” LCD, CGA 80 X 25 Text & 640 x 200 Graphics in 4-bit 16 Colors, PC Speaker, 1x RS-232C Serial (DB-9), 1x Centronics Parallel (DB-25), 1x Composite Monochrome & RGB Color CRT (DE-9), 1x Modem (RJ-11), and internal 300/1200 baud Hayes modem.

    Not really, what you would call a CarPC, but this was my first traveling PC. I used it on the road for document & file management, database resources, map information, file transfers, games (Kings Quest ring any bells), and message exchange. Of course, most of this did not occur while I was moving since my resource for this was FidoNet, and you could only access the BBS over a POTS line at the time. I then could access the Echomail server for files being transferred to me, upload files back to another user, and retrieve electronic messages from the bulletin board. I also could get current news and information feeds from C News & Usenet.

    Sure is amazing how far things have come! Anyways, sorry for the trip down memory lane, now back to problem!

    My current setup was very stable for about 2 years with only slight glitches every now and again (device/software configurations). Then about a month ago boot-up times were getting slower and programs began to hang or crash. Then I started to get computer was low on memory pop-ups very frequently (never happened before). Progressed to automatic restarts a few times, then blue screened on me and now nothing. I believe its time for its last rites since I cannot get boot at all, even externally.

    Main processing components are a Pentium M 1.6 GHz, AOpen i915GMm-HFS & 2GB DDR2-533 MHz. All of my external devices, internal HDD and PSU seem to be OK. I have not had a chance to pull things apart yet, but I believe I am due for new MB, CPU, or both.

    While I test & salvage parts I can put my old VIA C3 1 GHz, MSI MS-6368 PLE133T & 1GB SDRAM-133MHz back in. I have been using it as a garage PC since I pulled it. I will have to cut back on many of the wireless testing applications I used with new setup. That was the only reason I changed out the VIA in the first place, was because I used more than just for music, videos & navigation.

    So now, I am at another crossroads and trying to choose my next setup. I have liked the mini-ITX form factor, simple swap out, and would prefer to continue to utilize. Since I pulled the trigger a little early and missed the boat on the Core 2 Duo & VIA C7 releases, I could choose an offering between those two. Thermal power issues were not much of a concern with my setup. I was up 7 watts with the Pentium M over the VIA C3. Would be up another 7 watts with a Core 2 Duo or back to 20 watts with VIA C7.

    Anyways, not seeking any recommendations for new setup here. When I knew the end was near (heard the death rattle) I returned with a passion to forums for some new incite. In doing so, I have traced threads and researched some enticing MB/CPU combos. This has lead me back to focusing on the industrial integrated/embedded systems again, both in mini-ITX & PC/104. They have always been extensively utilized in wireless system architecture, and current offerings have vastly improved with regards to multimedia chipsets. These are not your typical control and monitoring boards of the past.

    While determining my future processing configuration, I have also gone back to the drawing board to address the common problems with having a computer in my vehicle, thermal heat generation, extreme ambient temperature fluctuations, moisture condensation, dust, vibration, & shock. Which in turn has me looking a addressing these in more of an industrial fashion as well.

    Not concerned with heat generations issues as I already implement both active & passive cooling methods (I will never experiment with a Desktop configuration again) in my truck. No real issues for me there, but an industrial solution could not hurt.

    The temperature flux, moisture, and dust issues are a completely different monkey. Just have never really found a sure fire way to eliminate from an automobile environment. I already have a semi-industrial enclosure for my internals, so the next step is to go all the way.

    Nothing I can do about shock & vibration reasonably until SSD’s become realistic in price and eliminate rotational storage media completely. I already use a WD Scorpio 2.5” 80GB SATA HDD, and use vibration dampeners in my enclosure. I will always have to live with a little skip here and there with my CD/DVD playback, when bombing down a goat trail.

    So looks like I am going industrial all the way. I have shied away from more rugged configurations in the past due to cost, but it may be time for me to bite the bullet and just do it!

    In searching for a catch all for my woes, I came across an intriguing find! I think this might be the solution for me, and maybe others as well. I checked forums here and have not seen them, nor other’s offering the products branded under their own names, just some PC/104 boards. I could have missed something though, so do not flame me!

    Their name is DIGITAL-LOGIC headquartered in Luterbach/Switzerland. They are one of the world's leading companies in the embedded computer market, were established in 1992, and are involved in the development, manufacture, and international marketing of highly integrated embedded PC’s.

    Here is what I have dug up so far.

    MICROSPACE Vehicle PC’s
    PDF Link (715KB)

    System Specifications

    MPCX47 Under Water
    Picture Gallery Link

    System Specifications

    System Specifications

    MICROSPACE MPCX47/48 User Interface (Dedicated Front End)
    Information PDF Link (557KB)

    MPCXHMI is a user interface that has been specially programmed for the two DIGITAL-LOGIC MPCX47 and MPCX48 vehicle computers with touch screen monitors. This is based upon Microsoft Windows XP Embedded. The interface uses large, ergonomically designed controls (buttons, rotary controls) that are easy to operate via the touch screen while driving.

    The following unique characteristics have been integrated:

    _ Ergonomic operation for the vehicle workplace
    _ Intuitive operation without a user guide
    _ Text entry using an on-screen keyboard on the
    touch screen or a wireless keyboard
    _ Day and night design (reduced brightness)
    _ Integration of Windows standard applications
    _ Operation of all functions such as:

    • Navigation
    • DVD player
    • Audio CD player
    • MP3 player
    • Video player
    • Picture viewer
    • Telephone with SMS
    • E-mail and Internet browser
    • Control of digital outputs
    • Display of digital inputs
    • Display and storage of analogue inputs (MPCX47 only)
    • Display and storage of counter inputs
    • Display and recording of video input channels
    • Opt. radio tuner
    • Opt. TV tuner
    • Opt. Office

    Have not found out any information on price for adding this software yet (04/08/07).

    Distributors located so far. Not sure, if individual purchase allowed or if specific quantity needed to purchase. Maybe Miles Industrial is only option, but have not talked to ADL yet!

    Advanced Digital Logic, Inc.
    Sole US Distributor for Digital-Logic (San Diego)

    Beltronic Industrial Technology (Bit-RVC MPCX47/48)
    Germany (English)

    Delta Components
    Germany (English)

    Slovakia (Some English)
    PDF link (715kb)

    Quantum KTT
    Poland (Some English)

    This is the only sales channel I found with any pricing for orders online. This is of course just a ballpark guide to reference. The distributor is based in the UK so price is in Pounds (Quid’s).

    Currency conversion link -

    Miles Industrial Electronics Ltd
    United Kingdom

    MPCX47 Vehicle PC – Link
    $2626.36 Base (04/08/07) – Not including VAT or customs duty here since I would contact US alternative.
    Additional for optional Media Packs, Port Replicator’s, heavy-duty HDD, pre-heat, GSM, GPS, ect.

    Price is steep, but this is the one that can operate underwater!

    MPCX48 Vehicle-PC – Link
    $1597.78 Base (04/08/07) Not including VAT or customs duty here since I would contact US alternative.
    Additional for memory, CPU, GSM, GPS, GPRS, pre-heat, heavy-duty HDD, ect.

    Still steep but not plastic!

    MPCX48A Vehicle-PC – Link
    $1462.44 Base (04/08/07) – Not including VAT or customs duty here since I would contact US alternative.
    Additional for memory, CPU, GSM, GPS, GPRS, pre-heat, heavy-duty HDD, ect.

    Same here!

    General Information and Reference

    Wikipedia Entry

    Press Release from September 2004

    MICROSPACE Computer Systems
    General information on quality testing and design
    PDF Link (812KB)

    Digital-Logic LCD Touch Screen Monitors
    6.5" / 8.4” / 10.4” / 12” with DVI touch screen, VGA, USB interface
    PDF Link (158KB)

    Other Fanless MICROSPACE-PC Systems available
    Information Link

    Cool looking MICROSPACE Media Entertainment Center
    PDF Link (696KB)

    Entire MICROSPACE Computer Systems 2007 Catalog
    Complete descriptions and views of all systems, components, and specifications
    PDF Link (4.37MB)

    Entire DIGITAL-LOGIC 2007 Catalog
    PDF Link (8.58MB)

    I do not quite yet know if I am going to acquire any of these particular models. I think this is the track I am going to pursue for next setup.

    I know the MPCX47 is very expensive and overkill for most here, but extremely nice, and just slightly more than a CarCPU for a boat. Which one do you think goes TU first!

    I definitely could use for work, especially listening to some music first off in the morning instead of waiting until the cab of the truck is nice and toasty!

    If I do not get one, I sure someone here sure will.

    Advantech, Kontron, ect., are other places to root out things.