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  • Disenchanted with my Car PC, Suggestions?

    I installed my first car PC in 2001 and I have been a member of this forum since 2006. Since then I have built multiple car computers and done a variety of upgrades. The goal of all of these efforts has been to create a unified multimedia experience in my car.



    I am unhappy to report that after 10 years of experimenting and building, an iPhone + any stereo with an audio input currently beats my car computer in both ease of use and functionality.

    I am still in search of a unified multimedia experience, formerly this was not available, even in the newest of cars, hence my plunge into the world of car PCs yet, now most features car PCs provide can be found as options in almost any car. With this in mind, let me describe what I would like to accomplish, where my system falls short, and maybe, just maybe, come up with a solution.

    Everyone loves specs, so lets start there, I have a 2000 Honda Civic, 4 door. This has lots of free space and easy to find wiring with not a lot of fancy electronics to worry about harming. With a dual din dash its easy to fit all sorts of screens in there. I have the Lilliput 629GL-70NP/C/T in the dash which works great, I love the new LED back lighting and clean look. In the past I had to custom install a lilliput monitor with epoxy and bondo and paint it to match.

    The LCD is connected to a new dual-core intel atom mini-itx board with 2gb ram, 60gb SSD, and smart PSU. Other accessories include a GPS, wifi, bt, and an external USB sound card with 5.1 output. It's plenty fast enough for car computing needs and with the SSD it boots in 10-15 sec.

    The audio system consists of a 4-ch 600w amp powering 4 speakers for the front and rear. Components with separate tweeters in the front, both front and rear are infinity with passive crossovers. A separate 10" dual voice coil subwoofer with matching amp built into a custom fiberglass enclosure provides plenty of bass for the car. A turtle beach USB audio card allows me to EQ and control each of the 5 channels individually.



    So thats what my setup looks like, separate amps, aftermarket speakers, sound dampening added throughout, capacitor, heavy gauge wiring, USB 5.1 sound card, and a speedy PC running XP and Street Deck.... So whats missing?

    I want to get in my car and have it "just work" but until Apple makes car stereo's it looks like my current system wont do that. The startup and shutdown intelligent 60w PSU works like a charm, however windows doesn't always cooperate, and sometimes the screen just shows nothing. When it does load I have Street Deck to deal with... I really tried to like it... and use it currently for lack of time to experiment with a superior option, but really... what a load of crap. Navigation is barley useable, audio controls work *sometimes*, it deletes songs instead of playing them, the UI cant even auto switch between night and day mode!... and thats when it works.... 1/10th of the time it just crashes...

    Bluetooth. Yes. The thing that MP3 car promised years ago and never happened..... I cant answer my phone via my $1000 car computer.... yet I can buy a $200 car stereo that can play CDs, MP3s, talk to an iPhone, and do bluetooth... I can buy a parrot bluetooth module but their is no good way to pipe the audio into my PC.

    A Volume knob. Really, I would like to physically control the volume, I tried the griffen knob, its nice but HUGE and I cant shrink it down. Street deck is again a PITA when I try to control volume its a multi press operation to drop down the volume controls, or, they are in the way of me doing things as they dont auto retract. Same goes for basic commands.... Play, Pause, Forward, Reverse, all of these features are standard on basic car stereo's now and the $150 parrot BT module. Yet their is no good solution for the Car PC. I tried wiring my own but its either too unreliable or bulky.

    Random annoyances, like windows displaying popups, or needing to interface with windows at all, installing drivers for audio cards, screens, etc. So many little things prevent me from closing up my car's panels and calling it a day. As soon as I do, a week later, something stops working and needs a simple unplug, replug, or fidgeting with a USB cable to start working again.

    So what do I want from my car PC? I spent a lot of time and money sound proofing, and installing a kick *** audio system with multiple amps and speakers. I would like to send high quality audio to those amps and speakers so I have a premium listening experience while driving. I also would like to place and receive calls via hands free bluetooth to my iPhone, as well as turn by turn navigation. Not that much to ask is it? Navigation, BT, music...

    I am very close to ditching the entire car PC for an aftermarket dual din nav system with BT. At least I know it will work 100% of the time.

    I am willing to change my OS, front end, etc, or buy new parts if necessary to make this work. Either the car PC is going to work near perfect or its going to go and I will get something that does. If anyone has suggestions, comments, or ideas, of how I can modify my existing system to *work* I am all ears.

    I plan on doing necessary research now, buy parts, and test now, and by july, either rip out or overhaul the existing system when I have a month to work on my car with out distractions.

    ---------- Post added at 04:25 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:00 PM ----------

    Just for reference... a quick look at Crutchfield yeilded the following results....

    A pioneer deck that does GPS, and has parrot bluetooth built in for voice control of iPhone etc... $1,300
    http://www.crutchfield.com/s_130AVIC....html?tp=20212

    And a JVC deck that has GPS, iPhone bluetooth control... can can even load maps and POI from google via USB drive $800 !!
    http://www.crutchfield.com/s_105NT3H....html?tp=20212

    For as little as $800, the cost of my current car PC, I can buy a dual din head unit that does more..... sad...
    Dual Core Atom - 512MB - 60GB SSD - 2010 Lilliput - SiRF Star III - BT - Wi-Fi - Street Deck - Rear Camera - Full Audio System

    Project Log


    |----------| Software
    |----------| Hardware
    |----------| Fabrication
    |----------| Installation

  • #2
    I would try windows 7, disable all notifications after properly configured. And try CF 3.5 for 30 days. Bluetooth does work with my iPhone 4, but it's not great (no contacts). Navigation is however iffy, to say the least. I don't use it.

    But if navigation is important, and easy to use, try fitting a 7" tablet, like the Elocity 7, or the Galaxy Tab. That's the direction I would go.
    Worklogs: 08 Sequoia Platinum Carputer (In Progress!)
    Skin: MetroSex on the Beach preview

    07 Infiniti Fx35 (done!) & 06 Infiniti M35 (gone...)

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by RipplingHurst View Post
      I would try windows 7, disable all notifications after properly configured. And try CF 3.5 for 30 days. Bluetooth does work with my iPhone 4, but it's not great (no contacts). Navigation is however iffy, to say the least. I don't use it.

      But if navigation is important, and easy to use, try fitting a 7" tablet, like the Elocity 7, or the Galaxy Tab. That's the direction I would go.
      Thanks for the suggestions... however, navigation is the primary reason to have the dual din LCD, so solid navigation is a requirement.

      Again bluetooth is also a requirement, the 800$ head unit above does both bluetooth to iPhone 4 as well as contacts.... :-/

      Tablets are cool. iPad is great, however non of them are going to offer a great audio solution or bluetooth hands free audio. Right now tablets are best used as a remote to VNC into an existing car PC or as an audio source, though could eventually replace a car pc, currently though, no.
      Dual Core Atom - 512MB - 60GB SSD - 2010 Lilliput - SiRF Star III - BT - Wi-Fi - Street Deck - Rear Camera - Full Audio System

      Project Log


      |----------| Software
      |----------| Hardware
      |----------| Fabrication
      |----------| Installation

      Comment


      • #4
        That JVC is a very cool unit, but note that you can find it for $699.00 at Amazon. It's hard to beat it's features, so I doubt you're going to be sad with it.

        However, a Tablet can do a lot, and it's more future proof. You can stream content from home (I do). You can do voice control, you can update it faster, you can use a lot of cool apps with it. So if there's something of the tinkerer left in you, I would do more research about it...see the Android/iPad threads.
        Worklogs: 08 Sequoia Platinum Carputer (In Progress!)
        Skin: MetroSex on the Beach preview

        07 Infiniti Fx35 (done!) & 06 Infiniti M35 (gone...)

        Comment


        • #5
          Yeh, i agree with the others that your problems are likely due to outdated software. Try something more modern. A tablet wouldn't be a terrible idea. Google Nav is best-of-class if you can get it.
          Former author of LinuxICE, nghost, nobdy.
          Current author of Automotive Message Broker (AMB).
          Works on Tizen IVI. Does not represent anyone or anything but himself.

          Comment


          • #6
            If only Google would release their Google Nav for Windows...
            1999 Mercury Grand Marquis GS with: ASRock E350M1 w/4GB RAM, 80GB Intel SSD, Opus DCX3.120, Visteon HD Radio + HDR-USB, PL-18N wifi, OBDLink Scan Tool, BTA6210 BT, BU-353, Win 7 Ultimate, CF 4.0, Alpine MRP-F240 + MRP-T220, RF Punch 1572s, Kicker 8" Comp.

            Comment


            • #7
              my stab at this:

              my carpc covers the audio stuff very well. but of course, i use the carpc only for media storage, and audio manipulation.

              for a volume control, my jl audio cl-rlc works great-- it is fast, smooth, and most importantly, a external hardware device, so no matter what windows does, i have full volume control.. i have a convertible, and i like my music loud, all the while trying to be a little respectful of others-- so i turn it down at every stop light-- windows was painfully slow at this.. the cl-rlc however, only had one small hiccup related to a partially broken fuse-- check the review i did for more details...


              navigation-- i think your better off with a all-in-one unit. the nav solutions for carpc seem to be slowly dieing..

              bluetooth--again, the all-in-ones are going to top the carpc stuff..


              but as for my install, i have been pretty happy with the overall install--so far, there has been less then 10 times in 2 years that my carpc has had serious issues. of course, there are always little tweaks that i always continue to do, but in general, my install has been very reliable, and stable..
              My OLD 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT:
              "The Project That Never Ended, until it did"


              next project? subaru brz
              carpc undecided

              Comment


              • #8
                I feel your pain. On the other side though, once configured, I haven't touched my system in months. I had CF 3.1 work well with Iguidance (CF + their nav is TRASH IMHO). I have 3.5 and iguidance doesn't work with it (I can't log into their market either).

                I never had the need for blue tooth so that's not a +/- for me per say. I'm redoing my system and upgrading to win7 and find a solution for Iguidance + CF 3.5. If that works out, i'm a happy camper. I always thought that those AIO headunits were restrictive but when it comes down to it, I really don't use any of the "windows" stuff that I had wanted to (videos + internet) and If I had to do it over again (with the money invested already), I would go with one of those AIO units.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I've been doing this a VERY long time as well (see that 2002 under my avatar), but I'm optimistic about the future and new features and possibilities. Of course we will never have the pure clean integration of something like the new ford system, but we can do almost anything now. I'm happy as well with centrafuse 3.1 and iguidance for nav. Its quick and clean. The thing I have the biggest headaches with is media control, with 100+gb of music, anything I try is slow and clunky. I think I need to adapt to the system, instead of trying to adapt a system to me. Maybe some new playlist software would do it.

                  Right now I'm just waiting on software for the new fusion brain and I'll have full computer control of the car, including remote access. Also waiting for the new Rockford 3Sixty.3 to do my processing. I'm at the point where I can have a new idea for a function or ability, and just make it happen. Not really feeling restricted by going Car PC.
                  Old School MP3CAR.com member!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Honestly, I have a lot of music too but I don't even listen to them all. I hate hour CF doesn't number my songs so I know where the heck I am (beginning of list, middle of list, end of list)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      So far what I am hearing is no one has a good solution for those 3 things I want my car PC to do. The best software solution seems to be Centrafuse and iGuidance. I can certainly give those a shot. In the mean time it looks like I will have to start looking harder into dual din nav systems.

                      The real issue is basically I dont need a car PC, I need a connected iPhone. It does more faster and better than my car PC. I can put most of my music on it, do turn by turn with tom tom with realtime updates, and their is bluetooth available.

                      I'm not opposed to a tablet solution, I just dont see it being a good solution for high quality audio or bluetooth.

                      I'm still open to ideas or new things to try though.
                      Dual Core Atom - 512MB - 60GB SSD - 2010 Lilliput - SiRF Star III - BT - Wi-Fi - Street Deck - Rear Camera - Full Audio System

                      Project Log


                      |----------| Software
                      |----------| Hardware
                      |----------| Fabrication
                      |----------| Installation

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Here are my thoughts on this in red

                        Originally posted by pcmofo View Post
                        I am unhappy to report that after 10 years of experimenting and building, an iPhone + any stereo with an audio input currently beats my car computer in both ease of use and functionality.

                        I would be shocked if an Iphone can output audio with similar SQ to a well built system

                        The LCD is connected to a new dual-core intel atom mini-itx board with 2gb ram, 60gb SSD, and smart PSU. Other accessories include a GPS, wifi, bt, and an external USB sound card with 5.1 output. It's plenty fast enough for car computing needs and with the SSD it boots in 10-15 sec.

                        I have no experience with SSD's but I have read issues with using certain ones for booting your system
                        Maybe go back to a hard drive boot drive for a while and see if that clears up your random boot issues


                        The audio system consists of a 4-ch 600w amp powering 4 speakers for the front and rear. Components with separate tweeters in the front, both front and rear are infinity with passive crossovers. A separate 10" dual voice coil subwoofer with matching amp built into a custom fiberglass enclosure provides plenty of bass for the car. A turtle beach USB audio card allows me to EQ and control each of the 5 channels individually
                        So thats what my setup looks like, separate amps, aftermarket speakers, sound dampening added throughout, capacitor, heavy gauge wiring, USB 5.1 sound card, and a speedy PC running XP and Street Deck.... So whats missing?

                        IMO, you are missing something like the Alpine H701 processor. I am running a similar audio system to yours with this processor inicluding 2 amps, sub, USB soundcard etc. and I guarantee you would be impressed with the SQ right out of the box with no tuning. I had an Alpine W205 w/ blackbird Nav and I can tell you my current PC kicks it's A** and I have not even finished the interior with dampening etc or tuned it.
                        I believe the key is I am running from my sound card optically to the processor which is located close to the amps & I have zero noise other than random noised XP chooses to generate from time to time. I am told W7 will fix this, I may go there.
                        The processor will also fix your volume issue. You leave the PC turned up to give you a solid pre-out voltage than control via the controller for the processor. The downside, if space is tight, is you do have to make room for a single DIN shallow controller. It can be surface mounted by the way


                        I want to get in my car and have it "just work" but until Apple makes car stereo's it looks like my current system wont do that. The startup and shutdown intelligent 60w PSU works like a charm, however windows doesn't always cooperate, and sometimes the screen just shows nothing. When it does load I have Street Deck to deal with... I really tried to like it... and use it currently for lack of time to experiment with a superior option, but really... what a load of crap. Navigation is barley useable, audio controls work *sometimes*, it deletes songs instead of playing them, the UI cant even auto switch between night and day mode!... and thats when it works.... 1/10th of the time it just crashes...

                        I believe CF will resolve the majority of your issues with random sh** happening. There are a few growing pains with the new version just released but those will get ironed out soon I'm sure. With CF3.1, I was running GMPC nav and one of the available plugins and it worked flawlessly, no crashes, mutes the music for guidance voice etc. Plugins have not been updated yet but will be shortly for 3.5 (I hope) GMPC has been discontinued but apparently there are still ways to update the maps from garmins other products

                        Bluetooth. Yes. The thing that MP3 car promised years ago and never happened..... I cant answer my phone via my $1000 car computer.... yet I can buy a $200 car stereo that can play CDs, MP3s, talk to an iPhone, and do bluetooth... I can buy a parrot bluetooth module but their is no good way to pipe the audio into my PC.

                        I just got my BB Torch working last night on my desk with th ebuilt in microphone & sound card (I use a laptop for the PC) It appears it is going to work but the true test will be when I put it back in the truck thisweekend and hook it up to the USB SC and Andrea Mic. If it doesn't work, I started another thread here mentioning that there is a guy in Toronto that claims to be working on an interface for the Parrot to talk to CF and display on the same screen. He expects to have it ready by April. So that may be a backup plan.

                        A Volume knob. Really, I would like to physically control the volume, I tried the griffen knob, its nice but HUGE and I cant shrink it down. Street deck is again a PITA when I try to control volume its a multi press operation to drop down the volume controls, or, they are in the way of me doing things as they dont auto retract. Same goes for basic commands.... Play, Pause, Forward, Reverse, all of these features are standard on basic car stereo's now and the $150 parrot BT module. Yet their is no good solution for the Car PC. I tried wiring my own but its either too unreliable or bulky.
                        See above
                        Random annoyances, like windows displaying popups, or needing to interface with windows at all, installing drivers for audio cards, screens, etc. So many little things prevent me from closing up my car's panels and calling it a day. As soon as I do, a week later, something stops working and needs a simple unplug, replug, or fidgeting with a USB cable to start working again.
                        I just figured out how to edit the registry to liminate popups in XP. This will be heaven sent (I feel your pain on that one


                        So what do I want from my car PC? I spent a lot of time and money sound proofing, and installing a kick *** audio system with multiple amps and speakers. I would like to send high quality audio to those amps and speakers so I have a premium listening experience while driving. I also would like to place and receive calls via hands free bluetooth to my iPhone, as well as turn by turn navigation. Not that much to ask is it? Navigation, BT, music...

                        answered above

                        I am very close to ditching the entire car PC for an aftermarket dual din nav system with BT. At least I know it will work 100% of the time.

                        I am willing to change my OS, front end, etc, or buy new parts if necessary to make this work. Either the car PC is going to work near perfect or its going to go and I will get something that does. If anyone has suggestions, comments, or ideas, of how I can modify my existing system to *work* I am all ears.

                        I plan on doing necessary research now, buy parts, and test now, and by july, either rip out or overhaul the existing system when I have a month to work on my car with out distractions.

                        ---------- Post added at 04:25 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:00 PM ----------

                        Just for reference... a quick look at Crutchfield yeilded the following results....

                        A pioneer deck that does GPS, and has parrot bluetooth built in for voice control of iPhone etc... $1,300
                        http://www.crutchfield.com/s_130AVIC....html?tp=20212

                        And a JVC deck that has GPS, iPhone bluetooth control... can can even load maps and POI from google via USB drive $800 !!
                        http://www.crutchfield.com/s_105NT3H....html?tp=20212

                        For as little as $800, the cost of my current car PC, I can buy a dual din head unit that does more..... sad...
                        My 2007 Ford F350 Work Log located HERE

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks for the thoughtful response.The iPhone can output plenty of nice audio, though for a premium experience you would want a signal processor between it and the amps.

                          I have not had SSD issues before, and I have seen this kinda thing happen with all of my older hardware. I suspect its the startup/shutdown controller.

                          I may look into a signal processor in general regardless of the direction I go. I will check out the alpine you suggested.

                          Again, bluetooth and navigation, staples on new cars and aftermarket systems, fall short on car computers. My best bet always seems to be to duct tape something together until the "solution" comes out in just a few more months.... I have been waiting a few years for many of them.

                          My first step will most likely be installing CF. From there I will re evaluate.

                          On a side note, the all in one DVD GPS BT nav systems dont seem to have a clear "winner". I was looking at this pioneer one that was pretty slick. http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/PU...T?tab=overview

                          After some more thought I want to expand my feature list to include a few more details...

                          My car should include the following, in order of importance

                          - GPS, has to be rock solid with a brand name like tomtom or be updatable otherwise its useless in 2 years.
                          - Bluetooth, has to be 100% iphone compatible, no shotty audio quality or poorly placed mics, I have crappy bluetooth devices already, must play music!
                          - Solid audio playback. Bluetooth is nice for ease of use but the system needs to be able to drive a 4ch amp and a sub amp.
                          - Physical volume control, really, I want instant volume control
                          - Alternate inputs, USB for iPod/iPhone, aux in for everything else, maybe a line in for expansion
                          - Auto switching rear view camera support for composite camera, I already have this in my car and it works with my lilliput screen, I want to keep it.

                          So far, it looks like *some* dual din nav units will do the job, the hard part is taking them for a test run and see if they actually stack up. Then again, if I cant find a suitable PC solution I will have to take whatever they will do.
                          Dual Core Atom - 512MB - 60GB SSD - 2010 Lilliput - SiRF Star III - BT - Wi-Fi - Street Deck - Rear Camera - Full Audio System

                          Project Log


                          |----------| Software
                          |----------| Hardware
                          |----------| Fabrication
                          |----------| Installation

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It really doesn't sound like you WANT a pc in the car anymore!! If all you need is nav and a stereo, sure, why bother with a PC. If you want unlimited control of systems, features, etc... You have to go with a PC.
                            Old School MP3CAR.com member!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by dscustoms View Post
                              It really doesn't sound like you WANT a pc in the car anymore!! If all you need is nav and a stereo, sure, why bother with a PC. If you want unlimited control of systems, features, etc... You have to go with a PC.
                              A car PC was a means to an end.... I wanted all of those features and the Car PC provided the only path to achieving those features. BT was promised by street deck for YEARS as was other features from other manufactures. The fact is that in order to get most of these features you need to hack, modify and constantly tweak to keep things working. I am just getting really tired of getting into my car and I cant play a song on my iPhone, or the audio isnt working correctly, or the navigation cant find something.

                              I am fairly certain the pc has a very LIMITED control of systems. Otherwise my issues would be solved.....
                              Dual Core Atom - 512MB - 60GB SSD - 2010 Lilliput - SiRF Star III - BT - Wi-Fi - Street Deck - Rear Camera - Full Audio System

                              Project Log


                              |----------| Software
                              |----------| Hardware
                              |----------| Fabrication
                              |----------| Installation

                              Comment

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