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  • Starting an Android build with Asus tablet

    Okay. So I have OpenMobile in my car. Works well, although we are still perfecting things.

    Next step is my 2nd vehicle (Chevy Blazer). I want to do an Android build. And so it begins......

    As most will tell you, there is no "real" car computer front ends specifically (perfectly?) suited to in-car entertainment. Well, not yet. However there are several things you can put together to do the job fairly well.

    Here are some of the requirements I have for this type of install:
    • Internet connection: A mobile hotspot to provide the main unit and any guest units with an internet connection while in the car.
    • GPS/Nav: Must have maps and guidance with me
    • Audio: Must be able to hear the audio from tablet on the car speakers.
    • Power/Sleep: The unit must not go to sleep while in the car, and powered from the car.
    • Car mode: I would really like to have the tablet set itself into the proper state when in the car.

    Here is the list of things I have started playing with:

    Android tablet: I currently have an Asus Transformer Pad TF300 with Jelly Bean

    Apps:
    • CarHome: Has large button icons. Turns itself into the Home Screen until you specifically exit the app.
    • CoPilot Premium: So far the best Android GPS/Nav app I have tried. Full North American version for only $20. Note: at the link, if you Buy Now you can get the N/A version, otherwise the USA version + Canada add-in.
    • Tasker: Excellent at action/reaction scripting engine. Can be set up to detect when you are in your car and set things accordingly
    • TuneIn Radio: I have a DirectedHD unit in the car. Reception is kind of lousy when the PC is running. So for the Blazer I want to avoid this.
    • LTE/3G wifi hotspot: Using a Sierra Wireless Air Card 763. Works well, goes to sleep when no connections. Charges via USB
    • Torque Lite: Uses inexpensive bluetooth OBDII devices to provide information on your tablet.
    • Bluetooth A2DP device: takes audio from the tablet and feeds your amp to save on wiring. Also, for now, the tablet will not be solidly mounted "in" the dash so having an audio cable stick out the side is a pain. See further on about these.

    This tablet has a proprietary docking/charging connector, and requires more than 12V to properly charge. So I bought a car charger specifically for this tablet.

    For the first run, there will be no fabricating a unit into the dash. In fact, until I get set up perfected to the point it's dead easy for my wife to use (it's her Blazer), I will be trial running it in my car. To this end, I have put some decent velco onto my dash and the back of the tablet to secure it when I am using it. The car charger will be plugged into a switched outlet and plugged into the tablet when I get in the car, and stick it to the velcro. This will be the only wire running to the tablet. Any other devices will need to be via Bluetooth.

    <pic to follow>

    I will update this first post with any changes to my design, and links to the things I have settled on as things progress. My initial tests in-home at my desk are showing promising results.
    Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 08:09 PM.
    03 Cadillac CTS
    ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
    Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
    OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
    2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

  • #2
    A2DP Bluetooth receiver.

    Be sure to get one that is at least BT 2.1 so as to ensure it properly supports higher fidelity audio.

    This is the first device I tried (ordered from eBay).

    Click image for larger version

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    This one worked. Audio was clear. No real issues. It fed my amps nicely. It has a rechargeable battery built in. It charges via USB. However, it does not function while it is charging. DOH! Listed as "Avantree Bluetooth Audio Transceiver"

    So I ordered a different one.
    Click image for larger version

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    Note this one is listed as: "New Bluetooth A2DP 3.5mm Stereo HiFi I-Wave Audio receiver Adapter Transmitter" although there is no "transmitter" functionality.

    This unit is powered by USB. It "says" there is a battery option for it. I did not get this option. However, it really isn't required for my purposes.

    This is the unit I am currently sticking with.

    Pairing with the tablet was easy enough. So far so good. The audio quality is pretty good. I'm no audiophile and I'm sure it could be better, but it's clean and has good highs and lows. Makes my sub thump
    Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 07:54 PM.
    03 Cadillac CTS
    ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
    Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
    OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
    2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

    Comment


    • #3
      ODBII Bluetooth adapter

      I think just about any of the sub $20 ones on eBay will work with torque. But this is the one I settled on

      Click image for larger version

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      This too was easy enough to pair up to the tablet. And Torque works with it quite nicely (see below).

      The only "possible" issue I could see is that it remains powered on 24/7. I don't think it sucks that much battery juice, but I will keep an eye on it.
      Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 07:44 PM.
      03 Cadillac CTS
      ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
      Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
      OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
      2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

      Comment


      • #4
        Tasker

        Tasker was actually the first app I purchased. Originally on my HTC Sensation to relay my current position if it received a specific text message (from people I know of course, that knew the specific text message).

        I am currently working with it to tweak how I want the tablet to behave when in the car. Some folks out there have tried various things such as detecting when they are at home (via wifi and cell network) but that won't work for me. Using GPS location really doesn't suit me. My problem is there is a wifi AP at home, and one in the car. And they both co-exist in the same general area, for a small amount of time.

        I also don't want tasker to be scanning for each of these networks all the time draining the tablet battery.

        I am finding that creative use of global variables (as flags) and proper profiles should give me the solution I am looking.

        <tasker pseudo code here>

        Stay tuned for updates.
        Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 07:58 PM.
        03 Cadillac CTS
        ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
        Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
        OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
        2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

        Comment


        • #5
          CarHome

          Car home is (so far) the only available app that serves as a "Front End" in that it lets you set large buttons for certain apps. When fired up, it sets itself as the Home Screen, and indeed touching the Android Home button will take you back to the menu buttons. You must specifically exit CarHome to get back to normal home screens. This works out well.

          The only unfortunate part is that CarHome uses the default icons for each app. These icons look bad blown up to the scale of the buttons. This is not the fault of CarHome. Perhaps they can offer up a way for the user to specify a graphic for the buttons.

          Shown in "night" mode (which it does automatically via a setting)
          Click image for larger version

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          Another nice feature of CarHome is that it can be set to enable/disable Bluetooth, turn it ON when it starts, turn it OFF when it exists, or leave it how it found it.

          Stay tuned for updates to this as well.
          Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 07:59 PM.
          03 Cadillac CTS
          ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
          Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
          OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
          2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

          Comment


          • #6
            Copilot Premium

            I have tried several free nav apps for Android. I believe most of them lack one way or another.

            Click image for larger version

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            I found that CoPilot, while a pay for app (with a free trial), covers all the bases I come to expect. And the price is quite reasonable. I purchased the Premium directly from their website as it offered both USA and Canada for $20 (lifetime map updates). I cannot tell you if this will continue to be, but it is still a bargain in my eyes.

            I have so far used this in the car a couple times, and I am still getting over the learning curve. I'll post updates here as they happen.
            Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 07:59 PM.
            03 Cadillac CTS
            ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
            Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
            OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
            2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

            Comment


            • #7
              TuneIn Radio

              Since I do not want to rely on another HD Radio unit, controlled via serial, build myself an Android app to control it via bluetooth serial, I have opted to stream radio via internet. I have a "flex rate" data plan for the Air Card, and expect to use 400+ MB per month for radio streaming. The break point to the next rate plan is 500MB. Something else I will keep my eye on.

              I do not want to use "internet radio" as such, but live simulcast streams from specific terrestrial FM broadcast stations.

              I found TuneIn fits the bill nicely. However, it is not what I would consider "car friendly". So it will do for now.

              Perhaps a bit of nagging to the developers may solve this. I don't think they yet made it for the larger screen real estate of a tablet.
              Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 08:02 PM.
              03 Cadillac CTS
              ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
              Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
              OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
              2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

              Comment


              • #8
                Torque

                Click image for larger version

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                Just got this and have not explored it much. It connected to my device without issue. I set a couple basic gauges and they seem to function, although a slight lag and the data polling seems to be about 1/2 second intervals. Just a guess.

                More to come.....
                Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 07:38 PM.
                03 Cadillac CTS
                ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
                Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
                OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
                2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

                Comment


                • #9
                  Sierra Wireless Air Card 763

                  Until recently, in the car, I was using a USB 3G internet stick, stuck into a wifi router designed for such, and used that to provide the internet within my vehicle. The contract came due, so I opted for this puppy, eliminating the router. Now it's all in one. And the thing can support a 32GB microSD so I can share files to any guest units that are in the car.

                  Click image for larger version

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                  One nice little feature of this device is that you can set the wifi signal strength to low/medium/high. Since it would be difficult for any outsiders to make a net connection to my car for any reasonable amount time (while I'm not parked at least), I leave no WPA password and leave signal strength on low. Now, low is not really low. I can still get a weak signal in the house with the car in the driveway (about 30 feet through car steel and brick walls).
                  Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 08:04 PM.
                  03 Cadillac CTS
                  ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
                  Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
                  OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
                  2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    BubbleUPnP

                    I have not mentioned this one in the original posting. It has yet to be one of my requirements, but it may become one.

                    Here is a nice little DLNA media sharing app. It will basically allow all Android devices on the same network to discover and share each other's media. Therefore, if both my wife AND myself are in the car on a long trip (along with anyone else), we can each have some media (different on each device) and give ourselved double the number of entertainment choices (music, movies, etc.)

                    I have to check, but there may be similar alternatives for other guest devices in the car (IOS - my grandson has iPad) that would let them join the party. I assume the pending Windows 8 will continue to support media sharing as in Vista and Win7, so the new Win8 tablets should fit right in.
                    Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 08:05 PM.
                    03 Cadillac CTS
                    ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
                    Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
                    OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
                    2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      TVersity

                      I know, what the heck am I talking about here. I didn't mention this in post #1.

                      Well, in the car, my carpc has TVersity media server running on it. Since I have a wifi network in there already, this is to provide all guest devices relatively easy access to the media library.

                      I have to admit, it doesn't get a lot of use. I may not go with the same option with the Blazer. I did look at some NAS devices that were wifi based, but I have found nothing so far with the right feature set that I would use in the vehicles. The BubbleUPnP app may well be the only solution that I leverage. That and the microSD on the Air Card.
                      Last edited by jmullan99; 09-01-2012, 08:12 PM.
                      03 Cadillac CTS
                      ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
                      Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
                      OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
                      2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Well, another issue with the bluetooth receiver. Well, maybe 2....

                        When it powers up, big thump(s) on the amps/speakers. I can maybe prevent that by making sure it powers up before the amps, but....

                        Sometimes, when the tablet is switching between sources, there is also a thump. It is rather annoying. And I don't know of any way (yet) to force a mute during switching.

                        The previous BT receiver did not do this.

                        Always something.
                        03 Cadillac CTS
                        ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
                        Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
                        OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
                        2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jmullan99 View Post
                          Well, another issue with the bluetooth receiver. Well, maybe 2....

                          When it powers up, big thump(s) on the amps/speakers. I can maybe prevent that by making sure it powers up before the amps, but....

                          Sometimes, when the tablet is switching between sources, there is also a thump. It is rather annoying. And I don't know of any way (yet) to force a mute during switching.

                          The previous BT receiver did not do this.

                          Always something.
                          you need a delay switch, it will basically pause whatever it's connected to for a few seconds to stop those thumps. I think I got mine from radio shack.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by focused313 View Post
                            you need a delay switch, it will basically pause whatever it's connected to for a few seconds to stop those thumps. I think I got mine from radio shack.
                            Interesting. I'll have to look into that. That would definitely help the start-up scenario. Only once in a while there is a pop when Android switches. That is, if I fire up the media player, I can get a pop before the first tune starts playing. Not sure I'll be able to get around that.
                            03 Cadillac CTS
                            ZOTAC G43ITX-A-E 2.5ghz Core i3 2GB 160GB SSD
                            Win7 Ultimate - OpenMobile - Directed HD - Wifi
                            OMMaps + MS GPS Puck - WiFi via LTE Android phone
                            2 Zones - Matrix Orbital LCD - Arduino - Build Pics

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              For media sharing would Skifta work? I know I use it on my Nexus 7 to connect to my Tversity server at home. Not sure if Skifta is on two android devices if they can share that way or not.
                              Last edited by TimmyM; 09-08-2012, 09:04 PM.

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