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  • New to CarPCs? Don't know where to start?

    Welcome!

    You've spotted the right thread right out of the box! Congratulations!

    With the recent influx of individuals becoming interested in the whole CarPC hobby, I've decided (with the help of a select few individuals listed blow) to start this thread to help you out.

    This site exists for the sole purpose of helping YOU to help yourself. There are thousands of us out there, just like yourself, who had the wild idea at one point in time to put a PC in our rides (or boats, or planes, or what have you). We all share at least one thing in common, we found this place. Well, that and a bit of geekyness too...lol

    Anywho, I've compiled a few basic questions that seem to come up over and over in this forum. Things that most newcomers seem to think of right off the bat but are unsure where to go for answers, or, even to help themselves find those answers.

    I've taken the time to write out some VERY BASIC outlines here for you. Click on the links and explore.

    Many of us who have been successful in implementing our CarPCs have spent months reading and posting questions before we ever started to consider buying products. I suggest you do the same...well, at least read up quite a bit before purchasing...you might be a quicker learner than some of us...hehe

    Aighty - so here's what I have so far, if you're a noob and would like to see something else answered, feel free to ask. If we feel it's been a question that has come up quite often, we'll include it in here. If you're an old timer, that sees an error, or would like to add, feel free, lets just try and keep this thread on topic and free of discussions if possible.

    How can I get the most out of the mp3car.com forums?
    The mp3car forums are a wealth of information about putting a computer in your vehicle there are some subforums for specific information that are very useful:
    • Mp3car.com forum rules: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/announcement.php?f=12
      The Administrators and moderators use these as a guideline. Violation of these rules is dealt with swiftly, but fairly. Please read them. Please note that some subforums have their own sets of rules that are included as a stickey post at the top of each forum. These are in addition to the general forum guidelines. The two subforums that have specific rules are FAQ Emporium and Review Palace. The Review Palace is also moderated, meaning that any posts in that subforum will not be visible until approved by a moderator or admin.

    • Forum etiquette: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=66940
      This is a set of guidelines to follow to help keep the peace here at these forums. It's mostly common sense and courtesy. This should apply not only here at mp3car.com, but at any forum or bulletin board.

    • FAQ Emporium: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/forumdisplay.php?f=106.
      A lot of people have put a lot of effort into compiling information about many different topics related to carPCs. Many of us old-timers have that forum bookmarked for easy access. We ask that you not post questions in the FAQ Emporium, as it's meant to be a source for answers. If you have a question that doesn't have an answer, feel free to ask it in the appropriate forum.
      Alternately, you can go to the forum's main FAQ, which has links to a lot of informative post. They both get you pretty much to the same storehouse of information. Forum FAQ: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/faq.php

    • Show Off Your Project: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/forumdisplay.php?f=25
      This forum is for finished and functiona carPC projects. It's not to show off your ride's before pictures or post a worklog.
      There is a subforum for worklogs here: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/forumdisplay.php?f=84
      Feel free to add your worklog and keep everyone updated on your progress. It's also a good place to look for procedures or methods for accomplishing specific tasks, as most members include lots of photos.

    • The Classifieds: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/vbclassified.php
      If you have something you have for sale or something you're looking for, please post it here. Links to ebay auctions are welcome, as are offers to barter. Please title your ad appropriately.</br>There are specific rules for the classifieds. Please read them before posting any classified ad.

    • Search the forums: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/search.php
      If you can't find any threads that relate to what you're looking for, search any or all subforums to locate information. This isn't a guide on how to search effectively, but the key is to break down your seach into keywords. Be forewarned that if you're too specific with your keywords and you may exclude threads with helpful information. Conversely, if you're not specific enough, you'll get a lot of results that have nothing to do with your subject.One last note about searching these forums: For common topics and questions, you're likely to get a lot of results with little or no information. There are a lot of reasons this happens and is explained in detail here

    • Search the forums: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/search.php
      If you can't find any threads that relate to what you're looking for, search any or all subforums to locate information. This isn't a guide on how to search effectively, but the key is to break down your seach into keywords.
      Be forewarned that if you're too specific with your keywords and you may exclude threads with helpful information. Conversely, if you're not specific enough, you'll get a lot of results that have nothing to do with your subject.
      One last note about searching these forums: For common topics and questions, you're likely to get a lot of results with little or no information. There are a lot of reasons this happens and is explained in detail here: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=53307
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  • #2
    What basic knowledge and/or skills do I need in order to put a CarPC in my car?

    First, I’d like to thank MatrixPC for his idea on this section.

    Many people are very interested in putting a PC in their cars only to realize that there are a few skills that you need to at least have a grasp on before attempting a project like this.

    Knowing how to build a computer and understanding the basics of electronics and wiring are of critical importance. If you do not have these skills, I suggest that you either take the time to freshen up on these, or purchase an all in one solution like the Infill G4 Powered by StreetDeck

    Or like these units: Pre Built CarPCs

    If you are interested in integrating your system into your car and trying to make it seamless, I suggest you head on over to the Fabrication Forum and read up on fabrication techniques and how-tos.

    If you still have a few questions about all of this, I’d suggest spending ample amount of time in the FAQ Emporium
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

    Comment


    • #3
      Has anyone installed a CarPC in (insert make and model car here)?

      One of the easiest ways to get started is to see if others have installed a CarPC in a car similar to yours. You can get ideas from what others have done, and you can use their mistakes and successes to your advantage. Check out the Show Off Your Project forum and search for cars like yours to see what others have been able to do successfully and unsuccessfully.

      Interested in learning more about the whole process of installing a CarPC in your ride? May I suggest spending some time searching through the Work Logs and Fabrication forums.
      Jan Bennett
      FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

      Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

      Comment


      • #4
        I’ve done a bit of searching and I’ve noticed that people seem to be using underpowered computers in their cars, why is this?

        Lets face it, most of us who have come into this hobby have done so from a computer background in the first place. We’re very performance oriented, and many times we like to have the biggest and baddest systems out there.

        There’s a few problems with that in an automotive environment though….

        • How will you provide power to that power hungry beast?
        • How do you cool that monster?
        • Where do you put something so big?
        • Do you really need that much power in your car?

        I’ll give an example based on my own personal experiences.

        I’m currently running the VIA MII12000 motherboard, 512 MB ram, and a 200 GB hard drive. I’m running onboard video, and the Audigy ZS 2 PCMCIA sound card. I also have a USB GPS dongle (the GlobalStat BU-353).

        I am able to run my mp3s and navigation at the same time without any issue. That’s on the equivalent of an 800 MHz processor and 512 MB of memory.

        What you do in your car, and what you do on your desktop are two totally different things.

        Keep this all in mind when you spec out the parts and pieces for your CarPC. It will make your live much easier and will probably make this whole project that much more enjoyable.
        Jan Bennett
        FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

        Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

        Comment


        • #5
          How do I get power to my CarPC? Should I use an inverter or a DC-DC power supply?

          Before you read any further, you might consider reading this thread started by DarquePervert: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=68636 – much props goes to Darque for taking the time to write this thread up.

          It goes into great detail to help you answer the question of “How much power will my computer consume?” Once you have your power requirements, picking out a PSU will be much easier.

          There are two options for your CarPC. A DC-DC power supply or a power inverter.

          A computer runs off of DC power in the first place. The power supply in your desktop essentially takes the power from the wall outlet (AC) and converts it to DC. This is great for the car, because cars produce DC power.

          The one downside to this however is that currently there are not any DC-DC power supplies (PSUs) on the market that can handle high performance system demands. Currently, they simply can’t produce enough wattage to keep a high performance PC running in the car.

          If you are one of those people who really wants to run a high performance PC in your car, an inverter is just about your only solution.

          There are downsides to both solutions however.

          DC-DC PSUs:

          DC-DC PSUs are currently designed more for the lower powered VIA/Mobile processors. There are some newer PSUs out on the market that are just able to provide power for the bigger, faster processors, but they are far and few between at the moment.

          Most DC-DC PSUs have built in start-up and shut-down timers built into them. This is a great advantage over the power inverters. These timers will automatically start the boot-up and shut down procedures for your CarPC based (many times) on the specific parameters you tell it. These parameters are usually selectable by jumper pin configurations. Many times, these PSUs also have built in amplifier turn on leads. This is also very important as well. Car Audio amplifiers like to have an audio signal running to them before they come online. If they don’t, often times you get what is referred to as ‘Turn on thump’

          Many DC-DC PSUs will also regulate the voltage that is being fed to them as will they protect your CarPC from voltage spikes and drops. If you are running an inverter and a standard PSU for your CarPC, you will have the same benefits, so don’t worry.

          For DC-DC PSU solutions, you can check MP3car.com’s very own store, right on this web site by following this link.

          Inverters

          If you plan to use an inverter, you need to determine how you are going to turn it on and off and how you are going to get a turn-on signal to your amplifiers/stock stereo/etc. Many people use switches for this process, others have wired in their inverters into the ignition on their cars so that the inverter will turn on with the car. Many people have tinkered with this option and there are many good resources on this board if you are interested in pursuing this method. I’d suggest a quick search to net you some solid leads.

          One common question asked about using an inverter is (thanks again to MatrixPC for mentioning this to include here):

          Can I plug the inverter to the cig lighter?

          The simple answer to this is yes. You can splice into the wires behind the dash and hook your inverter up to them. There are a few ‘ifs’ here though. One of these is that many car cigarette lighters are only rated at 10 amps of current draw. If your inverter will pull more than that, you will need to find some other way to hard wire in your inverter. Otherwise, you run the risk of a fire hazard in your car.

          Do some research on the inverter you are planning to use. Use the Search Feature to plug in your inverter model number and see what you find. If you find nothing, make your way over to the Power Supply forum.

          Some basic links to help you along the way:

          If you’re looking for some links to some online power calculators, check here (thanks to Darque for the links!):

          http://www.jscustompcs.com/power_supply/
          http://carpc.kyferez.com/Tools/PSUWattageCalculator.php
          http://www.ohmygodmyarmfelloff.com/MP3Car/PSUpower.asp
          http://resources.mini-box.com/online...simulator.html

          CPU electrical specs (you’ll need these to pick out a PSU – thanks again to Darque!):
          http://users.erols.com/chare/elec.htm
          Jan Bennett
          FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

          Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

          Comment


          • #6
            What kind of screen do I need? Will this (insert typical car audio screen here) screen work? Can I use the touch screen from my head unit to control my PC?

            Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to run into this dilemma, and you certainly won’t be the last either.

            A computer uses what is called VGA (Video Graphics Array). It is a much higher resolution than your typical screen from a Car Audio manufacturer. What this means for you:

            Most car audio screens are composite video. This standard does not lend its self well to the complexity that a computer presents. Your images will be fuzzy and text will be difficult to read. This is one reason we here in the MP3car.com community use VGA screens for our CarPCs.

            The other issue you will run into is the ability to control your computer from that specialized car audio head unit. Most VGA touch screens that individuals are using here at MP3Car.com use either a USB or a serial connector for the touch screen over lay. This essentially acts as your mouse on your desktop. In order to use your car audio head unit touch display, you would have to open up your expensive screen and hack into the wiring, adding on your own USB or serial connector. Then you would have to write your own drivers. If you are well versed in this procedure, then by all means give it a go and be sure to post up your project! But if you’re reading this, chances are you are quite that geeky and would be much happier using a solution that fits your needs much better. May I suggest the MP3car.com store?

            Find out more about Video Standards here: http://www.monitorworld.com/Cables/video_standards.html
            Jan Bennett
            FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

            Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

            Comment


            • #7
              Where Do I Mount My Screen?

              Thanks to DarquePervert for the idea to include this question.

              One of the first questions that nearly every newcomer to the MP3Car.com community asks is “Where am I going to mount my screen?”

              This is one of the most important aspects of your install. If your screen is not easily readable or easily accessible, the benefits of having a computer in your car are negated. Mounting your screen in such a manner that it is out of sunlight, within reach, and possibly even hidden from prying eyes, are the most important factors to your screen install.

              A good place to start looking for ideas is to check out the worklogs or finished projects forums. Do a quick search in each of those forums for the particular car that you have in mind and read up a bit on where people have placed their screens in cars like yours.

              Once you have a location in mind, you might want to do some fabricating. If this is the case, I urge you to check out the fabrication forum and the awesome stickies found in there for more help on how to fabricate your new dash.

              Some of those stickies are as follows:

              Fiberglassing Tips – thanks MP3DUB

              How-To: Recessed Screen and DVD Drive – thanks Altimat

              How-To: Relocating Screen Buttons – thanks Altimat
              Jan Bennett
              FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

              Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

              Comment


              • #8
                What do I buy?

                Another question that is often asked by those newcomers to the MP3Car.com community is “What all do I need to make a CarPC work in my application?”

                While we cannot possibly tell you exactly everything you will want for your implementation, we can give you a decent list of the basics that you need to get your rolling.

                Motherboard – keep size and power consumption in mind when purchasing
                Processor – as with the motherboard, size and power are a concern, some of the smaller VIA boards have imbedded processors
                Memory – keep in mind that the more memory you have the longer your boot up times, however, the less memory you have the slower you computer can run
                Hard Drive – people have had success with both laptop drives as well as full size drives in this community. Laptop drives consume less power but are generally slower and have less capacity while full size drives consume a bit more power but are generally faster and have more capacity. You will have to decide which one is right for your application. Both have proven to handle the harsh environment of in car use quite well, withstanding the bumps and jars that will present themselves from in car use.
                Power Supply – Follow the FAQ located here to help determine the proper power supply size.
                Display – remember, a computer uses a VGA output.
                Optical Drives – for regular CD use and for loading software and the like.

                There are many things you can add on to your CarPC. Some of those options are as follows:

                GPS
                Satellite Radio
                • AM/FM Radio
                Wi-Fi
                OBD-II scanning
                • What new and innovative application can you come up with? Be sure to post it up in the forums!

                If you’re looking for some suggestions, you might also try this thread started by Bugyte: System Recommendations
                Jan Bennett
                FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

                Comment


                • #9
                  How do I get sound to my stereo?

                  http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=32430 – much thanks to ppgt94 for this detailed write up!
                  Jan Bennett
                  FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                  Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Can I integrate into my stock system?

                    It depends on your stock system, I’d recommend heading on over to the Car Audio forum and searching for posts that pertain to your specific make and model. Many times there are adapters out there that will allow you to plug right into your stock premium amplifiers.
                    Jan Bennett
                    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      What is the best front end?

                      Thanks to wizardPC for the idea to include this question!

                      So you’ve picked out all of your components, you’re planned out the install, you’ve got everything laid out in your head. Then it hits you…What front end should I use?

                      It’s one of the most common questions asked on this board. After all, what good is a CarPC if you can’t easily use it!?

                      Check out this thread started by xBrady: Which is the best front end?

                      Here you will be able to read through many peoples thoughts and experiences on each front end.

                      The simple answer to this question is the one dreaded by most. It’s completely up to you. What may work for one individual in one install may not work at all for another.

                      Spend some time over in the Front End sub forums. Download them all! Try them all out for a while. Gradually you will learn what features you like and what features you have absolutely no idea how to use, or think you would never need. The developers of each front end are generally very willing to help. If you have specific questions about how to use an aspect of a front end, post them up in the appropriate forum, someone is bound to be able to help you out!
                      Jan Bennett
                      FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                      Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        What is the best (GPS antenna/GPS software/LCD monitor/motherboard/power supply/Satellite Radio receiver/etc)?

                        Thanks Rafster for the idea!

                        Let’s face it, very few of us have a lot of money to spend. We pretty much all work hard for our money and we want to put it to good use. In this market, that’s the difference between spending X amount on a great quality product, or spending the same amount and getting a not so good product.

                        Many people come on here wanting to know what the best ________ is.

                        The simple fact of the matter is that there is not a single best ________ out there.

                        Lets have an example, shall we?!

                        I’ll use myself here. I’m on the mind set that you spend the money once, and be done with it. You spend more than some think you should, but you know you are getting a high quality product and that you will most likely not need to replace it due to shoddy craftsmanship. This works for me. For some people, they simply cannot work like that. They need the cheapest possible solution on the market, period.

                        While I may need the extra whatever it is I might need extra of, another individual could care less about that (lumens on a screen/satellite pickup ability/wattage from an amplifier/etc). We both have different needs as to what would be the ‘best’ for our situations.

                        There is not a single best for everyone. This is where you use that mushy thing between your ears and do that little thing we call Search!

                        Check out the Work Logs and the Show off your projects forums for ideas on what others have been able to use successfully.

                        Since this question has come up on a regular basis, we have decided to help you out a bit. In the FAQ Forum Various users have been kind enough to take the time to start a few threads with polls asking current users what they prefer and why!

                        Check them out here:

                        Best GPS Receiver – Thanks DarquePervert!

                        Best GPS Software

                        Best Front End – Thanks xBrady!
                        Jan Bennett
                        FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                        Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          How can I put a computer in my car? - by turbocad6

                          this is a very basic question that I am asked often, & the answer is, for as many different vehicles there are, there are just as many different ways of installing a pc in a car... putting a pc in a car can mean many different things to different people... if you walk out to your car with your laptop in your hand, BAM... theres a pc in your car!!! some people are actually content proping a laptop on there dash or a mount & calling it done, I would say that most want "more" for there install though..

                          the real question is, how can I integrate a pc with my car... this too, can have many different answers depending on your devotion, your budget, your skill level & what you yourself accept as good enough for you & your vehicle. some will be happy with a screen mounted on a pedistal & a pc wired in & kinda laying there, others will accept nothing less than a factory apearance and fully intergrated & will go to great lengths to achieve this. this is truely a hobby that you will get out of it as much as you put in.... some guys will put a pc in there car in one weekend & call it done, while others will work on there systems for well over a year, some longer than that... afterall, if you really have a desire for perfection it doesn't happen overnight... many here will tell you it's never really "done", but planning & avoiding the common pitfalls can go a long way towards achieving your goal.

                          there are plenty of people who approach this with the attitude that it's easy, I'll just order stuff & throw it in.... well I can tell you from experience that this is rarely the case.... for each car here that has a running completed (or semi-completed) setup I bet there are 10 others that have a bunch of components & a big mess on there hands... many will bail out half way through, the classifieds are full of these "mistakes", let me be the first to tell you that it is real easy to get in over your head with this.... let me also tell you that if your the kind of person that just wants to throw it in & use it, you may be better off just getting the latest greatest multimedia head unit & throwing it in the car...

                          most here are attracted to the carpc because they think it's cheaper than a multimedia headunit type setup & it can do more. While this can be true, the flipside to this is that a multimedia headunit type setup can really be installed in a car in one weekend & never give an ounce of concern past that... it will just work... it won't give you any of the problems & concerns that a carpc can... while it may cost more initially the money saved will quickly be absorbed by the many, many hours of researching, learning, trying, re-doing,... not to mention the many hours of frustration that can come from a pc install.... this is not said to deture you from installing a pc, but more to enlighten you... & warn you.. & prepare you for the inevitable...

                          in most cases you will wind up driving your car in a state of partial dissasembly at times... in a lot of cases there will be periods of driving your car with nothing to listen to but your tires on the pavement... this is all done in the name of "improvement" & it takes a special geekyness for this to even be acceptable, if any of this turns you off then you should really reconsider if this is something that you want to do in the first place, the best installs will come from having a lot of patience & desire & determination for the end result, which can be a really geat pc install

                          jan has provided a lot of links to get you started, the two biggest problems with any pc install is powering it & teperature extremes, mainly heat... which is the enemy of a pc... the best choices of a pc to use will be lower power draw setups, which will also help in not contributing to the heat problems... the urge will be high for some to throw a blazing p4 in there car, this is almost always a mistake... the best choices will be efficent cooler running processors... mobile processors contain many of the atributes that are desirable for a car install, with the pentium m & the athalon xp-m being the top chioces in this area right now... you don't need the latest greatest fire breathing machine in your car... it will hurt your usability in the long run & should be avoided, not to mention that a 1.6 pentium m with a 2mb cache will perform as good as a 2.8 p4, while drawing a fraction of the power, & producing a fraction of the heat.... the key here is effciency.. wasted power transfers itself to heat, & this is to be avoided

                          what should I use? can I use *&^&&* in my car?

                          a regular desktop computer can be installed in a car, a small form factor pc can be installed in a car, a tablet can be installed in your car, a laptop can be installed in a car, either intact & docked or disasembled & butchered... even a full blown tower server can be installed in a car... what fits & works best for you will really be your decission, but use the experiences of others here to help you deturmine what fits your install. many will make there first attempt with equiptment available to them, either an earlier pc that they have since replaced, or a pc that was given to them.... while it may be tempting to use what you got, keep in mind that in the end you will have put a lot of time & effort into your install, & sometimes the difference between a sucessful install & a frustraiting mess is in the use of the right equiptment... balance your "cost effectiveness" with your end desire, & remember that if you can't find the time/money to do it right the first time, how will you ever find the time/money to do it over.... many times it can be cheaper & easier to just do it right the first time... you don't need a real powerhouse gaming machine, but the oposite can be just as bad... a frustraiting slow & under powered system can be a real turnoff, afterall, you want to see good results from all the effort you are about to put into this project...
                          Jan Bennett
                          FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                          Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

                          Comment

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