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RV computer CHEAP! proposed setup

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  • RV computer CHEAP! proposed setup

    hello and thank you in advance for your ideas! i have been reading about carputers for some time now(but im still a nooB), and im about ready to purchase some parts to get started... but ive got some questions, especially since i am on a slim budget. (yeah i got no home and live in an RV so cheap is critical)

    ok. what im looking to do is have a system which can run and download torrents all day, be able to surf the internet and watch video on the larger screen, use GPS, and also run my music off this system through a usb soundcard which i already have. so low power usage is very important to me(i have a 60 watt solar setup now and really only can put about 25-40 watts towards this computer). i would like to have enough capability to be able to run video and some basic games, burn cds , run GPS, and also have usb 2.0 so i can power a 1 watt usb wifi card, and a usb harddrive for extended data storage, as well as power a usb cd burner(which i already have) .

    (i was thinking pentium m chip because it steps down power usage when it can?)

    im looking to have a screen in the rear(15 inch max so it consumes less power and im figuring i can run this off the dc-dc power supply as well). and also have a small screen in the front for when im driving so i can change songs and run gps.(even a 3 or 4 inch screen is fine if its cheap... as it would then also be rather hidden which is important to thwart theives)

    so... should i rip apart a laptop and go that route with extending the lcd screen wires? ( has a automotive power supply for computers for about 30 dollars, i dont want to use an inverter because it wastes too much power to heat) .. any suggestions as to specific laptop models i should seek out? then im figuring i can run the front monitor off of usb when i run the front usb hub?? (auto shutdown is not important to me as this thing will run most of the time)

    or should i put together a system from loose parts? (im figuring i can make my own enclosure to save money as i am good with 12 volt systems and building with my hands, but specific parts such as which motherboard to use with which processor i dont really know about).

    any suggestions are appreciated... !!

    i already have a copy of windows xp so im planning on using that... and i already have a couple hard drives i can use for this application... and i already have a usb powered cd burner... and a usb powered audio card ... im figuring on using a trackball mouse in the front to control the small screen

    thanks for the ideas, i really appreciate it!


  • #2
    Screens are the most expensive item. You need to figure that out first.

    Minimum new would be an D510 Atom motherboard/cpu $80, case $40, PS $30?, and ram $25. I don't think I would tear apart a laptop unless it was near free.

    A KVM can switch between front and rear, depending on how you run your system. You will need to figure out multi screen, especially with a budget mobo.


    • #3
      well, im looking towards a front monitor which connects with a standard RCA cable... then i can also use it as a backup monitor... the cost looks to be about 35 dollars off ebay for a 3.5 inch screen(can i hook this up to most motherboards??). for a rear monitor, i can find a lcd off ebay.. cost is about 70 dollars or less... and it hooks to a standard VGA port.
      thanks for the motherboard suggestion. i need to do more research, perhaps tomorrow when i can get back on the internets... then i can use "the Google".

      as for processor and mobo, i didnt know they could be had for so cheap brand new... thanks for the info.

      and, if anyone knows off the top of their head, what would be the cheapest way to go for the power supply? im figuring on getting one with a bunch of extra power capability for sake of the extra monitors and USB peripherals im going to run... any thoughts on any of this? any cheap powered hubs which are known to be reliable and good? i have no concern of turn on or turn off features.

      but im kinda hoping for a way to setup a pentium M... because from what i understood, it uses less power when its not running hard, and it can run rather powerfully, even with a clockspeed of 1 ghz(and it can run fanless)<<< not sure if these other ones are capable of that??

      could i save money by making my own enclosure? im not concerned about saving space, as the RV has plenty of nooks i can circulate air through...

      thanks again for your suggestions... it gives me more ways to look... any ideas of a motherboard which would have VGA out and also RCA style video out and also would work with Pentium M?? or am i barking up the wrong tree with the Pentium M?


      • #4
        i think you are seriously limiting yourself only looking at 1 processor...

        i also think that running all day with only 40 watts is also too limited.

        one of the newest, lowest power processors, the atom uses about 15 watts. this is only the processor though, there are other parts of the system as well, and i think that might push it over the 40 watt mark...

        also, vga video adapted to composite is going to be a problem-- vga is a high resolution format, and composite is a low resolution format-- meaning that you will loose picture quality adapting vga to composite. i also remember reading multiple thread on people having issues with motherboards that output composite-- it doesn't always work. if you are dead-set on the composite thing, i would recommend a external converter, and then mirror the displays-- keeping the conversion off the circuits..
        My OLD 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT:
        "The Project That Never Ended, until it did"

        next project? subaru brz
        carpc undecided


        • #5
          ok. thanks. yeah if it maybe doesnt work correctly, i dont want to risk it. im not worried about quality for the front monitor, really, but it does have to work and provide a picture.

          but how about the Pentium M chip with maybe a low amount of ram to save some watts? or do they all now step down the power when the processor isnt running at a high percentage? i understand the RAM takes up power, perhaps i could go with something like 128 mb and run Linux?

          well i dunno. i thinking maybe i should just get a laptop until im more ready to spend more money on this... but... well... it just wouldnt be nearly as cool and integrated...


          • #6
            'integrated' is relative-- for some, just getting a pc to play music over their car stereo is 'integrated'... being that money is a little thin, the laptop idea might be best for now..

            you can always setup a docking station with the laptop, so that it appears to at least be integrated with the car...
            My OLD 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT:
            "The Project That Never Ended, until it did"

            next project? subaru brz
            carpc undecided


            • #7
              yeah, perhaps i will look towards a docking station and go that route. at least the laptop is designed solely for power savings... so i wont have to worry so much about that...


              • #8
                What power supply are you getting from PartsExpress? I am searching their site and cannot find one. Right now I am trying to use an Cobra 400 watt inverter with a 300 watt power supply and they do not play well together.

                I am also installing this in an RV, replacing an in dash 13" TV and VCR setup. I am using my old P4 MB and so on as it was just sitting around.


                • #9
                  it was available... but it sold out... it was from Belkin... but its still available if you search elsewhere. it was just a laptop dc to dc power supply... it wasnt a 12v/5v rail supply.

                  if you are looking for a 12v/5v rail power supply(i think thats what its called), i think Pico has the cheapest ones... but i really dont know much about all that... i decided to go with a Thinkbook R51.. got it for 100 delivered.. no hard drive... no power supply... but its like brand new. they are all over ebay.. but do the research because they had some known problems with some units... search .

                  as for the dc to dc power supply for the laptop, im getting one from now... its got a digital volt meter built in, too... all for 20 bux.. hope it doesnt suck, though, because its a no name China brand model!

                  so i got a pentium M laptop... a 1.8 PM. so it can run down as low as 200mhz... where it uses 5 watts. at full speed it uses 27 watts. laptops still seem to be most power efficient. of course, the ram also always draws power... but still, for a 15 inch screen and all that power, its still asking for only 50-60 watts or less... perhaps as low as 20 watts which is manageable when dling torrents all day.

                  if i were you, id get plenty of extra power in you rail power supply... you can use it to power screens, and power hubs, too. you dont want to use an inverter... they waste alot of power to heat from what i can tell. its best to stick with DC power across the board.

                  so i got the laptop upside down so i can flip down the screen... going to find a software which inverts the display... and im going to run a VGA/Svideo to Composite cable up to a front screen ( cheap one, maybe a visor screen, cost like 50 bux) and im going to use a trackball mouse up front for getting around through windows... and a wireless keyboard. ill have 3 hubs, 1 powered off of USB car chargers linked in parallel to produce 3 amps to power an Alfa 1 watt wifi, as well as SATA usb hard drive(500 gigs for 60 bux!), as well as the GPS unit and whatever else i might hook up.

                  so its coming together... price is 300 bux for all mentioned... max 350 or 400... hard to beat


                  • #10
                    From what I am finding, I may need to get the M4-ATX power supply board. I am using parts I already have for this and it is an older generation Asus P4C800 mother board with a 3.2ghz CPU and 2GB ram. Since I will rarely be relying on the coach battery alone (only for short periods of time), I do not need to worry too much about power consumption.

                    I am wondering the 12 gauge wire was big enough for the 400 Cobra inverter? I have this hooked up to a spare 15amp circuit on the main power converter.


                    • #11
                      I would like to buy a laptop but I have a problem of sum money, so does here you have any way to buy a laptop at some discount price?