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Should I remove my mini and install a tower?

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  • Should I remove my mini and install a tower?

    I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my mini install for over a year now. After fighting with the short comings of a computer install I revisited the reason I did the project to begin with, decided the Mini wasn’t going to fulfill my needs completely and bought an Avic Z1. I accepted that my Mini was going to be little more (to me) than a really cool iPod that could browse the web, read e-mails to me (which is awesome) and hack on in my free time.

    So I was in my home office last week and my old, first generation, G4 tower caught my eye and I thought “That would be cool to use as a carputer”. I don’t need the processing speed of the mini, I don’t need access any DVD/CD drives (my Avic handles those now) while I’m driving and I could add serious sound and video cards, which the mini is lacking. It would just be more flexible. I know how to work with Lexan / Plexiglas and could build a nice enclosure if I gutted the tower and even have a place to put it with plenty of ventilation. So, before my print server (tower) goes under the knife I have a few questions.

    1. will the P1900 work?
    2. if not, will the Opus250W work? http://www.digitalww.com/opus250.htm
    3. is there something I’m overlooking? Am I about to destroy a working computer just to discover that I overlooked the obvious?
    4. is this just a bad idea and should I just leave well enough alone?

  • #2
    1. No. Not enough power.
    2. I don't know. How many watts does the G4 tower require. Consider an inverter.
    3. Yes. The G4 will have the same shortcomings as the Mini. Your just exchanging one set of hardware for another. The underlying operating system and applications are the same.
    4. Considering that you thought the Mini was hacking in on your free time, this one ought to be a real sinkhole.

    You don't really state why you didn't like the Mini install, other than to say that the AVIC seems to have fit the bill. I'd say that it gives you good quality sound, GPS, video, and whatever else the AVIC does. How does adding a G4 tower to your car add any features that the Mini didn't?

    It sounds to me like you're covered. Leave the tower alone.
    Originally posted by ghettocruzer
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
    Want to:
    -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

    Comment


    • #3
      You don't really state why you didn't like the Mini install,
      I must not have made myself clear, I'm using it almost exclusively for music at this point. I take advantage of its other capabilities but not regularly. The Mini has a mini jack for audio out and that won't ever sound as good as a pair of RCA cables. I have a lot of time and money invested in my sound system and the mini doesn't sound as good as I would like.

      4. Considering that you thought the Mini was hacking in on your free time, this one ought to be a real sinkhole.
      It sounds to me like you're implying that the mini is a plug and play system. This has not been my experience, I've had to find or write scripts to get it to behave as I've wanted. I don't believe you need to be a "hacker" to do this but I've been doing this long enough to know that you often have to either create solutions or wait for them. UI's are a great example of this, how many people have announced they are building their own interface? How many of them have never been heard from again?

      You don't really state why you didn't like the Mini install, other than to say that the AVIC seems to have fit the bill. I'd say that it gives you good quality sound, GPS, video, and whatever else the AVIC does. How does adding a G4 tower to your car add any features that the Mini didn't?
      I don't want to "add", I want to replace. As far as the mini's short comings, I should add these are simply shortcomings for me and my situation. The Mini is a fantastic carputer and others may have different expectations than I do.
      I've covered the audio except to say that XMPCR's suck. The interface is almost completely unreadable on my 700 TSV which makes it deadly at 65. Not to mention the fact it tends to lock up after the computer goes to sleep.
      There is no easy, or any, dual monitor solutions that don't mirror but true dual monitors.
      I believe saying that GPS is available is a little bit of an over statement. I own Rt.66(enough said) and have used RoadNav with very mixed results . I know RouetBuddy is out now, and I admit I haven't tried it but I've seen the screen shots and I'm not impressed. GPS was a major reason for taking a second look at what I really needed this for...tool or toy. After spending time with a dedicated GPS system I won't accept a 75% solution again.

      It sounds to me like you're covered. Leave the tower alone.
      I think you've overlooked the biggest reason for wanting to do this though. It's fun. I don't need a carputer, I enjoy it. The simple fact is my Mini install is done and I want another challenge/project. Why not do something different with materials at hand? My next project (after the tower) is probably going to be cutting my console up and fiberglassing in a 10"+ screen with USB, Firewire and power ports. Again, I don't need to, it would just be over the top to have two touch screens and a third screen (the AVIC) all tied into the Mac.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think its a great idea. I plan on doing the same myself as the tower, can accept pro audio pci cards as I plan on using. Here's the only two that I am aware of:

        http://www.mac-mobile.com
        http://hacks.oreilly.com/pub/h/3657

        When you attach this project, post about it as I could use some help when I get around to starting

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by loddie View Post
          I think its a great idea. I plan on doing the same myself as the tower, can accept pro audio pci cards as I plan on using. Here's the only two that I am aware of:

          http://www.mac-mobile.com
          http://hacks.oreilly.com/pub/h/3657

          When you attach this project, post about it as I could use some help when I get around to starting
          You got it.
          Thanks for the links, very cool.
          Are you running Tools?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by macalanche View Post
            I must not have made myself clear, I'm using it almost exclusively for music at this point. I take advantage of its other capabilities but not regularly. The Mini has a mini jack for audio out and that won't ever sound as good as a pair of RCA cables. I have a lot of time and money invested in my sound system and the mini doesn't sound as good as I would like.
            USB/Firewire sound cards are available that should improve/fix this issue for you. You may also need/want to look into line drivers or EQs to improve the signal strength to your AMPs.

            It sounds to me like you're implying that the mini is a plug and play system.
            For most of us it actually is.

            As far as frontends go, Mac are closest to Linux PCs in this regard. We don't have the following of the Windows group which by definition means that there are less resources available to solve various issues.

            I've covered the audio except to say that XMPCR's suck. The interface is almost completely unreadable on my 700 TSV which makes it deadly at 65. Not to mention the fact it tends to lock up after the computer goes to sleep.
            I don't know anything about the XMPCR (though I think there may be a couple of people here using it), but i'm not sure you will have better luck with a Mac tower over the Mini.

            There is no easy, or any, dual monitor solutions that don't mirror but true dual monitors.
            This is the only true limitation of a Mini vs a tower system. Everything else (to the best of my knowledge) is available as a USB/Firewire solution.

            I believe saying that GPS is available is a little bit of an over statement.
            I would agree with this. Again, though, a tower is not going to improve this.

            If you are just looking for a new challenge, then have at it. Just don't think the tower is going to solve most of the issues mention. To use a Mac in a car means that you accept areas that they are behind Windows CarPCs.

            -dave
            My pathetic worklog.
            CarFrontEnd (now it's own sub-forum!!!!)

            Comment


            • #7
              I think I should make it clear that I'm not trying to fix these problems anymore. There are patches and partial solutions for everything but the monitor issue (as iamgnat noted) but I'm happy with playing music, browsing the web and e-mailing.

              Most of these problems have been resolved simpy by replacing my stock head unit with the AVIC. At least the GPS and XM which were my two big hot buttons. Plus, just as a bonus I now have NavTraffic another 10gigs of mp3s and good hands free bluetooth.

              Let me try this again.

              So I've been thinking about installing an old G4 tower that I have sitting at my house. Does anyone have any helpful ideas? I'm planning on using it mostly for music on a multi monitor system. I'm hoping to find a way to put it to sleep when I'm out of the truck like the P1900. Possibly the Linksys wireless mobile broadband router http://www.linksys.com/servlet/Satel...VisitorWrapper just for the fun of it.

              Comment


              • #8
                I am considdering a similar option if and when I do an install. I am much more familiar with g4 towers and imacs and have both laying around readily available for hacking. I think if you can get the psu to give enough wattage (probably around 300 i can check later though) you should be good to go. Jirka Jirout had the first carputer i had ever seen with an old B&W G4 so I know it's possible but I'm not sure how he powered it.
                Good luck!
                -Ben

                Comment


                • #9
                  No, not using Tools. The software I need is not available yet which explains why I am in not hurry. I have a 733Mhz G4 but I am sure I'll need to pick up a 1.42 or a dual processor to have the processing requirements I'll need. What processor are you planning to run and how many watts do you expect to need?

                  To be honest, i am not interested in carputers. The only reason I plan on installing one is for processing the SQ sound system and so I can have all my music library in the car. I don't need GPS as I like old skool maps I was even going to run with no monitor, but I think tuning will be a pain without one.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Check with Jirka he did that in the past, ask him why he went on with a mini ?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The Opus 250W will work with the old G4. It will not work with one particular generation of G4 (quick silver?), which uses a strange bigger power connector on the motherboard.

                      Otherwise the G4 should work fine as a car computer, I had used mine for about 3 years, before replacing it with the mini. However, I do not see any advantage over the mini except for the option to have multiple screens and a better video card (is it really needed that badly in car?). The rest (audio, storage etc.) you can add thru FireWire or USB.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The software I need is not available yet which explains why I am in not hurry.
                        You've got my attention...what software are you waiting for?

                        What processor are you planning to run and how many watts do you expect to need?
                        Not sure on the watts yet, I'm going to have to sit down and determain what I'm going to use first. I dont' remember what processor is in it but it's old and slow. I want to say 333Mhz but I'm not willing to put the farm up on that. For my modest needs I'm going to need hard drive space and RAM more than speed. I've put 1gig of ram in already and I think I'm going to ditch the IDE HD for an external HD. One of my conserns about having a carputer is having it walk away with, at the very least, your email user and pass info. Not the end of the world but if I can prevent by simply using a small firewire drive that I can pop out easily...cool. Maybe someone can help me here too. Thumb drives are getting pretty big now, I've seen 4gigs, has anyone tried to set one up as a boot disc? I could leave my IDE in place for music and vids and put all my OS and keychain info on a thunb drive.

                        To be honest, i am not interested in carputers. The only reason I plan on installing one is for processing the SQ sound system and so I can have all my music library in the car. I don't need GPS as I like old skool maps I was even going to run with no monitor, but I think tuning will be a pain without one.
                        Oh man, you should find an old school monochrome monitor and an old Atari and hook it up if your not into the carputer thing. How cool would that be to be playing Pong in green and black while pounding the windows out with your sound system?

                        The Opus 250W will work with the old G4. It will not work with one particular generation of G4 (quick silver?), which uses a strange bigger power connector on the motherboard.
                        Perfect, that's exactly the help I'm looking for, thank you. I will have to check into the power connector/model I have and get started. I'm not hung up on the Opus though, if anyone has better ideas on power and sleep solutions I'd like to hear them.

                        Otherwise the G4 should work fine as a car computer, I had used mine for about 3 years, before replacing it with the mini. However, I do not see any advantage over the mini except for the option to have multiple screens and a better video card (is it really needed that badly in car?). The rest (audio, storage etc.) you can add thru FireWire or USB.
                        As I said before, I don't think any of it is "needed", these are toys and hobbies. Since this isn't going to be a tool that I'll depend on for my livelyhood, even thought my Mini has come in very handy for work, I don't see any reason not to dig into an old G4 that's not really a usefull part of my computer family any longer and put my Mini in my house. Perhaps set it up as a work station or even try putting it to work as a media player in my living room (do I detect secondary project?).

                        When I started looking at changing things up in my truck I considered hacking up my old G4 TiBook first. The monitor cable/ribbon has gone bad on it but the computer has funtioned great as a desktop computer for the past few years. I just boot it closed and use an external monitor and keyboard. The only reason I dropped that idea was I couldn't make even the modest improvements that I wanted (audio and video) any easier than the Mini. The only upside would be the built in keyboard and how thin it would be once I removed the monitor.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          This might make more sense if I show and explain what I have in mind. Here is my setup as it is today (sorry for the blurry pic). My Mini is in my console and my monitor is just below my A/C controls. This works well and everything is tucked away nicely. Itís just not exactly what I want so itís time to start looking at how to make that happen.
                          Attached Files

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                          • #14
                            I sank an amp into the underside of the back of my seat. I measured the G4 board and know that Iím going to need a space thatís approximately 11Ēx14.5Ēx5Ē and where that amp is fits that bill. Iíll have to do some more trimming but it should fit well. On either side of the amp are recessed areas for the headrests to go when you put the seat back down, there is a couple of inches of space there too so Iím thinking that Iíll cut some slots, maybe about 6 on either side of the CPU 1/4Ēx4Ē, to vent the computer. I also expect to have to add a small fan to my Lexan ďCPUĒ to push air thru those new slots.
                            Attached Files

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                            • #15
                              The next project will be to cut the existing console up and widen the area that has the existing monitor enough to accept at least a 10Ē possibly a 12Ē touch screen and a couple USB and Firewire ports. This is where I start to get out of my depth, I have very little experience with with fiberglass, in fact Iíve just started experimenting. Iíve read a bunch of the web sites and Iíve made a few test pieces but nothing that would be an acceptable finished product Iím after. Iím going to try two or three times and if I canít do it so that it doesnít look likeÖwell, I did it, Iíll pay to have a pro make it look right. A finished look is very important to me, I really donít want this to look like an after thought.
                              Attached Files

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