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Thread: Building a Carputer

  1. #1
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    Building a Carputer

    I am new to this whole car computer thing and I want to put one in my Expedition. I have a micron p4 2.4ghz computer that I am not using and want to put in in my car. I want to be able to play DVD, mp3's, gps and maybe some other things. What all do I need to make this happen or do I need to go in a completely different direction. I have researched some but I do not know what I am really looking for.

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

    I have done some seaching on this forum but do not understand some of the ideas.

    Like can I use a regular motherboard from a desktop or do I need to buy a different type.

  2. #2
    FLAC mp3z24's Avatar
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    oh dear.....

    well. first off, do you know how to build a computer? sounds like u dont yet.

    putting a computer in the car can be as easy as using and inverter to get power, and then hooking up the audio to the radio.

    that is the extremely quick and dirty explanation of a "carputer"

    as you have noticed... there is a lot more to it than just that.

    my suggestion is read as much as you can, develop a good idea of what you actually want to accomplish (i know that it is already listed... somewhat), and after that is complete, you should be able to ask more direct questions.

    what you are asking is WAY TOO vague to answer in one simple response.

    sorry, but this probably wasnt the response that you wanted. we all have to start out somehow.

    ~Mike
    Single Member of the "1000 Post and No MP3 Car" Club
    PROJECT ON INDEFINATE HOLD... BOUGHT A HOUSE
    2000 Cavalier Z24 [###-------] Only 30% Done ... Still

  3. #3
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    Originally posted by mp3z24
    oh dear.....

    well. first off, do you know how to build a computer? sounds like u dont yet.

    putting a computer in the car can be as easy as using and inverter to get power, and then hooking up the audio to the radio.

    that is the extremely quick and dirty explanation of a "carputer"

    as you have noticed... there is a lot more to it than just that.

    my suggestion is read as much as you can, develop a good idea of what you actually want to accomplish (i know that it is already listed... somewhat), and after that is complete, you should be able to ask more direct questions.

    what you are asking is WAY TOO vague to answer in one simple response.

    sorry, but this probably wasnt the response that you wanted. we all have to start out somehow.

    ~Mike
    Not a problem.

    I have more questions but did not want the thread to start out to long.
    What I need to know is if there is special hardware that I need to run carputer. Like I said I already have a computer at home. But from the forum I have noticed that most do not use a regular motherboard. Most are using a VIA??? I have looked at some on the net but I am still confused. I have also looked a cases because I do not want that big case that it is in now. I would like something smaller.

    I also see that a lot of people use a ATX DC-DC converter. Would I be able to use this with the motherboard from the Micron. Or is the VIA a notebook motherboard? I want the computer to run directly off my car electrical system. All I need to be able to do is watch DVD's play a grip of MP3's and be able to use GPS. That is what I looking for now. In DC-DC converter, is that something that actually goes in the case?

    Sorry for all the questions. I am still using the search function to get more ideas and getting familarized with the whole idea.

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

  4. #4
    Maximum Bitrate
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    A via motherboard is a motherboard for via cpus (similar to intel/amd motherboards and cpus). Probably popular for their small size and low power consumption.

    ATX is form factor standard. An ATX PSU, whether AC or DC, can power any ATX compatible motherboard.

    You will not find all your answers here. Try google and the manufacturers' websites for more details.

    For prompt and informative answers, ask detailed and direct questions when possible.

    Good luck with your install!

  5. #5
    Maximum Bitrate Skippman's Avatar
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    Alright, I'm going to field these as best I can. But first, have you ever built your own computer? If not, this is probably to big a project to cut your teeth on and I would recommend you try bulding your own PC first.



    What is a Via motherboard?

    Most people are only familiar with the two big chip manufacturers, Intel and AMD. They are not the only makers out there. VIA manufacuters the Eden Chip, Transmeta makes the Caruso, IBM makes the Cyrix and so on.

    The VIA Eden has become extremely popular among the MP3Car community for a number of reasons.

    1.) It's small. The Eden comes mounted to VIA's Epia motherboard. Measuring 17cm to a side it's the smallest mass produced ATX complient motherboard on the market.

    2.) Efficency. In a car, your always fighting efficency. Your either loosing it to heat, DC/DC regulation, or AC/DC conversion. Couple that with the fact that your alternator cranks out no where near the power you have available at your house and you begin to understand. The Epia was designed to run on a minimum of power. How many watts is your home PC? 400W? The Epia runs just fine on 60W.

    3.) Heat. The Epia can be passivly cooled in most applications. This eliminates noisy, inefficent fans. Also, as a car can get to be an 'easy bake oven' in the summer, passive cooling is the way to go.


    DC/DC vs. AC/DC

    It is highly recommend you read some electronics books. Electricity comes in two major formats. A/C or Alternating Current which is what your house runs on. And D/C or direct current. Direct current is what all electronics work on. Your computer is a D/C powered device using an A/C to D/C power supply. It converts the alternating current of your home into the 12V DC that powers the motherboard and other parts inside the computer.

    Now, the easiest way to power a computer inside a car is something called an Inverter. It converts the car's DC power into AC power. This allows an AC powered device to run inside a car. Theres a couple problems with this.

    1.) DC to AC conversion wastes electricity. A ton of power is lost converting DC to AC. Couple this with the fact that your computers PSU (Power Supply Unit) is going to convert that back into DC and your loosing around 40% efficency in some cases.

    2.) Line noise. Inverters were not originally designed to power household PC's in a car. As such they are free of much of the circuitry that provides "clean" power to the PC. This manifests itself as 60 cycle inductance or "alternator whine". When you rev the engine you hear a high pitched whine in your audio stream. It can also put this into the video stream causing a "rolling" in the picture.

    Many people here have decided to go with DC/DC PSU's to elimate the above problems. That and a DC/DC PSU is typcially much smaller than a AC/DC PSU. In an enviroment where space is at a premium this is worth it's own weight in gold.
    Stereo:Alpine IVA-D900 Head Unit | Alpine PXA-H510 DSP | Boston Pro Component Speakers Upfront | Boston Rally Rear Speakers | 2 Polk 10" Subs in the Trunk | Phoenix Gold Ti900.7 Amp

  6. #6
    Variable Bitrate
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    Any hardware can be used, but most people here use small special motherboards because they want them to be installed in small places in their cars.
    Project AutoBoxen: Coming along, almost ready to hook up in the car.
    Celeron 500, 192mb ram, 8gb hdd, other stuff.
    '91 Mazda 626: Its free, so ill use it.

  7. #7
    FLAC guitar333's Avatar
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    if you already have a 2.4 ghz computer and dont want to spend more money on a VIA motherboard (low power consumption, very small - onboard video, sound, lan etc) I would recommend just buying a big inverter and an RCA to 1/8" from radio shack or wherever and that is enough to get in running. You will of course need someway to view everything (assuming you dont). You will need a screen, I recommend one with a high resolution, but that can get expensive ecspecially for them to be touchscreen. If your price is your priority you can get a roof mounted LCD on eBay from $100 or so and make it work. You will need an input device, usually touchscreen or a wireless keyboard.
    92 Taurus SHO - Daily driver - Epia M10000 80GB 512mb 7" touchscreen, Opus PSU etc

    93 Black SHO - 30mpg cruiser

    90 Silver SHO - 419whp fun/project car, CarPC to come (for tuning)

  8. #8
    FLAC samc's Avatar
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    I didnt bother reading the other responses =)
    You can most definately put your Micron 2.4 gigs in your expedition. I mean obviously space is not a problem for you. But typically people find creative ways to put their computer into the car. Smaller cases with good air flow is what you want. And it is a pentium 4 right? So you'll want to add some more fans for better cooling. Those EPIA boards are ideal because they are smaller in size and they produce much less heat then standard desktop boards.

    As for a power supply you can just get an inverter I suppose. But look into DC-DC power supplies. There is one popular one floating around called the "OPUS 150 watt dc-dc" power supply. I wouldnt know how well it would work with a p4 board but you can find that out.

    Then you need a screen. The 2 options are typically a regular RCA video in screen or a VGA screen. The VGA one costs somewhat more and is obviously very crisp (resolution). Get what you can afford, Id recommend the VGA one =). Look up "Xenarc."

    THEN your gonna want a way to control your carputer. I love my touchscreen. I mean its very straightforward and works well.
    Some people use RF keyboard/mouse suites and this works well also.

    GPS, all you need is a GPS antenna and a program. Some names to look for are rand mcnally, copilot.

    And you'll need to wire various remote switches/leds/and such.
    Does that help?
    Mine needs to be updated.

  9. #9
    FLAC mp3z24's Avatar
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    well... as far as the dc-dc converter goes...

    a lot of the "brand name" computer companies (dell, micron, hp, compaq, etc) have taken to using proprietary connectors on their motherboards...

    what this means to us... that you have to use their power supply. most of the boards are standard form factor, usually atx. however, they have a slightly different power plug than a standard atx power supply.

    im not saying this is definately the case for your computer, but i do know that this does occur on the name branded computers.

    ~Mike
    Single Member of the "1000 Post and No MP3 Car" Club
    PROJECT ON INDEFINATE HOLD... BOUGHT A HOUSE
    2000 Cavalier Z24 [###-------] Only 30% Done ... Still

  10. #10
    Low Bitrate The Undertaker's Avatar
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    Originally posted by samc
    As for a power supply you can just get an inverter I suppose. But look into DC-DC power supplies. There is one popular one floating around called the "OPUS 150 watt dc-dc" power supply. I wouldnt know how well it would work with a p4 board but you can find that out.
    The Opus 150Watt DC-Dc supply is P4 ready (see mail below) I send the Opus guys another mail for my system setup if it will handle it. If not mij HDD and DVD will get their power from an aditional Sproggy PSU or something like that. Key Power also has a DC-DC PSU 250Watt, but there is nu startup-shutdown controller build in.
    Hello,

    Thank you for your interest in OPUS Solutions, Inc. DC-DC
    power supply for ATX, UATX, Flex-ATX, Mini-ITX mother boards.

    SFX-12-15 DC-DC power supply (Patent Pending) is specifically designed to withstand
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    delayed shut down timer up to one hour and many more features.
    It is not just an another PC power supply, it is a smart supply.
    It is also capable of driving an Intel P4 Mother board system.
    For more information/ specification please refer our web site
    www.opussolutions.com DC-DC power supply section.

    Our DC-DC power supply is also compatible with EPIA-M series Main Boards.

    SFX DC-DC Power supply price

    Product Part # 1+ 10+
    SFX-12-15 US$190 US$182 DC-DC Enclosed unit & cable kit
    PCA-2-SFX-1215 US$180 US$172 DC-DC PCB assembly & cable kit

    Current Lead time: 2 to 3 Weeks ARO Subject to change
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