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Thread: Android based solution w/ large HDD and external touch screen?

  1. #1
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    Android based solution w/ large HDD and external touch screen?

    Wasn't really sure where to put this, as a potential solution could come in many forms...

    I'm far from a newbie with this stuff (though I'd still classify myself as an amatuer hobbiest)..been doing car PC builds since the days of running 2 line calculator displays as the "monitor"...this will probably be my...aww heck, I don't know..20th revision or so?

    My latest round has me a bit stumped on where to go, and not sure what to do about the main computer hardware.

    I'm installing into a 1961 International Scout 80, and would like to keep the screen in the general vicinity of where the stock radio would have been. I don't have a problem with cutting a larger opening, as it's a flat steel dash and a piece of cake to return the dash panel to factory if need be down the road. I currently have several Xenarc and Lilliput 7" screens to choose from, and was planning on using a Xenarc 706TSA. There isn't enough room behind the dash to run a typical DIN or double DIN radio in there, due to proximity to the firewall. I have roughly 3-4 inches of depth, max, including wiring. Cutting a relief into the firewall is also not an option, as it would hit the engine.

    I also have a custom off road navigation app that I like very much (and have a LOT of time invested in), that runs on Android, thus I'd like to stay Android and preferably running Android natively as opposed to an emulator/Virtual Machine. Seeing as how I spend a considerable amount of time off road, and well away from any cell towers, any streaming or cloud storage solutions are not practical, and thus I need to maintain local storage of music and maps (the maps I have built just for the state of Arizona are nearly 100GB in size, and I have a 500GB HDD full of music)

    I've been experimenting with Android-X86 on various desktops and laptops, and finding several shortcomings in hardware support...most notably in the touchscreen support for my Xenarc, and less so in wifi issues (wifi isn't a deal killer..but it would be handy for internet access through my phone).

    I experiemented with running HDMI output on my phone (Galaxy Note 3), to the DVI input on my Xenarc, with far less than desirable results (seems to only want to output 1080p, which doesn't play nice with the Xenarc..at all).

    I know the obvious answer here is "ditch the PCs, run a tablet". Which I've done in the past, but I definiately prefer these external screens for mounting as opposed to a tablet. It also means (obviously :P) easier access to the main hardware for updates, etc.

    Is there a better solution I haven't found yet? Or am I pretty much stuck with running a tablet and an external HDD?

  2. #2
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    which offroad nav app are you using? i'm slowly building up my own collection using MOBAC to create map files for AlpineQuest, though once i have the tile cache on my Mac i can re-create the maps for Orux, BCN or whatever easily if i change which app i prefer later.

    i'm not sure i understand your reasons for not wanting to just use a tablet - how is it any easier to mount a component screen than a modern slim tablet? i can tell you after having had a 5 wire resistive touchsceen in the Jeep and then changing to a tablet with capacitive multi-touch - i'd never go back!

    a tablet with the right ROM and the right connections coupled with an external powered USB hub should work fine with an external HD. though i might use multiple 128gb flash drives instead with all the offroad bouncing (maybe get a tablet with a 64gb microsd for most of your content, then put each state on a 128gb flash drive and swap as needed). the biggest problem is finding tablets that have the size/specs you want AND good ROM support AND most of all that can charge while simultaneously providing a USB host connection. i think a Samsung with a custom charge/OTG combo cable might be the best bet if you did get a tab. my original XOOM works for those requirements too but it's getting old and slow by current standards.

    one last thought, if you find a tablet you like but it can't charge while providing USB host, you could get a wifi HD or a wifi router with a USB drive port, then you could mount that anywhere in the vehicle and have less to clutter the dash install.

    good luck with your install however you go!
    Last edited by theksmith; 06-25-2014 at 11:10 AM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by theksmith View Post
    which offroad nav app are you using? i'm slowly building up my own collection using MOBAC to create map files for AlpineQuest, though once i have the tile cache on my Mac i can re-create the maps for Orux, BCN or whatever easily if i change which app i prefer later.

    i'm not sure i understand your reasons for not wanting to just use a tablet - how is it any easier to mount a component screen than a modern slim tablet? i can tell you after having had a 5 wire resistive touchsceen in the Jeep and then changing to a tablet with capacitive multi-touch - i'd never go back!
    Theksmith! I've been in awe of your WJ buildout for some time, both in the PC areas, as well as the off road related mods and ham radio setups I'm pretty sure I've even been on a run or two with you over the years..most likely either in my maroon XJ several years ago, or most recently a red ZJ.

    Lately I've been using Androzic...sure, it's not technically "custom" in the strictest sense...I just didn't want to get hung up on software choice, hence why I worded it the way I did. I've built a considerable collection of hybrid satellite imagery using Google Maps as the source, and have been very happy with the way it's all worked out, with the exception that the high resolution imagery takes up an awful lot of disk space. I did experiment with Oziexplorer under Windows for a short time, but found it, well, sucks on a small screen. Really seems to need a screen that's 12"+ to work well. Oziexplorer under Android was better, but I still like Androzic more.

    My reasons for the component screen as opposed to a tablet are that the screens come with mount recievers built into the case that I can very easily build off of, and that securely holds the screen behind the dash without having to crack the screens open for any reason. Tablets typically have nothing like this, thus I'm relying on something like a universal mount that grabs the outside of the tablet in some way. I want it mounted in/behind the dash panel, not in front or hanging off the windshield. While I could crack the case of the tablets open, and likely come up with a way to securely screw it to a mount in some way, this also means the main "guts" are also secured behind the dash, which likely would make it difficult to access for future service if need be.

    As it turns out, regular spindle based HDDs are surprisingly robust. We have a whole fleet of Lenovo laptops with spindles out in service trucks right now, many of which service mountain top repeater sites, with little failure of HDDs. Still, I've got one 256GB SSD sitting here, and depending on hardware choice, I was thinking of picking up a second drive, or possibly just a bigger SSD. Although given how cheap 128GB USB drives have gotten....

    I was running an Acer Iconia 10" tablet in my prior Scout II, on a windshield mount, and while it worked OK, it was a bit of a clunky setup between the mount and cabling connecting everything. I may pick up another, as it does have USB host built in, along with a full size USB port and SD expansion, plus a seperate charge port as opposed to being integrated into the USB port.

  4. #4
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    You need something like this:

    http://boundarydevices.com/products/nitrogen6max/

    Uses a powerful Quad ARM processor with lots of cool stuff... Hard to beat..

    You could hook up to 4 screens to this sucker if you needed to.

    Supports SATA...

    Can have it built to work in harsh environments.

    Runs either Android 4.3 or Linux. Lots of other cool stuff too.. Hard to beat.

    They have both 7" and 10" screens available for it from the company.

    I don't know if you would find a better solution for your install.

    Too many parts to list. It has a 2 watt stereo amplifier which you could power something else easily with.

    I am actually considering one for my truck for the main computer. The eMMC memory (4gig) can store your OS if needed as well if I am not mistaken. That would leave your SATA for something such as movies or music etc.

    Rodney

  5. #5
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    Now that is a nifty thing! Surprisingly affordable as well...as soon as I clicked the link, I expected to see prices closer to a grand each.

    I spent some considerable time researching my issue further last night, and it seems like it's really a software issue at this point, centered around the drivers for the resistive touch screen as used in the Xenarc screens. The short if it appears that I just need to recompile Android from source myself, and roll in the needed drivers/modules into the kernel. I started browsing the documentation for Android-X86, and...well, it leaves a bit to be desired for those of us that don't consider this kind of stuff to be 2nd nature, lol. I'm going to spend some time getting cozy with the docs this weekend, and see if I can figure something out.

    That said, I do like the Boundary Devices stuff as well, and I see that they have resistive touch screens available for their boards, although it's 4 wire as opposed to the 5 wire on my Xenarc screens. I'm going to give them a call some time next week when I have more time, see what they say about interfacing with my current screens. Otherwise, it might just be a good excuse to step up to a 10" screen as well

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by urbex View Post
    Theksmith! I've been in awe of your WJ buildout for some time, both in the PC areas, as well as the off road related mods and ham radio setups I'm pretty sure I've even been on a run or two with you over the years..most likely either in my maroon XJ several years ago, or most recently a red ZJ.

    Lately I've been using Androzic...sure, it's not technically "custom" in the strictest sense...I just didn't want to get hung up on software choice, hence why I worded it the way I did. I've built a considerable collection of hybrid satellite imagery using Google Maps as the source, and have been very happy with the way it's all worked out, with the exception that the high resolution imagery takes up an awful lot of disk space. I did experiment with Oziexplorer under Windows for a short time, but found it, well, sucks on a small screen. Really seems to need a screen that's 12"+ to work well. Oziexplorer under Android was better, but I still like Androzic more.

    My reasons for the component screen as opposed to a tablet are that the screens come with mount receivers built into the case that I can very easily build off of, and that securely holds the screen behind the dash without having to crack the screens open for any reason. Tablets typically have nothing like this, thus I'm relying on something like a universal mount that grabs the outside of the tablet in some way. I want it mounted in/behind the dash panel, not in front or hanging off the windshield. While I could crack the case of the tablets open, and likely come up with a way to securely screw it to a mount in some way, this also means the main "guts" are also secured behind the dash, which likely would make it difficult to access for future service if need be.

    keep us posted, can't wait to see modern tech in a Scout!

    As it turns out, regular spindle based HDDs are surprisingly robust. We have a whole fleet of Lenovo laptops with spindles out in service trucks right now, many of which service mountain top repeater sites, with little failure of HDDs. Still, I've got one 256GB SSD sitting here, and depending on hardware choice, I was thinking of picking up a second drive, or possibly just a bigger SSD. Although given how cheap 128GB USB drives have gotten....

    I was running an Acer Iconia 10" tablet in my prior Scout II, on a windshield mount, and while it worked OK, it was a bit of a clunky setup between the mount and cabling connecting everything. I may pick up another, as it does have USB host built in, along with a full size USB port and SD expansion, plus a seperate charge port as opposed to being integrated into the USB port.
    hey thanks! i don't remember a red ZJ lately - what trail?

    i'll check out Androzic, hadn't heard of it before. i'm using AlpineQuest currently with Caltopo sourced maps mostly (the USFS and USGS scanned topos). sometimes i pre-cache a few sat maps for a small area before a trip but haven't tried to compile a large map file of that yet. i use Copilot Live for offline routable street maps.

    i agree with you on HDD, on my old laptop setup i never did have the HD fail even with all the offroading. i had always figured that i'd need to eventually replace it with an SSD.

    you mentioned ham radio - are you running one? one of my TODO's is getting this so i can do APRS with my existing ham rig and the tablet: http://www.mobilinkd.com/

    so far my only regret with the tablet setup is maybe i should have gotten a newer one to start with. the XOOM is pretty old and so even though someone is keeping KitKat ported for it, it's getting a little slow with some apps. i also get lockups sometimes when using the built-in 4G - if i turn cell data off it never crashes. almost every custom ROM still uses the same baseband version, so i'm pretty sure there's just bad code there. unfortunately there's no hope of Verizon or Motorola updating the baseband since they consider the product long past dead.

    p.s. one last thought about a tablet for you if you built a custom flat plate in your dash with an opening sized for the tablet's touchscreen (kind of like a picture frame matte), and then attached that plate on flush to the dash with magnets - you could hold any tablet behind it with a hidden universal grip type mount. then whenever you need to service something, you just pop the plate off and pull the tablet out.
    Last edited by theksmith; 06-27-2014 at 06:00 AM.

  7. #7
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    Chances are that you will be able to run whatever screen you have with the boundary device boards but you will likely need one of their screens to setup for the board.

    You will need to know some of the specifics for the screen such as the refresh rate and some other stuff that goes along with it. The board can use HDMI, VGA or the 2x LVDS ports.

    At $250 with everything built it that this looks awesome to be sure.

    I may call them up to see if I can get more memory onboard so I don't need to use the SATA or SHDC stuff. But could use the SATA drive to store data if I needed...
    I want a central ARM based processor to do all the dirty work in my truck without requiring a PC and that board looks to be a beast that could do it easily.

    Rodney

  8. #8
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    That aprs setup looks nice. I run mostly HF in the mobile but I do have a dual band antenna too. Maybe I can put it to use.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by theksmith View Post
    hey thanks! i don't remember a red ZJ lately - what trail?

    i'll check out Androzic, hadn't heard of it before. i'm using AlpineQuest currently with Caltopo sourced maps mostly (the USFS and USGS scanned topos). sometimes i pre-cache a few sat maps for a small area before a trip but haven't tried to compile a large map file of that yet. i use Copilot Live for offline routable street maps.

    i agree with you on HDD, on my old laptop setup i never did have the HD fail even with all the offroading. i had always figured that i'd need to eventually replace it with an SSD.

    you mentioned ham radio - are you running one? one of my TODO's is getting this so i can do APRS with my existing ham rig and the tablet: http://www.mobilinkd.com/

    so far my only regret with the tablet setup is maybe i should have gotten a newer one to start with. the XOOM is pretty old and so even though someone is keeping KitKat ported for it, it's getting a little slow with some apps. i also get lockups sometimes when using the built-in 4G - if i turn cell data off it never crashes. almost every custom ROM still uses the same baseband version, so i'm pretty sure there's just bad code there. unfortunately there's no hope of Verizon or Motorola updating the baseband since they consider the product long past dead.

    p.s. one last thought about a tablet for you if you built a custom flat plate in your dash with an opening sized for the tablet's touchscreen (kind of like a picture frame matte), and then attached that plate on flush to the dash with magnets - you could hold any tablet behind it with a hidden universal grip type mount. then whenever you need to service something, you just pop the plate off and pull the tablet out.
    Heh...I've been on so many trails with so many people over the years...I couldn't even tell you a specific trail anymore. I'm sure it was something on the east side...maybe something around 4 Peaks or Sycamore. It wouldn't have been lately though..last I ran the ZJ on a regular basis was about a year ago, and the XJs were several years behind that. Of course, it could have always been someone else's pimped out Grand..or maybe I saw you in passing at one of the cleanups or similar.

    Ham radio - yes. Currently a Kenwood TM-D710A mobile and older Yaesu FT-470 HT. I haven't yet mounted the Kenwood in the Scout, as I'm waiting until I cage it later this year, and will be doing an overhead mount for the CB and Ham display panel (I didn't want to drill holes in the Scout only to not need them in a couple months). I think I'll be doing the antenna mounts off of the tubing as well, so I'm not carving holes into the body or being stuck with a bumper corner mount. Ironically, I may end up installing a dedicated APRS radio anyways as there have been a few times that I found myself wishing I had both sides of the radio available, instead of one side being used for APRS duties, and once that it would have been nice to leave the APRS running while still having the radio available for crossband repeat.

    The bigger problem that I see with the tablet solution, and mounting specficially, is the lack of room behind the dash for me. These things aren't like modern vehicles with 6 or 7 inches behind the dash panel. While I haven't put a tape measure on it yet, I'm thinking it's 3-4", MAX before it hits the firewall. I tried putting a typical DIN radio in the middle of the dash, and without the wiring harness connected, I still had roughly half the radio sticking out of the dash. I've got several RAM style mounts that I've used on various other projects, and none of them even come close to fitting back there. I do have a windshield style mount intended for an Ipad that worked well with my last Iconia, that is considerably shallower, but I remember having problems with it where the arm wasn't nearly strong enough to hold the thing in position while bouncing down a trail.

    It may also be too that the dash mount may ultimately end up being a less than stellar option as far as visibility goes. I'm thinking an overhead mount may end up being a better solution as well for the display...

    I keep thinking I should just pick up another Iconia off Craigslist and play with it a bit more...I know it's plenty of hardware as it worked well enough in the last Scout, and had a full size USB host port that I recall I was able to run a self powered 500GB hard drive off of.

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