View RSS Feed

Recent Blogs Posts

  1. Hardware Review: Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module

    by , 06-16-2014 at 10:31 AM

    What is it?

    The Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module lets you monitor tire pressure wirelessly via Bluetooth.

    The Verdict:

    Portal Media's Bluetooth TPMS improves on the last generation of devices by allowing wireless communication via Bluetooth. The module is sleeker and reception appears improved. Once the kinks are worked out of the Android app, the Bluetooth TPMS module will be an awesome addition to any compatible car.


    Description:

    Quite a few years ago at mp3Car's first national car PC meet, I was lucky enough to win a prize for having as many as 19 USB devices connected to my car PC. The prize received was USB number 20, a car PC connected tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) from Portal Media. Many years and several dead sensor batteries later, the device had served me well, but it was time for an upgrade. Luckily, the guys at Portal Media have been busy at work improving on their existing technology. For years it's seemed that the Bluetooth variant of their TPMS devices was simply an idea in our mp3Car forum, but the time has arrived, and the device really exists. I've been privileged to spend the last few weeks testing this new device out and getting to see if the wireless abilities actually improved the experience.


    Let's get the obvious information out of the way first. The tire sensors required for the Bluetooth TPMS device must be professionally installed, so be sure to account for the cost of installation when considering this purchase. My cost was roughly $30/tire, but yours can vary. Also, as if this review, there is no Apple or Windows application that will work with the Bluetooth TPMS module. It's unknown whether this will be created by Portal Media in the near future, but as the mp3Car community is founded on the idea of tinkering and fitting square pegs in round holes, I'm sure solutions will exist shortly. Once the sensors are installed in the tires, the rest of the process of setting the system up is a breeze. The TPMS module is smaller and sleeker this time around, so it's easy to plug into any available 12v source and slide in a glove box or other compartment. It's recommended to install the device in a centralized location in relation to the tire sensors, but I've had far more success with reception despite installation location in comparison to the USB unit. Once the device is mounted and powered, the Android application will need to be downloaded from the Play Store. Once the app is installed, its time to begin the process of synchronizing the tire sensors to the Bluetooth module. Check out the video below on the steps required here.


    The Android application for the Bluetooth TPMS is very easy to use. The user interface is very simple, and once the sensors are learned, it will quickly and accurately report sensor information. In the app settings, there are a large number of variables which control sensor alert notifications and display preferences. The app is not without faults though. I have the application installed on three of my Android devices; A Samsung tablet with QHD resolution, a Samsung smartphone with HD resolution, and the ODROID X-2 Android low resolution head unit. Each instance gives me a different take on the app. The smartphone displays the perfect scaling of text, buttons, and images. On the tablet, the buttons are very small and often a chore to press, and the vehicle image and text does not scale to make use of the added real estate. The ODROID's low resolution allows for the buttons and images to display correctly, but the text is too large for the bubble window it's presented in. Portal Media has acknowledged some of the drawbacks of the app, and is aggressively working to correct the issues.




    Ultimately, the experience of being free of the installed car PC screen when dealing with my tire pressure is a much needed improvement. Rather than having to run back and forth between tires and the monitor to check pressure levels, I can take my tablet with me to each tire. I'll still receive alert notifications through my Android car PC, but the flexibility to use an additional screen when I choose is awesome.

    The Positive:

    • Module has a sleeker and smaller profile
    • Tire sensor reception seems improved
    • Android ability allows for cross-device usage
    • Easy learning and setup process



    The Negative:

    • No current iPod or Windows support
    • Android app is functional, but will need work



    The Verdict:

    Portal Media's Bluetooth TPMS improves on the last generation of devices by allowing wireless communication via Bluetooth. The module is sleeker and reception appears improved. Once the kinks are worked out of the Android app, the Bluetooth TPMS module will be an awesome addition to any compatible car.

  2. Hardware Review: Andrea Electronics WNC-1500 Wireless Computer Headset

    by , 03-11-2013 at 10:52 AM

    What is it?

    The Andrea Electronics WNC-1500 is a Wireless Computing Headset featuring digital audio enhancement and noise cancellation.

    The Verdict:

    The WNC-1500 is an excellent option when looking for a wireless communication device for VOIP. Communication was crystal clear in a variety of busy environments. The headset is very comfortable and provides a secure fit allowing for a pleasant listening experience.



    What’s in the box?

    The WNC-1500 Comes with the headset, a 2.4ghz USB adapter, USB charging cable, a convenient carrying case, and an instruction manual. Software is also available for download from AndreaElectronics.com


    Description:

    Andrea Electronics is widely known in this community for the stellar series of Superbeam USB microphones. When installing a automotive PC, the Superbeam was the best available option for hands-free audio communication for a very long time. The quality of the Superbeam bundle has been reassembled into a wireless audio headset named the WNC-1500.


    Each part of the WNC-1500 package has been considered for fit and finish. The headset itself is extremely comfortable, which each part of the headset which touches your ear cushioned more than adequately with genuine leather. The attached microphone with included pop filter rests away from the face but in ideal position for vocal clarity. Microphone placement was considered not only for clarity, but it stays out of the way during video conferencing for the most part. The headband is also cushioned and does an excellent job of securing the headset speakers comfortably. Being wireless, the device is made to be mobile, and consideration was certainly made to keep the headset snug without being painful.


    The WNC-1500 comes with a convenient set of controls on the right earbud. Included buttons are for volume control, music playback next/previous track, power, and configuration. The buttons are raised with a firm press, but unless you use the headset often, you may find using conventional computer controls more friendly. I find myself hunting for the proper control through trial and error too often.


    The most endearing feature of the WNC-1500 set is the audio quality. Its crystal clear that in it's out of the box form, the headset is made for verbal communication. Despite being wireless, I could effectively speak and listen as if using a landline form of communication. There was simply no static or filtering noises with callers, and they never reported issue in response to my end. Andrea calls it "military grade acoustic noise cancelling technology", I'll just say it does the job and then some. The headset does just enough to filter ambient noises locally as to not disturb what your ears are hearing through the 40mm speaker drivers. By default, the headset doesn't thrill in regard to music or gaming enjoyment, but the included software has a 10 band graphic equalizer to aid in this regard. Despite this, I still felt at times that the headset muffled the audio experience while gaming at its most ideal setting. The virtual surround sound feature was lacking.

    The WNC-1500 is powered by a built in lithium-ion battery. Simply plug in the WNC-1500 with the included USB cable and it will charge fully and relatively short time. The LED indicator on the headset will indicate when charging has completed. During testing, I observed battery life in the 5-7 hour range, more than enough for one sitting. The wireless range too was outstanding as audio clarity would hardly be affected until I was some 40 feet from the USB adapter. This far exceeds any bluetooth headset I've used to date.

    The Positive:

    • Terrific audio quality and noise cancellation
    • USB rechargeable
    • Comfortable design and secure
    • Fold away design and included carrying case means the headset will go where you do
    • Excellent battery life and range

    The Negative:

    • Not immersive sound for gamers
    • Must use device manager to enable/disable the USB adapter as your primary sound card


    The Verdict:


    The WNC-1500 is an excellent option when looking for a wireless communication device for VOIP. Communication was crystal clear in a variety of busy environments. The headset is very comfortable and provides a secure fit allowing for a pleasant listening experience.



  3. Hardware Review: Bybyte 2-Channel Programmable Wireless Switch

    by , 03-16-2011 at 12:14 PM

    What is it?

    The Bybyte 2-channel programmable wireless switch allows on/off control of up 2 devices with the included wireless remote.

    The Verdict:

    The Bybyte 2-channel programmable wireless switch is a great solution to the problem of having to deal with tedious resume times when restarting a car PC. The device has a great build quality, and is flexible enough to tackle multiple startup/shutdown problems easily and effectively. Anyone looking to have near-instant boot times should consider this product as a quality option.

    The Bybyte 2-channel programmable wireless switch is available at the mp3Car store



    What’s in the box?

    The 2-channel programmable switch comes with the key chain transmitter, the control box, wiring harnesses, and instruction manual.


    Description:

    As car PC users, we all know the drill. Get in the car, start the ignition, and wait 30 seconds or more for the music to play. There are a few ways around it, but in general, resume times are the biggest day to day problem of a car PC install. Luckily, Bybyte has put together a solution. The 2-channel programmable wireless switch allows a car PC to begin the boot process before users step foot in the car. It works via radio frequency, and has a range of up to 30 feet. Installation could not be easier (see video review for a installation demonstration). Configuration is just as easy. There is a one button on the receiver board that allows the device to work as a momentary switch or a normally opened/closed switch.


    I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the device as well. The control box is very small and can easily be tucked into a dashboard. There is an audible confirmation of commands received from the high-quality transmitter that stems from the control board. In fact, the sound is loud enough to be heard from outside the car. This comes in handy, especially when you're not sure if you pressed one of the two remote buttons. Unfortunately what you don't get with this one-way system is any kind of visual indicator of the PCs on/off state.


    So for all its configuration options and the fact that it will not only manage the state of your car PC, but also a second device such as your monitor, auxillary lighting, or any other 12 device you would want to start via RF, the Bybyte 2-channel programmable switch is a sure bet to improve any car PC installation.

    The Good:

      ● Simple in design, implementation and configuration
    ● Perhaps the easiest solution to resume wait
    ● Built with high quality materials
    ● Remote has a sliding cover to hide buttons when not in use


    The Bad:

    ● Key chain is one-way, no state indicator for times you accidentally start the PC

    The Verdict:

    The Bybyte 2-channel programmable wireless switch is a great solution to the problem of having to deal with tedious resume times when restarting a car PC. The device has a great build quality, and is flexible enough to tackle multiple startup/shutdown problems easily and effectively. Anyone looking to have near-instant boot times should consider this product as a quality option.

    The Bybyte 2-channel programmable wireless switch is available at the mp3Car store


  4. Hardware Review - Wireless USB TPMS Review

    by , 07-16-2009 at 10:49 PM

    Review by forum member: fixerofallthin

    1. What is the typical setup time for a 4 sensor kit and costs? (This includes having sensors mounted at a tire dealership)
    The typical time to mount sensors is about the same as mounting 4 new tires. When a reputable tire shop replaces tires on a vehicle equipped with factory TPMS they are supposed to dismount the sensors as well to replace the sealing gaskets. So when you contact your tire shop to make an appointment be prepared to allow about 1-2 hours work time plus whatever wait time involved.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.



    Our shop charges $25.00 per wheel to mount and balance tires so if you are doing the spare as well then $125.00 is an average price. If you are replacing your tires then we would not charge to install the sensors since the tires would need to be off anyway. Be sure to have the tires rebalanced if you did not replace them as the stems and sensors will alter the balance.
    If you are wanting to monitor your spare tire as well be sure the spare wheel will accept a sensor. Most temporary spare tires (donuts) are not meant to be dismounted and might not have room for the sensor.



    Be sure the shop uses a torque wrench to mount the sensors correctly.


    2. What is an ideal mounting location for the USB TPMS receiver, for both aesthetics and reception?
    The instructions tell you to install the receiver in a central location such as the base of the windshield. I found a central location in my truck to be the center console, which just happens to have a USB hub installed in it. In testing the sensors I spread them around my house and even put one in the freezer and refrigerator to monitor temps and to test reception distance and I was very pleased with how far away I could still communicate with all the sensors. 2 of the sensors were 25 feet away from the receiver and I still saw no issues, so I think just about anywhere you do not have excessive RF interference should work. When you first set up the system you are instructed to unplug the receiver several times so be sure to set it up completely before you tuck it away permanently.

    3. How do you install and use the software? (Both plug-in and standalone)





    I followed the directions that came with the kit to check the system before I mounted the sensors.
    RRTMS (from MP3Car.com forums) comes with the plug-in for RideRunner and a tool to configure the sensors and messages that are displayed and spoken (there is a typo in the dialog that speaks when the tire pressure is too high, it says "hight" instead of "high", so check that while you are installing the software). Download the file and extract it to your RideRunner plug-in folder. Be sure to register the .dll file after you copy it to its final location. You will need to add or modify a button in your skin to launch the TPMS screen. The button command is "TMS" and it launches TMS.skin. You can build your own screen to match the skin you are using or there is a test skin included in the RRTMS folder.




    CFTPMS (from the Centrafuse downloads section on http://forums.fluxmedia.net/) installs the plug-in for Centrafuse 2.0. It is a simple install. It is an exe file that puts everything where it needs to be. When prompted be sure to install the tools also. The tools folder in your Fluxmedia>centrafuse>plugins>tpms will have a program called TPMS doctor that is used to test communication. Once you install the CFTPMS.exe be sure to go download the update 2.1.9.0. Now that CFTPMS is updated you can set one of your buttons to launch tpms by clicking and holding the button you want it assigned to and selecting it from the list; Then go to settings and select advanced settings and you can enter the tpms section and set your preferences (PSI vs. Bar and such).


    4. How do I re-learn the sensors?
    I was able to set up my software before I even mounted the sensors in the wheels because the kit is prelearned by the manufacturer. I installed the software as listed above and was able to monitor the temperatures and battery levels to check communication. The manufacturer includes a sheet with the locations the sensors should be mounted.

    The instructions say not to use Centrafuse to set up the sensors because it is buggy, but I used both Riderunner and Centrafuse with no issues.

    When you rotate your tires you simply change the location of the sensor.





    5. How do I add a spare sensor?
    Using RRTMS I erased all sensors from the receiver and relearned them following the instructions that came with the kit. Once you select the sensor, you change the tire pressure until the receiver "sees" the change and it registers the sensor.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.

    Updated 12-26-2009 at 08:48 AM by Jensen2000

    Categories
    Product Reviews , Products and Technology
  5. DIY – Wireless USB monitor

    by , 02-24-2009 at 04:55 PM


    How to build your own wireless USB monitor - We took an IOGear wireless VGA device (GUC2015V), an M1-ATX, a Lilliput 10” monitor and a laptop battery to make a super hacked wireless monitor. If you spent more than an hour on this you could really make this hack usable. We couldn’t get more than 15’ of range out of this with line of sight, but it was fun to try. Based on the amperage of the devices, we could theoretically get a few hours out of this per charge.

    ***Update 2-26-2009
    Other power supplies that could be used:
    The m3-atx is probably a better supply to use for this project.

    How much Power does this use?
    260 milli amps for just the receiver.
    1.1 amps for the receiver and screen.
    Our battery has a capacity at 14.8 volts of 6600mAH.
    Does this mean we get 6 hours of run time? Wow.

    Host CPU Loads tested on my desktop
    DisplayLinkManager is what does the processing for the Wireless VGA adapter.

    Hardware used for testing
    3 year old 2.8 Ghz Pentium D Dual core CPU
    4gb of Ram
    Windows XP
    800x480 output

    CPU Load Results
    0% - CPU load with an idle screen (desktop only)
    0-2% - CPU load with google talk
    2-3% - VLC movie paused
    9%-12% - VLC playing a movie



    Part 2 Video Transcript:

    Hi. My name is Rob Wray with MP3 Car. I told you we would test out this wireless monitor in the car, so for the last hour we’ve been goofing around in the parking lot of our office trying to get this to work. And actually it worked perfectly right off the bat the same way as it did work in our office. I just wanted to do something off-the-wall with it.

    So it’s working perfectly. I happen to have a Centrifuge help video loaded on the monitor right now. We’ve got a great wireless signal. We’ve done some calculations recently. We think this little hack job here can get about six hours of wireless time using the 10” monitor. So that’s pretty exciting. And we’ve been really happy with the video quality playback.

    The first thing that we tried to do to hack it, to make it look kind of cool and newsworthy was to hack in a USB HDTV tuner. So we did that. It worked well except the HDTV won’t play on this monitor. There’s certain things that don’t work well over ultra wideband USB and apparently the GT HD tuner that we sell in our store is one of those things that doesn’t work well.

    We also had some problems with getting StreetDeck to work well wirelessly over ultra wideband, but things like VLC which I used in my previous demo worked wonderfully. You get great frame rate playback, and that sort of thing. So I’m going to go ahead and start this movie here, and you can see that the picture quality’s pretty good.

    So we’ve been pretty happy with this as a solution. The only thing that we’ve seen is that, again it doesn’t support all video formats, and you also get – every now and then you’ll get a little bit of a wiggle over here on the left side. I’m assuming that’s from some type of interference that’s happening as a result of the engine alternator or various other little things. But it was happening before and now it’s completely gone away, so I think it’s almost unnoticeable.

    So try this at home. Thanks for watching our blog.

    Updated 09-17-2009 at 03:23 PM by optikalefx

    Categories
    How To Videos
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast