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Thread: Motorola Droid as a CarPC ?

  1. #21
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    tripzero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyan View Post
    I guess I'm asking if something like Centrafuse (or RR or LinuxIce or anything else) can be built for the Droid.
    They can't. Not without a complete rewrite. LinuxICE may be able to be ported to the Droid, but it wouldn't run with/ontop of the Android OS, but replace it. That's if all the droid device drivers have been contributed upstream like they should have (which I doubt). RR and any windows frontend is going to need some serious overhaul to run on the android because 1, it's Linux, and 2, it's not standard Linux.

    The Droid *can* be used as a carpc, but not a good one. Here are a few reasons:

    1. Screen is too small
    2. the UI is almost useless in the car: much of the text is too small, requires captive attention, too much touchiness
    3. In order to correct #2, you have to port some carpc frontend to run on it which makes the device no more useful than a normal carpc that runs Linux except you can run Google Navigation and put it in your pocket.
    4. You can't correct #1 but if you have really good eyes, maybe it will still work for you.
    Former author of LinuxICE, nghost, nobdy.
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  2. #22
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    Kev,

    Thanks for responding. I think you're one of the best voices on this given your work on LinuxIce (which I am still looking forward to testing, BTW). Your insight is very helpful. But if you don't mind, I have a few followups to your post.

    1. Screen is too small: this assumes that any front end for the Droid would behave the way everything else on the droid does. Why couldn't you have four user-configured buttons that say, simply, M (for music), N (for nagivation), O (for OBD2) and P (for phone). I know this is a bad example but my point is that even with the small form factor, you could design something that requires minimal input from the user. While it might give back less info than a CarPC frontend (for example, the name of the song scrolls OVER large buttons for play or FF instead of taking screen real estate ABOVE those buttons), it would still be visible and functional. As an example, my wife's XM radio has a four-line screen with no graphics, little detail and all it says is what song, what station and the number of that station. Yes, the buttons allow you to change station and that has to end up somewhere on the screen if you had that on a Droid, but my point is that we accept even less functionality, size and image quality from devices we are already using in a car environment.

    My last point on this is that someone will figure out that people want a video out on their Android phones (a few other makers already do this). And Lilliput just demoed a touchscreen that uses only one USB port for power and input signal. I don't know my way around the power draw for something like this but it seems that it won't be long before we're sending the video signal to something large enough to make this first point moot.

    2. The UI is almost useless in the car: again, I believe this starts from the assumption that all options on the Droid would be used as/is without some mods or cleverly designed UI that makes huge buttons (no more than a few at a time and maybe some gesture options which take you forward or back a screen). I understand that no one has done this yet but are you saying that no one can? I just don't see a smart developer designing a frontend and then insisting on keeping the font the same size or making the buttons impossible to read at a glance.

    3. You have to port some carpc frontend to run on it: why would you have to port something? Why can't it be designed from the ground up, using the inherent advantages/limitations of Android? Again, I know this can easily be dismissed by saying "Well, go out and design it then, if you think it's so easy." I know it's not easy. But if the device that gives me access to all my in-car entertainment/information is the same device that I can bring up to the office or take into a restaurant with me, I would think that kind of elegance and simplicity is something people would pay for. The idea that I don't need an extra GPS dongle, network dongle or bluetooth dongle in order to do most things and I get everything in a small package that just works, seems like a pretty decent argument for using this as a platform. There will always be people who want the extra power and scalability of a full-on CarPC. But if you could get 90% of the functionality out of a device you already have in your pocket, wouldn't that be a good thing?

    4. Can't correct #1 (the small screen size): no, but you can design for it.

    Look, the Android OS will not be the panacea for the CarPC movement. But if you can get 90% of the functionality most of us design a CarPc for, I think it could really go mainstream and allow the user the level of customization some of the dealer-supplied options (like Ford's Sync) don't allow for. It just seems like we're on the cusp of something really interesting and potentially really big.

  3. #23
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    True, you can design the UI big enough to be usable on that small a screen in a car. But, it makes navigation too "touchy". Let me explain, if I have 6 main functions on my frontend and I can only fit 3 decent sized buttons on the screen, that limits me to 2-3 functions per-screen before I have to goto the next screen for the other functions. Therefore I have to touch more (which is a distraction) to get to where I want to go. One of the concepts we are working on for LinuxICE3 is being able to go from point A to point X in 2 touches *max*. Which is much better than going from Main -> Next-Screen -> Next-Screen -> Apps -> NavigationGPS. But that's really a design point and you can design your way around a lot of issues.

    I'm not saying that the Droid can't be a good system, I'm just arguing that it's not the optimal platform for a carpc. Furthermore, I think effort is better spent developing for standard Linux than the locked-in Android OS.

    When I get my n900, I'm likely going to try and make that *the* device for my car. Since the n900 runs maemo (which is a much better OS IMHO than android), I can do things to it to make it work with the hardware in the car. I'm imagining some light car hardware that will basically just interface with the phone and do basic multimedia/navigation stuff and having my phone be the focal point of the experience. We'll see... But even then, I'll be interfacing with the phone's infotainment through some hardware and software built for the car.
    Former author of LinuxICE, nghost, nobdy.
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  4. #24
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    What about this.

    Here you will find the live android project. The developers are working to have a full android os available to install on a pc. Don't you all think that this could work in a car pc. It's already optimized for space, speed and the like. It should be capable of multitasking (play music while gps'ing). Right now it is only a live cd, so you can boot your pc from it, but it has basically no real functionality.

    I ran it using VirtualBox and was able to use the mobile browser. I think this could be something nice in the future, as you could perfectly sync your phone and carpc. You could use the gps capability of the phone, have your phone through your speakers etc. etc. I know there are ways to do this already, but this seems like it would be much better. IDK though. I don't have quite the programming skills to make it all jive, so I'll wait. Much thanks to all of you who do the real grunt work on this.

  5. #25
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    Excellent points, Kev. Like I said, I really appreciate your insight given how much you've worked in this environment.

    Your point about "touchiness" is well taken and you are right that it would be a concern. As far as Android, I wonder if the 2.1 version, said to include much more voice control capabilities, might not be a help in this department.

    I will continue to follow the developments with Android as I still believe it could be very big. However, I thank you for some other thoughts to consider as I watch everything unfold.

    Best of luck with your projects and definitely let us know how the n900 works for you!

  6. #26
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    well if you dont mind BlackBerry

    http://www.impatica.com/products/viadash/index.html
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  7. #27
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    Nokia N900 has video out and that would be a better solution than Driod (except for the fact that it currently does not have a Turn-by-turn navigation software)

  8. #28
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    Wrong info. Sygic navigation works on N900.
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