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Thread: Mac front end controlling elec servos and all temp controls?

  1. #1
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    Mac front end controlling elec servos and all temp controls?

    I was thinking today, I'd like to try and build a Mac carputer that does the following:

    1. Runs software to tune my MegaSquirt EFI system (5.0 TT Thunderbird)
    2. Handles all entertainment
    3. GPS with voice activation (i tell it what to do) and turn-by-turn guidance
    4. Edge internet VIA bluetooth
    5. Bluetooth phone with in dash address book/control and perhaps steering wheel button control
    6. Complete touch screen control of temperature control system using electric servos to remotely control my rotary heater controls (which would be hidden in the dash). This would require software that can be programed to know when a given servo is at max cool, 75% toward heat, on a/c, max a/c, vent, or any other position on the three rotary knobs. Also, I'd want it to be all contained in one software (besides the megasquirt tuning) much like a lexus would be (no fumbling around with one program for heat, one for gpw, etc...)

    I'm guessing it's a pipe dream (espeically since I can't program it myself) but does anyone have any input on this. I'm totally in for developing the mechanical portions if it'd hep others... I just want a totally integrated solution...on a MAC!


    PS. the plan is to have a 7 inch touch screen, a track pad and button on the center console and a stowaway keyboard...

  2. #2
    QCar Creator Jirka Jirout's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by booksix View Post
    2. Handles all entertainment
    No big deal. Whatever QuickTime can play you get for free. If you want more, MPlayer and VLC are both Open Source so you can use the code to implement what you want. The only bigger issue for entertainment is a bit weird support for multi-channel sound.

    3. GPS with voice activation (i tell it what to do) and turn-by-turn guidance
    Unless you have a very quiet car, voice activation is going to be a problem. We have it for a few things in QCar, but it is not really usable as a primary input/control method. As for navigation, at the moment, the only solution you can buy is Routebuddy. We do have navigation for QCar, but we need to sort our business issues with TeleAtlas before we can offer it.

    4. Edge internet VIA bluetooth
    Again, no big deal, just some legwork if you want it "clean" i. e. without annoying system error/aler dialog windows etc.

    5. Bluetooth phone with in dash address book/control and perhaps steering wheel button control
    No problem - a phone can be controlled using standard AT commands, steering wheel buttons are usually easy to handle using Phidgets interace boards. If you want talk-thru (using your Mac's microphone and speaker for phone), BluePhone Elite does that rather well.

    6. Complete touch screen control of temperature control system using electric servos to remotely control my rotary heater controls (which would be hidden in the dash). This would require software that can be programed to know when a given servo is at max cool, 75% toward heat, on a/c, max a/c, vent, or any other position on the three rotary knobs.
    Again - doable with Phidgets or similar interface board. I would personally not connect the servo to the original rotary controls, but directly to the elements they are supposed to move, but that's a detail.

    I'm guessing it's a pipe dream (espeically since I can't program it myself) but does anyone have any input on this. I'm totally in for developing the mechanical portions if it'd hep others... I just want a totally integrated solution...on a MAC!
    It is not a pipe dream, almost everything you describe can be done - most of it rather easily.

  3. #3
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    Well, right... I would bypass the knob all together when possible. But as far as at least one knob goes, it is an electrical switch that also handles vacuum routing so having the servo act on this knob itself may be ideal. Where is the best place I can read up on outboard gear and programming for something like this? Also, who makes software to operate a climate control system like this?

    And the other thing that you didn't touch on was integration of the whole package. My main hope was that I could integrate DVD's, mp3's, GPS, phone, and climate control into one program where each function was accessed in a different page (just like you'd switch between radio, dvd, gps, etc... by hitting a button within an eclipse nav unit for example). I don't really want to be switching between several actual programs to access everything...

    Anyway, thanks for your response. It was a huge help already!

  4. #4
    CarFrontEnd Creator iamgnat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by booksix View Post
    Well, right... I would bypass the knob all together when possible. But as far as at least one knob goes, it is an electrical switch that also handles vacuum routing so having the servo act on this knob itself may be ideal. Where is the best place I can read up on outboard gear and programming for something like this? Also, who makes software to operate a climate control system like this?
    Ahh. Ford controls. They suck
    I'm actually seriously considering starting this process myself, but it will be awhile before I have anything to show for it. The vent/ac selector is the biggest pain. BTW, if your T-Bird is anything like my Escape getting to the actual hardware that adjusts your temp is a PITA. You'll be better off working with the cables.

    As far as software, for the Mac it doesn't exist. It will have to be custom.

    And the other thing that you didn't touch on was integration of the whole package.
    Both QCar (Jirka) and CarFrontEnd (me) do some of what you want (QCar more than CFE right now) and both are built with adding new features in mind. If you have the ability it's relatively simple to build a new plugin for either interface to add new features.

    -dave
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    CarFrontEnd (now it's own sub-forum!!!!)

  5. #5
    CarFrontEnd Creator iamgnat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by booksix View Post
    Where is the best place I can read up on outboard gear and programming for something like this?
    Sorry, forgot to reply to this part.

    I would suggest taking a look at (probably in simplest to hardest):
    Phidgets - Simple-ish to program, has a selection of pre-built parts, and has an OSX library ready to integrate into your App.
    Arduino - Simple-ish to program (based off Wiring), has a selection of pre-built parts, has a few board options, uses basic Serial I/O for communication which makes it easy to use with any language.
    Wiring.org - An open source project that Arduino is based off of, uses the Atmel ATMega128 rather than the smaller chip that Arduino favors (more ports, more memory, etc..), has an additional serial port (compared to the Arduino), can do everything the Arduino can plus a bit more.
    AVRFreaks - A great forum if you want to get down and dirty and build/write it all from scratch. Also might be useful when working with Wiring.org based boards since they are based off the Atmel ATmega chips.

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

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by iamgnat View Post
    getting to the actual hardware that adjusts your temp is a PITA.
    Could you explain this a bit more?

    As for programming, I know nothing about it but I'm sure I could learn... I usually teach myself this stuff anyway. Problem is I can't design the art for the user interface...?


    Also, besides the climate control, do either QCar or CFE integrate everything else I listed?

  7. #7
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    Another thing is... the only cable I have on the system is for temp and connects directly to the airbox. No reason to keep it as I could easily mount a servo right on the airbox.. this is actually the easiest part of the climate control system...

  8. #8
    CarFrontEnd Creator iamgnat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by booksix View Post
    Could you explain this a bit more?
    If your T-Bird is like my Escape, then the temp is done by mixing cold and hot air and the cables move the door that controls how much of each type of air is getting into the system. The housing of that unit is buried up in the dash where you can't (at least in the Escape) see it without first removing the dash. That is not an undertaking i'm up for (and I ripped out the rest of the interior to lay sound deadening mat down...).

    The simple answer is to have a motor drive the existing cable system, but it will need to have some decent torque to it.

    Problem is I can't design the art for the user interface...?
    That is where an interface like QCar or CFE will help. You will need to only focus on the parts you care about rather than the whole app and Interface Builder helps a lot too. The rule of thumb to go by for an in car interface is that if it requires attention to use, it will likely contribute to your user killing themselves

    Before trying to do anything fancy, I would suggest that you play with writing a few standalone apps (not related to the car at all) to get used to XCode, IB, Cocoa, etc.. rather than jumping right it and really confusing yourself

    Also, besides the climate control, do either QCar or CFE integrate everything else I listed?
    I haven't looked at QCar's feature list in awhile, but CFE only has a music player right. I mentioned them both as they both offer a robust interface to extend them if there are features that you think they are missing (e.g. if you ask me, Nav and Video playback is NOT "missing" from CFE ). Some things are of course easier to implement than others though.

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

  9. #9
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    There is a vacuum manifold that can easily be used to individually send vacuum to 5 different vacuum actuators. It's a delco part, I've got it shown on my Automatic Climate Control thread in the fusion brain forum. each solenoid is powered by +12v with a common out.
    There are servos that will do the job for the heat door, take a look at the box, where the heat door swivels and see if there's room for a servo. The servo's should have potentiometer position feedback, or be stepper motors that can be tracked by pulse counting. You just have to be sure you have room for one.

    There's a lot you would be bypassing by controlling the actuators directly and reading the inputs directly. This is most true with automatic HVAC control in mind.

    I'm not a Mac guy, so I'm not much help, I know. But I am developing software for PC to do that (slowly, as I'm a beginner), and using the Fusion Brain's very diverse and robust skinning language to allow the same through their software (which will likely be done much sooner).

    There is a lot of the mech engineering/process control to be included. I'd say I'm about 60% on it.

    Temperature blend door and fan control are much harder than mode control, imho.

  10. #10
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    All I have to do to access the temp blend door is pull my glovebox out and yes, there's plenty of room for a motor. I've been wanting it for a long time so I know this already. Would a simple RC type servo work? Or what servo's would be the type listed? What's the difference?

    And what would I be bypassing? Maybe I'm missing something in there with my thinking...

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