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Thread: Trying to decide between Mac or Win car computer

  1. #1
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    Trying to decide between Mac or Win car computer

    I've never owned a mac in my life. I have used them in schools, friends, etc, but never really got to sit down and know them very well.

    For a car computer, how much of an upper hand does it have on a Windows-based car computer? I am worried about the lack of options for additional accessories, such as GPS.

    Have many of you run into problems with running a mac?

    Any advice/info would be great!

    Thanks a lot.

  2. #2
    FLAC sdashiki's Avatar
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    If you have never really used/owned a mac I dont think its a good idea to use one as a carputer. The lack of options and possible knowledge on how to trouble shoot or get it to do exactly what you want, might be frustrating.

    Windows, though I dislike, has way more options like GPS etc, and is cheaper.

    If you read summore on that mac forums you might find the problems to be at a minimum, I dont know. Its up to you!

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  3. #3
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    Mac Mini has the potential to rock

    Full Disclosure: I work for mp3car!

    The Mac Mini has the potential to be an excellent system to build a car computer arround. It is cheaper to purchase a Mac Mini than it is all the components of a mini-itx system. You've still got to assemble the mini-itx system and unless you are *really* good you're not going to come close to making it as small as the Mini.

    But there are quite a number of issues:

    1. If you only know Windows, you need to learn a new operating system. The Mini does run Linux quite well, so if you already know Linux or are considering a Linux system, this isn't a drawback.

    2. Lack of software. I haven't been paying attention, but I don't think there are any native OSX front ends. You probably could run PyCar on OSX, and you could almost certainly run PyCar under Linux on the Mini.

    3. Lack of dedicated hardware. Are there any OBD2 devices (with drivers) for the Mac? What about intelligent power supplies like the M1ATX?

    4 Reliability and repair. Macs are generally not as reliable under harsh conditions as similarly priced PC hardware. If you blow a mini-itx board, it is a simple matter to get a replacement. Of course, I suppose you *could* just pop for the all-singing, all-dancing AppleCare plan, which probably wouldn't be a bad idea if you don't want to make any case mods.

    I must admit there is a lot to be said for the Mini and there is no doubt that it has a lot of potential, but I really don't think it is ready yet for anyone who isn't already a die-hard Mac user.

    -p.

  4. #4
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    Full disclosure: I have a mac mini in my car (and a recent convert/die hard mac-user)

    1. Mac's are VERY easy to learn. Before you install your mini in your car, spend 2 weeks with it plugged into a standard monitor in your house. I am willing to bet you think about buying an ibook after the experience. My mother and father have both turned to apple at home, and they are very computer illiterate (but only use the basics)
    2. Yes, currently, the mp3car frontend possibilities are scarce, but thankfully a guy named Jirka developed a frontend piece of software named TatraApp several years ago. Its amazingly written modular software, and several modules are under development, in addition to the core set he has already made. So, there is no Frodo-MediaCar-Coyote-battle going on here, but developers seem to be gathering around a very solid TatraApp....
    3. Yes, there are OBDII mac compliant hardware. In fact, there are also iBus compliant software for mac (great for BMW). Intelligent power, carnetix released the p1900 and its hot. You just have to search.
    4. Reliability and repair. "Well, thats just your opinion, man"
    I maintain a network of 200+ pc's, have built computers since i was a little kid, and even completed a mini-itx for my car, and i have found my mac's to be significantly more reliable. and if you are lucky to have an apple store in your city, you can bring in your mac for a year (or 3yrs if you buy extnd applecare) to the store for repair. My mini has survived potholes in the road, and pretty serious driving. Thanks to the 2.5inch HD (laptop style), it handles bumps very well.

    Overall, the mac mini is excellent, except for GPS software, but hell, i've seen several googlemaps apps in the works for mac. It is EXTREMELY easy to get internet on your mac (i am using edge through bluetooth), so this will give you satellite maps for GPS, and turn by turn, with unlimited POI!

    Not trying to start a flame war, just trying to lay out the other side (he did post in the maccar section afterall)....

    thanks,
    avidan
    Mac Mini BMW -- Done! (but always in progress) -- TOTALLED -- Damn lady didn't "see" the redlight

  5. #5
    Newbie red green's Avatar
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    I had been on the fence about this one, too, ever since the Mini was announced and released. I use Macs at home (although my wife has a Dell laptop), and I've always had a preference for them. That being said, my first CarPC will likely be a Windoze box, but I think it's a very personal decision as to what you need from your system.

    List everything you need/want and figure out what best suits you. If you like lots of choices when it comes to GPS, FEs, etc., that's one thing against Mac (for now). It sure seems easier (to me, anyway) to go with the crowd on this one for now. I had an old economics professor who used to say "most of the time there's lots of utility to be gained by joining the herd."

    Hopefully, by the time I do a second install, I'll be using a Mac.

    HTH
    Mike

    1998 Volvo V70 R AWD
    2.3L Turbo @ 17psi, 20% Tint
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  6. #6
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    I have a Mac Mini in my car. Previously, I had an Epia M10000 Windows machine.

    1. The Mac was cheaper to purchase and install, but not by much. I'd say the difference wasn't enough to matter.

    2. There simply isn't much software for the Mac. However, I find that iTunes plus a Powermate works great and I don't even need the screen to operate the computer for music. Of course, that is also true for the PC.

    3. There is NO FRONT END for the Mac. If you want a front end, the Mac is not for you. The Tatra Mac app with iKarr interface is the leading possibility and others are in development, but there is nothing that passes for an integrated front end. However, iTunes, iDVD, Safari all work just fine for video, music, and web browsing.

    4. GPS is an issue. Route 66 is reported to be a fair mapping app but is nowhere near as good as PC apps. If you like, buy extra memory and run Virtual PC to emulate the PC GPS apps. Reportedly, this works fine.

    5. Other than Virtual PC, there is no compatibility with PC apps.

    So why buy a Mac? Several reasons:

    1. The Mini Mac package is incredibly small. You get a computer, memory, DVD/CD player all in one box. The box fits inside a single DIN head unit space, except for the cables sticking out the back. You can add both bluetooth and wireless for $100 total.

    2. The Carnetix P1900 gives you an excellent power solution for comparable price as the PC. The Mini gives you sleep and nearly instant on that works very well. About 3 seconds from car start to music playing and the USB devices work well. Again, you can get this on the PC as well, but the Mini does it very well.

    3. There is a thriving community putting Mini's in cars but because the platform is less popular than Windows, there is plenty of room to innovate. If you want to make an impact by developing apps, we can use more of them for the Mac, now.

    4. Differentiation. Not everyone has one. In fact, very few people have one. It also runs Unix, which is cool, even if you don't have a clue how to do Unix.

    What to watch for:

    This thread is likely to draw rabid pro and con Mac types. Ignore them. They are simply noise. Consider what you want to do and whether the Mac will do what you want. If so, look into it a little deeper. Consider whether you are willing to do some of the programming yourself or if the included apps will do what you need until a front end inevitably comes along (it will, but it's not clear when).

    Remember that this isn't an all or nothing experiment. If you think you'll like putting a Mac Mini in your car, get one and try it out for 2 weeks. If it just doesn't seem to be working for you, put it up for sale. You'll lose maybe $50. That's not a bad price to pay for trying it out.

    If none of these things seem to be up your alley, you should stick with a Windows machine. There is more technical information, more software, and more experience with these machines in case you run into trouble.
    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruzer View Post
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
    Want to:
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    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

  7. #7
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    The Mac mini is less a collection of DIY parts than a PC, so you don't have to do as much version control and driver management. I think it's well-suited to be a car computer -- quiet, small but well-built, solid OS, great music integration including synchronizing, and good networking. But it is a newcomer, so there aren't a bunch of home-brewed front ends and hacked-up user interface gadgets yet. Depending on your point of view, that could be bad or good.

    Two key factors:
    Lack of front end software
    Terrible GPS navigation software

    Lack of a usable front-end is definitely a reason to delay using a Mac (unless you want to do some development) or to go with a PC. But over time, Macs take less care and feeding and, frankly, less worry. In a driving situation you really don't want to have to be thinking about what's behind the screen or even having to look at it for that matter.

    (If you want to use a Mac for music while driving now, consider using a Keyspan IR remote with your Mac. It will give you comprehensive control over the music and easily fit in a shirt pocket. You could adopt more functionality as front ends mature or use other features of the Mac when parked.)

    Lack of good GPS navigation software is a concern if you want GPS nav but don't have a built-in Nav system or a standalone system from Garmin, Tom Tom or the like. PC-based Nav systems aren't really handy to use while driving, so I'm not a fan of them, but it might be part of your plan.

    Price could be a factor, too. If you need to get everything as cheaply as possible, there are many more suppliers for PC hardware and you can by it piece by piece, which may suit your cash flow better. To have a nice system you'll spend more than the bare minimum whether you go with Mac or PC.

  8. #8
    Variable Bitrate Redian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gnomad
    Full Disclosure: I work for mp3car!

    The Mac Mini has the potential to be an excellent system to build a car computer arround. It is cheaper to purchase a Mac Mini than it is all the components of a mini-itx system. You've still got to assemble the mini-itx system and unless you are *really* good you're not going to come close to making it as small as the Mini.

    But there are quite a number of issues:

    1. If you only know Windows, you need to learn a new operating system. The Mini does run Linux quite well, so if you already know Linux or are considering a Linux system, this isn't a drawback.

    2. Lack of software. I haven't been paying attention, but I don't think there are any native OSX front ends. You probably could run PyCar on OSX, and you could almost certainly run PyCar under Linux on the Mini.

    3. Lack of dedicated hardware. Are there any OBD2 devices (with drivers) for the Mac? What about intelligent power supplies like the M1ATX?

    4 Reliability and repair. Macs are generally not as reliable under harsh conditions as similarly priced PC hardware. If you blow a mini-itx board, it is a simple matter to get a replacement. Of course, I suppose you *could* just pop for the all-singing, all-dancing AppleCare plan, which probably wouldn't be a bad idea if you don't want to make any case mods.

    I must admit there is a lot to be said for the Mini and there is no doubt that it has a lot of potential, but I really don't think it is ready yet for anyone who isn't already a die-hard Mac user.

    -p.

    uh, its not hard to make it as small as a mini, just need to get the horizontal PCI card holders, low profile ram, and a different cooling block for the processor... the minimac just does it cheaper since it is mass produced.


    IF you get a minimac, get a new one (celeron D processor i think..) because then if you dont like it, you can get the bootcamp patch and put windows on it, making it a very small windows PC ^^

    Edit: I cant type for my life :P
    2004 Impreza WRX CarPC Install

    I am willing to host any legal downloads that may benefit the CarPC community - PM for info

    "When you go 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, you don't need a made up character called fast. Thats what makes a Subaru, a Subaru."

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  9. #9
    QCar Creator Jirka Jirout's Avatar
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    Ehm, could someone define what a "front-end" actually is? I understand that not everyone likes the approach I took, but to say, tehre is *no* front end, that's a bit weird...

    If I look at Win/Linux front-ends, most (not all!) of them are not about ergonomy, usability or functions, but about look and possibility of skinning...

  10. #10
    Variable Bitrate Redian's Avatar
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    a front end is like.. frodoplayer, or mediacare, or centrafuse

    basically its a GUI that allows for easy access to GPS, Music, Games, Cameras, Videos, Etc.

    also, for this...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jirka Jirout
    If I look at Win/Linux front-ends, most (not all!) of them are not about ergonomy, usability or functions, but about look and possibility of skinning...

    thats because you can script and skin everything into those front ends, just because the maker of the program doesnt do it for you, does not mean you cannot.
    2004 Impreza WRX CarPC Install

    I am willing to host any legal downloads that may benefit the CarPC community - PM for info

    "When you go 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, you don't need a made up character called fast. Thats what makes a Subaru, a Subaru."

    DG4L

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