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Thread: Mac Mini ..... Without a Screen. Comments?

  1. #1
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    Mac Mini ..... Without a Screen. Comments?

    *Note to moderators: I considered putting this in the Input Devices forum but, given that this is very specific to Macs, I thought it would do better in this forum. Feel free to move.

    Eventually (in 3-4 months), I plan to add a lilliput but in order to keep my project affordable and simultaneously satisfy my urges to stick a computer under my dash, I've decided to temporarily lower the goals of my car computer in lieu having any kind of screen.

    At the moment, all I would like to accomplish is some rudimentary iTunes functionality. This list is in order of importance:
    • Playing and pausing songs
    • Volume Control
    • Next song
    • Previous song
    • Listing the current song and possibly artist/album info
    • Next artist (* Maybe)
    • Previous artist (* Maybe)


    I plan to achieve this functionality using some combination of the following:
    • Voice Feedback
    • Speech Recognition using a mic mounted near the visor
    • A Griffin Powermate
    • Custom buttons interfaced via an I-PAC (Ultimarc, the Ultimate in Arcade Controls. ) to simulate keyboard shortcuts
    • Lots of apple and/or bash scripting


    I've been playing around with the speech recognition in OSX and it seems very flexible in terms of being able to control iTunes and applescripts however, it is also likely to be the least reliable given that it would most likely be used while music is playing and/or while the windows are down. In reading up on how the speech recognition works, it is apparently capable of adapting well to different kinds of background noises but I haven't yet tested it in the car (I'm still waiting on the carnetix power supply). The voice feedback is easy -- I'm just not sure if I'll be able to get it to say things like the current artist and song info. I think the powermate should be able to provide volume control and possibly song control (pausing/playing/next/previous). In the input devices forum, I saw some very interesting alternatives to the Griffin Powermate -- the only thing is, I'm not sure if those can be made to work as easily with a PPC Mac. As far as I know, the powermate comes with OSX software to make it programmable.

    Obviously, to some observers, I'll be missing out on many of the things that make a carputer awesome like movies, navigation, games, etc... and instead be settling (albeit temporarily) for a less-portable ipod and uber expensive ipod. In response, I would say interfaces that don't require the driver to look away from the road have obvious advantages even if a screen is available. I'll still be able to use any interface I develop now when I choose to add a screen later. Developing those interfaces in the absence of a screen will force me to make them as streamlined as possible. When I have the lilliput, the interface could likely be extended to movie and navigation control, etc...

    I haven't been able to find any other headless mac mini projects. Has anything like this ever been tried before? Does this sound reasonable? Am I missing anything?

  2. #2
    QCar Creator Jirka Jirout's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mustanglou View Post
    I've been playing around with the speech recognition in OSX and it seems very flexible in terms of being able to control iTunes and applescripts however, it is also likely to be the least reliable given that it would most likely be used while music is playing and/or while the windows are down.
    Then it will probably not work at all, unless you use some extra noise suppression. You will need to mute the music when using speech recognition and forget the open windows. I am playing with this too from time to time and it only works acceptably in hi-end cars with perfect sound insulation.

    The voice feedback is easy -- I'm just not sure if I'll be able to get it to say things like the current artist and song info.
    In English, this should work fine most of the time. Also consider just using sounds (like different beeps) for all the actions you can. Voice feedback is slow, so I only recommend to use it for output of names etc.

    I think the powermate should be able to provide volume control and possibly song control (pausing/playing/next/previous). In the input devices forum, I saw some very interesting alternatives to the Griffin Powermate -- the only thing is, I'm not sure if those can be made to work as easily with a PPC Mac.
    Contour design shuttles (express, pro) work fine with Mac, the same is true about Logitech NuLOOQ (which is much better built mechanically than PowerMate). Both have plenty of programmable buttons to implement what you want.

    I haven't been able to find any other headless mac mini projects. Has anything like this ever been tried before?
    Not exactly, but both my apps (TatraApp and shortly QCar) have the voice feedback capability which allows limited use without screen. But the whole thing is a pain in the butt (setting proper timeouts so the software does not start to speak too soon or too late etc.)

  3. #3
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    Thanks for your comments and thanks for the other mac-friendly rotary input devices: I hadn't run across those yet. You made a good point about speech taking too long; I'll remember to try some kind of pre-generated sound output. Thanks

  4. #4
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    It can be done. I've considered it myself. One of the challenges you'll have is that debugging this without a screen will be difficult. If the program loses focus or an alert pops up you may or may not know it and if you get off the screen that you need to be on, it will be a bear to get back on it.

    I used voice recognition for my XP car PC and it worked -mostly. I could tell it to do stuff and it would usually do it. However, with the windows open it was simply too loud. One thing to do is make a recording from the microphone while driving and you'll hear how loud the ambient noise really is. I was surprised. Then try it with the windows open.
    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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  5. #5
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    I Think it depends on what kind of mic you use. I haven't tried it yet but I am waiting on my Motorola H9 which is a Bluetooth headset that picks up your voice from the vibration in your jawbone and it is able to blockout ambient noise. Like I said I haven't tried it yet so I'll let you know.

  6. #6
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    Would Silaing clicker not give you some control over it though, i mean without a screen you can't see anything, but with your phone connected you will have "some" visual over it in the form of knowing what album etc you have chosen...
    CLICK ME

    Smart Car due for completion beginning of march....

    Log with pictures to go online shortly after.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by AJWatU View Post
    I Think it depends on what kind of mic you use. I haven't tried it yet but I am waiting on my Motorola H9 which is a Bluetooth headset that picks up your voice from the vibration in your jawbone and it is able to blockout ambient noise. Like I said I haven't tried it yet so I'll let you know.
    yeah I got the H9 and I worked on trying to calibrate the speech recognition and got no where so I gave up on that Idea I looked around for software but found one thing that sounded decent. It was 300. USD forget that.

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    Yep..

    I second the Sailing Clicker idea.

  9. #9
    Low Bitrate ikon240's Avatar
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    in that vain of thought

    why not use an iPhone? with RemoteBuddy... would work nicely. expensive remote, but endless possibilities. I currently have been playing with my iPhone with Indigo, my mac home automation software... works amazingly well. It would connect via wifi (might be able to get bluetooth to work also, just thinking outloud), access a webserver that interfaces with your mac to issue applescript, etc. This is essentially how the Indigo software works. Would be a nice addition also to a carpc setup that uses an OEM non touch screen display (w/ rotary control and QCar?). Thinking of going that route...

    -ikon

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