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Thread: Newbie here... can't decide what to do...

  1. #1
    Maximum Bitrate FusionFanatic's Avatar
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    Newbie here... can't decide what to do...

    hi guys...

    I just joined this forum yesterday, but I have been lurking around for a few weeks. I have read many of the FAQ's, but still have a long way to go.

    I am a "newb" in the sense that I have never installed a computer in a car; however I have been building my own computers (as well as building my own liquid cooling systems) for years. I have also installed/upgraded the audio systems in every car I have ever owned. mechanically, I [in theory] have all the experience necessary and all the tools (both power and hand) to gracefully enter the world of carputing

    my problem is that I cannot decide on what components I want to use, and how I want to set it all up. I have a 2007 Ford Fusion, it has a double-DIN factory stereo opening. I would like to have BOTH an aftermarket single DIN stereo AND a full touchscreen LCD. but it appears that the only way I can accomplish that is by installing a stereo in the lower DIN slot and installing a folding/retractable LCD in the top DIN slot. while I would love the "clean" look of an LCD screen that sits flush with the rest of the dashboard, but I don't like the idea of controlling the stereo through a software interface. also, I want to be able to say leave the navigation screen displayed and be able to change the radio station and adjust volume at the same time (I don't want to be switching screens)

    my other problem is that I cannot decide what to use for the "guts" of the system. I have enough spare parts [lying around collecting dust] to build an ATX system. I also have an old Dell Insipron 8000 laptop that I rarely use anymore.

    • building an ATX system would take up alot of space, use alot of power, and would have to to be mounted in the trunk (hard to cool). but it would be a powerful system in a car. since I already have all the parts, all i would need to buy is a monitor and cables.
    • using the laptop would take up less space and consume less power, but would still have to be mounted in the trunk and is not as powerful (600MHz PIII). and again, since I already have all the parts, all i would need to buy is a monitor and cables.
    • the other option is to build a custom mini-ITX system that could either fit in the dash somewhere. I like this option the best, but since I don't have any components for a mITX system, I would have to purchase everything. which would end up being much more than I would like to spend (or charge )
    • pre-made systems are far too expensive, so unless I saw some amazing deal I'm not even considering one.


    I will probably end up going the single-DIN stereo / single-DIN in-dash touchscreen route. but I am interested in hearing what others have to say about my potential carputer. Thanks

    BTW, here's a pic of the dashboard in case anybody wants to see it (thanks to msn autos):

  2. #2
    Variable Bitrate madkad's Avatar
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    I have a double-DIN and still looking into my own idea so cant help on that

    why not do this, buy the mini motherboard, one that will fit in your sper cpu (a good one) and one that you got ram for, then get your laptop HDD out and use that and also the slim line drive in your laptop

    you could also use the screen but it wouldnt be toutch screen.
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  3. #3
    Maximum Bitrate FusionFanatic's Avatar
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    thanks for the reply madkad,

    I had thought of doing that, but I don't want to "kill" my laptop. I'll either use the laptop as the carputer itself, or not use it at all. If I do go the mini-ITX route then I'll buy a HDD and slimline for it.

    also, my laptop has a 15" screen. it would be pretty cool to have a screen that big in my car, but I can't think of a suitable mounting location for a screen that big. there's certainly no room on the dash and the sunroof takes up most of the ceiling.

    I have only had the car for a couple weeks. I haven't had a chance to remove the dash yet to see how much space is back there. if I could get a second center dash panel somewhere, I would like to modify it to fit everything I want but I don't want to hack up my original panel (i need to be able to put everything back to stock to sell or trade-in the car in a couple years)

    thanks for the ideas though

  4. #4
    Fusion Brain Creator 2k1Toaster's Avatar
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    for the spare dash pieces, check eBay.

    And also check ebay for a laptop with a broken screen if you want a laptop that you wont be afraid to hack up and still use the one you have now for use outside the car.

    The laptop you will need to solder wires to and it will not be very useable afterwards. So seems like a very big waste of money to do that.
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  5. #5
    Maximum Bitrate FusionFanatic's Avatar
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    hi toaster, thanks for the reply

    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
    for the spare dash pieces, check eBay
    That's the first place I looked , but I coudn't find any. probably because this is only the second year that the Fusion has been in production I'll check with the ford dealer parts dept on Tuesday and see what they charge for a replacement panel/bezel (if they even offer it at all).

    I looked at it a couple days ago, and I have alot of room above the Double-DIN opening (about 2½"). It would be great if I could utilize that wasted space. I have made my own fiberglass speaker enclosures before, so I may try and make my own custom fiberglass dash panel/bezel (though I'm not too confident in my ability to make it look stock )

    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
    The laptop you will need to solder wires to and it will not be very useable afterwards. So seems like a very big waste of money to do that.
    why would I need to solder anything? couldn't I just plug the touchscreen monitor into the laptop's VGA output? and plug the power adapter into an inverter (or buy a 12v laptop power supply)

    thanks

  6. #6
    Fusion Brain Creator 2k1Toaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ComputerGeek View Post
    hi toaster, thanks for the reply


    That's the first place I looked , but I coudn't find any. probably because this is only the second year that the Fusion has been in production I'll check with the ford dealer parts dept on Tuesday and see what they charge for a replacement panel/bezel (if they even offer it at all).

    I looked at it a couple days ago, and I have alot of room above the Double-DIN opening (about 2½"). It would be great if I could utilize that wasted space. I have made my own fiberglass speaker enclosures before, so I may try and make my own custom fiberglass dash panel/bezel (though I'm not too confident in my ability to make it look stock )


    why would I need to solder anything? couldn't I just plug the touchscreen monitor into the laptop's VGA output? and plug the power adapter into an inverter (or buy a 12v laptop power supply)

    thanks
    Well you need to figure some way of turning it on. And to do that you need to get to the power button. So you need to pop off the one that is there, and then solder leads onto the wire going into your SDC. And you should use a DC-DC such as the Carnetix P1900 so that you have a good power supply and shut down controller.
    Fusion Brain Version 6 Released!
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  7. #7
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    If your looking for the cheapest solution go with the laptop. Its also removable. The ATX case will require you getting a power inverter - or a dc-dc power supply.

    If you want to do it right, build a mini pc using the mini form factor available.
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  8. #8
    Maximum Bitrate FusionFanatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
    Well you need to figure some way of turning it on. And to do that you need to get to the power button. So you need to pop off the one that is there, and then solder leads onto the wire going into your SDC. And you should use a DC-DC such as the Carnetix P1900 so that you have a good power supply and shut down controller.
    I want to be able to use the laptop outside of the car as well, so I cannot hack anything inside of it. to solve this, I'll be using a port replicator / docking station (which I'll "hack" the power button on).

    I don't really need a startup/shutdown controller, in fact I don't really want one either... reason being; I don't want the carPC to run automatically every time I start the car, I also don't want it to shutdown everytime I remove the key. If I drive right down the street to the drugstore, etc. I don't need the carPC booting up/shuting down each time. I'd rather have manual control over when it starts up and when it shuts down.

    one thing I will do to insure that my car battery never goes dead as a result of the carPC being left on is; I will hook up a relay between the 12v power input to the laptop PSU/charger. this way the laptop will stay on after the car is key is removed, but will not be draining the car battery. if for some reason I forgot to shut off the carPC, then it would simply shut itself down in a couple hours when the laptop's battery gets low.


  9. #9
    Fusion Brain Creator 2k1Toaster's Avatar
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    You may not want a sdc now, but you will once turning it on gets old.

    The fix to your examples is actually to put a switch on the ignition line being fed to the sdc. Get a 3 position ON/OFF/ON switch (available at radioshack for cheap). Connect either the top or bottom terminal to a constant 12v source. Connect the other (either top or bottom) terminal to a switched 12v source.

    Now when your switch is in position 1 it feeds constant 12v to the sdc, so the laptop will stay on all the time. position 2 at the centre feeds nothing. So the laptop will never turn on. The 3rd position feeds it switched 12v, so it turns on and off with the car.

    That easy. So if you drive to the corner store, flip the switch to the centre and it wont turn on. If you stop to get gas and want it to stay on, flip the switch the position 1. All other times, keep it at automatic.

    Manually starting and shutting down the computer gets old really really fast. And for a few bucks at radioshack or for free if you find some piece of junk electronics with the switch on it, it really helps.
    Fusion Brain Version 6 Released!
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  10. #10
    Maximum Bitrate FusionFanatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
    You may not want a sdc now, but you will once turning it on gets old ~ Manually starting and shutting down the computer gets old really really fast
    you're right, that would get old really fast for somebody who wants their carputer on every time they drive... but in my case, most of the time I have no need for it to be on. the only use i will have while driving is GPS navigation, and I don't need that while commuting or running errands.

    my carputer will be for more "non-driving" purposes (such as wireless internet, office apps, mild gaming for random "bored while waiting" times, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
    The fix to your examples is actually to put a switch on the ignition line being fed to the sdc. Get a 3 position ON/OFF/ON switch (available at radioshack for cheap). Connect either the top or bottom terminal to a constant 12v source. Connect the other (either top or bottom) terminal to a switched 12v source.

    Now when your switch is in position 1 it feeds constant 12v to the sdc, so the laptop will stay on all the time. position 2 at the centre feeds nothing. So the laptop will never turn on. The 3rd position feeds it switched 12v, so it turns on and off with the car.

    That easy. So if you drive to the corner store, flip the switch to the centre and it wont turn on. If you stop to get gas and want it to stay on, flip the switch the position 1. All other times, keep it at automatic.
    that's a very good idea for somebody who will be using their carputer as a radio/media player/sat tuner, etc... but in my case (as explained above) I have no need for the carputer to turn on and off with the car.

    I will however use a switch/relay setup for the monitor and power supply. I will have the power supply and monitor's input controlled by a relay (wired to ignition) with a manual override switch. the same basic idea as you stated, the only difference being it will be hooked up to the direct feed, and not into a SDC.

    thanks for all your help so far, although it may seem like I'm arguing or disagreeing, I really do appreciate you taking the time to help me. even if I do not implement your suggestions, it does make me think of alternate ways of doing things and may even make me re-think how I will put everything together and what i will use it for.

    UPDATE: I have decided on using my laptop (via docking station) hooked up to a Lilliput EBY701 (which I will be making my own "stealth" mounting setup for). I have a small storage compartment above the stereo/vents, when not in use, the monitor can fold down and hide in the storage compartment. when I want to use it, I will be able to pull it out and lock in in a vertical position. one great thing about this setup will be that the screen is above the dash, (making it easier/less distracting to view while driving), the "hood" of the compartment will act as a sun shade, and best of all I can fold it down and hide it when not in use. this is very important to me because I park my car at work, then drive a company vehicle all day so I would like to keep the car looking as "bone-stock" as possible to discourage thieves from breaking into my car (which had been happening alot lately in the area that my car is parked every day)

    thanks

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