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Thread: New Member - Accumulating project parts

  1. #1
    Newbie Heckler's Avatar
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    New Member - Accumulating project parts

    Hi everyone, just joined up as I am working on a carpc project and some one suggested I check this place out.

    I'm in the UK, so please bear that in mind when suggesting places to purchase stuff, and the fact we run on 240v over here too.

    I have read the FAQ's but have a limited understanding of car electrics, I can put a PC together, although it's been about 3 or 4yrs since I last built one. I have done some basic searches, but my queries are kinda vague and bring up hundreds of unrelated subjects/threads so it's kinda hard to filter stuff out and get to the exact stuff I want.

    Here's a list of the components I have so far.

    MB: Gigabyte 7VAXP Ultra
    CPU: AMD XP2800+ Socket A (Barton core, 1.8ghz)
    Ram: 1GB Crucial PC 2700 (2x 512mb)
    HD: Seagate 100GB Laptop drive 5400rpm
    PSU: 400W ATX (possibly overkill)
    Vid Card: Radeon 9200
    WiFi: Netgear USB 54mbs dongle

    I have a selection of heatsinks/fans I can choose from, monster cooling or low rpm copper ones with heatpipes. The CPU doesn't really run at high temps though, when it was being used as my desktop PC, it ran at around 36-40 in a decent case with good airflow. Will be making sure the enclosure for the carpc has good airflow with at least 1x120mm fan.

    Now for the stuff that I am confused about.

    I read about using some kind of inverter connected direct to the car battery, that then powers the stock PSU for the PC and provides constant power without the fluctuations. It also mentions being a constant drain on the battery, so would need some kind of shut off to isolate the power, not sure if this can be done with some kind of relay to reduce or eliminate any drain.

    Screens, been looking at some 7" motorised single din ones... hard to find one with VGA at a reasonable price (still cheaper than importing one though).

    Sound

    The incar pc will be doing everything and I will be removing the current pioneer head unit. The MB has 5.1 surround sound and I was seriously thinking of hooking this up in car. Already got 4 decent speakers fitted, would possibly remove the centre vent to fit a centre speaker (no aircon in this particular car, so side vents will suffice), can easily add a subwoofer in the boot.

    Not sure how to go about hooking this up though, how many amps would I need? I figure one for the sub at least, would it simply be easier to use a 4.1 setup, and use software to emulate the centre speaker... which does work quite well on my other desktop.

    Will be running everything from GPS(satnav)/DVD/MP3 and possibly adding a TV/FM tuner (PCI card or USB, can get both for around the same these days). Operating system will most likely be XP Pro, although I would want to strip it down to the minimum, will need some basic networking, for the wifi but can pretty much dump everything else that's surplus to my needs.

    As for the install itself, it will be going into a Mazda MX6. They've got a very large boot, so will be building a panel to shut of the immediate section behind the rear seats, which will still leave a reasonable sized boot, the closed of section would only be accessible from within the car and split into 2 compartments, right side for the PC and left side for any amps required. Heat would be vented up onto the rear screen with any luck, assisting in keeping that clear during the colder days.


    Sorry for the huge first post, tried to include everything I could think of and/or remember from reading the FAQ's.

  2. #2
    Low Bitrate
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    Most people do not go 5.1 in their car. You will find a lot of people actually just have stereo audio and split it to go 4.1 or 6.1. Ask you self, do you really think you will need Dolby Surround sound or something like that in your car? If you go 4.1 a single 5 or 6 channel amp is all you will need; or a 4 channel and a 2/1 channel.

    As for power to the PC, please do yourself a favor and buy a automotive power supply with built in shutdown controller. It will save you many headaches. The 400W PSU you have now is definitely more than you need and an inverter + shutdown controller for that will cost more than a DC-DC power supply.

    As for screen I have to suggest trying to think of a way to mold a 7" screen into your dash instead of a single DIN motorized. Why? Because motorized screens break, they don't look as nice, they cost more. Their advantage? They take less time/work.
    "You're just about as useless as JPEGs to Helen Keller" - Wierd Al

  3. #3
    Newbie Heckler's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply and suggestions.

    I've read about the shutdown controllers, but unclear exactly how they work and were they would be wired. Ideally, I'd like to be able to power up the monitor and have that power the pc up at the same time. Does the pc go into hibernate, or shutdown each time... so many questions I know.

    I have thought of the molded screen, a friend has done just this. But I don't have the room on the dash for everything else if I do that. I am already running 3 extra gauges for oil temp/pressure and voltages, and will be adding a clock and water temp gauges into the spot where the ashtray currently is. If I move the HVAC panel down one din where the stereo currently is, that leaves just the top one free for the motorised dash.

    On top of that, each din in the MXg is slightly shifted to the left of the one above, so it's quite a lot of work to get this sorted.

    Finally, I have already spent a lot of time and effort painting and customising the dash already, and don't want to redo the entire thing... will have to redo the gear surround when I remove the ashtray already and trying to avoid extra work if at all possible.

  4. #4
    Newbie Heckler's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply

    Can't mold the screen in for several reasons. I've got several added gauges to monitor engine and electrical things, and the din slots on an MX6 are not lined up but offset from each other slightly. It can be done with enough time and skill, but I've already spent a lot of time and effort painting the dash and customising it already. Don't want to see all that work wasted by starting again. A motorised one will suffice for what I have planned and if it makes it easier to do, all the better.

  5. #5
    Variable Bitrate Grrrmachine's Avatar
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    If space is an issue, as well as cost, I'd certainly rethink your PC specs. A beast of those qualities is cheap to build as a desktop, but expensive to run as a carPC in terms of cabling, powering, placing and fitting. Finding space for a 30cmx20cm motherboard with a 10cm tall heatsink behind your dash will not be an easy job, and fitting it in the boot means running lots of expensive cables (3m+ of VGA, for a start...)

    Certainly I understand your parts sourcing woes (Im an expat Brit myself) but see if you can pick up an old 1Ghz Athlon and a cheap-as-chips DC-DC converter from Maplin and take it from there. If it works, you can upgrade

  6. #6
    Newbie Heckler's Avatar
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    After reading around the site, I'm wondering the same thing. I'm currently looking at some Shuttle type PC's on ebay right now. I've got the ram and CPU and everything else, so just the case/MB is all I need. Even noticed that this place sells a compatible replacement power supply thingy to fit in a shuttle.

    Starting to realise that my specs are perhaps a little ambitious, but it's what I had laying around. So far the only component I've bought is the laptop HD, and that was less than 40 for a 100gb, which is pretty good over here and will more than handle what I want. 30GB of MP3's, a few GB for the OS and a few important programs, the rest can be used to store video and stuff... and with WiFi, I can just download direct from my home network.

    Still reading and trying to learn before I commit to doing anything, this is looking more and more like a winter project whilst the car is in storage during the cold months.

  7. #7
    Variable Bitrate Grrrmachine's Avatar
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    I sat on my project for a year just trying to find the right screen - now it's all come together I can see where the chinks are - silly little things like how it'll be controlled (including the audio volume, which is a PITA to stay on top of with a touchscreen whilst driving.)

    What exactly is it you want the PC to do? "A few GB for the OS" seems rather beefy - there's some nifty Windows things like TinyXP or nlite that'll shrink your OS down for speedy boot times, and to claw back a gig or two for more tunes

  8. #8
    Newbie Heckler's Avatar
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    The few GB for the OS includes programs and other stuff. My choice of satnav software is at least a 1gb install, but is quite comprehensive... not the best one around, but not looking to buy more software if I don't have to.

    What I want it too do is quite a lot I guess. I want it to handle all in car audio and video, sat nav.. possibly even hook it up to engine management system to tweak settings, as I was thinking of installing a megasquirt system to go with the other engine tweaks I'm doing. I know it's doable as a friend had it done.

    Will figure out the OS setup as I progress, plenty of front ends seem to be available and could possibly modify one to suit. Still learning and every time I spend some time reading around here, I see another nice little touch. Far to much info to take in today, I've changed my plans half a dozen times already.

  9. #9
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    Had a rethink the last day or so, as I found myself drooling over other components and realising the price was going up and up.

    So back to the original plan with the components listed in the first post... with the exception of the PSU. I figured instead I will go for a DC-DC supply as that will be simpler and more efficient.

    Now I've had a look at the charts and can't make sense of them. The (barton core) XP 2800+ doesn't need a huge amount of power and runs quite cool, but I'm either misunderstanding the principals here (electrical/electronic is really not my thing at all and I have tried many times and failed to learn how to read electrical diagrams unless clearly and simply laid out... odd for some one with an education such as mine, guess we all have our blind spots though.

    I can run a decent gauge wire from the battery (fused at battery end but what amp fuse?) to the boot of my car (trunk for those across the pond ) and then use what ever DC-DC supply is most compatible with the setup (not sure what power rating I should get). I then also need a startup/shutdown controller which would be wired to the MB power controller and the cars ignition. I'd need a good ground point in the boot also, found the one closest to the planned site of the install.

    Am I correct so far?

    I have a spare case I can modify, or my preffered method if it will fit, an old alluminium flight case... will need a few holes cutting for cables and a fan. Can mount the DVD drive on top via a simple bracket. The whole thing would be laid flat in a corner of the boot with a small enclosure built around it and vented.

    I'll need a long VGA lead, luckily I already have an extension lead and a standard VGA lead that will suffice. Mother board has 6 USB ports, so no problems powering the touch screen, wifi and GPS dongles. I have a USB extension lead that I will run to the centre storage/arm rest. Just in case I want to connect an MP3 player, camera or something else.

    I was even thinking of a PCI TV card and getting one of those in car aerials that you can hook up... but it's one of things to worry about at a later date.

    Then it's just a question of finding out how to do a stripped down install of windows with just what I need and getting all the software I need installed... and choosing a front setup/software I like and can tweak to my own tastes.
    Warning - This post may contain humour and/or sarcasm. However I cannot be held responsible for your [in]ability to comprehend it.

    I'm an introverted extrovert who conforms to non-conformity

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