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Thread: iPod-based Car PC

  1. #1
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    iPod-based Car PC

    I was thinking of setting up a car PC in my car for a while, but I sort of like the factory-look of my radio (Symphonic II) and I already have an iPod interface as well as iPod touch. While I really want the GPS functionality, and a bit more gadgets than my iPod, I don't want another screen in my car. I have also fallen in love with the iPhone-like interface of my iPod, which would probably be quite time consuming to write myself for a car pc (I program as a hobby). I came up with a slightly different idea of a car pc.


    I want to build a very low-power Linux box with WiFi inside my car that would run no GUI, and have no display. The box would be hidden in my car so I wouldn't have to see it. I plan to run the following on the box:

    -A GPS Positioning System to know my current coordinates
    -A map/road application that uses preloaded data from openstreetmap.org (this will be the trickiest part)
    -An algorithm for planning a route
    -A web-app for displaying the data and GPS controls
    -A web server such that the iPod can access GPS functionality using safari browser
    -An ssh server so that I can log in from my iPod/laptop for admin settings and maintenance
    -An ad-hoc WiFi for my iPod to connect to
    -A tiny backup battery (doesn't have to run more than a few mins) and a script to automatically poweroff the device upon car poweroff.


    I was considering trying to find some MiniITX board with Atom processor and integrated WiFi, then slapping on an SSD, memory, and some DC-DC converter. The reason I want low-power is because I'm already keeping my radio and iPod in the car, and I don't want the car battery to die. I also know that WiFi can use quite a bit of power, that's why I want to minimize its range to just a few feet if possible and set the PC to turn on/off with car ignition (I would obviously need something that boots up in seconds). Please tell me what you guys think, from the software point of view this idea seems plausible to me. I haven't worked with low-power devices, however, so I don't know how crazy this idea is from a hardware perspective. I have no idea which parts would be best, how much power draw I'm looking at, or even how much power draw my car can tolerate. Thanks.

  2. #2
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    There are plug-in options for the iPod that will add GPS to it. Also, xGPS will provide you not only with turn-by-turn directions on the iPod, it can use those GPS devices and you can download maps to your iPod for various areas, negating the requirement for a constant connection.

    The main issue is to get a routing when you are out of WiFi range.



    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:
    -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

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    When connected using WiFi, however, the apps get your location using your IP address. If I'm using a local WiFi (car->iPod), the IP address technically doesn't give me any useful info. Maybe I can just tell the server to pretend like it's connected to the internet, and reply to IP-based location request from iPod using GPS data. Btw, I can't seem to find the app you suggested in the app store. As far as plug-in options, I've done some research in the past, it seems a company came up with a solution and presented a prototype, but never went to mass-produce it.

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    xgps is in Cydia thus your ipot has to be jailbroken.

    Also if you upgrade to the iphone 3g it has an actual gps reciever (or so I'm told). I'm currently using my iphone 2g and the xgps works ok on the edge network but it can be a li'l slow.

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    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:
    -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

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    The problem with that solution is that it leaves my iPod with an additional brick at the bottom, preventing me from docking it in the cradle I already have, taking away both my ability to recharge the iPod and to listen the songs on my iPod using the interface I already have. The GPS solution I mentioned was a WiFi device that didn't interfere with my current iPod functionality (locoGPS have created a device like this and promised to start selling it, but have not updated their site in over half a year). If this solution at least included an additional iPod connector, forwarding iPod signal to the dock, it would be useable. I don't mean to be difficult, but I want a GPS functionality in addition to music, not instead. If there is a solution that already solves that, I don't mind using that. If not, I want to create my own as outlined in initial post.

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    You're not being difficult - it's just that you said you wanted to connect to a WiFi server but all you listed for functionality was GPS.

    I agree 100% that this is the right way to go. An app on the iPhone that interacts with the server in the car is the way to connect the iPhone to the outside world.
    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:
    -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

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    After some more research, I found a compact module named iGPS360 that connects to the iPod and has additional USB connection on the bottom. It still doesn't integrate with my current iPod interface, but it might be cheaper/easier to buy new iPod interface + GPS attachment than building a CarPC, as long as the new interface supports USB devices. The only thing I'm wondering about, if I connect the iPod interface to my iPod using USB, will it still allow me to switch songs/playlists using my steering wheel controls?

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    Also, like you said, I haven't mentioned the full uses of my carPC, so here are the other features that I eventually want. These features are not mandatory, but would be neat to have:

    -Monitor Car Statistics (Rev + ODBII hardware already handles this with just iPod and $350 of HW+SW)
    -Distance sensors (this is like parking sensors but I want higher range, that way I can tell if there is something in my blindspot without glancing over, also I don't like current solutions since they consist of ugly pins on the outside of my car -this might actually require some sort of car PC or maybe fusion brain with wifi)
    -Voice recognition so that I can send commands to my iPod/GPS without having to look at it, for example switching a song or changing GPS destination (my iPod Touch 2G supports external microphone connection, so technically all I need is voice recognition software and a filter to cancel out the song currently played through the iPod from being recorded)

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    Iphone OBD-II

    Quote Originally Posted by R3N3G4D3 View Post
    -Monitor Car Statistics (Rev + ODBII hardware already handles this with just iPod and $350 of HW+SW)
    Here are some links to the above hardware:

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