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Thread: Newbie (to Carputers) in planning stages (long)

  1. #1
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    Newbie (to Carputers) in planning stages (long)

    I originally planned on installing a modded xbox console in my car, and using XBMP or XBMC. This would allow me to play all sorts of music and movie files. The xbox would of also allowed me to play all the XBox games and many more with the use of the endless amount of emulators that are out for it now. With the xbox modded I could also swap the 8gb or 10gb out of it with one that is much larger. Wireless ethernet adapters are also avaialble that would allow me to update my music/movies wirelessly.

    I have since decided that I wanted more, and came to the conclusion of installing a computer into my car. I think it would actually be easier to install than the Xbox (I am not one to just throw the xbox under the seat or in the trunk and say it's installed. I actually planned on ripping the xbox apart and trying to fit in my dash (seen it done with a PS2), and only having the drive slot, a few buttons, and maybe two controller ports exposed). Using a PC will allow me to do everything the Xbox gave me, might slack a bit on the gaming (unless I put a beast of a PC in, but Im not looking to play games in my car), but the rest will all out perform the XBox, with the addition of many other features.

    I then stumbled upon this forum, and was quite shocked to see how much of a communtity there in this hobby. I have been reading the forum daily for some time now and I have learned a lot of information about putting a PC in a car. I am famailar with PC's, built a few, upgraded many, worked on them a lot. I installed a few car stereos, including amps, subs, replacing head units, all the speakers, ect. So I don't think I will have any issues with installing it all into my car and wiring it. I am a bit new to fiberglass but what better to start practicing on... subwoofer enclousres, amp/carputer rack, new dash bezel.

    What I am more or less unsure about is all the hardware and software to use on my carputer. I came up with some questions to ask myself in hopes of helping me decide and now others to help:

    --------------------------------

    What do I want from my carputer?

    1. Full replacement of the headunit
    2. MP3 storage, and playback
    3. Movie storage, and playback (DVD, Divx, MPG, ect... no special format required)
    4. GPS Navigation
    5. Wireless Internet (primary use would be to update mp3s/movies wirelessly when I get home or before I leave)

    Optional features from my carputer:

    1. FM Tuner (sometimes the same old mp3s get boring)

    Extreme Optional features of the carputer:

    1. Car Monitoring (if anything useful is out for my car)
    2. Engine Management (doubt anything is out for my car)
    3. Data logging (logging information about my car, however I could... once again if anything is available for my car)

    --------------------------------

    How will I interact with the carputer? (Input/Output)

    1. 7" LCD Touchscreen monitor built into the dash bezel, for a smooth custom look

    Optional I/O Equipment:

    1. Wireless keyboard and/or mouse (for when installing new software, or fixing issues.. might not be able to with touchscreen alone)
    2. Wireless gamepad(s) (to play some games, primarily roms with emulators: nes, snes, genesis, ect)
    3. CD-ROM or DVD-ROM Drive (Only thing I see myself loosing without one is if someone was with me and brought a CD and wanted to listen to it, I wouldn't be able too, with it; more power usage (bigger psu) more space taken up, more weight)

    --------------------------------

    Since the primary use of the carputer will be for MP3 playback, sound quality is of concern. I plan on using the onboard sound to start, since it's there and won't require much more work (headphone to rca adapter, I have 2 already). If I am unsatisfied with it I will look to put a good sound card in. Preferrably with some sort of PCI adapter or cable that it doesn't need to be in the traditional 90 degree relationship to the motherboard ( |_ vs = or something... space will determine this). I only need 2 channel (right/left) audio, the RCA leads will go to one amp, then from that amp to the second amp.

    The GPS is probably the main reason that the XBox would not suffice. I am not looking for a handheld unit that I could remove and take with me outside of the car, so I am planning on just getting those USB GPS Mice, Location of the receiver/antenna is unknown yet, trial and error would be used to see where it would work. I would like it to be inside the car. As far as software for GPS goes, I have no clue!

    --------------------------------

    Hardware for the carputer:
    * If multiple items listed, the first is the primary choice, then second, third, and so on *

    - Power Supply: ITPS + PW-70a Combo / OPUS 90-watt DC-DC / OPUS 150 watt DC-DC (not really sure which would be the best... or the right amount of power)
    - Motherboard: VIA EPIA M10000 / MII10000 / CL10000 MINI-ITX (which of these would be better? The MII has PC Card, could stick a laptop wireless card in it, the CL has 4 USB ports in, loses 6channel audio (only need 2 channel which it has) and doesn't have the RCA/SVideo outputs, that I won't be using)
    - Processor: VIA C3 - 1GHz (comes with mobo)
    - RAM: ??? (Maybe 256MB Crucial PC2700 DDR333, possibly 512. Open for suggestions here!)
    - Hard Drive(s): Initially use my oldest HDD, 25GB (rather see it die in the car than my other home PC)
    - Monitor: Lilliput 7" 16:9 Touchscreen / Xenarc 7" 16:9 Touchscreen
    - GPS Receiver/Antenna: ??? (Maybe Rayming TN-200, suggestions welcome)
    - Wireless NIC adapter: ??? (Maybe Linksys Wireless-G USB Network Adapter 802.11g or a Notebook PC Card adapter if I use the MII 10000 motherboard; suggestions welcome)

    Opitional Hardware for the carputer:

    - PCI Soundcard (if onboard doesn't suffice): Will look into it more if I decided I want one, most likely an Audigy.
    - FM Tuner: D-LINK DSB-R100 (about the only one out there I saw anything mentioned about, I'm not too concerned about having FM, but it is something I will probably do)
    - Wireless Keyboard: No clue, something small, only use would be to fix problems or setup new stuff, other than that in the trunk (or glove box if it fits!)
    - Wireless Mouse: Not too concerned, doesn't need to be anything special, no real use for it or is there? If so, something small
    - Wireless Gamepad(s): Not too concerned, if I decide to do this I will look at them later

    --------------------------------

    Please, any comments, suggestions, whatever on what I am planning on doing, and items I am thinking of using, are all welcome. I like to have things fully planned out before buying all my products and then when I get them, it is easier to install and more of what I want than what I end up getting.

    TIA!

  2. #2
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    I have been trying to find a 'strong' solution for FM through PC as well. Reception and sound quality being key. I know I didnt answer anything for you with this but since it kind of rides along with your request I thought I would hop on

  3. #3
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    No problem... I am not looking for any good FM reception but it would be nice to still have it. As I said I do get bored of the same old MP3s at times, and also I sometimes get in a groove where I will listen to only the same set over and over. So turning to the FM Radio is nice at times. Also I learn about new stuff that is out and I am unaware of.

  4. #4
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    2 more questions to add:

    1. Since I will be completely replacing the headunit, I will not have a remote turn on wire coming from the headunit to turn on/off my 2 amps. I havn't looked recently but I do believe this wire is just a +12VDC. Would I just be able to tap some +12VDC wire from the PC's power supply and run that to the amps? I couldn't image this wire using up much power (watts) that it would put too much of strain on the PSU. I assume if it did, I could run a +12VDC wire from the PSU to a relay, which would then have a seperate +12VDC wire (from another source) go to the amps.

    2. I have a P3 1Ghz with 256MB of RAM. If I start installing software (that will be used on the carputer) and testing them out, getting them setup the way I would. Should I expect similar performace on the carputer. I believe the carputer would actually out perform my laptop, being that it would be customized far more, much less overhead, and fresh OS install.

    TIA once again

  5. #5
    Constant Bitrate gubon13's Avatar
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    quick answer

    Argh - had a LONG answer written out and then it got lost... Here's the short versions...

    The remote input on the amp IS a relay, so the use of an external relay would not be necessary. Also, because it is a relay, the amount of draw would be minimal on the 12v line.

    HOWEVER - I do not suggest using the line from the computer PSU as this would add unnecessary (albeit minimal) strain on the PSU. Also, this has the potential to introduce further noise into the system. You will see that once you get your system in your car, you get interference easily, getting rid of it is hard. I suggest using the switched 12v line that would have gone to your headunit, or tapping a new one from the ignition switch at the fusebox. The first suggestion is the easier one as it simply involves getting a wire adapter kit for your vehicle and tapping into that. This means no permanent modification of your car's electrical system.

    As for the computer, the answer is most likely NO. It sounds like you're saying that you have a 1GHz laptop with 256MB of RAM. Your Pentium III is MILES ahead of the VIA C3 1GHz processor on the Nehemiah ITX boards. This is due in part to the VERY small L2 cache on the C3 processor. (See http://www6.tomshardware.com/cpu/20020605/index.html) At any rate, most people say the VIA C3 1GHz is roughly equivalent to a Pentium III 600-800Mhz processor. I say more like 600 than 800. You'll notice slow processes in certain areas and in others it won't be noticable. Playing video and MP3 is generally not TOO processor intensive, so the ITX boards are great.

    Hope this info is helpful!

  6. #6
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    Thanks gubon13, never thought of using one of the wires from the headunit, Sucks that you lost you long answer, the more detail the better for me I'll have to think about the entire wiring some time later. The only reason I thought of using a power line from the PC not some other source, is that the amps only need to be on when the PC is on, being that this is my only source for audio. I'll still play around with the software on my PC for a slight idea of how it will run, but I will keep in mind the laptop maybe a bit quicker.

    Any suggestions on the some of the hardware I am unsure about? Or anyone else for that matter. I am leaning more towards the CL10000 motherboard now. I will lose 6 channel audio, RCA and S-Video output. I won't be using those video outputs, and only need 2 channel audio; which it has, so I think this motherboard might be a good one so far.

    In some benchmarks I have seen that had graphs with all 3 of the motherboards I have listed, as well as few others, the MII was the best, then in most of the areas the CL was second. The M was quite a bit behind. The price differences are not great so that makes it a bit more difficult for me to decide.

  7. #7
    Constant Bitrate gubon13's Avatar
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    here goes...

    I'm not sure about the use of the CL10000 motherboard. I know that it has higher rated file system speed as well as in other areas, but I have not seen any tests showing differences in multimedia speeds. It's hard to say. On the one hand, you're getting a more optimized machine, but on the other you lose any chance of expandability. (Wouldn't it be cool if you had cheap lcds in the headrests that ran off of the video out?) Also, I would say that most of the benchmarks I saw showed only *slight* increases in the CL10000 over the M10000.

    I may be biased on this, however, as I have the M10000 board and it works GREAT. I've had no major issues, and I love this board.

    In terms of the screen, you can look around and see what others think. I personally have the Lilliput and it's a love-hate relationship. The screen is great, although it produces a lot of glare during the dawn and dusk hours of the day. It's mostly the touchscreen that annoys me. Look around if you haven't already and you'll see the problems that many of us Lilliput owners are having. If you want to spend a little more and get a more reliable screen, stick with the Xenarc. Better touchscreen controller by far. Have yet to see many Xenarc owners complain.

    The good think about GPS is that unless you get an older proprietary unit, pretty much anything works with the major softwares available. All those (relatively) cheap units on eBay will do just fine.

    For the hard drive, you have a few issues to figure out. First of all, how much space do you want? I have over 1/2 Terabyte of movies alone, so obviously for me it's not possible to store ALL of them in my carputer. Also, do you want to use a standard 3.5 hdd or use a laptop drive. Obviously the laptop drives are more expensive and have limited capacity versus the standard drives. However, the laptop drives have their benefits in terms of resistance to shock. Now, many people say they've never had a problem with their standard drives. For me, I had to go with the laptop drive as ride in my truck is certainly not "smooth." Your needs will dictate what you decide. Ideally, you could just throw in an old standard hdd and test it. Go to the bumpiest place you and find...

    FM radio is an interesting issue. Because of the lack of SDKs (software development kits) for most of the newer, popular FM radio cards/usb devices, there is only ONE device that has integrated support within Mediacar or MediaEngine (the two major carputer softwares). This is of course the D-Link USB FM Radio (DSB-R100). It is discontinued, had to find, and often goes for more than it's worth on eBay, about the only place you CAN find it. Also, MANY people have given it horrible reviews for in-car use. I will be finding out myself in a few days when mine arrives and I start fiddling with it. Other devices exist, such as the Hauppauge devices, both PCI and USB. Obviously, we here at MP3CAR tend to lean towards the USB devices due to the widespread use of the ITX boards with only 1 pci slot.

    As for the wireless, here goes... I have the linksys usb 802.11g. It's great...but only if you're fairly close. I added an external omni-directional antenna which helps A LOT, but this required splicing wires. The good thing is that I now have a quick-disconnect connector that allows me to switch between the omni antenna and a home-made cantenna. ( <-- You didn't hear that Mr. FCC ) Honestly, any reputable wireless adapter should be fine, but I always suggest spending extra for the 802.11g over the 802.11b for obvious speed reasons, but also for not so obvious security issues. 802.11b equipment is VERY susceptible to security flaws in the WEP protocol, while *some* of this was fixed in the 802.11g architecture. Just a consideration. I do suggest trying to find something that supports external antennas. I'd do it this way if I could start over.

    Hmmm... RAM. I say go with the 512MB. Not TOO much extra, and it's a good idea to have overkill rather than underkill. When you start running GPS, and video at same time, it takes up a lot of resources. 256MB is MINIMUM. Also, go with the PC2700, it's cheaper and in theory should be slightly faster. In theory.

    Car interfacing is what I'm working on now. Most cars built after 1996 have an OBD-II connector. The dealer uses it to read "Check Engine" error codes and do minor stuff to the on-board computer. If you have the cable and software, you can do it as well. I'm cheap, so I'm building my own, but for cables and software, try www.digimoto.com and you'll see what I mean.

    If you have any questions, let me know.

    Best of luck.
    "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a b@$#*??!!"

  8. #8
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    Thank you very much for the responce gubon13. Here is a few more information about my install.

    The car it will be going in is a 93 Toyota MR2 Turbo. For anyone who doesn't know this is a two seater, mid engined car. Therefore I am planning on putting my 2 amps and the computer components under my hood (yeah my hood :P ). Actually my battery is up there from factory, so power cables would be much shorter, and any cables into the interior (lcd screen, speaker wires, extended usb for examples) will be much shorter and not have to travel through my engine bay.

    Being that the car is only a two seater, I have no back seat so I don't need much in terms of expansion to have screens in my head rests. Also I only have left/right channel stereo, no front/back with left and right. This is the reason 2 channel audio output is all I need. I would never even look into trying to put any sort of surround sound into this car.

    The one site I read a review on the CL10000 board had a graph showing the FPS of the systems (all the same except the motherboard) playing Quake 3 v1.1, the MII was the highest, CL second, then something else third. The M was quite a bit behind.

    The other routine benchmarks were all pretty much standard for all the models in the graphs, some were a bit higher than others but nothing that would make a difference.

    GPS, I guess I will go with the one off of ebay.

    HDD, I don't plan on using a laptop drive because the adapters needed, and also the extra cost. I realize that they would take up less space and juice, as well as be more likely to not fail. I have some drives that are getting older now, so I would like to use them in the car at first to test with. If my old 25, 20, 40gb's die I won't mad at all. I can just keep making adjustments and seeing it gets any better. If it gets to a point where it just kills any normaly drive I would then try a laptop.

    RAM, I'll probably go with 512 DDR2700 because it is cheaper than 2100 and could be faster.

    FM, I'll wait on this, let me know what you think of the unit when you get it though.

    Wireless NIC, I only really want this to update the mp3s/movies/ect from my house to the car, if I get a half decent signal when the car is on the street infront of my house I would be happy. I guess I would just need to get it and even if I throw my laptop under my hood with the unit see how it works.

    As far as the car interfacing, I don't see myself even wanting to do it... I havn't looked into it much to be honest but what kind of real benefits do you get? Having my PC tell me my doors are open or low on wind sheild wiper fluid is, IMO, a waste of my time to get it all wired up and doing that.

    With this setup CL, or MII board, 512 DDR2700, 3.5 HDD, Lilliput or Xenarc touchscreen; USB wireless nic, gps, and possibly FM, keyboard, mouse, game pads (2x). Which power supply would be best, I am sure the 150w would work but if I can get away with a lower (cheaper) I would rather.

    I do not plan on having any form of a cdrom or dvdrom in it, or really upgrading much, I don't see anything worth adding.

  9. #9
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    Forgot to mention this, as I said the stuff will be under my hood as long as I get it all to fit. I am planning to have all the wireless stuff (inet, gps, kb/mouse, fm, ect) under there also, or hidden away up front. I don't want any extra antennas sticking up.

    Right now the hood is metal, as well as the fenders and all the frames. I do plan on going with a carbon fiber hood, would this help reception at all? I would assume it would block less of the freqs than the metal would.

    Any one have any comments on that?

  10. #10
    Constant Bitrate gubon13's Avatar
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    Okay... Here goes again...

    93 Toyota MR2... Wow. I guess it HAS to be an ITX board - even a flex ATX would be half the size of your storage area! I used to hate working on my friend's MR2 - such a small car, and I'm a big guy. Nevermind even trying to drive it. Felt like the short-shifter was in my armpit...

    Before I forget, please post the link to the comparison chart if you remember where you found it. I haven't seen that one and would love to see it.

    I hope I didn't make the HDD issue sound larger than it is. As long as you're not bouncing around massively, I don't see it being a problem.

    Yeah, most people agree that the OBD-II connection is kind of pointless, but I have a few electrical issues with my truck, so it will come in quite handy for me. As it is, the truck is in and out of the shop for diagnostics a few times a year and it's costly. I hate paying other people to do things that I just don't have the right tools for.

    I don't know how the other power supplies are, but I can speak for my own. I use the Audioforge Car Power Package w/PW120A 120W psu with the power-on unit. The power-on unit pulses the power switch line on the motherboard 4 seconds after the accessory/ignition line gets power, and shuts down 4 seconds after the accessory/ignition line stops power. I think it's great, although I wish there was a line conditioning circuit built into it. Otherwise, it seems to provide clean stable power, and it has the benefit of plugging directly into the ATX power connector on the motherboard. Most people are going to say that you should go for the OPUS unit, and it DOES provide line conditioning. I paid $100 for the PW120A and power-on unit. I believe the OPUS unit is a LOT more. Not sure exactly on the 90W version, but I am pretty sure the 150W is around $180+, so I wouldn't hold my breath on the 90W being much cheaper. (With only mb, hdd, and usb devices drawing power, 90W will be more than sufficient.) Honestly, this is where money should be spent. If I had it to do over, I'd spend double and get the OPUS 150W psu. In fact, I still may.

    As for interference, I haven't brushed up on physics in a while, but I'm fairly certain that the density of the fiberglass (has to be thicker than the original steel to provide similar strength) should still be a major improvement over the steel hood. That's just going to have to be a test-and-see issue however.

    And why are you putting a fiberglass hood on a 12 yr old car??? Good luck.
    "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a b@$#*??!!"

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