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Thread: New to CarPCs? Don't know where to start?

  1. #1
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    New to CarPCs? Don't know where to start?

    Welcome!

    You've spotted the right thread right out of the box! Congratulations!

    With the recent influx of individuals becoming interested in the whole CarPC hobby, I've decided (with the help of a select few individuals listed blow) to start this thread to help you out.

    This site exists for the sole purpose of helping YOU to help yourself. There are thousands of us out there, just like yourself, who had the wild idea at one point in time to put a PC in our rides (or boats, or planes, or what have you). We all share at least one thing in common, we found this place. Well, that and a bit of geekyness too...lol

    Anywho, I've compiled a few basic questions that seem to come up over and over in this forum. Things that most newcomers seem to think of right off the bat but are unsure where to go for answers, or, even to help themselves find those answers.

    I've taken the time to write out some VERY BASIC outlines here for you. Click on the links and explore.

    Many of us who have been successful in implementing our CarPCs have spent months reading and posting questions before we ever started to consider buying products. I suggest you do the same...well, at least read up quite a bit before purchasing...you might be a quicker learner than some of us...hehe

    Aighty - so here's what I have so far, if you're a noob and would like to see something else answered, feel free to ask. If we feel it's been a question that has come up quite often, we'll include it in here. If you're an old timer, that sees an error, or would like to add, feel free, lets just try and keep this thread on topic and free of discussions if possible.

    How can I get the most out of the mp3car.com forums?
    The mp3car forums are a wealth of information about putting a computer in your vehicle there are some subforums for specific information that are very useful:
    • Mp3car.com forum rules: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/announcement.php?f=12
      The Administrators and moderators use these as a guideline. Violation of these rules is dealt with swiftly, but fairly. Please read them. Please note that some subforums have their own sets of rules that are included as a stickey post at the top of each forum. These are in addition to the general forum guidelines. The two subforums that have specific rules are FAQ Emporium and Review Palace. The Review Palace is also moderated, meaning that any posts in that subforum will not be visible until approved by a moderator or admin.

    • Forum etiquette: Forum Etiquette
      This is a set of guidelines to follow to help keep the peace here at these forums. It's mostly common sense and courtesy. This should apply not only here at mp3car.com, but at any forum or bulletin board.

    • FAQ Emporium: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/the-faq-emporium/.
      A lot of people have put a lot of effort into compiling information about many different topics related to carPCs. Many of us old-timers have that forum bookmarked for easy access. We ask that you not post questions in the FAQ Emporium, as it's meant to be a source for answers. If you have a question that doesn't have an answer, feel free to ask it in the appropriate forum.
      Alternately, you can go to the forum's main FAQ, which has links to a lot of informative post. They both get you pretty much to the same storehouse of information. Forum FAQ: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/faq.php

    • Show Off Your Project: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/show-off-your-project/
      This forum is for finished and functiona carPC projects. It's not to show off your ride's before pictures or post a worklog.
      There is a subforum for worklogs here: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/worklogs/
      Feel free to add your worklog and keep everyone updated on your progress. It's also a good place to look for procedures or methods for accomplishing specific tasks, as most members include lots of photos.

    • The Classifieds: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/vbclassified.php
      If you have something you have for sale or something you're looking for, please post it here. Links to ebay auctions are welcome, as are offers to barter. Please title your ad appropriately.</br>There are specific rules for the classifieds. Please read them before posting any classified ad.

    • Search the forums: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/search.php
      If you can't find any threads that relate to what you're looking for, search any or all subforums to locate information. This isn't a guide on how to search effectively, but the key is to break down your seach into keywords. Be forewarned that if you're too specific with your keywords and you may exclude threads with helpful information. Conversely, if you're not specific enough, you'll get a lot of results that have nothing to do with your subject.One last note about searching these forums: For common topics and questions, you're likely to get a lot of results with little or no information. There are a lot of reasons this happens and is explained in detail here

    • Search the forums: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/search.php
      If you can't find any threads that relate to what you're looking for, search any or all subforums to locate information. This isn't a guide on how to search effectively, but the key is to break down your seach into keywords.
      Be forewarned that if you're too specific with your keywords and you may exclude threads with helpful information. Conversely, if you're not specific enough, you'll get a lot of results that have nothing to do with your subject.
      One last note about searching these forums: For common topics and questions, you're likely to get a lot of results with little or no information. There are a lot of reasons this happens and is explained in detail here: FAQ: Why do people keep telling me to SEARCH?
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  2. #2
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    What basic knowledge and/or skills do I need in order to put a CarPC in my car?

    First, I’d like to thank MatrixPC for his idea on this section.

    Many people are very interested in putting a PC in their cars only to realize that there are a few skills that you need to at least have a grasp on before attempting a project like this.

    Knowing how to build a computer and understanding the basics of electronics and wiring are of critical importance. If you do not have these skills, I suggest that you either take the time to freshen up on these, or purchase an all in one solution like the Infill G4 Powered by StreetDeck

    Or like these units: Pre Built CarPCs

    If you are interested in integrating your system into your car and trying to make it seamless, I suggest you head on over to the Fabrication Forum and read up on fabrication techniques and how-tos.

    If you still have a few questions about all of this, I’d suggest spending ample amount of time in the FAQ Emporium
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  3. #3
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    Has anyone installed a CarPC in (insert make and model car here)?

    One of the easiest ways to get started is to see if others have installed a CarPC in a car similar to yours. You can get ideas from what others have done, and you can use their mistakes and successes to your advantage. Check out the Show Off Your Project forum and search for cars like yours to see what others have been able to do successfully and unsuccessfully.

    Interested in learning more about the whole process of installing a CarPC in your ride? May I suggest spending some time searching through the Work Logs and Fabrication forums.
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  4. #4
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    I’ve done a bit of searching and I’ve noticed that people seem to be using underpowered computers in their cars, why is this?

    Lets face it, most of us who have come into this hobby have done so from a computer background in the first place. We’re very performance oriented, and many times we like to have the biggest and baddest systems out there.

    There’s a few problems with that in an automotive environment though….

    • How will you provide power to that power hungry beast?
    • How do you cool that monster?
    • Where do you put something so big?
    • Do you really need that much power in your car?

    I’ll give an example based on my own personal experiences.

    I’m currently running the VIA MII12000 motherboard, 512 MB ram, and a 200 GB hard drive. I’m running onboard video, and the Audigy ZS 2 PCMCIA sound card. I also have a USB GPS dongle (the GlobalStat BU-353).

    I am able to run my mp3s and navigation at the same time without any issue. That’s on the equivalent of an 800 MHz processor and 512 MB of memory.

    What you do in your car, and what you do on your desktop are two totally different things.

    Keep this all in mind when you spec out the parts and pieces for your CarPC. It will make your live much easier and will probably make this whole project that much more enjoyable.
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  5. #5
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    How do I get power to my CarPC? Should I use an inverter or a DC-DC power supply?

    Before you read any further, you might consider reading this thread started by DarquePervert: FAQ: Will <insert PSU model> Power Supply work with my system? – much props goes to Darque for taking the time to write this thread up.

    It goes into great detail to help you answer the question of “How much power will my computer consume?” Once you have your power requirements, picking out a PSU will be much easier.

    There are two options for your CarPC. A DC-DC power supply or a power inverter.

    A computer runs off of DC power in the first place. The power supply in your desktop essentially takes the power from the wall outlet (AC) and converts it to DC. This is great for the car, because cars produce DC power.

    The one downside to this however is that currently there are not any DC-DC power supplies (PSUs) on the market that can handle high performance system demands. Currently, they simply can’t produce enough wattage to keep a high performance PC running in the car.

    If you are one of those people who really wants to run a high performance PC in your car, an inverter is just about your only solution.

    There are downsides to both solutions however.

    DC-DC PSUs:

    DC-DC PSUs are currently designed more for the lower powered VIA/Mobile processors. There are some newer PSUs out on the market that are just able to provide power for the bigger, faster processors, but they are far and few between at the moment.

    Most DC-DC PSUs have built in start-up and shut-down timers built into them. This is a great advantage over the power inverters. These timers will automatically start the boot-up and shut down procedures for your CarPC based (many times) on the specific parameters you tell it. These parameters are usually selectable by jumper pin configurations. Many times, these PSUs also have built in amplifier turn on leads. This is also very important as well. Car Audio amplifiers like to have an audio signal running to them before they come online. If they don’t, often times you get what is referred to as ‘Turn on thump’

    Many DC-DC PSUs will also regulate the voltage that is being fed to them as will they protect your CarPC from voltage spikes and drops. If you are running an inverter and a standard PSU for your CarPC, you will have the same benefits, so don’t worry.

    For DC-DC PSU solutions, you can check MP3car.com’s very own store, right on this web site by following this link.

    Inverters

    If you plan to use an inverter, you need to determine how you are going to turn it on and off and how you are going to get a turn-on signal to your amplifiers/stock stereo/etc. Many people use switches for this process, others have wired in their inverters into the ignition on their cars so that the inverter will turn on with the car. Many people have tinkered with this option and there are many good resources on this board if you are interested in pursuing this method. I’d suggest a quick search to net you some solid leads.

    One common question asked about using an inverter is (thanks again to MatrixPC for mentioning this to include here):

    Can I plug the inverter to the cig lighter?

    The simple answer to this is yes. You can splice into the wires behind the dash and hook your inverter up to them. There are a few ‘ifs’ here though. One of these is that many car cigarette lighters are only rated at 10 amps of current draw. If your inverter will pull more than that, you will need to find some other way to hard wire in your inverter. Otherwise, you run the risk of a fire hazard in your car.

    Do some research on the inverter you are planning to use. Use the Search Feature to plug in your inverter model number and see what you find. If you find nothing, make your way over to the Power Supply forum.

    Some basic links to help you along the way:

    If you’re looking for some links to some online power calculators, check here (thanks to Darque for the links!):

    http://www.jscustompcs.com/power_supply/
    http://carpc.kyferez.com/Tools/PSUWattageCalculator.php
    http://www.ohmygodmyarmfelloff.com/MP3Car/PSUpower.asp
    http://resources.mini-box.com/online...simulator.html

    CPU electrical specs (you’ll need these to pick out a PSU – thanks again to Darque!):
    http://users.erols.com/chare/elec.htm
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  6. #6
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    What kind of screen do I need? Will this (insert typical car audio screen here) screen work? Can I use the touch screen from my head unit to control my PC?

    Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to run into this dilemma, and you certainly won’t be the last either.

    A computer uses what is called VGA (Video Graphics Array). It is a much higher resolution than your typical screen from a Car Audio manufacturer. What this means for you:

    Most car audio screens are composite video. This standard does not lend its self well to the complexity that a computer presents. Your images will be fuzzy and text will be difficult to read. This is one reason we here in the MP3car.com community use VGA screens for our CarPCs.

    The other issue you will run into is the ability to control your computer from that specialized car audio head unit. Most VGA touch screens that individuals are using here at MP3Car.com use either a USB or a serial connector for the touch screen over lay. This essentially acts as your mouse on your desktop. In order to use your car audio head unit touch display, you would have to open up your expensive screen and hack into the wiring, adding on your own USB or serial connector. Then you would have to write your own drivers. If you are well versed in this procedure, then by all means give it a go and be sure to post up your project! But if you’re reading this, chances are you are quite that geeky and would be much happier using a solution that fits your needs much better. May I suggest the MP3car.com store?

    Find out more about Video Standards here: http://www.monitorworld.com/Cables/video_standards.html
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  7. #7
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    Where Do I Mount My Screen?

    Thanks to DarquePervert for the idea to include this question.

    One of the first questions that nearly every newcomer to the MP3Car.com community asks is “Where am I going to mount my screen?”

    This is one of the most important aspects of your install. If your screen is not easily readable or easily accessible, the benefits of having a computer in your car are negated. Mounting your screen in such a manner that it is out of sunlight, within reach, and possibly even hidden from prying eyes, are the most important factors to your screen install.

    A good place to start looking for ideas is to check out the worklogs or finished projects forums. Do a quick search in each of those forums for the particular car that you have in mind and read up a bit on where people have placed their screens in cars like yours.

    Once you have a location in mind, you might want to do some fabricating. If this is the case, I urge you to check out the fabrication forum and the awesome stickies found in there for more help on how to fabricate your new dash.

    Some of those stickies are as follows:

    Fiberglassing Tips – thanks MP3DUB

    How-To: Recessed Screen and DVD Drive – thanks Altimat

    How-To: Relocating Screen Buttons – thanks Altimat
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  8. #8
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    What do I buy?

    Another question that is often asked by those newcomers to the MP3Car.com community is “What all do I need to make a CarPC work in my application?”

    While we cannot possibly tell you exactly everything you will want for your implementation, we can give you a decent list of the basics that you need to get your rolling.

    Motherboard – keep size and power consumption in mind when purchasing
    Processor – as with the motherboard, size and power are a concern, some of the smaller VIA boards have imbedded processors
    Memory – keep in mind that the more memory you have the longer your boot up times, however, the less memory you have the slower you computer can run
    Hard Drive – people have had success with both laptop drives as well as full size drives in this community. Laptop drives consume less power but are generally slower and have less capacity while full size drives consume a bit more power but are generally faster and have more capacity. You will have to decide which one is right for your application. Both have proven to handle the harsh environment of in car use quite well, withstanding the bumps and jars that will present themselves from in car use.
    Power Supply – Follow the FAQ located here to help determine the proper power supply size.
    Display – remember, a computer uses a VGA output.
    Optical Drives – for regular CD use and for loading software and the like.

    There are many things you can add on to your CarPC. Some of those options are as follows:

    GPS
    Satellite Radio
    • AM/FM Radio
    Wi-Fi
    OBD-II scanning
    • What new and innovative application can you come up with? Be sure to post it up in the forums!

    If you’re looking for some suggestions, you might also try this thread started by Bugyte: System Recommendations
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  9. #9
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    How do I get sound to my stereo?

    HOW TO: Get sound from PC to Car Stereo / Amp – much thanks to ppgt94 for this detailed write up!
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  10. #10
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    Can I integrate into my stock system?

    It depends on your stock system, I’d recommend heading on over to the Car Audio forum and searching for posts that pertain to your specific make and model. Many times there are adapters out there that will allow you to plug right into your stock premium amplifiers.
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

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