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Thread: '98 VW Passat 1.8t, budget install

  1. #1
    Low Bitrate Beehphy's Avatar
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    Apr 2007

    '98 VW Passat 1.8t, budget install

    While I was waiting for my motor to be rebuilt I got this hair up my arse... Why donít I just install a computer in my car instead of having to remember my iPod everywhere I go. immediately the money began to spontaneously combust while still in my wallet.

    In retrospect, not such a great idea while the entire front end of the car was ripped apart and the engine was down at the machine shop.

    For about a month I planned and schemed. What would the computer consist of? how was I going to keep the cost down? How could I keep the install (relatively) simple.

    After multiple, hour+ conversations with my buddy in Cali, he sold me the VIA 850mHz he used to have in his Toyota, but un-installed before selling. I got a good deal and the heart to my carputer arrived several days later.

    I wanted to keep the features to a minimum, to restrict cost and processor load, since I knew the VIA was going to be limited. I was right. There were several core features I needed:

    I found a screen on the cheep. decided the only place to mount it was in front of the rearview mirror, so a replacement was needed. like a USB webcam...

    also there's the method of input. My screen is not a touch screen, so I'd need another method of control. I found several projects on here using trackballs, and regular mice but the touchpad called to me. I found a great one on eBay called the "ergonomic touch pad" the guy throws all sorts of other keywords on the titles but they're all the same. It's a great product.

    I also found a great little "mini" keyboard, like the so many other projects in this forum. My fingers almost donít fit.

    Near the end of gathering all the components for the install my motor came back and the carputer was put on hold for a couple weeks. The engine went in, had a couple hiccups, but its been running great for 350+ miles.

    I gathered all the parts together, adjusted and tweaked the Digital FX skin to for easier access to the camera, set the GPS to use only MS streets and trips and bench tested.

    Once I was satisfied I moved onÖ
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  2. #2
    Low Bitrate Beehphy's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    The install was fairly easy, since I have torn this car apart in the past for the remote start alarm and the stereo. The toughest part was deciding where to install the touchpad. I found a convenient place in the center column where I could hide the wires and mounting bracket, fabed it up and installed. The best part isÖ I can un-install every bit of this computer without a trace (all mounting holes are concealed)

    The design called for power and video to the screen. The screen requires component video input so I found a 25ft 3 signal RCA cable with a video cable (much better RF shielding that audio). And in one of the audio runs I ran the 12V to power the screen. A few connectors, brackets and screws later she was ready to go.

    One thing I wanted was a dedicated powered USB hub at the front for any peripherals I wanted to attach. That required a 12V to 5V converter, and a good spot for it. The armrest provided a great location. I mounted the hub to the lid with room for flash drives, iPod and mini external hard drives.

    While I was at it I installed a dedicated line for the iPod as well. No more adapters just clean sound.
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  3. #3
    Low Bitrate Beehphy's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    I decided the back of the back seat was the best spot to install the computer and accessories. I bought some thin aluminum angle iron and some plastic clips and made a wiring conduit to keep things neat and tidy.

    As you can see from the pictures I like my stereo. 9 amplified channels, 13 speakers, 3-way crossover and a 1F cap. And until the screen, it looked stock. (I want to be able to uninstall and sell mostly stock at some point.

    I initial testing I’ve found a problem with one of my USB hubs. In my setup there’s a 5V converter that triggers from the USB bus in the computer, keeping it synchronized and hardware drivers safe. Well the *cheap **** USB hub was back powering the computer after the computers power supply had turned off causing the 5V supply enable signal to latch on and not turn off with the computer. I’m glad I caught it, it would have caused me a bad morning sometime in the future.

    The fix was cutting a USB 3’ extension cable apart, soldering a diode into the 5V wire, heat shrink tubing and re-shielding the wire and putting it on the cheap hubs data connection.

    Another problem is the USB camera. It washes out in even moderate light. I think I’ll try to put some smoked glass or plastic over the lense before buying another camera.

    I’m also annoyed by the WiFi alerts the XP shovs in your face every time you cross in or out of a hotspot. I thought I had disable it in the network adapter setting but I guess that’s not enough… will post a fix if I find it.
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  4. #4
    Low Bitrate Beehphy's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    So, when it comes down to it Ive spent quite a bit of money. I gould have gotten a nice garmin, and a car dedicated ipod for the same amount.

    Computer $150
    Screen $80
    USB hubs $10,$8,$15
    USB camera $30
    GPS and software, $45
    VGA adapter $55
    WiFi antennea $15
    5V converters, 2x $10
    Touchpad $35
    Keyboard $15
    Cables $100
    Misc harware mounting etc. $75
    Roughly $650

    But that a lot of functionality for $650

    Next upgrade is a better screen.

  5. #5
    Newbie syberkowboy's Avatar
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    Jan 2006


    Way to go Beeph cakes. Looks great and hopefully it all works well. I'd like to see the final product in action and expect I will in the next few weeks. Glad it turned out.

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