1994 Dodge Ram Van B250 Vanputer
I am new to this whole car pc idea. I was so intrigued I gave it a whirl. I purchased a dinosaur Dell Pentium 2 with 256 MB of RAM for $10 and a 15" rebuilt Compaq LCD for $50 from the local electronics resale shop. I loaded up Windows XP and a custom built front end interface I created, to simplify access to the media and software now installed on this machine. As of late I have added GPS, WiFi and a 4-Port USB 2.0 powered hub. I am powering everything so far with a 400W Coleman Inverter. I had to keep it all on a very, very, very cheap budget. I crafted a custom LCD and control mount using MDF and installed it where the original cup holders were previously on the interior engine cover of the van. Now the LCD is just below eye level and the controls are within reach of the hand while driving. I use a gamepad to move the mouse cursor and emulate mouse clicks.
- A LITTLE ABOUT THE DETAILS -
I encountered a few issues while doing this project. One, it took alot of my time ( the wife was beggining to get upset ), two RFI noise picked up by the van stereo, three, cooling and four, turning off the inverter at the same time the PC powers off.
I only could resolve the later three issues. The first one is still in the works. LOL.
I eliminated about 95% of the RFI noise by literally installing a nice size bolt through the metal case of the PC and gounding it to a nerby seat bolt. Before that, the audio features were not an option. Their is a small amount of noise but you forget about it after a minute or so. I think a GLI could remedy this.
The cooling resolution is still in the works. I have just installed a 3" fan in the front, lower part of the PC's case blowing front to back. I tried to seal the case as best as possible so the internal air currents could be self contained with no leakage or interference from exterior air currents. I looked at it like this. Keep the front fan low and blowing from front to back forcing cooler air into the case allowing the PC's Pentium 2 CPU blower and PSU fan to pull it over hot components then to the back of the case and then finally out to the interior of the vehicel.
The iverter issue was resolved. I used a momentary switch, the PC PSU and a automotive 12VDC 30AMP relay. Follow me, this how it works: the momentary switch is pressed the inverter turns on and then the PC PSU turns on. The PC PSU energizes the automotive 12VDC 30AMP relay which effectively jumped the switch that powered the inverter from the vehicle 12VDC. This kept the current flowing and allowed the inverter/PC PSU to run when the switch was released. When the PC turned off it de-energized the automotive 12VDC 30AMP relay and shut the inverter off. Allowing me to leave the vehicle after the shutdown process began on the PC, confidently knowing the inverter will turn off and not drain the vehicle battery. I have to give my boss a little credit with this he helped and drew a schematic for me because I am no electrical genius! I just know enough to hurt myself!
As of now I am not to concerned about the front end software I use on the VanPuter. I want to perfect a stable platform first then worry about the software later. I am running a very bare bones system. Windows XP, Microsoft Streets and Trips 2007, Delorme EarthMate GPS, Netstumbler and finallly a custom programmed front end I created using Microsoft Visual Basic 6 ( no not .NET, it sucks! ).
The headaches that still remain are proper wire routing and labeling. Moving from rough wire splices to male and female plugs. Installing DC fuses where necessary. Trim and hacking the Windows XP boot process, etc..
More to come, stay tuned...