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Thread: Tom's Hardware Guide - Mp3car.com and the Car PC Project article

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by daclothe View Post
    without being too prying or indelicate is the angle of the article 'hey look at this awesome build that was sponsored by the fine folks at intel and zotac' or is it more of 'i did this in my family's suv and you can too' because hot damn you're using the newest $600 minipc out there."
    The angle is "We're using the best damn tiny PC we can find, but that doesn't mean you can't use whatever you like and it won't be fine, too".

    We're doing it because we can, but I would never suggest it's the only way to go. As for a tablet, we're a PC-centric site. Anything less than Windows isn't ideal for our readership, or my sensibilities as a PC enthusiast for that matter.


    Quote Originally Posted by daclothe View Post
    back on topic, you might want to give some additional thought to the rear display.
    if you're running it as an independent display then you/they will need to control it somehow. also how are you feeding the video to it?
    if you're running it as a mirrored display you'll most likely need to get a hdmi splitter. then you're dipping your toe into the black hole of hdmi sync.
    if they're playing games back there, do you really want to see fruit ninja or dora the explorer (i'm not sure if dora's big up there or not) on the front monitor as well?
    also if you're running it mirrored you'll want to think of dual zone audio / wireless headsets for that zone due to the fruit ninja / dora situation.

    if the build is a money is no object build you could probably retrofit a cadillac or audi pop-up motorized display to be built into the back of the console. adios cup holders. or more sensible would be to run the rear monitors mounted in the backs of the headrest(s) like rap stars do.

    Hmmm. Well, the rear display has been a source of some indecision, I'll admit. But I was wondering if we should have one on each seat or a larger display in the middle. I think one larger display would provide a better experience for the passengers, and it'd be great if we could fold it down when not in use.

    The Zbox has dual display outs, so we're OK there. The rear passengers would basically see what we put on for them (thinking kids here), although windows gives us the control to duplicate or have separate screens. No interactivity except maybe for game controllers... as for games, I was thinking split-screen racing and lego star wars clone wars, also split screen. Audio... I assumed we'd simply change the fade cointrols to the rear if we didn't want to hear it. Headsets sound like an awesome idea but might raise the clutter factor, which I'm probably pushing already with the game controllers.

    Pop-up motorized stuff, eh? I'm more of a utilitarian fellow... I mean, I want it to look slick, nice, and integrated. I appreciate other folk's pop-up bling, but not my style.


    Quote Originally Posted by daclothe View Post
    ps love the site and have used it for years
    Again, thanks!

    And thanks for your helpful insights!

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cleeve View Post
    Proposed Design
    ---------------
    The following design might not even be reasonable as I don't know all that much about in-car hardware, but this is what I have in mind. In the front seat, a fair sized touchscreen (8" to 10") is mounted on an adjustable arm that allows the screen to face the driver at the middle top of the dash, or extend to a comfortable usage position at the center of the front-seat passenger. Preferably the screen would have a native resolution of at least 1280x720.

    Attachment 69750
    Attachment 69751
    Don, I've frequented Tom's Hardware for more years than I care to remember, I respect your web site a lot.

    Regarding your above plan to mount the screen on an adjustable arm, I don't think that will capture the true essence of what the majority of the people over the years have tried to achieve with their builds. Most have tried to achieve something that looks as OEM as possible or at least does not look like a Garmin GPS from Walmart stuck on the dash. I believe people that read your build will say "that's cool- a PC in a car, but I wouldn't want that big honking monitor stuck on my dash" then discount this as a quirky thing for only hardcore techies.

    Having said that, I understand you want to focus on the PC build and not the audio or vehicle wiring however I think you could present a clean install without taking the build to an insane level of customizing the dash or pumping up the audio system.

    By utilizing one of these to install the monitor:

    http://www.metraonline.com/part/99-5814S

    or this if it is correct for your vehicle:

    http://store.mp3car.com/Direct_Fit_D..._p/dsh-175.htm

    you would have a fast monitor install and position it as "it's as easy to install as an aftermarket stereo"

    A small interface module for the Escape and a small amp that could mount right in the dash or a small PC amp and you would be fully integrated with a professional install without taking the audio system "to the next level".

    This would also then give you voice navigation that turns down the audio when announcing a turn so truly an OEM experience. Pandora would be possible, satellite & HD radio, however far you wanted to take it.

    Regardless of how you do it, thank you for noticing and spot-lighting our unique corner of the PC market!
    My 2007 Ford F350 Work Log located HERE

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilG View Post
    Regarding your above plan to mount the screen on an adjustable arm, I don't think that will capture the true essence of what the majority of the people over the years have tried to achieve with their builds. Most have tried to achieve something that looks as OEM as possible or at least does not look like a Garmin GPS from Walmart stuck on the dash. I believe people that read your build will say "that's cool- a PC in a car, but I wouldn't want that big honking monitor stuck on my dash" then discount this as a quirky thing for only hardcore techies.
    I hear where you're coming from. From my end, though, the objective isn't to capture the essence of what anyone else is doing, the objective is to suit the needs as outlined above.

    Having said that, I've considered and will continue to consider other possible setups - that's why I'm here. But the idea of a smaller screen that can't be oriented towards the driver or passenger is unappealing to me. Here's the closest thing I've seen so far that syncs up with what I've imagined:

    http://www.carelectronicsworld.com/flx21.html

    I do admit though, the OEM-look you describe also sounds appealing. I don't understand the mechanics of how that'd work though, and I'd like to get a better grasp before I lock down the target.

    You mentioned "A small interface module for the Escape"... how would that work and what would it do? Would it allow me to control the escape's built-in stereo system without the dash controls I'd have to remove, and if so, how would I switch between the escape's interface and the PC interface?

    You also mentioned a small amp... would this be to upgrade the audio system, or is there another application I don't understand?

    Thanks Phil!

    - Don
    Last edited by Cleeve; 07-12-2013 at 02:56 PM.

  4. #14
    Maximum Bitrate rray's Avatar
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    Hi Don, I read over your proposed system, and all the replies, and one thing I wanted to suggest you explore more, is the screen resolution required for windows 8 Metro vs the Front End software available.

    I built an in-dash (7" screen) windows 8 system over the past winter, and discovered that I could not use the native 800 x 480 resolution of my screen with Metro, so I had to set the resolution higher. Although this worked, it was difficult reading on a small screen. Also of note, you will find most touchscreens (resistive) do not work very well with the Metro interface, so you will have to find a multi-touch screen. Remember, you will want to do some things while you are driving, and you will not be able to slide through screens and do navigate windows like you can on Microsoft Surface Tablet.

    That said, using a Front End software proved the safest and easiest choice for my carpc. I also interfaced the steering wheel buttons through a USB port, to control things like audio source, station seek, mp3 file seek, volume control, etc. This is something you will want to do too, as your eyes can still be on the road while you change tunes, etc.

    With the front end software comes a more automotive style interface, with larger easy to see buttons, and it has gone through years of evolution so all the really cool stuff a PC can do is already well laid out for you. If you are doing an article on carpc's, and your focus is to suit the needs you outlined in previous posts, you really should spend as much time researching Front Ends as you do the hardware.

    I am a newby here myself, but I have already been through my first build, and thanks to the suggestions from the senior members here, I was successfull in assembling a system that did what I wanted, and was well integrated into my car.

    By the way, I have been reading Tom's, as well as Anands, and HardOCP since the mid '90's too. Thanks for all your contributions to the hobby.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rray View Post
    Hi Don, I read over your proposed system, and all the replies, and one thing I wanted to suggest you explore more, is the screen resolution required for windows 8 Metro vs the Front End software available.
    I will do that as part of the review process, once it's built, I think.

    I want to give Windows 8 a real shot as the touchscreen interface is a big part of why we've decided to try making a car PC happen, but I'll definitely assess usability after it's installed. The beauty is, software front ends should be easy to tack on and experiment with later.

    Thanks Ray!

    - Don

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    I can attest to Win8 does not work with a resistive screen. You need windows to recognize it as a touch device and resistive screens do not work. You need a multi touch screen that is recognized by windows as a touch interface. I have a 7" resistive screen on my test machine and it will be seen as a mouse input only. This means I can not get to the charms or any of the window edge controls on my machine due to the framework around the screen. Windows 8 gestures simply do not work with it. If I had a multi touch screen it would be MUCH better.

    Also if you look at the windows 8 requirements there is a minimal requirement for resolution. I will refer to this article... (Source was intentional... )
    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Win...nts,14847.html

    And I quote:
    For Metro Apps

    One new element to Windows 8 is the requirement that Metro style applications have a minimum of 1024x768 screen resolution, and 1366x768 for the snap feature. If you attempt to launch a Metro style app with less than this resolution (e.g. 800x600, 1024x600) you will receive an error message.
    I can assure you that running a higher resolution on the 800x600 resolution most of our touch screens come with looks wrong.

    With windows 8 you may be able to accomplish some of what you want without a front end as long as you can run everything from metro apps.

    If your vehicle came with steering wheel controls you can also tie these into the computer as an HID device to use as you want if you decide to jettison your current radio. I believe it will allow you to set different items. And some of the front ends are compatible with these controllers so they will control your CarPC much like they did the radio originally.

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    I get it: it's a foregone conclusion that I'll need a capacitive multi-touch display at least 1024x768 native resolution to fit my goals. I was wondering if an 800x600 display, upscaled to 1024x768, would pull it off... but I'm getting the impression that it won't, so thanks gents.

    (on a side note, not that I'd imagine using the feature in a car but Microsoft has lowered the snap resolution to 1024x768: http://www.neowin.net/news/microsoft...ts-to-1024x768)

    As far as ditching the stock radio system... I'm not looking forward to giving up the Bluetooth convenience of how Ford Sync interfaces with my phone, is there software out there that will give me the same functionality for my Car PC?

    As far as using my steering wheel controls - this is quickly becoming more involved than simply setting up a separate PC, but I'll look into it. It certainly makes more sense if I'm going to go the OEM-looking route with the screen in the dash, but I'm still not convinced that'd give me the functionality I'm looking for.
    Last edited by Cleeve; 07-13-2013 at 11:39 AM.

  8. #18
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    I dont want to overload you with input and varying opinions. But i think the best thing for your goals is to keep the stock headunit and wire the pc audio in as an aux input. You will retain steering wheel controls and bluetooth. From my experience, bluetooth is better handled by the stock vehicle bluetooth system than by a front end program. If nothing else, you can start with this setup and consider replacing the headunit later. This will get you up and running much sooner, and allow you to actually experience having a PC in the car.

    The first question is whether your head unit has an aux input.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ClockWorK View Post
    I dont want to overload you with input and varying opinions. But i think the best thing for your goals is to keep the stock headunit and wire the pc audio in as an aux input. You will retain steering wheel controls and bluetooth. From my experience, bluetooth is better handled by the stock vehicle bluetooth system than by a front end program. If nothing else, you can start with this setup and consider replacing the headunit later. This will get you up and running much sooner, and allow you to actually experience having a PC in the car.

    The first question is whether your head unit has an aux input.
    Your thoughts mirror my own...

    Yes, the escape comes with an analog input and I assumed I'd use that for the PC's audio.

    I do feel the vehicle's phone/sync interface is very good and I don't want to mess with it unless absolutely necessary, which is another reason I chose the non-OEM-looking route, instead using a separate touchscreen display on an arm mount.

  10. #20
    Maximum Bitrate rray's Avatar
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    I used a metra kit for aftermarket stereo steering wheel button interface connected to a Joycon EXR USB resistive button interpreter. Then you program it to do things like a programmable multimedia keyboard does.

    You can use blue soleil 8 and a compatible BT dongle to switch music or movies or any playing audio to phone when your paired phone rings.

    Pretty much everything a top equipt navcom entertainment system cab do can be exceeded by a well thought out carp.

    Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk 2

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