Hellow everybody. This is just a tiny little update on what I'm doing and some extra info that I've learned...
Now that the holidays are over and I've gotten caught back up I'm about to re-attack the carpc project.
Changes and things I've learned from the original design:
1) MediaEngine is not cutting it for me. I no longer use it at all. I'm looking at winamp with more interest and also looking into MediaCar. I have a lot of respect for anyone writing software for a carpc, though. It's tough work and a tough crowd out there
2) Via's ITX motherboards are total and complete crap and an utter waste of money. The ONLY thing they have going for them is the size. If you want something small, get a shuttle system. The USB ports never power down even when the system is off. The BIOS and drivers are all broken. Every single piece of on-board hardware is complete crap and has something wrong with it. In short, these motherboards are far from qualified to be used in any embedded application whatsoever. I do not advise anyone to buy one. The major problem for me was the USB ports, and I hacked up a USB hub to be powered solely with an external supply to circumvent the problem. The computer will reboot unexpectedly sometimes, so I suspect I have a problem in my little modification (that shouldn't be necessary in the first place)
3) Onboard sound is worthless on 99% of the motherboards out there. I got an Audigy2 NX USB sound device and it made an instantly noticable huge improvement in how everything sounds.
4) XM Radio is pretty awesome stuff. It's a tremendous addition to your carpc. The XMPCR is fairly cheap and so is the service. You'll probably need an external antenna, though. I got the tiny blitzsafe antenna and it's magnetic mounting has held fast even at admittedly very high speeds and also in the carwash. See below for more about my XM software --
5) I get more questions about the LCD bezel than anything. Most people are searching for information on how to do something similar to their dash. People usually ask for a step-by-step or say that none of the information out there is very informative. Here's an uncomplicated answer to the dash-work problem:
Just go for it. I had zero experience doing anything like this, and I got it done. If you screw something up, just slap some more filler on it and file it down again. It's nearly impossible to screw up. The only real directions I had were printed on the cans of resin and filler that I bought. Go buy some bondo and play with it.. It's like 3 dollars for a small can! Just be aware that it's not a 3 hour project. It took me 3-4 weeks of work (about maybe 40+ hours of labor) to complete the dash part. If you go slow, you'll do fine. If you somehow manage to really screw the pooch, remember that it'd always be cheaper to have a body shop finish a job already started than do it from scratch
Major todo list:
1) Get the ibus boards out to those people that wanted one.
2) Replace the GAIN/Xenarc panel with a Lilliput screen. 250 nits is absolutely not bright enough in the daytime even with tinted windows no matter what anyone tells you -- unless you live in Alaska where there are many months of darkness. I already have the screen, so it's just a matter of putting it in if it fits in the existing bezel (it probably will)
3) Finish up what I want to do with my XMPC-Car software
for the XM radio -- get the UI polished up, get an installer on it, and get the sourcecode available.
4) Find a universal solution to dim an LCD panel with a car's illumination wire. This may involve a custom circuit to power the backlight inverter. If anyone reading this is good with electronics, I need your help! Perhaps if we can come up with a good design, we could sell them. This kind of thing is going to be a necessity with LCD's bright enough to actually see during the daytime. Manual dimming sucks, and the "virtual dimming" by altering the video card gamma is not a very great solution either.
5) Mount the hardware in the trunk somehow. I will likely leave this to the pro's as I really don't have the wherewithall to accomplish it myself. I'd rather do other things and pay a stereo shop to do this part
Maybe I can get a sponsor or something
Minor todo list
1) Now that I have an audigy2nx, I ought to hook up the rear l/r to actuall drive the rear l/r speakers. I have everything in place, I just have to get behind the dash again to plug it in. I'd like to maybe add a center speaker to this at some point, and maybe hook up the sub amp to the sub output. It's not really that big of a priority though, as the music sounds good enough to my ears as is
2) I got a free reverse camera when my Lilliput order was severely delayed. I'm going to install this also.
3) OBD-II interface. I put this under minor todo because it's really just a 'buy it and plug it in' thing at this point. I have a serial port run to the front of the car already, so it's an easy addition.