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Thread: My Own front end - from the ground up

  1. #1
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    My Own front end - from the ground up

    Hey all,

    Jus thought i'd post a few pics of my front end. I've tried a few of the commercial packages out there, but personally found that most had far more functions than i needed and lacked the more specific functions that suited my own car modifications.

    Anyhow, this is my own attempt at a frontend, its far from finished and I realise that software this specific is near useless to anyone apart from myself, so i'm posting these mainly because i always found it very informative looking at other peoples front ends when I was developing my own.

    The functions and ideas behind it are pretty simple:

    1. Media Player based on the Windows Media Player API
    2. Audio and Video/DVD support with full access to WMP media library/playlists
    3. Graphical Front end for custom A/C, Heating, Lights controller (see pics)
    4. Graphical Front end for interior lighting, Neons and 'Audio Level' LED's
    5. Graphical front end for custom power controller (ICE power isolation, lighting/amplifier power isolation etc)

    Thats about it. Personally i dont need any other functions, short but sweet! Here's the pics:

    Default loaded screen, gives access to heating/AC control, fog lights, hazard lights, heated screen etc:


    Same screen with a few buttons pressed:


    Basic media player screen, absolute minimum of buttons/clutter. Track info in the black window has just been added today, so is still looking rough. The same black window shows video when a video file is playing. Can also show visualisation, although this is turned off at the mo as almost all of the WMP visualisations look crap:


    EQ screen, pretty self explanitory, wont be adding any frequency references as I never use them, dont know anyone who does infact, lol:


    Basic 'List selection screen'. Figured I rarely if ever have video and audio files on the same playlist so i split them completely. We've got Auto Lists, custom compilations (my own playlists) and access to the media library:


    Auto lists, give very quick access to recently played tracks, most popular tracks, and a simple way to create random playlists. - Only finished this bit recently so may still change some button functions:


    This is the basic media library screen , allows you to enter criteria for the artist, album or genre:


    Graphical keyboard for entering search criteria, searching is not word for word, so you dont have to waste time typing 'Ludwig van Beethoven' when 'wig' will do (not that you ever would of course)


    Possible results for an Artist, Album or Genre Search are shown on the screen below, you can select as many or as few of the results as you like. You're then taken back to the main library screen as shown above with all the corresponding tracks. Searches are also cumulative, so from the library screen you could go back to lets say album and only select the album/s that you want, same goes for genre and artist. Final step is to play or enqueue all (or a selection of) the tracks:


    Last pic shows the internal 'ICE' lighting controller. Controls for Neons and LED's are shown as well as spectrum analysis results (operation of internal LED's is based on spectrum analysis of currently playing audio)


    I guess thats about is. The power controller is the next and final element that needs coding. As mentionned at the top, it might seem pretty sparse on features, but it does everything I need as simply as possible.

    Comments welcome.

    Jonny

    P.s. Considered posting this in the front end section, but it all seemed a bit too professional in there, lol. Mods feel free to move it if you like.

  2. #2
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    That is nice. How do I go about hooking this up to controll my AC in the car.

  3. #3
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    thanks,

    I'm using a USB input/output module connected to my car PC, it gives me a whole load of logic level digital I/O's. The outputs are connected through relay buffers to a load of relays that replicate the functions of the original dials/buttons in the car.

    The digital inputs on the usb module are used to read back the status of what would have been the indicator lights on the various buttons, i.e. the system has feedback and knows whether the AC is actually on or the fog lights are on etc. So its not just blindly sending out commands.

    The relay board fits quite nicely in the centre console behind where the dials/buttons used to be, effectively leaving a centre console with just a flip out touch screen, no buttons/dials at all.

    I did have a circuit layout drawing showing how it worked, but lost it a while ago. Luckily not until after i'd built it, lol.

    J

  4. #4
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    Very very nice! What did you program it in and where did you find all the graphics?

  5. #5
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    Thanks,

    It's written in visual basic. All the graphics were drawn in AutoCAD (I use it a lot so find it much quicker than photoshop for outline drawing.)

    Outlines were then copied over to photoshop and coloured.

    Jonny

  6. #6
    Maximum Bitrate Borte's Avatar
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    This looks really nice! Are you planning on releasing the source on this?
    Failure is not an option...
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    The only full multizone / multiscreen cross platform open source Front End -> OpenMobile

  7. #7
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    I'm jealous of your graphics skills. I want to someday do the same thing you did - make my own custom front end because my needs are specific. There are some good ideas there that I may have to borrow.

  8. #8
    FLAC WuNgUn's Avatar
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    I want your HVAC setup!!!
    Just the three dials...
    Very nice work there

    I just HAVE to go HVAC with my Centrafuse, because I have big plans for my HVAC console space....
    Are you for hire? Want to make some $$?
    Have experience with Phidgets or Fusionbrain?

    I need servo control for the fan and vent adjuster, and PWM or motor control for the blower...
    I plan on leaving the A/C, damper, defroster stock...

  9. #9
    Low Bitrate vtecfelon23's Avatar
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    thats magnificent. do you have a work log for your car?

  10. #10
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    Dro,

    I wouldnt bee to concerned about the graphics, I'd never used photoshop before I started this, and the first screen (HVAC controls) was done within a day.

    I started off by drawing the outline of the screen i wanted in autocad and then scanned in pictures of dials/buttons/the car from the owners manual and traced over them.




    Then I copied and pasted them into photoshop and filled in the black lines with colour, then applied 'layer styles' to the shape to make them look raised/dropped/highlighted/shadowed etc:






    Thats it, I'd never used skins before and didnt really understand how they worked so i just used image maps instead which I'd used before a few years ago, i'm not sure how others write their front ends at all tbh but for me, this method included a lot of elements that i had experience with.


    I would certainly be happy to post sections of source code from the program. To be honest, i'm a novice programmer, my knowledge of visual basic is pretty 'basic' (sorry).
    So to anyone who knows about programming, my code will almost certainly look basically overcomplicated and inefficient. However, It took a long time to get some of the media player functions working properly (media library access, searches, playlist building etc) and I'd be happy to share the code/methods.

    WuNgUn, sorry i've never heard of Phidgets or Fusionbrain. I have a strong background in electronics so I took my HVAC controller 'to bits' and not necessarily figured out how it worked but figured out what signals it sent to the car for example when i pressed the AC button and what signals the car sent back.

    Thankfully I drive a Korean car (bet ya dont hear that very often!) and the HVAC controller is very simple:

    The buttons are all simple 12v or 5v switches with 12v return signals to indicate if for example the AC is on by lighting up the button, the temperature setting is just a potentiometer. The direction and power dials are just rotary switches.

    So essentially the whole controller could be re-built with a load of relays that would respond to digital inputs from my PC via a USB IO board:

    http://www.pc-control.co.uk/control_boards.htm
    (I have no personal or financial connection to this site or its owners)

    The boards come with dll files with a simple 'send out', 'receive in' access (no need to know anything about USB) that I can easily program with in visual basic.

    So I end up with an electronic equivelant to the origianal controller.

    I'm not sure how it would work with other cars. By all means, the most complicated of HVAC controllers could have their normal switches/buttons replaced by electronic, computer controlled switches very easily. However, reading back the status of the system could be more complicated. For example, my car won't allow the AC to be switched on unless the fan power is on. So If it wasn't able to read in the HVAC status from the car then my software would send a command to turn the AC on and would have no idea whether it actually was. The website listed above also sells boards with analog capabilities so in theory, i could install temperature sensors in my car and program my own climate control.

    HVAC systems with an LCD display could prove very difficult to work with. Basically the simpler your HVAC system is, the better. I'd be happy to offer advice if you need it.

    vtecfelon23, a lot has been done to the car and there's still a lot left to do. I'll post more info in the future.

    Jonny

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