I'll be very specific.
1. I am very committed to the Car PC & I didn't just throw it in my truck, I spent a lot of time on it, proof is in my work log.
2. I bought CF and had software issues that I wasn't prepared for, maybe my ignorance at the time, maybe not. I was of the believe that if something is available for free and a similar product is $100, the one paid for will work infinitely better, again, maybe my ignorance at the time.
3. If CF or RR offered a hardware list and an DVD/download image of windows loaded with their FE configured fro that hardware, I would have bought the approved hardware and the image. If the base image only had music player, Sat Radio, HD radio, and maybe a way of installing the map software of my choice, I would have been fine with that. BT would be a bonus, I understand the issues there. Then I could tinker with adding plugins etc and if I f'd it up (which is highly likely) I could go back to the base image and at least have the base functionality of a decent head unit any time I was tired of trying to fix the software.
4. I am far from a genius with software/coding but that does not diminish my love for a car PC, I am not a cheap skate but I don't like throwing money into the wind either. I think we may underestimate how many people there are like me that maybe dropped $1K+ on a touchscreen head unit and was disappointed or almost did and decided to go this route instead.
I believe there are both markets, the guy that wants to tinker and spend very little as a hobby and the guy that enjoys the hobby aspect of it but will pay to make sure it works, that is the guy that IMO, has not been addressed by the current available solutions. CF should have addressed this guy long ago, IMO, leave RR for the guy that wants to tinker and instead provide an almost turnkey solution for the guy that wants to spend the $$ for something pretty much guaranteed to work. Heck, that guy spent $100 just on FE software now, isn't that proof enough that he exists?
This is the guy that is in many cases, heading for the tablet/smartphone solution right now. Effectively, he is buying a prescribed hardware list ( the tablet) with a guaranteed working OS. The FE of the tablet may not be ideal in a mobile environment but at least it works everyday.
First off, a disclaimer: Despite my big blue avatar, the views express here are those of the author, and do not reflect the position of Centrafuse Inc, official or otherwise. I have my own forum to be all "official" and stuff.
You are 100% correct that when you pay for software, you have a reasonable expectation of support. CF and RR were around long before I ever got involved in the hobby, so the way things are was already well-established, and its not my place to comment. But I will comment about "getting what you pay for" and the idea behind packaging CF or RR as an all-in-one solution.
All software, regardless of manufacturer, is sold "As-Is". Read the EULA on Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop or any other product you care to name. No claim is made that the software will or won't do anything, up to and including destroying all your data or causing your PC to burst into flames. A bunch of lawyer speak designed to protect them from lawsuits. But in general, they make a good faith effort to do what they claim. Some better than others. And many, including Centrafuse, let you use the entire product, without restriction, for a period of time so you can see for yourself how it works. On your own hardware, and limited only by your own abilities. This isn't specific to you, but I really don't understand how somebody could actually test a product for 30 days, purchase it, then complain that it doesn't meet their requirements or live up to their expectations. What were they doing for the 30 days? If they weren't able to get it installed, or weren't able to get it to do the things they wanted in the way they wanted, shouldn't that have been a clue? Maybe they were in over their heads, or maybe the product wasn't right for their project? As for whether a paid product should be infinitely better than a free product, define better. Better looking? Better plugins? Better install process? Better means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. As the provider, you try to make it as good as you can, then hope that the public and your customers recognize the value. Some do, and some don't.
As for the "all-in-one" solution, whether as a hardware product or an ISO, the answer is economics. It is just not economically feasible for a company the size of Centrafuse to do this. If you write a check to CF for an AIO hardware package that includes CF (whether in PC form or on a tablet), CF is now in the hardware business. It doesn't matter that we didn't design it or build it, all that matters is that we took your money for it. So we have to support it. Same with an ISO image of Windows and CF. Not only would we have to charge a BUNCH more for the product, but we'd STILL be on the hook for the hardware, since the ISO would of necessity be tied to a specific platform. If I tell you that you have to go buy something, and that something doesn't work, who are you going to blame (see Craig Brass DVB radio fiasco for a specific example).
I've said it before, so I'll say it again: The "problem" with RR, Centrafuse, certainly OM and to a lesser extent Driveline is their attempt to be all things to all people. It's a cliché, but its true... "Jack of all trades, master of none". The technology to build a product that is infinitely flexible and configurable while still being easy to use and totally reliable on a very wide variety of platforms doesn't exists. And it certainly didn't exist back in 2006 when most of these products were being born. As greater capabilities become available, the products are hamstrung by the need to protect backwards compatibility... don't break what you already have. CF paid a VERY heavy price for attempting to break from the past with CF3/4, and to a certain extent, still does.
But ultimately, I agree with the general gist of this thread, and I think everyone gets it: It's still too hard, and too unreliable. Folks expect stuff to "just work" especially if they're paying for it. (CF hat on) Expect to see changes this year as we address this problem head on.
Your 'I wants' come close to what I wish for but I don't mind requiring special knowledge to set it up. I don't mind tinkering if it is productive. I do want it to be intuitive and easy to use for non-technical folks once it is set up. I look forward to 2014 if change is coming. I won't give up if change is coming and I do not mind paying for innovation if it works. I don't regret paying for Centrafuse but I have just reached a point where it does not meet my needs, I don't want to keep dealing with the buggy bluetooth phone integration, and some consumer oriented head units provide a better solution for now.
Originally Posted by VegasGuy
The one thing I really wish for that still seems to be lacking, is genuine sound quality features that allow the integration of a car PC with high quality mobile audio equipment. An example of this is the ability to control multiple audio sources through some kind of PC controlled switching device that has a good solid preamp output signal with low distortion. Using external DACs with a car PC and an aftermarket signal processor with optical inputs is a decent solution for now but I would love to see something that lets me integrate an HD radio tuner. The existing solution falls a bit short of my desire. I know I represent a minority of the car PC community but I can always dream.:)
To throw it in here, VegasGuy, 30 days is nothing when putting up a car PC from scratch. People dont always have time to test everything properly in those 30 days, and as I said CF looks very nice at first and even second gaze, so people just buy it. I also dont think many will really start setting everything up the way they want, until they have that software bought and paid for. Not to mention that CF was very stable at some point (when I started with it). It got worse and worse, but still I stuck with it for a long time, because I had hope and many promises were made, are still being made over and over and I still catch myself believing in them blindly every time. Customers were asked for feature requests and other input, updates were made more or less frequently. I dont know if I am kidding myself with that hope, but I paid for it twice and for many plugins and refuse to just give up on it so easily.
Again, I dont agree with you on saying that CF was never close to "completion", and is a jack of all trades, master of none. It was very good and stable at some point. There were only a few feature requests left, but they were never seriously considered by the developers. Instead other stuff that nobody really needed or wanted was implemented or changed and the bugs started to take overhand. I mean when I freshly install it today, literally the first thing I am greeted with is a bug. 5 mins later I discovered 5 more very obvious bugs. And youre overwhelmed by them once you have used your car a day or two. Permanent use is often impossible right now because of that, unless you really have a very high tolerance. For example my screen for whatever reason simply loses all or some buttons randomly after the PC went through a few standby cycles. Files are sometimes being corrupted by standby modes so that hotkeys wont work anymore or CF just ceases to work completely. Those problems have been reported very often by many different people, who even tried to help actively identifying them. They were never fixed completely.
I have already tried this path and it is amazingly close to being a good solution. Power Amp is a very good music player, Google Maps has been great with the exception of a buggy release a few months ago, and hands free phone integration should be possible although I have not tried that yet with my tablets. The biggest hurdle I find is not being able to connect both a charging cable and and external USB device at the same time with any of my Samsung tablets or Galaxy S4 mobile phone. The Samsung tablets really need a quality external DAC and I can't do that and charge it simultaneously with any of the adapters I have tried. I find it interesting that RR and Centrafuse are investigating Android. If they do, I hope they take this situation into account. If there is an Android platform that overcomes the hardware limitation regarding USB devices and charging, perhaps all RR and Centrafuse have to do is integrate already good apps into a user interface that works well in the mobile environment. I know it is easier said than done but I would pay for a solution like this.
Originally Posted by PhilG
J Rivers pretty good, bit buggy, but what really irritated me on that was after shelling out whatever it was, 3 months later another version I'm expected to pay to "upgrade" for features I don't want and to fix some of the bugs in the version I bought. Haven't tried it in car though, how would you get the phone through it? GPS?
If a bit of hardware doesn't work, you send it back. If it fails before a year, you send it back. If it fails for something silly after a year, you don't buy another. Not much of a gamer, but never remembered many if any bugs in old games, snes, ps1? Nowadays, as they can send fixes over the internet, it seems standard practice to release something below par on the basis they'll sort it out later. If you do that in most other trades you don't last long...
Re centrafuse, it does seem the earlier version is more stable albeit slower changes in the menus. I had a go on both, but my view of it is if I'm going to pay full whack for software, it has to work, $70's worth better than the free competitor. Simple fact is it doesn't.
Concentration should be made on music. That surely is everyone's priority? It's not about pleasing everyone, it is about making a product that doesn't make people feel hard done by when trying to perform basic tasks. Perfecting one thing then moving onto the next.
I want it to run on whatever hardware I happen to have - If it was proved stable on a set I'd buy the hardware no issues.
I want it to be compatible with whatever vehicle I happen to own - Can't see how a FE effects that bar obd?
I want it to be infinitely customizable - Nope, just work, and a steady flow of working add ons
I want it to look anyway I choose - Not really, but a skin change without completely upsetting the FE would be nice.
I want to be able to do this without any special knowledge or specific understanding (on my part) of how computers or software work - Why not? Isn't that were the money goes?
The apps were nice, but they only worked in one particular version, and as it went downhill, it all stopped.
It is a real shame, the PC has the ability to really be something really special in a car.
mda185, you could go odroid? Bit more setting up possibly, but could solve your issues.
I am seriously considering odroid but for the time being, I will do as I said in the opening post. I will use my Galaxy S4 stand alone or maybe pair with a stereo head unit. I will use it for navigation and OBD II also. Torque for Android is a fantastic app. Better than anything in the car PC world by far. I will use my car PC as a music playback device with Jriver as my front end in Theater Mode. I have a SSD with my entire flac music collection in the PC and it is lightning fast. I will use a quality USB DAC with the PC and aux input on the car stereo for the DAC output. It isn't optimum but each piece works well for its intended purpose. Only real drawback is the need to mount the touch screen on some kind of stalk because the dashboard will still have a stereo head unit installed. RAM makes a very good flexible stalk mount and that is what I will use.
Originally Posted by chug1
I will probably buy odroid and start experimenting with it. It looks like I may get an early retirement offer from my employer and I am seriously considering taking it to study programming for Android and iOS and starting a second career. Odroid fits well with that plan.
Well I tried to get Centrafuse to work a year ago for me, I spent a good chunk of money on all the hardware, bluetooth device, etc etc and then went at it for the 30 day trial. I just couldn't get it to function fully, the bluetooth stack problems was a complete joke by it self. I really wanted it to work, but it just wasn't getting there. Due to this I ended up ditching the CarPC platform and sold off all the hardware. After that I started looking at Android solutions, but there was a problem as I'm something of an Audiophile and using the standard headphone out wasn't going to work for me. So I started looking for solutions and found a USB to I2S device that in theory SHOULD have worked in android, but it didn't at the time. So again I ditched it all and left my stock system in there.
Now a year later I start checking into things again, and it seems not much has changed in Centrafuse which is disappointing. On the other hand, some thing have changed with android. The Amanero USB to I2S device works in android on the Odroid devices, so now I'm considering going with one of the hexcore Odroid's, into the Amanero USB to I2S, into a MiniSharc from MiniDSP and then into some 2 channel dacs. I pleaded for Centrafuse or RR or someone to make a really nice polished front end for Android a year ago, and I still plead for it! Mostly because Android is pretty simple, it just works, the hardware is all relatively similar and frankly I think it's a perfect platform for something like a car! So I hope we do see a really nice front end based on Android soon, but for now I think I'll just use a custom interface with one of the already available solutions. It may not look as polished as Centrafuse (which I love the look of) but it will work, and it'll work great.
"Mostly because Android is pretty simple, it just works, ..."
I'm sorry, but that's just plain wrong. This courtesy XDA Developers:
The Android operating system software stack consists of Java applications running on a Java based object oriented application framework on top of Java core libraries running on a Dalvik virtual machine featuring JIT compilation. Libraries written in C include the surface manager, OpenCore media framework, SQLite relational database management system, OpenGL ES 2.0 3D graphics API, WebKit layout engine, SGL graphics engine, SSL, and Bionic libc. The Android operating system consists of 12 million lines of code including 3 million lines of XML, 2.8 million lines of C, 2.1 million lines of Java, and 1.75 million lines of C++.
It doesn't "just work", it's taken hundreds (if not thousands) of developers many years to get it to the point where it "just works". The same is true of all the modern operating systems on the market. How many developers used to work for Nullsoft (the guys that used to own WinAmp)? 500? Adobe...2000-3000? Apple or Microsoft - 10s of thousands.
Now lets talk about how many developers (the people that actually write the code to make the program work) are building our little neck of the woods.
OpenMobile - 2-3?
Driveline - 1
Centrafuse - 2
All of them part-time I would guess, too.
Care to take a stab at how many lines of code live in the Centrafuse core? Or OM? Whatever you're thinking, you should probably double it. Sometimes I'm just amazed at how much has been accomplished by everyone in the hobby with such limited resources.
But the next time you think something is "simple" and "just works", stop and ask yourself how it got that way. Anything is simple...if you don't have to do it.