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Thread: Frequently Asked Questions

  1. #1
    FLAC
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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Power Supplies Inverters, DC-DC, and Foward Converters
    - Inverters are a cheap and easy solution for powering your CarPC.
    - DC-DC units are more efficent than an Inverter and typically will allow your CarPC to continue operation during cranking. These Units include the Opus, Keypower, Arise ACE-865V, and Arise ACE-916V
    - Foward Converters modify a regular power supply into a DC-DC unit. More info can be found here.

    Control See this thread.

    Audio Input FM Modulators, Transmitters, Tape adapters, and Auxillary Input
    - Tape adaptors are an inexpensive, low quality device for adding an extra input to your vehicles head unit.
    - FM Modulators take a stereo input and modulates them into your vehicles head unit. FM Modulators are connected In-line with your vehicles antenna.
    - FM Transmitters deliver a low quality signal via a wireless transmisson.
    - Auxillary Inputs deliver a high quality input dierectly to your vehicles headunit. Some headunits support the addition of an Aux. Input via an adaptor.

    Character LCD's
    - 4x40 Wiring Diagram (two controller)
    - 2x40,4x20, and smaller wiring diagram (single controller)
    - Winamp OpenSource LCD Plugin for various LCD & VFD modules
    - Setting up a HD44780 compatible LCD module
    - Setting up a 40x4 HD44780 compatible LCD module


    Storage
    - Best solution: Laptop (2.5") Hard Disk Drive or Solid State Storage (Compact Flash, Smartmedia, etc.)
    - Mounting the drive perpendicular to the ground prevents the read/write head on the drive from "crashing" into the platters.
    Q. Where can I get an adapter to convert a laptop CD/DVD drive to standard IDE
    A. Try Baber.

    Miscellaneous
    - Want a MP3Car Usersite? Email [email protected].
    - This FAQ will never be finished. Hardware and software both change rapidly enough that we cannot keep up.
    - You can buy or sell MP3Car stuff and other stuff in our Classifieds forum. Remember the read the Rules before posting.

    This is in no way complete... just a quick version for tonight. Email additions/comments to [email protected]

  2. #2
    Maximum Bitrate fluffy2097's Avatar
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    -Hard drives will not be damaged by the vibrations from your car. If you hit a bump big enough to cause a head crash, you will have more important things to worry about. like your now broken suspension. If you're paranoid, use rubber grommets or a laptop hard drive.

    -LCD's are not damaged by cold weather. However, the response time (how long it takes to display a new image) of the screen will be much slower (several seconds) untill it warms up.
    A digital mind lost in an analog world.

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  3. #3
    Variable Bitrate telekineticfool's Avatar
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    Another Audio Input Option...

    If you so choose, you can get rid of the head unit altogether and run straight from your sound card to an amplifier *(with a cable that converts from 1/8" headphone jack to two RCA channels, left and right) that would then power your speakers.
    MP3 MR2 (click here for details)
    Hardware: EPIA M10000, 512Meg Ram, 5.6"TFT, Opus 150watt DC-DC PSU
    Software: Windows 2000, Media Engine 2.0

  4. #4
    FLAC cproaudio's Avatar
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    Reprint from another thread

    Ok this is going to be a long post so bare with me.

    Shopping for PSU sucks cuz you dont know where to start or what to look for. I hope this will help you a lot.

    Before you start, you need to answer a few questions first. What's the total power required for your system? This includes motherboard, fans, CPU, RAM, HDD, floppy CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, DVD-RW, CD-RW, ALL serial and USB devices such as GPS receiver, IR receiver (IRman), USB hubs serial hubs, thumb drives memory card readers, LCD monitor, VGA monitor, charactor LCD screen, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that is connected to the motherboard and the PSU. How often do you listen to your system while the engine is not running? (You'll listen to it more often than you think). What programs will you be using? How much can you spend? What electronic skills do you have (can you soilder, read diagrams) How much room do you have for the PSU, Where do you live, How's the weather?
    Once you've answered all the questions then you can shop.

    Find ALL the PSUs that you could possibly order either online or mail order. This is where you have to do A LOT of search on the forum to see what are all the possible PSU candidates. You should draw a chart for comparing specs. You should try to find the followiong specs from ALL the PSU candidates: maximum output wattage, max output amperage for 12V, 5V, 3.3V, -5V, -12V, -5vSB, min/max input voltage, efficiency, teamperture range, operating humidity, dimention

    input voltage should be as low as possible for minimum. This allows your PSU to supply a regulated power to your computer during engine start even if your battery is low and it barely cranks over. If the PSU has a high min input voltage like 9 or 10 volts, your carpc will reboot everytime you start your car. Maximum voltage input should be as high as possible. When the engine is running, the alternater puts out 14.5v-15v at highway speed. When you're charging the battery using a plug in the wall charger, the charger puts out 16-17 volts when the battery is fully charged (the heavy duty charger at my shop does). When your voltage regulator takes a dump, the voltage could go as high as 17 or 18 volts. If the maximum input voltage is 14v or 15v on the PSU you're gonna fry that thing more often than you think. today's car electronics are made to operate at as low as 7 volts to as high as 20 volts. That's why no matter what happens to the alternator or the battery, your car's computers and electronics will operate like it should.

    The PSU output amperage is depends on what components you have. You want a PSU with high amperage rating on the 12V line and 5V line if you're gonna power an LCD screen, several hard drives and CD drives and all the USB crap you got hidden underneath the carpet.

    Too often people overlook PSU efficiency. efficiency can be defined as how well the unit can convert input power into output power. Power can not be created or destroyed. It can only be changed from one form to another. Take car amps for example. Class AB amps are 50-60% efficient. That means 1000watt amp actually takes 2000 watts of power from the battery and converts 1000 watts into music and 1000 watts into heat. Class D on the other hand is more efficient at 85-95% efficient. A 1000 watt class D amp takes 1100 watts power from the batter and converts 1000 watts into music and 100 watts into heat. PSU is the same way. A low efficient PSU will take more power to do the job of a high efficient PSU. A ligh efficient PSU uses less power and saves battery power. This means you can listen to your MP3 longer. This is an advantage of a DC PSU even if it's a low efficient PSU. If you're going with an inverter and an AC PSU, think of this. A typical 120V ATX PSU is about 70% efficient and an inverter is about 90-95% efficient. Let's do our math backwards. a 250watt AC ATX PSU takes 357 watts of input power at 70% efficient. That means the inverter have to produce 357 watts to power the 250watt ATX PSU. The inverter, at 90% efficient would require nearly 400 watts to convert to 357watts of AC power to power a 250 watt AC ATX PSU. Most of the inverters have a minimum input voltage of 10V. That means everytime you start your car, the PC will reboot. What? what? A tank circuit you say?? In order for a tank circuit to work, you would need a 500 watt diode or a 40 amp diode. Diodes have a .7 volt drop when you run power from anode to cathode. If you go with an AC PSU and an inverter, your whole PSU from the battery to the motherboard will yield a 60-65% efficiency.

    Teamp is also important. If you live in the desert, you'd probably know that during summer time a car's interior could get as hot as 160 degrees farenhite or higher. Don't believe that "yeah but it's dry heat" crap, 160 is freaking hot. Hell, 110 is already freaking hot during the summer here where I live. What does this mean for a PSU? Well, The glue that the maufacturers use might not hold well at such extreme heat. If the glue holding the caps or transformers gives, the caps, transformers and other crap in the PSU are held together at the soilder joints. Put that in a car going 80MPH on a freeway that's designed for 55MPH (they changed the law but they didnt change the road) and its gonna viberate loose sooner or later. You're gonna end up with a phucdup PSU with bad soilder joints. Electronic components in a PSU such as caps, transformers, coils might not be rated to tolerate the temperatures inside a car with windows up during summer time as well.

    Humidity is probably not as big of a deal unless you live at a place with high humidity over 90% all year round. AC will fix that if the PC is getting that AC action.

    Another spec to look for is operating G. This basically tells you how much G force will the PSU take before it blows up or something. In a car install is very important. This probably has something to do soilder joints and what G force the PSU will take before the tranformer falls off the circuit board.

    Dimension is kind of important too if you don't have the room for a brick. There are tiny DC-DC ATX PSUs out there. Jeff has one thats pretty small. If you have the room, by all means buy the biggest PSU size wise you can find.

    A shut down controller is only as good as how your programs react when you hit that soft off power button. Some programs such as OBD-II data logger, Street Atlas 2003 Plus will not shut down after you pushed the power button. It always ask if you want to save the current map or if you want to exit and save the data that's being logged. Some programs would just freeze up (Winamp2.83 with Ao plugin) when you hit the power button. In this case, a shut down controller won't do squat for you. You still have to stop the program manually and properly or else the computer is just going to sit there and wait for the 60 seconds or 2 minutes for the shutdown controller to cut power to the PSU and cause the computer to scan disk everytime you boot. Edit: What about hibernate and suspend to RAM? It all depends on how your hardware reacts when it's being waken up. Some hardware drivers will not work after put into hibernate or suspend.

    Cost is an issue too for most people. Some people (me) would just spend the money and buy the Opus with warranty and call it a day since it's made for car use. Some people would just build one from a diagram. It's not that hard if you can read the diagram and know how to soilder. Getting the right parts may be a problem. Rat shack is not like it used to be. The cheapest way is order Jeff's shut down controller, buy an inverter and rip a power supply from a retired computer.

    With all that siad, I think you should go back and re-look at all the specs of all the PSU and then decide on which PSU is the best for you. I have TONS of USB crap for my system and my Opus seems to be working just fine. It's been 4 months since I had it installed. The extra 20 bucks you spend on Opus will save you ALOT of headache later on. (unless you get a defective one. Even at, Kris will still take care of you)

    If I said anything wrong please correct me
    NEW complete and updated My project with 100+ pics on 7-4-03
    If you have a Shuttle FV24 motherboard in perfect working condition for sale, please PM me.

  5. #5
    mjp
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluffy2097
    -Hard drives will not be damaged by the vibrations from your car. If you hit a bump big enough to cause a head crash, you will have more important things to worry about. like your now broken suspension. If you're paranoid, use rubber grommets or a laptop hard drive.
    Can you please explain this more, I believed that the hdd will fail if used in the car. I have used a laptop in the car and got maybe 3 months or so use before the hdd failed. I would like to know how a hdd can be used in the car and not crash or fail?

    I know companies that uses special systems for their in vehicle units and have a 1 in 3 failure rate. I would love to have a hdd running in the car, maybe someone can show me what the life expectancy of a hdd in a car really is?
    "Video games dont affect kids. I mean if pac man affected our generation as kids, we'd all run around a darkend room munching pills listening to to repetitive music. -Just a thought" anon

  6. #6
    Maximum Bitrate fluffy2097's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjp
    Can you please explain this more, I believed that the hdd will fail if used in the car. I have used a laptop in the car and got maybe 3 months or so use before the hdd failed. I would like to know how a hdd can be used in the car and not crash or fail?

    I know companies that uses special systems for their in vehicle units and have a 1 in 3 failure rate. I would love to have a hdd running in the car, maybe someone can show me what the life expectancy of a hdd in a car really is?
    Most people here do have hard drives in their car. Not many of them have issues. There are people here who have had desktop drives in their cars for years without problems. We've also had a few hard drives fail due to cold weather. I've yet to see a report of a head crash do to vibration, and we have a few people who do off roading here. Can you tell us WHY your drive failed? Is there any chance it could be natural causes (Hard drives start failing on their own after about 5 years)? Did you just put it in your passenger seat and it was bouncing painfully up and down? A properly mounted hard drive should not give you problems. Unless you run into a tree.
    A digital mind lost in an analog world.

    Learn to ask smart questions!
    http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

    My car PC: The Lost Cause!

  7. #7
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    Good questions that should be answered for a Newbie

    Ok I just stumbled on this forum today, and I am EXTREAMLY new to this carputer stuff, but very inturested. Some ideas for this board that i think would help out us newbies and keep redundent posts out of the main BB

    1. Would be a Glossery!! (not everybody are Techheads and know what VGA, LCD TFT is. i know you could look it up, but some people would rather just make a thread called.. WHATS TFT!?!?!, now isnt that anoying!!)

    2. Websites, A links list to basicly all the websites that known to man on this topic, and catagorize them like in INFO sites, sales sites, LCD sites, HDD sites, places to just look at a touchscreen layout (such as how the screen actualy looks), cases, motherboards, any and every kind of read you can think of on this topic

    3. personal suggestions based on use would be great for various items

    4. HOW-TO, anny and all how-to's on this forum should be compiled here (yeah search, but how many times can you say that to some one. if its put in a place where it can be easily accessed, u wont have multipul posts all over the place!!)

    i dont know just thought it would make a better FAQ post if you got somebody with probably a bunch of FAQ and doesnt want to repost the hell out of the forum
    any other ideas i can come up with as far as questions i'm having i'll post them up here, but i gotta get back to work
    but what i'm seeing so far is a great help to us newbies.

    oh and pictures.. pictures pictures.. humans gain most of our information through images, u can only go so far with text, i know u have to be worried about the 56Kers, so just put a link (not just a link, but a link with text to let us know whats going on in the image, maby on the image or maby like right above the link )

    cheers

  8. #8
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    Quick question....
    I was recently in a Pacific rim import-export site and found automotive multi-disc players that at had the ability to read CD-A as well as mp3 files. It plugged in to existing OEM head units. I was wondering if there is a way to update my firmware in my 96 Dodge Ram's radio be able to read mp3's?

    Thx,
    eieghn

  9. #9
    Variable Bitrate telekineticfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eieghn
    I was wondering if there is a way to update my firmware in my 96 Dodge Ram's radio be able to read mp3's?
    No, there isn't. It needs a hardware decoder.
    MP3 MR2 (click here for details)
    Hardware: EPIA M10000, 512Meg Ram, 5.6"TFT, Opus 150watt DC-DC PSU
    Software: Windows 2000, Media Engine 2.0

  10. #10
    Constant Bitrate
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    Quote Originally Posted by Balor
    1. Would be a Glossery!! (not everybody are Techheads and know what VGA, LCD TFT is. i know you could look it up, but some people would rather just make a thread called.. WHATS TFT!?!?!, now isnt that anoying!!)
    Now that is a good idea for the newbies.... YOu know what balor, if i get time, i'll start compling a list of commonly used terms and what they mean. Keep the suggestions coming....

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