I was looking at some of the projects that our shop did, and there are some in-progress pics that don't look like there would be anything to clean up.
I really only suggested it because of the amount of time that was spent discussing it. It seemed like it was something really important, and that you had tried a lot of different things with less than acceptable results. Drilling holes, and "dremel-ing" the edge produces an acceptable result, so I would stay with that. Unless you're wanting to make a slot for a bezel for the DVD drive or something, It's probably not worth an industrial machining process (CNC or waterjet, etc.)
I really like doing this too, I just can not stop tinkering with my car, I can't leave it the way the engineers designed it. I've got to make it my own. I really don't know what I'm going to do with my self if I ever get my car the way I want it. I'll probably just move on to another, and another, and so on.
Concealing the Screen
The more I think about the joys of having the 10.4" LCD panel built into the dashboard, the more I get concerned that some creep is going to like it even better than I do, and they're going to try and rip it out of the dash while I'm parked somewhere. This isn't just idle speculation; Ozzy71's LCD screen was ripped out of his dash while he was at a restaurant, and it probably took a few minutes at most. I leave my car at the airport, sometimes for several days at a time, so there's ample opportunity for an idiot to break in and do the damage.
I want a way to cover the screen while the car is parked, so the car's contents look uninteresting to passers-by. This isn't to stop hard-core criminals; those jerks will have their way with anything they want. I'm more interested in keeping smash-and-grab lowlifes from incidentally noticing the presence of a screen -- and therefor a computer -- while the car is unattended. I have tinted glass everywhere except the windshield, and I keep a reflective sunblock panel in the windshield much of the time it's parked, so they help, too. This screen cover is just a final step in protection.
I figure I'd better attack this problem now in the bezel-design stage so I can make adjustments to my plans. Here are pictures of the original dash (with my laptop holder installed), and then the revised dash with the head unit moved down and a screen mockup panel stuck about where it should go:
Click images to enlarge.
Finally, here it is later with the mockup panel installed in the completed screen mount:
The LCD panel mounts to the dash, and the bezel will fit over it. The screen cover can be part of the dash, part of the bezel, or it can fit separately. Options I see right off the top of my head:
- Build a monitor cover I can attach when I leave the vehicle; it could store under the seat.
- Build a top panel that shields the LCD panel from the sun when in use, and drops down to cover it when not in use. Such a panel might be attached at the top and fold in the middle.
- Build a panel that can be pulled out of the dash and dropped down over the screen.
- Build a rolling tambour door, like those seen on roll-top desks.
- Build a tray that holds my keyboard, but that folds up against the screen to conceal it, maybe in concert with an upper sun block panel.
The last idea sparked my imagination. Now I need to look around for a keyboard that would fit nicely in that area. It could even be a wired keyboard, since it will have a home. I don't expect to do a lot of keyboarding, but it would be nice to have one available whenever I want it.
One consideration: I want to build this from a material that won't pose a danger in a crash. A sheet metal panel sticking out of the dash might not be the best idea, so I need to figure a way around that.
If you have ideas about this, I'd sure love to hear them, even if it's just to tell me I'm about two steps from nuts.
It might be hard to do but looking at the mount for the screen I can't help but imagine a swiveling arrangement which would have the screen fold flat and present the back of the mount as a blank panel while not in use.
Another derivative of this idea might be to make a track system, where the panel simply rotated down -- the bottom would move toward the back as the top moved straight down, and there would simply be a panel filling the space, or even a small opening like a cubbyhole. That would let the cables stay connected at the bottom; they would flex but wouldn't require a rotary joint, so they should be pretty stable.
Interesting -- thanks for the input, Sicarius.
radio out of a junker, glue the buttons on, and make some kind of bezel that makes it look like it was stock.
Or, it might be cool to make a "stock" radio into your keyboard.
Occam's Razor - The simplest answer tends to be the likeliest.
Something simple will probably be the best.
laptop sitting on the laptop holder (which is what I used 'til I filled the cubbyhole with my head unit). But it was inelegant and clunky, and I have installation envy, so I'm going the way-more-complex route.
Here's how that looked:
Click images to enlarge.
I very much like your idea of making the bottom of the keyboard support look like a stock radio faceplate, even if it's just a photo of one. That eliminates having to stick some too-large Scion logo up there. Maybe a real faceplate could even fold down and have the keyboard on it. Either way, this has possibilities.
And your point about simplicity is a good reminder. Complex mechanisms are really interesting, and really hard to make work consistently. The old K.I.S.S. system -- Keep It Simple for Success -- still works.
head unit relocation took forever and ended up -- in the fourth version -- incredibly simple. It just sits there and works, and it fits so well it isn't even bolted down, yet. I chalk that development time up to making assumptions about the strength of plastic parts, and those assumptions were simply wrong. The plastic in question turned out to be very strong, and the first -- very complex -- system took a lot of (mostly wasted) time producing support that was unnecessary. When I realized how wrong I'd been, I changed the approach and the design. After refining it, I ended up with a K.I.S.S. product. Whaddayaknow?
I do know very clean designs take time. Apple's products are good examples of well-thought-out designs that they keep tweaking. But they K.I.S.S. by taking the long view, and knowing their real target; they don't cobble it together as they go along.
I went back and reviewed my progress on this CarPC installation. I noticed that I keep moving the cheese, changing the target as I build. I decided on this part of it that I'd determine where I want the cheese and then leave it there. It also means I can take Monkeyracer's advice to heart and K.I.S.S.
Or were you referring to Gene Simmons' group?
More on Concealing the Screen
I've spent some time looking for smaller keyboards to mount in a screen cover/tray that folds down, and taken a look at the space available to install such a device. While I still like the idea of a very handy fold-down keyboard, I've grown skeptical about the wisdom of the idea.
Before I decided to build the PC into the car, I built a simple, easily-removable laptop holder. Here's how the laptop holder looked when it was placed in the cubbyhole, and a driver's eye view of it with the laptop on it:
Click images to enlarge.
Comparing the pictures, you can see that the laptop blocked access to both the climate controls and the head unit.
Now that I've moved the head unit to the bottom of the dash, the LCD panel will be just above the climate controls. The fold-down keyboard would do just what the laptop did: block my view of the climate controls and the head unit. The fold-down keyboard now seems less like a solution and more like a different flavor of the same problem.
As monkeyracer pointed out, the K.I.S.S. approach is simply too smart to ignore. The simpler I make this, the more likely it is to be useful and the more likely it is that I'll actually get it built, installed, and functional. So I think the wise move here is to make a clip-on cover with a false "clock" and some false "gauges". They can all be unremarkable and uninteresting to thieves. If I do it well, I can take the panel off the screen and slip it down between the seats, handy to slip back up on there each time I leave the vehicle.
If I want to get really fancy, I could make it so the cover simply flips up onto the flat part of the dash, so there's nothing to store. That would also protect the "clock" and "gauges" from wear.
One other thing has occurred to me. I could angle the screen more so it aligns with the dash angle (rather than straight-up-and-down, as it is currently), and make the cover so it lifts up but stays partly out over the LCD, shielding it from the sun. That would give a much smoother, more OEM appearance to the installation.
I think that's the general direction I want to take this. I'll do a cardboard mockup, and maybe some pictures. Any comments or ideas?