At this point, I had already been looking into getting something with an Atom processor. After further investigation I decided why not go with a Dual or Quad core processor and then I won't have to worry about major upgrades for a while. With that in mind, I took the plunge and bought a new motherboard and processor combo. My only concern was that it should take a DIMM module as I have a lot of those knocking around from my other computer projects and I am on a budget. It also needed to have a built in VGA port as DVI monitors in the size I wanted were just not available. Now that I think of it and I plan on having a second monitor, I should have gotten a mobo with both a VGA and DVI connector and just get a DVI to VGA adaptor for the DVI output. Oh Well. Anyway I have to work with what I got. The Zotac nforce 610i-ITX is a great bard. My only gripe is that it has one video output. I want to add a graphics card to the set up since my case has a slot. Unfortunately This board has PCIe 1x. I managed to find a PCIe 1x graphics card however I cannot find a PCIe 1x flexible riser. The only ones I have come across on Ebay are all located in China.
As far as peripherals go I have not purchased all that I want to add to this build. But with proper planning I hope to have a minimum of re wiring as I add on more pieces to my build.
Space Navigator 3D Connexion mouse
I was lucky enough to get this at a reasonable price off ebay. My plan is to use it as a secondary input for controlling the Car PC. so far it works ok but there are a few things I need to work out. It works well enough in Windows using the RBC 9 drivers however I am having issue getting it to work with my front end of choice. I use Centrafuse as my front end. I never tested Ride Runner so I cannot say why I favor Centrafuse over it. It just happen to win the luck of the draw.
I am please with the mouse as it is so far so I have not really bothered to get it working in Centrafuse 3.1. when I get to the phase where the major stuff is done and I have to iron out all the bugs, then I'll worry about it.
I installed it in the center console and I must say I am very pleased with the way it turned out.
There is very little wiring to be seen. I had to cut the usb cable off the mouse and run the cable through the center console. After doing that I resoldered it back together. It looks nice now and well worth the effort but if you are afraid of taking stuff apart then ...........
Update 01/01/2011. Finally got my Space Navigator working in Centrafue. All major functions I use have been mapped sucessfully.
For my GPS, I toyed with the idea of using the Onstar hack for the GPS module that came built in the car. After all now that Onstar has gone digital, the analog hardware in my vehicle is now obsolete. I do not use my Onstar. Besides even if I wanted the cost of all new hardware that will not give me the full functions that are available to newer vehicles did not kjustify the cost. There is a pretty good resource out there for people who want to go that route. I want my install to look as close to stock as possible when all is said and done. I know it is a contradiction with a 12 in screen, but in my wild dreams it is possible - that is after I get the screen installed in the dash. I was worried about the work involved with the stock GPS and converting to usb for the computer. I also read some good reviews on the GlobalSat BU -353 and after a lot of thought I decided to use that instead as it was tried and proven with GMPC whereas I did not know if the Onstar hack would work. I chose to mount the BU-353 outside the vehicle. On any other vehicle that would have been a feat to accomplish but with the Avalance with body cladding, It is a whole lot easier in my opinion.
Here are pics of my GPS install:
Old GPS Install
Interior Panels removed and wires run inside of vehicle
Everything put back together
EDIT: 11/15/2010 I learned the hard way that the BU-353 is not completely waterproof. Mine stopped working after a real heavy rainstorm and a car wash. I cannot say which one affected it but I opened the thing and there was rust inside where water had got in it. I had to order a new one and this time it stays in the car.
Now for the keyboard I had certain requirements. First it had to be wireless. It also had to look not so much out of place in the vehicle. It also had to be easy to use.
After a lot of searching and research I settled with this little gem.
The Magic Pro Mini Keyboard
In addition to having my basic feature set, it has other features that make it even better suited to my needs. As you can see it also includes a touch pad. That gives me another control option besides the mouse and the touchscreen. Among other notable features are the easy multimedia buttons that are integrated.* I have had occasion to use it to to increase and decrease the volume at times. Honestly though that is just a novelty because it is easier to just turn the volume control on the radio. What I do love though is the 1 key for "CTRL+ALT+DEL". As with any computer out there there are time when you have to use that combination and the car PC is no exception. An now the final feature set that sold me is the Illuminated keys. There are other features as well ( laser pointer etc), but these are the ones that I use.
Keyboard and mouse in the center console
Keyboard with illumination
Now another thing that is important for me is internet access. To make this different from all the high end head units and the new OEM ones coming out from Ford and others is internet. This opens a whole new world as far as programs I can run from the car. As I said this has to be better than the high end units out there.
For this I chose the AT&T Mifi wireless router.
For those who may think why this router?
Why AT&T at all?
All I can say is to each his own.
I am not here to advertise for them or anyone else for that matter but I chose this device because it is free.
I have an AT&T data only sim card that gives me unlimited access to the internet.* I got this before AT&T imposed the 5GB limits to their sims so I am not hindered by that limit. Also this is a corporate sim and I have other corporate devices that I use for work. So guess who gets the bil. All I can say is it is not me.
Internet connected apps include:
Web Access via Centrafuse
OpenTable - Reserve a table at some of the local restaurants
Garmin Mobile PC. - With Garmin Mobile PC, I can check flight departure and arrival times, search for fuel stations by price,etc
Weather via Centrafuse
Email via Centrafuse.
Also I am currently working on a way to download and integrate a traffic camera database into Garmin to warn of traffic cameras like the AT&T Navigator on my Iphone 4.
What is the point of having a computer in the car if every feature that you have can be done by a after market high end unit?
I cannot justify building a computer for my truck and it only does what most after market high end units no nowadays. I want my setup to do a lot mare and so I will keep on pushing the envelop and adding new stuff even when this initial build is done.
With this in mind,I decided that I needed to add on-board diagnostics among other things to my setup. One reason is for the fact that I like to know what my engine is doing and I'd like a bit more information than what the gauges in the cluster and other info systems in the car provides. Another reason is so my boys who ask" Why do you do it will have a lot of answers to justify why. I'll simply ask. Can your head unit do this? and this? or that?
Here is my OBD Setup:
OBD Link Scantool
First thing I needed to do was turn my OD port in the vehicle around. If I did not do this, the OBD connector would be sticking out from under the dash and that would look very unprofessional. After a lot of persuasion, I managed to get the mount for the OBD port at the right angle under the dash to plug my cable.
This is what it looks like now
Serial port connected
USB connected and unit tucked away
After connecting the OBD Link, I reach my first unexpected set back. Well not totally unexpected but a setback just the same. When driving with my test laptop and using the OBD Link I get the annoying ground noise in my radio . The moment I disconnect the usb cable the noise goes away. This leaves me to the point where, from prior experience I know I need a ground loop isolator. Easy right, but not in my case. I wanted to get the ground loop as close to the source as possible so as to prevent it from affecting other systems this means between the laptop/carpc and the head unit not between the head unit and amps. I suspect I will need another at that point but i'll cross that bride when I get to it. My problem was that they do not make or I cannot find a ground loop isolator for the 3.5 mm jack that comes out of the computer. I have to make my own or get a lot of connectors and adapters to convert from 3.5 mm to RCA and back again. I decided to go with the former.
Here is what I did.
I purchased a ground loop isolator and took it apart. No return policy if this doesn't work.
I also got a 3.5 mm to RCA cable. I cut that to the length I wanted so as not to have a mess of wires in the car and soldered the cable on the ground loop isolator. Went out to the car plugged it in, plugged in my usb to the OBD Link start up the car and the whine is gone. I drove around and there is absolutely no whine at all.
A Bit off topic.
This is not directly related to the carpc but it is other work I have done in my car. To keep my stuff safe, I installed a viper alarm with strobes and siren. I could not help but add switches to control these manually. Here is what I did. Initial install was in the console above the rear view mirror. But I realized that there will be nowhere to relocate my AC controls if I did that so I moved them to their new location. These are just the switches for the strobes. All switches are touch sensitive so there are no moving parts. The siren switches are still on the dash and i'll relocate those later. This location is a lot better because the lights from the switches are so bright , they can be distracting and since they stay on even when the vehicle is turned off they may attract the wrong attention. Lastly, when closed, fingers cannot get to the strobes to turn them on by mistake.......