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Thread: ThunderbirdPC Worklog

  1. #1
    Newbie Zennoa's Avatar
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    ThunderbirdPC Worklog

    Phase 1: Planning.

    So my Thunderbird's out of commission for the time being. Hydrolocked the thing driving for Pizza Hut one night and it's gonna take me about 4 months to save up for an engine block (looks like the heads and valves are alright, thankfully). This gives me a chance to redo the previous ThunderbirdPC, which was a Toshiba laptop I hacked to have the screen up front (built a custom enclosure out of Lexan, aluminum railing, and lots of hot glue) with the PC in back (I wasn't sure it'd work, but running the screen cables through a 6 foot parallel cable actually worked beautifully) with an actual car-dedicated system.

    So my grand vision is in a list form below, the numbers before each option a rating (1 (least important) to 10 (most important)).

    10. GPS (already got the receiver and Streets and Trips 2005)
    10. CD/DVD/Digital Audio
    8. Environmental Controlls.
    3. Gauge Monitor
    2. Wireless Entry (technically the BOA system is in place and works, but using my iPAQ over wifi or Bluetooth would be tre cool).
    7. Voice Command
    7. IR Remote Command
    6. TV Receiver
    9. Radio Receiver

    It is also conceivable, utilizing the instructions of the BOA system and monitoring it, that I could write a circuit that, if the toggle is set to allow it, could start and run the car for 10 minutes or so if the battery drain gets too low (both the toggle and the hood open switch (and brake sensor for that matter) are already installed via the BOA system). I did install the system myself, and it's still hanging near the driver side floor thanks to the fact the wires weren't long enough to actually hide it.

    So one of the reasons I'm replacing the laptop system, which by all means works, is that it tends to overheat in the summer and shut its self off, and if I try to play music while I have S&T running with the GPS it bluescreens (even in XP Pro). Heh, the inverter I'm using actually isn't rated to run the laptop, so I modded on a PC fan to that to keep it from overheating and that actually worked like a dream.

    I already have some ideas of what kind of system I intend to build. First, most of it I'm going to buy from another place because I'm planning to get a reseller account with them and will get one HECK of a discount. Anyway I'm planning to go with either a lower end P4 or a P3, or maybe an Athlon XP. I just remember AMD used to have a heat problem over Intel. Probably going to go mini ATX to keep in the realm of the familiar to myself. Going to use a PSU from here obviously, wanna go with one of the 160W ones so I have plenty of power to run my stuff. Want to go with one of the motorized touchscreen 7" LCDs, maybe even two. For a video card I'm certainly going with nVidia. They've always been good to me (GeForce 6800 rocks!). Most likely the FX 5600 Personal Cinema which I believe does dualview. Sound I'm intending to be provided via a SB 512 Live I have sitting around. For a HD I'm seriously considering a server grade one, something that will be able to withstand the occasional ski jump or perhaps the incensitive comments of coworkers (I have already promised to do this for a shift manager at Pizza Hut).

    I know I'm intending to completely replace the stereo with the PC, thus getting rid of my crappy stereo and freeing up the Belkin MP3Cast I have (not to mention actually having some surround sound then). It would be cool if I could computerize the environmental controls but apparently they're vaccum based and that might be more work than I want to put forth, but I'll have a look at it in any case. I know I can computerize the temp setting, that's digital already and shouldn't be too hard to hack.

    So that's the plan for now. Next step is figuring out what I can have up front. And I'll probably make another post with a few layout ideas in a few minutes.

    Aha! Another feature.

    15. (yes, this is 150% important to me), digital rear window defrost. This thing keeps turning off at odd times and is push on/push off based so every time I shut the car off and turn her back on I have to hit defrost again. Computer remember, turn on!

    I could also do a cell phone attachment. I've got the cable and software, but I really get raped on the data transfer pricing. $80 for unlimited per month.

  2. #2
    Newbie Zennoa's Avatar
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    Okay here's a first layout plan.



    So let me explain a few things. First of all I'm probably going to refabricate this piece of the console, or get another one from a junkyard or something since I've already put a few holes in here. Now the screen 1 and 2. This may or may not work with the touchscreen but I figure I can have screen 2 upright and screen 1 upside down and using NVRotate with an nVidia card I can actually tell it that monitor 1 is upside down. I just don't know if/how that'd work with a touchscreen.

    The power switch is because I'd like to have one up front and because I'll need to do something with that switch if I have the PC handle the defrost.

    The DVD location is fairly self-explanatory. I probably have plenty of room for two drives there actually, just can't imagine what in the world I'd need both for. If I do the Audigy with the frontside controls, I could put that there too. End up modding that tray to hold them.

  3. #3
    Newbie Zennoa's Avatar
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    Okay, I've chosen the video card I intend to use. It's only got a single video out (DVI with a VGA adapter included) so if I decide to dual-monitor I'll have to get a mainboard with integrated video. For that matter I need to look up and see if anyone's managed to make a dual display system work with an AGP card and an onboard. I know it can be done with a PCI card...

    Anyway here's the video card I'm intending to use:

    PNY Geforce FX 5700 Personal Cinema / 128MB DDR / AGP 8X / DVI / TV-Out / FM / Video Card with Remote





    As you can see from the remote pic this card's a perfect solution if I decide against a touchscreen or something. Not to mention all the media controls and so on and so forth. Also, this covers the FM Tuner. Since I never listen to AM we're set! (I listen to KQ92 classic rock and Minnesota Public Radio, mainly for CarTalk and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me)

    Looking like I might have to buy a power inverter and go with a standard PSU here. I'll probably still use a startup/shutdown controller though to help save me poor battery.

    For the screens I'm thinking one of each of the motorized 7 inchers offered here, the one with the mini LCD and buttons on the top and the blank on the bottom (since it's got multi display mouse support it might let me invert the mouse control on that monitor, then I'd just make it the second monitor). That way someone looking in (like an officer) would see nothing more than a blank looking stereo.

    Have to think about that, might be better to just go with a larger non-touchscreen LCD. But the motorized ones are soo cool <3 <3 <3

    Anyway further updates as ideas warrant.

  4. #4
    Maximum Bitrate techy101's Avatar
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    The only downside to going with the single head video card, and using onboard video is that it can often be a PITA trying to get them to play well together. If you use a dual head video card it makes the process go much smoother in my experience.

    Just my $0.02

  5. #5
    Newbie Zennoa's Avatar
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    Well yeah, and actually this video card does have a TV out as well, which I could use to display the media stuff like media player and DVD player and the monitoring/env program I'm going to end up writing, while I could use the other display in 1024x768 for my maps and stuff that I need a good res for. I know Dualview (tm, r, c, etc...) supports LCD/TV mode, I've got a 4" LCD modded into my tower case for when I go LAN partying used to that effect.

  6. #6
    Newbie Zennoa's Avatar
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    After looking a bit at Digital WorldWide what I might do is buy a Lilliput montior from them and the motorized housing kit for one monitor. That would save a bit of money ($460 total, free shipping) and would allow me to install the monitor upside down for the bottom monitor (and then install the whole assembly upside down, so when it opens the monitor is automatically rightside up), thereby eliminating the need to worry about whether or not I could calibrate the touchscreen upside down. Maybe do this twice if anyone can tell me if the touchscreen driver would work with dual monitors or not.

    Or maybe I'll just go with one monitor, not sure just yet. I suppose what I'll do is get the mainboard and video card together at some point and see if I can make it work with onboard video out as well as an AGP card video out. If I can I'll go two. If not, probably just one. Heh, who really knows. I'm still in the planning (dreaming) phase here. But it's fun and gives me something to do while I wait to collect the money for the engine.
    --Zennoa, the white wolf spirit

    '95 Ford Thunderbird LX 4.6L V8

    AMD Athlon 64 3200+ with eVGA GeForce 6800, SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum, Sony DVD DL burner and 1 gig of ram at home.

    Nothing in car currently :-(

  7. #7
    Maximum Bitrate techy101's Avatar
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    The TS drivers will work with dual monitors, and will allow you to orient your TS however you need to. I still do recomend against using the TV out because the quality will be lackluster at best, as most screens only have a composite input. But even S-Video looks bad from a video card. At home the only way I've been able to get accecptable TV output has been through a VGA to TV converter, and thats on an X800 Platnium Edition that's been overclocked(not trying to start an nvidia vs ati war here, just an example). (and yes I know it's only on a 7" screen, but the quality still blows.) Also, you could probably save a few $$ going with a PCI video card. and it will save you some points in the heat department. Cuz there is very little reason to need the extra power on a 7" screen that an AGP card will give you.

    keep on designing, and keep us posted

  8. #8
    Newbie Zennoa's Avatar
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    Oh well my nVidia TV Out has always been surprisingly clear and crisp and I also know how to make an S Video to composite adapter for about $1.50 (it's just 1 capacitor). It's working correctly in my tower, it's a PSOne screen in there, and one I couldn't hack to accept a VGA signal so I had to go composite. The only annoyance is that I can't set the resolution as low as I'd like. I can't read most text easily because it's a 4 inch screen running at 800x600 if I remember.
    --Zennoa, the white wolf spirit

    '95 Ford Thunderbird LX 4.6L V8

    AMD Athlon 64 3200+ with eVGA GeForce 6800, SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum, Sony DVD DL burner and 1 gig of ram at home.

    Nothing in car currently :-(

  9. #9
    Newbie Zennoa's Avatar
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    So some software notations for today. After debating it for a while, and also reasoning I can use it on my desktop, I went ahead and bought an Object Desktop subscription from Stardock. You can basically turn Windows 2000/XP into whatever the heck you want. I also picked up from them Bootskin and Logon Studio, both for free. Here's a picture of the 'loading windows' animation I made for my ThunderbirdPC:



    You can also see some of the lesser effects of WindowsBlinds (part of Object Desktop) running there. Using that along with Desktop Gadgets (another of the several programs in that package) I should be able to make a pretty good car-oriented interface, as well as skinning it however I want.
    --Zennoa, the white wolf spirit

    '95 Ford Thunderbird LX 4.6L V8

    AMD Athlon 64 3200+ with eVGA GeForce 6800, SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum, Sony DVD DL burner and 1 gig of ram at home.

    Nothing in car currently :-(

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