I've got a little rant all worked out about how I want my carpc to "work" with regards to searching for and playing music.
Why the need of a carputer for a better music player? I'm already sold on the idea of taking my entire collection with me via an ipod full of mp3s. I currently have my iPod hidden in the armrest connected to a Dension IceLink Plus. This little doodad tricks my OEM headunit into thinking my iPod is a CD changer. It works well, all the transport buttons (next/prev, ff/rew) on the headunit work. I can even jump right to 5 playlists using the CD 1-5 buttons. The IceLink works as advertised. But, it's a crappy way to naviagate a large collection of mp3 (40GB and growing). The IceLink will show id3 tag information (as CD-Text), if the headunit supports it. The VW OEM unit (like most OEM headunits) does not. Even if it did, I want something more like the iPod interface. A set of nested menus that lets me search by album, artist, song, etc. The best way to sum up my problems with the IceLink-iPod (and the Alpine, and the Monster iCruze, etc) solutions are as follows:
- Get in the car, turn on the head unit.
- Now, I want to search by artist. Starting at the top of the alphabetically sorted list, I want to get to "R.L. Burnside" quickly and play all songs by this artist.
- When that's done, I want to search by artist and find "Bad Religion" quickly, and so on.
Try this with an Icelink or the alpine-ipod thingy or the iCruze. Using "next track" quickly doesn't work. On the iPod this is easy. I get a scrollable screen that shows me 6 artists at a time, and a little jog wheel that lets me zoom really fast to near the Rs then slow down until I get to "R.L Burnside". It's easy. The screen (6 lines) combined with the interface (the scroll wheel that scrolls fast and slow) make this an easy task. There's someone on these forums offering a VW/BMW/Audi headunit->USB device for carPCs. Presumably it maps the transport keys to something on the PC (ideally it's configurable at runtime, if not, I bet girder solves this problem). I asked him about the speed and he said about 2-3 times per second. That seem fast? It's not. On the iPod. I can scroll thru my entire collection by artist in 3-4 seconds. I tried a test with CentraFuse on a full-size PC and a mouse last weekend. The music browser lets me page down quick enough I got thru the whole collection in about 5 seconds. Why don't I just use the damn iPod in my car? It's white, it looks like an iPod, not some piece of automotive gear. More importantly, I would have to look at the small iPod screen while driving. An LCD located where the double din headunit is now would be so much easier to glance at, bonus points if I could use a real, stock-looking knob to function as my scroll-wheel in the example above. I want using this to be easy, no squinting at an iPod screen trying to use it's overly touch-sensitive wheel on a slightly bumpy road.
So, add one 7" LCD to the list. I'm not thrilled about touchscreens though. The touchscreen layer dims the brightness and you have to actually look at where you're pressing (taking your eyes off the road). Could I make this work with a non-touchscreen and some knobs & buttons? I'll look at the Contour ShuttleXpress and the Powermate and see how they interact with the existing front ends. (I really don't want to have to write my own front end, I might do that eventually, but I would rather this project be installed and working sooner rather than later).
Man, I'm a picky, whiny little ***** about this stuff...