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Thread: 2000 BMW 323i E46 Laptop install

  1. #1
    Low Bitrate
    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    Post 2000 BMW 323i E46 Laptop install

    Hi everyone, I started my carputer project and wanted to post a status report.

    Setup / plan / intro:
    - 1Ghz Intel Centrino laptop in the trunk
    - Xenarc 700TS touch screen display in the upper bay with the bezel from Rich.
    - Stock HU to be removed
    - Keeping Harman Kardon amp
    - No wires to be cut
    - Will use built-in FM antenna to drive USB FM receiver
    - Will use a docking station for the laptop.
    - SVEN4 goes to front (per Gork's suggestion)
    - Will connect to I-Bus for wheel buttons integration.
    - Will have GPS integration.

    - Wi-Fi sync with home media library when parked at the garage (wake up at night, sync, go back to stand-by)
    - Reasonable FM reception (very suspicious about this based on others comments)
    - Acceptable audio quality. Will initially try to drive SVEN4 with laptop's built-in speaker-out, then fail back to USB audigy. We'll see.
    - Copilot v8 based GPS navigation system
    - Always-on Internet access via GPRS PCMCIA card w/unlimited data plan. This will enable me to get local weather and news based on coordinates reported by the GPS. I have high hopes but I'll see what kind of software integration challenges are ahead.

    I don't care much about:
    - DVD / CD playback. I rip anything and everything back home, so night-time sync will get all the content I need into the car. So you won't see front-loading DVD drive in my installation
    - Head-unit quality FM experience. It's still ok if I can't get FM. I may consider XM radio integration later, but audio quality bar must be reached before that can happen.

    1. Wiring
    2. Functionality testing with external power source
    3. Final bezel/display mount to the console
    4. Organizing the cables in the trunk
    5. Finding a good place for laptop, DC-DC power adapter, docking station, I-Bus interface etc.

    Current status:
    - Phase 1 complete. I pulled VGA, 4xaudio, 1xantenna, 3xpower, 2xcat6, 2xUSB cables from trunk into upper bay. Also moved A/C unit to lower bay.

    Biggest challenges so far.
    - The trim for headunit needed to come off (for display/bezel to go in). For that, center vents needed to come off. After failing that, I simply pulled the trim, flexing the center vent screw holder parts just enough to remove the trim. Result: trim is out and nothing happened to vents.
    - Rear seat backrest just did not come off. I could not remove it, but I managed to "undock" left side just enough to reach the hole for running the cables.
    - Rear-left door jam plastic (where the carpet and door frame meets) did not come off easily. I had to pull it really hard that I was convinced I would have to buy a replacement part for that. Putting it back wasn't easy either.

    - I have all the pictures, I just need to setup a place to host them (I prefer inline image linking, rather than attachments). Stay tuned.

    That's all for now.

  2. #2
    Variable Bitrate Hark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Atlanta, GA USA

  3. #3
    Low Bitrate
    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    Thumbs up Update: Version 1 complete

    Sorry I haven't had a chance to write details about the progress. V1 is complete and here some details:

    - FrodoPlayer based MP3 player
    - CoPilot for Laptops v9 based navigation

    - Must use CarPC Pro 2.5c or later (else there is a bug with quick removal of ignition key -- such as under 5 secs in & out)

    - Reliable power on/off of the carputer
    - IBus based steering wheel button integration
    - Custom skin for FrodoPlayer to match E46 amber color at night.

    - Steering wheel buttons:
    -- Vol UP/DOWN; prev/next song; alt-tab simulation for switching between copilot and frodo.
    -- Ashtray power button for power-override needs (not needed normally)

    Scenarios tested:
    - All important power scenario tests passed. These include:

    1) Leave it running in ACC (w/o engine running) for 3 hrs. CarPC Pro cut the power to the carputer gear as it detected the decreasing voltage and engine was then able to start.

    2) Quick in & out of the ACC. CarPC Pro 2.5c was able to terminate launch sequence in the middle and perform shutdown sequence.

    3) 20 times ACC on & off; to ensure CarPC Pro can successfully hibernate and resume the laptop from hibernation. With 550ms hold-down delay, this test passed with my toshiba laptop.

    4) Wake the PC using a scheduled task, and keep it running on laptop's own battery. Then start the car. FAILED to start the PC. Problem is that CarPC Pro cannot know if the PC is on (specific to laptops that is). So if it's ON when you're going ACC OFF to ON, it will press and hold the power for 550ms, which will send the PC to hibernation. For this and other cases, I fashioned a power button in the ashtray so I can enforce power manually when needed.

    5) Turn ON the ACC, wait few secs, then go all the way to run the engine. Crank-time low-voltage case created a problem (where CarPC cut the power thinking we're about to drain the battery) but then proper configuration of CarPC Pro solved this problem (had to increase the low voltage detection delay)

    - MediaLibrary sync over Wifi

    Tests mainly successful. However Frodo is buggy in some areas where if song file names or folder names containing the albums have non-english chars in them, Frodo crashes with an unexpected error. Reported to frodobugs forum but no response yet. Anyway, tests include:

    1) Windows Scheduler based once-a-day wake & sync scenario. Sub tests include Wifi available/not available while task is running; low battery (I rely on laptop's battery and it may not be fully charged all the time) and network share available/not available.

    2) Also tested to make sure it doesn't interfere with Frodo operations if I'm driving (i.e. it starts the robocopy task minimized in the background).

    - IBus tests

    IBus interface is very reliable. Many thanks to folks who developed the hardware and software to make this possible. It's been more than 2-3 months now and Ibus interface is the one place that I've had zero problems. I'm able to capture any button and event in the car, and do anything I want with it.

    Outstanding issues:
    - Hibernation failure issues with CoPilot v9.

    If Copilot is running and I remove the ignition key, shutdown sequence kicks in to hibernate the laptop, this fails 1 in 7-8 cases and is a bit annoying. eventually laptop's battery run out in few hours and Windows performs full start-up next time I turn on the PC. Not sure what I can do about it.

    - Sound volume level is low.

    I'm thinking of getting a new AMP, replace the stock HK and feed it using optical cable from audigy 2 NX external. This analog stuff is really messy. Cable runs all over the place and still not very good results (not to mention SVEN4 in the middle). Sound quality is good, but volume is low.
    (Any AMP suggestions for replacing HK?)

    - Physical location & platform

    I've decided to keep the height of the installation to less than 2 inches on a flat platform, then put it up against the rear wall in the trunk at the exact same angle. My prototype is piece of plywood and it seems to work really well. Very easy to do maintenance and doesn't eat up too much space. I don't lose any height in the trunk, just front-to-back depth of some 2 inches or less. Keyword here is laptop of course, I was able to go very thin.

    (Trying to find a material that is not so heavy, will not crack and will allow some ventilation -- this is to replace the plywood board that I've mounted everything on)

    - GPS receiver location is not final.

    I've placed a USB indoor use only GPS receiver right below the rear windshield around the center area. Not looking good and need a better place to hide it.

    - No FM yet.

    Haven't had a chance to work on this but it's important for me and I have to find some time to get it done.


    Wife is happy and wants one for her car too. Tons of music readily available. She can use it easily without any problem. We did a burn-in test of the solution during a 6hr one-way drive, all went well. CoPilot worked well -- no memory leaks in longer routes etc. Music played well. No heat/vibration related issues either.

    I'm very happy with it. Will never look back to the HU.

    I'll post more updates as I get a chance. Feel free to ask questions.

  4. #4
    Variable Bitrate Hark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Atlanta, GA USA
    Interested to hear more about Copilot 9 - does it scale ok with small screen (800x480)? How's the POI database? Moving maps rather than moving car icon?

  5. #5
    Low Bitrate
    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    Copilot 9

    Of all the navigation software I tried, I really like copilot v9 best. I use 3-d view all the time. It has on-screen keyboard that works well with 7" display.

    I still keep a stylus around for pulled-over fine trip planning work.

    POI database is the weakest feature of Copilot, however it's as simple as calling 411 and getting the street address for the particular POI needed.

    Copilot still needs some improvements on the search results list. Text is too small to read on this screen -- so yes, it's not perfect.

  6. #6
    Variable Bitrate polo6979's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Atlanta, GA
    This is a great write-up! I would not have thought to test some of these things like you are doing.
    2003 E46 BMW
    Lilliput Transflective, GM965 mobo w/ Processor
    ELMSCAN 5 USB, Slot load DVD, BU-353 GPS
    Everything is for sale.

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