2005 Scion xA- Mac Mini
I decided that I should probably go ahead and put this up, considering I pretty much owe everything that I've been able to do up to this point (and everything that I've been inspired to do) to the members of this board.
Thanks for that!
A few weeks ago, I went to visit my Dad in Atlanta, and ran across a computer store that was closing, and pulling one of those "everything must go" sales. I ran across an open box mac mini for $130, which, according to the box said "no boot, no video, no software." The software was in the box, so I thought I would have some chance at it working. I bought a power supply the next day and brought it home- IT WORKED JUST FINE. So, I started looking them up on the internet, and I found this site.
I worked in my Dad's friend's stereo shop a few years ago, so I learned the basics, and because I have a decent amount of confidence in myself- not to say that I haven't broken my share of things (even in this project)- I decided to go for it.
Here it is-
2005 Scion xA
I wanted to keep it as factory as possible. I've seen my share of rice, and I'm not a fan. In my opinion, the best installs make you think that they were never done in the first place.
I had a flip down 6.5 off brand lcd mounted even with the front headrests, which I would very rarely play N64 or PS2 on, but because no one ever sat in the back, I decided that I would dismantle it and move the screen to where the headunit was. I never had the sound working because I had heard so many bad things about modulators, and I didn't have a line in on my factory headunit. I also knew it was just a temporary setup, so I didn't worry too much (thus the $30 Walmart inverter). I took the screen apart because with the casing the screen would not fit behind the panel like I wanted, and I intended to create a wooden framework for what would have been (and still will be) a bondo or fiberglass piece. Somewhere in the process of working with the screen out of it's casing, one of the chips apparently got shorted out, and the screen was running at 100% all the time, causing the colors to be inverted.
I replaced it with a $65 Pyle PLHR56R lcd, so no big loss there. Currently, the lcd is sitting on it's stand, halfway hanging out of the dash until I get my fab skillz up. Until a few days ago, I was running the mini with the inverter and the Apple power cable, or, when I really wanted to listen to music, I'd pop the stock unit back in. I got in my new P1900 a couple of days ago, and I spent all day today working on it. I bought some heavy speaker wire yesterday, and ran all of the power connections, which, all in all, was relatively easy. Now the mini starts and shuts down with the car, which is nice. I also power the screen from the P1900.
The thing that probably makes me happiest about this is that there is actually a decent amount of room behind the dash panel, so it'll be easy to run wires and mount things (like the 1900) that I may not need to get to for a while. There was a little pop-up storage area below the ac controls, which I removed to insert the mini. (This is part 2 of 13,000 that will require me to brush up on fab.) It isn't quite deep enough for me to go flush with the rest of the dash, but it probably sticks out about an inch, so it's fine to work with. (I'm HARDLY bold enough to start cutting into the ductwork.)
So, with the cables run and the mini starting as I want, the next most immediate issue (because I don't want my mouse sliding all over the seat) is controlling the mac. If I have any advice at all, it is this: GO TO THRIFT STORES. I happened to be looking for ideas for Halloween and an 80's party I threw last month, and I ran across a Gravis Eliminator USB stick for $3.95. That night I found a piece of software called USB Overdrive that allows you to assign keystrokes or clicks or combos to a button or axis of any input device. The plan is to use the stick as a mouse, and the various buttons to control front row. (The backlit 8-way POV is IDEAL.) I disconnected the features and buttons that I don't need from the stick's main board, and am trying to find a place that is easy to reach, but that won't get in the way of say, driving. I will probably try to trim it down (fab....) or combine the circuitry from this stick with another controller. This is why I suggested thrift stores- you can rip it open, you can break it, and you're only out a couple of bucks. So, that's how that part is going.
Audio- I want to run the audio from the mini to the existing 4 speakers and 2 tweeters. I removed the factory headunit and will (hopefully soon) be throwing in a 4 channel amp to run the mac through. (That internal speaker just doesn't have the thump that I'm looking for ;-) )
To be honest, I'm really enjoying the whole process. I've worked on my car, worked with wood, soldered, and just plain experimented more on this project than I have with anything in a long time. It's cool to try new things once in a while.
Photos to come.
'05 Scion xA
PC- Mac Mini 1.25 G4 / 512MB / 40GB
Power- Carnetix P1900 w/ MacPac
Video- Pyle PLHR56R
Audio- Mac Mini internal speaker (hopefully not for long)
Controls- Gravis Eliminator USB
Well, it sounds like you're doing well so far. We like to see half done setups too!
Here we are:
behind the headunit, where the lcd and P1900 will be mounted
the storage compartment removed, where the mini will be
the 1900 connected and in the dash (though not yet mounted) with PLENTY of room to spare, which will hopefully be good news for ventilation and cooling
Connected to the battery (using heavy speaker wire with a 15 amp fuse) and run through the firewall near the top center of the pic. This was FAR easier than I expected. I electrical taped the wire to a ballpoint pen and ran it through with some other wires. Done.
I ran the ground to this support behind the glovebox, which is welded right on to the frame.
the screen's temporary home (though it will likely be disassembled and mounted just about flush with the dash)
the stick minus the actuators- still trying to figure out how to make it as compact and user friendly as possible...
Any thoughts on input devices? Between the parking brake and the gearshift, I don't know that I need a third stick hanging off of the console... I'd love to use the flight stick, but in a subcompact, surface space can be a little hard to come by.
Well, I think I'm gonna go with the flight stick and mount it out of the back seat cupholder. I bought an amp install kit today, and I'm waiting for my amp to come in. According to UPS, it's due here on the 28th. Meanwhile, the long weekend will hopefully give me some time to work on the fab stuff. We'll see.
I got a chance to test the system over the weekend, and so far everything seems to be working fine. I went to Atlanta to see my family (which is about 4 hrs for me) and didn't have any trouble. I DO think I'll use a screen saver though, because I use front row as my front end, and I don't want to burn that into the screen- it started to last night, but it's fine now. For the audio, because I didn't want to make that long of a trip in silence, I used my inverter to power some JBL computer speakers and put them under the front seats. Surprisingly, it sounded pretty good! I found a harness from an old Toyota I used to have, and I'll probably use that to connect to the factory speakers from the amp (I stopped by an electronics store to check the connections from the new harness, but because I'm only using 8 of the wires, I didn't feel like spending 20 bucks on it) and we'll see how that works tomorrow when the amp comes in. I'm gonna upload more pics too.