Hyundai Elantra GT CarPC
I've loved cars and computers for as long as I can remember. I've recently tried to advise people who want to use their iPod in their car, and it made me realize what dearth of proper solutions there are. I read that Chrysler is going to start offering a Nav/MP3/TV Tuner system in Europe maybe in the US too and read about the Aztek (?) CarPC which is like $2,000 and I thought that was ridiculous for what is essentially a laptop with a small screen. So I started looking around, lamenting the cost of small LCD touchscreens to put in my Hyundai... and then I found an open-box one on eBay for $156 shipped. Then I HAD to get a computer and found used "CarPC" 100W desktop on eBay also... and I was started. I wonder if the previous owner of this slightly mangled beige slim desktop PC isn't a regular here. Anyone sell a WindowsXP Pro 1.2GHz Duron with 384Mb of RAM and a 12V-12V PSU that doesn't fit in the case, recently? Well I have it now. I plugged it into my cheap $6 FM transmitter which keeps drifting frequencies every 10 minutes (!!), and I managed to shove the LCD screen stand into a crevice in the dash such that it looks bad but hasn't fallen yet. I call this CarPC v1.0 because it smells like it's temporary.
So first I had a couple of weeks to test running this SBO2 E0294 7" LCD touch-screen with my laptop and power inverter. It worked fine at 800x600 but the laptop wouldn't give me 640x480 as an option, and the laptop was too nice to bolt into the car permanently. So I bought the computer.
I tested the computer out shortly after getting it. The PSU was missing some adapter so i had to go all Radioshack on it and make my own and tape it on there. Some sort of Molex-like connector I still haven't identified. I already had a power inverter wired into the cig-lighter circuit behind the dash, and the wires inside the center console to the back seat, so adding another few wires and sticking a button on my dash to power it on was no big deal. It worked well, for a few days or weeks but then the HDD started to act up. The dreaded "clicking," and failure to detect on boot. I thought it might be a power issue so I downgraded the CPU from 1.2Ghz to an 850Mhz Duron. But the problem returned, causing crashes, no-boots and so on. An older 6GB IDE drive (which works on AC) blew out the 15A fuse. Twice.
In the meantime I also borrowed a USB WiFi card, which turned out to be a 802.11b and kinda slow/intermitent, and I even tried a webcam I had at home. The combination exceeded the USB bandwidth; so I got a PCI WiFi card for $35. It works fine, reception is still kinda poor with the little antenna inside the trunk (duh). It doesn't fit the "slim," case though, so some sawing is going to be necessary.
Most recently (weekend) I got a new HDD from a friend. It's a pity I'll probably lose the MapPoint 2004 software that came installed on the CarPC but oh well. I got DeLorme Earthmate GPS and Street Atlas 2007 also.
DeLorme Street Atlas 2007 with Earthmate GPS receiver: It wouldn't install on 640x480 and resized my screen to 800x600. However, if you change it back, it will run just fine after a nag screen about screen resolution. I also had to upgrade the .NET 2.0 framework before it would work but that took 10min to figure out. After that, the GPS navigation, routing and turn-by-turn directions worked great with the bundled GPS receiver ($99 total). It even re-routes if you miss a turn. The interface could be better - the buttons are small and cryptic, there's a menu and several side-panels you can resize but not get rid of. I'll get some screenshots later for reference. The size of the remaining map is still acceptable. Also, the optional high-contrast color scheme is perfect for night driving (black background). One annoyance is the GPS is disabled by default when the programs starts, so you have to turn it on every time as far as I know. The reading voice is Microsoft's default Sam, Mary or Mike... which sound bad but do the job. I've heard better. Overall I'm satisfied. Maybe I expected a cleaner interface, fewer buttons, auto-GPS and a better reading voice... but that's OK for $99 with the receiver!
OK, that's how it stands right now. It doesn't hang much anymore with the new drive. The screen is forced to 640x480 with the WinXP /basevideo boot switch and the WiFi works, so I can get email, Web while I play MP3s and use the Street Atlas GPS nav just fine. I'll add some pictures soon.
Looking good. I'll get pics of my Elantra GT install up soon =)
Oh please do. Last night the computer just quit, along with everything on that circuit (the cig. lighter). One of my bad twist-on connections overheated, partly melted the plastic cap and the wire came loose. I'm sick of this setup, so I ordered a new cig.lighter harness and I'm going to try running wires from the battery through the firewall. How did you run the power to the computer?
from the battery, through the firewall. same power that goes to my amp.
FINALLY it's up again. Not having a garage, or a driveway, or even a parking spot that isn't 3 flights of stairs down from my apartment really sucks for modifying cars in winter. Routing the thick, inflexible 2ga wire (for later battery relocation) was a pain and took about one freezing 10-degree windchill day. Finding decent looking 2ga wire terminals took a while, so did finding a breaker and fuse box, a suitable ground, etc, etc, etc. BUT now... it's working again.
The screen is still hanging off the dash as seen in the pictures; only change is the power cables. Incidentally I have a 2ga wire with a fuse box at the end floating around my trunk waiting to short something out. I really should secure it to... something. I still haven't wired up the FM Transmitter from the new power source, and it's a terrible transmitter anyway, so I don't know... other than that everything is working again, GPS, webcam, WiFi.. even got an extended antenna for better reception. More work left but it's nice to have it booting, surfing and navigating again. Of course now that it's powered straight from the battery without any smart controller, I really gotta remember to turn it off!!
I found a CD-Changer-Input-to-Aux-In kit for the OEM Hyundai HU and did away with the FM transmitter setup. I also just installed the OBD-2 interface, although I still have to hide the thing and the cable.
I made a pretty secure mount to the trunk floor. I had some thick fiberboard cut to size, then drilled some holes and installed some slide-bolts on the computer case. The bolts fall (snugly) into the fiberboard holes, but the case is completely removable and the trunk floor is flat & smooth. The slide bolts can slide up and leave the computer case flat-bottomed too. Neat enough. Still have to secure the fuse box and power but the cable is so long....ugh.
The screen is still a sore point. Now with the Aux-In, I'd like to keep the OEM stereo, so the screen is mounted on metal brackets jammed into some crevice on the dash. It's solid. It completely blocks the stereo controls and looks bad. Also the main connector on the screen only "clips in," on one side now. :( It comes loose maybe once a month, so it's OK for now... or I'll just glue it in.
No major changes or problems. I added the webcam behind the rear seat and made the OBD2 interface more inconspicuous. Overall it continues to boot reliably, doesn't crash, I use it for music, WiFi internet and videos and some OBD2 watching with no problems, and ocassionally navigation (I know where my house/work is). WiFi Hopper is awesome.
The remaining bugs all seem USB-related, maybe because it's 1.0. The USB webcam quits after 30 seconds. The USB GPS receiver doesn't always like hibernation. The USB flash drive can cause the touchscreen to quit for a minute (bandwidth problem?). And the touch-screen plug can get loose because I haven't glued it yet. Nothing majorly inconvenient though. I now have 4GB of music and I need to normalize the volume again. Oh, and the car stereo sometimes switches to Radio when I start the car and I have to hit the Aux-In again. Not always though. I have to figure out why that happens - must be the order in which the car/stereo and computer are shut down.
Added a USB 2.0 card in there and that solved the WebCam problem. I also soldered together a proper power cable for the LCD screen and got rid of the ugly cigarette-lighter cord. Lastly, but most important, I switched back to the AC-PSU + Inverter setup, now with a new inverter that Shawn kindly gave me (SonicXtasy2). This means the computer stays on when I crank the engine! It also means I can use Standby instead of Hibernate and therefore the 1-2 second recovery is WAAAY better than the 1-2 minute un-hibernate. The fuse box is now in the spare wheel compartment... it doesn't move much, but it should probably be glued down to something insulating. The last piece I can think of is a mic cable extension to try Street Atlas's voice commands. I might try a front end some day too, but I think I'm done for a while.
I gave up on the webcam since there's no good place to mount it, the microphone quit working altogether, and continuous recording takes too much CPU. I've also been using Road Runner now, mostly with Digital FX 2.0 skin. Reminds me I have to change some of the skins....
Oh and I added a Bluetooth-USB adapter to interface with my cell phone. It's actually a great cell phone: Sony Ericsson w810i. Mostly for downloading pictures or uploading music to the phone - haven't gotten Wireless broadband to work and it's too expensive anyway. BUT... the phone has a Bluetooth Remote Control feature that makes the phone keypad double as a mouse or control Windows Media Player! Wirelessly! What a freaking awesome conincidence!
Oh yeah, and my hard drive crashed (it was regularly around 50-55C in the trunk) so I had to reinstall everything two weeks ago. Bleh. I added a fan and some padding under the case and we'll see.