Welcome Derwood. Are you my evil twin?
So after lurking for a while, and doing some pretty decent research I've decided on putting together my carPC. I have a few long distance roadtrips coming up for work in about 6 months (Boston, L.A., Dallas-Fort Worth, Key West) and since I'm taking my fiance with me on the road, I need a handful of things to keep her\me entertained:
1. MP3 Playback- Obvious #1 problem with the long *** road trips is that we are going to be in some SEVERELY limited space. My current CD book is big, heavy, and obviously a theft issue. My MP3 library between my 3 PC's is something like 22gig. Obvious points there.
2. DVD Playback- There are a few points where we plan on actually camping out while in the west (Vegas, Salt Lake City, PCH) and it would be nice to be able to sit back and watch some movies while parked out someplace. Or during the monotonous hours of straight driving.
3. GPS Navigation- $500-2000 for GPS navigation systems installed or portable just seems stupid to someone that has the technical ability to do otherwise.
4. Internet Access- Using bluetooth, I'm currently researching using my Verizon Wireless cell phone (The Chocolate) as a modem, but I will have a wi-fi receiver (there are a LOT of cities on my visit list that offer free city-wide wireless, as well as hotspots like civic centers, coffee shops, bars, etc.)
5. Low-level Gaming- Using an x-box 360 controller as the interface, I'd love to utilize my collection of ROMS and the such. Nothing too high demand- if I really want to game on the road, I have an Alienware. My fiance is an old school gaming fanatic (I think we own every NES and SNES game ever made....)
Now as for Software so far, I'm already looking into doing a media center install of XP. I'm still having a conflict between hard state installation on a CF card due to the fact that after these roadtrips are finished this year, I live in Michigan with weather going from sub-zero to low-hundreds throughout the year. I haven't set myself in on a front end or GPS software, so if anyone has any recommendations on their personal favorites or what would work best for what it is that I'm planning- feel free!
Then the fun part- hardware:
Motherboard\CPU: I don't care for the mini-ITX form factor, so I'd like to opt for the BIOSTAR GF61M7 combo. Athelon64 3000+ with both PCI and PCI-Express expansion slots. The built-in NVIDIA GeForce 6100 is a nice kicker.
Memory: Corsair 512 MB
Soundcard: Reading in a lot, I've heard some of the horror stories that people have had with their audio issues. Popping, noise, etc- not for me. I have a LOT invested into my car in terms of a sound system, so point one is I most definately need that to be a non-issue. I think that either Optical Out or USB External are the way to go. Wanting to mind price and power savings, the Audigy 2 ZS PCMCI card is the route to go.
Bluetooth: Even more reading. Even more headscratching. D-Link DBT-120 USB 2.0 Wireless USB Bluetooth Adapter seems to be the way to go from what I've read on Newegg.
Wi-Fi: The only way to go in my little universe for wireless internet access is of course Linksys so... LINKSYS WUSB54GSC USB 2.0 Network Adapter
Storage: With the massive demand on space I know I'm going to run into with my massive collection of movies, games, and dvd's I'm going for the biggest drive I can really find reasonably needed- I chose a 400gig WD 7200rpm hdd.
DVD: A slot loading DVD-rom is going to be installed in-dash using an IDE-USB connector. LITEON CD\DVD Combo Drive.
GPS: To Be Determined
Screen: A simple lilliput 7" monitor in dash. No big suprise there.
Power Inverter: Now I'm going to need more power than a DC-DC inverter is going to possibly be able to provide for me. With the camping planned and the such, a multi-plugged AC-DC auto inverter is defiately going to be the way for me to go. I'm thinking 750 should be more than ample for my requirements. Black & Decker 750w AC-DC Automotive Inverter
Interface: As for everything else, I have the odds and ends for interface sitting around the house. A mico-keyboard, USB touchpad, and 360 controller are all hanging out in a box someplace in my garage.
So in the spirit of two steps forward, one step back, I'm realizing that I'm really shooting for the moon when it comes to the PC that I have designed up there. There's a lot to it that I want to eventually accomplish with the intigration of so many systems in the future with this carPC. Though with the limited time table that I have for design, fabrication, debugging, and completion I've decided to go a bit of an easier route for a temporary solution.
I currently (right now, right this very second, yep!) am using my Laptop. It's the Acer 5002wlmi- AMD Turion 64 1.6ghz, 1gig memory, 100 gig hard drive. The more and more I think about it, this is just my go to laptop and is usually with me wherever I go. Why not use it for my temporary car PC in terms of facilitating the actual operating components?
So I started scouring newegg and came up with this- while running a USB and AC cable into the back map pocket of my drivers side seat I'm going to hae my laptop chill back there closed. The USB cable is going to connect to the Targus ACP50US Universal Notebook Docking Station - with Video ( http://www.newegg.com/product/produc...82E16834999071 ) which itself has 4 USB 2.0 ports (2 powered, 2 non) and then will connect again to a 4 port USB Hub, a 160gig external HDD, Wi-fi, Bluetooth Dongle, External USB Soundblaster, and whatever other goodies I can come up with.
I'm thinking have the front end and all of the Car PC associated software installed on the external hard drive so as to keep the actual PC unclogged from my own personal needs (this is primarily an office\communications machine).
Then of course, down the line with things, all items will be used down the line with my final install!
Actually- I'm very much taking back the decision on the Targus.
After doing a little more research on the video quality of the Targus video connection, there was a lot of talk of delays, poor reception, etc, etc, etc. I've found that there is a better (if slightly pricier) solution- Kensington 33367US-A Notebook Expansion Dock with Video ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16834999239 )
Derwood I like the concept of having a laptop docking station in the back of the seat,very low profile, very stealthy. If you use the standard pocket how do you align the docking station with the laptop? Do you think you would need to constuct a "hard pocket" from say plexiglass or fibreglass similar to some of the mini-mac guys? This would guide the laptop into the correct docking position. Also do you think that cooling might be as issue?
The Kensington that I'm looking at (And the Belkin that just recently came out that I really need to do some more research on) doesn't connect the way that traditional model specific docks work- this connects via USB 2.0
I'm going to simply slide the laptop face down into the pocket and plug in the USB and power and it should be off to go- the dock being powered by an inverter in the trunk.
Do you expect to have any overheating issues with the laptop running in the seat pocket? Have you tried it without the docking station? (Which sounds pretty clever BTW)
As for without the docking station- I'd have to plug in three wires at least each time I wanted to pull the laptop in or out of the car. VGA, USB, and Power. Using the docking station, which has its own VGA port, I'd only have to plug in a single USB cable and the power cable. No VGA screws to tighten, just a lot simpler.
I might try it for a dry run before the dock gets in, since the one I want is currently on back order.