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Old 11-16-2004, 08:47 AM   #1 (permalink)
Location: Meechigan
Car PC Anyone?

Has anyone here tried building a Car PC? If so, how has it turned out? I am looking at building one whenever the Nano ITX motherboards come out. I am hoping to be able to gut out an old radio, and use that as the case for everything, so I can kinda keep everything in the dashboard. The only thing I want coming out of the dashboard is the LCD screen (preferably touchscreen).

I would like to install linux on it, but the only thing I am worried about is it not being able to play WMA files with it. It really isn't that big of a deal, because I only have a few WMAs here and there, but I would still like to be able to play them.
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Old 11-16-2004, 09:02 AM   #2 (permalink)
... a sort of licensed troubleshooter.
Willravel's Avatar
I have trouble changing the radio station while dodging every kamakazee sport compact rushing at me at the speed of litigation, let alone control alt deleting my way through Windows going 80 mph to work. I'm sorry to sound negative, but why not just get a laptop? Even if you are trying to set up a stand alone system or some kind of engine monitoring, you still don't need it built in. You can just as easily hook up a laptop to those systems. If it's a laptop, it's cheaper because you don't have to build it in, and you can take it inside the house or to work with you whenever you want.

Just get a laptop that can hook up to a decent deck and/or amp. Then you know it'll play wma, mp3, mov, and jpg!
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Old 11-16-2004, 09:06 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Location: texas
I would like to install linux on it, but the only thing I am worried about is it not being able to play WMA files with it. It really isn't that big of a deal, because I only have a few WMAs here and there, but I would still like to be able to play them.
Just use XMMS for linux and install the WMA plugin. Very simple.

As for the carpc goes, read on.

My friend John and I put one in his BMW M3. We are about to do the same for my 525i.

For eyecandy, follow the links below.
BMW M3: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=16568 (finished product)

For build photos, goto http://www.blurbco.com/~gork/carpc/

Things you can't see in the photos:

1) The computer is interfaced to the BMW I-Bus so it can send/receive all kinds of events from the car. For instance, the computer can read from the I-Bus what doors/trunk/etc are open, what lights are on (headlamps/interior,etc.), if the car is moving, steering wheel button presses, etc. There is really tons of information available. If you have a CarPC in your BMW and it's not talking to the I-Bus you're missing out on a ton of great things!

2) The GPS receiver is mounted on the rear decklid behind the headrest. The TV antenna adheres to the rear windshield.

3) I removed the factory head unit entirely, but kept the stock amplifiers and speakers from the Harmon/Kardon system. It was really pretty simple to interface to this, and left me a little more flexibility with the PC controlling everything.

4) The XM-PCR receiver is also attached to the back windshield.

Upcoming work includes:

1) USB Audio. There is a lot of noise on the stock setup.

2) Temp.-based fan speed control. It gets hot here so I want to have the fans going in my Mini-ITX case; however, they are really noisy and I can hear them a little bit. If it's cool, I dont' want them to be running. I'm still searching for a SMALL temp.-based fan controller. I have only found these huge pyramid shaped jobbers with tons of LED's in them.. NO GOOD!

3) My own software. I have started working on my own version of in-car software. It will likely be based on the WMP9 or various lower-level directx audio/video components and use Macromedia Flash for the UI. It'll be pretty tailored to my setup initially, but I'll probably attempt to start extending it so that other folks can use it.

4) ODB-II or K-Bus interface for Engine stats/logging/etc. - I'll either build or buy some ODB-II stuff or build another interface to talk to BMW's K-Bus (From which you can read similar engine data) at some point. Is there any ODB-II software that lets you recycle some ActiveX components into your own applicaiton by chance? Or ODBII software with a good API accessible from VB? I could easily crank out some keen looking gauges in Flash...

5) LCD Inverter dimmer based on Illumination wire input and a photocell. This is somewhat on hold since I have figured out how to get headlight status, ambient light readings, and dash dimmer settings over I-Bus and can control the video gamma from this info, but I'd still like to design a PWM auto-dimmer circuit at some point.
"You hear the one about the fella who died, went to the pearly gates? St. Peter let him in. Sees a guy in a suit making a closing argument. Says, "Who's that?" St. Peter says, "Oh, that's God. Thinks he's Denny Crane."

Last edited by bendsley; 11-16-2004 at 12:14 PM..
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Old 11-16-2004, 09:37 AM   #4 (permalink)
Will a laptop is a muuuuuch more expensive idea.....I had a m10000 nehemiah motherboard with the works in my old POS Sable.....It was awesome and not too hard to install. If you can install a car stereo and build a computer u can do this easily just read up in the mp3car.com forums
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Old 11-16-2004, 10:28 AM   #5 (permalink)
Location: Meechigan
Wow, yea, a laptop would just be big and gumpy. I would like something simple to control, like something I can control with one hand while driving.

Heh, wish I had a BMW to tie it into. I just have a POS 92 Crown Vic. I would guess there is really no way to tie the pc into that, but I'm not too worried about it. It looks really good though. When I care enough about the way it looks in my car (ie. when i get a new one), I hope I can make it look that good.

I didn't know that there was a WMA plugin for xmms. That helps a lot, thanks.
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Old 11-16-2004, 10:46 AM   #6 (permalink)
I just bought a car and my boyfriend bought a ford focus a month ago. He's been yammering about building a car PC since he got it. He's looking at putting a lcd in dash, but doesnt know how or where to put the actual computer. He wants to keep the car looking stock, but doesnt know the first thing about power inverters and the like..
Any advice?
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Old 11-16-2004, 11:27 AM   #7 (permalink)
Wingless's Avatar
Location: Metro Detroit, Mich, USA
Peutetre: tell him to check out mp3car.com ... many say that it is the source for carputer stuffs.

I have some computer parts that I found in the garbage which will soon become my Carputer It's only a 500MHz Celeron but if I'm playing just MP3's you don't need much more.
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