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Carputer Installation

Joined
27 November 2005
Messages
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Location
SoCal ✈ Vegas
I am building a carputer to install in my 1994 nsx, the main point of this system will be to connect to my AEM EMS, and moniter various sensors using the AEM dashboard program; also it will be used to datalog these sensor values, and will provide voice-guided navigation - I am eliminating the 'music' aspect of this car, as its a 'fun' car, and a stereo is not needed.

I am removing my AVIC-D3, and all of my OEM speakers. This carputer will be installed in an enclosure behind the passenger seat, and will interface with an 8" touchscreen installed in an OEM navpod. It will be connected to a simple set of USB-amplified speakers, installed within the center console.

I started collecting components a few days ago, and today I lit up the board, created a customized cut-down version of Windows XP Professional SP2 using nLite, and installed the operating system onto the solid state disk drive, using temporary hardware in my garage.

The system specifications will be as follows:
-VIA VB7001G 1.5GHz C7-powered mini-ITX mainboard
-Transcend 4GB Solid State Disk Drive
-Transcend 1GB DDR2
-Dynamix 8" VGA with USB touchscreen
-MCS carputer enclosure
-M2-ATX DC-DC 160W PSU
-BU-303 USB GPS receiver

I will be able to interface with my AEM for sensor data and datalogging, and also will be installing destinator navigation software, with voice guidance through the USB-amplified speakers.

Centrafuse v1.2 will be the frontend, as it integrates with destinator, and other people have had success using it with the AEM dashboard application. For those unfamiliar with car Pc's, a front end is an application which creates an interface which is more touchscreen friendly, similar to a double DIN stereo with large buttons, etc. - other programs run from within this interface, which is itself a program running from within Windows.
 
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After using nLite, I reduced the size of the WinXP installation package from 600MB, down to 250MB; the total uncompressed/installed package was reduced to 480MB - items removed were unnecessary components, such as Windows Media Player, Internet Protocols and Software, other languages, active scripting controls, etc.

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Here is the board, with solid-state drive, memory, etc. installed; the final system will not have any optical drives, only the solid state disk (CDrom is for scale)

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Installing reduced WinXP package:

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MiniITX computer next to standard ATX computer:

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MiniITX computer next to standard IDE harddrive (final system will have no hard drive):

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First boot into WinXP SP2 (system takes 11 seconds to boot into windows with this reduced package size):

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Casing removed from solid state disk to improve cooling:

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Operating System installed, Page file has been disabled, system has 3.31GB free, 480MB used for WinXP SP2 installation:

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John,
Where did you source the parts? Cost? And chance sharing the finished software/Operating system :biggrin: ?

Very interested in doing the same project.

Thank you
Danny
 
Very cool! But why don't you leave the AVIC-D3 and install the touchscreen in a Nav-Pod up top (I realize it would be more of a reach)? You could use the center channel as a speaker location or locate a couple of very small speakers in the pillar/door corners.
 
The 8 inch monitor doesn't fit in the Navpod. I am using the TSV700 with no issues. Make sure that you setup a power supply that provides constant stable power otherwise it will be constantly shutting off whenever you start the car.
 
The TSV700 is a 7 inch monitor. xenarcdirect.com for details. I would suggest that you go with the new extra bright model if you put it in the Navpod. If people want to see mine, go to Est Fest.
 
Just a recommendation:

The official XP SP3 for windows has been released earlier this week. It keeps XP running "nippy" which is great for the lower end PC systems. XP SP3 is to XP what Vista SP1 is to Vista. :wink:
 
Just a recommendation:

The official XP SP3 for windows has been released earlier this week. It keeps XP running "nippy" which is great for the lower end PC systems. XP SP3 is to XP what Vista SP1 is to Vista. :wink:

My XP disc is streamlined with SP2, I cut down the installation to only the minimum requirements (and the full API), while most of the SP3 enhancements are to features that are not installed. I think it would create an operating system that is more than what I need, I set out to use XPe on this system, but had issues installing .NET packs over version 2, as embedded XP eliminates certain areas I need, while including areas I don't (media playing, and internet/networking components)

In the end, my nLite XP is smaller than XPe, and retains the full WinXP API. This is a solution that might be uniquely suited to my particular application, essentially an interface for AEM dashboard, and navigation, as many other carputer users intend to use stereo speakers with their MP3 collection, play movies, browse on wifi networks, etc. - none of these features were important to me, the only features I need are navigation, AEM interface, and perhaps some sort of handsfree bluetooth functionality. Because of these limited requirements, I can reduce the size of my OS considerably, and I can build my system without optical drives, and with only a 4GB primary drive.

If you wanted to create a more-feature packed system, using a 32GB or 64GB solid state drive would allow a much greater level of flexibility. A 4GB drive is the absolute minimum I would consider, unless you're running some cut down custom linux package. Even with 4GB, by default WinXP wanted to use 1.4GB as a page file; because my requirements are minimal, I disabled the page file entirely, relying on the 1GB of system memory, of which 8MB is being used for video.
 
I overlooked the 1GB you have available for system memory. It seems you've put a considerable amount of thought into this build. Good luck and do please keep us updated with your progress. :smile:
 
I had tried to use the Xenarc screen. The Dynamix looks good, only if it was brighter.
 
That power supply sounds pretty cool. What else do you plan to use the computer for?
 
For the mobo/cpu, you could have gotten a lot more performance from the Intel Little Valley boards. VIA you save a bit of power but you have plenty of power to spare with the power supply and components chosen...

What I have is overkill for what I need, the most demanding application I will be running is Destinator 6, which is designed to run on PDA's and smartphones. AEM Pro requires only a 600MHz system. I was considering a PicoATX-based system, using an AMD Genome 800MHz processor, but opted for the VIA C7 1.5GHz, as I could not find a suitable pico ATX enclosure, and have plenty of space behind the passenger seat for the amp-style MiniITX enclosure I ended up buying.

I am not running full screen video on multiple moniters, I am running simple apps from a centrafuse front end, on a cut down operating system. Even if my intention were to run media-intensive functions, many car PC's are powered by 800MHz-1GHz C7 processors, the 1.5GHz board I have, which generates less heat and uses less power than mini-ITX based solutions from Intel, is more than up to the task.

FWIW, I have used a 1.2GHz Celeron "Little Valley" board in the past, for an unrelated project. Its a decent board, but no TV out (which was one of my initial requirements), and it still generates more heat than the C7; this was one of my primary concerns, as the system is going to be in a low-profile aluminum enclosure mounted against the rear bulkhead, behind the passenger seat, with only a single 40mm fan for cooling.

Today I made some final tweaks to the operating system, and can now cold-boot into WinXP in just under 16 seconds, with the system fully loaded with software and drivers, and the pagefile eliminated. This is up from 11 seconds for a blank PC, but well under the approx 30 seconds for a conventional system.

After this, I spent some time designing a skin for my frontend, Centrafuse 1.47, to match my Stack ST8130 cluster (which has dark blue backlighting), here are some pictures of the front end:

(note, this is shown at the wrong aspect ratio, the system will be 16:9, 800x480, while these are at 800x600)

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From the integrated Destinator 6 navigation console (GPS antenna not installed, so it thinks I am in Germany):

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AEM Pro launched (goes full screen, note frontend controls on top right, virtual keyboard for data entry, and exit button)

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AEM Log launched (same full-screen controls):

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Virtual keyboard for data entry from within front end, the 'installed' system will not have a keyboard, only the touchscreen for data input:

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While this system is not intended for music, one of the features of this front end is automatic media play, this means, when a USB thumbdrive is inserted into one of the available USB ports, the interface will automatically sort through the music, add it to the internal library, and start playing with album art and ID3 information.

While the speakers will be removed from my car, this could provide a rudimentary music experience for lengthy drives, depending on the quality of the USB-amplified speakers I will install for voice-guidance on the navigation.

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ID3 tag information scrolls on all interface screens (from navigation):

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Just a recommendation:

The official XP SP3 for windows has been released earlier this week. It keeps XP running "nippy" which is great for the lower end PC systems. XP SP3 is to XP what Vista SP1 is to Vista. :wink:

SP3 is meh. Plus not only is it bloated nLite doesn't like it yet.

That power supply sounds pretty cool. What else do you plan to use the computer for?

That power supply is overkill :p. My NAS which has a 200watt uses about 109 with a duo core, 2GB of ram and 2x1TB SATAs, non idling :p. I particularly like putting the P4 nano boards in a apple macmini case and calling it a day. :p

This is a cool project. Can you play solitaire on it?
 
I am not running full screen video on multiple moniters, I am running simple apps from a centrafuse front end, on a cut down operating system. Even if my intention were to run media-intensive functions, many car PC's are powered by 800MHz-1GHz C7 processors, the 1.5GHz board I have, which generates less heat and uses less power than mini-ITX based solutions from Intel, is more than up to the task.

I guess if you're using it just to do really simple things it's up to the task. I know even with the Little Valley board I have, I constantly have the need for more power so it's hard for me to make compromises on processing power. Of course, I'm running bluetooth, wifi, divx, nav, etc. Even with a single monitor things can get slow. The heat generation of the Intel mini-itx systems is almost a non factor, you can actually get by with passive cooling. My boot time last time I measured was about 28 seconds with a 500GB 7200 RPM 3.5" drive and loading up an intense RR skin called LSX Void. I'm gonna switch to a 2.5" Raptor at some point and might move onto a more powerful motherboard. The more you know what a CarPC can do, the more you want it to do.
 
Glad to see another Carputer / Car PC project out there. Looks to be a very well thought out system.

Quick question...why did you shoose the BU303 GPS as opposed to the BU353? The price has come down quite a bit on the BU353. Would be a nice upgrade and less dropped satellites. Self Powered, USB and waterproof!

Also, if you look at my build thread, I have pics of the touchpad mouse I installed in the coin tray. No permanent mods or fabrication. I didnt even fiberglass anything. If you decide to go this route, PM me for more detailed info.
 
Wow, looks very nice. Congrats to all the work you put in it.

Have one question though. Where do you mount the PC. Did you put it in the dash of your car or in the trunk ?
 
Wow, looks very nice. Congrats to all the work you put in it.

Have one question though. Where do you mount the PC. Did you put it in the dash of your car or in the trunk ?

I have an amplifier-style enclosure in the mail:

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The system will be mounted to the bulkhead, behind the passenger seat. I will install the USB speakers in the center console, and the screen will be in a nav pod enclosure.
 
Whats up John so you got the car back finally?? I really want to see this setup. What are you doing with your AVIC-D3.. are you going to use it in the 91?
 
Whats up John so you got the car back finally?? I really want to see this setup. What are you doing with your AVIC-D3.. are you going to use it in the 91?

I am swapping everything from the '94 into the '91, still waiting on the car, should be this week; I will give you a call when I get it back
 
Today I received my 5V USB-amplified speakers from Newegg, these are intended as desktop speakers, and, as the description suggests, are powered by the USB port while being connected to the 'line out' of the sound card.

I did not have high hopes for the sound these speakers would output, but I must say, I was pleasantly suprised. Another key advantage, when I took the speakers apart, everything was modular in construction, these look like an easy drop in for my system needs.

Here is a picture of the speakers I purchased, they are from "Cyber Acoustics", and are the CA-2016wb; they're rated for 3 watts, but are clearly audible and sound good with mp3 audio coming through them, at less than half volume. These should be perfect for navigation voice, mobile phone audio, and yes, even music.

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Here are the modified speakers, I took apart both enclosures, reduced the size to only the speaker mounted in the backing plate, and seperated the controls from the right-side speaker. I lengthened the wiring to 6' from the control unit for each side:

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Speakers are powered by the USB port, conneted to line out:

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Reverse of one of the speakers:

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Under the cloth cover:

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Now the question becomes, where do I mount them. The easiest location would be flush mounted behind the seats, one on either side, attached to the rear bulkhead panels. The plastic mounts could easily be retrofitted to this position, but with the speakers behind, the quality of music audio would suffer greatly. The two primary functions would be unaffected.

For optimal sound quality, installing them on the dash, one on either side, in the corner, would seem the best solution, however, this would not be aesthetically pleasing, and I would be worried about them becoming loose over time, or rattling.

The initial concept was to stick them, unmodified, under the center console - obvious distortion, but functional. Now, after hearing them, I am trying to find a compromise that will result in decent audio quality, while still being somewhat out of sight. I am leaning towards the door speaker OEM location, but this will also result in a great deal of distortion.
 
May I ask why you are removing the OEM speakers if you are willing to fab up desktop speakers for use. Why not use the OEM speakers?

If you are removing the AVIC, are you reinstalling the OEM Radio? If so, you can do what I did and use a AUX Input converter, get a RCA to 3.5mm audio jack cable, and plug it into your motherboard or soundcard.
 
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