Thursday, January 20, 2005

LCD Screen Problems...

Well, I got all the parts for the actually computer part of this project, and everything is working smoothly. However, my touchscreen on my LCD screen doesn't work anymore. At first, I thought it was a connection problem, so I kept fiddling with the ribbon cables, but that didn't do me any good. I actually ended up crimping the 40 pin video cable, so I ended up with what's known as the "White Screen of Death". Luckily, a $6 replacement fixed the problem right away.

Still, I'm having problems with the touchscreen... when I plug the USB into the computer, the computer won't recognize the device and thus doesn't install any drivers for it. I've decided that it's not a driver related problem, but a problem with the USB controller itself. So I ordered a new one from digitalww.com, and it should get here in the next couple of days. Other than that, I just need to buy a 4 channel amp, some wiring, and I'm good to go. I'll have some pictures up in the next few days.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Update: Change of Plans...

Well... time to revive this blog. Here's an update on my carputer status:

After long research and thinking, I decided NOT to put the LCD where the clock is, although I already hacked up the clock console. Two main reasons:

1) The glare is too bad being in direct sunlight, so a cover had to be made. I made one, but it looks horrible, and I want everything looking stock.

2) As it was pointed out to me, having the LCD on up on the dash would be too far away for the touchscreen to be really effective. In the stock stereo position, it's right where you want it.

So after deciding to mount the LCD in the cd changer location, I just ordered most of my parts today. Here's what I have coming:
- VIA EPIA M10000- Samsung 512 PC2100 DDR
- Casetronic Black ITX-2699R Case
- Western Digital 80GB 7200RPM
- Samsung Slim CD-RW/DVD Combo Drive

Should have everything here within the next week to get started on the build. As for the PSU, I'm going to use the one supplied with the case for now, but will probably try out the M1-ATX PSU, because I like the features it has and it's cheaper than the OPUS. I'm also in need of a 4-channel amp, so I'm still looking for one of those.As for now, I need to mold in the Lilli into the audio dash piece, probably just going to use bondo because that's all I have. I'll have some pics up when I make some progress.

- Matt

Friday, August 13, 2004

Console is slow... so wire instead.

When console building gets slow (and it does, since right now I'm pouring resin and letting it cure in a bunch of little spots), have fun with wiring!

I ripped apart my console today (for the first time). Felt kind of good, since now I know how to take it apart safetly. The purpose of this was to run all the wiring behind the stereo, heater controls, etc, so everything looks stock. I only made one modification... the two vents above the stereo have a small piece on the bottom left of the assembly, that really serves no purpose at all. People have put turbo timers and what not in there, but since I'm not at that stage yet, I figured I could use it differently. Since the Lilliput 7" screen has 3 male RCA adapters for a composite input, and devices such as a PS2 also have 3 male RCA adapters, I ran into sort of a problem. Fortunately you can buy a triple female to female adapter ($5 at radio shack) and all my troubles were solved. But then I thought, since you can use composite inputs for a variety of things (gaming consoles, camcorders, cameras... etc), I needed to mount the inputs for it in a place that was very accessible. So, in that little waste of plastic under the vents, I drilled 3 holes for the RCA adapter, and plan on using some epoxy to set it in there. Check out the pics:





This pictures just shows some of the cables that need to plug into my computer (LCD cables, audio, GPS). They just run under the center console, and out the side (no cutting involved).


You may thing there's nothing in this picture, but there is! Since I'm using a tape adapter as an audio input to my cd changer, I decided to hide to wire inside the stereo and out the back, as to keep a sleeper look.

Donor Laptop!

Got my laptop last night... an old one my dad didn't need anymore (since I fixed his brand new one). Not too bad of a computer. It's a Dell Inspiron 7000, PII 366 mhz with 128mb RAM. It's... actually pretty damn slow, or I'm just too used to my desktop. Here's the computer, along side my lcd screen and GPS:


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Fun with Bondo...

I got some fiberglass / epoxy down on the cut out clock insert to create a little cavity where my lcd screen will reside. I then put some bondo on it, and sanded it down some. Just rough sanding for now, I still need to apply more bondo to create the shape I want, but here's a picture to give you an idea of what it will look like:



I need to straighten out the side walls, smooth the bottom, and then blend all the edges together. I'm probably not going to be too picky about it since it's not going to be perfect, but I'd like it to be at the point where if someone glanced at it, they might think it's factory.


I also wired up my inverter today (just a generic 400W modified sine wave). These are basically cheap power supplies you can use for the car, and if something goes wrong, just go down to radio shack and pick up a new one. They're a little noisy, but the cooling fan overrides any static that the inverter itself might produce, and if that doesn't drown it out, the music certainly will. The only static I noticed was when I had my stereo up real loud. But it's not noticable when you're playing the music at a comfortable volume, so I'm pretty satisfied with my choice of power. Plus, it has 2 outlets, so I can use it for other things if need be (dremel, lights, etc.) which is always a plus. The only hard thing about hardwiring the inverter was finding a spot in the firewall to poke it through. I finally found one, and after about an hour of cursing at my car, I got the wires through and connected to the battery. I'll have pictures up tomorrow.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Screen Mounting

The first thing I considered with this project was an lcd screen. I had basically 2 options of placement:

1. where the stock cd changer is (very good fit, people have done this before)
2. the part of the dash where the clock is.

Since I want everything to look as factory as possible, and as hidden as possible, I decided to try to fit it into the clock console. Luckily, when I popped that piece out, I found that there was more room to work with than I had originally thought. Here's two views, with the screen up and the screen down:




The screen won't stick out that far when it's folded down, and there'll be a top to make it flush with the rest of the dash.


The stand that the lcd screen came with is a great mounting piece to use in my new console, but it's a little too big. Here's my remedy:


The 2 ducts for the vents have just enough room for me to cut the foot part off the mounting plate and stick it right between them! It'll also be permanently attached to the new piece I'm putting in here... (if all this is confusing, hopefully it'll be cleared up in the next few days). The piece of plywood is just there as a place holder... it's not going to be a part of the new insert.

Finally, what the heck did I do with the clock? Well, since there is no other clock in the car, I wanted to keep it. So I extended the wiring and moved the clock to the ashtray (taking the ashtray all the way out). Here's a pic with the clock off:



Right now the clock is just sitting there, not attached to anything. I think I'll build a housing for it soon out of MDF.

What's a carputer? Well, if you haven't figured it out, you're not too bright. Here I'll be documenting the process in which I'll turn my ordinary 2004 Subaru WRX into a multimedia paradise.

THE HARDWARE:
- some sort of laptop that I have laying around
- Lilliput 7" LCD Touchscreen
- 400W Power Inverter
- Delorme Earthmate GPS
- Mini Keyboard
- Trackball Mouse
- miscellaneous wires and other audio equipment

THE SOFTWARE:
- MediaCar, FrodoPlayer, or Media Engine
- Windows XP Pro
- whatever other software I'll need
- Street Atlas 2004

THE CONCEPT:
In my previous car, I had a aftermarket CD player that read mp3s which was great, because you could stuff like 10 hours of music on it and just cruise without changing CDs. Unfortunately, there are people in this world that think it's cool to break into a car and steal stereos, so that CD player is now gone (which is ok because I sold the car too). Now I have a brand new car, a 2004 Subaru WRX, and I love it. Plus I think I'm really cool since I have an STi spoiler, which I snagged for free at the dealership. Anwyays, the WRX comes stock with a 6 disc CD changer, which is nice since you don't have to be switching CDs out all the time. But I did miss those mp3s of mine. Option 1 was to buy a new CD player that reads mp3s, but for a decent head unit it's like $200 - $300, and besides I like my CD changer. Option 2 was to put a computer into my car that could play mp3s, videos, act as a nagivation system, and do whatever else you'd want a computer in your car to do. So I went with the obvious choice, and started planning out my carputer.