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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Now that I have wrapped up 95% of my carputer project, I offer up a few words of wisdom. Pictures will soon follow. I completely took out the factory cd/tape player and utilized a 5.1 dolby sound card with amps. First is a list of components that I had to use. I will be editing this post when I have more time.

1. Computer ( I had a dell P4 2.8Ghz with 1.0Gb of RAM)
2. 5.1 Dolby soundcard (You can use On-board audio if you like, the 5.1 offers independent Front, Rear and Sub/Center outputs as well as level control. You can use the center for Tweeters if it so pleases you. This is a step that I will be taking eventually)
3. FM Radio capture card (Optional. The crappy thing about mine is that the Line-In only plays on the front 2 speakers)
4. Big freakin hard drive. (For now I went with a 160GB to get me started)
5. Power inverter. (I can't use a 200 watt DC-DC converter because P4's take more wattage and I will add additional hard drives Later)
6. VGA Screen(Touchscreen recommended. It is fabulous to have. You can get one on ebay for around $200 to $250)
7. Wire. Oh my god wire. Plenty of wire. Extra wire. More wire.
a. I had to custom make my cables from the sound card to the amps. I was not comfortable with cheesy adapters from Radio Shack.
b. I also took the liberty of relocating my battery to the rear of the car and adding a second one. I used 2 ga 20ft jumper cables and marine battery boxes.
c. 60 Amp fuses on each end if you go this route.
8. Relays. SPDT relays to be exact. I have used 8 so far. I used 5 to make a pulse to constant switch to turn the amps on and off separately. My sound card apparently grounds out when the computer initially fires up. In order to avoid this and to not have any showing external switches, I used 5 relays and a valet switch from a car alarm I once owned. You can check this out at www.the12volt.com. I hid this and he Computer on/ff switch under the shift boot. Only I know where they are.
9. An aftermarket stereo installation harness. I went this route to avoid cutting any factory wiring or harnesses.
10. 4-Channel amp. This is to power the speakers in the factory location.
11. Subwoofer amp. No use in doing all this work and have no bass.
12. Subs. Need I say more.
13. External DVD reader. I have a Sony USB 8xDVD+-/RW because it was what I had laying around. I went the USB route because IDE and SATA cables an only go so long without deteriorating the signal. Go with at least a dvd reader so you can watch movies and transfer more info per disk.
14. Wireless keyboard with mouse. (Recommended. If you can spend the extra $ get one with volume controls and extra hotkeys to start various applications)
15. Programmable remote control with code learning. (Optional. It i a pain in te keister to fiddle with a keyboard while driving. If you have a wireless keyboard, you can teach the remote to control volume as well as various applications. I have a touchscreen sony commander that I use. It is great. incidentally, it is a $200 remote that I picked up from a pawn shop fr $15, manuals and all)
16. USB mouse. Just in case your wireless and\or touchscreen fail.
17. Capacitor. (The power inverter is likely to cause massive interference in your amp(s). My 4 Channel squeals from engine noise when the car is running and not from the inverter because I disassembled the inverter and added a couple capacitors to reduce noise , but my Mono seems immune.)
18. Computer case fans. Musthave air-flow.
19. Wireless card. This is on my list of things that I need. This way I can transfer data and emulate the cars computer from inside the house, update Virus scan and possibly surf the web in the car. This only works if you have a wireless router and a home network. You can use it for wardriving also. If you don't know what that is, do a google search.
20. MORE TO COME. Menial stuff mostly.

I built a custom box for the Motherboard, power supply, PCI cards, hard drive and case fans. I used 2 to pull the air from one end and out the other. I used project board, like what clipboards are made of. This way, there is no worry about metal touching the contacts. I mounted this box at the passengers feet ad I am Planning to make a wall to protect it from feet. That is one of the last things. My wife only rides there and she is well aware of the fragile nature of the box. Mounting the touchscreen is a pain in the butt. I used zip ties to get the placement and I am working on a permanent solution that I can mount to the the HVAC Center vent panel. The inverter is under the drivers seat. I used a relay to power it on and off when the car starts. The massive amount of wires is due to the fact that the custom made RCA's run from the front to the amp in the back. Wires then run to the front to the aftermarket stereo harness.

Tips that should help.
1. Remove everything in the interior. I removed the seats, carpet, rear seats, all interior panels and the dash covers.
2. Remember what is what. If it helps you to write down what wire goes where and what it draws and runs then do it. I happen to remember this information as if programmed ny years of doing it, so I am not in this category. There is no shame in making crib notes.
3. Label your wires on each end. Again no shame here.
3. Know or learn how to solder. There is nothing worse than spending weeks or months on a big project only to find out that 2 weeks after completion that you have pulled loose a crimp connector under the dash or carpet. You can get a good set-up from Radio Shack(<---Very good place to browse for solutions to odd problems). I recommend a good soldering Iron, a stand to set it in when you are fiddling with something, a jig to hold your project(Adjustable doohickey with ?roach clips? on the ends to hold stuff while you solder). very very fine solder, thick solder and solder removing braid.(Copper braid that draws in hot misplaced solder). Also, don't burn yourself or your stuff.
4. Large magnifying glass on a stand. If you choose to make clean nice looking RCA's or throw some small capacitors in something, this comes in handy. Otherwise soldering the tiny connections will eventually make you go cross-eyed.
5. Use power distribution block powered by 40 amp relays. I recommend (but didn't necessarily follow the advice I am giving because I got in a hurry. Now I have to go back and fix) separate blocks for constant power. switched power and ground. For good measure, you can even add relays after the dist. blocks. USE FUSES. Noone wants to burn their car down because they refuses to buy a $10 - $15 fuse set-up.
a. A word on fuses. Rather than going out and buying an expensive snappy looking set-up that has a massive 60 or 80 amp fuse that will just be hidden, you can run fuses in parallel to get your chosen protection. Simple addition can achieve this. If you run 2 40 amp fuses in parallel, you get 80 amps. This is parallel, Not running one behind the other. Get a good digital volt/ohm meter and check out different combinations. If youare protecting 2 or 4 ga wire, you may need to buy a fancy set-up due to the size of the wire.
6. Make it neat. Even if your wires are run under the carpet or are hidden under panels, excess wire causes problems. Repeatedly using a 10 ft wire where a 5 ft wire would suffice can constantly confuse you. There is also the possibility of getting these where you don't want them for instance wrapped around shifter linkages, trapped in the e-brake assembly or under your seat tracks when putting your seats back in. Plus if your friends are looking at your progress, you look like a madman with coils of wires running everywhere.
7. Patience is a virtue. If your undertake something like this and you don't get at all frustrated, chances are you are forgetting something. Space is rather limited in these cars if you are looking for mounting points, places to hide components or even places to run wires without causing interference in the signal or even to avoid big lumps in the carpet.
8. Let the car do the work. Most things, with the occasional exception, will respond fine to turning on with everything else. Avoid having excessive switches to turn stuff on or off. This can be detrimental when making a quick trip to the store or running errands. If you have to turn crap on and off at every stop you are wasting time and your project becomes in a sense a hindrance. If you shut the car off with the computer still running and the inverter turn off then poof your computer just stops. This is not healthy. Repeatedly done, this will crash your Operating system. Reinstalling an operating system on a tiny screen is the leading cause of aneurysms in folks 18 - 30.
9. Get your computer operational and loaded before your final placement. This will allow you to work out any bugs, make changes and load whatever programs you want. Because noone wants to sit in a car while Windows XP takes 2 minutes to load, there are several things you can do to speed up the startup and shutdown process. You can check this out at tweakxp.com.
10. Get creative. You can find a million ways to change your operating environment to suit your taste. What is the point of putting in this elaborate set-up to have a generic looking operating system. You can check out different boot screens, welcome screens and themes at themexp.org.

A note on component placement. When I first started this I decided that I was going to place the motherboard in the glove box. I still hadn't disassembled the computer I was going to use in the car. I chose to use a spare motherboard(mini ITX) and a couple spare PCI cards to make sure I hade space. Sure enough, I had what I needed in there. I cut the tray out of the glove box, made mounting brackets and drilled the holes. Low and behold, the motherboard I am actually using is an inch and a half longer and my Video capture card is longer towards the top on the back. NO FIT. I was torqued. It worked out allright though, that is where I but the DVD Burner. There is a lesson in here. I hope you find it.

More to come.

I am going to bed now. I hope this may help anyone who is contemplating this. If you should have any questions , I am here.
 

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Seems like you did a pretty good job but there are many other ways of completing one of these. Mine is super small (the size of a HU but a bit longer) and has a flip out touchcreen fit in the stock place in the dash. Touchscreen is the way to go no doubt.
Keep up the good work

here's a small pic of what my dash looks like
the silver HU looking thing is the front of the carpu, above that is the EQ and then the touchscreen that will fold up
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I thought about going that route but, I am not wanting to cover up the HVAC controls. That is a cool looking set-up though. As far as the EQ goes, The computer has an EQ digitally. Plus the videos I download seem to have ripper imposed gain controls already encoded into the audio.
 

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www.mp3car.com for the difinitive source on all your carputing needs. (antimatter on the forums)

5.1 dolby digital surround sound off a computer sound card sucks. If your playing a stereo source it will only play out the front left and right speakers. Stick with a panasonic CYAC300-EX or Alpine PXA-H700. I run the Panasonic unit with a 6 channel amp (soundstream D'artagnan 5.1) The computer puts our S/PDIF so why not keep it digital as long as possible.

I am running the headunitless. Thats the way to go. I can do everything that a head unit can do except AM/FM (which i will have shortly) plus much more

I molded my screen in the dash and put the carputer (mini-ITX) in the glove box

Hardware: I am running an Insight P4-ITX board with a P4-M 1.6ghz processor on an Opus 150w powersupply. My screen of choice is the Lilliput VGA touchscreen. I have two, on molded into the dash and painted the stock color and i molded into the passengers sun visor.

Power: DC-DC power supply is definitly the way to go at ~90% efficiency why use an inverter. Then you have to worry about nasty noise, and the computer surviving a crank. Good comments otherwise on wiring and whatnot

FM: There is not yet one good AM or FM card although i am part of a team that is developing a head unit quality Radio that is driven by the computer. Search CRAM on mp3car. There are XM and Siruis modules that you can use for radio though but who needs a radio when you have 20000 mp3 songs :D

Software: Your front end is probably the most important choice. You guys will probably like centrafuse but i like frodoplayer. I use iGuidance 2 for GPS
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I like Neocar. The buttons seem more accessible. It is also more easily skinned than centrafuse. As far as a dc-dc converter goes, 200 watts will not suffice. With the P4 board 2 PCI cards and 1 drive, I could get away with it. The plan is to add additional high capacity hard drives (SATA which most DC-DC converters do not offer connectors for) for different media types....ie. Videos 1 drive MP3's 1 drive DVD ripped ISO's another. I can run up to 6 drives from the factory. I have a pci card to run an additional 4 as well. I am hoping to have around 2 terabytes of drive space. That is why I have to use a 600 watt power supply. I like the startup controller but I also have a budget. Necessity overrides convenience. Inverters cause noise but this can be easily remedied with capacitors. Also I am running a USB DVD burner with an external power source, which is not 12 volts. Therefore I need AC power. Crank survival is not important because I have 2 batteries and no problems there. Also, my relay running the inverter and the 5relay pulse-to-constant circuit run off of accessory power so that they are not left on. As far as the sound card goes, the only thing that plays in only 2 channels is the FM/TV capture card. I am currently experimenting with drivers to provide this audio to all speakers. Just as a side note, I am working on a skin for Winamp for the car, pain in the arse, but I do love the built in Equalizer. I am still checking out Neocar for options such as that that actually work. In the works is a plug-in that will run external applications. I am interested in seeing pics of your molded in screen. I am looking at others to see where the downfalls and upsides are.
 

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I'm also a www.mp3car.com member: "blustreak" That sight can give you so much information. Plus they have a store but alot of their stuff is a bit more expensive than you can find other places.

At the moment I'm waiting for the motorized Lilliput to be released without problems. Once that comes I'll have a little molding action going on in my dash too. The only problem I've come across is that my system shakes the s**t out the carputer but so far, going on 5 months now, it seems to be doing alright.
I went with the smallest componants I could find:
Travla 134 case, ultra low-pro 512 RAM, slim-slot load dvd, m10000, and M1-ATX power, Notebook drive.

I also have 2 batteries but have 0 gauge running to the trunk. So I was having problems with the engine crank and the M1-ATX solved that problem.
The only reason I'm using the EQ is because I already had it and it allows me to quickly adjust the bass when I need to.

I will say that if anyone is wanting to start a carputer, it is alot of fun. But at some points, just like any other car modding project, it can be the most frustrating ordeal ever.
 
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