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The Car Audio Project
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boy8cookie
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Oct 2, 2009, 01:07 AM
 
Goal: Something to store & play music in my car.
Budget: $750

I'm sick of plugging my iPhone into my car's stereo. I'm looking for a way to have whatever music I buy on my home iMac or my work laptop to be synced to a computer in my car. This computer would be permanently connected to my car's stereo, probably via the RCA input. Ideally I'd be able to control the playback with something a little easier than a keyboard (suggestions?). It'd also be nice if this setup (via a 3G/4G internet card) could stream pandora and other internet radio.

Anyway, my car doesn't have an AC power outlet, I'm not sure how that limits my options. I'm thinking a laptop that goes into standby when the car's engine is off is the best solution here, but I'm not sure how I'd interface with it. Anyway, just looking for some input (for my output).
     
Laminar
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Oct 2, 2009, 01:37 AM
 
Dang. I had a complete CarPC setup last spring but sold it to buy motorcycles instead. The basiscs:

- DC-to-DC power supply ~$100

There are specific CarPC power supplies out there that make sure the PC gets constant 12V power from your car's electrical system which can vary from 9-15V, and the power supply can interface with your motherboard to power up the computer on ignition and they typically have programmable power-down delays so that the computer automatically turns off a set amount of time after you turn the car off.

- PC (I used a Shuttle barebones with a dual-core Atom) ~$250

The Shuttle was an easy choice for me -- the barebones was cheap and I added a SATA slim DVD drive, RAM, and a laptop hard drive and I had a computer that rivaled my Mini's performance.

- Touch screen ~$150

There are a few options here -- some people just stick the touch screen on the dashboard with its included mount. Some people go through the trouble of molding the touch screen into the dash in place of the current radio. You can also get DIN-sized devices that have the screen slide out and flip up when turned on, then fold back away when turned off. I suppose you could use a non-touchscreen and control the computer with some sort of remote, but that just seems silly.

- Software front end

The two biggest front ends are RoadRunner/RideRunner and Centrafuse. Road/RideRunner is free, fairly open source, and lots of people make their own skins for it. Centrafuse is a commercial product, but it looks more professional and it has the backing that you'd expect of a commercial product. These front ends provide the interface so that you can control your music.

These are the basics to get music in your car. I went a bit further with my system -- I picked up a combo Wi-Fi/Bluetooth adaptor for easy syncing and tethering to my Blackberry. I also got a GPS puck so that I could utilize the touchscreen for navigation (navigation choices are a whole different topic). I picked up a Belkin PowerMate to control the computer's volume.

All said and done, I think I spent somewhere around $600-$700 on all of that.

Check out the forums on mp3car.com and read all you can. Everything you need to know is up there. I'd suggest buying a complete system for sale in the classifieds -- you'll often get the components for much cheaper than you could get them separately.

Here's what it looked like when I was test-fitting it.







Microsoft's Streets and Trips showing my current direction and speed via the GPS puck.



There is a small subset of people using Macs for their CarPCs and there are a few front ends for the Mac, but it's mostly pointless. Since the whole point of a CarPC is that you don't see the OS at all, the variety of software availability for Windows and the inexpensive hardware options make a PC the logical choice.
( Last edited by Laminar; Oct 2, 2009 at 01:43 AM. )
     
seandavid010
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Oct 2, 2009, 01:01 PM
 
I dunno, it sounds like a very complicated (and expensive) solution for an unreasonable problem. Your iPhone will do everything you said you wanted above, so perhaps your best option would be to see how you can make your iPhone work in this situation. For me, this included building a custom mount for my iPhone immediately to the left of my steering wheel so it's easy to access and always visible, and selecting a charging cable that provides line-level out from the dock connector (Kensington's LiquidAux). Combine all that with a bluetooth kit, and I essentially have a car PC, but I get to take it with me when I leave.

Now, this is just a suggestion, because I was kinda in the same place as you about a year ago, so feel free to tell me to go to blazes if you wish. Good luck, whatever you decide!
     
Laminar
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Oct 2, 2009, 01:14 PM
 
If you just want music, a CarPC is overkill. But if you're interested in everything else it can do, it's the way to go.
     
olePigeon
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Oct 2, 2009, 02:22 PM
 
Have you thought about getting an iPod Touch and just leaving it in the car?
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boy8cookie  (op)
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Oct 2, 2009, 04:54 PM
 
Thanks Laminar, I'll look at that site.

Originally Posted by olePigeon View Post
Have you thought about getting an iPod Touch and just leaving it in the car?
An iPod touch won't accomplish everything I want, namely Pandora streaming (wifi only FTL).
     
downinflames68
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Oct 2, 2009, 07:53 PM
 
This **** never works smoothly, looks OEM, or works particularly well. I suggest one of the fancy new decks with an SD slot, then buy an 8 or 16 gig SD card. Something along those lines. Carputers are NOT developed enough to exist other than in a nerd's car. Girls will not be impressed with their half assed performance.
     
Laminar
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Oct 2, 2009, 09:52 PM
 
There's so many things wrong with that post I don't even know where to start.
     
downinflames68
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Oct 2, 2009, 10:45 PM
 
Dude. It sucks. The interface sucks, the size sucks, the fans suck, the idea of a magnetic storage device in a vehicle that sees jolts, rain, snow, and temperatures all over the map, and.. .did I mention the OS totally blows? It is NOT very well done. YET.

10 years from now, I'm sure it'll be a different story, but carputers are like what GPS was 10 years ago. Underdeveloped.
     
Laminar
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Oct 3, 2009, 12:14 PM
 
Originally Posted by downinflames68 View Post
Dude. It sucks. The interface sucks,
The interface? There are quite a few front ends out there, and Road/Riderunner lets people create their own skins, so your interface can be exactly what you want it to be.

the size sucks
The size of what? People put everything from 6 inch to 15 inch screens in. And all of those are bigger than an iPod/iPhone. The size of the computer? That's not relevant, as they can be hidden in the glove box, under a seat, or in the trunk.

the fans suck
Get a mini-ITX based computer and stick it in your trunk. You'll never ever know it's there.

the idea of a magnetic storage device in a vehicle that sees jolts, rain, snow, and temperatures all over the map
So use an SSD.

and.. .did I mention the OS totally blows? It is NOT very well done. YET.
OS or front end? You can use Linux, OS X, or Windows. You can use loads of different skins and front ends. It can look like whatever you want it to look like.

10 years from now, I'm sure it'll be a different story, but carputers are like what GPS was 10 years ago. Underdeveloped.
Tell that to this guy or just browse the project section and see what the current state of CarPCs is. Really - the CarPC is as good as its builder, and some of them are absolutely functional and fantastic setups.



     
imitchellg5
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Oct 3, 2009, 01:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
The interface? There are quite a few front ends out there, and Road/Riderunner lets people create their own skins, so your interface can be exactly what you want it to be.
I don't think he's going to end up with OEM MMI in his ride...
     
downinflames68
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Oct 3, 2009, 11:47 PM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
The interface? There are quite a few front ends out there, and Road/Riderunner lets people create their own skins, so your interface can be exactly what you want it to be.



The size of what? People put everything from 6 inch to 15 inch screens in. And all of those are bigger than an iPod/iPhone. The size of the computer? That's not relevant, as they can be hidden in the glove box, under a seat, or in the trunk.



Get a mini-ITX based computer and stick it in your trunk. You'll never ever know it's there.



So use an SSD.



OS or front end? You can use Linux, OS X, or Windows. You can use loads of different skins and front ends. It can look like whatever you want it to look like.



Tell that to this guy or just browse the project section and see what the current state of CarPCs is. Really - the CarPC is as good as its builder, and some of them are absolutely functional and fantastic setups.




Yep. Whatever dude. CarPCs are awesome. That's why you have one, right? Oh wait.
     
besson3c
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Oct 4, 2009, 12:10 AM
 
Hey guys, I'm thinking of buying an SUV and getting a CarPC for it. Any suggestions on what I should buy? I want it to be really fast and be super safe.
     
turtle777
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Oct 4, 2009, 01:04 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Hey guys, I'm thinking of buying an SUV and getting a CarPC for it. Any suggestions on what I should buy? I want it to be really fast and be super safe.
Uhm, you *do* know that baiting is against rules around here, right ?

-t
     
besson3c
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Oct 4, 2009, 01:15 AM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
Uhm, you *do* know that baiting is against rules around here, right ?

-t

Are you trying to imply that Rob is dumb enough to fall for my bait? Do you think he is dumb? Is that what this is?

I think you owe him an apology. I have half a mind to report you, but I restrained myself this time.
     
turtle777
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Oct 4, 2009, 01:28 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Are you trying to imply that Rob is dumb enough to fall for my bait? Do you think he is dumb? Is that what this is?

I think you owe him an apology. I have half a mind to report you, but I restrained myself this time.
WTF, dude, you are sick in your head.

Please, report me and have the mods sort it out.

-t
     
AKcrab
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Oct 4, 2009, 01:53 AM
 
I wish Ca$h was still around.
     
besson3c
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Oct 4, 2009, 02:04 AM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
WTF, dude, you are sick in your head.

Please, report me and have the mods sort it out.

-t

Please stop derailing the thread, this is about Car Audios.
     
Laminar
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Oct 4, 2009, 10:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by downinflames68 View Post
Yep. Whatever dude. CarPCs are awesome. That's why you have one, right? Oh wait.
Yes. The viability of owning a CarPC is determined by whether or not I own one. Your logic and reason astound me. Is it really that hard to admit that you were wrong? Or is this the same old Rob that we've known for the past 10 years?
     
msuper69
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Oct 4, 2009, 11:37 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
... I have half a mind to report you...
Well that explains your posts.
     
boy8cookie  (op)
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Oct 4, 2009, 05:55 PM
 
Anyway...

I'm not really looking for an entire "carputer" as it were, just a simple way to have the music I own in my car, without having to plugin my iPhone (I get in and out of my car a lot, and this gets annoying). I have an iBook G3 (900Mhz, 640MB of RAM) with a fairly new battery, and a 40GB hard drive. I'd like to use this to power the music playback, since I already own it and it's not being used for anything. I'm going to look into what it'll take to power it, get the audio into my car's speakers, and interface with it (touch screen? power mate?). Any suggestions towards this are appreciated.
     
Laminar
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Oct 5, 2009, 11:19 AM
 
MacCar - MP3Car.com

All of your answers are right there.

BTW, I have a brand new in-box PowerMate I'll send you cheap if you end up wanting to go that way.
     
boy8cookie  (op)
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Oct 6, 2009, 09:40 PM
 
Based on what I've read, and what I've done with my home setup, here's my plan:

I'm going to power the iBook using this car adapter. I'll attach the iBook's audio output to the built-in auxiliary input on my car's stereo using a mini-pin to RCA cable. I'll store the iBook under the passengers seat, running it in clamshell mode. I'm thinking of a PowerMate to control playback, but I'll also have the iBook creating a wireless network, which my iPhone can connect to and access an AJAX remote setup using Remote Buddy. Eventually, I'll add a 4G/3G internet card to the iBook for pandora streaming, which will also provide my iPhone with a faster internet connection (theoretically).
     
Laminar
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Oct 6, 2009, 10:03 PM
 
A couple quick questions -
- If it's going to be controlled from your iPhone anyway, why not just plug in the iPhone? Unless you do most of your control via the PowerMate and just use the iPhone to select playlists and other things like that

- How are you going to deal with shutdown and startup? You don't want the computer draining your car's battery, and you don't want the iBook draining its own battery when sitting for a day or two.
     
boy8cookie  (op)
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Oct 6, 2009, 10:40 PM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
A couple quick questions -
- If it's going to be controlled from your iPhone anyway, why not just plug in the iPhone? Unless you do most of your control via the PowerMate and just use the iPhone to select playlists and other things like that
This is the idea exactly, I hate having wires everywhere, so being able to control playback with the PowerMate will suffice unless I need to change playlists (not often). Even when I do get my iPhone out, it won't be physically tethered to the car (annoying!!!).

- How are you going to deal with shutdown and startup? You don't want the computer draining your car's battery, and you don't want the iBook draining its own battery when sitting for a day or two.
The laptop will never shutdown. It'll be setup to go to sleep 1 minute after there's no external power, which will have minimal draw on the battery. It will wake up when there's external power. The car doesn't send power to the outlet if the car isn't on, so that will "switch" the external power off/on. I think (hope) this will work.
     
Laminar
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Oct 6, 2009, 10:49 PM
 
Sounds good. You might want to consider an SSD. It will deal better with the harsh conditions of being in a car.

And like I said, I have a PowerMate new in box if you want it cheap.
     
downinflames68
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Oct 6, 2009, 11:06 PM
 
Post it if it looks and performs OEM.
     
Laminar
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Oct 7, 2009, 12:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by downinflames68 View Post
Post it if it looks and performs OEM.
What OEM has a sound system controlled via iPhone? What's there to compare to?
     
downinflames68
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Oct 7, 2009, 12:26 AM
 
There is ONE supercar that has an iPhone with some custom apps that controls the audio system, but MANY cars have ipod/iphone integration.
     
Laminar
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Oct 7, 2009, 12:51 AM
 
Integration like they let you plug your iPod/iPhone in, or they allow you to wirelessly stream music? You can find aftermarket decks with built-in bluetooth but I hadn't heard of any OEMs installing bluetooth for the purpose of listening to music.
     
boy8cookie  (op)
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Oct 7, 2009, 03:19 AM
 
Can you even stream music over Bluetooth with the iPhone? In stereo?
     
Laminar
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Oct 7, 2009, 09:40 AM
 
The iPhone supports A2DP.
     
downinflames68
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Oct 7, 2009, 12:16 PM
 
Why would you want to stream music via bluetooth? It's going to drain the iPhone's battery so you're going to want to plug it in anyway, at which point streaming is stupid anyway.
     
olePigeon
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Oct 7, 2009, 01:20 PM
 
If you intend to buy a touch screen or just a normal display, check out mimo. They make some pretty cool displays (both touchscreen or not) that are used over USB.

Pretty cool.
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boy8cookie  (op)
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Oct 7, 2009, 02:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by downinflames68 View Post
Why would you want to stream music via bluetooth? It's going to drain the iPhone's battery so you're going to want to plug it in anyway, at which point streaming is stupid anyway.
I was just kinda curious, while my car does have a handsfree setup (bluetooth) for answering (or making) phone calls, it doesn't support music streaming, so it's not really an option.

Originally Posted by olePigeon View Post
If you intend to buy a touch screen or just a normal display, check out mimo. They make some pretty cool displays (both touchscreen or not) that are used over USB.
Those displays are pretty nice looking, though I don't think they're gonna work for me. Two reasons: 1) they're not bright enough, probably a result of being USB powered; 2) the drivers are intel only, and I'm using an iBook G3.
     
imitchellg5
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Oct 7, 2009, 03:06 PM
 
Originally Posted by downinflames68 View Post
There is ONE supercar that has an iPhone with some custom apps that controls the audio system, but MANY cars have ipod/iphone integration.
Ferrari 430 Scuderia 16M comes with an iPod touch as the controller and now it's optional on all Ferraris. Very slick.
     
olePigeon
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Oct 7, 2009, 03:38 PM
 
Originally Posted by imitchellg5 View Post
Ferrari 430 Scuderia 16M comes with an iPod touch as the controller and now it's optional on all Ferraris. Very slick.
Man, enough with the car analogies! ... oh, wait. Never mind. Carry on.
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boy8cookie  (op)
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Oct 13, 2009, 07:49 PM
 
As an update:

Something funky with the Remote Buddy software isn't allowing me to connect consistently to the iBook. I have a feeling it's something to do with it being a PPC, as the software works flawlessly on my Intel machines. I'm really hoping to get it working, or I'll have to spend quite a bit more money to get another machine working (powered).
     
boy8cookie  (op)
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Oct 13, 2009, 08:49 PM
 
Downloading a previous version of Remote Buddy has me up and running on that front, but now the stupid thing isn't waking up from sleep when power connects to it, nor is it going to sleep when power is disconnected. I figure it's not gonna go to sleep while iTunes is playing, so I need to detect the loss of A/C power and run a script to pause iTunes. Not sure how to do that, yet. Any ideas for the waking on power thing?
     
downinflames68
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Oct 14, 2009, 02:15 AM
 
Wow,it's so easy! Even a caveman could hook this up, right Laminar?
     
Laminar
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Oct 14, 2009, 09:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by downinflames68 View Post
Wow,it's so easy! Even a caveman could hook this up, right Laminar?
So is the problem that you're too proud to admit here that you were wrong, or are you so emotionally fragile that you can't admit to yourself that you were wrong?

These constant straw man arguments from you are tiring.
     
imitchellg5
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Oct 14, 2009, 11:38 AM
 
There goes the thread.®
     
The Final Dakar
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Oct 14, 2009, 11:41 AM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
So is the problem that you're too proud to admit here that you were wrong, or are you so emotionally fragile that you can't admit to yourself that you were wrong?
Did you not read the "ching chong china" thread?
     
   
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