Sunday, January 15, 2006

Feeds Moved

RSS 2.0
RSS .92

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Tiny picoPSU

"We have been looking at the ecosystem growing around VIA's ITX and Nano-ITX platforms and we've just discovered what has to be the smallest PSU around.

The picoPSU, by MiniBox, is barely the size of an ATX connector. It's 120W, and has a couple of molex connectors and a floppy connector, as well as an input jack for mains power."

This looks like a product we should all watch for. There is nothing better than having a few choices for small power supplies.


Full Story

Sunday, December 25, 2005

New Motherboard

I have not had a chance to put the new motherboard into the car yet. I am going to rebuild the case I currently have to be much smaller since the new motherboard is smaller.

Biostar M7VIG 400 Socket A mATX MB

The biggest reason why I can decrease the size of the case is because the new motherboard has onboard video and NIC. I will not need the PCI cards I have installed anymore so the case can be much shorter. I will post pictures when I make the upgrade.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Back to Business

I just graduated from college this past week and I am finally finding some free time to work on the car computer again. It has been so long since I have been able to mess with it. I made a few changes to some of my other computer and was left with a new micro-atx motherboard to replace the current carpc motherboard. This should definately shrink the size of the current case. Hopefully I will have some pictures and and update in the next few days. In the mean time, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Part 6 - Internet Connections

Everyone that is on a computer wants one thing... INTERNET! Computers and internet access go hand in hand in today's society. Without email, instant messenger, blogs, up-to-date news, and all the other wonders provided by the internet, a computer is worthless to most people. While your car computer has a specific purpose of delivering endless amounts of music to your ears, it can also provide you with a portable means to access the internet. Choices, choices...

802.11a/b/g (Wireless)
The simplest and cheapest way to add access to the internet from your car computer is using standard wireless networking components. With these you can connect to any open hotspot or your own personal home wireless network. You will not be able to access the internet from any location, but there is usually a Panera/Starbucks or other shop near by that you can use.

Most cellphones now can access the internet. Each company has there own style for connecting, speeds, and fees, but this is the obvious choice if you would like to be able to access the internet from almost anywhere (depends on cell phone signal) If your phone has bluetooth, you can connect the phone to the computer via the bluetooth so you don't even have to plug it in.

I currently have a 802.11g linksys usb wireless adapter connected to my carpc. I do not have internet access on my cellphone and this still lets me copy file from my home network. Since I do not have a screen, I can't really browse the internet anyway so it is not a problem.

Part of the 10 Steps to Understanding Car Computers Series

Friday, September 23, 2005

I Miss Summer...

I have been trying to keep up with my summer posting rate but it has been hard lately.

First, I spent a lot of time on the redesigning of the site. I have had a bunch of instant messenger converstions with readers telling me how much you like it. Thanks for all the positive feedback.

Now, school is finally starting to pick up. I will have to be the first to admit, I have had a very lazy semester so far. I have had very little homework and tomorrow is my first exam. (this is my study break) This will lighten back up the middle of next week so thats ok. I can handle a few days of work.

I am also having some friends and family visit this weekend. Hopefully next week I can kick it back into high gear and finish off the Intro to Car Computers series. Some of the topics will include: Power, GPS Navigation, Internet Connections, Music Sources, Software Front Ends, and much more.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Site Update!

I am sorry for the lack of new posts over the last few days, but as you can see I have been busy redesigning the look and feel of the site. I think it has turned out great. I still need to touch up a few things, but overall it has come together nicely. I would love some feedback. Feel free to leave a comment telling me what you think.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bluetooth Problems Sovled

Before the live demo on Monday, I put in a few hours trying to figure out how to make the bluetooth head set work properly. I got mad a few days ago when I tried to use the microphone with Google Talk. The other person's voice would not come out of the head set. Instead I was forced to use the computer speakers.

After a bit of googling I came across this Article. If you read down to the second method it explains how to update the driver for a device. I went to device manager and selected the bluetooth radio. Sure enough, it was using the default bluetooth device driver from Microsoft. As soon as I clicked the update the driver, the Linksys one was in the list of available drivers presented to me.

After updating the driver the entire interface for controlling the bluetooth dongle changed. It all finally works! It was very easy to fix once I knew what the problem was. Hopefully you all will not find yourself in this same situation.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

10 Steps to Understanding Car Computers Series

Live Demo

I gave a live demo of my car computer to a computer group on campus Monday night. Oh what a failure. I finally got my bluetooth headset to work (will post on this soon) and everything. I present to this group a lot and had no better ideas for a meeting besides showing off my work. We get out there and the bluetooth acts up and all kinds of other problems. Worse off, it was our largest attendence at a meeting this year. Oh well, hopefully I can get it all working soon. The demo gods were not on my side....

Monday, September 12, 2005

Part 5 - Sound

Next in 10 Steps to Understanding Car Computers is sound output.

For computers, there are 3 hardware choices for getting sound out of the computer.
  • Onboard Sound Card
  • PCI Sound Card
  • USB Sound Card
Many motherboards these days come with onboard sound. If you chose VIA conputers then it has an onboard sounds card. They are not the most powerful cards, and do not offer advanced features. With these you still have the option to upgrade later.

There are PCI card slots in the majority of computers. It is an expansion card that plugs into the slots on a motherboard. With these cards you can upgrade at any time and still ave a lot of advanced feaures.

USB has allowed many devices to easily be attached to a computer without having o open it up. You can also easily swap the device between multiple computers. There are a few very popular USB sound cards.

I chose to use a usb sounds card. I was trying to decide between the Creative USB MP3+ and Creative Axtegy thingy

OK, so you have some sort of a sound card. Now how does the compoter's sound play out of your car's speakers?
  • Auxilary Imput
  • Cd Changer Hacks
  • Fm Radio Modulator
  • Directly into Amp
Heada unit vs. No head unit

A lot of the time when people install touch screen. they remove their head unit and replace it with an amplifier. For this kind of setup, the computer connects directly to the amplifier. You then replace the factory wiring so connect the speakers to the new amplifier.

If you leave the head unit in place, you can connect your computer to it in a number of ways. The easiest is having a CD Player with an auxilary input jack on the front of it. You can also hack into the head units cd changer options if it has that feature. Finally, you can use a FM Modulator to broadcast your music's signal from your computer over FM radio waves to the head unit's radio.

I left my head unit in place and connect the computer via Aux input. I purchased my head unit a few years ago specifically because it had the input. At that time I was just using my mp3 player. It is the easiest solution. out of the 3 head unit choices.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Part 4 - Storage

The next part in 10 Steps to Understanding Car Computers is selecting the storage medium for your computer. Computers store your data, operating system, and music on a hard drive. The disk drive in desktop computers is 3.5 inches while laptop hard drives are only 2.5 inches. Besides being smaller, laptop hard drives are designed more durable under high G forces. Some people have problems with 3.5" drives dying when using them in a car setting because of the strong vibrations. For this reason, many long time carpc enthusiast use only 2.5" drives.

Personally, I use a 3.5" drive because I had an extra one when building the car computer. Even if I didn't, I still would have because the it is a lot cheaper per GB of storage. I have been using the same drive in my carpc for over a year now and I have not had any problems with it.

Other people have started using compact flash, and other solid state media, for holding the windows install. Then the music files are stored on the hard drive. The hope in doing this is that the windows files be written to the flash card all the time never get messed up. They also want to minimize boot up times. I think that it is too expensive of a road to take for most people, including myself.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Project Summary

Computer Hardware
AMD XP 1700+
KT333 Motherboard
512MB 333mhz DDR
40GB 3.5 HD
Linksys USB 802.11G
225 Watt Inverter
Sound Blaster MP3+ USB Sound Card
AGP Video Card
Realtek Network Card
Serial Port Input Buttons
Linksys Bluetooth Doongle
Logitech Bluetooth Headset

Sound System
Cerwin Vega Stealth Series 5-1/4
Pioneer 3way 6x9
Awia CD Player with aux input and 4x45watts
Rockford Fosgate 3000.1
12' Infinity Reference 1242w Dual Voice Sub
Rockford Fosgate Punch 3001P RMS: 300 Watt@2 ohms

1999 Pontiac Sunfire SE Coupe
70,000 Miles
White Exterior with grey cloth interior

Part 3 - User Interaction

In continuing with 10 Steps to Understanding Car Computers, I will next cover how the user interacts with the car computer. Like everything in car computers, there are numerous choices.
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Key Pad
  • Joystick
  • Voice Recognition
  • Touch Screen
  • Display
  • Character LCD
  • Touch Screen VGA
  • LCD Screen Component Video
  • Character LCD
  • Touch Screen
The simplest input that a user could make would be using a keyboard with keys mapped to execute specific commands. Some users used this same idea but use a smaller keypad, like a numbers pad.

The most standard way to interact with the carpc is via a touch screen. Most people install 7-8inch LCD touch screens that provide image display and easy user input. The perfered style of screens use vga input over other method like composite or s-video. The main reason is that they provide a large large of resolution to be run on them. When using the composite video screens, the text can be fuzzy and hard to read. Below is a Lilliput LCD Touch screen.

Is the past, and still some now, were using Character LCD screens. These provided a few lines of text and limited characters per line.

My choice and personal favorite is voice input. Using a few software packages (or writing my own) allows the driver to completely interact with the system without have to touch the screen or any buttons. I have found it very fun to play with and works pretty well.These are just a few of the above combinations discussed in a bit more detail. Part of the fun of building a carpc is the freedom to chose what you want. You can have 5 LCD screens or none and still have a wonderful, original car computer.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Contact Info

In the age of the internet and 5 ga-zillion messengers, there are plenty of ways to contact me.

AIM: heezer7

Yahoo: jonheizer

MSN: (I don't check this email)

Google: jheizer

Email: jheizer (at) charter (dot) net

Feel free to send me an email or IM any time. I would love to chat and hear what you have to say.

About Me

While working on the intro to car computers series of posts, I realized that I skipped a lot of the basics when starting this blog. Some of you might be wondering who I am and what's up with this crazy web site. Here I will try to answer a few of your questions.

My name is Jon Heizer. I am currently a 21 year old college student attending Bradley University in Peoria, IL, USA. Its a nice mid sized private school in the middle of the state. When I am not in school, I live just outside on St. Louis, Missouri in Belleville, IL.

I started this blog after I had been working on my carpc for about 6 months on and off. When attending school full time, there is little time to go outside and work on the car. During last school year, I devoted most of the carpc time toward writing my own front end software. It has evolved to be a good base for my car computer. So far this school year I have been trying to spend more time documenting exactly what I have done in creating my carpc via this blog.

You can find all of my contact info here.

I hope you all enjoy what you find here and visit often.

Part 2 - Types of Computers

The first Item that needs to be discussed is the types of computers that you can use to run your car computer setup.

Powerful Desktop
Example: Intel P4 or High Speed Athlon Desktop Processor
Pro: Can run everything under the sun
Con: Takes a lot more power to run (needs bigger power supply)

Low Power Desktop
Example: Via Processor
Pro: Significantly lower power consumption
Con: Significantly lower processor power

Pro: Easy to remove from the car to prevent theft
Easy to obtain power adapters to power the computer from the car
Con: More expensive for high speed machines
Small problems on auto power on

As you have seen in previous posts, I opted to use an AMD Athlon processor. I mostly made this choice because I had one lying around, but I also like its speed and moderate power consumption. You will see over the coming days there there are infinite ways to set up your car computer and everyone's is unique to that person's wants and needs.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Part 1 - What is a CarPc?

I have received a few requests over the past few days asking my to explain further what a car computer can do. I decided to start a series of posts titled "10 Steps to Understanding Car Computers." I hope over the next 10 posts I can explain in detail what you can do with a carpc and how all the pieces work together. I will also attempt to explain why I have made the choices I have.


Why would I want a car computer? Well many reasons:
  • Mp3s
  • Movies
  • GPS Navigation
  • Weather Information
  • Traffic Information
  • Games
  • Emulators
  • Web Browsing
  • Phone book
  • Email
  • Am/FM/Sat Radio
  • ......
As you can see the possibilities are endless. Everything you can run on a standard desktop can be done on a car computer. It is still deep down a standard windows, Linux, or mac computer.

Over the next few days I plan on explaining many more topics that will help all of you that are new to the car computer world better understand what I am doing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

No time to play...

Ever since I have moved back to school I have been so busy. I am very active in our ACM group on my campus and that has been keeping me busy with a few meetings. I am also part of a evolutionary computation group and we are in the process of rebuilding our 20 node dual processor cluster.

The car computer has been sitting on my desk this whole time. I have not ever had a chance to try and boot it up let alone reinstall windows and get this awesome bluetooth mic working. Right now I have just been using it on Google Talk . Hopefully things will slow down soon.

On my free time I have been trying to check out other people's carpcs since I cannot work on mine. I have seen some really nice work. Keep up the good work and I hope to be back in the game soon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Start Up

Lately my car has been grumpy when starting after it has been sitting for a while. This has been happening for a few months now and nothing I have tried has corrected the problem. I have been making sure I have changed the air filter and ran fuel injector cleaner through it often. Nothing has had any effect. On Sunday I installed new spark plugs hoping that might do it and for a while it seemed to have helped. Well, today it didn't want to start right up again. Guess I will have to keep trying things or take it in. I also found a few minutes to work on another project before heading back off to school. More pictures and details on this will be posted in the next few days once I take some pictures.