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Why install a computer in the car? (Carputer) [message #3112] Tue, 16 June 2015 01:31
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I am a programmer, electronics engineer, and overall interested in Ham Radio. So add all those together and your mind starts to play fantasy land. I custom built the computer to fulfill several applications. I wanted something with 4 serial ports, something that will auto-shutdown and power up with ignition, of course be touch screen compatible, and have Bluetooth and internet capable. The serial ports are to control a couple of Ham Radios that I will be stashing around in the vehicle. Also, one port is for a GPS antenna that will be available for navigation. I have an application that I am writing specifically for Hams so this is also for experimenting.

The motherboard is a Jetway with a serial add-on board and a Bluetooth/Wireless combo card. The hard drive is a 256GB solid state drive and the case is a M350 Mini-ITX with a PicoPSU that controls the power.

In the dash behind the monitor is a Directed Electronics HD Radio with a mini 30W amp. The HD Radio is controlled by a MJS USB Interface.

I have a mini, wireless Visiontek keyboard in case I don't want to use the touchscreen...

The OS is Windows 8.1 (I had originally had Ubuntu and traded it out because of the software availability), and I am currently using RideRunner for the HD Radio interface. Since it has Windows 8.1, you can do anything like view pictures, play movies (of course not while driving, but will still work if someone in the back seat wanted to watch), MP3s, etc..

What is the reason for a carputer? For one big reason, I can drive around and the computer will connect to any open networks and give me internet in the car. If wanted, I could put a cellular modem in it to have constant internet is needed. It is capable of giving me the options to re-program any of my Ham Radios without having to take them out of the car or drag a laptop into the car. I have one Motorola that has the plug directly installed in the back of the radio so I can re-program it at anytime. I will also be hooking up a odb2 monitor.

I am also writing an applihoneyion that will sync any MP3s from my server to the carputer when internet is available. This way, I setup my music and playlists from anywhere and I receive them for the ride!

The options are limitless. As long as there is a need, the computer can do it. If you don't like a specific application, you can always change it for another. That is the nice thing about the carputer over a standard radio.

Price? The HD Radio cost $50 on ebay. The Amp cost about $30 new from Amazon. The computer itself probably ran about $500. I would say that if you don't want a hassle and want something super stable, then buying an all in one DVD/NAV system is the way to go. If you like adventure and are good with electronics and computers, then a carputer is the way to go hands down!

As for the knowledge needed to make a carputer, anyone can do it.. It is fun to learn, but there are many things that you have to understand. For example, the power supply needed to be hooked up just right and jumpers needed to be set to get things to work. The cables needed to be routed from under the seat to the console through the floor. All serial cables and usb cables, audio and VGA cables needed to be run through the floor mats also.. There is a lot of planning, like how long the cables need to be, how to connect everything, how the audio will work, what adapters might be needed; ie. what other electronics will be needed to make everything work. So it is complex, and could take time.. But fun and exciting when things work!

At the moment, I am going to be adding a Raspberry Pi to the mix. I will be adding a KVM switch and will be able to switch between the two computers!

[Updated on: Tue, 16 June 2015 01:40]

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