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12-volt Plexiglass Computer 211

zootjeff writes: "I am in the process of designing and redesigning a computer for my car. This machine is based on the Shuttle FV24 motherboard. I built a box that is 8 inches by 7.5 inches by 3 inches. I also designed and built my own custom power supply. This could be useful to people who want to take linux into their car. It is also useful for solar powered battery operations." He sent some pictures, too, of what the 2nd case looks like, an overview, including (!) police report number (the 2nd revision was stolen), more on the power supply, and the third iteration.
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12-volt Plexiglass Computer

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  • Would such a system not have over heating problems. Unless its got a kick-ass fan in it.
    • Just hook it up to the car radiator :D
      The ultimate in liquid cooling for AMD's ;D
      • Anyone seen the Fast and the Furious? Man this is whats needed to blast that films soundtrack out at you. While you get in position to use that Nitro of course :D
      • That'd be a pretty horrible idea, since the liquid in your car's coolant system can hover around 80C, which is far in excess of the temperature your CPU puts out.

        The better idea would be to put a bigass heatsink and route airflow from the outside over the heatsink... Pushing air at 60MPH over your heatsink will be sure to cool it down in a hurry!! =)
    • by taniwha ( 70410 )
      tie it on the roof :-)
  • The Linux car... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 25, 2001 @04:48PM (#2480095)

    It's already been done [dashpc.com]...

    I don't use a DC powersupply though.

    • The last time I went to this page. (months ago)

      It didn't have any banner ads on it.

      Now there is banner ads on it and it submitted to slashdot at the sametime.


      No Comment...

      Just Interesting...
    • You've done almost exactly what I dreamed about doing to our car (silver Jetta w/ black leather BTW) on our annual southwestern US tour this year. I subjected my poor wife to laptop duty most of each driving day, which she was far from thrilled about. Tons of wires, clunky laptop, poor visibility... I wish I had your determination/extra income to do this type of mod.
    • I developed my own mp3 player as well >:P [opensores.org]
      Arise Computer [arisecomputer.com]. They're nicely made to fit into the same space as a standard supply (they also have mini versions, if you're making your own box), and cost under $90. Considering that most homebrew dc-dc supplies cost about $50 in parts alone, there's really no point in building your own.

      By the way, as of right now, Arise only sells AT supplies. However, I've called them and inquired about an ATX (+3.3V) supply. They will have one out in "early November" for $90. Well worth it.
  • is smaller, neater, and faster than his 233...it was also about the same cost, and if I put an RF connector on it and _maybe_ hook up an inverter...like his, we're looking at a better solution. I like the ingenuity here, but I'd have loved to see it smaller...a LOT smaller. That power supply could be integrated into the dash, underneath, so you wouldnt have to carry it...you could use a laptop hard drive...I can think of a lot of ways to neaten this up...just doesnt seem to be _that_ great of an option at these early stages.

    ps... building a "power supply" for a car can be done by ripping a few bits off a standard power supply and replacing htem with wires... a power supply merely refines the 12 volt power, and converts to it from 110. It is fairly easy to remove the conversion bits, and have just a 12volt refining mechanism, seeing as how computers run on 12volts and under anyway.

    • I can't get to the site right now.
      It amazes me that you woudl 'build a custom power supply' and use an inverter. What a waste.
    • you're forgetting about the + and - 12v lines and all the + and - 5v lines. nothing a visit to mouser.com can't solve, but don't go hooking up ALL those lines to 12v negative ground..
    • I thought about that for a while... simple to get the +12V and -12V, and the +5V wouldn't be that hard, either.

      However, I would rather convert the 12-13VDC to 120VAC first, then use the computer's normal power supply from there. I'd venture to say that this would result in a more stable supply.

      You could hack your own inverter, or grab one at Radio Trash --- either would work. The upside of this is that anyone could make this work --- just plug the inverted into the cigarette lighter, then plug the computer power cord into the inverter. Might have to use an adaptor, depending upon whether the inverter had 2- or 3-pronged outlets.

  • He sooo has to call it Orac.
  • by caesar-auf-nihil ( 513828 ) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @04:53PM (#2480138)
    One potential concern I see, especially with a car-bound computer, is impact resistance (potholes shake the unit around) and short-circuit fire safety. If you try using Lexan or Calibre sheet (polycarbonate) you'll improve the impact resistance of your case dramatically, and, the fire-resistance.

    Plexiglass is notorious for getting brittle with heat and light exposure, both of which will happen if they sit in your car every day under the hot sun. One good summer could really do a number to the unit.

    • Not that I'm saying this is the case here (the site's slashdotted already), but for many people, and even in aisle signs in hardware stores, Plexiglass = Lexan. Sort of like kleenex refers to any tissue, coke (here in the South, at any rate, where the word soda dosen't get used) refers to any carbonated beverage, and xerox (moreso in the past) means to copy a document on any copy machine.


      • "but for many people, and even in aisle signs in hardware stores, Plexiglass = Lexan"

        These "people" you refer to must be pretty dense. Lexan is nothing like plexiglass. Wanna test that theory? just sit behind a 1" thick piece of plexi and have a friend fire a .40cal round at it. If you survive, try it again with Lexan. You will see the difference, trust me.

        • Lexan is nothing like plexiglass.

          I agree, but then, I build stage props with both. But for many uses, Lexan is merely more expensive plexiglass (note in my original comment the use of upper and lower case).

          just sit behind a 1" thick piece of plexi and have a friend fire a .40cal round at it.

          Someone who points a gun at me and pulls the trigger is not my friend. That said, my point was simply that "plexiglass" is often used as a generic term for a non-glass clear sheet, even to the point that hardware stores will put an aisle sign that says "Plexiglass" on the aisle with all forms of non-glass clear and translucent panels. Toilet paper is nothing like Kleenex, but if you sneeze, and ask for a Kleenex, and someone hands you a clean piece of toilet paper[1], then most people would be satisfied. The reverse might not be true - a soft tissue that tears easily and leaves lint (women especially won't appreciate that last point) is not optimal for use on a toilet.

          [1] Going back to the bullet thing, someone who hands you a used piece of toilet paper is not your friend, either.


    • Maybe I just don't know better, but I thought part of the reason cases were largely metal was to provide some shielding against electromagnetic interference. Faraday cage and all that.

      Is this not a concern?
    • First of all, I think Lexan is quite the cool plastic, and is one of the most amazing plasics inventions. I don't know what I'd do without my Lexan water bottle (go buy one and see how hard it is to destroy... I gave up shoveling it against PC) and I know people who were protected everyday by Lexan windows.

      The main reason I think he didn't use Lexan in his case was price. Check out the quotes at http://www.polymerplastics.com/transparents_lexan. shtml and you'll find it's more expensive and harder to get, and I imagine harder to cut.

  • Art and Engineering (Score:3, Interesting)

    by euroderf ( 47 ) <a@b.c> on Thursday October 25, 2001 @04:55PM (#2480155) Journal
    I used to have a girlfriend who was fond of creating 'combined art-utility vehicles' - she created a car called that looked like a Gothic castle on the move, and sedan with a huge, 0.8 ton, covering which had a small room with a bed in it. It was very heavy, very moving (literally!).

    Conceptual Art like this is a fine way of improving the drudgery of the commute, where millions in their identikit Fords and Fiestas wander soulessly to and fro' employment in cubicles, some of us are free, free to make our wild imaginations reality.

    Is playing with an in car computer really the same tho? I'm all a-quiver at the talents of these techy types, but what actual difference does this in car computer make? None, really, it won't inflame the mind or create beauty, and this is the problem with modern tinkering. 1950's mobiles had flaming jet burners on the back, and we are adding little bits of silicon? Yuk.

    Thankfully, when I moved to America I noticed that there is an even bigger car scene, and I would go to my local car improvement rally were it not for all the guns held by the police and contestants at such events, quite barbarous, in many respects.

    I urge the modifiers of the utilitarian not to invent even more utility, but to improve and create an original aesthetic. Art is what is missing from our lives, in the modern age, not linux computers.

    • by fobbman ( 131816 )
      Could you please pass the word to the rest of your auto-sculpture friends that you need to use a better water-resistant glue in attaching all that crap? Our first good rain happened a couple weeks ago and I ended up following one of those trash-heaps on wheels. The freaking doll heads were tumbling off of the top of that POS car that they were once attached to and hitting my windshield.

      Talk about disturbing.

      • The freaking doll heads were tumbling off of the top of that POS car that they were once attached to and hitting my windshield

        So fire back with your rocket launchers...Oh wait you drive one of those boring cars.

        Not a bad point though, there's no excuse for sloppy constuction. Then again welds don't dissolve. *grin*

        As for computers in cars. I have though about doing some sort of targeting system/remote control for my turret, but with the time I have, it is mostly a pipe dream.

        Yes I drive one of the SF "Mad Max" cars.
    • I remember seeing that somewhere.. I yes, Here [carthedral.com].
    • Is playing with an in car computer really the same tho? I'm all a-quiver at the talents of these techy types, but what actual difference does this in car computer make? None, really, it won't inflame the mind or create beauty, and this is the problem with modern tinkering. 1950's mobiles had flaming jet burners on the back, and we are adding little bits of silicon? Yuk.

      This kind of attitude is a bit of a hot-button for me. It smacks of the stereotype that tech/science types are uncreative automatons unable to appreciate, never mind create, something of beauty. There is a lot of beauty in a well wrought hack (in software or hardware) and it should not be dismissed simply because it serves a function in addition to being "art."

      Yes, I think an in car computer can be art -- it all depends on the vision and execution involved.
    • ...I would go to my local car improvement rally were it not for all the guns held by the police and contestants at such events...

      How sad that you live in such fear. When was the last time you heard of a shootout at a car rally? For that matter when was the last time you heard of a shootout at a gun show? They're rare events, because the criminals know that someone will be there to shoot back at them.

      Guns make you safer, even if you're not the person carrying one.

  • Control a laser/mirror arrangement which could draw or print phrases on your rear window. I'm certain there are enough creative minds out there that could figure out what to display ;-)

    Maybe some sensors jammed into every nook and cranny of your engine, too, for data acquisition and observation.

    Tie it into a GPS, put some big servos on your steering column and have it drive you back home when you're too drunk %-)

    • Control a laser/mirror arrangement which could draw or print phrases on your rear window

      I'd just cheap out and hang one of the red scrolling letter signs from Radio Shack across the rear window. If you build a CAJUN [sourceforge.net] system, you would already have an LCD up front with six pushbuttons surrounding the screen (like an ATM). Just add a "signage" function, and select phrases to scroll across the sign!

      slide in "Hey Asshole..." from the right, pause 2 seconds.. blink "BACK OFF!!" in bold for 2 seconds..

      And don't forget the classic, "keep honking.. I'm reloading." You could have all your favorite bumper stickers at once. And people say you can't have the "Marquee" screen saver on your car!
      • I was thinking more civil things (no need to encourage road-rage) like:

        Check your turn signal

        Please turn off your Highbeams

        The closer you get, the slower I drive

        Those failing:

        My lawyer can beat your lawyer

        Of course, as a good samaritan, you could drive around educating other drivers...

        Vehicle powered by Microsoft Windows, subject to sudden stops

        DMCA & SSSCA: be afraid, be very very afraid.

        AMD coming out with new Athlon CPU in ... 4 days, 3 hours, 22 minutes, 15 seconds.

        The government learns evil from the best: RIAA & MPAA

  • Maybe it's just me, but when I hear about this, the only application I can really think of is MP3 player (since I kind of like to concentrate on the driving aspect of, well, driving) And if you wanted a hard drive mp3 player, they already have the in dash kits where you simply supply your own hard drive...
    http://www.mteweb.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Scre en =CTGY&Store_Code=MTE&Category_Code=CMP
    • Since its slashdotted, I can't see all the details, but folks have added quite a bit to the base mp3-carputer. If you get a full screen, and a GPS receiver, you can do in dash GPS, others have added movies, wireless internet, games, etc. All available on the fly. However, this is FAR from original as another poster pointed out. Check out MP3Car.com [mp3car.com]. There's a bulletin board and examples. These guys have been making DC-DC power supplies and plexiglass cases for a long time.
  • I've been contemplating putting a computer and touchscreen lcd in my car for a while now, for both MP3 and GPS-NAV. (And any other things I decide to do with it, such as security system, remote start, etc...

    My main concern is how well standard components, mobo, cpu, ram, and mostly the hard drive will hold up against temperature swings in the vehicle. I live in NJ which doesn't have the wildest climate in the world but your still looking at temp variations between subzero to 100+. And that's outside the car. Inside can reach 120 or so parked in the sun, and then be cranked down into the 70's within minutes when I hop in and fire up the A/C. Same goes for winter, car is sitting parked overnight at about 20 degrees, and I turn on the heat, and again, within minutes it's 70 degrees.

    I know with alot of electronics such as PIC microcontrolers you can get automotive rated parts that are designed to withstand that kind of abuse. I wonder how well standard equipment will fare though.

    Maybe you can call it lazyness, but I don't want to spend the time and money to design the hardware and user interface, install it in the car and then have it die on me.

    Even if the electronics hold up, I'd be most worried about the hard drive. I thought about compact flash, but it's just not large enough. My end goal is to have it 802.11 enabled, so when parked in the driveway the in car system can sync up with any new mp3's I've ripped and placed on my server. 20+ gig's of compact flash just ain't that easy to come by :-)

    Any suggestions or related information would be appreciated...
    • That's exactly what the dashpc [dashpc.com] is. It's 6.4" touchscreen, linux, Xfree86, wireless keyboard, mp3s, dvds, etc.

      The hard drive doesn't crash and I don't even get any data errors on it. It's mounted sideways, so that's probably why. Worst case scenario, the heads just need to realign.
    • I know that one thing that you can do would be to mount it on a support system with rubber mounts/straps to absorb any huge jars to the car, that might be an idea worth exploring.

      I am ALL ABOUT trying to set up one of these in my car but I really don't know where to start. Anyone have any links/ideas to help?
  • Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by MxTxL ( 307166 ) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @05:00PM (#2480186)
    /.'ed to hell. Mirror here. [internetforums.net]

    Thumbnails won't work, but you didn't need to see them.

  • Might be kinda hard to explain a plexiglass box filled with electronics when you drive into the parking garage of a large building and secuity finds it in the trunk!
  • Beneficial... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by suwain_2 ( 260792 )
    I've been thinking about doing this sometime...

    If I actually owned CDs made in the past four years, I might just get a CD player for my car. But with Napster, Gnutella, and now kza (a Kazaa client for Linux), I've stopped buying MP3s. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this idea had a ton of benefits:

    Skip-proof - RAM's pretty cheap... Take a cheap computer and throw a gig of RAM in, and set a lot of it up as a ramdisk. Go over a bump with a CD, and you'll start skipping. (A hard drive would probably be worse...) But if your next ten songs, and the apps the system's using are all in RAM, unless the RAM physically pops out, you're all set.

    Tons of space - I have less than a gig of MP3s... I know some nuts who have 10+ GB, but you can get a 40 GB drive for like $100 if you shop around. Access speed isn't too important if it's just being thrown into ramdisk.

    Configurable - Can your CD player do Ogg Vorbis? Play other formats? Probably not. Nor could you, say, hack up a Perl script pull the MP3s out of a MySQL database and read the song title with Festival.

    Again, I haven't actually tried this, but I'd really like to...

    • Actually if you had that much RAM and 10+GB of MP3s, you could just cache the next several songs into the ramdisk so they won't skip while playing, and you would get the added benifit of being able to play more songs. Or you could just copy the currenly playing song to the ramdisk which would only hit the hard disk for half a second especially one with a fast bus and all would be skip free.
      • Whoops... I re-read what I said, and I guess I wasn't all that clear.

        I'm suggesting more or less what you're saying - load the next several songs into ramdisk. I also thought, however, that copying whatever the system might decide to access whenever it's running into ramdisk (assuming you have a minimalistic distro... you won't be needed Quake on your MP3 player... although maybe that's not such a bad idea... hehe), so that, should you hit a particularly bad bump which screws up the hard drive, the MP3 player won't crash.

    • When you say a hard drive skipping would be worse than a cd skipping, I'm not sure you know how right you are. If you've got your hard drive 'skipping' due to bumps in the road, you'd be wishing it was only affecting the quality of the sound. Likely you're going to be replacing that hard drive after just a couple skips.

      Since hard drives are designed to sustain G-force pressure to some extent, most normal driving shouldn't muss with them too much. Especially if you use laptop hard drives.
      • Yes, I was actually talking about the danger of your hard drive blowing up (not literally...). I'm not sure that your music would "skip" if your hard drive was skipping... It'd probably crash.

        I re-read my parent post and realized I wasn't too clear... The ramdisk stuff was both to prevent the box from hanging *and* to ensure that your music was nice and smooth. :)

      • Well I think one thing to do would be to mount the drive vertically , since most of the force will be perpendicular to the ground, if you mount the drive connectors-down the biggest problem you'd be likely to have would be to move the heads, but they'd be much less likely to hit the disk.

        Or you could mount it on a rubber shock absorption system, like 1 box inside a frame connected at all corners by rubber straps to the frame. Might help, dunno, but other people have done this and it doesn't seem to be much of a problem?
    • Really? You stopped buying MP3's? That's too bad. If you decide to start buying them again let me know.

  • Without being overly negative, and putting this fellow down for his ingenuity, I just like to say that if something's going to appear on /., maybe it should be a little more original. Dont get me wrong, its a well done project, however I've read countless articles resembling this... i.e. normal computer, HD, modified case, inverter(cough), etc.
    Putting it practically, a whole motherboard and 32 meg ram, etc is all overkill just to decode mpegs, however I guess most people wouldnt know how to program a DSP chip, or implement an mpeg decoder.
    But what is more interesting, and is a bit more ingenius, is having a mobo/cpu/ram/etc, but a custom power supply. Why convert 12 volts to 110/240(australia, etc) and then back down to 12? Also, running such a high-level os such as window$ is also overkill. I would suggest either a really small linux distro booting off a floppy, or maybe DOS. A linux distro (i.e. tinylinux) booting off a floppy would eradicate the need for a hard drive if you played cd's off cd's (which is possible, using automount and find /cdrom -name *.mp3 | mpeg123 blah blah, etc). This would help with the stability/mechanical robustness of the system.
    But again, well done to the author of this project.
  • Installing motherboards in a custom box is easy-easy. Making your own power supply is difficult. In high school electronics, we built computers all the time. Powersupplies were out of the questions. If someone makes their own motherboard/processor/graphics card, it'd be great.
    • Power supplies are among the easiest projects in both hobby and professional electronics. It helps to know what components are available to make your life a hell of a lot easier, like rectifiers and regulators. Many cost next to nothing but are often never used in PC power supplies, to save every last cent. Nobody should EVER use a PC power supply as a reference for building their own. With a decent electronics book (perhaps the ARRL Amateur Radio Handbook for starters), an afternoon of experimenting, a halfway decent multimeter and a few trips to Radio Shack you can make a quality power supply for just about anything. And it's not all that difficult.
      • an afternoon of experimenting, a halfway decent multimeter and a few trips to Radio Shack you can make a quality power supply for just about anything

        This used to be true back when all power supplies were the linear "big brick of iron + 4 diodes" variety. However a proper switch-mode supply is not that easy to build (and Radio Shack is unlikely to sell the specialty transformers, high-frequency FETs, low-ESR capacitors, and inductor cores that you need; heck, they hardly even sell transistors these days).

        You could do it with a few next-day deliveries from Digi-Key, an oscilloscope, an AC isolation transformer (to limit the damage when something fails on the "hot side" of the circuit), etc. However you might just end up paying the $$ for a nice Omron or similar industrial power supply. One with a UL/CSA rating too, so it doesn't start a fire that your insurance won't cover.

        Note that I'm not saying you shouldn't build a power supply if you're interested in that sort of thing (and the ARRL handbook does have some good examples). Just make sure you're doing it because you want to do it, not just because you want to have a power supply.
  • I occasionally do "live" music improvisation with Fruity Loops [fruityloops.com] and other packages.

    I'm too cheap to use a laptop like many other electronic musicians, so I'm building a case out of wood. The original case is too much of a pain to carry, so I just used a plain motherboard on a board [mp3.com] last time.

    Now I'm making a proper case, out of wood, to be painted black. This plexiglass project looks really sweet, though!

    Why wood? Where do mere mortals get Plexiglass and the tools to cut/shape it anyway?

    When I finish my box, I'll post pictures and submit it - this story was accepted, right? :)
    • Just an FYI

      Plexi is very easy to work with. It is probably easier to cut than wood, and it will hold a thread, so you can actually bolt everything together. They also sell an adhesive that is specifically made to bond plexi, and boy does it bond. All very easy to use, and relatively inexpensive.

      Thin plexi, the adhesive, and tap kits (for putting a thread into a hole) are available at Home Depot (and I presume the like). Thicker plexi is available at plastics distributors, just look in the yellow pages under 'Plastics'
  • Plexiglass (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Foxxz ( 106642 )
    I made a plexiglass case too once. but when the computer was near a strong frequency source (radio station or cell phone tower) it would repeatedly reboot. watch out! a grounded metal screen (like qire window screen) wrapped around the outside of the case might help if you find yourself having these problems


  • Does plexiglas have alot of static? Would need to be careful not to fry components. Also...cars tend to create alot of nasty electronic noise..in a plexi case there would be little shielding from this noise (or shielding of the noise generated by the computer) which can cause all sorts of problems.
  • Has anyone actually put together a PC that will control fuel injection, ignition and/or ABS/traction control or what not? PCs are so cheap these days that it would be very cost effective to put together a real time Linux (perhaps BIOS-based?) box with a bunch of RAM for data logging... There would be extra CPU cycles for playing MP3s and what not as well. Hell, maybe hook up a GPS sensor and record mileage. While that GPS sensor is in there, you could interface with suspension components and plot pot holes for people. ABS goes off? Why not create a system that would find redundant ABS occurances and warn drivers of slippery road conditions? Air bag? Call the ambulance!

    I'm sorry... Have I wandered?
    • Easy reason why not: a car is real-time, a PC OS is not. Use an appliance - a tiny ASIC with some RAM, for critical never-can-break sort of things, and a PC for PC things. Imagine what would happen if your DIMM popped out due to road vibrations.
    • Looking at the specs on my 1992 GM car - there is an onboard computer that controls the ignition timing - basically the timing is done by an almost analog circuit with the computer telling the circuit add or remove fuel from the mixture. Given how fast a piston moves in and out of the optimum range for firing the spark, it would be rather difficult to get a general computer and operating system to reliably send the signal to spark. There is a data bus that is available on most GM cars that will tell you all sorts of information - RPM, Fuel Mix Ratio, Governor speed and wheel speed etc. I'd rather have a computer that monitored the bus than have one that tried to replace the computers and circuits already in existence.
    • Has anyone actually put together a PC that will control fuel injection, ignition and/or ABS/traction control or what not?

      Am I the only one who doesn't find the idea of booting your car up sort of, well, to put it nicely... completely fucking INSANE?! Can you imagine having to wait 20 minutes for Linux to fsck your disk before being allowed to drive your car?! Can you imagine having to stop processes before it will turn off?!! Can you imagine what happens when the 12 year old in the car next to you roots your car?!?!!? Can you imagine a beowulf cluster of these?!?!?!?!

      .. Sorry, I got a little carried away there...
      • Could use that to your advantage...
        Observe :

        U use a static RAM disk for storage, nice and fast. disk-on-key comes to mind as a possibility (Do linux drivers exist for the disk-on-key?). Only problem is that you'll need a USB port to use it.

        Don't know how the intricacies of it would work, but the basic idea is that you need the disk-on-key to use your car. Thus, it becomes something of a car immobiliser - car won't start if you don't plug it in.

        If you really want to go hardcore, you could build a portable inkjet printer into the glovebox to print out a log of car usage on demand :-)
    • CAN!

      Most automobiles use a standard called CAN (Controller Area Network) to report things such as ABS status, mileage, etc. All of these things are thrown out onto a two wire differential bus. I actually did my senior project using an 8051 microcontroller to interface with a CAN controller and display data from different engine parameters on an LCD. We used a dummy ECM (Engine Control Module) to spit out random data for testing. I'm sure it would be just as easy to design something for X86 architecture as well. The problem would be getting ahold of the development tools for the CAN controller, and a spare ECM to do testing. Also, the ECM takes an unheard of amount of power because there is a power spike when it turns on so you need a very large power supply to supply that spike.
  • This is a very easy way, that simply works can be found here [sorgonet.com]
    Try at your own risk :]
    • Every automobile manufactured since 1990 or so has a computer in it. Your gas pedal really does not control gas flow directly; instead it is a potentiometer that sends a signal to a computer. Some cars even use specialized PowerPC chips. The operating systems cars use are highly stable; blue screens of death in vehicles really could mean death. I know someone who had a car computer failure while on the highway; trust me, it isn't something you want to go through.

      Anyways, IANAL, but note claims #1-7 all relate to claim #1, which requires the device in question to "control operation of components in the vehicle." As long as your device does not do anything that could be considered controlling how the vehicle directly operates (speed direction, etc.), you likely are fine. #8 describes many vehicles with multiple processors interconnected. The "client" could be as simple as the warning lights on your dashboard.

      #9-#19 all point to #9, which matches what existing vehicles do. A "support" module could be a sensor, a "faceplate" module could again be warning lights on the dashboard, and the "computer" module could be the car engine controlling processor. #20 again requires a "vehicle related" application; I again read this as needing to be something critical to the operation of the vehicle that it could not function without.

      If MS can prove to a court that MP3 players, radios, etc., are "vehicle related" just because they *might* be used in a vehicle, I'd just appeal by asking the judge if celluar phones are "vehicle related." These devices often are multi-function, etc., need to be made cheap, and if MS went after the cell phone manufactuers, we might actually see a good legal fight.

  • Any alternative products to that X-10 remote? I don't want to contribute any money to them knowing it will just fund more of those annoying pop-up ads.
  • Ever since I first cracked open my ][e in the 80's, I thought about powering a computer off the 12V supply in a car. With the proliferation of laptops I thought for sure someone would make a simple adapter to connect the computer direct to the cigarette lighter. But no. That was not to be.

    I realize that some form of adapter is required. Computers require +/- 5V, 3.3V, 12V, and possibly other voltages as well. And the power supply has to be clean - Windows has a hard enough time being stable without the hardware getting fried by sparkplug noise.

    My problem, is why do I have to spend money on a invertor that creates heat (and hence wastes battery life), consumes space and whose only function is to convert low voltage into high voltage only to have another converter (the power supply) create more heat (read waste electricity) change it back? I would love to see a power supplies for laptops (at least) and even motherboards in general that run off a noisy 12V line. 120AC -> 12V DC convertors are everywhere and don't cost _nearly_ as much as 12V DC -> 120 VAC invertors.

    I'm just asking that the world make sense! Is that too much?
    • Buy a basic electronics book. I'd suggest the ARRL Handbook, but there's tons of others. Or search the ARRL's website (www.arrl.org) for power supply projects. All the components you need to build such a power supply can be had at Radio Shack. With a little patience, a multimeter, and the right source of information ANYONE can build such a power supply.
    • There are plenty of regulators out there that are in little 3 pin packages (voltage in, voltage out, ground). Their sole purpose is to convert on DC voltage to another. Now, I don't know much about the current capability of these things but I'm sure that with a proper heat sink they can drive a fairly large load.
  • But man, have you ever got to lose the Def Leppard [skylab.org]!

  • by Dizzo ( 443720 )
    The case looks cool...but I'm sure he can find something better than aluminium foil to go around the lcd screen (maybe find a way to mount it in the dash)
  • Around the middle of the article he mentions why he chose windows, and at the bottom he lists what the system costs, but said nothing about Windows licence.

    Wondering what the thiefs that stole his first stereo were thinking though, and how good they were at writing bat files?
  • by proxima ( 165692 ) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @06:25PM (#2480676)
    Most of us have seen nifty hardware setups with nice looking cases. However, I am much more interested in custom software to make a car computer more customized.

    Anyone who has owned or used a power inverter or more demanding electronics in a car knows that you really can't run it (for long) when the engine is off. An inverter will automatically shut itself off and turn itself on when the input voltage fluctuates (a sign that the engine has been turned off).

    Since the input voltage is only 12 volts, a easy battery backup could be implemented to allow the computer to run while the car is off. When the battery gets low, the computer automatically suspends or hibernates.

    Obviously, these things are already present in every laptop. If I were to construct such a device for my car, I would probably use the laptop as the CPU and connect an LCD screen and monitor/mouse combo (wireless, probably) to it externally. Since laptops have one input voltage, you only need to build a single car adapter (or buy one).

    In addition, plexiglass isn't shielded like the average metal case - you'll get more interference, especially noticable in a sound system.

    I'd like to see setups of a small LCD touch screen that allows the user (preferably the passenger - drivers shouldn't be messing with computers while driving) to easily navigate through things. I think I have seen one such example, perhaps from /., of a Macintosh based system like that - pretty darned cool. Combined with a wireless access card (too bad Ricochet went under) of some sort, it could be somewhat useful for an internet connection. GPS would be simple. Add a wireless ethernet card so when you park in your garage you can access your wireless hub/network (if you have the money to put a computer in your car you can afford a wireless hub). This would make transferring mp3s and other files nice. Perhaps download some web pages for offline reading, a bunch of cool games (and emulated games), and a few joysticks and you'd have a pretty cool entertainment center for the car.

    So, in conclusion, a laptop is an easier (if less creative) choice that is superior to most home-built CPUs, and the peripherals and software is the real place to be creative and innovative.

  • This is using a standard modern PC. How about using a 9 year old Amiga 1200 to do exactly the same thing? Look here [world3.net].

    Quick overview: uses a DSP to decode at up to 256kbps in 18-bit. Has 4MB RAM, of which 1.1MB is used for the OS and software. Has a remote control interface. Takes 8 seconds to boot. Uses 35W of power. Has a custom power supply.

    I think that this is much more interesting that the standard PC based one described above!

  • a) CAJUN [sourceforge.net] - Linux-based car (or rack stereo) MP3 player. Includes plans for powering remote LCD panel from serial port. Replace a 5.25" bay cover on a 1U case with an LCD panel, and put 802.11 in the PCI slot, and it's great in a stereo system. Some people do IR input with LIRC [lirc.org] for album/song/genre selection and start/stop. Someone gave me a RaQ4 which is a great case, but no PCI slot for sound or PC Card slot for the 802.11.

    b) get another StarTAC to share my minutes with as a rolling dial-up for things like checking movie times or raising/lowering the thermastat, setting the vcr, and feeding the cat via Misterhouse [sourceforge.net] :)

    c) I'd use a 12v power supply in the car, but be sure to power it through a special adapter that powers up the computer after 8 seconds (to avoid that weird power fluctuation between first turning the key and starting the car) and sends a "ups shutting down" signal but continues to power the PC for 30 seconds after the car is powered off.

    d) can't forget the 802.11. I've also considered putting a crossover RJ45 on or near the dash for my laptop, but with the 802.11, I can do some "war driving" every time I get in the car not to mention the typical remote updating.
  • Just remember... after everyon's favorite evil legislation kicks in, it will be illegal to build this.

    So get your hacking in now.
  • On my fv24 XFree86-4.1.0 locks the machine up tight as soon as I start it. Maybe I'm doing something stupid (besides running X, that is.)
  • A decent computer in an acrylic case? Don't you read PC week?

    This is another Apple C*be (for we dare not speak its name) those who made the first are once again being relegated to the trash heap of history - and there for so will you - be afraid, be very afraid!

    Whatever this cost, it's too much - I bet it has microscopic cranks in part of the case - which necessitates a class action lawsuit on behalf of anyone who drives by you on the freeway when this puppy is powered-up. I bet the PS is tucked away in a remote place - CHEATING!!!! You are required by the armchair quarterbacks of the PeeCee world to enclose the power supply and market a melting heap that complies to the Status Quo. You must be innovative and cool onlywithin established guidelines. You can't have any pudding if you don't eat your meat.

    The very posting of this story constiututes Undue Hype - you will be personally responsible for any of my stock market losses based on my knee-jerk reactions to potential gains I may seek in the plexiglas, super glue, or Little Rubber Feet futures markets.

    Use of computers in transparent cases has been shown to cause coughs, cold, itchy holes, nits, zits and sneezing fits. Stop this insanity, now.

    Yeah, and your mother uses a non-monopolistic OS, too.

  • Is it just me, or does this box remind anyone else of the computer "Orac" from Blake's 7 [imdb.com]

    Ok, so it is just me then ;-)
  • I'd be curious to know how he got the plexiglass to stick... I wanted to build a plexiglass enclosure once but the man at HomeDepot looked at me like I had 4 heads when I told him that I needed plexiglass so small and that I'd need to bond it together.

    He told me it'd cost a fortune because 1) I would need a plexiglass cutting tool (they wouldn't cut plexiglass as small as I wanted it) and 2) there is only one kind of glue to bond plexiglass and it's very expensive and they don't carry it. Granted this is coming from some random HomeDepot employee who I don't know from god. Is what he said true?

    • Nonsense. We cut the stuff with band saws and dremel tools. They only cut things with a10" skil saw. Sheesh.

      The standard solvent adhesive for "plexiglas" acrylic is methylene chloride. $10 a pint if I remember. It's water-thin and you need to have a good seal between the pieces, but a little practice and it works well. You can also wick it onto a set joint and capillary action will fill the voids in a second coat (keep it positioned exactly - enough of a second try can loosen the first). It's nasty stuff - comes in metal cans.

      Not surprised Homer doesn't have this stuff - small hardware stores might - I seem to rememer seeing it in a Sears Hardware specialty store. We have a plastics specialty warehouse in CT.

      I used to build custom rodent cages for our lab the same way. Do some dry runs - if you can boil water, you'll find the shortcuts and get good at this. I have a see-thru laser that's lasted nearly 30 years made like this.
    • I've done small projects with plexiglass before, and had great success cutting the stuff with a Dremel tool. I use a cutting wheel and very patiently cut along a line which I have previously drawn on the plexiglass. It's cumbersome, and very hard to make straight cuts longer than a couple inches, but it works. You might have success using the Dremel's jigsaw adapter. Using a couple C clamps and some scrap lumber, you may even be able to fashion yourself a mill which you can use to make straight cuts.

      Be VERY careful about clamping the Dremel tool to a table, however. Make sure it's secure as hell and there's no possible way for it to slip. Zip ties might be useful for this.

      As far as bonding plexiglass goes, I've never done it with glue, but aquarium glue works pretty darned well. If you're not too picky about how the finished product looks, epoxy should work well too.
  • Sort of reminds me of the old joke about "if microsoft made cars ..."

    I appreciate that he did articulate his design considerations for choosing windows, and especially the tips on 'streamlining' the install.

    But... as one who only runs MS software on one laptop, as a concession to clients / (backward?) compatibility, i find it hard to accept building what is essentially an embedded solution with a (crappy) desktop OS ...

  • I also under clocked my CPU. You don't need more than a 486 to play MP3s so I took my spare Pentium 233 and under clocked it to 133. This saved quite a bit on the power draw.

    hah! my p90 w/32 megs of ram usually chokes
  • I have a similar version [lobstein.org] of such a computer. I built mine back in april of 2000. Not quite as small as this one, but the idea is the same. One note to the dude who's box is featured here: try this [sourceforge.net]. Beats the crap out of any Win9x/Winamp solution anyday of the week. 'nuff said
  • I wonder if this could be related to my Humanities professor's comments?

    "Reading the Odyssey translated is like making love through plexiglass. You can see what you're doing but it just doesn't feel right!"

    ** "You can compute through plexiglass...**
  • Folks, putting computers into plexiglass housings looks nifty (if it goes with your interior design), but it is really anti-social. Those components put out lots of RF interference and can affect public safety communications, amateur radio, wireless networking, medical devices, radio and TV reception, etc. The fact that the FCC doesn't have the resources to enforce the law is no excuse to break it. Many regulations don't make sense, but this one really does.

    Put this stuff into a metal box where it belongs. (You will notice that Apple puts their computers into shielded metal boxes, even when the outside is plexiglass.)

  • Leaving aside the lack of RF shielding, it's been my experience that getting near plexiglass makes my hair stand up... that stuff holds one hell of a static charge! Wouldn't it just get continually worse if you fill it with electronics? If I'm right, this guy's box doesn't have much of a shelf life...

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake