April 2010 Archives

Sat Apr 3 17:39:02 CDT 2010

Streetcar(puter) named desire

First--finally another entry!

The title of this blog is a play on words. I typically name my computers female names that end in an "a". At one time, anastasia was my primary computer, which I gladly renamed once we had a flesh and blood Anastasia. Anywho, a while ago, I decided that I would not only give F&B Anastasia something special for roadtrips, but that it would be a carputer. We acquired the carputer not long after, and for some reason, I used the name "stella". It's sat in our house since, being used as an extra Myth computer until today.

The carputer is an Intel Atomâ„¢ based system on a mini-ITX board in a custom case (built by a carputer specialist, not me). It is the dual Atom (330), with 2GB of RAM. My vision was not only DVD quality, but Hi-Def. I'm a Linux dude, so there warn't going to be nuttin but Linux on my carputer. I opted for Gentoo, and got XBMC and MythTV going on it first. Now, an Atom does not have a prayer of playing 1080p anything but a still image. But, the fine folks at nVidia, some time ago, made a platform called VDPAU available. This lets supported video codecs be completely offloaded to the (supported) video card for rendering, meaning even an Atom can render a BluRay rip. For stella, I opted to use a custom case that allowed a single PCI card to be installed, and filled that slot with an nVidia GeForce 8400 GS. With VDPAU-enabled XBMC and MythTV, stella played hi-def back beautifully in its year of testing in the house.

My sister and brother in law came to visit this week, and I seized the opportunity for an extra pair of hands to help me fish the wire from our truck's battery to the area under the front passenger seat so I could power the carputer. It turned out to be a larger project than I expected (though I expected it would take longer than I expected, which means I did expect it to take longer than expected and it took longer than that ;) ). We got the 12-gauge (the current I'm using called for 14-16 gauge and the hard-upselling- Radio Shack man only had 22, 18 and 12) wire fished from the battery to the cabin. We then hooked up the remote lead and the ground and.... Nothing! Yay! We then routed everything to the battery directly to test the system in general. It worked, even the monitor fired up on the Woot-ed power inverter. Success!!! Now to get the wires where they belong and get a boot up. We first found out our original ground under the seat was no good, so we ran some more 12 gauge out and under the truck to attach to the REAL carriage. Success again!!! The remote gave us more trouble as I probably had four or five attempts before piggy backing it off the 30 amp wiper fuse. It should be noted that we also installed a 15A inline ceramic fuse with the hot lead that was directly connected to the battery. After we got the remote to work, we then installed a lighted rocker switch and mounted it to the center console under the dash. Photos are all below. The carputer is hooked to a 19" monitor that we bungied to the center console. Yes, a 19" screen for vehicle video! A big thanks to my brother in law Doug who did all of the hard stuff while I was usually standing around watching......

Photos (click for larger):
Overview of the carputer system.
Carputer under seat
The carputer under the passenger seat.
Sound system
The Sound system (for now).
The Wooted inverter
The monitor powersupply (inverter).
The monitor
The 19" LCD Monitor.
Complete layout with keyboard
Complete layout with keyboard.
Override switch (off)
The override switch (off).


Posted by james | Permanent link | File under: News, Geekdom