The Ultimate Car Computer

It is quite an experience to be cruising in your J33p (that’s Jeep in L33t for the uninitiated out there) with the windows down (car windows not the OS) knowing two things with absolute confidence. First, you have a car that James Bond would be envious of, ok well maybe not James Bond but Frank Drebin from Naked Gun for sure. Second, the song that you happen to be blasting (White and Nerdy by Weird All) let’s all the homeys know that you are truly l33t.

This J33p has a lot more horse power than just the 210hp engine. With a Core2 Duo, 2 gigs of ram, GPS, a 250Gig hard drive for files and a screaming ram drive for the OS, it is a pretty sw33t ride. Ok I promise to stop writing in l33t now. It is pretty cool to be able to say “Jeep play artist Wierd All” and have it respond. Of course that sounds like what you can get with Sync in the Fords on the market. However, you couldn’t tell a Ford “play DVD”, or “Open GPS” or dictate notes while you drive.

We worked through Logic Supply for this project. They offer a lot of hard to find products that are ideal for geeking out your ride. We installed this system into a 2003 Jeep Liberty. This article will have four sections. 1. Parts, 2. Assembly, 3. Installation 4. Final Summary.

Jeep:

2003 Jeep Liberty. Yeah we made a pretty fun car really awesome in this project. You can find one of these at your local car dealership.

The Case:

VoomPC-2 Automotive Mini-ITX Case. This case, is built from anodized heavy-duty machined aluminum. It is heavy enough to keep it from jostling around, and the case itself works almost as an extended heat sink. The case has room for a slimline CD/DVD drive. It also has front USB2.0 and audio jacks. This is a case that can handle the harsh vibrations and varying temperatures you will find in a car. You could also easily bolt it to the floor of your car with self-tapping screws to deter theft.

The Motherboard:

MSI Industrial GM965 Core 2 Duo Mobile Mini-ITX Mainboard. With optical out and socket P for sound, you can get great sound quality from this motherboard. It supports the latest Core2 Duo mobile processors and has fuzzy logic systems to keep the system healthy in a wide variety of conditions.

The Solid State Boot Media:

Emphase Industrial 2.5″ ATA Flash Disk 8GB. Clocking in at 4000x, this flash medium is extremely fast and extraordinarily rugged. No moving parts means that you can go four wheeling and jostle the snot out of the thing with no worries. Your OS will boot very quickly and reliably with this drive.

The Ram:

Kingston 1Gb 200-Pin DDR2. We bought 2 sticks to put the total up to 2 GB. 2 GB of ram is the minimum we felt we could put into this systemto get the performance we want out of Vista. Vista is known to be a performance hog, but the improvements made to its media center made Vista the right choice.

The CPU:

Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz. With this 64bit processor you have a workhorse that can do anything you need. It would be easy to find yourself having too much fun hacking and wardriving with this kind of processing power. Of course you didn’t hear that from us. The Core2 Duo 1.8 is a nice cool running CPU. With a lower air-flow case, we wanted to have a cooler CPU to keep fan noise down.

The Mass Storage:

Samsung Spinpoint M Series 250Gig HDD. This will give you enough storage to archive DVDS, and keep quite a music selection on there. You may find yourself looking for excuses to go on a road trip. With your GPS system, you could keep a national database of all the open networks you found in your coast-to coast wardriving spree. How much would a database like that be worth? Google probably would love to add it to their street-view maps… creepy.

The Display:

The touch screen functionality keeps you from having to deal with a mouse in your car. Being 12 volt, it natively works with your car’s power. The monitor has better visibility in high-brightness conditions than you will find in most LCDs.

The DVD:

Slimline DVD Drive. The drive we chose can handle every imaginable format of discs short of blue ray and HDDVD. Its 2 meg buffer isn’t huge, but you could certainly burn music for your passengers while you drive. Not that we endorse driving distracted or burning music for your friends.

The GPS:

Pharos pB010 USB iGPS Receiver. This GPS has been quite accurate on the road. It acquires immediately and keeps up well when you are driving around. Combine it with map point, and you can get turn-by-turn directions, travel speed, and even find restaurants on the move. You could even tie it into Google Earth if you want.

The WIFI:

Zonet 802.11b Usb Wireless. This little thing finds lots of networks that are in the area. I pulled into my garage and had a list of about 50 networks it found on my commute home. I realized right away how much fun you can have with this kind of thing. You will have to download an update to the drivers to make it compatible with Net Stumbler or use a community approved wardriving set up.

The Power Supply:

Automotive 160W DC-DC Power Supply. A specialized power supply is set up to safely shut the computer down when the main power source is cut off. If you wire it with two hot lines and a switch on your primary line, you can run it off the battery. If you wire it with the primary power coming from the accessory, and a hot for the secondary you will have the computer on whenever your car is running. Wiring it through the accessory is nice, though I do wish I could leave the computer on when I make a quick run into a convenience store or something. The dual hot wiring configuration would let you do that without leaving your keys in the ignition.

The Drive Adapter:

Slimline CD to 42pin IDE Adapter. We needed this adapter to get our DVD drive to hook up to our motherboard. The adapter resulted in some tight spacing with the CPU fan requiring a slight relocation of the fan.

One note on power tools: use them at your own risk. Be sure to read and understand any and all documentation on the tools you use. No amount of documentation can make up for experience, but there are many people with serious eye injuries from the school of hard knocks. If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t do it, and find someone that can help.

The assembly for this computer is not for the novice. If you are familiar with computer components you will do fine. There is a lot of tight spacing, but the online documentation is very helpful. The adapter on our DVD drive provided the main challenge. We had to mod the fan by cutting off a corner and moving it slightly on the heat sync to get everything to play nicely together. The case was good to work with, providing a slide out tray for all the assembling needs.

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Inventgeek

I am in many respects the text book example of someone who shouldn’t be successful. I was an outcast in my grade school years, and a poor performer in school, unable to fit the standard mold. Fortunately I found small opportunities that I took advantage of, and coupled with hard work they have guided me to where I am today. I spend my time running several businesses I own, developing new products and sharing what I have accomplished with those that deserve opportunities that they wouldn't get any other way. InventGeek has been a step on a path that has helped bring me success and confidence by the simple act of doing. I encourage our readers to do what they can to better themselves a little each day, because overtime it's amazing what you can do!

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