The Acura ITX Computer Chassis

Published by Andrew Hreschak in the hardware, chassis
Published on 05/29/06 @ 02:51:00 pm using 464 words, and has 12124 views

After much research and building comparison lists of pros and cons, I've finally made my selection. The chassis that will house the Acura ITX carputer is the Akiwa GHB-B05 from Guanghsing Industrial. I purchased the case with a 200W 1U PSU (mine was shipped with a 200W Sparkle Power PSU), which was handy for benchtesting the system rather than running it from my spare automotive battery, which required recharging every other day or so.

The Acura ITX computer chassis, top view

The chassis is very compact (measuring 11x11x3), and has room for 3 laptop hard drives and a slimline CD-ROM drive. It has front-mounted USB ports (which won't be used in this application, so the wiring for those ports was removed and stored), a large top vent, and an exhaust fan in the front-side of the case. The case has two rear PCI expansion slots (though only one is usable for PCI cards, the other for a USB or serial backplate connector), and ships with a PCI riser card...

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Running the System Wires

Published by Andrew Hreschak in the hardware, cables & wiring, power
Published on 05/29/06 @ 02:14:00 pm using 390 words, and has 9393 views

The photos shown in this post represent work that was performed over the last few evenings, and are compiled here into one set which will be easier to follow. First, the rear seats were removed to provide access to the trunk, and to make running wires under the carpet an easier process.

Removing the rear seats on the Acura CL

The seat bottoms required over 100lbs of force to lift up, but once the pressure housing gave way they were easily lifted out and set aside...

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Building a kill-switch for the Acura ITX, Pt 2

Published by Andrew Hreschak in the hardware, cables & wiring, power
Published on 05/29/06 @ 01:57:00 pm using 221 words, and has 11764 views

If you missed Part 1, you can catch up here:
Building a kill-switch for the Acura ITX, Pt 1

Connecting the wires to the Acura ITX kill switch

Once the wiring to the dashboard was run, 3 separate 1/4" spade connectors were crimped onto 4 separate lengths of wire. One length is connected to the under-dashboard 12v power tap, which will provide the incoming 12V power from the battery. That wire was connected to the 'Power' terminal on the switch. The second length of wire was connected to the 'Ground' terminal on the switch, and added to an existing ground-point under the dashboard. It's a good idea to add a new ground wire to an existing ground-point rather than to select some random screw in the vehicle chassis to use as a ground.

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Acura ITX Front-End Design for RoadRunner

Published by Andrew Hreschak in the software, the headunit, computer
Published on 05/24/06 @ 05:58:00 pm using 1835 words, and has 38977 views

EDIT: Acura ITX Roadrunner skin now available in green

I've been working on a skin/template design for the RoadRunner touchscreen front-end application, since I decided to use RoadRunner instead of Media Engine. Both applications are quite good, but I found RoadRunner to be a little more flexible for the specific applications/tools I plan to use in the CarPC project.

The Acura ITX skin has a built-in audio player, audio browser, on-the-fly playlist builder, movie browser, video player, embedded PowerDVD dvd player, embedded Microsoft Streets and Trips, embedded iGuidance, on-screen keyboard, equalizer and mixer, blind man's screen, external applications menu, and skin switcher.

Yes, I can build custom interface designs for your own car computer project. Get in touch by leaving a comment or contacting me through the email form.

Here are some preliminary designs of the touchscreen interface...
Each of these images is reduced from the 800x600 actual size:

1. The splash/loading screen... The Acura ITX system runs on a stripped down version of Windows Media Center (approx 250Mb) and is configured to bypass the login prompt. When the system boots, or resumes from hibernate mode, the user is immediately presented with this screen:

Acura ITX splash/loading screen for RoadRunner

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Fabricating The Dashboard Chassis, Pt 3

Published by Andrew Hreschak in the hardware, the headunit, chassis
Published on 05/18/06 @ 06:40:00 pm using 622 words, and has 18758 views

If you missed the first two parts of this story, you can read all of the details here:
Fabricating the Dashboard Chassis, Pt 1
Fabricating the Dashboard Chassis, Pt 2

The next stage of the Acura car computer fabrication process involved cutting a sheet of plexiglass to function as a stand-off layer between the metal headunit chassis and the burlwood ABS trim which will be visible to the outside...

Ginormous sheet of plexiglass

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Fabricating The Dashboard Chassis, Pt 2

Published by Andrew Hreschak in the hardware, the headunit, chassis
Published on 05/01/06 @ 08:20:00 pm using 479 words, and has 9632 views

It was a very productive weekend for the Acura ITX carPC project. At the end of the day, the dashboard chassis is complete, and the only thing that remains is the faceplate mounting bracket and its related parts.

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here:
Fabricating the Dashboard Chassis, Pt 1

Picking up where we left off, the various cutouts have been made in the chassis which allow it to mount very snugly into the existing mounting bracket that is part of the dashboard in the Acura CL.

Headunit chassis test-mounted inside the dashboard

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Building a kill-switch for the Acura ITX

Published by Andrew Hreschak in the hardware, cables & wiring, power
Published on 05/01/06 @ 07:56:00 pm using 535 words, and has 7125 views

The Acura ITX car computer project is being designed so that the mini-itx computer system will operate in as hands-free a manner as possible. Since the mini-itx system will be mounted in the trunk, we don't want to have to open the trunk and press the power button on the carPC each time we intend to drive anywhere.

By using the OPUS 120 mobile PSU, we can essentially hardwire the mobile computer into the ignition system of the Acura CL. Hence, there is no longer any need for an ON/OFF button on the computer system. Simply turning the key to start the car will cause the computer system to boot up as a normal computer would. Likewise, turning the car off will trigger the computer system to shutdown gracefully (or go into standby, suspend, or hibernate modes).

Since both the car computer and the MTSVO-SC retractable LCD touchscreen will be wired directly into the 12V ON battery tap under the dashboard, the computer will always start when the key is turned to start the car. But what about those times when we just want to pull the car out of the garage to wash it, change the oil, or drive two miles to the grocery store? There's little sense in having the computer boot up when it will just be shut down five minutes later, right? So why not place a "killswitch" inline on the ACC wires which lead from the ignition to the mini-itx system and the MTSVO-SC touchscreen?

Unused dashboard switch slug

I removed one of the unused "slug" spacers from the Acura CL dashboard (similar to the one below), and took a quick trip to a local auto parts store, where I found a simple SPST (Single Pole, Single Throw) switch with a 30Amp max load. True, 30Amps is pretty much overkill for this particular situation, since the ACC leads on the OPUS 120 and the MTSVO-SC LCD draw only approximately 5mA each, but 30Amps were the lowest switches I could find and it didn't make sense to drive all over town trying to hunt down a smaller switch with the oil companies jacking the price of gas the way they are... So... we'll use a 30Amp SPST switch with a pretty blue LED light built into it.

SPST switch mounted in unused switch slug

Taking the empty slug and a hole cutter, we cut a hole as carefully as possible for a manual cutting job, and slid the switch through. The fit is pretty tight, though the switch can be rotated with enough force, so a drop or two of epoxy or cyano-acrylate might do well to hold the switch securely in place.

Underside of SPST switch mounted in unused switch slug

The underside of the SPST switch reveals the Power, Load, and Ground plugs onto which the series of spade connectors will be attached to provide power from the ignition and to pass it on to the ACCessory sensing circuitry of the OPUS 120 and the MTSVO-SC touchscreen. I think it turned out pretty well.

Continue on to Part 2 of this story:
Building a Kill Switch for the Acura ITX, Part 2

Contemporaneous Auditory Narcotics:
or, What my speakers are currently pumping...
Jimmy Cliff - Greatest Hits

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