Fabricating The Dashboard Chassis, Pt 1

Published by Andrew Hreschak in the hardware, the headunit, chassis
Published on 04/26/06 @ 10:29:00 pm using 342 words, and has 11398 views

Since I don't yet have any welding ability, I drew a to-scale design schematic and brought it to a local fabricator shop. I supplied them with the outer shell of an old and rather heavy-duty computer case (thanks Alan) from which to cut the necessary metal. The steel was of a sufficiently heavy gauge, and the resulting chassis is fairly stiff. Once in the car, it will be held in place by at least one bolt on each side, two bolts in the front, and a series of L-brackets along the top-rear. That should hold it in rather tightly.

Fabricated chassis for dashboard mounting

A test-mounting of the Alpine headunit and the MTSVO-SC touchscreen proved a precise and tight fit. Were it not for the vibration in a car computer / mobile computing environment, the two units could reasonably be mounted inside it without screws.

Read the full story

Voodoo FBVC14DGU Digital Fused Distribution Block

Published by Andrew Hreschak in the hardware, cables & wiring, power
Published on 04/26/06 @ 09:04:00 am using 355 words, and has 8635 views

I found a local car electronics shop which I never knew existed, and picked up a fused digital distribution block made by Voodoo. It cost only $19 which was a pretty good deal, considering it's an alarmed digital distribution block with onboard voltmeter. The guy at the shop threw in a set of fuses and also cut me a deal on 15' of automotive-grade 8AWG power cable which will be used to connect the Acura CL battery to the mini-itx car computer mounted in the trunk.

The Voodoo distribution block has a nice chromed plastic finish which attracts fingerprints like a magnet. The faceplate has 4 red LED lights and a digital readout which displays the current voltage being fed from the vehicle battery, which is constantly monitored by the distribution block's onboard circuity.

Voodoo FBVC14DGU Fused Digital Distribution Block
Outside view of the Voodoo FBVC14DGU Fused Digital Distribution Block.

Admittedly, this distribution block is a little more than I need strictly for running a mini-itx car computer, but it'll provide extra outputs for future electronic additions to the car, like in a few years when I can install the VR Goggles and drive by thought. ;)

Inside view of the Voodoo FBVC14DGU Digital Fused Distribution Block
Inside view of the Voodoo FBVC14DGU Distribution Block.

All four fuses must be installed, even if all four outputs are not being used. The distribution block will sound a confusing alarm signal without the presence of all four fuses. Since the block comes with no manual, it can be difficult to figure out what the alarm is actually signaling. Once all four fuses are installed, the alarm ceases beeping and all is well in the land of car computers.

Here are the basic specs:

Voodoo FBVC14DGU Chrome Digital AGU Distribution Block

- High End Platinum Finish
- Fuse Status Indicator
- Alarm beeps when voltage is wrong
- LED Digital Voltage Display
- High Current Wire Receptacle
- 8 or 4 AWG inputs
- 4 Outputs / (1) 4AWG output and (3) 8AWG outputs
- Uses 4 AGU fuses

Continue with Part 2 of this story:
Voodoo FBVC14DGU Fused Distribution Block, pt2

Contemporaneous Auditory Narcotics:
or, What my speakers are currently pumping...
Black Uhuru - Ras Portraits

Creative Commons LicenseThis post is the creative work of Yours Truly and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Custom Front-End Design for Media Engine

Published by Andrew Hreschak in the software, the headunit, computer
Published on 04/04/06 @ 10:25:00 pm using 356 words, and has 6840 views

NOTE: The Acura ITX uses Roadrunner as its front-end software.
To view the Roadrunner screens in use on the Acura ITX system, follow the links below:

Acura ITX front-end design for Roadrunner in blue
Acura ITX front-end design for Roadrunner in green

The splash screens you see here were designed for Media Engine during the system planning stages and were never put into use. I spent several days testing both the RoadRunner and Media Engine front-end applications for the touchscreen interface. The system is being designed to be 99% operable without a keyboard (though I'll probably keep one in the glovebox for those unforeseeable scenarios when one is necessary). I initially had a tough time getting RoadRunner to work in my particular hardware environment, though have since managed to get it running properly.

Custom Acura navigation environment for Media Engine
Acura-ITX custom daytime navigation skin for Media Engine.

So I began experimenting with the Media Engine front-end, which installed and ran very smoothly on the MII-12000 mainboard, using only the onboard video. This will allow me to keep the single PCI slot available for future shortwave radio or video surveillance installation. The Media Engine front-end application provides functionality for touchscreen operation of music, playlist management, radio, movies, gps satellite, and external applications which can be configured to run through the Media Engine interface. It also provides for environment auto-switching from daytime to nighttime interface. The image to the right shows a custom navigation design which I created for use with Media Engine's daytime configuration.

Custom Acura navigation environment for Media Engine
Acura-ITX custom night-time navigation skin for Media Engine.

This is the second design which I created for use with Media Engine. This design will be the basis for the night-time navigation screen for the Acura-ITX system. The layout is nearly identical to the daytime environment, but is darkened to reduce distracting glare while driving at night. The glassy buttons in both layouts are all that is needed to navigate through music, movies, gps satellite, radio, and external applications.

Contemporaneous Auditory Narcotics:
or, What my speakers are currently pumping...
Rapoon - Tin of Drum

Creative Commons LicenseThis post is the creative work of Yours Truly and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Open Testbed Setup

Published by Andrew Hreschak in installation overview, research and planning, the hardware
Published on 04/04/06 @ 09:59:00 pm using 601 words, and has 9407 views

OPUS 120 and MTSVO-SC connected to 12V car batteryTesting the wiring and ignition activation.

Now that all the parts for the Acura-ITX computer have arrived, I set up the complete system in an open testbed environment, and ran full-lengths of wiring to simulate the situation in the car, testing for voltage dropoff, audio signal dropoff, etc. Admittedly, the system will probably face slightly different signal degradation, dropoffs, and transients once in a vehicle environment, but until I've had a chance to fabricate a dashboard chassis and faceplate, I wanted to get the system running and the software installed.

Connecting an automotive battery to the Opus 120The Opus 120 connected to the vehicle battery.

Using a spare automotive battery, I rigged a set of connectors and ran power to the Opus 120 DC-DC power supply which will run the system, watch for ignition ON and OFF states, and also monitor battery voltage to prevent battery drain. I ran a length of 10AWG wire from the battery's positive terminal, and connected it to the two yellow 12V input wires on the Opus 120. I also connected the two black ground wires from the Opus 120 to the battery's negative terminal. By connecting the red wire from the Opus 120 to the battery's positive terminal, I was then able to simulate the vehicle's ignition being turned on. (Marked by the red asterisk in the wiring diagram above.)

Testing the Acura-ITX system in an open testbedSimilarly, the MTSVO-SC motorized in-dash 7" touchscreen is connected to 12V power by way of the Opus 120. I did this by cutting the head from a spare molex connector, and using the yellow and black wires to extend 12' of 16AWG wire, which will be the length of wire to be run from the trunk to the dashboard. Since the screen only uses a max of 1.2A, 16AWG wire is sufficient for the job. Once the screen was wired for power, connecting the red ACC-ON wire from the screen to the battery's positive terminal causes the screen to recognize the "vehicle's" ignition being turned on, and the screen opens. Likewise, removing the screen's red wire from the battery positive terminal causes the screen to automatically close. The image below shows the screen connected and running on a bare windows 2000 installation, showing a fullscreen spectrum and voice-print analyzer mp3 visualization. Since the machine will be designed to run without a keyboard, no ESC key is necessary to exit from full-screen visualizations. Simply touching the screen accomplishes the task.

The MTSVO-SC 7in touchscreen connected to the systemThe MTSVO-SC 7in touchscreen connected to the system.

I'm now using my spare time to tweak the OS so that it runs at a bare minimum. I'm experimenting with the NLite installer software for system loading. It allows the user to strip off all the unnecessary garbage so thoughtfully provided by Microsoft, but which causes a computer to boot and run more slowly than it should. The best part is that it allows these "extras" to be removed prior to OS installation, not afterwards. Once I have the system completely tweaked, I'll create a Ghost image of the system partition and load it onto an isolinux bootloader cd, which will allow me to quickly restore an entire system (in approx 15 minutes) instead of several hours, in the event that the system needs to be reinstalled at some point.

The next step in the project will be to fabricate a mounting bracket and chassis faceplate which will house the stereo headunit and the MTSVO-SC touchscreen in the dashboard.

External: FAQ How to wire an OPUS PSU to your carputer

Contemporaneous Auditory Narcotics:
or, What my speakers are currently pumping...
DJ Spooky - Necropolis (The Dialogic Project)

Creative Commons LicenseThis post is the creative work of Yours Truly and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Florentine Burlwood Trim Has Arrived

Published by Andrew Hreschak in research and planning, the headunit
Published on 03/10/06 @ 11:04:00 am using 277 words, and has 8769 views

Burlwood ABS trim sheetBurlwood trim shown against ABS sheet.

The 1x2ft section of Florentine Burlwood ABS plastic sheeting arrived a few days ago. I didn't have a chance to post about it until now, and still haven't had a chance to take a good photo of it since the weather has been pretty grey and cloudy here lately (photo is up now). As soon as there's a decent bit of sun I'll post a photo of the sheet beside a section of the Acura's stock woodgrain trim.

The image above shows the Burlwood ABS sheet. The color differs a little from its true shade, as the sheet was shipped with a peel-away protective coating which I've not yet removed.

Overall, the sheet is very nice. The patterning is nearly identical to the stock trim. The color, however, is a few shades off, being a little more on the brown side than the reddish-brown of the stock trim, but I think it should do nicely since it'll be sitting on a sharp angle to the rest of the trim and the color variance shouldn't be very noticeable. (Refer here for photos of the burlwood sheet installed in the dashboard. The trim pieces located on the left and right are stock. The flat sheet in the center is the newly installed burlwood sheet.)

Notation:
Use a flush-trim spiral router bit for edge trimming.
This material can be cut using a utility knife and a metal straight-edge.

Originally posted 11 January 2006

Contemporaneous Auditory Narcotics:
or, What my speakers are currently pumping...
Shift and Slug - Penguin Rebellion

Creative Commons LicenseThis post is the creative work of Yours Truly and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

M2-ATX Undocumented Shutdown Timings

Published by Andrew Hreschak in research and planning, the hardware, power
Published on 02/16/06 @ 01:55:00 pm using 153 words, and has 5328 views

The M2-ATX (and apparently the M1-ATX, since it uses the same firmware) has a set of undocumented jumper settings for customizing the shutdown timing. These custom timings add a degree of flexibility for the everyday use of the M1-ATX and M2-ATX power supplies for those users who find the documented settings to be, well, unfriendly. The undocumented jumper settings are as follows:

ABCD OFFDELAY / HARDOFF
0001 10 minutes / 1 hour
1001 15 minutes / 2 hours
0101 1 hour / 1 hour 15 minutes

Personally, assuming I end up going with the M2-ATX and not an Opus or DS-ATX power supply, I'll probably choose to use the 0001 setting.

Additionally, (at the time of this writing), the firmware is available for download directly from epiacenter.

If anyone discovers additional undocumented jumper timings, please leave a comment.

Contemporaneous Auditory Narcotics:
or, What my speakers are currently pumping...
Rammstein - Mutter

Creative Commons LicenseThis post is the creative work of Yours Truly and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

USB Extension Cables

Published by Andrew Hreschak in research and planning, the hardware, cables & wiring
Published on 01/13/06 @ 05:48:00 pm using 63 words, and has 1189 views

The project will require 2-3 10' lengths of USB cable, which will be run from the trunk to the dashboard along the centerline of the car.

10' USB-A Male to USB-A Female extension cable $4.99

Contemporaneous Auditory Narcotics:
or, What my speakers are currently pumping...
Xerox and Illumination - Nightshift

Creative Commons LicenseThis post is the creative work of Yours Truly and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.