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Old 19th May 2011, 18:45   #1
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Arrow Laputer / Carputer - Why & How in the Tata Safari

Well , just as every other time , I am back again with a wierd query . Hearing people putting carputers in their lovable rides I always wondered why would somebody need a Computer in a car . Off late realised " EVEN I need ONE " .

Without pulling things , would come straight to the point .

The car in question is a 2.2 Safari and I feel like adding a carputer / computer to it .

Current setup runs as follows :

JBL components for front .
JBL 6*9 coaxials for the rears .
Sony Xplod DVD 1202 - Head Unit
Two 9" LCD screens for the rear seats .
A 4800 W - 6 channel AMP to run the above setup

The current setup provides all the required output . Just looking at the people using the carputers and baosting about its skills , I feel like installing one in conjunction with the current setup .

Spares available :

OBD II ELM 327 Bluetooth dongle
A spare Laptop (running 2 Ghz , 250 GB HDD , 3 GB RAM )

The Intent :

Since the laptop is spare and I dont want to shell out a bomb , I was wondering if it would be possible to integrate it with the current running setup to make a sort of portable carputer or should I say a " Laputer " which may or may not be removed from the car .

To Buy List :

7" Touch screen for interface .
Cables / connectors for a plug and play setup .
A power supply / invertor as I understand
Centrafuse or some other Front end for navigation purposes .

Outputs required from the setup :

Excellent music through the current setup .
One spot storage for all data .
Navigation Aid
On Board Diagnostics
A excellent browsing experience ( just like a 2- DIN system )



Least to say GURUS please suggest the feasibility with details on the costs involved .
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Old 19th May 2011, 19:57   #2
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer ... Why / How ??

Why don't you read through @frankmehta's sticky thread?

Your first and foremost problem, assuming that you wouldn't like to discard the DVD HU, will be where to mount the 7" touchscreen. If you discard the DVD HU, you can perhaps get a 7" retractable touchscreen and mount it the regular HU location. Mounting the touchscreen on the dash (with a stand stuck on the dash) will be a real pain in terms of the ergonomics, exposed cables and security. I mounted my touchscreen on a flexible extension anchored to one mounting bolt of the passenger seat. This way, you will be incrementally adding to your system, without disturbing the existing setup.

Mounting the carputer in a Safari is not a big problem - under the front passenger seat is a safe location with decent airflow.

If you want to use your laptop, you will face the problem of charging it - you will need an inverter to feed the brick. The disadvantage is that you will be unable (or have to use unusual settings) to shutdown or hibernate the laptop when the key is taken off. The DC-DC power supply boards for Carputers work directly off the 12V battery, and respond to the Accessory signal from the key elegantly.

Last edited by DerAlte : 19th May 2011 at 20:02.
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Old 19th May 2011, 21:16   #3
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer ... Why / How ??

I also heard that those 12V DC-220V AC inverters induce noise in the audio setup. Moreover, efficient ones are hard to come by!
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Old 19th May 2011, 23:02   #4
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer ... Why / How ??

Give the laptop away. Do a basic pc. The latest ones have much better on board audio than the oldies.
Let's just say that adding an old Fujitsu laptop is like flogging a dead horse. Heat, power issues etc. will make the machine a less-than-reliable car pc.
The most reliable car pc's are those with solid power supplies meant for running pc's in a car. Don't get inverters etc. They are not too good over a longer run.

My 2 cents of advice!
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Old 20th May 2011, 11:32   #5
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer ... Why / How ??

The message seems clear to me " DO NOT USE THE LAPTOP " due to the isssues highlighted . Well now thinking it doing the other way as suggested by Frankmehta , a basic carputer setup .

Few questions that immediately come to mind :
  • What exacatly wwould be a basic configuration ??
  • Cost for the Components ??
  • Would the HU be retained or it goes away ??
  • I understand that to place a touch screen , the HU needs to go off but how about some plug and play setup for the screen on the dash .
Have read / searched through various threads just to confuse myself more . Pardon my ignorance .


Any detailed pointers would help .
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Old 20th May 2011, 15:26   #6
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer - Why & How in the Tata Safari

I've had both laptop based and discrete PC components based carputers in the past. Since you already have a spare laptop, I wouldn't totally dismiss the laptop based solution if your laptop is power efficient (not the old P4 based ones) and if the battery still holds up charge for 1-2 minutes minimum. Having said that, with a laptop based system, you will have to live with few very minor or mostly ignorable compromises like no possibility to add PCI expansion cards.

High quality USB DACs are available if the only upgrade required is audio. If you want very high end studio quality audio processing, ignore the laptop route for now.

You can use a laptop Car adapter connected to the ACC line for powering the laptop. They come cheaper than automotive ATX power supplies.

All ATX power supplies designed for cars are not designed the same. For them to control the ON-OFF behavior with ignition, they all need to be directly connected to the battery and their IGN monitor line to ACC. The problem with this scheme is even the most popular M2/3/4-Series of ATX power supplies has very high standby current draw (some 30-80 mA IIRC) and it would drain battery if left unattended for weeks together. Opus power supplies are a bit better here but not too different. This works to advantage in case of a laptop based systems since nothing is left to chance.

Switch-On based on ignition is not very straight forward with laptops. If your laptop supports WOL, it is one of the solution. Else a very easy DIY solution exists to tap into the power switch button and using a momentary relay. I can direct you to schemes mentioned on Mp3Car forums if you are interested. They work like a charm.
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Old 20th May 2011, 16:15   #7
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer - Why & How in the Tata Safari

Laptop is a STRICT NO NO. There is nothing you can do with Laptop except connect in AUX of your existing HU (If option available) & run both the machines. I was novice enough to even mentioning that thing on FM's thread & later regretted it.

Raab Rakha.

Last edited by ariesonu : 20th May 2011 at 16:17.
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Old 21st May 2011, 19:45   #8
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer - Why & How in the Tata Safari

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariesonu View Post
Laptop is a STRICT NO NO.
^ Care to explain why?

I too would not recommend a laptop based carputer if you were to buy a new expensive laptop as the base for your carputer. But if you already have one which is lying unused, why not put it to good use? Even laptops with a busted LCD would serve the needs for more than 90% of the users here.

The only valid disadvantage of a laptop based carputer is its limited expandability due to lack of PCI/x slots...Even then, it may not be a disadvantage for a majority of users here. USB/Firewire based expansion possibilities are more than enough for the bulk of the users who would not delve into studio quality sound processing and the likes. Even studio quality sound processing is not ruled out on laptops but the cost might shoot up when compared to cheaper PCI based solutions possible with a desktop. Less number of USB ports? Use a USB hub.

Laptop based carputers have some inherent advantages which should not be overlooked.

Laptops (centrino and above) are very power efficient by design than their equivalent desktop counterparts. Better power efficiency translates to low heat generation and no extra cooling needs. You can even stash them inside the glove box (that's what I did with my first install).

Laptops are rugged by design (comparatively) which suits the CarPC environment. A desktop motherboard and its mountings are not designed to survive the shock and vibrations an automobile goes through. Please have a look at the way a laptop base-board is securely mounted and mechanically supported at multiple points and how a desktop motherboard is suspended and you'll understand. I'm not telling a desktop motherboard wont survive long, but a laptop stands a better chance here.

Also if you have a docking station, installation/removal is a piece of cake than fiddling around with dozens of cables and connections. This comes very handy while giving the car for service.

Head over to MP3Car.com - Recent Blogs Posts - Blogs which is considered the mecca of Car Computing and you might find even some seasoned experts using laptop based installs for its obvious advantages.

When should you look beyond laptops? Unless you do 30fps HD Quality Video Recording (Ex. 720p/1080p Dash Cam), a 1.5-2Ghz laptop is more than enough for 99.9% of the carputer needs. If your install needs multiple 30fps HD Dash cam's, look for 3GHz or above processing capabilities. This was the only reason I switched to desktop parts based car'puting. Also multi-zone entertainment, but there is only limited SW support available for multi-zone yet.
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Old 22nd May 2011, 01:01   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Vampire View Post
Also if you have a docking station, installation/removal is a piece of cake than fiddling around with dozens of cables and connections. This comes very handy while giving the car for service.

Head over to MP3Car.com - Recent Blogs Posts - Blogs which is considered the mecca of Car Computing and you might find even some seasoned experts using laptop based installs for its obvious advantages.

When should you look beyond laptops? Unless you do 30fps HD Quality Video Recording (Ex. 720p/1080p Dash Cam), a 1.5-2Ghz laptop is more than enough for 99.9% of the carputer needs. If your install needs multiple 30fps HD Dash cam's, look for 3GHz or above processing capabilities. This was the only reason I switched to desktop parts based car'puting. Also multi-zone entertainment, but there is only limited SW support available for multi-zone yet.
Digital Vampire,
Last year me and my friend did a laptop based install in his car.
He had a IBM lying around and we bought a port replicator/dock and installed the laptop under the seat. The laptop can be removed and put back in under 15 seconds. The laptop battery gives about 90 minutes runtime, brilliant for using the system with the car turned off.
It works like a charm and since he just does NAV/Music/Internet Radio it fits his requirements perfectly. Used Shut Controller to shutdown/hibernate and a discrete momentary switch to turn it on. A simple install to the core. So if someone needs to just use the carpc for music/nav/internet and has a laptop lying around, by all means one should use it.
Cheers
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Old 22nd May 2011, 21:28   #10
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer - Why & How in the Tata Safari

Hey gotzuk

I've seen that install on Mp3Car before. Very clean integration with the dash but I'd never get courage to advocate running 220V AC inside the car!!!
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Old 22nd May 2011, 22:02   #11
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer - Why & How in the Tata Safari

Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Vampire View Post
Very clean integration with the dash but I'd never get courage to advocate running 220V AC inside the car!!!
It causes more trouble than is necessary. This install was done on a shoestring budget and only the screen was bought online. Rest everything was procured locally and hence the AC-DC converter, though I did not recommend it even then.

But if one wants to do a laptop install minus the 220V, then, the laptop can be powered by a dc-dc car charger like this one.
The monitors come with a car adaptor (DC) and Carnetix sells a DC powered USB hub ( can't really do a laptop based installed without a USB hub, can we?) . And lastly power these through a dc-dc regulator and voila, no more 220V.

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Old 26th May 2011, 15:06   #12
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer - Why & How in the Tata Safari

Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Vampire View Post
already have one which is lying unused, why not put it to good use?

Exactly my thought

Valid disadvantage of a laptop based carputer is its limited expandability due to lack of PCI/x slots...

Dont need sound card expansions etc as the laptop is fully functional .

Less number of USB ports? Use a USB hub.

Bingo ! you read my mind

Better power efficiency translates to low heat generation and no extra cooling needs.

I am really unsure about this (heat factor)

Laptops are rugged by design (comparatively) which suits the CarPC environment.

Theoritically Yes , but need to test that in parcticality .

A docking station.This comes very handy while giving the car for service.

This has now been included in the To Buy list , Thanks !!

Head over to MP3Car.com - Recent Blogs Posts - Blogs which is considered the mecca of Car Computing

Done , but got more confused so thought of returning back to our Tech heads who can put it in a much simpler way .

When should you look beyond laptops?

I don't have a valid reason nor the intent for that .
As mentioned the Laptop I have is a Compaq machine , fully functional , good battery backup (almost 90 mins ) . Just that it has been lying idle thought of putting up in the car .

Quote:
Originally Posted by gotzuk View Post
a laptop based install in his car.

bought a port replicator/dock and installed the laptop under the seat.

A pic might help my slow mind .

The laptop can be removed and put back in under 15 seconds. The laptop battery gives about 90 minutes runtime, brilliant for using the system with the car turned off.

The same is what I am looking at

It works like a charm and since he just does NAV/Music
Precisely my requirements .

a discrete momentary switch to turn it on.

Please ellaborate , what and how ?

So if someone needs to just use the carpc for music/nav/internet and has a laptop lying around, by all means one should use it.

Thanks thanks and many more for the motivation .

Cheers
Thanks guys for the much needed words of inpiration . motivation . I have a few queries mentioned inline . Solicit your help ! I have a fully functional laptop that gives a good battery backup . All I want is a setup in which I can place the laptop when I get in the car and have the ease of reamoving it when I don't need it . I am a noob at Carputing hence really confused with the best options to charge the laptop inside the car . Any detailed pointers to power supplies / convertors / regulators would help .

Also what hardware / software I would need to use navigation maps with the laptop setup being talked about .

Thanks for the patience and looking anticipating detailed guidelines
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Old 26th May 2011, 15:24   #13
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer - Why & How in the Tata Safari

Happy to help!!!

Please publish the laptop model number and also explore if your model supports WOL/WOR (Wake On LAN/RING). A lot of them wont support it (including mine) but it is one of the options if you need the laptop to automatically switch ON with you IGN switch.

If WOL is not supported you'll have to extend the 2 contacts of the laptop power switch to the outside world. If you are handy with opening the laptop and soldering a couple of wires, the easiest way is to re-purpose the unused telephone modem socket connection for this need. That way all connections remain portable.

Laptop DC-DC converters like the ones published by gotzuk is available cheap and aplenty on eBay.

How many USB ports does your laptop have? Depending on the USB port number and your needs, you may be able to avoid a USB hub. You'll need one port each for the following.

GPS Puck: USB GPS receiver is recommended than Bluetooth ones.
OBD-2 Scanner: If required and supported by your car. (EDIT: Just realized you already have a BT one...)
DIY ON-OFF Controller: This strictly does not require a dedicated USB port since all it does is monitor whether the laptop is ON or not by detecting the VBUS (5V) status.
USB DAC: In case you are not happy with the audio-out quality from laptop.
Touchscreen Controller:

Side Note: Not all laptop models support docking stations. Some business laptops from HP/Compaq and most from IBM does.

Last edited by Digital Vampire : 26th May 2011 at 15:47.
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Old 26th May 2011, 19:55   #14
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Default Re: Laputer / Carputer - Why & How in the Tata Safari

Quote:
Originally Posted by jealousdiamond View Post
bought a port replicator/dock and installed the laptop under the seat.

A pic might help my slow mind .
I don't have pics on me right now. But I think this pic of the IBM Port Replicator II we used. It cost around 10 dollars off eBay IIRC. All the cables (VGA, USB, Charger, Audio, Keyboard/Mouse) are attached to the IBM dock, the laptop just snaps into place in dock and it makes taking out the laptop a breeze since there are no cable to unplug. But I don't think this kind of a dock/port replicator is available for a lot of other brands.
ThinkPad Port Replicator II
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jealousdiamond View Post
a discrete momentary switch to turn it on.

Please ellaborate , what and how ?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Vampire View Post
you'll have to extend the 2 contacts of the laptop power switch to the outside world. If you are handy with opening the laptop and soldering a couple of wires
Just as he said. There is a nice write for the startup switch if you are the DIY types Simple and Clean Remote Laptop Power Switch

Quote:
Originally Posted by jealousdiamond View Post
Also what hardware / software I would need to use navigation maps with the laptop setup being talked about .
As for the software, I would recommend Win7 as the OS, if your laptop supports it. Its much much better than XP's and Vista's put together.

Then you would need a frontend for controlling the PC in the car. Centrafuse is one of the slickest and works out of the bag. Costs ~ USD80
RideRunner is another, needs loads of configurations to make it run but if you can get it right, ultimately, way more customizable/usable than the CF.

In CF, for SatNAV you can use the in built in software, Destinator, paired with Satguide/MMI maps or if you can :ahem: find a copy of Garmin Mobile PC (Garmin has discontinued the software), you can run the same maps on it as well. Much more user friendly(at least for me). Then you have the google maps plugin, if you have an internet connection. Of course you would need a USB/Bluetooth GPS reciever for getting the loaction data and for these software to work.

There is a lot lot more to it than what can be mentioned in a few paragraphs.
The mp3car forum should be taking up lot of your time if you are thinking carpc.
If it is not, yet, it should from now on. Arcane info bank for all things carpc!

Cheers
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