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Old 19th February 2008, 13:58   #1
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Default Car PC (UMPC) in Maruti Suzuki SX4

Hi Guys

Like all other techos and car lovers here, I always wanted to have a cool and rocking car and then fit a computer in it. The first dream came true when I bought the Suzuki SX4 ZXi (Golden Beige) last October.

Well, there can be a debate if SX4 fits in this cool and rocking category or not but then again, at least I think so. You know “its my car” syndrome.

So now after 4-5 months and saving up some money (which drained after buying the car) I am all set to fit a car PC in it. I know there are several other guys here, who have done it in past but I don’t think any SX4 has it so far.

The very first idea was to fit a traditional carputer (with the parts sourced from net and that popular shop in Mumbai) but then I started thinking in a different direction. I considered having a touch screen based Laptop Like HP TX1200, so that every thing stays compact and hassle free. But somehow I was not very convinced with the idea. Even though TX1200 has a 12” LCD but that was still too bulky to be fitted and operated in the dashboard or similar place. Either I had to go for an additional screen or compromise on the placement of the system. Plus, even after spending 50k or so, it still required an external GPS, Modem and so on. Thus it is ruled out.

Now what I have planned is, to use an advanced Windows Mobile based PDA (you can call it a basic UMPC) and shortlisted Dopod U1000

Dopod International Corp.
Dopod U1000: More than an ultramobile PC
Dopod U1000 Overview - Handheld - CNET Asia

Though it can not be called as a PC or carputer but if we think twice there are several advantages with it. For example 5” touch screen LCD, Pretty fast 624 MHz Processor, In built GPS, 8GB Drive, compact (when speaking about fitting it in car) and so on. In brief these are the pros and cons which I have considered

Pros

1) Compact size which can be fitted pretty easily at any desired location
2) 5” Touch Screen based LCD
3) A QWERTY Keyboard can be attached
4) In built GPS receiver
5) As its basically a mobile phone, so I can get a 3g/Edge connection and use it for all internet related functionalities, plus in emergencies I can always use it as a phone to make calls
6) 8 GB Micro Drive & Expansion slot for another 4 GB
7) Pretty Good Voice command implementation
8) Wi-Fi in built
9) Bluetooth embedded with A2DP profile
10) VGA and stereo out available
11) Charging is no issue and can be attached with the cigarette lighter
12) Easily detachable, in case I don’t want to leave it car
13) 3 MP camera if I ever need that (though I don’t think so)

Cons

1) Its windows mobile 2005 based so no full fledged OS but that is certainly not an issue as I am a mobile developer myself and have a team of mobile development guys (I run a small development company here) so we can develop virtually any thing which is required (or should I say, which is possible)
2) I will surely miss the fun of assembling a carputer and customize the dash board to fit that but this option seems really tempting so..
3) Storage space might be insufficient when thinking about videos and a load of MP3 files

Now I need some suggestions and advice from the experts, like if this is a good idea to go ahead with or I should explore more options.

Another thing, which is the best place to fit it in the SX4, In the dashboard below stereo?

My ideas was to somehow create an assembly and fit it on the driver or passenger side sun visor, so that it would be easier to operate and when required, device it self can be detached by removing the cables and locks (which will be required for assembly)

Please suggest

Lastly, sorry for such a long post but this is the shortest after 3 drafts of original text

Cheers !
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Old 19th February 2008, 15:59   #2
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I like the idea

It is just a matter of placing the unit in the car in an out-of-the-way place. I'd vote for a location just under the stereo.

I'd not prefer the sun-visor location, simply because of the nightmare that routing the cables would cause.

You are going to use the UMPC for ICE also, right? So you'll need to manage a minimum of 2 cables (power-in and audio-out). You can always use an EP to RCA connection to route the audio-out of the UMPC into the aux-in of the car's HU.
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Old 19th February 2008, 16:16   #3
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We do have TBHPians who have done similar projects.
Why not source a proper carputer. We do even have Indian ones at ok prices.
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Old 19th February 2008, 16:51   #4
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Nice idea, but ...

* Costs upwards of 60K
* Does not have USB hub - acts only as a client device on USB
* Additional storage is limited to a 4 GB on microSD, with no chance of an external drive
* GPS not supported with Indian maps that can support search and route guidance (HTC hasn't licked that one yet, hence the delay in releasing TyTN II in India)
* It would be a standalone device; audio integration will be limited to connecting via EP; no video out

On the other hand, you will definitely be a head turner carrying it around - it will not fit in a pocket.
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Old 19th February 2008, 18:45   #5
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buddy for the price you will be spending on dopod, you can make a very good 5.1 carputer fixed properly and a dedicated system. considering your budget go for a dual core setup, a motherboard which supports two displays and touch screens., there is no end to what else you can add to it.
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Old 19th February 2008, 20:07   #6
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Hey

Thanks for all these replies. To clarify some of the points you guys have mentioned.

Hydrashock - Yes, I will be using it for ICE as well so two cables for now, audio and the power. Later on I plan to use a Bluetooth based HU and at that time audio cable will be gone. However, the biggest hurdle is the steering controls which will be lost when replacing the OEM ICE. I guess, I will wait until some compatible HU is introduced to retain the steering control functions

Jkdas – Well, with a proper carputer, first thing it is bulky as compared to UMPC. Plus, I live in Bikaner (deserted area in Rajasthan) so temperature is really high (some times even 48-50 C during summers) so I have my own set of doubts on carputer. Where as for this Dopod thing, I can detach that if the car is parked in such hot place.

Deralte & Gigy – The biggest concern of price, I have a guy who bought a Dopod from Singapore and later on found it too bulky to be used as phone and I guess I can get that 1 month old device for 30K or so.. Now how does that sound !

For USB, I agree it can not act as hub but I really can’t think of any USB device which I need to connect.. any ideas ? GPS functions, Google maps mobile version works pretty good on that part, even for Bikaner so that was my idea. And yes, this have a VGA out so that is no problem.

Cheers !
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Old 20th February 2008, 00:55   #7
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What about using a Asus EEEPC instead?
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Old 20th February 2008, 11:55   #8
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Yeah, the Asus Eee PC makes more sense (Croma has the 4G model for 17K). Has Wifi, BT, 7" screen, decent keyboard, card reader, sound, runs out of the box, ... BUT
* Doesn't have built-in GPS that @maheepgupta wants
* No USB hence no external GPS either, and no external drive possibility

That way at 30K the second hand U1000 makes more sense.

@maheepgupta: by video we normally mean the composite output on RCA that can be connected to the chalu roof-mounted LCD screens, which don't come with a VGA i/f.
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Old 20th February 2008, 12:56   #9
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Been there done that.. I mean.. Trying to use a pocketPC as a "CarPC". Luckily, I had an old Imate Jam to use as a guinea pig and not some expensive WM phone. The biggest problem you will have is POWER. Sourcing it from the cigarette light charger will be unsafe. I ended up burning the Jam's battery pack and blowing a few fuses in the car.

Even if you do get past this and able to source stable power (I think USB is 5v), these PocketPC batteries discharge faster than they recharge, especially when you use GPS. Which means that sooner or later, the phone is just gonna switch off even if it is connected to and charging from a power source.

Last edited by spadival : 20th February 2008 at 12:58.
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Old 20th February 2008, 13:28   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spadival View Post
... I ended up burning the Jam's battery pack and blowing a few fuses in the car...
How did you manage to do that? Doesn't make sense - since the power levels are less than 20VA, not enough to blow a fuse unless you are using 1A fast-blow tubular!!!
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Old 20th February 2008, 14:10   #11
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Initially it was a problem with my mechanic connecting the cig lighter with the +ve and -ve terminal interchanged . Thankfully, just the fuse (15A) blew.. rather dramatically, with puffs of smoke coming from the dashboard .

Once that was fixed, one of those rubbish chinese made cig light chargers did further damage by not working as expected and burnt up taking my phone battery with it..
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Old 7th April 2008, 20:30   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DerAlte View Post
Yeah, the Asus Eee PC makes more sense (Croma has the 4G model for 17K). Has Wifi, BT, 7" screen, decent keyboard, card reader, sound, runs out of the box, ... BUT
* Doesn't have built-in GPS that @maheepgupta wants
* No USB hence no external GPS either, and no external drive possibility
I have an Asus EEEPC (4G) and it has external USB Ports. I guess all models have them...But there are no BT options available on Asus EEEPC models as yet but could easily be added with a BT USB dongle.

A USB GPS mouse or a BT GPS could easily add the GPS functionality.

If you are adventurous, both GPS and BT can be integrated into the EEEPC itself. You can even add a touchscreen to it at an affordable cost. Google around and there are lots of tutorial available to do all these and more.

Visit EeeUser ASUS Eee PC EeePC Forum for a start.

The performance of EEEPC is also decent. I've upgraded to 2GB RAM and installed an Nlite'd version of XP Pro as well as Office 2K3. Boots up completely in 18 seconds flat and has decent performance for everyday applications. Have also used iGuidance with an external USB GPS mouse and performed very well during my recent trips.

For added storage space, you could add an 8/16GB SDHC card into the EEEPC internal card reader.

The 7" Widescreen though not transreflective has decent daylight viewability

I'm convinced that this can become a very good CarPC and if you could mod enough can be integrated into the dash itself. Just add a touch screen...

BTW Asus is coming up with a 9" model with touch screen for ~$500 sometime next quarter.
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Old 7th April 2008, 21:20   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Vampire View Post
I have an Asus EEEPC (4G) and it has external USB Ports. I guess all models have them...But there are no BT options available on Asus EEEPC models as yet but could easily be added with a BT USB dongle.

A USB GPS mouse or a BT GPS could easily add the GPS functionality.

If you are adventurous, both GPS and BT can be integrated into the EEEPC itself. You can even add a touchscreen to it at an affordable cost. Google around and there are lots of tutorial available to do all these and more.
Yeah ! it has three USB ports. But intially it come with Xandros, a version of linux. (newer models have XP i guess). OS is strpped to save space.

All in all only a bit more than a GB is available for User after installing OS and basic softwares.

I don't think you can add touch screen functionality to it.!
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Old 7th April 2008, 22:43   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SirAlec View Post
...I don't think you can add touch screen functionality to it.!
Sure you can - check out the on YouTube.

For more storage, one can always use a Passport drive - just don't bother booting off it.

Last edited by DerAlte : 7th April 2008 at 22:45.
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Old 8th April 2008, 00:16   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SirAlec View Post
Yeah ! it has three USB ports. But intially it come with Xandros, a version of linux. (newer models have XP i guess). OS is strpped to save space.

All in all only a bit more than a GB is available for User after installing OS and basic softwares.
Out of 3.71GB available space, after installation of XP Pro (SP3), Office 2003, Avast Antivirus, some other small utilities, I still have 2.6 GB free space which is good enough for normal usage... The key is to reduce the size of WinXP installation by using Nlite. Default WinXP install will waste too much space.

Nlite is a wonderful too to work with, but for starters, follow the below link for a step-by-step guideline to strip XP off its flab for EEEPC installation.

nLite Windows XP Install on Asus Eee PC
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