Car Computer - February 2005

I've had a hankering for a mobile computer - simply for the fact that I want to have one (aint that enough for any male?) and to extend the mp3 collection to the barovelli-mobile, have permanent wardriving setup, and the ability to NEVER have to ask for directions again.

Cheapness and creativity call for skimping and scrounging. Here's the project in the works:

Bought a case. Boy, this one looks like it will keep things secure!
Brinks case

Can't really tell but the front edge is not the height limit
Height check

You can better see that the hinge end is higher than the front edge.
Height check

First remove the intrusive and useless keylock. I say that because I got this cashbox for $7 since the keys were missing. With that Brinks name, it thought it would be a hard item to crack, I tried the bobby pin thing you see on TV, with the Swiss Army Knife for a lever (I had used that technique on a few desk drawers and file cabinets in the past with modest success) it would not budge! Just before I broke out the power drill, I gave the lid a good tug. It popped open. The lock disassembles and comes right out. There are two tabs in the lid that snap off after bending them a few times.

Mock up - VIA EPIA 600 and a 2.5" 20g hard drive.
Test fit parts

Used a drive adaptor found in the junque box, and a round cable bought for $3.
Hdd adaptor 1

The height of the board & components were REAL close in tolerance.
Why I worry about the height

This scared me first, but I then realized the height issue above.
It will fit

Still concerned about the height, there could be very little space left between the motherboard and the case. What was needed was an insulator. Thin but sturdy. Found this in Office Depot for a buck.
Plastic report cover

Durable Poly Material. Good insulator. Better than foil.
Report cover

Trim poly to fit in the case.
Report cover turns into case insulator

Used paper to make up a template for the motherboard mounting holes.
Board template

Drilled holes using the template. Fit #40 screws and two nylon washers on each screw.
Cutting for IO Shield

I cut out the port side to fit a custom grille/IO shield. Drop the motherboard in. I left room in the front of the box for fans.Mount the board

Fasten with nuts. ahehh heh, NUTS.
Fasteners make me laff

Hard disk template
HDD Trmplate

Template with mount holes

On the where I bought the power supply I bought a custom HDD cable - it has a 2.5" plug on one side and a 40 pin IDE plug + power connector on the other end.
2.5 to 40 pin IDE Cable

This is for a lower profile than the circuit board thing from the junkbox.
Lower profle connector

For now, the drive is on the other end of the box. Might go in the lid better with the low profile cable.
HDD Mounted

Measuring for a future slim CD drive.
5 inches

An optical drive really is not in the plans for this project. It would just get dusty and fail. Any need for a CD would be either an external unit (mounted in the dash?) or via wifi.
7 inches

These are the LEDs and buttons from a salvage case. There will be a parallel set remote mounted by or on the monitor.
Front panel lights

The power supply - a 120 watt solid state unit from
DC to DC Power supply

Close up of the power supply. I may get the power adjuster and sequencer if I need it.

I replaced the '$15 Power Supply" in the Mint box with a 200 watt version - it's now very very quiet, and runs off the Kenwood PS-430 power supply that is for the radios on the desk. One less AC plug.
DC to DC Power supply

The power supply plugs right in to the motherboard.
Power supply mount

Snap! its on.
Power supply mounted

Now to close the case!
Trying to close it

Need to trim the lid so it can close
Audio jack blocking closing lid

Here's it

Straight view. As mentioned, there will be a custom made mesh grille installed on this end.
Closed view 2

OK, after all that fabrication, it was time to take a break and see if this would actually WORK. Here is the full accompaniment of peripherals. The computer, the hard drive, a USB wifi adaptor, a USB GPS and two 1' fans.
Burn in

The fans. The machine runs fanless but the case does need to be vented. The CPU and chipset heat sinks get real hot to the touch, closing them up in the case will not be good for it. I just set them on the heat sinks for the test. Drawing 12 volts made quite a noise. Too much for this project.

To throttle down the fans I used a Zalman ZM-MC 1, a molex power plug to fan adaptor that lets you choose to run the fans at 12 volts or 5 volts. Running the fans at 5 volt to slow them down is better than using a resistor-type fan controller because there is no waste of volts. Using resistance type fan controls reduce the 12 volts to 5 to 7 volts by wasting the rest of the voltage in heat. More heat is not what I want, and low power draw from the power supply is smarter too.
Fan throttle

Hooked up to the test station. There's NetStumbler, sniffing out the neighborhood wireless access points.
Burn in

Surplus Computers was the source of this wireless keyboard and remote.
Wireless keyboard & mouse

The interface is old standard PS/2 keyboard & mouse. I took a chance buying this, to my surprise all of the basic functions worked with no drivers installed. For all I know, there are no Windows XP drivers for this board.
Keyboard & mouse dongle

Stolen from Highspeed PC - LEDs and a switch mounted directly to header plugs.
on board leds and switches

This is the first picture of the 8" touch screen monitor.. It's shown here displaying 'Media Car", a front end for auto related software.

Media Car's MP3 Player. I loaded 11gigs of MP3s, about 2300, on the computer. All of the buttons & sliders work by touch. The touch screen is interfaced on USB.
Playing MP3

The GPS button brings up Microsoft Streets & Trips. 2005, the software that included the USB GPS receiver.
Running GPS

Mounted the hard drive to the case, there are screws through the case into the drive. This was the first time I could actually close the case with it running and not get too hot.
Ready to use

The fan bay detail.
Fan bay

Up and running, enclosed,

I/O shield-grill. - First thought was to cut a custom plate from perforated steel.Lacking the precision tools and patience to accomplish that, I notched the lid of the box to fit the stock plate.
IO Shield

The power plug was installed to the left of the shield. It snaps in. Putting washers under the threaded nuts for the VGA, Serial and printer ports secure the shield.
Power socket

Airflow & Hard drive. Replacing the laptop hard drive with a 100g full sized drive boosted the performance. During this phase of construction the computer is operational as a Windows Home Server. The 7200 RPM drive gave better results using WHS.

The fan is a single 12v 35mm fan that is plugged into the 5 volt line intended for a floppy drive. Whit the lid closed and the rear shield in place the computer runs at a decent temperature.

Fan is mounted to a piece of perforated steel screen.

 Up and humming

Still needed:

Secure the lid.

fabricate mounting tabs.

Find the perfect front end software - trying fuser-something. Media Car is slow to load. Is it the sheer number of mp3s?

Install in vehicle - 1999 Ford F150

To be continued . .