log of project where a computer system is integrated into a 1997 neon

Monday, September 19, 2005

Tweaking: Software, Shielding, Extigy

Time to start making this thing actually work! I have started to investigate more of the so called "front" end scene and have decided to go with frodo player.

I've found frodo to be well thought out, fast, customizable, and works with embedded album art!!!

The default skin sucks, but I've found that the "brightlife2" skin fixes that problem.

I also think that I might have some interference issues. Either that or a ground loop. Either way there was some noticable noise in the audio from the onboard soundcard. I attempted to add some shielding.

For my shielding, I again went to the piece of aluminium flashing I had laying around. I found that I was able to cut this best by scoring it with a utility knife and then bend the metal on that cut.

The shielding was then wired to the PSU ground and attached use a screw.

Unfortunately, the shielding didn't really help matters at all. I have no friggen idea what is going on.

Instead, I decided to attack the problem another way. I had an external sound card at work that I didn't really need anymore. It is the soundblaster extigy.

Upon investigation of the AC converter, I found that this device requires 1A @ 12V. Perfect fit for the M1-ATX 12V rail!

I plan to modify my wooden case at some point in the future to better house this external card. For now it is just in the back chillin with Poland Spring water bottles.

The good news is that there is no distorition anymore on the audio and the quality of sound is very good.

The only other thing that has been done since my last post was that I soldered some wires onto the XM cigarette power "egg" and wired that onto the 12 volt ignition switched line going into my deck. Don't ask me how but the XM device (and my head unit) must get a pulse signal on this line when the ACC line is tripped from my ignition switch. That basically makes the XM raido turn on and off automatically, as well as free up my cigarette lighter for other things.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Roady 2

I ordered an XM Roady 2 that should come to 10 bucks after rebate, also using a code availbe in fatwallet forums you can get 3 free months of service. So this is pretty much a risk free way for me to try out XM.

One thing that instantly struck me about the device was the station selection switch. This is located in the upper right hand corder of the device. You roll up, down, and then press in to make your channel selection. Using this switch is very uncomfortable. What do do? Let's add our own switch.

The first thing was were to get a switch. I had an old broken receiver laying around that i decided to go investigate. I found a knob type device on there that was used to make selections in either the left or the right direction and then the selection was chosen by pressing down. This was almost a perfect match of the behavior that I needed. Time to start tearing things apart!

Check out all those white buttons. Well save this for later.

Check out this spring loaded door. I can see this being used when I make a housing for my screen.

This is what I was most interested. You can see here the mode selector knob as well as a few simple buttons and a volume knob post which is nothing more than a potentimeter (variable resistor)

Swithces generally work by connecting two
points when the switch is closed. Thefore with a
multi meter you can see when the resistance goes from one (infinity) to zero to determine how the switch works. Using that method I was able to determine how this switch works.

There are 5 pins. 1-2 connected is left, 2-3 is right, 4-5 is select. I also connected 2-4 so i have a common close line.

Using the same method, I determined that the Roady 2 has the following switch configuration.

Notice how small and awkward the switch on this device is.

Once we have both of these switch configurations known, we simply connect wire between the "common", "left, "right", and select pins.

You'll need a pretty steady hand and a good low watt iron on to get these Roady 2 points.

Here is the test rig. I usuall try something out like this before you go tear the entire car apart.

I couldn't really think of a place on the car to mount the switch that I really liked but ended up going with mounting the switch on the center console. One advantage of this is that you can rest your arm while manipulating the control.

This does not seem like a big deal, but when you consider that there are 100+ stations, you don't want to have your arm extended for that long of time.

Here is a (blurry) view of the control knob mounted in the car.

After running power, audio, and antenna wires under the carpet and through the front of the car I'm just going to throw the thing up on my dash for now. Nothing too permanent - I don't really even plan on keeping my XM device.

The end.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Finishing the core install

My girlfriend has informed me that I need more of an executive summary at the beginning of these posts.

As you can see I have take some time to make an initial mounting of my touchscreen. Obviously this is roughed in but I am well aware that to do this properly i'll be needing to make a frame, fiberglass it in, and putty it to the dash.

So, to summarize, the screen is in the dash!

This is the section of the dash that was most modified. I pretty much just winged this process and made some rough marks as to what I wanted cut out.

I pretty much removed the entire section where the two AC/Heat vents go.

Using some scrapwood I made this rig. As you can see I have pretty primitive tools to work with. The cross section is attached by fitting into a dremeled out slot on the right and screwed into the existing dash area on the left.

Here is another shot of this setup.

Once the screen was in a good state to be mounted, I also took some time to run USB, VGA, and power switch wires under the carpet.
This required that I take out the seat and center console, which also gave me a much needed opportunity to clean 3 year old frenchfries, etc.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Custom case

Not much new has happened to this project in recent weeks, as I have been on vacation.
Howwever, just before leaving I managed to quickly fabricate a box for the computer out of some old roommate's (thanks max) cheapo furniture.

Here you can see the case. It is about 32" long, 7" deep, and 6" high.

I added a case fan to the top as you can see.

This is what we look like inside the case. As you can see i have it segmented into 3 sections. The first section will house the motherboard, PSU, and hard drive. The middle section is my junk drawer - screws, wire, tape, tools. The last section contains the cushy packaging that my screen came with.

Protecting the screen was my major motivation for making this case.

The only real issue is that I made the case a bit to long. It fits, exactly to the lenght of the back section of my trunk. Unfortunately, it tapers up which affects the ability for the case top to open. Oh well.

Here is a close up of the components. You can see the motherboard, PSU, hand hard drive. there is a hole running out the back for all of the hookups as well as wires for the power.

Brass standoffs were used for mounting the motherboard and PSU. Doublesided tape! was used to mount the hard drive.

The only other thing that has been done on this project was to run two lines of 14 gauge stranded wire from the back to the front of the car. I will end up soldering these wires to the 12 "rail" (wire) on one of the power connectors from the PSU.

The reason for doing this is that the voltage that comes out of the cigarette lighter on the car is actually much higher than 12V and fluxuates. Some people have reported blowing fuses inside the screen. Therefore these wires will be spliced on to the power connector for the monitor. This is basically the first step in mounting the screen into the dash.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

It lives!

So I took my first crack at installing the system and actually have pictures.

First, what I have done before today. I got my amp wiring kit and installed ground, 12V (pos), RCA, and the inline fuse, making sure to put the RCA and 12V on opposite sides of the car.

I took some care to run these wires under the carpet and the back seat into the trunk.

Here is a view of the wires in the trunk.
  • red 12V+
  • black ground
  • white 12V+ ignition switched
  • RCA connected to RCA female to miniplug

I spent a good deal of time trying to find the accessory line to be used as the switch on my power supply. The logical way to test for this would be to turn on the ignition and search for 12V, turn off the ignition and see if your multi meter goes to 0V.

I was unable to find this situation and instead relied on the print on the insulation of a wire connected to my head unit which ready "12V ignition switched". I decided to give it a shot and plugged it into the M1-ATX power supply and it worked! Party.

Speaking of the M1-ATX, this is basically a ATX (modern day computer) power supply. However, it has some smartness added to it that makes life really easy when connecting a computer to the car.

On the lower right you'll notice three prongs. These are for 12V+, 12V+ ignition switched, and ground. On the left hand side of the board we have jumpers. These connect to a power led, and have two switch jumpers in parallel. The idea here is that one jumper can go straight to the motherboard while the other can go to an external switch. The ability to have a second external switch comes in really handy as things didn't work 100% and sometimes you need to just power cycle the machine at times.

The rest of this chip deals with power regulation, auto turnoff settings, and a sensor that will cut all power consumption once a battery reaches a critical low voltage. Hopefully this will prevent me from getting stranded somewhere!

Next was the computer. I was able to snag an EPIA-V prebuilt system on ebay for 60 bucks. For this I received, motherboard, case, cpu, power supply, hard drive and cd-rom. Once I had my base software installed I started to modify this case to suit my needs
  • remove power supply
  • remove cdrom drive
  • remove plastic outer pieces of case
I then drilled some holes in the case and mounted the M1-ATX using some old plastic motherboard standoffs.

I did run into one issue with this however, when pluggin in my battery terminal hookups, the M1-ATX touched the metal case and produced some sparks. I fixed this by adding some foam to support and insulate the PSU.

A bit hard to tell but this is a view of my USB 802.11 G wireless card and below that is my Holux 210 USB GPS device. Through trial and error I have found that the GPS unit can operate when under the rear window speaker cover.

Next step was to run the necessary wires to the front of the car. I ran 15' USB extention cable for the touch screen USB cable, 6' VGA cable (a pull from my KVM crap), and a 10' USB cable for a keyboard (this is temporary).

On to the screen...

For now I'm just going to dash mount my screen. Two problems with this are the possibility of theft and the dash board is friggen rounded. This has the unfortunate side effect of making the supplied adhesive keep falling off. Using some spare aluminium sheeting I had laying around I fashioned this stylish bracket. This was screwed down into the existing dash mount holes. The whole idea of doing this was to avoid putting holes in the top of the dash for when I eventually remount the screen.

Here it is in all its glory! Not bad for 3-4 hours work in 100 degree heat.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

One 1.1 steps forward 1 step back

Do you believe in karma or some other notion of blanace in the universe? Well I am beginning to view this xbox project as having something to do with forces that are well beyond my control. Well almost beyond my control.

So I have 3 xboxes currently.

1. Version 1.6 hardware modded
2. Version 1.0 software modded (requires a DVD rom)
3. Version 1.0 newest guy, no working power, no DVD, hard drive is locked to wrong eprom, flashing red and green due to failed mod

So my tales thus far have been documented with #3. Now that I list all of these items out #3 was s truely messed up machine. Here is what I did to bring this back to life.

1. Borrow a DVD rom and power supply from #2.
2. Install a pinheader (pulled from and old motherboard) and D0 trace wire for a mod chip
3. Borrow mod chip from xbox #1
4. Lock new 80 gig hard drive to xbox #3

Here is the new part
5. Flash onboard TSOP with new bios such that the DVD check is no longer performed!

So at this stage in the game. All that this xbox really needed was a new power supply. Then however, I pushed my luck one big step too far.

I decided, hey wouldn't it be cool to also have xbox #2 not require a DVD and flash its TSOP. Well I soldered the jumpers to enable TSOP write, ftped my bios, flashed the ROM and - DEATH!!!

The bios must not have transfered properly. SHIT. When you flash that TSOP incorrectly you are totallly screwed. Short of soldering 29 wires to the board to enable TSOP writing, the only solution now is to chip that xbox as the exteral chip will act as the bios.

So here is the new required setup:
1. Xbox 1.6 softmodded, requires DVD
2. Xbox 1.0 totally fried TSOP, requires hardware mod chip
3. Xbox 1.0 custom bios

What a learning experience this has been. Moral of the story, always transfer stuff in BIN mode when ftp'ing and always try and software load your bios before you flash a TSOP for christ sake.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Xbox continues to be a pain

So after this weekend, I still have no action on my 10 dollar xbox. I have repaired the FRAG trace problem, only to discover that the hard drive supplied is defintely not the one that this xbox should have on it. Great...

So this means that I needed to insall the mod chip and lock a new drive to this machine. That's where the problems really started.

New hope after reading this site:

This was a huge help, as once D0 was tripped, it appeared as though the bios was not reading at all. This obviously pointed to a possible LPC problem.

Using a multi meter, I was able to determine that one of the pins was infact not connected properly as it didn't have the correct voltage. Upon closer inspection and following some traces it was discovered that resistor R7D6 is missing.

What the hell? Anyway, this site provided the resistance value for that guy:

Digging though my box of random electronic components, I had my 10K resistor, soldered it on. Voltage appears correctly on broken pin! Hopes are high!

Chip still does not boot. Back to square one, with no leads. Damn you xbox gods!