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MPIntrepid is the name for my project where i put a computer in my car.  I started this project back when i was in high school back before napster was around.  Ultimately (at the time), the project became a lesson on how to build computers since i had never done so before and all the parts i acquired from random people and a good fraction of them didn't work or weren't compatible.  I never really got the entire project finished.  I always had wires hanging out of my dash, the computer had to be turned on and off by hand, and there was a lot of engine noise came through my speakers.  After a few years and a new car I deceided to finish this project once and for all.  This is the journal i kept throughout the project's recent life.


Opus Power Supply

This week i received my Opus powersupply.  My computer had become unstable and would lock up occasionally due to the heat building up in my trunk.  One way to cut down on the heat will be using a computer power supply that runs off of 12VDC.  This is much more efficient then going from 12VDC -> Inverter -> 120VAC -> Conventional Computer Powersupply -> DC power for electronics in computer.

Inverter is about 90% efficient and regular ATX power supplies are 70%. If you do the math by saying your computer power requires 150W. 

150W / 0.70 = 214 W -> need 214W from the inverter.
214W / 0.90 =  237W -> battery needs to supply inverter with 237W

Opus Power supply is about 90% efficient.
Total Battery Watts using an Opus Power supply = 150W / 0.90 = 166.66W

Therefore, if we assume that our computer requires 150W then we'd be saving about 71W of power which doesn't have to be dissipated as heat (recall energy is neither created nor destroyed... so the energy is dissipated as heat).


Installation troubles:

When i set my computer's bios to "Suspend Mode = 20min" my computer locks up at random times. 




Copilot Live Picture

Some people on the forums were wondering what Copilot live looked like on a screen with a resolution of 640x480.

So, here's a screenshot:


Computer Mounting Take 2

I bought a cheap case which wasn't as tall so i could fit it under the shelf in the back of my trunk.  The case was only $17 dollars but it's pretty flimsy.  Also, the powersupply is mounted over the cpu so i'm kind of concerned about cooling.


Here is a picture of my current configuration:

All i did was cut out a slot in a milk crate for my case to fit in and to keep it moving forward it's secured with a bungee cord.  I am using this as a temporary mounting.

I fabricated the mounting below pretty quickly out of some scrap wood i found laying around at home.  Unfortunently it it a little to tall.  It was a last second decision to mount it onto the base board for more structural support.  Had i just used some right angle brackets on the side pieces and then screwed it directly into my carpet it would of just barely fit.  The reason i mounted it to the baseboard was because i didn't have short enough screws to screw the right angle brackets into the wood.  Next time i go home from college i'm gonna make something more permanent.



(Note: Images are a little stretched)


Using Cellphone to connect to internet!

I was curious as to how easy it would be to connect my carputer to the internet.  It turned out to be really easy and there are no additional fees.  My service provider is Verizon and i have a Motorolla T720c.  Using Verison and most other service providers you can connect to a service called Quick2Net which just uses your regular minutes.  So, there is nothing to sign up for and you can connect on nights and weekends for free (if you have free nights and weekends). My account doesn't have wireless web access and i'm still able to connect to the internet using my cellphone.  The steps which you have to take to connect your cellphone to your computer are outlined below.

STEP 1: Get a cable to connect your cell phone to your computer

I had bought a usb cable off ebay for like 3-4 bux about 8 months ago which allowed me to connect my phone to my computer.  (it was some third party cable made in like china)

STEP 2: Get the driver for your phone

If you use a different phone then the motorolla T720c, then you will need to find a driver to allow your computer to use your cellphone as a modem.  Once you've done that skip to step 3.

I found the driver for a motorolla T720 on the MTS website which is a another service provider.   I'm not really sure  what they do exactly but the important thing is you can download a driver from their website at  Install the USB driver, the first option in the program, and you're done with this software. 

STEP 3: Create a dialup connection

So, once i had the modem driver installed i went into network connections in win xp and added a new dialup connection.  In theory all the information you should need is below, however, when i tried it it couldn't connect to the internet.  All the information you need is pasted below.  Or see this link for more info:

Number to Dial: #7772
User: qnc
Password: qnc

The Solution:

After searching the web some more i came across, the smith family website.  On that website there is a section on hacking an Audiovox cellphone and one of the sections is on connecting to the internet using the cellphone as a modem.  Check out this site for VDialer which is a utility which automatically sets up the dialup networking connections so it will connect to Verizons.  After going through the wizard i was able to connect to the Quick2Net service with no problems. 



First Test Drive

Last weekend i went up to Carnegie Mellon University with my cousin to visit some friends.  I finally got the computer in the car and having a passenger for the long trip was great to help experiment with the system.

Overall i'm very happy with how well the system worked for my first attempt at getting it to work.  The GPS software, Copilot Live! worked very well.  It does a great job recalculating new directions if you miss a certain road.

List of improvements which need to be made after initial test drive to Carnegie Mellon Univerity:

  • Provide a cleaner power supply.  I suspect that the inverter is creating too much noise.  For one the sound quality is kind of sucky and also the range on my wireless keyboard is much worse once i started running the computer off the alternator instead of having it running off an AC source.
  • System doesn't survive cranking.  The system has to be turned on once the car has been started.  During cranking the voltage drops and i think what is happening is the inverter can't supply enough power for the computer at this time so it goes into a overload protection mode which requires that it be restarted.  Possible solutions is just buying an Opus powersupply or just making a regulator circuit which is capable of providing 12V over a range of input voltages.
  • Microphone has way too much noise on it.  This could be cause of the noise from the alternator but may also be because the wire is running too close to the power lines for the amp/computer.  So i need to debug this and perhaps reroute it.
  • On the way back to carnegie mellon heat became an issue.  The trunk was packaged with stuff and there wasn't enough ventilation and the system became unstable and crashed :(
  • Control software has a few bugs that need to be addressed
  • Perhaps get a higher resolution screen.
  • Have the GPS software temporarily mute the music when it's giving directions.