will meyer

Nerd of multiple disciplines. Father of boys. Employee of Spotify.

Electronics & Software

[Part of my Car Hacking project series]

I have a large and growing set of electronics -- audio and computer/carputer/Car PC gear -- in my car. Here's some information about it (its a Mazda MAZDASPEED3).

Car PC/Carputer Overview

dashcommand fighter main 1
vis 2 center console / gauges
trunk deconstructed
trunk deconstructed
deconstructed trunk

The highlights:

About the install

Here's how everything is laid out:

Computer Equipment

Audio System

As far as audio-only goes, I have a pretty-good aftermarket audio system, sounds great but didn't cost a ton:

The system gives me plenty of input options, except for a CD, by design, and I use it primarily with my Car PC on the AUX line (hard-wired from a USB sound card in the dash). The amp and power distribution is in the hatch, more details as part of my install overview.

Fabricated Stuff

In the top part of the dash, I took out the factory head unit and replaced it with a double-din-capable dash piece I got from a guy in Japan. I took apart the Liliput touchscreen and built it into the back of the double-din piece, which meant I was able to use the bezel that came with the screen, once cut up a little bit. It ended up coming out fairly well, as you can see in the pics.

I put the new Alpine head-unit in an area in the center console previously housing a lighter, coin tray, and other useless stuff, which required fabrication of a mount for the unit, and a plexiglass trim piece to frame it in. I also put a few turn-on switches here (one for the head unit and one for the PC). All of this involved some serious cutting up of the center console. I used plexiglass specifically to give it the gloss black look to match my piano black factory trim.

I made a panel to fit the opening in which a pair of cup holders sat originally, and replaced it with the Space Navigator, a pair of arcade buttons wired to a Mini-PAC key encoder, and an LCD screen. This bolts into the plastic and ends up sitting nicely in the center console down where it is easily accessible, just to the rear of the shift knob.

In the hatch area, I took out the floor and the spare tire and built a custom sub box and a false floor. The top of the sub box sits higher than the false floor, such that with the equipment mounted on the floor, the trim panel that forms a false floor on top of that (with 3-4 inches between) sits flush with the top of the sub. This gives an overall flat floor in the hatch, with a recessed sub cone and a recessed tray of sorts for all of the equipment. This gives me an area in which to mount the current as well as any future electronics in the trunk, in a nice and stable place with plenty of room for reconfiguration, new equipment, whatever. I intentionally set it up this way rather than cutting trim panels to fit specific equipment, as I am sure things will change with the install over time.

trunk, open

To connect all of this, I had the car completely apart and installed all of the wiring that way. And, through it all, I only ended up scuffing a few spots, nothing noticeable compared to the damage its possible to do when taking your car apart over and over again.

deconstructed

Software

This thing is Windows XP. I debated this for a long time, having wanted to use MacOS or some kind of Linux flavor. In the end, though, there just isn't as much software available for the other platforms. Its nice to be able to write code and all, but unless you want to write a ton of stuff and make the coding a majority-time hobby as well, go with Windows (I already have enough coding side projects). The front-ends for Windows are definitely nicer.

The main software in my system is:

Software Configuration & Setup

Getting the PC running the way I wanted it took more time than I thought it would, and I didn't even do a whole heck of a lot. Notable things:

The main things I may still do are modify the boot/hibernate/etc screens via some customization tool, and modify the BIOS logo. I haven't done this so far because I still have back-burner plans ot power the LCD on via a relay that would be triggered by FusionBrain on Windows startup, so you'd never see anything prior to the shell regardless.

So again, feel free to download any of the stuff mentioned here and on other pages

Lessons Learned

Main things I learned and need to remember, if they're helpful:

Next Steps

As soon as things started looking normal again, I started realizing how much else I wanted to do. Things on the plate:

Work-in-progress stuff is in my mp3car.com work-thread.

Pictures

There are a bunch more pics of the exterior, interior, mid-install, and screenshots of the PC in MY FLICKR STREAM.