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Car PC Hacks: Tips & Tools for Geeking Your Ride



Car PC Hacks: Tips & Tools for Geeking Your Ride

Every so often a book comes along that captures enough of your curiosity that you pick it up. It is a special book that transforms that curiosity into rabid imagination. O Reilly s Car PC Hacks is a special book. Microsoft has been at its WinCE-based Automotive Platform ( for several years, but it has yet to blossom beyond the handful of premium automobiles it has been tuned for. Rather than wait for Microsoft and its automotive partners to offer an affordable AutoPC, consider building your own Car PC using the encouraging 75 suggestions, or hacks, discussed in this book. Learn how to select the parts, assemble the pieces, install the device, configure the apps, and enable the system with Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi-friendly applications for an exciting mobile PC experience.


After the obvious disclaimers indemnifying anyone associated with the book from any responsibility for damages to a hacked car and PC system, the hacks start off with the basics of an average car s electrical system and how to understand and harness the power it provides. Readers don t require an electrical engineering degree to perform these hacks, but should be prepared to go shopping for amp meters, special drills, various wire cutters/crimping tools, fuses, and perhaps even a new battery and alternator. The best advice for first time Car PC enthusiasts is a 12 volt power supply for prototyping the design and power requirements before cutting into a car s firewall and irreparably committing to a design that might fry the car s electrical system ... or worse! After teaching readers about amplifiers, cabling, head units, adapters, and bus connectors, the fun finally begins with audio system hacks, from cheap auxiliary input additions for amplification of portable audio devices over an existing car stereo to the less daunting use of FM modulators or cassette adapters to broadcast the signal without having to make any car stereo equipment modifications.


Video is next; several VGA touchscreen models, along with the challenges of mounting the screen on or even embedding it into the dashboard, are suggested. Personally, I wouldn t perform such an operation unless I had a clunker that wouldn t be worth any less if the installation was botched. Nevertheless, for those fearless enough and/or with access to the right molding equipment, several examples exist in the book and on the Web of incredible custom in-dash installations that look as natural and seamless as the car s original in-dash radio.


PC motherboards, Mac Minis, and embedded hardware provide the brains to drive the display, and the book examines each of these options. Input in the form of infrared remotes, touchscreens, voice recognition using Microsoft s Speech API, and haptic (touch) interfaces are investigated. Data transfer via USB flash drives, WiFi, or a mobile phone s painfully slow GPRS connection are also explored. The book closes with freely available Windows software that can be executed on the Car PC s hardware, already optimized for font and menu sizes necessary to easily navigate small touchscreen selections.


Overall, Car PC Hacks is an entertaining diversion from the usual selection of computer-oriented books available today. And who knows, it just might provide the inspiration for a motivated programmer to develop the killer .NET-enabled mobile communication application that will transform a lengthy commute into a highly productive, information-rich experience.


Mike Riley



Title: Car PC Hacks: Tips & Tools for Geeking Your Ride

Authors: Damien Stolarz

Publisher: O Reilly

ISBN: 0-596-00871-6

Web Site:

Price: US$24.95

Page Count: 382



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