Project idea #2: Car­puter

APC Australia - - » Mini-pc Projects -

A CUS­TOM CAR­PUTER CAN PO­TEN­TIALLY RUN CIR­CLES AROUND A STOCK CAR EN­TER­TAIN­MENT SYS­TEM.

The ‘car­puter’ isn’t a new con­cept. PC en­thu­si­asts have ac­tu­ally been find­ing ways to shoe­horn PCs into cars for over 15 years and as tech­nol­ogy has emerged and/or im­proved, backed by pas­sion­ate fo­rum com­mu­ni­ties, the car­puter en­thu­si­asts ul­ti­mately made their own mar­ket driven by their pas­sion.

A car­puter can de­liver in­creased func­tion­al­ity and not only be a fun project but also pro­vide im­proved fea­tures and func­tion­al­i­ties of the ve­hi­cle, thereby im­prov­ing your driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Such ex­am­ples of im­proved ca­pa­bil­ity in­clude the avail­abil­ity of real-time ve­hi­cle di­ag­nos­tics and in­creased dig­i­tal me­dia li­brary size, func­tion­al­ity, man­age­ment and pre­sen­ta­tion within the con­text of a mo­tor ve­hi­cle. A car­puter can also pro­vide in­creased ve­hi­cle se­cu­rity with unau­tho­rised ve­hi­cle en­try de­tec­tion, linked ex­ter­nal cam­eras and in­te­grated record­ing de­vices.

In the early days of car­puter adop­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion, two of the big­gest is­sues were mov­ing parts — par­tic­u­larly spin­ning disk drives — and ex­cess heat gen­er­a­tion and dis­si­pa­tion. Fur­ther­more, the car­puter can go through some dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions con­sid­er­ing as­pects such as pro­longed and di­rect sun­light ex­po­sure if in an open area of the ve­hi­cle, sig­nif­i­cant hot and cold tem­per­a­ture vari­a­tion and fluc­tu­at­ing hu­mid­ity.

Thank­fully, with to­day’s PC tech driven by mo­bile de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion, el­e­ments of con­cern such as low power us­age and im­proved power state man­age­ment have al­most com­pletely dis­ap­peared as a con­cern. Add to this the preva­lence and rel­a­tively cheap cost of flash stor­age op­tions, thereby elim­i­nat­ing me­chan­i­cal parts and sig­nif­i­cantly increasing re­li­a­bil­ity in what can be a tough en­vi­ron­ment for elec­tron­ics — this is all good news for DIY car­puter im­ple­men­ta­tion.

A ma­jor as­pect of con­sid­er­a­tion out­side of the op­er­a­tional en­vi­ron­ment and hard­ware suit­abil­ity is sup­ply­ing suf­fi­cient clean power to the sys­tem. While in­vert­ers are an op­tion, the in­ef­fi­cient process of DC-AC-DC power con­ver­sions can cre­ate ex­ces­sive heat and in­ter­fer­ence. A bet­ter ap­proach is to use a broad spec­trum DC-DC con­verter to cre­ate 3.3v, 5v and 12v rails for the PC to utilise. Due to the broad spec­trum power fre­quency sup­port, the con­verter should help re­move peaks and troughs in power sup­ply to the PC and there­fore avoid power drops or spikes that may re­sult in ei­ther a re­set PC or in worst cases sce­nario, dam­aged com­po­nents.

A cus­tom car­puter im­ple­men­ta­tion com­plete with cus­tom dash in­te­gra­tion.

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