People love to kit out their cars with all sorts of trick gadgets and accessories. Whether it be an awesome ICE (in-car entertainment system) with premium-grade speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers and capacitors (maybe even a flux capacitor or two for time travel purposes) or a satellite navigation equipment that is directly integrated into a car’s sound system, there are all sorts of ways to bling your car up! One popular addition to any car that not many people have really done so far is to create something called a “carputer”.
As you might have guessed from the name, it’s a computer that you can run in your car! Why Would You Want to Have a Carputer? There are many reasons why you might want to have a computer in your car, here are some of the most common ones: Music – it’s a great way to play your huge collection of MP3s, and it offers you some powerful configuration options in comparison to just using an MP3 player with your car’s stereo, for example; Entertainment – some people even have a games console, DVD or Blu-ray player hooked up to their carputer so that they have some great forms of entertainment. This is perfect if you are going on a road trip somewhere and you’ve parked up for a while; Internet – because a carputer is to all intents and purposes a PC, you can set it up to use a fast 3G or 4G mobile broadband connection.
How awesome would it be to offer passengers in your car Wi-Fi Internet access whilst you are driving them? Productivity – you could use it to send and receive emails, surf the web, work on documents or spreadsheets all from the comfort of your car seat (as long as you don’t do this whilst you are driving, of course).
If this sounds interesting to you, then carry on reading to find out what you need in order to build your very own carputer! Note: this blog post assumes that you are familiar with building PCs! Image CreditPowerThe first thing you need to do is sort out how you are going to power your carputer. The main stumbling block is the fact that you have to use DC power in your car, whereas standard power supplies in computers require AC power.
In order to get around this problem, you could use something called an inverter. John from Junction17cars.co.uk says that these devices are inexpensive, and you can buy them from any electronics shops such as Maplins.But if you are after a more professional installation, then you can actually buy specialist power supplies that use DC power rather than AC power.
Form factor Because you don’t have a lot of room to work with in a car, you will need to use a small form factor case and components, such as Mini-ITX. These types of cases are tiny, and so are the motherboards and other bits that go with them. Drives would recommend using 2.5-inch SSDs (solid state drives) instead of traditional mechanical hard drives, as they won’t put out heat and are perfect for small form factor cases like Mini-ITX.
Don’t bother with optical drives unless you have a need for using them. Displays Get yourself a 7-inch touchscreen display, as these are the easiest to work with, and with some modifications you could even fit one in your center console! Sound This is relatively easy to sort. If you’ve got a head unit that has stereo (phono) connectors on the back, then all you need is a simple 3.5mm to RCA adapter to connect your carputer to it. Input devices The best thing to do here is to use a Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse. Obviously you will need a Bluetooth receiver in your carputer; this could be as simple as using a USB receiver. Internet You have two options here; you can either use a simple USB mobile broadband dongle, or you can use something like a MI-Fi or 3G/4G Wi-Fi router, depending on whether you wanted to offer in-car Wi-Fi Internet or not. Some 3G routers can even be powered via an Ethernet cable link, so you don’t need to worry about a separate source of power for it. Software as you are essentially building an entertainment system, you should use something like XBMC (the same software you’d use for a media center PC at home).