The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Carputer Plans

Posted by Deliverator on April 26th, 2005

I have been contemplating upgrading the carputer for a while now. I originally was planning on waiting for the smaller Nano-ITX boards to hit the shelves, but it seems increasingly unlikely that they ever will, at least not in significant numbers. Via keeps showing new generations/models of nano-itx boards at trade shows, but unlike Mini-ITX boards, they really don’t seem to be selling them in the general marketplace. If they are selling them at all, it must be to OEMs/ODMs exclusively. It is kind of sad, because these microscopic motherboards have great potential for hobbyists. So, what I am thinking of doing is buying a Via Epia MII 12000 board. This Mini-ITX board has a built in CF and Cardbus slots and has a processor that is twice as fast as my current one, while only consuming a few more watts of power. I plan on putting a 1xRTT/EVDO card (cellular based internet access) in the Cardbus slot and a Bluetooth card in the CF slot. I will run an antenna for the 1xRTT card up to the roof and then run ethernet to a WiFi access point in the trunk (also with a roof antenna). Using Microsoft’s ICS system to link the two, I should be able to get internet access on my Laptop or Jornada as long as I am reasonably near my car.

At the same time, I plan on replacing the existing GPS system with one that speaks NMEA standard sentences and has an external antenna jack. My current GPS solution (kindly loaned to me by Matt Westervelt) outputs a proprietary Rockwell binary protocol, which is only understood by a few pieces of long (in internet time) defunct mapping software. The skymap software that I use works well, but the maps are getting a bit dated.

I may also purchase a new USB hub, as the one I currently use seems to have a flakey port. I will have to test it out tomorrow, to be sure. I could simply wire up some more ports to the motherboard USB pin headers, but VIA boards don’t cut power to the USB ports during suspend to ram mode, which tends to result in a higher power drain on the battery. By plugging all USB devices into a hub powered off the +5v line coming off the supply, as soon as you put the computer into suspend mode, all power to USB devices is shut down, which is perfect for my uses.

Lastly, I plan on replacing my car battery with a Optima Yellow Top deep-cycle battery. My current battery has suffered enough at my hands and no longer holds a very good charge. I don’t need hard cranking ability (in cold weather, for example), so a deep-cycle battery should be a better fit for all the charging/discharging I tend to do on my battery.