In-Car Computers


In the first three chapters, I covered the basics of automotive computer integration: car power, car audio, and car video. Now you finally get to hook up your computer. There are many considerations that go into what kind of computer to put in a car. A large, modern, multi-gigahertz computer provides the smoothest in-car gaming experience, but it takes a lot of power and space. A laptop seems an obvious choice for in-car use, but laptops are awkward to mount and difficult to smoothly integrate in a vehicle's interior. Industry standards exist for rugged, low-power-consumption computers, but these are usually too expensive for consumer use. Fortunately, there has been a lot of recent investment and development in the area of set-top boxes and home theater PCs (HTPCs), which has resulted in the creation of small, quiet, low-power, gigahertz-class Intel-compatible motherboards and processors with excellent multimedia capabilitiesperfect for in-car computing.

When you go to install a PC in your car, one way to approach it is from an engineering perspective. Draw up a detailed list of requirements, along with notes on the physical and power constraints of your car. Search for industry-standard solutions for rugged, shock-mounted hardware. Locate memory, motherboards, and hard drives that deal well with the temperature extremes of an uninsulated vehicle trunk. Create a budget for your expenditures, and while you're at it, solicit quotes from at least three vendors for each component.

Well, that's one way to do it. The more conventional way to hack a computer into a car is to say, "I'm going to build a computer for my car this weekendI think I have enough spare parts." This is the approach addressed in this chapter. Each of the following hacks covers one important aspect of getting a computer to work in a car. Once you've worked through the hacks in this chapter, you should have a car PC well integrated into your car and ready to use.

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