Wahoo! Just ordered my ASUS EEE 701

Sweeet… My ASUS EEE 701 sub notebook is on its way 🙂

Fortuantly (for me) I still had enough left in my ‘Technology Refresh’ budget to secure one of the first of these units to come into New Zealand and of course, big thanks go out to Tom for getting the wheels in motion to make this happen.

 ASUS EEE 701


For those who’ve not heard of these units, they are specced as follows:

  • Display 7″
  • CPU & Chipset: Intel mobile CPU & chipset (900Mhz)
  • OS: Linux/ Microsoft Windows XP compatible
  • Communication: 10/100 Mbps Ethernet; 56K modem
  • WLAN: WiFi 802.11b/g
  • Graphic: Intel UMA
  • Memory: 512MB, DDR2-400
  • Storage: 4/ 8/ 16GB Flash
  • Webcam: 300K pixel video camera
  • Audio: Hi-Definition Audio CODEC; Built-in stereo speaker; Built-in microphone
  • Battery Life: ~3hrs (4 cells: 5200mAh, 2S2P)
  • Dimension & Weight: 22.5 x 16.5 x 2.1~3.5cm, 0.89kg

So – small, low powered (in a relitive sense) and ideal to take it’s place as my kitchen PC or the thing that travels with me when I want connectivity but not the weight or power of my primary laptop. Devices like this would have been ideal for me back in the days when I was timing multisport events. With the additional power – better connectivity, and better battery life they would have allowed me to provide more ‘real-time’ results from each of the timing stations – of course, 802.11g would have had to have been invented then but – let’s not quibble with fond memories eh?

I’ll do my best to restrain myself sufficiently to provide an out of box experience post when the unit arrives… HURRY!

Big Mother (or Father) is watching…

I’m not 100% sure I like the idea of this, but several US insurance companies are now offering devices to be installed in the cars driven by teenagers which report on unsafe and inattentive driving behaviours.
Reading this article, it appears that the participants are almost ambivilent about the intrusion into their behaviour away from the watchful eyes of their parents, but the results are positive.
A study of drivers who have had this equipment installed saw an 80% drop in ‘driving risk scores’ in the first 16 weeks.

So, here’s the theroy… Install this equipment, provided by your insurance company and setup some limits on range from home and speed as well as other more granular information such as heavy braking or cornering too fast. If your teen doesn’t cover up the camera after it’s installed and instead buys into the program, you can then expect to recieve texts if these limits are exceeded or be able to review recordings around ‘unsafe driving events’ for later discussion with your child.

It has it’s uses I guess, but I think it’s just replacing trust with technology and I’d like to think that by the time my kids are driving that we’d have a relationship where they would respect my instructions on where and how they can drive a car. If not we’re all in trouble because I’m sure my wife would be having a few ‘discussions’ around my driving behaviours that she would then have on tape 🙂

What do you think?

Carputer Update

Not a lot has been happenning on this front, life has been getting in the way of spare time to twiddle with technology, but a huge thanks once again goes out to my very own liveware version of Google, or as I call him… Tom.
Tom flicked me a link to iMedia who are a bunch of people building ITX based linux distro for various applications, one of which is a MythTV build.

So – the plan is, I’ll run up this build in a VM (Virtual Machine) and do a bit of customisation to it to make it car suitable… and we’ll see how we go from there. Does this count as progress?

To Fabricate or not to Fabricate…

Well, this is probably the easiest decision I’ll need to make. Given that the car is parked on the road every once in awhile, I quickly came to the conclusion that a ‘removable’ installation is just going to ask for trouble so, it’s an in-dash install – and with that, it’ll need to ‘look factory’ which means fabrication, which means I won’t be doing it.

The reasons I’ve opted to not do the fabrication myself:

  • I’ve no prior experience in fabricating stuff
  • I’d need to buy all the tools and materials
  • It’d take a fair amount to research time to decide what needed doing and how to do it
  • All in all, it’s more efficient in terms of time, money and finished look to let the professionals do the fabrication.

So, armed with the images below, I headed to a local car stereo installers for a quote – “About NZ$200 mate”, fairly reasonable I thought…

Center Console Proposed Dash Layout

So the theory will be, the ashtray and cigarette lighter will be replaced with a fabricated slot which will hold my existing head unit which is currently sitting in a box ex-my old car, people who are not familiar with the Carputer will then be able to use this to listen to stuff as they drive. The carputer will be connected via the CD stacker input and be controlled via the touch screen which replaced the current 2x 1-DIN crappy units which came with the car.

Next Step: Plan the layout of the devices and what plugs in to what (and where) – I need to have the setup all running and ready to install with a very simple interface, just in case the installers find it easier to fabricate and connect everything in the one go. Some things for me to consider:

  • Power layouts
  • Power screen directly or off the Carputer?
  • Use the ‘auto on’ function of the Lilliput (and where was that link I read detailing this?)
  • Remote switch to allow the Carputer to be isolated/turned on independantly of the ACC switch?

It’s time to head to the forums once again…

Getting it together

Right – before we start hacking into the dashboard and cutting holes in the carpet, there’s a few things we need to sort out first:

  • Research
  • Hardware
  • Software
  • First Cut functionality
  • Build and Testing
  • Mounting the unit

Research

Obviously the internet is a great resource for gathering information about this project. In a lot of ways it’s better than the book I bought, mainly due to the nature of communities and the user generated content they produce. In saying this, I’ve had to be careful to research the contributors where distention occurs so I can (hopefully) pick the right side of any disagreements in approach which inevitably crop up.

The best community I’ve found thus far is the one at MP3Car.com which has a Wiki, Forums, Galleries of installations to drool over and of course a shop. So my primary resource will be those listed below – but I’ll update this post as any new sources prove their worth.

Hardware

I bought the gear about 9 months ago as we were hoping to be able to prototype something, then the business priorities changed at work and it’s been sitting (mostly) unopened in a box since then. This said, the list isn’t the flashest that’s avalible currently, and if I was to repurchase now, I’d probably go for something a bit different – like an ‘ebox‘.
My current hardware list is as follows:

Software

While I’d love to go with a linux build for speed, stability and security, I’m going to start with Windows XP due to it’s ease of install and hardware support. That said, open source carputer sites such as FreeDrive look promising for an ‘alternate build’ (hmm RFID tags on keyrings and dual boot XP for Wife *nix for me?)

Building & Testing

For powering the unit on your testbench, here’s a link on how to modify a standard ATX PSU to take the place of your car battery

Mounting the Unit

Here’s a couple of photos of the space I have to work with…

Full Dashboard Full Dashboard – You can see from this shot that there are a few options for placing the 7″. Also not the position of the passenger side airbar, precluding putting the PC unit itself in the dash (also helps protect it from the heat – so that’s an upside).

Center ConsoleCenter Console – This shot shows a little more detail, my issue is I kind of want to have a ‘normal’ head unit in place for drivers who choose not to use the PC. This then severely limits my mounting options as one of the 2-DIN spots will have a head unit sitting in it as there’s nowhere else to place the 1 DIN Radio/CD player I have. I’m currently thinking it’d be best to mount the touchscreen higher up, probably as a mount extending out from behind the bezel holding the clock. While this would obstruct the vents and some buttons, I think it’s the least impact/most practical place to mount the screen.

References:

As a side note – I registered at MP3Car.com today and am gradually building a community of links to other Kiwis who are doing Carputer projects such as this guy (sweeeet ride!)

Google Searches (I’ll pretty this up and put it in context later):

http://www.philhord.com/phord/carputer-installing-in-my-honda-odyssey-minivan/

http://www.philhord.com/gallery/carputer/P0011159

http://philhord.com/phord/carputer-rear-lcd-flip-down-monitor/

http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=85503

http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/

http://guino.home.insightbb.com/roadrunner.html

http://www.litepc.com/xplite.html

http://kiwicarpc.blogspot.com/

http://www.stevieg.org/carpc/

http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/imobile-atlas-car-pc-does-gps-high-speed-data-and-windows-219115.php

http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=48657

Pimping MY Ride…

This isn’t a “we’re gonna lower this down, drop in some 20″ rims with some spinner action going on - and bling out the soundz” post, this is a “How do I maintain some semblance of respectability now that lifes events have conspired to force the purchase of a 7-seater vehicle?” post…

A few weekends ago my beloved 1994 Toyota Hilux Surf died, after 10 years of faithful service it was time to retire Sherman (as in the tank) to the scrapheap or a backyard machanics garage.  Either way, it was time to buy a new vehicle and through spousal intervention, my dreams of replacing the sluggish 4×4 with a zippier Toyota Caldina Station wagon were dashed… I’d inherit the Mazda Lantis and my beloved wife would get herself a 7-Seater… so we’ve got room for the in-laws and a new baby (don’t get excited, no announcments on that front yet…).

We ended up buying a 1998 Honda Odyssey last weekend (2nd December 2006, for the sake of the historical archive)  and though some deft negotiation (using the sad puppy dog look until she felt sorry for me, or just got sick of ‘the look’ I don’t know) I managed to secure rights to be the primary driver of the newer vehicle.  The primary reason for my success on this front may have even been my logical argument that because Amanda would be travelling the furtherst and I do most of the in-week transporting of the kids. YAY! But BOO!! I’d now be driving a 7-seater and facing the taunts of my peers.

 

1998 Honda Odyssey (VTEC)

 

Carputer – My functionality wishlist:

  • Audio
  • GPS
  • Radio
  • Independant power (flatten PC battery supply, not main vehicle)
  • Email store/forward on the road (when waiting to pickup people etc)
  • Web

If it’s possible / Phase II 

  • Sync media on board to media servers in home (WiFi link when parked in range) 
  • Additional Screen for rear seat viewing
  • Engine Managment interface
  • Storage of appointments / Directions (sync)

And now, off to Google and MP3Car.com to do my research…

Update: 11/12/2006

Dave has suggested that I add these to my wish list… YEAH! (oh, not a 4×4… meh nvm)

Bloody Idiots!

Sometimes you just want to have a grill-mounted rocket launcher…

Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime (unless he lives around the Hauraki Gulf of course…)

Give a man a car and he’ll get to and from work, give a boy a car, and a baseball cap, and the obligatory array of dials and boost meters, and an annoying exhaust – and he’ll drive like a complete dickhead and make you want to kill him in a slow, crushing into his own glove box kind of a way…

What I want is an array of cameras around my car showing the road around me, so I can record with some telemetry data superimposed on the video some of the stupid things I see on the road.
Here you are, being a good lad and indicating for 3 seconds to move lanes, when the guy behind you in his black souped up Mazda decides that since he’s faster, he can indicate once (if at all) and scream up the side of you into the lane you’re indicating toward. Now the good thing about nice shiny souped up cars versus large diesel 4x4s, is that I really don’t give a toss if you’re going to be an idiot, because I AM CHANGING LANES NOW AND YOU DON’T REALLY HAVE THE EQUIPMENT TO CUT ME OFF.
Now, with my proposed camera array hooked into my carputer, I can change lanes as indicated, and if people do stupid things to cut me off, then I’ll have the evidence should we happen to involve insurance firms (if you catch my drift).

I’m really looking forward to getting a decent car so I can build myself one of these units, this isn’t the only handy thing it would be able to do for me 🙂 And with Microsofts soon to launch(?) Microsoft Automotive, I’ll have a few options (I guess) in operating platform (though I’m still tending toward the *nix distros which already exist…

I gotta get more spare time (and cash)!