Turning a lap top into a carputer? - Ranger-Forums - The Ultimate Ford Ranger Resource


Audio & Video Tech General discussion of audio and video for the Ford Ranger.

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Old 09-19-2006
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Turning a lap top into a carputer?

So I've been lookin around the forum in the audio section lately, and found that some people have invested their audio budget by going with a carputer. They seem like a pretty sick idea. Now here's my situation. I'm running all stock stereo system and was thinking about upgrading it pretty soon. But...my college that i attend provide you with a laptop for school (included in tuition). My junior year (i'm a sophmore now) i get a brand new laptop handed too me and typically people trade their origional lap top in when they get the new one. They do give the option to have you pay somethin like $350 for the origional lap top and get the new one as well. Would taking the lap top I currently have, could I incorporate it into becoming a carputer? How much would I be looking at investing if I were to go through this rought, other then the obvious $350 for the lap top. I've seen that carputers seem to be a lot of work setting them up and what not, but I was curious if there was a way to incorporate my laptop into somehow comin up with a cool way to make it into a carputer. Lemme know what you guys think, I'm pretty clueless overall when it comes to carputers.
~Jamie
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Old 09-19-2006
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Also, has anyone takin an external hard drive and hooked it up to a head unit that has the option of reading .mp3's off the hard drive? How do those work if anyone's tried it?
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Old 09-19-2006
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Jamie, some people have used laptop computers in their cars to some success as carputers. This generally involves using a docking station in addition to some sort of graphic user interface located in a more driver-friendly area. You'd be looking at the cost of the docking station, a touchscreen (or LCD and some sort of interface, be it a wireless tracball remote, a mini-keyboard, what have you), any of the software you want to use (GPS nav, etc etc.) plus any other peripherals you want to try.

I HIGHLY suggest you take a look at www.mp3car.com. Look in their forums, people have covered the topic MUCH more extensively than I could ever elaborate to you. Since this was not my choice for a carputer, I don't know a whole lot about it. You can do a search in their forums though and find plenty of information about people's setups, their advantages/disadvantages, and even some of the problems they ran into.

As for your idea of an external hard drive, it may be possible, but would depend primarily on the capability of the headunit and whether or not it has the appropriate USB connectivity and capabilities.
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Old 09-19-2006
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This is just a guess...but I would think that plugging in an external hard drive to a HU wouldn't be possible.

What kind of plug would you use? External HD's use either USB or Firewire, are there any HU's on the market that accept either of those types?

This just popped into my head....airport express. Couldn't you plug it in, plug in your HU to the airport express and it'll play your itunes through the HU speakers. This is just a theory. You'll need a Monster mini-to-RCA left/right audio cable, a Monster mini-to-optical.

http://www.apple.com/airportexpress/

I actually have the airport express to share my printer and use for my wireless network...I wouldn't mind giving this a try just for fun.
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Old 09-19-2006
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There are a few headunits with front usb ports for flash drives but I'm not sure if they support a harddrive simply because of storage space.
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Old 09-19-2006
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Well don't the HUs just read it right off the flash drive and display the IDE tags? I mean a flash drive is like a small hard drive anyways... I think it could work. But I've never used one of those headunits so I don't know for sure. That's why I said to check the headunit's capability.
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Old 09-20-2006
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If the HU accepts USB connections, then I could see it working. It's just storage. A CD-ROM is just storage. If the songs on the HD are in the right file format... .mpg or .wav , whatever the HU supports, then I guess it would work.
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Old 09-20-2006
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but what about powering the hd? a usb drive gets its power from the usb port, but will that usb port on a HU be enough for a hd? as far as carputers. one of the best sites i have seen is www.mp3car.com check them out.
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Old 09-20-2006
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Well whatever is powering up the laptop or carputer..should power up the external HD.
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Old 09-20-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bumpncarstereo
but what about powering the hd? a usb drive gets its power from the usb port, but will that usb port on a HU be enough for a hd? as far as carputers. one of the best sites i have seen is www.mp3car.com check them out.
thats what i was thinking a usb connection will not power the hd
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Old 09-20-2006
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The USB connection should power the HD same as it powers anything else... if the hd doesn't need an extra power source, that USB port is going to put out the same 5V I think that the HD needs to run. I don't know, if you've got an external HD already you can take it to a car stereo shop and test it out on one of their demo units.
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Old 09-20-2006
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Here's a good, active topic about a laptop computer vs. a regular one for a carputer:

http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=85680
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Old 09-20-2006
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you would have to get a HD that is powered by the USB, mine is a 600 GB HD that has a seperate power wire, therefore if the HU would read the HD then you would need to get a power inverter. shouldnt be too hard but i would take one to an audio store and hook it up to a HU with front usb to see if it will even read it. good luck keep us informed cause i may do the same thing down the road.
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Old 09-20-2006
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i think ultimately due to lack of immediate funding, and background knowledge in putting a computer together that you seem to need to have with these...atleast thats what i got from mp3car.com. I'm gonna look into getting a head unit that has some USB ports and try the external hard drive approach...I'll keep you guys posted as I come up with new info.
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Old 09-20-2006
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just tried to call the speaker shop here but there tech. is out for the day ill try tomarow
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Old 09-20-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by texasfan1000
just tried to call the speaker shop here but there tech. is out for the day ill try tomarow
Alright cool I'll check back in tomorrow to see what they had to say to you.
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Old 09-22-2006
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so here it is. you can run an external as long as it doesnt get its power from the usb. i.e. you would have to plug it in to an inverter. because the external needs a constant 12V and the HU will vary from 12/15V that will fry the HD. also unless you get a really expensive HU with on screen display you cannot have any files on the HD. so you would basically have a huge list that you would have to scan through to find the song you want or just put it on random, best bet, IMO just get a couple of the biggest flash drives that you can find, and put as many mp3/s on there as you can get.

thats the explanation i got if anyone else gets any better info post it.

my $0.02
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Old 09-24-2006
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Cool I'll keep that info in mind, thanks texasfan
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