What I want in a car “entertainment system”

I’ve been thinking about building a PC for use in the car for ages (most likely running some flavor of Linux). Gradually the market is catching up with my desires and it looks as if soon I may be able to buy exactly what I want “off the rack”. Here’s what I want:

1) A touchscreen interface that fits a double DIN dash opening. (common in many late model cars)
2) Provisions for (2) 3.5″ Hard drives. I want all of my Mp3’s in the car.
3) The ability to accept any cell phone’s SIM card and work with a “douche tooth” earpiece.
4) Obviously 3G/4G connectivity, Bluetooth, and WiFi.
5) GPS with turn by turn directions.
6) Alarm System

This is all I can come up with now. I’m sure I’ll be adding to the ‘wish list’ as time goes on.
Does anyone out there have any experience with, or opinions of, these type devices?
Share in the comments.


iPod with Ti stylus prototype
Click to embiggen.

Here’s a photo of my iPod and the stylus I made for it out of “surplus Russian aerospace titanium tubing”. How cool am I?

The next step will be deciding if I want a brushed or highly polished finish (I’m leaning toward polished) and finishing it accordingly.

How to get placed on a watch list

A few days ago I saw an article detailing how to make a stylus for an iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch and became enamored with the notion of making a stylus for my iPod out of titanium. Titanium tubing is, of course, rather expensive and you have to buy it at least a foot (or several) at a time. Despite this I pressed on, undeterred. Finally I found a really good price on 6mm OD Ti tubing on eBay. Not just any Ti tubing, this is “surplus Russian aerospace titanium tubing”! From a seller in Latvia, no less.

Shipping from Latvia will take at least 10 days, so it will be a while before I have photos of the finished product to post. That is, if “they” don’t come and haul my ass off in an unmarked van before then.


Man, I really like Woot. If you aren’t familiar with Woot, it’s a website that sells one item every day, usually at tremendous savings. A while back I snagged 3 2G SD memory cards for $26, shipped. Today’s Woot is a Reebok Precision Trainer XT Heart Rate Monitor for $25 once you add shipping.

Just what a compulsive list maker and spread-sheet user like me needs, more data to track!

If you want to get in on the heart rate monitoring fun, hurry. This deal is only good today (Friday).

Uh-Oh, Here Come the Videos

The other day I was perusing the latest Bike Nashbar sale catalog when I came across:

ATC2K, the ultimate waterproof self-contained action cam!

And it’s on sale for only $109.95! I intended to go online and do a little research on this seemingly wonderful device, but kept forgetting. Finally I managed to think of it while a computer was at hand and did a little digging.

It does indeed seem perfect for capturing web-quality video on the bike, lashed under the car bumper, who knows, perhaps even strapped to the back of the cat!

Anyway, a bit more digging and I find a place that has it for $89.95 and they have a coupon code for free UPS shipping! Click-click-clickety-click, it’s ordered!

Presently I’m having some (minor) difficulties with the retailer I ordered it from, so to them I say: No link for you! Due to said difficulties, I go looking for a Plan-B, just in case. Imagine my dismay when I discover that Amazon has it for $83.99, also with free shipping. D’oh!

Naturally by the time I found this out, the problem with my order had been straightened out and it’s too late to cancel the order. Oh well, that’s how they get you, you know.

So stay tuned; videos will be forthcoming!

I’m Far Too Easily Amused (Or: Ooooh… Flashing lights!)

When I was younger I used to love tinkering with electronics, but I haven’t done much of it in years. A few months ago when I broke out the soldering iron to solder up a wiring harness for a new car stereo, the smell of hot rosin and solder reawakened something.

So anyway… I came across this page. Having always been a sucker for pointless flashing lights, I was particularly drawn to the 16 Stage Bi-Directional LED Sequencer. If you’re old enough to remember the TV show Knight Rider then you can probably picture exactly what this looks like. If not, I’ll help you out: It’s a row of (16!) LED’s that chase back and forth, from side to side (thus the “bi-directional” part).

I got to thinking; “why couldn’t I mount the LED’s in a 5 1/4″ computer bay cover, power the circuit with 5VDC from an unused Molex (hard drive) connector, and have groovy (KITT-style) flashing lights on (one of) my computer(s)?” (Yes I know, I’m a dork.)

Unable to think of one good reason not to, I ordered the necessary parts and assembled the circuit on a breadboard. Reasonably satisfied with my handiwork, I powered it up. The lights flashed, in sequence, but alas, in only one direction. After carefully going over everything again I found my wiring mistake and was as giddy as a school-girl when I hooked it back up and the lights sequenced in a bi-directional fashion, just like they were supposed to.

Now I just have to decide if I want to stick with traditional red LED’s of if I should switch to violet or insanely bright blue for the final installation. Even Der Hasselhoffer himself will be envious!

Yep, I’m just an over-grown 12 year old with a job and too much free time.

Things people say without thinking

So, I’m soldering up this wiring harness for a new car stereo. Everything is going fairly well, when suddenly I run into a roadblock. I’m color-blind and could not distinguish the ‘gray’ and ‘gray/black’ pair of wires from the ‘green’ and ‘green/black’ pair on one of the harnesses. I scrutinized and squinted, I tried looking at them under a variety of light sources, all to no avail. Finally I go knock on my neighbor’s door, wiring harnesses in hand, explain my predicament, and ask which wires are which. She says to me “Are you really color-blind?” then points out the green and the gray wires for me.

Am I really color-blind? Why in God’s name would I make that up? When this topic comes up (which is infrequently, I try to keep it to myself) people invariably either:

A) Ask if I’m really color-blind.
B) Argue with me about it (“Oh, you are not!”)

I’m just thankful that my neighbor didn’t want to:

C) Play the “what color is this?” game.

That one really annoys the piss out of me.

Devo Part 2


I was saying how my cd player would only play ‘Devo’s Greatest Hits’ due to a case of demonic possession. Not being equipped or qualified to perform an exorcism I had to buy a new cd player.

Today I did the “order online pick up in the store” deal with BestBuy. I’m standing at the customer service counter waiting for the computer (another of Satan’s minions) to do what ever it needed to do to complete my transaction. In front of me, back behind the counter, there’s a shelf with a cabinet below it. Apparently this is for items in for service, returns, damaged or defective merchandise… something like that. On the shelf there are two labels. One reads; “DEVO”, the other; “DEVO LOCK UP”.

I didn’t ask what this supposedly means, I know what it means. Devo, the Devil, and BestBuy are in cahoots!

Looking back, it seems so obvious, I should have known it all along.


Apparently I live in some sort of laser/cd-player Bermuda Triangle. My cd changer (which I’d had forever) died recently, so I got a Discman to fill in. Then the cd burner in the computer died. Now my Discman refuses to play anything except Devo’s Greatest Hits. It’s crazy! I’ve got probably 15 cd’s I’ve bought in the last couple of months that it no longer will play, it just whirrs and says “No CD” (I don’t have the patience to test it out with all of my CD’s).

But Devo? Oh it’ll play the hell out of some Devo! Yet another example which proves my theory about diamonds, semi-conductors, and petroleum products being tools/products of Satan.

Who knew the Devil liked Devo?