Sunday, January 22, 2006

PIC's of Final Setup

Project TruckPC 1.0
2003 Ford Ranger EDGE

> GPS Navigation
> MP3 Playback
> Movie Playback
> Vehicle Mods Must be Removable

Feast your eyes!

I custom fabricated the center console setup complete with cup-holders. I added the PowerMate "knob" and the Satellite radio tuner (Christmas Present) to the console and they are right where my hand natrually falls so I use the knob for most functions. As you can see apart from GPS navigation the computer can also play episodes of Teen Titans which is a big hit with my daughter. I also swapped the original rear-view mirror for an Ebay special from a Chey S-10 to give me some more light. The Ford Ranger only has one wimpy little dome light in the back so this helps at night.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Final Installation

It's done! After several months of abuse to the schedule it is all in the truck (hopefully) for the last time. I believe I have addressed my cooling problem with the addition of a rather large fan to the enclosure. I have added the storage openings so that I gain some utility out of the back. I added a ton of padding to keep the edges from scratching and squeaking. Done! Well, this generation anyway.

What's next? Lots of software tweaks. I have not found a skin that I am totally happy with just yet so I either need to tweak the one I have or build a new one. I also want to add a skin to the GPS application to fully integrate it from an appearance perspective. And there is the issue of the MP3 collection. I want to clean up what I have and then be able to update it more easily than now. Ideally I would like to download Podcasts in the mornings before I leave for work. But I don't have a plan for that just yet. And then of course there's the issue of satellite radio. I have some questions but it seems very possible.

But first, I have some repairs to accomplish. The factory piece around the A/C and radio it missing some paint. Due to the hurricane getting warranty work done is nearly impossible so I don't know when this will happen. Also, I discovered an issue with the weather stripping on my tonneau cover. I really need to fix that.

Center Console Install
Here is the console installation after the final coat of paint and tweaking.

Rear Deck Install
Complete with custom doors to provide extra storage.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Project Summary

The TruckPC is done! Well, almost. The installation is done, and the software is running at some level. I still have lots of tweaking planned and one more coat of paint.

The fabrication on the console took longer than I anticipated, and I knew it was complex when I started it. Part of the time was just scheduling as I only had some tools, and work and family crammed the schedule too.

Rear Seat Storage
This was supposed to be the easy part. A big box with two doors, right? I apparently hadn't thought this through as much as needed. It is in place, but the doors took quite a bit of effort. It is awaiting paint and it will get reinstalled. I also plan to take some pictures of the final assembly.

Power Supply
This took the better part of a day to install, not because of the P/S but because I had to understand my truck's wiring. Once I figured it out it works great! It may be my favorite part of the project. The whole rig (well, except for the touchscreen) boots up with the ignition and hibernates just after the key is pulled. I was dissappointed to find that it had a fan, but after a long test-drive I ended up needing to add an exhaust fan too so I guess I'll get over it. I do seem to have a weak ground because I've picked up some engine whine. Going to have to work on that.

Windows XP works well. Boots a little slow, but I still have some tweaks to do before I put this to bed. FrodoPlayer ROCKS! I am using a default skin for now, but plan to tackle this soon. I want to streamline some of the parts I use more, and push some of the things I don't use to secondary screens. Microsoft Streets & Trips on the other hand is not optimized for this application. The GPS gets lost after a hibernate, and the check box to fix it is tiny. I am attempting to mitigate this for now using some hacked up scripting and screen scrapes.

To get a complete picture of what this project costed, I added up the rought costs or the parts I bought. I got some things at a good deal, and some were Freebies donated from other PC's or I traded other parts on hand for parts needed. This is a fairly complete list, bu it does not take into account the time put in. Lots of tinkering and discovery went on to figure these things out. Also, in my truck there were two rather ambitous pieces to be fabricated.

$250 - Lilliput 7" Touchscreen (Cheapes place from Froogle!)
$175 - Opus 150w DC-DC Power Supply (
$90 - Microsoft Streets & Trips With GPS Reciever (CompUSA - Look for a rebate special)
$70 - AMD Sempron 2400 Processor with Fan (
$60 - Wood, Woodworking Supplies, and Paint (Lowes)
$40 - Radio Shack 200w AMP Wiring Kit (Radio Shack)
$40 - Griffin PowerMate "Knob" (Fry's - They don't carry it anymore)
$40 - Mainboard - Micro-ATX (
$20 - Misc. Wiring and Connectors (Wal-Mart and Autozone)
$6 - Laptop Hard Drive Adapter (

My Total Cost: $791

$85 ~ Windows XP Professional
$65 ~ 40GB Laptop Hard Drive
$20 ~ 256MB PC-2100 Memory

Actual Total Cost: $961

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Finished Console

Here is the finished console, though not yet installed:

Fabrication Results

The fabrication process for this project has been protracted, but I have made some large strides in recent weeks. I've got the front enclosure pretty much done. Here are some pics before paint:

Sunday, April 03, 2005


So with the touchscreen in, I thought it was time for some tests. I loaded both front end packages onto my laptop and stuck it on the front seat. The software quikly showed it was up the task, however the touch screen kept fritzing. Simply unplugging and replugging the UCB cable seemed to bring it back. I didn't want to tweak my laptop too much as I need it for work so...

I snagged an older PC for testing. A P3 600. What a DOG! Anyway, I through it in the back of my truck, quikly wired up an AC inveter for power, and VIOLA! BETA TEST!

After trying out both front ends under consideration, FrodoPlayer is now the front runner. It is a clean and simple and does not require .NET or anything else to run. I am getting quite comfortable with it and will probably end up customizing a skin for it later. But for now, FP has shown it will do all I need and then some.

I think the planning stages are done. It is now time to start hard mounting it in and working out the details...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Parts Arrived!

Well, the first parts order post was quite a while back, but I've been busy...

The screen showed up, worked a couple of times for testing, and then DIED! I went from the heights of excitement to the depths of depression nearly instantly. And then I found out the disadvantage of buying from the cheapest site on the Internet. I rushed the screen to them, but found out they don't stock them. So he had to wait for his next shipment before he could ship me a new screen, ground from CA...

Of course, I had a family vacation in the middle, so that also set everything back a bit. But...

The AUX input adapter came in for my factory (Ford) radio, and worked like a champ! I will post pics later. It allows me to run up to three audio sources into the unit without splicing a single wire, and it treats them as a factory CD changer. I got it from

The replacement screen did finally show up. Of course I was in Texas for work... I finally got started with it this evening. Works great! I hooked it up to my laptop. This will be the test bed for software, etc. until I scrounge up enough $$ to order the PC parts, and build the storage and console for the truck.

I am still debating the front-end. The two I will be testing first are FrodoPlayer and Mobile Media Center (MMC). I downloaded the newest code and am off to install...

Friday, February 25, 2005

First Parts Order

Well, it has begun!

I have ordered the screen and the aux input and removal tool for my radio. The aux input was backordered and should ship next week. The screen will be here Tuesday! Now I need to get serious about building a home for these parts.