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TURN YOUR NETTOP INTO A CAR PC

Updated on September 29, 2012

Is your net-top too weak for Windows 7? Your old mini-computer can be turned into a useful auto PC.Here are complete guide to turn your old net-top into a car pc.

1. FIND THE RIGHT CASE

A mainboard in the mini-ITX format (17 X 17 cm), which can be extracted from a net-top, can be fitted into a car PC case, to be used as a double DIN car radio shaft. We used the 7-inch USB touchscreen as a display and a first-generation SSD, which we bought on eBay for about RM18O, as a storage medium. We used the Windows XP operating system and the cPOS car-PC interface.

2. ASSEMBLE MAINBOARD

It takes patience to fit the mainboard into the tight case. You should begin by removing all the cables from the case. Cradle the mainboard over the processor cooler and find the angle that will allow it to fit into the case. When the mainboard ¡s firmly bolted, connect the power supply, the cables for the USB front connections, the LEDs and the on-off switch.

3. ACCESSORIZE MAINBOARD

A 1GB RAM is enough for Windows XP and the CPOS software, but given that the prices are currently quite low, it would be beneficial to get a RAM with a capacity of 2GB or more. When you buy a RAM, make sure you consider its compatibility. Our mainboard features normal DDR-DIMM modules, while other ITX or netbook boards use the smaller SO-DIMMS. If the mainboard has a WLAN module — which is often the case with net-tops — leave the antenna on the board. That way, you will be able to use your UMTS cellphone as a WLAN hotspot when you are in your car, which will enable you to use your car PC to surf the internet or record updates.

4. INSTALL SSD

On account of the tremors, we advise against installing a hard drive in the car PC. Instead of doing that, you should use a ROM like the old SSD that we used. Alternatively, you could also use an economical SSD module. The car PC’s internal drive usually only contains that system — the best way to carry music and videos is to put them on a large USB stick which can be plugged into the front USB socket.

5. CONNECT TOUCHSCREEN

The car PC can only have one kind of input-output device, which is the touchscreen. Connect the touchscreen to the computer by means of a USB cable, which will provide a path for the display/touch signals and the power supply. Windows XP’s unsatisfactory compatibility with the touchscreen makes no difference — the most important functions are regulated over the touch- optimised user interface of the cPOS car PC software.

6. INSTALL SOFTWARE

Our car PC system uses Windows XP. You can install it by either briefly connecting the DVD drive from your PC, or by plugging in a USB drive. Or you can use the WinSetupFromUSB tool (from the magazine DVD) and your Windows Installation DVD to create a bootable USB stick. You will have to work on the external monitor, keyboard and mouse before the touchscreen becomes operational. The display is accompanied by the necessary drivers. Install the cPOS PC interface when the PC, along with the touchscreen and the audio output, becomes operational. This will enable you to play music and videos, display photos and operate the interfaces to cellphones and the car’s electrical system. Install the car PC when everything starts working.

7. ASSEMBLE CASE

Before you begin the assembly operation, connect the power supply and the audio connections. Since the PC doesn’t contain an amplifier, you will need an audio amplifier that can control the car’s loudspeaker. You can install it in the leg room, and then connect it to the car PC. If your dashboard doesn’t have enough room for the PC, there are installation kits for the trunk. Installing it in the trunk makes no difference, since only the display needs to be in sight and within reach.

8. AI IACH DISPLAY

The easiest thing to do is to attach the display to the windshield with a suction cup and a gooseneck. This also makes it possible to turn the monitor towards the person next to you, or, if the cable is long enough, towards the people in the back seat. However, the large display will tend to vibrate and wobble when you’re driving. It can also be annoying if you can only see the monitor out of the corner of your eye. You can ensure a more firm attachment either by fixing the adhesive mounting pad to the front side of the car PC, or by bolting the monitor’s base into the dashboard.

9. INSATLL CAR PC SYSTEM

We decided to use the free cPOS system, which Windows can run as a full-screen program, as our user interface. Unlike Linux solutions, it allows you to configure all Windows programs and drivers. You can launch installed programs over the cPOS interface by clicking »Preferences«, followed by »External Applications«. You can use the preferences dialog box to specify different directories for music, videos and photos. Pros can also configure the connection of a cellphone, a USB radiostick (e.g. ADS Instant FM Music FX) or the car’s electronic sensors.

10. USING THE CAR PC

The car PC is now operational and can reward your efforts with universal expandability and practically unlimited possibilities. For example, you can use it as a browser or to play your extensive MP3- collection. You can play videos on it when you’re stuck in a traffic jam. If you hook it up to a DVD-B stick, you can even use it to watch TV. If you use a USB stick to connect it to a GPS receiver and install the right navigation software, you can even turn it into a navigation system. You can also keep an Excel travel log when you’re on the road — thanks to the connection to Windows XP, it can run all the well-known programs, which are operated over the on screen keyboard.

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