The New Vectra CarPC / Carputer Front End

CarPC Software V1 and V2 – Information About The Software Used, Past, Present and Future

CarPC Software V1 and v2 Details

 

Windows – Well its good enough for running MS Word or playing games on but its not ideal for using in a mobile entertainment environment. One way or another the Explorer interface had to go. For a while I considered using Talisman but I was not happy that it would be very good in the mobile environment. I then joined up a bulletin board on the MP3car.com site and found the The Open Source Car Computer Project ( Or Media Engine ). It did everything I wanted, MP3, GPS ( with an external app ), video and more as well as being touch screen compatible and customisable. I wanted it to be customisable to make it individual. Since then the skin has evolved in to other CarPC applications with improved graphics, its even due to be a major part of the next Media Engine release. Have a look below and see what I have done and if you like it – go get it – its easy to use.

The Custom Interface, The Build And Other Software
Oh and by the way you are able to put your own logo in there so even if you don’t have a Vauxhall you’ll be able to use this skin. You’ll notice there are more buttons than functions. The idea is that you don’t have to use them and if you want not even show them if not in use, the same applies to the red and blue buttons at the bottom of this section  ( of which there are more in the skin ). This idea means it can be expanded very easily when new functions or applications are available but while maintaining the overall look as well as easily adapted to wide screen in the future.
If you would like to use this skin for your own player ( non commercial )etc I have no problem with that how ever I do ask a few little things as its free. First I like to see pictures of the completed skin for every body here, a web site would be nice if possible and finally my self, this site and the skins creator should be credited. If your happy with this drop me an email.
The Contrast Skin – The First Openware Media Skin Ever

The New Vectra CarPC / Carputer Front End

Its Out Now – Click Here To Go Get It

MP3 Player MP3 Play List
FM Radio    
Video Player    
CarPC Software – The Best From Around The World

 

Name Web Site Cost Skinable MP3 GPS DVD / Video FM Radio Bluetooth Phone TV  Ext App Overall Score
Roadrunner a Free a a a a a a a a 9.5 out of 10
Frodoplayer a Free a a a a a a a a 8 out of 10
Media Car a Free a a a a a r r a 9.5 out of 10 ( Version 1.83 )
Media Engine a Free a a a a a r r a 8 out of 10 ( Version 2 )
Carbox a Free a a a a r r r r 7 out of 10 ( Version 0.4 )
CNS Maestro a Lots On request a a a a a a r 9.5 out 10 ( Version 2 )

 

MediaCar

  • Support for Winamp
  • GPS Using Mappoint 2002
  • Support for Destinator 2.0 (for GPS Navigation) – Full Support To Come
  • Fully Customisable Startup e.g. last used, GPS, Mp3’s etc
  • Fully skinnable
  • Scalable skins, so you can view them at any screen resolution including real 16:9 support
  • Day / Night Mode
  • Skin switch on the fly
  • Visualisation screen
  • Integrated clock
  • Fully active equaliser
  • FM Radio
  • DVD & DIVX Support
  • External Application Launch Support

This is defiantly the best carpc app out at the moment – and its the new kid on the block. Only recently released and it causing a massive storm on the mp3car forum due to not only the functions it can offer but also its good looks. This is defiantly the one to watch as more is added.

 

http://www.mediacar.org/ or http://www.media-car.fr.st/

MediaEngine 2.0

  • Mp3 Player
  • DVD & Movie Support
  • Play List Data Base System
  • FM Radio Support
  • External Applications
  • Skinnable
  • Windows Media Player 9 Support

MediaEngine 2.0 is a program that creates user-friendly environment to play different kinds of multimedia on your PC while driving. This application can play MP3s, DVDs, MPEGs and almost any other file based media, database your music collection and allow searching, launch external applications, display on screen Visualizations, and even shut down your computer. MediaEngine 2.0 can also be used as a manager for all of the media in your home stereo system. By interfacing with a touch screen and remote control, it allows the user to perform complex tasks normally requiring a couple of programs and much mouse movement very easily. By the way if you get a strange message ‘First Time Use : Select Display Properties.’ Just go to the MP3 Player and select any track. It will be fine after that.


http://www.mediaengine.org/

CarBox

  • Support for Windows Media Player 9.0 (for Music and Video)
  • Support for Destinator 2.0 (for GPS Navigation)
  • Fully resumes play after hibernate/restart (Windows must be configured)
  • Select a directory subtree to replace, or add to current play list. Allows for queuing up as much music as you need for your journey!
  • Search facility, to find individual songs/movies, or full albums
  • Fully skinnable
  • Scalable skins, so you can view them at any screen resolution
  • Run-time switchable skins, for example day/night skins
  • Option to embed GPS application in Visualisation screen. Small, but handy
  • Option to start-up GPS application when CarBox starts
  • Integrated clock

Very small and very quick. One of the first carpc apps to fully support the Destinator GPS software. The playlist selection is a little complicated how ever once you have got through that is very good at its job. The skining option is so flexible its hard to decide what to do but the newly released skinning app will help you with that. Currently at a ‘pre-release’ version it still has some rouge edges how ever given time I defiantly think this is going to be one of the major players in the carpc world.


http://www.stuffandting.com/carbox/

The CarPC / Carputer Build – How I Did It And What Problems I Had

 

The OS or Operating System

First of all you need to format your PC’s drive. To the right you will see a diagram of how I did it how ever you can change it how ever you want. My advice though is that this is the best configuration you can have. Partition 1 is the system drive and if done right should not change much so its easy to restore should it ever need to…. I’ll come to that bit at the end. Partition 2 is for all your music and videos’. I have separated this because it the main area that changes a lot, this area can become very ‘fragmented’ so keeping it separate has two advantages. The first been that the main system ( Partition 1 ) works the quickest it can because of the lack of fragmentation. The second ( again I will cover this at the end of the article ) is that you can restore just the data if need or just the system disk ( Partition 1 ). Eventually I chose the OS Windows XP. The reason for is that it is a modern OS with some great features and media support how ever it is a little slow, lastly its very compatible with Media Engine which I will be basing most of my system around. I did in the process complete a Windows 98 build which is filed away just in case I want to change.

 

Drivers

Next was to install all the drivers I required for the Mother Board and other devices. The mother board under Windows XP required only some support drivers how ever Windows 98 needed drivers for the Video car, the LAN card and the sound car as well. Next was the drivers for the GPS, touch screen and DRU100. The best way of installing drivers is to get the latest you can of the web site for your own particular device and operating system.

 

Service Packs

Service packs for the OS were next. I installed the drivers first so they could be updated if need by these, and in-fact Microsoft recommend any changes that are applied no matter how small the SP should be applied. Note that I have not upgraded MS Internet Explore as its not needed by my self.

 

Media Engine

Media Engine was next, installing the software, ‘Contrast Skin‘ and the latest patch. I then installed TweakUI and changed the home directories for music and movies to the D: drive ( Partion 2 ). Once that was done I then went in to Media Engine and set my preferences up such data locations, keys etc. Lastly I went in the radio.ini with in the install directory and changed the station and frequencies. I placed an icon in the start-up folder called ‘bMedia Engine’ The b was so it would start after TVtool ( more later )

 

Applications

Next I installed Microsoft Autoroute and my newly acquired copy of Destinator two, both had to be tweaked. First of all I did Autoroute, I applied the GPS timing fix to improve the GPS tracking response then I installed my own Autostart patches ( see text file here ) for it to get it working with Media Engine. As it turns out these don’t work with ME nor does Destinator as the app simply starts the application in question and comes back to a black screen. At the time of writing this ( 25/06/03 ) it has been reported as a bug by a number of people so should be resolved on the next available release. Destinator was installed OK and had a slight hic up with GPS unit, I was never able to nail this down how ever on the XP build it seems to be OK now…. strange. It did though need a small hack to get the On screen keyboard working. This is obviously an over site of the install and I will report it soon as a bug. The fix how ever in the mean time can be found here – thanks to Henk for that one.

 

TVTool And Wide Screen

Once up and running I found that because I was using a VGA screen it did not fill it to the sides completely. I did expect that so I had already invested in a Riva TNT card with 3D capabilities and TV out…. its only 16mb how ever ideal for running some 3D games when waiting for some one and it works very well with a utility called TVTool. TVTool effectively works with certain chip sets and some how ( I have no idea how ) allows you to stretch the image on the screen, it will also allow you to do true wide screen how ever I have not got that far yet. NB TVtool only works on certain chips sets so if unsure drop them an email and ask – if needs be look at Power Strip, another similar application. I found that TVTool worked better under XP with the in built drivers unlike the Windows 98 build where I needed the Detonator driver pack. See what works best. The settings I used were 800×600 NTSC non interlaced. I also moved the screen to where I was happy with it and set it to minimise on start-up. I also placed an icon called ‘aTVtool’ in the start-up folder so it would start first. I could have had Media Engine started by TVTool how ever ever time ME was terminated so was the TVtool Utill…. not ideal. I also out the parameter /TV on the settings so it would automatically start the TV mode.

 

Scan Disking, Defraging And Imaging The ‘Build’

So we have our ‘Build’. I now want to back this up for a number of reasons ( apart from knowing what can happen ) so to make sure this is working at its optimum I ran scan disk twice then the defrag tool three times. This may sound over the top but it the disk is too fragmented it will slow the start-up of your system. Here comes the cleaver bit. I have took an image using ‘Drive Image 5‘ ( how ever that are others such as Ghost about ) and saved this to the back up area on my disk along with all the drivers I may ever need. The idea behind this if I ever change the build and don’t like it or it becomes corrupt, with one CD I can do a restore even when away from home of an optimised system. I also recommend that you restore your image and time you want to make any major changes to the system partition ( such as a new GPS app etc ) then re take an image after a defrag etc. This way you are always working with a good fast system. Always keep this one safe some where on CD etc – that way you can always go back. I won’t going to imaging and builds too much as its such a complicated topic but there are plenty of places with information about best practices etc on the net including the software houses them selves..

 

The Data

lastly to test I put a couple of small music videos and mp3’s on to the data drive….. the results were worth the effort. I am currently converting all my LP/CD music to MP3 which is taking some time but looking at the amount of space I am using up to this point its going to take a while to fill – and I say this as a former DJ.

 

Future Plans

Include the software to support the Inferred remote and some software to control the screen brightness from the command line… more on this when I have it working

 

Conclusion

It takes time but do the build once or twice for using it as an image – this way you know exactly which options you want with which drivers etc plus you have already tested it so your system works to the optimum. Make sure you have a backup and if needs be ( like my self ) document the process and keep and files needed so it can easily be repeated should the worst happen.

 

Off The Shelf Software

 

Powerloc Destinator For The PC Version 2 Review

Destinator is my wish list software – Providing every thing that Navigator does ( uses the same Navtech data base ) how ever better graphic and the 3d views make it very expensive

Destinator™ is the best mobile satellite navigation solution for your PDA. Whether you are a salesperson, a delivery person, a frequent traveler, a road warrior or a tourist in search of directions or points of interests, YOU NEED DESTINATOR™.

Destinator™ will save time and money by guiding you through the shortest or quickest route. With gas prices on the rise, Destinator™ is the indispensable tool for sales and delivery people. With Destinator™ you can optimize your route and maximize your day.

Destinator™ has been designed with the user in mind. Its easy to learn and easy to operate. It comes with built-in voice prompts to guide you through every highway exit and every turn. Destinator™ is easy as 1-2-3

Destinator™ has no monthly or activation fees, nor does it require installation in the vehicle. Just select or input your destination and hit the road with confidence and safety. You’ll never have to ask for directions again or fumble with paper maps. Get where you’re going faster, easier, and safer than ever. Should you make a wrong turn, RELAX – Destinator™ will automatically recalculate the best new route to your destination. Keep your eyes on the road and follow voice instructions and enjoy the ride! Out of your car? With Destinator™ in your pocket you will never need paper maps! Destinator™offers the highest resolution of maps with immediate access to any address and on the fly optimal route calculation between any 2 points.

 

  • Software Features
  • Easily input your destination or select from address list
  • Also accepts postcodes for easy navigation
  • Turn-by-turn voice prompts guide you to your destination
  • Your option – shortest or quickest route
  • Shows dynamic and interactive maps throughout your trip
  • Automatically recalculates alternate route if you miss a turn
  • Fully-featured menus and audio-visual navigation
  • Speaks English, French and Spanish
  • Stores up to 4000 destinations in address book
  • Instant recall of last 15 destinations

 

Destinator is defiantly the start of some thing good. The software its self is smooth and works fine for the most part except for the odd hand ( tested using the Royaltec GPS ). The interface as a whole is defiantly designed for the carpc type application and the free downloadable SDK supports a lot of common languages including the most popular Visual Basic and along with a very clear voice directing you Destinator is a very flexible tool you will want to use day to day. The 3D view are very good how ever version 3 looks 100 times better then this how ever at the time of writing this article the PC version delayed. The last gripe I do have is that the maps them self come in parts and do not flow from one area to another – again I think Powerloc have listened as you can now create your own.

Finally – one thing I would like to see implemented is the use of the European TMC data system. There are very few applications that support this and you do require special hardware so I can’t see this been in their long term plans. If you would like this why not email and tell them using this link.

If you reside in the EU can I suggest that you visit Routeplanners – the work version closely with Powerloc and are very helpful.

 

In all  8.5 out of 10 ( Version Reviewed 2 )

 

Infomap Navigator Navigator Review

Earlier this week I have had chance to try the proper Infomap Navigator software from Directions. The first and easiest this to say about it is that it is an absolute dodle to install. Chuck in disk one and tell it which maps you want to use. What it does is install the whole system to run off the hard disk which means not only can you put the install CD’s away but you will find it works a lot quicker because its coming off the hard disk.

When you start up The Infomap Navigator software unless you have a fairly quick machine it does take a while but once you are there you are presented with the screen which is to the right. The map will always load to the last position so this allows you to set where and how close you want to be looking at. Note to Directions – Its would be nice if the GPS started ( or you had the option ) when the software did. Incidentally you will see just to the left the screen which allows you to set up the application to your preference. The three options to concentrate on are – GPS – Because that is where you set you COM settings such as port – parity etc and GPS update speed – one second is the best to use if you machine will take it.. The second is Navigation – I have set mine so I get voice commands 100Mts before I get there. This by default is disabled – how ever because it is enabled you can go pass a target before its finished speaking although you have to be doing some speed to do this. Also note that on this screen you need to turn on the ‘Automatically Reroute’ other wise it keeps asking for help – more about that later though as its OK but not brill. The last one to take note of is the ‘Routing’ screen, if you have issues with speed you can reduce the amount of memory it uses. I have took mine down to 15 as the screen jumped a little when refreshing and I have not seen any impact yet.

 

Once you have done all this you can connect your GPS unit and switch to the main screen. To find your current location you need to go to ‘Tools-GPS-GPS Tracking’ which will turn the GPS on and show a little icon on the map which will very handily change shape to show you which direction you are going. Infomap Navigator has – what they call a ‘unique function’ where the map will swing round to physically show you the road ahead so you can tell if there is any major bends or not coming up.

 

There is two ways to set a route up. The first one does not allow you to have voice guidance but it is fairly comprehensive. In a similar way to MS Autoroute you need to set up a start point, an end point and if needed a any way points as well. You can either do this through the search box or clicking the little tad half way down the screen and pointing on the map its self, the later can be a bit or a pain. Once you have your details and selected what sort of route you want – i.e. ‘Fastest’ you click on ‘Calculate’, this will then show you the route on the main screen as shown.

 

The second way of doing a route is to switch to the ‘Navigation’ screen, as before you need to click on set the start point and then the end point. Make sure your GPS is connected and your away. Every so often you will get a nice voice to tell you what to do next… ( Click here for demo ).

 

My conclusion. It is a new venture for this company – yes they have done mapping software for PC’s before how ever it is the first time it has been designed with more than that in mind. Yes it is a little rough around the edges how ever with a price tag of around £30-45 pounds ( with the special offer you get all the European maps thrown in currently ) you really can not complain. In the future it may be able to compete with the likes of Destinator and Co-pilot but for the moment it is more like Autoroute with some extra bits thrown in. Apart from the fact that a little more thought about how it could be used in the car a through touch screen etc I really can not knock it for the price. The two bits of criticism I have is as follows – and this is a small one first. When you select to store a location there is no way of deleting or editing it through the software its self… or is there ? Got to ‘C:\Program Files\InfoMap\config\user\posmarks.dbf’ – open it through MS Access and you can change it. ( Be warned I take no responsibility as to what happens. Lastly when you get lost it some times struggles to re-calculate to its destination, if you go to far – ie ignore the next instruction to correct you mistake it throws a wobbler. In theory if using it in the environment such as I am planning to you would need to stop and start again.

 

In all  7 out of 10 ( Version Reviewed 1.1.7 )

 

Layers

  • Every street in Britain (over 420,000 Km of roads)
  • Searchable index of 700,000 streets
  • 30,000 place names
  • 2500 rail and commuter stations
  • Administrative boundaries – county, district
  • Hospitals, universities, airports
  • Parks, woodlands
  • Golf courses and sports centres
  • Lakes, rivers and canals
  • Places of interest

Post Code Locator

  • 1.7 million postcodes can be located on the map (now includes Northern Ireland Postcodes)
  • Improved accuracy
  • Validate postal addresses

Route Planner

  • Detailed routing using every street in Britain
  • One way streets and other driving restrictions
  • Select a waypoint from the map, Postcode Locator or any other database
  • Choose stops along the route
  • Display the shortest/quickest route on a detailed map and print it in colour
  • print a full itinerary
  • Calculate fuel consumption, mileage and journey cost

GPS – Satellite Navigation

  • Monitor your position on the map
  • Map is adjusted automatically
  • Record and replay a journey

 

Microsoft Autoroute 2002 / Mappoint 2002

Autoroute 2002 / Mappoint 2002 ( The programmable version ) – This is my backup application as it will work with my GPS but it is not very good for road use. Click here for the Autoroute GPS Update Speed Patch

AutoRoute 2002 uses the latest mapping information to plan your journey and work out the best route. It also points out over 400,000 places of interest and highlights restaurants, hotels, petrol stations, theatres and service stations. To add these points of interest to your route, you simply click on them. You can even choose your preferred roads to create the best route for you.

With easy-to-use drawing tools you can add notes and shapes to highlight landmarks, or help explain complex routes or hard-to-find addresses.

When you’ve finished you can print them out in a choice of formats, turn them into a web page or download them to your Windows® CE Pocket or handheld PC running Windows CE 3.0 or higher. If you have a NMEA 2.0 compatible Global Positioning System receiver, you can find your exact location anywhere around Europe. Just plug it into your laptop with AutoRoute 2002 running.

More features

  •   AutoRoute 2002 is based on premier map databases from Navigation Technologies
  •    Your estimated journey time will instantly be calculated, taking into account variables such as speed limits on different roads. Instructions even take into consideration one-way roads, dead-ends, detours and black spots
  •   AutoRoute 2002 will help you find more than 119,600 restaurants, 55,000 hotels, 70,900 petrol stations, 3,300 motorway rest areas, 14,700 ATMs, 8,400 museums, 5,600 pubs and 3,600 golf courses as well as many other points of interest
  •   Unsure how to spell a town or village name? Don’t worry, Smart Find recognises phonetically spelled names (e.g. Reiss in Scotland) and will provide a list of places that sound similar (e.g. Reis in Turkey). Use a currency converter to see how much money you need to take abroad and learn key phrases in 11 different languages using Phrasebook
  •  The maps will print and fax clearly in black and white. Choose from five map styles including strip maps with directions, turn-by-turn maps, directions only, map overview and highlighted places

In all  6 out of 10 ( Version Reviewed 2002 )

 

Carrera EX – The Opel / Vauxhall OEM ( Factory Fitted ) CarPC / Carputer – Yep It Exists

Car Navigation Systems Inc  www.carnavsys.com

 

Currently they have a contract with the major Opel market player in Bulgaria. They are negotiating with  Opel’s headquarter in Germany to approve and include this technology not just on local and EE level, but worldwide as well. Their goal is to provide people on the go with computing functions and Internet access identical to being in the office or home. With this they can save a lot of time and money and be much more productive and really mobile. Of course they’d like to entertain the people during trips as well which is why they have developed a flexible and full-featured multimedia part of their own software.

 

What have they done so far? They have developed a system, called Carrera EX. Basically it consist from 3 parts – specially developed anti-shock Pentium 4 PC w/ DVD, usually mounted in the vehicle’s trunk, dash-mounted Touch Screen LCD (at least one) and entirely developed by Carnavsys in-car software for usage during drive time. Of course thet offer installation and maintenance to their customers and partners as well. Currently they are working on a 24×7 support centre and help desk, so they might stay more close to the audience and they hope to announce it later this month ( Sept 2003 ). In fact here there are lots of “hidden” to the normal eye details like special audio and power supply filters, vehicle safe and security features, special microcontroller integration board (that connects the consumer electronics of the car with the pc. For instance – there is a connection between the front lights and the pc. With that the customer gets an automatic switch between day and night mode of the software. All he needs to do is just to turn on the vehicle’s lights…)etc

Concerning the new models of Opel – they are starting to install CarreraEX in the new Vectra, Signum, Zafira and Combo. In fact these models have great LCD place – what they need to do is just to deinstall the audio equipment that comes with your Vectra.

Below you can see some screenshots from their in-car software called Maestro that was made especially for Opel, Opel fans and dealers worldwide.

If you decide to use their in-car software solution, you’ll need the above mentioned integration board in order to get all the features working fine (such as intelligent power management, day and night auto switch, vehicle’s integrated audio intelligent control etc)

 

For more information please contact :-

Alexander Ivanov

Commercial Director

Car Navigation Systems Inc

Sofia, 1784

Bulgaria

Frontdesk: +359 2 9768198

Fax: +359 2 9768199

Visit us on www.cns.bg / www.carnavsys.com