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June 28, 2015

Rockin The Snooze With Clocky

Completely off topic but I had to share:

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mobile Software Trends

The headline says it all. It's a brave new world for developers.

"Developing applications to run inside cars is a fascinating and potentially lucrative market for developers. But what systems are actually running under the hood, and what hurdles do you have to overcome to build for them? "

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GPS for your reckless teenager

When I would head out of the house as a teenager on a Friday night, my mother hoped that her years of parenting and smacking sense into me would keep me safe. Other than a few moments of stupidity on my part, she was right on. I lived to party another day. In another case of paranoia-drives-technology we can now track our vehicles in real-time. Before I go on to talk about how this technology is cool, lets remember that if you treat people like suspects, they will act like suspects.

The double edged sword of monitoring is the sheer amount of data, the fact that even monitoring data can be interpreted and, people who cant be trusted shouldn't be let loose on the world in your vehicle. On the other side, it's nice to know you can find your car if say, your crack-head friend who just got out of rehab just borrowed your Bentley to see a friend in the Bronx.

If the technology was being sold for commercial use, it would be nice for fleet management. It's good to know where company vehicles are as that gives a street level view into a commerce chain. When sold to parents who have already absolved themselves of parenting responsibility by allowing their kids to be raised by the television, it becomes yet another layer of abstraction between the parent and child, further removing trust and responsibility from the family dynamic.

That said, I'm not a father and giving the concept some thought, if I had a young daughter, I might attach the locator beacon to her leg until she's married.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Future Stop Lights Double Plus Good

The connection between our cars and the electronics of the road may be in our future. One day signal lights could monitor and communicate with our cars, for better or for worse. There is no arguing that traffic accidents are bad. As a volunteer firefighter in my county, I see quite a few and you don't need to be going fast to get badly injured. Although technologies like this offer more safety, does it come with a cost to our privacy? Sometimes we turn too quickly to a draconian methodology to handle safety issues when education and a few adjustments is all we need.

The answer to traffic injuries way well rest in Americans making a few difficult decisions. The first thing to do is ban the use of cell phones while driving. Using a cell phone and driving has been shown to be nearly as dangerous as driving drunk. In order to make intersections safer, increase the delay between red lights / green lights. People who run lights often run them right after it turns. Let the longer red clear the intersection. Another suggestion is that any driver should go through many hours of training and classroom instruction before getting a license, followed up by a yearly refresher course.

The bottom line is safety. Regardless of how we get to safer roads, lets not sell our privacy rights wholesale or ignore glaring safety issues we can deal with by simply telling drivers they cannot operate a vehicle and be distracted by aunt Mimi yammering on and on about her foot operation. No one wins that way.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hello Michael, I'm out of warantee

Growing up in lower Manhattan, I never imagined that one day I would own a car. Cars were things city kids hid behind during water baloon and shaving cream fights after school. Cars got messed up where I lived. One of the few cars that could have hacked city life without too much trouble would have been Kitt. The only problem with Kitt is he/it was a Firebird and not even a Formula at that. If I had had my druthers, I would have taken James Bond's Lotus Esprit Turbo over Kitt any day. That car had rockets and didnt give Bond any lip. Thats a real car. Rockets. Yeah.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2015

TreoEater - i730

I like the Treo. I mean it. But it's only like. I don't love it. It's still too early in the personal communications game to declare a winner. Microsoft, the perenial second-to-market-with-the-killer-app is looking to slide in and eat Palm's lunch. Remember Palm Pilots? Remember the Microsoft devices that ate their lunch? The Microsoft formula of watching the marketplace with a keen eye and offering advanced products, even late in the game pays off over and over.

Sure, this too has nothing to do with Car Computer technology but each player affects our little world in its own way.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 01:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sony Connect Wants Your Ears But Can They Hear Themselves?



In a previous life, say, 10 months ago, I was Director of Technology at Sony Pictures Digital / Sony Connect. At the time there were only a hand full of hard drive based music players and our group had almost no imput into their features, hence ATRAC only players. That first run of gear was met by the public with the thunderous sound of crickets.

The issue was manifold. Different divisions of Sony were making different parts of the puzzle, an important puzzle that was trying to compete with the iPod. The Connect software, a huge download that once installed took deep root in your computer was seen to be very buggy. Rather than leveraging the programming prowess of the Connect team in the US, the folks in Japan insisted on writing the software themselves. Sony does not have a good track record when it comes to software and software UI. Once again the public and Walt Mossberg of the WSJ were less than welcoming.

The simple fact that Sony was acting more like 5 competing companies than a streamlined team sewn together to develop hardware, software, Internet delivery, DRM and content.

I am not familiar with what they have done in the last year to become a more effective competitor. I would think that trying to end the endless infighting and departmental empire building would be first on the list.

In the very Sony way of doing things, they now offer no less than 4 hard drive based players and 7 or so flash memory units with little differentiating the models. I say its their way because they have had a pattern of offering buyers 10 different options for a 27" TV while 3 would have been sufficient and less confusing to the customer. Just because you can make 7 flash MP3 / ATRAC players does not mean you have to.

Sony built its brand based on offering customers a quality product with advanced features at a slight premium. Sony is still a premium brand but they have diluted their product pool by losing focus. Companies like Apple succeed because they put massive effort into a small number of products. Like them or not, Apple is a strong brand and their models are easily differentiated. Sony became lost when the powers that be in Tokyo allowed empires to built around Vaio, Walkman, Sony Electronics, Playstation. Those divisions are still at war and do not collaborate on projects in a meaningful way.

While other electronics manufacturers are making systems that work together, Sony cannot deliver a solid line of products that make sense to the customer. Does the market need 5 home theater Dream Systems? To top it all off, the Sony Style site drives customers to it and then away again. Vendors often have new Sony products on their web sites before Sony Style has it posted, if ever. If you didn't know Sony had an ES high end line of home theater equipment, you wouldn't find it on Sony Style, at least not without having to dig for it.

The deal Sony is trying to make with XM and or Sirius is less about the deal and more about what Sony is going to do with it once they have it, whatever IT is. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing but affection for my old company and colleagues. The people at Connect are the smart ones of the bunch, having great leadership and vision. It's the rest of Sony that worries me.

Can Sir Howard Stringer bring Sony out their morass of complexity? That is the crux of this rant after all. It's a call to get back to basics. The up-and-comers in every market Sony competes in are gaining ground like Sony is standing still. Sony has the power, the brains, the creativity and people to be reborn but it will take the knighted gent from the Uk shake up the company in a way it has never seen. I see two visions of the future. The first vision is of Sony streamlining their product lines, getting out of markets that are not profitable, dumping the MiniDisk, breaking up the fiefdoms and reigning in the media divisions. That future is about a unified Sony brand that offers people what they want, not what Sony wants to sell them. The other vision is not as nice. Sony will continue to post losses, continue to expand their broad base of products, and allow the silo of power to exist as separate states within the company. Sony see their brand relegated to an also-ran being overtaken by swift Korean and Taiwanese competitors who get to market faster and take hold of the space.

In the end it's up to the executives at Sony to make a decision about their own priorities. Will they decide to be great leaders that care about Sony or will they build more walls around their internal kingdoms, choking creativity and hiding from the public.

The Minidisc will the groundhog day indicator showing the market how smart its key players are. As long as the MD player keep poking its head out, Sony will keep experiencing a seemingly never ending winter.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 12:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

USB Rockin Live On Your FM Dial

In some cultures, the presence of FM modulators signifies the beginning of famine and pestilence. Fortunately, we are not in New Jersey.

This little doo-hickey, just like the article states, brings those USB memory sticks into a daily use place, allowing you to have MP3s play in your car for a pittance. A PITTANCE I SAY!

For $30 American, you're hip deep in tunes.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 20, 2015

OpenCarSystems - Where is the Penguin

Can automakers get their assembly-line heads around opening up their systems and working TOGETHER? After I stopped laughing, I thought "well, sure, if they grasp the gravity of the situation if they dont do it". And so it's said, let it be done. Go forth and be open lest ye face famine and pestilence.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Future of Future Tech

Kick back, pull up a screen and get your read on. Good article on Telematics and where it's going.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Interface In Your Face

ThinkGeek always has stuff I almost want to spend my money on. I'm not SURE I need this level of access to my car diagnostics but given the option, more data is good. I would prefer to just get the cable and plut it into my on-borad PC...If only there were some good software for that...

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Minivan Trend Setting

"new concept" and "minivan" do not often share space in headlines. Phatnoise, a player in the BYO-Music mobile audio scene has been fighting to find a place in automotive OEM rather than fight for space as an aftermarket install. Although this is not their first foray into the carmaker's parts bins, it's the first time digital video has been part of their OEM offering.

The partnership with the SpongeBob channel only shows how powerful the buying influence is with the I-still-wet-the-bed set. A spitting tantrum in the candy aisle wont get ma and pa to sign a 3 year lease on the new rig but they might be more inclined to pony up when a non-stop stream of tot-pacification can give them a few moments of peace on the way to see the in-laws.

From a child development perspective it may raise concerns that we are finding more ways to allow the TV and by extension, the TV networks to raise our children. Bringing that pacifier into the car may buy some quiet time but is it the best way to keep the kids quiet? Perhaps my own upbringing clouds my judgment. I had to endure what seemed like decades, watching the terrain slowly change on cross-country trips. My entertainment options were limited to whatever I could jam into a backpack or what faces I could make at other drivers. I might be more excited at the content deal if it were with Discovery rather than Nickelodeon. Quiet and learning is better than quiet and absorbing meaningless cartoon interaction.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2015

G35 Owners, Start Cheering

A friend of mine, Kevin bought a G35 last year. What a nice ride. The only thing was it NEEDED a car PC. The monitor install would have been so custom it was almost a no go. The console is so proprietary it's just not worth the pain.
Digital Wheelz Has a solution and its more than just adding a Z where an S ought to be.

Now Kevin has an order in and all is right with the world.

It's cool that someone worked so hard on such a custom part and then, make more of them. Thats what I call love. Or good sales sense.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 06:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Tiny TV Toys

In a related theme, I once again find superior stuff only after I buy the object of my desire. I recently bought a Hauppage USB2 TV tuner. It would bring real live TV into my car with the picture clarity that would rival that of a 9" black and white set perched atop a milk crate in some cabin deep in the mountains of Michigan's upper peninsula. That good.

I knew mobile TV was going to be about as good as it was in the 70's when mom and I took a limo to JFK airport. Compro's USB HD / Analog TV tuner made me think for a moment about how cool it would be to have HDTV in my car and what a moron I was to buy that other tuner. Then reality struck. Unless I wanted to have a big rig style 10' whip antenna, I was going to get the same crap picture, regardless of the technology. This is a good space saver but seems to be more of a high performance laptop toy. We've seen what happens when HDTV tuners dont get perfect signal, you get break dance TV. No one wants that.

The Hauppage USB2 TV tuner is a value at $99. It's a cheap and easy to get some TV in your car with the understanding that the over air signal might suck. Just like it did in the back of the RV when you were 10.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mini Me's Ickle Keyboard

It's always the week after I buy something that it happens. I find something far superior and I spend the next week deciding if I should buy the new hotness and eBay the other thing... Oh the misery!

Trying to find a keyboard for my mobile computer was pure torture. I found lots of things that almost worked. After a ton of time spent on obscure industrial keyboard sites here and abroad, I found something to make me somewhat happy.

I got this one but in black and paid $45 for it. Sure, I just now googled "small keyboard trackpad" and found it for $20, but I'll grit my teeth and move on. This little board has a small laptop sized keypad plus a nice trackpad in the base. It was pretty much what I would put up with unless I could find something more two hand thumb board style. Google failed me in that respect. Oh, Google, you're bigger than Time Warner now, how can you hide little keyboards from me? Why must my quest be mocked?

Anyhoo, I got the keyboard and it™s pretty cool. I still can't drive and use it but that wasn't something I was shooting for. When my wife drives, I can comfortably type and tell her we're going the wrong way, she's following too close and we missed our turn because the TV app was covering the GPS app.

To my utter dismay, I found this:

It's not out-of-the-box perfect BUT it™s far cooler than the now seemingly enormous monstrosity I was only recently enamored with.

All is not lost, I'll still keep the original keyboard but curiosity will force me to whip out the soldering iron and make this little thumb-board work.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 08, 2015

Projects Wanted - Your Car PC / MacMini

A very large on-line source of digital media has asked me to put together a collection of in-car computer projects. If you have installed an in-car computer, this is what I need:
5-10 photos of the install
1 photo of your noggin, face front
captions for all of the photos. You can caption your head shot as well, if you feel the need.

I need an initial 5 in the next 5 days. That doesn't mean all the fun ends in 5 days, I just need to get some together to get a buffer going.

I do not have an OK yet to identify from the media giant but you'll know soon.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 12:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sprint EVDO Schedule Leak

Not that there was a chance I was going to go with Sprint, they seem to be off and running on EVDO service. Even my own little Austin, TX just got it this month. Or, let me say, they have it scheduled. Let's not confuse scheduled things with actuall things. I know better since ordering my couch 4 months ago...

If you live in an area that already has service according to their schedule, call Sprint and ask about it. Lets see how long it takes them to train their call center staff on the new technology.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Big Detail in EVDO hardware

Adtran, for you non-IT folk out there are makers of network guts hardware. They make the multiplexers and little gray boxes that make different networks talk to one another. I would go into more detail but I already see some eye glaze.

What does this press release mean to you? EVDO, the next generation of wireless data service provided by your wireless carrier. Ok, I still see a blank stare... Its going to be super fast, always on broadband Internet access you can use for your laptop, car-PC, or PDA. Good? Yes. Will the carriers gouge consumers and price the service out of reach for us unwashed masses? Time will tell but I'll go ahead and make a silent list in my head of exactly which ones are going to charge the most and which will charge the least. Stay tuned for an "I almost told you so".

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Itty Bitty PC Committee

In car computers have only recently seen actual mounting hardware. The CarbotPC comes with nice brackets you can mount before mounting the actual PC. The Icon-TV comes with very nice looking brackets but after staring at the photo for a while I realized that the brackets dont let you remove the computer once its been hard mounted. You would have to remove the brackets instead of unscrewing the nice looking set screws. I hope I'm wrong about that.

Another thing puzzles me about the Icon-TV. It's not a TV. I didnt see TV Tuner listed as an included function. I may have missed that point too, and once again, I hope I am wrong.

Upon further inspection also didnt notice an Ethernet port. Does that matter? If you need to re-install, if the wireless adapter stops working, if something happens, being able run a cable to your computer is a major convenience.

There is a certain amount of consistency we have come to expect in a "computer" and that consistency relates to the ports it has. Take something away, eve if its trivial, you risk freaking people out. The keyboard / mouse combo is something you see on a laptop but with external DVD players drawing power from those ports, taking one away may hamper external device connectivity. Sure, it's not common

Don't get me wrong, it comes with just about everything you would want. The included Bluetooth is very good thinking. Now that you can get pass-through Internet connectivity through your Treo650 or other Bluetooth phone, it's a must have. Wardriving is just not a great way to get consistent connectivity.

I will say that the $5,999.00 price tag makes me wonder, do you get a free 60" plasma TV with your purchase? Perhaps thats where the TV in Icon-TV comes from.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2015

Gooey Bits Of In Dash Goodness

You and I both know, this is not the first in-car PC, not by a long long long shot. I say that with a Paris + Paris marriage lasting less than a week certainty. For the other 5 billion people this will pass muster as firstish. Moving right along, we are presented with a very complete package from PDC (TW). The innards consisting of Windows CE is an interesting twist, making it more appliance-like than the fully-blown mini-XP / Mac Mini installs we see. Does that make it any less real? There are issues with running anything you please on it and that part makes me a little wary. That said, the menu of standard tasty morsels does make me covet...

- Multimedia Entertainment: DVD, TV/FM, CD, VCD, MP3
- Mobile Communications: GSM/GPRS
- Global Positioning System GPS: Voice Guidance, Route Planning, Shortest
- Path Calculation, Points of Interest
- Mobile Office: Windows OS Platform, Suitable for Personal or Business Purposes
- Internet Ready: Website Browsing, Email, Data Transfer
- Rear Car Vision System: Safe and Secured Driving Experience

Without having my grubby mitts on it, It's difficult to give it a firm thumbs up or down. The featureset, the apparent 1 DIN size and face controls, I have to say that this is a very good example of what the future of this technology will look like. When I go to CES, I'll expect to vet it proper like.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 06:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quiet Neighbors Up North Show Us What For

Ok Canada, you win. You got 3G. We're a big bunch of wafflers who can't agree on a technology. I hear you, I see where you're coming from. US - No EVDO , Canada EVDO. If we turned off Survivor for 15 minutes we might not get left behind. Let's get it together people, we're flailing here.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wired Fuels Jihad

This may seem off topic, but it's not. We here at Carhacks often ponder the state of computing. There is no "right" way, there are just many ways. We all have to make choices as individuals, or as Scott Adams would say In-Duh-Viduals. (He also says Cow-Orkers but I can't figure out how to use that word in this article) When we chose our computing platform, we are intorduced to it by someone who already has an opinion. Perhaps a parent, a friend or even... drum roll... cow-orker. The computer is a tool. It is something we use to get work done, we cannot mistake our pleasure in the tool's efficiency for actual love. Some people do. Sometimes that love turns into something sinister and the lover lashes out at a world that does not understand. Those people need assistance.

I've always held Wired in high regard when it comes to their knowledgeable writers. They never dumb down the issues and get right to the core of things in a very Scientific American way. So when I read the juvenile flame from an obvious Mac luver I took pause. Are we not above the Mac PC feud? Must people still spew bile and vitriol when discussing other computing options? Have we not learned any lessons from the Middle East? Let's take a more John Lennon approach here fellas. Macs are for people who like Macs, PCs are for people who like PCs. lets not make irrational judgments about our neighbors. We can all live in peace as long as we all agree to silence the zealots.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VIA - Misunderestimated

So everything I said about VIA not knowing their impact on car based computers blah blah blah. Right, they knew. Ten again, they may not have known and just checked out my blog. Thats the way I'll imagine it.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is Your USB Kung-Fu Strong Enough?

In an effort to completely blanket the issue surrounding powered USB, J.P. Stewart offers up a recipe using the Ecovell 12V adapters. The issue for people installing a computer in their car is that often the computer does not have internal slots. The lack of slots in most in-vehicle systems demands that everything else (the fun stuff) needs to tether. Most components will tell you what their power needs are and if I'm doing my math right, each USB port ca offer up 500mA(Some electrical engineer is going to correct me on which letters in mA are in caps).

The common power suckers are USB TV Tuners and powered drives. Don underestimate power usage by GPS mice, Bluetooth adapters. Be sure to read the packaging or visit the manufacturers site for more details. Be sure to match USB2 to USB2. Windows XP will warn you when it senses a mismatched pair. Other operating systems may not forgive.

Random note on in car TV tuners - If the video is choppy, reduce the interlace setting. The initial setting is meant for faster systems than can handle higher rates. You wont notice any quality difference other than when in the lower setting you no longer have Kung-Fu movie audio / video sync. If you like everything to be a little out of sync, the factory setting will make you happy. Important Note - If you watch a Kung-Fu movie on your system with the factory interlace setting, it will un-Kung-Fu the Kung-Fu audio sync. Got it?


Here is what I use:

Ecovell 4X USB DC Car Power Adapter (UD0520)

With the UP-2001, Universal Cable Set (one is included with the ecovell by going through talkall above.)

Then I got a powered usb microhub. (I can not find a link to the exact one I have, but it was pretty generic)

Here is an example

(note, make sure that its a 5 volt usb hub)

Go to any Radio Shack and get a power adapter plug that fits your usb hub and plug it into the universal cable that comes with the ecovell. They should have a bundle of power adapters to try till you find the one that fits, then you can buy just that one.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 01, 2015

12V Powered USB Hub Kit

Industrial Component

I knew that once again Google would pull it out for me. I spent some time making search word combos and came up with a winner. Although it is $45, the problem it solves makes it worth the extra few bucks.

Since its made for vehicle use it might do better than your standard household unit with an aftermarket adapter.

Since I'm ordering one today, I'll tell you what heppens.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 02:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack