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July 29, 2015

Lot Lizards Go Wireless

Ah, life on the open road. No one to tell you what to do, bubbas squaking on the CB, late nights at truck stops, swilling down cheap coffee and effedren, checking your email from the back of your Kenworth. What? The Interweb at the truck stop?

Contrary to popular belief, truckers are not all a bunch of overall wearing toothless speed freaks. The majority of them are pretty tech savvy individuals who make up a rather significant percentage of mobile electronics purchases. Without truckers, XM may have taken a lot longer to launch. SMC must have figured out that truckers have email wants and needs and took the T-Mobile hotspot idea to the land of the big-rig. It's a pretty slick idea since it not only services the laung haul trucker, it's a huge improvement for the traveling family, business man or run-away bride.

We're such slaves to our inbox that going on vacation means we have to figure out a way to check email no matter how far we get from the office. Don't try to pretend you didnt call your blackberry provider to ask if they serviced your potential vacation spots.

SMC is providing yet another circle of wireless coverage in spots they never existed. Slowly but surely, layer upon layer we are all becoming unwired.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:24 PM | TrackBack

July 28, 2015

Treo On The Traffic Warpath

About 18 months agou I would have told you Palm was about to kick the bucket. Windows was eating their lunch with their SmartPhone technology and it was all down hill. The Treo has changed all that.

I'm still a fan of the MS interface and think it's a little more intuitive but I still have love in my heart for Palm. A lot of love in fact. Their new traffic mapping app is the a great step in the right direction. They needed a subscription based revenue stream and just as I have been talking about all week, GPS, traffic, weather, righ media, all pointed at mobile devices is the next wave, the real meat of the Internet commerce stream for mobility. It's all very exciting but still in it's infancy. Give this market 3 years and you'll see some great integration and product offerings.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:52 PM | TrackBack

Tracking Smokey

A Definitive Studios is releasing a cable that connects your Valentine to your on-board PC allowing you to get a better handle on the nature of fuzz density in your area. Now that is cool and all but I have a challenge for them. When real speed traps are found, the software should upload the GPS coordinates to a database and send that info down to other people on the system, creating a virtual anti-fuzz grid, distant early warning system. How you like them apples?

I used to have a radar detector. I had a few of them over the years with varying degrees of success. There were two reasons I needed one in my car, I drove fast and I drove very fast. The kinds of things I used to do with my car made the chase scene in Ronin look tame. After a few decades of stupid driving and getting away with most of it, I decided to just drive normal. Perhaps it was my involvement with the fire department, responding to numerous accidents and seeing earless people ejected from vehicles that tempered my need for speed.

When I lived in LA, radar detectors were pointless. The amount of rogue RF made any unit schizoid. In the end, there were too few places I felt like I could speed and it just wasn't worth the ticked because I couldn't depend on any unit being accurate enough.

I know quite a few people who say the Valentine is the only one to have and all others are pointless in comparison. I've even witnessed one in action and thought it was impressive. Since my Yukon isn't the speed demon my old Bimmer was, I don't have a burning desire to get my hands on one. It also helps that once a day my fire department pages goes off and I get to tear up the streets with lights and sirens, running red lights and making all sorts of noise. It's a good offset.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:30 PM | TrackBack

Your Future Car May Be Powered By Cisco

If you've ever looked at a vehicle wiring harness, you know it's a scary bundle of wires that can get you in lots of trouble. With more and more chips in your whip, the basic 18ga wire is not cutting it anymore. Yep, it's going to look a lot like an IP network. If history has given us any indication of the future, automakers will take established standards and make things more complex than they need to be. It is what it is. What does that mean for you? More sophisticated systems, better safety controls, fine tuned ECM and mobile connectivity and entertainment.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:20 PM | TrackBack

Mobile Crossing GPS - Is That Price In Pesos?

I am still in shock and awe at the price some companies are thinking they could get for their navigation toys. The bubble is going to burst, trust me on this. Remember when RAM cost more than an hour with a criminal defense attorney? Remember how much a new processor cost? It could be MS, it could be TomTom, it could be any one the players but a cheap, sub $200 category killer is lurking out there in the deep waters and the whole GPS snake-oil pricing scheme will come crashing down around it. Out of the ashes will come value-add connected GPS services that offer accurate POIs, real-time traffic and weather and so on.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:01 PM | TrackBack

Leaving your car running and walking away from it is just plain stupid. There is no excuse for it. I've done it, so I'm not exempt from being one of those morons but no one took my car. Leaving keys in your car, is also high on the list of things not to do. That said, I dont think automakers are being held to a higher standard when it comes to making cars hard to steal. A metal key in a mechanical lock is very 1860. With all of the advances in RFID, HID type cards, mag strips, biometrics, eyeball scanning, are we still stuck with old-west technology? Mercedes has moved away from the need for a key, why can't we?

I'll also note that a secondary authentication method should be required to start vehicles. Not simplay a primary key system, but a soft second data key. A password, secure-id fob, some tube you have to blow into, something else. Insurance companies love stolen cars, they get to raise rates and make more money from us. Automakers love stolen cars, because people have to BUY A NEW CAR. We're the only ones who lose here. Well, us and law enforcement.

"With the highest auto theft months of July and August upon us, the results of a survey announced today reveal that law enforcement professionals around the country believe Americans need to do more to protect their vehicles from theft. According to a robust sampling of law enforcement professionals, a full 81 percent believe that car owners are not taking the right steps to protect their vehicles from theft. The survey also revealed that nearly 90 percent believe owners need to better protect their vehicles from today's sophisticated thieves by exercising more common sense, using more theft deterrents and using stolen vehicle recovery systems."

Posted by Lionel Felix at 02:51 PM | TrackBack

Smart Nav

We will always be teased by Japanese electronics and automakers who flaunt their cool stuff but make us wait eons to get our hot American hands on them. If you want to know what we'll be seeing in the states in a few years, read the article. Given that we are so broken up when it comes to highway monitoring and control where Japan is unified, it's just easier to do it there. We have a way to go. I'm talking to YOU CalTrans.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 02:45 PM | TrackBack

July 27, 2015

Phathack DIY ISO for YOU

First the hack now the packaged hack, once again courtesy of Judb.

It's all pretty much automated now. Good luck and don't forget that we warned you about tearing off those mattress tags.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 01:02 PM | TrackBack

July 26, 2015

Off Topic - Your Cable Box Is So 1978

Non-car-computer rant here but I think it needs to be said. Scientific Atlanta makes millions of cable TV boxes. It's very possible that you have one or two in your house right now. If you're living with one of these things you may know what I'm about to say... The UI is terrible. It's so terrible I can't understand how there isn't a riot in the street. It's not like we don't pay a fee for them each month. We do, and whats worse, we allow it to happen.

If SA were on top of things they would buy Tivo outright and use them as their UI provider. It would allow SA to work on hardware and stop torturing us with their dreadful interface. My HD tuner, the Explorer 8300 is a PVR yet it has no functionality for searching. It has a very basic sort of search that only lets you look a day at a time and even then, it's too weird to use. Tivo cracked that years ago. Their version of season pass keeps recording the same show and sometimes, no show at all. Yoou have to dig deep into menus to get anything done and thats with their 40 something button remote.

DirecTV has something over cable and thats a superior UI all the way around. Cable subscribers are not a captive audience and bacle operators need to know that. The signal quality of cable is good as long as the line is clear, otherwise, like me, you get static. Like most people. I dont get the ads on TV about people getting frustrated with satellite TV, it's a very negative campaign and I don't think people are responsive to that. The part about it being "too complicated" makes no sense. The UI cable operators are allowing to be deployed in their boxes are too complicated.

There is an argument about the cost. What is the cost of losing customers? How much did they spend running negative ads against satellite. instead of marketing to people and trying to sell snake oil, how about good old fashioned quality service from end to end. That always wins out.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 04:00 PM | TrackBack

More On The Seagate Automotive HD

No details on the cost but the toughness factor will drive the price up. The temperature extremes it can withstand are VERY impressive. I'd like to see these drives in laptops as well.

"The automotive hard drive is designed to withstand extreme temperatures (-30 degrees to 85 degrees C) as well as high altitude, extreme humidity and other conditions that would cause lesser drives to freeze up, overheat, and fail in the mission of delivering new digital services to automobiles. The EE25 Series is also designed to withstand the constant vibration of an automobile, while streaming navigation, entertainment and other data services. With 20GB, 30GB and 40GB capacities, the drives will bring high-quality AV entertainment services and DVD-free GOS to the car."

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:09 AM | TrackBack

EVDO VS. WiMax. A New Play By David Mamet

The battle of wireless will be settled by the great equalizer, pricing and coverage. Wireless companies should be shaking in their boots. Not that I think WiMax is that great or can compete with cellular networks, it's great because wireless provides are not free to set rates as they please without any other competition. Competition is good, it's democratic and damn it, its American!

The magic number should be about $20/mo for broadband service to be realistic for a broad audience. Any more than that and it's a luxury item and people will shy away. T-Mobile is offering unlimited broadband through their phones / connection cards for $20 RIGHT NOW people! I've been using it for about a month and so far it's been a real winner. It's not quick but they promise a jump to EDGE very soon. The current speed is faster than dialup and slower than ISDN, perfect for IM, email, and a little browsing. Thanks Catherine Zeta Jones Douglas, you're the best!

If the pink logoed T-Mobile is already there at $20, what is the value proposition from the other carriers? Coverage? that's possible but T-Mobile has pretty good coverage. Speed? T-Mobile is upgrading to >1Mb/sec. Sprint, Verizon and Cingular need to get their pricing together or they will be left in the digital dust.

What does this mean for in-car computers? Right now you can get a T-Mobile connection card for about $100 and a solid connection for $20 a month. No more Wardriving, always-on Internet. Are we there yet? pretty damn close, kids, pretty damn close.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:57 AM | TrackBack

In An Alternate Universe

Since we're on the topic of road safety, let's make a 180 and gawk at people with too much money and a taste for speed.

The Cannonball Run was about much more than poking fun at Dom DeLouise, it was about, well, a lot of things, but going fast was high on the list. The Gumball 3000 races are the real world version of that epic Burt Reynolds homage to sizzling Tarmac.

What's the best way to avoid getting a ticket? Be the police. When cops get involved it's not always about how to best shine jack-boots or what moustache wax goes best with mirrored shades. Some cops are actually pretty cool. Cool until you're experienceing the business end of a choke hold. In this case, an M5 at more than 160 demonstrates the need, in all of us, to push the gas pedal so hard you break the lumbar support in your seat.

Carry on.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:46 AM | TrackBack

Less Accidents Through Social Engineering

"As much as we can engineer people's behavior and try to design for stupidity that we all exercise, we'll get better,"

Cars don't crash by themselves; it takes the meatball between the seat and steering wheel to make that happen. I'm not entirely sold on the idea of a car that can make decisions for drivers, even if they "sense" danger. I hate to bring out the little lawyer but having the car make decisions puts a significant amount of liability on the automaker's shoulders. There is also the question of who is responsible for making sure all of the sensors and actuators are operational on a daily basis and for the life of the car. This is starting to smell like a pre-flight check.

More systems, more room for failure, more room for liability, more operational and initial cost for the consumer. When these cars get old and their avionics start to fail, does that render the whole vehicle useless? If the vehicle fails to go into a "panic stop" and creams some old lady, is it still your fault? If the vehicle mistakes a blowing trash bag for a solid obstacle, will your car suddenly take evasive action, action that could land you in a tree?

The phrase of the day is personal responsibility. If you wear grown-up pants, drive the grown-up car, you are responsible for what happens. Developing technology to wrest control from a stupid operator is only enabling people to continue to be stupid. I'll admit that if more lives are saved than lost, there is value in that but we are talking about billions of dollars to fix a symptom and not the disease. Drivers are not getting better at driving.

It needs to be said that I am not stating that people are dumb, nor am I saying that the technology is going in the wrong direction. What I am saying is that people can get lazy and that driver awareness needs to emphasized over technical work-arounds.

Driving is unique in that people do it for hours each day yet proficiency plateaus about 1 year into it. People never get better, they find their comfort zone and stay there. If I spent as much time on my golf game as I do driving my car, I'd me a 2 handicap. But I'm no slouch behind the wheel either.

As a member of the local Volunteer fire department, I see a lot of motor vehicle accidents. I have yet to see an accident that was not directly related to:
1. not paying attention
2. being in a hurry
3. distracted by something
4. being angry
5. drunk / high

Weather can contribute and as we've all seen on the weather channel, when a road becomes a sheet of ice, it's not anyone's fault when your car does the ice dance. My point is, why go through the pain and expense to formulate an automated safety system when people will only rise to the level of laziness we engineer to?

I have a better solution. Quick, down, dirty and foolproof. The black box. a 30 second "flight" data recorder that measures speed, all axis of G-forces and impacts as well as 2 pinhole video cameras with 180 degree views front and rear. That way, victims have proof, law enforcement has evidence, insurance companies have quicker claims with fewer law suits and with only 30 seconds of recording buffer, people have no privacy issues to complain about. Done and done. Can we re-focus on something cool like the new Nissan Skyline?

Posted by Lionel Felix at 07:28 AM | TrackBack

July 25, 2015

Phatnoise Phatbox Hacked - Let's Party!

Phathack (registration may be required)
The Wikki On Phathack

Here at Carhacks, we're into, you know, hacks. Car hacks, to be more specific. If you're familiar with the Phatnoise product, you're also familiar with the fact that they don't want you to upgrade the hard drive. I won't make any assumptions here but I'll venture a guess that if it were easy to upgrade the drive, they might not sell as many newer units given thant any Elroy could just slap in a 450 gigger from BestBuy and bypass the up sell.

JudB just sent over the recipe on how to get around the issue and jack your Phatbox up so it's all triple phat and stuff. The details are rather sordid and it's possible that even reading the how-to will void your warrantee, don't come crying to me if you ham-fist it and render your Phatbox a sparking husk of diodes.

(I have not tested this, nor have I tested the links yet. Keep your panties on until I get this hashed out)

The Hack:

This is a quick howto on using scripts to patch the disk signature checking function of the phatbox...

Download [http://downloads.phathack.com/judb/phat-patch.zip phat-patch.zip] and extract it to the PHATSYS drive when the DMS is connected to your pc.


'''VERY IMPORTANT.. This could damage your phatbox / keg or disable it and have to send it to someone or to phatnoise for repair. Also make sure you have any and all plugins you want to use loaded on the existing working DMS and working in the Phatbox / keg. Also before starting this process make sure you have the most recent firmware on the box.'''


* From the PHTSYS root move flacplay and flacplay.sig into the PHTSYS\backup folder.

* From the PHTSYS\backup folder copy flacplay-hacked and flacplay-hacked.sig into the PHTSYS root directory.

* Renamed PHTSYS\flacplay-hacked and the .sig file you just copied to remove the -hacked from the filenames.

* Explore the PHTDTA\profiles\default directory. You should see a lot of files in there starting with P and ending in .idx / .sig / .pbx ... find p0.m3u / .sig / .idx / .pbx and rename them backup0.m3u / .sig / .idx / .pbx

* From PHTSYS\backup copy p0.* to PHTDTA\profiles\default ... This will make the first playlist that the phatbox plays execute the patch.

You can instead of using p0 as steps 4 and 5 say, change the name of the p0 files in PHTSYS\Backup to PXXX where XXX equals any number of a playlist as long as its in consecutive order with the existing playlists and then navigate to it when you are ready to patch the box.

* Eject the DMS from your PC

* Insert the DMS into your Phatbox / Keg and navigate to your playlist and it will patch your flash. You should almost instantly see the playlist change after it starts.. thats normal, theres no audio to play. Pause playback (save cpu time) and wait for about 30 seconds to be sure everything is done and then shut it off, wait for the lights to turn off and THEN remove the DMS. This makes sure all the logs are saved to disk.

* Take the DMS back to your PC and plug it in... look for a file called bootload.log... open it in notepad or your favorite text editor.

If the drive has a valid signature, after you boot, your logfile will look like this:

BOOT0: Successful
BOOT9: Successful
BOOTB: Successful
BOOTF: Successful
BOOT*: Successful

Now, if you boot with a bad signature, or non phatnoise signed drive it will look like this:

BOOT0-2: Successful
BOOT9: Successful
BOOTB: Successful
BOOTF: Successful
BOOT*: Successful

You can also review the logs in PHTSYS\log for more information.

* You must write the first 1 meg of the original DMS onto the new DMS. Use dd to write the file drive-sig-1mb.bin '''(created in PHTSYS\backup, but copy it to a local drive before using this as you have to swap DMS drives)''' to the new DMS once it is inserted. [http://uranus.it.swin.edu.au/~jn/linux/rawwrite/dd.htm DD for windows users get version 0.3 binary at the bottom of the page]

* Also make a backup copy of your plugin directory for copying to the new DMS drive.

* You can now make any drive a DMS drive. Partition it into two partitions, a PHTSYS of 64 megs and a PHTDTA of any size. PHTDTA must be an extended logical partition (partition number 5). I suggest waiting on this till you get a few more steps below and using the phatnoise DMS recovery CD / boot disk. This wiki entry does not cover the hardware portion of swaping the contents of the DMS. See http://wiki.phathack.com/DMS_drive_swap for more info on DMS hardware.


Windows Users:
launch c:\windows\system32\diskmgmt.msc for windows 2K or XP
to see what physical drive number windows has assigned your DMS. Replace X below with that number.
dd if=c:\drive-sig-1mb.bin of=\\.\physicaldriveX bs=512 count=2048

Unix Users:
I shouldnt have to explain this but use dd to copy the file
dd if=/home/joeblow/drive-sig-1mb.bin of=/dev/sda bs=512 count=2048

* Download the DMS Rescue Disk from [http://unix.phatnoise.com/bootdisk.php here]

* Make either the floppy or CD version of the Rescue disk, and boot off it. (you may have issues with newer motherboard USB drivers not working with this older linux kernel.. if thats the case contact someone on the board for help.)

* Once the disk is booted plug in your DMS. '''DO NOT HIT ENTER ON THE MAIN PAGE''' hit ALT+F2 to go to the advanced menu.

* Select the Reparition Reformat option without the bad block check. Bad block check will take a LONG TIME. Play tetris on ALT+F5 if you do that option or reboot and try again.

* When that is complete reboot into windows and load up the PMM. It should see your new virgin DMS Of Unusual Size. (sorry Princess Bride joke) Go into the options in PMM and have it load up the current firmware onto the DMS. In explorer go to the PHTSYS drive and '''delete the two files forceupdate and forcesettings'''.

* Copy your plugin folder back onto the PHTSYS drive.

* Use PMM to copy over a few songs in one playlist. Save and Eject the DMS. Try it in your system to see if you are in luck!

* Don't steal music.. stealing is bad. mmmkay?


At this time I have not tested the phatbox with a larger than 127 gig drive so it MAY not currently support drives of that size. We'll have to see.. but since laptop drives havent exceeded 120 gigs we should be fine for now.


'''Also, Pro Tip: Make sure you dont have your new drive set to slave or cable select. (No jumpers == goodness usually)'''


This is a picture howto for opening your DMS to swap the drives out.
There are some required steps prior to this noted in http://wiki.phathack.com/Script_to_run_firmware_patch, so check there first.


This is a photo of a DMS cart:



Flip the DMS over and you should see four screws in the back side.
A regular phillips head screwdriver will work to remove the screws.
Take them out and keep them in a near by pile.



Once the screws are out, the back of the DMS should pull right off with ease.
You'll see the drive with the rubber surrounds and the interface adaptor to mate with the cradle and the phatbox.
There is a wide U shaped peice of metal and a larger plastic peice under that which is the eject mechanism for the DMS.



Take the U shaped metal peice and the large plastic peice under it and set them in the back part of the DMS we unscrewed. You should see in this photo that the U shaped metal peice fits in two dents on the back of the DMS.



Once the parts are in the back side of the DMS properly this is what it should look like.



Here is the drive set aside.


This portion of the drive is the adaptor for the cradle and the phatbox. Remove this peice carefully. You do not want to damage the pins of this drive. Notice how the PCB (green board portion) is oriented toward the PCB side of the drive. Also remove the rubber surrounds. Test fit the rubber to the new drive. In many cases this will not fit squarely and may require cutting. There are little guides built into the DMS plastic case that the drive with the rubber must fit securly into. try placing the drive into these slots and make sure the rubber does not bind or bunch up. If it does you may need to get a knife and cut them somewhat. Pay attention to the orientation of the drive to the rubber to make sure you dont have it on upside down before cutting it though. removing these rubber surrounds will cause the drive to not fit firmly in the DMS and rattle around potentially damaging the drive during operation in the car.

Get your new large drive and place this adaptor on the new drive in a similar way. Also make sure there are no jumpers on the 4 pins that are not connected to this adaptor as they will cause the new drive to fail to work with the phatbox.


Is a photo of everything taken apart.


Put the drive back in the front of the DMS (the standoffs at the base should just barely touch the two screw holes in the Adaptor peice. make sure its not in upside down before trying to close the DMS and make sure the rubber fits in correctly or it will pinch and not seal up right or crush the drive. Put the screws back in and give it a whirl.

See http://wiki.phathack.com/Script_to_run_firmware_patch for more info on using your new larger drive!

Posted by Lionel Felix at 06:25 PM | TrackBack


The real simple low-down, this lets your stock stereo control Winamp / Pycar through a real simple cable.

It's pure genius. I *heart* this so much I'm getting all teary. Now, I dont have one of the cars mentioned but I feel the mirth for everyone who does. What makes this so great is that it makes your stock head unit BETTER. Hard to imagine, but this may make you want to keep the damn thing. It's still better to use a monitor to see your playlist, but the functionality is great. The next step in this product would be to add the ID3 text to the display. That would be super amazing rad.

You might want to check out the video where the cable maker demonstrates the cable features and shows off his taste in music. I would have gone for a little Pete Yorn, but hey thats me.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 06:13 PM | TrackBack

Automotive Hard Drive

The Seagate Barracuda has been an IT mainstay for years. I remember sitting in my datacenter listening to the hundreds of 10,000 RPM drives spinning away their MTBF as I caught a little nap. Seagate, never one to sit by and let other people get an edge in the market is producing vehicle specific drives. I will venture a guess and say that the advances are around more durable heads and better overall shock, temperature, humidity and dust resistance. There is nothing like a car to test the durability of a device.

Until solid state drives are cheaper than spinning disk, advances in environmental resistance will continue to move forward. It's nice to know there are alternatives to using laptop hard drives for in-car computers.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 05:51 PM | TrackBack

Dudley Do-Right Gets Broadband Wireless

Can I make a wish? I wish Telematics Journal posted some photos with their articles. It would make my life easier. People not coming to a complete stop in front of me when I'm exiting a plane would also make my life easier.

It's not exactly Telematics when you're talking about horses but It's worth noting that even the RCMP sees the value of mobile broadband access on their vehicle. I am somewhat concerned about antenna placement and where one mounts the rest of the electronic goodies. Having been thrown from a horse, I have a feel for how rugged the gear has to be. Sierra Wireless stuff has never let me down and I'm not the least clutzy person I know, if you get what I mean.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 05:38 PM | TrackBack

Carhacks Official Endorsement - Team Banzai

When someone such as myself decides to open his cake-hole and launch into a blind screed about some technology, I leave myself open to getting reminded that I'm not the only person who reads this stuff.

Buckaroo Banzai, an engineer PHD ( I am guessing ) from Team Banzai took me to task and posted a comment to answer some of my questions. I'm glad that they had a sense of humor about the whole thing as some engineers might find me offensive and release nano-bots to turn me into pink goo. I was set straight about the nature of their install and frankly, I feel better about their odds of wining the $2M.



Excellent commentary.

Just to set the facts straight...

1. The luxury SUV Touareg provides an air-conditioned "clean room" for the computers.

(ED: I don't recall visiting any clean rooms having new car smell or carpeting for that matter. In fact, I've never been in a clean VW but since this is in the hands of people whose IQ's are about 3X mine, I'll just nod)

2. The wire shelving is from HomeDepot, not Target. The flex in the wire, combined with vibration padding under each of the units have been performing pretty well in our desert testing.

(ED: I have that same shelving! I'm so money!)

3. The "purple amps" are 24 volt step-up regulators to power the lidar sensors.

(ED: Since the MacMinis already have iTunes, it would make sense that they didn't NEED any extra amplification. If TB were interested, Balupunkt just released some new low profile mid / subs... You know, in case they decide to put a little bump in the trunk. Oh, yeah, I knew that was a step up regulation thingy. I knew that.)

4. The luggage rack is to mount and protect above mentioned sensors.

(ED: Ah, see, I didn't see any radio gear in the press photo. That left things to my imagination. As you have seen, you know what happens when things are left up to my imagination.)

5. The Touareg is extremely capable and well designed as an off-road vehicle. It holds the current World's High Altitude record and races in all the major desert rallies

(ED: I take it you get to keep it after the race. Right? Am I right or what? Don't lie now! Yeah, I guess you're right about it being all high altitude and rugged and junk. It also has that immeasurable quality of Farfegnugen that comes with all VDubs. I don't see and Farfegnugen in a Kia. Yeah, I said it.)

Any other questions, Riddler ?

ED: Yeah, just one, can I send you a Carhacks sticker to put on the car :) PUHLEEEZE?

Check out the race on October 8th. I'm guessing Caesars sports book is going to have odds on this, dontcha think?

Can you say Banzai without yelling Banzai!!! I can't...

Posted by Lionel Felix at 04:56 PM | TrackBack

July 22, 2015

In Dash Car PC

If you just sit by your window and stare at Korea, you'll see something cool every day. Their phones, their computers, their LCD screens. Cool! All of it! Korea is the new Japan and they are not messing around.

This may not be the first in-dash form factor for a PC but it's the best by far. Software, hardware, accessories. It's the total package. Well, the total package if you can read and speak Korean. An English version is being put together but unlike cell phones, the US will get it without too much lag time. Until then you're just smelling the Kimchee.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 21, 2015

Dora the Mac Explorer

DARPA just loves their driverless races. Rather than spend our hard earned tax dollars trying to develop a driverless car, our college kids are spending university research dollars (yet again, our dollars)on the quest. Another quest to solve a problem no one knew existed. This time there is a $2M prize for answering the call first. Is it me, or does this sound a lot like the fodder for a reality show? If so it would be a very geeky reality show with contestants you won't want to see naked.

Moving right along, team Banzai decided on the VW Toureg (TOE-RAG) as their vehicle platform of choice. As a sidebar, why spend $45 large on a luxury SUV? What's wrong with a '68 Toyota Land Cruiser? Do they not have AutoTrader where they live? Banzai chose the Mac Mini to run their NAV, monitoring and control systems. Those sure are pretty. Mmmmm pretty. Pretty computers are good right? That's a metric research scientists use to determine the computing power of a system. Good case design. Kidding! Jeez people, don't get your knickers in a knot every time someone pokes fun at a Mac. I kid!

Now, I must once again pause to ask another question. A question burning a hole in my brain pan. They spent fat cabbage on tight soccer mom whip but go college dorm tech on the computer rack? The wire shelving from Target doesn't strike me as something that will effectively fight vibration or even hold the gear in any secure way that I can see.

They will get a nod from me about the bright purple amp in the rack. What one thing does a driverless car need? 105db of pumping bass. I smell victory. Well done!

Ok, ok, I can't stand it. With no one driving, what exactly is the point of the luggage rack? Answer me that, Batman.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 20, 2015

Big Baby Steps In GPS Bodes Well For Everyone

I may continue to rant about where GPS should go until I'm satisfied or run out of steam. You may remember a recent post about Garmin where I mentioned some of their challenges in the marketplace. It appears that they may be thinking about the same thing. Who would have guessed? They are releasing a product that layers weather over maps. The weather data is no small fluffy cloud GIF, it's detailed stuff geared more for boats but useful for everyone. Now, if I may complain, while they where up, they should have added traffic too. Yep, I'm upping the ante. In fact, I am throwing down the gauntlet.

All of the data a GPS buyer wants is out there, some of it is free, the rest is nearly free. The challenge is creating the middleware that integrates the layers of data. The big portal players are in the best position to make deals with data providers. Their infrastructures are already set up to present and distribute data in layers. Adding to that would be as simple as inserting another data layer. A challenge would be for them to get the layers to interact with eachother, changing, suggesting, trending, discovery. A system that lays weather over traffic might take 2" of rain in a certain area, and rush hour and slight slowdowns over a few hours as a sign that a certain route may end up in gridlock.

Imagine Keyhole 3D maps combined with doppler radar slid over a traffic and street map that has links to live traffic cameras, points of interest, address, phone and business databases and bluetooth phone link? I'm not talking about something far fetched, all of that data exists right now. Yahoo already launched a traffic beta, Google maps hosts rich data agregation.

GPS in its current state is pretty good. Even the best ones are just ok. Not much has changed in the last few years yet GPS makers are still collecting astronomical fees for their antiquated technologies. I cannot name one package that offers map updates once you buy the main product. Oh, sure, you can PAY for map updates for some systems. The rest, the software packages? You have to re-buy it to get new maps.

What does that mean right now? Our choices are getting better but it may be a while before we see products that transcend the current offerings.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:21 PM | TrackBack

July 18, 2015

Wimax = Betamax?


Oh Wimax, why must you tease us so? As you languish in the sticky atmosphere of standards and industry acceptance, other wireless technologies are sliding by like greased weasels.

While the public demands more options, municipalities, telcos, cable companies, and start-ups are fighting over who has the right to do what where. Local governments trying to bring internet access to underprivileged neighborhoods are shot down by the likes of SBC for sticking their finger into the private sector. Cable companies and telcos are fighting over who can offer TV signals in whose back yards and start ups are being squeezed out by anyone with more lawyers and money. In the end there are no winners, just under serviced customers who are getting more and more frustrated with diminishing customer service levels. Wimax may offer a lot of promise but right now only lawyers are enjoying the benefits, as is often the case.

Wimax may be part of the big bright digital future or may end up as an also-ran. Many great technologies have suffered from and died of bad timing. There are too many variables to place any big bets but the looming dark clouds of a Wireless Carrier or Telco monopoly tell us what we could expect with no great surprise.

Perhaps, in a utopian parallel universe, everyone with a wireless router would go out and buy powerful antennas and create a huge free meshed wireless network, open to anyone within range. Cities would put huge Wimax antennas on radio towers, high-rise roofs and mountain tops. Bandwidth would be ubiquitous and free to all. Oh man, I'm getting all misty.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:07 PM | TrackBack

Antique Road SHow

The headline reads "Keyless Cars Going Mainstream". I don't remember the last time I used my car key to open my car door. My wife is so used to her key fob that when the battery died, she asked me how to get into the car. I pointed out the key would still open the door. I also mentioned that the car might have the alarm activated so the key may only anger it if she didn't disarm it first. Fortunately for us, the alarm didn't see the key as a bad thing and let her inside.

Every industry has sacred cows, things that they are afraid to change because people have "always had it this way and anything different is bad". The car key is a prime example. A simple radio remote and push button remote would have been easy for automakers to implement 10 years ago. Now with RFID and HID-like pass cards, the key is completely pointless. Perhaps automakers are scared to put off stoners who like to use their car key to clean resin out of their pipes.

More and more vehicles are becoming keyless but the pace is glacial. The proof will be in the failure rate and ease of use. Biometrics are the ultimate keys but programming the car needs to be simple. Lets take WEP as an example. Most people still find it too difficult to add simple security to their wireless networks so they leave them open. Will fear / laziness cause newer, more secure technologies to be less secure? The lowly key has something going for it. It is a physical entity. It exists, and replication requires effort. Digital things are duplicated as simply quickly as Top 40 songs, re-printed over and over with little or no variance.

Are we so fragile in our environments that little paradigm changes can cause us overwhelming trauma? Are so many people technophobes that they would rather throw their hands up than read a manual and ensure stronger security?

It may boil down to the simple things that we as people want from any change that is put upon us, will it improve my life, will it be easy to use, will I easily forget what to do, will it add value, will it make things more secure, will it invade or jeopardize my privacy?

The key is a small example of what changes are on the way. The car will be very different in 10 years. Wireless information technologies, RFID, astounding computing power and reduced production cycles will bring some strange and wonderful things into our reality. Lets just try not to forget about the whole fuel economy thing. That's still pretty important stuff.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 02:29 PM | TrackBack

Pocket GPS - More of the Similar

Garmin has been making teeny GPS devices since before the great flood. Their devices have always been well packaged, designed and priced just above the imaginary line we expect to pay for something like that. Their foray into complete car units didn't see the explosive growth they may have been expecting. At nearly a grand, most people would rather thumb through the Thomas Guide and save $980.

Microsoft hit the nail right on the head with their 2005 Streets and maps by offering not only laptop software but free palmtop and Smartphone software too. It even comes with a USB / PCMCIA / Compact Flash GPS antenna that glows blue. When all things are equal, blue LEDs tip the scales in their favor.

Garmin is a little slow to the game here but their brand recognition is strong and that buys back market share. Up to the point where your product is too far behind to be relevant.

Products from TomTom, iGuadance, Pharos, Microsoft, Destinator, Copilot, are already filling the GPS software space. The Garmin product will have to be very strong and priced well in order to take some market share. Time and marketing will tell.

My side be is on TomTom. Their slick packaging and total EU dominance shows that they are in this to win and have a strong team in place that can execute the task.

GPS interface and map ubiquity is on the distant horizon. The future is in the application middleware; traffic service, POI, live map sharing, map blogging (speed traps, trendy places, etc) and interactive applications will make the mapping software itself merely a conduit for the really interesting stuff. This is a space where a Yahoo / Google / MSN could dominate. If one of the navigation companies are snapped up by the portal giants, we'll know what's in store. I'm almost giddy at the prospect.

Portal Giants: Feel free to hire me to architect this whole thing for you at a very reasonable price :)

Posted by Lionel Felix at 01:42 PM | TrackBack

July 15, 2015

Unwire Everywhere

I expect that by now you're familiar with EVDO and how it's going to be so cool, they'll have to jackhammer the smile off your face.

Wireless providers are starting to ramp up service, coverage and not prices. At $49 a month, we're starting to see the termite that will eat into the cable modem and DSL customer base. The great broadband revolution has begun.

EVDO-COVERAGE.COM seems to have the skinny on all things EVDO. If you're still not sure what it is, check there. If you know what it is and want to do even more with it, see above.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:10 AM | TrackBack

July 12, 2015

The iMobilePC - They Want Your Car

I'll curb my overwhelming desire to slam together an angry screed on how if one more company calls their product iSomething, I may just self destruct from high blood pressure.
The imobilePC site has a great design, I already feel a little more peaceful. Their interface is very well designed, and framed in the Mercedes video display, it's downright perty.
Once you dig down the site gets all marketing speak on you, and that's a bummer. I'm not sure if they sell an integration package or just offer parts to hack into your existing screen. What I'm trying to convey here, is that I'm just not clear on very much at all other than the whole iSomething thing and that their website and interface is cool looking.
It appears that their actual product is the software. Since most PC's in this space are somewhat similar and computing power is not the deciding factor, it's all about the UI. Software prices range from $150 to $600, depending on what you want the system to do.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Car PC Hacks Book Release - July 22

Is the prospect of committing to your in-car computer project a little too daunting? Oreilly, the source for hard technical books with lots of meaty bits of geeky goodness is releasing a new book from Demian Stolarz (You might know him from Carhacks or his second place finish on American Idol - Istanbul) that covers the real details of in-car computing projects. I'm also happy to plug this book because I'm a contributing author, and that's pretty neat. I'm hoping the editors didn't excise too much of my sartorial commentary. Without biting, dark, introspective humor, what am I? Give me a moment to ponder that. Ok, moving right along, (In my best Arnold Schwartzeneger voice) Buy it now if you vant to leeev!.

Full Book Description:
A car PC or carputer is a car tricked-out with electronics for playing radio, music and DVD movies, connecting to the Internet, navigating and tracking with satellite, taking photos, and any electronic gadget a person wants in a car. All these devices are managed and controlled through a single screen or interface. The only place car PC enthusiasts can go for advice, tips and tools is a handful of hard-to-find Web sites--until now. Car PC Hacks is your guide into the car PC revolution.

Packing MP3 players, handheld devices, computers and video-on-demand systems gives you a pile too heavy to carry. But add a car and put them together, you've got a powerful and mobile multimedia center requiring no lifting. The next time you give kids a lift, you won't hear, "Are we there yet?" Instead, expect "We're there already?" as they won't want to leave the car while playing video games from multiple consoles.

Car PC Hacks is the first book available to introduce and entrench you into this hot new market. You can count on the book because it hails from O'Reilly, a trusted resource for technical books. Expect innovation, useful tools, and fun experiments that you've come to expect from O'Reilly's Hacks Series.

Maybe you've hacked computers and gadgets, and now you're ready to take it to your car. If hacking is new and you would like to mix cars and computers, this book gets you started with its introduction to the basics of car electrical systems. Even when you're unclear on the difference between amps and watts, expect a clear explanation along with real-life examples to get on track. Whether you're venturing into car PC for the first time or an experienced hobbyist, hop in the book for a joy ride.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:23 PM | TrackBack

Svelte Blaupunkt

I can't tell you how many times I've put the door back together, closed the door, turned the radio on, rolled down the window and "clack!", the bottom of the window hits the speaker assembly. So many aftermarket speakers just have too much booty and end up sticking their rear ends into areas the car already has plans for, such as the window path.

Good old Blaupunkt released a 2.5" mounting depth component speaker system for the deep cavity challenged. What's more, Blau makes great speakers so you dont risk sound quality for mounting ease.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:14 PM | TrackBack

iPod Jihad

Harman Kardon quietly makes some of the best home entertainment gear around. Their design sense looks more Dutch or German than American or Japanese, and thats a good thing. When I see one of their receivers, I want to play classical music very very loud. Perhaps it's their connection to Mark Levinson, Infinity and JBL products that makes me sure that when it's loud, it's going to sound unreal.

Their newest venture brings to market an iPod car integration package. No pictures as of yet but if the Harman group is involved I am sure it will be astounding. My only concern was the mention of an FM modulator, which I suspect is only optional if you cannot manage to connect an AUX adapter to your OEM stereo.

Although it's nearly unrelated, the Harman website is a little tough to navigate. I am noticing a trend among high end electronics manufacturers where they seem to put engineers on the task of website design, rather than, say, website designers. As much as I love Denon, don't let me get started on their website...

Posted by Lionel Felix at 02:31 PM | TrackBack

More Mac Mini Madness


Combining the Mac Mini and the Mini Cooper makes me wince a little bit. Both are "cute" in their own right but once combined it seems a bit saccharine for my subdued and subtle taste. I may also have a little bit of an issue with the non-install of the system. I can put my desktop in the back seat of my Yukon, hook it up to an inverter and voila, mobile PC. Don't get me wrong here, bub, I support all flavors of in-car computer, I just don't know if an install is newsworthy when the main component is secured using the wedge-between-two-smaller-points technique.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:38 AM | TrackBack

July 11, 2015

Thank The Land of the Rising Sun


I've become quite sad recently. There has been a marked absence of MacMini mobile instalation news as of late. I was begining to think that it was all a dream and I would wake up and find OS2 was all the rage and everyone forgot about Steve Jobs. All I had to do was check out the action in Japan. Lo and behold, I found what I was looking for, a MacMini car mount / dock.

As is the case with everything cool, it's developed and released in Asia and we get to lust after it for a few years before it makes it's way to the states. I don't know if you can get one here yet but I would venture a guess that a quick Berlitz course and a long distance calling card filched from your boss's wallet will have you in hog heaven in no time. (no time plus the time it takes things to ship from japan)

Another hackable mount is, yet again, available in Japan. If you're Kanji is up to snuff, you'll be able to figure out how to order one.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Work Smarter Not Harder

When GM started deploying OnStar in its vehicles they paved a wide trail into the future of telematics as well as life saving and vehicle recovery. I love the fact that if your car is ganked, smashed or you just need to make a phone cal, its a little button away. The system even senses a crash and calls for help. The systems first version is an example of great execution. I have to admit, I never thought about what happens in the even of power loss. Their idea to add battery backup to the system should have been rattling around in my datacenter design head when I first checked the system out. I guess I was distracted by my shiny new car.

Dear GM:
This Christams, since I've been good, can you have Santa, or your engineering team build a data channel into the OnStar system, offering always-on broadband Internet access? Oh and an Ethernet port or two in the car would be nice too.


P.S. Does it help that I make my car payments on time?

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:46 PM | TrackBack

July 09, 2015

When You Wardrive, The Terrorists Win

I'm going to say it out loud. It's time to get it out there, as the big elephant in the room has been lumbering around for some time now. Wardriving is illegal. There, I said it.

It's never been legal to jump on someone's network. Wardialing with your C64 over an acoustic coupler / modem was wrong in 86 and the wireless equal is still wrong now. Interestingly enough, law enforcement is almost catching up on technology enough to know what you're doing and bust you for it.

The majority of people wardriving just want to pop mail, go to google for a quick search or post an untraceable flame to the Lindsey Lohan message board(You cant prove I wrote that post about her). In all of that "innocent" free-because-some-dummy-can't-figure-out-how-to-use-WEP-keys is just a convenient cover people use to justify what amounts to network intrusion. There are some people who not only use others networks as transit, they are snooping around open shares, running password cracking programs and even leaving little trojans as gifts. So thoughtful.

Officer friendly took his 4 hour seminar on hacking and now wants to make the neighborhood safe for Sally The Soccer Mom's Wireless Network. We may be nearing a time where adding a security key will be easy enough that people can just "turn it on" perhaps using something akin to a SecureID fob or just a non-uber-nerd WEP setup. We'll start to see the unsecured access points start to dwindle and I think that may be a good thing. EVDO and EDGE are getting cheaper (T-Mobile, all-you-can-eat is only $20 a month) and they stay on through your entire trip.

It may have been nice while it lasted but Smokey has a bear in the air that may put an end to this free wireless convoy.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 07, 2015

TS Answers Question No One Asked

Editing video is something best done in a very expensive suite in Santa Monica where short-skirted model/actress/waitresses bring you cappuccinos, cheese plates and fresh fruit bowls. They have it down to a science, the formula works, everyone was happy. Almost everyone. Apparently some people had an extra Lexus laying around and decided to load it up with an entire digital editing bay.

Please excuse me if I'm so dense that I just don't get it. Why not take a Lexus and make it into a rolling knife sharpening shop? Both projects make the same amount of sense to me. I sit here baffled by pictures of a perfectly good editing bay wedged into an until-recently sporty sedan whose combination doesn't quite work out like the whole chocolate and peanut butter collision did.

What I am interested in is how they managed to power everything given those power supplies dont lend themselves to DC/DC units unless they were hand made to spec. That, I approve of.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 02:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Big Brother Future Hack

Do you remember my recent diatribe about big brother technology being used for evil? Perhaps not. Perhaps my tirades have started to merge into one seething brew of vitriol.

In today's "what makes Felix loose his mind" I find an article about a UK test using GPS to track vehicle speeds and, get this, slow down cars. You read it right, a car that can't speed. I would find it very hard to believe that anyone would buy one. Even in the case where the devices were installed in every new car, the work-around would be posted before the car even hit the streets.

Oh man, this makes me want to get my aluminum foil hat out of the closet and wear it until my wife talks me off the ceiling.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 02:22 PM | TrackBack

iPod + Car = iPod Only Cars.

I sometimes feel like I'm living 2 years in the future. It blows my mind when people "discover" technology that's actually quite old.

Automakers, as I have said about 93 times, need to develop more open systems. A simple step would be a simple AUX jack into their stock head units. The article I linked to mentions automakers working to allow connectivity to iPods. It's nice that they want to get on board with "new" technology but catering to a single product is not the right direction at all. Although iPod accounts for a significant part of the mobile media market, there are millions of us without iPods (ok I have an iPod but thats not the point). Allowing the average Joe or Jane to plug their Samsung Yepp, laptop audio out, portable DVD player into the car stereo is the right direction. What we will see is automakers getting in bed with Apple and wondering why it's not as successful as they wanted it to be. There is a whole world of mobile electronics out there outisde the sphere of the ivory tower that is Apple. When everyone can play, everyone wins.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 02:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mobile EVDO Hotspot

EVDO is so new most people think its a Star Wars character. Seeing that the last 3 Star Wars movies were simply eye candy without a plot to speak of and dialogue as flat and boring as Dan Quale, I can see the public's need to derive something good out of it. Sadly EVDO will not do anything for Star Wars, but it will do something for wireless connectivity.

New EVDO cards are pretty juiced up with bandwidth, so much so that its almost a shame not to share it. That's been taken care of already. A backpack kit that lets close-by bandwidth bereft folks snag a little Net time.

The concept is very cool and I can see it being great for highway use. Put a little LED license plate frame on your car advertising your free service (or not free, if you can develop the commerce engine) and you may be able to subsidize your daily commute by selling bandwidth to the people drafting you.

The backpack version is nice but I don't know if its useful until you stop. I wouldn't hang out in public spaces donning a backpack with wires and black boxes hanging out of it unless I wanted to be tackled by a throng of FBI agents.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 02:00 PM | TrackBack

GPS Hacking

GPS technology seems to have hit a bit of a wall. Once the GPS product is sold, the sales model becomes selling you a NEW version each year. People living in established metro areas dont need new maps very often as there are few if any changes in the roadways from year to year. Those living in growing cities with new housing developments, bypasses, toll-roads and highways are in another boat. A boat that has bad navigation. The concept of selling a subscription to software rather than versions is not new. Lots of companies do it with varying degrees of success. GPS is ripe for a sales paradigm change. New roads, detours, highway off-ramps change often enough for a large percent of the population that they need near real-time mapping.

This book wont address that directly but it will help you make the most of electronic cartography.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 01:43 PM | TrackBack