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August 31, 2015

Sharing Is Caring


Digital media has made it so simple to share. First it was shared punch cards then tape reels, programs, games, music, videos, movies and now Internet access. WiFi gave way to Warchalking then to Wardriving (I'll assume Warboating is in there too). Wireless carriers were somewhat immune until recently someone came up with a little portable pack they used a GPRS / EDGE card to access and shared the connection through WiFi. DLink didn't let any moss grow on them, or however that line goes. Wireless carriers might come around from the back and start being the Internet carrier of choice for those who insist on being disconnected from the grid, at least in a wired, direct sort of way. Add in a Vonnage account and you could get that old Bell phone out of the closet and use it on the street.

How freakin cool would I be if I were in my car and the phone rings with that riiiiiiiing! of a real bell being hit only to pick up that relic and use it. Car 54 where are you?

Posted by Lionel Felix at 05:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dangerous Cargo

Man, I love this. Hack-a-day has a great project car computer posted on their site. It's not pretty, its not clean, in fact it looks like hell and that's so freaking cool I cant stand it. The whole execution is inspired. Kinda HalfLife-ish I have to say.

You may not want to get pulled over with this sort of thing in the back of your car unless you want to be on CNN.

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

August 27, 2015

More Traffic

I still can't see why people would spend $1100 on a uni-tasking thing like this when you could have a whole car computer for the SAME COST. Anyway, this one has real-time traffic capabilities built in. Since they're selling the subscription you would think they could subsidize the cost through the monthly fees. Obviously not. Way too expensive.

From Mobile Whack:
(Click their link above for the rest of the article)

Cobra Electronics Announces Solution to Help Drivers Escape from Traffic Entrapment.

Cobra Electronics, a leading manufacturer of navigation and communication products, today announced the first fully integrated portable mobile navigation device that features real-time traffic information, the NAV ONE 4500. Available at leading retailers this fall, the unit provides users with up-to-the-minute information on traffic incidents, congested roads and construction zones across the country.
The NAV ONE 4500 is available at an MSRP of $1,099.95, which includes the traffic receiver. The unit includes a three-month free subscription to the traffic feature, followed by a subsequent annual service subscription fee of $59.95. It will be available for sale from retailers by September.

"The average American driver now spends more than 50 hours in traffic every year," said Tony Mirabelli, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Cobra Electronics. "The NAV ONE 4500 will help drivers escape from traffic entrapment by changing the way people commute to work, enjoy a leisurely road trip, pick up their kids or just get around."

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Smokey Wakes Up And Smells The New Coffee

Cops were the first users of carputers. I hate that word but people insist on using it, so there. Their little screens with their amber flicker was very imposing from the back seat. Not that "I" was in a cop car back seat, I just watched a lot of Cops.

Since then the technology stagnated. Languishing in its usefulness the makers of the equipment felt they didn't need to improve much on anything. In the last few years cheap, digital packet radio, GPS and cheap small components have forced a change in law enforcement computing technology.

New Panasonic touch-screen ToughBooks loaded with GPS, dispatch commands, messaging and a whole host of rich data features are popping up everywhere. The volunteer fire department I'm in even has them in the engines and command units.

One of the great things about the new systems being deployed is that they are built on common systems with inexpensive parts. Not that the vendors are going to give law enforcement or fire departments any deals, but it's certainly less expensive than proprietary systems.

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

GM Decides We're Too Lazy And Distracted To Drive

I must have slept in. Apparently GM has solved all outstanding automotive issues including safety, reliability and fuel economy and jumped right into the car that drives itself.

The 2008 Opel Vectra, will use lasers (how can I say lasers and not go into my Dr. Evil voice) and video cameras to stay on the road. I have my reservations about anything that does stuff for me. Call me a bleeding-edge Luddite but when it comes to things that can kill me, I want my own white knnuckles on the wheel...

On an editorial note, I like Autoblog but Lu Zhou chose to use the writer's equivalent of the rim-shot by saying "I sure hope the computer doesn’t run on Windows OS and requiring frequent reboots, especially at 60 mph." I can almost hear the canned laughter from a 60's sitcom. "Wow, that guy is so clever, he pulled in an off color comment about Windows poor reliability! I wish I were that funny"

Why not make a Polish joke, or poke fun at blonds? Even better women drivers?

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NAV Grows Up

I have to say that I thought it would be a few more years before traffic data was offered over NAV systems. I just didn't think that the municipalities could get their shit together to make it happen.

Sirius, the satellite radio provider with 1/10th the customer base as XM seems to have a few shekels left after paying Howard Stern to leave FM radio. I'm not sure how midget porn stars, homeless IQ trivia tests and rants about his diminutive penis = $500M deal. I swear I've had a harder time passing a $5M IT budget through finance, and NOT ONE line item included porn, midgets or homeless people. Perhaps that's why finance didn't like it.

Sirius is following XM in the data arena. This trend will likely lead to mobile data services that will compete with WiMax, GPRS and EVDO for in-car Internet connectivity. For now we're happy with plain old traffic and commercial free radio.

Sirius has a few more releases this week:

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cool Rims, Big Pipes, and a Huge Heat Sink

Review on Car PC Hacks:

"Need to add some bling to your ride? Geek publisher O'Reilly details how to turn your car into a GPS-savvy computer-driven multimedia extravaganza - with voice recognition!"

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2015

San Fran Saw Car Computers, It Was Good

Bay Area

A great article on in-car computers where the writer interviewed Damien Stolarz and Auri Rahimzadeh. Damien, as you know writes for Carhacks, wrote Car PC Hacks, owns CarBotPC and bankrolled this site. Auri wrote a book on the same topic which was reviewed here recently.

The bottom line, in-car computers, good, technology, good, hacking your car, good.

Ok, group hug but don't grab by butt.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 12:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2015

Dumping WiMax

Me: ring ring ring

WiMax's Answering Machine: Hi, I'm not in right now, in fact I'm not going to be around for a while, I can't seem to get out of bed - BEEP

Me: WiMax, whats the deal? You've been blowing me off a while now. You were supposed to come over and you didn't come. You're all talk.

WiMax: Oh, hey, It's me, I'm screening my calls

Me: Look, I'm so over this. I just wanted to you come get your stuff. This isn't going to work out...

WiMax: Is someone there with you?

Me: I didn't want it to be this way but yeah, EVDO is here and she's making me very happy.

WiMax: You never gave me a chance! You gave up on me, you always give up on me!

Me: OK, enough with the histrionics, I don't want a scene. I'll mail your stuff to your work. Face to face is just going to be awkward.

WiMax: You jerk, I hate you.

Me: Whatever, flake.

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

Angelinos Have New Reason To Feel Superior

Every city has a feud with some other city, or place. New York hates New Jersey, Boston hates New York, San Francisco hates LA. In the case of LA, no one in LA knows or cares that SF hates them as they are all too terribly busy rushing around from Pilates classes to Yoga classes. Having lived in LA for 10 years, I know this to be fact.

A SF Gate writer decides to go slumming and hits the LA basin to try out Verizon's EVDO service.

Going back to my years in LA I'll first note that only newscasters and LA Weekly writers call people who live in LA "Angelinos". Saying that word in public will get you the same reaction saying Frisco will when you're in the Bay Area. Is it me or is the term Bay Area sort of vague and allows too many outlying areas to hop in and be SF hip? Rather than continue to use that offensive term I'll just call people who live in LA; people-who-live-in-LA.

PWLIL.A. all know one thing, they live in a big basin surrounded by mountains, yet their cell phones allways seem to lose signal and drop calls. Everywhere. All the time. For no reason whatsoever.

As much as I want to believe the SF Gate writer had the good coverage he said he had, I want to ask him if he experienced and pockets of bad reception.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2015

250MPG Prius Hybrid - $12,000 upgrade

In this CNN article, which followed a similar NYTimes story from 4 months ago, there is discussion of the various working versions of a pluggable hybrid, that can charge from 110V/220V mains power overnight (how do you say "mains" in American English?) and give you an additional 50 "free" commuting miles.

If your commute is around this distance or less, you may not even use the gas engine at all with conservative (or rush hour) driving. And that translates to a ridiculously low effective miles per gallon, based on the price of "refilling" your batteries at home.

One of the pioneers of this conversion, a company called EDrive systems is working on "productizing" the upgrade so they can do it to any Prius for $12,000. My goal is to buy one of the new Lexus 450h GS Hybrids and then EDrive it. Sure, i'll be in the hole $65,000 by then, but as a Los Angeles commuter, my Lexus 450h with the engine completely OFF for most of my commute will give me the quietest ride possible, and if i can pull an average of 100MPG i'll be quite happy. My Car PC will sound very, very good in that car. http://www.lexus.com/2007gsh_preview/

Posted by dstolarz at 10:42 PM | Comments (0)

MP3Car.com Forums - *Release* FrodoXM Service (Now Free!)

Frodo (of Frodoplayer fame on MP3car.com) has released a free Windows DLL that can speak to and control any XM Direct unit. He uses this DLL in his own Frodoplayer Car PC Front end as well Meedio plugin Meedio plugin. If you've ever wanted to integrate XM control in your custom Car PC app or any application for that matter, this will save you a ton of work.

Posted by dstolarz at 07:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2015

Can BMW's iDrive Pass Its Road Test Now?

This article on BMW's iDrive is over a year old, but it gives a good summary of the history of this device.

The struggle with user interface in the car is this: More and more devices are coming into the car. Arguably, they can't all be controlled "intuitively" and safely while driving without a lot of very in depth user interface design and testing.

Since most of the mobile gadgets weren't designed with the car in mind (iPods, mobile phones, etc.) they aren't car friendly inherently.

When designing an in-car interface, there are roughly two ways to go about it: stick with what people know, possibly losing functionality in the process, or give the user something new to learn, possibly losing users in the process.

The iDrive is supposed to be great - if you spend the half hour to study it and the two weeks to get used to it.

Everyone has gotten along for the last 50 years with a simple paradigm: a volume knob, a tuner knob, and five or six preset buttons. Even AM radios worked this way, and the current top of the line sat radio tuner works similarly.

But when we add 3d navigation + localized search for points of interest, all tied into google and yahoo, automatically tracking where your car is and taking into account your current outlook calendar and when your next appointment is coming up, calculating the traffic conditions in real time and telling guiding you to a Thai restaurant, what is the user interface designer supposed to look like? Should it work with the UP/DOWN knob and the six buttons you already have on your stereo? Or a touch screen? Or eight buttons on the left and right sides of the screen? Or steering wheel controls? Or some über-knob between the driver and passenger seats that shapeshifts depending on the function?

In my own in-car UI designs, i've tried to model the "lazy user" - someone who gets out of his car, hops into his friends car and expects to be able to figure it out WHILE DRIVING.

Although this is certainly not the ideal, I'm not just trying to cover our potential legal liability (I'm doing that too) but I'm trying to be realistic about people's use of the vehicle. If you decide that the majority of people DON'T ask for help, don't read the manual, and fumblingly try to apply their existing, fragmentary knowledge of human-computer user interface to the new gadget and get impatient if it doesn't instantly understand them.

Posted by dstolarz at 05:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2015

F This, F That

This has nothing to do with any car YOU would drive every day but the photo is so cool, I just had to share. They make everything out of carbon fiber now... I should make carbon fiber silverware. People would buy that, right?

Posted by Lionel Felix at 04:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Geek My Ride - Review

I have to start off the review by mentioning that I was a contributing author of the O'Reilly book Car PC Hacks.

Having just worked on the O'Reilly book, I have a preconceived notion of how books like this should read and what they should include. That said, Geek My Ride gives readers a healthy serving of exciting car-tech projects.

Geek My Ride covers a wide range of cool installs that can be completed in a weekend. A nice feature of the book is that most of the projects are low-buck and technically non-threatening for the back-yard hacker. A lot of the projects use things you may already have around the house, which saves you money.

There are a lot of photos and diagrams in the to give you a better idea of how things mount. The photos included are real work photos, not glossy studio shots where everything is clean, well lit and pretty. He gets down and dirty with some home AC powered gear and gets it working in a car.

Auri covers a lot of in-car entertainment ground, giving the tinkerer a lot of options. The instructions are well put together and tend not to stray into deep technical detail. He manages to mention some good safety tips for both you and your equipment, covering things like heat and vibration.

In one section he covers OBD-II which is going to be more and more interesting for car hackers. Getting deep into the gory detail of fuel systems, RPMs and general system activity is one more reason to add a computer to your car.

Auri's Geek My Ride is a valuable resource for people of all skill levels. As more and more people are finding value in adding gear to their cars, books like this will help them through all phases of their projects.

From the publisher:

Book Description
Roll up your sleeves and get ready to totally tech-out your ride! Geek My Ride is the first do-it-yourself guide to installing a variety of awesome projects that will turn your ordinary vehicle into the ultimate tech rod!
Car hacker Auri Rahimzadeh guides readers through 15 cool projects, complete with tools, skills and step-by-step instructions.
Geek My Ride goes way beyond factory options and teaches readers how to install a custom car PC, with Wi-Fi, Internet access, and more. Dive into installing video gaming systems, video surveillance, LED message boards, and more. You'll even learn to how get your car's new MP3 player to sync with your home music collection wirelessly when you pull into the garage!
Foreword by Steve "Woz" Wozniak.

From the Back Cover
Not your father's idea of cool wheels
Your definition of automotive high tech goes far beyond a backseat DVD player with a drop-down screen. How about a gaming PC? Internet access?
Satellite TV? Maybe videoconferencing? Oh yeah—now that's more like it.
Add those and half a dozen other geek toys to your ride with these step-by-step instructions, complete lists of tools and equipment, advice on handling power and temperature issues, even essential physics. So what are you waiting for?
Install them all
Everything you need to know to tech out your ride
1. Single-source A/V system
2. Game console
3. General-purpose PC
4. Multimedia PC
5. Gaming PC
6. Internet access
7. In-car networking
8. TV access
9. Syncing your music
10. Videoconferencing
11. Video surveillance
12. LED displays
13. Wireless headphones
14. Car computer interface

Posted by Lionel Felix at 04:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Driven To Distraction

Cliche: When I was a kid all I had to occupy myself in the car was a comic book or my imagination. My parents didn't have to "amuse" me and that was fine.

Well, It wasn't all rosy on our little family trips. I got bored. Terribly bored. Not being a huge fan of small kids, I can understand the need for parents to have some P&Q on the daily kid-activity-run / shopping excursions. Is it wrong to submerge your tot in Squarepants land in order to keep from blowing a fuse and ending up on Cops? That's TBD. We'll have to wait about 15 years to know just how bad the brain-rot is going to be for this generation of 6 year-olds with cell phones and non-stop over-stimulation.

I'll acquiesce on this one, in the car, do whatever you can to keep the monsters quiet. Distractions while driving are far more dangerous than plain old annoying kids running amok in the house.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 01:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2015

Carhacks Roadshow - Streaming Media West

Demian Stolarz and I will be at Streaming Media West to talk about video blogging. Yeah, I know it's not on Carhacks stuff but I'll jump at the chance to talk tech. SME Anyone who comes up to us at SME and tells us they know Carhacks gets a free t-shirt. It may be one of my own t-shirts that I wore during the SME trip but we have a small budget.

Latecomers get whats left over, like socks and pocket lint. Don't say I'm not a giver.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cross Subject Matter Hack

I just can't resist posting this. i-Hacked put up a hack for the CVS (pharmacy here in the US) video camera. The camera is $30 and records up to 20 minutes of DivX video. The hack lets you download the video and keep using the camera.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jargon Alert - Rodcasting

"In the future, cities will become deserts, roads
will become battlefields and the hope of mankind will appear as a stranger."

Not having actually been to Australia, I can't say for sure but I'll guess that until the nuclear (as opposed to nucular) Armageddon hits us, the roads will be safe enough to enjoy some peaceful tunes while we drive. Oh, and talk on our car phones, eat, shave, watch movies and reprimand the tots.

Come to think of it, perhaps just focusing on driving and avoiding grappling hooks might be safer then what we're doing now...

Anyhoo, it appears that the Aussies are up to more road distracting with Rodcasting. It's been a few hours since someone came up with a new tech word. I was getting worried. The concept sounds great and the 10 people that will end up doing it will have gobs of fun during the 58 seconds they are within range of each other.

"A TEAM from Carnegie Mellon University has mixed podcasting, radio and peer-to-peer file sharing to come up with a system for road users to tune into music from digital music systems in nearby cars.

The concept, dubbed roadcasting and developed for an unidentified car maker, matches people to radio stations and music they prefer.

The researchers, current and graduate students, say the car maker plans to have the system in vehicles by 2010. "

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Car Whisperer Speaks Softly, To Linux Users


Manufacturers of electronics continue to dumb down their products. It used to be only functionality but we've seen this dumbing-down seep into security products. WiFi was the first one. Correction, DSL/Cable Modems were first. Ah I remember when I could scan my Cable Modem subnet and find all sorts of open shares to browse.

WiFi products were developed so quickly that an elegant security solution never evolved. WEP is a little bit of a pain in the butt to enable. Not terrible, not something that requires a slide rule and a sextant, but no, soccermom threw a tantrum and now 90% of WiFi networks in the hands of consumers remain unsecured. The blame is on the makers of the products. Sure, soccerbetty is lazy and likes to be coddled but the issue is WEP and most security features are designed by engineers and undergo very little if any usability testing.

Bluetooth is similar. Bluetooth authentication is a pain in the ass. Most Bluetooth devices suck to get bonded together and often "forget" their partners. I've been very unimpressed with Bluetooth from the get-go. That said, I use it on my laptop and car computer to get internet access through my GPRS phone. If I didnt have 20 years of computer background I think the project may have failed. The technology, surrounding software and security is simply garbage.

The Car Whisperer demostrates the garbosity of Bluetooth through its dumbed-down security implementations by automakers, phone makers and anyone else that uses "0000" or "1111" as a passcode.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 12, 2015

From Korea With Love

You may remember that only a few weeks ago I was making my O face over this little beauty. Well, it looks like someone stateside has their hot hands on one. Even better it's on eBay

If you buy it, make sure to tell us. Then we'll want photos too. Nach!

Posted by Lionel Felix at 12:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Car Music Interface

Cartunes Is a nice alternative music player interface worth looking at. I find most interfaces a little unnerving as they work from a playlist rather than your direct library. I'm a pain that way. The more you try, the more likely you'll find what works for you. Whatever keeps you focused on the road and not clicking on your screen in traffic...

Posted by Lionel Felix at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 11, 2015

iPod Gold Stabdard Installs

Get me near a machine shop and I get all ooooogy. I love CNCs, lathes, welders, you name it, if it's about metalwork, I'm there.

Eli sent over a link to the Tuner Tricks iPod gallery. They have some outstanding iPod instalations as well as great photography. Hey, that counts.

The trick is always finding good vehicle real estate. The win-win here is that a lot of the installs look stock and don't require dash destruction.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 11:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 10, 2015

Hello McZ


MacVroom has a very nice spread on a 350Z with a Mac Mini in it. I like everything about the install except for the actual MacMini exposed install. It's wedged in a hole. It just doesn't look like it's in there all the way. Yeah, I know, it's cute and all that stuff. That's no reason to leave it out there as a conspicuous conversation starter that's pretty much saying "HI, I LOVE MACS SO MUCH THAT I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THEM AT EVERY POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY AND MAKE SURE YOU KNOW I AM A MAC PERSON". It's as subtle chaps in the Castro.

Keepin' it real.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 04:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 09, 2015

Serious Car PC Projects

You may think I just sit here all day posting car-tech articles and links but I'm quite the busy bee here in Carhack Central.

I've been working with CNET.com, providing them with some in-car computer projects for their site. CNET Show Us Yours is all about reader's rides.

Check out the site, they have some great projects up there. The Corvette and F355 are my personal favs.


Posted by Lionel Felix at 05:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 08, 2015

Carhacks Stickers & Shirts - w00t

Well, we had to do it. By popular demand, we're offering up some first run shirts and stickers. More to come but these r0x0r!

Team Banzai will be the first ones sporting the new stickers. Don't be the last one on the block without one.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 08:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Maps GPS Tools

Google Maps is just tearing up the joint! From interactive sex offender maps to traffic cam locations, everyone is using Googs (that's what I call Google when we're alone) API for something interesting. A few nice tools for those of you with mobile Internet access and a GPS antenna are looking almost ready to start messing with.

Both tools let you use the NEMA gibberish streaming out of your GPS antenna to tell where you are in a GMAP powered window. I've not tried them yet but given that there are two applications to pick from, your odds are doubled.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 05:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 05, 2015

The Mother Of Bad Ideas

I love ideas. I particularly love ideas that come from terribly uninformed techno-illiterate bureaucrats.

The most recent stroke of pure, unadulterated stupidity comes right from the Garden State.

Their really-smart-idea is to put a tracking device on everyone's car, count up people's mileage and tax them for it since their gas tax isn't cutting it. So how much does it cost to outfit some million plus vehicles with bi-directional SAT/NAV systems. How much will each unit cost to develop and produce? And how much will it cost to build out that back end system, database and billing system. How much will it cost to staff that and provide billing and collection services? Oh, one last thing, what time frame are they thinking they can deploy such a system?

This particularly bad idea will never materialize. And if in some strange twist of fate it does, the same guy who used to "fix up" cable boxes will be "fixing up" these tracking devices, hooking them to the cat so as not to arouse suspicion.

"Hey Bob, did you notice that unit 438547 seems to leave the garage each night at 10 and park on the fence between the two houses for hours at a time only to return just before dawn?"

"No Jim, I didn't notice that. How long has it been since I screamed 'Go Devils!' at the top of my lungs?"

"About 5 minutes"


"Thanks Bob"

Since I have no good graphic for this post, I offer you Puckman.

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

Take No Bandwidth Prisoners

Many moons ago, I put together the mother of all ad-avoiding host files. It was massive, like 150K. It was great. I was on a fast connection and without the dumb ads, it was rocket fast. Then I got lazy, I let it get old and forgot about the whole thing. I allowed myself to get inundated by crass adverts.

The other day, while having deep meditative thoughts in my Sponge Bob oxygen tent I realized that my car needed just such a host file. I love my T-Mobile phone that gives me mobile Internet, but it was being slowed down by the multitude of "click on the bunny and win new kidneys" ads. Don't judge me by the sites I visit.

I headed over to Mike's Ad Blocking Hosts File website and get myself all set up. It took all of 3 minutes to cure the car computer of its bandwidth ills. Now, Mike isn't the only one providing these files but he does update them quite a bit.

I also also decided that a car-computer virus would be double-plus bad so I opted for Firefox as a browser. The tabbed browsing is touch-screen friendly and I'd feel stupid if I went on and on about car computer viruses being a non-issue only to get one.

I didn't have a good photo for this post so I present Santa at the L.A. Gun Club Firing range. Apparently coal in the stocking didn't get the point across.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Genuine Car Hack

I recently wrote about widespread panic about auto-viruses. I still think it's a non-issue at the moment but this new Bluetooth hack is a little scary. Bluetooth is proving to be a nasty little security problem. With the way my Bluetooth devices work, I'm surprised anyone can get a connection up long enough to hack into your car, but hey, more power to them. It's good to get the exploits out now instead of having hackers sitting on the highway overpass sucking people's personal info from their cars / cell phones as they drive by. Don't think it wont happen...

Posted by Lionel Felix at 12:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bass Ackwards - iNonstandard

Ok Automakers, how many times to I have to say this, proprietary is BAD, open is good. Say it with me now.

More automakers are signing up to allow the iPod to connect directly into their factory headunits. We jump from no connectivity, go past AUX 1/8" input and right into iPod connector. People, let's have a little come to Jesus here. iPod is not the only MP3 player maker. In fact, there are a few hundred different MP3 players out there. Let's also look at the number of portable DVD players out there. Lets see what they all have in common. An 1/8th inch stereo output jack. What does the iPod have? The same jack, but rather than use that, they are opting for the complicated proprietary port on the bottom.

We're all smart people here, right? Do I need to go on and on about how bad this idea is? Do I need to go on and on about how simple it would be to just put a little audio jack on the front of the radio?

Stop the madness, people.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 12:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hotspots Are Dead

This week has had a lot of news about wireless technology. Some stories are about the vapor-ware of WiMax, some lament the limitations of hotspots and others talk about magical new data services the wireless providers are offering. I'm interested in the latter

More after the jump...

USA Today ran an editorial on the latter and how it's on the bubble. Andrew Kantor mentioned something very poignant, the rest of the world finds the concept of metering connections too tedious and sells bandwidth as bandwidth. It's a very good point. Hasn't the "network" grown to the point where it shouldn't matter how many calls we make or to where? Wouldn't it be simpler (and cheaper) for the telcos to charge a flat rate for a phone and make it a free-for-all? Rather than elaborate tiered systems, just offer 2 packages, fills and no-frills. Is their network so delicate that without an idea of what customers are signing up for, they might collapse under the traffic? I doubt it.

Andrew was good enough to give actual throughput numbers for each technology and service which gives you an idea of what each is capable of. The part where he mentions streaming a DVD quality movie in the back of a minivan is a salient point. That's what we want, the ubiquity of always-on Internet, everywhere. Yes, and without a meter.

It's the meter that seems to be the breakdown. AT&T was charging me some astronomical rate of $20 each month for about 10MB of downloaded data on my phone. That's a fact. The other fact is that they own one of the largest IP networks in the world where they sell connectivity across DS1 and DS3 connections of a few orders of magnitude cheaper. What gives? Is it an experiment on what the market will bear? It's not about bandwidth cost. I can guess it's one of two things, there is a little bit of hardware between the pure IP network and the phone network that's made of pixie dust and ground up unicorn horn. Then, I could see how the uni-pix-MUX would be so expensive that customers would have to pay for the privilege of their packets going through it.

I'm not going to single out ATTWS, I'll also point a fickle finger at the rest of the carriers. All of them except T-Mobile who got sober real quick and offers up all-you-can-eat for $20. Bravo. No connection metering. How do you like that?

Posted by Lionel Felix at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 04, 2015

Behold The G-Ride

Suddenly it dawned on me, no one has seen my ride. For shame, for shame. I put some more photos together yesterday and I'm ready to give you all a gander. I'm currently trying to figure out what UI I want to use. I'm turning that quest for a good UI into an in-depth article covering about 8 programs. Some are free, some are only for l33t hax0rs, some you have to pay for. Down here in Texas, we call that an old fashioned shoot out.

You'll notice I have Centrafuse on the screen. It's one of 5 I have loaded at the moment. Getting GPS software to work within UIs is a nightmare. I'll also be covering the ins and outs of that without sending you off to the tombs of MP3Car.com's message board archives for flakes of useful data.

My very angry looking 04 GMC Yukon had the grille painted to match the body color, removed the grille insert and replaced it with a Stull black mesh model. Much better looking. www.smokinlights.net shot all of my signals dark, including the thrid light and the front turn signals.

1Ghz CarBot PC
8" Lilliput touch screen
Netgear 802.11g Wireless Card
Netgear Bluetooth Adapter for GPRS Internet access through my T-Mobile phone
Hauppage USB2 TV Tuner
Powered 12V on-glass TV antenna
14" USB server style keyboard with built-in touchpad

Alpha Audio in Austin, TX custom crafted the center monitor console. The fit is nice and tight and the color matches the interior perfectly.

The Lilliput 8" touchscreen is a great monitor. 7" was too small when looking at 1024/768. The 4/3 aspect ratio gives me a little more real estate on the screen and lets me read webmail. Hey, thats important stuff.

The PC is a CarBotPC which you can buy from our store

I used parts from around the garage to make the mount. Some particle board from a shelving project, some L brackets from my parts bin and lots of self-tapping screws. Oh, a little plumbers tape. That stuff rocks so hard, duct tape bows in deference.

More console goodness.

yukonspace.jpgOne last shot of the mess I made. You'll notice the CarBot PC sitting there. Thanks Demian!

Posted by Lionel Felix at 01:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 03, 2015

C'mon people now, smile on your brother

I'll be the first one to admit it. I dont know much about Movable Type. In fact, I'm pretty dangerous. I'm looking for a little assistance in design and templates in exchange for some ad space or a glowing review. I need to spruce up the place a little bit. If you know MT and are willing to do a little work for Carhacks, drop us a line.


Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

EVDO Rules - See WiFi Run, Run WiFi, Run.

Ok, I've been going on and on about why EVDO and Internet connectivity through cell phones is better than that weak-ass hotspot stuff. These guys at ZDNET take the whole concept and make it into a coherent article, unlike me who will go on angry tangents never actually getting to the point. The "missing manual" part is what I like best. If you have a car computer or just a laptop and a cell phone, read this. Read it now. Read it and stop getting bamboozled by hotspot providers.

Nuff said.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 01:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2015

EVDO Stomp Box

I don't know exactly what a "stompbox" is but it sounds neat. The how-to on making your own shared mobile network using the EVDO network is cool, if walking down the street with a bunch of people following you around, laptops in hand is what you're after.

It seems like a good amount of work to make one of these so I'm dying to know what it's useful for. Other than being "neat".

Posted by Lionel Felix at 03:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why Things Cost So Much

What could be more horrible than the combination of insurance and patent law? The application of it on your business. Patent law is, like most things usefull most of the time, otherwise its pointless and makes things hard for people for the benefit of the few. My main gripe is with courts upholding patents covering business process. Take the Amazon One Click Checkout. The concept of finishing a transaction in one click is pwn3d (owned for non l33t h@x0rs).

The Amazon patent is not unique, in fact many simple, things like using a voice prompted system to navigate a phone system is also owned. Each of these "concept" patents makes things more expensive for companies trying to run a company. The article linked above is about one of those patents that is costing the companies you and I use every day billions. When things cost them billions, it ends up costing us. When it comes to cars and technology, innovators are blindly building technologies that may have been patented. Those concept or process patents could end up making the whole business unsustainable. It's something to keep in mind when you try to add voice to an application or layer weather on top of a map.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mac Mini Mod Contest

Looking for a venue for your wild Mac Mini car install? MacMod is holding a contest where you can win.... Another Mac Mini! I won't delve into the logic of that prize but i will say that more is always better.

Posted by Lionel Felix at 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack