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Car PC Hacks: Tips & Tools for Geeking Your Ride [Paperback]

Damien Stolarz

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Book Description

Aug. 6 2005 0596008716 978-0596008710 1

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.

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About the Author

Damien Stolarz has been studying and working in the car PC market since the late '90s. Last year he started his own company,, to cater to the entertainment and aftermarket car PC market.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the books on adding a PC to your car April 22 2006
By calvinnme - Published on
This is not a book about how to hack the controllers in your car's engine to make it go fast, burn different fuel mixtures, etc. Just like the title says, it is about car computers-and this means everything from actual onboard computers, to audio and video configurations. Like the other books in the "Hack" series, this is not a long narrative about Car PCs, it is simply a book full of 75 projects arranged by topic. Some of the tamer projects include installing headrest video screens, listening to email on the road once you've rigged up your computer to receive free wi-fi, installing a back-up camera and screen, receiving satellite TV, and rigging a free GPS-based navi-system. Of course, since all this stuff is power-heavy, there's also a bunch of hacks on how to strengthen your car's electrical system. To give you an idea, one of the hacks shows how to install a heavier-duty alternator. Throughout the book there are plenty of instructive diagrams, cross references to other relevant hacks in the book, and lots of links to web addresses where further instruction and freeware can be found.
There are seven chapters in Car PC Hacks, each covering a different way to turn your car into a functioning computer with cupholders. Amazon does not show the complete list of hacks, so I do that here:
Chapter 1. Car Power Basics
1. Understand Car Electrical Systems
2. Prevent Electrical Fires
3. Gauge Your Wires
4. Connect Your Wires
5. Calculate Your Car's Battery Life
6. Upgrade Your Car Battery
7. Add New Power Connectors Throughout Your Car
8. Use a Huge Capacitor to Sustain Power
9. Upgrade Your Car's Alternator
10. Add a Second Car Battery
11. Put Home Power Outlets in Your Car
Chapter 2. Automotive Audio Entertainment
12. Get a Headful About Your Car Audio
13. Install a New Head Unit
14. Get Computer Audio into Your Head Unit
15. Amp Up Your Computer Audio
16. Make a Very Cheap AUX-in
17. Reduce Your Audio System's Noise
18. Control Your iPod with Your Car Stereo Knobs
19. Tune Your PC for Radio Reception
20. Record Radio Shows
21. Listen to Email, Weblogs, and RSS Feeds on the Road
22. Find Out What Was Playing on the Radio
Chapter 3. Automotive Video Entertainment
23. Understand Video Connectors
24. Choose Your Screens
25. Install a Headrest Screen
26. Install a VGA Touchscreen in Your Dashboard
27. Install a Sun Visor Screen
28. Install a Motorized Fold-out Screen
29. Install a Fold-Down Ceiling-Mounted Screen
30. Supersize Your Fold-Down LCD Screen
31. Turn Your Laptop into a Fold-Down or Dashboard Screen
32. Connect a Car PC to Your Factory Screen
33. Install a Rearview Mirror Screen and Camera
34. Boost Your Video Signal for Multiple Screens
35. Customize Each Passenger's Video
36. Tune in TV in the Car
37. Receive Satellite TV While Driving
38. Play DVDs with Your in-Car Computer
39. Put Multi-Channel DVD Surround Sound in Your Car
40. Install a Video Game Console Computer in Your Car
Chapter 4. In-Car Computers
41. Choose an in-Car PC Hardware Platform
42. Power Your Car PC
43. Start Up and Shut Down Your Car PC
44. Reduce the Boot Time of Your in-Car Computer
45. Keep Your Computer on During Engine Cranking
46. Turn On Your Car Computer Before You Start Your Car
47. Boot Your Car Computer on a Schedule
48. Choose an in-Car PC Software Platform
49. Install Windows on a CompactFlash Card
50. Power Your Portable Devices in the Car
51. Install USB Ports in Your Car
52. Build an in-Car PC
53. Build an in-Car Macintosh
54. Install a Mac Mini in Your Car
Chapter 5. Car PC Interface Options
55. Control Your Car PC with a Keyboard and Mouse
56. Control Your Car PC with a Handheld Remote
57. Control Your Car PC with a Touchscreen
58. Car-Enable Clunky Applications
59. Listen to What Your Car Computer Is Saying
60. Control Your Car PC with Voice Recognition
61. Find More Ways to Control Your in-Car Computer
Chapter 6. Wireless Connectivity and in-Car Internet
62. Get Online in Your Car
63. Make Your Mobile Phone Hands-Free with Your Car PC
64. Transfer Data to and from Your Car PC
65. View Real-Time Traffic Data on the Road
66. Videoconference from Your Car
67. Use GPS on Your Car PC
68. Find WiFi Hotspots on the Road
Chapter 7. In-Car Applications
69. Plug into Your Car's Built-in Computer
70. Put a Video Jukebox in Your Car Theater
71. Choose Your in-Car Navigation Software
72. Play Thousands of Games by Emulating Video Game Consoles
73. Use CENTRAFUSE as Your Car PC Frontend
74. Use Neocar Media Center as Your Car PC Frontend
75. Use FrodoPlayer as Your Car PC Frontend
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By Far the Better of Two Options Nov. 22 2005
By Michael D. Hiscox - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Amazon is offering this book in combination with "Geek My Ride" which, of course, makes much sense. However, if you are faced with choosing between the two, "Car PC Hacks" is the far superior book. It has at least five times as much actual content and is much better at giving you a complete picture of what you can do with car computers and electronics.

After carefully pondering the Amazon descriptions and reviews, I bought "Geek My Ride" first and "Car PC Hacks" second. That was the wrong decision, as "Car PC Hacks" is comprehensive enough to eliminate most people's need for another book on the topic.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pimp your ride - geek style... Sept. 18 2005
By Thomas Duff - Published on
I never knew there was so much computerization you could do to your car... Car PC Hacks - Tips & Tools for Geeking Your Ride by Damien Stolarz.

Contents: Car Power Basics; Automotive Audio Entertainment; Automotive Video Entertainment; In-Car Computers; Car PC Interface Options; Wireless Connectivity and in-Car Internet; In-Car Applications; Index

In this Hacks book, you get 75 different ways to "geek your ride". This can range from simple modifications to the stereo system (#13 - Installing a New Head Unit) to installing a full-fledged PC in your car (#41 - Choose an in-Car PC Hardware Platform). While many of the hacks don't have step by step instructions on how to make it all come together, there's enough information to point you in the right direction. In reality, it'd be almost impossible to do detailed instructions, as each car will be different, and your options for mounting and installing hardware can often be limited only by your imagination. Even if you're not all that handy with tools and such, this book will give you a really good idea of what can be done. From there, you can figure out who to befriend in order to get the installation taken care of.

I also appreciated the in-depth coverage of how a car's electrical system works. I'm the type who just turns the key and figures everything starts up. When you start adding in all sorts of new equipment, the demands on the battery change dramatically. In addition, PC equipment doesn't view momentary power drops during start-up very kindly. After reading this material, you'll understand the issues involved as well as how they can all be overcome.

Bottom line, this is a very good book if you're interested in tricking out your car with the latest in custom electronics. The first time you sit in the back seat and start playing the latest XBox game mounted in the headrest, you'll be hooked...
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this awesome book right now! June 1 2006
By Douglas Bush - Published on
Car PC Hacks tells you how to install a computer and all sorts of cool tech in your car.

It includes 75 projects. Well, the first few are not really projects, but very helpful explanations of automotive electrical systems. I was most interested in the chapters on how to install LCD screens, how to integrate a computer in your car, and how to power everything from the car battery.

This book is obviously written by people who have installed a lot of computers in their own cars and used them for their own and their families' entertainment. It has just the information I needed to be able to do these projects. Excuse me, I'm going to geek my ride now.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So Far a great book! Sept. 27 2007
By Blind Willy - Published on
My book arrived 2 days earlier than expected.
That night I pretty much scanned it from cover to cover, stopping at the parts that caught my eye.
I bought two books, the other being "How To Build a Car PC". This book far exceeded the other one in knowledge, projects, etc.
My goal is to build the car PC, but I know nothing about car electronics, that's where this book came in, with tips on how to wire it, how to load balance the battery, so the PC doesn't crash on start up, etc.
If you are looking for info on Car PC's and OTHER hacks, this book will stear you in the right direction, if not give you all the info you need.
I loaned it to my neighbor who is a mechanic, and I still haven't gotten it back!!! (Little does he know, he's going to help me now)

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