Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Android Tablet as Car PC

Android Tablet as Car PC
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An android tablet ia a logical choice for a car PC. The device offers additional features beyond regular car stereos. While many car stereos have GPS, the android device offers a more intelligent GPS. It has all of your google contacts addresses already in the GPS, it has your calendar with events and their locations, Chrome to phone can automatically send directions from your computer to your car. The device can store music, use internet radio, or play music using a cloud player such as Amazon cloud. These are features not available on even the most high end luxury cars.

I recommend choosing a tablet that already has a car dock. This dock can be easily modified to be permanently installed where a double din CD player would normally go. Also, with a car dock, the device will be easily removable so you can prevent theft and use the tablet elsewhere.

Wire Strippers/Crimpers
Soldering Iron (Recommended)
Screw Drivers
Dremel with Cutting Blades

Tablet with Car Dock ( I chose Samsung Galaxy Tab 7+)
1/4" Sheet Lexan (Approx 10"x6")
1-1/4" Hole Saw
3/8" Drill Bit
Car Audio Adapter
Spade Plugs
Wire - Heavy Gauge to Power Amp
Wire - Medium Gauge for Speaker Signals
Electrical Tape
Scotch Tape

Step 1The Audio

Replacing the stock stereo unit with a android tablet requires an external amplifier for the sound to play through the speakers. I choose a 4 channel amplifier. Four channel because my car has four speakers. I have the amplifier mounted under my passengers side seat, but the amp could be mounted just about anywhere.  I chose just about the cheapest amp I could find.  I don't listen to much music, mostly audio books and podcasts, so I was not too concerned with sound quality.  I do listen to music using this amp and it sounds good enough for my ears.

Step 2Wiring the Amplifier

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The amplifier will be powered directly by the battery.  This will involve running heavy gauge wires from you car battery to the amplifier.  Read the instruction manual of the amplifier to determine the necessary wire gauge for powering the amplifier.  There are kits online that have pre-packaged wire for amplifiers or you can save yourself some money and go to the local hardware store and get them to cut a few feet of wire for you.

Step 3Amplifier Location

The amplifier is out of the way in the truck of a car, but it is also a long way away from the battery.  I chose to mount the amplifier underneath the passengers seat to limit my cable run lengths.  The seat had to be removed but this is actually quite easy.  Only four bolts hold the seat in along with the wires for the occupancy detector for the airbags which has to be unclipped.

Step 4Amplifier Tools and Accessories

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You will need a crimper to crimp spade plugs onto the end of each wire.  I have some spade plugs that have heat shrink around them which I think is really cool and looks very professional.  You will also want loom to cover the wire inside the engine compartment.  High temperature loom is highly recommended.  The loom may be hard to find at local stores but is available at McMaster Carr.  You can tell the difference because high temperature loom will have a gray stripe on it.  This loom is specifically designed for high temperatures locations like that of an engine compartment.

Step 5Amplifier Power Warning

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Also, you have to put a fuse in the power cable of the amplifier.  Radio shack sells small waterproof inline fuse holders that can be used for this.  Very Important: Remember to put a fuse into the power cable for the amp as close to the battery as possible.  Without this fuse, a short can set your car on fire.  Yes really.

Step 6Running Wire Through Holes in Metal

Also, to get the power from your battery to the amplifier you will probably have to drill a hole in your firewall of your car.  You may be able to poke the wire through a hole already there, but it is quite easy to drill a hole in the firewall.  Here or anywhere you run wire through a hole in metal use a rubber grommet.  This will prevent the jacket of the wire from being worn down from rubbing on the metal.  I have a small hole in the passengers side footwell.  The power cable for the amplifier runs through the hole, directly under the carpet, up through a hole in the carpet underneath the seat to the amplifier.

Step 7Amplifier Sound - Vehicle Harness Adapter

For attaching the amplifier to the speakers, I recommend you buy the adapter for connecting an aftermarket stereo to you stock system. This will prevent you from needing to cut any of the wires in the car.  If you go to Crutchfield's website and look to buy an aftermarket stereo there will be two adapters.  One for you car and one for the stereo.  These adapters are labeled and have short stripped wires on each end.  Simply order the one that is for the car and attach it to the plug that was originally in the back of your stock stereo system.

Step 8Amplifier to Car Adapter

You will need to run 2 cables per channel and a signal cable from the amplifier to the car adapter.  This connection can be either butt-connected with crimp style connectors or (better) use soldered connections with heat-shrink.  I recommend a piece of scotch tape wrapped around a sheet of paper to label the ends of the wires.  The other option instead of scotch tape is clear heat shrink.  This really leaves a really nice looking label.

To connect the source, in this case the android tablet, a stereo mini to rca (red and white) is needed. If you plan on having the device charge while it is being used, a ground loop isolator will needed to be added to this audio circuit. If powering the device and also using it as an audio source without this isolator you will hear a lot of static.

Step 9Charging the Tablet - Adding a Circuit

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Using the GPS in the tablet will eat the battery pretty quickly.  So it is nice to have the battery of the tablet charging as you drive down the road.  Probably the best way to do this is to create a separate fused circuit in your car.  If you look in the fuse box under the hood there will be some auxiliary fuse holders that are empty.  The labeling of the fuse box is usually on the bottom of the lid for the fuse box which will reference your car's manual.  To add you own circuit you can buy an add-a-fuse.  This is a device that has a fuse and a short power wire.  To this power wire you will want to add a female 12 VDC power socket (a cigarette lighter style socket).  These can be found in auto parts stores or online.  The red wire goes to power this socket and the other end must be ground.  I found plenty of room where the CD player used to be to install the power socket.

Step 10Charging the Tablet

Some of these auxiliary fuses draw current if the car is on or off and some only draw current when the vehicle is turned on.  The quickest way to tell which is which is just to plug the add-a-fuse in to different fuse spots with something connected.  Important - By connected I mean with a power socket and the unmodified car power adapter for your tablet.  Turn the car on and off and see what happens.  I chose a fuse that did not draw any current when the car is off as to not drain the battery.

Step 11Taking Out the Old CD Player

I first had to remove the portion of my dashboard that contained the stock CD player.  If you are unfamiliar with doing this for you particular car, I recommend a Haynes manual.  This manual will help you find every screw and clip holding that dash in place.  With the dash out, I measured and cut a piece of 1/4" lexan slightly larger than the hole where the stock radio was.  Lexan can be found in your local hardware store in the glass cutting section.  Just about anything can cut it although I still have problems getting a really clean edge.  Luckily in the application all of the edges will be behind the dash so it won't matter.  The dash is probably curved and you may notice small gaps in the side because the lexan is flat.  You can ignore these because when the tablet is in place, they won't be visible.

Step 12Mounting the Lexan

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To keep the lexan in place, I attached it along the back using one of my favorite inventions.  A two part epoxy putty.  This stuff is great for attaching weirdly shaped items.  Just mix it together and stick it on.  When it dries it will be rock hard and solid.

Step 13Installing the Mount

I used a 1.25" hole saw to drill a hole in the middle of this piece of lexan. After cutting off the suction cup portion of the mount for the tab, I epoxied it into the hole in the lexan. I also drilled a 3/8" hole next to the mount to run the power and audio cables through.

Step 14Paint

The lexan is fairly easy to paint.  I roughed up the surface with 220 grit sandpaper.  I then applied a layer of spray primer and then a layer of flat black.  The paint does not have to be perfect as the mount will cover most of the paint job.

Step 15The Finished Product

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The final product has a clean and professional looks but not quite stock. The only thing left is to upload some apps to enhance the experience. I recommend Google Navigation, Pandora, Amazon Cloud Player, tuneFM, Audible, doggCatcher, ChromeToPhone.

Remember to always drive safely and obey all traffic laws. This is not a device to watch movies or read emails when you are driving. It should be used in a safe and intelligent manner.

Step 16Mistakes I Made for You to Learn From

I did not like the idea of having to plug the headphone cord into the top of the tablet.  I knew that the dock connector had pin outs for analog audio.  I bought a cable that allowed me to charge the tablet as well as to play audio through the same cord.  However when testing this in the car, I was unable to get rid of the noise when charging the dock and powering the amplifier at the same time.  There may be an electrical hobbyist on here who could tell me why or help figure out a solution, but I was unable to figure out a solution.

After this didn't work I bought a bluetooth audio receiver that I plugged into the amplifier.  This device worked and I was able to use the audio without attaching a second cable.  However, I the sound isn't as clear as with an audio cable.  I also run it to issues where the bluetooth has trouble connecting.  For the time and effort, I would highly reccomend just using the headphone cable.  It is the best option I was able to come up with at this time.

Switchbox for digital audio

Switchbox for digital audio
Check out the author’s website, Neat, for lots of interesting articles.

Most current home electronics have SPDIF digital coax (RCA jack) or optical (TOSLink) outputs or both. Digital coax jacks are far more common, even appearing in bargain basement DVD players. Most home theater systems have both digital coax and optical inputs.

Digital coax and TOSLink use the same protocols – the only difference is whether the signal is transmitted through a wire or by light. TOSLink has the advantage of no electrical interference, but more limited distance and more expensive connectors and cables. This tutorial describes how to manually select different digital coax (RCA) sources.

Technically you should use 75 ohm shielded cable, but in my experience standard RCA-RCA cables work fine for at least 4 meters (the distance from my computer to my home theater system box).

Step 1Switch it!

The good news is you can also use an inexpensive manual video switchbox to select digital audio inputs.

Just hook up an RCA-RCA cable from the switch box’s output to the home theater system’s input. Then hook up each of your electronics with digital outputs to the switchbox’s inputs. Use the same color jack for each jack on the switch box (i.e. all yellow).

I use my switch box to select digital audio from my cable television box, primary computer’s built-in audio and Blu-Ray player. Any digital audio source with a RCA SPDIF output can be used.

The added dimensions for 5.1 sound from the home theater system really make a difference for action movies and concerts.

My cable provider has a couple of dozen digital audio channels. By sending the digital audio directly to the home theater I don't have to waste electricity by powering on the television set just to listen to audio.

Step 2Hook up cables

While it’s desirable to use orange color-coded cables to avoid confusion it’s not absolutely necessary. I’ve used colored-plastic tape and colored loose leaf labels to help identify cables.

Step 3Add a digital sound port if necessary

If your computer doesn’t already have a digital output jack there may already be an existing circuit on your motherboard that just needs a connector, or you can add a sound card which does have digital audio out.

Disable Touchpad on Sony Vaio Laptop after Clean Windows 7 Install

Disable Touchpad on Sony Vaio Laptop after Clean Windows 7 Install
Laptop touchpads are the cause of "jumping cursor" syndrome. You can accidentally brush the touchpad with your palm while typing, causing cursor to jump around the screen. Sometimes you don't even need to brush the touchpad and the cursor still jumps because of driver/hardware issues, and believe me, it is very annoying. There is a software solution for that - a free program called TouchFreeze, but it doesn't always work. So the ultimate solution would be to disable the touchpad and use the external mouse.

This looks like a trivial issue but in fact it is not. Sony Vaio, in particular, will not let you disable the touchpad in BIOS or in Device Manager. Most instructions on the web will tell you to "Open Vaio Control Center, expand Mouse and Pointing Device, find checkbox that says Enable and uncheck it..." Well, guess what? It works only when laptop is fresh from the store with all factory default software installed. As soon as you made a clean install of Windows 7, all Vaio software is gone or stops working properly.

This instruction will tell you how to restore Sony Vaio software and bring this "Enable Pointing Device" checkbox back from abyss.

Step 1Locate Factory Software for Your Sony Vaio Model

First you need to install most of factory software components from Sony. Installing just a "Vaio Control Center" will not work.
Locate your model number (mine is VGN-FW449J/B, I will use it for example since it is a very typical model) and go to Sony eSupport site.

The screenshot shows VGN-FW449J/B page, but you can easily change it by clicking on "change model" link.

Also, select your operation system from the list (see screenshot).

Step 2Download and Install Multiple Software Components

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Now you need to download several programs from the list and install them all. If you miss installing one of the required software components, you will not see the "Enable" checkbox in Vaio Control Manager. Well, Sony could make it a bit more user friendly for sure.

The number of the components required to see the pesky "Enable" button varies depending on the Sony laptop model, my list was the following (see screenshots):

- Intel Chipset Driver
- Setting Utility Series
- VAIO Launcher Software
- VAIO Control Client Software
- Alps Pointing Device Driver
- Sony Firmware Extension Parser Device Driver
- Sony Shared Library
- Update: Sony Firmware Extension Parser Device Driver
- VAIO Event Service
- ATI Graphics Driver
- UPDATE: Vaio Event Service Update

Well, I am not sure if ATI Graphics update is really needed for our task, but it's good to install it as it enables keyboard hotkeys to change screen brightness. Try changing screen brightness without those hotkeys (Fn-F5 and Fn-F6) on Sony Vaio laptop... and you may start feeling really stressed.

Selected software components can be installed in any order, you just need to make sure you install them all.

Step 3Restart Your Laptop and Observe the Checkbox

At the end of Sony software installation you will definitely be asked to restart your laptop. Worse is - you may be asked to restart it multiple times after each component install. Just stick to what they tell you, you don't have much of the choice.

When all components are installed and laptop was restarted, you can finally open the "Vaio Control Center", expand "Keyboard and Mouse", go to "Pointing Device" and uncheck the "Enable" checkbox. Hooray!

Now think of one more thing: how easy would it be for laptop manufacturers to implement the following feature: "plug external mouse > disable touchpad,   unplug external mouse > enable touchpad"... Easy?

How to repair HP dv6 notebook power adapter

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After years of lurking it's time for me to give something to the instructables community. I hope this can help!

By the way,

I WILL NOT TAKE ANY RESPONSABILITY for accidents or injuries occured trying or as a result of this instructables! DO IT AT YOUR OWN RISK!

and, if you want to give a try,

BE CAREFUL! Use glasses, gloves, mask and everything you need for YOUR SAFETY!

The power adapter of my HP dv6 notebook died a month ago.
Using a multitester I noticed that there was zero volt output. also putting my ear near the box I could ear a strange noise, some kind of syncopated twittering!
So I went to my computer shop and bought a new adapter, a universal one, but I wasn't completely satisfied with this solution:
- the new one has shorter cable, annoying!
- it doesn't connect very well, sometime I have to move the jack in and out until the notebook see it again;
- the new adapter has only 2 pins output while the HP one has 3 pins.. that third pin must be useful someway!

Enough! I've decided to open the black box to see If I can fix it!

Step 1Tools

What I've used (and what maybe you need):

- Scissors
- Japanese sharp blade (x-acto knife should work well too)
- pliers
- tweezers
- tin wire
- insulating tape
- duct tape
- multitester
- soldering iron
- desoldering pump
- dremel with cutting tip

Step 2Opening the adapter

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The adapter did'nt work anymore. strange noise. using the multitester I noticed that the ground and Volt pin where short-circuited!
I supposed the problem should be in the cable. Time to open the black box!

Memo: Before going any further, unplug everything!

The box is made of two plastic shells fused together, there are no screws or clips, the only way to open it is cutting the junction line. Using dremel with cutting tip it take just 5 minutes. Luckly the inner circuit is protected by a metallic shell, so don't be too worried to cut something inside, just take your time and be very careful near the input and output cable.
When you can see metal on all the sides, gently open the plastic shell. there is some glue to keep all together, but it will surrender soon.

Step 3Unsoldering the cable

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Before desoldering take note of how cable are connected to the pcb.
In my adapter there are 3 pins: GND (ground), ID (identification?) and VOUT (voltage output).

My output cable is coaxial and it is connected this way:
outer layer go to GND,
mid layer go to VOUT,
inner layer to ID.

TRIVIAL NOTE: Seems like the ID pin is used for some kind of communication between adapter and notebook.. It transmit a signal at lower tension so that notebook recognize the adapter as an original HP product!

Unsolder the cable one pin at a time, from outer to inner, using the unsoldering pump and helping yourself with tweezers.
If the industrial soldering doesn't want to melt use this trick: melt some of your toxic and full-of-lead soldering wire on it and heat with your soldering iron. This will mix the two kind of  tin lowering the melting temperature.

Control with the multitester if the VOUT and GND pins are still short-circuited. I hope the answer is no :)

Maybe now you want to check if the adapter works well before proceding..
This method is dangerous so please skip this part if you don't feel like doing it and be very careful!
Put the metal box back in one of the plastic shell's halves in a way that it is insulated from your desk and everything else. Choose the best side to face you considering that you want to easily reach the pins with the INSULATED tips of your multitester. Without touching any part of the open adapter plug the input cable. All you have to do is touch VOUT and GND pin with multitester tips to check if there is a correct potential difference (of 19 Volt for mine adapter). Checked? Unplug!

Step 4Reparing the cable

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So you know there is a short-circuit somewhere in the cable.. but where?
The best way to proceed is to cut away the last part near the black box, right after that kind of black plastic spring that should help to preserve the cable from broking (..and always fail!).
If the problem is in the cable, you can be sure it's somewhere in that critical zone. Check with multitester if now is ok, or cut another few centimeters and test again.
Don't throw away the plastic spring! Try to remove the broken cable from inside the spring and to put back it around the remaining good cable. I've had to cut the spring in three part cause it was soldered to the cable, yet it has been still useful.
Once the spring is back around the cable, strip the wire one layer at time. Looking at pictures you can see that I cut the wire on the long way cause I reuse the plastic coating for insulation and strenght.
Twist together the wires of each layer and insulate with tape. Check to which pin each wire must go. Try to rearrange the three wires so that it'll be easy to solder back it on the adapter, then block everythig with tape.
Resolder the wires to the adapter, from inner to outer pin.

Step 5Closing the box

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Put back together the plastic shell and block it with duct tape. Be careful to not leave exposed any metal part.
You're done! Plug everything.. and cross your fingers.

Step 6Happy ending!

It worked!

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