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I Hate Linux

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

God damn Alpine... I mean Pioneer!

After getting dinked around by OnlineCarStereo.com (they don't seem to think it important to inform a customer that an item is not only not in stock, but that they don't know when more will be in), I discovered that my local Best Buy had a pair of Pioneer CD-IB100's so I picked up one of them last night after work.

Arriving home an hour later I stopped by Chad's house to get his assistance as I know little (see nothing) about car audio installation. After quickly getting off my center console covers, we got to installing the unit and attaching it to my desk.

My original concern with the IB100 was that it suck less than the Alpine product... Chad and I were shocked to find... that the Pioneer solution actually sucked more!

I wish to apologize for the frequent use of the word 'suck' to describe both products, but after much thinking and digging through a thesaurus... it remained the best word to describe both products.

The speed of the interface was awful, you'd choose to go to the next track, and often it would take a moment for it to decide to do so. Simply scrolling through my collection of play lists too was painful. When we did have it playing, the normal (8 character only) display would read "iPodXXXX" where XXXX was the current time through the song notice the lack of a standard style ':' ? ). With some work, you could get it to display the track name or the artist or album... but touching anything else would have it return back to the iPodXXXX format.

I had unfortunately given up hope quite early as I saw the amazing problems we were having with simply choosing a song to play or even setting it to randomly shuffle... what did it in for Chad, was that after much fighting and consulting of the manual, that the pause button on the front of my deck did nothing at all. No pause, no other menu... not even a beep, nothing.

Twice now I have been horribly disappointed by products designed to make it easy to use your iPod in your car, and I dont think there will be much else to make me happy, Kenwood will be releasing something soon... but I do not have a Kenwood deck. BMW also has a nice looking system... but it requires a 2005 BMW. I also learned recently that Monster is releasing their own iPod adapter, called the iCruze which costs a little more than what the Alpine and Pioneer units cost... combined.

As sad as it sounds... my current solution seems to work much better than the others. On the back of my DEH-P760MP deck, I have an AUX in cable which converts a pair of RCA cables into an IPBUS one. Attached to that is a 6 foot long mini stereo to RCA cable (from Monster no less) which is in turn plugged into the line out on my Belkin iPod car charger. To listen to tunes, I simply plug my iPod to the car charger, hit play and make sure my deck is on and using the AUX input. It's that easy! Of course... the whole reason I got that deck was to be able to more seamlessly integrate my iPod into my car stereo, while my current solution is good... I think it can be better.

With the recent news of my local Ultimate Electronics closing and the impending sales... I was thinking it would be a good time to add an amp and subwoofer, unfortunately, my increasing desire for better iPod integration may delay that.

I have decided to start project HatztekPC for which I will build a mini PC for use in my car for controlling and playback of music from my iPod. Current plans call for it to be based around a VIA EPIA MII running around 1.2 GHz. Most likely I will use Windows XP running iTunes for direct interfacing with the iPod as well as a few custom apps for controlling it.

The motherboard in question also has a PCMCIA slot, perfect for a wifi card, and with an antenna and a GPS, would become an instant war driving setup. But why stop there? Later with the addition of a higher quality (VGA vs the intended 2x20 character display), some navigation software would be great. Also would be interesting I think to log location and velocity while active... just so long as you don't tell the cop who pulled you over about it.

The possibilities of such a unit are endless, provided it doesn't break down quickly. The 7200 RPM HD I expect will not like bumping down the road while running (although it wont be used for much more than booting (I could have gone with something cheaper and slower, but the warranties on them weren't as good)).

Another concern is temperature. South Dakota like many places gets extremely cold in the winter. I am forced to wonder how an off the shelf HD will react to spending the night at -20 only to be spun up and asked to boot with no warming up time. Using CompactFlash card for my boot volume would alleviate this issue, however the cost of said flash as well as the limitations (not being able to write/erase as often as a HD) put that idea on old for now.

All necessary parts have been ordered (Mobo, ram, hd, dc-dc psu, lcd, controller, etc) so construction will begin as soon as it starts to arrive. In the mean time... time to refine my iTunes controlling C# code to not need a standard UI.

Hearing my plans though, Chad was not too impressed. He feels that my time and money would be better spent on something that will massage me while on the road. Maybe there is time for both, we shall see.


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    By Blogger Rael, at 10:25 PM  

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