The Rig's People 'puter

My-GMC Picture Gallery

Back Next

June 1999 update:
Did some rewiring and recabling to try and tidy up the mess. Check it out!

April 3, 1999 update:
The 'puter as described and installed here only survived one trip. Enough was learned on that one trip to design and install a new improved version of the people 'puter. Click here to jump on down.

I'm removing the TV that was living above the engine and replacing it with an IBM compatible PC that will do all the things a good PC does including TV, GPS and DVD for movies. Video tape and alternate TV will be provided by a S-VHS VCR.

The system will have two flat panel monitors connected along with two keyboards and mice. One keyboard will be small footprint infrared wireless with a built-in mouse pad and will live at the drivers side along with a 15" flatpanel (Apple Studio Display).

The other keyboard, mouse, flatscreen will be for table use. The keyboards and mice will be running in parallel, i.e. either can be used at any time.

A word re the Apple Studio Display.  It is the first flat display that uses the full screen even at 640x480 and it is the best I've experienced for use in all lighting conditions, including sunlight. A little pricey at $1295, but considering I paid 3k for less about a year ago...
Another advantage of this display is that it'll do TV as well PC video meaning that at times it'll be a PC monitor and at others it'll be TV screen.

The actual PC will be custom built using the cabinetry that used to house the TV set. I'm using an ATX formfactor case/motherboard of the variety where the motherboard part slides out of the case. This will form the core of the PC. Technically it will have 20 gb of IDE hard disk, LS120 floppy, 256mb memory, DVD CD-ROM and SCSI adapter to add more storage as needed. USB to run scanner, modem, camera and sound system to match. I'm currently running it with a 300mhz Celeron processor.

When close enough to a network a direct 10/100 wire connection will be used. At other times a 900mhz wireless modem bridge will provide connectivity to the internet, etc.

Currently the system is under test in my living room and so far so good. Hope to install soon. Pics will then be taken and posted.

Have comments? Wanna chat 'puter? Drop me an email.

Oct 29, 1998: Spent the day moving the 'puter to it's new home:

Getting started.jpg (236172 bytes)

This used to be a TV cabinet. I removed the foldup portion and added some angle aluminum to hold the top and added some corner brackets to hold the computer 'tray'. I cut a larger whole in the rear to feed wires in and to gain access to the woofer connections. I had speakers mounted on the sides. Removed them but left the grill in so that it would give some extra ventilation.

VCR and Woofer.jpg (225764 bytes)Standard S-VHS VCR sits on the bottom. I have powerbar mounted inside and also use a couple of 3 foot/3 receptacle extensions for the devices that have transformers. One 3 foot extension is used to connect the whole mess to Power Inverter. It's always running off the Inverter, even on shorepower.

Re Extensions: Be sure you use 3 prong grounded all around.

Last goop.jpg (206156 bytes)Last application of epoxy to give support to the floppies when it's in the proper position. This picture shows it on end. It'll be mounted with power supply on the bottom.


First test.jpg (206696 bytes)First test... and it even worked. However, a redesign will be necessary to make it a little easier to remove/re-install when the doghouse needs to be accessed. I ended up with a few extra goodies, so it's gotten a little tighter than first planned.


Almost done.jpg (238768 bytes)The display turns real easily so that no moving is required when it's a map display en-route. Had to move Cellphone and CB but they both went to better places.

Bunch of cleanup to do before it's 'commissioned', but have to do some real work first.

The new and improved people 'puter:

The downside of version 1 was that it was all located on top of the engine hatch and had to be removed for access. While not difficult it seemed a nuisance after a time or two. Operationally the computer worked fine. No interference from the engine, etc.

Version 2 was built and commissioned for the March '99 trip. I used a full tower ATX case. That gives me 5 fullsize and 2 3.5" inch bays plus lots of room inside. 3 EIDE drives are mounted inside (30+ gbytes). 2 additional fans are mounted, one on a switch to keep noise down when the extra cooling is not needed. 2 removable SCSI-Wide trays, a DVD RAM drive and a Yamaha CD-Writer fill 4 of the 5 drivebay slots.

Inside we have a 400mhz P2 with 256mb of memory and 2 USB ports, ATI Video with TV Tuner and also an additional video capture card plus a 100mip network card. The SCSI card is an Adaptec 2940U2W. The surroundings include a WebRamp with external 56k USR V.everything modem. The WebRamp has an ethernet hub built in so I was able to remove the old hub. Local wireless is provided by Proxim wireless LAN which provides a seamless LAN connection for Laptop and Handheld as well as providing a bridge to my customer's network without running wires.

Three flat screens are used in the rig. 2 15inch Apple Studio Displays and one 15inch Sceptre. The Apple displays can do computer video and tv. I have one installed by the bed and the other at the drivers side. When driving that one is in use as a computer screen to display maps, etc. When parked it's the tv screen driven by a VCR now mounted on the ceiling behind the driver (above the couch). The rear monitor only does TV at the moment but the other 2 are connected via an expander module to display computer video. Two keyboards are also connected via a Y gadget. Connecting 2 mice has not been that successfull so I use an Altra mousepad that I move between driver station and table. The Altra pad is quite unique in that it only requires a 6x6 space on the desk. Actual mouse movement is only about 2 inches. Takes a little getting used to, but is excellent.

An HP890C Inkjet provides printed output. I added more serial ports via USB so that the handhelds can be synchronized without disconnecting GPS's. I also use a USB page scanner by Storm. (Actually a LogiTech I think).

Telephone access for the Internet is usually via a wireless bridge to a landline. I use SpryNet as my ISP. I also use a handhelp HP620 and HP820 with wireless TCP/IP via the CDPD network (AT&T via GoAmerica). For voice communication I settled on an AT&T digital one rate plan with a Nokia 6160 phone that does all systems automatically. The Nokia is installed with an in-car kit and the associated external antenna. I also installed 2 handsets, one right by the drivers arm and the other in the rear by the bed.

The computer and all associated items are plugged into a Heart Inverter (1200 watts). The VCR is plugged into it's own 200 watt inverter.

The invertes are connected to the coach batteries in the rear fed by 2 30 amp solid state chargers (obtained from Caspro).

Wiring is now just long enough in the front so that the Apple display can be set onto the front seat without disconnecting anything. Makes getting the hatch open much, much easier.

Still have wires to clean up due to changes on the fly, but other than that it's working great.

June 1999 update

Havn't really changed the computer but will have to change power supply as there is a problem with the 3 volt when the computer is shut down. I'm going to change it to a 300 watt unit with a smart fan.

What I did change is the overall environment. I replaced the devices that connected my three screens and 2 keyboards/mice with a 4 port PS/2 KVM Splitter. (Keyboard Video Mouse). It also splits/switches the audio.

The Splitter enables me to run all three stations from the same PC. I can basically work anything from any station.

The main station on the streetside table. The PC lives under the table. The keyboard/mouse is the Logitech radio system.

Station two is the driving station. It uses one of the Apple Studio Displays and it uses an Ir keyboard with glidepad built in.

The rear station (bedroom) is also an Apple Studio Display and it uses an Ir keyboard that is of the hold it in your hand type and includes a mouse.

Audio is provided by two Creative Labs systems, one in the front and one in the rear. The VCR audio is fed to the PC or directly to the amp as may be desired. Both Apple Displays can also be switched to display regular TV display from the VCR.

I was able to surface run the cables to the rear so that they are not in the way yet easy to change. I'm hoping that I'll have things a little tidier a little longer on my next trip.

Additional information about the Hi-Tech Side of my GMC

Page was last modified Monday, April 26, 2004 05:53 PM