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Car PC Hacks: Geek Your Ride

August 30, 2005

Sebastopol, CA--It started with the addition of satellite radio and then an iPod. Now DVD and MP3 players, navigation systems, and touch screens are standard in many vehicles. But installing an actual computer in a car with TiVo-like functionality? Absolutely! "The time for in-car computing has arrived," says Damien Stolarz--and his groundbreaking new Car PC Hacks (Stolarz, O'Reilly, US $24.95) is the first book to show readers how to put a PC in their ride and create a powerful mobile digital hub.

Fully illustrated and written by innovative computer hardware hackers and automobile customizers, Car PC Hacks is a collection of tips, tutorials, and techniques for installing, displaying, and controlling a car PC. It shows readers how to use a keyboard touch screen, or voice-activated in-car computers for things like watching (and even pausing and rewinding) live TV on the road; videoconferencing on the go; and using GPS to create a constant travel record.

"Once we get used to features in one part of our lives, we want to be able to use them everywhere--including in our cars," says Stolarz. People have come to count on an array of features and choices. "Why shouldn't you be able to say, 'I like the navigation system in the Infiniti, I think I'll get that for my Civic'?" asks Stolarz. And people definitely like to simplify. "When you've got half a dozen different kinds of digital media sitting in the passenger seat of your car (mobile phone, camera, PDA, iPod, portable USB memory stick, CDs), you'd like them to be able to talk to each other. Putting a computer in your car will allow all your gadgets to work with your vehicle." A car PC can serve as a digital hub for everyone's favorite must-have devices--and even some they don't yet know they need.

Anyone, with a little know-how, can put a PC on board. "Traditionally, car guys don't know computers," says Stolarz, "and computer guys don't know cars." But by using language that both audiences will understand, Car PC Hacks bridges that gap. Computer gurus skilled in all things software and hardware will learn the wiring, power, and connector basics necessary to get around a car with ease. Mechanics and auto enthusiasts who can install speakers, amps, and stereos in their sleep but depend on their friends to fix their ailing computers will learn all the essentials of the computer/car interface.

Clever, detailed hacks include:

  • Install a PC or Mac computer that will power on and off just like the car stereo--and won't drain the car battery
  • Move an entire audio collection to the car and navigate playlists with a remote control or touch screen
  • Install a PC-based in-car navigation system that is cheaper, faster, and more usable than the factory-supplied setup in new cars
  • Plug into the car's built-in computer and find out what the "check engine light" is really saying
  • Enjoy wireless networking and accessing the Internet from the car
  • Listen to email, news, and RSS feeds while driving
  • Run a TiVo-like radio broadcast recorder so favorite shows are always ready and waiting
  • Use a game console as a small, quiet, and affordable in-car computer (and even offering one to every passenger!)
  • From hooking up and powering up an in-car computer to configuring it to do countless cool things drivers never thought possible, the ideas in this cutting-edge guide show readers the possibilities--and how to make them happen--with a car PC.

    Additional Resources:

    Car PC Hacks
    Damien Stolarz
    ISBN: 0-596-00871-6, 384 pages, $24.95 US, $34.95 CAN
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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