The MPK is the 'secret project' name I have for the car computer that lives in the back seat of my '84 Dodge Aires

Anyway, at the heart of the MPK is a Fujitsu Lifebook 435DX (Pentium MMX 133mHz); A CD-ROm drive and 1.4 20 gigabyte hard drive (Travelstar) give it ample MP3 storage, and it finally got its RAM upgrade, so it's up to 32 meg.

I've got it running '98 SE Windows 2000 ('98 refused to work with the new drive for some reason) -- I know, you're going to say I should use Linux or something.. I'm not using Linux on it because, as of the 2.4 kernel, it still can't deal with suspend-to-disk/hibernate modes, and that's important. The display just happens to be a 2.2 inch Radio Shock LCD TV velcro'ed to my dash with a scan converter giving it the NTSC it needs, and the whole gammut being powered by a total of 3 DC-to-DC converters. Input is handled by a cheap numeric keypad working in conjunction with a Winamp control program, along with a generic Touchpad for mouse control.

The system used to be a desktop PC, but I scrapped that system in favour of a laptop for a nu,ber of reasons:

  • Suspend-to-Disk - few desktop PCs support a Hibernate/Suspend-to-disk mode. Without such a setup, you need to completly boot the PC every time you start the car with, on the old system, took over 1 minute. With the hibernate function enabled, it can go from cold to playing in 20 seconds.

  • Power Requirements - The old system, being a desktop PC, really sucked power, upto the point it drained my battery on one occasion. The new system, being designed to run off battery power anyway, is much kinder to the electrical system of the car to the point where I don't stress about playing music with the car engine off. And if I get paranoid, I can let the laptop use it's own battery supply, though due to it's age only lasts 30 minutes.

    Another benefit is that I no longer need a DC-to-AC inverter, and I don't have the fan noise of it anymore, not to mention that the inverter I was using was only 92-95% efficient.

  • Vibration - Mobile drives are designed to take shock and vibration better. 'nuff said.

The name 'MPK' origionally came from the sentence 'MP3 Playing K', because the Dodge Aires is also sold as the Plymouth Reliant K. I have since changed the acronym to 'Megahertz Powered K' because it will eventually do more than just play tunes.

Including the cost of each generation and all parts used, I've ended up paying twice again what I paid for the car. The currect incarnation alone, however, is a little eaier to handle, clocking in at about $500 USD (the bulk of that being the laptop, and after that, the LCD TV).

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