Saturday, July 4, 2009

Baby Steps

So, a decision to base the iLux on M$ Windows made things a bit easier. I tinker. As mentioned earlier, I've been into HTPCs for the past few years, building and rebuilding DVD playing, whole house audio systems for speed and silence. I also build PCs for work so I have a few bits and pieces lying around. You could say.

More online research led me to identify two main approaches to the CPU element; a custom built or off the shelf mini-itx based system or a laptop based system. My ambition is the mini-itx solution as there are advantages; the box is small and can be hidden away, I could build it myself, the system power can be directly attached to the motherboard via in-car d negating the requirement for power bricks, transformers etc.

However, I don't have a mini-itx system to hand but do have an old, old Acer Travelmate 212T so iLux version 1.0 will be laptop based.

Now, when I say this is old, I mean OLD. The manufacture date is 29/9.01 and there is a Windows ME licence sticker on the bottom. It's a Celeron 800MHz cpu with 312MB RAM and a 10GB hard drive. It has USB 1.0 only and no wifi. The battery is missing.

But it boots. It currently has Windows 2000 installed and that runs OK. This is my starting point. The idea is that I'll use this essentially free laptop to experiment with software, hardware, interfaces etc. Once I get everything working to my satisfaction, I can then splash out on a nifty tiny machine. Until then, it'll be an acer under the seat.

In addition, I have a 12v inverter I purchased from Maplins some time ago. Rather than go down the route of a dedicated dc-dc power unit wired in to the car, I'm happy to run the laptop from that using the existing power brick. It's inefficient I know and I won't have fancy smancy auto-shutdown and startup with ignition etc. but really, in these early stages, it's all about the software, functionality, UI and ease of use. Once that end is sorted, the integration is stage 2.

Now, with a CPu (of sorts) in place, it's time to start looking at software. Very quickly, through both and general googling, it becomes apparent that a commercial product called Centrafuse seems to be the leader. Yes, there are lots of free alternatives out there but this one seems to have a solid reputation. And there's a 30 day trial.

On downloading and installing to the Win2K Acer, the program fails to start. A little research unearths the fact that Win2K is not supported. Oh well. Several hours later, the little Acer is groaning under the weight of Windows XP Pro SP2 and centrafuse boots. Hurray!

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