SilverLeaf Electronics, Inc.
2490 Ferry Street SW.
For general business e-mail lori (at) simply-smarter.com.
From Salem (Coming South via I-5): Google Map From Salem
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Built-in computer dashboard
The enhanced understanding of my motorhome’s operation I gained by using VMSpc on my laptop was so great that I undertook building a dedicated system into my 1996 Safari Serengeti. I picked the VIA SP13000 mini-itx motherboard since this would make a compact installation and would provide the ability to display the VMSpc data as well as GPS data and rear view camera data.
In addition to the motherboard I purchased a M1ATX power supply that is designed to power a computer from a 12V DC supply, a 100 MB laptop hard drive, a DVD R/W, a WXGA 15.5” LCD display and a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150 TV converter. The VIA SP13000 has pretty capable video and sound chips as well as a wide assortment of I/O ports including a serial port for the VMSpc. I didn’t want to deal with a USB to serial converter. To lessen the vibration input to the system I mounted the computer on a plywood base which I isolated from the motorhome with a soft foam suspension system. I replaced the existing dashboard with one I fabricated from 1/8” aluminum with the display occupying the entire center section. I chose to retain the speedometer, fuel, oil pressure and turbo boost steam gages and put them on the side as backup in case of a computer failure somewhere down the road. Since I had to fabricate the new dashboard I elected to include a Smart Tire system and a variable speed wiper control. I also included a switch and indicator lamps for the computer power and hard drive activity. I installed the DVD in the dash as well as RJ-45 LAN and USB ports. The USB port allows me to plan a trip on my laptop and transfer it to the dashboard for display. I am an active digital photographer so I included a CF card reader for dumping photos into the computer. I installed a track ball on the console beside the driver seat and use a wireless keyboard for setup or if I want to use the computer when we are in camp. The Hauppauge unit includes a remote and lets me display TV and record video on the hard drive to give a “TIVO” capability. I have made provisions for driving a remote display. I intend to remove the existing TV and replace it with a flat panel monitor driven by the computer. Sound data is passed to a Panasonic radio and amplifier system. Internet access is via hot spots and a Linksys wireless router into the RJ-45 port. I also had to purchase a new rear view camera as the original one did not provide a mirror image and the computer did not have enough capability to flip it.
I purchased some wood veneer which I used to cover the aluminum dash. Since the new dash is almost three inches taller than the old one I had to fabricate a new cover for the dash. I used aluminum and fiberglass to build it and covered it with foam and vinyl. Without question this was the hardest part of the installation. The cover provides a small sun shield. The display washes out somewhat in direct sunlight but is still quite readable. For night driving I reverse the streets colors and turn the display brightness down.
I am running Windows XP Home as the OS with VMSpc 2.2, WinTV and Street Atlas which I just recently upgraded to 2007. I have arranged the VMSpc data across the top and down the right side of the screen. Street Atlas 2007 fits beneath and to the left of the VMSpc data. I run the WinTV always on top but with no controls visible and have positioned the window over a non-critical part of the Streets display.
I originally provided a relay system that would power the computer up when the key was turned on or by a switch on the panel. I have since disabled the key activation and just turn it on before I start up the engine. The display runs from 12 V DC. I wasn’t able to get any data on allowable input voltage range so I regulate the voltage to the panel to 12V to make sure I am not supplying to high of a voltage to it. I am running the computer from the house batteries to avoid any transients from the starter. I have had the system installed for over a year and 7000 miles now and the only problem to date has been a faulty hard drive cable. I had used the circular cables rather than the flat ones but switched to the flat ones after the failure.
I have attached photos of the installation and the screen layout. My only regret is that I waited so long to do it.