Mac mini in my car dashboard

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by RandyJS, Jan 17, 2005.

  1. RandyJS macrumors member

    Jan 17, 2005
    Hi everyone! This is my first (of hopefully many!) posts on macrumors! I love this site :)

    Anyways, I am looking at incorporating a Mac mini into my car dashboard since it is so small and would be a perfect fit! I want it to be able to do GPS navigation, iTunes music, DVD player, Bluetooth cell phone connectivity, etc...

    I do however, need some help. I need to come up with a good user interface for a touchscreen LCD. I also want the interface to be able to accept voice commands.

    I am working on a site for my car where everyone can help contribute ideas/suggestions, and would hope that many of you offer your advice! I have a temporary web address at

    I am going to use an LCD TOUCHSCREEN display with the mac mini. I have found several on ebay that come with OSX drivers so that should not be an issue. I am looking at running a resolution no larger than 1152 x 720. Will the mac mini support a resolution of 1152 x 720? I know my iMac G4 will only support up to 1024 x 640??. If it only goes to 1024, no big deal.

    As for what I want to do with the computer... Here is a list of some of the things I want the computer/media hub for my car to do:

    Play music with visualizations (iTunes will work great for this!) - I plan on running the audio out into my existing car audio system.

    Play DVD movies and video files (DVD Player and iMovie)

    Slideshows (iPhoto)
    PSX/SNES/NES/N64/PS2/XBOX/OTHER GAMES (many emulators are available for the MAC platform, it is just a matter of researching and finding the right ones!) Anyone know of good game controllers that would work with bluetooth or USB for the mac and be compatable with these games/system emulatorss?

    Bluetooth wireless cell phone talk and connectivity - by this I mean that if the computer is on and my cell phone is in my car, the mac will answer my call over the computer and broadcast the call through the speakers in my car through the macs audio out.

    GPS Navigation with voice controls (I am located in Pennsylvania, USA)

    I seem to be having a problem with finding bluetooth software that would allow my mac mini to be able to answer calls and use its microphone (does it have an internal microphone?) if not, I would be able to use a USB microphone adapter that I bought for recording in garageband. No big deal. Is there any software out there that would allow me to do this? I would like it to either answer the call immediately and display the information on the screen, or be able to control the software with my voice (voice recognition or voice commands)

    The other problem I am running into is finding a GPS navigation USB unit that would be able to detect the satellites and be able to work with Navigation Software. After extensive reseach, I found that there are all kinds of navigation software and GPS usb units for windows, but hardly any for the mac. I would like the software to be voice activated, so that I could control it through the microphone.

    If I were to setup virtual PC on the mac mini and emulate windows navigation software (for instance EarthMate GPS) would the USB GPS unit work? I am not sure if emulating this type of software would work with the drivers of the GPS USB unit. Anyone know about this?? I would rather a native OSX navigation software program, but I cannot seem to find one that has a good interface and voice recognition! (I also like the topography maps better than the flat street maps. I found that national geographic makes topography maps, but would they be compatable with the navigation software?)

    I plan on loading all of the software, music, and games onto the hard drive of the mac mini, so that I do not have to mess with cds and dvds while in the car (and to eliminate all that clutter!)

    As for power, I do know that I have a power inverter that i could just plug the computer/monitor into, but that means that the car must be turned on in order for it to work. Is there any way to maybe incorporate a second battery into the car to power the LCD, stereo and computer when the car is not physically running (and be able to charge the battery while the car is running)? --- I know power inverters are risky business, so can anyone point me in the right direction of creating a good power supply for my equipment?

    I know there are many MAC geniuses here. If anyone would be able to provide me with some insight or advice, it would be much appreciated! (even if that means directing me to another URL!)

    Please feel free to Private Message me or email me. Again, any help/advice/comments will be appreciated.

    Thank you,

    PS. I plan on spending about $1000 on this project! I have most of the things I need already!

    PSS. I plan on installing this in either a Ford F-150 or a Mustang!

    I plan on taking pictures and making a blog about my project as I get moving along... Keep in mind that I am not a computer programmer or computer professional, so it may take a while because I am learning as I am going!

    -visit my site to offer your help and contributions at
  2. RandyJS thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 17, 2005
  3. maya macrumors 68040


    Oct 7, 2004
    somewhere between here and there.
    Welcome to MR RandyJS.

    You want to make your car into an entertainment kiosk. :eek:

    Yes it can be one however its a lot of work and a lot of wiring, modifications to make it eye pleasing.

    Would be far easier to just get a notebook. :)
  4. RandyJS thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 17, 2005
    i understand that a notebook would be an all in one and probably easier, but I am actually going to mount the mini mac into my dash where my sterio goes and then run all the wires from there. The slim form factor of the mac mini is a PERFECT FIT for my dashboard. I plan on having all of the software and the user interface with the LCD working before I install it into my car.

    I am running into obstacles about wiring power to the computer and LCD. I am also having a tough time with finding a working GPS receiver for Mac OSX...

    Any input, replies, inspirations are appreciated!

  5. maya macrumors 68040


    Oct 7, 2004
    somewhere between here and there.

    Are you forgetting about PROPER ventilation for this unit. Even the external PSU. :)
  6. aethier macrumors 6502a


    Feb 1, 2003
    Montréal, Canada
    the only reason your imac has a max resolution of 1024, is due to the fact that it is an older lcd. the mac mini where there is no included monitor supports resolutions up to 19xx something, i believe.
    (if not at least 16xxXxxx)
  7. dotcomlarry macrumors regular

    Jul 16, 2002
    Akron, PA
    Also, before you invest too much into this project, check your local laws and regulations concerning having video in view of the driver. Here in Florida it is illegal for motion video to be playing while the car is in operation (something like that)... I imagine if it's doing GPS or somesuch related thing it will be OK, but just don't be watching your favorite movie while driving.
  8. Mechcozmo macrumors 603


    Jul 17, 2004
    Do you have any programming experience whatsoever? Sounds like a lot of custom work...

    And it might be illegal to drive while playing the visualizer, photos, etc. Or it may just be the NES ROMs. Don't ask me why.

    I don't know of any BT phone software. There are serial GPS receivers, so you need a USB->Serial adaptor. And MacStumbler can chart your GPS points, but only with WiFi points...
  9. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    No, that's just if you drive for more than 24 hours while playing NES roms. :D
  10. RandyJS thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 17, 2005
    Some features, of course, will not be used while driving. Other features though, such as the navigation will be used while driving. I know I have seen other Navigation systems and such around my area here in Pennsylvania. And the DVD player would be for passenger viewing in the car.

    I really need help in the area of the wiring and such, Specifically the power issue.

    Also, does anyone know if the mac mini has internal fans or an exhaust? I know car stereo systems are somtimes ventilated through the back of the unit, and this might alow the mini to be properly ventilated inside my dash. Wost comes to worse, I can always do a custom job under my seat or something...

    I want to do this project right, but I need some expert advise from you guys. Anyone know where I can find articles on proper power wiring so I do not drain the HELL out of my car battery?!

    Thanks everyone. I appreciate it.
  11. baummer macrumors 6502a

    Jan 18, 2005
    Southern California
    Sounds like a fun project! My best advice to you is contact an auto repair shop or other auto electronics facility to get advice on how best to wire etc.. I've heard of people doing similar things (with smaller PCs, etc.), so I know it's possible. But three things you're going to want to know BEFORE you commit any serious money or time to this project is:

    1. Cooling: How can you provide additional cooling to the mac mini? If it is going to be encased in the dash, it's going to need some sort of cooling unit.

    2. Wiring: How are you going to power the Mac Mini? Make sure that there isn't going to be any kind of fire hazard by having the mini wired into the car.

    3. Legality: Is what you're doing legal? Does it violate your warranty from Apple? Make sure you are allowed to do this in your state before proceeding.

    With that said, best of luck and keep us updated on your progress! :)
  12. RandyJS thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 17, 2005
    My biggest issue right now is the power issue.

    I do plan on mounting it into the dashboard of my car, just like a regular CD player would be mounted. I do however, plan on making the computer somewhat easily accessible, so I can take it out if need be. Maybe even installing a fan behind it to ensure proper ventilation.

    I will go to an auto shop maybe tomorrow to talk about how to wire a good enough power supply for the computer, display and peripherals. I would really like to research this more, but am having a hard time getting good search results with google. Anyone know what they are talking about and can point me in the right direction?

    As for the legality part, I do not know. I would imagine that using it as a music player or navigation system is perfectly legal in my home state of Pennsylvania. Does anyone know where I would be able to find more information about this?

    You can also visit the website I am making about my "smart car system". it is --- I plan on updating it soon.

    thanks everyone for your replies.
  13. baummer macrumors 6502a

    Jan 18, 2005
    Southern California
    These sites might provide you with some reference material (just some random queries on Google I performed), however as with anything on the internet, proceed with caution. Collect your info from offline sources as well: (scroll down to where it says Car Wiring)

    Now these are a bit specific, but I hope they can point you in the right direction. I know next to nothing about car wiring, but I think those sites I listed provide the basic information.

    I'd suggest reading up here:

    Best of luck! ;)
  14. RandyJS thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 17, 2005
    Thank you :)

    Those sites were very helpful.

    I have also called Penn Dot and spoke to a representative. She said that it would be legal to use as a music system and navigation system. I will call again to find out about the DVD player and other features.

    I will be going to a car shop tonight to see how I should wire this power source for the computer...

    I have also called Apple Computer and they said that using the Mac mini in my car would NOT void my warranty! YEA!!

    Hahaa... But I am still stumped on the power thing.

    visit for more details.
  15. bigandy macrumors G3


    Apr 30, 2004
    salling clicker pauses and resumes anything running on the mac when a call comes through and subsequently ends. also acts as a great bluetooth remote on my sonyericsson p900!

    not sure if there is anything to forward calls to the mac but it's doable - my mac can pair to and use my bluetooth headset...
  16. SilentPanda Moderator emeritus


    Oct 8, 2002
    The Bamboo Forest
    You might try searching for Bluetooth. The program works quite well with bluetooth phones:

    I'm certain there are others out there too that would fit your needs.

    Best of luck.
  17. ObsidianIce macrumors 6502


    Jun 1, 2004
    Seventh Circle of Hell

    You just need a DC to AC power converter, you can get them anywhere now a days. Best bet would be to hardwire one in though. They're quite easy. since mini mac has dvi and VGA out you can get a diplay to run without a problem either and that would not need to run off the inverter.
  18. rand() macrumors regular

    Jul 15, 2004
    This is probably the easiest way to do it. But there are products out there that let you properly condition the car power to that which a motherboard expects (typically 12V), as well as send startup/shutdown signals to the motherboard with the ignition. This is one such product here. But (I presume) you'll need some proclivity for soldering to make such a device work with the Mac Mini. And you'll definitely void Apple's warranty.

    Because you are going to use this as a replacement for your in-dash stereo, you'll also need an audio amplifier. There are several out there which can take a stereo RCA input and output four (or six, or eight, depending on the car) lines which you wire directly to your car's speakers. It would be easiest to get on of those, and a 6 ft. mini-to-stereo RCA cord.


  19. RandyJS thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 17, 2005
    I do have a jensen 300 watt power inverter with 2 outlets where I can plug in my computer and a monitor, but I want to do this the right way. I can either wire it to the cigarette lighter, or to my car battery. But, I am afraid that using this would drain my car battery REALLY fast. I also wanted to add a UPS so that I can put the computer into sleep mode when I shut off the engine. This would be a LOT better than hard booting the computer everytime I start the car!

    I do not, however, want to alter the computer in any way. I called Apple and they said that as long as the computer was not exposed to the sun and was in normal operating temperature, using it in my car would be under warranty.

    I am concerned about the correct voltage and such. I would be willing to add a new, or a second battery to my car to make sure that this system would work, along with some sort of UPS that can keep the computer in sleep when the car is off.

    I want to wire this right, and if anyone can help me do so, it would be greatly appreciated. I am going to go to a few car places around my area tonight, hopefully, to talk to some people and see what they have to say. I may need to install a new alternator (is that correct?) I think that is the thing that recharges the car battery while the car is in motion...

    If I hardwire this jenson inverter to my car's battery and left the power switch in the "on" position, would the batter only supply power to the inverted when the car is turned on, or would it drain the battery out all of the time? If it will drain the power all of the time, would I be better off hand wiring it to the cigarette lighter so that when the ignition is off, the inverter loses power also?

    I appreciate your help and replies. I will post ALL pics when I am done :)
  20. johan_tanying macrumors member

    Nov 28, 2004
    G4 in car

    Hi! A Czech guy put a whole PowerMac G4 in his car. Read about the Tatra Mac G4. A fun and interesting read!
  21. RandyJS thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 17, 2005

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