Saturday, 07 October, 2000

Car MP3 Player

I bought a copy of Music Match a few weeks ago, and have been making MP3 copies of our entire CD music collection.  I'm just about done with "my" music—about 100 albums.  Debra's collection is next, which will add another 100 albums or so.  That'll add up to something like 15 gigabytes, which is going to overflow my available disk space.  But at less than a penny a megabyte, I can easily afford a new hard drive for the MP3s.

I have a 12-disk CD changer in my truck, but invariably want to listen to something that's not currently loaded.  So why not put acomputer in the truck, load it with my entire MP3 collection, and hook up some kind of touch screen or remote interface?  All of the technology is available, it just takes some integration. 

For the computer, I'll use a STB1030 "Set Top Box" from GCT-ALLWELL Technology.  With 64 MB of RAM and a 233 MHz Pentium processor, it should decompress MP3s quite nicely.  At 34 x 24.7 x 6 cm (L x W x H), it's small enough to mount easily behind the seat.  Heck, it's smaller than the changer that I have there already.  I'll have to find a 2.5 inch drive to put in the thing, but that shouldn't be too difficult.  I can run Linux on the machine and plug it into my home network to copy the MP3s.  For the display, I'll find an LCD or touch screen at Earth Computers.  The only hard part on the hardware side will be powering it from the truck's battery.  I can probably get some advice from a friend on that one.

The software might be a little more difficult.  I'm sure I can find an Open Source MP3 player, and making the modifications for it to work with a smaller screen won't be too tough.  The display driver might prove a challenge.  The more difficult part will be getting the operating system to boot quickly and to gracefully handle being shut off without halting first.  Once I get the box working with my chosen LCD, I'll worry more about the OS.

I figure I can get all of this running for under $1,000 in hardware, and a few weeks of part-time fooling with the software.  True, that's an expensive CD player, but it's cool.