vehicle update

I don’t think I’ve blogged about it much, but you may have heard already, either from Natalie’s blog or in person. Anyway, about a month ago, I was on my way to work and I got rear-ended. The other driver had insurance and pulled over with me after it happened, so already this was much better than the first time I was rearended (summary: hit-and-run at a red light, probably drunk driver, totaled my car, my uninsured motorist coverage paid for it).

About 2 weeks ago today, I dropped my car off to be repaired at a body shop owned by the dealership where I got my car. The rear bumper and most of the rear door needed replacing. Overall a nice place, professional staff, mostly painless. Even had a rental agency on site, which was good since Natalie was out of town when I dropped it off.

The rental I got was the 4-door version of the Mazda 3 (mine’s the hatchback), with a 4-speed automatic (mine’s 5-speed manual). Interesting comparing the two, but I was glad when I got to pick up my own car last Friday.

Unfortunately it’ll be going back in soon, due to a couple of new “features”:

  • The hand-hold on the bottom of the hatch (where you grab to close it) was installed backwards.
    I can fit my hand in it, but it angles up instead of down, so it’s harder to grip
  • The rear window wiper was also installed backwards. Natalie and I hopped in the car Saturday morning to head to the farmer’s market, and since it was raining I hit the front and rear wipers .. front worked fine, rear disappeared from the rear-view mirror and attempted to clean the bottom (metal) half of the back of the car. Yes, instead of swinging right to left (and up) over the window, it swung left to right (and down). Looking at other 3’s this weekend, we noticed they all had the rear wiper on the right side when idle .. not mine .. oops.

UPDATE: took the car in Monday morning and they fixed both problems in less than 15 minutes. Car is back to normal now – yay.

Nerd Hotrod

Since I got my new car in October, I’ve been planning and scheming and pondering how I would put a computer in it. Actually, a mobile car-mounted computer has been on my mental (Want)ToDo list for a while, initially just to play mp3’s. Then I got an iPod, and the need for bogomips speed became less pressing.

With the new car, I had no tape deck .. so hacking was required to add a line-in (by way of FM modulator) to connect my external digital audio device. In the course of this hacking, I discovered it’s fairly simple to take apart the interior of a Mazda 3 (see my links for some hints). So ideas and possibilities started popping into my brain .. “I could put the GPS under this panel here .. and the wires would go here”.

Also, there’s this nifty device called the “AuxMod”: .. which provides a much cleaner line-in than a modulator. And the Advanced version adds a serial port for some nifty interfacing to the OEM head-unit — the buttons on the steering wheel could control a PC, and the PC could send text to the in-dash display ..
more ideas 🙂

Anyway, I finally started this weekend. I pulled off a few plastic panels and put USB WiFi adapter and a GPS receiver under the dash, right behind the defroster vent. The actual computer (case+board+DC-DC power supply) is still on the way, but I’m planning on sticking it right under the driver’s seat. I already have the USB and audio cables under there, ready to plug in. I also stuck an open USB port where the ashtray used to be.

Once I get the PC in there, I’ll start playing with the software.
OS will be Linux of some flavor (probably “Debian”: or “Ubuntu”: ) .
“MPD”: has worked great around the house as a headless music player, should work well in the car too.
Still looking for a GPS program that will work well with a text-only display (or no display). Some simple track logging should be pretty easy to set up though.

Other possible hardware:
bumper mounted digital camera(s) – you’d be surprised how hard it is to accurately remember the license plate number of a hit-and-run driver 😛
OBD-II interface – think /var/log/car_engine 😀

Case and PC should be arriving this week, I’ll post more after I have it installed .. *evilgrin*