Enter the Mini-ITX.com online store

Project Browser

October 09, 2014
The "Restomod TV"

April 09, 2013
Installing NAS4Free

February 28, 2013
Building an XBMC 12 Home Theatre PC

January 25, 2011
XBMC Guide updated to version 10.0

August 06, 2010
Building a Green PC

February 15, 2010
Building an ION powered HTPC with XBMC

October 10, 2008
The "Cambridge Autonomous Underwater Vehicle 2008"

September 12, 2008
"Florian", the DVD burning robot

September 05, 2008
The "i-EPIA"

May 22, 2008
The "GTA-PC"

Mini-ITX Online Store

April 14, 2007
The "Digg" Case

January 19, 2007
The "ITX-Laptop"

December 07, 2006
The "Tortoise Beetle"

October 02, 2006
The "DOS Head Unit"

August 31, 2006
The "Janus Project"

August 05, 2006
The "Leela PC"

June 26, 2006
Nano-ITX in a Football

May 17, 2006
The "EPIA Alloy Mod"

April 11, 2006
Neatorama's Collection of Case Mods

February 18, 2006
The "Rundfunker"

October 24, 2005
The "ITX TV"

October 06, 2005
The K'nex-ITX

August 05, 2005
The "Waffle Iron PC"

July 21, 2005
The "Supra-Server"

July 18, 2005
The "Mega-ITX"

July 07, 2005
The "Encyclomedia"

May 25, 2005
The "Accordion ITX"

May 16, 2005
The "FileServerRouterSwitch"

May 15, 2005
The "Mini Falcon"

May 13, 2005
The "Bender PC"

Mini-ITX Online Store

May 11, 2005
The "BBC ITX B"

May 10, 2005
The "Frame"

April 20, 2005
The "Jeannie"

March 09, 2005
The "Cool Cube"

January 30, 2005
First Nano-ITX Project?

January 17, 2005
The "iGrill"

January 15, 2005
The "Gumball PC"

December 15, 2004
The "Deco Box"

December 03, 2004
The "TERA-ITX"

October 06, 2004
The "Coealacanth-PC"

September 17, 2004
The "Gramaphone-ITX-HD"

August 26, 2004
The "C1541 Disk Drive ITX"

August 25, 2004
The "SEGA-ITX"

August 13, 2004
The "Quiet Cubid"

August 06, 2004
The "BMWPC"

July 14, 2004
The "Moo Cow Moo"

July 02, 2004
The "Mini Mesh Box"

June 17, 2004
Jukebox ITX

May 24, 2004
The "ERN005PC" (KANA)

March 13, 2004
The "Underwood No. 5"

Full alphabetical archive on right hand side of page...


The "DOS Head Unit"
By Hayden Smith, UK
Posted on Oct 2nd, 2006
Jump to:

Introduction

Click to launch image viewer

Current head units while starting to support USB drives and MP3/WMA files have a few drawbacks - firstly there a limits on the number of files that can be accessed by various media, secondly they are painfully slow loading files, and thirdly they are yet to support lossless music files (excluding the Phatnoise Phatbox). My aim was to produce a music player capable of playing both lossy (MP3/WMA/etc) and lossless media (FLAC/APE/WAV) for the price of a cheap headunit.

Things high on my list were a fast loading time, fast song change time and low resource requirements. Low on the list were a fancy colour screen, touchscreen, etc.

Software

My first task was to find any software capable of undertaking this task. After playing with varying versions of Windows, ignoring Linux as I'm not capable of a well stripped down install, and ignoring BeOS/Zeta due to possible hardware compatability issues, I came to DOS (MS-DOS, DR-DOS, FreeDOS, they are all pretty much identical). In DOS I had an operating system with a fast boot time, practically zero resource overheads, and is damn easy to use.

The downside of DOS was the realisation of "Where the hell am I going to find a modern media player for it?" After painstaking browsing I finally happened across a website linking to the strangely titled application - MPXPLAY. Looking at the features it supported all the files I was interested in:

• AAC (Advanced Audio Coding from http://www.audiocoding.com (in RAW/ADTS/ADIF fileformats))

• MP4/M4A (MPEG4 container (only AAC in MP4 is supported))

• AC3 (Dolby AC3 from http://ess.engr.uvic.ca/~aholtzma/ac3 and http://www.dolby.com)

• APE (Monkey's Audio from http://www.monkeysaudio.com)

• DTS (Digital Theatre Systems from http://www.videolan.org/dtsdec.html)

• FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec by http://flac.sourceforge.net and http://ffmpeg.sourceforge.net)

• MP2,MP3 (Audio MPEG Layer II/III from http://www.mpg123.de)

• MPC (MPEGPlus/MusePack from http://www.uni-jena.de/~pfk/mpp)

• OGG (Ogg Vorbis from http://www.xiph.org)

• WAV (uncompressed wave files)

• CDW (Audio-CD 'ripp and play' on the fly)

It also supported many types of playlist. The next thing to grab me on the spec list was the support for LCDs. Not the 7" colour screen type, but the old fashioned text mode type with the dot-matrix style makeup. The price difference between a modest colour screen and one of these old style LCDs was around 100 so there was a major saving. Another advantage was the system requirement list for various files: MP3 playback only required a 486, and the most system intensive files, DTS, only required a Pentium II - opening up the avenue of using cheap hardware. While the list of supported soundcards was limited it claimed to support anything SoundBlaster Pro compatible, which most cards are.

To enable MPXPLAY to display long file names, DOSLFN was used.

Hardware

The next stage was to procure hardware. While my first plan was to use an old Pentium 200MMX motherboard and CPU I had laying around alongside a SoundBlaster AWE32 soundcard, I soon ran into difficulties what with them being too large to feasibly fit into my Toyota MR2. I needed a small motherboard and I wanted it to be cheap!

The answer was the VIA EPIA 5000 motherboard running a 533 MHz Eden CPU. It was easily up to the job at hand while only measuring 17cm x 17cm x 4.5cm - small enough to fit into the DIN slot in a car. While hardly a powerful machine it was more than up to the task at hand. I needed memory for it which came in the form of an old 128MB stick of SDRAM I had lying around.

After the hardware to run the software I needed a power supply for it. While it's possible to use a 12V-240V inverter and a normal PC PSU it's incredibly wasteful of space in the car, and is generally frowned upon electrically. The solution there came in the form of the M1-ATX PSU, it only weighs in at 90W but that's enough to power the motherboard, and a couple of regular PC hard drives, or a couple of laptop hard-drives and a laptop CD drive.

To store the music I needed a hard drive, so I purchased a 40GB laptop drive with an adaptor to use it with a regular pc.

Finally I got the screen, it's an inexpensive Hitachi HD44780 based screen that runs from the parallel port on the motherboard and features a 20 character wide, 4 line display.

Click to launch image viewer

All in all the raw parts cost weighed in around 170.

Construction

Assembling the parts was easy. The power supply itself takes a live, ground and ignition feed from the car to run, and it gives a remote out when it is on. The PSU connects to the motherboard via a regular ATX power lead and there are a set of jumpers that can be connected to the motherboard's power switch pins that allows the PSU to turn the PC on and off.

Once assembled the hard drive was put into my desktop PC where it was formatted as FAT32 and MS-DOS 6.22, DOSLFN and MPXPLAY were installed. The mpxplay.ini and autoexec.bat files were configured (explained later) and saved on the drive. Then music files were copied across. Once complete the hard drive was put on the rig and it was test booted from a car battery, whereupon all worked fine. At this stage I was using a keyboard to control the software, and was testing compatability with a SoundBlaster Live card.

Click to launch image viewer

*Advert* Tiny ARTiGO Pico-ITX Kits! *Advert*
Plenty in stock at the Mini-ITX.com Online Store. We serve the UK, Europe, USA and beyond. Order in-stock items before 7.30PM GMT and we'll ship same day!


Quick Links
Mini-ITX Online Store

Mailing Lists:
Mini-ITX Store

Mini-ITX 101
Mini-ITX History
Advertising

Projects:

Show Random
How to submit
your project

Most Viewed Today

OpenELEC

XBMC-ION

NAS4Free

ITX-Laptop

RestomodTV

Accordion-ITX
Aircraft Carrier
Ambulator 1
AMD Case
Ammo Box
Ammo Tux
AmmoLAN
amPC
Animal SNES
Atari 800 ITX
Attache Server
Aunt Hagar's MI
Bantam PC
BBC ITX B
Bender PC
Biscuit Tin PC
Blue Plate
BlueBox
BMW PC
Borg Appliance
Briefcase PC
Bubbacomp
C1541 Disk Drive
C64 @ 933MHz
CardboardCube
CAUV 2008
CBM ITX-64
Coelacanth-PC
Cool Cube
Deco Box
Devilcat
DOS Head Unit
Dreamcast PC
E.T.PC
Eden VAX
EdenStation IPX
Encyclomedia
Falcon-ITX
Florian
Frame
FS-RouterSwitch
G4 Cube PC
GasCan PC
Gingerbread
Gramaphone-ITX-HD
GTA-PC
Guitar PC
Guitar W/S
Gumball PC
Hirschmann
HTPC
HTPC2
Humidor 64
Humidor CL
Humidor II
Humidor M
Humidor PC
Humidor V
I.C.E. Unit
i64XBOX
i-EPIA
iGrill
ITX Helmet
ITX TV
ITX-Laptop
Jeannie
Jukebox ITX
KiSA 444
K'nex ITX
Leela PC
Lego 0933 PC
Legobox
Log Cabin PC
Lunchbox PC
Mac-ITX
Manga Doll
Mantle Radio
Mediabox
Mega-ITX
Micro TV
Mini Falcon
Mini Mesh Box
Mini-Cluster
Mobile-BlackBox
Moo Cow Moo
Mr OMNI
NAS4Free
NESPC
OpenELEC
Osh Kosh
Pet ITX
Pictureframe PC
Playstation 2 PC
Playstation PC
Project NFF
PSU PC
Quiet Cubid
R2D2PC
Racing The Light
RadioSphere
Robotica 2003
Rundfunker
SaturnPC
S-CUBE
SEGA-ITX
SpaceCase
SpacePanel
Spartan Bluebird
Spide Case
Supra-Server
Teddybear
Telefunken 2003
TERA-ITX
The Clock
ToAsTOr
Tortoise Beetle
Tux Server
Underwood No.5
Waffle Iron PC
Windows XP Box
Wraith SE/30
XBMC-ION

How to submit
your project

Reviews:
CF-S688 E-Note
Cubid 2677R
Cubid 2688R
Cubid 3688
GAlantic GA610i
Hush Mini-ITX
Lian Li PC-402A
Jetway B860T
VIA M 10000
VIA MII 12000
VIA Nano-ITX
VIA Pico-ITX
Sigma XCard
Travla C137

Guides & Tips:
5.1 EPIA Audio
Cubid Tips
EPIA CL Firewall
EPIA COM IR
EPIA SCART
Extra USB Ports
IPCop Gateway
Overclocking
PowerLCD

Drivers:
EPIA  EPIA V
EPIA M  EPIA MII
EPIA CL  EPIA PD
EPIA TC

Mini-ITX Online Store

Contact Us

Store: +44 (0) 845 475 8 475

Store enquiries: store@mini-itx.com

Other enquiries: feedback@mini-itx.com

Visit the Store

Click here to enter the online store

Social

Follow us on Twitter!

Join our Mailing List

Copyright: All content on this site is Copyright © 2002-2014 Mini-ITX.com and respective owners, all rights reserved.