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When Mac Mini Met Land Rover
Tuesday February 22, 2005

What do you get when you add a Mac Mini to a Land Rover Discovery II? One sweet ride! Dennis M a Mac Mini enthusiast and Manager of Information Systems recently installed a Mac Mini into his Land Rover. We thought his project was so cool when we saw it posted in our forums, we just had to ask him for an interview. With the Mac Mini's small form factor and media capabilities we think you'll see more and more of these type of projects going forward.

What gave you the idea?
I'm a Manager of Information Systems by day and occasionally need Internet access while on the road. I don't always have my laptop with me. But if I had a Mac Mini setup in my truck, it would be there when I need it. So that's how the thought process started and the rest of the reasons are just huge benefits of the Apple being a great digital lifestyle hub.

What parts did you use?
I started with the base Mac Mini 1.25GHz and opted for the wireless 802.11g and Bluetooth, basically things that would be difficult to add later.

I did some research to see what 7" displays for auto applications would support the Mac OS X operating system. The Lilliput was the clear winner and at a great price. This monitor has a VGA connection with 1024 X 768 support. The touch screen function uses a USB interface, 2 video inputs and 1 Audio input. I just use the VGA connection of the monitor and pipe the Mac's sound through the stereo. The screen can use DC 12v or the 110 adapter.

Even though the Mac Mini has a headphone jack out I opted for the iMic by Griffin Technology. The sound from the iMic is great and it also adds an audio input for when I start trying to set up voice commands.

For input I choose an Adesso Mini USB Keyboard with built-in trackball. I was a little concerned that this is a Windows keyboard but found that the Windows keys functions the same as the Apple key on an Apple keyboard. A PDA stylus also works fine with the touch screen.

When in hotspot areas or in my driveway I can use the airport card for Internet and updates. When I'm out of those areas the Bluetooth connection to my GPRS phone works great when you are desperate for a connection to the Internet. Citrix works pretty good over GPRS.

I've mounted a USB hub on the side of my console for connecting input devices, iPods, thumb drives, etc. The USB 2.0 connections to the Mac Mini are pretty speedy.

This is the area that needs some help. I currently use a Belkin Inverter, and really it works fine. My real goal is to find a system that will allow me to put the Mac to sleep each time I leave the vehicle. That would allow faster on and off times. In fairness the startup and shutdown time of the Mac Mini are pretty decent about a minute each.

What software are you using to control the setup?
Currently I'm just using the native OS X applications with iTunes and VLC starting automatically. There are a couple of groups currently working on both Media Center and In-Vehicle front ends for OS X. These projects were started largely due to the introduction of the Mac Mini and it's perfect size factor for both these types of applications.

Did you run into any snags?
The were only really two main snags. The first was having to modify the length of the power cable for the monitor, not really a major problem. Second, I found out that battery backup power strips don't charge well from an inverter. The setup was 12V accessory socket, power inverter, battery backup power strip, Mac Mini power supply. I thought the set up would be perfect, but the battery backup power strip was in a constant discharge state. The inverter just didn't have enough juice to charge the battery backup power strip and the Mac Mini.

Do you have future plans with the project?
My future plans involve a better power supply and one of the In-Vehicle frontends currently in development.

Thank you Dennis for the information and we wish you luck!

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