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Old 01-10-2005, 10:24 AM   #1
LSPR_MTU
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Lightbulb AI-NET emulator carpc - EE, CS, CE Unite!

Hey folks,
I'm not sure if people are too lazy, secretive, or just haven't thought of it, but I am finding a serious lack of people who are interested in using the Alpine AI-net interface for controlling things other than cd-changers and ipods.

I've only read a few discussions on the topic, so I guess I'll see if any NASIOCians are interested! The idea:

Design a carputer (or some simple external memory controller) to emulate an AI-net enabled cd changer or ipod. Can you see the value? How cool would it be to be able to browse through 1000's of songs on your hard drive through your alpine HU?

Pros:
-functionality of ipod (in car) with a much bigger hard drive
-price of a cheap external hard drive
-perminently mounted so no clumsy cables are laying around (maybe even fits in DIN tray)

Cons:
-Doesn't function as a stand-alone player
-some significant EE and CS capability to design such a system
-good luck getting ahold of Alpine's AI-net protocol

As far as I know, the AI-net interface includes 12V power and ground, Rx and Tx lines, and some line-level audio input. It seems that a design which can read memory and decode mp3 audio, as well as communicate serially (i think) with the alpine could do the job.

Please post any thoughts, info, critiques, opinions about this topic. Keep in mind, this is a discussion only, there is no attempt to solicit proprietary information. Let me know what you think guys
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Old 01-10-2005, 11:40 AM   #2
LSPR_MTU
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Hey again,
I've been checking around a little further. Apparently, Dension developed a player similar to what I'm talking about. It's called a DMP3_BMW. It says it's specifically for a BMW, but I'm thinking that may mean they use the AI-net interface, as some BMW's do. This doesn't help us too much though, since this unit is more expensive than the ipod+KCA-420i combined. If this is true, what it does mean, is that the AI-net protocol specs are available, (probably through lisencing).

So, basically what I'm talking about here is a AI-net-to-usb converter, along with some nifty software which tricks the HU into thinking it's an ipod or a cd changer. Hmm.
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Old 01-10-2005, 12:59 PM   #3
cgerald1
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Interesting idea!!

Its interesting to me (not for the overall functionality) just the actual concept. One comment on the technical end, Alpine mentions on there website that many head units run out of memory to load play list....this would definately have to be consider during construction.

cg
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Old 01-10-2005, 01:03 PM   #4
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I'm thinking, why not just hack an ipod with a larger hard drive and just use the ipod interface? Slightly easier than reverse engineering the ai-net setup. IDE is much easier to deal with.

-- Dave
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Old 01-10-2005, 01:28 PM   #5
LSPR_MTU
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cg,
good point. I'm not really sure how the alpine loads playlists. I didn't think that it actually reads all the titles at once. I thought the memory limitations were mainly how many titles can be loaded into the HU's memory for radio stations, CD's and such. But for cd-text as well as mp3 tags, I thought the head unit just reads-as-needed. Maybe I was mistaken.

dave,
that's another good point. I am also not all that familiar with ipods, but it seems likely that ipod took measures to prevent this from happening. Who knows what kind of if/then safeguards are put into the player to prevent it from using anything but the original hard drive. I agree, reverse-engineering the ai-net setup would not be a trivial task. I've heard internet rumors (must be true ) of people doing it, but it would take a lot of patience. The better alternative would be to find someone who would be willing to license the protocol so they could market various AI-net devices. It would of course have to be financially rational.

It seems to me that if the AI-net developers played their cards right, it, or something like it, could become a new carputer standard, and set themselves up to drive the entire car-audio market in a new direction. I guess I'm just one more person who desires the full functionality of a classic car stereo, but want's a boatload more mp3 storage.

Carputers are really neat and everything, but they haven't figured out a good way to make them less ghetto. Whatever...now I'm just rambling.

Last edited by LSPR_MTU; 01-10-2005 at 01:35 PM.
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Old 01-10-2005, 03:36 PM   #6
mcowger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LSPR_MTU
Hey again,
I've been checking around a little further. Apparently, Dension developed a player similar to what I'm talking about. It's called a DMP3_BMW. It says it's specifically for a BMW, but I'm thinking that may mean they use the AI-net interface, as some BMW's do. This doesn't help us too much though, since this unit is more expensive than the ipod+KCA-420i combined. If this is true, what it does mean, is that the AI-net protocol specs are available, (probably through lisencing).

So, basically what I'm talking about here is a AI-net-to-usb converter, along with some nifty software which tricks the HU into thinking it's an ipod or a cd changer. Hmm.
BMW/MINI doesn't use AI-Net, they have their own system called I-Bus (KBus for the MINI). It has been somewhat successfully reverse engineered, but it isn't the same as Ai-Net.

Still, I think the best way to go would be to simply hack a iPod with a bigger drive .
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Old 01-10-2005, 04:10 PM   #7
AcquaCow
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I do believe that alpine made the ipod interface for BMW though, as well as the HU internals for the cars that feature it. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the Ai-net...
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Old 01-10-2005, 04:11 PM   #8
LSPR_MTU
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Did a little searching. You guys probably already knew this, but apparently people have already figured out how to swap hard drives in ipods. For example, if you have two ipods with the same HD form factor and same software version, you should be able to swap drives. This implies that as long as you find a HD that will fit into your said ipod, you should be able to update the software and get'er goin!

http://www.g4techtv.com/screensavers...Your_iPod.html

As far as bigger hard drives go...since the new ones use a 1.8" form factor, there aren't too many high-capacity HD's out there. I did; however find one that was 80 GB's. Quite an improvement over 40gb.

http://www.macobserver.com/article/2004/12/14.4.shtml

Looks like the ipod isn't quite as hack-proof as I thought. Peace.
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