Thursday, March 22, 2007

Installation of a Multimedia Nav system and DVD/MP4 Head unit. Part I

Part I

Well, on a recent business trip I became infatuated by my coworkers nav systems. I decided I need one. So I got back and did a bunch of research and pricing. As nice as the TomToms and Magellan systems are I thought it would be nicer to have larger screen.

Well a trip to let me discover just the ticket. The Plenio VXA-2000 7” Touch Screen Navigation system . An interesting feature of this nav unit is that it allows you to utilize the screen for fun things like video games or video. That prompted me to go searching for a mobile video source. I had contemplated using something like a portable mp4 unit for video but I still liked the idea of being able to toss in a DVD for road trips without having to rip and encode it to divx, xvid, or any of the other numerous formats and containers for video files.

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Further Perusing of the site landed my on a combination DVD/CD/MP3/MP4 in dash unit with both a USB slot for Thumb Drives and an SD/MMC slot right on the face of it. It appeared tailor made for what I wanted and the price was dirt cheap. All of $129 plus tax. The Nav unit was a bargain too at $338 plus tax. Shipping for both were cheap and the total came out to be around $500 for both pieces. Try finding that retail.

Additional bonus. I recently purchased a Neuros MP4 Recorder 2 Plus. It essentially acts like a mini digital VCR that records directly to Compact flash, SD, or Memory sticks. In MP4 format so theoretically I should be able to record a show, and then simply pull the card, insert it into the stereo, and watch or listen to the recording on my commute. Nice!

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The head unit is some Chinese off brand with no branding. It looked to me to be a unit that would be sold on so a quick hop over there confirmed my suspicion I read up on its specs a bit more. The unit I have is the equivalent of their DVD-393x-TV, minus the TV tuner. Not a big deal since I doubt I’d get any reception anyway.

So the package ended up arriving on Wednesday and I stayed home from work to sign for the package. I was a bit annoyed I hadn’t put “Send Signature not required” on it but then I didn’t really want several hundred dollars of equipment just sitting on my porch until I got home.

The packaging for the Plenio was standard retail style packing and the unit was packed well. All the accessories were accounted for and in good shape. The head unit was packed in a white box with no markings, but it was packed well and looked nice once unwrapped.

I had planned on waiting until this weekend to install both units but temptation hit and I decided to at least install the car stereo so I could see it all lit up and working. Not to mention this way I got to play with it and get to know its features before I add the nav system and have to figure out how to integrate them,

Step 1. Liberate the old system.

The Stereo I had in there was a nice Sony CD head that played MP3’s and had either Aux inputs or CD changer controls. It was a simple matter of removing the faceplate, the bezel (snaps on/off), and using the keys included with the Sony unit to unlock the Main unit from the mounting sleeve. It is standard practice to sell stereos that mount like this.

Since I didn’t want to Mess around with splicing wires directly into the car last time I managed to pick up a wiring harness for a few bucks from Walmart when I originally bought the unit. So once the unit was physically free it was a matter of disconnecting the harness from the unit, and unplugging it from the car. These things make life so much easier. Then it was simply bend the mounting tabs back into their original position and remove the sleeve. I brought all the parts into the house and repacked them into the box the new unit came from then went to work on the harness.

Step 2. Set up the wiring harness.

I had used butt connectors previously so I simply cut the wires on the harness side right at the junction to the butt connectors so I had more wire to work with. I then hooked up the wires by matching colors and functions.

The new radio followed the same color connections So it went together easily. I again utilized butt connectors for speed and ease. No wire nuts for me. Crimping give a more solid connection and wire nuts have a tendency to fall off in an environment like a vehicle where they are subject to vibrations. Exposed leads cause a short and shorts are bad.

Step 3. Install sleeve and unit.

Took all the new components out to the car and made the connection to the car using the newly modified wiring harness and threading the required connections out thru the sleeve. Then I mounted the sleeve by bending the tabs down to lock it in place. I then connected the cables. First Subwoofer connection, then Aux in to a 1/8th jack to rca adapter (for hooking up mp3 player, xm radio whatever), then antenna, then the harness and that was finished. Then it was a simple matter of sliding the new unit into its home in the sleeve (not so easy because there is limited space inside the dash and wires KEPT getting in the way), snapping on the new bezel and installing the faceplate.

Step 4. Test unit.

Well first thing was to set the clock, following the instructions and using the scary large remote. I tested the tuner first and tuned it to my favorite stations to test reception. It came in crystal clear and so did most of the other stations I can normally receive near my home. Popped in an MP3 cd and after a second of scanning it it started playing nicely. Tried a regular CD and it worked fine again. I nosed around the manual to figure out how to adjust the sound and found 4 different EQ settings. Not bad but not quite what I was looking for so staring at the screen for a bit, I figured out how to manually adjust the sound and did so. Much better now. Tried plugging the Aux input into my iAudio M5 and listened to that and it worked very nicely.

I didn’t have a chance to test the USB or SD functionality yet but all in all I’m satisfied with the unit. MY only gripe is it takes a little longer than my Sony did to scan the cd’s before playing but it really is minor. I’m already used to the display and face controls but I have yet to master the remote. I also haven’t tested the video functionality yet as the Nav system isn’t yet installed but it will be this weekend. A full report will be here then on the combo.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Some of my noteworthy posts from

My rants and thoughts:

My requisite myspace:

Thoughts about evolving superpowers:

Thoughts about creating superpowers:

Thoughts on how the character powers work:

Thoughts on how Logistically Timetravel Works:

"Heroes is like serial Crack."