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Via teams on Linux car PC kit

Sep 30, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Chip and boardmaker Via has partnered with an online retailer to create a car PC targeting in-car navigation and infotainment applications. The $300 “Voom PC” is supported by a media-oriented embedded Linux operating system, and is based on one of Via's newest, most powerful mini-ITX motherboards.

The Voom PC appears to use an MII-series motherboard, the MII-1200, which is powered by an x86-compatible C3 chip clocked at 1.2GHz.

The MII-1200 features an incredible variety of on-board PC I/O, including CardBus PCMCIA and CompactFlash slots, to support a wide variety of third-party WiFi, GPRS, and other peripherals. The board also offers two USB 2.0 ports, as well as FireWire, for the addition of removable hard drives, CD writers, and other storage devices.

The MII-1200 works reasonably well under Linux, although closed APIs for 3D acceleration, and an Ethernet chip supported by few distributions out of the box, can lead to mild installation headaches. Hopefully, a PCMCIA Ethernet card is sitting around that can be used initially, instead of the onboard “rhine II” Ethernet.

The MII-1200 offers an incredible array of I/O
(Click to enlarge)

One especially nice feature of the MII-series boards is the inclusion of Via's VT1616 audio chip, set up in a way that isolates it from onboard pre-amplifier circuitry to signifantly lower the ambient noise floor. The chip supports playback at better-than-CD audio quality, too.

The MII-1200 even offers an RCA port that can be set up as a digital audio out, or S-video out, depending on the desired application.

The Voom PC is housed in an aluminum heat-sink-encrusted case from Via's online distribution partner, The anodized blue case measures 8.3 x 9.8 x 2.6 inches (21 x 25 x 6.7cm).

The Voom PC also features a special 90-watt power supply designed for 12- and 24-volt automotive applications. The M1-ATX DC-DC ATX supply can deal with power oscillations during engine cranking, and can interface with ignition relay signals provided by most automotive electrical systems to initiate radio antenna extension. Depending on how its BIOS is configured, the Voom PC can be configured to boot or resume when the car is started, and to shutdown or suspend when the engine is stopped.

The M1-ATX power includes a relay to power on your amplifier when the car engine starts

Should the user choose to suspend the PC during engine-off intervals, the power supply has circuitry to shut it down all the way, in order to protect it against the possibility of the car's battery discharging deeply. Additional circuitry prevents amplifier “thumps” when the PC is powered up or down, Mini-Box says.

Note the white plastic connector on the right designed to interface with car electrical systems
(Click to enlarge)

The Voom PC supports Windows, but is optionally available with an off-the-shelf embedded Linux distribution from iMedia. iMedia is a tiny distribution designed to boot from CompactFlash. It has a menu-based ncurses installation system that allows users to choose between basic, firewall, audio, browsing, and mini-desktop configurations.


The Voom PC is available now, with prices starting at $300, Via says. Further details are available on's website.

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