Raspberry Pi project - the Camputer (Part 1)

This post was written 3 years ago.
Sat, 26 Apr 2014
raspberry Pi kit for my camper van in-vehicle computer
I'm building an in-vehicle computer for my camper van. I wasn't sure whether to blog about this here or on my Camper van blog, but as the project will initially be about software, i'll start here, then move over to the campervan blog when I get to the point of installing it.

Why does a campervan need an on-board computer?

Well obviously it doesn't need a computer, but here are a few things i'd like to do with it:-

Media system

I don't have many CD's these days, so I currently use my phone or an ipod to provide music to the stereo system, but it is a bit of a faff, fiddling around with cables and chargers and stuff. I'm also pretty disorganised with my music collection and have several small collections spread out over different iTunes libraries etc. It's also a pain (not to mention dangerous) to operate a touchscreen while driving. The main requirements for my ideal music system therefore are:-

  1. All my music in one library
  2. Physical buttons to play/stop and skip tracks (a bit like an iPod shuffle)

I have in mind a set of switches and buttons on the dash that I can operate by feel. Aswell as the basic functions listed above, there might be toggle switches for different playlists or genres.

The media system could have a small monitor or LCD display, but should be able to be operated using only the buttons. Other operations (such as creating playlists etc.) I would envisage a web interface, VNC or maybe plugging in a monitor and keyboard.

I haven't decided what media player software i'll use, but hopefully there is something with a decent api that I can hook my custom controls to.

I'm thinking mainly music, but with a ceiling mounted pull-down monitor it could also drive a (motor)home cinema system in the future,

Engine diagnostics

I have a bluetooth OBII adapter that I use with the Torque Android app. From a quick google around, people are using them with a Pi, so i'd like to set up some logging.

Security/ Tracking

It would be great to have the Pi send location updates to my server, to tie in with my travel blogging. It could also potentially be useful if the vehicle gets stolen, or I lose it in an unfamiliar town!

Remote switching of the heater

My camper has an on-board propex-heater, so the Pi could potentially be used as a thermostat or to switch the heater on from a web/ phone app.


So far I have:-

So the first phase will be to decide on an OS and media player and work out how to control it using physical switches - watch this space!

Follow-up posts:
Part 2: RaspBMC installation
Part 3: The Camputer Part 3 - API hacking

Brain dump February 2013

This post was written 4 years ago.
Thu, 28 Feb 2013
I spent a lot of my spare time working on my camper van blog this month, which has now been relaunched as campervanthings.com. As well as covering my own experiences with mobile working and my VW T25 camper, it is now also a general blog about camper van things (hence the new name!). I'm also tweeting separately about camper van things from @campervanthings. The campervan things blog is mainly just for fun as it's a personal passion of mine, but i've been brainstorming ideas of how I could create a sideline for my business with it - set up a shop? advertising? buying another camper to hire out? - who knows!

One particular improvement to the blog is that I have removed the old lightbox plugin and replaced it with Photoswipe, a responsive image gallery/ lightbox, which make the site much more user-friendly when used on a smartphone or tablet. (Screen grab below - click through to the blog post and click on a thumbnail to try it out)

screengrab of photoswipe being used on campervanthings.com
At my current contract gig i've been spending a lot of time testing JavaScript with Jasmine and Grunt. I've also been getting to know chrome developer tools much better - the most useful discovery being breakpoints in Javascript (thanks to a colleague at ISM who was bemused by the massive amount of console.log statements I was littering the codebase with).

chrome developer tools breakpoint
I've got my eye on packery for too old to skate - it currently uses Masonry, but with different length blog posts it often leaves unwanted gaps, so i'm hoping that this along with maybe some smaller blocks I can fill out the page retaining the angled content.

I am now plugged back into the matrix thanks to a contract-free Google Nexus 4. It's a great device - I was actually on the verge of buying a contract-free iPhone 4S, but the Nexus came back into stock, and is a much higher spec device with bigger screen, for much less money. I've found it has helped massively with blogging as the on-screen keyboard is big enough to type fairly quickly in those "down-time" moments. I had to resort to trimming my sim card to microsim size, using a template.

trimming a sim card down to microsim size
Tags: javascript / campervan /