My Virtual CD Changer Project, V3

This computer-based music player, for my new (used) car, replaces the one that I built back in 2009. Since my old car and my old car-computer were reaching the end of their life at roughtly the same time, it was time to build a new one.

I started my first car-computer project, back in 2001, for three reasons:

While I would love to use an off-the-shelf pre-pade solution for this, they all seem to have some kind of major downside.

My car stereo can play FLAC files right off of a USB flash drive. Problem solved? Nope. They recommend a 16gb or smaller flash drive. I'd need a minimum of 110gb and that doesn't account for any future expansion. Basically, I'd be trading a stack of CDs for a pile of flash drives.

Some smartphones can accept large memory cards. exFAT support is there. Their fatal flaw is the user interface. There's too many steps involved and you end up looking closely at the phone, the entire time. That's fine when you're parked, but a good way to go in the ditch while you're driving.

While I didn't look into stand-alone MP3 players, this time around, I'd be surprised if their user interface is anything close to what I'm after.

Computer technology has come a long way over the years. In 2001, 80GB hard drives cost $300. Laptop drives topped out at 30GB and cost even more money. Mini-ITX motherboards weren't available yet, and embedded/industrial motherboards were extemely expensive. In 2009 SSDs were available, but they were expensive and the storage capacity was limited. Back then I built a mini-ITX system. I used a 64gb IDE flash drive as a boot drive and used a laptop hard drive for music storage.

While a number of trade-offs will always exist, newer technology has a way of making the process a little bit easier. In 2024, SSDs are the norm and small low-power systems no longer break the bank.

Last Update: 5-11-2024