mini-box.com and the Core Unit

As I work on the Smart Home on Wheels project, I am always looking for the most effective method to set up the Core Unit in the project RV, as well as how to make it so I can explain it to readers in an easy to understand and follow set of instructions. I have found several companies that make small form factor computers, and they generally fall into two categories: Underpowered and cheap or Powerful and expensive. I found a company that even sells a small computer that can be set up with a DC power supply so it can be hooked directly to the house batteries in an RV and it has a built in battery bank and timer so if the power lapses for a few seconds or even a minute, the computer doesn’t reboot. I specced one out and with shipping it came to nearly $750. That’s not a bad price for the specs and size, but its still more than I’d like to spend. I searched for automotive computer power supplies though and found mini-box.com. They sell the components to build a small computer, use a DC power supply from a battery bank, and they are more affordable. The only issue is that most of their parts have to be assembled. That’s not a problem for myself, but not all our readers have experience building computers from scratch.

Mini-box.com has small form factor computer cases, small motherboards, RAM, hard drives, power supplies, all the things needed to build a computer for a vehicle. If I can setup an account, I can then buy bulk for the hardware, put everything together and install the software and send the box off to the consumer. It would require a bit of an investment, so I’d have to make sure I had enough consumers before I ordered a few of them, but its completely doable. The system is all there, I just need to get one and make sure it works. I also don’t need to buy everything from them directly, depending on the cost of things, so I could buy bulk SSDs from somewhere else, buy a bunch of RAM separately, and buy the power supply and case from them and be set.

But, the first step is to get one complete system from mini-box.com and make sure it all works for our needs. I have sent them an information request email, so hopefully I’ll hear back soon on what our options are. I would like to receive the components so I can put it all together and document it all, but that may take some time. If I can’t get one provided for sponsorship, then I’ll have to buy it a little at a time as we save more money. The project should be good to go though.

I also have more devices getting ready to purchase for the Smart Home on Wheels project. I found a Z-Wave USB adapter so that whatever computer we end up with the Core Unit, it will be able to talk to Z-Wave devices. With openHAB, that should be easy to set up. The Core Unit won’t have wifi, but will be connected to everything else through an ethernet switch, which in turn will be connected to the wifi network. Some devices are Wifi, some are Bluetooth, and some are Z-Wave, so we will have to figure out what USB devices need to be added as we add more technology to the system.

For now, we should have a good system for about $400, maybe a little less. As we get components, I’ll keep you updated and provide details of how to add this technology to your own vehicle!

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