I began blogging about my car project earlier this month. Here are options I figured out so far:
1. Install full computer in the car. This might be new Sony U750 portable with 5" touchscreen. Or put DIN-size PC in the standard opening and add 7" touchscreen. However, I am not sure how slow Windows XP will boot on those units (2.5" HDD is not a speedy rocket and VIA 1GHz CPU is not snappy either (I know since I am running music PC based on VIA 800 MHz CPU). I am also unsure about temperature. Most HDDs specify 10C (~52F) as minimal operating temperature. It gets lower in wnter here in Seattle. Windows CE.NET would be better, but SDK is $995. Yeah, I work for Microsoft, but I'd like to make something that others will be able to replicate.
2. Add an interface to head unit. This gets to iPod2Car or Dension IceLink. Dension does not support Toyota Prius so I am limited to iPod2Car. Cost is around $250.
3. Install Alpine 98xx unit with iPod interface. Convenient, but Alpine usability is pretty bad (slow scroll, awkward button sequences, limited nuber of titles supported, English-only display, blocks iPod controls). However, with cheapest Alpine head unit total cost is just around $300.
4. Install new head unit with Aux input. Clarion DRZ9255 is my favorite (it can be found for much less than MSRP). This requires running line out cable as well as DC power cable. I want neat install that won't involve cigarette lighter adapters and wires hanging around while music player is sliding left and right on the passenger seat. So some kind of cradle with minimal wiring is a must. Probably more expensive proposition than #3.
As for player itself, it seems buying new iPod is inevitable. I checked out Portable Media Centers, but they all are only 20GB (too small for my lossless music and I already own 20GB iPod). I am not sure why PMCs are limited to 20GB since iPod 30GB was avialble two years ago and 40-60GB disks have been around for quite some time. iRiver announced 40GB PMC but delivery date is not known. iPod Photo is available in 60GB version (and I'd like to have 80 GB or more). Other players either don't support titles in Unicode or don't support lossless compression.
I will probably try iPod2Car first. There have been some complaints about its reliability and somewhat upredictable behavior when it works in some cars and does not in others even if car model and year is exactly the same. My other option will be #3.