Calling all nerds and fellow geeks - Computer System Build - Only doing this once


New member
I am going to try and organize my thoughts, goals, and plans. Stick with me if this gets a bit long winded as I will do my best to fully explain my needs and concerns.

Goals: To install a single computer with dual interfaces that can manage all my digital needs for Overland Adventure, Amateur Radio, and Daily Life.

  • Navigation:
    [-]Integrated: OziExplorer as the primary navigation platform to include fully functioning moving maps and a large database of maps. Other mapping applications to be used to include a lot of the options listed in Overland Journal's articles on subject... Details to be outlined latter in the planing process...
    [-]Management of Devices: Management of several Garmin brand vehicle and handled GPS units to include a nuvi and GPS60CSx.
  • Amateur Radio (HAM Radio): Yaesu propitiatory radio management software for loading fryquancies into Yaesu FT-857D, FT8900R, and VX-7R. Also looking to run Ham Radio Deluxe and Digital Master 780 with the FT-857D to manage digital modes and rig control when not operating with simple voice. An end goal here is to have a WinLink 2000 e-mail account linked to the vehicle.
  • Entertainment: Large database of music and videos for both tunes while driving and movies for the kids when just interstate driving. Also want a place to download photos from cameras and make multiple backups.
  • Phones/Personal Devices: Currently have iPhone however planing to move to some type of Droid platform soon. Wife still has iPhone and will most likely stick with the iPhone and all that it requires i.e. iTunes

Hardware Plan: A Stealth Computer Mounted in the dash with the radios and linked to one touch screen mounted from the ceiling as a replacement for worthless rear-view mirror (backup camera also wired in to this screen with one touch switch between sources) and another larger touch screen mounted in the dash in the navigators seat that also has a keyboard and mouse combo on a pullout tray below it. The system specs are as follows:

Software Plan: Ubuntu 10.04LTS (or latest LTS version at time of build) running amongst many things WINE and VirtualBox to handle anything that can not be handled natively by Ubuntu Linux.

Important!!!!: Anything that can be made to run seamlessly within Ubuntu should be made to do so. If anything can't be ran in Ubuntu natively and a replacement can not be found that will run in Ubuntu then it will be installed to run via WINE. Should any propitiatory software be mission critical but unsupported (in a fully functioning state) by either Ubuntu or WINE then it may be ran in Windows XP Pro or Windows 7 Ultimate via VirtualBox. It should be a goal of the design to have the programs running in VirtualBox both at a minimum and also limited to only rarely used applications like the propitiatory software for the Garmin GPS units and the HAM Radio software used to bulk load frequencies.

Concerns: My primary worry at this time is about the computers hardware capabilities, mainly will it have the power needed to run a VirtualBox load of Windows 7 Ultimate? If this system doesn't have the power to reliably and smoothly run those applications which can not be ran in Ubuntu natively then we have our first major wrench in the cogs so to speak. Secondly I am very concerned about both the number of hardware interfaces and ability to link these interfaces with software applications. There are 2 Serial COM ports, 3 USB ports and I can always use a port duplicator to get another 4 or more additional ports, and there are both microphone INs and audio OUTs via 1/8" plug. So I think I can find/build every cable I need to this point. The touchscreen monitors need both a video and USB connection. The USB is used for the 'touch' part of the monitor so I was hoping to run independent USB cables for each monitor but just use a VGA splinter cable to get video to the monitors.

My request to the community: If you have ran any of these products or applications in any of the environments I have listed please let me know how it worked for you and what issues you have had to resolve. Also if you can think of any applications I have overlooked that you think I should include in this build then please post those as well.

ALSO if anyone wants to team up and work this out together and build a identical or nearly identical system let me know and we can pool resources.

Thank-you all for your time,


New member
Thank-you For Your Time

Thanks for this info.

For Overlanding is it worth the $349.00US ? I would guess you support it giving that you recommended it so my next question is Why?

What were some of the key aspects of the application that sold you on it?

again thanks for your time and input,

Recommended books for Overlanding

The Alchemist, 25th Anniversary: A Fable About Following ...
by Paulo Coelho
From $10.47
We Will Be Free: Overlanding In Africa and Around South A...
by Mr Graeme Robert Bell
From $20
Crossing the Congo: Over Land and Water in a Hard Place
by Mike Martin, Chloe Baker, Charlie Hatch-Barnwell
From $29.19
Road Fever (Vintage Departures)
by Tim Cahill
From $6.99
Cycling the Great Divide: From Canada to Mexico on North ...
by Michael McCoy, venture Cycling Association
From $9.99


Well, I already had it for work and work often involves driving out to remote job sites.

After having used it for travel I would gladly pay for it just for that alone.
Regular dash mount GPS units never appealed to me - somebody else's data, somebody else's routing, etc - subject for a different conversation.

Global Mapper allows me to aggregate and plan. I pull elevation data from here, old USGS Topo's from here, road data from here, Township and Range data here. GM reads shape files just fine so I'll download federal files that show BLM or USFS boundaries, county property maps, and so on.
A bit of work to start but once you have your library permanently stored you're good to go.

I do my preplanning, import previous tracks and waypoints - This is the power of GM, it reads nearly any file format and converts it on the fly to your preferred projection. Often I'll just print the results out, because of the time setting it up I usually know the area well enough that a paper map is sufficient. For more complex trips or ones where the route/destination is not set in stone a gps puck and the laptop running GM works great.

I seem to have rambled on here so to sum up:

  • Import nearly any file format
  • Display multiple format/projections simultaneously
  • Export nearly any file format
  • No vendor lock in
  • More flexible data handling than other products (Nat Geo Topo, Delorme, etc)
  • No 'Wizards'

Here's a print sample.
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New member
Thanks for the outline, I will add that to the list of things to spend money on after I get a working system...


New member
Great project! Just wondering: given the applications that you've listed, why are you running Linux?

Don't get me wrong - I manage a dozen servers running Linux, and do a bit of programming and web development on Linux boxes, but I also run Windows on systems where it makes sense - i.e. when I'm running a bunch of Windows apps. You have apps that require a Windows environment, but I didn't see a compelling case for Linux. If you run Windows you won't have all that virtualization overhead, but perhaps I missed something - I'm interested to know.


New member
Although I could run Windows only and complete all required task, I have lots of normal computing taks that I didn't list to include the ability to write basic scripts to take care of a whole host of things (a skill set i have in a Linux environment but don't have in Windows)

Also a mixture of blind hope and bitterness. Hope that each of these things I need windows for now will one day run Linux without the aid of other software and bitterness at the (although possibly perceived only by me) continued intellectual insult Microsoft has become by becoming so "user friendly" that I can't even manage a system without the help of friends who know far more than I.

I have been a Ubuntu Linux user as a hobbies for years, and made it my primary desktop OS 6 months before Vista came out... Although it has been some work it has been worth it. At 3am I can jump in to and IRC chat and get real help from real people, that really know what they are talking about and don't ask if the powers on or my credit card number before even asking whats wrong...

WOW ok I feel myself starting a rant and thats not what I want this thread to be about. So I will just say this. Bill Gates would have to put an IT staff in my support trailer 24/7/365 for free before I would make Windows my primary OS again and I can only hope that more people will join me in this. Who knows maybe I'm wrong but the Linux server humming behind me in my home office says that I can do more with it than with windows... It has been up for hundreds of days without power down doing everything from file and print serving to running hand made scripts to SMS Text Message my IP address to me every time my ISP changes it... Along with other cool task...

Linux is just for me and as you can see my "need" for Windows is already causing more problems than I can count...

Your Mileage May Very and your thoughts and assistance are still welcome I don't say any of this as an insult or correction on your decisions. Mater of fact for anyone reading this who isn't a Linux user already I suggest that you still use Windows for any mission critical applications like this project. It would suck to have a system you don't know crash on a trip however I also ask that you download a FREE live disk of Ubuntu from my link above and try it. If you can't get the disk to burn right and you still want to try a more powerful and free OS ask me and I will burn and mail you are working copy anytime..