Tag Archives: cables

Paradise by the Dashboard Light

Car entertainment systems have been around since at least 1930, when a brand new company called Motorola designed one of the first successful AM radio systems for an automobile. 87 years later, even base-model cars are on the dealer’s lot with streaming stations right in the console, USB ports for connecting music players and Bluetooth chips for wirelessly linking smartphones.

Tech companies are also getting their software directly into the dashboard to integrate smartphones and cloud services. Platforms include Google’s Android Auto, Apple’s CarPlay and Microsoft Connected Vehicle.  And Amazon’s Alexa assistant will be showing up soon in some Ford and Volkswagen models.

As they did with 8-track and cassette tape decks, though, carmakers are slowly phasing out compact disc players as installed features in favor of digital audio files and streaming connections. But if you have CDs you want to play — say, educational lectures you don’t feel like ripping to MP3 — and your car dealer has no aftermarket solutions to suggest, it is possible to hack together a system for $50 or less.

Most dashboard entertainment systems still have an auxiliary audio port available; check your car’s manual for the location on the dashboard if you don’t see the port. In most cases, you can use this port and a 3.5-millimeter auxiliary audio cable to connect the headphone jack on an inexpensive battery-powered portable CD player. Set the audio input on the dashboard to AUX and push the play button on the CD player.

Check your car’s manual (yes, it has one) to find out about the types of audio devices you can connect to your dashboard entertainment system. If you do not have an old portable CD player on hand, you can still find options at stores like Amazon, Best Buy and Target. Prices generally start around $20, but get a shock-resistant player because American infrastructure has seen better days.

An auxiliary audio cable costs $5 and up. If you don’t want to keep feeding the player batteries, an electrical adapter for the car’s 12-volt power port takes care of the juice.

Most new cars support Bluetooth wireless connections, so if you hate cables, swap in a Bluetooth adapter with its own 3.5-millimeter plug that connects to the CD player. Once you pair the adapter to the car’s Bluetooth system, you can stream the audio from the CD player to the sound system. Taotronics and Mpow are among the companies that make Bluetooth adapters for less than $35 and there are plenty more online.

No matter what you’re using to boom your tunes in the cabin, though, drive safely.

PTJ 177 News: Unboxed

Might the cable bill have fewer line items in the future? The Federal Communications Commission would like to make it happen! While the intended merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications is still under review and the agency is defending its net neutrality policy against attacks and appeals, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler got the cable industry in a further tizzy by announcing a proposal that would do away with the practice of customers having to rent their set-top boxes from their service providers. Cable companies: Not so happy.

budget2017President Obama sent his last budget to Congress this week, and out of the $4 trillion dollars total, the budget requested $19 billion dollars for national cybersecurity. The new plan calls for a chunk of change to finally upgrade federal workers off their ancient totally hackable computer systems. Case in point, according to VICE’s Motherboard site, an anonymous hacker has threatened to dump gigabytes of employee information grabbed off a Justice Department computer. Homeland security, indeed.

A worldwide tweetstorm began to brew over the weekend after BuzzFeed reported that Twitter was getting ready to change its real-time reverse chronological feed into a Facebook-like algorithm-run arrangement that shows you tweets the program thinks you want to see rather than what’s happening at the moment.  Wired defused some of the tweet-rage saying the new version of Twitter basically expands the While You Were Away highlights of older tweets. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also responded. Oh, and Twitter launched its First View ads this week, which are video adverts that sit on top of your newsfeed so you can’t miss them.


Speaking of Wired, the site is cracking down on ad-blocking and soon plans to start restricting access to the site for readers cruising by in a browser with an ad-blocker. You can also give them money to get rid of the ads.

Facebook’s promise of free Internet — or at least Facebook’s version of the Internet — has been rejected by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the government authority there who blocked the Social Network’s Free Basics app. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to press on.

Instagram, also owned by Facebook, had better news. The official blog announced an update to its app that allows you to add multiple accounts and then easily switch between them.

Home theater hobbyists who have been eagerly awaiting the Samsung UBD-K8500 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player to buy won’t have to wait much longer. Samsung jumped its own expected March release date for the player to slip a few units into the Video & Audio Center out in Santa Monica, where they quickly sold out.

Google Cardboard has been the on-ramp into the world of virtual reality for a lot of people, but Google is now said to be working on a higher-end VR headset to rival the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift gear. Google is not commenting on its plans.

linuxtabletCanonical, the company that makes Ubuntu Linux, just announced the Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet produced with European hardware maker BQ and is expected to go on sale next month. The Penguin Pad has a 10-inch screen and runs the touch-screen version of Ubuntu.

But be very careful when shopping for USB-C cables. The Verge site reports that the faulty or improper wiring on cheap uncertified USB-C cables has actually shorted out laptops due to incorrect power usage.  The article points to lists of cables that have been tested to work correctly, but also calls USB industry groups to come up with reliable certification procedures because nobody wants fried laptop for dinner.

StubHub is  moving into direct sales with a new ticketing platform. The new system won’t delineate between second-hand resellers and direct sales from the venue’s box office and lets StubHub give TicketMaster a lot more competition. StubHub is also partnering with the Philadelphia 76ers to sell tickets to the team’s games when the NBA season starts up this fall.

And finally, if you long for a more simpler time when computer viruses were not just out to steal your money and identity, visit the Malware Museum online at the Internet Archive. Curated by security expert Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure, the emulated selections in the museum have been cleansed of their destructive power but show you the sometimes-whimsical messages left by hackers in a gentler, DOS-based era.