The Ultimate Retrofit
The style of a classic car is undeniable. So is the fact that most of them were built decades before satellite navigation, in-car video entertainment systems, and even power windows became common, making a ride in one a primitive experience by today’s standards. For those owners unwilling to sacrifice driving comfort for style, however, 21st-century automotive electronics can be retrofitted into classic 20th-century cars. Doing this requires taking your car to a specialized shop, such as Automat Auto Interiors, based in Hicksville, N.Y.
Every Automat retrofit is a custom job, often including remodeling the entire vehicle as well as installing state-of-the-art electronics. The 1950 Ford pictured on the previous page was in the final stages of having a two-tone suede interior installed, along with neon lights, power windows, and a high-end audio system with satellite radio and two oval 15- by 23â¿¿centimeter speakers mounted in the rear of the car. Another pair of speakers was mounted in the trunk, allowing the owner to provide music when the car is parked, for example, at a tailgate party. Automat estimates that the electronics for this car cost US $7000.
You can provide video as well as music to tailgaters if you want, with a trunk-mounted LCD connected to a DVD player. The 17-inch trunk display pictured hereis built into Automat’s current show car, a 2006 Mustang convertible. The Mustang also features a 7-inch, dashboard-mounted, touch-sensitive screen that can be used to show DVD movies or to control the video, radio, and GPS navigation systems. Another high-end audio setup is built into the car, with 8-cm, 15-cm, and tweeter speakers molded into each of the front doors. The cost of this system is about $8000 to $10 000.
Automat also installs advanced security systems to protect all these electronics. These systems automatically roll up windows when the driver leaves the car. A warning pulse from the car alarm siren also sounds if the system registers vibration of the vehicle; that pulse becomes a wailing full blast if the car continues to detect an intruder. A two-way remote control also alerts the owner.
Storage on Tap
PLUG AND PLAY
This external hard disk can be plugged directly into a home or office network.
$500 SimpleTech SimpleShare NAS drive
The vast majority of small office or home networks exist simply to let users share a broadband connection to the Internet or use Wi-Fi. But now you can do something else with that Linksys or Belkin router sitting beside your broadband modem: provide network-attached storage. NAS allows computers on the network to access additional disk drive space, just as if you had installed an extra hard disk in each computer. NAS users can easily make regular complete backups of their computers—something we all know we should be doing but few of us actually do because of the time and effort involved in, say, backing up 30 gigabytes of e-mail, photos, and music onto the eight DVDs or so that would be required.
Until recently, setting up NAS was the province of serious geeks or companies that could afford information technology departments. But SimpleShare, from SimpleTech, in Santa Ana, Calif., is pretty much just plug and play. And it comes with additional features that small-office and home users are bound to appreciate.
I tested the 500-GB version of the SimpleShare on my home network, on which I have a Macintosh desktop and laptop connected wirelessly, a PC running Windows XP connected via Ethernet, and another PC running Linux, also connected via Ethernet. Setup was a breeze. I just plugged the device into a spare Ethernet port on my router and ran the configuration software on my PC, which walked me through the process.
Windows and OS X versions of the configuration software are provided. If you just want to use the drive as additional local storage space, little else needs to be done beyond accepting the defaults. The SimpleShare was immediately accessible as a network drive on my Windows, OS X, and Linux systems.
As for those additional features, one nice trick is that you can access files stored on your SimpleShare drive from anywhere on the Internet using a feature called iShare. Normally that’s tough to do on a home network, because instead of a static address, ISPs assign Internet addresses to customers from a pool on an ad hoc basis; whatever address you’ve been given one day could be assigned to someone else tomorrow.
But without a static Internet address, how can you reliably connect to your home network and thus the SimpleShare device? SimpleTech gets around the problem by having you create a dummy URL on its public Web server that redirects to your actual Internet address. The SimpleShare updates the SimpleTech server whenever your dynamically assigned address changes. So you can type something like yourname.simpleshare.com into a Web browser from anywhere in the world and be connected to your SimpleShare drive.
True, getting this setup to work also requires you to be able to tweak some advanced settings on your router so that incoming connections are relayed correctly to the SimpleShare drive, but SimpleTech’s manual explains the process in detail.
Two USB ports are provided, allowing you to connect additional disk drives or printers and share them over your local network as well. As for those really-should-do backups, SimpleTech bundles backup software for both Windows and OS X machines. You can set up automatic backups of an entire drive or of just selected folders.
One more welcome feature is that each SimpleShare comes with built-in tools for performing a secure erase of any contents. It is not unknown for sensitive personal or commercial data to be recovered from discarded drives, even after owners believe they have deleted the information.
The handy SimpleShare strikes a great balance between ease of use and feature richness. The 500-GB version costs US $500. The 250-GB version costs $300.