4×4 Automotive Laptop Setup Version 2

By unwire, June 25, 2008

Laptop Mount

I’ve been running this setup since 2006 with good reliability (photo above is inside a 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser FZJ80). I’m often asked which applications I’m running, so here they are:

Here’s the list of software applications I run on the laptop:

Provides detailed topographic maps. Great for planning trips. Plus most all
of the 4×4 trails are included in the maps. This is my primary map when traveling off
road. This software is by far the best part of using laptop while traveling on four wheel drive trails. With the laptop’s big screen and all the information in the map makes it so easy to find the names of mountains, mines and other geographic features. From finding old railroad grades, old cemeteries and many other interesting things while traveling. The TOPO! maps are images of the original USGS maps including handwritten notes and other information not found in any other mapping software (that I know of).

TOPO! on the left and MS Streets & Trips running simultaneously:


MS Streets and Trips: The latest version has voice prompts for driving directions (while on paved roads).

UI-View: An Amateur Radio mapping, position tracking and messaging application (APRS). With PMapServer7 and Precision Mapping Streets and Traveler.

Gpsgate: This application allows multiple programs to share one GPS. I can run MS Streets and Trips, UI-View, VisualGPSXP, Netstumbler and TOPO! all using one GPS with this program. I use the NEMA logging facility to generate tracks from my travels. NEMA files are also used for Geotagging travel photos.

VisualGPSXP: A software console for the GPS.

Satscape: A satellite tracking program. I use this to be notified of when certain Ham Radio satellites are in range for long distance communications.

RadioMobile: The ultimate tool to model radio coverage. Some examples in my Defcon entry.

GPS TrackMaker, G7toWin and GPSBabel: All the tools to move GPS, route, track and waypoint data between various applications and GPS devices.

CCleaner: Clean up temporary files and many other items in Windows. A real life saver.

AVG AntiVirus: Gotta have it.

List of various hardware for the laptop:

RAM POD III: A very nice laptop mounting system. I modified it slightly. I didn’t use the little "fingers" to hold down the laptop. They interfered with opening and closing the laptop. I removed them and used Velcro. The laptop arm can be position over the center console so the front passenger seat can be used.

iGo auto notebook power adapter. A DC to DC power adaptor for the laptop. This eliminates the need for an AC inverter for the laptop.

Sprint EVDO: For high speed Internet access while on the road.

Wilson Electronics antenna: For the Sprint EVDO card. Gives a big improvement in reception.

Ubiquiti SRC: A high power 802.11a/b/g WiFi card used for wireless Internet access.

COMET 7.4dBi gain WiFi antenna: 2.4GHz antenna for the Ubiquiti SRC WiFi laptop card.

Keyspan USB Serial Adaptor: I needed an additional serial port on the laptop. One for the GPS and the other for Amateur Radio gear (Kenwood D700).

During trip planning I’ll download waypoints and routes into my handheld GPS just in case I have a problem with the laptop:

Benchmark and GPS

Just in case all the technology fails, I bring paper maps and a compass:

Compass and Map


  1. Travis says:

    You may want to check out the Pepwave CarFi instead of the SRC. Won’t work with Netstumbler, but it will re-broadcast wifi for use around your car.

  2. sysadmn says:

    You might want to point out that it’s a really, really good idea to disable the passenger-side airbag when using a mount like that. Seems like common sense, but common sense isn’t always that common 🙂

  3. Sysadmn, I really don’t enjoy that kind of common sense to understand to know why the passenger side airbag needs to be disabled at all.

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  4. Car shipping says:

    This was a huge help trying to find worthwhile GPS devices. Thanks so much!

    – Baylor
    Momentum Car Shipping

  5. Thanks for the article, its very very good to read. I am glad that I came across your blog!

  6. Now this is the setup I need!

  7. Looks pretty cool, don’t know what’s kind of the Laptop AC Adapter

  8. Its a nice guide.I am afraid if i can run these applications in my laptop…? You have provided with exceptional information. Thanx alot for this..

  9. Chriss says:

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