Going Green [Video]

Sometimes being MINI can mean a lot of things. One of the side effects of being an architect is that we tend to cater to people who are well off and/or are not interested in reducing the size of their project. This house with regards to its size is certainly not very MINI. As an offset, we look at other ways to reduce the impact of a project as a whole, not only financially but environmentally. With that, there is often a little up charge for going green initially, but in a short time it most often pays for itself and them some. But what is even more rare is having a developer invest into such a concept up front. Here is a project I worked on that exemplifies just that. It was also featured in a local NBC news segment, Going Green. Check out the video here. If you are using Safari, it seems a little buggy with the video. It works fine with Firefox.


HD Dice iPod Kit

My Previous Setup:
One of the first mods I added, back in April of '05, was the OEM AUX input ($42). This was a simple, easy and inexpensive way to get my tunes off the iPod and into the car. It was much less expensive than the often buggy Dension Ice-link Plus at the time. After a short while, a ground loop became an issue and would cut out the AUX every so often. To solve that added the Belkin Auto Kit ($40) that I received as a Xmas gift back in December of '05. Since then i've been jamming my tunes without any problems. It was a clean set up, just one cord going from the cigarette lighter to the center coin tray, and it kept my iPod charged and ready to go. It even paused when I turned the car off so that I could resume it later.About HD Dice:
After a while I grew tired of not being able to advance to the next track with the steering wheel controls. In addition, I kinda always wanted to see the song info without having to access the iPod itself. Then along came Dice, and their new and improved HD Dice Ipod Integration Kit. I became aware of this product from a NAM Q/A thread started and maintained by Tom of EAS. So what's different from the regular Dice iPod integration kit? Well nothing really in regards to the iPod. The module is definitely larger but the iPod interface is pretty much the same from what I can tell. The big difference is the 'HD' for High Definition Radio. Being in a large metropolitan area, Chicago has pretty much most of its over the air radio simulcasted in high definition, but having a regular radio would never be able to receive the HD signal. With the HD Dice, you can not only get all your ipod features, including displaying current track info on the stock head unit display, but also listen to HD Radio. Some stations also have hidden channels, such as HD2 that have different programming and some surprisingly have uncensored content. The device itself emulates a CD changer so it connects to the CD changer connections in the boot.The Install:
The DH Dice iPod Integration kit is very simple to install. The hardest thing I encountered was fishing the cables through where I wanted to run them. The HD Dice comes with two items, the control unit itself and an HD radio antenna. The instructions suggest that the HD Radio antenna be installed on the side of the front windshield but I thought that would be horrible to look at. After-all, I have my iPass mounted on my rear windshield because I would hate to look at its white creamy color every time I look forward. So I installed the HD Radio antenna in the fixed rear sunroof pane and fished the wire down the rear 'C' pillar and back the the boot. From there, I connected the module to the antenna in the side cubby hole, since this is where the CD Changer connections are. Now the challenge was to get the iPod connected so that I could have it at the coin tray by the e-brake. To do this, I needed to buy an extending 8 pin MINI din cable in addition to the iPod connection that for some reason is an option to the kit. So I fished these cables under the carpet lining, under the rear seat cushions and ultimately to the e-brake. It's not so hard once you get going, but with all this said and done, it took me about a couple of hours with a bit of trial and error with where to run the wires exactly.HD Dice Reviewed:
Overall, the sound from the iPod and HD Radio is superb. Definitely better than the AUX input, cleaner and sharper. With the AUX input, i noticed sometimes that the highs and lows would sometimes sound a bit muffled. Certainly not very noticeable but now it is a bit more evident when comparing the two side by side. The interface of the HD Radio is a bit slow for my liking but it gets the job done. I went with the HD Dice because they currently have a rebate which basically covers the added cost from the regular Dice iPod setup. But what really makes this worth it is seeing the iD3 tags on the head-unit, and using the MFSW controls to advance to the next track. If I wanted to select a specific song, I still can navigate from the iPod which would be the fastest way. Overall, a very good upgrade to get iPod control and iD3 text on your head unit.

EAS Support:
I just want to say that Tom over at EAS was more that helpful. In fact, I did shop around before buying from him, but in the end he was the the one who offered a whole lot more than just a sale. He is easily contacted and usually responds to any questions on the NAM Q/A thread within a few hours. Big thumps up to him.


The Great Parallel Park-Off

CNET, in typical tounge and cheek fashion, have a great little episode that features a new R56 MINI Cooper S in a parallel parking challenge. Check it out.