Archive for January, 2010

Custom audio input hack for XM ready car stereos

If you’re reading this, we probably have the following in common:

  1. Love for music
  2. Dislike for the number of dollars in your bank account.

I have a huge collection of music that I can transfer to any sort of mobile mp3 player.  Many radios are now coming stock with input jacks to plug in your mp3 player so you can rock your whole Huey Lewis discography through your bumpin system.

But what if they don’t?  Yes, you can buy a new stereo for $200+.  But a lot of new car radios(like mine) are also DICs(Diagnostic Information Centers) that monitor your oil life, give trip meters, adjust what your key fob does…basically change all the bells and whistles of your car.

So I decided to do this:

Pirated tunes go here.

Note the input jack below the screen.  Looks stock right?  Pimp My Ride.

*This was pulled  from my 2007 Pontiac G6.  From system to system, the wiring is going to be different, but if you have an XM ready radio, the basic process will be the same.  This is for information only…don’t cry to me if you fry your radio.  You live, you learn*

To use it, you just switch to the XM channel.  Plugging an MP3 player into the input jack will cut out the XM signal and replace it with your iPlayer, Zume, or Sony Walkman.


  1. XM Ready radio
  2. Solder and the skills to use it
  3. 1/8″ Panel-mount headphone jack
  4. Patience
  5. Very tiny tools
  6. Electrical tape
  7. Thin gauge solid wire

1) Disassemble the radio

Grab hold of the dials and pull them straight off.  They will click straight out of the radio face.

*Not pictured* : remove 2 tiny screws from the left and right sides of the radio holding the face on.

Once the screws are out, pry the face straight off with a small screwdriver.

*Not Pictured* : The bottom is held on with another tiny screw.  Take this out and pry off the bottom metal plate with your little flathead screwdriver.  This will expose the circuitboard underneath.  If your palms are getting clammy, maybe you should think about another project.

You’ll have to find some wiring diagrams and pinouts to figure out which inputs are what.  The large solder points run to the back of the radio and connect to the wiring harness that runs in from the XM receiver.  I found out what mine were:

Basically, the XM signal comes in through the receiver and into the back of your radio.  The connection on your radio runs to the points I’ve labeled “Left in” and “Right in” on the above picture.  The signal follows the traces up the board(like a very simple maze…you can do it…) and up to the “In to radio” spots.  The simple idea of what we are doing is breaking that signal and replacing it with our own MP3 signal.  Note the Cut trace.  I just scraped along with the tip of my pocketknife for a while until it was sufficiently dug into the board and breaking the line.  Professional, I know.

Now that the signal cannot reach the radio, we will be replacing the link with our own wiring.  This is where the input jack will go.  I found this great program “MSPaint” to help me illustrate:

The input jack has 5 pins.  One will go to the ground point.  When nothing is plugged in the circuit is completed and will work exactly the same as before the trace was cut.  The spring connections inside will let the audio pass straight through from the receiver and into the radio board.

Once you plug in the cable from your mp3 player, the spring contacts are pushed away from the XM signal wires and make contact with your headphone plug.  Now the XM signal is cut out and your Britney Spears live in Stockholm album is replacing it and will be passed into the radio and out of your speakers for everyone’s enjoyment.

Here you see the wires soldered to the points.  The black wire leads to the ground point on the jack, while the other pairs attach as shown in my totally pro diagrams.  (Seriously, who needs a Mac for multimedia?)

Throw some electrical tape over the connections so when you replace the metal bottom it doesn’t short out.  I also like to put a dab of hot glue to keep the wires steady while you’re hot rodding around.

Once you’ve made the connection its up to you where you’d like the input to go.  You could use very long wires and route it to your glove compartment.  If you’ve got a ’97 Camry, you could just hang them out anywhere.  I went for the stock look and mounted it to the front faceplate.  Didn’t get pics, but there were some 6 very tiny screws holding the board to the plastic front.  I removed those, drilled a hole and threaded the input jack through.


Now reassemble everything in reverse and you probably won’t be good to go.  It most likely won’t work right the first time so plug in what you can and try it out before you put your stuff together.  Trust me, I do half-assed work like this all the time.

Chili a la Steve

When I cook, I kick it up a notch. Bam! and all that.

Give this a whirl:


  • ~1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 15 oz can Kidney Beans
  • 15 oz can Tomato Sauce
  • 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 Beef Bouillon cubes
  • 1 Green Pepper
  • 1 Sweet Onion
  • Worcestershire sauce(6-8 squirts)
  • LOTS Chili Powder(about 1/4 of the standard 2.5 oz season containers)
  • Garlic Powder(few tablespoons)
  • Crushed Red Pepper(healthy shake)
  • 1-2 Thai Dragon Peppers (Could replace with habanero)
  • Salt(lightly sprinkle)
  • Pepper(always use a pepper grinder. Grind for a while, then grind some more. Pepper is good)
  • Shredded cheese (Any kind is really good. I suggest sharp cheddar or a mexican style for a little more bite.)


  1. Very lightly brown beef in a pan. Take off heat just before all meat is brown. It will finish in the slow cooker, a little pink is ok. Strain meat in strainer and add to crock pot.
  2. Drain kidney beans and add to crock pot.
  3. Chop about 2/3 of the green pepper and the onion. Bigger pieces are more manly. Too small and they get lost. Add to pot.
  4. Finely chop the dragon pepper and add.
  5. Pour in liquids(Crushed Tomatoes, Tomato sauce, Worcestershire)
  6. Add spices (Chili, Garlic, Crushed Red Pepper, Salt, Pepper) and
  7. Bouillon cubes
  8. Mix up all that good stuff.
  9. Cook in crock pot for 4 – 5 hours on high. Stir occasionally.
  10. Top with shredded cheese and serve.

Obviously the spices are not an exact science. Experiment and figure out how much you like. Remember to sample a bit in the last hour and see how it is. I’ve learned the hard way you can always make it a little spicier but once its deadly, it’s deadly! Go a little light at first.

Day old chili is the best. Use it on Nachos or Chili dogs and love life for a few more days.

(Fake) Wood Desk Chair Carpet Mat

Thats how I roll.

So starting off the new year, I began working from home.  Like any good hard working American should, I picked up the Gemini L desk, a fine piece of American (Chinese) craftsmanship.

Do work, Son.

Renting an apartment and hoping to get a return security deposit, I didn’t want to destroy my carpeting.  So I began searching for one of those oh-so-classy plastic carpet mats:

All business

How much would you be willing to spend on a plastic mat?  $25?  $50?  Try $120!!!!!  Yeah, over $100 for a sheet of heavy plastic.  Not  interested.

So I started checking the net for more options.  After some good ol’ brainstorming and being cheap frugal, I came up with the perfect idea.


  1. Lauan/Luan plywood – Any local Home Depot or Lowes will hook it up.  $10 for 8′ x 4′ sheets.
  2. Peel n’ Stick flooring – I picked up a pack of 1′ x 1′ fake wood panels at Big Lots for $10
  3. Sandpaper.  I pretend to do things right occasionally.

1) Cut the luan to fit your area.

Get an idea of how much rolling you do and figure this accordingly.  For my desk size a 3′ x 4′ rectangle was exactly what I needed.  In the move, I unfortunately had to leave my garage and basement behind.  Still feeling the place out but I think using circular saws in your apartment living room is not only difficult, but frowned upon.  Any Home Depot or Lowes will do simple cuts for you in the store.  Just ask.

How much wood could a woodchuck...

Two of the three pieces cut out of the full sheet of  Lauan.  This project also helped me find out that a 3′ x  4′ object is the max the backseat of a 2007 Pontiac
G6 can hold.

Try and sand down any rough edges and wipe off any  sawdust afterwards so you get a good stick with the  vinyl flooring.  Unless you’re lazy.  Then screw it, its  fine.

2) Stick ’em up…er…down…

Peel n Stick flooring.

This vinyl flooring stuff is really great.  Super easy to  use and nice and durable.  Perfect for a project like  this.  If you keep your eyes peeled you can get a nice  deal.  Only $10 for this pack.

A single piece of the vinyl flooring.  You can see the  peel off paper protecting the adhesive on the back.

Work faster!

My lovely assistant doing all the work.  Make sure you  work slowly and match up the seams tightly.

The Final Product!


Total I spent $20 on materials and about 15 minutes to put it all together.  Much cheaper and way better looking than one of the plastic mats.  I’m very happy with how it turned out.  If you wanted you could always make a few more cuts and have it extend more under the desk.  I was more interested in where the chair was when my butt was in it so this was fine for me.  Get to work.