Subaru: New in-car display

Our 2006 Subaru Legacy, when new, must have been the bee’s knee’s for all the electronic gizmos it has. It is crammed with entertainment tech to make those 00s Tokyo traffic jams more manageable. The jewel is/was the 7″ touchscreen with sat nav, TV, DVD video, vehicle settings, a calendar, a calculator, vehicle stats etc. This was a time when the iPhone was a year away from being released.

A standard morning of Tokyo traffic? Well at least I can watch my box DVD set of LoveJoy, or the morning news

Redundant Tech

Unfortunately, in 2018, in New Zealand, & with our smartphones and internet pretty much all the gizmos are next to useless. The car came equipped with:

  1. A 6 CD/MP3 stacker,
  2. an MP3 hard drive,
  3. mini-disc (yep!), and;
  4. the aforementioned touchscreen in-car computer system

1-3 are pretty much redundant now you call pull up any song you want on your phone with Spotify/ Google Music etc. But they are all integrated into the car radio and who knows – one day I might pick up a pile of mix-minidiscs and relish my minidisc player.

Mix-minidisc on eBay. Not paying $200 for them though!

This a series of posts I plan to do are about (4) and its replacements. Since the car is a Japanese import the screen system really is/was of no use at all.

The engine stats page from the Japanese system. ‘V’ and ‘%’ …no idea! I did try and Google Translate it one time.

I have had the car a year now and have finally decided to pull the thing out:

  • The whole system is in Japanese, with no English option. I was communicating with a guy who said he could upload an English translation, but he went silent when push came to shove. Maybe he was busy, maybe he was a bull-shitter. Kind of odd either way, right?
  • The DVD video is locked to region 2…and who watches DVD now anyway? Well…New Zealand is, perhaps, the last but faltering bastion of the DVD rental store, but New Zealand is region 4. Incidentally, I did not realise that Europe and Japan are both the same region, so I could have been watching DVDs from the UK while driving(!)
  • The sat nav has only a map of Japan only. Everything else is just ‘the ocean’. There are outfits who can load the NZ map but who needs on on-disc sat nav when you have Google Maps?
  • The in-system clock, whatever you tried, sets itself back to Japanese time – I assume it comes off the GPS. Dunno.
  • While driving, I have never never never needed to perform a calculation that I either could not do in my own head, or that did not need something a little more sophisticated than the rudimentary in-system calculator.
  • The calendar: Apart from the above Japanese time thing meaning its a day off four (eight?) hours a day, it is (of course) incapable or syncing with anything.


‘The English translation’ version from the Guy-who-said-he-could do it. hum? Whatever. I don’t think he could, but it does say 12C, a very New Zealand temperature so who knows.

Snapshot from YouTube vid of a unit in the US. Makes in wonder (i) in hindsight could I just have sourced one of these from the US? (ii) Is the photo above just bull shit?

NZ navigation system…out of date the moment you get it. But I do dig the 8-bit-alike colours. Incidentally, this is also from the-Guy-who-said-he-could. (I don’t think he could). There are people who can sort out the maps though.

The two still-useful features were the reversing camera – it flicks on when you go into reverse – and the current outside temp from a sensor somewhere.


The two things on my wishlist for the replacement were stats from the car computer and the reversing cam. Both things ruled out an off-the-shelf head unit with Android Auto or whatever so a more ‘bespoke’ approach was needed.

Audio I have sorted with my phone and Bluetooth. Video just seems a bad idea while driving. Navigation I do have on my phone, but would be ‘nice’ on the in-car system. Oh, and the (correct) time, outside temp.

I procrastinated over a few options none of which were going to do what I want or work that well:

  1. 7″ android tablet
  2. Raspberry Pi running Linux and FreeSSM
  3. A full blown small form PC and FreeSSM and **!*!*! WINDOWS 8  /RT/ Whatever !*!*!*? R.I.P: Probably would’ve been the slickest option too.

I have ended up with raspberry pi 3 and the official raspberry pi 7″ touchscreen running Emteria OS, an Android build. It’s not ideal – slow to boot and laggy in service, and no reversing cam at the minute, but I do have my car stats courtesy of the BTSSM app. The BTSSM app does the basics, in that it talks SSM over the vag-kkl 409.1 USB cable I have, but Torque Pro seems to have a few more features but for the life of me, I cannot get that to work.

Anyway, here is it running. At some point, I’ll write down the how-I-got-here, what-I-have-done and whats-planned, as a new series of posts. Not now though.

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