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Old 20-01-2011, 10:43   #1
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Best Navigation Software 2011 ?

What is the best navigation software for you ?

easy to connect GPS,AIS,Radar etc...
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Old 20-01-2011, 11:21   #2
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Opinions vary widely. I like Nobeltec VNS. they have just released version 11.

There are lots of comments on other threads here. Do a search on brand names, electronic charts, navigation, etc. to see more than you need.
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Old 20-01-2011, 12:29   #3
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OpenCPN
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Free is for Me
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Old 20-01-2011, 13:49   #4
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As above, Free is for me. OpenCPN has performed well and has met my needs as it is easy to use. I can not justify spending good boat bucks when free is good.
So, what special functions or capabilities do some of the others offer that the free ones do not have (and make it worth the expense)?
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Old 20-01-2011, 14:25   #5
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have used Nobeltec, still have it. But will use opencpn from now on. Does everything I need if a little clunky and will improve I'm sure.
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Old 20-01-2011, 17:00   #6
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I love OpenCPN.

But, what I like about Nobeltec:
  • Multi-monitor and multi-window support.
  • Overlays with transparency (overlay satellite photos, only covering land mass)
  • 3-d view
  • 3-d view with chart overlay
  • Radar overlays
  • Sounder
  • Fast and rock-solid
Things OpenCPN does BETTER:
  • Free
  • Supports free ENC charts
  • Displays self-made charts
  • Can run on Linux - can build cheap low power 12v systems smaller than would be needed for Windows, and no OS to buy.
  • Can run on several systems with no additional cost except for additional hardware costs (there's a slightly less convenient multi-monitor support).
  • Did I mention it was free?

This is by no means a comprehensive list (either list), but it's what occurs to me off the top of my head.

For comparison, with Nobeltec Admiral and 3 regions of charts, I at about $2k. If I wanted radar, sounder, etc., it'd be thousands more.

OpenCPN is improving dramatically and quickly. I see dropping Nobeltec in the future. I definitely don't see buying any more chart regions from them.

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Old 20-01-2011, 17:52   #7
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So the idea is to use OpenCPN or other free navigation software on your PC, download free charts from NOAA as needed, and then pay for additional charts in non-US waters - all being PC-resident. But can you do your route planning on the highly detailed charts, then upload resulting waypoints to whatever chartplotter you have? Or do you have to buy the chartplotter-compatible add-in software from the mfgr to upload from a PC? Also, the chartplotter usually comes bundled with the "free" NOAA charts so, as long as you are in US waters, then the PC and chartplotter have "separate but equal" e-charts. Once you leave US waters though, even the illusion of compatibilty ends. You either buy two sets of charts, one each for the PC and chartplotter, ouch! Or plan on the PC and rely on very large scale "regional" charts in the chartplotter's "original chart bundle." I understand that this business is because the hardware vendors are in cahoots with the e-chart providers to prevent end users from acquiring e-charts directly from the governments that make them and then uploading them to the chartplotter. This keeps the end user leashed into buying updates from the e-chart/chartplotter consortium. Did I mis-state something? If so, please clarify.
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Old 20-01-2011, 18:15   #8
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Old 20-01-2011, 19:43   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDGreenlee View Post
So the idea is to use OpenCPN or other free navigation software on your PC, download free charts from NOAA as needed, and then pay for additional charts in non-US waters - all being PC-resident. But can you do your route planning on the highly detailed charts, then upload resulting waypoints to whatever chartplotter you have? Or do you have to buy the chartplotter-compatible add-in software from the mfgr to upload from a PC? Also, the chartplotter usually comes bundled with the "free" NOAA charts so, as long as you are in US waters, then the PC and chartplotter have "separate but equal" e-charts. Once you leave US waters though, even the illusion of compatibilty ends. You either buy two sets of charts, one each for the PC and chartplotter, ouch! Or plan on the PC and rely on very large scale "regional" charts in the chartplotter's "original chart bundle." I understand that this business is because the hardware vendors are in cahoots with the e-chart providers to prevent end users from acquiring e-charts directly from the governments that make them and then uploading them to the chartplotter. This keeps the end user leashed into buying updates from the e-chart/chartplotter consortium. Did I mis-state something? If so, please clarify.
What you said is pretty accurate.

Most free software, OpenCPN included, can upload routes to many kinds of plotters. Some, including OpenCPN can upload to Garmin GPSs using the proprietary Garmin mode. (You can't upload routes to Garmins via NMEA.) There are also utilities, like GPSBable to convert routes from one format to another. Then use the manufacturer's software to upload the route.

So, you can use the free stuff for planning only, OR you can build (or buy) computers specifically for use on the boat. Buying marinized marine computers can be expensive. But for a very few hundred dollars you can build your own 12v computer. To find details, google "carputer". Among other things, they have wide-range-voltage 12v power supplies for less than $20.

You end up spending the money on a display. But for less than the price of a 10" chartplotter ($2k-3k), you can get a sunlight viewable marinized touchscreen.

What I plan to do is get 2 15" screens, and then build 3-4 computers. Screens for about $1,500-$2,000 each, and about $1,000 for 3 computers. So for about $4k-5k I get much larger screens, free charts for many places, and two independent computers plus another backup. Just need a coupla puck-style USB GPSs. If you buy the computers ready-made, they are something around $1k +/- a few hundred.

And then, my B&W plotter is another backup.

You can get black-box versions of radar, depth sounders and forward-looking sonars and also integrate them into the computer. But, there again, I'd want a dedicated display, as well.

The biggest advantage of going the PC route is you can run multiple charting systems on it. If a better one comes out next year, just load it on. You're not stuck with one manufacturers hardware, software of charts.

The biggest advantage of a purpose-build chartplotter is that they are more stable and rugged. Basically more reliable. That's why, if I go the computer route, I still want the basics in stand-alone units.

I've only touched on some of the points and possibilities, but maybe it's enough to give you an idea.

Lots of options.

-dan
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Old 22-01-2011, 22:57   #10
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What you said is pretty accurate.

Most free software, OpenCPN included, can upload routes to many kinds of plotters. Some, including OpenCPN can upload to Garmin GPSs using the proprietary Garmin mode. (You can't upload routes to Garmins via NMEA.) There are also utilities, like GPSBable to convert routes from one format to another. Then use the manufacturer's software to upload the route.

So, you can use the free stuff for planning only, OR you can build (or buy) computers specifically for use on the boat. Buying marinized marine computers can be expensive. But for a very few hundred dollars you can build your own 12v computer. To find details, google "carputer". Among other things, they have wide-range-voltage 12v power supplies for less than $20.

You end up spending the money on a display. But for less than the price of a 10" chartplotter ($2k-3k), you can get a sunlight viewable marinized touchscreen.

What I plan to do is get 2 15" screens, and then build 3-4 computers. Screens for about $1,500-$2,000 each, and about $1,000 for 3 computers. So for about $4k-5k I get much larger screens, free charts for many places, and two independent computers plus another backup. Just need a coupla puck-style USB GPSs. If you buy the computers ready-made, they are something around $1k +/- a few hundred.

And then, my B&W plotter is another backup.

You can get black-box versions of radar, depth sounders and forward-looking sonars and also integrate them into the computer. But, there again, I'd want a dedicated display, as well.

The biggest advantage of going the PC route is you can run multiple charting systems on it. If a better one comes out next year, just load it on. You're not stuck with one manufacturers hardware, software of charts.

The biggest advantage of a purpose-build chartplotter is that they are more stable and rugged. Basically more reliable. That's why, if I go the computer route, I still want the basics in stand-alone units.

I've only touched on some of the points and possibilities, but maybe it's enough to give you an idea.

Lots of options.

-dan
I'm thinking of buying a bunch of cheap-o viewsonic tablets and running vnc on them to a centralized computer running opencpn. May be cheaper and less power/headache than several 12v computers.
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Old 23-01-2011, 09:51   #11
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I'm thinking of buying a bunch of cheap-o viewsonic tablets and running vnc on them to a centralized computer running opencpn. May be cheaper and less power/headache than several 12v computers.
Yep. That is another of those many options. And a very valid one. I will probably end up with something like that additionally. Maybe an Archos Android tablet. They have released the 7" unlocked so you can load Linux on it ($200). I'm sure they will do the same for the 10" ($300).

The advantage of the method I mentioned (but the biggest expense as well) is that I'd have a permanently mounted waterproof sunlight viewable screen at about 15" (or bigger depending on the prices if I do it), faster CPU, and loads of disk space. Having it all networked means I could add a NAS with 3tb of raided disk space for about $1500. That's where I could put my collection of movies and music, etc. and backup copies of all software and charts. The charts and software would be duplicated onto the individual computers for safety. A tablet backup (or 2) could be stored in a Faraday cage for disaster purposes.

By adding wireless, I could then use the tablet as just a way to remote into one of the main computers. In other words, just use the tablet as a remote screen. And then, maybe have OpenCPN loaded so I'd have something to consult while onshore.

As you can see, I'm talking about an extensive network. It's overkill for my current boat. But would still be suitable for the time if/when I can get my dream boat.

Will I ever build this dream system? I don't know. I'll probably build the standalone 12v systems and maybe just normal displays for inside the cabin. But, at least for what I use the current boat for, I can't really see buying the expensive displays. Probably a tablet like you suggest for the flybridge helm. But whatever I do I'll make sure it gives me the options to expand it later.

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Old 23-01-2011, 10:04   #12
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I'll just put in a plug for PolarView - it's not free but close. In my experience it is easier to use than OpenCPN. I'd be interested in other opinions though.

One other advantage I'd give to commercial systems (Nobeltec, Garmin, etc) is a bit more of a buy-and-go experience. Using the PC packages described above takes a fair amount of technical know how, research, and time.

Just my 2 cents.

Brett
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Old 23-01-2011, 10:41   #13
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...
One other advantage I'd give to commercial systems (Nobeltec, Garmin, etc) is a bit more of a buy-and-go experience. Using the PC packages described above takes a fair amount of technical know how, research, and time.
...
Yep. Important point. My Nobeltec just works perfect. Example: They have the manpower to buy one each of every major manufacturers GPS and then spend hundreds of programming and testing hours to make sure it works.

In the 8 years I've had it, it's only crashed 2-3 times, and that could well have been a Wiindows problem and not Nobeltec.

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Old 23-01-2011, 10:51   #14
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I use a Ex military Go-Book with Fugawi. Fairly cheap, Free download all US water/rivers charts. Cheap CD at Ebay., runs about 4 hours with plugges in, Wife can sit in cabin and use at night and guide me though most anything. My only gripe is not the best display anymore in the sun but just a lttle shade and it works fine. So far been indistrucable and nice bidg display.
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Old 23-01-2011, 16:08   #15
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You end up spending the money on a display. But for less than the price of a 10" chartplotter ($2k-3k), you can get a sunlight viewable marinized touchscreen.

What I plan to do is get 2 15" screens, and then build 3-4 computers. Screens for about $1,500-$2,000 each, and about $1,000 for 3 computers. So for about $4k-5k I get much larger screens, free charts for many places, and two independent computers plus another backup. Just need a coupla puck-style USB GPSs. If you buy the computers ready-made, they are something around $1k +/- a few hundred.
With the huge number of surplus Toughbooks and Toughbook displays floating about the intarweb, there's no reason to drop that kind of coin on a screen. You can grab a 12" Panasonic ruggedized, sunlight viewable, touchscreen for $40. I have two, although I can't vouch for the water resistance, and they run native on the 12V system.

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