Originally Posted by christhefish
is it possible to connect a gps aerial and AIS to the laptop How and what would I need????
What you need depends on what you've got and what else you want. Whatever else, you'll need a chartplotter
program which can display AIS data and charts
for the UK. OpenCPN
can display AIS but you'll need to buy charts
and the only legal
and relatively up to date ones which will work with it are the ones from visitmyharbour
There are commercial
programs which include charts such as the Belfield one (there's several others going up in price
from here) but check that anything you consider supports AIS (this one does):
Belfield Software - Chart Plotter
Next you need a source of AIS and GPS data. If you've already got an AIS unit, how you connect it will depend on what outputs it has. If it has USB you can probably just plug
it into the laptop. If a 9 pin serial
port you need a serial
to USB converter (unless your laptop has old school
serial ports). If it just has bare wires you'll need an rs422 to serial converter (~£10 on ebay).
If you don't have AIS and need to buy it, if you also have a chartplotter
that you want to connect it to, buy an AIS unit which as well as connectivity to the chartplotter has USB output, as this will make connecting to your laptop easy. If you neither have nor want a chartplotter device other than your laptop, you can buy USB AIS receivers. I have no experience of this one (so can't personally recommend it) but it's listed on the OpenCPN site:
Radar Gadgets - AIS marine radio receiver - Virtual Radar
There are others. Shop around.
You need to connect a VHF
aerial to an AIS receiver, so you can either add a dedicated AIS antenna
somewhere or put a splitter in your VHF
cable. Prices for splitters seem to start from £80, although they are built into some of the more expensive AIS receiver units (though not the little USB dongles). Note that people will point out that this will slightly degrade your VHF signal. Most people won't notice.
For GPS, your simplest option us just to buy a dedicated USB GPS dongle. These are £30 delivered from ebay. Gives you a backup if the boat's GPS fails, it's portable, and if you're not technically minded it saves a lot of faffing about and probably the cost of a USB to serial converter.
That's kind of the basic story but as Neo said, there really are so many options depending on what you've got now and what you want to do in the future. The minimum you could (reasonably, tricks with SDRs excluded :-) do this for with no existing kit is about £300: budget
chartplotter+charts, GPS dongle, AIS dongle, VHF splitter + coax connectors. If you have AIS already it's 2/3rds that. e.g. OpenCPN, visitmyharbour charts, USB GPS and possibly a serial to USB converter if your AIS doesn't output USB. <£100.