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Old 14-02-2006, 05:38   #1
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MapTecs free software

Anyone downloaded Maptecs free software and free charts? I certainly would appreciate any feedback on their quality etc.
Roger Rippy
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Old 14-02-2006, 06:52   #2
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Yes, I downloaded both the charts and their free viewing program, Chart Navigator.

The free downloaded charts are up to date raster. Quality is fine.

I don't have much experience with electronic nav programs so I can't really compare it to the ones you buy such as The Capn, Nobletec, etc. I assume they are better, probably more seamless and more features?

I also just received some paper chart kits from Maptec that came with a CD of the same charts that are in each kit. I am able to view the CDs in the Chart Navigator program the same as the downloaded charts. The downloaded charts are more up to date I believe.

After playing around with the nav program I am able to configure two different GPS units to the program. A hand held and a GPS antenna.

The GPS antenna just plugged in to the USB port and was pretty simple to configure.

With the hand held, a Garmin Etrex GPS, and data cable purchased separately, I can upload waypoints and download positional info.

I also purchased a serial port to USB adapter to fit the Etrex data cable to get it to work. My laptop does not seem to know where it put it's serial port, getting like me and forgets where it puts things I guess...

I am just in the learning stages of all this so your mileage may vary...mine sure does!

John
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Old 14-02-2006, 10:35   #3
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more on software

In addition to the slick software from Maptech (Chart Navigator), there is another free program called Sea Clear, which does the same stuff as the Maptech offering but also will interface with your GPS and plot your position in realtime (or so is my understanding ... haven't tried that function). See:

http://www.seaclear.net/
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Old 16-02-2006, 16:50   #4
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Having tried all the free software I can say some times the free software isn't worth what you pay for it. Some of the pay software isn't that much money and can do a lot more in an easier way. Doing more eaiser is worth the money.

The NOAA raster charts are easier to downlaod than from Maptech. Same charts but an easier web site with a faster server. Odd thing is the NOAA server is wicked fast. You just can't down load more than 100 charts at a time. They have 1500 charts. So 15 trips gets them all (about 2GB) FWIW, Maptech is the contactor that makes the charts. The charts they sell are the same but have more value added features.

Paying a little money gets you a lot of features that make it easier. Now that you can get free charts the cost of the software is chump change compared to what the charts used to cost for just one region. A full set of US charts used to be serious money.

Having used ther ENC charts for a few years I really hate the raster charts. They are both derived from the exact same data so they share all the same negative problems but the vector charts are easier to use. ENC charts are 100% seamless with no map edges. You load as many as you need and they look like one map at any scale.

Even the better software deals with raster charts better. They know which way north is and can orient the display as course up or north up automatically switching charts as required. It should support a input and output format with GPS upload and GPS download abilities. The free stuff only come close.

Play with the free software a lot and learn as much as you can. You'll then be able to pick a pay version of something that really works well for you. I found Maptech to be exceptionally limited and Sea Clear to be exceptionally awkard as well as limited.
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Old 19-02-2006, 13:53   #5
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Lots of good experience and advice; thanks John, Paul, and Grunch. I tried both Sea Clear and Maptech (free) Navigator and I could not get either one to bring up a chart on a CD. Finally gave up and uninstalled them both.

Which GPS did you purchase John that plugs directly into a laptop?

Paul, which software program do you use? How much is "not Much" money for software?

Still hanging in there with paper charts and a couple of handheld units, but I would like to upgrade if I can find some combination within our budget. Thanks again guys.........
Regards,
Roger Rippy
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Old 20-02-2006, 07:42   #6
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Roger,

I have a GPS antenna that came with Microsoft's Streets and Trips. It plugs into the USB port.

Streets and Trips is about $100 and consists of a CD and the GPS so the GPS can't be much by itself. I bet you could find one for under $50.

John
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Old 20-02-2006, 13:28   #7
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I have both free programs loaded on my laptop along with the free NOOA charts. As John, with the hand held, a Garmin Etrex GPS, and data cable purchased separately, I can upload waypoints and download positional info.
Sea Clear as stated before is quite awkward to work with, and seems to lack many of the functions found in MapTechs version.
We use a garmin color plotter, garmin handheld gps, loran, and paper charts.
For a FREE program and reliable FREE charts IMHO the MapTech has all the basic functions and would serve well for those with limited budgets.

The only thing is I have not been able to get a ships position to show with MapTech- the gps interface seems to be operational since I get a long and lat info data.
I guess it would not be too much trouble to enter it manually
If anyone has acomplished this I would appreciate some info
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Old 22-02-2006, 05:42   #8
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Thanks John for the info on Microsoft's Street and Trips GPS program. This is really cool gear and the software and GPS unit are priced well at around $100 depending on where you buy it. The USB GPS unit would be worth that much although I would be suprised to learn that it is waterproof. Did you say that you use this unit along with some marine software?
Roger
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Old 22-02-2006, 10:18   #9
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Roger,

I have connected the GPS antenna to Maptech's Chart Navigator only.

I was able to get positional data (lat/long). I do not know for sure if I can get ship's position shown on the chart as Mario asked.

I will check and post the results.

John
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Old 01-03-2006, 06:10   #10
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Well, my latest approach has been to download Sea Clear II. I got a favorable report on the program from a cruiser down in PR. Then I went to NOAA RNC and looked at downloading some of their charts. They download in a zipped file and I am barely computer literate so I was not sure how to unzip them and store them on a writeable CD. So then I went to MapTechs site and started to download some charts, but quit when I saw a download time of nearly an hour (maybe I selected too many charts!!). So that is the name of this tune so far. Still working at it. Which charts do you guys think are best given either the free maptech charts or the free noaa charts, with respect to ease of use? Appreciate any tips. Will continue to work on this until I get it!
Roger
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Old 01-03-2006, 16:51   #11
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Roger,

We spent a couple hours working with Maptech's free Chart Navigator.

Overall I was not impressed. Trying to get from chart to chart is much easier using the paper chart kits. I'm starting to see how important 'seamless' charting is.

I also was able to hook up the Garmin Etrex GPS and get my position marked on the screen but not 'real time' tracking. I suspect tracking is a big incentive to buy their Chart Navigator Pro program.

Also, I was unable to get the Microsoft GPS antenna to work with Chart Navigator. I am not sure why as I'm sure it was compatible last time I tried it. Could be that memory thing...

I'm about to the opinion that the free stuff is designed to entice me to buy something that really is useful. You can see how nice it would be ..but.. can't quite get there for free.

As for downloading the charts, it does take awhile. The first one took forever. I started with Maine at the Canadian border and ended up with WA. Each coast went faster as I figured out I could open more browsers and download in each.

John
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Old 02-03-2006, 04:48   #12
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Yea, I am starting to think that my paper charts and regular GPS unit are the way to go for us. If we wanted to throw some money at the situation, we could probably get a fairly seamless resource but at what cost. Not real sure that this is a value to us in terms of a cruising budget.
Roger
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Old 02-03-2006, 05:53   #13
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Roger, I use Maptech's Offshore Navigator which was given to me free of charge (Lucky). I have this loaded on my laptop and I interface my Furuno 32 GPS with it. I find it invaluable. If you are ever in the St. Pete area, let me know. I'm sure we could trade something. Each Nav Region has its own CD again, which I have gotten free of charge. Alot of cruisers use them and they are easy to burn copies. I was treally glad I had it last week when a fog bank rolled in on me and after following my track and heading, I came out of the fog exactly where the chart said I was. Good stuff. Wiz
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Old 04-03-2006, 05:08   #14
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Well, Sailwiz, if I come across a free copy of Offshore Navigator, I believe that would be the solution. If not, I will have to wrestle with the idea of spending $99 for it. Can you use the NOAA free raster or ENC charts with this software? Rather than buy a line to connect my handheld GPS to the computer, I thought about buying a stand-alone GPS antenna and mount in semi-permanently somewhere for a dedicated GPS input for the laptop. We have just about made up our mind to forget the expensive chartplotter and stay with the laptop for electronic chart navigation (in addition to our paper charts). The electronic form would be handy in situations of fog or where bouys etc are off-station, and any reduced visability situation. We have never had a radar unit on any of our past boats and there probably is not a good reason not to buy one since the prices are pretty reasonable now. Oh well, it is always something..........
Roger Rippy SV Tin Cup
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Old 06-03-2006, 06:29   #15
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Rippy, I'm not sure about the Raster charts and off shore navigator. Maybe someone else can advise.
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