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Old 13-03-2008, 07:52   #91
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Try it first

Clausont,

Before you make your decision, I would suggest you try what you can in actual conditions. Take your laptop outside and see if you can see the display in the sunlight. Many screens are not daylight bright. If you are satisfied with what you see, consider if you want to expose your laptop to the elements.

I am going the laptop route but have these concerns also. My laptop is not very bright. I am considering getting a monitor like what mounts on the back of a car seat and kids watch movies on to put in the cockpit. That way I could leave the laptop in the cabin out of the weather.

You also need to consider power requirements. Laptops draw a lot more amps than chartplotters. You may need an inverter to power it.

Chartplotters also can do double duty as a depth finder if you don't already have one or would want a backup.

Then add up the costs of what you will need for each choice and go from there. I have everything except the monitor so that is the reason I'm going my route.

Let us know what you decide.

Ken
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Old 13-03-2008, 08:11   #92
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Quote:
Many screens are not daylight bright.
"None" would be a better assessment. A regular laptop under way is almost impossible to read and one splash away from being a door stop. It's why they sell the expensive marine terminal panels.

I use my laptop below but load routes to the GPS on deck. It means I can still monitor the route real time below but I can also shut off the computer and just run the loaded course on the GPS. That works well.

You really can't steer a boat by watching a display screen. It's dangerous and not very accurate. Just knowing the course to steer; the course you are running; maybe some cross track error, a way point ETA and a distance to go is heaven enough. I can plot a course and load it in a few minutes. The laptop can save any courses I may reuse. Since the GPS can load more than one route it's easy to prelaod a bunch that you might need and can preload as many alternates a you need.

Laptops have a larger screen a mouse and keyboard plus you can play DVD's and do other things like Internet. Chart plotters don't do any of that well. A good laptop is worth more than a chart plotter.

I've started a rewire project for my GPS system. GPS at the helm and wiring for the NMEA in and out below and connections for the NMEA out for the DSC in the VHF, a computer RS232 port below with NMEA IN / OUT and NMEA In for the auto pilot.
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Old 13-03-2008, 09:14   #93
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Thanks Ken - Good considerations. I am not too concerned with the laptop. The one I have is an old one that I will reserve for use on the boat. If it gets trashed, it isn't going to be that big of a concern. The brightness would be an issue, but I think that Paul gave me a large part of the answer that I am looking for.


Paul, what GPS do you use with your laptop? I think what you have described is more what I have envisioned. I would not likely ever keep the laptop in the cockpit except in only the best of weather (read: nearly flat calm).
As we have five kids, my plan was to mount a 15" monitor on a bulkhead where they can watch a dvd if they choose to. I believe that there is quite a bit that a computer can be used for on the boat. We use one at home to run PSK31 and other HF digital modes and I am looking forward to finding even more uses for it while not "relying" on it exclusively.
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Old 13-03-2008, 10:19   #94
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I have been using an old Garmin 128. It's not very fancy but has an external antenna and connections for NMEA In and Out and power. It also works in the rain. You can do a hardwired install so it stays put. Battery powered GPS are a pain and using a 12 volt adapters sort of sucks as well. It's B&W only, stores 500 way points and 10 routes of 30 points per route. It is an LCD screen so what it displays as a chart is about as crude as it gets. It does do a nice job showing route info and that is what I like about it. They come up on ebay a lot but they often get bid up beyond what they are worth. A lot of people had them and are upgrading to chart plotters - fine by me. I have two and can swap them out in about 2 minutes if one goes bad.

The newer GPS's are probably a bit better and maybe a few more features but I would say if you have a chart program on a computer you already have more features than most all chart plotters. Any GPS is accurate enough for sailing so I would not get carried away by what works better. In open water they all lock on and stay locked on.

Also install WXTide32 (free @ WXTide32.com ) and download all the maps and you now have a Windows desktop tide program that is as good as anything out there for the whole world.

You may need to get an adapter cord with bare wire ends so you can connect things up. NMEA is only two wires and one IN and an one OUT that connect to pins 2 (NMEA In) and 3 (NMEA Out) on a standard 9 pin serial cord. Cut off an old mouse cord and you are good to go. The colors on the wires are not standard so use a voltmeter to find pins 2 and 3. Serial settings for NMEA is 4800, no parity, and one stop bit.

Picking a GPS is more a software issue than a hardware issue. I don't like Seaclear so I don't use it but other folks do so that is fine. Check to see what formats are supported. Garmin uses a proprietary upload but standard NMEA out. You often have to reset the software and GPS modes to upload routes or down load from the GPS and then set them back when under way.

I would suggest about any GPS that you can get external power with NMEA in and out is what you want. It should have some level of water protection. Most will take a rain OK. Everything else is a bonus if you get a good price. Built in antennas in the new units do just fine on the water and under a Bimini. Buy them cheap and buy a couple.
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Old 13-03-2008, 14:39   #95
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Thanks paul - that is a great help. I have a low end (Hummingbird 383c) chartplotter but I don't want to rely on that. It should make a decent depth finder though(until it fails).
Thanks for all of this information - I am saving this in a file to refer back to it for the NMEA info when I start making cables. We make various cables to connect our ham gear to various equipment at times so that sounds pretty basic.
I will keep my eyes out for a couple of inexpensive gps with the features you mentioned.
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Old 13-03-2008, 15:09   #96

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Paul-
WXTide32 is great stuff, but wouldn't run under Vista when I tried it. Just a note to the unwary, it may go into limbo if that problem isn't resolved by the authors. (Or, perhaps one should stick to XP for now on boats.[g])
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Old 13-03-2008, 16:03   #97
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Paul-
WXTide32 is great stuff, but wouldn't run under Vista when I tried it. Just a note to the unwary, it may go into limbo if that problem isn't resolved by the authors. (Or, perhaps one should stick to XP for now on boats.[g])
Jtides is a java program, and should run fine under Vista. I've run it under XP Pro and Fedora 8 Linux, so I wouldn't think Vista would be a problem.
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Old 13-03-2008, 17:31   #98
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HelloSailor - I'm not too surprised that it wouldn't run under vista. As an IT Admin for our city, we tried it on a couple of PCs (mine being one of them) and found a number of applications that wouldn't run on it. They are mostly specialized law enforcement applications and such, but enough that we put off adding any vista machines until it matures more.
As for myself, I will keep XP or Linux for as long as I can unless there is a significant improvement in Vista.
Now I have probably opened a can of worms, but that is not my intent.
Just my personal and professional thoughts.
As for the Java program, it seems that it should work just fine on Vista as Beausoliel said.
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Old 13-03-2008, 19:43   #99
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Quote:
WXTide32 is great stuff, but wouldn't run under Vista when I tried it. Just a note to the unwary, it may go into limbo if that problem isn't resolved by the authors. (Or, perhaps one should stick to XP for now on boats.[g])
It runs for me under Vista perfectly fine you obviously don't know much about Vista.

You just have to install it to a directory other than Program Files. You can't have data being updated in the Program Files directory any more. UAC changes the rules for installation. Changes are a problem under Vista but then changes usually are. It requires a little extra thought. Don't work too hard.

You don't need an install procedure . Just unzip it all into one directory and make a short cut. Pretty simple.

I don;'t run anything other than Vista.
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Old 13-03-2008, 19:43   #100
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NMEA is only two wires and one IN and an one OUT that connect to pins 2 (NMEA In) and 3 (NMEA Out) on a standard 9 pin serial cord.
It's actually technically three wires because you also need a signal ground (DB-9 pin 5). Sometimes it will work magically without a signal ground (like my fixed mount PC), and sometimes it will not (like my laptop), but it really should be wired. Also, again technically speaking, this ground should not be the shield if a shielded cable is used...

As far as GPS choice, since you aren't using the GPS for anything other than it's NMEA output, I'd go for the cheapest one I could find. A fixed mount definitely has advantages over a handheld, but pretty much anything that spits NMEA will work just fine for marine use, whether it's an 8-channel serial receiver, a 12-channel parallel, or one of the newer and better chipsets.
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Old 13-03-2008, 19:53   #101
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It's actually technically three wires because you also need a signal ground (DB-9 pin 5). Sometimes it will work magically without a signal ground (like my fixed mount PC), and sometimes it will not (like my laptop),
My Garmin provides nothing to connect up to a signal ground. While it may sometimes be required I don't see how to make one from nothing.

I would agree most any GPS will do fine. I'm not all that sold on the bottom end USB GPS's but they do seem to perform. Most all GPS is reduced to a singe chip now and there are only a few of them actually made. It's pretty hard to screw that part up.
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Old 13-03-2008, 21:36   #102

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You're right about me not knowing Vista, Paul. I've only just met it.

Heaven help the non-technical user who tries to install WxTide without your advice, especially since the authors don't bother to post a "VISTA INSTALLATION NOTE" on their web site or with their product. There's no reason that any "civilian" would guess it has to be installed differently, or not in the directory where all programs normally are installed.

"You can't have data being updated in the Program Files directory any more." I can see that would mess up more than a few things. What about the data that is updated in other programs, i.e. the spellcheck dictionary for WinWord? Isn't that "data" which is kept under Program Files?

[shortly later]

Here's a funny thing for you, Paul. When WxTide32 is manually installed, and then MOVED to the Program Files folder, it WORKS JUST FINE even with UAC enabled. Although regardless of where it is, the File, Save menu option is grayed out and unavailable here. The preferences and such save just fine. the whole problem seems to be in the installation routine not working in Vista. (And, some nuisance value from Simtel naming the distribution file .zip.exe setting off false alarms in malware software. That kind of double extension name is worse than pointless, either it is a zip or an exe--it isn't both.)
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Old 13-03-2008, 21:51   #103
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My Garmin provides nothing to connect up to a signal ground. While it may sometimes be required I don't see how to make one from nothing.
I should have clarified this. You use power ground in this case, as illustrated in the Garmin manuals (at least all the ones I have). For RS-232 all you need is a ground reference, though by it not being an isolated ground there is a much higher possibility of noise. The surprising thing is that Garmin does not actually provide NMEA-compliant NMEA outputs, but I already went into that in a long winded post elsewhere.

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I'm not all that sold on the bottom end USB GPS's but they do seem to perform.
And no NMEA, so doesn't meet the requirements of using with SeaClear. Unless the USB connection is just using an internal RS-232 to Serial converter. Not sure on this, never have used a USB GPS...
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Old 14-03-2008, 05:11   #104
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Here's a funny thing for you, Paul. When WxTide32 is manually installed, and then MOVED to the Program Files folder, it WORKS JUST FINE even with UAC enabled.
Things like settings stored in an INI file get virtualized to a user directory when in located in Program Files. The same goes for direct writing to the registry. There is also a virtual directory for program data called "Program Data". To install under Vista you just need to put things in the right place so installation is the problem with everything I have had trouble with under Vista. Sad thing is you really should have done a lot of this under XP too, but you didn't have to.

When I set up WXTide32 under Visa I just copied the directory from my last install since you have to add all the maps and other bits. You might want to do a search for the INI file and make sure it really is in the Program Files directory. Vista uses UNIX style links now so gracing some of this gets confusing.
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Old 14-03-2008, 07:51   #105

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"You might want to do a search for the INI file and make sure it really is in the Program Files directory."
It isn't. No sign of one that I saw.
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