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Old 22-05-2016, 15:33   #1
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Testing A PC for Navigation and boat systems

Navassist Marine PC11 Test;
I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the testing of the new Navassist 12v Marine PC on my own boat, Island Time.
I have had PC based navigation on Island Time for over 10 years, with firstly laptops, then marine 12v PCs. During this time, Island Time has logged over 30,000 Nm.
Howard and Co, from Navassist, approached me to see if I would test their new products, and they sent me one to try.
The PC is pretty well specd for its job, using the Intel N2930 Quad Core Processor, and it provides 8GB of memory, 128GB prime mSATA storage and 128Gb backup SSD storage. This is plenty for charts of the world and quite a few documents for the vessel plus there are plenty of USB ports to plug in an external drive if you wish. Of course everything you plug in consumes extra power but this unit is very efficient consuming only around 11 watts when active!
What sets this machine apart from others, including notebooks, is that it comes with lots of marine I/O ports and port options. 4 NMEA 0183 serial ports, NMEA 2000, SeaTalk, etc. etc. are all available. Each Marine I/O port has a latching plug for convenient cable attachment. The integrated GPS receiver, with its active antenna, seems to acquire a satellite signal virtually immediately.2 Video ports are standard (so you can run a screen below, and another at the helm).
Mine has the built in Actisense NGW-1 NMEA2000 port. I must say, that in the past Ive used mostly NMEA0183 to my PC, and the actisense is a delight. One simple plug for connection to everything on the bus! So the instruments, the Autopilot, the AIS etc. etc. all talk to the PC with one plug!. Gone is the need for NMEA 0183 serial to USB connectors (and therefore driver issues!) for each device, and sometimes complex multiplexing of the NMEA 0183 data. If you have any sort of NMEA 2000 (Seatalk NG, Simnet, or standard NMEA 2000) then I highly recommend this option.
This PC is a complete navigation system. It comes loaded with various navigation software, of which I mostly use Opencpn. It also comes with an internal Wi-Fi, AND a short range Wi-Fi adapter, so is preconfigured to be a wireless access point for your boat (Intranet), giving internet access to all devices aboard if the short range antenna has an internet connection, and just the intranet if it does not. This intranet can be used for broadcast of all the navigational data, so you can use your Wi-Fi devices (Phones Android or IPhone, tablets IPADs or Android) as additional navigation screens while aboard (additional software may be required some free, some not).
There are many optional additions to this type of installation. Of course it does not come with AIS or Radar, or weather etc, but all of these can be easily added, either on a standard port (Serial, USB, Ethernet ) or as an optional extra (NMEA2000, SeaTalk, SeaTalk NG etc.)
If you wish to see all this working in OpenCPN, have a look at my YouTube video here
This is not a waterproof device, so you need to have a dry place to install it. However, as it is all solid state, other than the water issue, it is quite robust, and suited to this application. The Navassist staff have made a good job of providing what is needed in a small, low power draw, flexible PC for navigation.

After many years of sailing, local and bluewater, I firmly believe that a pc provides the most flexible system available for a yacht or a power vessel. The initial cost is low, and the ease of upgrades and additions, plus the huge flexibility of a PC I find very attractive. For example, we have a couple of external USB drives with movies, music etc, and the PC is connected to the boat stereo for entertainment purposes. It also contains electronic copies of manuals for virtually all of our boat systems much easier to manage and find what you want than a paper filing system. Our PC also is connected to a Pactor modem for email and weather forecasts while at sea, and connects via wireless to the internet when it is available for email and web browsing when close to shore or in a marina. This connection can be Wi-Fi or Cellular using a hotspot system.
The PC is the electronic centre of Island Time, and it is my belief that Navassist have done a great job with this unit. If you are considering a PC based system, they are well worth a look. Their site is here
http://www.navassistmarinecomputers.com/home2.html
Or, as I liked their gear so much, I have become an agent J see my site here http://www.neptunes-gear.com/index.php/pc-based-systems.html
Matt Paulin
SV Island Time, NZ8720
New Zealand
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Old 23-05-2016, 12:59   #2
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Re: Testing A PC for Navigation and boat systems

Nice commercial...
But I've been using PCs and Macs on the ocean since they came into being. I never had one fail before I replaced them for newer speedier models.
My MacBook Pro does everything and is 5 years old. My 10 year old backup PC also does it all but with, as usual, a little more trouble. Each with different nav programs. Both can run on a 12v supply. Neither had any issues plugging into external marine networks.
Why buy a PC designed for marine use when it's not needed and for more money?
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Old 23-05-2016, 13:59   #3
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Re: Testing A PC for Navigation and boat systems

I see this as a good value for those who, like me, don't want to build a box from scratch. The integrated NMEA save buying and configuring an ActiSense, but I would prefer a NMEA port instead of plugging in little wires. For now my ThinkPad works fine at the nav station, but I've bookmarked the site.
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Old 24-05-2016, 11:01   #4
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Re: Testing A PC for Navigation and boat systems

Hi TheOffice,

Each of the NavAssist Marine PC Port One Options provides a cable with an appropriate connector. The attached image illustrates the SeaTalk NG Option.

Cheers,
Howard_sr
Attached Files
File Type: pdf MARINE IO PORT 1 OPTION SeaTalk NG-NMEA0183.pdf (67.5 KB, 23 views)
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Old 24-05-2016, 14:13   #5
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Re: Testing A PC for Navigation and boat systems

Hi Lepke,

The NavAssist Marine PC is meant to add value for the Mariner who chooses not to build a unit from scratch. Perhaps this value can be best appreciated with a review of the attached Marine-PC's Quick Start Guide Pages 1 - 8.

This 60 year veteran of Computer Systems Development will appreciate feedback from the seasoned sailor's of the Cruiser's Forum to better meet this value added objective.

Cheers,
Howard_Sr
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Old 24-05-2016, 16:17   #6
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Re: Testing A PC for Navigation and boat systems

Yes, I understand those arguments above - some will prefer a cheap laptop, and connect a USB serial adapter and a GPS, sort out the drivers, solder the connectors from NMEA 0183 out to a DB9 connector, load and configure the software, and you are away.


Others don't want to be dealing with these issues.


Complexity comes when you want to have a fully integrated system not just GPS on your PC. How about the Auto Pilot connections, the instruments, Pactor modems, Radar, AIS, VHF connection, SSB Connection, Sat ph or terminal, etc etc. NMEA Multiplexors are often used for this, and it can be complex. NMEA2000 does make it easier than NEMA 0183, but some still wish to avoid it.


Navassist's PC's are not for everyone. No system is. Although I personally prefer a PC, I still have customers who want a marine MFD. That's fine with me. I try to make sure they are fully informed.


Oh, and the comment about an advert - you will notice both Howard and I are supporting vendors of this site, so I fail to see the issue. We are certainly not trying any "hard sell". We both, of course, would like to sell some of our products, (so we can eat :-) )and to do so the sailing community needs to know what they are and where to go. This is also so the community can make informed decisions when they do purchase.


Cheers
Matt
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