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View Poll Results: Would you use my application?
No, I'm not interested, I only use _____ (put your favourite brand here) 2 33.33%
Curious, I might try it as an auxiliary display along with my ____ (put your favourite brand here) 4 66.67%
Interested, I already use third party solutions only and they work fine for me. 0 0%
Voters: 6. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 24-05-2017, 17:08   #1
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Need your opinion about my software

Hi,
This is my first post here but I have visited this forum many times in the past. I'm a mechanical engineer who likes to develop electronics and write software in free time. Some time ago I have developed a CAN-USB device and have written a simple application for displaying data.

Since NMEA 2000 protocol is CANbus based I was wondering if adding direct support for NMEA 2000 to my application is a feature anybody would use. Currently it is possible to display NMEA 2000 data but the process of setting things up is rather tedious, so I'd like to make it more user friendly in case I get a great posititve response here.
The data can be displayed in analog or digital gauges (for now only two different controls are available) which can be customized. The software will be free but you need CAN-USB device to connect NMEA 2000 network to PC, laptop or tablet to display data.

I have attached an example printscreen of a desktop. Basically you can put as many gauge widgets as you like and organize them. For now the application is still in development and is for Windows OS only.

So I'd like your opinion. Do you think my application can serve a purpose in nautics or are there plenty of similar solutions so there's no need for another one? Would you use it or why not?

Any suggestions, critiques or just general opinion are welcome!

Regards,
Mat
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Old 24-05-2017, 19:12   #2
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

Have you looked at SignalK? Probably a better way to do this and simple RaspberryPI and N2K hardware setup.
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Old 25-05-2017, 06:22   #3
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

I really like the idea!

Most modern Multi-Function Displays can do something like this, but the options are usually limited, and can be confusing for non-techies to set up. Having something simpler running on Windows or (better yet) Android would be very useful to a lot of folks.

Another useful device would be a small gauge with a software-driven display which can show various CANBus and/or NMEA data. I have a Lowrance LMF-400 which sort of does this, but it's only got limited functionality and, IMO, is overpriced.

I'd love to have one of these for my old (2006) truck, too. I can hook up an ODB Bluetooth device and display stuff on my cell phone, but I'd like to have a permanently-mounted display showing anything from engine data to outside air temp. All of that's available on the bus, but these old vehicles didn't bother to display it.
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Old 25-05-2017, 15:52   #4
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

Thank you both for your responses.
@sbender
I've looked at Signal K. Thanks for letting me know about it. I think it has a future and I might dig into it soon. As I've seen it aims more toward wireless connectivity for Android and Ios. I might be able to adapt one of my old projects to act as a SignalK gateway.
You mentioned rPi, but you still need some interface to read CANbus and probably some adapter to read RS232/422 to get NMEA data?

@CaptTom
What kind of limitations in modern displays are you referring to? With my solution it all comes down to how many people use Windows and are not bothered having USB connectivity. I guess it is more suitable for laptops and less for phones.

Regarding gauges; it is an idea I have seriously considered twice in the past, but with the availability of low cost tablets and phones acting as data displays it seems like a suicide mission. I might be wrong though.

What kind of truck? I have considered adding support for J1939 (commercial vehicles - trucks, buses, agricultural machinery) protocol to my application as well
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Old 25-05-2017, 16:00   #5
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

Quote:
Originally Posted by matkar View Post
Thank you both for your responses.
@sbender
I've looked at Signal K. Thanks for letting me know about it. I think it has a future and I might dig into it soon. As I've seen it aims more toward wireless connectivity for Android and Ios. I might be able to adapt one of my old projects to act as a SignalK gateway.
You mentioned rPi, but you still need some interface to read CANbus and probably some adapter to read RS232/422 to get NMEA data?

@CaptTom
What kind of limitations in modern displays are you referring to? With my solution it all comes down to how many people use Windows and are not bothered having USB connectivity. I guess it is more suitable for laptops and less for phones.

Regarding gauges; it is an idea I have seriously considered twice in the past, but with the availability of low cost tablets and phones acting as data displays it seems like a suicide mission. I might be wrong though.

What kind of truck? I have considered adding support for J1939 (commercial vehicles - trucks, buses, agricultural machinery) protocol to my application as well


I would not say that it's aimed "more toward wireless connectivity for Android and Ios". That tends to be how it's used, but there's nothing in the specification about it. It's more just about getting boat data available in a modern and open format using IT industry standards.

I use simple RS422 USB adapters for 0183 data and the Actisense NGT-1-USB For N2K. I think there are some projects out there using the Arduino for this also.
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Old 25-05-2017, 17:36   #6
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

For my projects, I just use Python scripts. I read serial data (nmea 0183), perform some operations on it, then feed it to nmea ports. I like the simplicity of Python, the natural language constructs and the readability of the scripts. In addition, there is tons of information and sample scripts on the web for just about anything.

You can also display information from a Python script to a Window on the laptop. I guess it should be possible to port the application to Android with relative simplicity. My advice is to focus on a widely used and simple platform (like Python). The problem with the application is that it is static and you need to constantly update it for your own use or for others. Soon or later you will lose interest in the project and it will become orphaned. The Python scripts are so much easier to update and run (or compile into an app).

Some examples of scripts I have done:

My SSB radio (SEA-235) is not supported by Winlink. After numerous attempts of convincing the developers to add support, I did it my way. I set Winlink to communicate with an Icom type radio, output to a virtual port. The Python script takes the Icom commands, changes them to their SEA equivalent, calculates the checksum, then outputs to the physical port. The script is literally 15 lines (once you know what you are doing).

Next, I take relevant output from the SSB radio (frequency, SWR ratio, etc.) and display it on a small window on the desktop next to Winlink. This was a longer script but the entire graphics window display part was copy and paste from the web. My part was again 15-20 lines of code to read the serial data and format it for a nice display.

If you need to read and write nmea2000 data, then you may have luck with a J1939 to serial/usb adapter (about $149 on Amazon) and then once you have the serial data on the PC you can manipulate it as needed with Python. I am not sure how SignalK will help here other than add complexity.
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Old 25-05-2017, 17:54   #7
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

I'm with you on python. Any custom stuff I do, I use python. This is good example of how easy it is to get custom data into a SignalK server and is written in python: https://github.com/sbender9/vedirect...ect_signalk.py

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pizzazz View Post
I am not sure how SignalK will help here other than add complexity.
I guess if you're just building little projects that will only be used on your boat, then maybe SignalK just adds complexity.

But if you're building software that you'd like other people to use, then it actually decreses complexity. You no longer have to worry about proprietary protocols like N2K or 0183. You let a SignalK server worry about that stuff and concentrate on building great software. My software is used by lots of people with data coming from N2K, 0183, and then lots of other custom sources. I don't have to care if "electrical.chargers.solar.panelVoltage" comes from someones custom Arduino, Victron's serial or BT API's or some future N2K PGN.
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Old 26-05-2017, 13:33   #8
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

This is what I have been looking for, at least as much as you have said (other than Windows). I have an N2K system (all smart transducers, instruments) and have been using my Furuno MFD8 radar/chartplotter to display all info, including depth, speed, etc. But I do not want to have to fire up the MFD just to display depth and speed when I don't need either the radar or chartplotter, and I also want a second way of seeing the data. I do have the Actisense USB adapter so I can read the data on a computer, but that is hardly low-power or useful in the cockpit.

It is possible to buy multi-function displays, but the selection is limited and the prices are silly. My plan is to buy a Raspberry Pi 3 and use it with a 7" LCD (behind glass in the cockpit) to display basic info. Since I already own the Actisense adapter I could go that way, but given the cost and proprietary nature I would not recommend that. Inexpensive CANBUS-USB adapters are available and are used with some existing FOSS programs - no need to design your own. OTOH at least some of them are not opto-isolated, which should be a requirement. Take a look here for a selection of adapters for our use: openplotter - Sailoog Shop

It would be desirable to program this with cross-platform tools, as there would be interest in both Linux and Windows.

AFAIK OpenPlotter may already do this - I will be looking into it. You might think about where your efforts would fit into the existing apps.

Greg
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Old 26-05-2017, 19:22   #9
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

Zzzzzz... (just kidding!)
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Old 29-05-2017, 07:47   #10
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

I have real ones, why would I use the computer for this?
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Old 29-05-2017, 07:56   #11
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

Do you have real ones at your nav station or at your home?
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Old 05-06-2017, 03:31   #12
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

Sorry for the late response, I've been off computer a lot lately.
The poll votes are to few to draw any conclusions, but I'll write what I believe is the case and please let me know if I'm wrong.

Boaters are generally more familiar with NMEA 0183 than 2000. The price of N2000 devices is offputting especially to smaller vessel owners who use their boats on their summer vacation only. These owners consider having a more advanced electronic system (on top of a GPS) as luxury on luxury so they generally avoid making this kind of investment since it is really not needed anyway.
More serious boaters don't mind paying for a decent hassle free electronic system (including installation).
There are cheap DIY alternatives to big brands but they are reserved to the segment of boaters who have a certain technical knowledge to make the system work. It's a hobby within hobby. The requirement to do the installation, being able to debug problems and being capable to set things up is probably the main handicap of such free/low cost systems. Although boaters are handy people who know how to fix things, electronics is still in realm of experts. Since there is virtually no solution in form of an "out of the box" electronic system, third party solutions remain in shadow due to the lack of professional installment service.


Any ideas on how to rectify this issue?
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Old 05-06-2017, 04:00   #13
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Re: Need your opinion about my software

Quote:
Originally Posted by matkar View Post
Since there is virtually no solution in form of an "out of the box" electronic system, third party solutions remain in shadow due to the lack of professional installment service.


Any ideas on how to rectify this issue?
Openplotter on raspberry pi is close to being an "out of the box" system.
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