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Old 05-11-2012, 17:23   #1
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12 Volt Boat Computer

I read all of the old 12v computer threads. A lot of interesting ideas. All I really want to do is run Opencpn, stream video for my kids & surf the net at night.

Here are my main questions:

Are most people still using ATOM motherboards or have some moved on to faster processors?

Should I consider any other hard drive other than a solid state one?

Thanks for any input
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Old 05-11-2012, 17:49   #2
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

Laptops and netbooks have gotten SO CHEAP...you really feel a compelling reason to build your own, configure your own, fly without a warranty when you can buy one premade for so little these days?
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Old 05-11-2012, 18:02   #3
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

If you really want to build, check into Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi | An ARM GNU/Linux box for $25. Take a byte!
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Old 05-11-2012, 18:16   #4
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

Hello Opie91.
Be aware that you can buy a car adapter (cigarette plug) so your voltage for the computer really doesn't much matter. The prices have come way down; the adapter for my Toshiba taking from 12 volts up to 19 was approximately $25.

When using OpenCPN I did change my Power Settings to "never" when plugged in. Normally I hibernate the computer but waking up OpenCPN required a reboot for the GPS puck to re-awake. "Never" allows the screen to shut off but keeps the computer functioning.

Just something to consider. For videos I use an old car DVD player (12 volts) ... small but draws just 15 watts so that's good. [Conserving power is a concern for me as I don't yet have enough solar to keep me going at the level to which I COULD get to like, e.g. with refrigeration.]
YMMV.
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Old 05-11-2012, 18:18   #5
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

Why 12 Volt? What is wrong with 19, 26.5 or 110 Volts?

Can't see any reason why SSD should be preferred. None of our HD broke down while sailing.

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Old 05-11-2012, 18:25   #6
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

SSD's have dropped below $1/gig which makes them worthwhile for more and more people.
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Old 05-11-2012, 18:34   #7
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

You just are not going to direct wire a 12 volt boat to a computer. An adapter works better. Getting a stable power supply isn't so easy. I like the laptop a lot because it goes ashore too. Buying a cheap laptop can be a good way since they are so cheap these days.

For desktops the Micro ATX or IBX motherboards are pretty small and you can build a fast system that requires few components using one of these motherboards. Just add a drive, RAM and a cpu and you have everything except wifi. I just did one for our in home media computer but a cheap laptop is still cheaper. Making it small means it won't need to be built in and a stock power supply can handle it even if you add a small inverter. Small inverters are not a huge deal.

The downside to PC's and laptops is they DO NOT work in the cockpit during bright sunlight. Deal with it or pony up the big bucks! On a budget you can't have a display you can read in full daylight!
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Old 05-11-2012, 18:36   #8
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

In my desktops I use SSD's and use NAS network storage for the big stuff and backups. A USB 3 enclosure is amazingly fast! Use a USB 3 drive to store 100 movies.
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Old 05-11-2012, 19:06   #9
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Opie91 View Post
...Are most people still using ATOM motherboards or have some moved on to faster processors?

Should I consider any other hard drive other than a solid state one?

Thanks for any input
I built one....



...using an ....



... atom based motherboard and I'm very happy with it overall. If you go this route you will be using quite a bit less elect. than about any laptop (we have two of those that also go on the boat).

[SIZE=2][COLOR=black]The computer alone in idle mode with the monitor on has a combined draw of 1.8 amps and about 2.2 amps when the hard disk is being accessed. When the router and Bullet 2HP radio (for WiFi) are turned on the amps go to about 2.4 amps without the hard disk being accessed and about 2.8 with it, so max. wattage is about 33 1/2 watts.

[SIZE=2]It is using a 2 1/2 160 gig hard disk that would normally go in a laptop and I've had no[SIZE=2] problems with it. I've [SIZE=2]been using the comput[SIZE=2]er for about 2 years now with no problems and I'm typ[SIZE=2]ing this on [SIZE=2]it now [SIZE=2]at home. I [SIZE=2]take it from boat to boat and also it is the computer I use at home. [SIZE=2]I do a lot of wo[SIZE=2]rk on our web site and this way I have all the files I need no matter where I'm at. At home it is running [SIZE=2]on an old 12 volt car battery with a charger on it. On the road to the one boat I'll use a laptop. I back my work up on a USB hard drive.

[SIZE=2]I like the fact [SIZE=2]that is has items you can't find in a laptop like a lot of [SIZE=2]USB ports and the s[SIZE=2]erial ports that make it easier to use with SeaClear II and OpenCPN [SIZE=2]and interfacing them with a handheld Garmin and with a VHF [SIZE=2]with AIS (no need for a USB/Serial interface). I have a full size keyboard and a 16 inch monitor (10 watts) that I use on the Endeavour and a smaller (10 watt) monitor I use on the Mac. I use the 16 inch at home, but could use a larger monitor if I wanted.

[SIZE=2][SIZE=2]The only drawback i[SIZE=2]s that it [SIZE=2]is not as fast as most other computers. I don't really notice that unless I'm trying to run a USB TV adapter and Netflix other than that I'm happy. One of the du[SIZE=2]al core motherboards would be faster and not [SIZE=2]use too much more elect. and I might go that way in a year or so. [SIZE=2]Right now for the video we just [SIZE=2]use Ruth's lapto[SIZE=2]p and a Lind DC to DC converter that helps with the power usage, but still it draws a lot more than this computer.

We use the computer on the boat as our chartplotter and transfer waypoints to the Garmin Map 76S via a serial cable that is always hooked up. That allows us to modify a route very quickly and send the new waypoints to the Garmin in the cockpit in seconds. I've also made a cheap...

http://purplesagetradingpost.com/sumner/macgregor-navigation/Comp-ChartPlot-5.html

...cockpit sunlight display that I've used at home, but not on the boat yet.

[SIZE=2]The other option is that you can usethe power supply...



[SIZE=2]...that I'm using in a de[SIZE=2]s[SIZE=2]ktop machine with a faster ATX motherboard as it will p[SIZE=2]lug int[SIZE=2]o [SIZE=2]one of those motherboards. the power supply will allow you to directly wi[SIZE=2]re into a 12 v[SIZE=2]olt system and will work on 6 volts to 24 volts so you don't have to worry about low [SIZE=2]voltages and charging volta[SIZE=2]ges. See link below for power supply info.

[SIZE=2]You can find the whole build here with parts and prices at the time of the build.....

Compurer-Chart Plotter-Navigation Index

[SIZE=2]If one is interested in minimal power [SIZE=2]requirements this is a viable way to go. You can also buy a computer [SIZE=2]put together from a few different sources such as IslandTime PC if [SIZE=2]one doesn't want to tackl[SIZE=2]e the job,

[SIZE=2]Sum
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Old 05-11-2012, 21:29   #10
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

I 2nd the idea offered by Sumner - I built a very similar system two years ago and am quite pleased with it.

The big advantage over laptops is that any failing component in the system can be replaced without having to buy a new laptop or to pay for labor.

No component on my system cost more than $100

I run old Visual Suite nav software while at sea - with the display turned off the system uses less than 30 watts.

Building a system just means plugging a few components together - there is no soldering or wiring

and best of all - my motherboard has a real serial port for my GPS and Pactor modem
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Old 05-11-2012, 22:02   #11
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

Quote:
Originally Posted by TacomaSailor View Post
I 2nd the idea offered by Sumner - I built a very similar system two years ago and am quite pleased with it.

The big advantage over laptops is that any failing component in the system can be replaced without having to buy a new laptop or to pay for labor.

No component on my system cost more than $100

I run old Visual Suite nav software while at sea - with the display turned off the system uses less than 30 watts.

Building a system just means plugging a few components together - there is no soldering or wiring

and best of all - my motherboard has a real serial port for my GPS and Pactor modem
Yep parts to fix them are cheap. Which motherboard are you using?

Also not sure if you know it but there are monitors out there that don't use much. The 10 inch and 16 inch I'm using are both 10 watts or less and both run directly off of 12 volts. I haven't had problems with the fluctuation 12 volt power with either one and they were both under $80.

The hardest part for me was finding a small case that I liked,

Sum
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Old 06-11-2012, 01:02   #12
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

I own a marine pc, not a custom made job an off the shelf unit.

I believe that its an atom processor, 1 gig of ram and it came with a solid state drive and its running of windows.

The +'s it neat, compact has all the functions that i need, speed is adequate for movies and music etc. I can have it plugged into my plasma and use a wireless keyboard and mouse from the cockpit. Its mounted on a wall safe and sound and runs all day playing my music collection constantly.
Solid state drive is good as it uses less power than a normal drive which is constantly spinning. I have it loaded with opencpn and charts of the world.

The -'s, the solid state drives are too small in capacity if you want to store all your music and movies on the drive, so you end up having another drive plugged in, (i just changed my drive back to a normal higher capacity drive that spins at 7200 rpm). The ram is limited in the board that i have, not that i really need it but more is always better.

Micro pcs are readily available from the net as they are used in cars nowadays for mobile entertainment systems for a few hundred bucks.

If you have any questions regarding my marine pc, send me a mail.

Matthew
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:53   #13
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

Thank you all for your input.

Not planing on using the system in direct sunlight, the daytime view monitor price/power usage seems to be just too high.

I kind of ironed out all of the details regarding the wide voltage power supply and such.

Mostly wondered if people were still going with the atom processors and onboard graphics. Sounds like most are to keep the power consumption down.

Also like the idea of a SSD for the operating system/opencpn and a portable drive for movies/music.
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Old 06-11-2012, 07:52   #14
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pblais View Post
The downside to PC's and laptops is they DO NOT work in the cockpit during bright sunlight. Deal with it or pony up the big bucks! On a budget you can't have a display you can read in full daylight!
I had come to the same conclusion. Researched every option I could think of, even bought a Gobook laptop that advertised daylight viewable but it wasn't. Found some great ultrabright, waterproof screens for $1000 and up.

Finally saw a post on the forum about surplus toughbook screens and bought two Panasonic CF-VDL02 screens on eBay for $70. They are easily seen even in direct sun, even with the sun falling directly on the screen.

They use a standard VGA cable so you can hook them up to any video card in a desktop or external monitor connector on a laptop.

The only drawback is the screens are not waterproof so I bought a 25' VGA extension cable and will run it to a mount under my dodger. The screen is large enough that I can easily see it from the helm. I figure they are cheap enough I can just swap them out if one get's wet.

So with an old Dell laptop from work that they gave me when they upgraded, a $35 screen, $15 cable, $20 12V to 19V adapter, $35 GPS hockey puck antenna, free charts from NOAA and OpenCPN I have a 12" plotter.
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Old 06-11-2012, 08:09   #15
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Re: 12 Volt Boat Computer

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
I had come to the same conclusion. Researched every option I could think of, even bought a Gobook laptop that advertised daylight viewable but it wasn't. Found some great ultrabright, waterproof screens for $1000 and up.

Finally saw a post on the forum about surplus toughbook screens and bought two Panasonic CF-VDL02 screens on eBay for $70. They are easily seen even in direct sun, even with the sun falling directly on the screen.

They use a standard VGA cable so you can hook them up to any video card in a desktop or external monitor connector on a laptop.

The only drawback is the screens are not waterproof so I bought a 25' VGA extension cable and will run it to a mount under my dodger. The screen is large enough that I can easily see it from the helm. I figure they are cheap enough I can just swap them out if one get's wet.

So with an old Dell laptop from work that they gave me when they upgraded, a $35 screen, $15 cable, $20 12V to 19V adapter, $35 GPS hockey puck antenna, free charts from NOAA and OpenCPN I have a 12" plotter.
I bought one of these two, one problem is they burn 50W on full bright.
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