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Old 14-06-2008, 08:22   #1
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Computer advice

I seem to be having very bad luck with laptops. The motherboard just went bad on a 2year old Toshiba. It showed of water damage. The prior one lasted less than 2 years.

What should I buy? I am very concerned about power consumption.

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Old 14-06-2008, 09:56   #2
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Try a net search under "Water Resistant Laptops".

The Blue Dot Campaign. This Changes Everything.
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Old 14-06-2008, 10:13   #3
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After a fairly extensive search, I bought a Durabook laptop several years ago and have been really happy with it. I had one service experience with them and it was painless.... would highly recommend...
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Old 23-06-2008, 15:05   #4
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Maybe the various heavy duty "marine" quality laptops have improved since we were cruising full time several years ago. At that time they were mostly considered not to be worth the extra expense. We killed two Dells and replaced them with two Toshibas about eight years ago. One of the Toshibas still works fine. My advice (admittedly out of date) is to think of cruising laptops as disposable devices (the marine environment will kill them sooner or later). If you get more than one year's service, you got your money's worth. Buy bottom-of-the-line machines and backup often - we used a RAID 1 NAS device; today you could probably just use a USB HD or burn to removable media. Most modern laptops are very power efficient.
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Old 23-06-2008, 16:57   #5
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A USB hard drive could work, but for any applications that access the disk often, the USB drives are agonizingly slow, so I'd try the RAID idea, first. Or a very good backup strategy.
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Old 23-06-2008, 18:48   #6
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panasonic toughbook you can buy them on ebay refurbished....jt
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Old 23-06-2008, 19:01   #7
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The motherboard just went bad on a 2year old Toshiba. It showed of water damage.
Laptops don't handle water very well and salt water even less. The answer is less water and not stronger laptops. Buying the cheap ones often holds the better approach.
Paul Blais
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Old 23-06-2008, 19:35   #8
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+1 with Slomotion. I also view laptop computers as on board consumables with a little more shelf life than toilet paper. My approach is to buy cheap and buy often, at least for the on board navigation computer. I purchased a pair of identical Dell Latitudes in 2005 off the Dell Auction website for about $800. These are computers that have come back off commercial lease and have been refurbished by Dell. So these computers were likely 3 years old when I purchased them.
This year the hard drive on one of them took a dive. So I went back to the Dell Auction site and purchased a pair of newer Latitudes for about $750. I could have saved a few bucks working on eBay, but I know what I'm getting from Dell. So now I have new pair of computers to run navigation software, Airmail and other on board software for the next few years. I expect to replace them NLT 2011.
I always keep a pair of identical computers for my on board processing, one as backup, and switch between them every few months to ensure they are identical. This works out to be about $300/year to maintain computing hardware on my boat, which is acceptable to me.
Only one of the previous computer pairs has failed, I can and will use the components on those two computers to produce one fully-functional computer. However I want to maintain a pair of identical computers for backup purposes, which would be difficult starting with a 6 year old computer. Hence I purchased a new pair when one of the old pair failed. When I merge the two old computers to produce one I'll give it to a charity.

I do have another pair of computers on board for video editing, website maintenance and other graphics-intensive processing. These are not considered consumable computers and are kept in secure containers and are not used when underway.

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Old 23-06-2008, 19:49   #9
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We use a 12volt fanless PC, solves most of the problems associated with laptops, coupled with a wireless Keyboard/trackball unit and LCD TV/Monitor, no problems in over 3years, see my website ARCHER - MARINE
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Old 23-06-2008, 20:58   #10
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I'm wondering if an "Industrial Mobile Computer" would be better then a laptop? - something like this

The pricing doesn't appear to be too horrendous and they are designed for harsh environments. Has anyone ever used one onboard?
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Old 24-06-2008, 03:57   #11
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Buy two small factor (small box) off lease compaqs or HPs (about $130) each. Buy external hardrive (100G) about $80. Put one unit away, safe and sound. Ghost the other to the external drive daily/semi weekly. If one goes, just plug in other and you're are back in business in about 20 minutes. Can't take it ashore, but for less than $400 have complete redundancy in a very well built unit made to take hard use. Use 8G usb stick to transfer data etc from offshore onnection when you really need it. We have 30 such units in my internet cafe and they are super tough and extremely well engineered to take the vigors of contant corporate abuse.
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Old 24-06-2008, 07:32   #12
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I'm using a XO as my main navigation computer with an HP Compaq as backup. The XO uses .8 of an AMP. The Compaq about 6 amps.

The XO seems pretty rugged. I got the keyboard soaked and thought it was finished but after a week it came back to life.

See page 16 of : to see how I mounted it.

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Old 24-06-2008, 10:41   #13

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Onboard Intel® ULV Celeron® M 600 MHz
Support WinCE 5.0, XP Embedded and XP "

This machine is designed for embedded systems and would be a problem for a typical consumer. The Celeron M is designed as a low-power chip for mobile use, but that chip is about 1/8th the speed of low-end consumer CPUs these days, at best. It is also targetted to the "embedded" OSes and I'd suspect it would run the full version of XP rather slowly. Comparable to a six year old 600MHz laptop, yes, but compare the price and I'd bet you could buy two laptops complete for less.

The Panasonic Toughbooks tend to be expensive but they are among the very few consumer-market machines that attempt real waterproofing, along with shock-mounted hard drives and other "toughening" features. If you want one computer rather than two (a spare) certainly worth considering, but I'd also agree that buying two machines and having a "hot spare" onboard is probably the most economical and painless way to do it. Assuming, that both notebooks are identical hardware so you can easily transfer a drive or drive image. Sometimes they are not, due to running changes in production. And laptops that are 'off lease' from a corporate source are often in great shape--but often develop cracks and other wear problems, from business users who drive them like rental cars (so to speak) since they don't have to own them.

Power consumption will be fairly similar across any laptops with the same CPU type, and same display size. That's where most of it goes. A newer machine with a Vista-ready motherboard set will use less power, as will the Intel Core Duo type CPUs, since they are able to power down specific subsystems that are not in use--and stretch the power further. Getting rid of spindles (motors) by running software from a solid state drive (slow & expensive) or an internal hard drive rather than a DVD/CD, also can make a HUGE difference. Unfortunately, a big bright screen eats power, so going with the smallest screen size that will do your job, and keeping it as dim as you can tolerate, is the way to go for battery life.

Using a dc-to-dc laptop power supply, rather than a power brick plugged into an inverter, of course will make a huge difference as well.
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Old 24-06-2008, 15:26   #14
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Hello Hello,

Very informative reply - thank you.

To add further to the discussion...

I have read Vista consumes more power then XP on the same PC. Power consumption in general can also be reduced by having increased memory on the laptop as it reduces hard disk access caused by memory caching.

Solid state hard drives (designed to replace the internal mechanical drive) up to about a capacity of 16Gb have recently been released. Aside from the low capacity they should offer much better reliability and lower power consumption. Not sure how they compare speed wise to a standard mechanical hard drive though.

Up until a few years ago, my business sold ex lease PC's. I can definitely recommend buying ex-lease as the quality of components and construction of a "business grade" laptop is head and shoulders above that of one designed for home use. Simple rule here is if the laptop was originally supplied with a 3 year warranty, it will be durable - in fact I used to say that the 3 year old ex lease business computer would outlive the brand new cheapy. While it is true that some ex-lease gear can be a bit shabby - the opposite is also true. I quite often had units come through that looked as if they had never been used. I guess the best advice I can give is that if buying ex-lease visit the shop and select your unit rather then mail order it where it can be a bit of a lottery condition wise. As a matter of interest, I sold a lot of laptops to yachties at the time and the word was that Toshibas were the best for onboard use.

For the electrically adventurous who don't mind pulling their stuff apart, here's one more idea. PC boards can be coated with polyurethane to protect them from corrosion. A lot of companies making industrial equipment treat their PC boards this way to enhance durability. Polyurethane spray paint can be purchased from electrical supply stores (Make sure to buy the clear colour). Simply mask connections and spray the boards. I haven't tried this on a laptop yet (certainly wouldn't try it on a new one lol) but I did my am/fm radio/dvd player and LCD TV boards and they are working fine after a couple of years use in the boat.
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Old 24-06-2008, 17:31   #15
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I killed two hardrives in one year and then invested in a Toughbook. The mother board lasted three years then the usb ports failed. I brought it back to life with a pc-card usb port replicator. Since then I have replaced it w/ a Sony w/ dual processors. I bought the extended warantee at Best Buy and , of course, it has performed without problem for 3 years. I'm hoping it breaks this year so I can get a free upgrade before the warantee expires. I may have to help push it in its grave.

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