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Old 03-10-2006, 15:28   #1
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electronics and salt water..

Was reading another thread about laptop keyboards getting shorted. Reminded me of the whole problem with electricity and salt water, they dont mix well. Or perhaps its that they mix TOO well. I wanted to pass something along for those who might not know that sometimes, if you act quickly, you MIGHT, sometimes, be able to save some electronics that have fallen into salt water. I have used this with some success with such things as side-scan sonar systems and survey fathometers when a small boat took a wave.

If an electronic device gets innundated with salt water, the first thing to do is to remove power to it. Unplug it. Disconnect it. If its batteries, get em out. The salt water that shorted it all out shorted the battery or power supply , too, so full power has not been applied to the circuits while it was dunked. But some power may start back making circuits when things start drying out. You dont want that.

Then open up whatever it is, remove all the cover screws, etc. Take the PC board(s) out if you can. Wash them with fresh water. Distilled water is best, of course, but dont wait several hours if you dont have it...use tap water. Bottled water. Purest you have on hand. You arent going to cause any more damage, since its already wet. Wash off the salt/minerals. A toothbrush makes a good scrubber. Scrub all around the components, especially connectors. Unplug any connectors and wash them out good, Then liberally wash it all again with alcohol. No, not rum, thats for you. Use denatured rubbing alcohol, methanol, something thats going to evaporate. I think the alcohol acts like a BVE for the water, "thinning" it out and making it easier to drain and dry. Let the board dry completely. Putting it in an over at about 100 or 150 deg.F wouldnt hurt.

sometimes I have seen a whitish residue on the board after drying. I usually hit it with the alcohol and toothbrush again if its not clean.

When dry, put it back together and apply power. You might be surprised.
Sometimes it works.
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Old 03-10-2006, 19:21   #2
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When dry, put it back together and apply power. You might be surprised.Sometimes it works.
Old style keyboards would recover when treated this way. Washing them was a good safe practice. The newer ones don't fair as well, and can often come back. The membranes don't dry easily and can take a very long time. Warm but not hot sun can help.

Salt water is far worse than sugar water.
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Old 04-10-2006, 04:04   #3
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For a keyboard, I would just replace it now that I know how cheap and easy it is. Fed-Ex and a small phillips screwdriver was all it took. Oh, and about a hundred bucks, of course.
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Old 04-10-2006, 05:06   #4
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I have switched to a better quality keyboard. I can wear the cheap ones out in less than 2 years. Key Tronic makes a "Lifetime Classic II" (www.buy.com). It has a better design for longevity. It looks like an ordinary 104 keys keyboard with no extra goofy features. They make other styles that are as poor as most others you can buy. Paying more won't get you a better one.

I have used it for more than three years now and it has held up quite well. For me the keys start to stick when they get a bit worn. I have been ntrashing keyboards for a ong long time. Except for the old mechanical keyboards from the 1980's (more than $100) this one has held up the best.
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Old 04-10-2006, 05:22   #5
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oh yes, a good quality exterrnal keyboard is a thing of beauty and a joy forever ( "forever" being a very relative term in the computer industry)

That would work fine, except for situations where a shorted embedded keyboard (laptop) is causing the whole system to fail. In that case, you have to disconnect the shorted keyboard before plugging in an exterrnal one. If you are going to go to the trouble to disconnect, you might as well replace it and keep the laptop functionality.

Buy a toughbook next time..?
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Old 04-10-2006, 05:42   #6
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I have an old Dell with a keyboard that has lost a few keys (the ones you need to sign in with the password I use it for that but then I also have a software based keyboard that uses TCP/IP to connect multiple machines to one keyboard and mouse (product called "Multiplicity"). I use that for 4 machines on my desk. I do this for a business but not something I would do aboard ship.

Most Ruggadized laptops are not that great nor are the parts that much better. Sure you can bang them around a lot more tbut not much else. You are mostly just buying a "rugged case" with an ordinary laptop inside. I think you do better with cheap ones and toss them as required. My mom just got a decent laptop new from Toshiba for $540 complete at Best Buy. Some sealed up spares covers a whole lot of ruggadized machines.

Being out in the world, no warranty is really practical to collect on. Most of your needs are basic on a ship so high powered laptops don't seem approprate. You get enough to run most common software with built in CD/DVD and WiFI. My mom even got a 15 inch screen. Buy yourself a 12 volt auto adapter and you can go a long way. Throw two in sealed bags as spares and you still have money left over. You can backup to a DVD. You just can't dump drinks on them

Unless you intend on investing in a marine daylight display panel (they are really nice) and go with a below decks built in marinized computer the cheap laptop route is your dollars and cents better deal. You can use two and have a spare for a pretty low investment. Right now Toshiba and Compaq have about the best dirt cheap machines.
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Old 04-10-2006, 06:05   #7
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Oh, there definitely ARE some ruggedized laptops out there that are ruggedized all the way through, but they are about 5K. My wife works developing medical software, so she's happy wherever she has a good internet connection. She uses an HP laptop, but its been troublesome for such an expensive machine. Seem to be heating issues with it constantly, has to balance it on four paperback books to keep airflow cooling.

The whole issue of internet connection while on a boat will be a big issue with us. Hopefully by the time we find our boat to buy, and then get around to that system someone will have worked something out that works.
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Old 08-10-2006, 23:32   #8
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A few years ago, the company I worked for bought a Panasonic Toughbook for use on a boat. When it arrived, I was surprised to see that the warranty did NOT cover damage caused by:
- dropping it
- getting it wet
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Old 09-10-2006, 04:52   #9
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I think they make several different models of toughbook, some tougher than others.

A few years back the company I worked for had to supply ruggedized laptops for an application...I forget the name of the ones we bought, but I remember their ad campaign..( says good stuff for their marketing) was a Land Rover parked with one wheel on top of the laptop. Magnesium case, waterproof, etc.
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Old 13-05-2007, 02:27   #10
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I use a Toughbook CF-M34 on board. No, it won't take a dunk overboard, but the occasional splash doesn't hurt it (when I bought it, the booth at the trade show had a fresh water sprinkler trained on it while it was operating). Mine has lasted six years so far with several New England to Caribbean trips in there, doing daily weatherfax and Pactor email. It also survived a drop from the top of the air stair on a jetliner to the pavement, so they are rugged; however I made the mistake of putting it in checked baggage once and the gorillas managed to kill the hard drive. (It's just a regular hard drive encased in a neoprene sock, so it is not impossible to kill). Personally, it takes me two or three days of hard work to get a laptop configured the way I want it so I don't consider them to be disposable items. That being said I agree that you don't need the latest speed demon, and pre-owned Toughbooks on eBay are cheaper than the new cheapies you just described which won't last six years in the salt air.

Another trouble with newer machines is that they no longer have serial ports on them, so the easy connection to NMEA is gone. You want a serial port if you want to connect to NMEA or a Pactor modem.
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Old 13-05-2007, 07:50   #11
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Iv'e been using corrosion block for years on electronic equipment to prevent problems from the marine environment. You can use it directly on circuit boards. It does not conduct and doesn't leave a sticky/gummy residue. The manufacturer actually dunked an operating television set into a vat of this stuff to prove that it doesn't conduct. Check out this web site for further info.

Corrosion Block - Corrosion Control and Inhibitor products

Eric
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Old 13-05-2007, 14:18   #12
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never put yourself in a position where you rely on anything electronic on a boat
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Old 10-06-2007, 21:50   #13
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Had an electronic diary get a dose of saltwater in Japan so did as described & dried in front of the generator vent. Apart from losing all the memory it worked fine. Re-programmed it all, got back to NZ and somebody stole it off the boat within 24 hrs.
We have used these type of keyboards on workboats for a few years & they are great. Weather proof and roll up to store easily.
Flexible Waterproof Keyboard
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