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Old 07-05-2019, 06:08   #1
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Ideal Boat Computer?

For the past two years, I have been using an Intel Atom-based minicomputer, sold as a media computer. It was ultra cheap and has ultra low power consumption, and is fanless. On the whole it was pretty satisfactory. The power consumption, even on my power hog boat, is a concern because I run the navigation computer 24/7/365, so in this respect the box has been ideal.



However, I have had a few problems with it and I now think it's time to replace it. My problems:


1. System clock died; making log, vdr, and some other vital functions of OpenCPN inoperative.


2. OpenCPN crashes regularly. I believe it's because of a lack of resources. The box only has 2g of RAM, and it has a 32g EMMC flash drive "hard disk".


3. The hard drive is too small, at least for Windows 10. No matter how much space I free up on it, some things can't be updated.




So I look at alternatives, but I really don't know where is the sweet spot between power and resources vs. power consumption. I definitely don't want an i7 Intel NUC, burning 20 watts and more (and costing a lot).


So maybe a Celeron box? I found one with an 8th generation processor, real SSD hard drive, 128g, 6g of RAM. But it is fan cooled and I can't find power consumption figures for it or for anything comparable.


Alternatively, if I cross the line over to Linux, would that be enough lighter than Win 10 to allow me to continue using an Atom box with less resources? Or maybe Linux and Celeron? Is OpenCPN more stable on Linux?


I have long resisted going over to Linux because I don't want to spend time messing around with drivers and configuring it -- playing with computers is not what I want to do on the boat. However, Windows has been making me sick recently with all of the irresistible updates, all the various grabs for my data, unavoidable ****** Microsoft account, undeletable bloody Cortana, etc. etc. etc. -- maybe I should bite the bullet and make the effort. I'm an old Unix guy myself and Linux naturally is more like the way I think computers should work, anyway.



Anyone know where I can find power consumption figures?


I guess I'm not the only one thinking about this, so hope the discussion will be broadly useful.
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Old 07-05-2019, 06:30   #2
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post

I have long resisted going over to Linux because I don't want to spend time messing around with drivers and configuring it -- playing with computers is not what I want to do on the boat. However, Windows has been making me sick recently with all of the irresistible updates, all the various grabs for my data, unavoidable ****** Microsoft account, undeletable bloody Cortana, etc. etc. etc. -- maybe I should bite the bullet and make the effort. I'm an old Unix guy myself and Linux naturally is more like the way I think computers should work, anyway.

Anyone know where I can find power consumption figures?
Sorry can't help with the power figures, but my first action on installing W10 was to turn off everything, delete all those apps on the desk top and start menu, then trash Cortuna. Result the laptop runs as it should.

It that doesn't work, is rolling back to W7 an option? reasonably stable and so what if its old hat so long as the programs work.

We keep a little EE 10" clam shell laptop on board for just in case times. Connects easily to the wifi and the Victron solar controllers all under W7 OS starter package. Hasn't been updated in 7 years and not likely to be either. Just works and is small enough to take ashore if we need to. I prefer it to an ipad.

So I guess the question is it worth either trashing everything on W10 you don't need or even rolling back to W7 on the micro computer.

Quote:
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2. OpenCPN crashes regularly. I believe it's because of a lack of resources. The box only has 2g of RAM, and it has a 32g EMMC flash drive "hard disk".

3. The hard drive is too small, at least for Windows 10. No matter how much space I free up on it, some things can't be updated.
Does the Micro computer have USB? can some programs go across to an external SSD hard drive?

Pete
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Old 07-05-2019, 06:38   #3
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

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Sorry can't help with the power figures, but my first action on installing W10 was to turn off everything, delete all those apps on the desk top and start menu, then trash Cortuna. Result the laptop runs as it should.

It that doesn't work, is rolling back to W7 an option? reasonably stable and so what if its old hat so long as the programs work.

We keep a little EE 10" clam shell laptop on board for just in case times. Connects easily to the wifi and the Victron solar controllers all under W7 OS starter package. Hasn't been updated in 7 years and not likely to be either. Just works and is small enough to take ashore if we need to. I prefer it to an ipad.

Pete

Thanks for that.



I might have another go at lightening Win 10, but I don't want to go back to Win 7, which was nasty.



I certainly don't want a laptop, which is what I used for years. A built-in DC powered minicomputer is a great leap forward in my opinion, with monitor bolted above the nav table. I love this format and am not looking to change that; just want the box to run properly and not use too much power.
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Old 07-05-2019, 06:42   #4
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

One thing to keep in mind is the display is a significant part of the power consumption. The smaller display you can get away with, the less power will be consumed.
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Old 07-05-2019, 06:43   #5
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

I would avoid anything Celeron.

I imagine your current system could be saved and be put to use just by switching to linux. GPS can be used to set system time. That being said, it sound's like you really want something new, and with a bit more life in it.

I don't think a Pi would be for you unless it's used a server only. Take a look at some videos, and even on the Atom X5 and X7 chips scrolling is slow, now imagine it with a bunch of tracks, lay-lines, aids to navigation, radar, and AIS.

Are you looking for a single board computer, or a full system? I'm guessing the former since you are concerned with energy usage.

The UDOO x86 looks interesting, but there is no talk of power consumption. The 12v power supply puts out a max of 3A though, so might be a bit too power hungry. The UDOO BOLT is based around an AMD RYZEN, so if plenty quick enough, but again no power consumption figures. All are Arduino compatible.

The Nvidia Jetson boards are fast too, but outside of these extremes, the Asus Tinkerboard is probably the best bank per buck. The lack of AC wifi is unfortunate, but not a big concern since all marine appliances are still on 2.4ghz frequency anyway.
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Old 07-05-2019, 06:47   #6
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

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One thing to keep in mind is the display is a significant part of the power consumption. The smaller display you can get away with, the less power will be consumed.

I understand; thanks. But although I keep the box running 24/7, I turn off the display when I'm not looking at it, and at night keep it turned all the way down, so this is not as bad as it sounds.
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Old 07-05-2019, 06:52   #7
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

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Thanks for that.

I might have another go at lightening Win 10, but I don't want to go back to Win 7, which was nasty.

I certainly don't want a laptop, which is what I used for years.
Ah, no I wasn't suggesting a laptop, just the W7 OS which I thought was okay. If you don't like W7 then scrap that idea and go for the cut down W10 with everything off as a first option before lots of fiddling around changing to another hardware solution.

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Old 07-05-2019, 06:58   #8
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

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Does the Micro computer have USB? can some programs go across to an external SSD hard drive?. . . Pete

Yes, of course, it has 4 USB 3.0 ports, and a SD card slot, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, audio in/out.



I have a 128 gig SD card where I keep all my charts and all possible programs. The problem is that 32g is not enough even for the operating system -- it won't update and then sends me all kinds of harassing messages.
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Old 07-05-2019, 07:50   #9
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

What stops you changing the 32 eMMC card to a much larger SSD one?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079NNV9...d-b1ecbd8ebec9
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Old 07-05-2019, 07:51   #10
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

Before we left on our 8-year circumnavigation, I ordered and installed a PC from stealth.com, now called spartonre.com, as they manufacture PCs specifically for marine/harsh environments. It worked pretty well and I prefer using a desktop keyboard instead of a laptop but I’m not sure I’d buy one again. We also had laptops and tablets as backups. Interesting website just the same.

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Old 07-05-2019, 08:07   #11
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

The NUC might be expensive, but it is pretty good on power mangement. I swapped out my Atom based ITX for a NUC a few months ago. Much faster. I haven't done any indepth power measurements, but at a light look it's as good or better than my Atom box.
I do not leave it on 24/7 so I don't care as much about power as you do.
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Old 07-05-2019, 08:32   #12
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

Why not consider macs? Not enough variety of hardware to get to your power consumption sweet spot?
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Old 07-05-2019, 08:44   #13
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

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I definitely don't want an i7 Intel NUC, burning 20 watts and more (and costing a lot).
4-5 watts is about the lowest power that Intel based CPUs within the last couple of years operate on:

https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us..._MaxTDP-Max=20

The i7 8500Y uses 5 watts but because it is so new the price is relatively still high.

The Celeron N4100 can be had for under $100.
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Old 07-05-2019, 08:54   #14
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

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The NUC might be expensive, but it is pretty good on power mangement. I swapped out my Atom based ITX for a NUC a few months ago. Much faster. I haven't done any indepth power measurements, but at a light look it's as good or better than my Atom box.
I do not leave it on 24/7 so I don't care as much about power as you do.

Thanks. But this:


Click image for larger version

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(From: https://nucblog.net/2018/10/coffee-l...3beh-review/3/).



does not look encouraging. That's a Coffee Lake (8th gen) i3 NUC.



The Atom box I has consumes max 10 watts at full load.
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Old 07-05-2019, 09:09   #15
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Re: Ideal Boat Computer?

DH
Isn't your setup running in idle the vast majority of the time?
My Atom is way, way slower than my Nuc.
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