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Old 14-01-2009, 21:44   #1
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KISS Electronics!

I thought I would start a thread to discuss what I feel are sometimes overly complicated features on today’s electronics.

This thread is to review those marketing ‘enhancements” that when you use them in practice are actually useless or have inherent dangers and variable errors that a novice might not pick up on.

Radar: (for me, the most valuable electronic tool on board)

Touch Screen Controls. I have used these radar displays and found them very irritating.

  1. The screen gets smudged up with oily fingerprints/ scratched by fingernails and if not carefully cleaned with a soft cloth… looks old after only a year of use.
  2. The waving of hands in front of the display is distracting and often prevents an onlooker from appreciating subtle changes in targets. Watch keeping officers love playing with them, Master hate them as they more often have to formally take over the Radar and bridge command from the W.O. so that they can monitor a multilateral situation without all that hand waving. Not something a captain should have to do because of that reason.
  3. Impossible to repair controls at sea.


Radar/Chart Overlay….probably some disagreement with me on this, but unless it is to save on having an extra monitor this feature to me is another dangerous distraction with many inherent dangers.

  1. Those who think they can correct electronic chart offsets using radar comparison forget that a radar return can bounce half way up a cliff or at an uncovered reef so the margin of error for shoreline is variable and large.
  2. Unless the radar is “stabilized” the slewing around of the chart overlay and real targets gets very distracting and confusing and you can miss small targets.
  3. There is the danger to “automatically assume” that a floating charted object is the buoy that is supposed to be there, but instead it is gone and the radar target is a small fishing boat that is not aware that you see this as a fixed object. (Has happened!)

I like my Radar display to be clean, free of distractions and tuned to pick up a seagull in flat water. To me the radar return is reality and anything that distracts me from monitoring that defeats the primary purpose to Keep it Safe Stupid!

What other marketing enhancements in electronic Nav-Com have you found troubling or do you think every feature is an improvement?
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Old 14-01-2009, 22:19   #2
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SeaTalk.

We don't have SeaTalk set up so the plotter can't tell the Autopilot where to go. It is simpler to have it so you plug in a waypoint course and let the auto pilot follow it.

Too many things to go wrong, both by adding the technical link but also in introducing another element of possible human error.

And theres the savings of a few $30 cables!


Simplicity ---> Safety


Mark
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Old 14-01-2009, 23:01   #3
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Talking

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KISS Electronics!
How about the flashlight you use to read the compass?

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Old 14-01-2009, 23:36   #4
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How about the flashlight you use to read the compass?

Flashlight??????? Just rub 2 sticks together.



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Old 15-01-2009, 01:26   #5
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We don't have SeaTalk set up so the plotter can't tell the Autopilot where to go. It is simpler to have it so you plug in a waypoint course and let the auto pilot follow it.

Mark

I guess I am still a bit of a hard ass when it comes to letting the autopilot relieve the watch keeper from monitoring and keeping the boat on course to the next waypoint.

On ocean passages, it is the only way I know that the watch keeper is actually awake and sensing changes in sea conditions by keeping us within that 0.3nm alarm corridor.

If I keep hearing that alarm, I know he/she is fading and will deal with it.

Someone who sits there for 4 hours at night doing nothing usually has trouble staying awake and alert.



I like to know that before we hit a ship in the middle of the ocean... because both watch keepers are in auto-nav mode and have fallen asleep!
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Old 15-01-2009, 05:05   #6
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trouble staying awake and alert.


Freezing cold will keep the scum awake too. So you can save on a dodger

We just have a timer with alarm set for 20 minutes. The On Watch person gets the dropped down saloon table 'day bed' and when the thing buzzes they stick their head outta the hatch to see if we are still alive.

Coastal voyages we stay awake.....



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Old 15-01-2009, 08:11   #7
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The engineer in me thrives on making systems complicated, but always with a manual backup. My big beef with electronics these days is ergonomics and user interfaces. If you cant perform the function in two or three pushes of a button, then it is a risk.

I havent been up on marine electronics lately, but I just looked at one of Garmin's fancy chartplotter units at the local WM. Touch screen. Works really nice and is intuitive (touch screens have always been clunky IMHO). As I develop software I am BIG on efficient and intuitive UI's. I like Garmin's approach. Simple and effective.
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Old 15-01-2009, 08:56   #8
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This thread warms my heart. I guess some folks enjoy spending time in port ironing out problems with their complex systems--seems like every foreign anchorage has folks working on some major system screw up. When I shorted a wire while reinserting it in the autopilot computer outside Mazatlan, I took out the computer, the head unit and my windspeed instrument because they were all interfaced.

I never found any problem not having my GPS and Autopilot linked. It keeps the crew a bit more alert to their surroundings to actually be responsible for getting to the next point and avoiding shoals and islands and an awareness of what the currents are doing.
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Old 15-01-2009, 09:47   #9
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That's one of the ironies of technology. The more stuff it does, the more complex it has to be. The more complex it is, the more likely it is to fail. Good engineering and good testing can make something less likely to fail though.

I don't care much for radar-chart overlays. Its often too much clutter in too small of a space. Combine this with radar images that lag behind. Some though are better than others...making some acceptable and others not. I prefer both the chart and radar images adjacent to each other both in the North up mode. It makes comparisons relatively easy and intuitive.

Something a little off topic. I see too many radars with the gain on AUTO. Put your gain in manual and learn how to set the gain for yourself. Learn how to tune your radar for the conditions. Most gains in the Auto setting are too high for the conditions. You don't need to see all that clutter. Its worthless info that distracts your eyes from the important contacts. Spend some time learning how to use the Rain Clutter and Sea Clutter settings. Many things about the older analog radars I liked a lot better. You really learned how to use the settings and had a better interpretation of the contacts. The newer digital radars with their artificial intelligence and attempts at adjusting things for you is still not as good as human intelligence and knowledge.

Digital radars also seem to have some sort of lag here or there. Analog radars were instantaneous...nothing was filtered by some sort of artificial intelligence trying to do your job for you. I don't know how else to describe that. It seems we have lost some control. Pelagic, you probably know what I mean.

I like putting the autopilot on "NAV" mode... only because I trust myself. Of course you cannot completely trust the autopilot to keep the vessel within the XTE that you expect.

A watch is exactly that. You are supposed to "watch"....everything.
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Old 15-01-2009, 10:55   #10
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Totally agree David….except for the Nav mode
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Old 15-01-2009, 11:30   #11
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This is another of those "If I don't have it, You don't need it" threads.
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Old 15-01-2009, 12:30   #12
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Sandy,

No, not at all. It's one of those threads which exudes CS&RWE (common sense and real-world experience), qualities all too often found lacking amongst many sailors these days.

Guess I'm just one of those crusty throwbacks, too, because I applaud Pelagic, Mark, David, Pete the Cat for their clear thinking and -- it must be said -- their willingness to expose themselves in a world which seems rushing towards gadgetry and complexity, often guised as "essential and easy-to-use".

I'm a navigation nut. Have all the toys. Have taught celestial navigation. Carry on board at least the following: paper charts, electronic charting via laptop, multiple GPS units (fixed and portable), multiple Loran sets, multiple radio direction finders, radar, compass, speedo, wind instruments, fathometer, hand-bearing compass, multiple VHF and HF radios, and a programmable autopilot.

NONE of these are linked. By choice. Each is discreet, does it's job well. If any one goes down, the others continue to function. I don't have to worry about single-point failure of multiple critical systems.

I say they're not linked, but in reality they are: in my head. I find it very easy to refer to the instrument necessary to provide the information I need at any given time, without worrying about scrolling, menus, overlays, network conflicts, etc., etc.

One toy I don't have and will not put aboard in it's present state of development: AIS. IMHO, this is just one further complication to clutter up radar screens with mostly useless information. Worse -- and think about this carefully -- AIS is not synoptic. It doesn't include ALL vessels in the vicinity. Excluded are fishing boats, yachts, rowboats, runabouts, sailboats, etc., etc. And, it's just far too alluring, with the constant temptation to read all about the ships it sees...name, course, speed, type, destination, etc., etc.

All of which takes the unwary watchstander away from his/her primary job of watchkeeping and, especially, of using the best navigation aid ever invented, the Mark I eyeball :-)

JMO. Glad there are at least a few folks out there who seem to harbor similar thoughts.

Bill
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Old 15-01-2009, 12:53   #13
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AIS will never replace radar. AIS is yet another navigational device in your tool bag of navigational aids where you need to know its strengths and weaknesses....just like everything else in your navigation tool bag.

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All of which takes the unwary watchstander away from his/her primary job of watchkeeping and, especially, of using the best navigation aid ever invented, the Mark I eyeball :-)



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Hah...I like that!
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Old 15-01-2009, 15:09   #14
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Bill, I don't have half that stuff. My point is, I won't tell you to throw your "extras" away. In fact, I'm not going to tell anyone they are stupid, misguided, or inept because they have and like to play with gadgets. I'm retired, my badge is on a plaque on the wall, and I'm not writing tickets any more. Perhaps some of our more outspoken critics of other people's seamanship should join me.

Oh, by the way, the Coast Guard has already requested comments on regulations to require AIS on a very much larger number of vessels. It's not likely that we will see AIS on every vessel (as is almost the case in Aviation IFF equipment) but I think its good to have the ability to see some of the vessels you can't see on radar, or a cheap way to see ANYTHING for vessels that don't have radar. I personally feel the same about satellite weather and DSC.

Le dernier mot: Integrated systems do not equal single point failures. Lightning strikes do not have to take out your entire navigation system.
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Old 15-01-2009, 15:23   #15
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[quote=David M;244371]AIS will never replace radar. AIS is yet another navigational device in your tool bag of navigational aids where you need to know its strengths and weaknesses....just like everything else in your navigation tool bag."

and Radar will never replace the Mk1 eyeball

Marine electronics should have one button marked on/off
My 20 yr old wind instruments failed put ribbons on my shrouds gives me apparent wind and speed all wireless cost me .10c
Love my plotter pilot interface means I dont have to interrupt movies/TV to fiddle with buttons, TV makes good watch alarm just have a good look around during add breaks and there sure are plenty of them
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