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Old 25-02-2008, 04:47   #31
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Originally Posted by spencer53 View Post
Using a Panasonic Toughbook laptop with nav software installed in certainly something I would consider. My boats previous owner had set up the boat for computer nav and used his laptop for chart plotting, autopilot and GPS interface, etc. He took his laptop with him so I had to jump connections at the serial port plug to interface my auto-p, gps, and radar. As I was able to do just that, should a laptop decide to take a vacation, it was terribly easy to simply go back to non-computer control. As a side note, the Panasonic Toughbooks may not be the most advanced laptops around but I can vouch for the fact that they can take a bunch of water over them and continue to function fine. I use one at work. It has been dropped, rained on continuously, etc, etc... No problems. (No- I don't work for Panasonic)

I have been told by a crewman ( very PC literate) that several pansonic tough books failed just before the the start of this years sydney hobart. I believe it was an operating system problem, i can get the detail for you. I know at least one boat reverted to hand held GPS & charts and completed the race ok. Can get more detial in aweek or so if anyone is interested.
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Old 25-02-2008, 05:00   #32
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I administer 45 computers that are all internet connected and used to go to sights all over the globe, all by a constantly changing unmonitored group of people. That said, all this talk about cooties coming to you because your computer is hooked to the net are hogwash. The only way the cooties come to your computer is through the use of junk sites, porno sites, and for clicking anything that is "winner", "free", "spyware, virus, register cleaner updates" etc. Also, opening up each and every email with reckless abandon will get you there as well. BUT, on my personal computer, hooked up 24/7, there has never been an issue, but then again, I don't do what I described above. All the "crooks hiding on the internet to compromise your identity" is just a tactic to sell software. The chances of your home or boat computer getting hacked for the hope of your info is nil. Anyone doing that for a living will hack business computers that contain lots of info on lots of people. I think people that loose their ID on the net didn't loose it there at all, just use it as an excuse for doing something stupid like giving up their info to a phone caller or answering an unsolicitated email without checking hte sender etc.
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Old 25-02-2008, 08:54   #33
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"The chances of your home or boat computer getting hacked for the hope of your info is nil. "
I'd have to say you're right--only because the leading purpose of attackers is to take over PCs and turn them into spam zombies. The numbers I've heard from industry pros are that 20-25% of all the PCs connected to the internet are already infected and generating spam as zombies.
And that's ignoring the kiddie hackers who are trying to break into whatever machines they can for whatever purposes they can.
Professional identity theft is more profitable via phishing schemes and "bargains" that get people to provide their own information--rather than by slow hacking. An industry contact explained to me that they routinely worked with the FBI on the sites selling "Genuine Software 75% off!" which apparently exist only in order to take down credit card numbers--and then resell them, complete with security codes, never shipping anything at all.
Hacked? Yes, machines are hacked, most folks have no idea how to secure them. But with firewalls shipping enabled as a standard now, that may be slowly, very slowly, changing.
What happened at the Sidney/Hobart race...who knows. It wouldn't be unheard of for one competitor to go around sabotaging the equipment that others were relying on. Or for sailors to tell tale tales.<G>
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Old 02-03-2008, 12:04   #34
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Just to touch on a few points:

Durability: The type of impact a boat takes is not really that many Gs. On a sailboat I doubt you'd have any problem with any laptop. On a power boat like mine (36' 22,000lbs 22kt max) I have never had an impact that I think would even remotely cause a problem. On a high speed open console, you probably WOULD have problems.

Visibility: With a bunch of bucks, there are daylight viewable, waterproof touchscreens starting at around $1000 for a 10". You can easily spend $10,000 for a 21".

Controlling systems: Someone said you'd still have to go to the depth sounder to adjust settings. Actually there are several black box sounders out there that are completely software controlled, as well as blackbox connections for radar (not software controlled) and dedicated software controlled radar (like Nobeltec).

My thoughts:
I would opt for building a PC from scratch along the lines of the carputers, straight dc-dc power supplies that run straight off the batteries. Laptop hard drives, etc. Then make 2-3 of them for redundancy. (Should be able to build them for $300-400 each). I would mount them towards the center of the boat in a waterproof area, well ventilated. Then spend the bucks on a daylight viewable screen for the bridge and a hi-bright (cheaper than daylight) screen for the inside helm.

Then, for all the input: I'd duplicate any system that I can with a stand-alone backup.

So, for the PC, 1 or more navigation packages, dedicated software controlled radar, blackbox sounder, heading sensor, fluxgate compass, AIS, etc.

Then stand-alone: A battery GPS (already got two), etc. Always load routes to it at the same time I update the PC. A stand-alone sounder. If I was really concerned about radar, a second little 10" radar with a mono screen for less than $1000.

Then wire everything modular so if something starts acting up, it can be quickly disconnected or swapped out.

If you add up all the prices, it will probably cost you the same or a little more than the same gear in a proprietary system with 2 screens. But you'll have MORE redundancy. The proprietary system will probably be more stable and dependable. But it, also can be a single point of failure. So to be safe, even with Raymarine, Garmin or Lowrance, etc., you should have the same backups I listed above.

For cost comparison, i left out components that cost the same either way you go.

PC Based:
3 PCs $1,200
Nobeltec $1,200 (Admiral with radar)
Daylight screen $1,500
Hi-bright screen $1,000
GPS $300 (external mount)
Radar $2,500
Total $7,700

Proprietary System: (I based it on Raymarine)
2 8.5" screens $5400
GPS (included in radar package)
Radar $2,200
Sea talk Cables, boxes $200-500
Total $7,800

These are quicky costs. Raymarine calls for proprietary cabling, etc. in the cheaper line (I bet it'd be way more than the $200 I put in above). I think the more expensive, new line uses CAT5. I guestimated the cable costs.

To me, the cost about washes. So I look at versatility vs. reliability. The PC based solution has more features and is more versatile. But the proprietary system should be more reliable. Since I fool with computers, electronics and wiring all the time, this doesn't bother me. I would say it comes down to what you're comfortable with. I also say that either system you use, you shouldn't depend on it. Have plenty of backups for everything that's important.

As a side note: I have only done about 2000 miles with laptops, but haven't had a failure on any I've taken.

-dan
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Old 02-03-2008, 12:22   #35
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"Durability: The type of impact a boat takes is not really that many Gs."

Dan? Have you ever looked at the specs from a hard drive maker, to see how many G's are considered excessive force while the drive is operating? I looked up one Western Digital laptop drive at random, the shock rating is ONE G.

I've taken a data loss on a hard drive when driving in a car across railroad tracks--at low speed. No laptops allowed on the floorboards now--just on a lap, or on a seat, both of which absorb some shock.

If you look at any Thinkpad, you'll see the hard drive prtoection sensors will pull the heads up and stop drive activity if you even pick the laptop up and turn around with it.

On a sailboat? Tell me that you'll never be in 4-8 foot seas and no one you know has ever cracked some ribs being thrown across the main cabin, and I'll agree that there are no "impacts" severe enough to damage a hard drive.

What you can't see, is that if there's enough of an impact to SCUFF the drive surface, it damages the platter and the head and while it may not cause an immediate failure--it may cause one to come. But even that failure may be hidden if you have a laptop running NT (NT4, Windows2000, XP, or Vista are all NT). If the laptop is running NT and the default (invisible) NTFS file system, it compares all data reads/writes and automatically moves data from areas that are about to fail, or areas that have not accepted data, to new areas of the drive. And then writes out the bad areas automatically and invisibly.
Shocks are relatives. Drive damage can be invisible--when it happens. Sailboats, cars, and planes are all toxic environments for hard drives--except on calm days. That they work so well, so often, is something of a wonder when you think about hard drives a mere ten year ago and how few of them were expected to last that long without failing--even in the best of locations.

So, buy a Thinkpad or a Mac (both have active protection on most models) or at least a Toughbook (gel shock mounted drives) and still mount it on a shock-absorbing pad of some type. Or buy two cheap used Dells, hard mount them to the bulkhead, and expect one to fail in the first big slam.[g]
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Old 02-03-2008, 13:13   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
"Durability: The type of impact a boat takes is not really that many Gs."

Dan? Have you ever looked at the specs from a hard drive maker, to see how many G's are considered excessive force while the drive is operating? I looked up one Western Digital laptop drive at random, the shock rating is ONE G.

I've taken a data loss on a hard drive when driving in a car across railroad tracks--at low speed. No laptops allowed on the floorboards now--just on a lap, or on a seat, both of which absorb some shock.

If you look at any Thinkpad, you'll see the hard drive prtoection sensors will pull the heads up and stop drive activity if you even pick the laptop up and turn around with it.

On a sailboat? Tell me that you'll never be in 4-8 foot seas and no one you know has ever cracked some ribs being thrown across the main cabin, and I'll agree that there are no "impacts" severe enough to damage a hard drive.

What you can't see, is that if there's enough of an impact to SCUFF the drive surface, it damages the platter and the head and while it may not cause an immediate failure--it may cause one to come. But even that failure may be hidden if you have a laptop running NT (NT4, Windows2000, XP, or Vista are all NT). If the laptop is running NT and the default (invisible) NTFS file system, it compares all data reads/writes and automatically moves data from areas that are about to fail, or areas that have not accepted data, to new areas of the drive. And then writes out the bad areas automatically and invisibly.
Shocks are relatives. Drive damage can be invisible--when it happens. Sailboats, cars, and planes are all toxic environments for hard drives--except on calm days. That they work so well, so often, is something of a wonder when you think about hard drives a mere ten year ago and how few of them were expected to last that long without failing--even in the best of locations.

So, buy a Thinkpad or a Mac (both have active protection on most models) or at least a Toughbook (gel shock mounted drives) and still mount it on a shock-absorbing pad of some type. Or buy two cheap used Dells, hard mount them to the bulkhead, and expect one to fail in the first big slam.[g]
I agree with most of what you say. That's why I said to build the PCs with laptop drives. Myself, I plant to mount all the drives in a separate cabinet with shock mounting, with the PCs on either side so the wiring to the drives will be simple.

A car will generate many more Gs than a boat. It's not the up/down movement that generates the most G's, it's the impacts, like driving over a railroad track.

The jar that cracks my ribs comes from the boat slowing down (or going to the side, up, down whatever) over a period of time (half a second?) and I don't slow down with it. It's the sudden stop at the end that does it. And a rib can be broken with very little G force with enough weight behind it. And if I had a seat belt on I wouldn't crack my ribs. If the laptop is strapped down, it will slow with the boat, not crash into something.

From Notebook Hard Drive features 160 GB capacity., Seagate Technology, Inc.

Momentus 7200.2, Seagate's second-generation 7200-RPM notebook drive .... is built tough to withstand up to 900 Gs of non-operating shock and 350 Gs of operating shock to protect drive data.

Now that claim sounds outrageous to me, but it's just the first one I ran in to.

BTW 1 G is gravity. You get 1 G standing still. Maybe they meant 1 additional G? Sounds fishy to me. I'd expect any drive to withstand several Gs, which for an impact shock is still not much.

-dan
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Old 03-03-2008, 04:53   #37
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Why use a moving drive at all ???
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Old 03-03-2008, 08:32   #38
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Current forms of solid state memory have a limited number of write cycles. Windows repeatedly writes to memory.

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Old 03-03-2008, 08:57   #39
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Current forms of solid state memory have a limited number of write cycles. Windows repeatedly writes to memory.

Mike

FWIW:

Modern internal solid state drive controllers attempt to randomize write locations across all areas of the drive in an effort to reduce the percieved finite life span problem associated with flash memory. A number of studies (albeit most are probably funded by the SSD manufacturers themselves) indicate that the MTBF of SSD's are actually higher than those of modern mechanical disk drives.)

For Windows XP, if you have enough memory, say 3GB, you can actually disable memory paging to disk. Likewise with Linux or OS X - you can disable your swap file. This will reduce disk writes, but will increase the chance that you'll crash if you run out of system memory.

dacust - remember that we're talking acceleration here, not static gravity. The 1G mentioned is an acceleration of 1G - either from rest, or accelerating from a constant velocity. The effects are the same. That being said, I think the 1G mentioned is in error, since virtually any modern harddrive is rated up to 200-300G. Laptop drives are rated around 1000 G operating, and typically 10,000G non-operating. This is from memory about 4-5 years ago - specs may be better now...
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Old 03-03-2008, 09:05   #40
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The use of g-forces to express shock resistance is sometimes done is a peculiar fashion. I once had a discussion with Timex about a leak in a water-resistant to 100 feet" watch." They (add subsequently Casio) both said the same thing: The resistance is really measured in G-forces, i.e. how much force does the water hit the o-ring seals with, if you press one of the buttons or take a shower and let the watch get hit by the spraying water. For cheap watches, a 4-6G "water impact" is apparently enough to get past the seals. (I know someone out there is going to say Rolex, but as the Rolex authorized shop drying out one of my non-Rolex watches once said, "its just a matter of time, they all leak".<G>)
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Old 03-03-2008, 09:25   #41
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Why use a moving drive at all ???
Good point.

For durability, you're are absolutely right. But once you get above a few gigs, ram gets expensive. How many gigs does it take to install XP now?

If all you want is your OS, nav package, vector charts and current rasters, a solid stare (RAM drive, etc.) could work just fine. But maybe since I've never had a drive failure (and I'll have at least one backup PC) I'd rather have the space to have my whole collection of charts online (and not on a CD or DVD), and my movies, music, etc. So a pair of mirrored 20GB for the OS and a pair of mirrored big drives is the way I'll probably go.

For the main nav computer, maybe a RAM drive for the OS and several USB drives for charts could work pretty good. It's a thought. I've been focused on having all the machines identical, but maybe I shouldn't,

There are a lot of trade-offs and a lot of possibilities.

To go to the extreme, at home I have a water-cooled machine with everything cooled except the power supply. Watercooled CPU, GPU, NB, RAM and 2TB of water cooled disk. I pondered the possibility of hooking it up to a heat exchanger..... Don't laugh too hard, it's not that dumb of an idea. It would be a way to have a really powerful machine that could run in the heat and still make multiple overlaid charts scroll so smooooth, but so many points of failure, would DEFINATELY have to have plenty of backup.

Just to be clear, I'm not putting your idea of no moving drive in the same pidgeon hole as a sea-water cooled PC. The RAM drive concept has many good points with money being the only downside for me (getting cheaper, though). BTW, USB drives are slower, but a true RAM drive that emulates a hard drive through the IDE or SATA interface, is much faster than a hard drive, so there are more benefits than just reliability. Come to think of it, with solid state drives, I might feel comfortable with only one backup PC, that could pay for the drives. As I said, so many possibilities.

To see the water cooled PC: http://www.dacust.com/pcprojects/ima...0/DSCN1304.JPG

To see the water cooling system (made from antique Erector set parts):
Erector WaterPlant - Erector Set PC Water Cooling System

Just read the intervening posts:
Beausoleil, thanks, that gives me a little better idea of the usage of G in acceleration as opposed to static measurement. And your information on RAM reliability helps, too. I always figured that RAM in the machine would get written to more often than a RAM drive, so I wasn't too worried about that. That is, because I'd have a backup anyway.

hellosailor, yep, I figure having something waterproof is more like insurance. Hopefully it'll save me if I accidentally let it get wet, but I don't put my GPS under water just for fun.

-dan
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Old 04-03-2008, 14:03   #42
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Dan,

I know you probably know the difference, since you appear to be a "modder", but RAM is not non-volatile flash memory as is the case with SSDs (solid state drives). A RAM drive is a temporary/ephemeral chunk of system memory dedicated for use as a very fast disk drive. Just so none of our other readers confuse the two. SSD's have persistent memory - remove the power, the bits stay put. RAM memory, on the other hand, loses everything pretty quickly when you remove power.
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Old 04-03-2008, 16:09   #43
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"RAM reliability "
Last time I heard--and that was some ten years ago but should still be current--at sea level, RAM in a computer which is operating 24x7x365 as a typical server does, will suffer four memory errors per year simply form cosmic ray strikes.

Yes, that's right, cosmic rays and other ionizing radiation cause memory errors in computers, even down at sea level. Worse at high altitude. Which is why servers typically use more expensive ECC memory, that corrects or at least catches these glitches.

To us "non-critical" users the glitch could mean one miscolored pixel on a chart, one wrong number or letter in a document, or one system crash "for no good reason". And when the airlines tell you that you can x-ray electronic devices with no harm--ask the $5/hour bozo if he understands that x-rays are ionizing radiation, and ionizing radiation can destroy solid-state devices, even with one strike from one "ray".
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Old 04-03-2008, 17:16   #44
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Dan,

I know you probably know the difference, since you appear to be a "modder", but RAM is not non-volatile flash memory as is the case with SSDs (solid state drives). A RAM drive is a temporary/ephemeral chunk of system memory dedicated for use as a very fast disk drive. Just so none of our other readers confuse the two. SSD's have persistent memory - remove the power, the bits stay put. RAM memory, on the other hand, loses everything pretty quickly when you remove power.
Ya know, I know that, but when I was writing the post I wasn't thinking of that. (Brain fart.) Good point. Non-volatile may have different reliability characteristics than RAM. Thanks for pointing that out. Non-volatile memory is what keeps my waypoints and tracks in my GPS even after I remove the batteries.

-dan
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Old 04-03-2008, 19:28   #45
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Dan,
I have four computers on a research vessel that gets hit by "square" chop on the SF Bay on a frequent basis. The boat goes 20 knots and frequently gets some pretty severe G forces. I have yet to see a hard drive failure. Just in my own experience, the boats movement is not a factor in hard drive failures. I did once drop a Raptor drive on the floor and that was the end of that...$ouch$.

Having a RAID-1 (mirroring) configuration is always a good idea as well as a backup computer and an external drive that is normally not connected for triplicate backup as well. Of course you want to back things up onto DVD's as well in case a voltage spike takes out everything that was connected. You can get external drives with SATA ports now..which really speeds things up

Also, laptop HD's are more resistant to shock.

BTW, I too like making high end water cooled computers. ..lots of fun. I'm surprised in your rig that you did not use the Koolance radiator?

KIT-1000SL Kit, Silver [no nozzles] - Water cooling systems, pc liquid cooling kit, cpu, video card, hard drive

XP only needs 2 Gigs of RAM..in fact, thats all it can use. RAM now is pretty dirt cheap. You can get 2 Gigs of DDR2 PC2 6400 RAM easily for under $100. Newegg.com - CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail
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