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Old 29-12-2007, 16:35   #1
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PC based marine electronics?

my vision:

I would like a gps/radar/depth finder/plotter/autopilot that all run through a laptop...does this exist?...What I imagine is that I can run this stuff through a laptop...then have monitors in the forward cabin...as well as a large flat screen in the main cabin...

Can anyone point me in the right direction or is this a fantasy? Thanks..Dave
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Old 29-12-2007, 17:02   #2
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Raymarine can do all you want and more.

(I have no relationship of any kind to raymarine.)
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Old 29-12-2007, 17:59   #3
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Dave:

Are you SURE you really want to do this? Creating a single point of failure (the laptop) for multiple CRITICAL systems (depth, radar, gps, autopilot, etc.) isn't really a very good idea, IMHO.

Now, tell me you're not thinking of running all this under Windows :-)

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Old 29-12-2007, 19:12   #4
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I don't think it'd be a bad idea, just one that would require backups like you should have anyway. some other means to find your position and paper charts, a lead line, and some backup way to autopilot be it a windvane or even just something you rig up with ropes, pulleys and bungees. radar isn't really ESSENTIAL so despite the bad idea of having yet another point of failure for it, it wouldn't be a huge loss if you did lose it.

I don't think it's a bad idea to set things up for coolness factor, which this is basically all you're doing. As long as you can afford it, know how it works, and have backups and know how they work. You may find out that this is more trouble than it's worth to deal with though. Your boat, your choice.
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Old 29-12-2007, 19:52   #5
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"Now, tell me you're not thinking of running all this under Windows :-)"
Heck, Bill, he'd have one hell of a time trying to get a version that ran under GEM.
<G>

But laptops can be cheap enough to carry a hot spare if it is that critical, probably way cheaper than carrying spares for all the other stuff as separate pieces. Then again, no hard drive is meant to operate in pounding seas...I don't think I'd trust that kind of system unless it could run entirely from memory, or a solid-state "drive".

I'd be afraid to ask what any vendor was going to charge for that kind of integrated system, though.
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Old 29-12-2007, 20:00   #6
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sluissa, dont understand why you would say Radar really isnt essential.. My radar is what keeps everything else in tune on my boat... that and a greese pencil..
If I had one working piece of electronics, it would be radar, I've sailed many days up and down the west coat, From Alaska to Mexico and much of it in the FOG or the dead of night.. My radar is what kept me on the right course..
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Old 29-12-2007, 20:50   #7
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randyonr3: my argument is going to be the same as most people will have. radar for ship use was only created during world war 2. Before that people did fine without it.
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Old 29-12-2007, 22:20   #8
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This isnt pre-WWll, and I doubt you have the ability to sail by the stars..
If you want to sail blind in fog and storm, well thats your life, as little as it might mean to you..... but to tell someone that radar is a non-essential piece of equeptment..
The coastal areas of this world we live in are littered with the shipwrecks of those that think like you............
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Old 29-12-2007, 23:12   #9
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Originally Posted by Randyonr3 View Post
but to tell someone that radar is a non-essential piece of equeptment.. ..........
Interesting 2 viewpoints.
I havent sailed much in fog at all... haze of bleary eyes but not fog and I kinda guess that radar is about the only way to see in fog.

So now thats out of the way let me say this... I don't find much of a difference with radar. I've sailed on many boats some with and many without and I find I just do things a bit differently. See a ship and turn on radar to see if its going to wallop you, but with no radar you just pick up a bearing compass. the compass is quicker than waiting for the radar to warm up too
I guess with unfamiliar night landfalls etc radar would be good, but then have done lots with just paper charts and no gps... just take a few more bearings and look closer for little flashing lights.

With AIS receivers its another thing where radar can be done without when offshore.

Going through the Doldrums it was fun to squall hop with radar... but thats kinda cheating isnt it?

I'm looking for a boat soon and I doubt it will have radar. I sure as hell won't be buying radar for a present for Nicolle. But there again I'm not intending on going up the US coast either east or west, nor the English channel.

But if someone were to shove a nice new radar in my letterbox.....


Mark
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Old 29-12-2007, 23:20   #10
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People still manage to run aground even with radar...

But, I don't want to get into a flame war about this, this isn't even what this thread is about, let's just end it with that we both have different opinions on what is essential.

I'll agree with the windows statement though. Wouldn't(if I were smart) trust anything important to a windows computer.
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Old 30-12-2007, 00:25   #11
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I run my navigation software on Windows all the time. Windows is reliable enough so long as you use your computer ONLY for navigation and it is NEVER connected to the internet. Its when you start loading all this other crap like firewalls, anti virus software, ad aware, and all this other stuff that is necessary for a computer that needs to be connected to the internet that you start having problems. You also don't want to add any other software. Windows XP is relatively stable when all it does is run one software application. Honestly, I have never had Windows on my navigation computer crash. If it ever does I go back to paper charts and a hand held battery powered GPS...no big deal.

I have 5 Windows computers on my research boat. My navigation computer is not connected to any of the other computers just for this purpose. The internet computer especially is not connected to the other computers. The remaining three computers are for data logging and running oceanographic instruments.

Of course, don't depend solely on Windows, just as you would have a backup for everything else on a boat. What is really nice about Windows are...the windows. You can click and drag them anywhere you like and make them as big or as small as you wish...unlike what you are very limited in doing with proprietary systems like Raymarine SeaTalk or Furuno NavNet. Basically, with a Windows based integrated navigation system you don't have to choose one or the other which gives you much more choice.

As for for me...radar is an absolute necessity to do my job. I run through fog frequently on the SF Bay and at night, running through a fog bank without radar would be absolute insanity.

I have said numerous times in this forum that the best thing to do is to get all the navigation equipment you can afford because no one piece of navigation equipment replaces another....they all add to your navigational arsenal.

If you want to do this right, look at what Nobeltec is offering with a radar image overlayed onto a NOAA chart. This can be integrated with you sounder and a bunch of other functions such as wind, engine readings and a bunch of other parameters. If something can output a NMEA 0183 sentence or better, then you got it. NMEA multiplexers are available so you can take a bunch of NMEA inputs and send the data stream right into your computer via its serial port or ethernet port. Thats how we datalog our GPS, sounder, speed doppler and metorological information which time correlates to the oceanographic data we collect.

Many companies are offering radar, chart, sounder and other "blackboxes" designed to show an image and/ or data on a VGA monitor. There is software available to integrate this as well.
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Old 30-12-2007, 04:35   #12
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There are many devices that output NEMA data so you can use the laptop to MONITOR the state of things. This is becoming pretty common and easy. Even the freeware nav program SeaClear does AIS and lacks only Radar display.

Your post seems to imply that you would like to have CONTROL of all functions/parameters from the laptop. While that is certainly possible and may happen soon, it seems to me that currently manufacturers are unwilling to agree on standards of communication and control or to share/publicize the protocols when they exist.

Anyway, the fact that you have to go to the depth sounder itself to change the offset and gain etc allows for a proper amount of redundancy. In a situation where things were totally integrated then all the sensors/peripherals are likely to be black boxes and when the laptop is out of service you lose all functionality instead of only losing the chart plotter and an admittedly convenient single point display.
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Old 30-12-2007, 09:41   #13
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Not that it really matters, but I mention this because I see an acronym mixup frequently regarding NMEA - and just in case anyone starts doing some Google searches and not finding what they are looking for.

NMEA = National Marine Electronics Association. This is the group responsible for marine interface "standards".

NEMA = National Electical Manufacturers Association. They do general electrical "standards" like plugs and such.

And, yes, there's a reason I quoted the word standards, simply because there's no such thing (or perhaps more accurately - so many to choose from!).

Back to the regularly scheduled thread already in progress.
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Old 30-12-2007, 10:05   #14
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The next time anyone is on a cruise ship like Carnival Cruise Lines, take a walk around the bridge. Windows XP runs on navigational computers 24/7. Courses are plotted these days with 'point and click' on 17" monitors.

It's a brave new world...
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Old 30-12-2007, 10:13   #15
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Two points here regarding cruise ships: firstly, they have computers (not a single computer) for the required redundancy; secondly, they operate in a temperature/humidity controlled environment.

While I have never examined them, I would also guess that they are using computers designed and manufactured for the marine envirionment - something which can be said about dedicated chartplotters, but not about the garden variety laptop.

Brad
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