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Old 28-03-2016, 07:12   #1
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RS232 Serial ports for laptop

I am shopping for a new boat laptop and getting a pactor modem. I read that its desireable to have several RS232 serial ports. Most laptops dont have them, but I know you can get a USB adaptor. Whats the best setup for boat laptop, pactor and other electronics connections?

Thanks for your help and guidance!!
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Old 28-03-2016, 07:47   #2
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

There are two that I've used with success,
1) Dual port USB-Serial Adapter
2) Keyspan USB Adapter/
The key point is you need one with current drivers. FTDI chip is best. I had trouble with the cheap ones from eBay.
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Old 28-03-2016, 07:53   #3
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

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Originally Posted by Onemoreproject View Post
I am shopping for a new boat laptop and getting a pactor modem. I read that its desireable to have several RS232 serial ports. Most laptops dont have them, but I know you can get a USB adaptor. Whats the best setup for boat laptop, pactor and other electronics connections?

Thanks for your help and guidance!!
RS232 to USB adaptor box works fine. We've had one connecting our Pactor to our laptops for years.

Sent from my SM-N900T using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app
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Old 28-03-2016, 07:59   #4
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

!!! Newer ftdi chips are coded and second party drivers do not work with them.

Your best bet is to start with an OS that you think will be on your machine for a predictably long time. Swapping OS'es makes it harder to manage drivers and attached devices.

Another tip is to buy adapters with port retention and yet another is to buy computers with many usb ports. It IS NOT the same as if extending an (=one) existing USB port with a splitter/hub - some devices (e.g. converter chipsets) require power and so if you plug many converter cables into a USB hub you may run out of juice.

etc etc etc

Long story short: get a computer with preferably 3 ports or more, make sure one of the ports is 3.0 make sure you buy quality converters with port retention (ftdi or prolific). Then plug, test and stick with what works, sell off what does not on ebay.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: not all boat stuff is 232, some is 422 (notably - many AIS units) buy cables that match your nav equipment. (There exist switchable 422/232 units too, expensivish as they are).

Have fun, avoid sparks ;-)
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Old 28-03-2016, 08:18   #5
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

As already noted, the Keyspan USB >> RS232 adapters are well supported in multiple OS's. They are now owned by TrippLite... I've used many and have NEVER had a prlblem with these units:

For one (1) Port: Keyspan High Speed USB to Serial Adapter Microsoft Surface (USA-19HS) | Tripp Lite

For four (4) Ports: Keyspan High Speed 4 Port USB DB9 Serial Adapter Hub (USA-49WG) | Tripp Lite
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Old 28-03-2016, 08:46   #6
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

I second or third or fourth the selection of the Keyspan/Tripplite units. Have used many different adapters and these always give me the least problems.

If you are not married to the laptop idea (used as a laptop you will have to be removing/connecting your serial adapter(s)), then take a look at industrial computers. These still have serial ports, frequently in large quantities, and many are directly 12V powered. Companies like Advantech and Moxa. Depends on if you are willing to give up the space for a dedicated computer, but fanless, SSD industrial computers have no moving parts and are pretty nice (if you can afford the $ and the space) on a boat.
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Old 28-03-2016, 09:52   #7
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

In my industry we use MOXA, but the in the saltwater environment
plugging/unplugging USB just helps salt get into the connectors.
This is more a problem for various hands on the gear.
What I found works wonders if you wish to avoid adapter cables
is a unit that translates the RS232 into a TCP (or UDP) stream.
nport w2250a would get your rs232 data onto internet over wifi
(we did this with data streams hanging in the forest)
MOXA is expensive, industrial grade hardware so perhaps you can find a cheaper consumer alternative.
I would post fotos but none on this machine.
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Old 28-03-2016, 09:56   #8
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

If you don't have the Pactor Modem yet, you could get a Bluetooth one and avoid the RS232. Has the advantages of being wireless and separating your computer from the SSB RF.

Cheers,
JM.
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Old 28-03-2016, 10:25   #9
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

Another vote for Keyspan/Tripplight adapters.

NMEA 0183 is, by definition, RS-422, not RS-232. If you want to connect to an NMEA 0183 data stream you should get an RS-422 adapter. OTOH older data modems usually used RS-232 (but now USB). So pay close attention.

Many RS-232 interface chips can interoperate with RS-422 but that is not usually something you can know until you try it. If you can find an old Keyspan Appletalk-USB adapter you will have an RS-422 adapter but check driver availability.

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Old 28-03-2016, 11:13   #10
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

Onemore,
Also be aware that you can purchase Pactor modems with USB connectors.

PTC IIIUSB is one of the best known.

Pactor-II/III Radio Modem sales, FCC License filing, Marine SSB & HAM Radio Net schedules &amp frequencies.

Michael
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Old 28-03-2016, 12:08   #11
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

Wow! Thanks for so much feedbak so quickly. I have a brand new Surface 4 that I am going to sell and replace with a more conventional laptop. I was thinking about getting a Lenovo Thinkpad because they are water and shock resistant. Or possibly a student Thinkpad because they are really designed to take a beating. But I just found out that a refurbished Tuffbook has a RS232 port built in. For a modem, I could also consider getting the bluetooth pactor as well. I havent priced them yet though.
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Old 28-03-2016, 14:04   #12
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

I have a similar setup but with problems with inputs from data devices being interpreted as mouse input. Windows doesn't seem to hold the port numbers.
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Old 28-03-2016, 14:14   #13
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

Yes. Confirmed: if you have many serial nmea devices you may want to consider a s.c. multiplexer rather than plugging the devices one by one. Mind that multiplexers are as expensive as a decent bunch of converters BUT they do limit the number of items of hardware. HOWEVER, if your multiplexer fails, you end up with no data. This is the downside I think (other than the cost).

It will be a very easy task for you to judge your 'multiplexer break-even' point and tell how many single cables to accept before jumping onto the multiplexer wagon. Mind that basic multiplexers offer from 3 to 5 ports only. More ports, more cost. Etc.

It is way easier if you start with N2K equipment as this standard allows you to have all the devices talking at the same time on one network. This IS the way to go with any new build, bigger system.

Have fun,
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Old 28-03-2016, 15:29   #14
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

The three SCS Pactor modems currently available all have USB connections
Modems


I'm stll using an old IIe which only has a serial connection.

On my last trip the ship's PC threw a hissy fit and refused to 'see ' the Pactor so I hooked it up to my Macbook.

I used one of these from Sabrent ( don't ask me which one it is) https://www.sabrent.com/category/cables/ that I had been using to connect my AIS to my ship's PC.
https://www.sabrent.com/category/cables/

As an aside....I was running Sailmail on the dark side of my Mac using VMware fusion but I have recently (re) discovered this stuff https://www.codeweavers.com/products...r-mac/download

I haven't had a chance to use it in the field yet but it was quite happy opening all the airmail software on the Mac side of my mac.
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Old 28-03-2016, 16:38   #15
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Re: RS232 Serial ports for laptop

Quote:
Originally Posted by davewtsnape View Post
I have a similar setup but with problems with inputs from data devices being interpreted as mouse input. Windows doesn't seem to hold the port numbers.
Yes the two challenges may be related. Your converter chipsets do not have the port retention feature and then every time you swap the USB plug, OS will interpret 'a new device' and act accordingly (e.g. take it for Microsoft mouse device).

Quick solv: do not unplug your USB serial devices.

Long solv: buy converter cables with chipsets that have the port retention capability.

I may be wrong on this, but this is how I, at this stage, interpret the problem. I noticed e.g. newer ftdi chipsets are clearly advertised as 'capable of port retention functionality'.

Perhaps others will chime in on how this works.

b.
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