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Old 11-07-2015, 02:04   #1
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Starting from scratch

I am buying a boat with no electronics worth keeping.

My objectives are:

1) Have electronics which can be used standalone, but which also integrate. 2) Have the N2K backbone, short, and inside at nav station.
3) Have modules cabled directly to the short backbone such that all connections are at the nav station. Single point of failure is preferable to possible points of failure all over God's green earth (the boat). Make the Nav station the focal point.
4) Redundancy wherever possible.
5) Have displays at nav station and tablets using wifi.
6) Allow system not locked in to a single manufacturer.

So my thoughts:

1) Standardize on N2K
2) Standardize on OpenCPN run on a PC
3) New PC - All in one Dell or HP, 19" or 24".
4) Existing Android (Samsung) pads as backup displays.
5) Actisense NGT1 N2K - USB. PC to N2K interface.
6) N2K Backbone
7) Vesper Marine XB-8000 AIS transponder - Provides GPS 1 data (primary). Provides AIS 1 data (primary).
8) Standard Horizon GX2200 MATRIX VHF/AIS/GPS - Provides GPS 2 data (backup). Provides AIS 2 data (backup). Provides DSC (primary)Yea I know, not N2K But everything else!
9) Standard STD-CMP30B RAM3 remote control mike for the cockpit
10) Standard Horizon HX870 hand held. Provides GPS 3 data (backup). Provides DSC (backup)

That covers the basics AFAICT.

Assuming the previous:

1) Mount the XB-8000 at Nav station with a separate antenna mounted on the bow. This avoids the antenna mux stuff as well as "one or the other itis". Use the built-in wifi to get the data to/from the nav station. Cable to N2K backbone for redundancy.
2) Mount the GX2200 at the nav station with the antenna up the mast (if possible) or on the aft rail - to provide physical separation between VHF radio and AIS transponder.
3) Mount the PC in the nav station with a usb / serial interface to the GX2200.
4) Wire up a basic N2K backbone at the nav station. So far not used. Interface to sensors.

Here is where my research breaks down. I have not yet found N2K compatible sensors, though I am sure they are out there.

Add N2K wind speed / weather station stuff.
Add N2K Sonar.

I have heard bad things about through hull water speed and temp sensors (sea life attachment).

OK so now it is time for your thoughts.
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Old 11-07-2015, 07:08   #2
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Re: Starting from scratch

My thought is, after you work out the bugs there, you should come and do mine next.

Just a thought........
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Old 11-07-2015, 07:10   #3
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Re: Starting from scratch

Sorry for being a wise ass! I'm right behind you in my pilot house, so have no input into the sensor issue. I'd also like to know what computer your thinking about?
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Old 11-07-2015, 07:26   #4
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Re: Starting from scratch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Strait Shooter View Post
My thought is, after you work out the bugs there, you should come and do mine next.

Just a thought........


And my though is after working out the bugs, this might well make a good "cruise job".

I got my start (in 9th grade - 1969) learning amateur radio by reading the ARRL manual. Trained by the USN for 96 weeks as a Data Systems Tech, then worked on their computers and peripherals. After the USN my job was computer technician through the mid 80s, when one actually had to know electronics, read schematics, and use O'Scopes. And to this day I build my own computers and servers from parts from NewEgg and the like.

So I have a pretty fair electronics background.

My job today (and the last 30 years) is programmer / analyst but I still enjoy keeping a hand in the electronics side of things.
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Old 11-07-2015, 07:50   #5
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Re: Starting from scratch

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Originally Posted by Strait Shooter View Post
Sorry for being a wise ass! I'm right behind you in my pilot house, so have no input into the sensor issue. I'd also like to know what computer your thinking about?
I haven't really decided on that yet. I am attracted to the "all in one" computers that are a flat screen monitor with all the computer guts stuffed inside. Mostly because they no longer require a "tower" holding all the PC guts. They come in various sizes but the 23" size is nice - the larger monitor sure makes reading charts easy.

At my apartment I have a dell laptop attached to a 32" Samsung TV as a monitor and man is that easy to read. Wifi keyboard / mouse from Logitech.

So that is another option, just buy a laptop and cable it up to a tv of your choice that fits in the nav station. Many Laptops now have the digital video out port that connects directly to the TVs. The laptop can be stored somewhere within video cable reach. Wifi keyboard / mouse.

As I said, I haven't really made up my mind yet, but those two options are pretty much interchangeable. The laptop path allows changing the monitor if desired.

The downside of any such system is that they are all AC which requires an inverter. I will have an inverter but the 12V power draw is also higher than for the integrated "brand name" stuff. That is a consideration. You can get low powered laptops (apparently) plenty powerful for running OpenCPN but not so sure about those big "all in one" systems. My gut is that they draw some pretty serious wattage.

I am still trying to figure out how to see up in the cockpit. I like large displays, might be age. Large size commercial (Garmine etc) displays are crazy expensive. If I can make it work with a wifi android Pad I will likely do that. I have a 10.5" Samsung that is crazy expensive (for an android pad) at $450 but that is a small fraction of the cost of a 10" Garmin or the like. Of course the Garmin will have other (useful) stuff such as interface to the depth sensor. But the cost of my entire system so far is less than the cost of the big commercial displays.


So I don't know yet.
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Old 11-07-2015, 08:49   #6
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Re: Starting from scratch

It's a reasonable plan. I did my 26 foot boat from scratch, and I really like the way everything turned out. My 38 came equipped, and I'm way less happy about the decisions that were made for me.

I don't see where you're putting any instrument displays at your helm, and frankly I don't see why you'd do all this without that. You won't be juggling an Android phone at the helm in any kind of weather. I have wireless to my phone (and Garmin Quatix watch) and while I use both while trimming away from the cockpit --in fair weather-- , they're too much hassle to bother with constantly at the helm. They also lack a bright enough or large enough display to be recognized quickly. You'll find they're quite useless in an emergency situation when you need them the most. You'll be disincented to get them out in rain or weather, also when you really need them.

Put at least one installed marine grade multi-function display at your helm.

Reconsider the idea of using a PC. With very good chartplotters such as the Garmin 740 7" touch screen being <$800, 12VDC and marine environment proof, you're going to waste more money in the long term trying to use one device (a PC) to be both your chartplotter and your PC.

Or better bet--get both. OpenCPN can transfer routes to chartplotters so you can work at your nav station for route planning and then actually navigate that route at the helm on the chartplotter.

Otherwise, ditch the Dell and build a PC with a 12VDC power supply. It will dramatically reduce your amp draw vs. inverting and be a lot more reliable. You can get them built--just google "12VDC PC", they exist and work well on boats. Also be sure to get a solid-state drive. I've replaced dozens of hard-drives prematurely as the IT guy on a Navy vessel because of ship's roll putting torque on the drive spindles.

Finally, I would strongly consider just using a Raspberry Pi with OpenCPN so your system is 100% solid state, no fans. That will last a lot longer in a marine environment.

Plenty of N2K sensors available. The Maretron WS100 is flat-out the best priced wind instrument out there, and its solid state. Very reliable. I've got one, it works fantastically well. You do not need the Maretron head unit to control it, you just have to manually align its 0 degree line to the ship's bow. Also check out the Airmar unit which includes air temp and barometer.

Prefer a stern mounted speed/temp if you don't like thru-hulls. Just be prepared for error reports if wake turbulence gets it out of the water. I too prefer the fewest possible thru-hulls. Also plenty of N2K units.

Be aware that the SeaTalkNG and SIMnet sensors are all N2K compatible, they just have different connectors. You can get or make adapters and use all of those sensors as well. Sometimes they have custom proprietary PGNs, but most of them also report standard N2K as well.

I don't see an autopilot in your list of trons. Check out the RayMarine EV-1, tiller or wheel. Fantastic unit, I installed one in my N2K network with just adapters and it works well, integrated with my Garmin no problem.

Concur with your plan to keep the backbone largely in one place. That works well with N2K and minimizes troubleshooting. Mine is split with a segment inside the helm for the plotter, instruments, and autopilot control head.

Good luck, post progress, and I'd be happy to help with any troubleshooting specifics.
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Old 11-07-2015, 11:13   #7
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Re: Starting from scratch

Thanks for the reply mstrebe.

A while back I purchased several "Raspberry Pi clones" including one Beaglebone Black and several Odroid-C, both of which have more horsepower than the Raspberry Pi, at least at the time I purchased.

The biggest problem with that route is simply the issue of working with Linux if anything goes sideways. And stuff always goes sideways!

I sure intend to play with that however.

I kinda figure I will end up with something like a Garmin GPSMap or EchoMap. It seems the manufacturers intentionally obfuscates what these things do, so I am having difficulty determining which to buy, but EchoMap seems the choice since I have GPS data from all over with the rest of the system. Perhaps the 73DV with transducer to nail down the depth finder aspect.

One of the issues with that route is the map (charts) side of the house. Suddenly I am buying charts (again). And it is NMEA 0183 Compatible. Sigh.

I am not finding the 740 for <$800 except used on EBay. In fact it seems the 740 has been replaced with the 741 for twice the price.

It seems that the manufacturers do their best to lock you in to their line, and then when all is said and done your spending $10K or something silly.
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Old 11-07-2015, 11:26   #8
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Re: Starting from scratch

Don't get the EchoMap if you want N2K connectivity--it lacks the port. Seems like manufacturers are taking this very valuable port off their low-end units to guarantee that you have to replace them when you figure out that you need to.

Yeah, the manufacturers piss me off with all the silly lock in BS, proprietary PGNs, and so forth.

You need depth, and you're going to have to have a chart-plotter to get depth. There are very few N2K "pure" depth instruments because it takes a bit of CPU horsepower to calculate depth, so it's way cheaper to use the chartplotter's CPU and a custom depth sensor that just sends and listens for pings and sends the analog signal to the CPU for interpretation.

If you're looking for cheap, try the Garmin 42xs or 54xs series. These have N2K, depth, a tiny little screen, and some combination of none to some charts. They make a good helm instrument display even without charts and provide depth and GPS data to the network. A good value overall, and useful in their own right without spending on charts. You can buy them in a very cheap chart-free configuration with the 421s going for as little as $400 including sounder. Then if you decide you want charts, its a $160 chip. Don't bother with the silly $300 3D chart BS--totally unnecessary for boating. The $160 chip contains everything you need.

Or--just get one of those 740s on Ebay, as they're a fantastic unit so long as you get the sounder with it.

Then add your PC on top of that and you've got a system.

Also, you seem like you're on your way to true geekdom. Only lack of Linux knowledge is holding you back :-)

There are only 20 UNIX commands you need to know. Learn those, and learn the boot process, and you've got the whole thing down pat. Avoid the GUIs, they're all stupid. Just do the command line stuff and once you have that down, you can do all the open source projects like a boss.
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Old 11-07-2015, 11:44   #9
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Re: Starting from scratch

By the way, the Sony Z2 tablet (10.1") is truly waterproof. At $500, the cost of ONE of the highly popular tiny little MFDs.

Amazon.com : Sony Xperia Z2 10.1 inch Tablet (Black) - International Version - (Qualcomm 2.3GHz, 3GB RAM, 16GB Memory, Google Android 4.4) : Computers & Accessories

I am trying to figure out how to use that as the cockpit display.
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Old 11-07-2015, 11:49   #10
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Re: Starting from scratch

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Originally Posted by mstrebe View Post
If you're looking for cheap, try the Garmin 42xs or 54xs series. These have N2K, depth, a tiny little screen, and some combination of none to some charts. They make a good helm instrument display even without charts and provide depth and GPS data to the network. A good value overall, and useful in their own right without spending on charts. You can buy them in a very cheap chart-free configuration with the 421s going for as little as $400 including sounder. Then if you decide you want charts, its a $160 chip. Don't bother with the silly $300 3D chart BS--totally unnecessary for boating. The $160 chip contains everything you need.
I'm confused, where do I find these? Google is not my friend today.
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Old 11-07-2015, 12:00   #11
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Re: Starting from scratch

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Originally Posted by mstrebe View Post
Don't get the EchoMap if you want N2K connectivity--it lacks the port. Seems like manufacturers are taking this very valuable port off their low-end units to guarantee that you have to replace them when you figure out that you need to.
Well it appears that the NMEA 0183 electrical interface is RS422. There are USB to (4 port) Serial converters which natively speak 422. Hmmm...

Quote:
You need depth, and you're going to have to have a chart-plotter to get depth. There are very few N2K "pure" depth instruments because it takes a bit of CPU horsepower to calculate depth, so it's way cheaper to use the chartplotter's CPU and a custom depth sensor that just sends and listens for pings and sends the analog signal to the CPU for interpretation.
Well any low end laptop has horsepower to spare. I am open to a packaged solution though if the price is right.

Quote:
If you're looking for cheap, try the Garmin 42xs or 54xs series. These have N2K, depth, a tiny little screen, and some combination of none to some charts. They make a good helm instrument display even without charts and provide depth and GPS data to the network. A good value overall, and useful in their own right without spending on charts. You can buy them in a very cheap chart-free configuration with the 421s going for as little as $400 including sounder. Then if you decide you want charts, its a $160 chip.
Not finding those.

Quote:
Also, you seem like you're on your way to true geekdom. Only lack of Linux knowledge is holding you back :-)

There are only 20 UNIX commands you need to know. Learn those, and learn the boot process, and you've got the whole thing down pat. Avoid the GUIs, they're all stupid. Just do the command line stuff and once you have that down, you can do all the open source projects like a boss.
[/QUOTE]

Yea yea yea... I really don't want to go back to the dark ages. I had to figure out CPM86 for my home-built back in the early 80s. Now I have to figure out the equivalent 30 years later?????

That stuff gets old...
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Old 11-07-2015, 12:37   #12
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Re: Starting from scratch

SeaWi Marine app for Android for displaying nmea 2000 data streams on a tablet. A waterproof Sony Z2 10" tablet?

https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...tivities&hl=en

If I have to be a nerd, perhaps I need to get into Android app development.
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Old 11-07-2015, 12:48   #13
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Re: Starting from scratch

Sorry, I was referencing the family of models.

Google "Garmin 421s", 441, 541. They should lead you to the other family variants.
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Old 11-07-2015, 14:19   #14
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Re: Starting from scratch

If you go the PC route, be aware that some laptops consume as much as 4 times the power as other laptops.
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Old 12-07-2015, 23:27   #15
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Re: Starting from scratch

If you are building a small system with little to no redundancy, N2K is probably OK. But if you are building a larger system with redundancy, I'm finding that N2K is just not up to the task.

I'll say right up front that I probably have a move complex system than most. Dual GPSs, Heading sensors, Auto Pilots, Depth sounders, VHFs, Radars, etc. I started out insisting on a purely N2K boat, and achieved it except for an 0183 feed to the SSB radio. But I had no end of trouble, many of which related to N2K. Now about 1/2 of my nav gear is on 0183, and half on N2K. Yet I continue to have problems. All the problems I have figured out how to reproduce, created traces, and in most cases identified exactly what's going wrong. Then I have shared that with the vendor(s) involved. I have an enormous amount of time invested in this. So far only 2 vendors have fixed problem that I have reported (Rose Point Navigation, and Hemisphere GPS). All other issues remain unresolved.

Just for kicks, the other day I did a tally of the N2K equipment I have owned/own based on whether I have found bugs in the product. The results were shocking. Only 20% worked as they were supposed to. A whopping 80% had clearly identifiable bugs or otherwise did not operate as they were supposed to. Many of these products have have subsequently returned, and others I still own and continue to work with the vendors to try to get them fixed.

Many of the problems are subtle and would go unnoticed by most people. Any many would be brushed off as "glitches". I just take the time to track down the anomalies that I see.

It has become very clear that vendors don't test their products with anyone else's products, and that NMEA 2000 Certification is a complete joke. I can name countless products that are NMEA Certified that blatantly violate the spec and cause all sorts of problems as a result.

I am now seriously considering switching all my nav gear over to 0183. I'm just so tired of debugging other people's products then banging my head against the wall trying to get them fixed. There is a reason why N2K is not accepted for IMO certified products.

I have detailed many of the problems on my blog, and even created a category of posts called the Wall of Shame. And there are more to come. N2K to 0183 converters, for example, are highly problematic. And I have more recently found significant problems in the Furuno NavPilot 700 and Icom M506 VHF.

It's all very disappointing, not just because of all the problems, but because N2K has so much potential to be so good. But it has fallen way, way short of delivering on that potential, and I really question whether it ever will. Over my carrier I have worked on 1/2 dozen or more new industry standards in technology, and every one of them has converged within 2-3 years such that every vendor inter-operates with every other vendor and things "just work". N2K has been around for 15 years, and has been widely implemented in every major vendor's product line for probably 8 years. If it hasn't converged yet, I question whether it ever will. I think it's fine for your average runabout, but just not up to the task of serious navigation.
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