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Old 18-01-2010, 15:55   #1
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Starting from Scratch!

First the disclaimer: I am a self confessed IT tragic, and anything said by me should not be held as evidence against me etc...

If you were sitting in an empty boat with nothing but a sad and battered credit card, what equipment would you buy, and what services would you subscribe to in order to get an internet service as close as possible to the broadband available at home?
Also, is it possible to have a service that covers the 7 seas, or do you need to use different services in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans?

Basically, we'd be looking to get online to download market reports 5 days a week, email, update a blog, skype the kids, and use Google to settle arguments like "..that wasn't Rock Hudson, it was Gregory Peck!"

I don't really expect the IT geniuses that come up with the best set up to know who Rock Hudson and Gregory Peck were.... just Google it!

I'll be sitting here holding my breath, nervous, twitching credit card in hand.....

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Old 18-01-2010, 16:58   #2
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Wherever we went around the world, we went to internet cafes, using our own computer wireless as much as possible.

Everything else was prohibitively expensive. That meant we relied on emails during offshore passages, and wireless connections when near or on land.

If you have lots of money, you can do internet offshore, but you better have a big check book, and it won't be as good as your broadband on shore.
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Old 18-01-2010, 17:04   #3
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Hi Dave,
Was that fairly recently?
I found an old thread going back to 2003-2006 where there was mention of SailMail and Skymate, but I'm hoping that things have progerssed since then.
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Old 18-01-2010, 17:17   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VirtualVagabond View Post
Hi Dave,
Was that fairly recently?
I found an old thread going back to 2003-2006 where there was mention of SailMail and Skymate, but I'm hoping that things have progerssed since then.
Vic
Hi Vic,

I haven't found any systems that I can afford to use offshore. But then maybe I am just too cheap.

I maintain lots of websites and would love to have an inexpensive method of updating those sites worldwide. Our problem is that we need to have Front Page installed on the computer we are using in order to do the uploads. That means we have to take a laptop to shore or have a wireless hotpoint close to Exit Only. Our sites tend to have large pictures on the pages, so a good connection is important for the big uploads.

If you find a cheap method of broadband offshore, I'll be the first to sign up.
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Old 18-01-2010, 22:14   #5
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Data Communications (SMS, E-mail, IP/Internet) on board....

Vic,
While I don't have the time tonight, to write a treatise on data communications on board....I can offer you a brief synopsis, and answer your questions.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by VirtualVagabond View Post
If you were sitting in an empty boat with nothing but a sad and battered credit card, what equipment would you buy, and what services would you subscribe to in order to get an internet service as close as possible to the broadband available at home?
Also, is it possible to have a service that covers the 7 seas, or do you need to use different services in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans?

Basically, we'd be looking to get online to download market reports 5 days a week, email, update a blog, skype the kids, and use Google to settle arguments like "..that wasn't Rock Hudson, it was Gregory Peck!"
1) The short answer is: Iridium Open Port, or IMARSAT Fleet Broadband, or BGAN....
(Iridium Open Port is far-and-away my first choice....)

a) "Iridium Open Port" with its "pole-to-pole" global coverage with a syncronous 128K raw thru-put (comparable to a 384K ADSL landline, with Iridium's compression, etc.)......
Open Port does NOT require a power-hungry (and sizeable) stabilized antenna.......

b) INMARSAT Fleet Braodband, stabilzed dish antenna-based 150K thru-put system (FB150)......or if you got lots of $$$$$ ($10,000+) it's bigger cousins in the FB family......

c) INMARSAT B-GAN, which are portable units.....that are typically only useable in port, at anchor, or motoring in calm seas.....

It's as simple as that.....those are you choices.....
Please have a look at this SSCA Discussion Board thread, where I detailed the specifics....
SSCA Discussion Board • View topic - Satellite Internet Service?


2) Now, the longer answer is....well it's too long, but here's the jist.....

a) Most cruisers do NOT find the need for internet access at sea....since it is quite pricey....
{ Ocean voyaging and sailboat "cruising" for most is not about being "connected" to the techno world, but rather being connected to the real world......
Most figure this out and leave the trappings behind.....(heck I've been ocean sailing my whole life, and sailed 10,000+ miles just in the past few years....all of it without a computer, without e-mail, and certainly without any satellite comms.....ironically I've made my living in sat. comms. and have a very hi-tech Nav Station, etc.....but find NO need to be "connected"......}

b) Many find a combination of systems / services suit their needs very well...

c) Yes, some still use internet cafes, marina offices, public libraries, etc. for internet access, e-mail, and data communications.....
(This actually IS what I used on my two most recent Atlantic crossings, in 2007......where I found no need for access unless in port, and then it was only once-in-a-while....)

d) The use of Sailmail and/or WINLINK, with an SSB radio and PACTOR modem can get you worldwide coverage of e-mail connections, for FREE (WINLINK) or $250/yr (Sailmail).....and most voyagers / cruisers already have the HF/SSB radio, so the equip costs are moderated....

e) Some cruisers will also be in areas with GPRS (and/or 3G) coverage allowing data communications thru their mobile phones....and even in areas without decent data coverage they still may be able to use SMS / TEXT messages....

f) If they have a computer on board, many cruisers also find having a decent external wi-fi system (which allows access to many, many wi-fi signals that units built-into laptops won't even see) to be very useful....
For more info on this, see my recent (Oct 2009) set-up here:
Wi-Fi
And read over the long-running thread here:
Long-Distance WiFi Device

g) Some want the reliability of satellite, without the high cost, and opt for for the low-speed (effectively 4.8K) of an Iridium satellite phone and data kit.....
See SSCA Disc Boards for quite a bit on this....
SSCA Discussion Board • Index page
There's really a lot there....here's just 3 recent threads...
SSCA Discussion Board • View topic - Compression software for iridium phone use
SSCA Discussion Board • View topic - Help teach an old dog a new (Iridium) trick!
SSCA Discussion Board • View topic - Sat Phone / Plan Recommendations


3) To sum up.....If you've got the $$$$, there are systems that work VERY well and WILL give you "broadband" access while at sea anywhere on the planet.......but, most cruisers do not find a need for them....

4) While I'm not an IT guy, I did answer your questions.....and I do know who Gregory Peck and Rock Hudson were.....
Peck starred in my favorite moive of all time (based on my favorite book of all time), "To Kill a Mockingbird"......and just by happenstance you mentioned Hudson, who starred in one of my favorite cold-war thrillers, "Ice Station Zebra"....


I hope this helps answer your questions....

John
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Old 19-01-2010, 08:36   #6
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Outstanding reply john. Nice info. I plan on copying it for future reference in MY library.
Good Job.
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Old 19-01-2010, 19:04   #7
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Quote:
c) INMARSAT B-GAN, which are portable units.....that are typically only useable in port, at anchor, or motoring in calm seas.....
You cannot use BGAN units , ie non stabalised at sea, they are directional and will not withstand any movement.

Note that Fleetbroadband is NOT Bgan, it is a "son of BGAN", but the systems are not compatible, you cannot use a BGAN terminal on a Fleetbroadband system for example.

In practice FB150 kits is available around the $7k, with openport a little less. Costs per MB I beleive around 10 per mb for OP and double that for FB, Thats make web browsing very very expensive. You also need to seek out specific user experiences for these systems as the actual achieved throughput can be much less then advertised and to begin with their max speeds are only just tolerable for web browsing,

Sorry nothing available really at reasonable prices for offshore use, yes if you have $$$$$, but then you dont need this forum if thats the case
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Old 19-01-2010, 19:57   #8
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BGAN at sea...not really.....but some do use it at anchor and while in calm waters...

goboatingnow,
1) I do know what BGAN is, and what it isn't.....
{25+ years in the commercial sat comms business, I better know or I'd be a reeal idiot, huh... }
And, you ARE correct that they are not 3-axis stabilized units, and are not designed to work from a boat....but that has not stopped some enterprizing folks from using them anyway.....


When I wrote the statement....

Quote:
c) INMARSAT B-GAN, which are portable units.....that are typically only useable in port, at anchor, or motoring in calm seas.....
I was using experiences posted by BGAN users here and at SSCA disc boards, about their own personal experiences.....
(One gentleman reported being able to maintain full connectivity, while motoring along the coast in the Med....and another mentioned being able to use BGAN while swinging at anchor in the Bahamas.....)

Here's a post I have in my favorites....

Quote:
Originally Posted by petert
I own and use a BGAN Nera 1000 unit (they call it 100 now I think). I have done serious web-based work from many a Bahamas anchorage as we swung 30+ degrees at anchor. If the bars drop off a little, I reach over and twist it a touch based on a land mark I noted during the initial pointing (the bird is just a few degrees left of that hill kind of thing).

It's really fast, takes about a minute, maybe two, to setup and if you are careful with your bandwidth not too costly.

For instance, I usually pre-write a set of text emails, then check email, blast off my written ones, answer a few more, hit my preferred weather bookmarks, upload a couple of changes to clients website (just text pages, no big files) and perhaps blast off a few small photos to friends. The typical session comes in at about 1 megabyte, sometimes 500k if it's a quiet day, sometimes 2-3 megs if I have some more serious work to do.

Total usage about 30 megs ($160) per month. Of course, if something heavy goes down, I dingy ashore and use a wi-fi network to upload large files to save the $$$.

Don't get me wrong, the BGAN will do it, and FAST. I sucked down a 6meg PDF attachement by mistake one time. That was an expensive mis-click.

I have worked with different providers, but Eric Talman of the satellite phone store has proved the most helpful. Their pricing is on-par with most other options out there. (I don't have any relation to them other than as a rather demanding, and satisfied, customer).
For a nice read, have a look at the entire thread...
Satellite Email / Internet / Phone

Sorry, I can't put my hands on the post from the guy in the Med, at the moment.....but he was underway, and using BGAN....


2) And, if you read over the extensive thread I referenced earlier....
( SSCA Discussion Board • View topic - Satellite Internet Service? )
I think you'd see the discussion of equipment costs and service rates, as well as the details of Open Port, and discussion of BGAN not being a viable choice, but one that is quite surprisingly being used by at least a few sailors out there.....

Please understand it was NOT my intent to imply that BGAN was a viable option for use at sea.....not at all.....but the fact remains that some are using it.....and that I cannot ignore....



Fair winds...

John
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Old 20-01-2010, 17:08   #9
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I would go for:
- a light, powerful laptop with huge battery and, off course wifi (b/g/n) and Ethernet (LAN),
- one directional high-gain antenna (flat),
- one omni-directional high-gain antenna (stick, round),
- a piece of co-ax,
- a high power USB adapter (or whatever highest powered wifi adapter you an find).

The rest of the cash I would use drinking my coffee in Internet cafes, if I ended up in a place without wifi range but with good coffee.

b.
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Old 22-01-2010, 07:37   #10
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The truth is that you got all the answer that you need in your very first reply from maxingout. If you want broadband at sea it is going to cost thousands of dollars up front, hundreds more every month (at least), and it still won't be as good as the average wifi connection you can usually get in a marina.

If that doesn't scare you off then check out all of the details provided in subsequent postings.

Narrow-band for e-mail while at sea is much more reasonable and can be done via HF radio. If that would suit your needs then your time might be better spent looking into that option.

Oh yeah, and I'm old enough to remember when Rock Hudson and Gregory Peck were some of the big names in Hollywood (although I have always been more of a Cary Grant fan myself).
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Old 22-01-2010, 17:05   #11
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Grey beards rule!

The depth of information and experience from you guys is amazing.

There is enough info here to keep me reading for a while, and it looks like I'll have to weigh up the cost of getting information when I need it, to be able to keep cruising, against the purist instinct to get away from it all.

In some ways having it available but expensive might be a good thing. I can turn a dollar when I have too, but not spend good cruising time mindlessly talking on forums

Now, we've got "Where Eagles Dare" coming up on tv later today. I said it's a Richard Burton movie, she said it's a Clint Eastwood classic. Turns out we're both right for once!
No doubt as I digest all the options, more questions will come up.
Thanks a ton.
Vic
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