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Old 13-08-2010, 11:38   #1
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Thoughts on Older Toughbooks (Cf-29, etc.)

Still a relevant option? It does not seem like the hardware requirements for running a basic charting solution are too steep, barring the latest greatest things like MaxSea TimeZero. If I am just going a basic route, something like OpenCPN + a free Grib Viewer, are people finding their older generation toughbooks (e.g., the CF29 era) horribly slow and bogging down on simple tasks or nimble enough for basic navigation needs?

I suppose the best way to know is simply to get one (they go for 200$-300$ on eBay for fully restored machines running XPsp3) and simply see if it works well enough for me. I like the ease of 12v adaption, the resilience to weather (which is what is prompting me to sell my MacBook Pro, I just don't think it will survive a long-distance cruise even though it has survived living aboard in humid conditions for 5 years...), etc.

Anyone using WX programs on their Toughbooks either via HF or Iridium? How is the performance in this respect?

Anyone trying to do Fugawi ENC on a Toughbook CF-29 (or similar)? It looks like old versions of MaxSea, SeaClearII, OpenCPN, etc. would meet the hardware requirements...
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Old 13-08-2010, 12:13   #2
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I bought an older toughbook on Ebay for about $70, added a HD, CD-ROM and RAM for about another $120 or so and it works great with Maptech software. I wanted a dedicated machine with no connection to the 'net (to avoid viruses), so for that narrow purpose, it's a cheap and easy option.
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Old 13-08-2010, 12:36   #3
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I would say add a nice Solid State drive, they are super reliable and can stand the pounding (No moving parts) The prices have come down alot for the 128 GB size. I got a 64GB for under a $100 recently, I have a 32GB in an old 9" EEEpc I bought for $100. Store maps on CD as back up. if you need more space add a back pack drive for movies, tunes etc..
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Old 13-08-2010, 12:55   #4
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ssd...

I noticed the price drop in SSD drives too... great suggestion ... did you go external SSD or did you install an internal one?

anyone know how many amps their toughbooks draw using just nav software?

thanks!
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Old 13-08-2010, 14:08   #5
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I did an internal in the old EEEpc and bought a 64 to put in a Dell dual core 15" wide screen that I use mostly for internet, personal home office, skype, stream audio while around the house. But I want it to start faster(benefit of SSD) and be more rugged for when i fall asleep in the couch or easy chair with the laptop is sitting on the arm rest. I hate it wakes me up when it hits the floor.
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Old 13-08-2010, 16:11   #6
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My first chart plotter on Green Flash was a CF-50 with a little USB GPS and Sea-Clear software. It worked well, but the CF-50 is NOT waterproof. It took a splash into the keyboard and lost the use of the keys to the right of the "G" key.

I replaced the keyboard ($50 on ebay.. ouch!) but have since then bought a refirb Garmin GPSMap 540 for less than another laptop.

The CF-29 series is fine for what you want to do as long as you don't try to multitask by by running a music player or anything web-based.

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Old 13-08-2010, 17:10   #7
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Negative.

Go get yourself a netbook. Disposable, sure, but twice the fun at the same price.

A netbook will:
- run your nav software,
- and everything else,
- and use a percentage of the power,
- and be light to carry around,
- and access the Internet anywhere.

And you will simply buy a new year when the first one dies.

A new netbook is much faster and more reliable than any old laptop. Not waterproof ? (there might be some!) ... well, 'nobody's perfect!'.

my 2c
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Old 13-08-2010, 20:50   #8
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Ahh, there lies the rub.. if a netbook is about $200 delivered, and an older toughbook can be had for $400, and they are really about the same for running that kind of stuff.. hmm.. could be a tough call, really lightweight and easy to stow vs killer rugged design.
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Old 13-08-2010, 21:15   #9
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I bought a new laptop, went with the higher end model, dog knocked it off my coffee table, and it landed in such a way it cracked the LCD screen, the laptop cost me $749, the new screen was $535, the damn thing was 2 months old. I went with a cheaper laptop second go around.

For use on a boat that is an unstable work area, where something can be dropped slid off a counter or table, the tough book is well worth it. The older ones are tough as nails and if you are just running simple programs and basic internet they are just fine, and you can rest easy the first time you are carrying it and lose your balance and drop it, that is won't become a shattered piece of junk.

If you have personal files, etc stored on one that is priceless. I would hate to have photos or other things on a cheap netbook to have it die and not be able to recover them.
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Old 14-08-2010, 01:45   #10
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I bought a new Toughbook when I started cruising in 1999, & used it for five years exclusively on the boat including Atlantic crossing. It refused to go wrong but despite upgrading memory & drives, it became hopelessly slow with newer software.

The point I'm making is I could have bought three new state-of-art laptops for the same price during that time.

Note also that Panasonic are notoriously conservative when it comes to choosing components for their Toughbooks, so when you buy one the spec is already a year behind its competitors.
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Old 14-08-2010, 05:27   #11
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I went that route before. I believe mine was a ToughBook 27. Might have been an older model than the one your looking at. It worked, but all together it was more trouble than it was worth. Older components seemed to be hard to find. Could not see the screen real good in the sun. Laptop could not recognize some of the newer peripherals. The list goes on.

I now have one of the 12v carputers mounted in one of the driest parts of the boat. It is like using a newer desktop. Running Offshore Navigator, with all RCN charts on hard drive. Cheap GPS connected to USB port shows realtime tracking. Music files played over Clarion stereo. DVD external drive at navstaion. Can use any size monitor, but the 12v external block types are getting hard to find. I am in the process of installing one of the small car monitors in the cockpit if I can figure out how to keep water out of it.

If you have the skill to get one of the old Panasonics going, you could /will be able to put one of these together for less than you will end up paying for the finished laptop. You don't need the latest and greatest parts.

Glen
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Old 14-08-2010, 05:36   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Dad View Post
Ahh, there lies the rub.. if a netbook is about $200 delivered, and an older toughbook can be had for $400, and they are really about the same for running that kind of stuff..
Not so when it comes to power consumption. The Netbook sips while the Powerbook drinks deep... not good when on a limited amp budget... I'm with Barnakiel.
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Old 14-08-2010, 14:08   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Dad View Post
Ahh, there lies the rub.. if a netbook is about $200 delivered, and an older toughbook can be had for $400, and they are really about the same for running that kind of stuff.. hmm.. could be a tough call, really lightweight and easy to stow vs killer rugged design.
True. Yet machines have limited life time.

An old laptop is unlikely to give you the same life time as a new one.

Also, with any old laptop allow for the price of a new battery. And this can be wild - easily in the range of 100 USD for an old model (no comment on how good it is, new, for a model that has been out of production for more than two years).

In my case the price asked for a new battery was 100 USD (laptop Acer from 2007), so I just got a new netbook from Asus for 250. To me, the better deal.

Lack of toughness factor in netbooks is of little importance unless you want to work in the field/cockpit. Down below you can hang the little thing from the roof and use a USB keyboard on the nav table - thus limiting all risk from coffee and most from the flying spray.

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Old 15-08-2010, 03:01   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Also, with any old laptop allow for the price of a new battery. And this can be wild - easily in the range of 100 USD for an old model (no comment on how good it is, new, for a model that has been out of production for more than two years).

In my case the price asked for a new battery was 100 USD (laptop Acer from 2007), so I just got a new netbook from Asus for 250.
Shopping around on the Internet you can obtain batteries for most popular laptops made within the last 8 years or so at around one third of manufacturers price. The one I bought for my Acer for about 35 four years ago is still going strong & has already outlasted the original.

Note however that the capacity of Li-Ion batteries starts deteriorating from the day they are manufactured & they can loose up to 40% of their capacity in the first year!

Although not always practical, for best life when not in use charge to 40% capacity & store in fridge.
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