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Old 22-04-2010, 20:31   #1
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12vdc Marine Computers

This thread is for the exchange of information and experience building and operating 12 v computers for marine navigation with a focus on their use to run OpenCPN. Power consumption, power regulation, marinizing techniques, installation techniques, sunlight visible screens, and form factors are good starting points. We'll see where it goes from there.

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Old 22-04-2010, 20:59   #2
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If anyone knows of a true, sunlight viewable screen for a reasonable price I'm interested. Been looking and most of them seem to be in the $1000 and up range.
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Old 22-04-2010, 21:16   #3
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Skipmac,

I've been using a 15" Argonaut screen for over a year now and it is superb. Around 2000 nits and has a neat technology that reflects sunlight back through the screen so the back lighting requirement is much reduced. The brighter the sunlight the brighter the screen pretty neat, huh? It draws about 1 amp in the cockpit, is just as visible as my Raymarine E120 and is driven by the atom 330 based computer inside the boat. Total draw is about 2 amps or less depending on activity. The screen cost $1000 at the boat show">Miami Boat Show two years ago. The have a new line out now with some very nice improvements that costs a little more but still only a fraction of a smaller chart plotter including the 12v computer. So far this is the best deal I've found, also it's completely waterproof. A friend of mine on a trawler has used the same model for about 4 years.

Hope this helps.

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Old 22-04-2010, 21:30   #4
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Well I'm a cheap skate and am resisting $1000 monitor. I have to think there should be a cheaper option when you can by a whole plotter/GPS system with a daylight viewable screen for less than $1000. I'm shooting for $300-$500 range tops.

Also, don't want, need or have a good spot for 15" in the cockpit. I think 8-10" max would work for me
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Old 23-04-2010, 00:25   #5
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I think you will be disappointed going down this route as I was.

I intended to use mini itx board with low power atom processor (~$100) but I got stumped by the monitor. I did not want a large format but could'nt find reasonably price lcd small format 8-10' . In the end I gave up and bought a netbook(~$300 or less)

So far I'm impressed. The power adapter output is 12volt so its probable you can run it direct from ships supply (with adequate protection from spikes) For reliabiity -well just get two and you will still ahead of the cost of a monitor you are seeking and have redundancy. Long term I plan to construct/buy small embedded computer which will always be left on to monitor alarms/ drive the windvane as an auto pilot. Search SC3 auto pilot and you will find suource code for this using pic 16f628 . It has push button control so you dont have to rely on netbook -even if you have more than one. This project will have to wait until we are cruising when I'll have more time.

I'm running ubuntu 9.10 with opencpn beta 2.10 and speed is fine -Just have to get my custom bsb charts working.
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Old 23-04-2010, 01:39   #6
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Heres a couple of links, Ive dealt with both companies and can recommend them both
NAGASAKI IPC Technology Corp- Industrial Panel PC and embedded board, mini server manufacturer
Home of SD-Omega Electronics Industry Co., Ltd
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Old 23-04-2010, 04:23   #7
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Hi Otya,

Did you find a netbook with a screen visible in daylight? I've adopted the netbook solution for now and yes I have two, including one that is a ruggedized model with a supposedly daylight screen but even that is barely viewable in the cockpit.
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Old 23-04-2010, 06:15   #8
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I can recommend the zotac ion (atom) board, it plays hd movies with an nvidia graphics chip, I have the atom 220 version without fans and with a solid state drive (no moving parts). I use a 19" LED screen at the nav station.

I am considering a USB monitor to take outside, they're affordable, touch screen but would have to be protected from the elements ThinkGeek :: Mimo Mini USB Monitor. They run cheaper without touchscreen even, you could set up the parameters at the nav station and use the usb screen just for display.

If you're replicating a chartplotter with a 1500 usd screen yes you will end up with a better chartplotter but it will be just as expensive
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Old 23-04-2010, 16:57   #9
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I just recently setup a micro computer for OpenCPN here is what I went with. Feel free to google any of these things I included part numbers. This setup was overkill it cost around $600 not counting Operating system. I did a lot of deal hunting collecting parts for about 2 months when I saw something I needed on sale.


ZOTAC IONITX-F-E Intel Atom 330 (1.6GHz, dual-core) NVIDIA ION Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo
Why this motherboard?
I went mini ITX for the size I chose this particular motherboard for a couple reasons:
  1. No Fan heat sink (less moving parts)
  2. multiple monitor capability (DVI,D-Sub,HDMI, and VGA outputs)
  3. On board Graphics chipset was hoping would help load charts faster ( NVIDIA GeForce 9400)
  4. 4gb Ram capability
  5. A Ton of USB ports
  6. ATOM processor has lots of horsepower in a very small low energy package
In retrospect this MB was overkill I could have gotten away with a cheaper one but at least this will allow me to use it for other things down the road.
OCZ Agility Series OCZSSD2-1AGT60G 2.5" 60GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
Why This Hard Drive?
  1. Solid State Drive (again no moving parts)
  2. Very fast boot up
  3. 60G was plenty for an operating system, OpenCPN, and all my charts along with drivers
No regrets on this HD I love it but would shop around for a good deal I got this brand because it was on sale and had a decent rebate I think any SSD will do but I would not go any lower than 60G if using Windows had I installed Linux I would have been able to get away with a 30G for much cheaper.
OCZ SLI-Ready Dual Channel 4096MB PC6400 DDR2 800MHz Memory
Why this RAM?
Nothing Special here feel free to shop around for a good deal on RAM. I got what was on sale and I could have easily gotten away with 2G of ram 4G is definitely overkill.
M3-ATX-HV, 95w output, 6v to 34v wide input Intelligent Automotive DC-DC Car PC Power Supply
Why this Power Supply?
  1. Small
  2. No moving parts
  3. A ton of settings through dip switches
  4. DC
I love this little thing but I needed a 20pin power extender cable in my case to get it to fit. Though it is tiny it was pressing against one of my RAM chips and I wasn't comfortable with that. I was able to relocate it within the case to a spot I felt it fit better. This little thing has a ton of great settings to turn off and on at certain times after the ignition is turned on or off and much more.
M350 Universal enclosure mini-ITX BLACK case
Why this case?
Nothing particular here any case would have worked but this one is not to expensive is easy to mount, small, and has great air flow for cooling.
Shark. Model SHK840 8" Touch Screen LCD
Why this Monitor?
  1. Touchscreen!
  2. Cost, these are very inexpensive
  3. VGA hookup is easy, USB hookup for Touchscreen is easy
In retrospect I should have gone with the 10” for $50 more but I was afraid it would take up to much space. I was wrong the 8” is nice but 10” would have been great. These are available from several on line vendors they are cheap made in china but for my purpose was perfect. I have had 2 (without touchscreens) in my car for 2 years now and have not had any issues. I do not have glare issues in my cabin so this was fine for my purposes and the touchscreen works great with OpenCPN
BU-353: GlobalSat BU-353 WaterProof USB GPS Receiver (SiRF Star III)
Gotta have this! This GPS was easy to setup but I guess any would do. It would not be a very good nav computer without one of these
Windows 7 Ultimate OS
Why this OS?
I only went with Windows 7 because I had an extra Win7 Key. Had I not had a key I would have gone Linux and still may. I can throw a computer together in 5 minutes but I am a horrible programmer so I tend to lean towards windows more than I should I still may put in Linux it would have had an even faster boot up time and taken up much less HD space.
Other Hardware and Software:
jWIN Bluetooth Adapter JB-TH10159010301
any bluetooth dongle will do here. They are about 10-20 dollars and give you the ability to hook up a plethora of wireless devices including extra keyboard and mouse when needed
4 Port USB Hub
again the ability to plug in any number of things including an keyboard and mouse have this run to the navigation table I can also charge the iphone and any other USB chargeable items
Hippo Pro
Great little Iphone app it runs five bucks and gives the ability to use your iphones computer and touchscreen to control your computers mouse cursor and type. This needs a wireless network to work so can't really use it at sea unless you set up as an adhoc server on the computer but was great for setting the system up instead of using a bulky keyboard or the useless Windows7 touchscreen keyboard.
PicoPSU-80
little 80w Power Supply that u can run on AC I only used this when I was setting the system up at home but if you wish to go AC instead of DC this thing is perfect
40x40x10mm Fan
as much as I wanted to stay away from any moving parts the setup got a little to hot for me it was probably fine but adding this small fan helped air flow and does not draw much power at all so was worth it for the much cooler running temperature.


Now with the Motherboard I used I can easily run a DVI cable to the flybridge should I ever choose to invest in an exterior LCD. I also ran an HDMI cable to my 19” LCD TV so when I have the generator kicking and I want to view OpenCPN on the TV for chart plotting I can. Also should I choose to use a portable external HD I have a media center ready to go.


This setup with CPU and 8” touchscreen LCD runs only 30- 40 watts at 0.42 amps according to the KillaWatt meter I hooked it up to.


Sorry for such a long winded first post hope it helps point some of you in the right direction.
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Old 23-04-2010, 17:29   #10
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Sorry for such a long winded first post hope it helps point some of you in the right direction.
Great post! We need more of these for comparison.

I'm afraid I can't offer any info since my research into this was about 2-3 years ago.

I notice screens have come down a lot (2-3 years ago there was a 6" for $699).

I'll make one additional comment about your power supply that people might like to hear. It is specifically designed for a car (and should work great on a boat), so it has a wide input voltage tolerance. And, being DC to DC (and thereby eliminating the inverter) it is MUCH more efficient on power. Those power supplies are so small that most of them actually have the mother board plug mounted directly to the circuit board. You just plug the actual power supply directly to the motherboard. No monster heat sinks.

For those of you wanting to research, Google "carputer", or maybe "DIY carputer" and variants.

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Old 23-04-2010, 17:45   #11
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Hi Otya,

Did you find a netbook with a screen visible in daylight?
You will be able to read it in daylight -perhaps not direct sunlight but I wouldn't use it there anyway.

Personally I'd have all delicate electronics kept down below and not in the cockpit. Should only be a few steps away from the steering position anyway. Better from theft point of view also.

On out boat we have portlights (Rect opening one) on the bulkhead b/w cockpit and cabin. I'm proposing to locate the screen/netbook on a swing arm arrangement so you can see screen thru portlight and so you can still reach in to adjust without going below. When below, swing arm back and use conventionally albeit at a height.

Keeps the briny well away from the electronics. You could use same method to swing into companionway but there is always that rogue wave splash!
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Old 23-04-2010, 21:46   #12
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Cool Here's a few things to keep in mind on a new system

I thought it might be important and helpful to list a few things that have worked well for me in marine environment:

1. Keep thee cpu out of the cockpit if at all possible. I mounted our home built mini itx Atom 330 in a locker close to the helm as somebody else mentioned.

2. Do I/O wirelessly if possible. Since the cpu is close to the helm I ran an extension usb and oriented it in a cabin close to the helm. It's a cheap logitech keyboard and mouse and works great.

3. Make sure you buy a wide input power supply for 12v. They cost a few bucks more but charging systems, especially the multi-stage AGM type will almost certainly cause standard 12v systems to shut down. Also starting loads will cause reboots. Very frustrating when you need to know where you are.

4. After assembly of the board I soak all the connectors with Boeshield T9. Some seem to think this is a bad idea but I've done it for years in marine computers and never had a connection failure or any computer failure for that matter.

5. One thing I haven't connected wirelessly is the video and they make special cables designed to be pulled through conduit with special ends that work very well for this.

6. Consider a less powerful system to reduce amps. Some of the new Atom processors are down around 2 watts. They may not be able to play video games but can easily do chart plotter functions and autopilot control. My Atom 330 draws 8 watts and the monitor is about 12 watts.

7. Spend the money you have on a good waterproof, sunlight visible screen and skimp on the processor features.

Hope this helps and let me know if you need specific details.

Regards,
Chris
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Old 24-04-2010, 17:48   #13
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ASUS makes some netbooks at 12 Volt. Bet you are better of if you stabilise what comes of the battery first.

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Old 24-04-2010, 18:01   #14
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ASUS makes some netbooks at 12 Volt. Bet you are better of if you stabilise what comes of the battery first.

b.
I tried looking for a stabilizer of some kind and couldn't find any at a reasonable price but this would be a way to go if somebody knows a source for such an animal. A good wide input 12v power supply was about $80 and has worked flawlessly for almost a year. There are several netbooks that will work OK but they still need a sun shield and I'm not sure how well they'd do in marine environment in the cockpit. So I went the mini-itx Atom 330 route and it has worked flawlessly. I've been running openCPN for almost a year and really like it. But I did have to fork out $1000 for the Argonaut screen (15"). It's a lot but a very wise sailor told me "I fly coach but my boat goes first class and takes very good care of me in exchange"... something to consider.

Regards,
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Old 24-04-2010, 18:17   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by otya View Post
I think you will be disappointed going down this route as I was.

I intended to use mini itx board with low power atom processor (~$100) but I got stumped by the monitor. I did not want a large format but could'nt find reasonably price lcd small format 8-10' . In the end I gave up and bought a netbook(~$300 or less)

So far I'm impressed. The power adapter output is 12volt so its probable you can run it direct from ships supply (with adequate protection from spikes) For reliabiity -well just get two and you will still ahead of the cost of a monitor you are seeking and have redundancy. Long term I plan to construct/buy small embedded computer which will always be left on to monitor alarms/ drive the windvane as an auto pilot. Search SC3 auto pilot and you will find suource code for this using pic 16f628 . It has push button control so you dont have to rely on netbook -even if you have more than one. This project will have to wait until we are cruising when I'll have more time.

I'm running ubuntu 9.10 with opencpn beta 2.10 and speed is fine -Just have to get my custom bsb charts working.
Otya, 12 v won't work with most mini itx power supplies when the charging voltage exceeds around 13v it shuts down. This drove me nuts for a while 'till I noticed the pattern after the engines or genset driven charger were started. As one or two others have pointed out you definitely need a wide input 12 v power supply and they're fairly easy to find. Your netbook may be a little more tolerant though. If you ever try it please let us know the results.

Thanks for the post!

Chris
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