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Old 28-05-2015, 21:11   #1
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Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

I am researching for a laptop to buy for my upcoming trip and move-aboard. I am wondering what the best set of components I would want on a new PC. I am thinking the 5i or 7i processor, 8GB Ram, 1 TB hard drive. It looks like these come with larger monitors and touch screens and windows 8.1.

Right now I've been playing with OpenCPN on my old tower at home with 4GB Ram, and its okay for awhile, unless I crank up to many other programs. I've used active captain, do alot of work in spreadsheets, some photo management, and watch occasional Netflix shows. Any suggestions for my new laptop so I can count on OpenCPN? Should I go to 16GB Ram? Skip the touch screen? Do I need a DVD reader/writer? What do people use and not find frustrating because it is underpowered? What are must-haves that go with this software, in windows 8.1, on a laptop, aboard?

Any advice appreciated. - Rolf


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Old 28-05-2015, 21:17   #2
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

I use OpenCPN on a bunch of devices.. The key.. All of them are dedicated to OpenCPN. I don't do anything else with them while I'm using OpenCPN. For other purposes, I have a standard I5 laptop (16GB ram) that I use for other things.

I run OpenCPN on 3 devices (can never have enough backups). My primary OpenCPN device is a Microsoft Surface Pro (version 1) tablet. My secondary device is a Onda Windows 8.1 tablet. My third device is an older (4 years) Dell laptop running Linux. OpenCPN performs flawlessly on all these devices.
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Old 28-05-2015, 23:25   #3
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

RolfP...
I've something like travellerw but two dated Lenovo R61 running W7 for navigation. These two are mirrors of each others for redundancy. Nothing else, but a logbook spreadsheet, is done in these PCs. I'm running two instances of OCPN, one for overview and one for detailed views. All data, GPS, AIS and NMEA from Simrad instruments, are connected to a replicator two make it easy to switch PC if needed.
I use both OCPN 4.0 and the latest alpha/beta 4.1.427 and a couple of plugins where the BR24Radar_pi would be the heaviest. Works like charm. The performance is not an issue, take what you can get.
For all other stuff, like source compiling, Internet, photos etc. I've another PC, there you can force up to fit your needs.
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Old 29-05-2015, 00:13   #4
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

I have Ocpn installed on 2 laptops, 1 is an i5 machine with 8GB RAM running Win7 and the other is an i7 with 16GB running Win8.1. Both of them have SSDs instead of HDDs, and both have a ton of other software installed for everything from DVD ripping to video editing, photo editing, Office apps, everything.

Even with 15 Chrome tabs open in the background, both machines run Ocpn with no hesitation, everything is virtually instantaneous even with Google Earth on the screen and a USB GPS puck plugged in.

I think it's a very efficient piece of software, I've had no issues, but I'm not feeding any inputs to it beyond GPS and wefax. Perhaps others with a lot of NMEA traffic might have more insight.
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Old 29-05-2015, 01:14   #5
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

Just to fight the corner but have you considered a MacBook?

Yes I know, expensive but I've had mine for 3 years and it still runs as fast as out of the box. OpenCPN works fine along with many of the plugins (more being released all the time) along with my bluetooth GPS gizmo. I have OpenOffice, zyGrib (excellent grib weather package), Safari and Firefox, Thunderbird and a host of other good software running and (touch wood) never had any problems.

I have a 2.4GHz i5 chip with 8GB RAM and a 250GB SSHD with the 13" Retina display. I use a 1TB external HDD (USB and Wireless connection) for backups and storing movies etc along with a Google Drive account. Battery life is impressive with the wifi off, screen brightness brought down and keyboard backlight off I can see 7 hrs, occasionally more.

I use PC's at work and honestly hate Windows 8 in all its forms. We downgraded all the work computers back to Windows 7 and I'd wait to see what Windows 10 is going to be like before committing money to an MS operating system right now. And touch screens are horrible on a proper computer IMHO as you spend all your time peering through greasy fingerprints.

Whichever system you go for I would recommend getting the best chipset you can along with as much memory as it can take (or at least make sure you can add more later (only drawback with my MacBook)). I'd seriously consider a SSHD as they consume much less power and give a faster startup and have a large external HDD for storage and back up. Also make sure you have sufficient USB ports and that all of them are usable at all times. I've seen some designs where the second port can't be used if you have a wide USB plug as they are so close together!!

Hope that helps

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Old 29-05-2015, 05:39   #6
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

My thoughts would be, get a dirt cheap, as in about a $200-$250 laptop. Look for one that is easy to swap harddrives and has 4G RAM (Asus tends to be decent in this price range). Buy a $70 128GB SSD drive, put Linux (Ubuntu or Mint) on it, and save the old and slow disk with windows somewhere (likely will never need it). Consider an external USB 3 drive when you need more storage.

Now, unless you are doing heavy graphics/video work, compile a bunch of code or run Matlab simulations, I would be very surprised if you had any speed issues if your usage is just running O, email/web browsing, light photo editing, word processing, watching movies, etc.

Here's the fun part... A MacBook Pro specced out a bit is hands down the best laptop you can get, but it'll cost roughly $3000. ~10 times the cost of the cheopo option. So, when the cheap laptop dies after say 1-2years, just pop out the ssd, which is very likely to still be working, and plop it in the next one. Keep decent backups, and you can also weather full out failures and theft.

Remember, you can do this 10 times for the same cost, and each time, you get the latest greatest tech at that point in time (of course, it'll be bottom of the barrel, but still up to date). The MacBook I suspect will be slightly more durable on a boat, but will not last 10 years when you consider accidental damage (rogue waves!!), theft, battery life, etc. And if it did, even the $200 el cheopo laptop of 2020 will run circles around it, come with the latest USB connectors, have vastly superior LiFePO batteries, Virtual Reality gizmo interfaces and ability to connect to the free, worldwide coverage, wireless network that will be common then (at least that's what my crystal ball predicts)
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Old 29-05-2015, 05:59   #7
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

I fully agree with monstads. I run Opencpn from a old Thinkpad T42 with 2 gigs of ram and the original 1400x1050 ips display where I has upgraded the original pata harddrive with a pata to mSATA adapter and a 60 gig mSATA ssd hard drive. Total cost about $100 usd. Using xubuntu 14.04, it boots in less than 10 sec with opencpn. Full set of NOAA ENC's and cm93. using wireless AIS pilotplug for feeding AIS and position data. Cheap, high performance and rock solid.
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Old 29-05-2015, 06:52   #8
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

Thanks for the advices!! I should note I also have an old C70 Chartplotter+Radar+GPS not integrated with my Nexus wind, depth, speed, compass, and autopilot. Both have NMEA 183 in and out I believe but not used. The C70 is on a swing arm in the companionway (PO) but if I were to do it all over again (its a small screen a LONG way from the helm) I would put it at the helm and have a PC on the chart table. I still might do that, but standing rigging and a million other things are eating my time. I also have an iPAD with iNavx, iSailor, and Navionics. I have a tower at home, but I can't take it with me, so i'm looking for something at the desk to back up the C70, and also for general overall PC use. I guess I can use the iPad for one backup and just get a PC for general use and use it for another. I sure like OPCN. It sounds like an i5 with 8GB Ram would be an perfectly good PC for general use, and overkill for OCPN. I do like the $200 options.... hmm.


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Old 29-05-2015, 07:30   #9
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

Just remember.. Pcs and laptops gobble power. Like 45 watts at idle(running Opencpn). Modern chartplotters use about 15 watts. Big difference.

Just something to think about.

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Old 29-05-2015, 07:38   #10
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

OpenCPN uses relatively few system resources. Petter5 mentioned running it on a Thinkpad with 2Gb of RAM. I have also run it on an old laptop with a single-core, 1.4 mHz processor, and only 2Gb of RAM. It runs just fine on that machine as long as I am not running anything else that is too resource intensive.

Try to run too many things at a time and it doesn't matter what sort of super-powerful, high-RAM machine you have, you can eventually fill it up and bog it down. If you want to run a whole bunch of stuff at once then you need to spend big bucks on a high-power machine. Limit what you run at any one time, though, and you can get by with a very inexpensive machine.

Your money, your choice.
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Old 29-05-2015, 08:32   #11
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

You've probably already got them, but don't forget paper charts, a handheld gps, a headlamp, and spare batteries. Still my preferred method.

All the best from a fellow minnesotan!
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Old 29-05-2015, 09:08   #12
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Re: Best Components in a new PC for OpenCPN

Quote:
Originally Posted by RolfP View Post
I am researching for a laptop to buy for my upcoming trip and move-aboard. I am wondering what the best set of components I would want on a new PC. I am thinking the 5i or 7i processor, 8GB Ram, 1 TB hard drive. It looks like these come with larger monitors and touch screens and windows 8.1.
Ideally, you would want a mil-grade waterproof, daylight-readable laptop.

In the real world... it's probably better to buy a mid-range popular laptop that doesn't cost too much, so you won't freak if something happens to it. I've always liked ASUS laptops, and the Lenovo equivalent of the ThinkPad.

(I currently have, onshore use, a Lenovo Z50 with Win 8.1, i5 and 6GB, and a 650GB 'hybrid' drive. I don't love it, it's a tad flimsy and the screen is too reflective, but the deal was unbeatable)

If I was going to buy a laptop tomorrow for cruising, I would have the following on my list:
- a popular midrange model (i5 or i7, 8 GB RAM)
- reasonably robust (eg a business-class machine) and/or a padded waterproof case to keep it in
- available 12v power supply. less efficient to run 12v to AC inverter to laptop brick
- don't get a touchscreen. Waste of money on a laptop for most people. If you want something to touch, also get a cheap tablet. I bought a refurb 8" tablet for $140.
- a bunch of USB sticks or a USB hard-drive for backup. If you regularly back up the important stuff, then when your laptop dies or is stolen, you can get back up and running quickly with a new one.

Apple makes wonderful stuff, and my wife loves her iPad... but I can't justify the price and I'm a Windows/Linux guy anyways.
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