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Old 14-04-2009, 19:57   #16
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Digicel is great if you are on the Carribean side. Checked out thier website.......sounds good.
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Old 14-04-2009, 20:50   #17
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I'd like to hear about "air card" experiences, that is how far from land are they working? How well do they work in harbors. I am interested in Southern NE.

The same question would apply to WiFI and amplified signals/antenna etc. How many free access points are there these days?
This is a really good question, one that came to my mind when I was reading a thread about increasing your wifi range. Even the most extended ranges I read about still didn't compare to a cell phone signal. On my last Bahamas cruise (charter), the only times I got wifi was when I went out of my way to get it. I had a cell signal when ever I checked including islands like Powell that are uninhabited.
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Old 14-04-2009, 21:55   #18
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again that is on the eastern side of the continent. ANyone have any experience in and around Mexico?
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Old 14-04-2009, 22:40   #19
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I am also putting together a high spec desktop with a low power Core 2 Duo chip. For a lot of people it will be overkill and too costly - the Intel Atom boards that are showing up in a lot of netbooks can be had in desktop form too. There are Core 2 Duo chips that use only 25W at full power (most of the time they are loafing at a much lower load). You need a desktop motherboard that (a) can handle these chips and (b) uses the lower power mobile chipset. check out

Check out Mini-Box.com: mini-ITX, nano-ITX, pico-ITX, mobile-ITX solutions and Logic Supply - Leaders in Mini-ITX & Small Form Factor Solutions

for wide range (6-26 V input) DC - DC power supplies, mobile desktop motherboards and mobile Core 2 Duo CPUs. The DC-DC power supplies are 85-95% efficient; lots better than typical Inverter - 120V - desktop power supply option.

Now other power saving ideas:

2.5" laptop drives use 2-3 watts, instead of 3-4 watts of 3.5" standard hard drives

slimline CD/DVD drives use less power than the full size ones

try to find an old 15" LCD that uses a 12 V DC power brick (getting harder to find) so you can run it straight from batteries.
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Old 16-04-2009, 07:51   #20
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TJ;
I have looked at the hard drives that come in my Thinkpad T40s. They appear to be standard drives. One is a Fujitsu IDE drive the other is an IBM Travelstar drive. I believe the only thing they do is retract the heads to a non writeable spot on the drives. (remember the old park programs?) So, I don't believe there are any theortical differences. Having said that, I have some Panasonic Toughbook laptops and their drives although standard, appear to be enclosed in an additional housing that provides an increased measure of protection.

That's the theory. In practice, after 4 years of use on the boat, I have not had any failures in the built in system. No component has failed, yet. When underway, I normally play music from mp3's stored on the machine. I have been in some rough water and it has not effected the machine. I do have a catamaran and don't heel, so I can't speak to whether the attitude of the drive while running will have any effect.

You mean that DC-DC power supply I have not installed yet? Okay, okay, maybe this weekend!

There are several manufactures that make PC's and power supplies that are suitable for automotive use. They have smaller form factor boards and make power supplies designed to operate from the electrical system found in cars. Typically, the main power supply is through an unswitched circuit and a sense circuit is attached to the ignition/ACC setting. This allows the machine to be brought down gracefully when you turn off the car. The supplies typically have a voltage sense that will shut down the computer when the system voltage gets too low. This keeps you from killing your batteries. They also tend to have delay circuits so that when you get an under-voltage condition during engine start, you don't have system resets. They typically are lower wattage than the AC-DC supplies. This is due to the efficiency associated with not having to rectify and regulate the input voltages. For the lower wattage supplies, they don't even have cooling fans! No wasted energy on producing heat. They have supplies that can be used from 6 to 30 volts. Just about perfect for a boat!

There are three issues I am hoping to resolve. The first issue was major for me. When I go from shore power to inverter power, my AC systems get momentarily interupted. I can't tell you the number of times I did this with the machine running (gotta have my tunes!). This would reset my machine, not the best thing to have happen. To rectify this, I put in a UPS. These are heavy and result in more complexity, another thing to break and have some energy loss. I even observed some power usage when the computer was not on! Not the best thing when cruising. This

The second issue was one of power usage. The computer, and because I had to go through the inverter, plus UPS, then the battery uses more power than it could. Not the best thing for a cruiser. So, eliminating some components, more reliable system!

The third was heat. My power supply has two fans in it to get rid of the heat. Heat is wasted energy, unless of course it is winter! I had too much heat build up in the cabinet I have the computer installed. This results in my having to remove the cabinet door and exposing all the mess in there. Okay, so I don't mind it so much, but it is not a statement of good esthetic's. I thought going to a DC-DC power solution would help that also. I suspect however that water cooling will have a greater effect. Please note however, I am not certain I'd recommend the water cooling route to anyone else who is not a computer hobbyist. It just seemed like a cool thing to do! (please don't yell at me for the pun!) I like messing around with computer probably a little bit more than I like messing around with boats (Is that possible!? Blasphemy!)

Lots of additional info available. Search on "car pc power supply" or carpc.
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Old 16-04-2009, 10:10   #21
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I have four desktops onboard for data logging and running research equipment, one of which is a Shuttle. I have not had any problems. Desktops do require more power than a laptop, so if that is a concern then I would stick to a laptop. You can always buy or borrow a clamp ammeter to see how much current it draws. As far as hard drives and movement? Its not a concern in my experience.
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Old 16-04-2009, 11:25   #22
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I'm 24V will that present a problem on the DC/DC supply? When it comes to computer hardware I know enough to push the on button!

Thanks,

TJ
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Old 16-04-2009, 12:59   #23
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TJ;

There are power supplies that accept from 6-30 volts. 24 volt would work on a power supply of that type. I don't know about battery equalization voltages on a 24 volt system. On a 12 volt system it is up to 15 volts. That implies on a 24 volt system it it is 30 volts. When I equalize my batteries I turn off as many electrical devices as possible. So if you don't run your computer while you are equalizing it will work just fine. Probably will work just fine running, but since I don't have practical experience running 24 volt systems, I can't give you first hand information.
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Old 16-04-2009, 14:42   #24
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Have a look at SD-Omega manufactures small form factor PCs . Our feature products are mini pc, thin client, small pc, book pc and cube pc that fit into all environment and applications like kiosk, POS, vehicle , medical and more; Some are fanless systems that will great product, have used these for last 5 yrs, used to sell them but as we have sold boat and doing other things no longer but you can usually deal direct with them
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Old 16-04-2009, 15:10   #25
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TJ;

Oh, I should mention. Although it is considered a simple modification to exchange a power supply, I can almost remember being afraid of such operation. (Hmmm.... well, I can't remember back that far) I'd have someone standing over my shoulder and giving encouragement who is confident in their computer abilities. I remember the first time I had my wife build a computer. She did just fine, but it was not something she would have attempted by herself.
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Old 16-04-2009, 15:26   #26
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At home I'm running virtual machines. These are basically disk files that when loaded create a real environment The Virtual Machine images can be stored externally as can all your data. It means that the computer you run it on is disposable you can also purchase terminals to run them on as well thus eliminating the moving parts. It changes the way you deal with hardware.

Imagine this. You set up a virtual machine with web browsing installed you add your favorites and then save it as a virtual machine such that changes are never saved. You go out and surf and infect it with a virus. Because you can freeze the virtual machine when you turn off the virtual machine it's gone along with the virus you caught. We used to do this in the olden days with partition managers. Now we run a virtual machine inside a window in any number of host O/S's. In a second window we have yet another machine. With 8GB memory you can run 3 or 4 and not really see the difference.

With a reasonable 64bit computer with 8 GB of memory you can actually run several machines at the same time and switch between them like you would switch applications.

This is something is spreading through large companies yet scales well for anyone that seems to use more than one computer. You could easily load up a laptop and take it for a walk. It changes the portability and maximizes dirt cheap external storage space. It's actually spread to the point where you can buy virtual machine with preinstalled and peconfigured Unix applications. You copy the image and as it loads it looks like a machine booting yet it's inside a window.
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Old 16-04-2009, 20:36   #27
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In my experience, the latest Lenovo Laptops are truly bullet proof. They have hard drive impact protection (use a rubber isolator and metal cage to physically protect the hard/storage drive. And the ThinkVantage® Active Protection System™ (on models with traditional magnetic hard drives) uses an accelerometer to monitor movement of the system and stop the drive and help protect against damage when a fall or similar event is detected.) and a roll cage frame (includes a titanium cover) .

I don't have any affiliation with them but I have abused them for years My friends have been through several HP's Toshibas, etc while I still have my Lenovo Thinkpad. Mine slid off the counter in the boat during some weather, hit the cockpit sole, and the keyboard popped off. Snapped it back on and everything is still fine two years later.

ps: Usually when not in use it lives in a Pelican waterproof case, but when crusing unknown areas or entrances the nav software with attached GPS is running with the laptop on the countertop in a set of fiddles I installed.
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Old 21-04-2009, 22:33   #28
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I am thinking of going with a Mac-Mini for my setup.

  • Cheap.
  • You can Dual boot both OS X and XP/Vista. So best of both worlds in terms of software.
  • It has plenty of Inputs and Outputs: One FireWire 800 port (8 watts and works with my future Canon purchase); five USB 2.0 ports (up to 480 Mbps); mini-DVI output; VGA output (using optional adapter); Mini DisplayPort
  • Servicing it with Applecare is a dream.
  • It is also hailed by apple as the most eco friendly Desktop around. (It consumes less than 13 watts)
  • Built in Wi-Fi (A/B/G and N)
  • Built in Bluetooth
  • Option Modem etc

I have built many PCs from scratch, but I have had no problems with Macs in the many years of using them so far and at $600 it seems like a no brainer.

I guess one complaint I can come up with is no old school serial ports which might come in handy with legacy interfaces, but I think there are USB converters that handle that well now.
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Old 23-06-2009, 01:37   #29
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In my experience, the latest Lenovo Laptops are truly bullet proof. They have hard drive impact protection (use a rubber isolator and metal cage to physically protect the hard/storage drive. And the ThinkVantage® Active Protection System™ (on models with traditional magnetic hard drives) uses an accelerometer to monitor movement of the system and stop the drive and help protect against damage when a fall or similar event is detected.) and a roll cage frame (includes a titanium cover) .
I'd have to agree with you on that. I tend to go through laptops quickly (I'm not gentle on gear) but my latest, a Lenovo, has out lasted all before it. Even left it open on the cabin top a couple of weeks back and it got lightly showered apon. Still going.

Never quite knew what all that active protection thing meant, thanks for explaining it

For the interweb, I Wifi when in range, via landline if ashore at home or plug it into my cellphone for further out in the boonies when afloat. Via the phone costs moonbeams and is a lot slower though. But I did manage to get the interweb up while about 40 miles off North Cape just before Xmas, slow but worked via the cellphone (and standing on the cabin top).

That virtual thing Paul mentions sounds quite cool. I wish I was smart enough to understand it better though.
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