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Old 05-02-2007, 10:13   #31
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Catman, remember that boats are only fast when they are LIGHT and your boat will be lighter, faster, and therefore more comfortable if you install a laptop. Save five pounds on the computer gear, and you can carry a whole lot more caviar!<G>

Sean-
A side note on cell phones and dampness in the US. If anyone is a Verizon customer, you will find a red or white "dot" (maybe 3/16" in diameter) stuck in the phone behind the battery. Apparently the US cell phone carriers have had so many service claims with phones that were ruined by "damp" (not outright immersion, but moisture damage probably from being used in the rain) that they have secretly been installing a moisture sensor. If the dot turns RED, it has gotten moist and the phone will no longer be covered under warranty or service plans. Apparently this is an industry-wide issue with talk of a class-action suit as well.
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Old 05-02-2007, 14:15   #32
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Catman, remember that boats are only fast when they are LIGHT and your boat will be lighter, faster, and therefore more comfortable if you install a laptop. Save five pounds on the computer gear, and you can carry a whole lot more caviar!<G>

.
Now we're talkin', sounds like a cheap way of saving a couple of KG, although she'll be getting lighter at the rate of around 12 Kg / hr anyway.

Dave
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Old 06-02-2007, 00:07   #33
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2] under the impression that it was easier to upgrade and replace part's
"easier"? Possibly... Modern PCs are all integrated into the motherboard except for the disk drives and memory, and the memory you use has to be the right type for your motherboard. If you have a special-purpose application, you might use an add-in PCI card. For example, some amateur radio operators add a second sound card for packet radio.

If you seriously anticipate upgrading your PC, this might be a valid consideration, but I would expect any useful upgrade to require a new CPU, motherboard, and memory. The CPU is usually the most expensive part, especially if it is a fast one. You can save the power supply, box, and disk drive.

You can probably predict your needs, and therefore what sort of upgrade you might need, better than I can. For myself, I can't remember the last time I upgraded PC hardware except to buy a bigger disk drive.

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3] I was under the impression that most of the bit's use 12 volt or less anyway. Tell me why it will use more than a laptop
The most energy inefficient part of a computer is usually the power supply. This subsystem converts the input voltage to all the many different voltages used in the computer. A linear power supply is less expensive to manufacture, but a switching power supply is more efficient. The power supply in a desk machine is often capable of higher power output because it needs to supply extra disks, add-in boards, etc that you might add.

In general, there a lot of places in a computer where you can shave a little off the power requirements at the expense of either higher component cost or more engineering time. In a laptop, it's worth doing those little things in a bunch of places. For example, some laptops can turn off the power to their serial port when not using it.

So it isn't that a desktop machine must be more power hungry, but it typically happens that way for economic reasons.

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4] Never liked the screen's on laptop's

5] Never liked the keyboard's on laptop's
This varies substantially from laptop to laptop, though there used to be a lot of crap. The more recent laptops I've seen have displays that are about the same as a desktop LCD monitor. (Actually, the LCD monitor technology was developed for laptops and then adapted to monitors when it got good enough.)

I like the keyboard on my old laptop, but I don't like the keyboard on my wife's new laptop. She thinks it is fine, though. There is a lot of variation.

b.t.w. If you choose a laptop for the other conveniences, you can usually use an external keyboard with it sometimes. I used to use an external mouse because I hate touch pads until I decided that plugging in and finding a place for the mouse was more trouble than it was worth.

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6] the computer I use now was made of bit's that cost $300 and a couple of throwaway boxes, 17 inch screen, kickarse speakers and printer. I doubt I would have the same result with a laptop.
This raises a different question than what started this thread. Is a laptop so much better than the computer you already have that it is worth replacing?

Of course, this is an economic as well as a technical question. After reviewing the responses in this thread, you can look at what other people like about laptops vs what you like about your current machine. You can choose among the advantages and disadvantages that come with each solution, remembering that the cost of anything new is a disadvantage.

Sometimes the solution depends on the context. At one place where I worked in the IT department, I installed two desktop machines on a boat that already had a desktop machine installed. It was a 95 foot boat. One of the new machines was in the owner's cabin, and the paid crew used the other one to play video games and watch DVDs on the 48 inch plasma TV. One of the three ran navigation software exclusively 24 hours a day, with the other two capable of acting as backups.

One of the reasons for having the additional computers was data collection. (The vessel was engaged in research.) As it happened, the scientists ended up bringing their own laptops and using them.
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Old 06-02-2007, 05:29   #34
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"A linear power supply is less expensive to manufacture, but a switching power supply is more efficient."
This may have been the case in the dark past but not now. Modern DC to DC converters, a mains supply is still dc to dc, are cheap as dirt. I havn't seen a linear supply since my S100 system days. Mine had 5V @ 80A and boy did that generate some heat.
A very good alternative to the laptop is a small form factor fanless car system. If you don't get carried away with speed less than 20 watts plus the monitor is reasonable, the difference to a lappy would be miniscule.
There are many but here is one supplier.
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A lappy has some features that others have already outlined. For me the keyboard, touchpad and small screen size turn me off. If the m/b dies then the screen is tossed as well, and visa versa, so I will probably go the car system route. Given the cheapness of memory sticks, usb 4gb $69 here in aus, a couple of these and a nav system could do without the hard drive. Hard drive and dvd could be external usb and only connected when needed and thus the box could be sealed up with little difficulty. This system would probably cost less than the lappy as well.
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Old 06-02-2007, 12:42   #35
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Mike-
The Global Village was the death knell for linear power supplies. They depend on transformers, which are heavy, and that kills international commerce by pushing up shipping rates. The only big market left for linear power supplies is in small wall warts, but those are built so cheap they've earned a reputation as fire hazards--literally.

The computer business has a furious rate of change. Laptops were all custom assemblies so "upgrading" was simply not feasible. Now? There actually are white box laptop standards (Intel is one major sponsor) so it is possible to "upgrade" laptops with standard components--even across different brands, as there are really very few prime manufacturers jobbing out all the other assemblies.

But even with that, upgrading isn't what it was. CPU form factors change every 2 years or so. The supporting chips change, making CPUs obsolete with new form factors. The power supplies have changed, AT and ATX are both history. And some of the new chipsets (Intel's "Core" CPUs) and their new matching controller chips will work with the new OSes (yes, Vista has some new tricks) so that a new desktop computer can literally power down EVERYTHING and sit there pretending to be asleep--but come back to 100% operating mode in 5-10 seconds.

A lot of this stuff just isn't being promoted or even publicized to the mass market level, because consumers aren't interested in "tech" anymore. (Except the gamers who really drive that market.) Consumers today want to know "Does that computer come in a white pickled oak finish, to match my new desk? Will it give my neighbors hard drive envy?"

And the real differences...just keep getting harder to find out, much less to stay current about. But for those of us who might be honorary Scotsmen <G> the thing to remember is that computers today are consumables--like fresh produce. Buy 'em, use 'em, throw 'em away because they've rotted on the shelf if you left 'em there.

They're not like office equipment used to be.
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Old 06-02-2007, 13:25   #36
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And the real differences...just keep getting harder to find out, much less to stay current about. But for those of us who might be honorary Scotsmen <G> the thing to remember is that computers today are consumables--like fresh produce. Buy 'em, use 'em, throw 'em away because they've rotted on the shelf if you left 'em there.

They're not like office equipment used to be.

And IMO that is the way it should be!

Although IMO they do still have a long way to go to match the useability and reliability of something like a VHS recorder.............or a fridge .

IME folk who get their jollies from playing with the insides of Video recorders, Fridges and Toasters are best avoided at parties. and elsewhere I suspect the real reason why PC's have problems is so that people have to talk to these folk.
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Old 06-02-2007, 14:26   #37
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if you've got a cat, and you are concerned about weight, definitely do the laptop....
as we are using our laptop as a photo album, electronic ledger for budgets, news, watching DVDs, music, work, email... we have it on a lot, say using it for 4 hours per day. That's roughly around 15 Amp Hours per day at 45 watts per hour. Using a desktop computer would be around 60 amp hours for the same use (rough rule of thumb is the desktop uses 4-7 times the amount of electricity of a laptop). Assuming you don't want to run down your batteries more than 50%, that could be another 120 amp hour AGM battery just to handle that load in your battery bank. Now you've added the weight of a desktop (another 7 lbs), plus the 60 lbs of an additional AGM battery, plus you'll need additional fuel for the generator, or additional solar panels.... it all adds up. Laptops are the way (or weigh!) to go.
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Old 06-02-2007, 22:21   #38
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Find a desktop with a Pentium M processor (hard to find but ASUS makes a suitable motherboard) or a VIA C7 chip and you will find it takes less power than a lot of the P4 laptops.
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Old 07-02-2007, 11:11   #39
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Intel actually expressly told vendors NOT to use the P4 (a desktop chip) in laptops at all, but since the P4M (mobile version) was not released until some time later and users wanted portable power, there are lots of P4 laptops on the market anyway. The P4M was obsoleted by the "Pentium M" which is a further development for mobile use.
But all of those are obsoleted now by the "Core Duo" and "Core Solo" chips, which typically use 30-50% less power than the "M" series did. The new machines tend to run an extra $100-200 more, but they also run 30-50% faster at the same clock speeds, so a "Core" CPU may not even cost that much more if you realize the clock speeds don't need to be the same.
The support chipsets (which will be there with all the new CPUs) also generally use faster RAM and have other new performance features in them, so the real question is only, do you want the old technology at clearance prices, or the new stuff that replaced it.

Finding a desktop with a mobile CPU in it...still a kludge job, still going to take more power and space than a real laptop. A P-II or P-III (or older AMD CPU) will save you more power too, you're just getting a less powerful CPU in a less powerful computer. Sometimes that's still more power than a boat needs, a lot of P-II/400 class computers will stay run charting software with no problem, if you have a little patience and don't multitask much.<G>
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Old 07-02-2007, 11:47   #40
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I'm far lazier than Evan, I'd rather just buy a pentium M laptop for $500, which are everywhere now.
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Old 07-02-2007, 19:26   #41
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We have both a laptop and desk top on our boat. Originally, I had planned to just do a laptop. I found that I since I needed an RS232 serial port to connect to my raymarine SeaTalk instruments, it might would be easier to just build a desktop.

What I ended up doing was building the desktop into the cabinet above the my circuit brakers. I use a wireless, blue tooth mouse and key board. I have a 22 inch flat LCD monitor that is mounted on an ergotron arm that allows me to swivel the montor for use at the nav station, swing for DVD viewing on the couch, or push out of the way. No problems. The system has ATI Radeon video board, (way too high end for most stuff), PCMCIA adapter so I can plug into the HSB Raymarine bus, Have to be able to see radar images from the couch. It has an Audigy Pro card that lets me have high end audio from the Bose speakers. WAY too much for most cruising boats. I didn't use it too much while I am cruising, but it is GREAT when I am tied to the dock. The major issue was power consumption. It uses a LOT. Before I leave on the next cruise, I'll replace the power supply with a DC power supply. They are a lot lighter, and the power consumption is significantly lower. I also won't have to worry about power outages (Did I mention there is a UPS on board too! WAY over the top).

The lap top on the other hand is great too! I have back up GPS and charts installed on it. I can take it into town, get email, use skype and back to the boat. I backup critical files and programs to both systems. When my laptop harddrive died, it gave me some warning (what's that funny sound) I was able to backup everything, before it completely died. Luckily I was in the States, way hard to get that kind of thing away.

I do have an extra motherboard and hard drive aboard, so I can recover from most desktop outages. I do have an extra laptop harddrive, so I can recover from those failures, other things, well, I may bo SOL.

In any case, if I had to do one, I do a laptop on a boat. Far more versatile and not much you can't do with the laptop. But, BOTH is VERY nice. Especially now when my wife is on one machine, and I am on the other.

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Old 08-02-2007, 03:24   #42
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Strygaldwir...Sounds like a nice setup. If your laptop doesn't have a serial port you can buy a serial to usb adapter for just a couple of dollars.
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Old 08-02-2007, 09:16   #43
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I've had very bad experiences with laptops in the past. First one had a motherboard crack in half on me. the one I'm using now is actually my second one, my third one I got to upgrade from my second one after the second one gained a few minor problems, but nothing that would stop it's use after a bit of jerry rigging it. The third one I got, something died in the connection between the motherboard and the harddrive, so it's a brick right now.

I trust desktops much more than laptops. I know enough to service a desktop and troubleshoot it and replace parts if needed. Laptops are almost all built differently and while some parts are easy to get to, others are almost impossible without total disassembly, plus the parts are mostly proprietary, so you must go back to the original vendor to buy them(usually they dont' let you and you have to send it to them and pay labor too.)

I will have a desktop on my boat. I will do my best to lower the power requirements with a 12v dc - dc power supply and keeping it small and as dry as possible.

I MIGHT have a laptop in addition to the desktop, especially if number two survives that long on me. If I do get a new laptop, I won't be trusting anything recent... I'll prefer things from the 90s, or at the latest up to 2002. Older things are almost always built better, especially in the computer world.
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Old 18-02-2007, 11:10   #44
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I tried having a desktop before; the space requirements were insane. Not so much just the size of the computer and monitor, but the amount of room you need to set the whole darn thing up. You have to be angled right in order to use it, which pretty much means the cabin table, and then you have cords draping everywhere, a mouse and keyboard, etc.

With my laptop, I can bring it into the v berth at night and type something up real quick like.

Through my work I have a Verizon Wirelss Card, which although is useless at sea, is quite handy to have in the marina and wherever else you go on shore.

In regards to the longevity of them, it's true that laptops have around a two year reliable life span. That doesn't mean that after two years they're going to be useless and broken, but it does mean that around that time you should understand that whatever else you get out of them is more a gift from the computer gods than something to be expected.

My other little point to make is that even though I'm a technology person in my day job, I would never trust a PC to have anything to do with operating our boat. I've heard too many stories of "some idiot staring at his laptop with chart plotter rather than paying attention to the conditions."

If anyone needs to buy pretty much anything computer related, my absolute number one vendor is NewEgg Newegg.com - Buy Computer Parts, PC Components, Laptop Computers, Digital Cameras and more!
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Old 19-02-2007, 18:11   #45
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There seem to be a lot of votes for laptops, so just to be contrary, I'll cast mine for a desktop. At the company I used to work for I somehow got stuck beig the fix-it guy for computers when they broke, and I liked laptops because fixing them usually involved a trash can and a purchase request for another one - easy! Since the laptops cost about twice what an equivalent desktop cost, and the laptops lifespan was between 6 months to two years, the accountant didn't much like them.
For my boat, I have assembled SFF desktop made by Shuttle for about $600 with a 2.4 ghz P4 and 1 gb of memory and 500 gb of disk space - way more than is needed for "boat stuff", but will also let me work from home (boat). I built a new door for one of my cabinets which incorporates a 19" flat panel screen mounted on a RAM mount which lets me position and angle the screen anyway I want. The computer is only 8x8x12 and can be stashed in one of those less-accessible spaces. I put all this together about 4 years ago and it's all still working fine except for the wireless keyboard, two of which flew out a porthole when keys started dying - they don't seem to live very long, but are easily replaced when not attached to the rest of the computer!
I have measured the 12V current draw by the inverter to run this setup - 6.7A for the computer up to 9.4A when its working hard, plus another 1.3A for the flat panel which runs straight off 12V. These numbers for the computer could be reduced by using a 12v power supply, but at the time I couldn't find one that could put out enough power.
The only real drawback is that it's not very portable.
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