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Old 28-10-2014, 14:57   #1
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Software Development Setup On Board.

Is anyone out there actively doing software development as a live-aboard, or better yet, as a Caribbean cruiser?

I'm wondering about two things - the setup required, and time available.

Setup Question 1: I have 2 21 inch monitors. I find it difficult to develop on anything less. I'm sure this will take up power, and I guess I need to do some calculations, but just wondering if anybody has a professional development setup.

Setup Question 2: Internet connectivity - doesn't need to be constant like a day trader, but enough to get emails and possibly publish web sites.

Time Question 1: One part of me thinks that I'll be relaxed and totally ready to develop some sharp code in a matter of hours, code that might take twice as long at a windowless office. The other part of me thinks there will be alot of distractions. But can't snorkel and do boat maintenance all day, can you? I'm not much of a drinker, so sun downers twice a week will be fine with me. This may be more of an individual question as far as ADHD versus OCD (more me), so may not be a fair question, but worth a reply from anyone doing it.

My current title is Director, Software Development, but I still do a fair bit of coding. At age 47 I find it harder and harder to sit and concentrate on code for more than a few hours a day anyways.

Thanks in advance.

- Ray

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Old 28-10-2014, 16:17   #2
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Re: software development setup on board

I have posed this exact same question to myself as I'm in the same boat (see what I did there?). Not quite a full time cruiser yet, but have done some extended trips and yes it is hard to go from cruising mode to work mode! My days of creating killer apps are over and I'm only planning on doing customisations and bug fixes etc so hopefully for me I can live with this . On land, I currently use a HP Z600 series workstation with dual XEON CPU's with heaps of RAM and cores and twin HD monitors. I'm sure going to miss this setup! The reason for so much horsepower is I run my development environments inside virtual machines so my usual setup is to run the primary OS with 1 or two virtual machines running. Plus it makes a kick-ass platform for video editing!

Back on the topic of monitors and, by implication, computers the solution I will be running with will involve using a workstation spec notebook with 17" monitor. I plan to use just the notebook's screen alone for most tasks, which will be a downgrade but I think it's easy enough to adapt to a single screen display. A full HD 12vdc TV on the nearby bulkhead will substitute for a second monitor via a DVI cable connection for those times I positively cannot do without dual screens. Our boat doesn't have the luxury of, or the room for, a permanent generator installation so we have a Honda 1000 unit that will be for charging batteries and running the computer. We're going to stick some type of remote phone antenna setup on the top of the mast to maximise cell phone coverage. Locally backups will be stored on removable hard drives, but source code will always be loaded to the cloud for additional backup on a regular basis so reasonable speed Internet access is required on at least a semi-regular basis. For those big jobs, stopping an a marina whenever possible is also in the plans.
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Old 28-10-2014, 19:54   #3
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Re: software development setup on board

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Originally Posted by FollowingCs View Post
Setup Question 1: I have 2 21 inch monitors. I find it difficult to develop on anything less. I'm sure this will take up power, and I guess I need to do some calculations, but just wondering if anybody has a professional development setup.

Setup Question 2: Internet connectivity - doesn't need to be constant like a day trader, but enough to get emails and possibly publish web sites.
For a computer, I'm looking at things in the Intel NUC line (small barebones systems). There are also small embedded systems which utilize entirely passive cooling; I haven't run Visual Studio on really low end hardware since VS 2003 though (at which point small projects gave acceptable responsiveness on an Atom 1.6 powered netbook but were obviously slower on compiles).

Example link for NUC's (will go bad over time, it's a search on Newegg for NUC):
intel nuc i5 - Newegg.com

For monitors, I'm going to look for ones that have external "wall warts" and run on 12V output from them. These used to be fairly common; I hope they still are. The monitor specifications don't always list information like that but I got a helpful hint to look up the spare/replacement parts for a given monitor and see the specs there.

I think that solar power will be able to keep up with that setup during the day.

Connectivity: Email and text (code) probably won't be that bad. If your web site work includes images, it might get expensive. You might find yourself using internet cafes or the equivalent for bulk uploads.
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Old 28-10-2014, 21:09   #4
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Re: software development setup on board

I may have some opportunities to work for the same company I do now, either part time or as a contractor.

Just checking to see if anybody knows anybody out there doing it.

It would also allow us to go sooner, obviously, which is always good.

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Old 28-10-2014, 23:01   #5
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Re: software development setup on board

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Originally Posted by FollowingCs View Post
I may have some opportunities to work for the same company I do now, either part time or as a contractor.

Just checking to see if anybody knows anybody out there doing it.

It would also allow us to go sooner, obviously, which is always good.

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Talk to Brian from SVDelos.

He's made it work for him and he seems to be cool about answering questions about it.

S/V Delos

Cheers,
Dan
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Old 28-10-2014, 23:12   #6
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Re: software development setup on board

C's-I am neither a developer or a software type, but living in Seattle, I know several folks doing just what you want to do. On monitors, I think if you check our specs, almost all monitors (as well as flat screen TVs, run on 12vdc internally. The transformer is built in rather than the old wall warts. You can wire them direct ot 12vdc or get a DC to DC transformer to get the right voltage/amps. Powerstream is a good source for these.

Jeff Siegel, the owner and developer of the Active Captain website (and an occasional poster here), does all his work now from his boat. You might go to his website and email him directly. He would be a great source.

Also, a sister site to CF, Trawler forum, has several members doing the same thing. One member there, ksanders, has quite an extensive setup on his boat to run his business from remote spots in Alaska. Might be worth a visit over there.
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Old 29-10-2014, 00:10   #7
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Re: Software Development Setup On Board.

I've been developing software (games) for 20+ years and also have plans to attempt a transition to development aboard within the next 1~2 years. For the past 1+ year I've made several extended trips (usually 7~14 days in length each) to my boat and experimented with the setup and scheduling issues.

In terms of time-use, OCD, ADD, etc... I struggle with distractions in the office environment, and thought being aboard would increase focus and quality of time spent on work. Wrong. As there's a never-ending list of tasks and repairs related to maintaining the boat, there's always *something* that seems more important than getting work done on the computer. Ultimately, the only thing that resolves this (wherever you're trying to work) is a strict set of rules about work schedule and delivery goals. Structure is the key.

For hardware setup I'd highly recommend a high-end laptop with large monitor over a traditional PC with dual-monitor. Laptops tend to consume less power, are better able to withstand shocks/bumps, don't eat your work when the power cord is kicked out, can more easily be lugged off the boat for work/repair, and are easier to hide/stow when not needed. I tried the dedicated tower PC with monitors setup and regretted it the entire time.

The options for data aboard are getting better, smaller, cheaper by the year. The latest thing I've got my eye on is the Iridium "Go," which appears to be affordable, easy to connect to various devices, has an unlimited global data plan for less than $160/mo, can be used as a sat phone, etc. Google search "iridium go" and you can learn more. I'll post some notes on this if I do end up buying/using one. ... At the moment, since I sail around the same geographic region, I just use a cell phone with a solid data plan. Works fine.

Back to the question of coding for more than "a few hours per day," I think you're on to something here. Disciplines like writing, coding, tend to have similar sweet spots for time spent vs. value of output. Sure, you can sit at a desk for 8 hours a day, but you're probably only producing 3~4 hours of valuable output. That being the case, I think the idea of development aboard isn't bad, so long as you adjust your schedule and expectations to be in tune with output. For example, I've been getting up early - like 5am - working for 3~4 hours, then stopping all computer-based work. The rest of the day is spent sailing, diving, taking care of the boat, etc. This aligns with the weather (usually getting too hot for this type of work by 9AM anyway), my natural work rhythm, and the requirements of life on the boat.

Next big challenge: How to organize a small flotilla of sailboats to form a functional floating development studio!?

Cheers,
-a
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Old 29-10-2014, 06:29   #8
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Re: software development setup on board

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Originally Posted by DanS4R View Post
Talk to Brian from SVDelos.

He's made it work for him and he seems to be cool about answering questions about it.
I've followed Delos a bit, and watched some of his videos. He explains a little bit in there, but emailing him directly would give me a better answer.

All the best,
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Old 29-10-2014, 06:33   #9
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Re: Software Development Setup On Board.

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Originally Posted by american View Post
Back to the question of coding for more than "a few hours per day," I think you're on to something here. Disciplines like writing, coding, tend to have similar sweet spots for time spent vs. value of output. Sure, you can sit at a desk for 8 hours a day, but you're probably only producing 3~4 hours of valuable output.
This is so true, my mornings are most productive, then everything goes to chaos, but usually due to meetings and conf calls. Probably for the better, as this time in late afternoon is usually not very productive working on code.

Quote:
Originally Posted by american View Post
Next big challenge: How to organize a small flotilla of sailboats to form a functional floating development studio!?
hmmm..... interesting. get a trawler to join up with a genset as the wifi hub and source code repository/build server... interesting.

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Old 29-10-2014, 07:12   #10
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Re: Software Development Setup On Board.

Some days you have lots of time, others you don't. Not sure if you are single-handing or going with a partner. If with a partner, spending days on end at the computer screen can get grating on the partner.
You don't say what you have for power generation on your boat. Plan on running a genset fairly often if you want to run a setup like you described. Probably better to scale back to a single monitor, more power efficient machine and live with a slower development environment.
The Interweb connectivity will initially suck. It gets better after you've been out a while and forget what a half-way decent connection is like. You have to be careful to download/git synch/load packages only when you have a decent connection and a cheap one. It can be very frustrating when you need a 600mb package to move on on your project and its just not practical to download it. There are plenty of people who modify their cruising plans based on where they can sit and get connectivity - usually in a pretty crowded no remote, not pristine location (although not Ohio either ). It all depends on what type of cruising works for you.
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Old 29-10-2014, 09:48   #11
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Re: Software Development Setup On Board.

I've been a browser for many weeks and usually just gathering information right now. I'm a long way off from leaving my domestic responsibilities. I am a software developer (47 as well) and while I don't plan on having a dedicated setup when I move aboard I can speak up about the 'concentration' issue of working remote. Actually, I hope to pitch the whole computer thing into the bin when I'm done.

I have worked remote for many years for a previous company that I worked for and get to do it once a week in my current position. I tend to goof off during the day like anybody else and not get as much done as I'd like. But, to stay on task and meet those deadlines I act at my remote location (aka home) as if I'm going to work at the office. I get up, shower, breakfast and dress. That way I'm mentally and physically prepared for the day ahead. As I'm readying myself I go over a mental list of things that I want to reasonably get done today with allowances for goofing off.

It's part of the benefits of being able to get things done that I normally don't have time to. I'll throw in a load of laundry, code a couple of methods/functions etc. Then I'll go and tinker with one of my projects or surf the web for a bit. Then I go back at it some more. Most important to me is that I watch the time and ensure I get done what I set out to do. This is really important for me, I need to feel that I'm being successful at what I'm doing and deliver what I promised. That way I don't get the guilts for goofing off too much.

Enjoy your new life! Sounds wonderful. I'm an old daddy and raising my eight year old boy that has special needs. When I turn 57, I'll have my pension and my boy will probably be too embarrassed to be seen with me. Then I'll be free to explore my options.
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Old 29-10-2014, 19:06   #12
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Re: Software Development Setup On Board.

My biggest challenge is power and connectivity quality/speed.

I use a macbook air (about 26 amps a day) for writing docs and my lenovo laptop (35 amps per 8 hour day) for everything else. Using them together, which is the norm, then takes up about 60 amps a day. That is as much as my fridge uses! This means I have to run the Honda at least once every three days (even with a wind generator and 560 watts of solar) just to recoup our losses.

Obviously, working in a marina is much easier.

The ATT LTE connection is pretty darn good on the east coast of the US at least but open, free, fast, and stable wi-fi connections are not common. Most of the places you like to go there are bars, restaurants, etc where you will find a good connection but they are noisy so its hard to have a professional meeting.

With that said, its great working in our cockpit - it sure beats the alternative!

Also, you become keenly aware of just how much time companies waste in offices with hours and hours of meetings where nothing gets done. That goes away for the most part. Gone are the meetings that sound like "we have to finish XYZ by ABC or the world will stop spinning!" followed by "but I'M not going to do anything about it because its not my responsibility". etc. etc. When I do have to go into the office its like I'm dealing with a bunch of whining children and the walking dead.
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Old 21-12-2014, 10:34   #13
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Re: Software Development Setup On Board.

I have an S-Corp, and contract with software companies specializing in Business Intelligence. Before that I was a BI Consultant for a software vendor out of San Fransisco. In either case, I too prefer the big monitor(s) and lots of room to spread out in. However, while cruising this is completely impractical.

Additionally, as for "intermittent" internet service... It will catch up to you and you will begin developing a bad reputation. If it gets out that you're cruising (remember to be conscientious of the noises and sights when Skyping, or in on-line meetings with the client), anyway like I said... if it gets out that you'e on a boat/cruising/in the Caribbean...etc, even if the issue is not on your end you'll never hear the end of it.

So, to that end, I'll say if you're development efforts are completely "heads-down" & no talking to the regular people, then you might have a chance at successfully doing what you're planning. On the other hand, if you have regular development meetings, or work in any sort of team / collaborative environment you're going to be at a complete disadvantage. Either way, I've decided to be billable up until the day I decide to head out again, then I'll go on a sabbatical.

My 2-cents...

RG
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Old 06-01-2015, 04:04   #14
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Re: Software Development Setup On Board.

I am currently getting ready to move aboard in less than a month as a full time developer. The setup that I have put together includes the following:

Surface 3 Pro 128GB
Dual monitor docking station
20" Acer LED Monitors
Creative speaker 3 channel sound system
2 USB 3.0 External Drives

The entire system under a full load always pulls less than 90 watts on 110v so power usage is very minimal.

The biggest advantage I have found to this setup is the surface can double as a chart plotter with Navionics from the Windows Store. If you have the iPhone or android Navionics you also have the ability to sync plotted courses between your devices. I'm actually looking into it as a primary navigation system backed up with paper charts.

The size of the tablet is also great to watch TV and movies on.


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Old 23-02-2015, 15:10   #15
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Re: Software Development Setup On Board.

Liquid, where are you planning on living aboard? marina?

I have a possible opportunity to pick up a great cruising catamaran well before I'm ready, and I will need to work full time from the boat for about 3 years.

- Ray
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