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Old 19-02-2020, 05:59   #1
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Computer for navigation

I am nearing completion of my yacht so my attention has turned to navigation.

I'll probably use OpenCPN on a secondhand Panasonic Toughbook computer because:
  • it would be suitable for a marine environment.
  • the screen is readable in sunlight.
  • the screen is a touch screen
  • the unit can be separated so you can take the screen up into the cockpit.
The computer comes with Win 7 installed although one of the sales claims is that Win 10 (which the latest units have loaded) can be downgraded to Win 7 (Why would anyone want to do that? But I suppose that is another question)


I am completely new to navigation so any advice would be welcome.
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Old 19-02-2020, 06:28   #2
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Re: Computer for navigation

You're on a good track. We use a Lenovo Yoga and Open CPN, with a monitor at the helm. The Lenoo was designed for school children, with a solid state hard drive and a tough case, and is available for $150 refurbished. Manufacturer designated screens/systems are badly overpriced. We've got about $300 invested in our entire primary nav system, including the generic GPS antenna.
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Old 19-02-2020, 07:55   #3
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Re: Computer for navigation

Take a look at the Lenovo. It's a converatble touch-screen tablet/laptop, with an 11" screen so it fits in a corner on the nav table, standing as a tripod, flat as a tablet, and so on. I'm familiar with the Panasonic, and consider the Lenovo to be an economical alternative while the Panasonic seems over priced. We actually own three of them; I'm typing on one now, my wife has one as her writing computer, and then there's the nav one, which happens to be on my desk at the moment while I download some new charts from NOAA. We both have tablets for intermediate use and iPhones at the bottom. The system has overlaping elements. Mine has celestial nav software on it and other boat stuff that I might want while the nav computer is busy.

I applaud your looking to a laptop for nav. Newer versions of OpenCPN are really good, and if you have the space, separate sources of information (Nav, radar, AIS, VHF, depth, autopilot) give you a lot of redundancy that you don't have in an integrated glass cockpit. At last count, we had five GPS antennas, and could nav off the backup GPS/compass or the AIS. A spare $98 VHF and antenna sits in storage. The radar plays to a refurbished iPad. Much of our stuff is obsolescent, even bought off eBay.

It helps to have space. People with just space for one screen at the helm don't have this freedom. People like me, with eight feet of instrument panel and a desk-sized nav table with dining room table space for the planning chart can live in a world of read-outs and gauges.

It's positively wonderful that you are getting to plan your own system. Good luck with it.
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Old 19-02-2020, 15:46   #4
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Re: Computer for navigation

Quote:
Originally Posted by tkeithlu View Post
Take a look at the Lenovo. It's a converatble touch-screen tablet/laptop, with an 11" screen so it fits in a corner on the nav table, standing as a tripod, flat as a tablet, and so on. I'm familiar with the Panasonic, and consider the Lenovo to be an economical alternative while the Panasonic seems over priced. We actually own three of them; I'm typing on one now, my wife has one as her writing computer, and then there's the nav one, which happens to be on my desk at the moment while I download some new charts from NOAA. We both have tablets for intermediate use and iPhones at the bottom. The system has overlaping elements. Mine has celestial nav software on it and other boat stuff that I might want while the nav computer is busy.

I applaud your looking to a laptop for nav. Newer versions of OpenCPN are really good, and if you have the space, separate sources of information (Nav, radar, AIS, VHF, depth, autopilot) give you a lot of redundancy that you don't have in an integrated glass cockpit. At last count, we had five GPS antennas, and could nav off the backup GPS/compass or the AIS. A spare $98 VHF and antenna sits in storage. The radar plays to a refurbished iPad. Much of our stuff is obsolescent, even bought off eBay.

It helps to have space. People with just space for one screen at the helm don't have this freedom. People like me, with eight feet of instrument panel and a desk-sized nav table with dining room table space for the planning chart can live in a world of read-outs and gauges.

It's positively wonderful that you are getting to plan your own system. Good luck with it.
.


Thank you both for your advice

I worry about taking a laptop (designed for home use) aboard a boat. The local technician in a fishing village where I live says the lobster fishermen have problems with corrosion.

The computers I looked at have been especially designed for rugged used for the military, industry, geologists(?) etc. Certainly they are expensive new at around $3500 and that is why I'm thinking of buying a "pre-owned" unit at $299. The ones I was told to look at are:
  • Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme. The very best rugged laptop. ...
  • Dell Latitude 14 Rugged. A fantastic rugged laptop from Dell. ...
  • Panasonic Toughbook CF-33. Rugged 2-in-1 laptop. ...
  • HP ProBook x360 11 G1 EE Notebook PC. A sturdy laptop. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad 11e. Rugged performance.
They don't claim the Panasonic is waterproof but it can handle very harsh conditions.


"If you want a fully-rugged, lightweight, wireless laptop that converts from a powerful notebook PC to a convenient tablet PC with one quick swivel, then the Toughbook® 19 is for you. The fi rst tablet PC to be certifi ed1 for MIL-STD-810G and IP65, it features a full magnesium alloy case capable of withstanding a 6-foot drop1 —ideal for working in challenging environments and mission-critical situations. At only fi ve pounds, it’s good on the go with a hand strap, Wi-Fi, a brilliant LED screen capable of up to 6500 nit in direct sunlight, and optional integrated LTE mobile broadband."

I have also been considering a NUC which at $350 would be brand new but then I would need a touch screen and they are not cheap.
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Old 19-02-2020, 16:04   #5
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Re: Computer for navigation

Quote:
Originally Posted by tkeithlu View Post
You're on a good track. We use a Lenovo Yoga and Open CPN, with a monitor at the helm. The Lenoo was designed for school children, with a solid state hard drive and a tough case, and is available for $150 refurbished. Manufacturer designated screens/systems are badly overpriced. We've got about $300 invested in our entire primary nav system, including the generic GPS antenna.

I like it!! A child's computer is likely to be built quite sturdy and would have more than enough computer power and it would be inexpensive. I agree touch screens and screens that can be read in sunlight are very expensive.

Thanks
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Old 19-02-2020, 16:46   #6
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Re: Computer for navigation

We have used standard laptops for 24 years of cruising, Our Dell Inspiron is the fourth machine. It is 5 years old. I stili use another machine a Dell studio from 2010 for writing when I"m not at the chart table. I selected these machines for the vrry high resolution screens and the good warranty. The active machine lives on the chart table 24/7. It is used for nav, comms, Internet, photo editing, and general computing.

Our nav station is not subject to splashes even in the roughed weather, and we've seen plenty.

I don't think we need rugged computers.
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Old 19-02-2020, 17:00   #7
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Re: Computer for navigation

You can also use a Raspberry Pi Computer. These can be had from $10 - $90 for a full kit.

I just bought a couple of them (with 4 GB RAM) and have my AIS information from my SH GX2200 now displayed on a monitor/HDTV.

The gps is a hockey puck style USB which shows my boats position on the OpenCPN chart

https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Raspb...a-805715560965
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Old 19-02-2020, 17:02   #8
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Re: Computer for navigation

Quote:
Originally Posted by coopec43 View Post
I worry about taking a laptop (designed for home use) aboard a boat. The local technician in a fishing village where I live says the lobster fishermen have problems with corrosion.

On board I have a Mac PowerBook about 9 years old,
A Dell desktop about 15 years old
A HP laptop about 10 years
And a PC tower about 2 years.


No corrosion problems, no failures except wireless mice.
I'm in the PNW, but keep the boat reasonably dry.
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Old 19-02-2020, 17:14   #9
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Re: Computer for navigation

Quote:
Originally Posted by coopec43 View Post
I worry about taking a laptop (designed for home use) aboard a boat. The local technician in a fishing village where I live says the lobster fishermen have problems with corrosion.

The computers I looked at have been especially designed for rugged used for the military, industry, geologists(?) etc.
My question would be, does the design for water/dust ingress and handling drops also address the issue of corrosion? Similarly, what's the relative cost of using ordinary equipment and simply replacing it more often, particularly if you gain benefits such as larger screen size or better ergonomics?

Quote:
Originally Posted by coopec43 View Post
The computer comes with Win 7 installed although one of the sales claims is that Win 10 (which the latest units have loaded) can be downgraded to Win 7 (Why would anyone want to do that? But I suppose that is another question)
Sometimes people have legacy hardware or software that doesn't like the newest version of windows. These days if you see a computer offered with Windows 7 Pro, it's likely it really has a Windows 10 Pro license, and the maker installed Windows 7 under their downgrade rights. (If so, the sticker on the laptop would be a Windows 10 sticker, and so you could then upgrade back to 10 under the same license.)
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Old 19-02-2020, 17:36   #10
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Re: Computer for navigation

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Originally Posted by requiem View Post
My question would be, does the design for water/dust ingress and handling drops also address the issue of corrosion? Similarly, what's the relative cost of using ordinary equipment and simply replacing it more often, particularly if you gain benefits such as larger screen size or better ergonomics?

These units are designed for the military, industry and rugged outdoor environment so I would say " yes" it does cover the issue of corrosion.

The cost of a new Panasonic Toughbook is over $A2000+ but I am buying a refurbished unit in very good condition. I'd be happy with a 10.5 inch touch screen that can be used in sunlight.

If I wanted a larger screen for down below at the chart table I'm sure that would be possible.
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Old 19-02-2020, 18:39   #11
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Re: Computer for navigation

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Sometimes people have legacy hardware or software that doesn't like the newest version of windows. These days if you see a computer offered with Windows 7 Pro, it's likely it really has a Windows 10 Pro license, and the maker installed Windows 7 under their downgrade rights. (If so, the sticker on the laptop would be a Windows 10 sticker, and so you could then upgrade back to 10 under the same license.)

Thank you for that.

I think I'll replace the 500GB HDD with a 240GB SSD immediately

I thought of loading Linux and using that with CPN but I have an inkling Windows may handle a touch screen better than Linux (I'm sure I read that somewhere). I'll stay with Win7 in the short term but maybe it is a concern that Microsoft are not going to support it anymore?
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Old 19-02-2020, 19:34   #12
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Re: Computer for navigation

I have a Lenovo think pad 61 which I used for years, I had a Dongle on it so I could have Wifi where ever I went,
The laptop has Wifi, But the Dongle was the server,
I used it on my boat and it was connected to my PC at home,
A yauhty in Vanuatu down loaded a Nav map into it, It was terrific as a back up to my GPS,
But I cant find the Nav map on line as I lost the nav map on it when I upgraded from XP to Windows 7,
Does any one know where I can find a nav map to down load into my laptop,
I just bought a new S/H Laptop, a HP, for $50-00 its an ex school kids one, It has windows 10 on it,
But it has a lot more Hard drive than my Lenovo which has now run out of space,

Thanks Brian,
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Old 19-02-2020, 19:53   #13
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Re: Computer for navigation

Quote:
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But I cant find the Nav map on line as I lost the nav map on it when I upgraded from XP to Windows 7,
Does any one know where I can find a nav map to down load into my laptop,
I just bought a new S/H Laptop, a HP, for $50-00 its an ex school kids one, It has windows 10 on it,
But it has a lot more Hard drive than my Lenovo which has now run out of space,

Thanks Brian,

Why don't you replace the Hard Drive (HDD) with a SSD ? You'd have to copy all your data over from the HDD to the SSD. A 500GB SSD would probably only cost $A80/90? You'd get a lot better performance.
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Old 19-02-2020, 20:10   #14
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Re: Computer for navigation

I have a Panasonic Toughbook CF-53, purchased off eBay for about $250. I replaced the two hard-drives with a single 128GB SSD. Plenty of room for all onboard software and photos backup. The machine originally came with Windows 8.1; I upgraded to Windows 10. Decided Windows 10 is evil, especially with limited, low-speed bandwidth. Downgraded to Windows 7, and eventually went back to Windows 8.1 I see no reason to keep using Windows 7, nor to "upgrade" to Windows 10. Windows 8.1 with Classic Shell (now Open Shell) menu makes Windows 8.1 usable.

The Panasonic laptops are amazing -- I wouldn't hesitate to buy another, if needed.
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Old 19-02-2020, 20:10   #15
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Re: Computer for navigation

Quote:
Originally Posted by coopec43 View Post
Why don't you replace the Hard Drive (HDD) with a SSD ? You'd have to copy all your data over from the HDD to the SSD. A 500GB SSD would probably only cost $A80/90? You'd get a lot better performance.
My new HP Laptop is empty, It has a 500 GB HDD, 4 GB Ram,
I just need a Nav Map system to put in it,
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