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Old 04-10-2009, 21:26   #46
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Originally Posted by bobfnbw View Post
Extemp you can do better than that. Here is a link for what i feel is a better system. Not sure though if your are from the great white north, might not work for you.
Acer is not a computer I would buy.
Vista is a good OS, and windows 7 will be as well. As long as there are device drivers out for the hardware you have like printers and scanners I say go with windows 7.

Asus N90SV-B1 T9600 2.80GHz 18.4in 640GB (2 x 320GB) HDD 4GB PC2-6400 (DDR2-800) 802.11b/g/n Blu-Ray Combo Windows Vista Home Premium Notebook Black Retail at ZipZoomfly
Yes from the Great White North, but if I had my choice .....
So far as the system you linked to:
  1. It's got a 35 watt processor vs 10 watt in the Acer.
  2. I want it small and would go for the 13.3" model but it does not have an optical drive, hence the 14".
  3. I have used and owned a few different brands of Laptop and because of this have NO brand loyalty. I now generally look at models and not brands.
Can I ask why you don't like Acer?
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
extemp, if you are looking to buy a modern computer, especially a new laptop or netbook, and you are concerned with power consumption, then XP should be a mistake.

I say "should be" because Vista has the ability to power down sub-sections of the hardware that are not being used, so that a motherboard which has been "built for Vista" and implements the hooks for the OS, should be shutting things down and consuming less power than the identical system running any version of XP.

You'd have to contact the manufacturer or run some tests to find out what any particular system does. If the system is "Atom" or "Centrino" branded, the folks at Intel with their fine 800-number and native English tech support may be able to tell you more.

XP is a great OS, Vista certainly has been problematic (often because of poor communications), and if you buy a Vista machine now, you qualify for a free upgrade to NT6.1, which is what they are selling as "Windows7". I'd go for the Vista machine, there are a number of subtle (poor communications) changes that affect many things including the audio system. XP does CD-quality audio with one mix of all sources. Vista does DVD+ quality audio, with separate controls for each application. Then there are the various security changes, which are harder to prove exist. (G)

Remember that XP is Windows2000 "dot one" and the core code was released nearly ten years ago. Sure, that makes it stable and well-documented...but also, a bit long in the tooth. Vista is like a spider bite, from a radioactive spider. First it hurts, but then you get great super-powers and a neat lycra suit and mask so you can crawl around skyscrapers in the dark. (G)
Makes good sense, perhaps I'll rethink this, but must say I HATE VISTA and was rather fond of XP (it treated me well and I knew my way around it).

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Old 04-10-2009, 23:01   #47
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homebrew chartplotter

I just put one of these together a week ago. 10" hp mini netbook at Office Depot on sale for $268 featuring 16GB flash drive, 1GB memory, 1.6GHz atom processor running Windows XP SP3 forms the platform for the chartplotter. After stripping out all of the extraneous garbage software that comes with it, the netbook is loaded with SeaClear II (open source = $0) chart software, and the free marine charts are downloaded from the NOAA website. WXTide32 (open source = $0) is also downloaded into the chartplotter along with the free World Vector Shoreline Data maps ($0) for tidal calculations/forecasting. Add to all that a hockey puck GPS unit for around $50 which is simply suction-cupped to the inside of a porthole window, and you're all set. To run the homebrewed chartplotter all that is needed is a small power inverter, which many boats already have onboard anyways. A 1 gallon ziplock freezer bag ($.25) with strategically place vent cutouts may be added to 'waterproof' the unit, which can be simply bungied to the nav station table inside the cabin. For <$350 the boat is now equipped with a minimal-power-consuming fully featured digital chartplotter , which also doubles as an internet wifi-connectible unit for downloading weather data, email, or performing other browsing needs when near a wifi hotspot. (The screens on some of the little netbooks now (like the hp units) are fabulous and can be easily read in daylight.)
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Old 05-10-2009, 06:46   #48
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A couple of things to make boat computers reliable


Here's a couple of tricks I've picked up over the years that have enabled me to go failure free for over 10 years with my boat computers:

  • Replace the HD every 3 years, MTBF starts to creep up after that.
  • Take the entire thing apart and thoroughly soak all the connections (memory, and board connectors, HD connections) with Boeshield T-9. Leave it open until all the solvent dries. If the CPU is plugged in instead of soldered in do it too but be careful not to spray the case as the waxy residue can reduce heat transfer. T-9 is the same product Boeing uses to seal electrical connections inside their airframes before they put the interior moldings in.
  • Back up often to an external HD or DVD.
  • If there's a chance of lightning put the computer and/or hard drive and spare gps/vhf in the oven. It is almost a perfect Faraday box. Don't forget to remove them before you cook!
Hope this helps!

SV Toucan Dream
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Old 05-10-2009, 07:38   #49
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Extemt... what I like about these board is that we get lots of ideas from varying viewpoints and different experiences. Gives us a lot to think about as we make the final decision as to what product will work best for us.

I'm not a computer expert by any means... I can turn the thing on and generally make it do what I want. We also just went through the 'what is best for me' exercise, and I'd like to offer a couple of other points to think about regarding boat computers. First, determine what you want the computer to do. If it's mostly chart plotting and possibly some e-mail, then a less expensive solution may be what 'not sure' recommended. If you'll be doing photo editing or gaming while underway, then a more expensive unit may be in order. Or is this going to be your home computer that you will also take aboard on weekends and vacations??

The operating system needs to be (IMHO) also matched somewhat to the software that you'll be using. I have 3 XP computers to carry aboard (plus a vista unit, which I dislike, in storage). Even the new computer that I had built has XP? Why?? Because some of the older programs (navigation) won't run on vista. Some of the other older software also wont run on vista. But all the new stuff will run on XP.

When I spoke with the vendor building our new computer, we had the conversation regarding XP, XP pro, and Vista.... the recommendation was to go with 'just plain XP', that the pro version did not offer many benefits for my application.

My intent is not to engage in a 'what operating system is best' discussion, as I'm not well versed in all the ins and outs of each system. But I do believe that whatever system you use for navigation on a boat needs to support whatever program you decide to use, AND be stable.

For us, we'll stick with XP. It works for us, it supports the programs we use, and we're familiar/comfortable with it.

Final thought from me... $1000 seems like an awful lot to spend for a boat computer. Wow. Seems like nowadays you could have at least 2 computers for that price... maybe 3.

Best of luck in your decision making process.

Steve Abel
SV Victoria Rose, Tayana 37
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Old 05-10-2009, 10:13   #50

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I'd be real reluctant to spray Boeshield or anything else in a modern computer, on anything except the external plug connector pins. Modern computers run internally at radio frequencies and EVERYTHING in there is an active component in the circuitry, including any conformal coatings or sprays you add in. Everything and anything added in there (even nicotine tar buildup) de-tunes the circuitry a little bit, and the only question is how far can you detune yours before it starts going bad. Just beware--there's a real reason why the manufacturers all say not to do this. And why the computers that have conformal coatings, are made, coated, and then re-engineered to come back to standards.

Steve, to me Vista is like seagulls. (Huh?) Yeah, you see, for many years I thought of seagulls as strictly flying rats, best used for skeet practice or hog food and generally kept away. Noisy, ugly, splat all over the car and boat...flying rats.

Then one day I got PO'd at a seagull that was buzzing our picnic, and threw the bare spare rib bone at it. The bird caught it, swallowed it, and came back for more. I said to myself, gee, this beats packing out the trash! Throw it into the air, and they fight to take it away! The good lord DID have a reason to build seagulls after all!

Same thing with Vista, one day you'll find out there's a reason for it. Just have to clean a lot of *rap off until that happens, though. (G)
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Old 05-10-2009, 12:23   #51
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I get you're point and I'm no ee but I've done it for 10 yrs on everything from shuttle to hp pavillion and my latest Intel Atom project. I also have to say it looks bad 'till it dries. Ironically, first time I did it was because my computer was failing when moved. Somebody told me the "trick" and ifixed mine with Boeshield. I've done ovver 10000 miles at sea this way.

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Old 05-10-2009, 14:52   #52
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The best computer for aboard has no internal fans and is hermetically closed. These are expensive.

The next best thing is no internal fans and closed as best as possible and I got those from Logic Supply in the US.

The next best thing is to buy a Dell XPS or other "gaming grade" laptops. Very durable but very expensive.

The next best thing is to go cheap so that you can easily replace it. My choice would be the Asus HA1005 netbook at just over $300.- If the screen is too small, hook it up to a bigger screen. It supports higher resolutions for external screens. I've seen MaxSea running on this and it's great.

I plan to try a Mac Mini later. I'll try running MacOS with XP as a task (using 3rd party software for that) or just install XP without MacOS. I have this feeling that it will be pretty reliable.

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Old 05-10-2009, 15:17   #53

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Chris, since you've been that lucky, remind me never to shoot craps with you. (G)

Now, get yourself to Vegas and remember, you owe me 10% of your winnings as an agent's fee. (VBG)
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Old 05-10-2009, 15:59   #54
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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Chris, since you've been that lucky, remind me never to shoot craps with you. (G)

Now, get yourself to Vegas and remember, you owe me 10% of your winnings as an agent's fee. (VBG)
I've heard it's better to be lucky if you can't be good! I also have a double redundant system when offshore but I have to admit both have had "the treatment".

Thanks and best regards,
SV Toucan Dream
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Old 05-10-2009, 16:18   #55
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Not sure why there is so much dislike of vista. Yes it does have a higher hardware requirement, but then for me that is a nonissue. In the beginning there was a lot of problems with drivers and such... but that is also a non issue these days, except for really old hardware. Been computing since dos 2.5 and have gone thru most of them, I find vista 32 bit just fine.
XP had a lot of issues when it was new, and is ok now. But support for it will not be around forever. Also the older MS os's have security issues that have to be patched frequently. Who is going to do that once it is a nonsupported os ?

I use a computer for multiple things. If I were to only use it for nav, then I agree go with a small, inexpensive, system. But since I use it for entertainment as well, both video, audio, and gaming, use it to store and retouch photos, videos, and keep copies of records that need to be safeguarded like wills, journals, ect, having up fast reliable computer is important to me.

Acer had a rep as a poor computer for a long time. Not sure where they are now. But I would not buy one.
For laptops the price is all over the place. You get what you pay for in many instances, but for me, a higher end sony, asus, dell or Panasonic is the way to go. I don't worry about the extra power it uses. If its a issue, install a solar panel or two.

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Old 05-10-2009, 17:09   #56
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we have a Panasonic adapter...operates in 100% gig ram...250 gig hdd.built in wifi with a antenna hook up for the mast..dont think we need anything else..oh the best thing is, you can drop it from 6 feet and it wont damage the hard drive.
Never start vast projects with half vast ideas
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Old 05-10-2009, 17:57   #57
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The idea for the homebrew chartplotter is to replace the expensive proprietary chartplotters with something inexpensive and easy to use and replace. The side benefit is that it can also run other simple software programs such as tide calculators, web browsers, and email clients, and use very little power when doing so. By no means is it meant to be able to produce your own desktop publishing version of your cruising memoirs...that's what the powerful desktop replacement notebooks are for. But if you're cruising, you certainly don't want to be firing up the desktop replacement laptop all of the time for mundane tasks such as checking your email or GPS position using mapping software any more than you want to be using your onboard refrigerator to make snowcones or cool your cabin in the tropics. Unless it's wintertime, you're in northern waters, and you need the laptop to help heat your cabin, that is.

Those netbooks are the greatest things for onboard use since sliced bread.
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Old 06-10-2009, 12:52   #58
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For anyone considering building a permanently installed computer I've listed the parts & cost for a typical low power Atom machine. I picked these particular etailers because they usually have fair prices and they had most of the parts so that shipping is minimized. I'm not endorsing them. The same basic parts will work on a variety of boards. You need to match the memory type to your board and if your using a board with a plug in CPU you need to match the CPU to the chipset on your board.

The board was picked because it provides good performance for most onboard computing tasks at low power consumption. This is the same CPU and Chipset that is used in most netbooks. The cheaper boards using the N230/N330 Atoms and the 945GC chipset will use double the power of boards with the N270 Atom and the 945GSE chipset. I also think that having 4 COM ports available is important, more would be even better.

I chose the case because the price isn't bad and it allows for easy mounting of all the available COM ports and USB ports and the wide input power supply I chose is a drop in replacement for the one that comes with the case. There are many other cases available.

Jetway NF94-270-LF $139.95
Morex 2766 case $84.95
M2-ATX PSU $71.95, 8" slimline OD SATA cable $4.95
$301.80, Shipping $15.90 Total $317.70
slim DVD burner $39.99
2.5" WD 320 Gb HD $59.99
Kingston 2Gb SO-DIMM $36.99
XP Home OEM $89.99
$226.96 Ship $5.99 Total $232.95

Miscellaneous -
Tie down brackets ?
Power cord $3.50
COM port cables $4 each

Here's a link to the product brochure for a Panel PC that could be the beginning of an alternative to the high end dedicated chart plotters. These should be available from industrial suppliers.

IEI Sailor-12a
Bob Stewart
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Old 06-10-2009, 13:22   #59

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Bob, I'm speechless that they are still placing hardware support for COM ports on any motherboard, let alone one targeted for the "real small and cheap" market.

These days, that could be a compelling reason to build up from one of these, instead of buying a commercial system.
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Old 06-10-2009, 14:26   #60
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My Boat Computer System

Hi All, Great thread!

I have a vintage Tartan 37 sloop, and cruise the PNW from Oregon to Alaska. My boat computer system is based on a Mac Mini mounted out of sight in a locker near my nav station. I have a 19" LG HDTV monitor mounted on a swing arm so that it can be used at the nav station, from the cockpit, or from the saloon. I use a wireless mouse and keyboard, so I can use the computer from any place I can see the monitor. I don't need sunlight visible, because the monitor is in the cabin.

Using the HDTV as a monitor gives us great TV reception when in port without resorting to a TV card on the Mac mini. It's not "marinized", but I can replace it 3 or 4 times for the price of a 19" marine lcd monitor.

I also have a WDHD Multimedia box hooked to a 1 terabyte external USB drive loaded with 200 hidef movies and a big music library. For movietime or music I don't have to fire up the Mac, just the monitor and the WDHD box.

The Mac is my primary chart plotter, currently running GPSNavX on the Mac side and Nobleltec on the PC side. I have an externally mounted Garmin GPS receiver. I also use software that makes my iPhone into a touchscreen repeater for GPSNavX running below deck on the Mac Mini.

I don't worry too much about the power load, as I am primarily a coastal cruiser, and the rest of the boat is energy efficient (led lights, engine-driven refrigeration, etc. I power the AC gear with a Freedom 10 inverter, and have a good battery monitoring system to keep track of the house bank. I also have a Honda genset for recharging while on the hook. Since I need to run the diesel for an hour a day to keep the beer cold, the house bank usually stays charged for our normal computer use.

I have a new 13" MacBook Pro on board as a backup and to carry shoreside. All I need now is a good external wifi solution with poe.

I was a Windows user for years, and am so happy to be free Microsoft. I just upgraded my OS to SnowLeopard... $49 for a 5-pack.

Cheers --

Tartan 37 Betty Lou
Hull # 118, deep fin keel
St. Helens, OR
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