ShipModul Marine Electronics has come out with a new product, a Bluetooth enabled NMEA multiplexer, that facilitates wireless communication between your PC and marine instruments like a GPS, wind & depth meters or compass. The multiplexer functions as a sort of 'hub' between these different devices, and since it's a Class 1 Bluetooth device, it operates within a theoretical range of 300ft. It works with all products that are based on the NMEA-0183 standard. This surely a nice product, but let's hope Zigbee-devices will arrive soon so that we can cut all cords between sensors, displays, multiplexers (if required at all al that time) and PC's.
"The MiniPlex-42BT communicates with a computer through its' Bluetooth interface for computerized nagivation. No cables need to be attached. Just placing your laptop at the chart table, or just being on board for that matter, is enough to communicate with your navigation system. Both NMEA outputs (talker ports) allow distribution of the NMEA data to up to eight instruments."
Wired reviews three portable generators and lists Yamaha's EF1000iS as a best buy at $799, altough the Honda EU2000i pumps out 2 kilowatts for up to 15 hours per 1.1-gallon tank of unleaded, making it the most powerful luggable unit available.
"Yamaha's pint-size EF1000iS purrs at between 47 and 57 dB and weighs a mere 28 pounds, yet puts out up to 12 hours of 1-kilowatt power. Like the Honda, it comes equipped with a built-in inverter, making it safe for finicky electronics. Its 0.66-gallon tank is completely sealable for transport, and it boasts a unique valve for draining the carburetor to prevent gummy buildup."
A bit further on the same page three fish finders are compared, claiming Navman FISH 4500 is your best buy, with Furuno's FCV600L not doing bad as well.
"The only thing missing from this tracker is a TV tuner. Then again, you'll be so busy reeling them in you won't have time for a break. The finder emits two sets of sound waves and, based on how many bounce back, it demystifies the deep. The results, including likely fish, appear on the high-resolution 5.6-inch LCD. The Furuno is easy to set up and searches down to 3,000 feet."
A while ago, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), set up the Grand Challenge, a driverless robot race from LA to Las Vegas. Ever since there has been a lot of press coverage on it. Reading this extensive article in Wired, I was just wondering what impact such a challenge might have on autopilots and other marine electronics. How long before we have a Grand Challenge Sailing Around the World, unaided by any human?
"Just about everyone in the Grand Challenge, Darpa reports, is building a robot guided by some combination of radar, ladar (a laser used to measure distance), stereo vision, and GPS. Radar picks out man-made stuff, particularly if it moves, and big rocks, too. Lasers sweep left and right, scanning the route ahead, assessing the terrain every foot or so, and sending back a picture that on a display looks a bit like the world rendered in pinstripes. Stereo vision is nearsighted but provides sharp, 3-D images up close."
Over at Nautical Web, a do-it-yourself-guide for the installation of an air-conditioning system. Even if you do not plan to do it yourself, this article can be very interesting since it offers good background information if you're relatively new to this field.
"The most interesting thing, which is the good news of recent years, is that the 'small' systems are quite easy to install and reasonably inexpensive. Considering the advantages of the air-conditioning on a boat, the installation of an air-conditioning system is quite simple and anybody with a bit of "do it yourself" experience and a with few, non specific tools, will be capable of a successful installation of a compact system."
Northstar�s new 6000i, an integrated navigation system, is getting a lot of attention from the press, very positive overall. Here you can find a fairly extensive review, but many others are available as well.
"Display of video information rounds out the capabilities of the 6000i. Video can be shown in full screen, split screen or in a window, whose size, format and position are adjustable. As the radar display does, the window offers adjustable opacity, allowing you to layer information. The uses for the video display, however, are far too numerous to explore in this overview."
Straightforward column in Yachting that discusses the different options for connecting your boat to the internet. As we know, different options are available depending on your specific requirements. Expect more developments in the near future...
"In response to year-round professional demands, more and more yachtsmen are equipping their boats with technology that enables them to cruise off the beaten path while making phone calls, exchanging e-mails and transferring files of all sizes. These communicat"ion capabilities, once enjoyed only by those aboard megayachts, are now available for midsize vessels."
Simrad has launched a NMEA 2000 compatible networking system. Using an active interface SimNet is also able to connect to existing equipment using NMEA 0183.
"The new Simrad SimNet plug and play integration system provides an exceptionally easy installation and interface between plotters, radar, autopilots, VHF radios and other instruments. SimNet offers the simplest solution for the integration of marine electronics and is set to revolutionize on board connectivity between navigation, steering and communication systems. It's size makes installation of onboard networks easy, 10mm holes are all that are required to feed the cable through bulkheads and walls and deck. This has been achieved by downsizing the plugs themselves and by designing the system to run without the large "ferrite interference suppresser" blocks found on other data cabling systems."
To have music all over the boat might not appeal to everyone on board at the same time. Therefore a product has been developed that will make it easier to have a personalized audio experience.
"To enjoy a stereo's full sound in different areas of the boat, additional speakers are normally used. Poly-Planar's new ME-50 Expansion Amplifier is designed for the boater who wants to relax on the back deck and turn up the music-all without waking a sleeping crew member or distracting the captain at the helm."
Some tips (pdf) that might save you a lot of money and hassle if your boat is fully equiped with electrical instruments, displays, compasses, etc...
"If the weather this time of the year is cold enough for you to give up sailing for a few months and curl up in a warm place, there�s a good chance that the electronic equipment on your boat would appreciate a little of the same treatment. A little extra care when the weather is cold can add considerably to the useful life of most electronics."
Networked systems, allowing you to have integrated access to all relevant data on one display, are all the rage these days. Over at Practical-Sailor.com they have a review of two high-end systems: Furuno vs. Raymarine.
"Lots of marine electronics makers produce stand-alone components like a radar, chartplotter, or depthsounder. It used to be the only way to go. But, nowadays integrated units are all the rage, and are available from several manufacturers, including SI-TEX and Simrad. But to take things to the highest level, to what is today the state of the art, you'll need a "networked" system."