Panbo

Datalux Tracer police car computer, good on a boat?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jun 30, 2010
used_Datalux_Tracer_PC_in_good_company_cPanbo.JPG

My search for Gizmo's navigation PC has taken a strange turn -- as you can see above, posed around a Furuno MFD12 -- and I'm blaming a Panbo commenter who recently crowed about scoring a 12v, fanless all-in-one Datalux iPix on eBay.  I'm close to crowing myself -- and maybe a few of you will join me, as there are three left -- but I could use some geek help to better understand what's under the hood of this particular Datalux Tracer police car computer...

The nice-seeming lady who bought a bunch of these at some auction in California (or so she tells me) couldn't figure out exactly what their age or specs are, and the Datalux site is not all that helpful, but I think I have a winner, at least in terms of cheapskate boat computing.  I posed it with the MFD12 to demonstrate that its 12" LCD touch screen is pretty darn bright, and I like that you can turn it off altogether with one of those upper buttons, and that it dims quite low.  The red backlit keyboard is great, and there's no doubt it's built at least for a coffee and donuts level of abuse ;-)
   I also used the MFD12's amazingly beefy bail mount as a temporary clamp point for the Tracer's unusual, but also beefy, column mount.  The screen swings about 90 degrees on it, while the keyboard hangs on a double-swivel arm and can also pop off and hang on a steering wheel (or at least an automobile steering wheel).  I think there are some good install possibilities for this thing at Gizmo's sometimes sunlight-flooded lower helm, but it will take some imagination and fiddling.  And first I need to confirm that the PC inside has the horsepower needed, as I persuaded the seller to grant me return privileges subject to that analysis.
   Below you can see the main screen of Windows SysInfo run on the Tracer and here is the complete file that should open on anyone's Windows system.  And here's the verbose text version.  At this point I believe that the unit, labeled a TCU-TX200-028, is a Tracer III model dating from about 2006, and I'm concerned about memory, graphics ability, and so forth. And and all advice will be appreciated.  And here's the eBay page where three more of these are available at $399 plus shipping.  I will gain nothing from further sales, except perhaps some compadres who are also trying to turn one into a nav machine. Maybe someone can figure out how to make that red button, apparently disfunctional at the moment, turn on Gizmo's underwater lights, or a siren? 
   But one thing I want to make clear:  I believe that the vast majority of boaters would be better off with a computer that's truly built for marine navigation, like the Furuno MFD12, even at much higher cost (in dollars).  The Tracer may be an interesting project, if I keep it, but there's a lot that could go awry.

Datalux Tracer sys info screen.JPG

Comments

PS I also used the MFD12 to show the latest Furuno/MaxSea raster and ENC charts for my harbor. They look quite good, I think, but do not reflect the April edition changes I discussing yesterday. There's a lag as MapMedia converts what NOAA publishes, just as there's a lag as Garmin, Navionics, etc. changes, bundles, and distributes their chart products. Which is why I'm pretty sure those oddball channel buoys will be around for some time on one screen or another.

Posted by: Ben at June 30, 2010 3:22 PM | Reply

Well, at first glance you have a 1GHz (I didn't right that down, might have been faster), 500MB Memory, 18GB Harddrive Windows XT computer that has a 1024,768 (touchscreen?) computer. That should be sufficient to run most of today's PC Navigation software, although there is no guarantee about future software. How much free hard drive space do you have? What ports (i.e. USB, VGA, etc) does the unit have?

Posted by: Evan at June 30, 2010 3:46 PM | Reply

Lots of programs exist to tell you in English exactly what hardware is in the box. For example: http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/cpu-z.html

You can also find free programs that audit and benchmark your hardware. For example: http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/pc-wizard.html
but these programs are not very useful when you don't have a feel for what your software needs.

If you can open the box, you can probably update the hard disk drive and, if it is not soldered down, the memory. Maxing out the memory is the best way to increase the performance of older hardware.

With older computers you probably want to keep running Windows XP. The newer OS options will probably run, but even if new drivers exist, they are bloated with support for recent hardware you don't have.

Nobody can tell you if the computer is "fast enough". Max out the memory and run your software.

Posted by: Craig at June 30, 2010 3:47 PM | Reply

Ok, just looked at the eBay photo's and answered some of my questions on ports. It has sound in and out, network, 2-usb, a DVI connector (in or out??), and a serial port - handy for connecting to that Nmea bridge.

All and all, not a bad computer, little steep compared to a regular laptop, but then it does have a daylight viewable screen.

Posted by: Evan in reply to Evan at June 30, 2010 3:56 PM | Reply

Unless you've got an extremely inefficient inverter, 12v vs 110v isn't going to make much difference.

The computer you've purchased is a single core processor at 1Ghz with Intel's own graphics processor and probably a corresponding slow memory bus. It's an old computer and you're getting what you paid for. By a rough Moore's law calculation, you're buying about 20% of what you could buy today, which is why you're paying about 1/5 of what you'd probably pay for a current machine.

You're going to go to a lot of trouble to install this and build other system components around it. You're not going to find anything in the future that fits this form factor, so when it comes time to upgrade, you're going to again go through a major install. In another year this machine will be about 1/8th the performance of a current machine and you'll be thinking about upgrading.

And being an electronics geek you're going to want to load it up with all kinds of stuff, and then install a bunch of stuff that people will send you for evalution and review.

If you want an integrated system, an iMac (www.apple.com/imac/specs.html), running Windows with Bootcamp, is a very cost effective solution at $1,200 for a 21.5" unit. If you want separates, the new MacMini is a lot of power in a very small box (www.apple.com/macmini/specs.html). Bootcamp is free and you can run Windows 7.

It's "pay me now, or pay me later". If you install a current machine you'll be happy for 3-4 years. If you install this, you'll be installing a new computer next year.

If it helps your economics, I've got a new Edgeport/8 USB/serial box I'll sell you at great price!

Posted by: Russ at June 30, 2010 7:06 PM | Reply

Relax, Ben! it's likely you can boost this box to a meg of memory. It will then run most everything on the market. It will continue to do so for years, so even if you get tired of it, someone else will want it for $100 less than you paid for it. Open CPM has a new stable version (2.10) just out that will certainly run on this better than on the netbooks it is most commonly paired with. Hopefully it has USB 2.0, so you can plug in a bucketfull of gadgets thru a $10 powered USB hub.
Don't cut any holes for it, and you'll keep it about as long as you held on to that last camera!

Posted by: Sandy Daugherty at June 30, 2010 8:04 PM | Reply

Thank you, gentlemen, but it seems like a lot of you are missing the value, at least on boats like Gizmo, of a high bright screen, compact form factor, and separate compact keyboard, all ruggedized and married to a mount that's meant to be bolted to something. A laptop may be fine at the nav station in a dim sailboat interior but they don't work well in a pilothouse like Gizmo's, with lots of glass and a helm you actually con the vessel from.

I've been getting acquainted with the Tracer since I wrote this entry and am really liking it. I think it's going to work well ergonomically when I'm standing at the helm in bright daylight or deep of night, and also to do some minor computing when not underway. I've got an old PCMCIA WiFi card working in it now, along with FireFox and a couple of utilities (like the PC Wizard Craig recommended), and so far, so good.

I'm still a little confused about memory, though; what does 512 meg "physical" and 2 gig "virtual" mean in real terms? The real test will be loading some charting software and hooking it to a few sensor inputs. But it won't be the only PC onboard.

Posted by: Ben at June 30, 2010 9:57 PM | Reply

Ignore the virtual memory number. You have 512 Meg and might be able to improve that by opening the box and putting in memory purchased from someplace like NewEgg.

Virtual memory is a region of your disk drive reserved for storing memory pages that won't fit into your 512M. Your system will really slow down if it needs to use the disk drive to pretend that it is real memory.

Posted by: Craig at June 30, 2010 10:09 PM | Reply

Does right-clicking work with this touchscreen? If so, using which driver/software?
I have installed a "faytech" touch monitor at the nav station which is plenty bright (but a dim sailboat interior) to use with the laptop which is then hidden in a locker. It came with a "Touchkit" driver that is supposed to support right-clicking by pressing and holding for a short while but this just doesn't seem to work.
Also, do all touchscreens put out serial data that is then converted to usb? And if so, which touchscreens do not use the Prolific serial-to-usb chip which causes so many blue screens (the faytech doesn't, I think, but it uses built-in serial-to-usb conversion and one should be aware of the problems the conversion may give)?
To fix the problem of serial NMEA data autodetected as a mouse which causes the mouse to jump around I found this method:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/819036
(I strongly hope that it won't do what it says it will do, disabling a COM port, but instead disable autodetection of serial mice data on a COM port).
Is that the best way?
If someone now said "but these are just the reasons why ordinary people buy MFDs" I would partly agree but also point to the many places around here discussing MFD problems pretty similar to the ones above. And then with an MFD you would never get the kind of choice for chart data than with a PC and a collection of charting applications. Even Navionics, as I have now learned, using Fugawi Marine ENC.
I am still tending towards a laptop rather than a marine PC because I would not underestimate the effort to keep a PC running (all kinds of updates to Windows, the virus scanner, Office, Flash player and so on as well as regular disk defragmentation and backups/partition copies) and I am a believer in using a single computer for everything (who has bad experience doing this?). During the week, when I am on a project, I can spend the evening in the hotel room to plan a route, install chart updates, learn about Coastal Explorer 2010 beta and so on. But I agree that there is the cost and effort to set it up with external monitor, keyboard and mouse. It also can't have built-in COM ports so you are bound to have problems with COM ports being renumbered when using the everpresent converters. I try to combat this by using a high quality 4-port converter in a metal case fix-mounted in a navigation locker (not a Prolific chipset). This means that among these 4 ports, the numbering order will not change but you can still have problems with said touchscreen that may shift all the numbers up by one. And 4 ports may not even be enough (no. 1 for all NMEA data incl. GPS, no. 2 to upload routes to the GPS, no. 3 for autopilot control by the navigation program and no. 4 for a serial connection to a navtex receiver to have better presentation using the Smartcom Software). If I then get my hoped for waterproof sunlight viewable cockpit monitor this will output serial touch screen data and I'm one port short and forget about the serial output of the barograph.
Will the entire issue of COM ports be done with when switching to NMEA2000 and a native converter such as the ones from Actisense and Maretron? And will this help me with the GPS-upload of routes if I used a Furuno GP-33? I know it won't help me with the autopilot because I'll have to stick with my trusty old Robertson.
I'd be unfair to expect answers to all these questions. For at least some I will have to experiment. But its the start of a list of issues to take care of when setting up a marine PC.
And maybe, just so you won't have to go through this list more often than neccessary, you should try not to swap the PC so many times.

Posted by: Henning at July 1, 2010 5:03 AM | Reply

Ben - That is an interesting form factor. And great screen. Let me know how useful the touch screen is with CE 2010 if you try it out.

The question is how long will the this PC have sufficient horsepower to tackle what you want to throw at it?

Some of the traditional form laptops have what I think are probably equally bright screens. My Dell XFR 630 on the flybridge of my trawler is perfectly clear in all light conditions. Even out of the shade of the bimini, with the sun directly on the screen - you can still use it, but a bit washed out. At least equal to, perhaps slightly better than my Gen1 Navnet display, but with unlimited colors.

For comparison - $1100 on Ebay, 2 years remaining on a Dell service contract and a solid state hard drive. No touch screen.

I'm using one of the RAM vehicular mounts for it, and it has worked well so far. The drawback is these have steel components, so if they ever saw salt water spray or got rained on repeatedly they would not last long.

Henning - See the article I wrote on using serial ethernet servers on my boat, Mar Azul a few months back on this site. It may solve all the serial issues interfacing to other electronics.

I've only had about 5 days at sea since I set this all up and I'm still working out some kinks. So far, Wifi works, but occasionally unexpectedly drops communications with the servers. This is not an issue if I keep the laptop connected by wire.

I've got 2 weeks out starting the end of this month and will be trying to work out the Wifi kinks.

Affordable marinized hardware is the key to wider adoption of PC based marine electronics. In my opinion, PC's and the internet make possible the integration of Active Captain and CE 2010 - more useful than say a 3D view of the bottom. Not to mention always having current charts since the download is automatic.

Posted by: Bob at July 1, 2010 6:57 AM | Reply

Hi Henning, Yes, right clicking works if enabled. That puts a little button lower right on the screen. You tap that first, and then your next screen tap will be considered a right click. The software is TouchWare from 3M. It does seem to use Com 2 at 9600 baud to communicate with the screen. I don't think there's any USB converter involved but it's all internal.

This machine has four USB 2.0 ports but one is mangled (perils of eBay) and the keyboard/mouse pad uses another. (There's one regular serial port, but it's a mini style I haven't seen before.) So I may end up with a USB box. Using a NMEA 2000 gateway helps a lot, but then again I have ambitious plans for data i/o.

Uploading routes to MFDs via N2K is an interesting question. I don't think it's supported in many cases at the moment, if any, but it should be possible.

Posted by: Ben at July 1, 2010 7:37 AM | Reply

Bob, yes I remember that article but didn't connect it to my situation then. Ethernet (wired) is no problem as I already use it to connect the Panasonic wireless display in the cockpit.
How are the COM ports represented/configured on the PC side using the serial server? Can they be set to never be renumbered (fixed assignment)? Can they be set to not be scanned for a serial mouse? Will they pop up and disappear when ethernet is connected and disconnected, probably confusing the software listening on them?
I have stopped fiddling with WLAN for onboard connections after many hours of experimenting with the "wireless display" (now wired in my case). This device would absolutely not connect with any kind of security enabled whether using PC-to-PC or whether with two different WLAN access points that I have tried. The display data that is transferred is of course not sensitive but all my private and business data on my laptop is. But the issue I have with WLAN is mostly reliability. It's good for reading panbo at the airport but I'd rather not have it transport NMEA data on my boat. The 2.4GHz band has all kinds of devices, some even on your own boat (microwave?).
But keep me updated on how the serial server turns out.

Ben, thank you. I will try that driver/software.
Are your ambitious plans for data i/o due this season?
Well if uploading (or transferring) routes isn't in the NMEA2000 PGN set or not widely adopted yet, then it will at least give me one COM port back.
Not relevant for me but I would think that NMEA2000 supports controlling an autopilot. The Furuno NAVpilot 700 would have to use this to be controlled by, say, a GP-33 in NAV mode. The question is if it's a proprietary sentence and, if not, if vendors such as Rose Point support it. In the manual it says "4.5 NAVnet vx2 Synchronization The NAVpilot goes to the NAV mode when it receives a P sentence (proprietary FURUNO sentence) from a NAVnet vx2 equipment."
But it may be a better idea in any case to upload the route to the GPS and then have the GPS (or MFD if you insist) control the autopilot. This should work even with an NMEA2000 GPS and my trusty old Robertson as the GPS will also support NMEA0183.
So I hope route upload works via NMEA2000 and an Actisense or Maretron Gateway.

Posted by: Henning at July 1, 2010 8:53 AM | Reply

Moxa provides a serial port driver and I think the ports are fixed - so say COM7 would always be GPS data in. However, at this point, I'm not using that driver since CE 2010 provides the ability to hard specify the IP address of the server in the software application itself. Take a look at the installation manual for Nport servers...may answer other questions.

I don't know if many other software programs allow direct IP address entry or not - I'd bet the ability in CE came from a "commercial" requirement where the same software is the basis for a full blown ECS on commercial vessels.

Each Moxa port is essentially 2 NMEA ports to CE, one in and one out. So I think the 4 devices you mentioned might only require 2 ports. GPS and Navtex in, Autopilot and Routes out. The catch is AIS - this runs at high speed, so if you need AIS in, the out port also runs at high speed. Only really useful to echo the AIS data to another device.

I have uploaded CE built routes to a Furuno NavNet Gen 1 display using the physical serial port on the PC wired to the Furuno display. The interface is cumbersome, but worked. On NavNet 1 this is a RS232 connection, not RS422/NMEA. However in practice, I found that CE controlling the autopilot worked well, so I've not bothered using this again. The autopilot does whig out a bit if you start dragging the current leg waypoints around. Future legs on the route seem to be OK.

I use an access point for WiFi, security is enabled by MAC address. If I have not enabled the physical MAC address for a device, then it can't get on the network. I know this can be "spoofed" - but the lack of state secrets on my network means that most likely no one will try.....

It's too bad about WiFi reliability. If it's RF causing the intermittent issue, it's got to be on my boat. I've been 5 miles offshore and had the WiFi connection dropped. I think, but don't really know, that it may have to do with dropping some of the NMEA packets and then running out of buffers to catch up. With NMEA, if you miss a data burst, you are generally much better off skipping it and moving on with "fresh" data. However, conventional computer communications don't think that way. I plan to dig more into some of the Moxa server options.

Posted by: Bob at July 1, 2010 11:07 AM | Reply

On the topic of sunlight readable displays, while only 10.1" model is available now, I wonder if this technology has potential for marine electronics: http://pixelqi.com/blog1/2010/07/01/diy-pixel-qi-screens-available-now/

Basically, they claim the display technology "offers two modes–an easy-to-read, real color, multi-media mode or a crisp, low power e-reader mode. Indeed, the sunlight-ready, e-reader mode makes it easy to use outdoors."

It sounds like outdoor mode will have some tradeoffs in color reproduction - but it's not clear to me what that means.

Just passing it along, because I thought it was interesting... Yeah, It doesn't have anything to do with Datalux...

Posted by: Scott E at July 1, 2010 11:23 AM | Reply

hey ben

why dont you try out hatterland displays
they are specaily made for marine use

all the yacht that are made by my old boss they install this brand

and i believe they also have touchscreen version
(not 100% sure about this )

Posted by: pascal at July 1, 2010 11:41 AM | Reply

Great thread, my head is reeling, from just the questions asked, not to mention digesting in info. I'm going to get a cup of coffee, and read it again. Thanks

Posted by: Bill Bishop at July 1, 2010 12:50 PM | Reply

I'm a happy boy: CE 2009 is loaded on the Tracer and running fine, mucho N2K input included. I also experimented with mounting positions on the boat and think I've got that sorted. And, finally, at full screen brightness the whole kit uses about 24 watts, at maximum dim about 14, and that's with the WiFi card running, which eats a watt or two.

Posted by: Ben at July 1, 2010 7:16 PM | Reply

Hi Ben,

You might want to try this Serial port emulator. It's quite good for handling multiple programs at once from a single input. This allows you to run different GPS programs at the same time for comparison.

http://www.eterlogic.com/Products.VSPE.html

Posted by: DeadAnt at July 2, 2010 3:04 AM | Reply

Does anybody have any experience the the MS patch described above (serial mouse detection)? I'm dealing with a system that intermittently does this, and not always on the same port,(8 usb to serial esque ports), and there is a serial mouse on the system.
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/819036

Posted by: Bill Bishop in reply to Henning at July 2, 2010 11:07 AM | Reply

Bill, I have installed it but not tested it yet as I have found it only this week. If I find time this weekend, which I can't promise, I should know quickly because last weekend, when testing the Coastal Explorer 2009 update and the touch screen I had plenty of jumping mouse pointers. I have to power up the instruments only after the computer has booted and logged me in. When I restart, I have to remember to turn off the instruments. If I dont't and turn them off only after the mouse has started jumping around, it will resume jumping around however many times I turn the instruments off and on again. Unplugging the USB ports sometimes help (like I have to unplug and reconnect it 1 or 3 or 5 times to get rid of the jumping mouse).
If the tool works (which is just supposed to modify the registry to turn off autodetecting serial mice on a specific COM port) I'll know quickly.
I'll be testing this with Windows XP. Win 7 will have to wait a little longer.

Posted by: Henning in reply to Bill Bishop at July 2, 2010 2:52 PM | Reply

Having used personal computers or the equivalent since I was aged 29, and I'm now nearly 62, I should point out a few things. If you want speed you need to have a hot processor, and that means a lot of cooling, with a noisy fan.

Next, if you want the thing to restart quickly after a failure, and if you are sailing at the time, speed is of the essence, you really don't want a Windows PC.

Get a Mac, (or Unix), and you have speed, properly engineered cooling, and reliability. It probably won't need restarting anyway.

I make my living from support and servicing of hundreds of Windows PCs, and tell my clients to get Macs, but fortunately for my income, they don't.

When my colleagues and I go home, we use Macs, iPads, iPhones, naturally.


Posted by: Michael Powell at July 3, 2010 5:51 PM | Reply

Some info from tests last weekend and some manual reading:
1. Touch driver/touch software:
When investigating a problem with some of Coastal Explorer's Cruise Mode buttons not working properly, I uninstalled the touch driver. Since that didn't affect the problem, I reinstalled the driver but an updated version. It is now called "eGalaxTouch" and available here
http://home.eeti.com.tw/web20/eg/download.html
This time during install I unchecked both PS/2 support and RS232 support. Previously I had assumed that it would not work without either one or the other but I find that it does.
So it turns out that the touch monitor does not require a COM port. It just uses USB HID. The driver can be set to also support RS232-connected touch monitors (like the one I hope to have one day in the cockpit where the distance is too great for USB without multiple powered extensions which wouldn't be a clean installation). If you activate RS232 then clearly it will look for serial mice on COM ports. So I probably brought my jumping mouse pointer problem upon myself. Without RS232-support enabled, I now have no more mouse pointer problems.

2. COMdisable (Bill):
This tool reported "Error finding COMXX" on each port that I tried it with. This probably has to do with every single COM port between 3 and 12 reorted as "in use" by Windows XP's device manager. I wonder why as right now there are no USB-to-serial devices connected and the CardBus data card which uses COM ports is not plugged in. The only COM port physically present is COM1 in the docking station and that is reported as free.
So no, the tool was not helpful. But I think that I now have a better understanding and will be better able to fix future problems. I also found this in the manual of Bob's Moxa NPort manual:
"If you select multiple serial ports or multiple device servers, remember to check the “Auto
Enumerating” function. COM Numbers will then be assigned automatically in numerical order,
starting from the COM Number that you select."
This suggests that the annoying renumbering of COM ports can be turned off by unchecking this in the Windows Port configuration.

3. Moxa NPort Serial-to-Ethernet servers (Bob, Mar Azul):
Reading the very through manual has put a smile on my face. This looks like a reliable product. I did not find an answer to this question, though: will the COM ports on the PC disappear when the NPort is disconnected from the network or will they continue to exist just not receiving data? If you happen to come accross an answer, please let me know. With using the direct connection of Coastal Explorer, this may not be immediately apparent for you. However, I want to be able to also use other charting applications in the future (seaPro, Expedition) which may not all support serial ethernet servers so I would need to set up COM ports on the PC.
I also don't like 350mA of power usage for the 4 port version without display and the USD 400 price tag.
For now I will keep my serial-to-USB converter as, unlike you, I don't need my computer to be wireless (more to the opposite).
Have you ever thought about wired ethernet? I use waterproof ethernet connectors for industrial installations (not "marine" so not expensive). The ethernet connection to the Panasonic display I have waterproofed with several layers of heat-glue shrink tubing and some Sikaflex. This doesn't look as messy as it sounds and it has held up for two seasons. All the chrome-plated screws of the Panasonic have rusted but the connection is still OK through saltwater dousings and hailstorms. I admit though, that I would like to replace the Panasonic with an IP68 or at least 67 LED-backlit 12'' touch monitor which supposedly can be had with a single connector carrying power, VGA and serial touch data.

4. 3m TouchWare (Ben):
After the reinstall, my "eGalaxTouch" driver/software works correctly with right-clicking by pressing and holding for a settable number of miliseconds. I think I like this better than a (settable) area on the screen dedicated to the right-click function of 3m TouchWare. We will see. The other functions of the respective drivers/softwares seem to be pretty similar, judging from the TouchWare manual.

5. Hatterland displays (pascal)
They are actually called "Hatteland" and they are here:
http://www.hatteland-display.com/
This company was suggested by Furuno sales staff at the german boat shows as an alternative to their own, such as for 1024*768 at 12''. From the information on the website I believe they are focussed on larger bridge installations and they don't have a fully waterproof display. Of course that is not needed in a typical lower helm of a powerboat.

Posted by: Henning at July 6, 2010 6:04 AM | Reply

Thanks "Henning", I will be on the boat tomorrow, and I will give it a try. I will report back. Tnx Bill

Posted by: Bill Bishop at July 6, 2010 12:26 PM | Reply

henning,

thanks for pointing out my typo on hatteland
this is the brand i mean the "r" is next of the "e" so a dubbel typing is easy made

Posted by: pascal at July 7, 2010 10:44 AM | Reply

Hey All,
Been reading this thread.
I bought one of the three Datalux PCs on Ebay.
I had lots of positives:
1. It fired up easily after splicing a 12 volt lighter plub onto the power wires.
2. Easily loaded OpenCPN
3. Less easily (but not bad) loaded all the free NOAA charts (Went with the raster charts, but will play with the vector charts later)
4. Easily connected my USB GPS antenna.

I haven't taken the boat out yet, but I'm quite surprised at how well this all went together, and only for 400 bucks!
I'm a happy guy!
Matt

Posted by: Matt at July 18, 2010 3:33 PM | Reply

Hey Ben,
Do you have a manual for your Datalux Tracer?
I did not get one and can't find one on line.
I'd be glad to pay for Xerox costs if you don't have electronic copy.
Thx,
Matt

Posted by: Matt at July 18, 2010 4:05 PM | Reply

Sorry, Matt, no manual. But then again I haven't felt like I needed one. I did download some misc drivers for the Tracer 3 (TX200) but haven't messed with them:

http://www.datalux.com/drivers.asp

I've been able to download NOAA RNCs and ENCs to Coastal Explorer 2010 via either Linksys PCMIA card or WaveWiFi Ethernet Comet. Also have Maretron USB100 working fine. Had trouble with Actisense NGT-1, but think I just bobbled the USB driver install.

One of the permanently installed USB cables on the Datalux came mangled but am using a cheap multiport fine. I, too, am a happy camper.

Posted by: Ben at July 19, 2010 8:21 AM | Reply

Thanks for the reply Ben,
OK, I have two relatively embarrassing questions:
1. What's the red button on the top of the display for? I am afraid to push it.
2. I'm under the impression the touchpad (after reading everything I could on the Datalux site) has a right button click function already. Have you figured out how to work it? What are you doing for right click on the touchscreen?

For downloads, I did a LAN connection to the Datalux from my other notebook that has a wifi connection so I can download most of what I need via the internet. Also have an external drive I can use for backup and uploads in addition to a usb finger drive, so I'm having few problems with not having a CD drive.
One thing that I miss is the little hard drive LED that tells you the machine is thinking...my cue to leave it alone until its done, as when I fire it up and its booting. Good thing this doesn't have much on it and boots quite quickly.

Oh, also, I haven't shut everything else down to measure power consumption from my Link 1000 meter. I can't find this on any of Datalux's specs....Have you measured power consumption (amps or watts) of this beast?

Matt

Posted by: Matt at July 19, 2010 2:35 PM | Reply

I'd guess the red button connected to some special police software function; it doesn't seem to do anything. If you want pure touch right click, as opposed to the mouse buttons on the keyboard, you can enable it in the touch screen software. It puts up a little screen button. Touch it and your next touch will be considered a right click.

I measured 20-21 watts with screen at full brightness, 22-24 with WiFi card in action, and 12-14 with the screen turned off. Not bad!

Please tell me how you're sharing the WiFi connection on another PC. Never tried that.

BTW, I understand that all the Dataluxes are sold now, but the same lady might get some more.

Posted by: Ben at July 19, 2010 2:46 PM | Reply

Ben,
Thanks for the prod to enable the right click on the Touchware. Works fine, and the icon is pretty small and unobtrusive. Greatly appreciated!
21 watts! That's great, considering I'm looking at 50 to 60 watts to run my PC off a small inverter. Very inefficient going up then down on voltage.
Internet sharing requires a crossover LAN cable. This MS site explains. Very easy and worked the first time.
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/306126
I noticed that I sometimes have to reboot the host PC to get it working again.
I took the PC outside for the first time. Pretty good visibility, even through my polarized sunglasses, if I don't tilt my head, of course.
I think this thing's a keeper. I'm going to work on mounting at my helm.
Only thing I need to add is a cover for the PCM card slot It's wide open on the one I got. Bummer.
Fortunately, my dedicated USB cable works the keyboard fine. I can't dim the display from the keyboard, though, using the fn key and the up/down arrows. Works from the screen buttons, though.

Posted by: Matt in reply to Ben at July 19, 2010 6:39 PM | Reply

I had a friend forward a possible fix for the crazy mouse/GPS syndrome, at least on a XP system. Any sense about it validity?

http://www.jaimezx.com/Misc/crazymouse.html

Thanks Bill

Posted by: Bill Bishop at July 21, 2010 12:19 PM | Reply

This looks correct to me.
The instructions on the page are just as useful as the actual registry value contained in the .reg file
I made the change on my XP computer.
I also checked on a Win7 computer that I have. The same registry value still exists in Win7 and will likely have the same effect. Can't speak for Vista.
I expect this to completely disable support for serial mice systemwide which is probably a good idea in most cases. An exception to this is if you used a touchscreen monitor mounted far away from the computer (in the cockpit) and, to overcome the cable length limitation of USB, set up this monitor with serial mouse data. This is what I plan to do. When I get the monitor, I must remember to set the value back from 4 to 3.
I think that the Microsoft fix that I had found (see above) will prevent the microsoft serial mouse driver to look for a serial mouse on certain COM ports for which the tool was executed. That didn't help me (I think) because it was not the Microsoft serial mouse driver that caused the jumping mouse but the touch screen mouse driver that I had installed and for which I had (stupidly) activated support for serial mice during installation. I I did that again, I would probably still get a jumping mouse even with this change.

Posted by: Henning at July 23, 2010 5:52 AM | Reply

Thank you for the feed back Henning, I will try to make it work tomorrow, and I will report back if it worked, or if I gave the system an inadvertent frontal lobotomy. Tnx Bill

Posted by: Bill Bishop at July 26, 2010 11:50 AM | Reply

Henning, thank you for your comments about the "Crazy Mouse" patch.

http://www.jaimezx.com/Misc/crazymouse.html

I installed it yesterday, and it worked perfectly and took about ten minutes to do. The system can no longer see a serial mouse. The XP system has two GPS's, and I added a third to test it. I did about a half dozen restarts, and had no problems. Thank you again, Bill

Posted by: Bill Bishop at August 8, 2010 9:34 AM | Reply

As its a bright screen that you need, get a Macbook Air.

The first models are going on eBay for $350 in pristine conditions. I use mine at an open helm on my Rinker 300 to chart-plot. Its happy to speak to a Bluetooth GPS and 3G MiFi which are both tucked away, and will work for hours without needing a recharge.

With my internet connection I can check the AIS traffic, weather, tides, harbour aerial pictures, and keep people informed of my track.

Its not the fastest Air, these days, but its got plenty of power for these jobs, as well as keeping the blog of journeys, playing music, watching online and recorded TV, and so on.

When I go ashore and leave it, the MacBook slips easily into a small safe along with other small valuables.

Job done.

I'm using MacOS, but you can downgrade to Windows if you have to!!

As for updating every season, just backup your Mac, sell it on, and buy a newer one. There's a very ready market.


Posted by: Michael Powell at August 8, 2010 1:11 PM | Reply

Sorry, Michael, I don't buy that a Mac Air is anywhere near as bright as this Datalux, which incidentally is running nav software just fine, plus a browser and a tethering client that works with my Android phone. I am having a little trouble with my ethernet port and a Wave Comet high power WiFi, but I don't I can blame it on Windows.

It's also mounted with the display at eye height when I'm standing at the lower helm, and the (back lit) keyboard at elbow height, and both are very securely attached to the boat. Nearly perfect ergonomics, really, and very hard to get with a laptop at a helm.

Posted by: Ben at August 8, 2010 1:45 PM | Reply

Ben, its horses for courses, but for the majority who can't get hold of this sort of specialist kit, the very bright Air screen is a great choice.

I'm lucky to have a full sized chart space next to my helm, and have two notebook computers open for plotting, and the rest. For coastal broadband, they share a WiFi bridge and Ericsson W25. Easy to install, dual-redundancy, and non-intrusive. And easy to take home.

I'm in Wales, so I expect our summer sun isn't as bright as yours, so try it where you are!!

Mike

Posted by: Michael Powell at August 10, 2010 6:43 AM | Reply

Hey Ben,
A quick update.
Scored a decently priced cable ($38.00 with tax/shipping) from Arrow Electronics that fit the mini serial port on the PC. The other end is a standard serial connection that plugs into my serial cable that is my NMEA bus connection to my PC:
834219038 Cable Assembly PVC 28AWG 9 Molex $27.98
Works!
Told the boat on the screen to go to a point. The range, and bearing to waypoint pop up on the right side of the screen, and I could pick up the same data at my Autopilot display.
Also picked up the data correctly when I put the Autopilot in 'Track' mode.
Its all good!
I didn't use my USB hockey puck GPS, OpenCPN was picking up the GPS data from my arch-mounted antenna on the same cable.
And I didn't have to use a d$#n USB/Serial converter!
Matt

Posted by: Matt Salatino at September 3, 2010 9:47 PM | Reply

Geez, some Craiglist person in Berkeley, CA, apparently has a stash of these at $30 each:

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/sys/2870447241.html

No power/USB cables or brackets, though. Anyone know how to make up that cable?

Posted by: Ben at March 15, 2012 5:27 PM | Reply

Hi Ben
Its been three years and my experiment is part of the boat now.
Been using updated versions of Open CPN, from Newport to the Bahamas, and the Datalux has worked flawlessly. Even have AIS transponder hooked up.
I mounted it in the forward cockpit so its visible from anywhere, and bought a hand held wireless mouse/trackball. It does a great job of controlling the PC, even has a scroll wheel that effects zoom in/out.
The only aggravation is the little battery that maintains the date and time is dead, and I have to reset it every time I boot up.
I just bought (and am writing this on it) another I found on Ebay for $95. No hard drive, mount, keyboard or cables. I took the risk. Bought a 32GB ssd and cloning kit ($88). Just installed it today, while I had it opened, replaced the battery. Using my cable, I powered it up. Works!
Now I'm looking for the 12 pin plug for power/USB. Its $75 on the Datalux site...too much.
I'm quite pleased that I have another nav PC for less than $200 (so far). Plan is to download the soon to be available Radar driver into OpenCPN and mount this new one in the navpod at the helm.
Oh, the paint on the back of my 3 year old one (to me) is flaking. Al corrosion underneath. It is exposed to harsh salt air when I'm using it. At the marina, I store it below.
Matt

Posted by: Matt at July 21, 2013 2:53 PM | Reply

Ben, I located the circular connector plug for the power/USB connector. I opened up both of my units to install the hard drive in one and change the clock battery in both.
The power connector plug has 12 pins. Looks from the inside that all are connected, though I'm only using 6 or 8; 2 or 4 for power, and 4 for USB. Don't know what the others are for.
Plug:
Neutrik mscf12

Found at Markertek.com for $15 plus shipping. I bought two. Had to call, as its not listed on their website. Found through the Neutrik reseller link, saying Markertek had 80+ in inventory.
Matt

Posted by: Matt at July 22, 2013 4:02 PM | Reply

Thanks for the comments and info, Matt. I still use the Datalux whenever I'm underway and sometimes for email, etc. I've had a little trouble getting some USB AIS feeds to work on it, like the Em-Trak B100, but it's happy with various Vesper Watchmate transponders. At a helm where the other electronics change at a rapid rate, the Datalux running Coastal Explorer is a nice constant.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Matt at July 25, 2013 4:05 PM | Reply

Nice to hear from you Ben.
I received the plug to make a power cable and will be building that, including the two USB ports, over the next few days.
Also meant to tell you that I've recently gotten quite excellent customer service from a Datalux tech guy. Got all kinds of download info for XP backup, drivers, etc, and even instructions on how to program the RED BUTTON! Its a user-selectable hot key. Unless you have a better idea, I'm going to program it as a one touch power down key (hope I don't hit it accidentally)
I run the AMEC Camino 101 AIS transponder on OpenCPN through the Tracer's mini-serial connector. Runs fine. Have tried it through a USB port with a Keyspan USB/serial converter. Runs that way too.
I'll gladly share my Datalux download info and red key .pdf if you can send an email address.

Matt

Posted by: Anonymous in reply to Ben at July 26, 2013 12:07 AM | Reply

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