Panbo

February 2011 Archives

Chetco SeaSmart.Net modules, wide open N2K-to-Ethernet?

Feb 26, 2011
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Chetco Digital Instruments has been quietly developing software and hardware to digitize and display analog engine info for some time, and with some success I hear.  But as of yesterday's big press release, Chetco has jumped big time into marine data networking, particularly the hot, if confusing, area of putting NMEA 2000 messages into an Ethernet format and serving them to whatever wired and wireless devices can use them.  So that little $579 SeaSmart device above contains an N2K-to-Ethernet gateway (by Actisense, I think), a WiFi transciever, and a "CGI/AJAX web server" that puts out an "open sourced HTML protocol" that will purportedly support "any application from weather station, dual engines, battery banks, fluid tanks and more." Excited yet?...

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NV Charts: vector/raster paper & digital, US too

Feb 25, 2011
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I've known of NV Charts for years as a German supplier of cartography for Europe and the Caribbean, but I'd never met founders Cornelia and Hasko Scheidt until this Miami show, and I had no idea that they were expanding into the U.S. with a very interesting model.  The Scheidts -- whose perhaps-telling business-card titles are Art Director and Hydrographer -- are creating custom paper charts based on NOAA vector data with their own survey work added, which they also produce in multiple digital forms, though they'd rather you didn't use those without the paper versions on board... 

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MIBS #2: KVH V3, Intellian s6HD, & SeaTel ST24

Feb 23, 2011
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Mid-sized yachts (and workboats) hungry for connectivity have to be pleased with KVH's introduction of the TracPhone V3 mini-VSAT in Miami. The appeal is fast "Internet access and e-mail for just $0.99 per MB along with crystal-clear voice calls worldwide for only $0.49 per minute with no fine print and no hassles" via an antenna only 14.5" in diameter and 25 pounds. The original V7 was way smaller than other VSAT antennas when it was introduced in 2007 -- still is, I think -- and check the difference.  Note too how much KVH has extended its mini-VSAT service coverage.  The hardware cost is still pretty high, but if you watch the animated V3 presentation, it's clear that KVH now sees mini-VSAT's low service prices as a real challenge to even Inmarsat's small Fleet Broadband systems (which it also sells)...

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MIBS #1, all about me

Feb 19, 2011
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I'm a little hazy about my Miami International Boat Show history -- twelve in a row, I think -- but I'm pretty sure this has been the best yet.  One highlight was planing a skiff with a pair of Torqueedo Cruise electric outboards, which may be more "proof of concept" than practical, but sure was fun and surely did showcase Torqeedo's outstanding engineering and design.  The topper, though, was receiving Boating Writers International first prizes in both the Marine Electronics and the Online Content categories, nicely reported here.  Plus our friend Gram Schweikert got second prize for his Cruising World article on testing a KVH/Inmarsat FB-150 and an Iridium OpenPort that began as series of Panbo guest entries.  I've got tons of electronic news to report on but I've also got more boat show to do, an article to finish, and then a side trip to NYC on my way to Maine.  So, sorry for the lack of entries, or even tweets.  Patience please!

Standard Horizon CPN booty, & the great convergence(s)

Feb 16, 2011
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I wrote about Standard Horizon's new CPN series in December -- and in the current issue of Cruising World -- but now there's more detail up on the SH web site.  I particularly like the booty shots of the 1010i and 700i because all those ports really speak to the technological convergence going on with this design.  That's the theme I tried to weave through the February CW round-up of new electronics, which unfortunately isn't online yet, and had to be drastically cut due to space constraints anyway.  But I'm getting a second chance, sort of, as I'm working on somewhat similar feature for the April issue of Yachting.  It will still be shorter than the CW attempt, but it will be purely about how so many of the electronical things we do on boats are coming together, and how it's happening in such divergent ways...

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Garmin GSD 26, serious sonar w/ CHIRP

Feb 15, 2011
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So now a CHIRP war is breaking out.  This morning Garmin announced two new black box fishfinders:  The GSD 24 appears to be a $700 redesign of its previous top-of-the-line digital box while the $2,000 GSD 26 is an obvious play for the truly serious fishing crowd.  The GSD 26 features "Spread Spectrum" technology, which seems to be another name for the CHIRP support that Simrad announced as part of its new BSM-2 box in September.  In fact, both Garmin and Simrad will be running demos of their advanced fishfinding over the next couple of days off Miami, and I'll be taking a ride with each...

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Maretron IPG100, the missing link, sort of?

Feb 12, 2011
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Wow, Maretron just released the IPG100, an "Internet Protocol Gateway" that can take all the NMEA 2000 PGNs on a backbone, turn them into TCP/IP data packets, and serve them out an Ethernet port.  Which means of course that the data can then be routed by cable to a vessel's local network of computers (and other fixed Ethernet gear) and by WiFi to an infinite assortment of onboard mobile tablets, apps phones, etc.  Obvious too is that an IP gateway could also be adept for sending data off a vessel, and commands back, for remote monitoring, troubleshooting, and more.  And Maretron's IPG100 consumes only 0.5 amps of N2K backbone power at most and its $595 price tag includes much more than I've already described.  Or possibly much less, depending on your point of view!...

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PolarView, ready for prime time?

Feb 10, 2011
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I took a peek at PolarView NS charting software about a year ago, but didn't write about it because I wasn't especially impressed (and there's a certain randomness to what I cover anyway).  But times change and software develops, and I'm here to tell you that PolarView 1.5 (video introduction here) is pretty darn impressive.  Given its app-like $40 price tag, it's a remarkably powerful program that runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems.  The screen above shows PV running on my little ASUS Eee PC 1000HE 10-Inch netbook with live NMEA 0183 data coming from the lab's N2K network via a Maretron USB 100.  PolarView is quite unusual in that it uses a sister program, called PolarCOM, to do all its data interfacing and instrument displays... 

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The sat phone war, "independent study" edition

Feb 8, 2011
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That diabolical test machine is forcing a measured, if destructive, twist into an Iridium 9555 satellite phone, which may be a good metaphor for what Inmarsat had in mind when it commissioned an independent study comparing its Isatphone Pro to the 9555 as well as the Thuraya XT (which doesn't cover the Americas).  After all, there had already been crowing about another "independent study" that turned out to be commissioned by Iridium (downloadable here).  Now it's very easy to be cynical about studies that each find the hardware and service offered by the company that sponsored their efforts to be superior, but actually I found both reports to be largely credible and quite useful...

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iPad cases for the boat, & some interesting apps

Feb 5, 2011
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I find that my iPad is so sharp and slippery that I almost always use it in a case, and once I get it on the boat there will also be an increased danger of impact or water damage.  So I've been testing three candidates for Gizmo's cruising iPad case.  That M-Edge Leisure Jacket above is far and away my favorite at this point.  Yes, it's a bit bulky but the high-density fitted-foam bed and cloth cover are light, easy to handle, and highly protective; and the whole thing tends to stay where you put it.  Perhaps most important, the vinyl cover does not impede screen use nearly as much as you might presume.  I've used the Jacket a lot now, with all kinds of apps, and I'm rarely annoyed by the plastic.  The pocket on the back may be too tight to be very useful -- and I wish it had a "kickstand" for typing comfort (though it's easy to stick something under there to get the right tilt) -- but  I like the Leisure Jacket.  Now, about that weird compass app...

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