October 2006 Archives

Raymarine G's, seriously hunky monitors

Oct 31, 2006

Raymarine G190 c Panbo

Geez, anyone know where the “Big Belly Reduction” Tool is in PhotoShop? Also, what’s the drill when your full res photo reveals a half-naked Florida boat guy? At any rate, here’s another FLIBS product intro, this one splendidly orchestrated by Raymarine’s well oiled marketing machine. Simultaneous to this “VIP preview” event in a nicely shaded and catered boat shed, Raymarine “insiders” got the news via HTML e-mail (you can be an insider too). In fact, there’s no need for me to repeat the awesome specs on the new 17” and 19”, nine-input monitors, nor mention the spectacular prices. But I will point out how neatly they can work with an E-Series VGA Out port (pictured) or a PC running RayTech 6.0, though apparently you can’t do both with the same cool dedicated keyboard. They look similar but one is SeaTalk2 and the other is USB. And I’ll add that a trustworthy Raymarine Product Manager told me that he’s seen these puppies in direct sunlight head-to-head with the competition and with an E-120, and “they rock”.  

Raymarine eseries_remotesys

Search/thermal combo, makes some sense

Oct 30, 2006

Carlislefinch spotlight thermal

If you’re now lusting after a thermal camera, you might consider the interesting idea of combining one with a searchlight. If you were on passage at night, you’d leave the thermal going and if you spotted something indistinct on the water (mind you, this camera, and the Flir, only output 320 x 240 pixels, which is higher res than many thermals), you could just hit it with the light, which would already be pointing at it. Ditto for some thief sneaking up a banana republic pier, especially effective as this baby packs 15 million candlepower and its Xenon beam size can be remotely controlled. The Carlisle & Finch NightFinder debuted at Ft. Lauderdale and is not on the company’s site just yet, but I recall that it costs something like a good used car. Hey, I was in the superyacht tent. I’m home again, with a zillion possible Panbo’s in hand, but also knackered and on deadline…so that’s it for today.

SiMON trackball alarm system, how cool is this?

Oct 27, 2006

Simon trackball c Panbo

I always enjoy poking around the megayacht tent at FLIBS; it’s full of gorgeous booths, boat models, andSimon trackball2 c Panbo some awesome electronics. Palladium Technology is in the latter category, and it seems like every year it comes up with an interesting addition to its PC/Ethernet based SiMON monitoring system. This year it’s integrating in an elaborate, but simple to work, entertainment system, which I’ll write about when I get more info and better images. In the meantime check out that trackball the company came up with. It's translucent, and colored LEDs underneath are used to indicate alarm states. When everything is cool, it glows green. But if some system moves into warning territory (whose very sophisticated  parameters you can set in SiMON), it goes to yellow. Finally, if alarm status is reached it throbs red. It strikes me as way better than an audio alarm on the bridge, neat looking, and an idea that could come down to us little people.

FLIR at FLIBS, and thank you BMW

Oct 26, 2006

Flir FLIBS2 c Panbo

That's your thermal image, bigger here, of the Electronics Tent at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS)...all hot faces and legs. When you watch it live, it's the ears in particular that pop out, the lack of insulating fat combined with the camera's fairly high resolution I guess. And, yes, laddies, this technology will sort of see through clothing. A thermal camera images differences in temperature, so warm underwear under cool outerwear sometimes makesFlir FLIBS c Panbo an impression (as I once had fun writing about). More important, really, is that most anything floating in the ocean, like say a container or an unlit daybeacon, is warmer than the water around it and thus will show up in a thermal image no matter how dark the night. A man overboard's head, or a thief on a dark pier, stand out like light bulbs! At any rate, Flir Systems, which calls itself the "world leader" in this niche, is doing a masterful job of marketing its new recreational marine level products at this show, even though it doesn't have a booth. The live image and cameras, like that ThermoVision Mariner {update: no longer made} model on top of the Northstar kiosk, are everywhere. Thermal cameras have been around a long time, but mostly in very expensive packages like the NVTi 5000, which is also on display here (and every bit as beautiful as I imagined). The real Flir news is that rugged, well supported thermal cameras have now become merely expensive; the company is even showing a fixed unit that only costs about $5,000 (the fixed Navigator model). Why? Economies of manufacturing scale. Inside the marinized case is the exact same camera that BMW is putting on 70,000 bumpers per year. Cool! or how about: Thermal!

Simrad GB60, more than meets the eye

Oct 25, 2006

Simrad GB60

Hey, (brag, brag), who got to be the only unSimrad guy at the dealer/installer GB60 preview (and more here) at Simrad’s Dania Beach office today? I not only learned a LOT about the system, but it was illuminating to hear the feedback from the gents who are going to sell and install these mega systems. I can’t say much more now, as I agreed to certain “off the record” rules, but one thing for sure: the resemblance between GB60 and Nobeltec Admiral is more superficial than I had presumed. Simrad has already done a lot to mold the code into its own more purposeful (Nordic?), and perhaps more stable, vision of an ECS, and plans to add more of its own exclusive features, and simplicities (minus features?), in future releases. Meanwhile, the hardware platform is as powerful as possible, and the worldwide support plan is awesome. I wasn’t surprised to learn that GB60 Product Manager Tim Ryder, with me above, also seems to manage Simrad’s ECDIS…err, make that PLECDIS for “Paper Less”…product. Tomorrow: the actual Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show (if I can still type).

The GPS universe in a box, a visit to ACR

Oct 24, 2006

ACR GPS machine c Panbo

I’m still on the road, friends, now in Ft. Lauderdale, and this afternoon I got an eye-opening tour of ACR’s production and R&D facility. I saw a lot of impressive stuff in terms of engineering, testing, production techniques, and new products (that I can’t write about just yet), and was particularly intrigued with that somewhat odd looking box above. It is a Spirent GNSS simulator, able to mimic the entire constellation of GPS satellites. The Windows control application below lets the tester see exactly what the GPS receiver in the “oven” should be receiving, then stress it by degrading the simulated system, even introducing extreme meteorological conditions. Given that ACR is challenged to build GPS units that start cold in very unfriendly environments, this has got to be great tool toward improved performance.

ACR GPS machine2 c Panbo

SevenStar Class B AIS transponder, a new face

Oct 23, 2006

 SevenStar AIS B c Panbo

Well, I attended most of the 3.5 hour GMDSS Task Force meeting at NMEA—with USCG, FCC, and other relevant parties present—but I still don’t know exactly when Class B AIS will actually be on the market, especially here in the U.S.A. But I did for the first time put my hands on one, and, surprise, it came from a company I had never heard of. The SevenStar Electronics SeaTraceR Class B AIS is based on a transceiver developed by Software Radio. The engineer who was toting it around said that is has received IEC approval and will soon be on the market for around $1,000. It is set up to connect to a PC with a small program that allows entering the MMSI just one time, either by a dealer or user (one of the issues yet undecided). An interesting feature I did not know about is that SRM Sent LED. Apparently the Class B standard includes the ability to send some sort of distress text message, using a ‘panic’ button connected to the unit. The SeaTraceR can supposedly be reprogrammed so that the button instead activates a Quiet Mode—receiving, but not transmitting—which is an option some users really want. More on AIS soon.

NK2 at NMEA, happy stuff

Oct 20, 2006

N2K Xantrex c Panbo lr

Look how NMEA 2000 can make a guy grin. That’s Kevin Binnie, Systems Product Manager at N2K Xantrex screens2 c PanboXantrex Technology, showing how his MS2000 Inverter/Charger can gateway to NK2 and hence display its operating status to other displays (here Teleflex and Maretron). The hair dryer let him apply a load so us gawkers could see some action, which was instantaneous. Behind Kevin is Bill Remster of Blue Water Data, who showed me his neat PC program that can read and log raw 2000 data. One thing he does with it is engine warranty “start ups” in which he goes aboard a new boat, hooks into 2000 power plants like Yanmar's, and records all sorts of engine data at various RPMs, including speed and pitch using 2000 sensors he brings along. Neato.

Also shown at the NMEA Conference was the first generator whose ECM outputs NMEA 2000, which means that installing control panels anywhere is simply a matter of T-ing into the boat’s backbone. The generator also provides power to the backbone, eliminating another cable, and generator status can be viewed on other NK2 displays as all the messages are standard (remember, a certain number of proprietary messages are allowed). Westerbeke (no information on its site yet, but some here) will eventually offer this option on all its generators. Yes!

NK2 Westerbeke

Simrad doesn't do NMEA 2000, NOT!

Oct 19, 2006

Rant Banner

Such is the upsurge in demand for systems integration that any embedded system needs to communicate with both PCs and other equipment via open protocols such as the standard NMEA 0183 and/or the updated but slow-to-arrive NMEA 2000. So far, Simrad has stuck with the tried and tested NMEA 0183 protocol, although Raymarine offers both.”

That is SO wrong! I first saw Simrad’s very sophisticated NMEA 2000 support here at the NMEA conference two years ago. And that’s just one mistake in an IBI News feature on marine electronics (Aug-Sept issue) full of mistakes.  I’ve ranted about this sort of thing before, but I don’t think I should stop. Can the media do worse than misinforming the trade (in this case) and public about issues they are already confused about? Now Simrad and all the other companies that have chosen to brand NMEA 2000 with their own name (SimNet) deserve some blame, but the media should be working hard to get the facts right. How about getting someone to do a technical edit, or even let the subject companies check the piece? IBI is often very interesting, by the way, as in yesterday’s rather gossipy bit about the state of Navman/BNT. Hopefully I’ll learn more about that story today, as well as see lots of new gear at the NMEA trade exhibit. Stay tuned.

Who's driving that big rig? (#3, ouch!)

Oct 17, 2006

Torm Anhold credit AP 2

A Panbo reader (thanks, Mark!) alerted me to yesterday’s collision on the Mississippi, in which the 712’ Greek freighter Zagora, coming down river with a load of soy beans, apparently T-boned the anchored 737’ Panamanian freighter Torm Anholt. Mark wrote, “It is amazing that yet again two ships of this size are able to hit each other.  And to think one of them was anchored.  How is it that small vessels are not plowed under more frequently?  Looking forward to class B AIS transponders.”
  I’m looking forward to Class B too, but we should all be very careful not to over estimate its value. Interestingly, another Panbo reader (thanks, Kurt!) linked me to a page of presentations given at the recent AIS/06 conference. There’s a lot of interesting material there, which I’ve only skipped through, but of particular note is the first day presentation by Dr. Andy Norris. One of his conclusions is that “Class B users must not assume that their AIS signal will be visible on any ship.” More on Dr. Norris’s work to come.
  And some day the National Transportation Safety Board will issue a report on the Zagora/Torm Anholt collision. NTSB reports don’t seem quite as detailed as the MAIB work I’ve referenced before, but it will be interesting to see what happened on the big River yesterday afternoon.