May 2007 Archives

Gadget sizes, the eye can fail

May 31, 2007

Y-Tronic AISB antennas c Panbo

So I rarely discuss dimensions and weights when I write up electronics, figuring that it’s fairly obvious, or at least easy enough to find on the manufacturer’s Web site. But the latterPanbo_Photo_Studio is not always true, and some products just don’t look their true size, even when pictured with a little context. For instance, when I first saw a  photo of Y-Tronic’s dual antenna AIS accessory, my eye failed to see how petite it actually is, even though the plugs are familiar. (And I still don’t understand how it mounts on a rail, though I’ve got the question in). Nor did I get how chunky the Lowrance iWay 600c is from its first photo. I’ve come to like the thing quite a bit, but shoppers should know that it weighs about 2.6 pounds with the accessories below (bigger here), and the AC brick is a whopping 1.6 pounds more. The weights are not given at (that I can find), but the manual does wisely recommend resting the unit on a dashboard so that the suction mount doesn’t take the whole strain. By the way, I’m quite enjoying my new photo set up, above, but an explanation of the lab coat will have to wait a while!

Lowrance iWay 600c hardware c Panbo

Garmin 545 videos, thanks Bluewaterpirate

May 30, 2007

Garmin 545 videos

I’ve been feeling mighty guilty about my oh-so-slow testing of the borrowed Garmin 545. So it was particularly great to find that a fisherman named Tom has posted a useful series of stills and videos illustrating many 545 features. His Bluewaterpirates Phanfare album may be called “XM Music Functionality” but you’ll find dope on the new Vision charts plus a nice “new section” showing all the XM weather functions using a dramatic offshore low, and more. Enjoy.

Milt Baker, Bermuda bound

May 30, 2007

Milt Baker Bluewater poor man dimming c Panbo

I’m working on a Voyaging profile of Milt Baker’s Bluewater helm, which makes it particularly propitious that he and Judy are this minute sheparding a fleet of nine Nordhavns convoying to Bermuda from Ft. Lauderdale. Three, including Bluewater, will continue on to the Med, hence the rally name Med Bound 2007. There are supposed to be daily updates accessible from this Web page, but the fleet’s Yahoo group seems more current right now. But I’m also getting Milt’s email noon reports, which yesterday included some rhapsodic words on AIS. Six of the nine boats have Class A transponders (Bluewater a Furuno FA150), which is making it easy for Milt to monitor the convoy, and passing ships to understand what’s going on. 
  Milt, by the way, is using OCENS Mail with an Iridium phone to e-mail from offshore (but note that Globalstar announced today that it just got four replacement birds up, which should improve its service situation).  Note too that while Milt generally uses high end gear—with backups for the backups!—he’s also the guy who questions the need for big radar scanners. Which brings me to the picture above. That’s Milt showing me how he deals with a drawback of using conventional, if inexpensive, monitors on a bridge. The 15” View-Sonic LCDs can’t dim down enough for night running, but Milt took care of that with some sticky back hook-and-loop and red gel. Now, what I just noticed in these photos, and can’t find on the Net (or ask Milt about right now), is that odd doodad next to the compass. I have a feeling that it’s some sort of nav aid reminder—and no doubt useful if Milt’s got one—but how exactly does a Marker Mate work?

Milt Baker Bluewater Marker Mate


Garmin Developer Zone, wow?

May 29, 2007


Today Garmin announced a slew of new tools meant to encourage third parties—commercial and otherwise—to interact every which way with Garmin hardware. I’m not a developer, but my quick read suggests that possibilities include writing a cell phone app that’ll get location from a Garmin GPS via Bluetooth; equipping a Web site with an easy way to up/down-load waypoints, routes, and tracks; creating a set of “Garmin Rich POIs” (GPI) from raw XML or GPX files; and more. In fact, it looks like Garmin is going to share some of the sophisticated software goodies it acquired with Motion Based, figuring, I guess, that even if other developers make something good enough to command subscriptions, Garmin will still get the hardware sales. But like I say I don’t really understand all the developer talk. So I’m hoping that those of you who do will check out the new site and report back.

One Eighteen, pilot with camera

May 28, 2007

OneEighteen Dolphins at sunset

Thanks to gCaptain for leading me to the Flickr pages of a Houston ship pilot who is also a fine photographer. Unfortunately he doesn’t aim his camera around the bridges much, excepting a few like this shot of a Turkish captain (is that a periscope in front of the helmsman?). But, wow, his marine sets are sure worth browsing (don’t miss his “Darwin Award”).

OneEighteen Turkish Captain

Boatsense, hip hip for the home team

May 25, 2007


Wasn’t I tickled to discover that what looks like a fairly simple and affordable new remote boat monitoring device is being made right here in Maine. And further tickled when Boatsense Solutions cofounder David Jacques zipped right up and explained more about what’s in that little bomb-proof (epoxy potted) box…i.e., more than explained in the so far rudimentary brochure and manual. And tickled even more when I fired up a test unit last night, taught it my phone number, and successfully simulated a high bilge alarm, all in a few minutes.
  Boatsense is a GSM cellular modem set up so it can send text messages wherever GPRS data service is available (much of the world). It monitors battery level with just its power feed, plus has an input for most any kind of bilge alarm switch, and three more for whatever sensors you want to add (including output from an existing on-board monitoring system). That’s it; no screen, no GPS, no Web page…but it’s only $499 list and $180 per year for up to 20 messages a month (extras 10 cents each). Distributing partner Hamilton Marine has a package deal here, and if you do a search on “boatsense” there you’ll find a selection of sensor options. I’m going to test this baby more on Gizmo (wished I’d had it last July, rigged with a magnetic motion switch), but I’m pretty sure that it’s well thought out and may well be a winner.

Busted, more Garmin smarts

May 24, 2007


OK, it wasn’t the smartest move, me trying to jam the cable back into a very funky old external antenna while the Garmin 545s it was attached to was still running. Apparently I shorted the cable because, surprise, the Garmin beeped and told me so! I can’t say that I’ve tried this on any other GPS, but doubt I’d get such an informative reaction. One more check on the smart interface list

Nomadness, geeked to the max

May 24, 2007

Nomadness wifibeam

Sometimes I like to wander around the many sites of one Stephen K. Roberts, a gent who appears to be a true original. Robert’s latest ride is the Corsair 36 trimaran Nomadness, which must feel like a megayacht after the Microship. It was on his photo tour of Nomadness where I saw this shot of a RadioLabs 12db steerable WiFi antenna, called a Wi-Pod, which Roberts calls his “secret weapon”. His current project seems to be a “pedal/paddle/sail kayak” tender for the tri, a replacement for Bubba, and featuring something he calls Kayaktopus:

At first glance, this may sound just a bit excessive... after all, I'm the guy who built the BEHEMOTH bicycle, an existence proof of the Roberts Law of Applied Mobile Gizmology:  "If you take an infinite number of very light things and put them together, they become infinitely heavy."  I have occasionally been accused, with some justification, of over-engineering.

Tip of the hat to Mr. Roberts for exploring the geek frontier, with a sense of humor.

More Garmin, smart menus

May 23, 2007

Garmin 545s Home Menu c Panbo

I’m getting to know the new Garmins slowly but surely, and one of the many things I like is the way choices you don’t actually have aren’t there to confuse you. For instance, if you start one without the transducer attached those “Sonar” and “Chart/Sonar” buttons on the Home menu above just aren’t there. Similarly, if you go into the Charts menu below without a g2 Vision card in the slot (nifty magnetic latch door, by the way), your choices will only be “Navigation Chart”, “Mariner’s Eye”, and “Chart Setup”. 
  The interface is smart like that pretty much everywhere. In fact, I’d recommend learning this machine first without a card even if you get one with it (assuming you get a unit with built-in charts). But you may very well want to use a card eventually. Garmin has done well at making these MFDs quite good as is, but then piling so many more goodies (like those Fishing screens) into the cards that you’ll be truly tempted. But at least they don’t rub the features you don’t have in your face.
  Now, do you notice anything different about the photo below? I finally sprung for some decent lights and a soft box, and these are my first shots. A bigger crop of the image below is pretty darn close to what the screen and the interesting flecked casing actually look like. And the images should get better still as I learn the gear.  

Garmin 545s Charts Menu c Panbo

Ugo's spider cat, now in Cannes

May 22, 2007


OK, I’m grumpy, and don’t feel like thinking about electronics. Late on a deadline, in all day when the weather’s gorgeous, it happens. Plus I’m still sour that I’m not megayachting in Cannes, especially now that Proteus showed up there. You may have seen shots of this wacky catamaran when it mysteriously appeared in San Francisco Bay. Later I found the site of Ugo Conti’s Marine Advanced Research, where you can download an enormous .mov movie of this baby in motion. Actually, you may need to go through the press registration, but the video really tells the tale. Proteus is a WAM-V, or Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel. Those are gigantic hinges and springs attached to that inflatable hull. Even the drives articulate. In motion the damn thing undulates like a movie starlet slipping off a slithery dress.
  Electronics seem to be by Raymarine, but isn’t the real question that backwards prop behind the pod? (Hint: “Modular”). Hey, wouldn’t you be grinning too.

PS 5/23: Cool, the gCaptain found at least some of the video, and here’s another. But I want to see more undulation!