February 2009 Archives

Ship Sim Pro, with NMEA 0183 I/O

Feb 28, 2009
Barge, Overtaking courtesy Raymarine.JPG

The screen shot above could be from a "game" called Ship Simulator 2008, which in itself is pretty neat.  (First I tried the demo, and then 17 Euros and a 705mb download later, I owned the darn thing ;-).  But, in fact, the screen came from Raymarine Marketing Manager Jim McGowan who is using a beta copy of Ship Sim Pro 2.0, which among many other enhancements supports up to 8 serial ports that can send 23 NMEA 0183 output sentences and understand 9 input sentences.  Thus McGowan can set up training or demo scenarios where what's happening in the simulation is also happening on his electronics. Thus the tug and barge being overtaken in New York Harbor above is also seen via AIS on the E-120 below...

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Airmar H2183 compass, best in class?

Feb 26, 2009

Airmar's new H2183 heading sensor is motion compensated every which way; i.e. it's a 3-axis solid-state compass integrated with a 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis rate gyro. That's news both in terms of real world compass precision and the masthead performance of Airmar's PB200 Weather Station, whose gyro only senses yaw. In fact, while Airmar is pleased with the how well the PB200 seems to work on Dan Corcoran's sailboat, it may not promote the Weather Station to sailors until it can produce a model that incorporates the 3-axis gyro. But the H2183 is shipping now, for about $700 retail, and Airmar claims that its accuracy in "dynamic conditions" --- i.e. on a boat in a seaway --- is "best in class." And it's backing up the claim with the side-by-side testing video snapped above. While the "competitor" compass is not clearly identified, it's almost undoubtedly Maretron's well regarded SC200. The performance gauntlet is slapped down! And if Maretron or Simrad or whoever has a rebuttal, Panbo is ready to run it.

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Raymarine A-Series, hands on #1

Feb 25, 2009

Try as I might, my photograph (click it for bigger) still fails to truly illustrate how sharp and color rich this sample of Raymarine's new A-Series actually is. I haven't yet subjected it to bright sunlight, which may mute the goodness considerably (hey, we've got two feet of snow on the ground here, people, and the snow banks chest high!). But I did bench test it for a couple of hours yesterday, which included feeding it large quantities of NMEA 2000 data (via an STng-to-standard-N2K patch cable). The A57d did well. The well developed C- and E-Series feature/interface set seems to be all here --- V4 update included (and radar excluded) --- if in miniature. Notice, for instance, the COG, Heading, Tide, and Wind arrows around the boat icon. I wouldn't normally use them all at once, but I've always found these graphics useful, given accurate sensors (and wondered why other manufacturers didn't steal them)...

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Panbo Forums, they're here...

Feb 24, 2009


Hey, look at the menu bar up to the right: now there's a Forum link, and it works! Of course there's hardly anything there yet, and I'm still struggling with the issue of categories, but the possibilities are terrific...

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Garmin GWS 10, hands on #1

Feb 23, 2009

Finally got back in the lab on Friday, and it was a real pleasure to hook up the new Garmin wind whirly. I'll start, though, with my main complaint so far, which is the mast mounting scheme.  The photo above compares it to the only other NMEA 2000 mechanical wind sensor I know of, Simrad's IS20 SimNet Wind Vane.  Note how the Simrad has separate base plate that typically gets screwed permanently to the mast head.  The vane itself clicks in like a boot into a ski binding, and the cable connection is simply a snap-in SimNet plug with a built-in retainer wire.  A guy on a bosun's chair could remove or replace this vane with one hand, no problem.  The Simrad vane cable, incidentally, contains a backbone terminator because vanes are almost always too far--i.e. more than 6 meters--from a backbone to be just dropped in.
   By contrast, the Garmin vane base gets fastened direct to the masthead, period, and then you have to deal with that N2K tee-like piece, which is actually an inline terminator. (Or use a Maretron inline terminator, which is sleeker.)  But while the mounting is inelegant, there is much to like about the Garmin's GWS 10...

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VEI & NVTI, "economy" thermal vision

Feb 19, 2009


A major press event in Miami was FLIR’s on water demo of its neat new mid-priced M-Series dual camera system, which I’ll cover soon.  But first I’ll discuss the recent efforts of two FLIR competitors to make enhanced vision more “affordable”.  Above is VEI’s OceanView Apollo II, which features a 320 x 240 pixel thermal camera and a 570 line “ultra low light” cam (0.00015 Lux!). The zoom is only 2x digital, but it tilts (internally) 26 degrees, pans 360 continuous, and comes with a controller that has a 4 line LCD to help with initial aiming and set up menus. It retails for $12,995, which is pretty darn reasonable for thermal vision, but…

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Fast Find PLB breakthrough, and SPOT/BoatUS team-up

Feb 18, 2009

Smaller, better, cheaper! McMurdo's new Fast Find 210 PLB is just a bit over four inches long (my model has small hands), but features not only a 50 channel GPS but also an SOS flashing LED. And it will probably retail for under $300. I say probably because it is not yet FCC approved, therefore not yet for sale, and McMurdo's US distributor Revere Supply is hence reluctant to quote prices. But I've heard the breakthrough $299 price from several sources, including PLB maven Doug Ritter, who's put up some good comparative dope. Remember that ACR also has new PLBs in the works and both companies are now also clearly competing with SPOT. I think we've got us a good-for-consumers product battle going on!

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XM & Sirius, what's up?

Feb 17, 2009

Either XM or Sirius Weather and Audio is now available on nearly all major MFD brands. Above is Sirius seen on the new Lowrance HDS during the Broadband Radar demos. The implementation looked very good (as did the whole HDS package, more on that soon), but in truth all the satellite weather implementations seem to be getting better. I spoke with both XM and Sirius representatives at the Boat Show and their message was that they really are working together now--they are just two divisions of the same company--and that they weren't too worried about the wild battle of the media moguls that had put their company high on the business news page...

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Raymarine C Widescreens, impressions

Feb 16, 2009

I got aboard a demo of the new Raymarine C-Series Widescreens last week and was fairly impressed. While I don't really care that these 16 x 9 aspect ratio screens are "theater like", I do believe in getting the biggest display possible, and this format helps, because the fit-onto-helm constraint is usually vertical. (You can see demo boat helm here.) The format also seems to work well with some styles of split screen navigation, as I attempted to illustrate above. If I'd had more time I'd have put both chart and radar in look-ahead modes, and set the soft key menu to auto hide. Note that the screen, at 1280 x 800 pixels, looks sharper than my photo shows, but is purportedly still about as bright as the existing C-Series. Raymarine has tons on the new MFDs here, and I have some niggles below...

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Miami International Boat Show, recession ruminations

Feb 16, 2009


I jetted away from the Miami Boat Show (on a half-empty plane!) with loads of coming Panbo electronics material, but first I'll discuss the behind-the-booth question of the show: How bad will 2009 be? Attendance numbers aren't available yet (update: 28% off), but the aisles often seemed emptier than usual, and the Miami Herald reported way low hotel occupancy. Note, though, that the Shelburne sales guy quoted there has bigger problems than the recession, to which I can personally attest...

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