April 2010 Archives

Distributed Power over N2K, and goodbye E-Plex?

Apr 30, 2010

This HDS-10 is showing off Lowrance's new relationship with Digital Switching System's distributed power system.  While the interface is NMEA 2000, I think DSS uses its PowerGate 2000 gateway for this purpose, instead of using N2K for its internal network.  But that may not matter, as I understand that DSS uses standard N2K PGNs whenever possible.  In fact, I've seen Krill Systems software working with its gateway and switches just fine.  But that was just a demo, and I suspect that it will be a long time before we see easy, full-featured integration between DP and other boat systems, except by partnership or design... 

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eLoran deader, GPS wounded

Apr 29, 2010

How horribly ironic!  The screen above is grabbed from a USCG video showing the demolition of Alaska's tallest structure, a Loran tower that might have hosted an eLoran backup to GPS, maybe already was.  Just three weeks earlier, Intelsat let it be known that it had "lost control" of one of the two WAAS satellites, and that it would "drift out of orbit over the next two to four weeks."  And Alaska will be the place that suffers the most loss of WAAS, though all North American navigators should take note that WAAS redundancy just went away.

ON AGAIN! Garmin makes offer for Raymarine

Apr 28, 2010

Amazing!  Garmin just announced a very public and serious offer for Raymarine.  The Wall Street Journal has the 30 page (!) announcement here, but this London Stock Exchange link is easier to read. Garmin is offering 15 pence per share, which is way up from what we've heard recently (see comments here), and it's waived any further due diligence.  There are only two factors that could stop this deal from happening, I think:  The displeasure of either Raymarine's board or the U.K. anti-trust regulators.  And by being so public with the offer, Garmin is expressing a lot of confidence that both those parties will find the offer acceptable.  Maybe it's time to think about a marine electronics world where two of the biggest brands are one...

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BEP CZone #1, "distributed power"?

Apr 27, 2010

I've been looking through a lot of material on BEP's new CZone system, and finding it impressive. But its descriptive subtitle -- "Networked Control and Monitoring System" -- seems a tad vague to me.  In fact, Simrad changed that to "digital switching" when they showed off their nifty CZone integration with the NSE series (covered briefly in a Miami Show entry).  It does seem like the handful of manufacturers who dare to compete in this complex, and potentially hairy, niche can't agree about what to call it, but I like "distributed power".  You can see why in the simplified CZone sample diagram above; like the competition, those OI modules efficiently distribute an electrical system's core power feed and circuit protection functions to where they're needed, while networking the switching and much more. There is no central breaker panel on this boat, and a lot less wire.  The following diagrams tell more about the concept...

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DY NMEA 0183 to USB, looks handy

Apr 26, 2010

That's Digital Yacht's just announced NMEA 0183 to USB adapter, all of it, and it's just $49.  Wire it to a multiplexer, AIS, or some other 0183 RX/TX port and any 0183 message will purportedly be seen by software running on the attached computer.  The adapter has LEDs that flicker for transmitted and received data, and it can be set to either 4,800 or 38,400 baud. The included software is said to work with PCs, Macs, and even Linux-based systems, and there's a bonus...

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Garmin visit #3, WFO

Apr 24, 2010

Phase two of the Garmin extravaganza -- a fishing trip off Texas with pro angler Bill Platt -- may not have gone quite as planned, but I don't think you need much more than this image of calm seas, blue sky, and a huge ass red snapper to know that it was truly a blast...

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Garmin visit #2, GPSMap 78

Apr 23, 2010

Today Garmin introduced the GPSMap 78 series, an apparently major refresh of the 76 series long popular with boaters.  While I only got to fiddle with a pre-production unit for a moment, I did learn a lot about the industrial design process behind it.  The ID department in Olathe -- aka "The Skunk Works" or "Area 51" --  has a tool collection that would make all sorts of craftsmen and artists drool, but I'll save that story for another day.  What's particularly notable about the exhibit shown above and below is how many design iterations were created and modeled for the 78, and how detailed they were...

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Garmin visit #1, making stuff

Apr 21, 2010

Messy maybe, but this is how marine electronics get made, and Garmin HQ in Olathe, Kansas, is all about making stuff.  The engineer who leads the hardware side of the marine department told me how his office at a previous job was two floors away from the work benches where he and his colleagues could get down and dirty with their projects.  By contrast, this is just one of a dozen well-lived-in work stations on the same floor housing both marine hardware and software engineers.  And that particular lead engineer has been at Garmin for 17 years, his software counterpart 16. This is a company that engineers built, and, wow, is it cooking...

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MTA Survey #1, brand awareness & perception

Apr 19, 2010

Please don't jump to conclusions about this first real slice of the finished Panbo/MTA survey until you better understand what it represents. The questions quoted at the top of the table above were "open ended".  The 950 people who spent time taking the survey (thank you all!) got no check box type guidance toward their answers.  In fact, no brand names were specifically mentioned anywhere in the survey.  So the 1,558 positive responses, along with the 773 negative ones, are purely the brand names that came into those many minds when asked in privacy which marine technology products had either pleased or displeased them. The individual response totals then are a mix of at least three factors:  market share (how many of the survey takers own, or have owned, some of a brand's products); brand awareness (most may remember whose MFD they use, but not necessarily whose inverter); and brand perception (the emotion that brings a brand name to mind).  And there are more complexities beyond...

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Raymarine's Virtual Sea Trial, more please

Apr 17, 2010

Raymarine introduced its Virtual Sea Trial system at the Miami Boat Show, and I was one of many who got quite a kick out of it.  Note the twin wide open throttles (or WFO, an acronymn that will gather more meaning next week).  When I wasn't driving the big simulated RIB over waves off the well detailed port of Marseille, France, I tried some slow speed docking maneuvers and was pleasantly surprised to find that the faux twin outboard backed and filled quite realistically.  Of course having this high quality simulator integrated with twin E-14 Widescreens plus ST70+ autopilot and instrument heads meant you could really get a feel for how those devices work.  But boys will be boys...

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