November 2010 Archives

BEP CZone seen live, more coming

Nov 30, 2010

I wrote about BEP's CZone distributed power last April, but didn't get to see it live until I got a ride aboard Simrad's demo boat during the Fort Lauderdale show.  Isn't it neat that the control screen can show you the amperage flowing through a specific circuit (and apparently detect a fault)?  And if it's on an MFD, couldn't valuable details like that also be on apps pads and phones like I recently saw live with Maretron's N2KView?  In April I also wrote about what a difficult niche distributed power is, but I still think the magic of digital switching is one of the most interesting frontiers in marine electronics. And that we're going to hear a lot more about it in 2011.  BEP, for instance, made a series of announcements during METS...

Continue Reading

BGAN on a boat? A test in Hawaii

Nov 28, 2010


A question I've never known the answer to:  Can a cruiser use Inmarsat's BGAN service -- the much less expensive "land" version of Fleet Broadband -- at least when at anchor in an exotic place where fast Internet isn't otherwise available?  Well, thanks to "curious cat" Dan Freedman, we're a lot closer to the answer.  Dan recently acquired a lovely trawler and he seems to be having a ball applying his technical background to improving its electronics, and blogging about it.  His experiment with BGAN was done at home in Honolulu, not on the boat, but nonetheless he feels its ability to cope with a shifting platform is "astonishing"...

Continue Reading

Gizmo Thanksgiving, & the Garmin 740 networked

Nov 24, 2010

It's about to be Thanksgiving here in the states, and -- aside from the normal family stuff (which is huge) -- I surely am thankful for being the custodian of a wonderful boat, for living in a beautiful corner of the oceans, and for getting to fool with some great technology.  Above is Gizmo's lower helm, the Fall 2010 edition, and while there's a lot here that I haven't written about yet, I'm going to focus today on that little Garmin GPSMAP 740 on the chart table...

Continue Reading

Bad Elf GPS, & the not-so-bad Verizon iPad deal

Nov 23, 2010

Hurray for the Bad Elf GPS!  While it's simply a high-performance GPS receiver that fits into the data/power port of any Apple iThing, it means that an iPod Touch can finally run mapping and charting apps like an iPhone 3Gs can, perhaps even better given the Elf's high specs. Ditto for older iPhones with their crummy internal GPS receivers and for WiFi-only iPads which -- like Touch's -- don't contain any sort of GPS.  I'm sure that there will eventually be all sorts of ways to get GPS, and even other boat sensor data, into iDevices, but the Bad Elf seems to be an easy solution, and it can be had at Amazon for $100 right now.  Here's hoping that it will also help some boaters untangle the confusion around iThing GPS, and data plans, which recently got worse...

Continue Reading

METS 2010 roundup, thanks to Kees

Nov 21, 2010

Once again -- and a nice contrast to my various METS ramblings -- the good Kees Verrujit kindly wrote up his impressions of the huge Amsterdam marine equipment trade show:

Today I visited METS for the fourth year in a row. This year the show was even bigger than last year, by about 20%. Anyone who still claims they can do all halls and booths on one day is a close relation of Baron Münchhausen. I visited some booths as a NMEA 2000 enthusiast, some in my role of technologist for a yard, but most in my role as a delegated Panbo blogger. This year that was a lot easier than last, as more and more people seem to read Panbo or at least know Ben's name -- most vividly portrayed by a huge quote sign in the Fusion Marine Audio booth {like this one, only bigger!}.  The major themes I noticed were: Pads (and iOS apps) were everywhere; AIS is taking off in a major way; Chinese electronics are coming; and NMEA 2000 is here to stay...

Continue Reading

Guest Writer | Permalink | Comments (16)

Firesheep cometh; is open WiFi safe anymore?

Nov 18, 2010


Given how many active cruisers rely on WiFi, the advent of Firesheep -- which apparently makes it super easy to break into people's web accounts when they are on the same WiFi network -- deserves more than my comment on the Rogue Wave entry.  I first heard about the problem via a dire-sounding ActiveCaptain newsletter, and I've since corresponded with Jeff Siegle who says boaters need to be warned.  To get an idea of how dangerous Firesheep and copycat programs are, Jeff tried one while anchored off a marina and reports that he "got passwords from half the boats with people aboard - all without them knowing."  This tech blog, home of the illustration above, is also pretty dire, but, like so many internet security issues, this one seems somewhat confusing...

Continue Reading

iPads at METS: Navionics, Maretron, & more

Nov 17, 2010

Wasn't it telling that three DAME awards went to iPad apps yesterday (even though only two were entered)?  I can't find the full award text online yet, but the judges explained their Marine Related Software choice of Navionics Marine: Mediterranean HD thusly: "This system's ease of use was better than any the Jury had seen to date. With fingertip control provided by the iPad it was extremely easy and intuitive to manipulate the charts and establish routes and waypoints. Moving from screen to screen, updating charts, and zooming in on a landmark was expected to be very simple even on a moving boat." It's a bummer that all regions of Mobile 5.0 aren't out yet, but testing Beta versions for Canada, the Caribbean, and U.S. East leads me to concur with the judges, particularly in regard to the updating charts.  Creating user generated data -- the major feature of 5.0, as emphasized in the Navionics graphic inset above -- is so much easier on a big screen with a big keyboard...

Continue Reading

Garmin: new 'echo' fishfinders, xHD arrays, and My-Cast

Nov 15, 2010

The press release characterizes the new (little 'e') echo series fishfinders -- six models in all, with the $450 550c above at the high end, and an $80 echo 100 at the low -- as "Garmin's return to the freshwater market."  Which I read as "Hello, Lowrance and Humminbird!" and also as another sign of the company's tenacity.  Dropping out of the hyper intense smart phone market may have been wise, but Garmin usually seems to meet competitive adversity with new models, improved features, better value, etc.  They may have lost focus on the inland market for a bit, but they're back, and consider too the new xHD 4kW open array radars...

Continue Reading

DAME Awards 2010, part 2

Nov 14, 2010

DAME Awards will be chosen at METS this coming week for multiple categories, but there are electronical things well beyond the main marine electronics category discussed on Thursday.   Consider, for instance, how the ODEO Flare seen above attempts to replace pyrotechnics with four lasers and a revolving prism.  It does cost almost 100 pounds, but purportedly stays lit for 10 hours on 2 AA batteries, and it won't burn you.  Also in the Lifesaving and Safety Equipment category are SeeTrac's Jet-trak high-end PWC tracking system, McMurdo's SmartFind S5 AIS SART, and Weatherdock's easyRescue, which seems to be a personal-size AIS SART.  And of course there's the Marine Related Software category...

Continue Reading

DAME Awards 2010, part 1

Nov 11, 2010

EchoPilot's 3D forward looking sonar, mentioned here last year when Kees covered METS,  purportedly just started shipping, and the screen shots posted at the company site are even more compelling.  That spire imaged above, for instance, represents a navigation buoy with a triple mooring system.  But might this product be causing the judges of this year's DAME (Design at METS) Award some anguish?  They did choose it as one of the six finalists in the Marine Electronics category, but it's got to be difficult to judge such a unique technology on the basis of screen shots, especially when they can get more hand's with some of the other other nominees...

Continue Reading