Coastal Explorer & ActiveCaptain, YES!
Garmin just announced several new products which will be shown when the doors open at METS tomorrow morning. The 6000 and 7000 series are very much like the successful 4- and 5000 series except that apparently they’ve got enough processor speed to warrant a new expression for how fast and smoothly they pan and zoom charts — Garmin G Motion. They’ve also got backlighting that dims down more than the originals, and backlit keypads. And the big mama 15″ touch screen 7012 and 7015, which will retail for something like $7,000, have a feature that’s a first for MFDs, I think — VGA input, so a user can use them as a monitor for a down below PC. Interesting! They also have four regular video inputs, and I’m told that all the new machines can display video input full screen (which was a problem). Though it’s not in the press release, I also understand the 6- and 7000 series will have limited distribution, which means they’re mainly meant for installer/dealers, a crowd Garmin has slowly been winning over. Garmin’s new Class B AIS is no slouch either…
Take a good long gander at the full size screen above. That’s Coastal Explorer 2010 in Guide Book mode, which already offered a wealth of port information, but as of last night (announcement here) can also show ActiveCaptain community generated info. The particular detail shown is my own enthusiastic take on our Public Landing, written when AC first launched (and still true), but notice how you can also access Atlantic Cruising Club’s professional view of the facility, as well as three different angles on Wayfarer Marine and the Camden Yacht Club. The chances are good that a visiting boat can find all the information it needs in this one spot. In fact, while my entry on the neat ACC integration was titled “CE & ACC, great but not enough! Part 1,” today Part 2 is pretty much irrelevant…
The new Garmin AIS 600 is quite similar in architecture to Raymarine’s AIS 500. But whereas it’s coming out a little later, I dare say it will deliver all the standard NMEA 2000 AIS PGNs (the Raymarine needs an update to send standard Class B static data) to any device on the boat that can use them. Garmin also claims that its VHF antenna splitter does things a little differently, something called ClearTrack which ensures that all AIS transmissions get out, even if the VHF radio attached is being used to transmit. Plus Garmin is already well along with excellent integration of AIS, MFD, and VHF, as I’ve been seeing with its VHF 200. Garmin’s IMO-like method of displaying AIS targets as active and inactive is also good, I think, and they’ll let you see them in futuristic 3D too. And as of the recent software update 5.4, they’re dealing with the over enthusiastic alarming problem too. I think they even added an MMSI input field so that Garmin MFDs can understand that N2K attached Navico (and Simrad) transponders are not dangerous targets, even though Navico’s technique for that is non standard (because the NMEA slow pokes hadn’t finished the standard yet). At any rate, if true (as Bill Lentz seems to report, and I will check it out), that’s an unusual but very consumer friendly move. The entry Bill commented on, by the way, is all about Garmin’s great track record for software improvements. So true.
So, hey, are any Panbots walking the floor of METS tomorrow, maybe checking out the new Garmin G Motion, maybe taking in the Dame Awards? Please consider a guest entry for those of us not in Amsterdam tonight (email ben.ellison at panbo.com.)
Sure it would be great if CE also offered a layer of Google quality high res photo maps instead of, or in addition to, the MSR (formerly called TerraServer) data it can currently display, and there may also be interesting data relationships to forge with other guide publishers besides ACC, and content creators like Marinas.com and MarinaLife, but it was mainly Active Captain that I’ve been hoping to see in CE. That’s because CE is not only good at displaying information of this sort, but it was also designed from the beginning to support two way data synchronization over the Internet. Those features, like the ability to create private or public blogs right in CE, haven’t yet been perfected, but I’m sure they will be eventually. Similarly, this first crack at Active Captain is read only, but I’m told that CE users will be able to edit and add markers eventually (same story for MaxSea TimeZero users).
Meanwhile synchronization from Rose Point and ActiveCaptain servers to CE is working slick. When I looked around Cape Charles, VA — which I used for that ACC entry — there was one AC’s new, and timely, CO-OP offers (which you can also see in action on the AC iPad mock up). CE also automatically downloaded the latest Camden chart to my PC, which turned out to be surprising, and a motivation to create an AC Hazard marker…
As you can tell from the Properties box lower right on the screen below, NOAA just updated this chart last week, and yet CE has it on my machine already, gratis. But, geez, why did NOAA decide to add the town’s channel buoys as if they were numbered nuns and cans when in fact they are just plain red and green balls? They are also set in straight lines along the channel that’s clearly defined by the magenta Special Anchorage areas, except (check top image) NOAA’s ENC for Camden has the north Anchorage line messed up. These mistakes are not exactly dangerous, but are a good example of why it’s great to be able to share information easily and widely. The explanatory mark I created is already live at Active Captain, and it should sync onto CE any moment now. How cool is that!
There are many more new CE and AC features to discuss, but whereas I’m blowing my own horn this week, I’m proud to point out that I was quick to spot the developers involved as special talents, profiling Brad Christian in 2004 and Jeff Siegel in one of my first Panbo entries and in Voyaging. Both have been doing exceptional work recently, and watching them work together promises to be a real pleasure.
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