Q&A: Backup For Electronic Charts—Conclusions


Two days ago we looked at the issue of having a viable and cost effective backup for electronic charts. The post garnered some really useful comments. If you have not read the first post, you may wish to do so know, otherwise this one won’t make a lot of sense.

Here’s my take on what we learned:

The Best Plotter/Computer Integrated Solution

The Furuno-Maxsea solution seems to be the most elegant and functional way to integrate a plotter and computer and have charts on both from the same licence without having to buy two sets of charts.

We are big time Furuno fans and we looked at this system before going the navigation on computer route. The big drawback is cost: It’s pretty easy to spend the thick end of US$10,000 or even more on such a system.

Also, Maxsea and Furuno have a track record of upgrading their offerings and leaving existing customers little alternative but to scrap a lot of expensive equipment, software and charts and buy new if they want to stay in any way up to date.

iPad Backup

An iPad with all the required charts, preferably from a different vendor than the primary charts—get different charts, since errors during the vectoring process are common, but it is unlikely that two chart vendors will make the same mistake—makes a great and cost effective backup, particularly since it is easy to store the iPad in a metal case thereby protecting it from the ravages of electro-magnetic pulses that can trash electronics during a lighting strike, even if they are not connected to anything.

Cheap Computers

Several commenters suggested one or more cheap second hand computers preloaded with all charts and software as backups. While I certainly believe that a fully loaded spare computer is a good idea, particularly for anyone relying, as we do, on a computer rather than a plotter for navigation, I caution against going the cheap and/or second hand route for two reasons:

Speed is Required

Many of the more up to date navigation programs require a quite powerful computer, preferably with a separate graphic card to operate properly. Slow zooming at a critical moment could ruin your day.

CtrL-Alt-Delete isn’t fun

Keeping a Windows based navigation computer working reliably can be enough of a challenge without adding in problems induced by an out of date operating system—Microsoft no longer updates Windows XP, for example—and out of date drivers—if slow zooming is bad, think about getting the blue screen of death, just as you are transiting a tricky channel.

Worse still, is easy to see a scenario where the spare won’t function, when needed, because of updates made to the equipment attached to the primary that are not compatible with the software on the backup computer.

The bottom line is that a navigation computer, particularly if there is no plotter, is a mission critical system and is therefore no place to let our inner cheapskate shine.

Further Reading

The decision of whether to go with a computer or a plotter, or both, for navigation is a complex one. I discuss the trade-offs in this online book.

Whatever you do, I believe that it’s vital to have a navigation display in the cockpit. Bouncing up and down to the chart table like a demented gopher every time you need to navigate is not only inconvenient, it’s dangerous because it messes with your sense of where you are—what airplane pilots call situation awareness. We have more on this subject as well as general tips for safe navigation in this online book.

Thank You

A big thank you to everyone who chimed in on this in the comments. There is no substitute for that kind of real world group experience and hard-won wisdom.

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

40 comments… add one
  • RDE (Richard Elder) Nov 24, 2013, 11:15 pm

    Hi John,
    As an Apple guy you may not realize just how inexpensive used windows laptops are now that Apple has succeeded in replacing laptops with hunt and peck I pads. LOL

    On ebay right now: Lenovo factory refurbished T61 Thinkpad with new Win 7 operating system. $169.00. If one is using a computer navigation system how can you afford to not have one of these along with a Bad Elf plug in GPS sitting in a lightening resistant waterproof box as a back-up?
    Windows 7 will be the OS of choice for years in the future, especially since MS seems incapable of designing a replacement system that even functions.

    I ran Nobeltec Admiral on a similar lap top and had no issues with load speed, and the 2 gig hard was more than adequate. The issues I had were with Nobeltec. “we don’ t care, we don’ t have to” eventually catches up! Take away: If your supplier won’t let you load your Nav. system ont0 a second back-up computer at no cost, find another system.

    • John Nov 25, 2013, 9:15 am

      Hi Richard,

      Just to clarrify, I have spent the last 15 years in the windows world and have only just switched back to Mac for our publishing business, because at the power level we need, Macs are now cheaper than the equivalent Windows machines. I still use and advocate Windows for navigation. I too have used Nobeltec Admiral and can say that in my experience it runs better on a more powerful Laptop, although it will run on a fairly low power model (I have tried both). However the newer software like The latest Nobeltec and MaxSea that are based on the Maxsea time zero engine need more powerful hardware than Admiral did, and really need a separate graphics processor to perform properly. Again, this is based on experience.

      As to second hand computers, if you can get one that meets the above spec at the price you say, great. However, the buyer needs to be tech comfortable since the only safe thing to do with a second hand computer is a complete clean Windows install with all new and up to date drivers—not a trivial task. I would also recommend taking out the hard drive and replacing it with a solid state drive—much faster and no moving parts.

      • RDE (Richard Elder) Nov 25, 2013, 6:29 pm

        Hi John,
        I am by no means as tech savy as you or most of the others contributing to this post. However my point was about the desirability of inexpensive redundancy. The sample I pulled up had a buy-it-now price on a factory refurbished unit that had the hard drive wiped and a new Windows 7 operating system installed for only $169.00. If a non-geek mariner is planning to use a computer based navigation system running Window 7 on their primary computer , is there any reason why $169.00 would be money well spent for a back up and lightening insurance policy?

        ps I did include LOL with my opening reference to Apple! One of the advantages to not being a geek is that I have no real basis for holding strong opinions about either Apple or MS!

      • Simon Wirth Dec 6, 2013, 5:28 am

        Hello John

        I don’t have experiance with navigation software, but I have made some experiance with SSD drives.
        I am using SSD’s as system drive for about 4 years now. In this time, I’am now on my second SSD. It died inside the warranty time, sure, but in about 20 years of using HDD I had only one of them die flat out on me, and that was not even the notebook I was carrying around on a daily basis (most of the time running).
        I wouldn’t use an SSD on a critical system unless I were certain that I could reload the system from an Image fast, on either a secondary HDD or a spare SSD.
        Maybe I’m just beeing paranoid here, and the newer generation of SSD is more stable now, but I’m certainly not the only one with this problem. SSD’s still seem to be rader more delicat compared to HDDs.
        Maybe one of the newer hybrid drives is the way to go, so you get speed boost on startup and the robustness of the HDD long standing hisotry. My new Notebook has one, and I am happy to say that the speed boost is noticable. But how robust they are is another question.

        Regards Simon

        • John Dec 6, 2013, 9:58 am

          Hi Simon,

          Interesting, my experience has been the exact opposite. I have been using SSDs for about four years and have not had a failure, but have had several hard drives fail over the years. What I really like about the SSDs is that there are no moving parts. As an old mainframe computer technician who worked on early flying head disk drives I have an instinctive distrust of the technology when the machine is being subjected to the accelerations of wave motion.

          Either way, it shows the importance of having a hot backup ready to go.

          • Simon Wirth Dec 6, 2013, 10:08 am

            Hi John

            Good to now that there are people with good experiences with SSDs. I haven’t heard of them yet, you are the first to tell me he is using them for 4 years without a replacement.
            As I took my first steps on a Windows 3.1, I also got to know the hardware and now what you mean about moving parts beeing a problem.


            PS: I know, Windows 3.1 isn’t that old, but I’m young enough that it isn’t that usual to know DOS 7 and Windows 3.1 from personal experience

  • Svein Lamark Nov 25, 2013, 7:30 am

    Hi John, in your conclusion you seem to forget that most commercial ships to day sail on computers only and without paper maps. A maritime computer is compared to an office version very reliable. I have two that are water proof to 10 meter, can take a shock of 10G and the micro vibrations of a big heavy weight diesel. They have no rotating hard disc and no rotating cooling system that can brake down. They are powered trough galvanic isolators to prevent corrosion. They have many different ports to serve your external equipment. The price is from around 1000 USD and up. In my opinion a plotter is just old fashion junk. I spend the money on good navigation programs and good maps. I find very detailed maps from small companies. This maps are often much better than the plotter version.

    • John Nov 25, 2013, 9:23 am

      Hi Svein,

      I, like you, use a computer not a plotter for navigation, but I would not say that is the best course for everyone. I take a look at the issues in depth in this Online Book.

      And yes, I’m aware of the special ruggedized computers used for big ship navigation. The last time I looked (four years ago) they cost two to three times more than the equivalent power in a laptop even after changing the laptop’s drive to solid state, which I always do for a navigation computer. Great to hear that they have come down in price, I will take another look. Do you have a particular brand you like?

      • John Rushworth Nov 25, 2013, 1:43 pm


        Re ruggedized and solid state drives – have a look at the Raspberry Pi which I refer to below. Cost effective and lots of options. Thoughts?

        John R.

      • Svein Lamark Nov 25, 2013, 3:53 pm

        Hi John, my favorite brand is Nexcom mainly because it is cheap. I paid only 500 USD for a maritime computer that works well. But as you say, if you go for a very big, fast and ruggedized computer with a 15 year warranty, they are not cheap. Something in between is probably the wise solution.

        • John Nov 25, 2013, 4:36 pm

          Hi Svein,

          I took a look, but if you want something with anything like the power of a modern laptop you need one at about $1000, as far as I can see (I did not spend a lot of time, so could be wrong), and it comes without a CPU, hard disk, memory, or screen, which you must go out and buy and install, as I understand it.

          Still pretty pricy and really not turn key for the average sailor.

  • sailias Nov 25, 2013, 10:35 am

    The simplest solution is to run linux on a dedicated computer. Load any windows emulator of your choice and config the windows side to exactly what you need. Put the charts on a separate partion. Take a snapshot of the windows install. When she dies just reload the snapshot and your back up in less then 3 minutes. Run a script all graphical on the linux partiton that holds your charts. All automatically. I would use two laptops to have hardware backup. Config that one as the first and just load the snapshot and stow your done.

    At the helm an Ipad or android pad is ideal. Charts are being sold at aoss to capture this market. Now run tightVNC on your windows install on linux windows install and pad and blow the windows screen on your pad. So double sets of charts at the helm..

    Windows xp runs much faster and is more reliable lon windows under emulation then native. 2Gs of memory recommended. Suns Virtual box is the best IMHO. Simple reliable solution. Im going to take it a bit further and build a dedicated waterproof headless SBC computer that collects all ships data alowwing the data to be both collected and blown onto any screen or device. Also redundant as in two units.

  • John Rushworth Nov 25, 2013, 11:27 am

    Re ‘cheap’ computers and the Blue Screen of Death. If you have an old Windows XP netbook as I do which also runs from a direct 12 volt supply, there is nothing wrong with using this machine.

    It may seem old and slow compared to new, but as said previously you can re-invigorate old reliable machines by using Linux. I prefer not to use an emulator and I completely wiped the old windows installation. Before I did that I ran Linux on a USB stick in RAM to see if I liked it. Once confortable you can then enliven your old trusty laptop with a drive re-format and hard disk install straight from the ‘test stick’ you tried previously.

    Choose your Linux flavour. I use Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Long Term Support) http://www.ubuntu.com/ with OpenCPN http://opencpn.org/ocpn/ and a BU-353-W USB GPS Reciever.

    I also think the exprienced Voyagers here could help a lot by contributing to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenSeaMap

    Total cost of the above? Zero and one upcycled netbook for free. Waste not want not and the joys of Open Source computing.
    John R.

  • sailias Nov 25, 2013, 1:23 pm

    Thats my setup except on 13.04. The next step is to build out the same on a single board computor with solid state drives and two nics to setup an onboard private network to splash charts on any device. You pay for one set of charts and have the benefit of a private network that you can tie in any additional data sources. I like linux as there is so much you can do with it. Also it gets you around the issue of paying double for charts legally thanks to tightVNC or similar. Toss in ActiveCaptains Companion and you have an interesting coastal solution.

  • John Rushworth Nov 25, 2013, 1:30 pm

    Hi sailias,

    I went for the safety of LTS. Might try 13.04 on another machine. I will be using OpenCPN for these charts http://www.antarescharts.co.uk/index_files/Chart_selector.htm which are local areas not updated by the Hydrographic Office so they should serve as an addition to my dedicated raymarine and paper.

    Ref onboard networks. Then how about using Raspberry Pi with built in boards etc

    John R.

  • John Nov 25, 2013, 2:48 pm

    Hi All,

    OK, I think we are veering off into solutions that may be fine for those who like to play with computers and are technically qualified to do so, but I do not believe that it is safe or appropriate to suggest these kinds of things to others, as the way to do things, who may not have the knowledge and skills to make them work in the first place or keep them working.

    Let’s not forget that we are talking of a mission critical system the failure of which, at the wrong moment, could cost someone their boat or even their lives.

    Also, many, perhaps most, people will be looking to the vendor of the navigation software for support if they have problems and I can guarantee you that in most cases the first words out of the support tech’s mouth will be “we don’t support Linux” quickly followed by “we don’t support Windows versions older than 7”. (I used to own and run a software development and support outfit.)

    Let’s not get our hobbies of playing with technology confused with good seamanship here.

    For many, perhaps most, sailors a plotter that works out of the box and is supported by one outfit is the seamanlike solution. Fit that and then get on with things that really matter: The Big Five (see sidebar).

  • John Rushworth Nov 25, 2013, 2:57 pm


    No. This is not the case. I use a proven dedicated Raymarine with Navionic Gold XL card and paper charts. Laptops are the next in teh chain not primary.

    Linux is not playing. These are robust sytems that drive the Internet in many cases where Windows servers etc fail. My point is that I am using local charts on a netbook as back up that are updates in terms of survey to the admiralty charts but are to be referenced to them for comparison.

    This then is a robust for me non geeky solution to layer another level of safety.

    If money were no object then even you would throw away your laptop and have a dedicated ECDIS solution with paper back up. That is professional seamanship?


    • John Nov 25, 2013, 3:03 pm

      John, no offence, but I was working with Unix some thirty years ago, I know what it is and I know it’s a good operating system. In fact I built a business based on it. But for most people it would be a huge time sink. I already worry that too many people are spending too much time messing with computers and other electronics that should be put into basic seamanship. And therefore I’m not comfortable seeing Unix recommended to a lay person.

      You are a tinkerer, I think that cool and I admire it since I tend to be one too, but that is not the best direction for most people trying to get out there voyaging safely.

  • John Rushworth Nov 25, 2013, 3:19 pm


    No offence either but I’ve been working with computers and software for over 30 years also and had a succesful small internet company at the dawn of the the browser.

    My point is that whatever system you choose after accepted and updated paper and digital solutions, which in my case is a digital system (Unbuntu/OpenCPN/Antares Charts) of local additions to layer over and after admirality charts (paper or digital) that are no longer accurate – then it is just simply another safety layer and allows you to explore more. Well that is the plan for next season anyhow.

    It could be overlaid on paper but there is nothing wrong with a Unix based system that has a good GUI these days and does away with ticker tapes or most command line stuff 😉 I’m not recommending it as a priority, just as a way to sniff out the areas away from the maddening crowd?

    PS exscuse my typing dyslexia. Where did the edit button go?

    John R.

    • John Nov 25, 2013, 4:28 pm

      Hi John,

      Time to agree to disagree methinks. We are talking past each other. You are talking about cool technology, I’m talking about user capabilities and supportability in the hands of non-tech users. Two different things.

      Sorry about the edit button, it was causing us server load problems…more cool tech that was not necessarily practical in application.

      • John Rushworth Nov 25, 2013, 4:42 pm

        Hi John,

        This communication medium sometimes is so lugubrious…

        Yes, fair comment. My take was that was all already established, yet by the nature of your site, I like the way you re-focus and re-state for accuracy.

        Forget the tech and whether coastal or voyagers like you guys – what i was saying is what do we do when paper/plotter/laptop/crusing guide fail and you go bump because charts are wrong? Mark 1 eyball/sounding line gone awry too.

        I was on about another layer as detailed, which could be paper or digital. So I guess in your sum up, for me that local knowledge safety layer was missing and I was making a suggestion and looking for feedback from old sailing salts like your self.

        Keep on tinkering John 😉 Some of us have to….

        John R.

  • Marc Dacey Nov 25, 2013, 5:30 pm


    I don’t really see any discrepancy in outlook here. If one tinkers, it usually doesn’t matter whether it’s with radios, diesel or computers. If one can’t, or prefers not to tinker, there’s the boxed brand-name solution. For many people, particularly “of an age” to have written FORTRAN, used VAX/UNIX and endured years of frustration hammering DOS into some sort of functionality, Apple/Windows/Linux are just flavours of ice cream…and about as complex. I have a slightly different take in that while I can’t unsolder a plotter, I can use ghost drive techniques, solid-state drives, rock-solid OSes and “spares” to make a series of middle-middle laptops (or a safely stowed mini-ITX somewhere in the boat) MORE reliable than a name-brand plotter…because that plotter’s just one, fairly single-minded unit, and a sack of duplicate netbooks (or whatever) is a bit more belt-and-suspenders, if only from the viewpoint of a computer grunt with a lot of service stripes.

    For reasons of familiarity, too, I prefer Ethernet solutions for device interoperability.

    I will admit that my pilothouse allows me to be more pro-computer as plotter than someone proposing velcro’ing a laptop in a baggy at the aft cockpit helm, but there are all sorts of solutions to that. I’ve had a small GPS screen on a gooseneck swinging into my companionway on my sloop for years…if that gets wet, I may have greater problems than navigation.

    I guess my point is that there can’t be one solution, but there can be a multiplicity of equivalently workable solutions. I’ve read some quite appealing ones in the comments already which go farther than I plan to, and which have make me think a bit. Never a bad thing!

    I won’t even get into my sextants, leadlines and hand-bearing compasses….

  • John Rushworth Nov 25, 2013, 5:39 pm


    Boy, there are a lot of stripes around here – and it seems tinkerers 😉

    Diesel, what is that? Oh! Yeh, I gave that up and went pure electric propulsion. But that is for another thread, which I’ve already bored John witless with 🙂

    I’m with you on ghosting drives on media, albeit it on solid state and volatile. No RAID servers on a network out in the big bad ocean I guess.

    I so agree with your comment about ‘making me think a bit’. It is after all why I enjoy AAC.


    • Marc Dacey Nov 26, 2013, 2:03 pm

      Frankly, John, there are very few places short of cornering crazy old frustrated inventor-types in the far end of the boatyard where one can even broach half the subjects I’ve found here. Not with any hope of getting coherency and useful feedback.

      I have (nearly) zero technical or skills background…no shop class in school, no fixing cars in driveways. Everything I’ve picked up is because I couldn’t afford to pay for some half-wit “marine” fixer to do it poorly and late. I’ve found that even with my personal knowledge deficits, I have come to know more than some, because if you go offshore, you’d better! That implies to me that “tinkerer” is an unavoidable job description, and is invariably going to be a subset of skipper if one goes off soundings. How could it be otherwise? People would be constantly getting rescued from boats just out of sight of land for trivial breakages…oh….wait…

  • sailias Nov 25, 2013, 5:57 pm

    Lets not forget the Mac OS is unix with a nice user interface. Not going to persue this matter on line other then for me my seamanship skills are improved as I dont have to attend to the nav system and can focus on other things. It just works for the last five years non stop. No reboot not blue screen. Never touch it even to update as its all automated.

  • Matt Nov 26, 2013, 10:20 pm

    These days, I would strongly lean towards using a tablet computer (iPad or one of the better Android slates) as the nav backup. For a no-fuss, low-maintenance, not-too-pricey solution, this is hard to beat.

    OpenCPN, Linux Mint and a recent mid-range laptop would be my next choice. Installing and configuring Mint and OpenCPN from scratch is only marginally more difficult than creating a Facebook account, and quite a bit easier than getting Outlook to connect to a mail server. The downside, for some areas that are poorly covered, is that you can’t use proprietary, DRM-locked chart files.

    For a vendor-supported computer-based solution, a clean install of Windows 7 (*not* an OEM system restore disk) on a reasonably modern laptop, plus any of the dozen or so mid-range commercial charting packages, would be a reasonable bet. I’d stay away from the high-dollar software here; no point in paying extra for fancy graphics on a system whose main job is to handle the basics in a crisis.

    I don’t see any place for virtualization, emulation, etc. here. By all means, feel free to have a system around for that kind of stuff, but in addition to- not instead of- a clean, simple, one-purpose system.

    Whatever you choose, store it in a well-shielded waterproof metal box when it’s not in use, charge and test it regularly, and update its charts every time you get the chance.

    • John Nov 27, 2013, 9:58 am

      Hi Matt,

      I agree with your thoughts on 3D virtualization and the like not really being worth anything. In fact I would go a step further and say that fancy features like that can actually be dangerous because they tempt the navigator to play with them, when he/she should be focusing on where they are.

      On the other hand, much as I don’t like the company culture at Maxsea/Nobeltec, I have found navigation on their TimeZero engine a big step up, even from high end packages like Nobeltec Admiral. The positive effect on situation awareness provided by the fast zoom and pan must be experienced to be believed, at least for me.

    • John Rushworth Dec 1, 2013, 4:15 pm

      Hey Matt,

      Thanks for the heads up on Mint. Was having some issues with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and OpenCPN. Got them sorted but….

      Linux Mint 16 “Petra” Cinnamon is the doggies!

      Old Eee-PC Net book running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and Linux Mint “Petra” on dual boot.

      Don’t hide those old slow computers that ran Windows XP in a cupboard. Get them Minted!

      It brings life to old machines.

      Will work perfectly for the boat with http://www.antarescharts.co.uk/ and http://opencpn.org/ocpn/ now installed, along with my USB GPS hand running perfectly.

      Cheers John R.

  • DAN Nov 26, 2013, 11:06 pm

    John, you give props to Furuno but then dig Windows…did you know Furuno ECDIS all runs Windows?

    • Matt Nov 27, 2013, 9:45 am

      There’s a pretty big difference between a locked-down, single purpose install of Windows, a default install of Windows from a Microsoft disk, and a laptop vendor’s crapware-cluttered standard image of Windows.
      At the core, it is really quite a powerful, reliable and efficient operating system. It’s when you start heaping shoddy drivers, disk burning assistants, toolbars, printer helpers, wireless config utilities and other junk on top of it that reliability starts to suffer.

      • John Rushworth Nov 27, 2013, 10:23 am

        Well said Matt.The standard version was fine but all those other messed with copies bundled with a machine made you spend half the time taking the nonesense out. Whilst cheaper in terms of capital cost v a separate machine and a bog standard modern Windows CD, the frustration caused by the messed with machine cost lots in terms of time. I think that was why I went to Ubuntu, so I could have a good basic machine with a basic OS and add stuff as seen fit.

        The mobile phone providers do it too. My old Windows 7 phone had loads of Orange mobile provider nonsense on it, so upgraded to Windows phone 7.5 but now due to some Microsoft issues it won’t upgrade to Windows phone 8. Another case for going to some basic Android ROM or similar.
        Oh! for the good old basic non badged/messed with software days…
        John R

        John R..

  • Svein Lamark Nov 27, 2013, 7:02 am

    Hi John, I see that there are many different opinions on this subject and that is very nice. I have one more: When choosing a navigation program it is important that it can read many different chart formats. Some regions have better maps in different chart formats. Then you normally go for the best format, but only if your computer or plotter can read it. The free program OPENCPN is good because it reads both C-map and BSB format. In remote regions the only map is often in S-63 format. C-map is not good north of 70 degrees and stops at 80 degrees. Chartworld has maps in S-63 that are not to expensive. The only cheap navigator I have found that reads all formats is Coastal Explorer. Maybe there are others? In my opinion a navigation program must be able to read the following formats: S-57, S-63, NV-digital, C-map, CM93 and all the different BSB and free government formats.

    • John Nov 27, 2013, 9:51 am

      Hi Svein,

      That’s a very good point. I have not tried Coastal Explorer, because at the time I was looking, they did not support C-MAP, but now I think that has changed, and I have generally heard very good things about the package. I have also heard that they are much more, shall we say, customer oriented, that Maxsea/Nobeltec, which would be all to the good.

    • Matt Nov 28, 2013, 6:59 pm

      I wish S-63 didn’t exist, but since it does, we kind of have to expect support for it. (S-63 is just a crippled, DRM-locked wrapper around a standard S-57 chart.)

      Looking a few years down the road, IHO S-100 / S-101 support will soon be essential. We’re not there yet but it is coming.

  • Marc Dacey Nov 27, 2013, 12:53 pm

    Hear, hear. As a graphic designer, I do annual “clean re-installs” of my OSes just because the first six months afterwards show marked performance gains. I recall there was even an app called “Decrapify Windows”. If you take a day to strip out and tune Windows (considering, of course, one’s aptitude and a willingness to backup data and programs off the C: drive), you can “slim” Windows to a very useful OS, but one that is more familiar than, say, Linux for most people.

    A bit of research is worth the time here. I have a truly elderly Dell laptop about 13 years old that I keep running because I’ve tweaked the heck out of it. My accountant uses it about twice a year!

  • Petter Nov 27, 2013, 7:25 pm

    I have recently been testing out some solution to the above and gathered some knowledge that might be of use to the community;

    Current configuration is winxp laptop at navigation station (in pilot house) running OpenCpn (free) with c-map. PC uses input from furuno GPS 30 via usb/serial cable. Attached is also Si-tex AIS via usb cable.

    At helm I am using an ipad with navionics app with maps. To connect PC and ipad I have been experimenting with setting up an ad hoc wifi network on the laptop and running either teamviwer or splashtop on both devices. With either of these two free apps I can see the nav-PC screen and control the nav-PC from the ipad. Both these apps are engineered to work accross different platforms and devices

    For me this has been a temporary solution, as I am considering to install a new rader with a multifunction display/plotter. Solutions to view and control the plotter from an ipad has emerged and will be more stable as experience is accumulated.

    However, I thought I would make you aware of the options that splashtop and teamviewer offers, and leave you to ponder on how you may best utilise the solutions this may create – give your individual preferences and configurations.

    – winxp laptop is second hand Lenovo Thinkpad T60; a fairly sturdy machine that cost EUR 120

    If you are just a tiny bit nerdy – like me – go and have your fun!

  • Dave Dec 9, 2013, 7:00 pm

    Zoom! Right over the top. This sounds like a lot of the conversations my son has that I politely nod at the hopefully appropriate moment.

  • John Rushworth Dec 9, 2013, 7:42 pm


    Not at all. If we are attentive, we hopefully spot your eyes glazing over, long before the nod 😉 I blame John. He started it! And I and others, need little further encouragement. Hmmm…I wonder what says about us tinkerers?

    John R.

  • Frans Muys Dec 15, 2013, 2:05 pm

    Very imporant thing to consider: forced or passive cooling: forced means there is a constant flux of salty air sucked in the device: bad news for reliability and life span.

    • Marc Dacey Dec 15, 2013, 3:48 pm

      I agree. That’s why there’s a role not only for fanless computing aboard (heatsinks and so on and based on the micro- or picoITX motherboard form factors), but for non-corroding connectors, contacts and conformal sprays to keep the salt air out.

      While I have the ability to make up tinned power leads for SSBs and other devices, I have no idea if the signal cabling for plotters, etc. is tinned. Sometimes I think I would prefer everything to be linked on standard CAT-5e/6 Ethernet runs, because if they corrode (and one can use dielectric paste and heatshrink to lessen that chance), it’s easier to make up a new run at sea than to order X metres of NMEA 2000 and its associated complexities. But I am not fully informed on my logic here.

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