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 Post subject: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBIES

Joined: 18 Sep 2013, 13:02
Posts: 13
Hi all, in the eternal quest to find what works and what works best with Navigatrix, I have found the following out:

I run Navigatrix on an old Lenovo laptop I got secondhand for £100, it works fine. On land at home, when I move charts over larger land masses at small scale, OpenCPN can 'hang up' for some 30 seconds before it moves on, but for some reason this has never once happened at sea. As I live in an area of Sweden with a lot of small islands, erring on the side of total safety, I was worried this may cause problems but it never has: It's so good that I don't intend to change anything and what I like about this laptop-based system is that I can carry it anywhere for doing deliveries, sailing with friends etc. I run the laptop it via its original 240v power pack from an 12VDC to 240VAC inverter (saved money not buying a 12v supply but will buy one soon just to compare power consumption).

Some laptops can and do run from 12v directly from the battery, but the issue with that is that when you start the boat engine (etc) there is a power surge that will damage the computer. But a 12v supply from eBay/Amazon etc for say £20-£30 will eliminate this. Even cheaper supplies can be bought but these may be more likely to pack in:- better the better ones should last and for the extra £10 are worth getting, according to a number of reviews I have read.

An off the shelf Clas Ohlson generic GPS my friend bought me for £30 here in Sweden worked immediately with Navigatrix - just plugged it in, no need to change any settings, or do any form of installing whatsoever.

A modified VHF/FM radio can easily become an AIS receiver: (you can modify a radio yourself or occasionally can buy from this man): http://www.discriminator.nl/index-en.html
Mine cost about £55 inc postage. Again it worked perfeclty in Navigatrix by plugging it in, no setting changes etc needed. I tried it for the first time at sea the past few days, and this little handheld Puxing VHF mounted at compass height receives AIS signals at a distance of around 1 sea mile in a dense archepelago, even when the target is behind an island or in port. It still works fine as a radio of course so I have a spare ship to shore VHF into the bargain. Next step for me will be a mast head antenna and modification of the new boat's radio so I will be able to 'see' further.

I have been looking continuously for new cheap improvements and whilst I'm probably way behind our Moe, I have found these things out: I bought a Mini ATX D510MO computer secondhand (motherboard with some 4Gig memory and wireless card £35, keyboard and mouse thrown in for free, 60 Gig SSD £25 and a tiny 12V ultra high quality power supply that handles mains surges no problem came for free with the deal (mine normally some £100 but there are good variants for well under that)). I bought a mini ATX case new for £35 inc. delivery, and in it is a mains power pack that whilst noisy, is a backup so I can run it from 240V in an emergency. So for under £100 I got a very good little machine. Having an SSD (solid state drive) saves a good deal of power and noise. Indeed this whole computer is designed to be ultra low power, it has no cooling fan and no moving parts at all. It will be interesting to see how it performs in hot weather but I've banged up the house heating to over 30 degs Celsius and it's been fine.

SCREENS:
A screen for this beast has been my search quest for the past weeks. I have done a lot of searching of forums, and one can take the screen from a laptop but they draw a good amount of power (many of them draw nearly 4 Amps!). There are specific High Definition (HD) 12V monitors available but they cost a lot of money. There is a 7" LCD 12VDC screen I found for £25 inc. delivery from Amazon which people are buying to use with Raspberry Pi computers, it's not HDMI, so there's some messing about with the input/cables, and the definition is questionable.. some say it's ok and some say it's not good enough: I haven't tried one myself. Has anyone tried one?

What I am waiting for is the imminent release of the cheap, low voltage, high definition 9" screen from the people who make Raspberry Pi's.. it's called a HDMIPi. It hasn't been released yet but it has good funding on Kick Starter crowdfunding and looks like it's doing well in development, so time will tell, release is in theory imminent (June 2014) and as it's HDMI it should plug straight in to your computer, work from USB power and be under £100.

One project that interests me is this, using the new Kindle Fire 8.9 as a monitor... with all its rave reviews and features it sounds great: it works well in the light, draws little power, can work from USB power (5volts), has cameras, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, long independant battery life, GPS etc etc, but it requires some messing about and a WiFi system aboard to connect to it:
http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2014/05/30 ... spberrypi/
Another catch is the price: some £260 at the time of writing.

I have looked into using old GPS screens as a monitor, and there may be someone out there who knows otherwise so don't take this as gospel, but it seems that they use dedicated screen hardware so that they can't easily be coupled to a computer. I bet someone has done it though and I'd love to know how.

PROFESSIONALS:
In sailing with professional delivery skippers, their opinion is that A) they often keep Windows so they can use certain programs like Airmail, and as much as anything I think they are suspicious of anything new (to them) like Navigatrix and B) They keep their engines running often - their fuel is paid for, by someone else, of course, and they have schedules to meet, but there's a lot of sense in judicious use of engines and recharging the ship's batteries a couple of hours per day. Is it better to pay for some Diesel or to use loads of money on new hardware, that is the question for me, until screens' prices and power consumption come down.

I hope this info is of use to people setting up their Navigatrix for the first time... this is only the results of my own research/experience of course and there are people who know better... let's hear it lads... cheers :)


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 29 Apr 2013, 06:05
Posts: 36
Hi Progenator,
some thoughts on your hardware choices:
as with many low power desktop mainboards, which all have enough power to run Navigatgrix, the big power hog is the screen, as you already found out. Friends of mine were quite proud of their mini ITX board which draws about an amp (at 12 Volts, including harddrive etc.) but hooked it up to an old monitor which draws 5 amps. After they started cruising and were away from shore power most of the time, their computer was only used for short periods of time, allmost exclusively for Airmail. A cheap Intel Atom based netbook gets by with about one amp total and that includes the screen. If you want a little more computing power, look at the new ultra low voltage processors (newer Celerons, i3, i5s etc.). A 11.6 inch laptop doesn't break the bank but is considerably faster than a netbook with almost similar power consumption. I just got one of the later for about 200 Euros new.

Hooking up a computer to a kindle is an interesting concept. the price point of the kindle is not though. Couldn't one get a decent, proper display for that kind of money? However, the proposed method that is described in the article you linked should work with any Android device.

Anyways, since the kindle (or any other android tablet for that matter) is running already, why not run the whole OS on it. There are apps that let you install a Debian in a chroot environment on your tablet with not much effort. That means you can run zygrib, OpenCPN etc. directly on the device.

All the Best,
Christian


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 15 Aug 2014, 01:03
Posts: 1
A tablet natively running linux seems like the best hardware option.

We may be able to use the Ubuntu guidance to get navigatrix running on one of the Nexus tablets.

-Jim Ladd


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI
Site Admin

Joined: 05 Nov 2010, 01:00
Posts: 185
A Toshiba Encore for about $150 might work.


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 18 Sep 2013, 13:02
Posts: 13
Thanks for your views and replies lads. Over the past year or so I have been doing more yacht deliveries and talking to delivery skippers and others.

The consensus is that most of them carry laptops with a few exceptions who carry weatherproof Nav systems such as Lowrance which they can have up on the bridge with them in poorer weather, or just kept there for when they're needed. Most laptops work fine aboard, but as people rightly say there are certain models which use far less power than average. With many newer laptop models (notably Hewlett Packard) being fitted with backup partitions, lighted keyboards and changed Function Button order, etc etc it can be difficult to install Navigatrix (or any Linux version) on them, the more so as a dual boot with Windows. Apparently the most important reason for having Windows available is that the software with some SatPhones (email receiving programs) only work in Windows (- but I haven't verified that myself - can anyone shed any light on the issue and its developments?).

So, choose your laptop carefully - low power use and easy Navigatrix installation /dual-boot setup if you need it.

One sailor I know who isn't the most organised, careful person on earth, took three cheap laptops with him over the Atlantic two summers ago for his navigation in a 27 footer - he flew back with one still working, the other two having been splashed heavily. Other delivery captains (who in fairness often take larger boats) have had cheap/medium price laptops have made several Atlantic crossings and a few Mediterranean cruises to boot with just the one laptop, with no problems.

There are a number of new tiny 'credit card' sized computers coming out now, and what they can do is stunning, as is the tiny amount of power they use. The issue is that so far they all use ARM processors, for which Navigatrix is not compiled. A certain number of users are hoping that someone will recompile Navigatrix for ARM: With more and more ARM based hardware coming out, and with the excellent little screens available for them (also very low power and very cheap), perhaps it will happen.

ARM based tiny computers are not just a techie flash in the pan, they're here to stay!

I really hope we'll get an ARM recompile as Navigatrix is wonderful and these new machines are too.

Have a look at all these little ARM processor machines now available, with more coming out all the time:

RASPBERRYPI
http://www.raspberrypi.org
hdmipi.com (HDMIPI RaspberryPi screens are now with other inputs available as a 'clip-on' add-on)

BANANA PI
http://www.bananapi.org
http://www.lemaker.org (check dedicated screens for the banana pi)

PARALLELLA
http://www.parallella.org

HUMMINGBIRD
http://www.solid-run.com/products/hummingboard/

ODROID-C1
http://www.hardkernel.com/

BEAGLEBONE BLACK
beagleboard.org/

This beast is interesting too and it doesn't use ARM, but models are from $500 to $999:
beagleboard.org/

And others I haven't had time to look at properly:
http://www.parallax.com/product/32209

And this.. even smaller!
http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/other/disp ... sters.html

Best wishes fellow Navigators and thanks to the people who make Navigatrix so good!


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 13 Jan 2012, 10:13
Posts: 17
I am running OpenCPN on a CubieTruck (A20 dual core Arm7) with great results.

Here is a video that gives an Idea of the performance panning and zooming.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IV_Zq1bU-A

I am installing it on my boat and intend to run it continuously while underway; it only draws 3-5W.
I am hooking it up to a 24" LED LCD screen that draws about 20W at full brightness.
I plan to use screen at lower brightness and it will only be on when I am actually looking at it, other times I will rely on audio alerts for AIS and RADAR guard zones.

Cheers,
JM.


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI
Site Admin

Joined: 05 Nov 2010, 01:00
Posts: 185
I am almost about to get the new raspberry 2 for 35 bucks which runs fast enough for opencpn too.


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 13 Jan 2012, 10:13
Posts: 17
David wrote:
I am almost about to get the new raspberry 2 for 35 bucks which runs fast enough for opencpn too.


If your intent is to run OpenCPN, I would wait a bit and watch what happens on this thread:

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f134/opencpn-on-raspberry-pi-raspbian-135400.html

The processor is greatly improved, but the Video hardware in the RPi2 is the same as the first one.

Cheers,
JM.


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 18 Sep 2013, 13:02
Posts: 13
Hi JDM, thanks for your info.

If that 24" LCD screen of yours with such low power is satisfactory and doing what it should do, is there any chance you would post a link to where you got it from so one can have a good look at it?

My aim is to further the idea of Navigatrix really: I know OpenCPN will work on a good number of machines, but some technical knowledge and 'messing about' is necessary to get it going. What a lot of mariners want is simply a disc they can put in to make a system that works, with all the software, drivers etc they need - so I'm looking for any hardware that allows/eases use of Navigatrix.

To this end, I'm hoping that someone will either recompile Navigatrix so it will run on the ARM processors, or that new hardware using a different chipset that will run it 'straight out of the box' as it should be. All the above mention of ARM based tiny computers was to push the point that we perhaps need a recompile...and that the obstacles needed to do this be overcome somehow (primarily, obtaining the source code for AirMail is the issue).

Cheers Jules


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI
Site Admin

Joined: 09 Dec 2010, 13:43
Posts: 19
Hi,

I am working on OpenPlotter project:

Image

OpenPlotter has the following main goals:

Do It Yourself
Open-source
Low-cost
Low-consumption
Run on x86 laptops and ARM boards (Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, Odroid C1...)

Features
Plotter with OpenCPN
Meteo with zyGrib
NMEA Multiplexer
WiFi NMEA server/client through the same device
Remote desktop
SDR-AIS receiver and decoder. Calibration tools.
Auto-calculate magnetic variation for date and position
Electronic compass from IMU sensor. Tilt compensated. Calibration tools.
Set system time from NMEA data
Set time zone
Set GPSD
Select programs to run at startup

TODO
Pressure and temperature history from sensors
Calculate True Wind

Installation instructions
https://github.com/sailoog/openplotter/wiki

Code
https://github.com/sailoog/openplotter

This is the site of the project but only in Spanish at this moment:
http://campus.sailoog.com/course/view.php?id=9

And here an image for Raspberry Pi out of the box
https://mega.co.nz/#!GFp2TYRK!GAX7G1HAZ ... L2DzIKQBDo

In a few days I will release a new image with compass, bug fixes, etc


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 13 Jan 2012, 10:13
Posts: 17
Progenator wrote:
Hi JDM, thanks for your info.

If that 24" LCD screen of yours with such low power is satisfactory and doing what it should do, is there any chance you would post a link to where you got it from so one can have a good look at it?

My aim is to further the idea of Navigatrix really: I know OpenCPN will work on a good number of machines, but some technical knowledge and 'messing about' is necessary to get it going. What a lot of mariners want is simply a disc they can put in to make a system that works, with all the software, drivers etc they need - so I'm looking for any hardware that allows/eases use of Navigatrix.

To this end, I'm hoping that someone will either recompile Navigatrix so it will run on the ARM processors, or that new hardware using a different chipset that will run it 'straight out of the box' as it should be. All the above mention of ARM based tiny computers was to push the point that we perhaps need a recompile...and that the obstacles needed to do this be overcome somehow (primarily, obtaining the source code for AirMail is the issue).

Cheers Jules


The monitor that I purchased is an LG24M45 it was on sale, possibly a closeout it is not the latest model (new ones are IPS).
It works fine so far directly from ships 12V supply; I just cut off the brick power supply and wired the cord to a cigarette adapter.
It draws 20W at full brightness, but I run it at minimum brightness drawing 6W; Minimum brightness works fine at my navstation which is shaded from direct sun. Minimum brightness is still too bright at night, and I have to use software color schemes or contrast to further reduce the brightness .

Regarding Airmail: There is a way to access the Winlink system without Airmail. Paclink creates an interface that can be used by any mail client to access the Winlink system. There is a version available for Linux that can be compiled for ARM. It just needs someone with more Linux knowledge than me to make it work.

There is also ARM support for WINE that might allow running of Airmail on ARM devices.

Cheers,
JM.


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 18 Sep 2013, 13:02
Posts: 13
Hi Sailoog, I was wondering how that program of yours is coming along.. is the site in English and what bugs have cropped up/been fixed? I have a RaspPi 2 and some thoughts about using that for navigation, but all in all I have come to the conclusion that as laptops draw less and less power, perhaps a Chrome book with a little hack so it runs Navigatrix from a USB stick is the way to go for simplicity, (especially on a small boat like mine)? Some of these Chrome books are reaching 7 hour battery life times.

As a matter of interest JDM.. that monitor of yours, what is the nominal input voltage DC? I have looked about online, can't find anything but the 120-240VAC rating for the power pack. What I'm wondering is whether one can run monitors/screens that are nominally 16VDC on a 12VDC battery?

Cheers Jules


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 13 Jan 2012, 10:13
Posts: 17
Progenator wrote:
...
As a matter of interest JDM.. that monitor of yours, what is the nominal input voltage DC? I have looked about online, can't find anything but the 120-240VAC rating for the power pack. What I'm wondering is whether one can run monitors/screens that are nominally 16VDC on a 12VDC battery?

Cheers Jules


The Output of the "wall-wart" power supply is 19Vdc 1.3A.

I have had no problem so far running it directly from my house 12V.

Cheers,
JM.


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 18 Sep 2013, 13:02
Posts: 13
Thanks for that JDM, often have I wondered just how many useful electronics gadgets rated at 19 or 17vdc for example actually do run on 12V? I don't suppose there's any harm in trying a few more as and when the need arises - a lot of truly rated 12v equipment is very dear for some reason.


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI
Site Admin

Joined: 09 Dec 2010, 13:43
Posts: 19
Progenator wrote:
Hi Sailoog, I was wondering how that program of yours is coming along.. is the site in English and what bugs have cropped up/been fixed? I have a RaspPi 2 and some thoughts about using that for navigation, but all in all I have come to the conclusion that as laptops draw less and less power, perhaps a Chrome book with a little hack so it runs Navigatrix from a USB stick is the way to go for simplicity, (especially on a small boat like mine)? Some of these Chrome books are reaching 7 hour battery life times.


Hi Progenator,

OpenPlotter project is close to the final release now. Lots of new features have been added. Yes, the project has added english site and support.

http://www.sailoog.com/en/openplotter
http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13 ... 52754.html

You are right, power consumption can become similar with a full feature OpenPlotter system, and Navigatrix is the perfect way for simplicity and the most complete and versatile software recompilation. But check the new features of OpenPlotter on cruisersforum :). I think Navigatrix and OpenPlotter are more than ever complementaries.


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 Post subject: Re: WHAT works - cheap Navigatrix solutions - info for NEWBI

Joined: 18 Sep 2013, 13:02
Posts: 13
Hi Sailoog. I've just been looking at your Open Plotter system for the RaspberryPi and it looks great.
If I may add, to my mind calling it Open Plotter makes it sound as though it's 'only' that as opposed to the far more it can do than just plot, and being more or less an OS per se. I mean, being able to work with NMEA devices is quite something.

Several questions spring to mind:
1. compatibility with SatPhones and satellite broadcast info for weather reports - can one easily link OP on a RaspPi up for such or am I barking up the wrong tree, as I have never actually tried OpenPlotter (but I look forward to it)
2. Compatibility with digitally controlled (i.e. modern) long range radios - again to receive weather forecasts broadcast digitally, and even to speak with various stations (and or automated broadcast stations) vie email etc. to request weather forecasts.
3. AIS - it still costs loads of money to buy an AIS transmitter, which is one of the biggest leaps forward ever for single handers' safety - do you know of any projects underway to make an affordable/DIY AIS transmitter?
4. What reasonably priced, low power screens have people used with your system successfully? Are there any so low powered that one can encase them in hard plastic and bolt them into the cockpit of a small yacht where they will be exposed to heat and sunshine? Are there any which are built reasonably waterproof to start with? Have you tested the HDMIPi screen aboard yachts?

Best of luck with the project!


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