Dave my friend,
We've had this debate before, and as I've said before, different setups work better for different people.
But I think you're "talking out of both sides of your mouth" by suggesting that people spend $$$$ for a permanently mounted system like yours (including radar, AIS, and other nice "distractions"), but then accusing others of head-down sailing. Any system, whether laptop, tablet, or a permanent turnkey system, can be as simple or as complex as you want it. If you design it properly and keep it simple it is a nice dashboard to have in front of you without touching it, and if it's too complex you'll spend too much time zooming in and out, and otherwise manipulating it. But this is true whether it's a turnkey Raymarine system (which, on both of my charters, I found to require a ridiculous number of button pushes to get any information) or a cobbled together PC/tablet system. I've got my Netbook configured with a dual screen, one side zoomed in for detail, the other zoomed out for AIS targets. The chartplotter program runs continuously - I reboot it a couple times a season, otherwise it's simply put to sleep when I stow it away between sails, where I believe it is stored more securely than a fancy display in the cockpit.
I have very little room at my helm, and a "pod" on the binnacle would obstruct movement far more than my little Netbook bracket. Also, my Netbook mount is infinitely adjustable, so if I choose to sit next to the wheel on the windward side, I can pivot it to view it from that position.
If it rains or I'm in rough conditions, I put the thing away in the cabin (where it still continues to run and can still control the autopilot via Bluetooth, if I so choose), but for those situations I have the waterproof handheld mounted on the binnacle (which you can see in the pic above).
These things are wonderful tools to have, and I believe the parody of someone running head-on into an island with his head buried in the computer screen is just a figment of a cynic's imagination.
As for the computer telling me if I am going to collide, I can tell you that the closest-point-of-approach calculations of the AIS system are a HUGE safety improvement that takes a most of the guesswork out of sailing on my crowded river. I give the big freighters a lot of space, but I know with confidence that I have 15 minutes to cross the channel before it's here (or, more frequently, that the distant ship is only anchored and not coming toward me at all). It turns a potentially dangerous river into a safe sailing range.
I'm curious about the SailTime Wind Vane, but reluctant because I have resisted to avoid the very complexity you've expressed concern about. My windex works fine (even though the PO installed it backwards
), and I just had the window on my bimini enlarged so I can have a better view of it. I hope you're more tolerant of people looking up than looking down.