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post #20 of Old 01-20-2007
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Originally Posted by sailingdog
The HP machines, tablet or not, have always had some serious quality control issues IMO. The Fujitsu machines seem to be pretty reliable, as do the Panasonic Toughbooks. There are also some other brands of "semi-rugged" or "fully-rugged" Notebooks, but they're not really "name-brand" manufacturers.

Being a Geek for a living, I'd be happy to answer any specific questions.
Being also a PC "hobbyist", I am appalled at the prices of the fairly small Raymarine-style of plotter/radar displays. I am quite aware that even complex nav programs aren't particularly taxing computationally, and so I've resolved to buy old Panasonic Toughbooks of the PIII/early P4 variety...they are readily available from large utilities, mining companies and even the military as they go "off lease".

If you get, say, five of these laptops and ghost all five drives, and then hook in GPS and radar input, an IR mouse and a second LCD screen on an armature that swings into the companionway safe under the dodger, you can have everything you need for about $2,500, plus the backup of an essentially "throw-away" or "cannabalize for spares" laptops. A bonus is that Toughbooks are weather-proof enough to take in a dinghy to shore to check e-mail, etc. at an Internet cafe/library, but are uncool and aged enough to not be particularly attractive to thieves.

My own situation is somewhat special as I have a very dry pilothouse, and so can just strap a laptop in front of the nav station. Charging via a DC/DC Targus socket charger is straightforward, as is the wiring to the "black boxes".

An alternative is the relatively unknown mini-ITX motherboard format, a.k.a. "the car computer". Rather than recommend a builder, I'll give the Wiki link and leave it to the interested to pursue:

This format (a PC the size of a slender hard cover book) could be stashed anywhere onboard that was dry and reasonably well-ventilated, and could run all nav, comms and systems data to various compact LCD screens as needed. You could even use a cheap switchbox and some USB sockets to plug in a mouse or keyboard at various spots near a screen, or use the aforementioned Bluetooth, IR or networked (Cat 5 or 6) connections.

In sum, I don't know why anyone would have a proprietary "marine" display aboard a boat when you could use a multitude of cheaper, more flexible, more powerful and more portable alternatives. You could put a GPS USB antenna and a Toughbook in your crash box and plot drift and set in your liferaft!

OK, that was a little over-enthusiastic, perhaps...
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