After our old Apelco plotter died I decided to try a PC laptop based navigation system rather than buying a new MFD. I'm setting up and testing the new system this winter. I was surprised how tricky it was to view my laptop display on my Android device. Non-geeks must really struggle with this so I thought I would share my setup.
1. Create a wireless Local Area Network (LAN)
A LAN is simply a private network that uses the same technology as the Internet. You need a LAN because you cannot rely on your cell phone Internet connection. Separate hardware routers are bulky. Microsoft built-in ad-hoc networking does not work well. Android devices, in general, will not connect to Microsoft adhoc networks. I installed the free edition of Connectify Hotspot (The Internet, Faster - Connectify Hotspot and Dispatch
) instead. Connectify Hotpost uses the wireless card in my laptop to create a wireless LAN. Move your mouse over the Connectify window to see your LAN address. Mine is 192.168.170.1. Your will also start with 192.168...., write down the address, you will need it in step 3.
2. Install a Virtual Network Computer (VNC) server
Most screen sharing applications for Android require an Internet connection because the connections are managed by a server somewhere on the Internet. VNC makes it possible to share control of your laptop over a LAN or Internet connection. I installed TightVNC (TightVNC: VNC-Compatible Free Remote Control / Remote Desktop Software
) to make my laptop a VNC server. I used the defaults, adding passwords where prompted.
3. Install a VNC client on your Android device.
The VNC client connects with the VNC server on your laptop using the LAN. You will be asked for the address of your laptop. I installed "androidVNC" available from the Play Store. This is the most popular VNC client for Andorid.
That's all you need to get going. I use PolarView NS from Polar Navy as my PC based navigation system. I like it because maps, gribs and Active Captain data are all easy to integrate. It's also cheap. Polar View includes Polar COM which manages incoming NMEA connections to your laptop.
I don't really want to get into a debate about the reliability of PCs versus chartplotters in this thread... so to fend some of those comments off:
1. I am doing this because our plotter failed. They fail too!
2. We have two laptops with duplicate setups.
3. We have paper charts, several android devices, an iPad, a marine GPS antenna, a USB GPS anrenna and a handheld GPS.
4. I am painfully aware how sensitive most Android devices are to the saltwater environment. Old Android devices are cheap on eBay.