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CaptnAl 01-30-2010 04:14 PM

Computer/Software for NMEA link?
My instruments (Raymarine wind, speed, depth, autohelm, Garmin GPSMap640) are wired to an RS232 connector at the nav station, but the old laptop used with Garmin software has died. What might you suggest for a new computer and software that would allow me to have a below deck repeater of the instrument readouts?

I plan to add AIS this winter, as well, which ties into the new Garmin 640. Would software be around for charts, position and AIS at the nav station too?

Repeaters from Raymarine are pricey, so I hope to stay below their $600 cost for the computer and software.

Hope Springs Eternal !

brak 01-30-2010 05:45 PM

Seizing a perfect opportunity for shameless self-promotion, PolarCOM is a comprehensive set of NMEA instruments. It acts as a standalone repeater/set of dials and is commonly used to get 2nd (and 3rd and 4th) set of instruments elsewhere, including commercial vessels where it provides convenient data in engine rooms and elsewhere down below. It is very much in your price range (free :) ).

We also have a complete navigation product to do everything else - i.e. vessel on the chart, routes, waypoints and other usual chartplotter fare.

AIS is not available in current version but is under development now and will be available in the next release (by Q2 2010).

All that, as usual, at Polar Navy

And, to be fair and also because someone else will come up and say it anyway in a minute - google OpenCPN :) .

CaptnAl 01-30-2010 06:07 PM

Software?? CHECK !
I've just looked over the Polar Navy website, and the software seems to be just what I'm looking to use! I gather the Polar View and Polar Com are free, with the PolarIS sold, right? What's the payback for you for having developed all that software?

Any suggestions on the hardware side? I gather small PC's are now around for just a few hundred bucks. Any major limitations to the hardware needed for your software?

And while I've got the attention of experts, how should I wire the NMEA interface to the computer? The current RS232 connector doesn't seem to be included on most computers now. Could I wire to a USB connector, if I have the appropriate wiring diagram?

Thanks for the great feedback so far.

brak 01-30-2010 08:23 PM

The payback is having a perfect chartplotter for myself :) Nothing else worked for me.

Practically any relatively modern machine will work. Since we support 3 major platforms - the choice of OS is pretty much open. I use an old Acer laptop onboard, primarily because I won't feel so bad if it gets wet and dies. It is about equal to a modern netbook in it's specs (1.6Ghz previous generation Intel processor, 1 Gb of RAM).

As far as RS232 goes - you need a serial to USB adapter. There are tons out there (literally Google for "usb to serial"), and it tends to be hit and miss. Most adapters are based on Prolific PL2303 chipset, FTDI is the second most popular and more expensive. You may end up buying a few until you find the one that works well. I have 3 or 4 that turned out to work only at one speed, or only for output etc.

Here is a random example: Cables Unlimted USB 2.0 to Serial DB9 Adapter: Electronics (search Amazon some more and look for an adapter with good feedback)

CaptnAl 02-01-2010 12:58 PM

You've provide excellent suggetions, Sir! I'll act on them, and enjoy the results onboard this Spring.

Many Thanks - -

hellosailor 02-01-2010 08:09 PM

"You may end up buying a few until you find the one that works well."
Nah, there's no need to do that. You only need to buy ONE. The trick is, go to the Microsoft web site and find the hardware qualification list ("HCL") for your operating system. That's a list of all devices that have actually been $ubmitted and te$ted and confirmed to work with that OS, at least most of the time.
A "logo certified" USB-to-serial adapter may cost $5 more than an uncertified POS from China, or it may not cost anything more at all. IBM and Keyspan are two of the companies that have had certified adapters for years now, I'd expect anything that had a Vista certification will also work under "Vista-dot-one", which is sold as Windows7.

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