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Sailman123 02-26-2006 01:10 AM

Tablet PC for Display
I recently had the oportunity to try out one of those new Tablet PC's. They are very "cool", as my daughter would say. A thought crossed my mind as to would these tablet pc's be usefull as a display unit for electronic charts, radar, etc etc. They could be used wirelessly and would be portable to the helm or below. I understand there are some very sturdy and watertight models available, that the military uses, for about 5K.

So the question would be, is there PC software that can be interfaced with GPS, Radar, Charts, and all the other electronic instruments that abound nowadays. This might be a perfect way to have a very useable and portable display unit for all the electronic devices. What interfaces would one need?

BeneteauMark 03-02-2006 11:17 AM

I have a ruggedized notebook PC (Panasonic Toughbook) that connects to my GPS via a NMEA connection (serial cable, in other words), and run First Mate by the Cap'N. This gives me the equivalent of a chart plotter, along with all the usual capabilities of a notebook computer. It has served me extremely well. When underway, the PC is bungeed to the salon table where I can see it from the cockpit.

As far as being able to connect wirelessly and being able to connect to radars/other instruments, I'm not aware of that level of sophistication being available. However, with the increasing popularity of wireless networks in homes and the workplace, who knows what may become available.

One Step Closer
Lake St. Clair, MI

lightyear22 03-03-2006 08:12 AM

I use my Apple laptop for this purpose as well. I have a wireless Bluetooth GPS receiver as well as a usb receiver. I liked the Bluetooth receiver at first, but the boot time was long. If I put the laptop to sleep and would wake it up the usb connection was almost instant and the bluetooth connection took a few minutes to reinitialize. I use GPSNavX as the software interface. It is super compatible with most maps and is a rock solid app.


Maine Sail 03-03-2006 11:28 AM

Stay away from tablets......
My wife and I are in the medical field and both use them on a daily basis. In two years we have gone through four different brands and they all currently suck! My most recent is an HP and it is so flimsy that if you set it down with one hand, instead of two, the case twists enough to cause the battery to disconnect requiring a re-boot. They are very handy for the work I do but DO NOT buy one for use on a a boat until they get the quality up. Part of the problem is that every manufacturer is in a race to build the lightest weight tablet and no one wins! Get a tough book or a dedicated chartplotter. The new Garmins come pre-loaded with ALL US watters. Laptops don't like the marine environment period so unless you're at anchor don't bring it above deck.

P.S. Written from my 4 month old flimsy HP tablet with four keys missing, a dead USB port, defective on/off switch and constant freeze ups among other things

yachtvalhalla 03-04-2006 03:41 AM


Good points.

How do you deal with the missing keys? I had the problem with a laptop and found that under Windows XP there is an on screen keyboard under Accessories/Accessibility and I am using it to finish this post!

Valdare 03-17-2006 03:05 PM

I had used the Capt'n with USB port for gps on my IBM think pad for about 5 years. Have had no problems what so ever. I use one of those not skid pads on my navagation table. It fell off once, but no damage. I never brought the lap top out of the cabin, can not see screen.I take the laptop to the Virgin Islands when we plan on leaving the BVI area. Works great. All charts are available on line these days for no cost. I paid about 200 plus for the Virgin Islands a few years ago.
When I purchased the E series last year from Raymarine for my Morgan 384 here in the Great Lakes last year, my intent was to use my laptop below. In order to do that I had to purchase the Raymarine charting program, $900.00 I think. What I did instead this winter was purchase the portable key board, intalled a flat screen below, now I can do everything
below that the E series does in the cockpit. Plus I have a DVD and tv for less than $700.00.
Radar is also displayed below on the flat screen. Only in 20 Inchs instead of the 9" as in the cockpit. I won't even need my glasses.

Should be way cool.


KeelHaulin 04-16-2006 02:13 AM

Raymarine makes a software/hardware suite that will turn your laptop into the the equivalent of a GPSNav/Radar control station. But the drawback is that the basic hardware/software set is appx $1600 plus the cost of the computer.:rolleyes: Well, not so bad considering John's comments; but cost of the software/interface/GPS/Radar/Depth equipment adds up quick!! Maybe you could get it for less if you can find it online or used. I would not use this system above deck; unless you had a Toughbook and a way of hard mouting the laptop. It might work well if you had a remote display on-deck and the main computer below decks (but you might not have control of the functions unless you could rig up a wireless handheld pointing device; or trackball.

I'm trying to decide which way to go also...

Sailman123 04-16-2006 02:35 AM

Tablet PC
All good points.... The tablet PC's I've seen are touch screen and/or stylus (pen) driven so I don't think the pointing device would be an issue... and you *could* actually use it as a remote desktop to a computer (laptop) down below... even wirelessly... oh man... how cool can it get!. but seriously, would I want to depend on a setup like that???:eek:


It might work well if you had a remote display on-deck and the main computer below decks (but you might not have control of the functions unless you could rig up a wireless handheld pointing device; or trackball.

I'm trying to decide which way to go also...[/quote]

KeelHaulin 04-16-2006 10:54 AM

Yeah... I was doing more research on the Raymarine software; it turns out that it needs a SeaTalk/HSB2 capable display unit to provide a formatted signal to the PC. Not running a headunit and just linking PC equipment to the Raymarine hardware won't work. Looks like they had thought of this situation and made sure that Raymarine would not lose out on the sale of displays!! :D

sailingdog 04-16-2006 07:37 PM

There are some IPX7 rated cases for the Fujitsu series of tablet PCs. One interesting way to interface a laptop with the GPS is to use a NMEA/Bluetooth Multiplexer.

That would allow you to use the notebook/tablet PC almost anywhere on the boat, and still get real-time navigation data.

For the Mac, the software I'd recommend is MacENC and for the PC, I'd recommend Cap'n 8.

If you wanted to use the Tablet to remotely control a Notebook or Desktop PC below decks, you can use VNC as a protocol, and use WiFi to connect the two machines.

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.

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