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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 03-14-2009
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first laptop/chart advice

I bought my first laptop for use while traveling and onboard. (Using my desktop for years for other stuff). I have an adequate plotter on board and dont anticpate trying to tie the laptop to the plotter at this time. I just want to have a back up on board and a toy to do some minimal planning at home. Im aware that there are free NOAA charts and also more extensive/expensive software available but I dont know how they all relate to each other.
Whats the simplest way to start learning? Can someone direct me to a primer on the subject ?
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Old 03-14-2009
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I'll plug our product since this is just on topic

PolarView (Polar Navy) is still in alpha, but we are an efficient chart viewer for ENC (vector) charts from NOAA (and, incidentally, GRIB weather files). (and a new "beta" release is coming as soon as powers that be implement our S63 credentials so that non-US users can open their charts too )


BTW, don't swear off using a computer connected to the rest of your instruments. There are challenges in setting this up correctly, to be sure - but there are also advantages including versatility and system flexibility.
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How about some place to look for basic explanations of choices, types, etc.
Something like the equivalent of Don Casey on computers/charts. And of course, cheap is always a good starting place when learning.
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Old 03-14-2009
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Basically, the US government provides free charts in two electronic formats. The BSB format was developed by the government and Maptech and is basically a raster scan of paper charts. It is a purely graphic format for all intents and purposes. The newer format is the ENC format, and is a vector format file. These files store the information in a database and use a mathematical definition to define each item.

There are a lot of programs that can use the BSB format charts. Seaclear II is one of the free programs that can use them. Many commercial programs can use them as well.

Not as many can use the ENC format charts.
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So is the basic idea that I can get free charts from NOAA but all I can do is look at them. If I want to putz around with waypoints at home or if I want to use them underway with a usb gps then I would need to get some software which would use those free NOAA charts. I realize that software features cost money but would Seaclear be as good a choice as any to start the process as its free and would allow me to get experience and knowledge about what to spend money on in the future?
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Old 03-14-2009
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Yes, SeaClear will work for you and is the best way to go because it's free. As for the USB GPS antenna, stay away from ones like Garman that are proprietary and will not work with SeaClear or any other software other than their own.

[Edit] correction, if you do have a Garman it will work but you need to do a google search for a free application that will fool it to work with any software. I forget the name of it but it does exist but it's kind of a hasstle to have an extra piece of software running.
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Old 03-14-2009
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Hey man yo no hear. Bigdog just told ya. Download Seaclea11 (free) Download goverment charts(free). Install seaclear. copy charts you need to a folder on your hard drive. Put all charts in a folder, go into each folder you need (index included in download of charts) and put into one folder usally in the c drive windows program files seaclea11 charts but you can put it anywhere on your hd. Restart, open Mapcal (included in SeaClear11 download) Go to Tools, Set Directory and point to the folder we created with all the charts in. Next while still in Mapcal go to tools scan for new charts and it should find all your charts. Close Mapcal and open Seaclear11 you might need to pick the right comm port for your gps. Simple, open up device manager with the gps hooked up find the device and go to propertiers and see which comm port it is using. In Seaclear11 go to tools properties and select comm ports and assign it the correct port. Restart Seaclear11 and you should see the gps data displayed, it might take a few min so relax, smoke,drink and or both. If all is well, read the manual because all that I am posting is in there. If you want to read enc charts you need different software and it's way cool but, cost some cash but the previous post looks like something I will be testing. I use Seaclear11 with bitmap charts and I think imoh its a very good piece of software and is stable. I can help with problems if you pm me. This has been well discussed in this site but I hope some of this helps. I sometime need to read it several different ways to get it I just hope this is one to somebody
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Old 03-15-2009
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(Obviously I have a vested interest in this, however the following is my deeply held personal opinion as well).

Raster charts are very important when used in their proper form - *on paper* (as indelible backup that works when you have no power and electronics are fried). Raster charts were the available medium in digital form for a while, until standards for vector charts were (somewhat) agreed upon, and CPU power became available to process them in reasonable time. At this point, using digital raster charts is at a very least inefficient.
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The major advantage of BSB-raster format charts is that they always show all of their data, regardless of the zoom level. With the ENC-vector format charts, some data, like information for bridge height and such, can often be hidden until you either ask for it or zoom in to the appropriate zoom level. As such, until the ENC-based programs standardize the way they display such information, using Raster-based BSB charts is more foolproof.

Scosch—

I told you what software will work for the BSB-format charts. AFAIK, there is no free package, other than PolarView, which is in ALPHA testing right now, that works with ENC charts.
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Old 03-15-2009
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Another choice is to buy the Maptech chart DVD (which gives you all US charts plus a lite version of their chart software) or a Maptech chartbook (which gives you both paper and electronic charts of the area plus the lite chart software). The DVD is under $100 and saves a lot of downloading. Chartbooks are about $125.
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