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  #1  
Old 09-15-2006
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Laptops

It's once again time to get a new laptop, but this time I think I need one for the open waters. Can you recommend a good light weight one and what kind of internet service can you get cruising especially in the middle of the Pacific?
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Old 09-15-2006
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Jughandle-

Internet service on the open seas is either very bad or very expensive. Satellite phones give you some internet service, but a fairly high cost. SSB can be used for weatherfax and basic e-mail, but not much else. A gyro-stabilized B-term satellite antenna setup can give you fairly high-speed internet access...but it is very expensive in terms of power, cost per megabyte and cost of installation.

Before I would give any laptop recommendation, I'd generally ask a person for more information about what they are going to be using the laptop for, what their budget is, as lighter, more compact laptops are often more expensive than heavier, larger models, and whether they want a Windows-based PC or a could use a Mac laptop as a possibility.

Other questions I'd want answered are whether you'll be using it in the cockpit, or just in the cabin, or just ashore. This has a lot to do with how a durable unit, and how well sealed the unit should be.
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Old 09-16-2006
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Panasonic Toughbook

http://www.panasonic.com/business/toughbook/home.asp

http://www.mobiletechreview.com/note...ughbook-W4.htm
The Panasonic Toughbook W4 lives at the lonely intersection of good looks and ruggedness. When it comes to notebooks you usually get it rugged or get it attractive, not both. Panasonic's line of semi-rugged notebooks changes that: they're very cool looking yet they can withstand bumps and grinds better than standard notebooks. They're light weight too, again not something you generally find in a rugged design. Now before we go on too long, keep in mind that their semi-rugged offerings are a separate line from the well-known long standing line of fully ruggedized Toughbooks which are more suited to military expeditions and archaeological excavations than daily use.

.......................







Pricey mil-spec may be what you are looking for. However you can go through several cheap ones for the cost of a toughbook.
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Old 09-16-2006
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Jug: Ask Camaraderie. He has a lot of experience offshore sailing long distances. He will be able to really answer this question for you.
I used an IBM laptop when I sailed the Atlantic. It was rugged and took a real beating.
Note: I would question anyone who thinks they are going to be using their laptop in the cockpit anywhere but in the slip.
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Old 09-16-2006
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Surf...Ditto on the cockpit use!

Jug...Actually I think a well bagged and standard laptop makes a lot more sense than a ruggedized one given the price differential and standard laptop life cycle. Small and light...why? If most of your use is going to be on the boat...this is not an advantage and the occasional use on shore doesn't really call for a lightweight unit as most of the trip is in the dinghy.
I would encourage you to think more about power usage and bettery life...focusing on units which can be charged from a 12V system and use relatively few amps unless you are gonna have a generator on board. If you are gonna have a generator...get the biggest screen and hard drive you can and make sure the unit has a mobile processor and make sure the unit can be upgraded to Windows Vista once that OS becomes operable and stable. Get yourself a well padded computer case AND a big ziplock bag with some of those silica packets thrown in and keep the laptop in there whenever it is not being used. Leaving it out in the salt air is the worst thing you can do to it.
As to internet access at sea...there is NONE unless you are in a position to spend 4-5K on a dish and pay by the byte for data. Not in my budget...but if in your budget see the KVH site
So...assuming you are not going to be accessing the internet at sea...you will be using the laptop on wifi in the more civilized harbors your enter and in internet cafe's in the less populated areas. There are several good threads on the SSCA.org site on wifi antenna systems for boats to help extend your wifi range.
If you need E-MAIL access at sea...this is doable through our SSB radio or satellite phone system and in the South Pacific I assume you will have an SSB so you should consider getting a Pactor Modem for it and Sailmail service which runs about $250/year and works great.
You have to decide what particular set of laptop features you need but since they are not "upgradable" I would encourage you not to focus too much on price...but prices have come way down for nice units. I just got a great BIG honkin HP for about $700 bucks that would have cost me $2k a couple of years ago. I recommend Toshiba for standard size and HP for large size displays. I would avoid other brands today no matter what their reputation in the past. I am speaking here of major brands...you may find the need to get a specialized model from a small company and my remarks are not intended to cover those.
Hope this helps!

Last edited by camaraderie; 09-16-2006 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 09-16-2006
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Here is how I used my laptop offshore:
I route my GPS/Chartplotter to the laptop so that I can update the chart from the laptop. I use Maxsea so I download the weather repot from the SSB and upload it into Maxsea. I then use the weather routing program within Maxsea to plot the optimum course. The waypoints are fed into the Chartplotter by the laptop which in turns speaks to the autopilot.
MaxSea also will plot your chart and can give you ETA information based on the weather report.
By the way, I purchased a 12 volt plug for IBM laptop. I assume you can pick one up for any laptop. This worked perfectly for my needs.
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Old 09-16-2006
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I used an 'old' compaq EVO with a win2000 OS on my trip and was able to run and test different nav softwares and programs on my way. However what I learned is that lap tops are 'disposables'. Considdering Your mentioned cruising area there are more things to considder than just which type of lap top. The Pacific is a squally and rather thunder and lightening filled area, and no computer gets happy with voltage peaks either in the power innlet, but even more sensitive the USB and serial ports. I had mine hooked so a separate 1000W inverter and a battery powered Garmin 86 GPS, and no interface to auopilot or other equipment. That set up probably saved it when the ligtening got a bit too close in the Indonesian waters when all the Raymarine systems went down due to voltage peak in the Seatalk circuit. I ran it for quite some time on a 12V sigarette adapter, but got power problems due to corrosion in the female part of the adapter.
Whatever band You buy the all use more or less thesame type of hard disks, and that might be the most vulnerable part, mine started togive up in the Marquesas, but I managed to get it going to Fidji. Then it was time to change to my Compaq Pressario 1500 running XP. Power consumption almost doubled!
Shortly my recomendation would be:
Get one 'simple' for navigation, and navigation alone.
Then as back up Your daily 'working' station laptop. (SSB, fax or whatever). Whatever data You need to transferr between them, a memory stick is the best. Just remember to put the same file format in both(NTFS).
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Old 09-21-2006
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Another good way to back up your machine is to have an external USB or FireWire hard drive. This way, you can move your data from machine to machine fairly easily. On some computers, you can even use the external drive as a boot device, and might be able to keep a working backup of your applications and OS on it.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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  #9  
Old 10-23-2006
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Couple of quick questions on the subject of notebooks. Are they all 12v ? Is an inverter a better way to go than simply relying on the ship's batteries. Do you need some kind of voltage regulator to ensure no spikes ?
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Old 10-23-2006
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With my IBM, it actually came with a DC plug which was fantastic and really made life a lot easier off shore.
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