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PBzeer 11-28-2003 04:39 PM

Onboard Laptop
Looking for info on what to get in a laptop to use onboard. Specifically, in regards to ports to interface w/nav electronics. It seems I''ve seen some references in that regard and would like to double check. Also, any other hardware that might not be standard. Thanks.

Fair winds,

mcain 11-30-2003 11:10 PM

Onboard Laptop
Laptops could use a serial port and a PCMCIA slot (or two). Modern laptops seem to be leaving off the serial port, in favor of USB ports. There are separate USB-Serial adapters, by Belden and others, that seem to work OK. Raymarine has a PCMCIA adapter to their instruments. Most others use a serial port.

pblais 12-01-2003 07:46 AM

Onboard Laptop
If you want to use it a lot on board. I suggest you find a direct 12 volt adapter and avoid using an inverter plus an A/C converter to power the laptop. My boat has plenty of 12 volt sockets and I found a converter on the Web.

You''ll use less power overall. Going 12 Volt batter to 12 volt computer is more efficent than making 120 volt power then making DC power again. Sames goes for cell phone chargers. The one for your car is the way to go unless you want a real A/C adapter when plugged in at the dock.

The new article today by Don Casey on inverters is a good explination of why this is and how much it matters.

rads 12-02-2003 02:07 PM

Onboard Laptop
I am using a Dell Laptop with Maptech Software (Offshore Navigator) Connected to a Garmin handhel GPS using Garmin''s serial connection. This is very simple to set up ( I am not overly computer literate, if I can do it anyone can). You must use Garmin''s own connector a few wires to solder. Interfaces with the computer and lets you know your exact location on the chart. I use it with the computer battery ( I carry a back up fully charged), I recharge off the AC when I am shore sied connected to AC. I also have a DC adapter that I can run the computer off of through cigarette lighter plug. I basically use my laptop when navigating a port that I am not familiar with and to plot courses to waypoints.
Hope this helps. If you need any more info e-mail me privately

capttb 01-05-2004 05:23 PM

Onboard Laptop
This company will configure Garmin receiver with whatever connections you require. I ordered some with serial connection and PS/2 for power to connect to Panasonic Toughbooks used as MDT''s on Fire Engines. They also make an adapter for USB. Most notebooks today are going towards no "legacy" ports (serial, etc) in favor of all USB.

mikehoyt 01-06-2004 04:42 AM

Onboard Laptop
A few points.

1. Most laptops have a 12V power adaptor available as an accessory (extra cost). Buy it.

2. Buy a second battery for when the first runs out. Not cheap but very useful.

3. Ensure batteries are Lithium Ion or you will have very limited battery time. Also the N MH batteries die much earlier.

4. Get a laptop with very good connectivity. Should have at the very least 1 serial port, 1 USB port and 1 PCMCIA slot. In addition you want a built in Network card and a built in modem for when you stay in areas that offer high speed internet or telephone access.

5. Buy your Nav software before you decide on a Laptop. Then get a laptop that meets the requirement of your software. ALL COMPUTERS SHOULD BE BOUGHT THIS WAY. This also includes determining which Operating System the computer uses. Most of the software is Old and works best with older versions of Windows.

6. Get a DVD reader and a CDRW in the laptop. This will give you the freedom to watch movies as well as to back up your data.

7. Check the warranties and reviews for the laptops. The marine environment is not friendly with all the salt, moisture and banging around. Suggest a touch pad over the "accu-point" for a mouse pointer.

Hope this helps


WHOOSH 01-06-2004 06:49 AM

Onboard Laptop
Mike, that''s the best single list of ''key characteristics of a laptop on a boat'' I''ve seen. Thank you.

FWIW I was - as they say here in our winter location of England - Gob Smacked when I started reading computer reviews written by buyers/users in prep for buying our new laptop. The Sunday supplements, TV ads and mail adverts had their way with me, and I''d come to the conclusion that a Dell was perhaps the ''smart buy'', and certainly in the running.

Then I read the comments of Dell buyers, because my son warned me to do it just like Mike warned all of us. Whooo-hee! When I finally came up with some ''return in 30 days'' stats, I was sufficiently scared to look at other choices.

The point of this isn''t to slam Dell but to reinforce that last point about researching user comments on the Web - including their comments on service after the sale. It''s very educational, in a kinda painful sorta way...


h37skipper 01-06-2004 10:25 AM

Onboard Laptop
My solution was to purchase a Toshiba laptop off of E-Bay. I knew only enough to make sure it had both serial and USB ports and a CD drive. I knew I could add memory(and have). The one shortcoming is the disk, you need a lot to store many charts. My solution will be to load them from the CD-ROM as I need them and delete the unused ones.

This will be my only electronic charting system. I have a Garmin eTrex on the laptop and a Garmin 12XL at the helm. When in use the laptop will be plugged into 12V even though it does have a battery. I have The Cap''n software and will buy a waterproof Pelican case to protect it all.

mikehoyt 01-07-2004 04:55 AM

Onboard Laptop

If you feel that you really do need to have a laptop connected to your systems then be sure you know which software you are using and then get all the hardware that works with it.

Case in point. I played with my Magellan 315 handheld GPS witha data cable (you can actually make your own). The troubleshooting tips in Capn Voyager showed that it was communicating with the laptop properly but Capn Voyager did not recognize it.

The solution. Buy Capn Voyager or whatever. Then determine which GPS units it works with and what Operating Systems, ports, etc... are needed. Then buy a laptop that supports this and a GPS that does as well.

Be warned that used laptops are used because somebody thinks they are no longer worth using. Refurbished laptops are refurbished because somebody thinks it was not working properly. That should tell you something.

Personally I can''t see playing with a laptop while sailing other than for interest and email. Mine was used primarily to watch movies when at dock with the family in the rain.


Systems Analyst
(and computer vendor)

AJS 01-07-2004 05:14 AM

Onboard Laptop

Don''t forget how useful ''HAL'' and ''Mainframe'' were for tabulating race results during your tenure as race captain. We really have to do something about your habit of storing the printer in the anchor locker though. I''m sure it wasn''t designed for that!

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