Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 24 Old 09-27-2017 Thread Starter
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Question Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice

My main hangup is regarding the DC power. When I did this on an RV and helped a buddy do it on his vehicle, it was the lazy way with an inverter. My question might be best answered by asking: What components am I likely going to need that I'm not used to dealing with / aware of (NOT PC components)? My understanding of DC power systems is limited to basics.


We're in the late stages of selecting our live-aboard vessel for full time cruising. I realize I'm probably jumping the gun a little. But as a career tech guy and engineer who just listed his computer lab on ebay, of course these thoughts come up! Of course we'll have a laptop as well and tablets. But would really like to plan or at least consider a builtin custom system. It doesn't have to be a beast but, no a Pi will not work for what I want and an Atom miniITX won't either. Plan for more like, 100-150watt (peak) running windows and a raided 2tb SSDs for storage. Not asking for help on the PC components. I don't understand completely how to eliminate my need for an inverter for this.


I'm aware of things like the picoPSU. But, I don't understand how I'd adapt that for a boat system. For reference, our most likely boat at this point is a Golden Wave 42 for sale in Anacortes:
1982 Cheoy Lee Golden Wave 42 Sail Boat For Sale - www.yachtworld.com
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post #2 of 24 Old 09-27-2017
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Re: Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice

I recently canned the laptop for multiple reasons. I got a NUC which you can configire with the amount of RAM and size HD you want. Solid state HD. It's has a very small foot print.

I use an HP monitor but do not use the 110v conver brick.... both the NUC and the monitor run on 19v DC and to get that I wired in an inexpensive buck 12v-19v transformer. The NUC support dual monitors if you want. Mine lives in a convenient locker and I've added a 4 port USB drive bay. I use wireless mouse and keyboard. I loaded win7 pro...YOU assemble the NUC... it's pretty easy.

The system is rather low draw. You can mount your monitor on a VESA or as I do... stow it away when not in use... and the plug in the 19v and the HDMI and I am up and running

I work from the nav desk... but we have extension cables for the monitor and can view it from anywhere on the boat fpr watching entertainment stuff on the www. I use my cell phone as a mobile hot spot.

If I want I can take the NUC in a ziploc but I usually use a USB thumb drive to move data between computers.

I love this set up... full size keyboard... what's not to like? Not expensive... Try it... you'll like it!
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post #3 of 24 Old 09-27-2017
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Re: Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice

Funny, I've ditched the desktop for the notebook and never looked back. You can get a custom built desktop replacement notebook whose performance easily rivals that of all but the most high-end desktops. I've got a Sager that I chose all the specs for which I use for video game...eh...video editing and graphic design. You are limited to a 20" screen or less however unless you connect it to a larger one. Mine is 17.3". You do have to pay a premium though, as someone else is still assembling it for you unlike what can be done with a desktop PC. I use an inverter on the boat, but there are manufacturers that make DC to DC converters for every notebook out there.


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post #4 of 24 Old 09-27-2017
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Re: Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice

I switched to a Netbook PC, which draws next to nothing in DC power, and ran quite well off my solar panel and inverter. Something to consider.

Gary
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post #5 of 24 Old 09-27-2017
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Re: Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice

that picopsu is just a buck convert with the wires attached I see no problem why that won't work...

Going to join the band wagon on laptops, Get a high end gaming laptop get something in the 3k range you will be more than happy....

I'm a photographer part time, but when I travel I needed to edit and publish my photo's, I tried first cheap laptops and portable monitors/ wireless keyboards while that did work the laptop was the kink in the system talking about the sub 1000.00 laptops, then I moved up to a little bit better laptops sub 2k better but still was the limiting factor. Then I started to buy top of the line gaming laptops the one I'm typing on is a acer predator 4k geoforce 980m boatload of memory big fast solid state hard drives. Now the laptop isn't the limiting factor anymore. I even gave up the monitor and wireless keyboard while traveling. Get something like that and I bet you won't miss the desktop!!!

Bob
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post #6 of 24 Old 09-28-2017 Thread Starter
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Re: Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice

Ya, I knew that was going to be the main theme (laptops) and it's definitely something I already decided against.


Power use is going to be of concern as we're a family of 4. While some might say x-amps isn't a big deal to have running off an inverter, I would disagree. Consider that you're likely at 30% power increase or more by using it that way on a device that isn't super cheap to run anyway.


I definitely don't want a laptop as our main PC. I'm a software engineer who just retired from a bleeding edge company (you all used their services just now so I'm pretty unlikely to change my opinion. Yes, i've owned $4k-$6k machines and generally dislike them - especially XPS and toughbooks. I won't use a laptop keyboard or a 17" monitor, any setup I have to hunch over a desk for or a laptop mouse. If I'm on the move, I absolutely will not carry one with me. So, it begs the question why have a stationary laptop with few configuration options, limited ability to replace broken parts, no way to upgrade and general lack of configuration options and peripherals I don't use anyway? Also, given a DC-DC power cord would be a +, the laptop is still not going to be as energy efficient as the machine I would build or rival the NUC's that SanderO was referencing. Great suggestion BTW! Thank you! I forgot about this option. Where did you get yours?


I think I'd still prefer to build my own unit... but this might be the solution if it comes down to time constraint.
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post #7 of 24 Old 09-28-2017 Thread Starter
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Re: Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice

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Originally Posted by travlin-easy View Post
I switched to a Netbook PC, which draws next to nothing in DC power, and ran quite well off my solar panel and inverter. Something to consider.

Gary
Thanks, but honestly a netbook is probably too low end for the stuff I plan to run for work reasons - Visual Studio, Various Emulators, SQL Server, Web Server etc. I'm ok with not the snappiest, but some of those apps are a little piggy.


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Originally Posted by snokid View Post
that picopsu is just a buck convert with the wires attached I see no problem why that won't work...

This is where I get a little lost -- wouldn't that need some sort of DC - DC Power regulator to keep from under / over volting the PC? Or, is the generic laptop power brick going to handle that for me assuming that's how I hook it up?
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post #8 of 24 Old 09-28-2017 Thread Starter
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Re: Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice

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Originally Posted by twoshoes View Post
I use an inverter on the boat, but there are manufacturers that make DC to DC converters for every notebook out there.
We're looking at more of an offshore setup. Our boat is going to be in the 44ft<= range with around 400w solar. We have 2 kids that are power hungry. I mean... I have considered getting them some squirrel cage / alternator setups to assist! I only half joke.


I'm concerned with the power usage issues running a machine like that for say, just starting it up to check charts, weather, etc. As well as my other hesitations with a laptop.


Quote:
Originally Posted by twoshoes View Post
You can get a custom built desktop replacement notebook whose performance easily rivals that of all but the most high-end desktops.

Mostly - yes. This is a rabbit trail... but when we consider the money spent on performance laptops to the same money spent on desktops the difference in purchase power stays linear (your money goes a lot further towards a desktop) until the end of the curve where there's just no comparison because you can't buy $30k laptops. I'm not looking to build a $30k desktop here. Yes, I work with people who do build desktops mostly around server hardware. My coworker has a Xeon that ran $20k for the CPU alone. Ya, he's a single guy! lol

Rabbit trail... but I get your point. Budget is a constraint here... I'd rather spend the $4k on something else and only $700 on a NUC or a sufficient custom build.

Last edited by maplemale; 09-28-2017 at 01:21 AM.
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Re: Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice

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Originally Posted by maplemale View Post
Thanks, but honestly a netbook is probably too low end for the stuff I plan to run for work reasons - Visual Studio, Various Emulators, SQL Server, Web Server etc. I'm ok with not the snappiest, but some of those apps are a little piggy.





This is where I get a little lost -- wouldn't that need some sort of DC - DC Power regulator to keep from under / over volting the PC? Or, is the generic laptop power brick going to handle that for me assuming that's how I hook it up?
As long as you where above 12.0 V dc input, and only want 12.0 v dc output, as most CPU want then your fine with a buck converter as a DC-DC power-supply, the buck converter will provide the regulation of the DC, till you reach drop off then it will shut down, so over voltage is controlled by the buck converter naturally, it is what it does takes a higher voltage and drops it to a equal or lower voltage, this is bucking hence it's name. If under-voltage is provided to a buck it will shutdown providing your under-voltage protection.


Another type of DC-DC power converter you may look into is either buck-boost and LDO, or low voltage drop off, though I would only recommend the latter if you plan to run the input very close to the output voltage range, i.e 12 volts in for 12 volts out because the efficiency of a LDO is directly related to the difference of the output to the input, In plain English the greater the difference between your regulated output and the input the less efficient they are. Buck, Buck-Boost are not linear devices so their efficiency is part of their inherent design. In plain English the efficiency of the conversion does not change as much based on the input and are efficient across a wider range of voltages.

AS far as the laptops a good quality laptops power brick will have the under and over voltage protection built in, the caveat, good quality the 5.00 dollar special from china not so much.

As previously mentioned you might be best served going with either a high powered or gaming laptop, several brands have been mentioned but shop around there are plenty out there.
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post #10 of 24 Old 09-28-2017
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Re: Custom Built On-board PC / Boatputer Advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by maplemale View Post
Thanks, but honestly a netbook is probably too low end for the stuff I plan to run for work reasons - Visual Studio, Various Emulators, SQL Server, Web Server etc. I'm ok with not the snappiest, but some of those apps are a little piggy.





This is where I get a little lost -- wouldn't that need some sort of DC - DC Power regulator to keep from under / over volting the PC? Or, is the generic laptop power brick going to handle that for me assuming that's how I hook it up?
You said you retired!!! I was a truck driver for 32 years no way in heck I want anything to do with trucks ever again!!! You also said it was going to be a live aboard/cruiser and talked about RV's... Do you want to spend your time in beautiful places playing on a PC? why retire? I know it sounds harsh but time for a change, enjoy the retirement!!!

That picosupply has a petty low output seems like you want a higher end desktop don't think it's enough power to run a system like that.

Nice looking boat btw....

Bob
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