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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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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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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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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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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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Discussion Starter #6
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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Discussion Starter #7
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.


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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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
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.


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.
 

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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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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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Most laptops seem to run on 18volts dc. I'm not sure about desk tops, though I'm sure they also run on dc power after the power supply.
We've been running our computers directly off the vessel's 12 volt dc system, using a 'converter' (not an inverter) that takes the 12 vdc up to the requisite 18 vdc, without any problems at all. However, if you are using your computer professionally for many hours a day, solar might not be enough to keep up with your consumption, so a small generator may be a necessary back up.
For a laptop you can find the proper (auto) converters quite easily, priced from a dozen dollars to about $75.00. I have had quality issues with the lower end models. For a desk top unit there are plenty of commercial converters (not built specifically for computers) available and most will give you several voltage options.
 

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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

You have a point! Though everyone's retirement is relative and it's slightly misleading for me to use the word at all I guess. I'm 36 and using the word as in - i'm done working for corporate America in the sense of the large public companies putting in 80 hours a week (I started that at 17 years old), selling my soul to Evil Corp. Ya, whatever you pictured about guys like me from watching "The Intership" it's somewhere between that, Wolf of Wallstreet and Mr. Robot in reality. A lot of us quit in our late 30s with enough investments to sustain us. Some of us got fired with multi-million dollar termination packages, bought a ranch, vinyard or something and never looked back. I'm somewhere in the middle. I will always be a software engineer at some level. Just hoping to find peace in it without all of the negative, soul killing influence of being part of the big machine. Sailing over the last few years has become a passion, something my wife and I have decided to spend at least a few years doing while the kids are still young. Even so, maybe you're right though. And I'm not 100% sure how busy my new full time cruising life is going to be with just taking it all in. Even so... I have some apps I've written which are going to partially support the sailing budget. I have to continue supporting those when it comes up.
 

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An Intel nuc skull canyon. A four core i7 that will take two m2 Ssd's and up to 32 Gb RAM. Normal power supply is a 19vdc brick but 12 to 19 v converter are readily available. The computer itself is about the size of an old school video cassette. Did I mention these can run up to 3 monitors and have, I believe, up to 4 K video resolution?

You may lose the portability of the laptop, but it is more power efficient and is less likely to fly around the cabin in the rough stuff - especially if screwed to a shelf.

Sent from my SGP521 using Tapatalk
 

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32 gb ram not much on cpu video also not great, but I agree less power needs than a laptop....

I do envy you 36 and going on a partial retirement.

Looks like you have done some sailing, have you owned a big boat before?

Seems like there's always something to do/fix....

I know when I go out I'm not bored for sure!!!

Sitting on the hook at night I can see some down time to play on the pc though.

If you are just supporting some apps pretty much any pc will do and the nuc would be a good choice, otherwise I stand by what I said about high end gaming laptops. The type of photography I did/do I shot the event and while at the event an assistant would cull and do quick edits to get the story up, then after the event I would sit on the laptop for a few hours and continue the story, wash and repeat for the week 14 hour days not fun!!! (Detroit auto show, no not weddings those don't pay well) I don't have time for photoshop to sit around and render photo's need speed and memory for that.

I have pretty much giving up on the photo gig as well do some small jobs here and there but it better pay well otherwise it's not worth my time...But when this laptop dies I will replace it with another top of the line gaming laptop, that's how I feel about it....

At your age i'm sure you have watched a bunch of sailing youtubers not one I can think of has a desktop, maybe they are on to something?

Really enjoy your time there's always time to make more money if your running low....

Bob
 

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And I'm not 100% sure how busy my new full time cruising life is going to be with just taking it all in. Even so... I have some apps I've written which are going to partially support the sailing budget. I have to continue supporting those when it comes up.
Trust me, unless you are buying a million dollar gold plater and have the big bucks rolling in every month, you are probably going to be plenty busy learning the skills it takes to keep a family cruising boat going. Incompetence is the watchword for the majority of the yacht/boat maintenance and repair people, and if you can afford the good ones (once you have found them), you still have to get slotted into their busy schedule.
The sailing is the easy part. Even the navigating, anchoring and docking are kindergarten level education nowadays. If you are anything like most of us out here, you'll be a diesel engine mechanic, electrician, plumber, rigger, fiberglass/steel/alloy technician and possibly a refrigeration/A/C technician in a few short years. Then there's the pumps; bilge, fresh water, toilet, sewage, engine sea water cooling, engine fresh water cooling, generator sea water cooling, generator fresh water cooling, deck wash down, sea water supply and high pressure if you have a watermaker. Whoda thunk there were so many pumps in the life of a modern cruiser? They all need maintenance.
So anyway, un-busy? One can only hope. lol
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
32 gb ram not much on cpu video also not great, but I agree less power needs than a laptop....

I do envy you 36 and going on a partial retirement.

Bob

Don't envy me too much... my theme song is Garth Brooks - Much Too Young. I'm probably going to die before 60 and I'm only half joking. lol


Anyway, all good points! And I get why a lot of folks especially in the videography industry need a beefier machine. Like you said, I don't need anything insane to support the couple of business websites, databases and mobile apps people have purchased from me / pay me to support etc. I really am liking the NUC idea.

To answer your question. No, not really - I owned a Catalina 27, sailed it in Yaquina and just sold it. Biggest boat sailed was a J30 and it was just on lakes. My broker tries to convince me I should jump to a Catalina 34 or something and get experience first. Got 2 kids and a wife. Just not enough living space. Honestly, the idea of piloting something 40 - 50ft doesn't bother me. I've driven things almost twice that length in horrid conditions.


Trust me, unless you are buying a million dollar gold plater and have the big bucks rolling in every month, you are probably going to be plenty busy learning the skills it takes to keep a family cruising boat going. Incompetence is the watchword for the majority of the yacht/boat maintenance and repair people, and if you can afford the good ones (once you have found them), you still have to get slotted into their busy schedule.

So anyway, un-busy? One can only hope. lol



I'm sure you're 100% correct. And, ya our budget isn't going to include things like paying for oil changes, or installation of standing / running rigging, fixing a porthole leak, installing new equipment, replacing or rebuilding a pump - hell I've rebuilt pumps before. Even things like a cutlass bearing, I think I could do myself. I'd pay for bottom paint/repair. I've done my own auto maintenance and my main vehicle has been a diesel truck for the last few years. I've replaced almost everything on my diesel truck including injectors myself - so i should be good here. I guess what you're saying though is these things break especially when you actually sail and aren't just sitting in a marina. I'm rethinking the built myself idea and thinking I'll find the NUC I want and buy 2 of them. ie. giving myself another project of PC tinkering might be more or less, not a great idea.


We are trying to buy a more recently cruised boat that was meticulously maintained to at least give us a head start. Originally we were set on grabbing something like a Valiant 40 and knowing it was a bit of project boat. I was on that Gold Wave last week... man she seemed pretty pristine!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
So... just a general FYI reply in case not everyone has thought about this:


Your average PC runs at 80% efficiency - laptops often worse. Your PC uses DC power. So, for example a 200watt usage on your computer will be 240watts of draw. The numbers often get worse at higher power draws. I knew all this before, but was unaware of the next part.


Inverters have similar issues, but beyond that, there is a certain amount of power used to keep the inverter running typically in the 10-25 watt range. And another loss of efficiency in the conversion which very much depends on the size, draw, quality and other factors of your inverter. As an easy rule, I'm told asume 80% efficiency. And my understanding is it's compounding.


Example:
Let's say you have a laptop (and you're using an AC brick) pulling 40 watts. It's actually pulling 48. Then an inverter has to take that power from DC and switch to AC so now you're at about 58 watts. That sucks... but here's the really bad part: Your inverter needs a certain amount of power just to run. So, let's say you have a laptop that you swear is only pulling 10 watts at idle. You're now at something like 30% efficiency because your inverter is using say 20 watts + 12watts at best for the laptop. That's 32watts for a 10 watt device due to bad setup! 70% is completely unnecessary if we just bought a DC power adapter for the laptop and left the inverter turned off.
 

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One of the more important aspects for any computer on board, especially for long distance sailing is to consider 'marinizing' (potting, etc.) all the internals of the computer. Marinizing 'seals' all the internal components against salt and humidity/internal condensation.

With long distance sailing, you'll soon find out that the microscopic airborne salt crystals will penetrate 'everything', including your computer. Even if 'marinized', its a good idea to either keep the computer 'always on' or sealed in a plastic bag to prevent the micro-salt intrusion, especially when your crossing a weather front which can bring severe and sudden humidity changes inside a boat (condensation inside .... everything).
 

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One of the more important aspects for any computer on board, especially for long distance sailing is to consider 'marinizing' (potting, etc.) all the internals of the computer. Marinizing 'seals' all the internal components against salt and humidity/internal condensation.

With long distance sailing, you'll soon find out that the microscopic airborne salt crystals will penetrate 'everything', including your computer. Even if 'marinized', its a good idea to either keep the computer 'always on' or sealed in a plastic bag to prevent the micro-salt intrusion, especially when your crossing a weather front which can bring severe and sudden humidity changes inside a boat (condensation inside .... everything).
Good point. NUCS are easy to access internally and use solid state drives. The majority are fan-less and those that aren't use heat exchangers. Much simpler to marinise than a laptop. And you don't have to throw the monitor away when the cpu dies and vice versa!
 

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Think about internet connectivity. Maybe you'll use cellular or wifi. Cellular data can be expensive and only available at any reasonable speed in very civilized, populated areas. Free open wifi is disappearing fast. If you cruise and must work occasionally, you may find yourself needing to take your computer off the boat to obtain a wifi connection at a shop, who gives you the password for the price of a coffee/beer. I think portable matters in your situation.
 
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