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Tundra Down
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The time has come for this household to upgrade the "old man's" computer hardware. Win XP on a 15 year old IBM laptop, an old i mac stuck at 10.6.8 and a slightly older i book; good friends all as is the other IBM laptop I still have Win 95 and Netscape 1 on and the Tandy 100. Ha! There is much newer hardware in this house too, but none of it is "exclusive". I am looking for my next "computing tool". Portable, reliable, and BOATING FRIENDLY. I have cameras to take photographs and phones for calling. I want a "computer?". Are there any obvious choices? Platforms? I don't want something so small it fits in my pocket. A "full sized" screen is required for these aging eyes.

Advice appreciated.

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RL24 (Rob Legg) Kookaburra
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How much are you looking at spending? Lenovo is a pretty good brand and is relatively cheap. I have a 4 year old Dell XPS and it is still running good, it has an aluminum body. One important recommendation, if you get a laptop or desktop you will want to get it with Windows 7. You will not like Windows 8 or 8.1, those were optimized for mobile devices and they tried forcing them onto computers, it was such a massive flop they will be releasing windows 10 this year after 8 was out for barely 2 years. It is not a very intuitive setup if you are not computer literate.
 

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Take a look to netbooks with 10 inch screens. Although not a full screen even I can use it with my aging eyes. They are small enough to carry and large enough to use and they work with windows. I am still using XP, could not find what I am looking for, with the newer versions.
 

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This is hard to answer unless we know what you'll be using the computer for (web, navigation, number crunching, movies, pic storage, etc, etc)

Things to think about are RAM - min of 4gb and hard drive - how much will you need? Are you going to make it 12v or hook up for charging?
If you'll use on the boat full time, then an SSD (solid state disk drive) is recommended, as it is much more efficient than a regular drive and less power hungry.

Many of the top brands today are fairly reliable, but first determine your needs for the next 2-3 years then the capacity and resources to satisfy them.
 

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Superior Sailor
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I like the old Panasonic "Toughbook" computers for the boat..

water resistant, shock resistant and cheap enough to replace if they glitch out.
 
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Old enough to know better
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Laptops are pretty much appliances anymore. All brands are pretty much the same stuff, and it is not good, with the exception of apple. They are all pretty much junk, but on the flip side they are cheap! Sure there are expensive gaming machines but they don't seem to be made much better, just have more expensive components inside. Apple on the other hand still seems to make pretty solid reliable hardware, but it is expensive. On a boat, I would suggest going to any big store and check out what they have on sale. If you are comfortable with windows and the applications you need are compatible with windows 8, then just pick up a $300 or so laptop and you will be fine. Unless you have some specific needs just get the next to the cheapest but decent laptop, the cheapest will likely be made to be very cheap. The one thing I suggest getting is a SSD drive or one with an SSD and a Hard drive. The SSD will give great performance, seem to last longer then hard drives and won't be effected by the motion of the boat. If you want to spend a bit more you might look at one of the convertible tablet/laptops but will likely be limited to 10 inch screen.

They are cheap now because that is what we demanded from the manufacturers. Kind of the Wal-Martifcation of computers.

Apples are great hardware but the software is more limited, and you need to know if it will run something you want to run. Basically either you know you want/need an apple or you will be served well by a Windows machine. Pretty much most every application on Apple will have a windows version with a few exceptions. And yes Apple will run windows apps, but why pay three to four times the money to run windows on a Mac?

The other thing is on a boat it is more likely to get dropped or wet, so I think it is better to get inexpensive hardware and be prepared to replace it. If I dropped my $2,400 mac-book pro I would be very upset, a $300 Acer not so much so.
 

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The other thing is on a boat it is more likely to get dropped or wet, so I think it is better to get inexpensive hardware and be prepared to replace it. If I dropped my $2,400 mac-book pro I would be very upset, a $300 Acer not so much so.
that' what i said...
 
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Lenono [sic] and HP both come to mind. I refuse to have anything to do with Dell because they've dropped so many balls over the years. Both of the first two make "more rugged" lines under different model names, i.e .more robust hinges and cases, but you'd have to ask to find out what is current.

Right now may be a bad time because MS is trying to hide the taste of Windows 8.x by releasing Windows 10...which is really something like "NT 7", I've lost count. So your choice of OSes is not only limited, but about to change.

If you ever use a serial port for GPS, etc., aboard? That may be impossible to find unless there's a hardware plug-in option, the USB cable emulators often work, but not for everything. Similarly, expect a raft of software upgrades may be necessary, most of the new machines will be 64-bit systems and those don't run some of the older 8-bit software, many of the old drivers, etc. So a printer upgrade may also be involved.

IOW, expect to need anesthetics, large bottles of them, no matter how carefully you plan.

The good news is that the new systems are incredibly faster and often more stable.

If you really want a "boat" computer, the Panasonic Toughbooks are among the most rugged on the market, but pricey and slow compared to consumer machines. A lot of traveling nurses, utility workers, etc. use them because they don't get upset by being bumped around the way most laptops do.

And whatever you get...if you can get it with a solid state hard drive (SSD) as the primary drive? That's immune to damage from motion and incredibly fast at boot time. Uses less power, also, but can be worn out faster than a conventional drive. (Which might have broken by then anyway.)

Hope that helps, at least some.
 

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Freedom isn't free
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Loving on the brand hate here...
Apples, Dells, HPs, Acer, Toshiba, Sony, Asus, you name it... they are all pretty much made the same. Good news is they are! Meaning most of the parts are pretty reliable now... it's choose your favorite OS, and go.

If all you care about is surfing the internet.. I'd say go chromebook (they are cheap and disposable, and run forever on a battery, have a keyboard, and are small/light)..

If you like windows, you'll see a trend here that I'll agree with... Get an SSD. Stupidest thing about laptops are the requirements on mechanical parts... Hard drives are mechanical precision devices that spin... fast! 4200-7200rpm mechanical hard drives don't LIKE it when you bump them while they retrieve your data... so I say ALL computers should have Solid State hard drives (OK servers are different)... Windows 8.1 is tolerable... Windows 10 is 8.1.1 It's really just Microsoft trying to pacify people who were used windows from 95 to 7, and hated the new(er) interface. 8.1 fixed most of it. I go back to windows 2.0 (yep they actually shipped that on 5.25 floppy)... so windows 8 reminded me of windows 3.0-3.1-3.1.1 but that's just me. Wait for windows 10? Eh I wouldn't. 8.1 is stable and current... 10 will have quirks.

Each MAJOR product line has a home-use and a business class line... For Dell laptops it's the Latitude line. If you want a piece of hardware that lasts better, buy a business class laptop (they'll be uglier, and simpler, but likely last longer). Now if you want a throwaway laptop (2 years and done)... then go consumer line and get as much "features" as you can for your $$

Now if you are a MAC user, you can pick any of the 4 models (2 air, and 2 pro)... and can convince yourself they really make more models than that... but really they don't. But again, that isn't a NEGATIVE, that is instead a good thing... it means they have a fixed design that doesn't change often, making the parts more readily available and (hopefully) more reliable. This is the same thought process behind the business class winders machines. I've not found the apple products any more reliable than the business class winders machines.... Prettier yes. But it is what it is if you like the Mac OS.

Of course if you just need a light device to surf, besides the chromebook you could go with a tablet... I would NOT recommend a tablet to anyone who types (ever)... just not a good choice except as a portable look-up device honestly. For a chart-plotter, yep it's perfect... Yes you can get a bluetooth keyboard, but WHY? You'd be better served with a convertible tablet/notebook...

If you haven't done a computer in a while... there are different classes of "portable" computers...
Phones
Phablets (cross between phone and tablet)
Tablets (no keyboard screens that are touch screen)
Netbooks (these are basically min ultra-books, usually lower powered running a lite OS)... this form factor is all but gone now.
Ultrabooks (these are usually micro SSD hard drives, low power CPUs, smaller lighter comptuers, if you are familiar the classic Ultrabook is the Macbook Air)
Notebooks (these are usually the classification of 14" screens and bigger, these are usually the desktop replacement laptop... DVDs/Blu Ray drives, plethora of USB ports, 15inch screens are common, usually touch screens... also these are power hungry devices, some on the top end are big enough to have keyboards with numeric keypads even at 15 inches large...)

Beyond that you get into desktops, all-in-ones, and gaming PCs...

There is one more classification of course, the "gaming laptop." Avoid these unless you plan on gaming (not candy crush here, we're talking Halo and its derivatives)... These laptops are big enough to require a hand cart... use G24 batteries to just boot up and cause your lights to dim when you fire them up... They'll run your first person shooter at 120fps... like somehow it matters though!

Ok I kid a bit... but your question was vague and I'm trying to help.
 

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I'd second the chrome book. Or go apple (I like the air, or an iPad air with a lifeproof case and a Bluetooth keyboard). Windows just way too buggy for me. I really hate rebooting.
Lifeproof makes a floating attachment to their submersion proof case, and the new garmin chart plotters will allow you to use it as an additional chart plotter screen.
 

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Captain Obvious
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For what it's worth, I buy the Acer sub $300 laptops by the bushel for my college age kids and they are a bit slow but very capable and come with a solid state hard drive and long battery life. Damn cheap looking but for $300 I was able to get a 2 year replacement plan for them too.
 

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Deep Blue Crush
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Plenty of good laptops out there, strongest players, Apple, Lenovo, HP, Asus ... but because you want something strong enough for a boat, you could also look into Alienware. Very strong laptops, both from a physical and software perspective, thays why they are also heavy and not at all with a fine chic design. They are designed for gaming, but that's not a problem per se to use it for normal use, what that means is that you have a strong software on it. All in all, many will give you a strong RAM and CPU, but because of the boat environment, could fall, could get wet, look for the sturdy design and even waterproof keyboard just as much as you look for the software specs.
 

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Tundra Down
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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Thanks to everyone for all the hard earned wisdom and helpful advice. Sailnet is a valuable resource

With a multi platform background (retired network admin) I will probably start with a new, inexpensive, PC as many have suggested. I am most familiar with them.

My 6 adult children "threaten" me with collaborative gifts to keep my "TECHNOLOGY" current. An iPad may be next on their list. Its cameras, portability and familiarity for them is becoming an occasional topic of our discussions. The Apple platform can be more user friendly, too.

This year's gift of a GoPro camera was a veiled response to the scarcity of photographs their mother and I took paddling a canoe around Manhattan last August. "Sorry we needed both paddles in the water most of the time..." I read between the lines an expectation of future family entertainment.

This has been a helpful thread. Is there one that lists and reviews preferred boating related applications by platform? Perhaps we can use a "topic" that will gather that burgeoning collection of stuff? Perhaps another forum has done this already?

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As an over-generalization, it seems that IT type folks like the PC platform. It certainly give one plenty to play with. I was never an IT guy, but was an enthusiastic PC guy since they first came out.

However, when I made the leap to the iPad, (most previously from a Fujitsu Lifebook) it was like going on vacation. I've never read a manual, never had to look up a solution to a problem. The Lifebook is still aboard, but I keep forgetting to keep it charged.

To each their own. Indeed there are a few things the Ipad won't do that I need my Lifebook for, such as running a USB flexible scope. It's rare.
 

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My 6 adult children "threaten" me with collaborative gifts to keep my "TECHNOLOGY" current. An iPad may be next on their list. Its cameras, portability and familiarity for them is becoming an occasional topic of our discussions. The Apple platform can be more user friendly, too.

This year's gift of a GoPro camera was a veiled response to the scarcity of photographs their mother and I took paddling a canoe around Manhattan last August. "Sorry we needed both paddles in the water most of the time..." I read between the lines an expectation of future family entertainment.

This has been a helpful thread. Is there one that lists and reviews preferred boating related applications by platform? Perhaps we can use a "topic" that will gather that burgeoning collection of stuff? Perhaps another forum has done this already?

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We have two newly adult children so I can relate to your comment, "future family entertainment". I'll throw in some new pluses on the ipad.

It's getting easier to put together slide shows and videos(a world I haven't stepped into-good for you!) on tablets for easy viewing. Our family loves those!

We added one of those little Bose blue tooth speakers this Xmas. With a surprising sound for the size, this transforms our ipad into a nice compact video tool. There's a long battery life to both, no wires to mess with, you can place it anywhere. Not only photo files and video, we'll play movies(netfliks), music(pandora) right off our houses wifi.

And the 'system', which fits in my camera case, can go on the boat as well with downloaded movies, music etc.
 

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The 3G dataplan has become invaluable for coastal cruising. I great weather briefing every morning over coffee. You can technically add one to a PC tablet. More expensive, I believe and, again, you're playing with configuration.

Mine just worked.

Enough selling from me.
 

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Tundra Down
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I think an iPad is in the offing. I am a fan of Apple hardware, too. If the kids are going to buy one I will have both!

We spend a lot of time on the water. Some of it paddling a canoe for days. I like being able to touch the water, sometimes. We enjoy the Maine Island Trail from all our boats. The iPad would make a terrific nav aid in a case on the cover of the canoe. We paddle at night and in fog. Everything gets wet. A bullet proof case would be a must. We carry hand held electronics but a big, back lit screen would be very nice!

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Minnewaska, sounds like you have been assimilated. Funny thing is that Apple has become what they were fighting against in the 80's. I find the whole ecosystem limiting and far less intuitive than android tablets or windows machines. But I like to tinker. They do make good hardware, much better build quality than anyone else, but that comes at a price. The thing I like about android is I can get a 7 inch and a 10 inch tablet for less than one iPad. You can get 4G plans for android for the same price as Apple, but I just tether off of my phone as I have unlimited data on that. If Verizon ever forces me off of it, I may change my tune. And I find iTunes to be the worst piece of commercial software ever written, at least the windows version. I won't even use it on my iPod Nano that I still use to help extend my phones battery life.


Down, I look forward to some footage from the Go Pro. Seems that there could have been some good footage on that kayak trip, very very scary view of things like the Staten Island Ferry form that angle. That sounds like an ambitious trip.
 
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