Which mouse to use on the boat

26/08/2009
Belkin water-proof mouse

Belkin water-proof mouse

It gets wet anyway. Solution – Belkin water-proof mouse
SRP  U$ 29.90


Omnidirectional 9 dBi WiFi solution

06/08/2009

Friend of mine uses for offhore Internet setup like that:

Interline INT-HOR-0924-V omnidirectional antenna

Interline INT-HOR-0924-V omnidirectional antenna

9 dBi omnidirectional 54 cm long Interline in the masttop. Good solution for yacht, cause it’s lightning protection shorted for DC. Same antenna is available also in 12 dBi version, but for yachtowners I recommend 9 dBi model because of wider vertical reception pattern.

Ubiquiti Bullet

Ubiquiti Bullet

…. connected to Ubiquiti Bullet

Bullet turns onmidirectional antenna into Ethernet (RJ-45). Easy and simple. No drivers needed, pure IP internet directly to laptops 10/100/100 base-T connector.

Pro’s:

  • omnidirectional, install and forget
  • POE, needs only Cat5 cable, power is feeded over same cable

Con’s:

  • 9 dBi amplification

Products mentioned

Interline INT-HOR-09/24-V

Ubiquiti The Bullet


USB Internet dongle

05/08/2009

USB internet broadband dongle

USB internet broadband dongle

Close to harbour it’s possible to hook up to local WiFi network, either with WiFi ready laptop, USB WiFi extender of WiFi extender-router. In all those cases, distance to the nearest base station shouldn’t be more than mile or two. We know, that hi-budget ocean-racing teams use all kind od satellite connections. But are there other broadband solutions for less budget. Answer is: mostly.

So-called USB Internet Dongle (broadband dongle) is provided by all bigger mobile networks and they rely on mobile network technologies. So, almost every time, when You have mobile coverage, You are able to use Internet.

USB Internet dongle is connect to computer via USB port. Noew dongles are USB 2.0, but they are backward compatible with older USB 1,0 standard. It needs additional driver and client software. Luckily this all is on the same USB stick and You don’t need to carry along additional CD.

Depending of signal quality and mobile network service providers infrastructure, the speed can vary great deal. In best case You may able to get 3,5G HDSPA speeds at 7,2 Mbps. When signal strength is lower or mobile infrastructure is not supporting higher speeds, USB dongle speed falls back to next available level. Usually it’s shown also in the application window.

Fallback list (download speeds):

  • 7,2 Mbps 3,5 G (HDSPA)
  • 2,0 Mbps 3 G (HSUPA)
  • 0,5 Mbps 2,75 G (EDGE)
  • 0,1 Mbps 2,5 G (GPRS)
Broadband speeds

Broadband speeds

Mbps figures are indicative, depends of sub-standards
and specific hardware in use

GPRS and EDGE speeds may seem quite out-dated. I found it still usable, looking weather website, downloading e-mails and uploading blog posts. Indeed, rich content like multimedia files, large images, video streaming etc is no-no.

Amplified USB cable

Amplified USB cable

It’s wise to use 3 Meter (10 ft) long passive USB cable or even longer (even up to 15 meter or 45 ft) amplified USB cable to place dongle as high as possible, to receive quality signal. I experienced situations, when down in the galley I didn’t have any signal, but standing on the deck with my notebook/USB dongle, I was able to use 3,5G speedy connection.

Some tips using internet dongle:

  • Disable automatic windows update
  • Disable virus database/program updates
  • Disable other automatic updaters (iTunes, Adobe, …)
  • Disable P2P programs like uTorrent clients
  • Configure confirmation requirement before automatic internet connection for e-mail programs, etc
  • Use long USB cable to place dongle to highest point possible
  • Disconnect after use

In near future G4 technology will allow 100 Mbps speeds, but it requires updating all network infrastructure by service providers and in real life it takes some time to get these speeds.


Solar GPS

04/08/2009
F-tech solar-powered bluetooth GPS

F-tech solar-powered bluetooth GPS

Many people use Laptops and cheap GPS mouse (connected to USB), equipped with PC navigation software and electronic charts instead of dedicated chartplotter. It’s a quite good solution for route planning at home. Laptop display is also bigger and it’s considerable faster and more usable than cheap chartplotter.

But there is a problem with GPS. Using U$ 50 – 100 USB GPS mouse is easiest and cheapest way, but the USB wire is always on the way and GPS is not on ideal position. Luckily GPS makers like F-Tech heard that issue and developed solar-power wireless GPS. It doesn’t need batteries, wires, switching on/off. Its just sitting somewhere on the deck and sending positions via bluetooth. Sun is almost limitless power source on the sea, why not to use it? And it can still function in total darkness 20 hours, off the battery, fully charged.

F-Tech Solar GPS tech data:

Protocol:

NMEA 0183 v3.01 (Default:GGA,GSA,GSV,RMC,VTG,CHN)
MTK NMEA Command

Baud Rate:

9600,N,8,1(Default)

Max. Update Rate:

1 Hz

Datum:

WGS84

Channel:

32 channel all-in-view tracking

Frequency:

L1, 1575.42MHz

Hot Start:

1 sec. Average

Warm Start:

36 sec. Average

Cold Start:

37 sec. Average

Reacquisition Time:

Less than 1 sec (Typical)

Position Accuracy:

< 3m CEP (50%) without SA (horizontal)

Sensitivity

Tracking:-158 dBm

Power Supply:

DC 5V

Power Consumption

45mA(avg.)

Battery Life

20HRs with Li-Ion Battery,30HRs with solar power

Antenna Type:

Built in low noise patch antenna

External Antenna Interface:

MMCX

Bluetooth

Class 2, distance up to 10 meters

Dimension:

55(W)x103(L)x22(H) mm

LED Indicator:

Red LED:GPS is fixed or not fixed / Power On
Blue LED:BT is connected or not connected

Operating Temperature:

-10°C to + 70°C

Storage Temperature:

-40°C to + 85°C

Operation Humidity:

5%~95%, Non-Condensing

Products mentioned

F-Tech


Working solution for long-distance WiFi – Ubiquity NanoStation 2

03/08/2009
Ubiquity NanoStation 2 WiFi extender

Ubiquity NanoStation 2 WiFi extender +10 dB

I posted earlier a story about simple USB-based WiFi amplifier. Many yachtsmen use instead Ubiquity NanoStation and it has been proven working quite well.

Basically, it’s WiFi-to-Ethernet router. It receives WiFi signal via 4 internal antennas, amplifies signal, converts it to copper and passes to Your computer via ethernet cable. All electronics is inside the 26 cm long antenna, so there are no signal losses and noises compared with products using long antenna cables. NanoStation uses power over Ethernet method to provide required power to the circuitry, only single CAT5 RJ-45 cable is needed for connection. Additional RJ-45 POE hub is included.

NanoStation works in b/g range, so don’t expect too swift data transfers, but still much more reliable connections, than std WiFi. NanoStation 2 is directional, so You have to align it towards to base station. Expect to pay for NanoStation abpout U$ 80. Highly affordable product!

There are real-life reports about reliable WiFi at more than 2 miles distance.

Products Mentioned

Ubiquity NanoStation 2


Waterproof passive computer on-board

30/07/2009
Stealth Computers waterproof IP67 and NMEA6 rated computer

Stealth Computers waterproof IP67 and NMEA6 rated computer

I posted a story about tough Dell Latitude XFR as near-ideal yachd computing resource. There are also other possible computer systems, not only notebooks, but surprisingly also desktops.. For U$ 2000 its possible to buy 100% waterproof IP67 and NMEA 6 rated passive computer from Stealth Computers. It’s  based on energy-saving Atom 330 dual-core processor. Waterproof means, that all power cords and peripheral wires are sealed. Passive means, that there is no fans, outer panels of computer are used for cooling. Atom processor and passive design keeps power requirements at low level, about 20 Watts (figure is my speculation, no actual data available).

Computer is equipped with 1,5M wires for peripherals, like water-proof LCD touch-screen and USB. Device uses also SSD (solid state drives) making it not only water- and dustproof, but also shock-proof. Input voltage can vary in wide range, accepting as low as 10 VDC, making this computer truly yacht compatible.

Technical data:

Intel Atom 330 CPU 1,6 GHz

2 GB RAM standard (more than enouhg for sailing applications)

80 HB extreme environment HDD (stands 300G), SSD optional

Intel GMA 950 graphics (resolution up to 2048 x 1056 pixels)

Input voltage range 10 – 30 VDC

Products mentioned:

Stealth Computers WPC-500F waterproof fanless computer


Wi-Fire WiFi range-extending antenna from hField

28/07/2009
hField WiFi range extender

hField WiFi range extender

I use WiFi wherever it can. To write my blog, upload sailing photos and videos, looking weather forecast and regatta information. On the sea, only option is to use GPRS/3G/3,5G, but in most small ports there is free wifi at least in Finland, Sweden and Estonia. Problem is, that yacht is away from WiFi base station and signal is weak or none.

hField technology has handy small USB device, called Wi-Fire, amplifying WiFi signal. The WiFi antenna will provide higher speeds at low signal strengths than your typical internal WiFi adapter. It has even beat Draft802.11n products in range and speed at long distances, up to 300 meters.

hField is connected to computer via USB and requires to install driver and wireless manager. It costs about U$ 60.

Products mentioned:

hField Wi-Fire extender


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