It gets wet anyway. Solution – Belkin water-proof mouse
SRP U$ 29.90
It gets wet anyway. Solution – Belkin water-proof mouse
Friend of mine uses for offhore Internet setup like that:
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.
…. 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.
- omnidirectional, install and forget
- POE, needs only Cat5 cable, power is feeded over same cable
- 9 dBi amplification
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Electricity is scarce commodity on the boat. So, You like to conserve it. Modern navigation solutions, based on PC and powerful dedicated chart-plotters can drain Your battery quickly. Modern chart-plotters, like Raymarine E-series and C-series units draw 32 Watts or 2,7 Amps. Powerful Laptop can easily draw more than 50 Watts and drain Your battery in a day.
Luckily there 2 two new computer technologies, available right now, what save energy and provide enough computing power to provide low-energy navigation. Even if You like to use sailboat specific complex polar-data based tacking computing and other computer-intensive sailboat specific stuff.
Atom CPU is new Intel low-power CPU. Designed specially for ultra-portable netbook computers like Dell Mini 12 and Asus Eee PC 1100, having 24-30 Watt hour batteries. Atop draws less energy than Celeron and Core Duo. Whole system (laptop) spends less than 10 Watts.
SSD drives or solid state drives, next HDD or hard drive. SDD has no moving pars. They are chock-proof and spend less electricity than conventional HDD. Price is still quite high, but smaller units cost only 100-200 U$.
Screen size is still a problem with less-powered units. Dell Mini 12 has biggest LCD screen on the market, still only 12″. Barely enough for navigation, but not most comfortable.
In some rare cases PC thinks that GPS and other NMEA data, assigned to serial port, is Microsoft Ballpoint Mouse. In this case Your mouse goes nuts and starts jumping to random locations on the screen and off. At least, my Dell Latitude’s mouse started act like crazy.
- switch GPS and/or other NMEA data sources off, mouse calms down
- go to device manager (Control Panel, System)
- find Microsoft Ballpoint Mouse under Mice and other pointing devices
- disable it (right click, disable)
- switch GPS on, mouse behaves now
We use regular business-class Dell Latitude series laptop in our yacht. in most cases it’s OK, but sometimes we have to protect it from seawater:
There have always been rugged computers available, like Panasonic Toughbook 30. But they have been quite pricey and proprietary hardware. Until now. Dell launched rugged Latitude XFR model last month, based on industry standard Dell Latitude E-series platform. So, all drivers and software is exactly the same as usual Dell Latitude E-series business notebook. This makes it cheaper and compatible piece of hardware. And it has twice of the performance of Panasonic CF30.
Dell Latitude XFR is IP65 sealed against water and dust. It can drop from 4 feet’s, no problem. XFR uses 64GB solid state drive, battery-friendly and shock-proof. 14″ LCD screen is sunlight-readable, one of the most required features on yacht. Price starts from U$ 4300.
Who doesn’t need such protection, may consider more affordable Dell Latitude ATG version. It’s not IP65 liquid protected, but still complies MIL-STD 810F standard of dust, humidity and vibration. Prices from U$ 1800.