Friday, May 31, 2013

Arduino weds Raspberry. The "Freeboard" project

"If you imagine it's possible, someone else is already trying to doing it, or has already done it." The Installer.

This was how I left my musing on the fictitious open source Celestronic M1 chart plotter system. I wasn't aware at the time how extensive the efforts were by an ever increasing cabal to build these types of systems. My screen display was photoshopped, the ones below are real.

Another aspect of the Celestronic story was to illustrate how tentative marine electronics manufacturers have been in adopting new technologies, although this has certainly improved over just the past few years. It seems with each technological advancement the buying public endorses, the rest of the herd immediately follows. Raymarine introduced the e7d with both WiFi, and blue tooth, and now who doesn't have this capability? But WiFi, and Bluetooth had been laying around for many years before its adoption into marine electronics world.

This all started with a somewhat cryptic comment left on the Celestronic post by "Practical Pirate." "Check out Freeboard at" I did, and this is Robert Huitema's approach to an open source hardware/software navigation system, "The Freeboard Project".

Sunday, May 19, 2013

You haven't come a long way baby.

"Frank, long time no hear, what's up?" "I need a GPS Bill, I'm maybe thinking about racing one of my boats in a new class." "Okay I guess, but's what's wrong with your Garmin 545?" "It doesn't meet the rules Bill?" "What do you mean it doesn't meet the rules, does it need to be newer?" "No, it has to be older. The rules say," The following is the SBIP APPROVED LIST OF GARMIN GPS’S 172, 172C, 178, 178C, 182, 182C, 188, 188C, 192, 192C, 198, and 198C. "Crimniy Frank, none of these are even manufactured anymore."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I have no comm port so I must scream

Six weeks ago I embarked on what should have been a fairly mundane task of getting NMEA data from a GPS and some older Simrad gear imported into a laptop running Nobletec's Odyssey Time Zero navigation software. This wasn't my first time at the NMEA data rodeo, and the results were pretty typical. Using the existing Prolific serial to USB converter I could only have one talker, and one listener, not that I didn't try to get a second talker to work. Alas, but not unsurprisingly one talker only for you, and some of the older NMEA version data was getting lost in translation. To help with these issues a Actisense NDC-4 was purchased.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hello, my name is Bob, and I'm a battery abuser. Hi Bob!

Behold the flooded lead acid battery, unfortunately a perennial favorite of all too many boaters. Why? They cost less than better battery types such as sealed or AGM's. When I say they cost less I mean they are the cheapest battery you can buy. They do work well, if you can, and do check them on a regular basis, and the hotter the ambient temperatures become, the more often you have to check them. The words of the day are "evaporation, and accessibility."

I look at Bob shuddering, and wringing his pasty white smooth hands as he stares down into the crammed full engine room. Battery problems again Bob? You had these changed just last year didn't you? Where did you get them from, Wallymart? You did? Hum-mm  ahhh, who installed them Bob? Your skinny nephew did? When was the last time you checked the water levels in these Wallymart batteries?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Yachting on the Salton Sea

I was excited. A week in Palm Springs, a place I had never been. Looking around online I found there were lots of things to do. Go canyon hiking fending off gila monsters and tarantulas. Nope, not for me. The cable car ride, sure that's fine. Joshua Tree National Park, that sounds interesting. Are there tarantulas there? The Salton Sea? What's that all about?

It was the perfect storm. Bad engineering, greed, financial desperation, and the belief that the Colorado river could be managed, all combined at the turn of the century to create the Salton Sea. Today the Salton Sea, California's largest lake has an apocalyptic miasma about it, and a very uncertain future.