Quantcast

Laptop Chartplotter for Pilothouse Parker.

Classic Parker

Help Support Classic Parker:

cbigma

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2006
Messages
652
Reaction score
0
Location
Danvers River, MA
First of all, I love my blackberry. There is no better way to keep track of email and the web if you are on the go.
If I am not at my workstation I have my blackberry with me, even on the Parker. I have ClassicParker.com as my
homepage on the blackberry. I am not advocating installing a laptop just for email and web.



However, there are some applications for which there is no substitute for a widescreen. It took just one weekend staring at my Garmin GPSMap176C chartplotter with it’s four inch display, wishing the screen were as big as my laptop, to drive me to this project..
The price for a chartplotter with a 15-inch display was $$$Way more than I wanted to spend. It seemed like a lot to pay for just an LCD display.

My solution was to turn a laptop into a chartplotter. I loaded Garmin BlueChart software onto a spare laptop and
bought a USB external GPS Sensor. I also use a Sprint Wireless AirCard that gives me Internet access anywhere in
my cruising range. The combination of the two turns my onboard laptop into a 15-inch chartplotter, that can also
check my email, surf the web, and keep track of local Doppler radar.



Its one thing to listen to a NOAA synthetic voice talk about an approaching line of showers in the afternoon,
and quite another to see a detailed real-time animated graphic of a line of green monsters headed directly towards
your position at 30 mph. Makes your evasive action strategy a lot simpler when you can “see” which way the greenies are headed.



I can now extend the definition of my “Virtual Office” to include the Parker, and conduct business offshore.
(insert obligatory wisecracks about running an “offshore company”) I know many of you are shaking your head and bemoaning
taking the laptop out with you, claiming the Parker should be an escape from the office, away from work. But using this
technique I’m able to add a couple dozen more trips per year that otherwise would not have happened because I was waiting
for a network report, or email, or conference call. I’d rather mix a little business with pleasure, than not have the pleasure at all.



For this project I used a “retired” Gateway model 9500 Solo Laptop with a 1.3GHZ processor 40G B HDD, 1 GB RAM, running
WinXP Pro and Garmin BlueChart Software. The GPS Sensor I used was a Garmin OEM18 USB “puck”.



I also use a Sprint Sierra Model 580 Wireless AirCard.



You could use a hundred different laptops, coupled with other types of external GPS sensors, and perhaps other
types of GPS Software. Almost all wireless carriers offer a PCMCIA laptop data card. There are so many permutations
and combinations that would work well, it would be impossible to list them all.

Unless you are suicidal, don’t use your primary business-critical laptop here folks. Use an old spare, or “retired” unit.
If you don’t have a spare, you can pick up a used one pretty cheap on the web from many different sources. At this one link alone,
Refurbished Laptops

I counted ten different types of recertified laptops on sale for under $500.

Try Tigerdirect.com or ebay. Your local CompUSA or Best Buy or Circuit City also all have “cheap” entry-level or “re-certified”
open-box laptops. Make sure you get a DC Power Adapter, because you’ll probably need to plug in for trips longer than a few hours

We are talking about a piece of hardware worth five hundred dollars tops. You don’t need a Geek’s Thunderbolt Delight here folks,,
just a current operating system with enough power to run your GPS software of choice... I use Garmin’s BlueChart. Here is what
they have for minimum requirements:

To run MapSource on your PC, your system must
have these requirements:

• Pentium processor
• Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000,
Windows XP or Windows ME
• At least 32 MB minimum RAM
• 300 MB free hard disk space
(for compact installation)
• CD-ROM drive
• 256-color display adapter and monitor
(24-bit color recommended)
• Mouse or other pointing device
• PC interface or USB interface cable
• Internet access recommended for certain
MapSource titles


The only two physical issues are 1.) find a way to keep your laptop from drifting around on the dashboard during a challenging sea,
and 2.) find the correct viewing angle so the sun glare is minimized. My approach was to make a drop-insert docking station for the
laptop that fits on top of the Pilothouse dashboard.



You’ll need a ¾ inch piece of plywood, chipboard, or your countertop material of choice. I selected a piece of melamine countertop.
You’ll also need a matching-sized piece of veneer of your choice
for the bottom. I used another thin piece of melamine (countertop plastic) for this.



Cut the piece of countertop plywood big enough to accommodate the footprint of your laptop and trim it to fit on top of the dashboard.
This final docking station blank will need some custom cutting, as the shape you need to end up with is a pentagon, with the apex of the
dashboard “V” facing foward and three other sides. You need to trim it so the docking station blank will sit snugly in place without
screws. (You will put screws in to finish, but you want a good solid fit without fasteners first.)


Next use the docking station blank as a template to trace out the bottom veneer piece. Cut the veneer bottom to match the top blank,
and set it aside until after you have finished cutting out the laptop hole.

Now you need to place your laptop on top of the docking station blank and find the correct viewing angle. Get into your most comfortable
helm “slouch” and adjust the screen position to make sure you can see the image at it’s brightest angle. LCDs all have an optimal “viewing angle”
that provides the brightest resolution. Next trace the outside footprint of the laptop with a pencil to establish the cut lines.

Be certain to include the PCMCIA card in the slot if you are going to use a cell air card, and also the USB dongle for the GPS antenna, or
serial connector if your GPS receiver is serial. Leave enough room for the power cord to bend up out of the back socket. Pay close attention
to where the fan exhaust ports are, and don’t block them.

Now cut out the laptop profile hole in the countertop, check the fit, and do final trim. The hole should prevent the laptop from moving, but
not be so snug that you have to force the laptop into place.

Now glue the bottom veneer piece in place. Make sure the finished side is “up”, i.e., the finished side shows up through the bottom of the
laptop hole when you are done. Choose a glue or contact cement that is waterproof and permanent. Your laptop will go home with you after each trip,
the docking station will not.

Paint the exposed surfaces with white paint to seal them.

Mount the finished docking station with a screw or two to hold in place. You don’t need massive fasteners, or many of them. Just a couple to prevent “drift”.

Done.

 

Neckbone

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 12, 2006
Messages
64
Reaction score
0
Location
Columbia, SC
Great idea. Multi purpose GPS for same price as a much smaller color one.

To keep it from sliding around, couldn't you glue some of that rubberized shelf liner to the bottom? I've heard of people glueing it to the bottom of coolers to keep them from sliding. Bet it'd work for the laptop as well.
 

DaleH

FOUNDER of Classic Parker Forum
Moderator
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
4,651
Reaction score
21
Location
Newbury, MA
Hear ye, hear ye ... let it be knownst that as of today, CBigma has renamed his vessel from "Perseverance" to "Bizness".

So if you call John at work, and he's not there, ... he's away on business"!
 

Themis

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 17, 2006
Messages
672
Reaction score
0
Location
Normandy Beach, NJ
Neckbone,

I used the rubberized shelf liner aln the bottom of my cockpit legs, as well as on my cooler. The bay Sunday was choppy. Nothing moved.

I also used the liner as a mat on my dashboard. Again, nothing moves on it. Simple but elegant solution.... I like that.
 

cbigma

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2006
Messages
652
Reaction score
0
Location
Danvers River, MA
Probably lots O' nifty ways to keep it from sliding. I probably coulda used big long strips of velcro on the bottom too... Oh well....next time.

That's the beauty of posting projects on ClassicParker. :lol:

No two people see the same project the same way. Ideas are discussed, substitutions and improvements are suggested. You come away thinking of another application for something you saw, or a new way to do something you were always meaning to try, but just needed a little inspiration!

It's like a giant R&D facility! A Parker Think Tank!

Hey, if you made a pair of jeans out of that shelf-liner stuff, would you ever be able to slide out from behind the wheel of your car? :shock:
 

Themis

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 17, 2006
Messages
672
Reaction score
0
Location
Normandy Beach, NJ
Dang I hope I didnt offend cbigma!

Your project shows remarkable ingenuity and a well though out plan. Almost as good as my "I made a thru-bolt in my cabin" project :shock: :shock: :D.

Ps Guys do wear pants made out of the shelf liner all the time. I think maybe some of the founders of this site have some pictures from their experimental days living in the East Village..... :shock: :shock:
 

cbigma

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2006
Messages
652
Reaction score
0
Location
Danvers River, MA
ParkerSal":tjb0kh4a said:
Dang I hope I didnt offend cbigma!
No Sir! Not even a wee bit, Sal! :mrgreen:

I think most of the project posts on ClassicParker are done in the spirit of "Hey, here's a way you could solve a problem". I always "cherry-pick" the project posts, taking the ideas I like, and make substitutions or improvements where I think it makes sense, and I encourage others to do the same with my posts. No pride of authorship, just want to share concepts with others. :D

We have a remarkably talented membership of gifted DIY-ers on ClassicParker. Some very fine craftsmanship shows up here on the Projects forum. It may be because Parkers are so adaptable, like a big blank canvas that you can create almost anything on. Our membership has crafted some projects that I still can't believe could be done (Capt. Ronnie's Swiss-Army Door comes to mind!) 8)

I like that on ClassicParker you can find lots of folks who think "out of the box"

P.S. I think you can still buy the videos of those early East Village experiments. :shock:

-John
 

TonyAmalfitano

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 23, 2007
Messages
142
Reaction score
0
Location
Jackson, NJ
cbigma,
I give up, I've searched and searched but I can't find a "USB EXTERNAL GPS SENSOR" What do you got, and where'd you get it? I happen to have an old laptop, and a garmin cd, the sprint wireless air card I can find. That GD usb thing........ help a brother out here.
 

cbigma

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2006
Messages
652
Reaction score
0
Location
Danvers River, MA
Tony...

First, check your version of the Garmin BlueChart Software. In the latest version of the MapSource software (9.0), Garmin has disabled the ability to do "real-time" tracking. You need a version of MapSource 6.1 or earlier. You can use the latest BlueChart data with the older MapSource interface that allows real-time tracking. I discuss this issue in this post about my Humminbird 3D Depthsounder

Once you have the correct software, you need the USB OEM 18. Just Google "Garmin OEM 18" and stand back! You'll get lots of hits, like this one on Amazon.com Garmin OEM 18 .

Be careful where you buy it because you may need the unlock code that would come with a "virgin" unit. If it is used, someone may have already used the serial number-unlock code for that unit. The Garmin website is full of instructions about their unlock code policies and procedures. I think I remember seeing something about being able to use an unlock code twice if you own two separate Garmin units.

That's it. It may sound a bit complicated, but think about it. By using your old laptop, you can make an awesome chartplotter with a 15-inch display, for a fraction of what a standard chartplotter with a display that large would cost. And you can also conjure up weather, email, video feeds and surf the 'Net on the same machine!. Heck, you might even fool your boss into thinking you are at work! Now -That's- value.





PM me if you need further info.


John
 

RJG

Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2006
Messages
12
Reaction score
0
How far offshore can this machine work and be reliable, I think I would love to incorporate this at some time. Does the doppler pick up at 30 miles offshore or not Just wondering
 

cbigma

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2006
Messages
652
Reaction score
0
Location
Danvers River, MA
Hi RJG,

It's cell-phone technology, so it will only be as good as your specific cell-phone carrier and their network of coverage. We are all painfully aware of how good or bad cell phone coverage is in our own region. :(

If your cell phone works out where you want to use the Laptop Air-card, chances are your laptop will work as well (assuming the Air-card is provided by the same carrier). 8)

I don't generally venture more than few miles offshore, so it works fine for me. YMMV.

John
 

Billy

Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2007
Messages
6
Reaction score
0
Hi nice job with the laptop. I am new to this site my name is billy I am from New Jersey. I would also like to use a laptop for a gps plotter. I used to use one in my truck a few years back with street atlas. my question is, what version or type of Garmin BlueChart Software are you using. is it stand alone with just the computer and the usb gps receiver? or do you have to link it with a GPS UNIT.
the reason I ask is that I have looked around a little and all the garmin software i see needs a gps as well. one more question if I may. how accurate is the laptop gps? is wass built in?
Thank you Billy
 

cbigma

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2006
Messages
652
Reaction score
0
Location
Danvers River, MA
Hi Billy,

Welcome to ClassicParker! We're ParkerFreaks and BoatGeeks. :shock: :shock:

Well, all of us here certainly are ParkerFreaks and a few of us will admit to being BoatGeeks. :roll: :roll:

As for the Garmin/Laptop Chartplotter compatibility issue I can only attest to my own experience. Others may have successfully paired a different combo.

I use Garmin Mapsource 6.1 as the base application that allows the "real-time" tracking. Subsequent versions have disabled this capability. I'm not sure exactly which version disabled "real-time" tracking, but it is somewhere between 6.1 and 9.0.

With Mapsource 6.1 as the base application, I can load the most recent BlueChart 9.0 datum, and use the "real-time" tracking feature.

With this software loaded into your laptop, you only need the OEM 18 USB receiver to be able to use your laptop as a real-time chartplotter. You will not need to use a "GPS unit" as well. I used to use a Garmin GPS 176C as the receiver, and fed the display signal to the Laptop via a Serial connection, until I discovered that you can bypass the GPS unit and just tie a GPS Receiver "puck" to the laptop for a real-time chartplotter.

Be aware that this real-time tracking function is just that. No waypoint storage, or recall features. It's just a plain and simple real-time tracking function on as big a display as you have on your laptop.

WAAS is enabled on this OEM 18 version Garmin receiver.

Hope this helps.

John
 

Megabyte

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
10,549
Reaction score
5
Location
Lewes, DE
John... Do you know if the Garmin software will work on a Mac under OS X?
 

andertonm

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 23, 2006
Messages
218
Reaction score
0
Location
Virginia Beach
I love this idea and I want to be on the net at sea, but I have serious reservations about the vertical acceleration/deceleration the unit will be exposed to, particularly as far forward as the unit is mounted. Big time slamming up and down can't be good for a hard drive. Anybody an authority on this? Seems like a lot of g-forces at work.
 

cbigma

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2006
Messages
652
Reaction score
0
Location
Danvers River, MA
Megabyte":1sr6kqud said:
John... Do you know if the Garmin software will work on a Mac under OS X?
Alas...Capt. Mac ,,,,err Kevin... :oops:

As reported on Garmin's own website:
'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

MapSource System Requirements


IBM-compatible PC running Windows 2000 or Windows XP operating system; 32MB RAM minimum; between 300 MB and 1.5GB free hard disk space; CD-ROM drive; available serial port; 256 color display adapter and monitor (24 bit recommended); and mouse or other pointing device; PC Interface cable. Internet access is also recommended to make use of the unlock process. :cry:
 

Megabyte

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
10,549
Reaction score
5
Location
Lewes, DE
cbigma":2xoefezr said:
Megabyte":2xoefezr said:
John... Do you know if the Garmin software will work on a Mac under OS X?
Alas...Capt. Mac ,,,,err Kevin... :oops:

As reported on Garmin's own website:
'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

MapSource System Requirements


IBM-compatible PC running Windows 2000 or Windows XP operating system; 32MB RAM minimum; between 300 MB and 1.5GB free hard disk space; CD-ROM drive; available serial port; 256 color display adapter and monitor (24 bit recommended); and mouse or other pointing device; PC Interface cable. Internet access is also recommended to make use of the unlock process. :cry:

Well then... Garmin needs to get with the program. :evil:
Any idea how many laptops out there sport the Apple logo?
(hint... it's a lot more than some may think!)
 

cbigma

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2006
Messages
652
Reaction score
0
Location
Danvers River, MA
andertonm":2rcdmu2a said:
I love this idea and I want to be on the net at sea, but I have serious reservations about the vertical acceleration/deceleration the unit will be exposed to, particularly as far forward as the unit is mounted. Big time slamming up and down can't be good for a hard drive. Anybody an authority on this? Seems like a lot of g-forces at work.
Hmmm...you bring up a good point. I used a Gateway last year, this year I had an IBM ThinkPad as my co-pilot. Neither one seems to have suffered, but I guess it's yet another good reason to NOT use your primary business unit on the boat. The salt air and occasional swipe of a salty wet paw are probably not too good for any of these units either. :roll:

The ThinkPad is supposed to have one of those shock-reduction systems on the hard drive. I wonder if I could rig it up to deploy my tabs when the shock sesnsor reachs 2 Gs? :shock: :shock:

Now -that- would be a neat project for next year! 8) 8)
A system that would deploy and retract tabs based upon input from an accelerometer up near the helm. :lol: :lol:

Nah, probably already been done.

Probably by some Parker owner out there. :wink: :wink:
 

Mokee

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 21, 2006
Messages
179
Reaction score
0
Location
Chicago Area
andertonm & cbigma

Have approx. 350 hrs. on Toshiba HD in a hp dv1000 with no problems (so far). Since following the thread, am imaging the drive on a spare. I'd hate to lose all the charts I downloaded from Maptech. Also use the same unit in the truck with nRoute that came with the Garmin 18 puck.

cbigma - those IBMs are built like a brick s***house, titanium case and all, but the LCDs are a little fragile.

mokee
 

Latest posts

Top