View Full Version : Onboard Computers...

13-08-04, 13:42
We have slowly been working through most of the problems associated with leaving a house and taking up residence on a boat; we've given up on a few of them like moorings, hoping it'll be all right on the night. But... we' havent worked out how to be internet connected from the boat.

Any advice regarding which computer/laptop, telephone, server, printer? would be most appreciated taking into account limited space aboard a CW 28'6" and the fact that we are coastal cruising around Britain.


Steve & Julie

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13-08-04, 15:08
I currently use a full size PC, but am looking at some of these small form factor or cube PCs as a replacement.

I don't likke laptops -- which tend to be expensive and also cost more to repair -- SFFs are far more readily fixed/upgraded by a home user.

We already have a TFT screen too.

As for internet.

Very dependant on how much you will use it, where you are etc.

Most tsraightforward and slowest is to use a gprs enable mobile phone, but can be very pricey, esp i downloading large files -- you pay for the data you download.

Theprice structure i geared towardd the small amounts of dtata that can fit on a phone screen, rather than a PC

Next susyem is 3G. Vodafone and other offer very fast wireless links, but again you pay per megabyte and you'll be amazed howmuch data is contained in a webpage. Prices range from 20 to 100 depoending how much data you think you will use.

The last option is to find a marina with a wireless lan network.

Cost is about 30 a month for broadband equivalent service.
Companies like SquareMile offer the service.

TThere are some other options -- via SSB and so on, but doesn't sound like something you might use.

Last option is to make friends with someone in nearby house, with boadband connected at home and set up wireless router and piggy back off that. Of course you would have to trust them as security would be an issue -- no net banking for examplke and they could see what you are looking at..

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13-08-04, 15:26
from the size o f your boat, I would have thought that space was a premium. You might wish to consider the set up I am slowly funding:

large computer (http://www.qed-uk.com/?i=&vp=6&bg=131&bp=lt46s&bi=0&ird=1403>display</A>) with long battery life:

That system copes with entertainment, weather and navigation. Access to the internet is really dependent on how you will be using the boat and how you use the internet, so more details would be needed to provide any viable advice.

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13-08-04, 16:02
If you email Martin or Gary from <A target="_blank" HREF=http://www.marinercomputers.co.uk>http://www.marinercomputers.co.uk</A> they have a number of factsheets they can send you.

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13-08-04, 17:17
Looking at the other posts to date, I'd like to comment further:-

Broadband - at 30 pcm for a wireless hotspot seems good value to me (provided of course their likely to be where you are; it's not far off what most (of us) pay for access from home.

I'd seriously consider a laptop in preference to either PDAs or mini / maxi PCs. Steer clear from the ultra slim / ultra light and get a desktop replacement like the Dell Inspiron 8200 series. If you already have a large display, get a laptop with a smaller one; they're cheaper. The advantage is that you can move it around the boat or outside, it also means that you could move it to a non marina based hotspot if necessary.

Printers have me stumped, they all consume power - even the ink jet variety, which also eats ink every time you switch them on. Need research here. I now save anything I might need as a PDF file - it's amazing how little I really need to print as hard copy.

Hope this ramble helps.

<hr width=100% size=1>http://www.mrflag.com/data/x_sm.gif Stop what you're doing and wait my signal

13-08-04, 18:09
Hi Wardy!

I agree with True Blue regarding the use of a desktop 'replacement' laptop rather than the smaller units. I use a Dell 8600C laptop that gives me just about everything I 'need' from DVD films, nav packages, CD,s, TV, RTTY and weatherfax (the latter two via an HF transceiver) and of course, all the usual comp stuff.

We link this to a superb little 12V Canon K10152 inkjet printer that draws only 1 1/2 amps!! It measures just 300mm x 150mm x 50mm so would be ideal for your boat. Whilst this is only B and W, they now do a colour version if you need this. Frankly we never print anything in colour on board.

We always produce our emails and the like on board, then dump them onto a floppy for taking ashore to a cybercafe. Mind you, we only use email etc when of cruising i.e. in the Med or Caribbean so you may wish to try a different approach.

We each have a mobile phone and carry 'sim' cards for each country we visit. For example, we have cards for France, Portugal, Spain etc etc and this allows us to use much cheaper 'local' calls. Unfortunately, the Caribbean uses a unique baud rate, so even our tri-band one doesn't work there. You should have no problems with your current mobile(s) around the UK.

Hope these mumblings help you.



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13-08-04, 18:20
&lt;&lt;"We always produce our emails and the like on board, then dump them onto a floppy for taking ashore to a cybercafe. "&gt;&gt;

What a cracking idea and one I haven't considered; That'll reduce the initial costs of getting this all set up.

I have seen a Cannon Bubble jet printer that does photo quality colour so i might go that way, the good thing is it's minute in comparison to the epsom i have here at home.

As regards the computer, the concensus seems to point towards a smaller laptop. And of course, I can connect all the nav gear to it.
Is there any preference between Mac or Windows?

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13-08-04, 21:08
Hi Steve!

I've never used a Mac system so cannot offer an opinion. I understand that Linux is becoming more popular nowadays, but I still feel that with the huge range of SW being written for MS Windows, this is still way out in front. It also pretty well ensures that tranferring data, SW etc between computers on other boats goes without a hitch, but that's just my view.

I use Win XP Professional together with a heap of other SW doing all the things I need, but do note that a lot of the most useful, boatwise, stuff is free on the web. For example, I use JVComm32 for weatherfaxes, and it's excellent and free in the non-registered version. This version just has a couple of 'reminders' that come up on the screen at times, but in no way affects it's usefulness. We've used it for many, many thousands of miles with no problems.

For RTTY, (radio teletype) giving on screen text weather forecasts and other info, we either use the JV above or, preferably, MMTTY Version 1.65, downloadable free. Just type 'MMTTY' into Google to get patched to the Website. Brilliant SW.

Yes, bearing in mind that your boat's size is similar to mine, I think the best way is via a laptop, though I would not go for a screen smaller than 15" if you want to watch DVDs or TV. That's pretty well the standard size now anyway. If you use one those DC-DC adapters or an inverter, it's easy to keep the battery charged up.

I honestly don't think you'll regret that course as you are still retaining the versatility of using it 'normally' for business, at home etc.

Hope this helps a bit,



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15-08-04, 16:12
I really rate the IBM Thinkpad, It's boring but industrial and bomb proof. I've lugged mine around the world for 5 years now and with no problems at all. A 2-3 year old secondhand one will not cost you too much either.

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15-08-04, 16:58
I use an IBM Thinkpad notebook PC. However, I have installed a flat screen monitor and a wireless keyboard/mouse, so that I can have the PC out of the way in the dry when under way.

For Internet/email, I use my mobile phone, connected via Bluetooth. Rather than using GPRS (which tends to be expensive) I just use the dial-up provided by a free ISP (Clara). This allows me to use the free minutes on my tariff, all be it at only 9600 baud. That's plenty for email, but web browsing is a little lethargic!


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15-08-04, 17:17
just seen an ad in YM for a 12v PC by 'Vasari'

amazingly for someone selling IT kit there is no website, does anyone know of this outfit?

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15-08-04, 17:22
I have been using the standarad clara net dial up in exactly the same way for a long time now. The biggest problem is getting the Norton upgrades!

I have even managed to download 2meg files, but it is sooooooooooosloooooow /forums/images/icons/smile.gif

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16-08-04, 08:56
I would strongly agree about a desktop replacement laptop. This is typed using an apple, which I use for biz, but we also have a PC laptop on board used for our other biz, watching DVDs and will eventually be host to nav software. There is no good nav s/w for Macs, so if that's what you want, get a PC.

We have three main modes of connection:
(i) 'home' pontoon - we have a BT installed phone line with broadband. You pay c70 for the connection as you are a high risk address, but that's it. So at a base we use that and it works fine.
(ii) where we can find it, we use wi-fi. Elsewhere I've reported on our serious problems with Square Mile at Brighton tho I understand they are delivering a service elsewhere. But also, especially if we need to browse etc, we take the laptops to a wi-fi enabled cafe (bars in hotels are particuarly likely candidates). You need the relevant cards etc, though increasingly these are coming as standard in new laptops. Prices still often too high from BT etc, but will start to come down. In some palces, eg Brighton seafront, wi-fi is free.
(iii) GPRS on mobile. One of us (with difficulty) uses vodaphone and the other (with ease but slightly less coverage) uses Orange. Only Orange support GPRS with a Mac. In both cases we use Bluetooth to connect the laptop to the phone. With Orange in particular this is a biz tarriff which give unlimited mb for 45 per month. This rate is reducing rapidly (indeed I'm about to think again about my tarriff though I only changed three months ag for emails and acceptably for browsing. I travel quite a bit for work (ie on land) as well as our sailing travelling and the GPRS system works very well in all sorts of situations and the costs are manageable with the biz tarriff.

HTH and good luck

<hr width=100% size=1>Sarah & Pip

UK & Ireland distributors of Swifgig

18-08-04, 10:30
I use a minute "Cappuccino" type PC with A TFT screen built into a chart table panel and an Ir keyboard & mouse. These PC's come with a built in Ir port which can communicate with mobile 'phone's and portable printers with out hard wiring. I power the PC from a 12/18v DC-DC converter, which is more efficient than using an inverter. The TFT monitor is powered directly off the ship's 12v system. I have a Cannon BJC-85 B/W & colour inkjet for occasioanal printing which I power from a small 150W inverter. Also have an ICOM PCR1000 comms. receiver which allows the PC to produce weather fax etc.

You must consider your power supply capabilities and how you are going to use the PC. If it is to be used while sailing purely off your DC system then power consumption is critical. My "Cappuccino" PC runs at about 2.5A chart-plotting with the monitor "asleep" and that is only an 800MHz processor running Win 98SE. This combination is more than adequate for "marine" applications.

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19-08-04, 08:55
Use a Wifi enabled laptop and take ashore to a business or cafe that offers free broad band access to the internet such as the "Walk of fame" cafe in Brighton marina village, one cup of coffee and bingo you are on the net! I am sure if you post here someone will know of a free service in your area at the time you require it.


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05-10-04, 22:50
i have an IBM x40 wondderful but on a boat beware of drips and humidity. better buy a cheap compaq m300 with wi-fi card, and in Italy Greece of Turkey a plug in data card, i use that and am going to sign up with pocketmail and on a 28footer in the uk wooooo carful-- even in the med with a good heater damp is present, just as is rain (corfu) and problem of a secure location--when sailing in wind---

<hr width=100% size=1>liveaboard

02-02-05, 07:45

You are looking for:


however, they seem very expensive to me 899 without monitor. I know a place in Plymouth where a similar product, running direct off 12V should soon be available cheaper.