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Old 03-23-2008, 06:09 AM   #1
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Is there a preference of the type of laptop used on-board? The price difference is so great, you can buy 5-6 PCs to 1 Apple.

Also what is the life expectancy and how do you keep any electronics healthy around so much moisture?

Thanks in advance,

Duane
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Old 03-23-2008, 07:30 AM   #2
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Cruising in 3rd world and developing countries is also a determinate in favour of the PC architecture over that of Apple because of the repair factor - getting parts and modules can be a real problem. Software availability is also a factor against Apple.

Laptops can be protected against moisture when not in use by storing in an airtight container.

Also with the availability of solid state hard drives of 60 GB - data can therefore be stored with some conviction that you will still have it at the end of a voyage.

There is also the option of external standard hard drives which also can be stored in moisture proof containers. All my data is backed up in drives of this type, here is photo of 2 of the them - each 160 GB.

Ext_HDS.jpg
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Old 03-23-2008, 03:06 PM   #3
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Personally, I think that it is not so much the moisture that is the killer of computers as it is the mildew and salt.

Salt. I wipe down my keyboard with rubbing alcohol. I wash and dry my hands before touching the computer. For the past several weeks I have tried to carefully test my theory. When I decide to work on the computer, I taste my fingers. Too often they are salty.

My present laptop has a glossy screen which shows dirt, dust, and grease spots more readily than my previous matte screen. It has made me realize something that I never considered before, and that is the air inside our boat. There should not be grease spots on the screen, and the only explanation I have for that is that without an exhaust fan in the galley, cooking is putting grease "vapor" (for want of a better description) into the air, to collect on all flat surfaces of the boat, including the computer. My computer on this boat is considerably farther from the galley than what I worked with on our sailboat. I conclude, then, that this grease is another hazard of living on a boat that wouldn't arise in the average house where distance, walls, and doors would trap this polluted air before it reached the household computer.

I see lots of dust and lint and soot tending to collect under the keys on the keyboard.

I now regularly use compressed air to clean out the keyboard so that the dust and lint doesn't sit there absorbing moisture and holding it directly on the contacts that are so delicate. I have the laptop serviced regularly to have its interior cleaned (though I want to warn everybody that too many places outside the developed world just don't have the materials or technicians for this to be done properly. well, I've had bad service in the US, too. The worst for me was my experience with CompUSA and I now avoid them).

With the reality that hard drives fail regardless of environment, one should be prepared to recover from this regardless of where you mighyt be. They might fail more quickly in a marine environment, but fail they will sometime, somehow.

Richard's practice of keeping backup external hard drives is a good idea, no matter what the data you are storing. Creating a boot disk CD is another good practice, and the ability to switch over to a backup hard drive when the internal hard drive fails is another good idea.

Never having used an Apple, I have nothing to contribute to that question.

I have more theories than sound answers and I don't have the resources to test these theories completely. I suppose that all I can do is take precautions as best I can.
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Old 03-23-2008, 08:20 PM   #4
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Quote:
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Laptops can be protected against moisture when not in use by storing in an airtight container.
My 2 cents worth... adding to the airtight container... I have friend in Durban who made inexpensive "pillowlike bags" about 10cm x 20cm out of yellow dustcloth (soft yellow) and filled them with silica granules. These come from florist shops and are used in the process of drying flowers.

When bought elsewhere the "special granules" are expensive ?? Same thing from florists are cheap... buy in bulk and keep stored in airtight container as well.

She replenishes the contents of these little baggies from time to time and sews them up again.

The baggie lives in the container with laptop, handheld radio, GPS & cellphone and also in drawers and even behind the electrical panels... sucks up lots of moisture .

Hope the tip helps... try it anyway and let others know if it is a hit !!

Cheers

Douw
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Old 03-23-2008, 11:10 PM   #5
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i plan on pc's (windows,lynix) most definately. so far, im thinking, flexible clear exoskeletons, wireless, and liquid cooling (i use liquid cooling on this pc). efficiency will be increased greatly (no doubt) in my 10 year plan, so my real challenge is moisture protection at sea.
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Old 03-24-2008, 03:37 AM   #6
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I feel obliged to begin this post, as so many others, with the words, I am no expert but.......

Indeed, I am no expert and in my ignorance I have found laptops to be able to take more punishment than expected. Generally, my laptops have become "old" and outdated before the hard disk or other parts have given up. In a way, it has almost been a relief when some part has failed after 3 or 4 years as I then have a valid excuse to buy the newest, all bells and whistles, singing and dancing, machine.

With the introduction of machines fitted out with the same type of memory as solid state UCB memory sticks, replacing the traditional hard disks, that will probably change and the machines will become even more reliable. I am still keeping paper charts as a my primary navigational system though!

Like Jeanne, I have no experience of Apple so I cannot comment that one - although I do like the Apple products I have seen and used (Ipod, not a computer and Safari browser - which I am using at the moment and prefer to Internet Explorer and Firefox). I was, incidentally, just looking at the new, super thin Apple laptop the other day. At only 7mm thick, I was scared to pick it up in case it crumbled like a piece of Finnish crisp bread.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 03-24-2008, 05:32 AM   #7
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Thanks again everyone!

"the only explanation I have for that is that without an exhaust fan in the galley, cooking is putting grease "vapor" (for want of a better description) into the air, to collect on all flat surfaces of the boat, including the computer."

This is so strange... I was looking at a boat on "YachtWorld" the other day and was wondering how one would get by without an exhaust fan on a boat.

I didn't realize those plastic containers did that good keeping the moisture out of things. I'm the type that would think there is a whole army of little moisture guys just waiting for me to open the lid so they can attack.

Duane
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Old 03-24-2008, 10:29 PM   #8
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Thanks again everyone!

I didn't realize those plastic containers did that good keeping the moisture out of things. I'm the type that would think there is a whole army of little moisture guys just waiting for me to open the lid so they can attack.

Duane
Hi Duane,

I guess that when on passage the laptop on average will not be in use for more than a couple of hours per day - eg : reading email, preparing answers and sending them off via pactor and HF radio. If that be the case, then it may be prudent to store the laptop/drives in airtight containers for the other 22 odd hours.

Another means of storing that data is by burning onto good quality CDs, I have got many that are at least 10 years old - still in good nick (although I have recently duplicated them - just in case!) these I store with silica gel.

A side note, I know of a number of cruisers who swear by Dell laptops - not because of performance but because of service they get when things go wrong - techs coming to the boat!

Richard
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Old 03-25-2008, 08:07 AM   #9
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A side note, I know of a number of cruisers who swear by Dell laptops - not because of performance but because of service they get when things go wrong - techs coming to the boat!
I must confess to not liking Dell laptops. I have has two (on loan from work) and on both occasions the screen went south. It just blacked out, never to work again. However, as Richard rightly pointed out, their service was great - at least in some places. The first time it happened was in Cape Town and I had a technician in my office within 24 hours. The screen was replaced on site and free of charge.

The second occasion was in Yemen, in a place called Al Makulla. Needless to say, no technician! The fastest and cheapest way to resolve the problem was to hop onto a plane to Dubai and by a new, tax free laptop there.

So, all in all, in the right places Dell offers fantastic service but in the wrong places they are no better than any other company.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 03-25-2008, 09:44 AM   #10
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I have my background from electronic design, military and civil. I have now my own computer company delivery pc, servers and so on for business use.

Rugged laptop computers are costly. Panasonic has a range called Toughbook laptop computers. On land in dusty and rough handling they are fine. On sea in a sailboat I have now experience. Panasonic Toughbook is costly.

My company sells Lenovo laptop (IBM sold the PC division to Lenovo). The Lenovo ThinkPad T-series are rough enough. Remember to by a worldwide guaranty. I donít know if it is a problem, but if the keyboard gets salty and defect, in fact it is easy to change.

Other companies like HP and others have also god pc, but I have now experience with them.

A rough case you get from Peli Cases - http://www.peli.com/?q=en/cases/1495cc2-laptop-case
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Old 03-25-2008, 11:11 AM   #11
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Adam, thanks for your input.

Keyboard. Before the Think Pad was Lenovo it was IBM. **don't jump on this, it's an old woman talking** I had one of those IBM Think Pads (in 1997 and 1998) and needed service in Singapore. A fellow came in with a Think Pad that had lost one of its keys (his maid had vacuumed the keyboard and pop! went one of the keys, never to be seen again) and the IBM service tech said it could not be replaced, and since the keyboard was an integral part of the laptop, "fixing" the problem would be very expensive. Not my problem, I stopped listening in on the conversation so don't know how it was resolved. But I figure that caring for the keyboard on a laptop/notebook computer is a very important precaution. By the way, this was the shortest-lived of all my computers, but it could well have been the environment, which was the most hostile of all the traveling we did. I think that I should revisit this brand when I next plan to buy a laptop.

I almost bought, but regrettably changed my mind about, a waterproof external keyboard. It was entirely encased in silicone, creepy feeling but it would have been wonderfully easy to keep clean. A quick internet search indicates that they are still available. Here's one, though it's just an illustration of what is out there since I haven't tried it. http://ergobilities.com/ProductDetail.asp?...oid1=&oid2=

I am not looking too hard for one right now because my next new gear will be a wireless keyboard for my laptop at which time I will search long and hard for a wireless waterproof keyboard!

Pelican cases are, IMO, great protective cases. I have one to carry my notebook computer from boat to shore via dinghy. For high-stress traveling the shockproof liner as well as the waterproof aspect makes them safe cases to store and carry one's gear in.

Their drawbacks are that they are very expensive and significantly heavier than a soft case. I store the computer in one, the printer and gear in another. Silica dessicant inside the boxes insure that I'm not sealing my gear with the high humidity of the air stagnating inside. (I also own two others, one for camera, another for cell phone. I KNOW how much stuff gets wet or worse when traveling in the dinghy!)
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Old 03-25-2008, 03:49 PM   #12
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Keyboard failure in a marine environment has seemed to be one of the most common problems folks have spoken of over the years, so I made it standard policy years ago to simply bring along a spare which I keep vacuum sealed. They are rarely more than $25, and MOST laptop keyboards simply pop out with no screws, so changing them is a less than 5 minute endeavor. The second thing I do is use an external hard drive as my primary hard drive. The benefits are two fold. First I'm able to keep the external drive in a waterproof compartment (I use a pelican case inside of a shielded sleeve for lightening protection). The second benefit is that the onboard hard drive has it's life extended due to much less usage since it's generally only used when the computer is in 'portable' status. I also don't have to keep my cumbersome charting, and marine software on the laptop hard drive - thus freeing up that drive's storage for other important things (like mp3's and video! lol) It's pretty straightforward to set up the external as your primary hard drive. You simply change the boot order in your CMOS setup (Ctrl "F" key @ computer startup). The other benefit is redundancy in the event that one, or the other hard drive goes belly up (unlikely that both go south at the same time)

In so far as Apple vs PC, I think it's a pretty simple decision. If you wanna exchange charts - then you'll definitely want a PC. When you have an issue with compatibility FAR fewer in harbor will be of any assistance with your Apple. There will be someone to help with your PC just about anywhere in the world you find yourself. Apple is a more bulletproof product, but when you have problems you much more of a "man stranded alone on an island". Go with the PC, it's just safer when the inevitable problems occur....
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Old 03-26-2008, 07:38 AM   #13
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I guess that when on passage the laptop on average will not be in use for more than a couple of hours per day - eg : reading email, preparing answers and sending them off via pactor and HF radio. If that be the case, then it may be prudent to store the laptop/drives in airtight containers for the other 22 odd hours.
I was under the impression that many people keep charts on their laptop (paper charts a given). I thought a gps hooked to the laptop would work. I should have started this with "I know very little about navigation electronics". Can a monitor be hooked to a chart plotter? like a 19" flat screen?
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Old 03-26-2008, 07:48 AM   #14
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I also don't have to keep my cumbersome charting, and marine software on the laptop hard drive - thus freeing up that drive's storage for other important things (like mp3's and video! lol)
Now were talking! It is gonna be a couple of years before I will be able to do any traveling. Maybe mine and my wifes health will stay stable and we'll get a year or two in then.

Thanks again everyone for your replies!
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