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Old 05-17-2014, 12:58 AM   #1
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I was just looking through eBay for AIS transceivers and came across several Panasonic Toughbooks. Having looked at the specifications and the low cost of these units, I am keen to purchase one at around $350 including NOAA charts and GPS. (One even has AIS included, with the whole package at less than $450).

The only thing which causes me any concern is the Windows XP operating system. The system is effective and will easily run navigation suites and AIS. But, with Microsoft opting to end support for XP, I am concerned about it susceptibility to attack from viruses.

I expect Norton and freeware such as AVG will still offer a level of protection...and I guess there is always the option of simply not hooking up to the internet and using the computer purely as a nav aid.

Any thoughts?
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Old 05-17-2014, 07:59 PM   #2
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If you want those particular computers, you could load Linux on the computers (say an easy version like Ubuntu) then put VMWare Player on it which will let you load your Windows95 in a virtual machine (That's the VM) within Linux. This won't keep a virus from getting your Windows95 virtual machine if you're surfing the internet, but you can choose to surf the internet in Ubuntu and only use the VM when you're using programs that only work in Windows95. You might find that everything runs in Ubuntu but it is unlikely that all will do so.

I bought an Acer at Fryes with Intel I-5, plenty of ram, and Windows8 for $300 so.... new machines are cheap these days. This is a computer that looks like the little $200 chromebooks but it has more processor, etc so it can work like a regular computer. They're not toughbooks, no... but...hubby sat on the Acer and cracked the screen, I bought another screen online for $60 and replaced it myself.

I'd prefer something newer/different than Windows95 these days.
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Old 05-18-2014, 12:44 AM   #3
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Thanks Brenda. On my last trip my i7 Toshiba took a dive from the chart table, and I am just looking for something tough..my new boat being almost 20' shorter than the one I had when I bought this computer. Most old toughbooks come with XP (rather than W95), but I understand the Linux option.
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Old 05-18-2014, 03:13 AM   #4
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Del uses a Toughbook for navigation and it seemed adequate to the task, if a bit low in raw computing power due to age. You're most likely to get a virus from malicious email, just don't click on any link you don't understand. Even PDF files can be nasty. If you do use XP ensure all the latest MS upgrades and service packs have been installed.

I prefer the cheaper Lenovo T60 which can be had for under $120.00 these days. I keep a whole spare fully configured notebook at that price.
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Old 05-22-2014, 11:40 AM   #5
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I'm also thinking about a laptop for navigation, and would probably favour a Windows machine.
But, I have noticed the power consumption difference between Tablets and Laptops are considerable:
Laptop/Notebook uses anything between 20W and 40W
Tablet like the iPad or Android can use around 3W to 4W

That's a huge difference which could make a tablet attractive to me - could run it all day.
Plus, it will be easier to carry a tablet around if you should choose to do so.

So I would like to go the tablet way, but my current problem is to find tablet charting software that can use my existing CM93 digital charts, so I don't have to buy chart data again. Haven't found such Android or iPad software yet (if anyone's doing it, pls let me know what software product works).
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Old 05-22-2014, 08:50 PM   #6
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A suggestion if you are looking at Windows devices.. Ensure the device has an SSD hard drive.. This will reduce the power usage and increase the reliability. Personally, I own a MS Surface Pro (ver 1) and I love it. Although I haven't had it on a boat yet.

Personally I wouldn't buy an older laptop for a couple of reasons.
1. Critical components have an accepted design life (hard drive). The laptops you are looking at are probably coming very close to that life. A failure is imminent.

2. Batteries... Laptop batteries do not last forever and are expensive to replace. Any laptop of that age will most likely have a battery ready to fail, or already has.
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Old 05-23-2014, 12:49 AM   #7
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As haiqu mentioned, I have a Panasonic toughbook and a spare in the cupboard. Bought off eBay a few years back for $500. You can always find a few of them, 2 or 3 years old model. I use the OpenCPN software on Linux and it's a dream, wouldn't think of using anything else.

Loading Linux on them is easy. Download the install file, use one of the various methods to load it to a USB stick, boot off the stick and press the install button. Once it's up and running, connect to the internet, fire up the software package manager (I usually install synaptic first but you can use the in built one), search for opencpn and click to install it.

The advantage that the laptop has over the tablet is that it ties into the instruments. I can see depth, speed, SOG, wind direction & speed, etc, all on the OpenCPN display. You can't get a NMEA feed into a tablet. OpenCPN runs with the C-MAP chart data as well as various raster charts that you can download (the set from LINZ in New Zealand is worth having, it's free and covers most of the Pacific).

My toughbook has fallen off the chart table twice, been thrown around on the chart table and been underwater once as well as numerous drenchings from water coming down the hatchway. No iPad or non-tough laptop will survive that.
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Old 05-23-2014, 02:50 AM   #8
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We have used Toughbooks in the fire service for many years and they are very sturdy. We are currently replacing the 2nd generation CF-19's loaded with Windows 7, with I pads (equipped with lifeproof cases), as they are 1/4 the price and still meets our needs.

You can find deals on refurbished CF-19's and CF-30's (3rd gen), both with Windows 7. If you haven't tried Windows 8 yet, save yourself the pain and "down grade" to 7.

Good luck!
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Old 05-24-2014, 05:36 PM   #9
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I didn't realize you can't get a NMEA feed to a tablet.

We have our NMEA instruments feeding to a little Raspberry Pi ($35 computer on a board) mounted on a bulkhead. The Pi runs something call Raspbian which is a Debian Linux version, btw.

There's a small 5V HDMI monitor with a program David wrote to display the NMEA data (using QT see Qt (software) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) for us in the charthouse. We use the Pi now for anchor alarm as well as anything related to the (Airmar PB100 provided) weather data (we sometimes put alarms on wind speed or direction change, etc). It runs logfiles of all NMEA data and especially useful is a log of the barometric pressures. The Pi also runs as a wifi hotspot for the boat and provides to other computers aboard all the weather station data and the GPS data (for OpenCPN or PolarView charting). The Pi option is very, very low energy (when we keep the monitor turned off it's even lower) and I really like the fact that we can use any computer (as long as our QT compiled C++ program will compile on that particular platform).

David has been using the Pi as a platform to learn how to use QT and to improve our (low-ennergy) access to the NMEA data streams we have available on the boat already. It's working well.

Brenda
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Old 05-25-2014, 12:56 AM   #10
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I know my way around successive Windows platforms reasonably well. I have not had reason to deviate and confess I feel a little intimidated by Linux when I realise most of the people who talk about it, seem to be so very knowledgeable about computers, and seem to speak computerese like a second language.

I have been researching Linux and Ubuntu and am almost convinced to install it on one of the toughbooks. While I am leaning toward a 13' laptop style Toughbook of the CF-29 style ( AIS Receiver Military Toughbook CF 29 MK4 NAV Piloting Charting Charts GPS | eBay ), I have also become a little intrigued by a tiny little bugger called the Toughbook CF-U1. ( Panasonic Toughbook CF U1 | eBay ). These are described as being virtually indestructible and although they have a small screen, they run a full version of Windows 7 Pro.

While I am not necessarily wanting to buy a computer which will double as a football, I can see using one of these, say in conjunction with an AIS transceiver, or indeed as a back-up chart plotter, or take ashore fully functioning computer for surfing at the local Laundromat.

Another interesting option is the Toughbook tablet. Some nice new ones designed for the medical profession are available for not a lot of $s. NEW Panasonic Toughbook CF H1CDJBZ1M Tablet PC Atom 1 86GHz 2GB 80GB WIN7 Dock 092281892894 | eBay

Again these are waterproof, crash proof and run a full version of Win7 which, I imagine could be substituted for Ubuntu.

Meanwhile, things here in Thailand are simply not fun. I cannot understand why so many countries in the world tolerate military dictatorships. Any gathering of more than 5 people is illegal, there is a 10pm-5am curfew across the land, the TV, radio and press is fully censored...the internet is also heavily censored. Outside news is very difficult to come across and, of course opposition to the regime is not tolerated. The former, democratically elected Prime Minister and members of her family have been 'detained', and heavily armed bastards are roaming the streets in hummers. I hope to be back on the boat in Mexico within a few weeks.
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Old 05-25-2014, 04:24 PM   #11
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Back to your boat in MX--yes that sounds good! Regarding linux-- the ubuntu version is very easy to download and install for dual boot and the menu system is easy to follow. It is based on debian linux and debian itself isn't so no-brainer. I'm not a linux guru. I know very little about it, but my husband is the linux guy and he's never far away It sounds like you've got some good choices for your next computer. My notebook is actually pretty delicate and of course by no means waterproof. I use a drybag when taking it in the dingy and we just try to be careful of it otherwise. David sat on it last year (breaking the screen) so I had to learn how to replace a screen. It wasn't hard but it would be better if it hadn't been sat on or it hadn't broken.
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Old 05-29-2014, 03:02 AM   #12
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Sincere thanks to all who have contributed to this, and related threads, and who as a result, have caused me to end a couple of year's procrastination.

I have bought a Panasonic, Military Grade Toughbook CF-29 MK-4. Included in the package is a GPS, an AIS (receive only), Open CPN and charts of the waters between the US border and Panama, and a full suite of charts of the South Pacific from the Americas to New Zealand. Processor is 1.6ghz Intel, and the unit has both keyboard and touchscreen with stylus. Total cost (including a guarantee on the hardware) including delivery to an address in Arizona, US$450.

I am feeling quite happy about all of this.

I will still use my paper charts and transfer fixes from my Furuno GP32 WAAS Navigator, but I guess having a second system is always a good thing and there is the potential for the back-up to become the predominant system.

I'm going to have an ice cream to celebrate.
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Old 06-01-2014, 05:30 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Auzzee View Post

I'm going to have an ice cream to celebrate.
Yum. Do they have cocount flavoured ice cream in Thailand?
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Old 06-06-2014, 12:54 AM   #14
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Sounds like a great deal. They do coconut flavoured ice cream in Rarotonga and it's fantastic. Almost as good as the Tahitian vanilla in Papeete.
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