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Old 06-27-2010, 01:49 AM   #1
redbopeep's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2007
Home Port: Washington DC
Vessel Name: SV Mahdee
Posts: 3,236

Well, I've been nursing my favorite little Sony Vaio notebook computer along for many years now. Built on the R505 platform it was small and did everything I needed. However, the HD died, I couldn't get a new HD working and though I was very happy with the Windows XP Pro...my inability to get the drivers and everything loaded up on a new HD made me re-install the old one...crank, crank, it's about to die again...and think of "other options". We use a little Nokia N810 for charts and websurfing so we weren't really w/o another low power option but I wanted another notebook/laptop.

I bought an inexpensive emachines E525 that is really loaded--for a low $349 at the Super Walmart. It was loaded with Windows7. That's where the problems started--my internet access is via my celphone "phone as a modem" plan with Sprint. A plan that is no longer offered to new customers (it was such a good deal!) but gives me high speed internet access on the EVDO/3G networks of Verizon and Sprint. Ummm...the Palm Treo 700P that I use doesn't have drivers for the new 64 bit hardware and Palm (nor Sprint) are planning on offering drivers for the USB link required for me to use Phone as a modem (PAM). So...tech support at Sprint suggested I try putting XP on the new machine. Well, I decided that was silly if I was going to do another OS, I'd go all out and do something "different". When I realized that Windows 7 wouldn't even recognize my little puck GPS, I really got frustrated. It seemed that anything USB needed a special 64 bit driver for this combination of machine and Windows 7. We have a desktop with 64 bit hardware running Debian OS but I leave the heavy-duty computing to Hubby! So, while we were stuck on a driving trip in Lemoore CA, I downloaded (on the hotel's wireless network) a pre-compiled version of Linux Ubuntu (based on Debian, but easier for computer lightweights like me to deal with) and installed it on my new emachine laptop. A few more downloads of various freeware and one $24 product (USBModem) and I was up and running with Ubuntu and all my familiar programs. Amazing. The only thing I can't do is use a particular online trading program which requires Internet Explorer since IE runs very slowly here. Other browsers work great though.

It was all easier than can be imagined. And having just put OpenCPN on the machine, I'm feeling quite "spiffy" for sure.

Fair winds,

"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

What we're doing - The sailing life aboard and the Schooner Chandlery.

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Old 06-27-2010, 11:36 AM   #2
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I switched my main nav computer from XP with SoftwareOnBoard and CMAP to Ubuntu/OpenCPN some time ago and haven't looked back.

= New South Wales, Queensland,
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Old 06-27-2010, 12:37 PM   #3
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Oh, goody, something new to try. If Ubuntu will recognize my hockey puck GPS on the 64-bit computer, oh. glory be, I'm back in business.

Brenda, my VAIO R505 has had two or three hard drive replacements. The most recent was last year when we were bringing the boat south again. The hard drive started failing before we reached Virginia, so when we were approaching Norfolk I called ahead to a computer repair place to arrange for a new hard drive cloned off the old one. The fellow told me it would take three days. Well, that was not possible, so we struggled along (big deal, ICW we don't need electronic charts, it's just fun to fiddle with) until we reached Jacksonville, FL, our destination. I called a local fellow there who came by, picked up the computer and brought it back on his way home that afternoon. No Big Deal, he said. Nice guy.

Anyway, the new 64-bit computer is really nice, and I like most of the new features with Windows 7, but the GPS is the problem. We have a little Garmin hand-held that I could probably use, but Peter likes it to tell him what kind of current we're riding with or fighting - makes a big difference when our only source of propulsion is our diesel engines.
In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

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Old 06-27-2010, 01:57 PM   #4
Join Date: Sep 2009
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I have Ubuntu nearly all of my computers (exception is the one with sparc64 processors), and it solidly rocks!
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Old 06-29-2010, 03:09 AM   #5
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Home Port: Washington DC
Vessel Name: SV Mahdee
Posts: 3,236

JeanneP, I gave up on getting the puck gps working on 7 because I knew I needed to do something more serious about my Palm Treo which involved a different OS. There are several drivers you might try. Most USB-serial converters us a Prolific chipset so you might be able to find a driver...then again...I don't know.

When I plugged the GPS into the machine after booting up in Ubuntu Linux, it immediately was able to see the GPS signal, but we had to set the TTY speed to be 9600 baud for this particular GPS. However, some puck GPS run at 4800 baud. That is the NMEA 0183 standard speed which is required by some things--for example we had to buy a puck/mouse GPS (for our Standard Horizon Matrix AIS radio) which would output the 4800 baud in order for the AIS function of the radio to work properly. OK, I digress. The point is that you might be able to get a driver for it.

Else, you can download Ubuntu and pretty much automatically and very easily set up a dual boot on your Windows 7 machine. I did it while watching a movie in a hotel room. It was no brainer.

Then you can play with it. Not so easy.

There's a steep learning curve and though there are GUI interface things in the Ubuntu system, it's best if you can handle doing things in a terminal window (like a DOS window). I'm lucky because though I've refused to do things in Linux, David is a Debian Linux guru, so all I have to do is say "how do I..." and he gives me the terminal window commands to do whatever I need. Some downloading of stuff required to get the chart software working and some more stuff to get the computer all "Brenda friendly." I'm very happy that I'm doing this and think that as strange as the new Windows OS's have been of late that I'll be a happy camper to use a different OS.
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

What we're doing - The sailing life aboard and the Schooner Chandlery.

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