Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekend Electronics Install

I spent the weekend helping Shane with his MAJOR electronics wiring upgrade project on Volare. Ben Wilcox ( who was recently laid off by Hinckley and has set up his own shop in Providence doing boat and high end house cabinetry rebuilt the pilothouse and com station dashboards and also built a few cubby-holes for personal electronics storage and charging. With panels removed we took advantage to lead new video, audio, and a few antenna cables through the boat. I also set up the AOpen mini-PC that I had built for Shane a few weeks ago (right).

After a day of wiring on Saturday which included adding the Port Networks MWB-250 from Alan Spicer which was fairly easy to install except that the LMR-400 to RP-SMA crimp connectors didn't show up on Friday as promised. I bought these connectors to facilitate fitting the junction from the low loss cable to the antenna pigtail in the rail, so we couldn't quite finish putting the wiring away. I had a bit of frustration with the Belkin Router onboard due to limited adjustable settings, but a quick e-mail and return phone call from Alan Spicer later and we had it all squared away. Internet is now pulled in with the high powered radio and antenna and then spread around the boat to 3 computers, iPhones, and any guest computers. Photo of NAV screen with Nobletec to the left.

This shot on the right shows the NMEA boat data (including AIS via a Smart Radio Dual Channel Receiver operating with an active antenna switcher also from SRT) being used by iNavX. Data comes in to an 8 port Serial to USB adapter five of which are used (GPS, Backup GPS, B&G, AIS, Depth). Nobletec combines the data and outputs a combined stream back to the Autopilot as well as a virtual com port which then gets served over the on board wifi network via Fransom GPS Gate. That NMEA stream (including AIS) can then be picked up by onboard laptops or an iPhone. I think iNavX is limited to just a few Targets, but it is still quite helpful iNavX then shows the AIS targets and supports waypoints as well and an amazing bit of Tech if you ask me (confusion came from some "lost" targets shown in red in my other screen shots that Nobletech was still remembering). Still not as amazing as Virtual Computing.

I set up REAL VNC, a Virtual Network Computing program that allows viewing and control of the NAV (or Communications) computer over the network. I could theoretically set this up to work over the larger internet, but don't really want to do that, so it is only available over the on-board intranet network (LAN). The pic to the right is Shane's laptop viewing and controlling Nobletec on the Nav Computer over Wifi. I had only played around with this software a bit before and was amazed at how effective it was when working over a local network (as opposed to over the internet when it tends to be a bit sluggish). Operating the navigation or Radar was fairly seamless, and there are even some free programs for the iPhone (Mocha VNC light and Jaadu VNC light) that allow viewing of the Nav screen or Radar on the phone's screen. We had better luck with Jaadu by the way as Mocha was fairly unstable at the high screen resolution of the Nav computer.

Overall a very successful weekend and Volare now has a state of the art network and computer system with some neat integration features. It also provided me with practice for Visions which will undergo a similar, but less severe upgrade in the coming weeks. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in more information about any of these systems.

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