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Old 05-14-2017, 10:06 AM   #1
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"Free upgrade" expectations...

I find it interesting that in 2017 people are so quick to damn an electronic product, when the manufacturer does not offer what I will call "new functionality" often well after the product comes to market.
In another thread, someone insisted that a manufacturer was remiss because they no longer "supported" the product. In this case the poster apparently wants new functionality, not originally supplied with the product when purchased.
Understanding that a "simple" software download might allow the new functionality to be used on the existing platform I can appreciate the remorse but often the picture is much more complex than what appears on the surface.

Hardware evolves and this is not a trivial matter. Chipsets, memory and other components exist in a here today, gone tomorrow world. Functionality and ability vary with components.

Writing software is not a simple endeavor, especially with the great inter-connectivity we all expect and take advantage of on different levels. Anyone who disputes this likely has not had much contact with PC's in the last 20 years. Who can claim that they have not had simple functionality issues after a software update? It may happen less frequently today than 10 years ago but it still happens all the time on all platforms.

Then there are the surely complex realities of the business who creates and markets the products... Businesses don't tend to make decisions about products haphazardly. There are legal matters, liability issues and a host of considerations to be run through. It is a complex thing people!

Personally, I look at modern electronics as a snapshot in time. As we all know, that reality changes on a seemingly minute to minute basis. When I purchase something, I simply look at the features included and expect nothing else.
I do expect that in this day and age, refinements will be offered to fix the expected "glitches" that are part of all software. I do expect that a company will support (or replace) hardware failures as they happen, within and beyond warranty with a cost to me when beyond... I look for easy to access customer support for those issues I can't solve on my own and I always try to avoid hardware that has been too long in production as the inevitable can only be put off for so long.

Just 10 years ago, software issues with our electronics required that the hardware be sent back to the factory for updating. I uninstalled plotters, pilots, and instruments numerous times and paid for shipping on numerous occasions trying to fix "issues". Today, we all download to a USB or a micro SD card for plug and play updates. That is a huge deal!

20 years ago, if you purchased anything electronic and a new model came out a year later you had zero expectation of a free upgrade. What has changed is the "building blocks" used to manufacturer modern days electronics. Those building blocks are more and more, made up of software.
Why is it that people consider software "free"?
When I get new functionality that I like in a software, I simply think of it as a perk. It's like winning a lottery that I do not play!
Curious,
Bruce

P.S. There is no need to mention brand names here. Every manufacturer has similar issues along these lines!
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Old 05-14-2017, 10:29 AM   #2
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While I generally agree with you, we now live in a world where we expect to be able to add the latest software version to our PC and often are able to upgrade our operating system to the newest version of Windows. For what they want for a 15" MFD compared to a 15" laptop or all in one PC, you would hope there was forward compatibility. Thankfully, all my Garmin old and new is still supported. Hopefully I can squeeze 5 to 10 years out of it.

Ted
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Old 05-14-2017, 10:43 AM   #3
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While I generally agree with you, we now live in a world where we expect to be able to add the latest software version to our PC and often are able to upgrade our operating system to the newest version of Windows. For what they want for a 15" MFD compared to a 15" laptop or all in one PC, you would hope there was forward compatibility.

Yes, but there's another side to that coin. If you had a PC with no wireless capability, no amount of Windows updating will add that. The Windows updates are a good thing, but if you watch those, about 90% (??) are all about improving security by fixing holes they didn't notice the first time.

Some operating system updates add a bit of functionality, but most users don't notice those too much. Users tend to notice updates more when it's at the application level -- in Outlook, for example -- and even then it may or may not be a big deal. I know I'm still using PowerPoint and Excel 2007 version on one machine, 2010 on another, 2013 on a third... and while the various interfacxes are slightly (sometimes greatly) different... I don't see much in the new versions that I can't do in the older versions. I even used Win98SE and Office '95 on one 1998 laptop for about 12 years. Obviously that's all influenced by the things I actually try to do...

But back to plotters and such: I can't think of anything our 2009 plotter won't do that I care about. Wireless might be nice, so I could integrate AC markers right on the plotter... but I can see AC markers on the boat laptop, on the two tablets, and one the two phones... so seeing them on the chartplotter isn't all that important. Another might be touch screen, but I don't really like touch screen in the first place, so the fact our 2009 plotter doesn't have it isn't giving me any heartburn.

And then I think a bunch of the money that drives MFD costs is about daylight visibility, ruggedizing and weatherproofing the chassis, etc. Compare more closely to a military-grade deployable laptop, instead of a standard 1-800-Dell laptop...

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Old 05-14-2017, 10:43 AM   #4
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While I generally agree with you, we now live in a world where we expect to be able to add the latest software version to our PC and often are able to upgrade our operating system to the newest version of Windows. For what they want for a 15" MFD compared to a 15" laptop or all in one PC, you would hope there was forward compatibility. Thankfully, all my Garmin old and new is still supported. Hopefully I can squeeze 5 to 10 years out of it.

Ted
I've discarded more otherwise fine PC's due to their inability to accommodate software that was "required" in business. We did drag a Windows server way, way beyond where it's intended life once but the basic box PC's always seemed to be done before their time. I have no idea where things stand in the last 3 or 4 years as my only PC lives in a virtual world on my Mac Pro.
We never got any of the previous boats electronics to live for more than 3 or 4 years. Lots of hardware failures kept us repairing and purchasing components the entire time.
I'd be thrilled with 10 years out of our current suite!
We will see...
Bruce
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Old 05-14-2017, 10:48 AM   #5
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Yes, but there's another side to that coin. If you had a PC with no wireless capability, no amount of Windows updating will add that. The Windows updates are a good thing, but if you watch those, about 90% (??) are all about improving security by fixing holes they didn't notice the first time.

Some operating system updates add a bit of functionality, but most users don't notice those too much. Users tend to notice updates more when it's at the application level -- in Outlook, for example -- and even then it may or may not be a big deal. I know I'm still using PowerPoint and Excel 2007 version on on machine, 2010 on another, 2013 on a third... and while the various interfacxes are slightly (sometimes greatly) different... I don't see much in the new versions that I can't do in the older versions. Obviously that's influenced by the things I actually try to do...

But back to plotters and such: I can't think of anything our 2009 plotter won't do that I care about. Wireless might be nice, so I could integrate AC markers right on the plotter... but I can see AC markers on the boat laptop, on the two tablets, and one the two phones... so seeing them on the chartplotter isn't all that important. Another might be touch screen, but I don't really like touch screen in the first place, so the fact our 2009 plotter doesn't have it isn't giving me any heartburn.

And then I think a bunch of the money that drives MFD costs is about daylight visibility, ruggedizing and weatherproofing the chassis, etc. Compare more closely to a military-grade deployable laptop, instead of a standard 1-800-Dell laptop...

-Chris
This reminds me of my inlaws approach to plotting electronics. 15 years ago they purchased a laptop with the Windows 2000 operating system and Nobeltec software and charts. That laptop never saw a single update as it never went online and it worked flawlessly for 15 years. We got a call about 8 or 10 years ago when tha laptop battery swelled up and caused the PC to stop working and at my suggestion, they removed the battery and everything returned to normal!
I have great respect for that silly system!
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Old 05-14-2017, 10:55 AM   #6
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This reminds me of my inlaws approach to plotting electronics. 15 years ago they purchased a laptop with the Windows 2000 operating system and Nobeltec software and charts. That laptop never saw a single update as it never went online and it worked flawlessly for 15 years. We got a call about 8 or 10 years ago when tha laptop battery swelled up and caused the PC to stop working and at my suggestion, they removed the battery and everything returned to normal!
I have great respect for that silly system!
Bruce
No chart updates for 15 years I assume?
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Old 05-14-2017, 11:07 AM   #7
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No chart updates for 15 years I assume?
That is the fly in the ointment isn't it?
I believe that they received disc's with updates for a few years but at some point...it was over.
What amazed be was the reliability of the entire thing.
That system is still working today!
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Old 05-14-2017, 11:14 AM   #8
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Bruce, We have gotten into a throw-away world. It costs more to repair things, than to replace. I grew up learning how to repair things, that has been my way of life. Now I find that I am living in a city where I not only can not find the parts I need to repair things. I find that the people in the (parts stores) don't know what I'm trying to get. For example, last week I went to our local electrical supply store looking for a rheostat, the person behind the counter had no idea what that was.
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Old 05-14-2017, 11:21 AM   #9
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Greetings,
Mr. BrB. I suspect you're referring to me as the one wanting "free upgrades". No problem. It's not so much I want something for nothing it's simply that the ONLY information one can input to a Garmin device, including charts, is proprietary information from Garmin and that costs $$. I do not want or require new bells and whistles (functionality), just the charts which as I mentioned, are pretty well available on line.
I know little about electronics but I don't think it would cost Garmin any $$ to allow the end user to change the charts other than the revenue lost by the necessity to purchase their stuff. Again, I understand the profit motive but...
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Old 05-14-2017, 11:32 AM   #10
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It's not so much I want something for nothing it's simply that the ONLY information one can input to a Garmin device, including charts, is proprietary information from Garmin and that costs $$. I do not want or require new bells and whistles (functionality), just the charts which as I mentioned, are pretty well available on line.

They charge for chart updates?

If so, is that for when you have them send an SD card or some such?

No option to do a download yourself for free, to your own whatever-compatible card?

-Chris
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Old 05-14-2017, 11:36 AM   #11
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Greetings,
Mr. BrB. I suspect you're referring to me as the one wanting "free upgrades". No problem. It's not so much I want something for nothing it's simply that the ONLY information one can input to a Garmin device, including charts, is proprietary information from Garmin and that costs $$. I do not want or require new bells and whistles (functionality), just the charts which as I mentioned, are pretty well available on line.
I know little about electronics but I don't think it would cost Garmin any $$ to allow the end user to change the charts other than the revenue lost by the necessity to purchase their stuff. Again, I understand the profit motive but...
Actually, I was not aware that you had this problem and was not referring to you.
Sorry..
I'm not sure I understand your issue and it may be outside the scope of my point.
When we purchased our current suite of electronics we were aware of the cost associated with chart updates. The cost is inline with everything we have experienced in the past 15 years of electronic charting by the way.
There is talk out there of the manufacturer of our gear offering NOAA charts for their product. I look at it this way, if it happens and it performs well without impacting anything else it's a perk. If it is introduced and it slows down the the system or impacts reliability, I'll pass. If it doesn't ever materialize, no big deal, it's inclusion is not the reason I purchased the system.
Make sense?
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Old 05-14-2017, 11:38 AM   #12
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Bruce, We have gotten into a throw-away world. It costs more to repair things, than to replace. I grew up learning how to repair things, that has been my way of life. Now I find that I am living in a city where I not only can not find the parts I need to repair things. I find that the people in the (parts stores) don't know what I'm trying to get. For example, last week I went to our local electrical supply store looking for a rheostat, the person behind the counter had no idea what that was.
Not only do people not understand what you are looking for in parts, they simply have no idea how anything works! Take something apart??? What for?
Kind of sad...
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Old 05-14-2017, 11:44 AM   #13
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We never got any of the previous boats electronics to live for more than 3 or 4 years. Lots of hardware failures kept us repairing and purchasing components the entire time.
I'd be thrilled with 10 years out of our current suite!
We will see...
Bruce
Have a pair of networked Furuno Navnet 1s on my charter boat, that are still going strong after 14 years (maybe 1,500 days of use). My Furuno lorans were over 20 when the government shut the system down. But then I'm still using a PC in my shop with XP as an operating system, so I usually get my money's worth.

Ted
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Old 05-14-2017, 11:46 AM   #14
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I don't think it would cost Garmin any $$ to allow the end user to change the charts other than the revenue lost by the necessity to purchase their stuff. Again, I understand the profit motive but...
There are some unexpected complexities, at least as viewed by the consumer.

If you let a user change files, you introduce a slew of programmed features that are not free to implement.
You need to provide a hardware based I/O path; could be wireless or wired. Remember the 9 pin serial port on all laptops? Well, now its gone from all new laptops. If your product is still designed with serial and not USB, you're stuck.
What happens if the user starts a chart replace and something interrupts that upload? You need to insure error recovery. Could be OS based or some other layer, but that is part of a non-free design.
if you allow a laptop to touch your imbedded code or files, what about the threat of virus'? That is not a no-brainer.
The change of hardware is relentless. In 5 years most everything changes. I think most of us would like our boxes to last over 10 years, but the fast paced, innovative industry is not in that mode. PC's, laptops, cell phones and TV's are not expected to last over 5 years, and they are driving the technology, not the 2% of the "rest".
It's tough...

Last thought. It's so "bad" that there are laws now governing the need for electronic waste reduction. The 10 million cells phones hitting the garbage every month keeps growing.
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Old 05-14-2017, 12:08 PM   #15
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I understand what you are saying Bruce, and basically agree. I have a suite of RM electronics that, for the most part, works just fine. It is the last generation however. While RM will still support it with needed firmware fixes, my electronics are basically locked in place. New RM equipment will not communicate well with the old unless you set it up much as if I wanted to add Garmin, Simrad, or Furuno equipment.

This is disappointing, but I understand the reasons and really wouldn't want a company to stop further development simply to ensure that legacy equipment is still "current".

I do expect to be able to continue to purchase charts for my RM equipment however. The only way to update charts is by purchasing them. I have no problem with that. However if I could no longer purchase them, then suddenly my "working just fine" equipment suddenly becomes next to worthless.

I don't view marine electronics as disposable. I expect them to work, or be repairable, for as long as I want to use it. I know that is unrealistic, but then I am using a cell phone that is 4 years old and my last one was 5 years old. However, I don't think a 15-20 years service life to be too much to ask for marine electronics.

At the same time, I also don't expect RM to make their new generations of equipment backward compatible with my old stuff. I will change out my electronics package when the new features are worth the hugely ridiculous expense of upgrading all.
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Old 05-14-2017, 12:11 PM   #16
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Have a pair of networked Furuno Navnet 1s on my charter boat, that are still going strong after 14 years (maybe 1,500 days of use). My Furuno lorans were over 20 when the government shut the system down. But then I'm still using a PC in my shop with XP as an operating system, so I usually get my money's worth.

Ted
My post about my inlaws system touches on this.
I wonder if anything manufactured today can last 15 or 20 years?
With solder devoid of tin and micro-sized components...
We shall see (at least I hope so!)...
Bruce
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Old 05-14-2017, 12:48 PM   #17
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My post about my inlaws system touches on this.
I wonder if anything manufactured today can last 15 or 20 years?
With solder devoid of tin and micro-sized components...
We shall see (at least I hope so!)...
Bruce
Think they have done a better job sealing electronics. If you look at the cable connections on your new displays, everything is sealed water tight. Keeping the moisture out is most of the battle.

Ted
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Old 05-14-2017, 01:31 PM   #18
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In another thread, someone insisted that a manufacturer was remiss because they no longer "supported" the product. In this case the poster apparently wants new functionality, not originally supplied with the product when purchased.
That "someone" would be me. Several times. It's kind of a pet peeve.

Here's the rub. One year I bought a nice system for, say $1,200. The next year they incremented a digit on the model number and declared my nearly identical, and still very new, system "legacy".

By nearly identical, I mean the only visible change was the addition of a jack for an external camera. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that maybe they added a faster processor and more memory. The case, display screen and all hardware is otherwise identical.

I certainly don't expect to be able to hook a camera up to my unit. I don't expect it to work as fast as the a new one. I don't expect it to store as much data as a new one.

But the operating system is the same. Same menus, same buttons, same user interface all around. The same data card (chart and overlays) works on the new and old. The same software fixes get applied to both.

EXCEPT they've specifically chosen NOT to apply the patch which reads and displays AC data to my unit. It can display other data from the card just fine.

I refused to pay $1,200, and throw away a (then) two-year-old unit which worked fine, just to get a new data field in some table in the firmware.

Support, including feature updates, for recently purchased hardware is not so unusual in many tech industries. Especially with expensive equipment in this price range. It struck me as pure greed on the manufacturer's part to dismiss me as a customer simply because I had purchased my unit 12 months ago.

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They charge for chart updates?

If so, is that for when you have them send an SD card or some such?

No option to do a download yourself for free, to your own whatever-compatible card?

-Chris
Yes. They take the data that NOAA produces and makes available for free, convert it to a proprietary format, and sell it. You can buy a pre-loaded SD card or download it from their web site, but either way you pay about the same. There's usually a small discount for an update to an existing card, but it's not much.

Did I mention the word "greed"?
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Old 05-14-2017, 08:06 PM   #19
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I think the best way to deal with this is to vote with your spending/purchasing.

Some vendors add features as fast as they can, revise product models quickly, and obsolete models quickly.

Other vendors are slower and more deliberate adding features, sell models for many years, and support models a long time after they stop selling them.

Some vendors only support one or more proprietary chart formats and require that you purchase then and pay for updates.

Other vendors support standard chart formats and provide charts for free when the chart source (like NOAA) is free, but charge where the chart source costs (like in Canada).

It's your pick which of these products to select and buy. I agree with DHays that you should not expect any new features after you have bought a nav product. If you get some, and often you do, be happy. But I would expect continued chart updates for a very long time, and bug fixes and repair services for a very long time, though after a year or two of no new features, there shouldn't be new bugs either.
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Old 05-14-2017, 10:08 PM   #20
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I'm a dummy when it comes to computers and most electronics. When my nav instruments on the boat need to be upgraded I have the dealer do it and gladly pay him. I support him and he helps me out. Being computer illerate I'm at a disadvantage.

The only piece of nav electronics that I had that was great for many years was my Fruruno Loran, like Ted it hurt me to turn it off forever. All my fishing secret spits were lost. Damn.
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