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Old 02-07-2015, 01:22 PM   #1
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Change out of electronics on my boat

I've started the process of removing all the Simrad electronics from my nearly new boat and am replacing them with mostly Furuno gear. I've started a blog thread at Adventures of Tanglewood: The Wall of Shame, and hopefully my experience can save others similar aggravation.

The problems have to do entirely with bugs in the Simrad products. Some are just nuisance bugs, but others render the equipment unsuitable for it's intended use.

I want to be expressly clear that none of this reflects poorly on Nordhavn, who had nothing to do with the selection and installation of the electronics. Nor does it reflect poorly on my electronics installer, Performance Marine. They have supported me every step of the way, did an excellent installation that has been immune to any criticism despite attempts to blame the problems in that, and have been instrumental in getting this problem solved.

I, and I alone picked the Simrad gear that I built into the boat to begin with. I even bought several key pieces ahead of time and bench tested them before committing to that path. And to this day I really like the overall Simrad suite of electronics, the user interface, and many of the features they offer. But my testing did not surface the bugs that have ultimately made the system unsuitable.

I think Simrad is committed to fixing at least the worst of the bugs, but I need a working boat now, so have started the change out. Needless to say, this has been a very costly mistake on my part.
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Old 02-07-2015, 04:30 PM   #2
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Oh man , that sucks TT. The electronics suites are expensive enough the first time around without having to do a new boat swap. Good for you for having the fortitude to change it out for what you want.
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Old 02-07-2015, 08:49 PM   #3
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I just read your blog.

Wow! I'm really sorry the Simrad gear didn't work out! Its not just the dollars lost, its the time.

Did I read correctly that you are not using any MFD's? Or is that for the backup systems?
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Old 02-07-2015, 08:59 PM   #4
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I just read your blog.



Wow! I'm really sorry the Simrad gear didn't work out! Its not just the dollars lost, its the time.



Did I read correctly that you are not using any MFD's? Or is that for the backup systems?

He isn't using any MFD's. All stand alone. Main Plotter is CE, which i think is on a Mac Mini.
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Old 02-07-2015, 09:00 PM   #5
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I will read your blog a little later, sounds interesting if somewhat disheartening. Brave decision.

I was intending to use Simrad products for my refit, and even bought an NSS 8 as the start of the process. But when ordering the Simrad AP the supplier asked me if I was really sure I wanted to go that way. I asked why and they said they were getting a large number of Simrad products back as warranty returns.

So I went Furuno + Nobletec. I'm pretty happy with it, but ought to have got the TZ MFD instead of the NN3D. The latter is not a very good product, and I think TT already knows that.

So I ended up fitting the Simrad NSS 8 to my tender, with a transducer. It works fairly well there. But at times it the depth sounder wont work until I reboot the unit. Not very nice, but tolerable on tender. I can also use the NSS 8 in my cockpit for fishing, and I ran a spare power lead to the pilothouse. If all other nav gear fails I can just sit the NSS 8 next to the front window and use it.

Quite a bit later in the evening....

So, I have now had dinner with the family and have read the "Wall of Shame". Since I can still edit my before dinner post I'll just add to it. I give you full marks for patience and persistence with the Simrad saga. I also have to give credit to Simrad for doing the right thing by you.

The only comment I would add is re: ARPA with NN3D, and how I have been using it. I just acquire the radar target on the radar screen, and it then shows up on the Nobletec nav screen. And I usually have radar+nav side by side on my 24" screen. The thing is, by putting the cursor on the (ARPA) target on the nav screen it shows all the info just as it would for an AIS target. ie I can get some of the stuff that you pointed out is missing from the radar display itself. Including point of closest approach etc. So I will now use ARPA a lot more than I previously indicated on TT's ARPA thread.
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Old 02-07-2015, 09:06 PM   #6
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All of this talk of problems with MFD's tells me I need to keep my old FURUNO NAVNET VX2 a while longer.

I have three displays, two gps sensors, two black box sounders and have never even had he thing hiccup, in something like 8 years of use.

I WAS really thinking its about time for an upgrade!
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Old 02-07-2015, 09:10 PM   #7
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All of this talk of problems with MFD's tells me I need to keep my old FURUNO NAVNET VX3 a while longer.



I have three displays, two gps sensors, two black box sounders and have never even had he thing hiccup, in something like 8 years of use.

Yes, they were the first MFDs to hit the market and are still IMO the most bulletproof system for recreational use available. Just the fact they were released in 2001, and are still made today is a statement of that. I'm thinking of getting a used Vx2 BB system to replace my simrad standalone radar. Either the Vx2 or a newer standalone 1945.
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Old 02-07-2015, 09:17 PM   #8
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Tough descion to bail on Simrad after particularly the mental $s invested.

A question though, the new configuration seems less integrated, more stand alone than the original configuration. Why the change?
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Old 02-07-2015, 09:17 PM   #9
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That's right, no MFD or black box equivalent. I don't need one to display radar, and I don't need one to operate my fish finder. So that leaves charting, routes, tides and currents, weather, and driving the auto pilot. Coastal Explorer is vastly superior to any MFD I've encountered for all those functions, so the MFD serves no purpose other than taking up space and power. So it's dead to me.

This experience has really caused me to do a 180 on my view of integrated systems. It's not that integrated systems are a bad idea - just the opposite. The problem is that the companies building them seem to be making tradeoffs between new functions and quality that is consistent with consumer electronics, not what I think is required for navigation equipment. Integrated is great, but it has to work and be rock-solid reliable. Otherwise I got no use for it.

With more discrete systems, if one turns out to be crap, you can dump it without much collateral impact. With integrated systems, it's really all or nothing as exemplified by my Simrad situation. If the Simrad radar worked properly, I would probably be out happily cruising and only minorly annoyed by all the other bugs, and willing to wait for fixes. But it's integration has contributed to my decision to remove it all. Once you start pulling on the thread, the whole cloth comes unraveled.

To Simrad's credit, they took the gear back, but it took quite a bit to make that happen. But I'm still out all the labor costs associated with a de-install and with another install. Plus, as you say, all the time. I probably have the equivalent of 2 months full-time into this of my own time. I should send Simrad a bill.
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Old 02-07-2015, 09:41 PM   #10
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What I have found with some Telecom products is that manufacturers are so determined to get their new wiz bang box to the market that they don't work out the bugs before hand.

Then the customers pay the price in endless software updates.

The Simrad gear is probably in that catagory. It will pprobably be excelllent equipment once they get the bugs worked out. That is if they kkeep it on the market long enough.

The problem iis that you became part of their development program. You probably have more value in your time than the value of the boxes you're replacing.
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Old 02-07-2015, 09:47 PM   #11
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When I put electronics in my Grand Banks, everyone said go Furuno, so I did. But all the Furuno lovers were using VX2s, not NN3D. I had 4 NN3D MFDs networked togther and they mostly worked, but were painfully slow to operate (I'd wait 2-5 seconds for a button press to get recognized), and would crash at the most inopportune times. This left me not so crazy about Furuno.

Then the TZ came out and I talked to several early adopters, and it was a complete train wreck. This plus my NN3D experience left me sour on Furuno and was a big part of my dive into Simrad.
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Old 02-07-2015, 09:49 PM   #12
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What I have found with some Telecom products is that manufacturers are so determined to get their new wiz bang box to the market that they don't work out the bugs before hand.

Then the customers pay the price in endless software updates.

The Simrad gear is probably in that catagory. It will pprobably be excelllent equipment once they get the bugs worked out. That is if they kkeep it on the market long enough.

The problem iis that you became part of their development program. You probably have more value in your time than the value of the boxes you're replacing.
Bingo!
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Old 02-07-2015, 11:21 PM   #13
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My two NN3s have been bullet proof, but I do not integrate to other systems with them, only talking to NN3 direct inputs (radar, AIS, depth sounder, built in plotter, Sirius Weather, cameras) via the Hub 101. Nobeltec is kept separate on a laptop as is Simrad AP.

As a radar, NN3 is very good. Split screens with different ranges comes in handy.

An issue that remains, be very careful if you have multiple NN3s as to which is the master and which the slave when starting up and shutting down.
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Old 02-14-2015, 12:06 PM   #14
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I just finished a blog entry detailing the radar issues that I encountered. Anyone contemplating the purchase of a radar should read it. I mistakenly assumed that 60 year old technology would be more or less the same among the major vendors. Big mistake.

Adventures of Tanglewood: Problems with Simrad/Navico radar
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Old 02-14-2015, 03:16 PM   #15
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Wow. That unstable ARPA vector reminds me of a problem I had with a new-to-me boat fitted with an early 90s vintage Raymarine RADAR. Turned out the only heading sensor in the system didn't talk to anything but the autopilot. At least there was a solution to the problem.

As you say, 25 years later this sort of thing shouldn't be showing up in navigation equipment.

I'm deeply disappointed that this is happening to Simrad equipment. Simrad would be my second choice after Furuno. Raymarine will not be back on the list until they figure out whether they're building nav equipment or entertainment systems.

Unfortunately Furuno isn't immune either. I've had a high end sounder go back three times for software problems. Hopefully it's not related to their decision to use embedded Windows as the OS. At least it's just one box out of several, and there's an antique vacuum tube display sounder as backup. I'm going to be really annoyed though if it dies and I end up swinging the lead off the bow.
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Old 02-14-2015, 03:22 PM   #16
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Frustrating indeed....I guess my 25+ yr old Furuno 1800 harkens back to simpler times.
It doesn't do all that fancy stuff, and at this point in time i don't need it to. In contemplating an update I'll be looking carefully at specs and reviews. Thanks for the info..
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Old 02-14-2015, 05:53 PM   #17
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Peter-after you mentioned the Simrad issues several weeks ago, I talked to a neighbor who is a mathematician and computer engineer at the UW specializing in "smart" robot development. He was a bit intrigued with the Simrad problem. According to him, robots use a lot of the same vector math to do what it is they do. He said the programming needed to track two moving objects, develop a track and speed along that track is not all that complex ("complex in his world and in my world are two entirely different concepts). He noted that the military does this extremely well in its weapons targeting. He thought that Simrad should easily have been able to develop the software needed to do the calculations. Apparently, it is based on the changing angles, over time, of the return signals to the radar. To him at least, that is pretty basic trigonometry. He said the key is the accurate ID of the return signal as being from the target and the accurate measurement of the signal angle change over time (very small time segments, milliseconds). In short, if the sensing hardware is not up to snuff, the trig algorithms yield bad results and the jumping around of the vector line on the display.

Of course, I only understood about 25% of what he said but it sounded good to me!
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Old 02-14-2015, 06:43 PM   #18
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I remember enough of my high school trigonometry to agree that it's not a rocket science problem to solve. In radar school we learned how to do it nothing more than a ruler and grease pencil. All you need are two accurate range and bearing fixes on the target, and your own speed and course. From that you can calculate the target's relative motion, true motion, CPA, and TCPA. Basically everything that ARPA does. For this reason, I expect they just have a bug, not a lack of knowledge of how to solve the problem. Their only comment to me was that it wasn't a simple source selection problem, and hence would take some time to fix. Beyond that it's anyone's guess what's going wrong, and even how well they understand the problem so far.

It's also worth noting that the 10kw open array radar is actually a JRC device. JRC, (Japan Radio Corp) is a very credible vendor. Also, the image that the radar paints is really quite good. So I don't think the problem is from lack of target identification and location. I would guess it's an issue in how Simrad has interfaced everything together. After all, the problem exists equally with the 10KW JRC radar, and the Navico 4G radar, so it's in an area common to both radars.
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Old 02-14-2015, 08:07 PM   #19
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Change out of electronics on my boat

These issues are really disturbing. Fortunately the suite of "E" on my boat works well for my purposes, but isn't high end stuff, with a lot of digital and software issues.

I discussed your problems with my former Hydroacoustics scientist (former as I'm retired--he is not). We discussed all the different problems we had with software and other issues relating to obtaining data from Biosonics and HTI hydroacoustics systems. Troubleshooting was routine and in so many instances we were beta testing the equipment in in situations the suppliers' had not had the opportunity to do so. These were PC based systems and a change in operating systems (Windows) or computer hardware often resulted in major issues that took considerable time to resolve.

Every time you go to a trade show, the people you talk to are sales people. They are in the business of selling stuff...not developing it. At least with Bisonics, Sound Metrics and HTI, we had access to their developers and technicians to resolve issues. People who actually build the units. Probably more difficult with Simrad's Yachting division.


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Old 02-14-2015, 08:29 PM   #20
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To me one of the hall marks of a great technology company is when they jump all over a problem when it surfaces. Rose point comes to mind. Their product, Coastal Explorer, is largely trouble free, but when I report issues they jump all over it and quickly get to the bottom of it. ABT is another example of a more hardware-oriented company with a leave-no-stone-unturned attitude.

On the other hand, crappy companies will dodge and deflect issues, and only address them reluctantly when backed into a corner.
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