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Old 08-20-2017, 04:16 PM   #1
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Debugging N2K

I need to dig into my somewhat-kludgy N2K network to see the data flowing. I need specifically to see both the PGNs and the contents of the PGNs.

What is the preferred way of doing this today? Is Actisense still the best relatively-low-cost method or is there a better way?

Thanks.
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Old 08-21-2017, 07:47 AM   #2
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I know of two methods, each with pros and cons.

1) Actisense adapter plus their NMEA Reader software. I don't recall the cost of the adapter, but maybe $200-$300? You can see an inventory of all the devices on the network, and drill down on individual devices. You can also see a list of all the PGNs (messages) from each device, including how frequently they are being sent. And you can create a trace which is helpful for figuring out interactions between devices. Seeing a list of PGNs and their frequency is great because you can see a full inventory for messages present. But you can't tell the exact order of those messages. Capturing a log lets you then go back and see the exact sequence of messages which is often critical to understanding an interaction.

2) Maretron USB100 or IPG100 plus their N2KAnalyze software. Cost is again $200-$300. N2KAnalyse also shows an inventory of devices, and you cna then drill down on any one looking at specific info as well as what messages are sent from each. But it only offers a list of messages that are being sent from each device. You can open up each message and see the data flash by. But there is no provision to capture a trace and examine a specific sequence of messages.

That said, I use N2KAnalyse at least 10 times for every time I use Actisense. I think part of it is reflective of greater familiarity with Maretron, but it also reflects how often a sequential trace has been needed. But when you need that trace, you need it, and it has been vital to nailing down which device is misbehaving, and what it is doing wrong. Unfortunately most vendors just ignore such problem when you report them, but a few do pay attention and fix their issues. For the other devices that haven't been fixed, I have just dumped them and don't recommend them anymore.
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Old 08-21-2017, 08:00 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twistedtree View Post
I know of two methods, each with pros and cons.

1) Actisense adapter plus their NMEA Reader software. I don't recall the cost of the adapter, but maybe $200-$300? You can see an inventory of all the devices on the network, and drill down on individual devices. You can also see a list of all the PGNs (messages) from each device, including how frequently they are being sent. And you can create a trace which is helpful for figuring out interactions between devices. Seeing a list of PGNs and their frequency is great because you can see a full inventory for messages present. But you can't tell the exact order of those messages. Capturing a log lets you then go back and see the exact sequence of messages which is often critical to understanding an interaction.

2) Maretron USB100 or IPG100 plus their N2KAnalyze software. Cost is again $200-$300. N2KAnalyse also shows an inventory of devices, and you cna then drill down on any one looking at specific info as well as what messages are sent from each. But it only offers a list of messages that are being sent from each device. You can open up each message and see the data flash by. But there is no provision to capture a trace and examine a specific sequence of messages.

That said, I use N2KAnalyse at least 10 times for every time I use Actisense. I think part of it is reflective of greater familiarity with Maretron, but it also reflects how often a sequential trace has been needed. But when you need that trace, you need it, and it has been vital to nailing down which device is misbehaving, and what it is doing wrong. Unfortunately most vendors just ignore such problem when you report them, but a few do pay attention and fix their issues. For the other devices that haven't been fixed, I have just dumped them and don't recommend them anymore.
Wow! That is pretty damning picture of N2K you just painted! I was recently thinking about getting a Rose Point Nemo. I have only a little N2K on board and my actisense is just an 0183 multiplexor with USB to the PC. So I have a number of limitations and Nemo would address a lot of them. But it would do nothing about the root cause - crap products from many, if not all vendors, in relation to communication protocols.

I now think I need to wait a bit. Apart from nothing I have being broken, there is the cost. And now you highlight that the real issues are more fundamental. So I would only end up with partial solutions! I do appreciate your honesty here. You've taken a bit of pain for the rest of us on TF with your electronics on your new boat, we appreciate that as well!
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Old 08-21-2017, 01:43 PM   #4
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Wow! That is pretty damning picture of N2K you just painted! I was recently thinking about getting a Rose Point Nemo. I have only a little N2K on board and my actisense is just an 0183 multiplexor with USB to the PC. So I have a number of limitations and Nemo would address a lot of them. But it would do nothing about the root cause - crap products from many, if not all vendors, in relation to communication protocols.

I now think I need to wait a bit. Apart from nothing I have being broken, there is the cost. And now you highlight that the real issues are more fundamental. So I would only end up with partial solutions! I do appreciate your honesty here. You've taken a bit of pain for the rest of us on TF with your electronics on your new boat, we appreciate that as well!
It's not all bad. When it works, N2K is great. The trick is to check carefully when you add new products and make sure they are working correctly. If you do it right away, you can return crappy products which is the only way to send a message to the manufacturers. I've tried to be as public as I can about products that have problems that the manufacturers don't fix. Returning broken products and public humiliation seem to be the only tools we have to encourage vendors. I only wish it were working better....
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