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Old 02-18-2019, 09:57 PM   #1
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Electronics upgrade and integration update

Hi all,

Many thanks to the forum users who helped me get organized for my most recent trip to the boat. I did (mostly) complete the planned electronics upgrade and integration, but there are a couple of minor loose ends. This note is just an update for anyone it might help.

Recall that the "end game" was to integrate what I had, and add in a Simrad 4G radar and OpenCPN-based plotter, as well as support for a Wi-Fi tablet to run OpenCPN (mostly as a toy). A second OpenCPN PC is planned for the lower helm.

My new-to-me boat came equipped as follows:
-- Raymarine (RM) C120 Classic 12" display + RM GPS
-- RM DSM-300 + B744V Depth+Temp+Speed
-- RM Z195 Rotavecta Wind transducer
-- ACU-200 + p70r control head + rudder indicator + wireless smart controller autopilot

I added the following:
-- Standard Horizon GX2200 internal AIS+GPS VHF radio
-- EM-Trak A100 Class A AIS transciever
-- Simrad 4G radar + RI10 interface
-- Modpul Miniplex-3Wi-N2K NMEA-0183/NMEA-2000-WiFi-SeaTalk bridge
-- Netgear AC-100 switch/wi-fi router
-- Lenovo 610s mini-pc
-- Xenarc 1029GNH outdoor touchscreen display
-- Raymarine i70 wind display
-- USB GPS antenna

Shortly I'll add a 2nd permanant hard-wired unit for the lower helm, but I need to add controls to the lower helm first. They were apparently never connected in the boat.

The "main" data bus in the boat is the Raymarine SeaTalk-NG. It is natively connected to the autopilot, control head, rudder sensor, EV-1 sensor core, and wind display.

The C120, GPS antenna, and wireless autopilot smart controller are SeaTalk-1. They are connected as a stub to the Seatalk-NG bus via a Raymarine SeaTalk-1:SeatalkNG bridge.

The Simrad 4G radar connects to the RI10 interface box that box, in turn, connects to both an ethernet port on the back of the WiFi router and also to the SeaTalk-NG bus. Ethernet cables were made according to the OpenCPN BR24 Radar Plug-In manual. The SimNet output from the RI10 was connected to the Seatalk_NG bus using a store-bought converter cable.

The AIS transciever gets various input data via NMEA-0183. The VHF radio puts out AIS, DSC, and GPS data via NMEA-0183.

The Seatalk-1, SeaTalk-NG, NMEA-0183 and NMEA 2000 came together at the MiniPlex-3Wi-N2K bridge, which alsobridged the data to a USB port for the PC and to Wi-Fi. The WiFi interface was made a DHCP client of the Netgear AC1200.

For convenience, I used the AIS output from the VHF radio to feed the network, but sent various data back from the network to the AIS transceiver so it could send it out with the dynamic data.

In the end, "everything" basically worked. The data is exchanged across the whole system. The fixed OpenCPN plotter up top can display 2-ranges of radar, one overlayed onto the charts as well as any of the AIS data as virtual instruments. The tablet gets the radard data and AIS data via Wi-Fi and can do the same. It all works really nicely.

The old C120 Classic is reduced to a full-time fishfinder and backup plotter.

There are, of course, a small few exceptions:
-- I have four sources of GPS data. I haven't yet set up the routing to know how OpenCPN is managing the multiple data sources: EV-1, VHF radio, C120's GPS, cheap USB GPS plugged into plotter. I really should know the answer to this. What I do know is that I can unplug them until I just have one and OpenCPN works.

-- Although I'm getting GPS location data from multiple sources floating around, the satellite status information doesn't seem to be making it through to the wireless unit. I haven't investigated. I just know it is showing up on OpenCPN's dashboard only on the one host that has the USB GPS unit locally.

-- I got the Lenovo 610s because it seemed to be compatible with Lenovo's DC laptop power adapter. But, although they use the same rectangular connector, that doesn't seem to be the case. It rejected the "Brand X" Lenovo adapter I bought for it, complaining that it wasn't powerful enough. I ended up putting a point-of-use inverter on it while ordering a DC-DC 12V->20V boost converter that I hope will become the permanent answer. We'll see how that works when I get it.

When I add the lower unit in a few weeks, I plan to attach it to the SeatalkNG network via an ActiSense NGT-1 and also up to one of the Wi-Fi routers's hard ethernet ports for radar. I'll probably also give it one of the BrandX USB GPS units for redundancy. I'll probably use a Elo 1515L touch panel for the display, as I did in my last boat.

But, for right now, I have a weatherproof, touch, daylight visible 10" OpenCPN panel up top as well as a Wi-Fi OpenCPN tablet. Both integrate Radar with dual-range, MARPA, etc as well as all of the AIS stuff and autopilot. All the data (NMEA-0183, NMEA-2000, Seatalk-1, SeaTalk-NG, and SimNet is all bridges together, and delivered by Wi-Fi and USB.

Attached are a couple of pictures, one of the fixed unit and the other from the Wi-Fi laptop. They are running simultaneously. Notice the two different radar ranges, a Simrad 4G feature supported by the OpenCPN BR24 radar plug in. The two photos show different subsets of the sensor data displayed as virtual instruments, just because of what I'd selected.

Cheers -- and thanks for all your help a few weeks back.

-Greg
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Old 02-19-2019, 02:49 AM   #2
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Great update! The mostly successful integration is evidence of the hard work and thorough thought you put into prior planning.
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Old 02-19-2019, 03:11 AM   #3
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GregBrannon: Thanks!

All:

Another few of notes...

1) Netgear AC1200

The unit comes with a 120VAC to 12VDC adapter. To power the unit on the boat, I just cut the cable near the connector and spliced it to some marine grade wire by crimping and connected it to the boat's 12V at a breaker-protected switch.

2) The MiniPlex-3 unit turned out to be way less painful than I expected from something uniting so many types of data. In some sense, it was the magic sauce for me. The only configuration I did was to set a new password, set the input types and speeds, and set it up as a DHCP client for the main Wi-Fi access point vs as its own access point (and, I only did that after testing it by itself, as its own access point, without making that change, so the only real needed config was to set the NMEA-0183 port parameters)

3) EmTrak A-100 Class A (Commercial) AIS

Also, another thing that just came to mind to note. The Em-Trak A100 Class A AIS has no power button/switch. It is designed to be "Always on". Transmission can be turned on and off. But, there is no top level "power button". I'm guessing this is because it is intended for commercial use.

In my case, I don't want the power drain when it isn't in use, so I added a switch in-line with it, right next to it. This was something that surprised me and was probably my only "West Marine run" for the install. I had everything else shipped to the boat in advance.

I connected the unit to its own antenna, a Shakespeare 8500. I don't think one is supposed to use a splitter for Class A units. And, even on my last boat when I installed a Class B transceiver, I used an independent antenna rather than a splitter. The antennas turn out to be much less expensive than low-loss splitters and from my perspective, add redundancy and robustness rather than adding extra things that can fail. In a pinch, if my primary antenna fails, I can unscrew the antenna from the AIS and move it to the nearby radio, etc.

For those wanting a Class A AIS (for whatever reason), this unit still seems like a great bargain to me, even after having installed it. It was $749 from West Marine. It was very heavy and solid feeling, including button/dial feel and connector screw down feel, etc, has all of the commercial features like a pilot port (which I'm not using), a wide variety of data I/O connections, etc. And, most importantly to me, a 5 year warranty. West Marine's $749 price still seems very, very low compared to anything else in the Class A space. I still don't understand it:

-- https://www.westmarine.com/buy/em-tr...iver--12333944
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Old 02-19-2019, 06:52 AM   #4
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Great write-up, thanks. Photos would be good in due course. Did you consider RosePoint's NEMO product in your planning ?
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:05 AM   #5
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Hi Aquabelle,

I did take a look at the NEMO. I think it would have worked just as well.

What mostly bumped me in the direction of the Miniplex-3 is that it has a USB interface and I wanted the data to be able to flow directly into the primary navigation PC (upper helm) with as few moving parts as possible, so I wanted it to go in directly from the unit rather than in via an Ethernet switch. Since there is only one USB out, the lower helm will get it via an NGT-1. But, for redundancy, it'll also be able to get it wirelessly or via the hard ethernet switch. I'll install it that way and then just diable the ports in OpenCPN in case I need them. The picture of the NEMO shows what looks to be a USB port, but it wasn't mentioned in the instructions or specs, so i didn't want to take the chance.

The other thing I liked about the MiniPlex is the SeaTalk-1 interface. Using it will enables me to remove the existing SeaTalk-1 to SeaTalk-NG bridge -- and I like fewer moving parts. Having said that, I did this in testing over the weekend, but forgot to do it "for keeps" when I wired everything in. So, for the moment, my set-up is actually as I described it, with the Raymarine STNG<->ST1 converter still in place.

The last factor for me was that the NEMO was $550 vs $420 for the Miniplex 1137 (Miniplex-3Wi-N2K) and seemed more readily available, so it just seemed cheaper and less likely to encounter shipping delays that would have caused it to miss me at the boat and delay my party.

Interestingly enough, the MiniPlex is available with /either/ USB /or/ Ethernet. but, there isn't a version with Ethernet and USB. So, if one wants USB and network connectivity, it is apparently Wi-Fi, which is why I went that way rather than hard wire.

But, the NEMO is nice for Coastal Explorer users, because they can configure it through CE without a separate set-up utility. It is just that, for me, I use OpenCPN for trip planning, so that wasn't a benefit for me.

In any case, from the specs, it looks like it was mostly splitting hairs. I think the NEMO would have gotten the job done every bit as well
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:52 AM   #6
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Good stuff, thanks. When you are ready I think quite a few folks here will be interested in your choice of displays; there's been many posts over the years about non-MFD monitors, brightness and general toughness (. I have myself looked at the specs of the Elo 1515L....but I am thinking about mounting whatever I go with in portrait mode as that would give a better views of the course ahead.)
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Old 02-19-2019, 10:26 AM   #7
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Nice job. I'm curious what you are feeding the AIS for heading, and whether the AIS has any background alarms? In particular, are you feeding the AIS HDT which a true heading, or HDG?
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Old 02-19-2019, 01:14 PM   #8
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Displays

Aquabelle,

On my last boat's lower helm I had a set-up similar to the one I'll soon have on this boat with a touch screen. I've attached a couple of photos. They aren't the best photos, but all I've got.

I originally used an Angle POS 15" touch screen. It was junk. It didn't last very long before it started having touch screen problems and there wasn't enough of an adjustment on the brightness, so it was (literally) blindingly bright at night. During the day, it was plenty bright for indoors, but not enough for outdoors. It also wasn't waterproof, etc, for outdoor use. But, to be clear, it was, in my view, junk (not durable).

-- https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007948V24

I replaced it with the Elo 1515L. It was much heavier, sturdier feeling, and lasted. It was also plenty bright for indoors, but like the Angel, it was not bright enough for outdoors -- and wasn't waterproof for outdoor use, anyway. But, for the intended use on the indoor helm, it worked great. I'm going to get another one for the lower helm on this boat.
-- https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002HNCUBA

My old boat had a custom integrated PC on the flybridge. It was a Maptech/i3 unit and had a 1500 nit brightness. It was really nice -- but those aren't being made anymore. They were custom built.

So, for the new boat's flybridge, I went with the Xenarc 1029GNH. At 10.1" it is a smaller screen than I wanted. And, the native resolution is less than the advertised resolution. And, it was only 1000 nits. And, the mounting ring is sold separately (vs the mounting bracket and mounting stand, which come with it), despite being shown in the Amazon ad. But, it is fully waterproof IP67/NEMA4 for use outdoors. I obviously don't yet know how it will last -- but it feels very solid and works well, so far. It obviously isn't as bright as the 1500nit display I previously had, nor is it as bright as I'd like. But, it is fully useful in full daylight.
-- https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079QCJ6Y1

Cheers!
-Greg
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Old 02-19-2019, 01:20 PM   #9
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TwistedTree,

The EmTrak A100 gets its dynamic data from the Raymarine EV1, which seems to be sending over an HDT, which is what the A100 requires.

The MiniPlex-3 does have the ability to "make" an HDT from COG, among other things. So, even if I didn't have it from the EV1, I'd be able to feed it an approximation in disguise. Also note that the Em-Trak A100 doesn't require the HDT for things to work. If one is missing, it just sends the dynamic data without one. Since I'm not a mandated user, that would actually be fine for me -- but I like that it is getting the heading, because that could be helpful to anyone I might be communicating with w.r.t. crossing paths.

Cheers!
-Greg
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Old 02-19-2019, 03:47 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by gkesden View Post
TwistedTree,

The EmTrak A100 gets its dynamic data from the Raymarine EV1, which seems to be sending over an HDT, which is what the A100 requires.

The MiniPlex-3 does have the ability to "make" an HDT from COG, among other things. So, even if I didn't have it from the EV1, I'd be able to feed it an approximation in disguise. Also note that the Em-Trak A100 doesn't require the HDT for things to work. If one is missing, it just sends the dynamic data without one. Since I'm not a mandated user, that would actually be fine for me -- but I like that it is getting the heading, because that could be helpful to anyone I might be communicating with w.r.t. crossing paths.

Cheers!
-Greg

Thanks. I've got (had) the same AIS, but Comnav branded. If I dropped out HDT, it would send blank data, but it would also alarm and remain alarmed until the data came back. You could ignore the alarm and carry on, but I'm too OCD to do that. Would you know if yours alarms too? I'm pretty sure it's required by the AIS spec.


Interesting that the miniplex will let you create HDT from COG. It really shouldn't. Creating it from magnetic heading and applying variation to get true heading would be fine, but COG is really something quite different. That's why the AIS reports both separately.


BTW, mine also alarmed if ROT was missing.
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Old 02-19-2019, 04:09 PM   #11
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Twisted tree,

When I tested mine before integration, it did alarm when the data was missing. Once I acknowledged the alarm, the alarm remained in a list of alarms, but with a check mark next to it. But the acknowledgement appeared to be "permanent" rather than a "snooze" in the sense that I don't remember it alarming again. Having said that, maybe after some longer period of time the alarm would have reset itself and I just didn't leave it in this state long enough to notice.

Once I integrated things, and it got the data, and then I shut off the rest of the system and it lost the data -- it did alarm and require dismissal again. So, it somehow did reset itself (it is also possible I unplugged it from power in the process or something).

I agree that it is weird that the MiniPlex can do that with the COG. But, as I remember it, it can "make" HDT from three things, the VTG->HDT being just one of them.
-- HDG/HDM <-> HDT
-- HDT <-> HDT (reversing it ???)
-- VTG -> HDT

Cheers!
-Greg
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