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Old 05-28-2017, 04:13 AM   #1
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Are we trusting the unreliable?

If you took a poll on what is todays most unreliable piece of electronics made that almost everyone has I think the answer would be the Laptop Computer.
Now take that piece of electronics and place it in a salty, corrosive marine environment.
Put charting software on it and make it your only source of navigation.
It just gives me chills thinking about it.
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Old 05-28-2017, 04:20 AM   #2
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Old 05-28-2017, 04:22 AM   #3
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I have not read that many people who said they use it as their primary system.
I think most use it as secondary or higher.

I use tablet as secondary.
and just have laptop "just in case"
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Old 05-28-2017, 06:59 AM   #4
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I have been living aboard for 5 years this go around in the age of pads and laptops, and my laptops last as long as I need them to.

Most people get new after 5 to 7 years just because of upgrades. With them becoming easier to upgrade by the average usuer, some are kept longer.

My nav laptop computer stopped working after wine was spilled into it. But drained it, let it dry overnight and it finished the last 1000 miles up the Atlantic Coast without issue.

One has even hit the deck a few times and I replaced but really upgraded to a solid state hard drive when it got a bit unreliable...funny though, the removed hard drive works fine so it was probably just a connection jarred loose.

Not so sure they are so fragile if you stick withe anything but the real cheap ones.

Plus, we all put similar type electronics onboard that last pretty well...tv, electric alarm clocks, stereos, etc.

I have not heard of a higher failure rate on the average coastal cruiser than anywhere else.

But sure, the classic pictures of oil skinned sailors fighting gales and dripping all over everything coming below might be a bit much for them.

Not sure I would use a 5 year old one as my primary starting to cross an ocean, but that's true of a lot of gear on the boat. My laptops have outlasted a lot og Engine parts and matinee onboard systems so?

Plus quite a few commercial fishing vessels use plain old household computers with their wide open cases.....I used to reload the old style nav software whenever they got a computer upgrade.
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Old 05-28-2017, 07:16 AM   #5
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I can't be the only one that uses paper charts? Even in known waters, I take a fix every 30 minutes. I've had the weather change to fog in a hurry, I've had breakers trip...
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Old 05-28-2017, 07:44 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pgitug View Post
If you took a poll on what is todays most unreliable piece of electronics made that almost everyone has I think the answer would be the Laptop Computer.
Now take that piece of electronics and place it in a salty, corrosive marine environment.
Put charting software on it and make it your only source of navigation.
It just gives me chills thinking about it.
Suggest you fix the leaks on your NT so you don't get your laptop wet. If you really want to get the chills look at every electrical connection on your vessel and apply the same "doomed" thinking. There are hundreds, maybe a thousand on your vessel.

My only wet weather related electronics failure was a Raymarine radar, poor sealing design. Do you have electronic engines? If so, now you can huddle under the covers.

PS, I have two Nav laptops on our vessel. The oldest just passed 11 years. Still going strong. From my perspective, they are the cat's meow for navigation and AP integration.
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Old 05-28-2017, 07:45 AM   #7
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I think some are still missing the picture and actually increasing the probability of error by transferring data to paper.

If you feel the need to place waypoints...fine, do it on your backup. The chart is the exact same if you choose raster. Delete the days run when done for the day...and it is within a few feet, not some guessed at optical bearing and range.

If you travel in fog, chances are you have radar and should be able to get a fix in seconds, and most now take gps input from an independent source, so again a fix is seconds away.

I am an average Joe cruiser. With traveling partner we have 4 non marine GPS between us (2 phones, 1 laptop, 1 pad), 3 marine GPS between us (chartplotter, radio, old chartplotter on bridge) and 6 devices that can display raster charts...most of the above.

I am a careful guy when it comes to navigating... living in today's world.....having superior navigation all around us for coastal cruising is a treat after decades of cruising or flying blind and hoping paper skills were top notch.

I always used to carry an atlas in my car, so did many. Don't see too many any more. The funny thing is, without the atlas, I could probably find the right state I was looking for, but never the street unless I had the right county atlas....now my phone does both.
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Old 05-28-2017, 08:15 AM   #8
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We've been using PC navigation since 2003. We crossed the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, Alaska to Panama and a lot of places in between. No paper charts just PC's and cruising guides. We had a primary and a backup. We never got stuck. Our boats our home and I can't say it's a salty, corrosive marine environment.
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Old 05-28-2017, 08:25 AM   #9
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We've been using PC navigation since 2003. We crossed the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, Alaska to Panama and a lot of places in between. No paper charts just PC's and cruising guides. We used a primary and a backup. We never got stuck. Our boats our home I can't say it's a salty, corrosive marine environment.
Funny....my 1988 engine room has some rust, especially those areas that get wet from bilge water or salt water intakes...but everything is still serviceable.

The bottom of my 2001 truck that got washed and garaged top to bottom until 2006 is rusted to junk.

The heat pump housings behind the houses here at the Jersey Shore are lucky to last 15 years and the fins less in many cases.

Inside my saloon, regular steel items like tv supports, even scratched are 5 years old with little rust. I am less than a mile with a straight shot to the ocean inlet and NE winds.....

Like your boat Larry, it isn't Death Valley, but it isn't falling apart or rusting away while I type.
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Old 05-28-2017, 09:41 AM   #10
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Still using our 1995 Gateway Solo laptop for navigation along with Windows 95.
We have another newer one for backup. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
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Old 05-28-2017, 10:01 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry M View Post
We've been using PC navigation since 2003. We crossed the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, Alaska to Panama and a lot of places in between. No paper charts just PC's and cruising guides. We had a primary and a backup. We never got stuck. Our boats our home and I can't say it's a salty, corrosive marine environment.
I agree, I've had a computer on the bridge since 2002. Other than upgrades due to technology it's been flawless. I have a RM E120 as backup and radar, in the 15yrs I've been using a PC we had one failure, it was the RM external GPS.
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Old 05-28-2017, 10:06 AM   #12
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Every time this topic comes up, there are lots of folks who have completely given up paper. These are individuals with much more experience than I, both in terms of sea time as well as variety of experience.

Most of us that still cling to our paper charts are NOT saying that those who have gone all electronic are doing anything wrong, just that we LIKE paper charts. They have some unique advantages and disadvantages but I think a large part of it is simply an emotional attachment to our paper charts.

Maybe I like to keep my paper charts for similar reasons that I still wear a watch, own a dinghy with oars, fiddle with rope, and carry a knife.
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Old 05-28-2017, 10:17 AM   #13
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OK, I love looking at paper charts too.

Thats why I use raster in the computer, pleasing to my eyes.

This thread is about trusting navigation to an unreliable device....

Well, without scientific research.... we have some long distance cruisers who havent had bad luck, or laptops are reluable enough to be trusted.
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Old 05-28-2017, 10:42 AM   #14
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I have been using my laptop for my principal navigation tool since the late 80s. I have never had a failure. My current laptop has a screen that measures 18" corner to corner. It cost about 1 boat buck and displays the CHS charts that I keep in the chart cupboard. For use on the FB and in the dinghy I have a plotter that measuers 5" corner to corner, displays a much poorer chart, holds fewer routes, is much more difficult to input waypoints, etc. Last time I checked prices, a Chartplotter with a decent sized screen was well north of 3 boat bucks, and can't be used to check emails, read TF posts, or other stuff that would require me to bring my laptop along.

For me, the sounders have failed more frequently than any other of my electronic nav instruments. When I last hauled for antifouling, I counted 3 Transducer protrusions on the hull, and I haven't used any of those for at least 15 years.
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Old 05-28-2017, 10:59 AM   #15
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For me, the sounders have failed more frequently than any other of my electronic nav instruments. When I last hauled for antifouling, I counted 3 Transducer protrusions on the hull, and I haven't used any of those for at least 15 years.

That is the one piece of gear that is unreliable on my boat. Intermittent failures of the sounder. From what I have been able to glean, I think it is related to some kind of signal interference from cables run together. However I have yet to be able to trace it down,

Down here in the South Sound, we have 16' tide changes this weekend. (Do to poor timing I was making under 2 knots SOG coming through the Narrows yesterday). With a -3.5 low tide as I entered Oro Bay, I had under 2 feet of water under my keel. For you East Coast folks, we don't do skinny water out here so 2' makes me nervous. Fortunately, my sounder behaved during this time
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Old 05-28-2017, 11:18 AM   #16
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I'd wager that the most unreliable things on any boat are humans.
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Old 05-28-2017, 12:18 PM   #17
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Back to the OP, are you saying that:

1) laptop hardware has poor reliability

2) PC hardware is unreliable, regardless of whether it's packages as a laptop, desktop, or whatever.

3) Windows and all the other software on a PC is unreliable?

The only interpretation I would personally agree with is (3). PC hardware is very reliable. i've been using the stuff since before the IBM PC even existed, and am struggling to recall a single hardware failure other than a failed disk drive. I can't think of a single one.

On the other hand, I can recall several times that various devices got sent flying out windows because the software didn't work, and without working software, the hardware is just a paper weight. The problem is Windows and the plethora of marginal quality add-on software that makes up a typical PC.

What many have found, me included, is that if you get a windows system working, then lock it down and don't change it, it will pretty much run forever. But god help you if you change anything, "upgrade" anything, install new software, or add new hardware. I always allocate a full day of battle when faced with any required update or addition, expecting o take that long to get everything working again.

Fortunately, most PCs used for navigation are locked down as described. I suspect that laptops get a bad rap because they get used for everything and anything, so are constantly getting updated and revised. Thats not a formula for stable, reliable operation.

Getting back to hardware, disk dives will all fail. It's just a matter of when. And I'm frankly amazed that they hold up as well as they do getting bounced around in a boat. Solid State Drives are a perfect fit for a boat nav computer. They are not infallible, but the risk of dMage is much less, they are much faster, and use less power. I don't think there are any down sides.
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Old 05-28-2017, 12:50 PM   #18
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If you took a poll on what is todays most unreliable piece of electronics made that almost everyone has I think the answer would be the Laptop Computer.
.
Well, I think the responses so far have shown that assumption is wrong. Perhaps at some past time in history, but today's laptops and tablets are amazingly dependable. They seldom get replaced because they don't work anymore, but typically because of obsolescence or simply because we like new toys.

That said, I'd never depend on just one of any type electronics, always have backup.

In business we're finding we must have a regular replacement schedule on all the computers and tablets of all types. The reason isn't failure. In fact, it's the opposite. If we waited for them to fail, we'd be left with a hodgepodge of equipment, most of it very old and outdated compared to current systems and technology. When I was a kid, we thought of the life of a computer to be about three years. The feeling was if you didn't exchange about that time you'd see trouble. Gradually, that became five years. However, five years is only a number today because of enhancements and upgrades we want. When I was young, a five year old system was trouble because it couldn't handle the latest operating systems or other software. The advancements were rapid. Today, that's not the case. In fact, desktop computers have changed very little over the last 5 to 7 years. The change has been laptops and tablets gaining power to close the gap with desktops.
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Old 05-28-2017, 02:20 PM   #19
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I'd wager that the most unreliable things on any boat are humans.
Agreed.
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Old 05-28-2017, 05:39 PM   #20
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Yup - I am much less reliable than my Macbook Air that I still use.

In the past 6 years, it has traveled about 500,000 miles, been dropped off a balcony, survived a sandstorm, rolled down concrete stairs, has been doused with coffee, beer and wine and it still keeps on ticking.

hmmm, actually so have I, (minus the balcony). I guess we are both doing ok considering what we put up with.
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