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Make an iGoogle “Sailing” tab your home page

A number of fellow loafers at the marina showed interest in using the tab that I have created within iGoogle to gather together items of interest for sailing. If you havent yet created an iGoogle page of your own I highly recommend doing so – have a look at this video to see how easy it is.

After you create your iGoogle page then you can create “tabs” which house different collections of widgets. For example I have a “tab” called “Local” where I see all the local entertainment and news. Similarly I have created a tab called “Sailing” see screenshot below.

iGoogle page

Why bother? – well if this is your default home page then you have in one place almost all the info you want from tides, to hurricane warnings, to news to weather info and of course links to your favourite blogs and web sites. The service is free and there are no adverts…

If you are interested in which widgets to add I would be happy to “share” the sailing tab that I have created just use the contact form to request the tab – once you have downloaded it it is entirely yours with no connection to me:-)

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Buy Raymarine AIS500 or buy £800 of Raymarine shares?

AIS500 I applaud Raymarine for having brought this unit out earlier this year, it is good product marketing and market positioning (pun intended:-)

But if you already have a reasonably sophisticated set up, and already have AIS, is it worth spending £800+ to upgrade to this unit?

Here is my take on the list of features for the AIS500:

Feature Comment
* Class B AIS Receive & Transmit Good – and so do all the competition at this level
* Dual Channel AIS Monitoring Ability Good – and so do all the competition at this level
* Targets displayed on chart and radar screens Clever – but I normally overlay radar on the chart plotter or display AIS targets on the chart rather than the radar which could be very confusing if not misleading due to the different methods of target acquisition
* LED Status Indicator Good – Surprising omission on so many marine electronics and very annoying when there is no status light and you are troubleshooting.
See my posting here on the RaymarineAIS250
* NMEA 0183 – Compatibility with Raymarine A, C, E and G Series Good – the great majority of Raymarine users must be on C series (or lower) still.
* Buddy Tracking via Raymarine MFD – Distinguish favourite targets (MMSIs) from others by adding to favourite list Clever – but is this really needed – oh ok could stave off boredom in some situations to switch between “favourites” and “all” targets. In between calling your buddy on the radio…
* Silent Mode – Turn off transmit function during tournaments or races if you do not wish to be seen. Good – But only if you expect to be sailing in regions where piracy is possible – not really a problem in the Solent – yet!
I did refer to this as a good thing in my posting here:-)
* Built-in NMEA multiplexor Not Good – I have a principle of using separate dedicated pieces of electronics instead of multifunction devices ion this situation. A faulty multiplexor can take down the whole backbone and all links between devices I would not want to troubleshoot that with a device that was doing so much else as well.
See my posting here on multiplexors.
* VHF Splitter – No need to buy a separate antenna. Utilize your existing VHF antenna and cable. Not good – don’t use splitters on your VHF cable!. keep the radio and its aerial as separate as possible. Yes I know that DSC has meant connecting the VHF to the NMEA circuit – but just don’t mess with the VHF aerial. This is a critical lifeline. Install a separate VHF aerial for AIS on the pushpit IMHO.
* Includes dedicated external GPS antenna (16 channels) Not good – as per comment above. Keep the GPS separate, you probably already have one, get another one for backup don’t get one built in to another multifunction device.
* Configure via PC Software
* Software upgradeable through PC and RS232
Ok – but why use serial connections and then very probably a serial to USB convertor when you can use high speed USB. Most modern laptops don’t even have serial ports
See my posting here on serial / USB convertors

I last did a quick survey of transponders (or are they transceivers) in June 2008, but I have held off updating this since I believe that we can expect another revolution in AIS for small boats in the next 6 months.

On that basis I would not buy the AIS500 now, if you already have AIS – if you don?t – then it is a very capable unit with the benefit of a back up GPS.

If you already have AIS and you want to spend £800 buy Raymarine shares, if you made 30% profit when Garmin buy them, that would be an extra £240 to spend on the next generation AIS – then again shares can go down as well as up:-)

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Download Maretron Software FREE!

Maretron have allowed a free download of their excellent drawing software for free here.

Using this software you can:
* Design NMEA2000® Networks
* Document network Design Decisions
* Analyse NMEA2000® Networks
* Automatically Generate Bill of Materials (BOM)
* Create Network Configuration Files
* Print Schematics and Reports

N2KBuilder™ software is a powerful, free PC-based tool for designing and verifying the integrity of NMEA 2000® networks. The N2KBuilder™ software, when installed on a Windows PC and used as part of an integrated design workflow can be used to layout, document, and validate the design of complex NMEA 2000® networks. In addition, it will directly produce a Bill of Materials (BOM) for Maretron® products, eliminating guesswork and transcription errors.

I have used it to map out a schematic of my old NMEA0183 network too..I know that this undermines the built in checks and balances but at least I get a nice schematic diagram..which I previously had to keep up to date using Excel and pasted images.

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Garmin in talks to buy Britain’s Raymarine

I know these rumours have been going on for some time – see my post last year – when Raymarines share price started moving…well checkout this Reuters article by by Purwa Naveen Raman and Savio D’Souza

…”Raymarine, which makes fishfinders, autopilots, marine radar and GPS systems for leisure boats, and rivals like Garmin and Norway’s privately held Navico are struggling to chart a course in a weak economy that has crimped demand for discretionary consumer goods they offer. “Raymarine gives Garmin the all-important original equipment manufacturer (OEM) footprint,” Panmure Gordon analyst Oliver Wynne-James said upgrading Raymarine’s stock to “buy” from “hold.”….

There is also a good article by Edmond Jackson at Interactive Investor here …

…”Relative to a share price of about 17p, which capitalises Raymarine equity near £14 million relative to £96 million net debt, the challenge is guessing what Garmin could pay. It is in a comfortable position with $959 million cash at end-June although it will be hard for Garmin executives to determine a worthwhile price to pay since a significant restructuring would likely be needed to integrate Raymarine.

Raymarine became over-stretched at the top of the economic cycle, assuming too much debt to acquire overseas distributors as a means to sustain earnings growth. After 500p in 2007, the shares collapsed from about 350p last year to just below 10p, with management recently admitting it is close to breaching bank covenants.

Ironically, the board has continued to assert that buying distributorships has been the correct strategy – despite the fact that the debit involved has destroyed shareholder value. Although other acquirers could become interested should Raymarine’s bankers appoint administrators, it looks as if Garmin is the only one currently capable of taking on the entire group.”…

You should have bought Raymarine shares last year instead of buying that new AIS 🙂

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RC400 – listen up all you “diehards”

RC400 on helmFollowing correspondence with one of the readers here I thought I would highlight this item in case you are one of the diehards who keep on using the ill fated RC400 handheld GPS/ Chartplotter abandoned by Raymarine….

The reader was having trouble getting his RC400 to boot past the usual globe picture and the warning message.

So I advised :
1. The usual reset procedure
2. Using the uprated NiMH batteries … Click here for the full description…

But what the reader found was that the Raychart 400 Software UpgrRC400ade v01.03.00 was what he was missing…once downloaded and installed the unit jumped into life.

So above are the 3 definitive thing to do if your unit is playing up…or are they?!…:-)

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