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CruisingWiki

Buying a new laptop for the boat (part 2of2) ….

In part 1 of this posting I was trying to see how best to approach the task of getting a good replacement laptop for my old Dell XPS M1530 (deceased).

After digging around the web, and trying to judge what was good and what was lacking with my old laptop and the uses to which it was put, I came up with some selection criteria.

Pleaese look back at post 1of2 if you haven't read it already, but in summary here are my selection criteria:

    • Benchmark software capability – MaxSea TZ (3D graphics + real time signal processing from instruments)
    • Screen size – 15” (adequate for charts, and larger would mean more power consumption)
    • HDD – 320Gb (minimum)
    • RAM – 4Gb (minimum)
    • Battery Life 3 hrs (minimum)
    • TDP rating 45watts (or less, an idea of heat dissipation, indirectly power consumption)

    That is when the fun started.

    Top of the list overall in my table published before (look back here) is the Intel i5 2540M. it has a very high 3D and Whetstone score and its TDP consumption is 35watts.

    However, most popular Sandy Bridge processor options for Intel’s based laptops on the market are the Core i3-2310 and i5-2410M which are more affordable to the manufacturers.

    So my task was effectively to find the cheapest laptop with the following spec:

    • CPU – Intel i5 2540M / i5-2520M / i5-2430M / i5-2410M / i5-580M
      (all score over 30,000 on both 3DMark06 and Whetstone benchmarks)
    • Screen size – 15”
    • HDD – 320Gb (minimum, 500Gb preferred)
    • RAM – 4Gb (minimum, 8Gb preferred)
    • Battery Life 3 hrs (minimum)

     

    Search Tip – By the way in order to search easily for a specific processor like I am suggesting –  type this command into the Google search box:

    • i5 2540M site:simplyacer.com
    • or i5 2540M site:amazon.com
    • or i5 2540 site:.co.uk -amazon (only looks at sites in the UK, but omits amazon )

    … this uses the Google “site:” directive – and that way you can search specifically for one particular item – in this case a particular CPU on a specific web site without getting bogged down with a boggling number of results.

     

    So what does the search come up with?:

    The laptops that use the i5 2540M processor are pricey and include the following…

    • Fujitsu Notebook CELSIUS H910 – £3,527 !!
    • HP Notebook 8560w – £1,949
    • Lenovo Notebook ThinkPad T420s – £1,417
    • HP EliteBook 8460p – £1,147
    • Dell XPS 15 Laptop (n00x5m21) – £680

    But, here is a surprise, you can also get this i5 2540M CPU in some laptops for much less….

    • Acer Aspire 5750G – with 8Gb RAM / 500Gb HDD and the built in Intel HD 3000 graphics for £480
    • HP Pavilion g6-1384ea – with 6Gb RAM / 750Gb HDD and the built in Intel HD 3000 graphics for £499

     

    Changing CPU models down a notch, and you come up with a variety of good contenders:

    • i5 2430M … HP Pavilion g6-1217sg – £500
    • i5 2430M … Sony Vaio VPCEH2N1E/W.CEK – £486
    • i5 2430M … Toshiba Satellite C660-258 – £480
    • i5 2410M … Acer Aspire 5755G-2434G50Mics – £668
    • i5 2467M … Toshiba Satellite C660-2EV – £450

     

    Final choice….the Acer Aspire 5750G – with 8Gb RAM / 500Gb HDD …lets see if this lasts 4 years 🙂

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    2 comments to Buying a new laptop for the boat (part 2of2) ….

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    Buying a new laptop for the boat (part 1of2)…

    The time has come to retire my Dell XPS M1530. Actually it retired itself when the screen faded and drifted away. Despite my attempts to install a news screen which was a surprisingly easy operation – it just would come back to life. Luckily I have a full back up – so other than saying good bye to what used to be Dell’s “Xtreme Gaming “ laptop there was no drama involved.

    I bought this laptop in 2008 so 4 years use – and latterly on board the boat running Max Sea TZ software meant I had had my moneys worth.

    But what next – what about a replacement. Although I have spent a lifetime in IT I try to ignore the spam emails from all the laptops sellers and particularly avoid all things to do with reviews or benchmarking or advertising of laptops – until that is I have – like now – to go and buy a replacement.

    So how do you set about navigating through the mire of computer ads; half truths; obsolete technology dressed up as “specials” and so on?

    Well you must have selection criteria or you will get hooked on some ad blurb and get lead astray – I guarantee it!

    First, I thought I would pick on a typical piece of software that is guaranteed to get a sailor’s heart racing – Chartplotting software. Of the various types around of software package around the most taxing are those that do any sort of 3D manipulation in real time. So if you are using software that does not do this type of work then it is far easier to pick a laptop – any that can run Office 2010 will probably suit you just fine. In my case – since I am a geek about this sort of thing – I am using MaxSea TZ as my “typical application”.

    In 2008 my Dell XPS came with the following spec:

    • Screen 15.4-inch
    • CPU – Intel Core 2 Duo T7800 (2.6 GHz)
    • 4 GB DDR2 SDRAM at 667 MHz
    • 160 GB 7200 rpm HDD

    It ran MaxSea TZ “ok”, but it did falter at times and certainly the 160Gb HDD was nowhere near enough storage for the software, the charts and all the satellite images that come along with it – remember it was my personal laptop too, so it had all my documents and pictures on it as well! So this is the second criterion – I am assuming I will be using my chartplotter capable laptop as a personal laptop too – with all the Office 2010 software; photo editing software; video editing software and all my documents, photos and videos on it too. I would need more HDD storage than 160Gb.

    Lastly, there is the issue of battery longevity and also power consumption. I want as long a battery life as possible (lets say 3hrs) and as low a power consumption as possible (lets say 35watts, or 2 amps per hour at 12v). I could explain this but it gets very technical and tedious – click here and here for two excellent sites that will lead you off on a dark and arcane road.

    So in summary here are my selection criteria:

    • Benchmark software capability – MaxSea TZ (3D graphics)
    • Screen size – 15” (larger would mean more power consumption)
    • HDD – 320Gb (minimum)
    • RAM – 4Gb (minimum)
    • Battery Life 3 hrs (minimum)
    • TDP rating 45watts (or less)

    That is when the fun started.

    I realised there is a lot of hype about Intel i3, i5 and i7 CPU’s and that this seemed to be a direct determinant of laptop price. So I did a little digging and looked at the performance of these processors, their power consumption and yes – their price as CPU’s in the wholesale market.

    In the table below ( all credit to data from www.notebookcheck.net) , I have listed below the processor model; the TDP power; and the 3D and Whetstone speed benchmark scores of various common processors in this Intel family. I list the Thermal Design Power (TDP) rating, which is the maximum amount of power the cooling system in a computer is required to dissipate. Its not the power of the CPU. A TDP consumption of less than 35 watts e.g. 17 watts indicates a very efficient low power CPU that would be found in ultra light notebooks, and won’t have the other sort of characteristics that I am looking for. So it turns out that 35 watts is the lowest TDP rating that I could hope for in a decent laptop.

     

    Model                                      Series L2 Cache + L3 Cache TDP (Watt) MHz – Turbo Cores / Threads 3DMark06 CPU Whetstone
    Intel Core i5 2540M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2600 ? 3300 2/4

    3681.5

    36025

    Intel Core i5 2520M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2500 ? 3200 2/4

    3469.4

    34855

    Intel Core i5 2430M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2400 ? 3000 2/4

    3154

    33690

    Intel Core i5 2410M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2300 ? 2900 2/4

    3198.5

    32000

    Intel Core i5 580M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2666 ? 3333 2/4

    3174

    31750

    Intel Core i5 480M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2666 ? 2933 2/4

    2879.9

    29750

    Intel Core i5 450M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2400 ? 2660 2/4

    2768.5

    29144

    Intel Core i5 520M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2400 ? 2933 2/4

    2785

    28514.3

    Intel Core i5-2557M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 17 1700 ? 2700 2/4

    2750

    28470

    Intel Core i5 460M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2530 ? 2800 2/4

    2938

    28160

    Intel Core i5 540M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2530 ? 3066 2/4

    2863

    27545.8

    Intel Core i3 390M Core i3 512KB + 3MB 35 2667 2/4

    2811

    27400

    Intel Core i3 380M Core i3 512KB + 3MB 35 2533 2/4

    2701.8

    26285

    Intel Core i3 370M Core i3 512KB + 3MB 35 2400 2/4

    2574.2

    25350

    Intel Core i5 430M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 35 2260 ? 2533 2/4

    2561

    23713

    Intel Core i5 2537M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 17 1400 ? 2300 2/4

    2048

    23500

    Intel Core i5-2467M Core i5 512KB + 3MB 17 1600 ? 2300 2/4

    2342.5

    22216.7

    Intel Core i3 2330M Core i3 512KB + 3MB 35 2200 2/4

    2629.9

    22170

    Intel Core i3 350M Core i3 512KB + 3MB 35 2260 2/4

    2370.9

    22088.3

    Intel Core i3 330M Core i3 512KB + 3MB 35 2130 2/4

    2205

    20477.9

     

    To be continued….

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    Stunning little computer ..for $25!

    Those of you who follow this blog know I have an "attitude" when it comes to the big marine electronics companies.

    I’m sorry, but very few of them seem to bring any real innovation to the table given the prices that they can command and the captive audience that they can "manipulate" or is it "influence".

    Yes, yes I know that the market size is less than that for consumer electronics but I don’t care they could still produce a lot better products than they do… IMHO.

    Rasberry PiNow here is a small bunch of people that show the sort of spirit that I am talking about – Rasberry Pi.

    It’s a prototype ARM GNU/Linux computer for $25 !

    The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. The intention is that it will be used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

    There are two version of the Pi Model A and Model B. The Model B version of the device includes 10/100 wired Ethernet. There is no Ethernet on the Model A version (which they expect to be taken up mostly by the education market), but Wi-Fi will be available via a standard USB dongle

    This clip below is from Eben Upton – the brains behind the idea of a miniature computer for kids.

     

    Just like the old days when some of us discovered the fun of programming on Amigas, BBC Micros, Spectrum ZX, Commodore 64 and even the old Apple pc…

    …do you think kids are really interested? – lets hope some of them are – I want to know that there will be people alive who can still fix stuff when I am 80 🙂

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    How many WiFi hotspots can you see?…

    Wave ec-hpIts not at all unusual for cruisers whether they are weekenders or blue water adventurers to have a laptop, iPad, or smartphone – or even all three on board. Many people are expected to be in touch with work email 24×7 and if you have the younger generation on board with you, they will be Facebooking and surfing non-stop!

    I am of course assuming that you are cruising in coastal waters, not too far from  some civilisation and not actually transoceanic. If you are 20 miles plus away from land then of course we would be talking SSB or satellite and that is a whole different kettle of fish!

    A chance conversation with some blue water buddies got me thinking. They already have their Iridum phone and satellite connection for trans oceanic use, but when their supplier, Mailasail, offered a WiFi booster for “only” 900GBP ($1,400) to improve their Wifi connection when in a marina – it got me thinking – surely it cant be that expensive!

    How do you get the most out of your wireless on board? and how can you make it the best it can be – without spending a fortune?

    As usual the most advance systems are available in the USA and a quick trawl brings up the following systems:

    It has to be noted that the “improvement” that you should expect will depend on several factors such as distance from the wireless access point you are trying to connect to (up to 2 miles is possible – 5 miles if it is a super WiFi hotspot with good transmitting equipment); the number of other people connected to the hotspot already (contention with other users can reduce the bandwidth available to each user dramatically); and finally the line of sight or obstructions between your aerial and the access point. I wont even start to go into other factors such as the weather…!

    I prefer the Ethernet connectivity route to the extended USB – so I would recommend the Ubiquiti bullet 2HP or the Rogue Wave – unless you are confident with networking – in which case use the links in this table to assemble the components for yourself.

    What are the components that you require?

    Component Recommended Alternatives Notes
    High gain omni directional antenna, and WifI amplifier

    ANT-0090N

    Galaxy 5248

     

    Data Alliance

    Alpha Signal Booster

    ANT-012ON 12dbi

    Digital Antenna

    Site the antenna vertically, and at least 1 to 2 metres above the deck
    Transmit Gain = 8db
    Receive Gain = 8dB
    Max power = 1W / 1000mW
    Be careful about getting even higher gain antennas, more is not necessarily better. The high gain signal booster may ignore local marina hotspots and instead connect to more distant access points with greater probability of disruption.
    Network Bridge Rogue Wave

    Ubiquiti Bullet 2HP

    If you want to go the USB route then try…
    Alfa Network R36 AWUS036H

    The Wirie USB System

    There are two ways to go. (A) Create an Ethernet connection direct to an Ethernet port on a router (B) Use USB (such as the Alpha and Wirie systems) and link to an USB port on your laptop/wireless card.

    The blue chip way to go is to use the Ubiquiti Airmax Omni Antenna plus their RocketM base station – may be too expensive for most boaters though! Also, most boaters may find the excellent AIR OS V software a bit overkill – great for us geeks however …

    Power over Ethernet Injector (PoE) L-Com PoE Splitter

    Data Alliance
    There are literally hundreds of these…
    Marine grade outdoor CAT5e cable Gel Filled CAT 5e   The cable run outside should be UV resistant and have a Static Drain Wire (Ground Wire) attached to an overall aluminium foil shielding layer.
    CAT5e cable for inside the boat Shielded CAT5e   You dont necessarily need shielded – just belt and braces. Your cable runs internally in the boat are probably going to be quite short – but if you are worried about interference – use shielded cable.
    Network router Netgear WGR614

    Linksys WRT54G

    Teltonika RUT105 (3G as well)

    Cradlepoint CTR35

    You can go further and have a 3G connection as a failover to the WiFi using systems from Teltonika OR  Cradlepoint. For the more technically savy use the
    Buffalo G300NH router. BUFFALO has decided to use famous DD-WRT firmware as the factory default for its HighPower Routers WZR-HP-G300NH, WHR-HP-G300N and WHR-HP-GN distributed in the US and the EU. Combine the router with a CDMA or GSM broadband modem and you have a 3G and a WiFi router.

    Make sure you use encryption such as WPA2-AES or other local boats may connect on to your network degrading the bandwidth !

    You can also boost your cell range using the Wilson kit – USA only.

    Brackets Shakespeare Stand off Bracket (Echomax)

    Marine parts

    Cabelas

    Scanstrut T Pole

     

     

    Note that when buying equipment that you want to site on the pushpit, mast or on an equipment post that “Outdoor” grade is not the same as “Marine” grade. IP67/NEMA6 are the standards to look for. It is shocking how many “marine” products are IP65 or less! Otherwise get used to using clear Rescue Tape or Bandit clear silicone tape

    If you need handholding then Land & SeaThe Wirie and Island Time PC have good reputations in helping boaters get up and running with their recommended kit. But I hope the table above will help you understand what they are selling you and why they recommend their favoured products.

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    Sailing Junk…

    Having just come back from a holiday in Turkey it was disheartening to find that I could not open the front door of my house ..why?… there was a pile of junk mail and other “useful” offers that just beggared belief ! So when that thoroughly good chap Jeffrey Siegel emailed from Active Captain to describe the very same problem that he has in the USA, it was very interesting to read about Jeffrey’s solution.

    Catalog_ChoiceI am simply reprinting his comments here…” The first time we left our land-based home for an extended cruise, we weren’t sure how to handle the mail. Fortunately, we have a wonderful caretaker who watches our house and who gathered the First Class mail to send to us every month or so. Everything else was left for our return 6 months later. We were stunned by the mass of catalogs, credit card applications, and other solicitations that awaited us. Overwhelmed by the thought of calling hundreds of companies to get off of mailing lists, Karen searched the internet for help and found Catalog Choice on the web which was just starting up their service. Their mission was to provide a quick and simple way to manage the catalogs that flow through your postal mailboxes. Years have passed and our time onboard has grown to 9 months while the mass of junk mail that awaits us has shrunk to a manageable pile. In the meantime Catalog Choice has expanded to include phone books, fliers, and all manner of unsolicited mail. …..”

     

    What a great idea ! Its a pity it only applies to the USA but that is a great start. Catalog Choice appears to have been in operation since 2008. They are a non profit corporation based in Berkeley, California. They now have over one million members and hundreds of participating companies.

    Here in the UK things are not so good. But I would like to highlight one lone campaigner that deserves huge credit for his work. Check out the site Stop Junk Mail.

    Junk_BusterStop Junk Mail is a free one-point-stop for contacting opt-out schemes it is also a one-man campaign.

    • Using the site you can :
      1. Get opt-out forms for the three main opt-out services for junk mail
    • 2. Cancel the Yellow Pages, Thomson Local directory and/or BT phone book

    Of course in the UK you can also use the law if you want to contact each and every sender that plagues you. The Data Protection Act 1998 gives you the right to ask any UK organisation to stop ‘processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes’. This makes contacting individual junk mailers a very effective way of stopping junk mail. A data protection notice is a request to stop using your personal details for ‘direct marketing purposes’, made with reference to section 11 of the Data Protection Act. It’s a legally binding demand to stop (or not begin) sending you junk mail. Organisations that ignore a data protection notice can be referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office (the body enforcing the Data Protection Act)

    But I am sure you would agree that life is too short for this approach….

    My advice is to search out and support organisations like Catalog Choice and Stop Junk Mail – if there aren’t any in your country perhaps you could start one! I am pretty sure that whoever the poor soul is that agrees to look after your mail while you are away will thank you for doing your best to stop all this other type of “sailing junk”… Smile

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