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Using Hyperterminal on your laptop

If you have had to configure a unit such as a multiplexer you will have come across the part in the manual where it says use Hyperterminal. This is a free communications program that you can use to monitor the signals going in/out of the serial port on your laptop and to send configuration commands from the laptop to the multiplexer.

For example to set one of the ports on the multiplexer to a higher speed such as 38,400 baud suitable for connecting your AIS unit. Signals and data from the AIS would then be routed via the multiplexer to your chart plotter for example.

In my case I link a NASA AIS unit via my Brookhouse multiplexer to my Raymarine C120 chart plotter in this way. But to make it work I had to get my laptop, plug in a cable in the laptops serial port then put the bare wires at the other end into the Brookhouse multiplexer and tell the multiplexer to change the speed of one of its ports from 4,800 to 38,400 baud. Then unplug the laptop, connect the AIS and that was it – AIS data on my C120.

Even if you have done all this before did you know that that little program called Hyperterminal is no longer given away by Microsoft with Windows Vista? {read my post here to find out more…}

If you are having trouble with Hyperterminal read these tech notes from Microsoft.


RS232 and RS422 and Comms Port – What does all this mean ?

Well first of all you know this is not going to be an easy explanation;-)

The trouble is that that the original standards for serial communications was elaborated upon by PC, printer, and modem manufactures all through the early years if the PC boom from 1980 to 1990 as they tried to innovate and outdo each other – oh, and also a few got tempted to be “plug incompatible” with their competitors!

So for the real experts out there I know this is not perfect but I hope this simple guide will help all the rest of the mystified sailing community.

1. The term “Comms port” is not sufficiently accurate for you to know what type of serial communications are coming in/out of your laptop or being received by the piece of marine electronics that your are trying to connect up. You have to know is your laptop port RS232 or RS422

2. RS232 is older than RS422 and slower and less reliable.
3. RS232 often has large plugs with 25 pins
4. RS422 is likely to have smaller plugs with 9 pins – but they could be RS232…

…click thumbnails for a larger image….

RS232 Pinout2 RS232 Pinout3

To send commands to a piece of marine electronics like a multiplexer you often have to connect up your laptop or PC and then bare the wires at the other end and stick them into the marine unit as bare wires.

RS232 PinoutMy advice is get a serial cable from a computer store that will connect to the laptop or PC – check the number of pins – and then cut the connector off at the other end.

Now look at the pinout diagrams (click on the 3 thumbnails on this post for larger images) and check the wires using the wiring diagrams.

Then you should be able to insert the bare wires into the correct sockets on the multiplexer – or whatever – its not worth making a proper connection – the configuration process is or should be a one-off. Then you connect your actual equipment.


Credit for diagrams to the excellent folk at Zytrax..check out their web site for nice illustrations to help you wire up that pesky cable;-)


Sandisk CF Cards and formatting in FAT16

To perform the software upgrade of a C-Series, E-Series or A65 display unit, you must have a SanDisk brand Standard Grade CompactFlash® (CF) memory card, and a CompactFlash read/write device to transfer data to it from your computer.

The CompactFlash memory card does not need to be a large capacity card. Any 32 MB or larger card will work fine for software upgrade purposes.

CompactFlash (CF) memory cards having storage capacity greater than 64 MB are typically formatted using the FAT32 file system. If you will be using a large capacity CF memory card (i.e. greater than 64 MB) with a C-Series display, it will be necessary to reformat the CF memory card using the FAT16 format.

E-Series displays are compatible with both FAT32 and FAT16 formatted CF memory cards. But C-Series are NOT.

When choosing a CompactFlash memory card, Raymarine recommends using SanDisk brand flash cards. While other brands may work in the C-Series or E-Series display, they were designed using SanDisk brand cards.


My CF card is not recognized by my C-Series display when trying to work with waypoint archives or software updates. How can I correct the problem?

Answer :

Generic CompactFlash (CF)memory cards can be used to archive waypoint and route data, and also to update the software in the C-Series Multifunction displays. In some instances, certain CF cards my not be readable by the C-Series display. This will result in a message like “retrieve failed” or “save failed” being displayed by the C70, C80, or C120. In the case of a software upgrade, suspect cards will not be recognized by the display and ignored during the boot sequence.

The cause of this problem is the type of formatting applied to the CF Card. Default formatting varies by manufacturer, card size, or whether the CF Card was previously used in a camera or other recording device.

It is possible to change the format of a CF card using a computer with a CompactFlash reader/writer.

CAUTION: Under no circumstances should you attempt to reformat a Navionics CompactFlash Chart Cartridge. Doing so will ERASE the map data from the card. If you are having trouble reading a Navionics CF Map Card, please contact Raymarine Technical Support or Navionics.

In reformatting the CF card, it should be formatted to FAT16 format. To do so, perform the following:

Insert the CF card into the PC’s reader/writer
Open a command tool (Start->Run->cmd)
Type the following the prompt in the command tool:

Format [drive letter:] /fs:FAT
Note: [drive letter:] in the above Format command should be replaced with the drive letter that your PC has assigned to the CF card.

Note: Some people recommend increasing the file allocation table block size from the default 512k to 4096k…using this command…
Format [drive letter:] /fs:16/12 /a:4096
I am guessing that they have found that this speeds up data access on some of the older CF cards – I personally don’t think this is necessary using CF cards produced in the past year with one of the many “express” brands…

When prompted for a Volume Name, press the ENTER key on the keyboard.

When formatting is complete, close the command tool

Remove the CF card from the PC’s reader/writerp


HTC 7501 Better than a laptop on board ?

HTC 7501HTC have started to ship the HTC Advantage X7501.I think you could easily use this small but very capable device as a substitute for a laptop on board. It has USB ports for interfacing to a NMEA/Seatalk multiplexer and has enough hard disc to store maps and enough power to run charting software….

This is a PDA + GPS + Camera + a multi-region Phone that :-

  • Runs Microsoft Windows Mobile 6
  • 8 Gb hard disc
  • 624 MHz CPU
  • mini SD storage card
  • 3 megapixel camera with auto focus and flash
  • Built-in GPS
  • 5-inch VGA display
  • HSDPA/UMTS (2100 MHz for Europe, 850/1900 MHz for USA)
  • Quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE for all regions
  • WiFi b/g
  • Bluetooth.
  • Has Direct Push Technology
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • TV Out feature to output contents to an external display such as a Projector or TV when doing presentations or sharing photos
  • You can also print out documents by connecting to a Bluetooth or network printer

…this is the shape of real portability and low power consumption, it can even be a backup GPS …


2.4 GHz 8.5 dBi Omnidirectional Wireless LAN Marine Antenna

If your are looking to increase the signal reception on your laptop while in the marina you may want to check out the antenna from Hyperlink Technologies.

Constructed for all weather operation, the YSC-HG2409UM-RSP features sealed collinear brass elements inside a durable UV-stable machine white fiberglass radome. A sealed end cap and drain holes in the base help prevent moisture build-up inside the antenna.