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CruisingWiki

NMEA announces 2014 Product Award winners

Marine electronics experts nationwide named 11 products in nine categories as winners of the 2014 NMEA Product Awards.

Once again, Furuno USA was named Manufacturer of the Year for Support.

The winners were announced at the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) International Marine Electronics Conference & Expo. Nearly 400 leading marine electronics manufacturers, dealers, and distributors, as well as media and others from the United States and abroad, attended the event.

Category winners are chosen by regional panels of NMEA members from around the country. These experts are hand picked by the NMEA Awards Committee for their extensive knowledge of marine electronics to create a level playing field for all product and manufacturer support nominations.

Here are the 2014 NMEA Product Award winners:

Note that MaxSea TZ software is the force behind  the various TimeZero products. MaxSea has had my vote since my review on this site . When you embed great software into great hardware you get an even better product that is much faster and more reliable than PC based software ever could be. See the Furuno Navnet TZ range here.

Using similar technolgy, the Nobeltec The Nobeltec TimeZero Catch system is aimed at commercial fishermen and incorporates the Personal Bathymetry Generator (PBG). This allows you to augment chart contours from real-time depth recordings. Locate prime fishing locations with sea surface temperature, chlorophyll and altimetry information from Nobeltec’s Weather and Ocean data service.

Once again a disappointment for Raymarine in terms of equipment manufacture, design, innovation and support – only one showing in the autopilot category.

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MaxSea TZ Trials on Biscay 2012

TimeZero_Explorer_PDI thought I would just post a final word on my experiences using the MaxSea TZ software this year.

My wife and I sailed over 1300nm as a couple from the UK to Portugal and then on the return trip I was accompanied by 2 family members and one professional crew. All in all 2600nm and 13 ports of entry and departure to plan for during a summer that was at best “changeable”.

I used MaxSea TZ software in “Home Planning” mode rather than “Navigation” mode since I relied on my brand new Raymarine e125 hybrid touch for real time navigation. My experience with the Raymarine e125 hybrid touch will be subject of future posts. Just so readers get my comments in context, please note that my critique contained in the previous posts – is simply that – it is not a condemnation of MaxSea TZ – far from it. I first reviewed the weather routing module of MaxSea TZ over 2 years ago, and I was interested to see if they have come on in their design and functionality.

On board I had a number of chart plotting devices – probably far more than most cruising sailors.

Navigation/routing aids:

1 – Dedicated Plotter : A brand new Raymarine e125 Hybrid Touch plotter with Navionics Platinum charts

2 – Dedicated Plotter : The old Raymarine RL80C Plus with CMap NT charts

3 – Laptop (Windows7) software: MaxSea TZ v1.9.7 with MM3D charts

4 – Laptop (Windows7) software: Neptune v5.0.5 with CMap NT charts

So I have quite a number of opportunities to compare what these systems have to offer.

Weather services being used:

1 – MaxSea TZ – built in weather download (by internet download or by email)

2 – UGrib

3 – zyGrib

4 – Magic Seaweed (using WifI or 3G on my Apple iPhone)

It has been very interesting to see how software helps or frustrates the task of routing. But because the weather was so frustrating and caused us to really plan carefully for both Biscay crossings I had to re-route and re-plan over and over again.

I can honestly say that there is very little software I have used in the past few years – for any purpose – that is as slick and well designed as MaxSea TZ.

Now that I have a good laptop running this type of software is a breeze. But I would advise that lesser laptops may well struggle to keep up with what the software is trying to do.

  • Acer Aspire 5750
  • CPU Intel i5 3.1Ghz
  • RAM 4Gb
  • HDD 500Gb

 

Once you have a good laptop, and the MaxSea TZ software you enter a whole new world of navigation software that makes dedicated plotters like Raymarine or old PC software like Neptune look very sad indeed.

Being able to zoom in and out through the various vector layers of chart being able to turn windows of information on and off at will having the weather download and isochrone based routing module built in – not to mention satellite photography and Active Captain integration. This is still the best PC/laptop based chart plotting software on the market.

Having to enter and leave 13 ports in 8 weeks meant that many nights I was downloading Grib files and trying to plan routes and re-plan routes to see if I could avoid bad weather. We had two 4 plus days voyages and two 3 day voyages so weather routing was important. It is at these times when clumsy user interfaces and unreliable software would really kill the spirit as well as increase the danger to a cruising sailor. But if you don't feel the effort of re-planning a route is that great – then you tend to do it again , and again until you are happy and it feels right. This makes life easier and safer.

Getting the routes generated by MaxSea TZ into the Raymarine plotter is not one click, but is easily achieved. I don't know how many times I had to do this over the two months of sailing but I guarantee that it does work.

My advice is buy a good laptop and buy MaxSea TZ. I will continue to do all my planning using this software.

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More support for Active Captain…

ActiveCaptainTo my knowledge ActiveCaptain was the first to build a UGC (User Generated Content) product independently of any mainstream supplier of maritime chart plotters or related product. Using this platform you can record local data like Rocks, Wrecks, Obstructions, Buoys, Beacons & Signs, Lights, Shops & Repairs, Ports & Marinas and Anchorages, Moorings and even upload your recommended routing and waypoint data.

 

I believe that ActiveCaptain is also the most successful. Although there is a preponderance of Stateside data, I and many other UK sailors have been uploading data for our local marinas, routes and other useful info about sailing in UK waters. I encourage you all to participate in this platform – it is cheap and you can only gain from the wealth of local knowledge that is already, and will continue to be, stored on this platform.

Obviously to make it easy to benefit from the UGC layer, it is essential that you can easily integrate access to ActiveCaptain from within your chosen chart plotting software and that the data remains accessible when you are offline or unable to connect to the internet.

One of the most important products to do include such integration to ActiveCaptain was the MaxSea TZ product that I reviewed extensively here.

Many chart plotting software products have followed suit and included integration to ActiveCaptain. The list of products includes software for PC, Mac, Linux, iPhone and Android  – here is the list so far…

I jumped in and bought the iPhone app from Navionics pretty early on because it was the brand I used on my fixed Raymarine chart plotter and because they had a UK chart version available for only GBP14.95.  The chart plotting software is  Navionics Gold UK/Holland and it works perfectly well on my iPhone, but unfortunately for me it has its own UGC layer (User Generated Content). Strangely you have to submit additions to their UGC layer using an online form on the Navionics website and it is not integrated with another product other than Navionics own chart plotting software  – so why bother with their own, limited, UGC community!

If you are interested in the UGC concept … which one should you use? – well surely its a a case of the biggest UGC community combined with good integration with a wide range of chart plotting software wins. I would put my money on ActiveCaptain – so sign up if you have not done so already, and start exploring the user content stored there – more importantly if you have UK or European local knowledge – be community minded and type it in !…

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Furuno/Signet get it right…

Following on from my previous post on the growing monopoly power in the marine electronics industry and its impact on consumer choice I though I would illustrate my arguments using the excellent new releases from the Furuno/Signet empire.

Firstly, make no mistake the Furuno/Signet empire is going to make a very significant impact on the marine industry, and I think in the short to medium term at least this will be a good thing judging by the quality of their strategic thinking and their product launches so far.

Last year MaxSea launched the brilliant TimeZero software that I reviewed extensively in my 7 part series on Optimal Routing. Now (February 2011) Nobeltec has released its Trident software. Two product launches from two different companies that have loyal and extensive customer bases. You may recall that the Nobeltec customer base was irate and despondent when Nobeltec was sold off by Jeppesen in 2009 to Signet – they thought that was the end – but it was not so. The Furuno-Signet team are smart! Instead of alienating thousands of customers they have wowed them all with two brilliant bits of software….and by doing this by re-using fundamental components much like the big car manufacturers do. This technique means that products can be made with greater standardisation and therefore reliability, be enhanced more easily, and produce greater return on investment thereby attracting increased future investment.

Structure_1So it looks like the design of a modern chart plotting software systems should look something like this:

At the time of the release of the Nobeltec Trident software in February there were dozens of press releases being repeated all over the blogosphere and marine industry mags that went on and on about this feature and that feature.

Take this quote from Nobeltec PR ”…Trident will be the most dynamic, cutting-edge PC-based navigation software available. Built on the innovative TimeZero chart engine, Trident offers a completely new, sophisticated user interface designed to be extremely intuitive and easy to use. The chart engine redraws charts seamlessly allowing users to easily zoom, pan, change chart display modes, and perform other chart handling functions without limited range presets. Users can choose to pan and zoom the chart to any angle at any range scale instantly. There is no limited "3D mode" because Nobeltec TimeZero Trident operates in a true 3D environment at all times….” etc etc…

I am sure you can all remember the press releases for MaxSea TZ from 2008/9….Doesn’t this sound exactly the same? There is a reason for that.

Structure_Nobeltec

Structure_MaxSea

All the features listed are the exactly the same because they all come from the same library of software functions that the excellent developers at Signet (MaxSea) are responsible for – presumably under the watchful eye of Brice Pryzo.

Only the user interface is different. This should pacify the loyal customer bases of Nobeltec and MaxSea while allowing innovation from the competing development teams at MaxSea and Nobeltec. The user interface can diverge and have different novel ideas added while maintaining a high degree of reliability and maintainability through the use of the same fundamental software libraries. In fact when you install MaxSea TZ on a PC – and I guess the same is true of Nobeltec Trident – you also install a heck of a lot of Microsoft database software and other Microsoft support libraries too – many Gb’s in fact! so make sure you have plenty of disc space. This is the way to make critical software more reliable and yet to allow for developers to innovate with the user interface. This is a great strategy.

Yes I do know that MaxSea has other software on the market at the same time (Navigator; Racing PRO; X7; Commander; Explorer; Professional) and so does Nobeltec (Nobeltec VNS and Nobeltec v12). Well there is plenty of room for all these products and one will suit a particular sailor more than another.

For me it has to be software based on the TimeZero technology however. Having used it extensively last year on sail yacht; power boat; and a 55ft steel coaster sailing from Liverpool to Lowestoft, I do think it is far more friendly, and the ability to instantly switch between vector and raster charts is fantastic.

I am convinced that this is the technology strategy that will win the day ….. it is so reminiscent of Windows v CPM from the 1980’s PC industry – no contest.

Now what I would like to see is Fugawi joining forces – and bringing its X-Traverse and Avia Instrument Interface into the game…now that really would be a basis for some fantastic products!

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Active Captain Bargain for Cyber Monday 2010….

MaxSea Ad

Not to be outdone by the many online deals going on today, MaxSea and Furuno have teamed up with a great deal of their own, a rebate on purchases of MaxSea Time Zero Navigator software.

If you purchase MaxSea Time Zero Navigator between October 27, 2010 and March 15, 2011, they will provide a $100 rebate. You must fill out and return the rebate form. The rebate form can be downloaded here.

With this rebate, the effective price of getting the full software with all US NOAA charts (vector and raster, 3D data, satellite imagery) and ActiveCaptain offline overlay support is only $239.

There is no one who offers a lower price for this product and it’s now $100 less.

Order it at Active Captain

 

But – be careful – The MaxSea TZ Navigator (about $350) is not the same as MaxSea TZ Explorer (about $1,000)….and neither are the same as MazSea Navigator 12.6 !! ($400)

For non TimeZero software see this comparison chart – and for TimeZero software see here.

I have been using MazSea TZ Navigator with the routing and weather options all last season  and I planned on writing up my findings – but – well time has eluded me….er, having too much fun!

 

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