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PowerMonkey Explorer

DSC00671I presume that some of you will still remember the excitement of opening your Christmas presents and discovering something quite unexpected but greatly prised (not socks from your Great Aunt!) ….well this is one for you – go out and buy a PowerMonkey Explorer straight away…no if’s or but’s – go get one.

It will charge your mobile devices when you are far from an electric power socket, even if you are rich enough to have a generator – your don’t have to switch it on – and it is a “green” product incorporating solar energy to charge itself….

DSC00672The included mains adaptor can fully charge the PowerMonkey and you will get up to 96 hours standby on your mobile phone, 40 hours on your iPod, 6 hours on your Sony PSP, 2 full charges on your PDA plus it’s original charge and up to 1600 pictures on your digital camera! The PowerMonkey will even hold its charge without leakage for up to a year!

I have used it on the boat, I have used it at home, I have used it on the train commuting into London (just to show off really…) its great.

DSC00663This is my mobile phone being charged by the PowerMonkey…..and also a picture of all the different connectors that you can get for various mobile devices …..from iPods to phones to PDA’s…(click on the thumbnails for a larger image)

 

DSC00670

PowerMonkey comes with:
1 x PowerMonkey Unit
1 x Universal Mains adaptor
Adaptor for Nokia and Mini Nokia, Motorola V66, Samsung E900, Siemens C25 and Sony Ericsson wide connector
1 x Mini USB for Motorola Razr V series, Blackberry and Bluetooth headsets
1 x Direct iPod adaptor
1 x USB for smart phones, PDA and other devices
1 x Connector for Sony PSP and most digital cameras
1 x Black travel pouch

As you can tell I am very enthusiastic … the company even sponsor the the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation organisation. What more could you ask from a piece of electronics.;-)

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Hyperterminal no longer free with Windows Vista

Anyone who has recently bought a laptop or PC with Vista on it may have discovered that there is no Hyperterminal software.

You may also realise that this useful bit of software is needed to update configurations on marine electronics like multiplexers.

Not to worry..Microsoft only bought the software from Hilgraeve any way and you can go and download the real thing from their site…

An alternative piece of software is Poderosa which is open source and therefore free software.

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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.

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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;-)

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Which Multiplexer ?

Over a year ago I searched high and low for the “perfect” multiplexer and readers of this blog will know that I selected the Brookhouse from New Zealand in the end {more of that in this post from last year}.

Configuration for nearly all these units is by using Hyperterminal or similar software – so you had better find out how to do that!. {see my posting on this program here}

This is a new unit from on sale at Marine Electronic Service Ltd for £194 inc VAT.

Eissing SB2006– 1x input NMEA0183 / RS-422 isolated

– 3x input NMEA0183 / RS-422 isolated

– 1x output NMEA0183 / RS-422 isolated

– 1x COM port (RS-422 level)
– power supply for external equipment

You should note that RS422 is not RS232 or RS232C which is the “older” and slower PC comms port standard – but nevertheless make sure that the laptop you want to connect to supports RS422 as its serial connection…{see my post here on the subject}.

I cant vouch for its operation since I am very happy with my Brookhouse. But you may want to compare the two if you are about to take the step of trying to integrate AIS and other slower NMEA instruments into your chart plotter or laptop. {See my posting here on the Brookhouse}

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