Tag Archives: Computing

AIS Now Being Served In The Cockpit (sans wires)



That’s my Droid sitting there with the same image as the laptop. Well actually that’s not just an image, it is the laptop streaming content to my Droid and vice versa. We now have the ability to see and control our AIS information (and other info such as XM Weather, GPS diagnostics, etc.) from the laptop in the Nav Station with any Android device anywhere within range of our on-board router — about three boat lengths. I now have a good reason to buy an Android tablet — screen size. This arrangement is much less complicated than our original arrangement.

All that was required was the Splashtop Personal app on the Droid and a streaming application on the laptop. Since these devices are on the same wirelesss network (logged in on the same router) the service is free. And if you wanted to do this from a separate network, from anywhere, it’s cheap. Splashtop can service Google Android Devices, iPad, iPhone/iPod, Mac, Windows, Win 8/RT & WinPhone.

If I discover any problems, I’ll post them here, but with 15 million users, this is not a junkyard app.

Managing Google+ Emails

mysterymailYesterday, Google announced a new feature. Anyone on Google+ can e-mail other g+ users without knowing their Gmail address. When you respond to such an e-mail, your address is revealed.

This is more  of a traffic management problem than a privacy issue. As cruisers, we don’t need unsolicited emails as some WiFi, when found, is not particularly “Fi” and satellite data-link benefits from as little data as necessary.  “Unsubscribe” gets quite a workout with us. Here’s how to manage this new feature.

  1. Open Gmail. Click on the gear icon and select “Settings.”
  2. Under Settings’ “General” tab look for “Email via Google+” (tenth category down)
  3. Click the dropdown menu next to “Who can email you via your Google+ profile?” Make a choice then click: Anyone on Google+ or Extended Circles or Circles, or No One.
  4. Save Changes. easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy

Derived from CNET, Lance Whitney January 10, 2014 5:37 AM PST

Wardrobe Malfunction

Well, that got your attention!

HSBActually it is a laptop keyboard malfunction, maybe. The tilde, 5, 6, +, -, del and cntrl keys just stopped working. I didn’t discover it until I had messed up some ledgers and spreadsheets.

The key feel is no different. The on-screen, virtual keyboard works fine. My backup USB keyboard and USB number pad work fine.

I run Windows 7 and update regularly. Windows 7 had early problems with PS/2 keyboards. I thought perhaps an update had undone the fix they came up with. This happened the day after an update so I rolled it back. Nada!

I tried updating the driver, but the original driver has never been updated. I reloaded the driver and…Nada.

The computer scans as being malware free.

I bought a new computer (from my smartphone–oh, what a world) yesterday evening (@1910) and paid an extra $4 to have it delivered this morning. Delivery was confirmed at @1010.

I’d still like to use this one as a backup.

Any ideas? The support forums have been useless. [“Save your files and reinstall Windows.” People actually get paid for that kind of advice!]

Migrating Thunderbird (not a nature post)

We use Thunderbird as an email client. To move it seamlessly from one computer to another Windows users may want to try this:

Update the T-bird version on the old computer to the same release to be used on the new computer — this will reformat Continue reading


I’m not generally inclined to recommend software, sometimes there be dragons in the code. I generally feel comfortable with downloads via CNET. NETWORX is a small utility that runs in background to keep track of how your computer is interacting with the net. the single feature I find most useful is “Quota.”  This allows me to set an alarm for a specific amount of web-traffic — particularly useful when using MB or GB priced WiFi. [Second is Usage Report] Other features include: Continue reading

Annotating Digital Charts

I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of massively featured navigation software.  It has steep and multiple learning curves, it gobbles computer resources and it pushes one toward vendor lock-in. All bad juju. One area where I find such software lets me down in particular is when I want to draw on a chart. Not plotting mind you, but notes and graphics which add to the information value of the chart.

I use Oziexplorer charting software. There’s no learning curve, it’s computer friendly, and it accepts input from my AIS which acts as a GPS multiplexer — everything that can come from a GPS can be delivered via a single cable. I use a very burned-in IBM X40 running Windows 7. Since this laptop is for nothing but Nav, augmenting it with 16 extra GB via an SDHC card makes it more than roomy enough. SO WHAT? Oziexplorer (and some others out there) allows me to use JPGs with geospatial references as charts.* I save the added information as a graphic layer in an open source editor (Gimp), so underlying charts can be swapped out as new ones are issued. Three examples of where I have done this are:

Converted BSB** charts to JPGs and emphasized or color highlighted obscure features (or important features lost when charts scale to 1:1,200,000 — Added point of no return circles — added range rings to key ports from offshore — highlighted and annotated shipping separation schemes based on AIS plots collected over time. Note the color change to remind me I’m not on an unaltered NOS chart

Used Gulf Stream flow charts as moving maps to get a better sense of my boat’s location in the flow and what that flow might look like the next day. 

Used layered GRIB charts as charts to get a sense of our movement through the wind field.
Can one do these kinds of things with $700-$1200 navigation suites at the flick of a virtual button? Yep. Can I do them with a tad of work using open/freeware and a $90 charting program, Yep, and in the bargain, I develop a mental imprint from handling the information that I would not get from just looking at it.

When I was actively flying an airplane with one radio and enough instruments to get oneself upright (if there was enough altitude) I always took my chart and marked every runway within gliding distance of my planned altitude and flight-path from beginning to end. This is the same kind of thinking.

*Always verify scanned/georeferenced charts for lat/lon. Some Nav software use imperfect algorithms, and I’ve seen such charts off by as much as 4 miles at 1:1,200,000.

**BSB to JPG conversion software can be found for free at SourceForge