Help my mouse has gone crazy !

Crazy Mouse

If you have ever taken a PC onboard a boat and connected it up to a GPS via a serial or USB port then the chances are that you will probably have seen the occasional “crazy mouse” behaviour that seems to affect so many marine PCs. The cursor will suddenly start to randomly move all over the screen, opening windows and clicking on things, as if possessed by some nautical demon !

Well there is a very simple explanation for this phenomenon and it dates back to the good old Serial Port mouse that was popular on the first Windows PCs. It was the mouse with the large 9 pin D-Type connector on the end of the cable, that came out before the short lived PS2 connector mouse and the more recent USB mouse.

These original Serial Port mice used a series of ASCII control signals that are very similar to those produced by a typical NMEA0183 interface on a modern GPS or chart Plotter. If the GPS or Plotter is turned on when the PC boots up, Windows detects the NMEA0183 signals, thinks it has an old Serial Mouse connected and loads up some very old driver software that then proceeds to move the cursor all over the place, opening and closing windows and generally behaving like a “crazy mouse”.

All of the releases of Windows have suffered from this problem and even the very latest Windows 8.1 still has this old Serial Mouse detection software included and will go crazy in certain conditions. The good news is that it is pretty easy to fix, by going in to Device Manager and disabling (NOT uninstalling) the Serial Port Mouse. Digital Yacht have produced a Tech Note on how to fix the problem and a copy can be downloaded by clicking here.

Defending Against the Heart Bleed Bug

Heart Bleed Logo

This weekend, as I am sure many other companies did, we spent a lot of time thinking about how best to tackle the Heart Bleed bug that has shocked the internet world. For those of you who have been living in a cave for the last week, this is the bug in the OpenSSL encryption system that can give hackers a way to grab your username and password. It is estimated that a fifth of the world’s websites could be affected by this and so having a strategy to protect yourself and your business is critical.

Simply going online and changing all of your passwords may not be the best solution, at least until the affected sites have updated OpenSSL to the latest bug fixed version. However it is important to know what sites have the bug and this is easily achieved using the Google Chrome browser and a new extension called ChromeBleed. If you do not currently use Chrome as your browser, now might be a good time to give it a try (free download at Google.Com) and then you need to go to Settings>Extensions and search for “ChromeBleed”.

Chrome Bleed Extension

Once you have installed this extension, a small Heart Bleed logo will appear on the address bar and the extension will automatically (in the background) check sites that you visit and pop up a warning if the site is still using a version of OpenSSL with the bug – see bottom right corner in image below.

Chrome Bleed Warning

Knowing which compromised sites you have visited allows you to warn the company whose site is affected and then monitor when they fix the problem. You have to assume that any password used on that site is now compromised and once they have fixed their site you should change the password you use on that site.

Check all of the sites that you regularly use which have a secure login and if the ChromeBleed warning does not pop up, then log in and change your password.

This morning, whilst writing this article we found one of our suppliers websites was affected and they were unaware of the problem until we contacted them, so better to always warn companies and not assume that they know.

Hopefully some good will come out of this Heart Bleed saga and it will act as a wake up call to all those people that use the same password on every site. Don’t do it ! Yes it is a pain, but you are seriously multiplying the potential damage that could occur to your company if your password is compromised.

Finally, once spammers and hackers wake up to this Heart Bleed “opportunity” I suspect that there will be lots of bogus emails telling you to visit a site and change your password. Don’t what ever you do, click on any links in the email. Make a note of the website and if it is a site that you use, go there normally by opening your browser and typing in their main website address. Now go to the login page, log in as normal and change your password.

Mounting a VHF, AIS, GPS or Wi-Fi Antenna

VHF Mounts

With so many different antennas on boats these days (VHF, GPS, AIS, TV, Wi-Fi, NavTex, etc.), knowing the best way to mount and install them can be quite bewildering. The good news is that many marine antenna manufacturers have standardised on the 1″ x 14 TPI thread mount (one inch by fourteen threads per inch) first used on VHF antennas.

There are a wide variety of 1″ x 14TPI mounts available and four of the most common are shown above. Starting from the top left and going clockwise they are; adjustable rail mount with clamp, horizontal fixed base mount, fully adjustable vertical or horizontal mount with clamp and fixed rail mount.

All of the Digital Yacht antenna products (listed below) use this de-facto standard 1″ x 14TPI mounting arrangement.
 

  • GPS150 and GPS150USB
  • ANT200 AIS Receiver
  • GV30 Combo AIS+GPS antenna
  • MA700 GPS antenna (supplied with AIT2000)
  • WL450 Wi-Fi Antenna

All of our products with the exception of the WL450 can use the plastic mounts but because of the greater weight and length of the WL450 antenna, we would recommend the use of a metal mount. Metal versions of all four types of mounts are available from marine electronics dealers and chandleries.

Wireless NMEA2000 on OpenCPN

NavLink

Slowly but surely, NMEA2000 the latest marine electronics networking standard is making its way on to boats; old and new. With most new marine electronics equipment having an NMEA2000 interface, we are seeing more and more requests for our NavLink Wireless NMEA2000 Server, that allows you to wirelessly send NMEA2000 data to phones, tablets and computers.

Although there is some initial investment required to purchase and install an NMEA2000 “Backbone” (the T-Pieces, terminator resistors and cables) once you have your basic network setup adding extra equipment is very quick and easy. Just today we had a customer who phoned us concerned about how to install a new AIT2000 Class B Transponder and one of our NavLinks on to his new boat that already had an NMEA2000 network installed. The customer had never seen the “backbone” and had expected to need all sorts of tools, crimps, soldering iron, etc. He was very pleasantly surprised to discover that both units just plugged in to the network and the NavLink even took its power from the NMEA2000 bus.

NMEA2000 Backbone

It turned out that the customer was a big Apple fan and wanted to use all of the NavLink’s wireless NMEA2000 data in OpenCPN running on his Mac and maybe later on to purchase a suitable app to run on his iPad. With everything connected up, it was a simple matter of scanning for wireless networks on his Mac and connecting to the NavLink.

Then in OpenCPN, we got him to go to settings, select connections and click on the “Add Connection” button. Then in the connection properties section select “Network”, Protocol = UDP (so that multiple devices can receive the same data), Address = 169.254.1.1 and Port = 2000 (as shown below).

OpenCPN Connection Mac

Once the connection settings were entered, it was just a case of clicking the “Apply” button and then the “OK” button to establish the data connection to the NavLink and the GPS and AIS data started to stream in from the AIT2000 AIS Class B Transponder.

OpenCPN AIS on Mac

 

Our customer was extremely happy that everything was so easy to install and setup and is now looking at installing the Dashboard or NMEA Instrument Plugins for OpenCPN so that he can use more of the NMEA2000 data available on the network.

By selecting the broadcast UDP mode (rather than TCP)  in the connection to OpenCPN, it means that he can simultaneously get the same data on his iPad, when he decides what App to get.

Permanent USB Connection to our AIT2000

AIT2000+USB to NMEA

Our AIT2000 transponder comes complete with a useful USB connection that allows you to quickly and easily configure the unit using our proAIS2 software. Once configured, there is no need to use the proAIS2 software again, other than perhaps to check the AIT2000 at the beginning of the season to ensure it is operating correctly.

A number of customers have also used this USB connection to permanently connect our AIT2000 to a PC or Mac, so that they can display the AIS data on suitable navigation software. For the majority of customers this works perfectly fine, but you need to be careful with your installation as the USB interface is designed to link consumer products.

The problem appears to be that the microprocessor’s USB interface can be damaged by static discharge (in lightning storms) or grounding differences between the boat’s electrical system and the PC/Mac power supply which is often AC powered or via a DC-DC converter.

In these situations, the ground connection in the USB cable can see high surges in current/voltage that can damage the microprocessor and to avoid this, we recommend that any customers who will be connecting the AIT2000 permanently to a PC or Mac, should use one of our NMEA to USB Adaptors (see image above) to provide an extra level of protection.

The part number of the adaptor is ZDIGUSBNMEA and below is a diagram showing how it can be connected to the AIT2000.

AIT2000 NMEA Connections to USB Adaptor

 

Digital Yacht at Pirates Cave

Pirates Cave

Digital Yacht will be showing off our wares at Pirates Cave chandlery tomorrow (Saturday 5th April 2014), along with Raymarine, Waeco and Dometic. If you are in the Rochester area please come along and see the latest in AIS, Wi-Fi, iPad Navigation and wireless NMEA2000. Doors open at 9am and we will be there all day.

As we were planning our route using Google Maps, we noticed someone doing a rather enthusiastic compass calibration in the middle of the River Medway (or were they just having fun) can you spot it ?