New set of “How To” Videos on our Long Range Wi-Fi Products

WL510+iNavConnect

Getting a good long range Wi-Fi connection in a marina can be a challenge, particularly if you have not used the equipment for a while and cannot remember the steps involved.

To try and help make this a little easier, Digital Yacht have created a set of “How To” videos that explain how to connect to the two main types of wireless hotspots that you will come across on your travels; the “Open” captive portal type hotspot favoured by most marinas these days and the “encrypted” password protected hotspot that most bars and restaurants still operate.

At the same time we also created a third video that covers the important process of securing your boat’s wireless, by changing the default wireless network name and password, so that only the people you want to connect, can join your network.

We recommend watching them in the order shown below and simply click on the link to take you to the video on our YouTube channel…

  1. Connecting our WL510 to a Captive Portal type Marina hotspot
  2. Connecting our WL510 to a Password Protected type Restaurant/Bar hotspot
  3. Changing the default SSID and Password on our iNavConnect/iNavHub/iKConnect routers

IMPORTANT NOTE
After Apple changed the way their auto login feature of iOS and Safari behaved earlier this year, we now recommend installing the free Google Chrome web browser for maximum compatibility when connecting to hotspots, on your iPad or iPhone and this is also true on Windows PCs as Internet Explorer does not always seem to trigger the re-direct to the marina’s welcome/login page.

Wi-Fi Congestion

WiFiAnalyzer

The range of 2.4GHz frequencies reserved for Wi-Fi is fairly limited and with so many Wi-Fi devices and networks these days, it is not unusual for wireless networks in the same location to share the same frequencies and this results in lower connection speeds and even connection drop outs in extreme situations.

The good news is that the wireless network(s) on your boat, once out at sea, will not be affected by the wireless networks on land or on other boats. That said, these days it is not unusual for larger yachts and powerboats to have two or more wireless networks and so it is really important to ensure that your own wireless networks are working at peak performance and not sharing the same frequencies.

The good news is that most Wireless Routers and Access Points can be configured to work on a specific frequency and so you should be able to ensure that each network is using its own frequency band without any overlaps.

There are affectively 13 frequencies in the 2.4GHz range and each wireless router will use five adjoining frequencies to setup its network. Looking at the diagram above, where each coloured curve is a separate wireless router/network, you can see that in general three frequencies are used; 1, 6 and 11. which allows three routers to work side by side with no overlapping/sharing of frequencies.

So how do you optimise the frequencies used by your wireless networks ? Well first you need to “see” what is going on by carrying out a wireless survey of your boat. This can be done using a number of free programs and apps. Unfortunately Apple do not allow iPhones and iPads to provide this level of Wi-Fi Information so you will need to use a Windows PC or Android device to do your wireless survey.

If you have an Android phone or tablet, then you are in luck as the free App “Wi-Fi Analyzer” is one of the best tools available and created the image above. For Windows PC users then “NetSurveyor” is very good or “WiFiInfoView” which is not so graphical but is only a few hundred Kilobytes in size and needs no installation, so can run straight from your memory stick.

Whichever tool you use, once you have conducted your wireless survey, you will be able to see what frequencies your wireless networks are operating on and decide if you need to change them. All Digital Yacht wireless products can be changed to use a different frequency and should you need to do this, please contact us for instructions.

Testing Wireless NMEA Data

iAIS TCP-IP Screen

 

With more and more wireless NMEA systems being installed on-board boats, it is very useful for dealers, installers and enthusiastic end users to have simple tools to “view” this wireless NMEA data.

Traditionally, wired NMEA0183 data was viewed using an NMEA to USB cable connected to a PC and then a program such as Hyperterminal (included with Windows up to WinXP) would be used to display the data. In fact Digital Yacht released a free, dedicated NMEA Display program to use on Windows Vista/7/8 and this proved to be a popular tool for testing wired NMEA0183 systems.

With wireless NMEA systems it is much easier to test using a smart phone or tablet and we would recommend the following free apps;

For Apple iOS Devices – our own free iAIS app (see image above) has a very simple raw data view window that can be used to display the wireless NMEA data in TCP or UDP mode. Alternatively iNMEA Logger is another free app, written by the company that developed the popular iRegatta App that can log 30 seconds of received data and create a text file of the results, useful if you do not understand NMEA0183 and want to send it to someone who does.

For Android Devices – there are no specific wireless NMEA Apps, but there are a lot of terminal programs that display TCP and UDP data and after trawling through a fair number of apps, we came across TCP/UDP Terminal App which we think is the best Android App found so far.

Once you have installed your app for displaying wireless NMEA data, then you need to know what you are looking at. To buy the NMEA0183 Specification costs quite a lot of money but there is quite a lot of data on-line, you just need to hunt it out.

Unfortunately a lot of the information on-line is quite old and some of the newer sentences are not fully explained. The NMEA do in fact publish a complete list of all Sentence Identifiers with a short description of what they are (not the complete sentence description) and this list also includes the proprietary Manufacturer’s ID – these sentences start $Pxxx, where xxx = the manufacturer identifier.

It should be noted that most wireless NMEA data is “human readable” (ASCII Text) but the AIS sentences VDM and VDO have what is called a “binary encapsulated” section (bit like a zip file) to reduce the sentence length – see example below.

!AIVDM,1,1,,A,13P;QeO001wrdB`M28kpmCa<0Ua0,0*5D
!AIVDO,1,1,,,B00000@00ovdqaWAUv“CwkUsP06,0*20

This means that you will not be able to make sense of the AIS target information in the VDM and VDO messages, but our free iAIS app does display this information on the main plotter screen, so worth having a copy of this app.

Using an iPad for marine navigation – a Digital Yacht white paper

We’re all familiar with dedicated electronic chart plotters for navigation afloat.  Since the introduction of GPS about 25 years ago, dedicated marine plotters have become the back bone of modern electronic navigation systems.  But whilst smaller 4 and 5” plotters have tumbled in price, larger 8-15” devices remain stubbornly expensive.  The cost of the electronic cartography can also be high and you’ll often be hooked into a closed or proprietary “eco” system for accessories, upgrades or extra features.

Consumer devices like the iPad do offer an alternative and with iPad sales now over 270 million units to date, they bring an economy of scale but also, importantly, a network of software developers making niche apps – many of which can be useful for marine utilisation.

navlink key screen shot landscape

The core iPad hardware revolves around a high resolution 7.9” or 9.7” touch screen display.  With screen resolutions now at 2048 x 1536 pixels for the latest iPad Air, it outpaces dedicated products by a mile yet costs under £400 including vat – even cheaper if you’re in the US.   They also feature wireless interfaces to allow integration with other on board devices and systems and with internet connectivity can bring a host of “cloud” data to your boat – from the latest weather reports to charts updates or crowd sourced data.

Whilst an iPad isn’t waterproof, there’s a variety of protective cases now available and of course 12v chargers, adaptors and mounting options.  Sunlight viewing can also be challenging in very bright conditions but this document outlines some good solutions to this problem.

At Digital Yacht, we firmly believe there’s a place for consumer devices integrated into a boat’s system and we have a wide range of wireless hardware and applications that make this a reality.  We’re determined to offer better value in boating and electronic navigation, safety, communication and entertainment afloat and the iPad revolution is a big step forward here.  Download our latest White Paper (June 2015) guide here iPad Navigation Afloat – a Digital Yacht White Paper

A Very Concise Visit

photo

On a rather grey and damp afternoon, Paul Sumpner visited Class 40 race boat “Concise 8” which was being commissioned at Port Hamble. On board was Mark Wylie of Eastern Electronics who specialises in the supply and fit of marine electronics for high performance racing yachts. WIth NKE instruments, Adrena racing software running on Panasonic Tough Book Windows 8 PCs, AIS and Sat Comms, the installation was typical of the electronics that many serious offshore racing yachts are now fitting.

To link everything together Mark had installed a Digital Yacht iNavHub and Paul was there to check the final network settings and advise on how one of Digital Yacht’s latest WL450 long range Wi-Fi antennas could be added to the system.

With the Thrane and Thrane Fleet 250 Sat Comms, connected to the WAN socket of the iNavHub, the NMEA 0183 instrument and AIS data coming in to the NMEA input of the iNavHub and the Tough Books, iPads and smart phones connected wirelessly to the iNavHub network, it was possible for all wireless devices to receive NMEA data and connect to the Sat Comms to download weather data, etc. What is more, using a piece of software called Real VNC, Mark was able to run the main PC down below and fully control and repeat the Adrena racing software from on deck with the Panasonic Tough Book – all through the Digital Yacht iNavHub.

When Digital Yacht developed iNavHub we had not considered Racing Yachts to be a potential application and it was great to see Mark using our iNavHub in this new and exciting way. Despite the weather, the visit was a success and it was good to see everything working as planned.  For more information on Team Concise click here.