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Zak borg

How about starting a One iPad per boat campaign ?!

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Wouldn't that be a good idea ?

25 Replies

  • This forum needs a "like this" button similar to Facebook!

  • "One iPad per boat campaign"

    What's that mean, and/or why?

    PS Bob, there was a "vote" or "like" button on these Forum comments, but nobody used them so I removed!

  • Just imagine....every boat has an iPad or an adroid imagine these devices replace the "Multi-functional" displays currently on the market and instead each boat owner installs the App's he/she wants on the iPad such as a Chart plotting app, a radar app! ....then imagine the iPad fails, you simply go to the apple store and buy another iPad....imagine now your "multi-functional" display dies would it be as simple and cost effective ?i guarantee it wont.... Just imagine all the mast mounted repeaters as iPads !!

  • I like iPads and the whole app ecosystem a lot, both on and off the boat, but I'm dubious that they will become primary navigation devices. Not even one "radar app" even exists yet, and there's no guarantee one will. Heck, there's still no charting app that's remotely as serious about primary navigation as many laptop charting programs.

    And why haven't the latter already replaced multi-function displays? Laptops are much cheaper than they used to be, and so they too have that nice easy-to-replace feature. But I don't think laptops are used for primary navigation more than they were 5-10 years ago, and maybe less. How come?

  • I was guessing that Zac was making a play of words on the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project.

    I love having my iPad aboard my boat. But I would never consider to use it as a serious replacement for a marinized MFD.

  • I missed that one, Bob. And I actually own one of those original buy-two-keep-one-for-yourself OLPC laptops, hardly ever used (anyone interested -- worth causes included -- please be in touch).

  • Over the coming years we will see a massive in surge of mobile devices such as iPads & MeeGo devices. Such devices have not penetrated the industry yet due to the lack of a common open source underlying platform....

    but wait we have just launched MARSSA(MARine Systems Software Architecture) the first open source platform in the marine industry.

    MARSSA is on a mission to OPEN what is CLOSED and provide a FREE open source platform.

    MARSSA is the KEY to the integration of such devices in the marine industry.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to use ANY device, on ANY ship and not worry about the proprietary protocols and cables being used ?:)

    Wouldn’t it be nice to use off the shelf components on your yacht? Just plug it in and it magically works!

  • OK, this forum subject has taken a turn. My theory on why we don't use laptops for navigation: Jack of all trades, master of none. Laptops and iThings do alot of different things well. They are designed to be a jack of all trades. But a marinized MFD is designed to do one thing really well. The Laptops and iThings can't compete with that. We have all seen computers crash. How often do you see an MFD crash? I have seen an MFD crash, but it was a bad install.

    Compared to a laptop, the MFD is completely solid state, with no moving parts. I know the iPad is solid state. I would not hesitate to drop my Garmin 72 on concrete. I would never do that to the iPad. I would not hesitate to (and actually do this routinely) let my Garmin 72 bounce around in the bilge puddle in my dinghy. I would never do that to the iPad. Need I say more? I know, you can get cases and holders and what-not for the iPad to make it durable and waterproof. But it still not as well made as a good GPS. And the iPad can crash. I have never, ever seen my Garmin 72 crash. There is no way I could balance a laptop on my helm while crossing the lake at 30mph in 3' swells. I cringe to think what the hard drive is going to do when the boat slams down off a white cap. They just are not made to take that abuse.

    If I had a trawler, with an enclosed pilot house, it might be fun to have a computer set up and running. But in my 30' express cruiser on Lake Erie, it is just not practical.

    I love having my iPad onboard. I have iNavX and Navionics apps for it. But I would never have it replace my MFD for serious navigation.

    Zac, I have been a Linux user for over a decade. It would be awesome if someone developed an open source application, and possibly even a Linux distribution that was entirely devoted to being an MFD.

    The feature that I would like to see in future MFD's: instead of proprietary charts, why not adopt the NOAA ENC format? Allow us to upload a NOAA ENC chart catalog to a commodity SD card and slap that into the MFD. I am shocked that no manufacturer offers this.

  • I think OpenCPN ( ) might disagree with you about "first", Zak. More important, there are no "off the shelf" radar scanners, fishfinders, forward looking sonars, etc. There is an open standard for low bandwidth sensors and that's NMEA 2000, but some don't think it's open because it's not free. Is MARSSA going to support N2K? Buy it? What radars will MARSSA support?

    Of course I like your goal but I'm a crotchety old skeptic ;-)

  • Well an MFD does not crash as it can be considered as an embedded device – this means its masters of one things yet not able to do much. As you rightly stated computers on board yachts due fail, but only when the wrong computers and operating systems are used and the wrong infrastructure of the computers is used. The marine industry needs to rapidly move away from the “One box one function paradigm” and get up to date and in line with the automotive and aerospace industries which are based on centralized computing power, open standards platforms and any display as the front end.

    The point being, in automotive they use ECU’s dedicated to the automotive environment, all cars go through hell, constant hammering by the roads which surpasses by far the stress of the marine environment and yet these ECU’s (computers) fail very rarely. Now in the marine industry, if one places an off the shelf standard PC on a boat, yes it will surely fail, but what if one places a marinized computer onboard? I guarantee this will not fail.

    All that is needed with your balancing and waterproof issue is a solid and good case and the tablet will become your new best friend…so you are actually in favour of 1 grey box per functionality? wouldn’t it be a much more ideal situation having a set of computers on board.., let’s say 2 marine servers and all of the application you need it being chart plotting or a AIS will simply be services (software) installed on this virtual cloud on board your yacht.

    Now on board you yacht, size is not the issue as the computing power scales down proportionally and with our proposed setup you will be able to save costs hugely…..Now in line with our MARSSA project…. We are not out on a mission to come up with an open source MFD, the MARSSA platform is a complete revolution. The platform allows individuals to setup a private cloud on board their yacht with let’s say 3 marine computers and our intelligent MARSSA platform is able to load balance between them, determine when one of them is about to fail, start-up a spare computer etc…

    Now with such a private cloud…. The MARSSA platform has gateways to all the propriety standards such as SeaTalk, NMEA etc…. then developers/engineers around the world simply develop application which are installed on ones yacht,… let’s say a route planning application is developed by company XYZ in line with the MARSSA software development open source standards.. then you are able to go to our online app store and download this application, install it on your yacht and magically you have a route planning service without the installation of another grey box….

    The computers might be running on a distribution of Linux and the front end over which one sees the data is totally up to the user, he could you an iPad a MeeGo device or a standard TFT screen.
    Are you getting my point now? We are revolutionizing the industry..Bringing it up to speed with the automotive industry and the aerospace industry….
    “Software as services…not grey boxes as services.”

  • Sorry, Zak, but I'm beginning to wonder if you actually understand current main stream marine electronics. In fact, most modern MFDs are purpose-built Linux PCs and new functions -- like thermal camera control or stereo control -- can be added with a software upgrade, quite like apps. And many of these networked systems do not require a master MFD and are to a certain degree self healing.

    Of course these are very closed systems, and I understand the desire for more openness and flexibility. But how are you going to get there? You can not duplicate the functionality of an MFD without radar and fishfinding (and that list is growing). And you can not simply say that you'll have "gateways to all the proprietary standards." The truly proprietary ones -- radar, fishfinding, etc. -- do not have gateways, and their owners will sue if you engineer one. How does MARSSA deal with these realities?

  • …….the only way this is possible is as the MARSSA platform is open source! This means that such organizations which you said “will sue us” will join such an initiative and push forward to opening up their protocols and standards and push for open source…. All it will take is on big player from the main stream technology industry to decide to enter the marine market and everything will flip upside down, forcing them to go open. One big technology company(non marine) will one day put down its cards and play the bluff being played by all these “marine electronics” companies which insist on remaining closed to remain secure & retain their market share!
    You rightly stated that most MFD’S run on Linux (It seems like that after all I am up to date with the marine industry and i knew this but thanks, for the note!) have you ever been on a super yacht and seen a nice blue screen pop up ? or windows 98 ? well we see it regularly…

    Now you say that most MFD’s allow individuals to install apps as you put it….. But can I as a software engineer develop an app and deploy it on lets says Raymarine latest MFD on my own sailing yacht….errmmm No ? Wouldn’t it be better to have marinized computer running on Linux and having the community able to develop any application possible and deploy it across any vessel ?

    Now that you say I am not in sync with the industry..Have you ever thought about the possibility to have virtual integration? Can this be done in the marine industry as is done in automotive and aeronautical? NOPE!

    How is it that every other industry is going open source from Google to Microsoft and the marine industry is like a closed box, everyone scared to go open as the other will be able to use his radar data!

    I personally thought you would be in favour of going open not remaining closed!

    But such discussions are really exciting and I am really enjoying this :) my email is and skype is zakborg & blog is How about a skype session ?

  • Zak, please stop assuming that I favor closed systems. What I favor is reality. One aspect of which is that current marine electronics are more inter-operable than you give credit. Just check out the Airmar, Raymarine, Maretron system Dan wrote about on the blog. Also check out all the software developers working with the Actisense NMEA 2000 Gateway and other ways apps are getting integrated with dedicated marine systems, like Plotter Sync and BoatraNet. There will be lots more of this.

    Another reality is that there is no main stream tech company with radar, fishfinding, etc. about to jump into this industry, I don't think. And why would a big tech company, anyway? Marine electronics is a very small and complicated industry. Boats are not analogous to cars.

    PS I think this is a better way to converse than skype because it's open to all ;-)

  • The conversation started with asking for one iPad per boat. Keep in mind that the iThings are a far cry from an open system. Apple keeps tight control over the apps. Partially because they are Apple being Apple, but also because they want to keep the integrity of their system intact. They can prevent crashes and memory leaks by forcing an authorization process before an app is permitted to be installed by users. I imagine that Ray / Garmin / Furuno / etc, would need a similar system in place if they ever allowed 3rd party apps to be installed on an MFD.

    Myself, I really don't need/want apps installed on my MFD. When I am at the helm, I am doing one thing: navigating. I don't want to browse, check email or watch a movie. Standard Horizon recently asked the question: do you want a browser in your MFD? I don't. I would not pay extra for a browser. I don't really want to curl up in my bunk with my MFD and watch movies or browse the internet.

    I am happy with two devices, and have no desire to combine them into one device. I would rather have a fixed mount MFD at the helm that does one thing really, really well: navigate. Loaded only with the apps to accomplish that task: Plotter, Radar, Fishfinder, etc. It should also have a really big, powerful backlight that has no power constraints, so that it can over power the sun. Along with that MFD, it is ideal in my mind to have a second device that is svelte, easy on batteries, that I can take to my berth or nav station for browsing / email / media consumption.

  • The world as we know it is changing, with Facebook, twitter and blogs…all upcoming yacht owners including myself and my generation, want internet and the ability to develop our own apps. Apple might be closed as you put it but compared to Raymarine they are very very very very open, big deal there are standards and regulations imposed by Apple at least it ensures QUALITY is put into every single app- how many times have you seen two products supposedly NMEA compatible not working with one another ?

    Instead of an iPad we could use open source MeeGo front ends, but no matter what the app store would always demand some form of development guidelines, in order to ensure quality. Now in line with your responses, you keep on insisting that MARSSA is not needed as one MFD and one tablet is enough…. One simple case… tell me what are you going to do Ben if you are crossing the Atlantic and your ONE MFD fails on you ? What guarantee due to you that the MTTF of your device is correct ? what guarantee do you have that you won’t get hit by lighting and burn up everything ?

    With MARSSA in place you simple open up a new plug computer which you have in your cupboard (costing a measly 100 dollars) , connect it to a backup hard disk which will automatically install the MARSSA platform on your Computer, deploy all the apps needed and connect it to a tablet for display over wifi or to a normal screen over some other protocol! Well you could always solve this problem with the MFD approach and have an extra MFD on board packed away but wouldn’t this cost you around 2000 dollars ? and what guarantee do you have that the typical end user will be abl to actually install an MFD alone ?

    Another case in point, you guys keep on forgetting that the marine industry is much vaster that small sailing yachts.. have you ever considered all these super yachts, navy ships, supply vessels and cruise liners… do you think they use one MFD for all their navigation and one ipad for reading emails and ? currently each ship is loaded with a lot of different networks and a whole rack of servers all running on an adhoc architecture, one network for the navigation, one for the navigation, one for communications etc…. now with a MARSSA backbone the engineers would be totally abstracting from this complexity and simple deploy a “surround sound service” on the cloud and a “navigation service” on the cloud, MARSSA also caters for a gateway to the public could allowing the yacht to use external servers if they cannot cope with the load etc.

    Do you get the bigger picture now?

    MARSSA is opening what is closed and innovating innovation, and standardizing what is unstandardized

  • Well said, Bob, and I think you speak for many.

    Now to Zak:

    " keep on insisting that MARSSA is not needed as one MFD and one tablet is enough…. One simple case… tell me what are you going to do Ben if you are crossing the Atlantic and your ONE MFD fails on you?"

    I certainly did not insist that. As I wrote above, many MFDs network nicely, and that's only way to provide redundancy. Maybe you're thinking of Bob, but he has a relatively small boat and I very much doubt he intends to cross the Atlantic with it.

    Zak, if you really want to engage in a constructive conversation, you ought not put words in other people's mouths. Ultimately though, MARSSA has to be a real product or at least a real basis for real products before you're going to get much attention.

    In the meantime, I think I am getting the bigger picture, but it may not be the one you're so worked up about.

  • hey @ben i put no words in other people mouths i was referring to @bob "I am happy with two devices".

    Well its nice that you are finally getting to see the bigger picture :) but your big picture might be a cruise liner or super yacht with lets say a gizzilion MFD's one on the outer bridge, one at the navigation station, one in the engineers room, one in the engine room, one in the owners room, one in the bathroom....

    I am not worked up about anything, I am talking and discussing out of the excitement and great positive feedback we are receiving from this initiative!, it’s just been hard trying to convince two grey box fanatics that a better alternative, cheaper, more reliable and of higher quality could eventfully complement such MFD's and slowly phase them out if the community sees the light at the end of the tunnel – deep down I know you like the idea :)

    Yet is still amazes me as this project is trying to help every mariner out there, giving them more freedom and more choices and you guys are in no way open to new ideas and innovations which in the end will help the marine industry move forward!
    Anyway guys, best of luck with your MFD’s, wish you all the happiness and joy they bring about ! its been a pleasure discussing this topic.

    Also don't worry i have no hard feeling for this comment "Sorry, Zak, but I'm beginning to wonder if you actually understand current main stream marine electronics"- i guess you guys are the experts with PHD's, Masters you name it in marine electronics.

    I just suggest we should bring up this topic again 5 years down the line ! when MARSSA will be driving the Marine industry giving everybody the right to place on board what equipment he/she can afford and best suits his/her needs!

  • I'm typing this on an iPad, sorry but don't see the point. On the boat it's fun, but that's all, a secondary nice to have but non essential gymic. Tablets and typical leisure marine environment don't mix (salt, water, shock, vibration, damp, etc). Same for laptops. Fine on board a super yacht to keep an eye on where the crew are taking her, but not for typical sized leisure craft.

    For same reason most construction workers don't use flimsy smart phones at work. They are just not up to that sort of rugged environment.


    Check that link out guys..... we are presenting at the MeeGo conference the biggest open source community for mobile devices... hold on and get ready !

  • I checked out your slide show, Zak. You're really going to tell Meego developers that there are 30 million vessels in need of MARSSA "private cloud computing"? Which means that there is "a gold mine waiting to be explored"? All I can say is "wow!"

  • I don't see why a Ipad in a good waterproof case would not make a good Chart-plotter/ GPS. I setup mine with the Dual Bluetooth GPS and a good sealed case, a Ram Mount and INAVX and I now have a nice chart-plotter. I would have had to spend at least another $500 for a comparable standalone device that I would use twice a week for maybe 5 months. For a weekend cruiser like me it makes perfect sense. For a professional captain or a world cruiser standalone instrumentation makes perfect sense, but for a leisure boater like me I have a hard time justifying the extra cost when I already have the Ipad.

  • I would respond to posedion by saying that every skipper needs to decide for himself (or herself) what equipment they require and what measures they need to take, to operate their vessel safely. I have been boating on the West Basin of Lake Erie for over 20 years. As long as I have sufficient visibility to see the islands and navaids, I can safely navigate just about the entire West Basin without any type of chart or electronics. There are a few shoals, and I know where they are located. That being said, when I cruise, I carry: a chartplotter, paper charts, a helm compass, and a hand bearing compass. While I may use these tools on the nice sunny days in familiar waters, I don't carry all these tools for the nice sunny says in familiar waters. I carry them for use on all the other days....

    There is no solution that fits everyone. It all depends upon where you are boating, and your comfort level with your equipment. I love my iPad! But I don't feel comfortable depending on an iPad, when the visibility drops, I am trying to dodge whitecaps in bad weather in unfamiliar waters. I am happy to lean on the Garmin on my helm in any situation, all it asks me for is a clear view of the sky and 12v! I guess it's just a personal preference? There was a story about a guy in Florida that was trying to navigate his sailboat with his cellphone. They never mentioned what cellphone he was using. It got waterlogged and became disabled. The boater had to call the USCG for assistance.

    Garmin / Raymarine / Furuno / and the others, all hire really smart people to design products to be used on the water. That is their sole purpose in life, and they handily accomplish this mission. Steve Jobs and his crew designed a product to be used by consumers. There are 3rd parties with apps and cases that adapt the iPad to different missions and environments. But at the end of the day, the iPad was not built for the environment in which we use it. It was adapted. I guess I am still dubious at that adaptation.

    The iPad does not have sufficient backlight level, durability or waterproofness for me to consider for serious navigation aboard the boat. The iPad is designed to be thin and light and for media consumption by consumers. An awesome device to curl up with in my bunk at the end of my boating day. Something that is great at checking the weather before I leave the dock. It's even good at pre-plotting my waypoints and routes. (I wish it would upload to my Garmin!) These are missions that the iPad accomplishes very well!

  • @posedion: you talk lots of sense! :)

    @ben: No actually i am going to talk about the state of the art MFD's (now wouldst that excite everybody) and how they are the future of the marine industry!

  • What got me, Zak, is your figure of a 30 million vessel market. Did you know that in the U.S. there are only about 80,000 power yachts in the 40- to 80-foot category, and that may be more than half the global population?