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Thread: Existing Boat Computer Designs / Our DIY approach??

  1. #1
    Newbie terryking's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Shekou-Shenzhen, China - Vermont, USA

    Existing Boat Computer Designs / Our DIY approach??

    Hi Everyone,
    I'm in the research part of building a computer system for a cruising type boat. I'd like to keep in touch here with people working on similar projects.

    Here's one pointer to an existing system that seems to have quite a few installs:
    (I didn't find this, searching mp3car) So, obviously, It Can Be Done...

    Right now I'm seriously looking at VIA EPIA type Mini-ATX boards, possibly the M6000 to ML8000 types.

    I have a lot of PC/electronics/audio/mechanical design background, and I have built two inboard power boats from the first piece of wood up. I use GPS and mapping a lot. It seems like a natural to put a X86/WinXP machine to work to support all these things, with the software and development tools that are easily available. I also do some small embedded design stuff, and I wouldn't want to work my way up the ladder with any of those solutions.

    So, let's talk!

    I'm working on a list of the important questions right now. I don't have any answers yet!

    Most of the car work you guys have done is applicable here. The "Environmental issues" are different. But not THAT different...

    Oh. I'm from Vermont is the US, but I've been living in Africa. I'll be back boating on Lake Champlain June-July and then I have to move to Shenzhen on the South China Sea for a couple of years. Fortunately we're still only 200 milliseconds away...

    Regards, Terry King ...On The Mediterranean in Carthage
    terry at

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Hi Terry, I live aboard have taken 2 cruises south and am planning on heading south this fall ending up in New Zealand from Boston MA. Even funnier is I am also from Vermont. On the last cruise I brought a micro-atx machine hooked to an ICOM M-802 using a SCS Pactor III modem and Winlink for email and weather. Worked great, only problem was it used too much power. So for this trip I have built a low powered computer based on a mini-itx AMD Geode motherboard. I thought I might need the extra power over a EPIA based board, but I was not sure. Right now I have it hooked up the the radio, modem, external WIFI antenna, AIS received and a mux. I am starting to plan out a touch screen monitor for the cockpit.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2007

    Marine computers

    Hi. I am looking for Linux software to display gauges for the twin diesels in the boat that I plan to live on. However, so far, I have not found software that I can use. The VIA mini-itx boards have been around for a while, and there are several suppliers of DC-DC converters for 12V supply applications. Many would work OK in a sealed box, albeit with coupled heatsinks inside and out. With USB sticks getting well into the GB range, it is practical to have a completely diskless system. If anyone is interested in this, look for DSL...DamnSmallLinux !.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2007

    Another Boat DIY Approach

    Larry here. Just saw the topic - very newbie! Also a live-aboard getting ready to cruise. Project start was desire to view engine instruments at steering station on deck when I brought the boat up the ICW a few years back. Bought a TRAVLA case & system from Mini-Itx store w/ an EPIA-SP motherbd. Then after concern about reliability (for charts & nav) and backups discussion w/ company's smart guys (I'm not one) bought a rack mount case so I could install two hard-drive, one backing up the other. The case will fit nicely under my Nav desk. Got a DSATX 12VDC pwr supply, tossed the internal 110VAC to 12VDC converter and mounted the DSATX inside the case - I'll wire it directly to a switch panel on the boat. Currently have it running on my desk at work from a 12VDC Radio Shack 12V pwr supply and it's pulling ~ 3.5A in normal running. I intend to use the DSATX "sleep" capability to reduce pwr consumption, but haven't gotten to that point yet.

  5. #5
    Newbie terryking's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Shekou-Shenzhen, China - Vermont, USA

    Project Update: DIY Onboard Computer system.

    Since my original post here I have been involved in a collaborative design effort to design a workable "Multi-Purpose Onboard Computer System" for cruising boats. Its gone a long way, and I'm now building a prototype. Take a look at:
    which is the main thread. Several subject-specific threads were just spun off, which you will see at:

    Please join us over at BoatDesign.Net if you're interested.

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