27 October 2010 17:33
Prolific marine blogger ‘Panbo’ reported that some of our competitors were doing interesting things with iPads and Windows based navigation systems. Andy Nibbs loves his iPad so he went off to investigate…
The iPad is ideal for an extra view on a Nav system. It’s a general purpose device when away from the boat which eases the sting on your wallet. It has a pretty good bright display and you can made it more rugged with off the shelf stuff. So you can have it in an exposed position next to the wheel while the laptop is in the dry below.
There’s a lot to be said for using an iPad in this way. The iPad is battery powered and connects wirelessly so it can work as an extra display on deck whilst your laptop is kept below. Note that you need a WiFi connection between the iPad and the Windows computer and a suitable app to configure your iPad as an additional monitor. Waterproof cases start at around $20.
The navigation software doesn’t need to do anything special – just work properly with multiple monitors. The iPad looks to your PC like an extra monitor.
Nuno’s route monitor view is just right for putting on an extra display.
I’ve tried iDisplay and Maxi Vista (both about ten dollars) and they both seem to basically work. Refresh rates aren’t the same as a real monitor.
iDisplay allows you to do some mouse work on the iPad display which is useful but I recommend using the iPad mainly as a display only view whilst a passage is underway. Your laptop’s display is probably better for passage planning.
Maxi Vista seemed to cope better with me checking my email on the iPad and then going back to it but it didn’t allow me to do any mouse work using the pad.
For both apps, you buy the app for the pad and it tells you what to do on the PC – which is to install some software to handle the PC’s side of the connection. Once that’s done, you run the app on the iPad and the app of the PC either detects the iPad and everything springs into life or you have to do something manual on the PC to start it up.
The iPad and PC need to be on the same network. That can be a peer to peer network with just a laptop and the iPad.
I found both the applications I tried suffered from a few problems. I’ve got a few reservations about whether the software is robust enough for use at sea just yet. If you already own an iPad then the cost of trying this is pretty low but don’t buy one especially and get disappointed. Hopefully the software will get better quickly – after all this has wide applicability away from boating.