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Automatic Identification System (AIS)

Each vessel fitted with an AIS transponder transmits its identity, position, course, speed and other information over a VHF channel. AIS1This is compulsory for vessels over 300 tons and all passenger ships. Quite a lot of other vessels carry them as well.

So if your boat has an AIS receiver on board you can track these vessels if they are in range, typically 20 miles or so. If the receiver has a display at all it is usually a bit rude and crude – the real trick is to feed the AIS information into your chart display system. Now you can see the AIS targets overlaid onto your navigational chart and this starts to get useful.

AIS was intended and designed as a collision avoidance mechanism however you really need a graphical chart based display to properly realize this. Nuno™ now supports AIS (hooray!) and makes a great way to display the information.

Even on a smaller boat there is a lot to be said for getting an AIS receiver. They are pretty cheap these days and benefit in terms of situational awareness is brilliant.

Configuring AIS in Nuno™ is pretty easy. You need an AIS unit with a NMEA output and then you just plug it in. That’s it. Depending on your set up the AIS NMEA stream may be multiplexed onto your GPS feed or it may be a separate connection. Either way just plug it in and Nuno™ will find it.

AIS targets are displayed as little green symbols with a vector arrow representing speed and direction. Ticks on the arrow are at one minute intervals. Hover the cursor over the target to see additional information such as name, destination and cargo. The scope of the information being broadcast can vary quite a lot.

AIS5Here is a really handy technique: Create a pencil line and drop one end onto the marker for your boat and the other onto an AIS target. The line will display range and bearing to the AIS target. Even better the line will ‘snap’ to your vessel and the AIS target and update as they move. Very useful for keeping an eye on another ship.

Nuno™ with AIS capability is being released soon. Very soon. Maybe even today. This is available as a free upgrade to all users with a current license. There are lots of other improvements in this release and some great new features just around the corner.

How do you get it? Easy. Run Nuno™ up on a PC with an internet connection. If an upgrade is available it will tell you in the Support Centre pane and there will be a download link for you to follow.

Touchy, Feely Nuno™

Windows 7 supports touch screens. Ok, that’s not very big news, touch screens have been around for a while. Wikipedia tells me that touch screens date from the 60s. Not sure about that but they certainly crop up from time to time in museums, train stations and the sort of demos that look a bit forced. Overall I’d admit to being only peripherally aware of touch screens up to the day I encountered an iPad. Multi-touch, high resolution screen, quality software and suddenly it all makes sense. So much so that using the iPad touch screen felt natural within minutes.

Now sadly Nuno™ won’t run on an iPad (or maybe it does – watch this space) but there are some nice PCs around with touch screens and we figured that Nuno™ should be right at home with these. I find with charts in particular that I really want to reach out and touch them. Once you start doing this on a screen then there is no looking back. The touch screen doesn’t have to the replace the mouse and in many ways makes a nice addition to it.

Technically a touch screen, by default, drives the software a little like a mouse. This means that many applications, without modification, can already be used with a touch screen to some extent. Of course there is always scope for tweaks and improvements. As programmers we can accept the default behavior (ok sometimes) or dive in and create custom touch screen code. The diagram below shows what we have come up with in Nuno™. This seems to work quite well. There may well be refinements in the future.


P8052682I have been experimenting with an ELO 2242L 22” Touch monitor which is great fun although I can’t decide which way is best to mount it. Upright works quite well but is a bit tiring to use after a while. Might even cause the dreaded Gorilla Arm. Lying flat (the monitor, not me) is also quite good but it won’t naturally just lie on a table. Would be really nice to make a custom table for it although the ultimate chart replacement screen will probably need to be two or three times as big. Might even have teak edging.

Elsewhere in the CherSoft research labs we’ve been looking at a Motion J3500 tablet PC. This is a very nice bit of kit. Outdoor viewable display and generally pretty tough and portable. I could image using it ashore for planning with a keyboard, mouse and so on. Then taking it aboard and just using the touch screen to control it. The built in GPS works well so along with the automatic route tracking functionality in Nuno you can have a solution that really will just work. I guess in some ways this would be like having a plotter except of course that you could check your emails and browse the web in-between times. It features hot-swappable batteries too which is a pretty neat trick.

Nuno™ 2.5, the touchy, feely edition, will be out any day now.

Great British Nuno™

Why is Britain called ‘Great’. I kind of quite like it, but isn’t it a touch odd? Why don’t we do this for other countries? I mean ‘United’ States is ok if a bit functional. But how about going the whole hog such as Marvelous Mexico, Fantastic Canada or Affluent Switzerland? A more serious minded colleague tells me that technically the country is called ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ which as country names go has got to be about as long and pretentious as they get. Apparently the ‘Great’ bit was introduced to distinguish it from the, presumably less great, Brittany (which is now part of France). Alternatively ‘Great’ has its origins in 1707 when Britain became greater by incorporating Scotland. None of this has anything to do with Nuno except that we like to say ‘Great British Nuno’ and sort of imply that the ‘great’ bit is somehow connected with the Nuno bit.

Nuno 2.3 with UK charts is now launched. This really is UK and not just GB because these charts go all the way around Ireland. Check out the coverage here. Here’s how it works. When you download the Nuno installer it does not come with any charts at all. So when you run the installer it will ask you whether you want to use the US or the UK chart data sets.



  • If you want to change your mind you will need to uninstall Nuno and then re-install it.


  • If you have purchased a license then you should choose the chart set that corresponds to the license.




Installation finished. Fire up Nuno and you will see there are no charts installed. The World Vector Shoreline will be there but that’s about all.



Next job is to go to the support pane and hit the Update button in the ‘Chart data updating’ section. This will go an fetch a complete set of charts; either the UK or the US set depending on your choice while installing. This will work even if you are using Nuno in the trial mode.

Fetching the charts may take a while, there are quite a lot of them.

While you are at it you may as well hit Update for the ActiveCaptain data. This is really quite small and won’t take anywhere near as long.


Once the clunking and whirring has finished all your data will be up to date and you are ready to go.


Happy sailing. If you get a minute, please tell us what you think about Nuno.

Using Nuno™ in the UK

Wouldn’t it be great if you could use Nuno™ for UK waters? Ok, not great for everyone, but pretty good if you happen to be sailing around the UK. So, good news for UK sailors, we’ve got a set of charts for the UK.

After months of intense negotiations with the UK Hydrographic Office we have secured a deal to use ENC charts for UK coastal water. This is the same chart data as would be used by an ECDIS. Now of course Nuno™ is not an ECDIS, if it was then it would be very clunky to use and we’d charge you a fortune. Instead Nuno™ is easy to use and very cost effective. That may sound like vaporous sales talk but consider that this same set of ENC data, 485 cells, would cost you thousands if you bought them for an ECDIS. We are only going to charge you £120 (inc VAT) for all those cells plus the magnificent Nuno™ Navigator application. That has got to count as cost effective.

Here is what the coverage area looks like:coverage

ActiveCaptain has pretty good coverage:ac in uk

All the usual chart features are there:usual

The chart data comes with this disclaimer:

"Chart material has been derived in part from data that has been obtained from the United Kingdom Hydrographic office (UKHO). The UKHO does not sponsor or endorse the product and the UKHO and its licensors make no warranties or representations, express or implied, with respect to the product. The UKHO and its licensors have not verified the information within the product or quality assured it. © British Crown Copyright, 2011. All rights reserved.”

Updates will be available every three months or so.

Nuno with UK data will be out in just a week or so. Watch this space.

Version 2.2 Update released

There were a couple of nagging issues that we felt we had to fix so we have released a small update.

This update fixes the following issues:

  • Application Support Center reports that a new application version is available even when the application is already up to date
  • Chart updates may be missed if you stop Nuno while it is updating
  • Application sometimes fails to exit if you try to stop Nuno while it is updating

ActiveCaptain in Nuno™

If you have never heard of ActiveCaptain then go have a look here www.activecaptain.com. ActiveCaptain is a lot of useful information, really an awful lot of information and now you can get at it through Nuno™. Have a good look around the website and while you are there set up an account. It is very easy to do and it is free.

Next job, fire up the new version of Nuno™. If you don’t have the latest version of Nuno then go and get it. Your subscription entitles you to free updates so you should make use of it. There is a link on the Support Center pane to download the latest version or you can just go straight to the website. This is just one of many improvements and additions we have planned for the near future.

Hit the ‘Show’ button and select ‘ActiveCaptain’. Type in your ActiveCaptain login details and you are good to go.


Here is what the logon screen looks like. Easy stuff.

Once you logged on you will see a bunch of extra symbols on the chart that look just like the markers on the ActiveCaptain website. Click on one of these to bring up a whole bunch of useful information.


Keeping the ActiveCaptain information up to date is easy too. Go the the Support Center by hitting ‘Show’' and then selecting ‘Support Center’. Press the Update button. That’s it. Updates are pretty small and fast. They are also quite frequent – this information is being constantly improved and added to.


We are very happy with the tie in with ActiveCaptain – what do you think?

New Nuno News

The Nuno Navigator team are ecstatically pleased to announce the release of Nuno 2.0. This marks the end of the beta trials. Many thanks to all the people that took part.

Nuno has come a long way since we started. This release includes many improvements:

  • Track Log. See where you have been, and save useful bits for later.
  • Anchoring Mode. See seabed features only when you need them. More.
  • Chart Overview. Makes moving around the chart easier, and shows you more information about the charts themselves. More.
  • Quick light recognition. Hover over a light on the chart and see a graphical display of its characteristics. More.
  • Data Import and Export. Save your tracks, routes and places as GPX data or KML (Google Maps). Load data from lots of sources into Nuno Navigator.

In addition there have been the usual bug fixes and lots of minor improvements which just make Nuno easier to use. image

Chart updating is better and faster. A single button click is all you need to keep your charts up to date. In fact you can even set this to automatic and Nuno will download updates whenever they are needed.


Nuno track monitorPosition input is better. Nuno will find your GPS automatically and display the ship position, course and speed. Improved filtering means that the display is more accurate and will not jump around.



You can quickly create a route plan, just a few clicks on the chart, and then follow it using the dedicated route monitor window. This tracks your vessel and displays course information, distances, cross track error and so on.





Did I mention the search bar? It’s pretty good. You can type in a place name and Nuno will display a list of matches and partial matches. Click on one of these and the chart will fly you straight there. You can also type in a position as a lat/lon or even as a range/bearing from the ship.





One of my favorites is the the pencil line. You can attach one end of this to the ship and it will move as the ship moves. Very handy for keeping an eye on the range and bearing to something.






Nuno is available at the absurdly cheap price of $100 for which you get and indefinite license to use Nuno and a one year subscription (worth $50) to chart updates, Nuno updates, support and other good things. More.

Almost there

The first full release of Nuno™ is coming soon. Very soon. Within a week even. It has some great new features, some great improvements and some great bug fixes. Ok, so it is not so great that there are bugs to fix but it is important that we fix them. It is impossible to write code without bugs and anyone that says otherwise probably doesn’t write code.

Here’s a run-down of some of the things we’ve improved:

Overview. A small scale pop-out window with data quality and other overview type information on it. This was discussed here.

Anchoring mode. This is a display setting to show a bit more detail on the chart. Useful if you are maneuvering in to tie up but probably a bit too cluttered for regular use. We’ve done a lot of work on trying to manage clutter in chart displays. It is one of the big problems with vector chart systems.

Track log. Nuno will now maintain a record of your vessel track.


So now you can see exactly where you have been. You can save portions of the track in case you need a permanent record.

Chart Updating. This is getting better all the time. Our aim is to make chart updating so simple that you will, with almost no effort, have a complete set of up to date charts all the time. We are also working on reducing the time taken to update charts.

That is just a sample. There are lots of small improvements and features which all go towards making Nuno a better navigation system and better to use. We have lots of improvements in the pipeline as well. Over the next few months we will be adding support for AIS, Active Captain and others.

What features would you like to see? We’d really like to hear from you.

In the meantime the beta program is still running and as an added incentive for anyone who has shied away from trying out the beta so far:-

Anyone who downloads and activates the beta version before we launch the full version will get 50% of the purchase price of the full Nuno.

Details about the costs are here. The bottom line is that it will save you $50. Even I think that is a pretty good deal. Downloading and activating the beta is free. No cost. No obligation. But you need to act soon because this offer is only until the full version of Nuno is launched and like I said – this is going to be soon.

iPad route monitor

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.

(Note: This post was written in 2010, there is a wider range of apps to do this now).

Nearly a Source Data Diagram

Many paper charts include a Source Data Diagram (SDD). This is small inset displaying the charted area which indicates something about the origins of the information used to compile the chart. There can be some important stuff here.


This SDD shows that some of the soundings come from a lead line survey in 1832. In other words... and think about this carefully ... a hundred and eighty years ago somebody stood on deck with length of hemp rope with knots or marks on it and a heavy weight at the end. From the numbers he shouted out you are going to decide if there is enough water to avoid grounding your boat. To be fair most commonly used waterways are much more recently (and accurately) surveyed than this but even so it can be worth checking. The chart may be completely up to date but the original survey could have been a long time ago.

Of course with your shiny electronic charting system you may think that this sort of consideration is not an issue any more. Sadly this is not true. Most electronic charts are created from paper charts and this will probably be the case for a while. Now clearly the underlying accuracy of the survey data is a concern. The designers of S57 had a think about this and came up with the notion of a ‘Category of zone of confidence in data’. This is chart meta-data - data about the data. Areas are defined and for each area the quality of the underlying survey data, the Zone of Confidence (ZOC) is classified as one of:


This looks quite promising. Instead of telling me something about where the data came from they are going to tell me directly just how accurate it is.

These meta data objects are designed to be used at the compilation scale of the chart however this does not seem quite right to us. The information is really part of an overview of the chart, a summary, so in Nuno we are introducing an overview window. This displays the Zone of Confidence areas and has some other nice uses too.

A second potentially useful bit of information for the overview comes from 'Nautical publication information' objects. This is more meta data which is a reference to a specific paragraph from a nautical publication. Quite usefully this is often a note about the paper chart which was used to create the electronic cell and in particular the source date of the paper chart.

So in Nuno we have put this information together into a nice little inset window which can be easily displayed or dismissed. It gives you a handy overview of the main chart view and its surrounding area. It also supports panning and zooming which can be a neat way to move the view around larger areas. 


You can click on the little button I have circled in red to make the overview disappear. Technically this is called an affordance (just in case you wanted to know).

Sad to say there is small hiccup in this scheme and this is because of another value for Zone of Confidence which does not appear in the table above. The value is U and this means ‘data not assessed’. Which is to say that the creators of the electronic chart cells have chosen not to specify anything about the quality of the chart data. To my mind it is a bit unfortunate that this value even exists however it gets worse because for the most part all the NOAA data is classified as U. A few newer cells use B but most of them are just U.

I was recently at an IHO meeting to discuss S-100 which is the chart standard currently being designed to replace S-57. One topic was a consideration of ways to display the S-100 equivalent of this sort of data quality value. There was, as usual, much discussion on this, but to my amusement nobody pointed out that unless the chart producers actually encode this information then it does not really matter how it should be displayed. S-100 is a long way off but for now, please NOAA, could you start adding more zone of confidence information? It is really quite important information. The Nuno overview is useful in its own right and it displays the date of the source chart for each area. It also displays the data confidence level so if more of this were actually in the cells then we would really have an electronic equivalent of an SDD. Come on NOAA – we are all ready for you.