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-Computer Stuff-

Read this for some hints and tips for your onboard computer / computers.

Failure to boot.

One of the most common problems is failure to boot after things have gone wrong, eg, locked up and had to switch off the power rather than do a correct "Shut Down". Try this, power up the PC and press and hold the F8 key so that you are booting into "Safe Mode". If this is successful you can then run a disk check and repair from the "Command Prompt" by doing the following:-

Click Start, and then click Run.

In Open, type cmd, and then press ENTER.

Use one of the following procedures:

    To repair errors without scanning the volume for bad sectors, at the command prompt, type chkdsk volume:/f, and then press ENTER. EG. chkdsk c: /f This assumes "C" is your boot drive.

    Note If one or more of the files on the hard disk are open, you will

    receive the following message:

    Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process. Would you like to schedule this volume to be checked the next time the system restarts? (Y/N)

    Type Y, and then press ENTER to schedule the disk check, and then restart your computer to start the disk check.

    To repair errors, locate bad sectors, and recover readable information, at the command prompt, type chkdsk c: /r, and then press ENTER

    If it boots intermittantly, when the sytem is up and running, to do a disk check:-

    Open My Computer. Go to the "C" drive, right click this drive, goto "Properties" "Tools" then select "Check Now" and tick "Automatically Fix file system errors". It will then ask if you want to schedule a disk check for the next time you start Windows, OK this and reboot. It will do a disk check and repair when Windows restarts.


    Microsoft Security Essentials - Failure to update.

    If you are experiencing problems with the updating of MSE, click here and follow the steps.

    USB GPS issues.

When you install the software for these devices (drivers) it "maps" the com port to the GPS device. What it  is doing is emulating the GPS as a serial port, like the old 9 pin D connectors. To check which com (serial) port the USB GPS is "mapped" to, go to the "device manager" and click on "Ports", this should tell you which com port is being used, it is probably listed as a USB to Serial Adapter. You can open "Device Manager" in Windows 7 by typing device manager in the box at the bottom after clicking the Start Button, or from the command prompt by going to "Start" "Run" type in CMD and hit enter, a black command box will open, in the box type the following without the quotes, "mmc devmgmt.msc" hit enter. Once you find out what com port is being used, you can then, if needed, change the port by going into the properties dialog , port settings, advanced.. This information is supplied due to these USB GPS's causing the com ports to change when you are not looking!

Crazy Mouse!

Ever started up your PC connected to a GPS and found the mouse going for a walk around your screen? It happens because the Operating System (Windows) thinks you have added a mouse to your system and the GPS data is the mouse movement. To stop this happening, there are various ways but this little bit of software makes it easy. It's called COM Port Plug&Play Blocker, it's small and you can download it from here for free. It is under the Help Tab. It stops the Plug and Play from doing things you don't want it to do and it's simple to use.

USB to Serial Port Adapters.

There are plenty around and some work well, others, not so well. One brand I have been using for quite some time is trouble free. The brand, Aten, UC232a is the model. The drivers are available for everything including Vista. Go to this site for more details.


A nice little tide tool that is free and runs on a Palm handheld is available here. It works well and is nice and portable.

Open CPN - A great Navigation Program.

Maxsea too complex? Cmap too old? Open CPN is the answer, download it for free Legitimately. Click here for the download, it's only 36 meg! It works with lots of charts including cm93 (Vector) charts. It installs quickly and seamlessly, it's all too easy! If you have an AIS engine, Open CPN displays the AIS information and alerts better than Maxsea!

If you want to run your laptop etc wirelessly from another PC on the ship and pick up the NMEA data for the GPS and AIS, then keep reading.
Download the Franson GPSGATE software for free from here. Download the Free GpsGate Client for Windows. Read the info on the GpsGate site.

GPS into com port on the main computer, this is networked via a router, GpsGate runs as a TCP Server, outputs on the TCP port of your choice (I use 1000 for the GPS and 5555 for the AIS), on the laptop run the GpsGate client, set its’ input to the host IP address and the port you selected. Open this and you set the output to the virtual com port you set the OpenCPN GPS to. You can even have multiple instances of the gate.. I use one for GPS data and one for AIS data..

    GE2KAP v11 - Google Earth to .kap chart format - A great way to convert Google Earth images to charts for OpenCPN.

Download the two free programs from here.   GE2KAP and OOREXX - Read the info on the web site, install OOREXX then you can just creat a shortcut to the GE2KAP program and you are away. Read the info about setting up Google Earth to get the best "View". When you create the .kap charts, go to OpenCPN and open the tools, goto the charts tab and click the "Force Full Database Rebuild" button, then OK. You need to do this every time you add charts.

Not enough Com Ports to go round?

Well, there is a great little free program to share them. If for instance you run your GPS on Com1 and your nav program is using it, generally you can't access this port from other bits of software. Load the Virtual Serial Ports Emulator and the problem disappears. Click on this for the free download. I use it to share Com1 so my nav program works and Airmail shows up my position for reporting it. All from the one Com Port. Another use for the Serial Port Sharing software is its' ability to output a com port's data to a TCP / IP port. This allows you to network 2 or more computers on your vessel and get GPS data into Maxsea therefore allowing more than one computer to run your nav software at the same time.
If you want to send position reports from Airmail and you already have a GPS connected to your PC, you can feed the GPS NMEA signal into this piece of software allowing both Open CPN and or Maxsea and Airmail to all concurrently read this data allowing your chart program to work from the GPS as well as Airmail to read your GPS, thus allowing your position to be available in real time in Airmail for position reporting.

This is an example of a shortcut you can put in your "startup" folder.
Target    "C:\Program Files\Eterlogic.com\Virtual Serial Ports Emulator\VSPEmulator.exe" c:\configs\VSPEXP1.vspe -minimize
Start In  "C:\Program Files\Eterlogic.com\Virtual Serial Ports Emulator"

Right Click here to download an example of the config file, you need to save it in the C:\configs folder, then you can use it with the Virtual Serial Ports Emulator after you download and install it.
This example maps Com1 to Com10 (splits it). This means that if you have Com1 on your PC it maps it to Com10. You then use Com10 for all programs wanting to use the GPS, ie, Airmail, Maxsea and or Open CPN. In VSPE language, you have created a "splitter".

GPSU - A Great GPS Utility.

Is a great GPS utility, you can use it to convert between .ptf, .wpt, .gpx files. That is, you can convert Cmap routes to Open CPN gpx route files, so, no matter what nav program you are using, this utility lets you convert your routes and tracks to whatever you like.
Download the free version here. Version 5.20 was the latest at the time of writing.

Virus Stuff.

This link is to Microsoft, and a good place to start if you suspect a virus..Found an interesting trojan today on an infected Vista LapTop. It changed the "My Computer" icon on the desktop to point to the trojan. It had installed itself under the "C:\Users\yourname\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\SA07cd\" folder. Note, yourname is the computer users name. Its files included the SA07cd.EXE. It purported to be a virus scanner and reported various viruses and if you clicked to "Remove All" it would take you to a web site to get your money to register this "Virus scanner". Of course, it is the virus, after removing it the machine was scanned and no further problems were detected.

See this link to Microsoft for further information and removal instructions.


Want to run multiple Outlook users from one computer? Just setup a "profile" for each user on the PC, to do this goto the control panel and select "Mail", next select "Show Profiles". Click "Add" and take it from there. You also want to have a different Data File (.PST) file for each user. Once you sort this out, create a shortcut for each user. Name of profile = profile names you created.
Target -   "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE" /profile "name of profile"
Start In - "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office10"

-Google Maps-

Click here to get an input page for Google Maps - Put in your Lat and Lon from your GPS to see where you or a friend is on a Google Map. Note, this is not Google Earth, so it's for land maps, not charts.



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