Reader Question: Boating Laptop

Hi James,


As I recall, your website shows pictures of you using your laptop on the bridge of Dirona. Can you tell me what laptop you use that is viewable in the bright sunshine? Is your laptop dedicated to Nobeltec or other software or does is get all-around use?…….Excel, Word, Photoshop…..that sort of thing.


Nice work on Cruising the Secret Coast. I didn’t make Trawler Fest, but perhaps you could do a presentation for the Power Squadron in the fall?



Gerald Albertson




Gerald, you can buy products like the Panasonic Toughbook that are ruggedized.  We chose to spend less and, if necessary, replace more frequently rather than pay extra for a ruggedized system.  Essentially we self-insure.  Over the course of the last 8 years, I think we have established that it was the right approach.  We buy inexpensive laptops, they last quite well—typically  around 3 years—and then we upgrade.


For screen brightness, any screen is a problem in the sun and there is no avoiding that problem entirely. We do find considerable variation in laptop screen brightness.  We favor those that are on the bright side and we have always found them usable.


We run Nobeltec, Word (boat log), Excel (fuel log), Photoshop, weather software, a NMEA multiplexer, and logging software all on the same laptop (I wrote the last three software packages).  If we ran single functionality, we probably would spend less time chasing the odd weird issue, but that would require more laptops. Each costs money and each requires power.  We choose to run everything boat-related on the one boat laptop and it works fine. We do, however, have a backup laptop that is running Nobeltec and always is ready to go if we run into problems.  And we have a backup GPS system in case the main GPS fails.


Sure, we would be happy to do a presentation for the Power Squadron in the fall.






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