Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sony SRS-XB3 Pairable Bluetooth Speakers

I know this is a little different than my usual Marine App post but I thought it might be of interest to some of you. As a sailor I am always looking for technology that will make my boating experience easier and more enjoyable.

Entertainment on your yacht will most likely includes some form of music. Most sound systems on boats are hardwired into the vessel's 12 volt power supply. A set of wires then has to be run to each of the speakers at various points around the boat. This means the installation can be messy and expensive. That is the traditional "old school" way to set up a stereo system on your yacht.

Everyone now carries around a cell phone or mobile device. These phones are little super computers that not only allow us to communicate but to also run a variety of marine app which I have written about in this blog. My phone already has all of my favorite music and some video on it so, why not build an entertainment system around that? I also have a blog for my S2 22 ft sailboat in which I shared my design for the Ultimate On Board Entertainment System. This included the an iPhone, a WiFi router, an AppleTV and some AirPlay speakers.
iHome IW3 AirPlay Speaker

Bluetooth and AirPlay speakers have been around for several years now and I own several of them. They offered an easier mobile solution to my entertainment needs. I liked the idea of not having to drill holes and run wires all over my boat. In my blog post I designed my system around the Apple TV which I converted to 5 or 12 volts to either run off of USB or 12 volt power. I wanted to be able to have more than one speaker so I pursued the use of AirPlay speakers which require that the boat have a WiFi router that both the speakers and my iPhone can connect to. This worked fine and I have been using it for the past few years.

My latest discovery, which you may already know is that the latest version of Bluetooth allows more than on speaker to be connected to each other and then be connected to a device providing a true mobile wireless stereo system.

I researched the latest Bluetooth speakers and found a few that have this capability. Some of these manufacturers are Sony, JBL Flip 3 with JBL connect, Sharkk and Logitech UE Boom and SoundBot Quadio.  Those are a few of the speakers that I found with the capability to be paired together and there may be others.

Sony SRS-XB3 Bluetooth speakers
I chose the Sony SRS-SBX-3 model after some research and watching some YouTube videos. This model has a large rechargeable battery with a long 24 hour run time. The speakers come is several colors and normally run about $149 but I purchased some on Amazon for $98.

Specifications:
  • 2 Channel speakers + passive radiators
  • Extra Bass
  • Audio in jack
  • Bluetooth Version 3.0
  • Remembers 8 paired devices
  • Weight 32.8 oz
  • Compatible sound formats A2DP, AVRCP, HFP and HSP
  • Range 32.8ft
  • Condenser microphone
  • Noise suppression for phone calls
  • Omni directional speaker
  • Li Ion battery, 24 hour battery life
  • AC charger
  • Auto Power off after 15 Min
  • NFC, Android Near Field Communication
  • 20-20,000 frequency response
  • 30 Watts power
  • Dimensions L 8.31 X H 3.15 X W 2.37
  • Audio In jack
  • 5 Volt USB charging outlet
  • Water resistant IPX5 rating
I liked that the speakers were very compact and re-chargeable so I could not only use them inside my boat but I could move them out into the cockpit or take them ashore for a beach party if I wanted.

They are water resistant so a little rain or sea spray will not damage them. Mounting options are limited but I found Velcro works nicely to hold them into place on a bulkhead or shelf.

The speakers have seven button on top of the speaker to control the functionality. These include the Power button, Volume Up and Down, Phone, Add, Pairing and Extra Bass.

The Power Button will power the speaker on and it will also power down the the speaker and the other speaker that it is paired with.  This is convenient not having to go to each speaker and power them down separately.

The volume Up and Down buttons control volume on both the speaker and the other speaker that it is paired with. Volume can also be controlled from your mobile device's volume controls.

The Pairing button is used to connect the speaker to your mobile device and to a second speaker if desired. Make sure to turn on Bluetooth in your mobile device's settings. Press and hold down the pairing button until you hears some beeps which puts the speaker into pairing mode. The pairing indication will flash rapidly white. Go to Bluetooth settings on your device and select SRS-XB3. Once the speaker is paired it will remember your device. The speakers will remember up to 8 devices and automatically pair to your mobile device the next time it is used.

The Add button is used to pair an additional Sony SRS-XB3 speaker to the existing speaker. The speakers have to be paired with each other before they can be paired with your mobile device. First turn on one speaker and hold the Add button down until you hear a tone. Next turn on the other speaker and select the Add button again. This will pair the two speakers together.

Next to the Add button you will see a L and R indication light.  Once the speakers are paired together, tapping the Add button will change between stereo, left and right channels or mono natural. When L is selected on one speaker and R is selected on other this will give you true stereo channel separation for an awesome sound.  Selecting both L and R on each speaker will give you both channels in each speaker. I have not seen many speakers allowing the stereo channel separation option.

Once the two speakers are paired together you can then pair your mobile device to the first speaker that has the pairing indication flashing.

The Extra Bass button provides just that. Pressing this allows each speaker to delivery a richer and deeper bass sound. When the two speakers are paired together pressing this on one speaker enables it on both speakers.

On the back of the speaker behind a pop off door are the connections for the DC in for charging the speaker, USB DC out for charging a mobile device, audio in jack and a reset button.  The USB DC charging feature is another option that could come in handy if your mobile device needs charging.

I am sure there are other more expensive Bluetooth options out there for mobile speakers but for $98 on Amazon, these little speakers are an awesome set with many capabilities.

What are you using on board your boat for speakers and entertainment systems? Please comment below and let me know what is working for you.

~~~~ Sail On ~~~~/)
Mark

Saturday, September 24, 2016

FLIR One for iOS and Android

Application: iPhone, iPad, iOS>7.0, Android devices
Function: Thermal Imaging, night vision
Rating: *****
Cost: FLIR One $249, Apps are Free

All images compliments of FLIR
The iOS and Android mobile devices are impacting every industry on the planet. These small computers and apps that we carry around in our hands can do some pretty amazing things. My blog is primarily focused on marine charting, weather and navigation apps. The application of a thermal imaging device is a bit of a sidebar but I thought it was interesting, useful and very applicable to the marine industry.

The digital imaging capabilities of the iPhone make it perfect for a thermal imaging device. FLIR is one of the leading thermal imaging companies in the world.  FLIR makes commercial imaging cameras and devices for a variety of uses including night vision, fire fighting, law enforcement, security and surveillance, safety, electrical maintenance, search and rescue, marine, energy efficiency.

I reviewed the iPhone 5/5s FLIR One thermal imaging device in a blog post back in 2014. That device retailed for $349 and was more of a case version that the iPhone fit into. Rather than trying to keep up with the ever changing sizes of each iPhone release, FLIR created a more universal device which connects through the lightning charging port on the bottom of the iPhone or iPad. There is an Android version also.

Their latest addition to their product line is the FLIR One compact dongle that can be attached to your iPhone or iPad which allows you to see the infrared spectrum on your devices display. The Android version connect to the micro USB of that device.

The FLIR ONE dongle uses MSX technology which utilizes two cameras to scan images. One camera picks up the thermal imaging spectrum and the other picks up a visual image. The two images are combined to create a unique viewable image.

Features:
  • Measures temperature from -4 degrees F to 248 degrees F(-20 C to 120 C)
  • FLIR MSX technology
  • Lepton imaging technology
  • Attaches to iOS devices through the lightning connection
  • Attaches to Android devices through the micro USB port
  • Capture still or video images .mov
  • Panorama
  • Time lapse
  • Close up
  • 7 Dynamic video display palettes, rainbow, BW, WB, rainbow, contrast, arctic, hot and cold and iron
  • Social media sharing Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email and text
  • Internal re-chargable 350 mAh battery
  • Battery monitor
  • Copy image to camera roll
  • Detects temperature differences of about one-tenth of a Fahrenheit degree, and the temperature readout is accurate to within 2 degrees
  • Observe heat sources, heat differences, fire, overheating equipment or components
  • See through smoke and haze
  • Detect insulation leaks and energy efficiency problems
  • Aid in man overboard nigh time situations 
  • One year warranty
Boat Beacon Man overboard
There are several apps that can be used to display the thermal images. The popular Boat Beacon app has incorporated the use of the FLIR One into its augmented reality display. Other iOS apps can be found in the App Store such as Thermal Compare and the FLIR One Paint app.  Check out FLIR's list of all compatible apps for the FLIR One.

This device can be used for many applications around your home or on you boat. I can think of many uses including checking engine temperature, exhaust or hot spots, checking insulation around windows and refrigerator seals. This app could help you see hot spots and locate faulty wiring connections.
Boat Beacon Augmented reality night vision
On a boat it might be useful in a man overboard situation. This thermal imaging device could help you locate a person by their thermal signature on a pitch black night.

There are marine apps that have incorporated this functionality into their displays. The image from Pocket Mariner's Boat Beacon app shows what their augmented reality app display looks like. This night vision display make it easy to pick out other boats and ships in the area. Pocket Mariner has a blog post about the use of augmented reality night vision display using the Flir One dongle attached to an iPhone.

I am a real gadget guy and think it would be cool to have one but would this really be something I would use on a daily basis. I am still on the fence. The price of $249 makes it a little more attractive.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who may have this device or a night vision scope. Do you find these devices handy or are they just an expensive piece of gear one could live without?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark




Saturday, May 28, 2016

Airmar OnSiteWX Weather and Instrument Display

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, iOS 6 or greater
Function: Weather and Boat Instrument data display
Rating: *****
Cost: Free


Instrument data is more prevalent than ever on modern cruising yachts. Having easy access to this data can be very useful for monitoring your yachts engine performance and function.

Sailors will be interested in instrument data like Speed, COG, Wind speed and Direction. The ever popular Depth indication is needed on all yachts. Most of these can be viewed from the helm station or at the chart table if you have instrument repeaters.

Having all of your instrument data broadcast over WiFi makes it available to mobile devices like tablets or mobile phones wherever you are on the boat.

There are many NMEA to WiFi devices that can be connected to your navigation systems to broadcast the data over WiFi. I have written about many of these apps over the years on this blog.  I have a list of my top 10 instrument data apps shown here. I think this app may be worthy to make the list.

I recently acquired a DMK Marine 11a module for my yacht.
This device has the option of connecting to NMEA 0183, NMEA 2000 or Raymarine SeaTalk instruments and broadcasting this data over WiFi.  The versatility of this unit is the reason I selected it.

MillPort Media has developed an app called OneSiteWx to display all kinds of weather and NMEA 0183 and 2000 data. It is compatible with all the Airmar weather station products so it can provide all the weather data directly to your mobile device.

The app is unique in that it can provide weather data but also can display any of your boats NMEA 2000 or 0183 data.The app is available from the AppStore from here.

There are several pages of instruments already developed for the most popular readings you will need.  Custom pages can also be created with 1, 2, 3 or 4 instruments per page so you can group the instruments as needed.

Features:

  • Custom pages
  • Air temp Celsius or Farenheight
  • Air pressure
  • Wind speed and direction, true and apparent
  • Water depth and temperature
  • System time and date
  • GPS position
  • COG/True or Magnetic
  • Heading True or Magnetic
  • Pitch and roll
  • Page selection
  • Black and white gauge display
  • Digital or analog gauge display
  • US or Metric units
  • Tachometer
  • Speedomenter
  • WiFi capable
  • NMEA 2000 and 0183
  • Compitable with SeaSmart SSN2K, HelmSmart, DMK 11a, Navico GoFree, Digital Yacht NavLink, WLN10, Miniplex 2Wi, Vesper Marine and MailaSail Redbox.
  • Optional dual engine speed fuel tank gauges available with an in app purchase.
The beauty of this OnSiteWX app is that you can use the standard pages to display data and you can also create custom pages of any grouping of instruments that you want.

Select the green MENU button on the upper right of the app display. The Menu page contains the options to display some Demo data on the displays, Select Display Preferences, Manage pages, Create custom pages and more.

Select Create Custom Pages to develop your own pages for the data you want to display. A screen with four selections will come up. Select the number of instruments per page. Simply hold your finger down on the instrument and a menu of instrument types will come up.

Select the instrument type for each of the custom instrument displays on your page. 

There are 60 different types of instrument to select from.  The custom display can then be save or renamed for your reference. 

The Adapter Selection provides a list of the many WiFi devices that the app is compatible with. The adapter is the device that provides your yachts weather and marine data over WiFi. If your WiFi device is not listed select the NEW button on the top to create the IP address, port and protocol settings for your device.

I am impressed with the OnSiteWX app not only for the ability to display all the weather data I need but that it also can display all of my instrument data from my yacht. Having all of this data in one app makes it more convenient and easily accessible. This means I don't have to jump between several apps the get the data I need.  

The apps is free so you can't complain about the price. It is definitely worth picking up and giving it a try.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Weather4D 2.0

Application: iPhone, iPad, iOS7, iOS9 and Android 4.2
Function: Marine Weather Forecasting and Route planning
Rating:*****
Price: $49.99

Weather4D 2.0 is one of those apps that has become a big game changer in the area of marine weather and routing. I originally reviewed Weather4D back in 2011 and was impressed with the new and unique way weather information was presented in the app.

APP4NAV LLC has continued to add features and functionality to the app to keep me coming back. I have reviewed many weather apps over the years and this one ranks near the top as one of my favorites.

As a boater you all know weather can either make or break your day on the water. It pays to know what your up against when heading out for the day. If your a geek like me you will appreciate the versatility of the this app. The app has several versions both for iOS and Android devices. The table below shows the features with each version.


Marine  Charts:

The app can display a variety of charts. Raster charts can be downloaded from the chart server at Geogarage. The following countries are supported. 
  • USA NOAA Raster charts
  • Canada CHS
  • Bahamas WLP
  • Brazil DHN
  • Argentina SHN
  • France SHOM
  • Polynesia TOM
  • United Kingdom UKHO
  • Germany GSH
  • Netherlands NLHO
  • Australia AHS
  • New Zealand LINZ
Features:




  • Multiple Weather models
  • Apple Watch support
  • Cloud cover
  • Precipitation, rain and snow
  • Wind 10M above sea level
  • Temperatures 2 M above sea level
  • Barometric pressure
  • CAPE
  • Wave heights, period, direction
  • Currents speed and direction
  • World maps Bing and OSM
  • Weather 4D 2.0 comes with free GFS .025, .5 and 1 degree models
  • Data model include NOAA GFS, NAM, CMC, GEM, WRF, FNMOC WW3, MyOcean and Tidtech, Arpege and Arome French, Aroma HD models with in app purchases
  • 1 Year HD Forecasts subscription $33.99
  • 10 day forecasts
  • 3, 12 and 24 hr data
  • Worldwide coverage
  • Resolution to .025, .1,.25, .5, 1 and 2 degrees
  • Data updated every 6 hours 4 times a day.
  • Isochonuos routing for motor or sail
  • Import KMP and GPX files
  • Iridium satellite prediction paths
  • Satellite download of weather data
  • Import GRIB type 1 files from email, SailDocs and Safari
  • "Open In" feature for file imports
  • Routing with Polar diagrams
  • AIS by Internet through AIS Hub displayed in Blue
  • NMEA WiFi support
  • NMEA AIS targets displayed in Green
  • Navigation displays SOG, COG and distance of route legs


  • Navigation:

    Weather4D 2.0 is much more than a weather app. It can provide weather and routing data on marine charts from a variety of hydrographic services in many countries.

    The navigation features include recording waypoints, simulating routes, displaying latitude, longitude, GRIB data and weather overlays.  

    The navigation mode also displays instruments that provide real time data. The instruments include SOG, COG, VMC, DTW, BTW and ETA. Data can be received from an external WiFi connection and can include AIS data through a NMEA TCP/IP connection. So you can display all your onboard instruments within the app. Your boat instruments will need to be connected to an onboard WiFi router.

    Routes can be downloaded from navigation apps like iNavX to be displayed in Weather4D 2.0. 

    Routing:


    Weather4D has a very powerful weather routing feature integrated into the app. Polar diagrams for your sailboat can be programmed into the app so it can predict the best route for your vessel. 

    The GRIB weather data must then be downloaded for the duration of your passage. A route with waypoints then needs to be downloaded in GPX or KML format from a navigation app such as iNavX.


    Once Weather4D knows the route it overlays the weather and calculates the best possible route for your vessel taking into account the latest weather information.  Very few apps are able to do these very sophisticated calculations.

    Several cruisers that I follow on YouTube have had great success with the app and another similar app called Predict Wind.  Make sure to check both of these out to see which one works better for you.

    These apps don't come cheap but they may be a better value than hiring a weather routing agency to do the work for you. The Weather4D app cost $49.99 and if you want the additional forecast models those will run another $33.99 for a years subscription.

    If your crossing oceans and making long passages Weather4D may be for you. It can provide all the weather data you will ever need and give you confidence with routing for the conditions you will experience on your passage. Add in the ability to download weather data from a satellite connection and you have the total package. 

    I would like to hear if anyone has had experience using Weather4D. Francis Fustier has an apps blog site named Navigation Mac. He has worked extensively with the authors of Weather4D and has developed a users guide outlining all the features of the app. You can access all of these Weather4D reviews and tutorials on his website. 

    ~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
    Mark






    Saturday, February 20, 2016

    ActiveCaptain and Jeppesen Charts - "Marriage Made in Heaven"






    Last week Jeppesen announced that it will be integrating the ActiveCaptain data into their popular C-Map chart products. The Active Captain data was introduced on the C-Map charts at the Miami International Boat show and will soon be available on their chart products this spring.

    I have reviewed all the ActiveCaptain products over the years including the Location, Drag Queen and the Companion apps.  I have been a big supporter of the crowd sourced POI and other data available through their website and the many apps that also provide the data. ActiveCaptain is the world leader in providing a unique set of verified crowd sourced marine data which has made the yachting experience safer and more enjoyable.
    ActiveCaptain in iOS app SEAiq
    ActiveCaptain and their legion of users provide detailed information about marinas, yacht clubs, marine fuel, docks, marine services, anchorages, marina reviews, hazards, shoals, currents, navaids, markers, bridges, locks, dams, ferries, boat ramps and marine stores.

    ActiveCaptain has users world wide but the majority of them are located in the United States and cover areas including the east and west coasts, Florida, the Intercoastal waterway, Great Lakes and San Juan Islands.

    Jeppesen will include this data in their March release of their C-Map 4D, Max and MaxN+ electronic charting products. These charts are used by many of the leading chart plotter manufacturers including B&G, Simrad, Lowrance, Furuno and Raymarine. This will bring the ActiveCaptain data to millions of new users all over the world.

    ActiveCaptain  C-Map on Furuno NavNet
    The C-Map charts will have the latest ActiveCaptain data at the time they are published. Subsequent updated data will be added to new C-Map chart releases.

    The ActiveCaptain data in the C-Map chart sets will be static because it will resides in the chart plotter memory. Dynamic updates will not be available like the data in many of the popular mobile device apps using ActiveCaptain. These apps are updated with the latest data from the ActiveCaptain database.

    Much of the data about marinas, marine stores, services and bridge heights does not change that often so it is mainly the reviews, hazards and fuel prices that won't be up to date.

    The ActiveCaptain data can only be updated when you update your charts on your chart plotter. This is slight draw back so it is recommended that you get more frequent updates to your charts to have access to the latest data. At some point in the future I could see all chartplotters being tied to the Internet and being able to keep the database up to date.

    Congratulations go out to the Active Captain crew and Jeppesen for creating this unique relationship. The addition of the ActiveCaptain data to the C-Map charts allow access to this enormous database to millions of new users.  Consider using the new C-Map charts on your chartplotter!

    ~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
    Mark