Saturday, January 28, 2012

iNavX - Getting Started

The most popular post on my blog last year was, iNavX.  It was the most searched for and read post during 2011. It is not hard to figure out why, iNavX was one of the first marine navigation apps out there for the iPhone and the iPad.

iNavX continues to to update the app and make needed improvements to take advantage of all the iPad's capabilities.  I plan on writing a series of articles in the next few weeks to showcase this great app.  I originally wrote a iNavX post over a year ago and much has changed with the app since then.

Some may shy away from the app because it will cost you $49.99. Don't let that stop you from buying it if you are a serious marine navigation nut like me.  It is much more than just a charting app as we will find out.  Some other added features you won't find in other apps are AIS, NMEA 0183 and 2000 data, anchor alarm and auto pilot control.

Lets re-visit some of the features of this great app:
  • All NOAA RNC marine charts free to download.
  • Large chart store X-Traverse with a variety of charts. Charts include CHS Canada charts, Navionics Gold charts, Fish'N'Chip charts, HotMaps, NV. Verlag charts, Hilton's Fishing charts, TRAK Canada lakes fishing maps and Solteknik European waters charts.
  • Map and satellite overlays.
  • Full line of instruments to display in digital or analog style.
  • Instruments types for location services, NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000.
  • WiFi capabilities receive and send data over TCP/IP.
  • Ability to email position.
  • Create waypoints and routes.  Import and export waypoints and routes including KML (Google Earth) and GPX formats.
  • Export tracks to email or Facebook via X-traverse account.
  • Track Log recording.
  • Ability to measure bearing and distance. 
  • Weather forecast Grib files and tides.
  • On screen compass and instrument bar.
  • Multi-touch gesture controls of screens.
Let get started using this great app.

1.  First download the app from the iTunes Store. You will need an iTunes account to make the purchase. I would suggest downloading it to your iPad if you have one. The larger form factor of the iPad is great for viewing the charts.  The iNavX app will work on the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch with iOS 4.2 or later.

2.  Downloading Charts is fairly easy. iNavX allows you access to all the NOAA RNC charts for free. These are the most common charts used for coastal navigation. To download charts select a Chart Region to download. The NOAA charts for Alaska, USA West, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes and USA East are available.
This is the NOAA USA East chart list. Simply select one of the charts that you wish to download. You will then be asked to download the chart or download all "USA East".
If you want all the charts, go for the download all. If you are just interested in the one chart you selected, select "Yes".
The charts that you have downloaded will now show up in bold. 

There are three indications at the top of the chart display.
The magnifying glass will allow you to search by number or name. The Triangle will show charts that intersect with your position. The Clock will show you the most recently opened charts.

If you want additional charts other than the free NOAA charts you can purchase these through X-Traverse. This process is complicated, so follow below.

You will need an X-Traverse account to purchase and access your charts. This account will cost you $10.00 per year and allows you access to your charts through the iNavX app. Access to Grib weather files and transfer of waypoints and tracks can also be done through your account. 

Once you have your X-Traverse account you can then purchase additional charts. Make sure you purchase the iPad charts for download. They offer a wide range of Navionics, CHS Canadian Charts, Fish"N"Chips, HotMaps, NV Verlag and Hilton fishing charts.

To access and download your purchased charts in your iNavX app you need to add your X-Traverse account information to the app. Go to "Preferences" and select "X-Traverse Account". This is where you will add your email and password for your account.

Next select "Show Account Information" this will retrieve your account info showing you what products you have activated for use by the iNavX app.
You will next need to go back to the Charts list and select "Add More Charts to Menu". The next menu should show you the list of charts. The charts you purchased should show up as bolded. I purchased Navionics Gold Marine Charts 2011.  Select this and another display will show the charts in that package. Turn "ON" the charts you purchased.

Go back to the iNavX menu and select the chart you turned on to view you charts. Select your chart title and download you your iPad.

My next post will cover the charts display and navigation screen features for iNavX.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Clouds, but it's not Weather!

Application: iPad
Function: Cloud Computing Apps
Cost: DropBox, CloudOn and OnLive have free options, Splashtop Desktop is $4.99

This post is a bit of a departure from the marine apps normally reviewed. I thought it was applicable for some of us who need to do a little work while on the road.  When you talk to most boaters about clouds they are probably thinking about storms or weather. In this case we are talking about the virtual computing Cloud. As an avid boater, I sometimes have to do a little work while I play.  The Cloud and some additional apps helps me do this with ease.

I have been trying to wean myself off of the Microsoft Office programs and use the iOS apps to do my work. There are some times when I still need to edit or modify a Word or Excel document.  There are a couple of apps that allow this whole Cloud thing to happen and work for me.

The first is Dropbox, and it is exactly what it sounds like. It is a place to store files and get access to them from anywhere you are. Dropbox stores them on their secure server with various data plans.  The Dropbox program has to also be installed on your PC, Mac or Linux machine.  You can then access them with your iOS device or your PC anywhere you have an Internet connection.  The problem with DropBox is that it does not allow you to modify the files from your iOS device.

Another iOS app that works with your Dropbox account is CloudOn. The CloudOn app gives you a desktop that allows you to access your Microsoft Office documents.  The app let you view and modify your Word, Excel or PowerPoint files on your iOS device and saves them to your DropBox account. The files are automatically updated on your laptop or PC at home through the Internet. The interface is shown below.

Another way to deal with your Microsoft Office files is OnLive Desktop.  This app is fairly new and was just released on January 13th. OnLive, as most of you know, has a very popular game streaming site.  They soon realized they could stream anything, even a Windows Desktop. That is exactly what you get as shown below.  This app is free with 2GB of storage. Check our the other data plans on their site.

When you log into OnLive Desktop you will see a actual Windows desktop with icons for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and a Recycle bin. This desktop allows you to create or modify files on your iOS device and save them to the OnLive Cloud.  To access your files on your PC or Laptop, simply access their website and login.

If your not comfortable with this whole weatherless Cloud thing you could use Splashtop Remote.  This app allows you to securely connect over the Internet to your laptop or desktop at home.  You will have to install the Splashtop Streamer on your PC to connect your PC to the remote iOS device. With a secure user and password the app will bring up your desktop just like you were sitting there in front of your PC. You can run any application on your PC remotely over the Internet on your iPad.  If you needed to modify a Microsoft Office file you can easily do that then email it to yourself. This app will cost you $4.99 but it is well worth it.

It is a strange new world out there pilgrims. Embrace the Cloud and enjoy the flexibility and freedom Cloud computing can give you!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Contour Connect App

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch iOs 4.0 and later
Function: Bluetooth connection to Contour camera
Cost: Free

I recently purchased a new High Definition video camera to use while on vacation in the British Virgin Islands. I wanted a small camera I could use to catch all the action above and below the water while snorkeling or scuba diving. I decided to purchase the Contour+.  This is a small POV, point of view camera.  These are rather new on the market and are being used by sports enthusiast to capture all their extreme action.  The camera can be mounted on almost anything with the variety of mounts included.  The company offers three different models at several different price points. The Contour display app will only work with the ContourGPS and Contour+ models.

The ContourRoam is waterproof to one meter and has a 170 degree field of view. The ContourGPS allows you to geotag your videos to show where they were taken. The Contour+ also has a GPS and HDMI output among other options. All three models shoot high definition 1080P and 720P video. See the comparison of the models for a full list of options.  The video is recorded on micro SD cards up to 32GB. This will allow you to capture hours of video in HD quality.

The Contour+ and the ContourGPS wirelessly connect to an iPhone and Android app that will allow you to view the camera frame and change the settings on the camera through a Bluetooth connection. The Contour+ has the Bluetooth integrated in the camera. A separate Bluetooth connection card has to be purchased for the ContourGPS model.

App Features:
  • Use your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to preview what your camera sees before you record.
  • Review the battery and memory remaining on your Contour camera.
  • Change the camera settings in real-time including video mode, video quality, microphone, GPS, and lighting.
  • Receive the latest GPS Assist Now file so your Contour knows the latest satellite positioning.
Camera Features:
  • Each model has a few different features but all will share the same shape and for factor.
  • Removable battery is recharged using a standard usb cable connected to your computer.
  • Removable micro SD card storage up to 32GB of memory.
  • Records .MOV format video.
  • Rotatable lens.
  • Compact size with a variety of mounts to secure your camera.
  • Lightweight and compact they take up little space.
  • Includes a software video editing package for Windows or Mac. You can also use iMovie on your iPad to edit the video. The iPad camera connection kit will be needed to upload the video from the micro SD memory card.
Separate waterproof housings can also be purchased to extend the waterproof capabilities while snorkeling or scuba diving.

Here a few screen shots taken from the video camera.

Boaters will find many uses for these little underwater cameras.  Check out some of the great actions videos on the Contour site. You can use them for snorkeling, scuba diving to capture shots of the many fish and sea life below. Record you kids water skiing or wake boarding. Check out the underside of your yacht or take lots of great vacation and cruising video action.  These cameras are so versatile, compact and powerful you will want to have one on your next trip.  The Contour connect app only makes using the camera that much easier.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

DragQueen Anchor Alarm

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Function: Marine Anchor Alarm
Cost: Free!

Our friends at ActiveCaptain notified me just prior to Christmas that they had developed an anchor alarm. It is now available for free in both iOS and Android versions. Jeffrey Siegel, who many of you know, operates the popular ActiveCaptain website. The site is an interactive cruising guide which allows boaters and cruisers to add points of interest to his ever growing database of marine services.

DragQueen, a clever play on words, is as advertised as a very basic anchor alarm. Be careful when you search for it, for obvious reasons.  You can find it in the iTunes store here DragQueen.

The app is basic but it does allow some modifications of settings. The Instructions tab gives a good explanation of all the settings used in the app.  All of the values shown in boxes can be edited by the user. So you can change the Distance Alarm which is the point at which the alarm will sound when you exceed this distance from the set anchor Latitude and Longitude.

The Alarm Delay is nice to delay the alarm for momentary swings outside the Distance Alarm setting.  The GPS Alarm can also be set to notify you of the failure of your GPS signal or accuracy.

The Set button is pushed to set the anchored position. To get the best result push this when you are at the bow of the boat. Pressing it again will replace the coordinates with your new position.  Anchor bearing is also good information to have to monitor how your boat is lying at anchor and may indicate a shift in wind direction.

The app has a rather annoying alarm to let you know you are drifting from you anchored position. It will definitely get you attention and wake you up.

DragQueen is simple, easy to use and it works.  There are other anchor alarms apps out there for as much as $8.00. Pick this one up for free and give it a try!

Happy Holidays

I hope everyone had a great holiday season. We had a brown Christmas this year due to the lack of snow in the Midwest.  It was a nice change after the record snow and cold last winter.

Our family agreed that we would take a trip this year rather than buy presents.  The idea of no presents took my kids a while to get use to but after we arrived in the islands they agreed we made the right decision.

We were able to escape our cold northern winter for a few weeks to some more southern latitudes.  Jimmy Buffet's song Changes in Latitude Changes in Attitude couldn't be more true. Exchanging our winter boots for flip flops is a real treat.

My brother got married in Florida on December 22nd so we spent a few days there taking in the 80 degree weather and the ceremony.  We then boarded a plane for the British Virgin Islands.  We landed at the Beef Island airport on Tortola and spent the next ten days checking out all the beaches and neighboring islands. The BVIs are one of the best places to bareboat charter in the world.  The BVIs are closely grouped and easily navigated with a simple chart. I did use my Navionics Caribbean app for a little navigation while day sailing between islands.  Anchorages are numerous and the beach bars and restaurants are there to serve your every need.

Some of the highlights of the BVIs are Long Bay, Roadtown, The Baths of Virgin Gorda, Foxy's and White Bay with the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van  Dyke.

Foxy's Bar Jost Van Dyke

Large yacht in Great Harbor

Large sailing yacht

Cane Garden Bay Tortola

The Baths on Virgin Gorda

White Bay Jost Van Dyke

Long Bay Tortola

It was a fun two weeks of playing in paradise. We hope to return soon!