Oct 13, 2012 - Why you shouldn't buy a Kindle or Nook eReader

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I'm really surprised that Amazon and Barnes and Noble continue to push out eReader devices, and even more surprised that people are still buying them. Two or three years ago, it made a lot of sense, but it's 2012 now and if you want a new eReader, simply go buy one of these for $199:


I say this as the owner of two Nook products - an original first generation e-ink based reader, and a Nook Tablet.

The reality is that a real Android tablet, like the Google Nexus 7 can do everything that the Kindle and Nook can - you can read all existing books from either device by installing the Kindle or Nook apps. And unlike the limited eReader tablets, a real Android tablet is... well... a real Android tablet so you have access to all the apps in Google Play, and full hardware features - such as a GPS and Bluetooth. For just an incremental additional cost you get a full blown tablet-based computing platform.

The Kindle and Nook are very limited, as they only allow you to install applications from their very, very limited app stores. There are ways of hacking these devices to install regular Android apps (I did this on my Nook Tablet), but it's still a hack - and many applications are still not supported on the hardware - such as anything requiring a GPS.

There's only one reason I can think of to buy a Kindle or Nook - if you really want an e-ink display for better viewing in direct sunlight, in which case it might make sense to buy one of the e-ink based models, but note that due to technical limitations of e-ink displays, these units don't have anywhere near the capabilities of models with LCD or OLED displays.

And finally, yes - Apple is coming out with 7" tablet of their own, but it will come as no surprise that I wouldn't recommend it. It just doesn't make sense to pay twice as much for Apple's proprietary hardware and locked down ecosystem. It makes me laugh everytime someone tries to plug an Apple product into anything else, with all the ridiculous dongles required to convert from industry standard connectors to Apple's proprietary ones. Enough said about that - do yourself a favor and buy an Android based product. You'll thank me later!

Sep 23, 2012 - Converting Raymarine FSH files to GPX

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I've always been a bit annoyed by not being able to convert data from my Raymarine C-Series chartplotter into an open and accessible format, such as GPX. Although there are some tools available that support the FSH files written by these chartplotters, they are either not-free or very limited - such as not supporting all data (such as tracks), or by only running on Windows.

I want to be able to back up the data (waypoints, routes, and tracks) on my chartplotter and load it into OpenCPN, so I started to write a python script to do so, available on github. In it's current form it's very rough but exports waypoints and routes to GPX which I can then import into OpenCPN.

The script doesn't yet support tracks, nor is it very resilient or stable in decoding values, but it's a start. Since no other freely available, cross-platform solution exists for converting FSH files, this is a free, open-source project licensed under the GPL.

Long term, once the FSH format is fully decoded, the plan is to turn this into a GPS Babel module. Until then, give this Python script a try.

Jul 6, 2012 - It's not clear that we really need patents in most industries

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The title for this post is a quote from a well reading interview with Richard Posner, the judge who presided over the Apple vs Motorola suit, and ultimately threw out the lawsuit:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/05/us-apple-google-judge-idUSBRE8640IQ20120705
It won't be a surprise to anyone reading this that I agree with Mr. Posner. The current US patent system is broken, especially when it comes to software and our modern selection of computers, tablets, phones, and other software-driven devices.

It's time for companies to win because it's what people want and are buying, not because of lawsuits. Competition is good for the industry, and the differences between competitors are pretty small these days. We are past the point of "invention" - at this point it's all refinement and innovation, and let's let that battle happen in the marketplace, not the court room.

Apr 20, 2012 - Think Costa Concordia was an isolated event?

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Mad about Costa Concordia? You should be! But read this if you think it's an isolated incident that these cruise ships care one bit about people's lives: http://www.latitude38.com/lectronic/lectronicday.lasso?date=2012-04-20#Story4
I think the answer is pretty clear: everyone should boycott the entire cruise ship industry. This is really sad, but it's been proven recently that these cruise ship companies are not honorable and do not deserve to be in business as they are not honoring international law.

Mar 27, 2012 - Neat Chart Plotter App for Android - MX Mariner

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Recently I stumbled across MX Mariner, a nifty chart plotter app for Android phones and tablets. This is well worth checking out, and it's only $7 in the Android app store.



While pretty new and still under active development, MX Mariner is better than nearly every other marine charting app in the Android store - and certainly nothing can beat it at this price. Many charting apps are impractical for real use as they require a live and fast data connection, they require saving charts one-by-one in advance, or they don't support chart quilting at all. With MX Mariner, you download a region when you have a good wifi connection - these are big files, 150-250MB, but once you have the file for a region, MX Mariner will automatically quilt charts for that reason as you navigate - and no data connection is required! Note that switching to Google Earth view does require an active data connection, but since the primary point of this is for marine charts, that's reasonable.

Some features, like GPX import/export are still under development, expect to see new features soon! Like OpenCPN, MX Mariner embraces iterative development, and you can even contribute if you so desire. If you notice some similarities between OpenCPN and MX Mariner, that's no accident - as the primary developer of MX Mariner is also a contributor of OpenCPN.

Currently, MX Mariner has somewhat limited world coverage, take a look at the website for more details.

So, if you are looking for an Android based chart plotter app, give this one a try! It works great on our Samsung Galaxy-S phone, and HTC Flyer 7" tablet. Looking forward to see what features come next!