Nobeltec Releases Admiral and VNS 11.1 Service Pack

Nobeltec said today it has released a free service pack update for users of the new (January 2011) version of Admiral and VNS.  The service pack offers integration with Furuno’s popular Digital Fish Finder (DFF1) Sounder, as well as a number of NMEA 2000 integration improvements.  While I don’t often simply reprint a press release, Nobeltec is a pretty straightforward company and it makes more sense to just quote it here.  I am also planning a full review of the Nobeltec TimeZero Trident software, to which I believe most boaters will eventually want to move.

Herewith the Nobeltec News:

“Nobeltec announces new hardware integration and software functionality with the service pack release of Admiral 11.1 and VNS 11.1. VNS and Admiral are optimized for safe and accurate navigation on recreational boats, commercial vessels, and mega yachts. This newest service pack adds value to Nobeltec navigation systems. One of the most significant updates to the marine navigational software is the ability to integrate with the Furuno Digital Fish Finder (DFF1) Sounder.

“Integration with the Furuno DFF1 sounder is a natural addition to our Nobeltec software suite,” Nobeltec General Manager Bill Washburn said. “We’re glad boaters can take advantage of the integration of two great products: the Furuno DFF1 Sounder and Nobeltec VNS and Admiral software.”

Improvements to NMEA 2000 integration also enhance functionality in the Admiral and VNS software. The new release supports NMEA 2000 AIS Device Priority, and the real time weather functionality has been upgraded to include Pressure, Air Temperature and Humidity inputs from NMEA 2000 sensors.

Admiral and VNS 11.1 showcase improved AIS target filtering. In the Admiral software, the service pack adds the ability to filter AIS targets based on class and both VNS and Admiral offer the option to display a target’s class (A or B).

The latest version will also, for the first time, include NV. Charts digital chart integration and support. These raster charts cover Europe, Bahamas, Cuba, and other areas in the Caribbean. The integration of NV. Charts digital charts is in addition to many other types of raster charts as well as C-MAP® MAX Pro™ vector charts already supported by VNS and Admiral.

This is the first service pack for the software since the successful release of Admiral 11 and VNS 11 in January 2011. The new release is available as a free download to customers currently running the latest version of Admiral or VNS. Customers can visit the Nobeltec website ( to access the new service pack.”

Copyright ©2011 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, Technology
Nobeltec:  The Future Has No Dongle

Nobeltec: The Future Has No Dongle

Screenshot of Nobeltec Time Zero Trident 3D Nav View

Screenshot of Nobeltec Time Zero Trident 3D Nav View

I have seen the future of Nobeltec, and it has no. . . okay, okay, I couldn’t resist.  But c’mon, let’s admit, that dongle was the only real thing we hated about Nobeltec navigation software.  And yes, I know all the reasons they had for using it, but it really got in the way.  And now that you know that the future Nobeltec nav software won’t require a dongle, let me tell you that that is the least important of all the improvements coming.  Nobeltec gave journalists and industry insiders at the Miami Boat Show a  peak at the next-generation software, code-named Trident, that has been under development for some time at the company.  The future is very bright, indeed.

In fact, Nobeltec liked the code-name so much they kept it for the new product, married to a term that underlies the technical philosophy of the new products — “TimeZero.”  The full name will be TimeZero Trident.  The TimeZero moniker refers to the high-speed chart-drawing engine that will be the basis for all Nobeltec software going forward.  This is the result of the purchase of Nobeltec by Signet S.A., in October of 2009.  The TimeZero codebase is shared between Nobeltec, MaxSea and Furuno (who is a 49% shareholder of Signet).

What does this mean to you?

The major benefit to you as a navigator using software based on this chart engine is the nearly instantaneous, seamless chart re-draws, no matter what you’re trying to do — pan, zoom in or zoom out. You don’t wait for anything.  And when that kind of speed is available, then integrating full-time 3D is easy to do. In fact you can fuse photos into the 3D view as well and with a feature called Depth Shading, you can keep the high resolution satellite photos in place and watch it become more transparent with increasing water depth, allowing you to see where shallow water ends and deeper water begins.

The Charts?

TimeZero Trident will run MapMedia 3D charts, including official S-57 vector and raster charts from hydrographic offices around the world, as well as vector charts from C-MAP by Jeppesen and DataCore by Navionics.  The bottom line on this feature is that you will have access to the best cartography available and you can run in and out of the different charts without any work on your part.

The software is fully integrated, as you might expect, with the latest Furuno hardware, including NavNet 3D and the FAR 2XX7 series of radars, as well as a host of other Furuno and Insight (Nobeltec) hardware.  There are nice integrations of NMEA data streams, too, so a real glass bridge can be even more flexible and functional.

The Best Part

Despite all the previous gushing, what I liked best about the Trident product is the new user interface.  A couple of extremely useful and flexible toolbars are placed around the periphery of the screen, allowing you to configure your activity and views with nearly limitless customization.  But you don’t have to dig through a foggy manual to learn how to do it.  For example, in the screenshot at the top of this piece, you can see a small ribbon at the top of the screen, which allows you to select the “workspace” that you are in.  You can move with a single click from an active navigation (monitoring) workspace, to a planning workspace, without disrupting the former to get to the latter.

On the right side of the screen above you can see a transparent sidebar with a new key instrument view.  This, too, is customizable.  To read all about the features in TimeZero Trident, download the attached brochure PDF (6+MB).

You can see the screenshots in this special OceanLines Gallery 


The Future

While TimeZero Trident will be a stand-alone product, distinct from the current Nobeltec VNS and Admiral 11 software, eventually, its TimeZero engine will be the basis for all Nobeltec software in the future.  I think it’s fair to say you can expect to see TimeZero VNS and Admiral versions, which do still have somewhat different feature sets from Trident.  The Nobeltec folks didn’t say so, but it seems logical to me that at some point down the road, I don’t know when, everything will become Trident labeled (hey, it’s a cooler name, right?).  Nobeltec expects TZ Trident to be available later this spring.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, seamanship, Technology

Outfitting the Nordhavn 55 with Computers – Part 2

John Marshall's Nordhavn 55 Serendipity - Photo Credit: CJ Walker

This is Part 2 of our new series on outfitting the Nordhavn 55 with computers instead of, or in addition to dedicated marine electronics such as chartplotters.  In the first installment we covered the boat itself, along with some comments about the boat from an actual owner, John Marshall.  In this article, John gives us his thoughts on the subject of computers aboard. John has some definite opinions, but they’re grounded in hard experience and are worth listening to.  Particularly note John’s views on keeping his computers isolated from potential outside infections and instability-causing “updates.”

Q&A with N55 Serendipity owner John Marshall

1.    Do you use any PCs or Macs onboard Serendipity?

We have five computers on Serendipity, with four in active use and one as backup.

2.    What are their roles?

-Two Macbooks, my wife’s and mine, are for personal use, email, web browsing, etc. We mostly use cellular data cards for internet connection as its more reliable than Wifi (and we have one of those Syrens bridges and internal AP).

– Primary Navigation: One desktop-style PC (120v) with Win/XP is dedicated to running Nobeltec.

– Backup Navigation: One notebook PC with Win/XP is my “hot backup” Nav system (also with Nobeltec). It can be plugged into the main instruments and GPS via a USB cable, but also has its own hockey-puck GPS. This is also my satellite communication PC (Inmarsat Fleet 55 running MPDS and Ocens email) as the OS needs to be stripped down to avoid to much background traffic. (*More on that later).

– One backup desktop PC that runs on 24v that’s configured with Nobeltec and can be used to replace the Primary Nav computer if it dies. This computer is stored, disconnected, in a metal case down below waterline.

3.    How did you select them?

PCs were selected given that’s what Nobeltec and my comm software ran on. So basically, the application software drove the selection.

Macs because we love the OS and Apps… we’re Mac people who suffer Windows because we have to. Unfortunately, none of the Mac-based navigation software is up the Nobeltec standard, at least IMHO.

 4.    Would you be comfortable with a computer-based nav system as your primary system?

Absolutely and I am. But… the caveat here is that I have two Furuno NavNet2 BB systems with chart plotters, and backup PC’s. I use the Furuno’s as read-only displays, but I know I can navigate the boat from them if needed, but I don’t like the interface for routes, etc. But the Furunos and their networked sounder, radar, plotters are wonderful as read-only instruments.

I also like having more than one chart source running, and I tend to keep one Furuno chartplotter zoomed down to 2 mile range so it shows great detail, and sometimes overlay radar on the chart, and then use Nobeltec for big picture and route planning as well as my autopilot interface for route following. 

A PC (running any of the available Nav applications) is infinitely superior to any chartplotter I’ve ever seen for route planning and route management.

 5.    If you have a PC aboard, does it serve any other roles, such as entertainment, ship management, etc.?

No, unless you count my iPod that’s hooked into the Bose system.

One thing I am a big believer in is minimizing the single points of failure. For instance, I would never consider putting my nav computer on a network or have it running background tasks. I don’t trust Windows that much. So I’m not a fan of a “wired, networked” boat, and prefer simple computers with an inactive backup computer. If lightning or viruses kill or disable my Nav computer, or the hardware just dies, I know I have a clean, backup machine kept in a Farraday-shielded box that I can quickly plug in and get running.

Also, I’ve only been able to gain confidence in Windows-based computers by stripping them down. No auto-updates, no antivirus, etc. Stripped down to just the base OS and Nobeltec. Then they are very reliable. But of course, in that mode, I can’t expose them to the internet, except to access Nobeltec or  Jeppeson sites for software and chart updates, in which case I use a USB cellular card.

*Background traffic: I’ve found the Windows OS and its applications (anti-virus being the worst) generate a lot of background traffic looking for updates or whatever, even when the user-configurable auto-update features are turned off. When I pay dearly for bandwidth, not connect time, as I do with Inmarsat and MPDS, that background traffic can be 10x or even 100x my actual email traffic. Even if I was paying for connect time, but had severely limited bandwidth as is the case with Iridium, the same issue applies. So stripping as much of that junk out as possible is key. I’m also experimenting with a third-party firewall that should let me block the OS from looking for updates. The built-in firewalls always trust the OS to communicate with its own trusted sites so you can’t keep them from talking.)

In the next installment in this series, we’ll publish the “Request for Proposals” detailing what we’re asking the computer companies to address with their suggested installations for an N55.  We’ll also have an extensive set of documents and drawings to share with you and we’ll start to get into the details of computer installations aboard.  Follow-on articles will each have the response from an individual computer company.  Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Electronics, Passagemaking News, People, People & Profiles, Technology