Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico

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Entries in internet (4)

Sunday
Oct122014

sailing and stackoverflow make a frankenstein 

If you write code, you know stackoverflow. It has become the defacto question and answer resource for software developers around the world. Then stackoverflow morphed into the larger stackexchange network, and spinoffs started appearing. 

I'm a frequent contributor to the fitness.stackexchange.com site, and recently I created a proposal for creating a sailing stackexchange site. If you agree, please head over there and follow it, and ask some questions. The sailing.stackexchange.com site will only be created if there's enough interest.

Stack Exchange Q&A site proposal: SailingStackexchange sites aren't perfect, but there are some clear advantages.

This is not to say that forums (cruisersforum, sailinganarchy, etc) or social networks (wws) are dead: far from it. But on those platforms, the focus is on discussion. If someone asks a question about changing the oil on a Yanmar, you might get twenty replies and half way through the discussion flips to why Yanmar sucks and whatever else is better.

On the stackexchange world, you spend time crafting a proper answer, supporting it with links, references, and source material. It's just different. 

Additionally although there are some regular participants on stackexchange sites, the real value is for the non-regular. It's for the person just looking for an answer to their damn question without having to wade through 50 pages of bored arm chair sailors sitting in Kansas arguing about whether toilet paper should unroll from the top or the bottom.

If you've used the stackexchange network you know how great it is, but if you haven't, check it out.

 

Sunday
Feb162014

this internet connection sucks, my torrent won't download fast enough

Sitting in the "VIP Room" of the marina in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle it's a great lesson in why we as a people are selfish assholes and need to be policed. 

Sailors and broadband are quite hilarious. What should happen, in an egalitarian world, is that we would all recognize that the marina's Internet connection is a shared resource. We all need to use it, we're all frustrated it's not fast enough, and we'd all like to have some basic web browsing / email sending / social media'ing. And if we restricted ourselves to that the Internet connections would be speedy, clean, and wonderfully reliable. 

But no, we can't all just agree to that. Because the minute we get on a fast-ish connection we decide to take our pants off and shit all over our fellow sailors by opening up uTorrent and downloading the latest season of Walking Dead in HD. 

We could, of course, simply hop on the VHF and ask if anyone has it (to which ~50 boats would reply affirmatively), but instead you, I, and ten other boats are sitting there sucking down torrents, porn, and having video Skype calls while we bitch that all three aren't fast enough.

So please, fellow sailor, if you're in a marina with me and would like any Kindle books, pirated movies, or TV shows, please check with me first. I will gladly hand you a thumb drive loaded with gigs of data that now will not need to be transferred through the marina's pipe.  

Sunday
Feb262012

starboardsky.com, my little map/weather/atom thing

Click to enlargeWhen my friend Ryan was halfway across the Pacific, I got an email from him (via SailMail) that he wanted a way to show his family where he was on a map. So I tossed together a goofy little site and forgot about it.

A year later I realized I might need be needing to do the same thing so I've spend a few nights beefing it up. Basically you can embed the map on your site (like we did here), use the Atom feed, and update it via sending emails. When you send an email you also get a response that contains some weather data (closest observations to you). I'm going to try to pump that feature up a bit as well. 

It's free and you obviously know where to find me if you have any problems with it. Hit me up if you have any questions or requests. 

Friday
Dec232011

how to select satellite internet on a sailboat

Inmarsat SatelliteThe other day Charlotte asked me about Internet access while underway on a sailboat. I had always known it to be expensive even for a slow connection, having worked for a satellite company early in my career.

A very brief primer about satellite constellations might help to explain this. Currently, there are over 3,000 satellites buzzing around the planet. A satellite like the one pictured on the left can sit in orbit in a few different ways. The orbit, altitude, capabilities, quantity, and transmit power define the constellation's profile. 

Step 1: Identify a service provider (these are the people who own or lease the satellites in orbit).

One provider, Wild Blue offers satellite Internet access but only to the lower 48 states of the US. Normally when people think about satellites they think of global coverage. Most satellite constellations, such as Wild Blue's are only covering a (relatively) small area of the world. The reason for this is basic economics: it takes significantly less satellites to cover the primary areas where people live than to have sufficient quantity to be buzzing over Siberia and the North Pole (where no one might need access for weeks or months). 

Even a company like GlobalStar, which you would be forgiven forGlobalStar Coverage Map. Click to expand. expecting to be "global" in its coverage only covers most of the populated land masses and a small amount into the water. 

So beyond simple "satellite internet", most sailors are looking for a true global solution or at least one that will cover the vast majority of their sailing grounds.


Inmarsat Coverage Map. Click to expand.Inmarsat, simply put, has the best combination of prices and global coverage. But take note that several areas are still missing. A few-hundred square mile patch in the Eastern Pacific, Drake's Passage off Cape Horn, and in the Indian Ocean near Oman. 

Step 2: Identify the "solution" that they offer. 

A product designed specifically for small pleasure craft is the Fleet 33. On first glance at Inmarsat's website you might see their entry level (~$500) IsatPhone, but that doesn't work for data applications unless you consider using the phone's keyboard to send emails as "data" (which technically it is). There are more powerful options than the Fleet 33, but the pricing gets astronomical. 

Step 3: Identify the hardware you'll need to install. 

KVH FB150 Installed, the white dome on the port quarter. Click to expand.Since we narrowed our search down to Inmarsat's Fleet 33, most of the recommendations point towards the KVH TracPhone FB150 (pictured left). For roughly ~$6000, you can find these available at Amazon.com and Jamestown Distributors. Power consumption (12v) ranges from 2 amps at idle to 20 amps during transmission. 

Although the price is obviously quite high, remember that a new SSB installation can also set you back a good few thousand dollars depending on what you buy and where you buy it.

Step 4: Pick a service plan based on your estimated usage.

Most satellite companies don't bill you directly, instead you'll need to go through another reseller. Since we're looking at the Fleet 33, we'll hop over to satellitephonestore.com's service plans. Their "Entry" plan boasts the following profile:

 

  • A minimum 12 month contract at $863/month. Just over $10,000 a year ($16,000 for the first year, including hardware).
  • 126MB/month. For the casual Internet user, this is very little data. As an example, the average smartphone data in the US (as of July 2011) is 4x this amount.  To achieve what would be even a spartan usage of regular Internet service (1GB/month), your costs will be roughly $36,000 a year.
  • 9.6Kb/s (which is roughly the speed of a dialup modem from 1994). 

 

Summary: Yep, it's still very expensive.

There are certainly some people out there who can justify the costs or have a need for it. And for those of us who suffer varying degrees of Internet addiction, like a heroin junkie perhaps the withdrawals are just too painful and worth stealing your mother's television to help subsidize your habit. If you have the money pay for it and perhaps more importantly you want to invite the potentially maddening experience of trying to conduct business via satellite this might work for you.

And a note regarding costs: the $16,000 - $32,000 numbers represent the cheap side of the equation. For folks demanding DSL level speeds know that they are achievable, but the prices quoted hear will seem like pocket change.