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freewheelin

Raspberry Pi Geekdom

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I have been getting into the idea of a Raspberry Pi chartplotter. Partly because it would be great to have a dedicated plotter, partly because it seems silly to buy an expensive plotter for a 30 year old 30 fter, and partly because it sounds like a fun project. I am starting to spec it out in my mind, but could really use some advice from someone who knows what they are doing. Here is what I have in mind

Raspberry Pi & case & 12V converter
dAISy Hat & VHF antenna splitter (for AIS receiver)
12 V touch screen monitor at nav station
bluetooth mini keyboard
GPS receiver (either link the boat's current receiver or add a dongle)
Android tablet
Second 12 volt monitor (non-touch screen) behind plexiglass (or something??) on the bulkhead
 
The idea would be to be able to control the plotter from either the touch screen & mini keyboard at the nav dest, or from the tablet. Think this is possible? Could it be set up using a remote desktop app on the tablet or is it more complicated?
 
This part I am really not sure about. The last monitor would fill a hole (about 8"x 8") that currently houses the radar readout that we don't use (the radar is old and sucks our batteries dry). I figure if done right it will look better, but also be more useful to have a bulkhead mounted screen I can turn on and off. Another option would be to install a tablet mount there, but that seems less elegant. I originally was thinking of a waterproof touch screen here, but was quickly priced out. So I am thinking I could have a normal (dumb) screen behind a piece of plexiglas or something similar to keep it protected. It could project the plotter, or a countdown sequence for racers, or whatever. I have not been able to find anything online about something similar, but if possible I think it could be pretty slick. It would be in a convenient place on the boat to have a readout.
 
Any thoughts on this setup? Anything I am missing? I appreciate any advice.
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I have a Pi setup on my boat... It gets position and AIS via serial input from the AIS (rs232/usb adapter).  It then is fed through an Openplotter in a headless setup to an iPad which is running SEAiq ($5 version) and gets its position, course, speed and ais data through the Pi via NMEA.  It also has the option to run VNC Remote Desktop  viewer and get the OpenCPN plotter and charts should I want that (though SEAiq is vastly better, IMO, and at $5 a no brainer).  When I set it up at home, I used my TV as a monitor with a Bluetooth keyboard, and was using the iPad and VNC at the same time without issues.  I did also add a WiFi dongle so the Pi could act as an internet bridge.  The only comment I would have is that tablets and many monitors are not really sunlight viewable and get grumpy and overheat if left in direct sunlight.  I have my setup in an enclosed pilothouse so this is not really an issue.  The Openplotter is a pretty easy setup, but it does help to have a pretty good grasp of technology to mess with it and get the setup you want.  People with more experience with the rather vast array of things you can do with a Pi will be along shortly to explain things better than I.

Oh, and when you do get it set up to your liking, burn a copy of the memory card and store it somewhere safe.  Mine lasted a year or so and died (it may have been an off brand?  Don’t remember) and when I went to redo the setup I’d forgotten what I had done.

 

 

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1 hour ago, NaClH20 said:

I have a Pi setup on my boat... It gets position and AIS via serial input from the AIS (rs232/usb adapter).  It then is fed through an Openplotter in a headless setup to an iPad which is running SEAiq ($5 version) and gets its position, course, speed and ais data through the Pi via NMEA.  It also has the option to run VNC Remote Desktop  viewer and get the OpenCPN plotter and charts should I want that (though SEAiq is vastly better, IMO, and at $5 a no brainer).  When I set it up at home, I used my TV as a monitor with a Bluetooth keyboard, and was using the iPad and VNC at the same time without issues.  I did also add a WiFi dongle so the Pi could act as an internet bridge.  The only comment I would have is that tablets and many monitors are not really sunlight viewable and get grumpy and overheat if left in direct sunlight.  I have my setup in an enclosed pilothouse so this is not really an issue.  The Openplotter is a pretty easy setup, but it does help to have a pretty good grasp of technology to mess with it and get the setup you want.  People with more experience with the rather vast array of things you can do with a Pi will be along shortly to explain things better than I.

Oh, and when you do get it set up to your liking, burn a copy of the memory card and store it somewhere safe.  Mine lasted a year or so and died (it may have been an off brand?  Don’t remember) and when I went to redo the setup I’d forgotten what I had done.

The latest versions of the Pi have a bios upgrade that permits booting from a USB attached hard drive. Lots faster than an SD card. I'm going to upgrade mine.

Anyway I went down this road and built a complete system. But there were a few problems I couldn't solve to my satisfaction *for my boat*.

1. Waterproof touch screen.

2. High brightness daylight visibility.

3. Something else that I can't remember ATM.

Anyway after making it all work I decided that I wasn't happy with the outcome so went & bought a Simrad G09 MFD and am quite happy with it.

If you were going to install the screen etc in a pilothouse or other well protected area then the issues I have go away. Below decks at a nav station, no-brainer, it works just fine. I've an 18" flat screen with Pi 4 mounted on the fwd bulkhead where I can run OpenCPN getting data over Ethernet from the Digital Yacht iKommunicate box.

You could use a tablet as a remote display but there are 3 things I didn't like about them.

1. High power draw.

2. Not waterproof.

3. Overheat in direct sunlight and shut down.

Great as a secondary non-critical display though, I use one with Navionics which I like a lot. I did manage to kill one tablet by not having it in its waterproof envelope though.

I did find a nice bright 7" screen eventually, designed for digital cameras as a big monitor. HDMI input/output so plugs straight into a Pi. Wasn't cheap though. I mounted it in a waterproof plastic box above my Simrad plotter to display a running plot of bottom depths and whatever else I want off of the Ethernet system. It too has a Pi 4 driving it.

This shit is a classic example of the 'good cheap fast - pick any 2' rule. And I am very good at breaking electronic shit.

FKT

screen.png

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Or...you could all get your heads out of the boat, talk to our crew, enjoy the scenery and look at your fucking sails now and then.  And look out for other floating shit (like other boats) that's not on your chart. 

You know, go sailing.

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3 minutes ago, Left Shift said:

Or...you could all get your heads out of the boat, talk to our crew, enjoy the scenery and look at your fucking sails now and then.  And look out for other floating shit (like other boats) that's not on your chart. 

You know, go sailing.

Seriously? This is your contribution? You are making a lot of assumptions, mate.

 

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22 minutes ago, Left Shift said:

Or...you could all get your heads out of the boat, talk to our crew, enjoy the scenery and look at your fucking sails now and then.  And look out for other floating shit (like other boats) that's not on your chart.

I've got a steel boat, one crew person and no insurance. It's your problem. Since you want to be like that about it.

FKT

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If you really want to geek out you can use a software defined radio dongle as your ais receiver.

https://www.rtl-sdr.com/rtl-sdr-tutorial-cheap-ais-ship-tracking/

I agree with those who think a good screen will be the issue, if you buy a nice tablet why bother with the pi? 

Many years ago I had a nook displaying boat instruments on the epaper display that looked great in the sun but I don't think it would have worked for a chartplotter. 

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28 minutes ago, breezetrees said:

if you buy a nice tablet why bother with the pi? 

A while ago I set up a test rig and ran it for a few weeks. The main advantage I was looking for was reduced latency for AIS tracking. Since the pi was always running opencpn with AIS when I logged in using my tablet, phone or PC all the local targets were acquired and had tracks. It worked but it was very much a project. I decided that I wasn't going to be able to test it and debug it sufficiently to trust it at sea.

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If you're looking for sunlight readable displays, or just ruggedised displays for that matter  without the PC, have a look at these guys. 

https://www.litemax.com/

I used to use them for all my outdoor hardened screens, good outfit. For sunlight readable,1500 nits is plenty, that's what I used for outdoor rail/bus depot information displays.  

This is the manufacturers website, once you find what you need go to any electronics mob in your home country, there is quite a few mobs like me that resell them. 

 

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50 minutes ago, shaggybaxter said:

If you're looking for sunlight readable displays, or just ruggedised displays for that matter  without the PC, have a look at these guys. 

https://www.litemax.com/

I used to use them for all my outdoor hardened screens, good outfit. For sunlight readable,1500 nits is plenty, that's what I used for outdoor rail/bus depot information displays.  

This is the manufacturers website, once you find what you need go to any electronics mob in your home country, there is quite a few mobs like me that resell them. 

 

And an indicative price for the DLF1268-I DLH1268-I SLD1268-I model is.... ?

Happy for you to PM me about it if you would or anything close to that. I spent a lot of time on Ali Express and similar trying to source something and gave up.

Mind you that screen only solves one of the 3 issues for an open weather deck display. That still leaves touchscreen and waterproof. I do know they're out there but I simply couldn't sort through the options effectively when I looked. It's not my field.

Once the price point starts getting close to that of a Simrad plotter for example, why bother is where I got to. And it wasn't the total cost, I spend quite a bit on R&D projects without a second thought. It was the conclusion that I was pursuing failure and when I get to thinking that I tend to cut my losses and re-evaluate when something changes.

The 7" digital camera monitor I bought was $400 roughly and is 2200 nits. That's the next upgrade for the deck display; currently there's a Pi in a SmartPi case with 7" touchscreen in a waterproof perspex box mounted above the chartplotter. The screen isn't bright enough in direct sunlight though.

Playing with this stuff is entertaining and a great excuse to buy more gadgets.

FKT

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We are currently kitting out our new boat as well (stuff is bough, tested, but not completely installed or used "for real"). I decided to go with a RPI instead of a classic chartplotter as well.

We have one RPI at the nav station inside, driving two displays: one normal 19" monitor there and one smaller IP65 daylight readable touch screen at the helm (form Faytech, they have 7-12 inch models at IMHO reasonable prices). Only one RPI for both displays, so that a single license for the charts is needed and there is no hassle with sharing the planned routes across to devices.

I only plan to use this as a plotter/display device. We have Garmin NMEA2000 displays at the helm and dedicated, normal equipment that everything connects to via NMEA 2000 (Garmin Wind, Depth, Speed, Heading, Autopilot, AMEC AIS TX/RX). The Radar is from Navico and is usable on the RPI via Ethernet.

The RPI (and the NMEA2000 connector) is easily replaced as I can simple carry a spare to drop-in if needed. I try not to put too more functions on this thing, to make it very quick and reliable to reload/reinstall it from scratch. When I hear that people also have their media-center on the same RPI I can see a lot of unnecessary trouble ahead.

Once installed (and not touched) the RPI installation seems quite reliable to me. But it's easy to fall into scripting/dependency-hell where trying to update that stuff. I found OpenPlotter as a distribution extremely brittle.  After moving to Docker / Kubernetes at my day job some time ago this is a sad reminder of the days when you had to hope that your 20 physical webservers running different operating system would be held together with spit and an aging collection of shell or perl scripts. 

Paul

PS: For reference, Faytech's 12" 1000+ NITS IP65 Touchscreen https://www.faytech.nl/en/12-ip65-hb-resistive-touch-monitor.html is 506 EUR + VAT.

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25 minutes ago, toolbar said:

PS: For reference, Faytech's 12" 1000+ NITS IP65 Touchscreen https://www.faytech.nl/en/12-ip65-hb-resistive-touch-monitor.html is 506 EUR + VAT.

Yeah. Ignoring VAT that translates to $835.

Then add Australian GST 10% now $919.

Raspberry Pi 4 at $100, now $1019.

Power supply, mouse, keyboard etc maybe another $100 all up, now $1119.

Still need to add the various senders you require, a GPS and depth sounder at minimum for me. $50 for a puck type USB GPS, echosounder interface (iKonvert) $200 or so for NMEA0183 to NMEA2000. Transducer itself is a wash, both systems need one.

Don't know what a NMEA2K card/shield is for the Pi as I installed a Digital Yacht IKommunicate black box as I wanted NMEA0183 data over Ethernet.

IIRC my Simrad plotter/MFD cost me $1400 including a CHIRP transducer I didn't mount. Yep.

https://www.whitworths.com.au/simrad-go9-xse-fishfinder-chartplotter-with-active-imaging-3-in-1-transducer

This is the exercise I ran through to get to the decision point that it simply wasn't worth the hassle for me. I just wanted a weather deck display that worked, I already had enough projects to keep me busy until I'm 150 years old. Rather think about a home-brew autopilot as buying one for my steering setup is going to be $$$$.

Someone else, different priorities and desires.

FKT

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The Go9 is smaller than 12", so you could strike 200+ EUR from that calculation if you are willing to downsize. The Go12 is about 3000 AUD, if I googled that correctly. :-)

For me the plusses don't have to do with price, but I would like to

- use the same set of charts inside and outside (ok, this might be about money, I wouldn't want to pay twice)

- two-way sync my routes planned inside to  the plotter outside without hassle

I had a B&G Zeus 2 on my old boat. Much nicer touch-interface than OpenCPN for the outside use, but the planning inside part sucked (only really possible by screen mirroring on a tablet, a function that went into planned obsolency some time ago).

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11 minutes ago, toolbar said:

The Go9 is smaller than 12", so you could strike 200+ EUR from that calculation if you are willing to downsize. The Go12 is about 3000 AUD, if I googled that correctly. :-)

For me the plusses don't have to do with price, but I would like to

- use the same set of charts inside and outside (ok, this might be about money, I wouldn't want to pay twice)

- two-way sync my routes planned inside to  the plotter outside without hassle

I had a B&G Zeus 2 on my old boat. Much nicer touch-interface than OpenCPN for the outside use, but the planning inside part sucked (only really possible by screen mirroring on a tablet, a function that went into planned obsolency some time ago).

Quite right on the screen size, the 12" Simrad is bloody expensive. I decided the 9" one would be adequate.

WRT charts, this may be a country thing. I - ahem - have a lot of electronic charts that cost me nothing. As do a lot of cruisers. And the Simrad plotter included C-Map charts for Australia anyway. I quite like Navionics on the tablet too. It sort of talks to the Simrad wifi but I haven't really bothered with it a lot.

Agree about planning etc which is why I'm going to put OpenCPN on one of my below decks Pi's .

Agree it can all be fragile/brittle too. As an old unix person the scripting and command line stuff doesn't worry me at all but stacked dependencies and having to continually upgrade 30 things because you change one gets a bit old. Though for the Pi OS (Raspian) it does seem very well sorted - a few apt-get commands and you're done. The release of OpenPlotter was pretty solid once I finally got it working but it took a few iterations.

I'm looking forward to installing a Pi 4 running from a USB SSD. That will be a nice performance and - hopefully - reliability upgrade. I intend to take a very close look at PyPilot too, still gathering various hardware bits ATM.

FKT

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40 minutes ago, Fah Kiew Tu said:

IIRC my Simrad plotter/MFD cost me $1400 including a CHIRP transducer I didn't mount. Yep.

IME if you own an older SIMRAD system, at some point they tell you "Sorry your system is too old we don't support it anymore, you will have to upgrade it, we offer a discount". I think just for this, OpenCpn is worth considering even if it means that you have the display inside... or may be not:

4 hours ago, shaggybaxter said:

If you're looking for sunlight readable displays, or just ruggedised displays for that matter  without the PC, have a look at these guys. 

https://www.litemax.com/

I used to use them for all my outdoor hardened screens, good outfit. For sunlight readable,1500 nits is plenty, that's what I used for outdoor rail/bus depot information displays.  

This is the manufacturers website, once you find what you need go to any electronics mob in your home country, there is quite a few mobs like me that resell them. 

That's news to me! Does this mean that you have an hdmi input and Bob is your uncle ? Is it a bit more complicated than this?

Another positive thing about the raspberry pi is that it is so cheap that you can have 2 spares on board + 2 or 3 ready flashed sd cards!!!

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2 minutes ago, Panoramix said:

Another positive thing about the raspberry pi is that it is so cheap that you can have 2 spares on board + 2 or 3 ready flashed sd cards!!!

Yeah the Pi's are great little single board computers. The 3B models were pretty good but the 4B model is great. Runs very hot though. I expect I'll end up with 3 on my boat and a spare in a Pelican case somewhere. With them all running VNC server you can take control/export the screen display anywhere you like. You can in fact have a Pi/normal screen setup below and use VNC viewer on a tablet to get the deck display. But you still have to deal with the tablet battery life, lack of water resistance and overheating in direct sunlight. There are ways of addressing all those issues but each introduces others.

As for Simrad obsolescence, I have a multi-decade familiarity with marine electronics, their fragility and the rate that they go obsolete. You opened the box? Sorry, it's obsolete, buy a new one. That's why I tried the DIY path first. If I can get my hands on one of those screens at a reasonable price I may have another go at it.

FKT

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If I'd have known how good and versatile a Raspberry Pi was, I would never have purchased an MFD. My advice is use a "headless"* Rpi 3 instead of a 4 unless you want to use it as a general purpose "PC Lite". The 3 uses a lot less power and runs OpenPlotter (which is essential, imo) fine.

*"Headless" means no display or keyboard attached. This thing isn't Windows. It will run all day, everyday without needing to reboot to update Candy Crush. You access with remote software like noMachine or VNC. Not that you need to do that so much because you can use software on your phone and tablet to read the NMEA and SignalK data streams directly into apps like OpenCPN.

Personally, I'd give the dAISy HAT a miss. I purchased one and was a little underwhelmed by it's reception. Ended up buying an AIS transceiver which received much better and transmits also.

My Pi is the hub of the boat's network. Even provides the Internet access so every phone, tablet and computer just needs to connect to Pi's network and good to go. The thing uses 2/10's of stuff all power and repair at sea is as simple as carrying a replacement unit. It powers on and off with the battery switch, which is something you wouldn't really do with an MFD on a small boat.

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Here's a screenshot taken just now on my Mac at home connecting to an Raspberry Pi 4B on my boat monitoring some battery stuff (among other stuff). Looks like batteries reached absorption phase around 10:30. Any device with a browser can access it. The data flow is NMEA 2000 - > SignalK -> Influxdb -> Grafana, all the pieces from Github.

578025427_ScreenShot2020-08-14at10_54_40AM.thumb.png.c2fb751bab04b30fdccdb418fabea2a4.png

 

 

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So it seems it would not be as simple as putting a normal monitor behind glass on the bulkhead because of glare and overheating. Has anyone come across a weatherproof and sunlight visible monitor that is not touchscreen?  I am wondering if that could save some money. It seems easier/cheaper to design than a touchscreen version.

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7 hours ago, freewheelin said:

So it seems it would not be as simple as putting a normal monitor behind glass on the bulkhead because of glare and overheating. Has anyone come across a weatherproof and sunlight visible monitor that is not touchscreen?  I am wondering if that could save some money. It seems easier/cheaper to design than a touchscreen version.

Glare is definitely an issue, not so sure about overheating for just a screen. My Pi with 7" touchscreen inside a perspex box hasn't had any issues so far.

The problem is, you need to interact with OpenCPN or any other package. How do you plan to do that? If it's always via the below decks console, go for it, should work fine. The deck display is just a data output then which is what I use my Pi for. I'll be swapping over to the 2200 nit brightness screen as soon as I get back to boat stuff.

There are a lot of screens out there that claim to have daylight visibility but every time I tried to confirm details with the vendors on Ali Express or similar, I could never get a straight answer.

I *really* do not like Toecutter's comment WRT powering the Pi on & off via the battery switch. The thing is running a linux variant - that means it has a shit-ton of open files at all times. If you do this, sooner or later you're going to corrupt something. Yes the modern versions of the o/s have gotten very good at recovering from a power outage, this is still IMO a bad practice.

Funnily enough the Simrad MFD is made so you can hard-wire it to the ship power supply and cannot turn it off except via cutting power. This is optional but obviously it's designed to deal gracefully with it.

If you get a Pi or 2 and then start looking into what you can do with Node Red and other open source software you too will think that nearly all marine electronics suppliers are 20+ years in the past.

FKT

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Does anybody know of largeish 7 segment displays that can be seen in daylinght? Most LEDs seem to get washed out in daylight. LCD would work. If it's easily driven with I2C or something similar would be good as well.

Thanks

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37 minutes ago, ChiGuy said:

Does anybody know of largeish 7 segment displays that can be seen in daylinght? Most LEDs seem to get washed out in daylight. LCD would work. If it's easily driven with I2C or something similar would be good as well.

Thanks

https://www.litemax.com/product/catalog.php?index_m1_id=2&index_m2_id=18

From 84" down to 7" I think. 

I have a older version of this at 24", LCD, 1800 nits that's 12V, draws 30W. Too bright at full setting (40W). As mentioned upthread, you'd need to find your local disty but they are well represented in most countries.

 

 

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4 hours ago, ChiGuy said:

Does anybody know of largeish 7 segment displays that can be seen in daylinght? Most LEDs seem to get washed out in daylight. LCD would work. If it's easily driven with I2C or something similar would be good as well.

Thanks

Not 7 segment but e-ink or e-paper looks great in the sun. 

Screenshot_20200814-213345_YouTube.jpg

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E-Ink is good for viability.. but .. much slower for update... and has that nasty flicker... (at least I see it...).. But re-purposing an old Kindle is definitely workable.. and about the right cost.  Now ideally one could re-engineer the kindle to be conformaly  coated, and use a inductive charger to make a IP69 display device....

Now.. for the touch screen displays...  the right way is to ignore the touch.. ensure that there is a camera.. and have the camera process hand signals for selection and zoom events...  Hell.. the camera can even watch and do a notification if a MOB event happens..  

 

 

 

 

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I'm kinda liking OpenCPN on a PineBook Pro (https://www.pine64.org/pinebook-pro/) 

These are $200 laptops running an ARM based SOC.  Battery life is excellent (+12 hours) for me....

SPECIFICATIONS
  • Rockchip RK3399 SOC with Mali T860 MP4 GPU
  • 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • 1080p IPS Panel
  • Magnesium Alloy Shell body
  • Bootable Micro SD Slot
  • 64GB of eMMC (Upgradable)
  • PCIe x4 to m.2 NVMe SSD Slot (requires optional adapter)
  • SPI Flash 128Mbit
  • HD Digital Video Out via USB-C
  • USB 2.0 Host
  • USB 3.0 Host
  • USB-C (Data, Power and Video out)
  • Lithium Polymer Battery (10000mAH)
  • Stereo Speakers
  • WiFi 802.11 AC + Bluetooth 5.0
  • Headphone Jack
  • Microphone
  • Front-Facing Camera (1080p)
  • ISO & ANSI Keyboard Variants
  • Privacy Switches for Camera, Microphones and BT/WiFi
  • Large Trackpad
  • UART Access via Audio Jack
  • Barrel Power (5V 3A) Port

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10 hours ago, h20man said:

E-Ink is good for viability.. but .. much slower for update... and has that nasty flicker... (at least I see it...).. But re-purposing an old Kindle is definitely workable.. and about the right cost.  Now ideally one could re-engineer the kindle to be conformaly  coated, and use a inductive charger to make a IP69 display device....

Now.. for the touch screen displays...  the right way is to ignore the touch.. ensure that there is a camera.. and have the camera process hand signals for selection and zoom events...  Hell.. the camera can even watch and do a notification if a MOB event happens..  

 

 

 

 

I can just see it now.  I'd just given that passing boat a wave and nek minute....

357F8BD500000578-3651630-Ian_Knight_and_

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