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Can I network two Zeus2 plotters? GoFree WiFi?


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Hi Have a Zeus2 W9 plotter at my nav station and a Zeus2 W7 at my helm. Is it possible to network them together, so that the autopilot can be controlled from either, and a course entered into one can be viewed on the other? I see from the manual that there is an ethernet capability for sharing charts and video but it's not clear how the other functionality is shared. 

Also, if they are networked together, would a GoFree WiFi connected to one work for both? Actually, other than making firmware updates easy, I'm not sure what the GiFree does for me.

Sadly, the manuals have not been very helpful.

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They need ethernet in order to share charts. The GoFree WiFi doesn't do anything that almost any wireless router could do, provided you can configure the router to turn on IGMP Snooping so you don't flood the wireless network with radar data.

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On 4/11/2021 at 12:43 AM, George Dewey said:

Actually, other than making firmware updates easy, I'm not sure what the GiFree does for me.

if you have a predictwind subscription, the go free connected to your phone as a hotspot lets you download gribs and routing.

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2 minutes ago, ryley said:

if you have a predictwind subscription, the go free connected to your phone as a hotspot lets you download gribs and routing.

Oh thats cool, will it work through an Iridium Go?

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6 minutes ago, George Dewey said:

Oh thats cool, will it work through an Iridium Go?

I don't think so. something about the Go's method of accessing the internet isn't compatible with the Zeus implementation of the PW stuff.

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3 hours ago, ryley said:

I don't think so. something about the Go's method of accessing the internet isn't compatible with the Zeus implementation of the PW stuff.

Thanks @ryley you seem to know B&G gear pretty well, so, do you know how to upload a route to the Zuse2 plotters? I tried to upload a route from Predict Wind Offshore and had no luck. Worked with Garmin, but with B&G no luck. If I can't do it wirelessly, can I put the route file on an SD card and get it into the plotter that way?  

Oh, I did see a video where a list of waypoints was added via an SD card, but then the route was created manually on the plotters screen.  Ideally I want to be able to get my route from Predict Wind, Expedition or any other routing software and upload the route.

Thanks again!

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I have two zeus chart plotters and use this device to connect everything together and give me wifi access to the instruments and give the plotters internet access.  https://www.gl-inet.com/products/gl-ar750s/

It  can be configured to connect to a hotspot via wifi to give everything connected to it  internet access.  (It has  two wifi radios that operate at the same time.)   By doing that when I run expedition I can have internet access and access to the instruments through the same wifi connection.

Slightly bigger than a deck of cards all the way around.  Only issue is you need to get B&G ethernet cables with B&G ends on one side and regular Ethernet on the the other end.  Not sure of the cost something like $50.  But have not checked and can't remember.

https://www.gl-inet.com/products/gl-ar750s/

You can update a route to zeus plotters  via a SD card.  I keep waiting for when expedition send a route directly.  Expedition can talk to the H5000 CPU through websockets and send info but not a route to the zeus plotters.  It can send an individual waypoint and have the plotters go to that point using a NMEA 0183 sentence, but again can't get it to send an entire route.  

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4 hours ago, ryley said:

if you have a predictwind subscription, the go free connected to your phone as a hotspot lets you download gribs and routing.

Go Free or any other wifi hub/router will let you access you instrument data via wifi.  Note the Gofree is not a hub/router so B&G sells another device for that or see my post above that just uses a cheap generic router that does it all and more.

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So basically, the plotters just have Ethernet ports with non-standard connectors? They work like any other Ethernet device, I could just plug them all into a switch and they would talk with each other and anything else I plug into that switch? If that's the case there are lots of options, but that slate that can be an AP and a station at the same time is pretty cool for $65. Thanks!

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9 hours ago, George Dewey said:

Oh, I did see a video where a list of waypoints was added via an SD card, but then the route was created manually on the plotters screen.

that's an old video. as long as you have the latest firmware, you can definitely upload the route via sd card.

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On 4/12/2021 at 11:34 PM, George Dewey said:

So basically, the plotters just have Ethernet ports with non-standard connectors? They work like any other Ethernet device, I could just plug them all into a switch and they would talk with each other and anything else I plug into that switch? If that's the case there are lots of options, but that slate that can be an AP and a station at the same time is pretty cool for $65. Thanks!

Yes.  Also B&G sells short adapters that convert their end to an RJ-45 if you already have cables run and you want to change things up.  Otherwise best to get their ready made cables with their end on one end and an RJ-45 on the other.  And you could make your own cables and then use their adapter on the zeus end.

https://www.westmarine.com/buy/simrad--rj45m-ethernet-adapter-cable--15354970?cm_mmc=PS-_-Google-_-GSC>NonB>Product%20Type-_-15354970&product_id=15354970&creative=504966947936&device=c&matchtype=&network=g&gclid=Cj0KCQjwpdqDBhCSARIsAEUJ0hPyzllMhnavqJ1Gz78biPkEi3IldxjygQzCaP1cCuJ_K4Nw78JQFQgaAuSKEALw_wcB

 

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Just be aware of the difference between a router and a switch.

I have 2 Zeus3 7" at each helm, a Zeus3 12" in the center, and a Halo 20+ radar networked together.  They share chart data and Radar across all three using an NEP-2 (the B&G Network Expansion unit).

So I tried this with a basic ethernet switch, as I thought the NEP-2 was faulty.  I purchased a bunch of the adapters and plugged the 3 cables into a basic network switch (12v). 

It did not work. 

It occurred to me that the the NEP-2 was not just a switch, but was also a router, since something has to assign IP addresses and route traffic.  I guess if I had manually configured the IP addresses on each Zeus I may have been able to get them to talk to each other without a router, but I'm not sure how the Radar would have worked.

Ultimately it turned out to be a faulty cable, not the NEP-2 itself.  But I learned a bit about the way these B&G's are networked.

As for the original post, you need ethernet to share charts and radar.  Everything else is via N2K - routes, autopilot, etc.

I've successfully uploaded routes from Navionics on my laptop to the Zeus via SD Card, but it's not great.  I'm adding a Vulcan 12 to my nav station specifically so I can create routes easily, since doing it at the helm is not easy.

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Okay so the key takeaway, I guess, is that the network clients (plotters and so on) need DHCP assigned IPs. 

But for now I only need that to (1) do firmware updates and (2) mirror the screen to a tablet. And I guess I could even update with an SD card. So this can be a low priority item, assuming the plotters are both on N2K. I'll find out in a few days thanks!

 

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So, if someone uses ethernet to network say two plotters, is there a router involved or do they just connect directly together? Two devices could do that with a crossover cable and I guess the firmware could detect that and self assign an IP. If radar were to be added, where would it connect?

 

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So see the attached schematic

This is my boat without the radar.  So if you look carefully, there isn't an NEP-2 or any type of router.  So the MFDs must be able to handle talking to one another.

The MFDs connect directly to one another via the Navico ethernet cables.  So if you don't have a radar, then I believe you can simply get a Navico ethernet cable and connect the two Zeus2 to one another directly.

If I recall correctly the goFree Wifi module has 2 ethernet ports as well, so you can connect that in between and you now have wireless.

Defender has the goFree for $185, so it's not that much more expensive than the wireless routers noted above, and you don't have to try to splice the cables to get you to RJ45 connectors.  And the B&G MFDs will play with it nicely.

If you add radar, then it gets a bit more complicated because you run out of ports between the Zeus7's, since they only have 1 port each.  On my old boat I had the radar go into the goFree, then the goFree go into the single Zeus7.  In order to connect a second one you now need some type of router (like the NEP2).  The only other way is with the larger Zeus 12, you get 2 ethernet ports.

Screen Shot 2021-04-15 at 5.14.50 PM.png

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That's quite a diagram, thank you. At this point the boat has arrived by truck, and has been launched. They had to pull the helm apart, so all the wires are exposed. There are three cables coming out from where the plotter is mounted, and none have any connectors. Just exposed wires. I expected at least a NMEA2000 cable, so this weekend I'll have an exciting time reverse engineering the wiring. I'll probably install an ethernet cable just to have it for future use. 

As for the WiFi, the advantage I see to the Slate linked above is that its simultaneously an access point and a station, which is a nice capability. To do that with the GoFree, I need a second GoFree. 

Thanks again, this will be a big help.

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What plotter was originally there?

the N2k is typically 4 wire (red, black, blue, white) plus a drain uninsulated.

The Navico Ethernet only uses 5 wires if I recall correctly, so don’t be expecting a full 8 wire (4 twisted pair) from a regular Ethernet cable.

I would assume one is basic power, but on B&G that could include a blue alarm wire and yellow control wire beyond red and black for 12v.

You may also have NMEA0183, which I believe is only 2 wires with maybe a drain.

good luck!

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It's a Zeus 2.  And yes, the three cables are N2K, ethernet and a power cable. The N2k cable, instead of a standard connector, is joined to the bus using screw terminals. Same with the ethernet, and the power. I assume this was done because the connectors wouldn't fit through the holes the cables pass through (although those holes could easily be enlarged). The power cable has red, black, yellow and blue. I got it all connected backup and the plotter is working. 

Before I hooked this up, the instruments were not giving any data and it appeared that the H5000 was not present. The Zeus 2 at the nav station reported the H5000 was off. Once the second plotter was hooked up, I started to get data on both plotters and on the displays. I have no idea why hooking up the second plotter would matter.

I took apart the panel and found a Go Free WiFi. Its connected to power. It has two Ethernet connections, one to each plotter. But it's still not working. Its PWR led is solid red. It has two network LEDs, and neither lights. There is a network LED on the H5000 and it remains lit solid green. but I would expect it to flicker with traffic. The Zeus 2 plotter at the nav station reports "ethernet cable unplugged" when I go into its settings. I tried disconnecting the Ethernet cable to the plotter in the cockpit, but that didn't help. I switched the ports, that didn't help either.  It looked like the Go Free WiFi appeared in the list of APs on my cell phone, but I'm not really sure what it's SSID is so I'm not sure. I read that there is a factory reset, I'll try that tomorrow.

It's also hard to believe that both Ethernet ports and/or cables are bad. Any idea what might be going on?

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Interesting.

Some thoughts:

1. If at all possible, you may want to buy a long Navico Ethernet cable and bypass the GoFree, connecting the two plotters directly together to see if they work correctly (share chart data is the easiest way to tell).  The "network" lights on the GoFree should blink to show traffic.

2. The ethernet being routed through a terminal block is a bit suspicious.  If the pinout is not correct it won't work, and I honestly don't know if the Navico cables are straight through (i.e. pin 1 to 1, 2 to 2, etc) or some type of crossover.  I believe it would only take one bad connector to mess things up, so again the terminal block should be bypassed (at least temporarily) to see if you can make it work.

3. The "Network" light on the H5000 is not ethernet, it's showing N2K traffic.  There should be a separate "ethernet" light, but as far as I can tell that's only for the webserver access so is not always connected.  I don't have an H5000 but it seems that it works predominantly through N2k.

4. So hooking up the second plotter and it all worked is a clue.  There's something going on with the N2K bus.  There are several DIY guides to check the busses.  You need to ensure you have a termination at each end, etc.  If you just took the N2k wire and connected it to the Zeus2, there may not be a termination to the main trunk line.  

https://seabits.com/nmea-2000-troubleshooting-tools/

 

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Oh right makes sense that the N2K bus was not working.

I also read that a software upgrade can brick a GoFree so I'll see if I can reset it. 

The ethernet issue was that someone cut the cable, so it could be routed through a hole, then used a screw terminal block to reconnect it. That should work. I don't think that's the issue with enet because even when I disconnect that from the GoFree the other port does not seem to work. I don't have any charts to share, I think the prior owner kept those. I saw in the plotter manual that if you remove a chart card then the plotter needs to be told to return to the built in charts, and I plan to check those out before buying any. I'm leaning toward Navionics Plus Large for the US East coast though.

Thank you for your help! With any luck I'll have it all working later today. 

 

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Okay, hopefully the last, or almost last, update on this. Today, the GoFree WiFi, for no apparent reason, just began to work. I may have changed something but I have no idea what, but it worked as soon as I turned it all on. After I got all that going, I found a faulty connection inside the screw terminal block for the enet. Once that was fixed, I discovered I could share charts. Turns out the plotter in the cockpit had an SD card with expired Navionics charts, and I just renewed them for $99 this evening. I was also able to update the H5000 and Zeus 2 firmware to the latest. Now I have to update the 20/20HV and graphic displays, and the NAIS-400 and I think the instruments will be good to go. Then I can start the endless and arduous task of actually calibrating them :-(

 

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