Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A relook at OpenCPN navigation software

In this blog post I talked about the dedicated PC-based navigation computer we have on Viking Star:

WinXP based, industrial computer, NO internet connection (to stop all those 'helpful' auto-updates) and using SeaClear software.   It has been a solid and reliable system for years now.   I had at one time tried using another version of navigation software called openCPN, but found it to be way too slow in response to chart positioning and drawing.  Mentioned this to a fellow cruiser a couple of months ago and he said 'look again -  they have improved it'.  So I did, and they have.

OpenCPN version 3.2.2 is much improved in its chart drawing speed and though it is still slower than SeaClear, it is quite usable. For the past month we have been using both on our navigation computer - I like some of the features openCPN has over SeaClear:

  • Chart quilting - seamlessly pasting two different charts on the same screen.  Not only boundaries when we run off the edge of one chart and into another, but it also at times will overlay a more detailed chart segment in real time.
  • Integrated tide and current.  this appears to be based on xtides/jTides, but the graphic display makes it so easy to locate table points vs. correlating the names with positions.

Now remember, SeaClear development stopped about 5 years ago with some bug corrections after that.  So I am not faulting SeaClear - it still is our primary navigation software.  But with the improvement in chart drawing speed I find openCPN now usable and have been switching back and forth between the two.  Still some quirks to learn on openCPN (all software has their way of doing things), and I have worked though a few configuration screens to customize. Might even start playing with Vector charts as well! But as of now we have TWO viable free software packages to base our navigation computer on!  


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