|Improve your Web navigation and your boating.|
Many of you have probably already used the World Wide Web in some way that involves your boat's systems. Perhaps while shopping you went to an electronics manufacturer's site for product specs or to one of the big online marine stores like westmarine.com or boatus.com to check prices. Maybe you misplaced your real-world PMY, wanted to reread one of my old columns, and found me again at powerandmotoryacht.about.com. It could happen!
The vast resource of the Web is an old story; we've come to expect that a certain amount of information is just out there waiting for us. But there's more, much more. This month let's explore some unexpected--and sometimes complicated--ways that manufacturers can support customers on the Web and the cyber backwaters where volunteer electronics mentors lurk. Admittedly, my work as a marine electronics writer has made me quite a nerd (or perhaps vice versa), but I can easily illustrate how improved Web navigation can help you get the most from your electronics.
I regularly scan an online newsgroup called rec.boats.electronics, and last spring noted a discussion about how Garmin was offering free software that upgraded its model 162 GPS to WAAS. As my friend Jack has just that unit installed on his 36-foot lobster boat, I went to garmin.com, downloaded the file, and copied it to a disc. Then we used Jack's onboard laptop to upload the upgrade; bada bing! he had a significantly more accurate GPS, with several lesser software improvements (and bug fixes) thrown in.
Upgrades are common in the world of regular PC software, and their distribution via the Web has become the norm. Now the phenomenon has come to the marine world, first to PC charting programs, then to the handheld GPSs that are commonly hooked to PCs. With more and more onboard networks and computers, eventually we'll be upgrading everything from fishfinders to VHFs.
The business of actually downloading upgrade files and running them is fairly straightforward; what's harder is finding out about them. It's much easier for a manufacturer to post an upgrade on its Web site than to notify all the appropriate customers individually.
This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.