Frequently asked questions:
It uses a web browser, do I need an internet connection to use it?
No. Freeboard provides its own private WIFI network on your boat. So you can access it from a WIFI capapable laptop, tablet or phone anywhere within about 100M of your boat.
Can Freeboard recieve, send, and multiplex NMEA0183?
Yes it reads and sends, and provides multiplexing, 3 inputs to one output. I could add as many more as you need via the Rasberry Pi.
Can Freeboard read/write Seatalk?
Yes, it can via a small external circuit board, which converts Seatalk wiring to TTL. Seatalk is a 9 bit protocol, and Freeboard can read/write a subset of common data. I developed this for my Raymarine chartplotter.
What about NMEA2000?
NMEA200 is a proprietary protocol, closely guarded by the marine industry, and very expensive to licence. Its being slowly unravelled by the open source community, hence its becoming accessbile without expensive converters. Freeboard will shortly be able to interface with NMEA2000 via the CANboat project
How quick does the screen update on a web browser?
The instruments and position etc on the chart are very fast (real-time). Freeboard uses websockets (fallback to comet) which basically means its as fast as your wireless network, and updates dont cause a refresh of the whole page. Its similar to using OpenCPN or other PC based chartplotter.
What charts are available?
Freeboard curentlyimports BSB/KAP charts. This means you can use the common KAP/BSB or ENC map formats (the free US NOAA Raster charts work, as do the New Zealand charts from LINZ) or a complete set here. OpenSeaMap.org seems to have more. Bahamas, Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Netherlands seem to be available. Its fairly easy to add common geoData formats, so you could potentially use all sorts of interesting stuff, eg NZ Bathemetry
Can Freeboard do vector charts?
Is Freeboard open source?
Freeboard is open source (GPL v3). It has to be as its based on many opensource products - its only possible because I'm standing on the shoulders of giants so to speak.
The Freeboard project might die, dissappear, drift, where does that leave me?
At worst you have wasted a few dollars. I started this because my very expensive proprietary gear cost me $1000+ to fix, twice! For half that you can have Freeboard with all the extras!
Raspberry Pi's are often on back-order, are they readily available? What if they dissappear?
Raspberry Pis are scarce, but that will improve (UPDATE Mar 2013 - generally available now). They are such a hit worldwide that they will be here for a while. Freeboard can use other similar boards, I chose the Raspberry because its popular and cheap. Just like PC's, in coming years you will be able to upgrade your hardware for a few dollars and get much more power.
Can you show battery info?
Battery info voltage is easy. Amp/Hours needs a digital ammeter on the main battery +ve, not difficult or expensive.
Can it show (your choice here - motor, fridge temp, tank levels, etc) ?
The Freeboard Arduino can read pretty much any physical input, but as a sailor I havent spent time on the motor or other data. If its a well known protocol (eg NMEA0183) its easy, if its NMEA2000 you need you use a converter to something more open. If its CANBUS its probably not difficult. Physical readings, eg on/off or analogue are not difficult. The Arduino can output any data format. UPDATE: NMEA2000 will be possible via the CANboat project
Will the Arduino run out of IO pins?
There are many spare IO pins on the Arduino Mega, but eventually you run out of CPU cycles. You may have to use 2 Arduinos to one RaspberryPi. Its designed to expand that way.