Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Matsutec HP-33A 4.3" marine GPS AIS transponder

I bought Huaygang Tech in Hong Kong for £270 + import duty. It still seems a bargain as it is a 50 channel GPS and a class B AIS transponder. There is a video of it being opened on You Tube, and you can see the specs on Huaygang's Alibaba site . Obviously I did not buy it on Alibaba - I ordered it directly and paid by PayPal. Excellent

I tested it at home and the set up was quite simple. The MMSI number went in and was saved (without any "are you sure" type of message). The GPS fixed the position of my house within about 1m, and that was with the antenna on the window ledge so it did not see many satellites. It was giving out short bursts on the AIS VHF channel every few minutes, as I could see on my Ham radio, but my attempt to decode them with ShipPlotter failed. I am not sure why but these type of things can be a bit tricky to set up. The Tx Rx indicators on the AIS display did not change so I am not sure what they do. They were small grey circles and I expect they should flash in colour. I then took the unit to Conwy Marina for testing aboard Tui. I plugged the PL259 from the main mast antenna in the HP-33 A, and used an emergency antenna on my Standard Horizon MX2100 VHF and AIS receiver. As expected I did not show up on the MX2100 display as the same MMSI is programmed in so it knows it is me. I then put my AIS Man Over Board SART in test mode and that shows up nicely on the unit. It comes up in red even though it says it is a test.
  I then tried to see if Tui showed up on Marine Traffic web site, but she did not. Actually the Wifi and 3G signal were both very poor in the marina so this was difficult. There were no other AIS transponders within range of either my HP-33A or MX2100, although Marine Traffic showed some ships further out to sea. Actually the Marine Traffic web site says it does not have coverage in Conwy.

I ran in to the crew of a 39 foot sloop Testa Rossa also berthed in Conwy, and asked them if I showed up on their AIS. It turns out that I did.

It is strange that the beam says 7ft. The set up menu of the HP-33A indicates the distance of the GPS antenna from the port or starboard side of the boat, but it assumes it is a ship with parallel sides. Interestingly Testa Rossa does show up on Marine Traffic in Conwy Marina. They could also see the ships further out on AIS. I presume this is a combination of Testa Rossa having a taller mast (I presume they are using a splitter and their main mast antenna) as she is a sloop rather than a ketch, and being further away from land so maybe having a clearer view.Note the position is correct down to the correct berth in the marina.

So far it the unit is pretty impressive. The next step is a permanent installation including connection the NMEA output. Also I am intrigued by the method of uploading and downloading waypoints and tracks. Instead of using proprietary software it just spits ASCII files down a serial port. I think I quite like that approach as it is very flexible but we will see how we get on with that. I am planning to put a whip antenna on the mizzen mast, that way it serves as a back up antenna for the VHF as well.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Alibaba and the Identity Theives

I tried to buy something on a Chinese web site called Alibaba.com (well AliExpress). This web sites tries to get suppliers in China to be able to sell directly to world wide buyers. Not everything there is a scam, and if it is too good to be true it probably is. I tried to pay by credit card and it seemed to go through. Then I got this

Dear William
Thank you for shopping on AliExpress ! Unfortunately, your payment could not be verified and Order No. XXXXXXXX has been closed for security reasons.Please be assured that the payment for this order was not deducted by AliExpress.
To avoid order cancellation, please follow the below steps to submit a claim:
1.Sign in to AliExpress
2.Go to My Orders and locate this order
3.Click “View Details”
4.Click “Want to Claim”
5.Submit the following documents:
 •A copy of your personal ID or passport if you used a personal card for the transaction or a copy of your business  registration if you used a business card
 •A copy of both sides of the card used
 •A copy of the bank statement for the card used

Well the only reason I can think tht anyone would want a copy of your passport and credit card is for identity theft.  So no Ali Baba and the  40 Identity Theives. No way I am falling for that!