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Author Topic:   Polar View NS
jimh posted 04-10-2011 02:04 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Polar View NS Version 1.6

For the past month or so I have been using Polar View NS, a computer application published by Polar Navy for use with marine charts and navigation. My experience with Polar View has been very favorable, and I would like to describe the application and some of its features as a way of introducing readers to Polar View.

Computer Application

First of all, Polar View NS is a computer application, which means it runs on a computer, not on the dedicated chart plotter or other marine electronic device on your boat. Perhaps not so many of us have a computer on our boats, particularly on the small boats which are the focus of our discussion here, but we all have computers at home. In this regard, Polar View NS is perhaps something the small boat navigator will use ashore as opposed to underway. However, Polar View NS is still a very useful navigation tool, because it allows one to perform a lot of pre-voyage and post-voyage navigation work, and for seasonal boaters like me, we have six months of winter to do a lot of pre-voyage planning and post-voyage review.

Polar View NS is also a cross-platform application, and can run on three operating systems: Linux, MacOS, and Windows. This puts it into a unique class of computer-based navigation system; I don't know of any other applications which can run under all three platforms. Most computer-based navigation applications are platform specific, and most of those are for Windows. Since my computers all run MacOS, there was a natural attraction for me toward Polar View NS. That Polar View NS runs under Windows is a substantial bonus for me as a Mac-user, because I will be using an application that is likely to have much wider appeal. Finding a large target audience is important for the developer to produce success, not only in sales but in refinement of the application. In general, one can say the more people using an application, the more likely the developer will be able to continue development and improvement of it. The Linux version is also notable, as many electronic-savvy boaters are using Linux as a base for vessel electronics and automation.

There can be drawbacks to having cross platform application, particularly in the manner in which they interact with the user. As a Mac-user, I do not find that Polar View NS is completely consistent with all normal Mac-user expectations, but it is not particularly non-compliant, either. It provides its own unique user interface elements, which are not particularly native to any single operating system. I have also run it under the Windows-XP operating system, where it seems to behave the same.

What Polar View NS Does

Readers may not always be completely familiar with the uses for a computer-based navigation application, so let me review the basic functions provided by Polar View NS. Polar View NS permits the navigator to:

--view and manage electronic charts

--create and manage electronic navigation markers

--plot the current position of an attached GPS receiver

--plot the position of other boats as received by an attached AIS receiver

Polar View has other functions, but these four are among the primary uses. Let me expand on each and detail how Polar View provides each function.

View and Manage Electronic Charts

Many boaters are familiar with electronic charts, but, unfortunately, most of these charts are in proprietary formats, useful only with proprietary chart plotters, and sold at very proprietary prices by commercial vendors! The irony of this situation is that almost all of these charts are commercialized versions of the work of government oceanographic and survey organizations, who have actually done the collecting, organizing, and producing of the electronic data. The commercialization of this information only occured in the last step in the chain of delivery to the end user, when the commercial vendor moved the data into a proprietary form. In the United States, the world of electronic charts for boat navigation has recently been completely altered by NOAA. NOAA has provided all of its electronic charts for free download via host websites on the internet. There is no longer any need to pay for an electronic chart published by NOAA--they're free.

Although the digital charts are available at no cost, one needs a computer application to view them on a personal computer. These applications have been available, but they typically have not been free. The price of applications which can view digital charts has been in the range of $150 to $500 in the past few years.

Electronic charts from NOAA are available in two distinct formats, called raster or vector. Raster charts are essentially digital images of paper charts which have been scanned at high resolution, and they are distributed in a standard format called BSB. Vector charts are distinctly different, and they are an all-electronic chart, created using mathematic representations for objects. A vector chart viewer translates the mathematical representation into a screen presentation of the data which resembles the traditional nautical chart. Vector charts are distributed in two formats, called S57 or S63. Charts in S57 format are not encrypted for digital rights management; charts in S63 format are encrypted and require special license keys to unlock their data for use.

Polar View NS can display electronic charts in BSB, S57, and S63 format, and it only costs $40. Ability to render S57 and S63 charts in an application that costs only $40 is somewhat of a price breakthrough. Previously applications with this ability were more expensive.

Charts in vector format must be rendered or processed by the computer application to convert their data into a screen presentation that resembles a conventional navigation chart. This process requires a large amount of computation to be performed. Even with a powerful computer processor available, good programming techniques are needed to produce rapid rendering of vector charts. Speed is essential if the chart is to be panned on screen without delays, or if the zoom level of the chart is to be changed. Delays in screen presentation of electronic charts become very annoying to the user. Speed is very important for a pleasant user experience. In this regard, Polar View NS is very fast. Its behavior when panning or scrolling a chart is virtually instantaneous (although this will likely depend on the power of the computer on which the application is executing). On typical modern-day MacOS computers or Windows XP computers, my experience with panning of a chart in Polar View NS is to see no delay at all. Zooming typically requires a brief pause before a re-draw occurs, but the delay is very tolerable and is typically less than a half-second. Simply used as a vector chart display program, Polar View NS is worth its $40 price for this function alone.

In order to have digital charts to display, one must locate a source of the charts, copy them to the computer, and install them on the computer in some manner that makes them useful to the chart-rendering application. Polar View NS provides a wonderful function to facilitate and automate the downloading of digital charts. The DOWNLOAD MANAGER function permits the user to easily acquire the latest digital chart edition for a particular area by simply drawing a bounding rectangle around the area of interest. The program will then automatically locate, download, and install the latest electronic charts available from NOAA for the region. This feature makes digital chart management very simple. If connected to the internet with high-speed access, new digital charts can be acquired in seconds.

Create Electronic Navigation Markers

For centuries navigators have been annotating paper charts with intended course lines, bearings, vessel tracks, and other information. Electronic charts can also be used in a similar manner. Electronic markers, called WAYPOINTS, are useful as targets for calculation of range and bearing from the current boat position, or as targets in route planning. Complex course legs can be collected and organized as ROUTES, which employ a combination of WAYPOINTS and ROUTEPOINTS. Typically, dedicated chart plotter devices provide the ability to create WAYPOINTS and ROUTES. This data is often stored in the file structure of the host device. More modern chart plotters provide methods for export or import of files to their file system, and in this way one can export or import WAYPOINTS and ROUTES. Over time a standardized format for such data has evolved to help in the exchange of this navigation information. The GPX format (Global Position eXchange format) is a useful way to pass navigation data among various devices. Most modern navigation devices can make use of data in GPX format.

Polar View NS provides very nice facilities for importing, displaying, editing or modifying, and exporting navigation data in GPX format. These features are very useful. Let me explain by way of an example the various functions available.

A ROUTE can be imported into Polar View NS if the route is in the GPX format. This route could have been created by anyone or by any navigation program. For example, if planning a cruise and coordinating with other navigators, plans for routes can be exchanged via email, and the planned route imported and viewed in Polar View NS. Many applications have this feature, but Polar View also allows for the creation of its own ROUTE data. It can also edit or modify ROUTE data. All ROUTE data can be saved, so it is possible to save changes made in an existing ROUTE. The revised ROUTE data in GPX format can be exported and sent to others in the GPX format via email.

In a similar manner WAYPOINT data can also be created, edited, imported, and exported. WAYPOINT data can also be easily edited for changes in the name of the waypoint and the icon used to represent the waypoint, and additional notes about the waypoint can be appended. Data about the TRACK of a vessel can also be managed.

Plot Position of Attached GPS Receiver

So far I have described uses for Polar View NS which are not real-time navigation functions. If a GPS receiver is available, a companion (free) application called Polar Comm can be used to communicate with the GPS receiver, and real-time position information from the receiver will be displayed on the navigation chart display. Used in this way Polar View NS performs the same function as a dedicated chart plotter--except its charts are free and the application costs only $40. I do ignore, however, the cost of the computer needed to run it.

Plot Position of Other Vessels From Attached AIS Receiver

If an AIS receiver is available, the position of other vessels as received by the AIS receiver can be plotted on the electronic chart display. Again, the companion application Polar Comm is used.

Download and Try

This is a brief description of the uses for Polar View NS. You can obtain the application and test-drive it for 30-days at no charge. If you are interesting in a good computer application for navigation, I suggest you investigate Polar View from Polar Navy.

In my brief summary I have omitted mention of three very significant features of Polar View NS: tides, weather, and add-on information. Polar View is cognizant of tide data, and will display tide information in real time at standard tide points. Since we have no significant tides on the Great Lakes, this feature is not important for me, but I am certain that boaters in tidal areas will find the real-time display of tide height and tidal current to be very useful.

Polar View NS can also display weather data as an overlay onto a navigational chart. The weather data is from the GRIB system. Not being familiar with this, I have not investigated this feature.

Polar View can also participate in the ActiveCaptain guidebook of shared cruising information. This feature is only available in the registered or licensed version. Having just licensed my copy of Polar View, I have not yet explored this feature.

jimh posted 04-10-2011 03:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
For readers not familiar with representation of S57 charts, here is a screenshot of a rendering of a nautical chart using Polar View. The chart area is from Northeast Lake Michigan and provides a good sample of how the vector chart appears: PolarViewNSScreenGrab1440x817.jpg

Hoosier posted 04-14-2011 10:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
One thing I found is that when an application is multiplatform the versions may not be identical, in OpenCPN the Mac version lags the Windows version. If Polar New synchronizes their releases so that the Mac and Windows versions are identical that would be a critical discriminator. I have a Mac at home but use a Windows netbook when mobile. I also have a GPS dongle for the netbook so I can use it as a realtime chartplotter.

The video on the Polar Navy website is very good and shows off what Polar View NS can do much better than their text descriptions.

To close the loop:

"Windows, Mac and Linux versions of PolarView are functionally identical.

A single activation code will activate PolarView NS on up to 5 computers, operating systems or combination thereof.

Best regards,
Polar Navy Support"

jimh posted 04-14-2011 11:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I have compared the speed of execution of Polar View NS on the MacOS and Windows versions, and I find that the speeds are consistent, and both versions are very fast. However, such a comparison depends upon the speed of the various processors and computers being used. In the case of the Windows version of Polar View NS, I am using a Dell Optiplex 960 which has an Intel Core2 Duo CPU running at 3-GHz and 4-GB RAM. For the MacOS version I am using a MacBook Pro laptop with Intel Core2 Duo 2.4-GHz processor and 2-GB RAM. The speed of Polar View NS on the laptop seems to be as fast as on the desktop.
jimh posted 04-16-2011 09:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Polar View NS also includes a feature for automated download of weather data in the GRid In Binary or GRIB format, and can overlay this weather data onto the chart display. GRIB weather data contains forecasts or predictions for barometric pressure, wind direction, wind speed, precipitation, and wave height, among others. The GRIB data can be fetched using an internet connection, and typically seven days of predicted data can be obtained. The data is stored locally on the computer and will be available after the computer is disconnected from the internet.

For more on GRIB data, see

I have not investigated Polar View NS to discover the source from which it obtains its GRIB data, but the method of selecting it is similar to the automated chart down load. One can draw a bounding rectangle over a chart area and instruct Polar View NS to fetch the appropriate meteorological data from the GRIB provider. The data is stored in file sets which cover various time periods in the future. One can select which time period in the future to be displayed on the chart. In this way Polar View NS can show the predicted weather and help the navigator make choices in route planning.

dfmcintyre posted 04-16-2011 10:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Will PolarViewNS work on an iPad?
jimh posted 04-16-2011 12:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As far as I know there is no version of Polar View NS which will run on the Apple iOS, which is the operating system used on the iPad. Polar View NS runs on the MacOS X or MacOS 10.x operating system. The Apple portable devices have their own operating system, Apple iOS.

There is some speculation that in the future there will be a tendency for Apple to merge the MacOS and the Apple iOS into a more unified operating system. If that occurs, one might speculate that in the future an application written for the common operating system might be able to be easily ported to a device like the iPad.

dfmcintyre posted 04-16-2011 04:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
I've got a few flying buds that are using flying chart and airport approach, designed for the Ipad. They love it.


jimh posted 06-02-2011 05:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Polar Navy has announced a promotional price for their computer navigation application, POLAR VIEW NS. The details follow.

Memorial Day Special!
May 29, 2011

For a limited time only PolarView NS license price has been reduced to just $29.99. You can get all the great advanced features of PolarView NS for this reduced price until June 5th.

Get it while supplies last! Then go out and have a great sail!


WT posted 06-02-2011 06:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
What's the difference in the $29.99 offer and the $19.99 offer? One version does real time and the other version does not? I called but they are closed.--Warren
jimh posted 06-02-2011 11:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Warren--This is not authoritative, but I believe the product is sold as follows:

The license to use the software is on sale for $30. You have to download the software yourself. You get a license-key and can use the key to install the software on five devices.

If you want to have a copy of the software on DVD media, and also have on the same DVD media copies of all the U.S. charts, you can purchase the media for $20. This does not give you a license-key; you have to buy that separately for $30. It does give you a source for the software and the charts if you happen to need those files and cannot get on-line to fetch them.

WT posted 06-03-2011 12:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
I downloaded the free trial. I downloaded NOAA raster and vector maps for California. I signed up with ActiveCaptain.

I can't seem to get POI, GRIB and AIS to work properly.

I also would like to know if I can "print" or save a screenshot as a jpeg file so I can email a screenshot.


jimh posted 06-03-2011 08:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
You can grab a screenshot of the POLAR VIEW NS application in the same way you would with other applications. If on a MacOS computer, the screen shot grabber is in the UTILITIES directory in the APPLICATIONS directory. The application is named GRAB.

I used it to get this screen shot from POLAR VIEW NS: PolarViewNSScreenGrab1440x817.jpg

For help using GRAB, see GRAB HELP from the application's HELP MENU, and select "Show all HELP topics." GRAB saves the screenshots in TIFF format, but you can convert them using the application PREVIEW.

WT posted 06-03-2011 12:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
Thanks Jim, for Windows 7, the screenshot program is called Snipping Tool and is located in Accessories too.

Polar View is an incredible program for the price. I just want to resolve a few problems I'm having with Polar View before I buy the program.


jimh posted 06-03-2011 05:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The demonstration videos are the best way to learn the features of POLAR VIEW NS. I have the GRIB and Active Captain features working. I can't use the AIS feature because I don't have an attached AIS receiver.
WT posted 06-03-2011 05:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
I bought the Polar View NS application. I also have the Active Captain and GRIB functions working.

I thought the AIS feature would work without an AIS receiver, like this program.

Can you recommend the purchase of a Globalsat BU-353 GPS for only $35 to complement the Polar View NS software?


jimh posted 06-03-2011 10:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Warren--I have been using a GlobalSat BU-353 for several years. It is a fine GPS receiver. It works inside the house on my kitchen table. It is very sensitive. The specifications for the GlobalSat BU-353 are better than most marine GPS receivers.

The only drawback to the BU-353 is its magnet--the darn magnet is so strong that people have reported that it has damaged their hard drives. The field of the magnet apparently has caused recorded data on a hard drive to be lost. Keep the BU-353 away from your laptop's hard drive. I don't store the BU-353 and my laptop together in the same case.

GlobalSat also has another GPS receiver which does not have the long cord. It looks like a USB thumb drive.

jimh posted 06-03-2011 10:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
See ND-100S GPS receiver: jpg

jimh posted 06-05-2011 09:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The AIS feature works (as far as I can tell) by receiving NMEA-0183 formatted serial data input from an external AIS receiver. The companion application, POLAR COM, will provide the software connection between the serial port hardware and the POLAR VIEW application. POLAR COM is included with the POLAR VIEW NS.
jimh posted 06-25-2011 01:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Polar Navy have released an incremental update to their POLARVIEW NS and POLARCOM multi-platform electronic navigation applications. The latest version is now v.1.7.0. The update provides the following improvements or fixes:

PolarView NS v1.7
--integrated ordering and download of world-wide cartography from ChartWorld
--integrated download of USACE inland vector charts
--export chart view to PDF document or image, in lieu of printing
--manage and sort charts as packages
--numerous miscellaneous bug fixes and improvements

PolarCOM v1.7
--support for AIS “Pilot Plug” own position (AIVDM)
--numerous miscellaneous bug fixes and improvements

The latest installation packages for MacOS, Windows/Vista, and Linux can be found at

Latest news about Polar Navy is always available from

jimh posted 12-03-2011 01:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
PolarNavy have released v1.8 of PolarViewNS and the companion PolarCOM.

I also have verified that PolarViewNS can accept and use AIS data. See my article at

AIS Ship Spotting

for further details.

jimh posted 05-25-2012 04:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Polar Navy have recently released version 1.9 of PolarView NS and the companion PolarCOM. The new features are described at

Also, the price of PolarView NS has been temporarily lowered to just $29.99 for a short promotional period, ending June 1, 2012.

The most significant new feature that is added is the ability to use PolarView NS to download NOAA raster charts for free. Previously only the NOAA ENC charts could be automatically downloaded. Now both ENC and raster charts can be downloaded within the application. This makes it very easy to acquire charts and to keep your chart inventory up to date.

I love PolarView NS. I love the way it handles charts and routing. I use it all the time for trip planning. PolarView is a great value in a computer-based chart plotting application.

jimh posted 05-28-2012 11:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I am strongly endorsing PolarView for the following reasons:

--the application is a cross-platform development, assuring widest possible use;

--the application has seen continued improvement and development, as shown by the periodic and continuing release of new versions which add new features and correct bugs;

--the developer is extremely responsive to inquiries about problems, to which I can personally attest;

--the cost is very modest, currently only $40 and also on a promotion now for less, and the software license permits installation on five devices; and,

--the application provides a wonderful method to access free government charts which otherwise might not be used so advantageously by recreational boaters.

jimh posted 11-17-2012 01:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I have revived this earlier discussion about Polar Navy's fine navigation software package PolarView NS in order to describe a feature which I failed to mention previously.

GRIB Model Weather Data

PolarView NS provides the ability to very simply and very quickly download weather forecast data from free on-line sources in the common meteorological format known as GRIB. The weather forecasts are typically available in increments as small as three hours, for periods of up to seven days in advance, and for Global Forecast System (GFS) units as small as 0.5-degrees of latitude or longitude grids.

The data provides wind speed and direction, atmospheric pressure, precipitation, and (when available) wave height and wave direction. Water temperature and water current information may also be available.

I have been using PolarView NS to obtain GRIB data prior to and during all my recent boating cruises. I have found this feature to be extremely useful, and the data retrieved to generally have very accurate forecasts.

jimh posted 10-24-2013 10:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
PolarViewNS Ver 2.0 Released

Polar Navy have released an update of the amazing chart plotter application PolarViewNS to version 2.0. The new version 2.0 PolarViewNS has incorporated the features of PolarCom into the PolarViewNS application, so it is no longer necessary to launch the separate PolarCom application. Details of the new version are given at

In addition to the incorporation of PolarCom into PolarViewNS, the new version also contains general housekeeping and bug fixes.

jimh posted 10-31-2013 01:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As often happens with a new major revision level of a complex program, there are a few bugs that escape the developer's notice. So it is with PolarView NS 2.0. There is now a PolarView 2.0.2 release that supersedes the prior release. If you just downloaded the v2.0 release, you should get the v2.0.2 version. It cures a problem related to chart downloading.
jimh posted 10-16-2014 12:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
PolarView NS is now available in version 2.0.3.


PolarView NS 2.0.3
October 10, 2014

PolarView NS
– Updates to support changes in ActiveCaptain data
– Quick routes saved between PolarView restarts
– Exit on closing main window under MS Windows restored
– Bug fixes and general housekeeping

jimh posted 06-30-2015 10:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
PolarView NS is now available at revision 2.0.5. This new release contains:

PolarView NS 2.0.5
June 16, 2015

--a fix for ActiveCaptain large data set downloads and review display;

--bug fixes and general housekeeping changes.

The new version is available for download from

For the sake of consistency, I should have also mentioned a few months ago the version 2.0.4 revision. Here is that update's information:

PolarView NS 2.0.4
February 9, 2015

– GRIB viewer updates, including on-screen GRIB time slice control
– New GRIB data models: GFS and NWW3 at 0.5 degrees, and combined GFS & NWW3 model including all data (wind, waves, pressure, precipitation)
– Switch active route by Shift-clicking on it in a chart view
– Import routes and waypoints from GPX/CSV as visible
– Bug fixes and general housekeeping

I continue to be impressed by PolarView NS and the on-going update and revision of the program. The software developer also offers a very responsive support forum in which he gives timely answers to a very wide range of questions about his product.

jimh posted 09-14-2015 09:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
For several years I have been using PolarView NS on my MacOS laptop, along with a GlobalSAT BU-353 USB GNSS receiver and an em-trak R100 USB AIS receiver. About nine months ago the hard drive on that laptop crashed, and I just finally got around to bringing the MacBook Pro 15-inch laptop back to life. Although I had a good back up of the machine from just before it crashed, I decided to not do a restore, but rather to start over with a clean slate approach and perform fresh installations of all software.

I will now pass along a few comments about the process of getting my PolarView NS installation going again, along with the USB-connected GNSS and AIS receivers, with the notion that some of the little stumbles I made might be similar to what others have encountered, and that explaining how to overcome them might be useful.

The re-installation of PolarView NS was extremely simple. I just downloaded the latest version from the website. I had my license key on hand--I just copied it from another CPU's installation. The software was quite intelligent, and it recognized that it had already been installed previously on this CPU, so no extra installation instance was counted against my license of five.

Of course, my library of electronic charts was gone, but I was able to begin replacement of them by initiating downloads from the NOAA on-line resource. The process was very simple, and I just created a new directory ~/Charts in my home directory. The download process was smart enough to create its own subdirectories under ~/Charts, segregating the charts by their type (vector or raster). There were no problems with the downloads, and their speed was excellent.

The next hurdle was to connect my GlobalSAT BU-353 GNSS receiver. I had to visit the device manufacturer's website to obtain the proper USB drivers. A visit to website allowed me to download the necessary drivers from:

Bundled with the driver package was a GPS Utility that ran on MacOS, which allowed me to verify the BU-353 was working properly before trying to connect it to PolarView NS.

I don't recall if it was necessary to reboot the laptop after the driver installation to have the BU-353 device recognized, but it is not a bad idea.

In PolarView NS there was already a default connection named "Default Serial", but I created a new connection, naming it "GlobalSAT." This actually caused a problem, as I later discovered that both connections were running and seemed to be in contention for the connection to the BU-353. The two ports were stuck in a battle, both showing their STATE as "Detecting." Shutting off the default connection cured that problem. Only one connection at a time can be made to the port, apparently, so be sure to also close the GPS Utility application if you had that running.

Next step was to restore the connection of my USB AIS receiver, an em-trak R100. Again, I had to obtain the USB driver software from the device manufacturer, em-trak. I got the drivers from a link provided at support/ can-download-usb-drivers-r100/

My initial attempt at connecting the R100 failed. I had neglected to set the baud rate to the proper 38400 speed used with AIS devices.

The only significant problems encountered were just two: inadvertently having two ports running trying to connect to the same device, and forgetting to set the baud rate to 38400 for AIS. Other than that the installation was very straightforward.

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