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A/V system, what we did
Chief Eng.
Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 10:58 AM
Joined: 05/06/2008
Posts: 11

Easy does it!

Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 11:03 AM
Easy does it!

I would just like to share with you what we just had done with our yacht.

On our 48m MY the refit started in January. We have had constant problems with our entertainment system. Main servers/integrated systems and very complicated.

The owner was very frustrated over the money spent on keeping the system up and running and constant breakdowns. After talking to him for a while we came up with “let’s make something that works and keeps everyone happy” I even talked the owner into getting rid of the SAT TV. The captain did not like this then, but I have not heard of any complaints since.

Each cabin and main saloon now has a stylish built in flat screen with a region free blue ray player of the same brand and ONE remote control. The stewardesses brings whatever movie the guest wants to see, to the cabin and at the same time ask if there is anything else the guest might want. The movie library is now where the old server used to be.

For music we have built in standalone BOSE speakers where the guest can plug in their iphone. We upload onto 4 GB MP3 players, music we think the guest would like to hear if they did not bring their own.

The BIG advantage with the whole system is that I as an engineer do not need any shore side support. If something breaks (I have spares onboard) I just replace the broken component. Fast, cheap and easy. The guests do not feel stupid about having to work out how the remote works for a complicated system. I have time to do maintenance instead of reprogramming a pronto or having remotes sent to the shore side techie for sorting out the Crestron that the guest dropped.

Now when the summer season is over I know that we took the right decision. 5 charters later we got more tip than last season. I think it was because of no problems with the A/V systems. No guests have complained about that the TV is not working; we just tell them that we do not have TV onboard and they have been happy about that. I do not think guests book a yacht depending on if it has TV or not. I do know that they are NOT happy if the antenna is out of coverage, belts broken, bad reception, the box does not support Discovery, in blockage ASO, and that affects my TIP.

We do get news through our internet that works most of the time.
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 7:23 PM
Sorry the yacht you work on had such a crappy intergrated system. Cutting out sat TV is a strange choice. Owners and Guests alike would appreciate a choice, maybe it is just catching 10 minutes of news or watching a pay per view sporting event but at least let them make the choice. It is generally assumed that a charter yacht of 48 meters would have a modern entertainment system and Vsat broadband. I bet it made you real popular with the crew ! As for tips, they were probably better for some other reason than you.
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 9:28 PM
Joined: 16/06/2008
Posts: 9

On remotes, try URC. Drag and drop programming, online tutorials and courses, more stable than Crestron with the same kind of features and EVERYTHING can be handled on-board. Best I have come across.
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 9:37 PM
OK; locked, cocked and ready to rock... two years of pent up rage is about to come out.... First off, where I'm coming from.... 10 years working for a multinational IT/AV (internet with voice and TV services) company. I worked to play with boats and then worked out I could get paid to play with boats, hence why I'm here.... Now, IT/AV in this industry is a complete cluster. It's run by (and absolutely no offence is meant here, it's equivalent to letting a psychologist run an ER... and I wear an engineer's hat now and I'm a certifiable joke at it, thankfully I'm backed by a Y3 captain) people with absolutely no idea, it's simply a different skill set. Most boats, it's the engineer's department, apologies but wtf does a mechanically inclined person know about IT/AV... it's a different mind set (as I said I struggle with the mechanical side of things). Enter the superyacht world of IT/AV companies; E3, Tower, Crestron, yada yada yada. They implement complex, highly interconnected systems from multiple vendors using in-house interconnection all in order to secure a support contract. What they're trying to achieve is very pretty and flashy (I'm speaking from a geek perspective) but anything that pretty and flashy requires TLC. This is a business model which has been dropped by every major player in the IT world. Specific example, marine IT company called Echo- numeral... told me I'd voided a warranty on an Ericsson 3G router because I pulled it to pieces... *blink* WTF, Ericsson consider me qualified to pull apart their telephone exchange equipment, after some cock flopping they backed down but their basic issue is protecting their service contract. OK so bigger boat, enter the idea of the ETO. Again, you get the same barrier, wtf does an electrician know about IT/AV. Don't get me wrong (and the same, although not as often, applies to engineers) there are sparkies out there who do understand IT/AV but less rather than more. There are specific IT/AV ETO positions around and that's starting to hit the right ball park but why the hell are they required? Because there's a massively customised system implemented on the boat which they need to spend time learning in order to become effective at their job. Again, this business model is freaking DEAD. Why do IT companies (side note; wake up and smell the cheese, it's not "IT and AV and TelCo", it's IT, full stop, end of story) spend massive amounts of dollars to buy Cisco, Ericsson, IBM, etc, etc... not because they have the money to waste but buying a quality product which works and everyone understands is simply more effective then buying boutique products which don't and aren't. This rant isn't against the original post; with the exception of global remotes (consumer based Logitech, simply because I ended up with 8 remotes) what's described is exactly what I've put on my current boat... why... because I can walk away tomorrow and someone else with a small amount of IT/AV clue can take over. I really believe that the problem lays with the decision makers having no idea about what they're deciding. An owner says I want blah-blah-blah... their build captain takes this set of requirements and throws it out to the yard and they run off to IT/AV companies "specialising" in IT/AV who then shark it to the hilt, over charge and deploy a system which only they can support. At which point in the decision process is someone with a clue about what their doing not making a (capped) profit? What needs to happen is generic products come into the industry. This yachting specific stuff is BS; IT/AV implementations be they land or marine based are exactly the same (exceptions; sats need to move, harddrives need to be 2.5", 12/24v is nice). You bring generic products into the game then you bring generic support into it where you can get the guy from your closest computer or hifi shop to come to the boat and sort your problem. That's if you can't sort the problem with plug and play replacements (at that point everything is cheaper because it's generic). I can extend this rant to boat systems monitoring (the extreme example of support proctection) and engine monitoring (PROACTIVE, not reactive). Go look at Nagios, if you care. End rant, going back to my beer. Round of applause to the engineer who went back to basics.
Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 6:45 AM
Joined: 06/10/2010
Posts: 8

I agree fully with you! The marine industry needs to wake up and come to terms with reality, look at automotive or aeronautical and we are light years behind, we need to eliminate all these closed systems and suppliers as they are just halting the industry. We as MARSEC-XL the software experts of the marine industry, have been analysing this problem for years now and two months ago have launched MARSSA(MARine Systems Software Architecture) the first open architecture initiative for the marine industry, which must I add is free for all to use! Why should owners be tied into system like Creston etc which are all based on closed source solutions and communication protocols? Why should the owner have to pay such high money for such a bad product? The future of the marine industry is going to be an open architecture which will employ open standards and open source code, with the biggest differentiating factor being the use of COTS components as your rightfully said, going to the local IT store and buying a new $100 dollar computer which is better than most “Marine” products on the market. IT in general is playing a much more significant role on board and over the next 10 years it will increase roughly 10 fold, therefore the role of a dedicated computer room on board and qualified IT crew is really going to be needed. In line with the infotainment systems on board we have been working on a system and have come up with a solution which is based 100% on open source software and standards…. And guess what It a fraction of the price, looks amazing and if a part of the system where to fail the crew could get the system up an running in seconds by a trip to the local hardware store!
Chief Eng.
Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2011 9:56 AM
Joined: 05/06/2008
Posts: 11

Easy still does it. TV, who gets to watch what in the crew mess? Onboard we have a rule that watch person gets to pick the movie, and that is fine. We are 11 crew and one crew mess and now without TV there is more harmony in the mess. It used to be CNN or BBC for breakfast and then chef had cooking channel on from after breakfast, during coffee breaks and lunch until 5 O’clock. That is kind of OK because he was learning something but used to drive the rest of us crazy. The Captain had/has a rule that; NO TV during eating and I thank him for it. On another boat we had a cricket fanatic; any cricket was for him VERY important. Any chance he had, he flipped channels to catch up on cricket in a very militant way. As I said, the crew mess has more harmony now without TV; we talk and surf with our laptops. OK, enough said about no TV onboard. QUOTE: “Most boats, it's the engineer's department, apologies but wtf does a mechanically inclined person know about IT/AV... it's a different mindset” “wtf does an electrician know about IT/AV.” I could not agree more. Therefore I feel that smaller boats MUST start to think basic. For the engineer to keep sane. For the owner to not feel that he is forking out money for something that just broke before he came onboard. Leave all the fancy stuff ashore where they are close to the guy that installed it, have voltage without spikes, air without salt and a base that is not rocking and rolling. Another note is about making other parts of boats complicated. S/Y Hyperion, then one of the most advanced boats in the world, now when they wanted to up upgrade/renew their system they got quoted 2.5 million Euros and 2 years. I bet that owner wished he had a more simple boat. What happens with the engineers when they come onboard a boat that from the beginning did not have a Captain and Engineer that said NO to making things fancy. We start and then realize that the boat will be a mind f..k, we will not have time to learn the boat and try to move to a better boat and that boats maintenance slips and slips. When the boats are new and owner willing to spend money, the first two years should be good ………… but after that? I will not go on but I really hope that in the future all involved will think twice before installing stuff. (Please do not reply to this post about cricket and food, try to bring something into the discussion)