ActiveCaptain Mobile, in Beta at last
I’m truly excited about the imminent release of ActiveCaptain Mobile, the long awaited heir to the Outdoor Navigator (ON) PDA & smart phone charting program that went dormant two years ago. Of course we got some big hints when developers Jeff and Karen Siegel introduced the ActiveCaptain (AC) web site about a year ago. Now 5,000 boaters are registered there, and together they’ve made some 150,000 updates to its visual database of marina, anchorage, etc. cruising info. So the idea of ActiveCaptain Mobile (ACM) is to be not only an ON-style mini-plotter but also a live-anywhere connection with the AC database.
Jeff demoed ACM to me in December, and it’s stunning. This time around he’s preprocessing the NOAA charts by region so they download to a phone as one file and ACM opens, pans, and zooms at lightening speeds, even on a modestly powered Palm Centro. ACM now also has a “course up” display mode, especially important on a tiny screen, and can import/export routes with Coastal Explorer and other PC charting programs. But the stunner is using a data-enabled phone to query, even edit, Active Captain as seen in the series of screen shots above (which happen to illustrate an ironic turn to my Camden boosterism that I wrote about when AC launched).
ACM for Palm devices just went out to Beta testing (volunteers should contact Jeff), and will release in February, with a Windows Mobile edition coming a few months later. The $50 cost will include any or all of 14 U.S. chart regions plus regular program and chart updates for one device as long as you own it. In other words, the software and charts will be locked to your specific phone, and you will have to repurchase ACM when you change phones. But that’s an unobtrusive way to protect software, and the protection is needed as the Siegels negotiate for foreign chart coverage. In fact, they’ll have charts of the U.K., Netherlands, and the Bahamas available by June, and at quite reasonable costs, like under $20 for the whole Bahamas.
And just think where the ACM/AC relationship can go. For instance, a GPS/ACM equipped phone could easily send track positions back to ActiveCaptain where your family, or all members, or your cruising buddies with their smart phones (your choice) can follow your cruise. Jeff is planning to experiment with this and some other neat features for ACM 1.1. Remember though that you don’t have to mess with smart phones to enjoy the free computer-accessible benefits of AC at home or on the water. As of today, these also include some 3,000 new “inlet” local knowledge markers, behind which are some 2,500 pages of info (from the official Pilots, I think), as illustrated below (bigger here). Still, though, the most valuable info on AC is being put up by boaters like you and me. Which is why I hope you get active on the site, and tell your cruising friends about it.