MS Vista, a marine PC train wreck?

Bad Vista

So this morning an acquaintance who sells and services laptops and peripherals to cruisers gives me a buzz. He’d rather not be identified (and don’t bother guessing, cause I know lots of guys like this), but he was some agitated: “This is a train wreck! This is going to shake up the whole marine PC world!” He was ranting about Microsoft’s new Vista operating system, and specifically the new “security feature” whereby it will not accept hardware drivers unless they are Microsoft Certified. Well, now, just yesterday I installed an older Deluo USB GPS on a tablet computer I’m trying, and I had to check a box saying that I understood that the driver is not Microsoft Certified, something I’ve done many times.
    Apparently this GPS will be useless with Vista, and a small company like Deluo will need to fork over $40,000 minimum to get that driver Certification. Interfacing is the soft, weak underbelly of marine computing, what with all sorts of little developers making sensors, multiplexers, SSB modems, sat. phone data connections, weatherfax demodulators, etc. etc. that wire into PCs, whereas most computer users only plug in a few items, all of which are manufactured in huge volume. And as of about today, you’ll have a hard time finding a new PC that isn’t running Vista, though even a fairly high profile device like the new Globalstar GSP 1700 sat phone, supposedly superior in all ways to its predecessors, is not “certified” for Vista hook-up, and hence data comms. That’s whats got my friend so riled up that he’s spending time at sites like, the folks who have been harassing MicroSoft’s Vista tour, often humorously (above). So I’m hoping that the many Panbo readers who develop and/or install marine PC apps will now speak up here about what’s working, and what isn’t.

PS 2/1: This entry was quoted on the Trawlers & Trawling list, and got some interesting replies (click on “Next message”).

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

8 Responses

  1. javierdc says:

    I have been running vista for a few months. My PC is from a “small” vendor and most of the hardware (web cam, etc.) are also from “unknown” manufacturers. Every device works, the trick is, as you said” to accept to install “un trusted” drivers and will work.
    We also manufacture Marine PC’s and our touch screen drivers are custom made. We tested them with Vista without issues. We also tested few GPS systems but because they connect via the serial port we didn’t have install any special drivers. We also found more than 5 different USB to RS232 converters and worked fine.
    I think that the main concern is for the software (chart plotting, etc.) that may not run properly due to the security sand box, but this issue is easier to solve (by the software maker).
    Will see what happens …

  2. GPSNavX says:

    I am advising my customers not to install Vista šŸ™‚

  3. neverending says:

    Seems like the perfect time to mention that a group of 1500 Linux Developers are offering free device driver development for any manufacturer that will send a specification of their hardware. Any and every device gets Linux Certification and a free device driver that will be included with all of the Linux configurations, including the enterprise versions.
    The ultimate out-sourcing opportunity for hardware manufacturers and integrators.

  4. TECOPT says:

    As far as I know, you are only forced to use signed drivers when running the 64bit version of vista. The 32bit you should be able to install unsigned drivers if one click _proceed anyway_ as explained above.

  5. David says:

    Hey GPSNavX, good pun!
    We are steering all of our clients clear of Vista for at least six months or more. All of the PCs we source can be spec’ed with XPPro with a Vista upgrade certificate and I’m sure this will continue. I think things will iron themselves out in relatively short order since the tiny marine market takes a lot of technology from the behemoth industrial automation market and they will have more market clout with MS and Vista certification.

  6. Andy Campbell says:

    I can confirm what TECOPT says:
    If you are running the 32-bit version of Windows Vista, you are allowed to install unsigned drivers.
    However, if you have chosen to run the far higher “security concious” 64-bit version, then unfortunately, unsigned drivers cannot be used.
    Ben, I agree with your first thoughts that this will have a real detrimental effect on the number of products available for use on Vista and small companies will be unable to fort out that sort of money on a product they may only sell a small number of a year.
    If the person you mentioned has the retail version of Vista, then he will have access to the 32-bit version on the same DVD – if he’s willing to settle for ‘standard’ security (still better than Windows XP by all accounts), then by installing the 32-bit version instead he’ll be able to use unsigned drivers.

  7. GPSNavX says:

    What about drivers for serial to USB converters (common for connecting sat phones, GPS, HF modems) such as Keyspan, Prolific, IOGear, FTDI? None of their support/download sites list Vista versions of the drivers.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I agree with what TECOPT said. Since I’m using 32-bit version of Vista for quite sometime and using unsigned drivers n all are working fine.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *