Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In-Your-Face Ads & Spam

This blog has nothing to do with satellite, but everything to do with the Internet:  It’s about yet another irritating method of putting ads in your face, called in-text advertising! And, it’s about a much nastier form called text-enhance!

Let me backtrack a bit ... 

My husband was browsing the Internet a couple of weeks ago and he started seeing random key words double-underlined in color.  If he hovered over the link it would bring up a message box and links to sites that wanted to sell him something!

He decided to check out our web site, MobileInternetSatellite.com, and “lo and behold” the double underlined links were there, too!

Double-underlined keywords and popup ads
Double-underlined keywords and popup ads

But, WAIT A MINUTE!  I didn’t give any advertisers permission to change my web site! 

What in the heck are those nasty ads doing popping up on my site????

I was incredibly annoyed, to say the least, so we set out to determine what was going on and to eliminate it!

In-text Advertising

We learned that one form of this is called in-text advertising and it is very common. There are several advertising networks that provide in-text advertising and information services.
The double-underlined word is actually a keyword embedded within text of a web page. The keyword is intended to provide consumers with information that is related to what they are reading ... whether they want it or NOT! The real intent, of course, is to sell something.

If you hover your mouse over the keyword, a popup ad is displayed with a preview of the ad the text links to. This works by having webmasters insert JavaScript code into web. This script scans the web page and dynamically modifies keywords an advertiser has targeted on the page and double-underlines them. The words and the double-lines under them are usually blue, but they also appear in other colors like red or green.

In-text advertising is a form of contextual advertising commonly used to promote business and generate revenue, each time a website visitor clicks on an in-text ad. This is referred to as Pay Per Click (PPC). Advertisements from in-text ads also help to generate targeted traffic to a website and improve their natural search engine ranking.

Getting you to use in-text advertising.
Luring you to use in-text advertising

Most companies which utilize in-text ads have an opt-out procedure listed in their privacy statements or on the “learn more about” page. But, be careful!  Unless the web site is one you know and trust, opting-out on an advertising web site is NOT recommended.

Clearly, In-text advertising as described above is NOT what was displaying the links we saw on our own web site.


Just say no to text-enhance
Just say No, to text-enhance!

Text-enhance is a form of bundled flash adware that attaches to Internet browsers as an extension and cookie without user consent. 

The primary web site for text-enhance does not allow users to download their extension, nor can their extension be found in any browser’s add-on database. Although an affected browser will display in-text advertisements, text-enhance is not really an in-text advertising service.

The owners behind text-enhance generate income by providing advertisement services (adware platform) to cyber criminals and unethical third parties, as well as possibly compromising and selling personal information. Text-enhance pays third parties each time their adware platform is installed onto a victims computer, this is why Text Enhance is often bundled with third party apps. 

For instance, when viewing a streaming video on a website, the visitor may me told that an unnecessary Codec is required to view the video properly. When a visitor clicks to install the Codec, text-enhance installs along with it. Or, perhaps the web site offers to make your PC run faster if you install their utility, but text-enhance installs too!

Tricking you into installing text-enhance
Tricking you into installing text-enhance

Text-enhance is designed to track data, crawl data, sell information, and spam advertise. It is considered a virus by many internet users, though it is categorized as a browser hijacker.

Note: Text-enhance is not javascript code embedded in a web page. It is resident in a hijacked user browser.  If you see text advertisements on every web page you view, then your browser is the problem, not the website. 

How To Remove Text-enhance (And Third-Party Malware)

First, clear your browser’s cache and cookies. Then, chose a removal option from the list below: 

  1. Block and/or disable and remove the extension(s). Make sure you follow the removal instructions for each browser installed on your computer. Go to the BotCrawl web site for a list of extensions and more details about removal.
  2. Disallow Third Party Flash Storage.
  3. Manually remove it, which includes deleting the directory files and registry entries.
  4. Use antivirus and anti-malware software.
  5. Use Symantec’s FixTDSS Tool – This will restart your computer and show results upon rebooting.
  6. Restore your computer to a date and time before infection

Monday, September 15, 2014

How About Networking with Mobile Satellite Internet?

Networking with today's satellite modems is easy. But, it wasn't always! 

Networking with Early Satellite Modems

Early Ku-band modems were not "self-hosted" ... Among other things, this means that you had to install communications software on the computer connected to the satellite modem. Your computer would then talk to all the devices connected to your local network and relay all data between the local (area) network (LAN) and the satellite modem.

In terms of Internet technology, your PC is called an IP "host". On a Windows PC, you had to enable something called Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). You would also connect either a wireless router or a switch to your PC's Ethernet port, which creates the LAN. You could then share the Internet connection that the satellite modem provided, with the other devices on the LAN.

When you enabled ICS, your Ethernet/LAN connection was automatically given the IP address Your PC would then assign IP addresses on the same subnet, such as and, to the other devices on the LAN. 

This type of local network was a genuine hassle to set up and keep working. There were frequent problems causing a reboot at the least and starting all over, at worst! And, the communications software often caused problems on your PC.

Finally, the software from the satellite provider was only for Windows, so if you used a Linux or Macintosh computer, you still needed a Windows PC to run the communications software and connect to the satellite modem. Linux or Macintosh computers could connect to the LAN and access the Internet, but there were frequent problems.

Networking with Self-Hosted Satellite Modems

Life got much easier with the self-hosted satellite modem. All you need to do is connect a wireless router or switch and power it on.

With a switch that is all you do, since every device is connected by an Ethernet cable, to the switch.

However, with the much more commonly used wireless router, it is STRONGLY advised that you also change the parameters listed below, for security and other reasons:
  • SSID
  • Encryption
  • Adminstrator Password
  • Local IP Address
  • Channel

SSID - Wireless Network Name - Make It Meaningful!

SSID stands for Service Set IDentifier. But it's easier to just think of it as your wireless network name, since this is the name you will see when you "View Available Wireless Networks". 

Call  your network something meaningful to you, but not necessary to the rest of the world. For example, if your RV is an Alfa Gold 5th Wheel trailer, don't call your network something like "AlfaGold5WheelNet" since that alerts anyone with a wireless device where an Internet connection might be available.

Encryption - Enable the Strongest Available & Create a Strong Key!

Encryption protects data transmitted over a wireless network. It also makes it more difficult for a passerby to use your network and your Internet connection without your permission. It is common knowledge that an unprotected network (i.e., one without encryption) is wide open for anyone to use (unless you have installed typically expensive software known as captive portal, to protect it).

It is also commonly felt that if you don't use encryption, your network is fair game!

So, enable encryption and select Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA2 Personal), which is the strongest encryption available on home routers. WPA2 is the fully standardized version of WPA and it's always a good idea to stick with a standard. It virtually guarantees that different devices using it will all interact properly. The "Personal" means you are not a business with a special server that handles encryption.

The older Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) should only be used if you have older devices that do not support WPA.

There are tools you can download from the Internet for breaking into wireless networks ...  even if WPA2 Personal is used. So, make it more difficult by creating a wireless key that is long enough (up to 63 characters - longer is better) and include a mixture of upper and lower case letters and numbers.

Adminstrator Password - Change It!

The default administrator password is readily available online for all common home routers, such as those made by Linksys, Netgear, and Belkin. That means that if you don't change it, anyone can use a web browser to connect to your router and change any of the configuration, including the wireless key and the administrator password!

Then, the person who changed it will have access to your network and your Internet connection, but you will NOT!

Your only option, if this happens, is to reset your router to it's original "out of the box" state. Fortunately, physical access to a network device is still an important part of security.

So, change the administrator password and use a strong password.

Local IP Address - Avoid Using the Same IP Address as the Modem

The main reason to change the IP addressed used by the router on the local network is to avoid a conflict with the modem. StarBand SkyEdge Nova modems use the IP address and HughesNet modems use 

Check your router documentation to determine which IP address your router will use by default and change it, if the default will conflict with the IP address the modem uses. 

It doesn't really matter what you change it to within the block of IP subnets from to (Note the third number varies). 

The router, by convention, is assigned the host address of 1. So, for example, you could assign or or any of the other possible third numbers. The only one you can NOT use is (for a StarBand Nova modem) or (for a HughesNet modem)!

Channel - Change to Avoid Interference

Most of the newer routers will automatically change the channel if it detects interference on the one being used. So, it is less important to  worry about the channel, than it once was. 

However, there is one situation in which it might still be important: If you are in an RV park with Wi-Fi and they are using a particular channel where you are located. You can change your router to use a non-interferring channel while you are there.

Another interference-avoidance technique to be aware of is the use of aluminum foil to keep your wireless signals inside your RV. Just take about a 12" square of aluminum foil and shape it around your router's antennas on the side closest to the outside. Try not to cover the antennas on the side facing inside your RV. 

A Couple of Final Notes

I wanted to mention a couple of things that you should be aware of: auto-configuring routers and the ability to reset your router.

Auto-Configuring Routers

Many of the routers that are available today are auto-configuring. You just push a button in some cases and "Bingo!" ... Your router is ready to go!

They can be great!  IF: All your devices are fairly new and compatible with the router you bought.

They can also be a disaster, if all devices aren't compatible.

I personally don't like them, because I prefer to have more control over how my network is configured. But, they can be a real gift for someone who is not at all familiar with network devices.

If you decide to use the auto-configuration function of a router you bought, be aware of the possible problems and know that you can always reset your router and start over!

Resetting the Router to "Out of the Box"

Every home router has a way to completely reset it to the way it was when you first took it out of the box.

Sometimes this becomes necessary because the router just stopped working properly. Sometimes it's because you pushed that button on the front of the router and now you can't access the router at all.

Whatever the reason, just be aware that if all else fails, you CAN reset your router and start over. Typically, it is a recessed button you press. 

Most home routers will let you save your configuration. So, if you have to reset your router, you will only need to connect to the router and restore the saved configuration.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Who Needs Satellite Internet, Anyway?

Why Even Consider Slow,  Expensive Satellite?
So, who does need satellite Internet these days?

Clearly, the number of folks for whom satellite is the best (only?) Internet solution has gotten much smaller since January 2002, when Joe and I started using it.

There are two primary reasons for this:

  • Cellular build-out - Cell towers have popped up everywhere. There are now 322.9 million subscribers in the US. That's a whopping 103% penetration rate. And, there are 256,920 cell sites. Later, I'll discuss the organization that supplied this data in a June 2011 report.
  • RV Park Wi-Fi - RV Park Wi-Fi was rare when we started full-time RVing in January 1999. Now it is a necessary amenity, if an RV park wants to attract visitors.

The Cellular Build-out
While searching for the number of cellular subscribers and the amount of coverage, what I was really looking for was:
What is the percentage of US area that does not have cellular coverage?
That is a very relevant piece of information, for someone trying to decide if it's worth the expense and extra hassle of bulky satellite Internet equipment. 

I  decided it was sufficient to simply state that there ARE still locations in the US without cellular coverage. For those who want to see this on a US map, please check out the Cellular Coverage Map. It shows the coverage anywhere in the US. You can zoom in and see the areas which have no coverage.

If you like to RV in any of those places ... or, if there is an oil field where you stay in some of those places ... then the odds are incredibly high that, without satellite, you won't have an Internet connection.

If you are in an RV park, they might have Wi-Fi. But, if there is no cellullar service in the area, the park Wi-Fi could be overloaded and slow, if you can even connect. 

We have customers who attend the Burning Man Festival ... we have a customer who spends a week on a houseboat on Lake Powell every year. These are just two of the places that don't yet (ever?) have cellular coverage.

RV Park Wi-Fi
As I said earlier, RV park Wi-Fi has become an amenity that is mandatory to many RVers ... mainly to those who don't have a cellular card for Internet or a satellite VSAT system.

While there are exceptions, Wi-Fi in an RV Park has always been pretty unreliable, in general. Typical problems include the following:
  • Too many RVers for the Internet connection - This results in very slow page loads and/or many page-load timeouts.
  • Too many RVers for the Wi-Fi network - This results in very slow page loads or the inability to connect to the network.
  • Inability to connect to the network from your RV site - This mean you have to go to the clubhouse for Internet access, unless you move to another site with a stronger signal.
  • Connection keeps dropping - This can be caused by an overloaded network, not enough connection antennas, or trees blowing in the wind and interfering with the signal. In any case, it makes it difficult to enjoy using the Internet.

Is Satellite Internet My Only Real Option?
A question to ask yourself is:
1. Am I OK with occasionally needing to either drive or walk somewhere ... or do without Internet?
If you like to park in the areas without coverage on a regular basis, then answer the above question, but with the word "occasionally" removed!

If your answer is a resounding "No!" then satellite may be your solution!

Another question to ask is:
2. Am I planning on streaming LOTS of video?
Again, a "No" response is the correct one for satellite Internet ... they have satellite TV for that!

The third question to ask is:
3. Will I mind setting up the tripod and big dish or will the latency of satellite drive me crazy?
Another "No" is the best response.

In this case, three "No's" DO make a (satellite) right! 

Please explore our web site, for more info.

The CTIA-The Wireless Association
An organization called CTIA-The Wireless Association produces a semi-annual wireless industry survey. I've heard of the CTIA, but I couldn't remember what CTIA stood for, so I did a little more searching and learned the following, which I hope you will find as interesting as I did.

Is CTIA an Acronym?
CTIA is actually an orphan acronym initialism, since it's an unpronounceable string of initials that no longer stands for anything.

When the organization was founded in 1984, it was called the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA). In 2000, CTIA merged with the Wireless Data Forum and became the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (still CT&IA).

In 2004,the name was changed to CTIA-The Wireless Association® because it better represents the now-diverse membership of service providers, manufacturers, wireless data and Internet companies, as well as other contributors to the wireless universe.

Request For Topic Suggestions
Please leave comments if you enjoy this blog ... any suggestions for future topics would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Satellite Meters

Now that we've finished discussing the history and development of mobile satellite Internet, it's time to start talking about things that are relevant today ... things that might help you if you currently use mobile satellite Internet or things that might help you decide if you will use it!

Why a Satellite Meter?

When you are setting up a satellite dish, you absolutely must have some way to observe the received signal. There are several reasons for this:
  • A meter allows you to recognize when you have "found" the satellite in the sky.
  • A meter makes it easy to peak the received signal, once you locate it. 
  • When you adjust the dish for the strongest possible received signal, MOST of the time you have adjusted for minimum interference and the strongest transmitted signal, too!

Types of Satellite Meters

Consumer satellite meters or signal displays fall into about three categories:
  • Built-in signal display
  • External meter used in-line with modem and dish
  • Self-powered external meter
Let's take a look at each of these signal meters.

SkyManage Built-in Signal Display

The best thing about the StarBand SkyManage built-in signal display is that it is free! You automatically get it, when you get a StarBand SkyEdge satellite modem.

It is a web-based interface that responds to the IP address It will also respond to the unique public IP address that it is assigned when the modem is activated for service (commissioned).

On the SkyManage Telemetry page, the EbN0 scale shows the signal being received currently. Eb/N0  is the ratio of energy per bit to noise power spectral density. It is a normalized signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) measure, also known as the "SNR per bit".

Until you actually point at the correct satellite, the scale will be blank.
SkyManage signal display
SkyManage Telemetry Signal Display

An EbN0 value of 5.0 is considered marginal. It is likely that the connection will go off and online periodically and will probably be offline when it is extremely cloudy.  Shown above is a very good signal with plenty of room for "rain fade".

Clearly, the cables must be connected from the transmitter and LNB to the modem, and the modem must be powered on, before you can point the dish and optimize the received signal. 

With this approach, it is helpful to have two people: one to watch the computer monitor showing the signal and relay what they see to the other one, who is adjusting the dish. Some users have used their smartphone to connect to their wireless router and modem, so they can view the display out at the dish. Still others take their laptop and modem outside for pointing.

External Meter In-line With LNB and Modem - The SatHero Satellite Meter

The nice thing about an external meter is that if gives you the ability to observe the received signal at the dish, without the need to take another device outside for pointing. And, because it is designed for outside use, it is much more visible outside than either a smartphone or a laptop. It's also a fairly small device.

Mobile Internet Satellite recommends the SatHero meter for anyone who needs to minimize expenses and who doesn't mind the extra hassle of hooking up the cables and powering on the modem, to provide power to the meter. Once you have done that, this small device will make the job of pointing the dish and optimizing the received signal almost simple.

This meter comes pre-programmed for StarBand's satellites. When you are pointed at  the correct satellite, the tone changes and the LOCK LED lights.
SatHero satellite meter
SatHero Satellite Meter

Self-powered External Meter - The First Strike Satellite Meter

Self-powered meters go one step further in convenience, thereby making the job of pointing dish even easier. You set up the tripod, dish, and arm ... then you make the initial settings for elevation and skew and point in approximately the right direction. Now, you just connect the meter, power it on, and start looking for the satellite!

The First Strike meter says “Locked” when you are pointed at the satellite. Then, you peak the signal. It can be used to peak TV signals too, but it will not say “Locked”.

First Strike satellite meter
First Strike Satellite Meter

Self-powered External Meter - The BirDog Satellite Meter

The BirDog satellite meter is the cadillac of satellite meters. The newer models even have a spectrum analyzer function built-in.  When you point at the selected satellite, the tone will change and it will say “Found”. This is true for  both StarBand and TV satellites.

BirDog satellite meter
BirDog Satellite Meter

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Satellite Odds and Ends

Before I finish the general topic of the history of mobile satellite Internet, there are a few miscellaneous items that should be mentioned:

  • StarBand's "official" mobility program
  • Rooftop systems - automatic and manual
  • TV attachments - BOWs

The StarBand Manual Mobility Program (MMP) - aka Manual Flyer

Sometime in 2004, Old Scout became the exclusive dealer for the Beta test of a tripod-based mobility program StarBand was going to offer, the Manual Flyer program. (Ah, ha! We now knew why he finally sent us to HughesNet installer certification training!) 

The program was released to other dealers in 2005, but with zero options, other than the choice of StarBand service. You could only sell the "official" package, which included among other things a wooden tripod that succumbed to the elements within about a year and a very expensive satellite meter that was overkill!  The offset adapter was a perfect copy of the ones pretty much everyone was using by this time. But, because it was made of steel instead aluminum, it got pretty rusty in no time! And, this wonderful package was only about $1800!

StarBand Manual Flyer outside equipment
Outdoor StarBand Manual Flyer Equipment

StarBand required all mobile users to take and pass an online installer certification exam, as well as receive hands-on training on the proper way to set up. Mobile users were also required to call the automated alignment checking system after every move, to make sure their systems weren't causing interference.

Thank goodness StarBand later discontinued their mobility kit and allowed mobile dealers to put together their own. This enabled dealers to sell a higher quality setup for considerably less ... it also gave the ability for customers to customize their setups.

The requirement for installer certification and alignment checks continues to this day.

Rooftop Systems - Automatic and Manual

Prior to the StarBand Manual Flyer program, the ONLY approved mobile satellite Internet systems were automatic rooftop systems, mainly the Motosat Direcway/HughesNet. We now now that this is a support issue, more than anything else. When Motosat got permission to sell the automatic rooftop systems, they had to agree to handle all support issues that came up for their customers. Of course, they charged $10 a month for this service.

Motosat System at Night

Shown above is the familiar "Blue Light Special" of Motosat. They were easy to spot at night in an RV park.

The Canadian-made iNetVu was the first automatic rooftop option available with StarBand, though later there was at least one dealer who was able to get StarBand to work with a Motosat Datastorm setup. And, I know of one retired airline pilot who approached the problem as an engineer and created what he called "StarStorm" ... a StarBand Datastorm!

StarBand iNetVu rooftop system
StarBand iNetVu System

You can probably tell by looking at the Starband iNetVu system above, that the dish and arm folds flat for travel. Incidentally, this setup was called the "Auto Flyer".

Custom Datastorm system
Bill's Custom StarStorm System

There were also some homegrown manual rooftop setups. One really nice one was called a Neary Mount, after the designer. Shown below is another custom rooftop solution. The biggest downside to manual rooftop mounts is that you have to get up on the roof twice, every time you move ... once to stow it for travel and once to point it for use at the new location.

Custom manual rooftop mount
Custom Manual Rooftop Mount

Other custom mounting solutions have been devised by customers. Here is where you can see a couple more of them (bottom of the page): 

TV Attachments (BOWs)

When mobile satellite Internet was just starting to happen, Direcway/HughesNet was associated with DirecTV. StarBand was associated with Dish Network. Because of this, both satellite providers offered an attachment that would allow the customer to get TV on the same dish as their Internet.  The attachment was called a "Bird of the Wire" or BOW. 

StarBand had a dual-LNB to bring in 110 W and 119 W, which Dish Network used. It could be mounted on either side of the Internet arm, so it worked for both primary satellites StarBand used.

Dish Network attachment for StarBand feed arm
Dish Network Attachment for StarBand Feed Arm

HughesNet had a special "lipstick" LNB that brought in DirecTV at 101 W for customers who were assigned to 99 W. There was also a universal LNB that could bring in a DirecTV signal on a dish with an Internet assignment anywhere from 6 to 20 degrees away from 101 W. This pretty well covered the rest of the satellites HughesNet used for Internet.

DirecTV universal attachment for TV
DirecTV Universal BOW

DirecTV attachment for 2 degree offset
DirecTV "Lipstick" LNB

Of course, things got a bit more complicated, when HDTV started to happen, because now you needed to bring in the TV signals from THREE satellites instead of only one!

Most RVers either just worried about the channels on the primary satellite when they traveled or they took a second dish for TV. A few adventuresome HughesNet customers found that they could get all three satellites (101 W, 110 W, 119 W) if they were assigned to either 99 W or 117 W for their Internet. A lipstick LNB combined with two universal LNBs would bring in all the channels.

Direcway dish with HDTV attachments
Direcway Dish with HDTV Attachments

So, now we've pretty well covered the history of mobile satellite Internet and how it developed. I hope it has been both interesting and informative.

Next, I'll start talking about more current topics ... like setup and troubleshooting techniques.

As always, suggestions for topics are very welcome! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Satellite Rallies - Fun & Informative

2003 Satellite Rally - The First Rally

In 2003, the first satellite rally was held in Gila Bend, AZ ... at a truck stop parking area. The original mobile HughesNet dealer, Old Scout, operated out of this truck stop and he hosted the rally. He got permission from the owner of the land to take over the entire lot on one side of the road for RV parking ... no big rigs allowed for this weekend! Below is a photo taken from an ultralight, by the UPS driver who delivered to the area and was also a mobile satellite installer.

Aerial shot of RVs at the first rally
Aerial Shot of 2003 Satellite Rally

We had sessions about how to set up your satellite equipment and get online, how you could share that Internet connection so anyone in the RV could get online at the same time (WITHOUT having to shut down the modem, move the modem cable to another PC and boot the modem again), troubleshooting, and even satellite TV. The whole idea was to share ideas about things we learned, and help those new to mobile satellite have less frustration with their setups.

Folks attending an outdoor session at the first rally
Outdoor Session at the 2003 Satellite Rally

Terry demonstrating his setup, including the first offset adapter
Terry Demonstrating His Setup with the Offset Adapter Prototype
at the 2003 Satellite Rally

Note the size of the group in the group shot below, which was taken at the first rally ... keep this one in mind, when you see the group shot for the last rally held in 2007. You'll notice a lot more people in the photo.

Group shot at 2003 satellite rally
2003 Satellite Rally Group Shot

2004 Satellite Rally

The second rally was held in the same location and was very much like the first, except for a few more people. One member started the Red Hat Satellites chapter. So, of course, we had a Red Hat luncheon, as shown below.

Red Hat luncheon at the 2004 satellite rally
2004 Satellite Rally Red Hat Satellites Luncheon

The next photo shows me delivering one of my annual networking presentations. This was always a popular presentation, because it was a little more complicated then, to get a local area network working properly, in the RV.

Network session by Barb at the 2004 satellite rally
Barb Delivering a Network Session at the 2004 Satellite Rally

2005 Satellite Rally

At the end of the 2004 rally, we all decided we wanted to hold the next rally at Augie's Quail Trail RV Park, down the road ... they had a clubhouse, to get out of the weather, and we would all have full hookups for our RVs. I talked to the owner and he extended a special rally rate to us for the 2005 rally.

Augie's Quail Trail RV Park clubhouse
2005 Satellite Rally - Augie's Quail Trail RV Park Clubhouse

We didn't know it at the time, but this change also represented a parting of the ways, with Old Scout. During the 2004 Rally, Old Scout had finally agreed to sponsor us to attend installer training and become certified HughesNet installers. Little did we know until later in the year, that he was moving away from HughesNet entirely and was the exclusive dealer for the Beta test of the StarBand Mobile Satellite program.

We added a Chili Cookoff to the 2005 agenda and a pot luck dinner ... it was sooooooo nice to be able to all get together without the wind and sometimes too-cool weather! 

Judging the 2005 satellite rally chili cookoff
Judging the Chili Cookoff at the 2005 Satellite Rally

2006 Satellite Rally

The 2006 rally included all the things from the year before, but we again added more to the agenda. We were starting to get noticed and suddenly we had an offer from Beaudry RV to attend and serve appetizers one afternoon. We also had a welcome visit from the Gila Bend City Manager, the Chamber of Commerce, and, John, the owner of the RV park.

Owner of the RV park delivering the welcome message
Welcome Message from John "Augie" Augsberger
at the 2006 Satellite Rally

We also had panel discussions, along with the presentations. Glenn, one of the regular presenters and a very experienced installer, gave his talk in an FCC hat this year ... Worrying about the FCC was now a standing joke. By this time we had learned that the FCC was much more concerned about the powerful equipment of the service providers.

Panel session at the 2006 satellite rally
One of Several Panel Discussion Groups
at the 2006 Satellite Rally

The Stanley Keeper inventor giving a presentation
Stan, the Inventor of the Stanley Keeper,
at the 2006 Satellite Rally

Glenn giving his talk in an FCC hat
Glenn at the 2006 Satellite Rally

The results of the Chili Cookoff was enjoyed by all. We also started charging a small fee and giving away door prizes on the last afternoon.

Enjoying chili after the chili cookoff at the 2006 rally
Enjoying the Chili Cookoff Entries at the 2006 Satellite Rally

Picking a winning ticket at the 2006 satellite rally
Drawing for the Big Prize at the 2006 Satellite Rally

2007 Satellite Rally - The Last Rally

At the last rally in 2007, the number of attendees topped 200 people and there were over 100 RVs! Not only did we again get visits from the City of Gila Bend and a welcome from the park owner, but we even had entertainment one afternoon. Of course, the number of volunteers needed to put it all together also grew.

The Volunteers for the 2007 satellite rally
Volunteers For the 2007 Satellite Rally

Attendees at a session at the 2007 satellite rally
2007 Satellite Rally Attendees at a Session
Entertainment at the 2007 satellite rally
Entertainment at the 2007 Satellite Rally
2007 satellite rally group photo
The 2007 Satellite Rally Group Photo

Notice how big the group had become by the 2007 Rally. 

None of us realized this would be the last rally we held. The five rallies were a lot of things ... they were a helpful exchange of information ... they were an exercise in organization and planning ... and they were a chance to get together with other RVers who wanted to take their Internet with them on the road! 

But, perhaps most importantly, they were a fun time, with a camaraderie that led to longstanding friendships!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dishes and Modems and Feed Arms, Oh, My!

Both StarBand and HughesNet improved their hardware and software. Life kept getting easier for the mobile users.

I should probably mention that all of the equipment discussed is Ku-band satellite equipment. Ku-band services have huge coverage areas, which is why you can move the equipment around (be mobile) and still get online. The newer Ka-band services will not be discussed, since they are spot-beamed and the equipment cannot be moved. For more details, see Ku- or Ka-band Services?

Early StarBand Equipment

I mentioned that StarBand went from the StarBand 360 to the self-hosted StarBand 481/484 modems. The biggest and most welcome change was getting away from the need to install software on a PC. Not only did the communications software tend to cause problems on the PC, but it was also more difficult to network, especially for Macintosh or Linux computers. The modems all had ON/OFF switches.

All three of the modems used the same outdoor equipment, called Phase II. Note in the photo that the StarBand 481 modem has only one Ethernet port, whereas the 484 has four. The 484 had a built-in switch and the service it came with included four public IP addresses. (There were actually six IP addresses, but they only told you about four of them.) The earlier Starband equipment is shown below.

Early StarBand equipment

Current StarBand Equipment

The current equipment includes Phase III outdoor components and a StarBand Nova SkyEdge modem. There are two versions of the modem and neither has an ON/OFF switch. The newer version is slightly smaller and the serial port is an RJ-45 plug, like the LAN port. The older version had a standard DB-9 serial port (shown below). 

The arm is longer than the Phase II arm and is square-shaped, rather than rounded. The longer arm resulted in a signal with lower cross-pol interference, but a weaker signal. The dish is slightly more elongated and also contributed to the weaker signal. The equipment is shown below.
Current StarBand equipment

Early HughesNet Equipment

HughesNet went from the DW4000 to the DW6000, and then the DW7000. Like the StarBand 360, the DW4000 needed software installed on the PC; like the StarBand 481/484, the DW6000 and DW7000 did not. Once wireless routers became available and affordable, you could hook a router up directly to the modem.

There was a version of the DW4000, the DW4020, which included a router, so you could plug in multiple devices. 

The tripod setup in the middle shows the white fiberglass dish and feed arm that came with the DW4000. Note that the transmitter is permanently connected to the feed arm. 

The DW6000 and DW7000 came with a  gray Gen V fiberglass dish ... and, the radio assembly on the Gen V feed arm could be changed. The fiberglass dishes are still used by mobile HughesNet users, because they are practically indestructible, as long as they don't blow over in the wind! The newer metal dishes can become bent or warped and they will no longer function.
Early HughesNet equipment

Current HughesNet Equipment

The current HughesNet equipment uses the HNS7000S modem. Previous equipment all carried the name DirecWay, as the service was called, but with the last generation of the modem, HughesNet dropped the DirecWay designation and used the "HN" for HughesNet in the modem name. There were different metal dishes used, each with a unique feed arm. On the left is the Raven outdoor equipment, which was replaced by the Prodelin outdoor equipment. There have been more than one model of Prodelin equipment.
Current HughesNet equipment

The HN7000S modem will be the last one that HughesNet sells. They have launched two of their own satellites, which use the newer Ka-band frequencies and they have outsourced the remaining Ku-band services to several VARs. Little by little, HughesNet is completely phasing out Ku-band services as the transponder leases HughesNet has on satellites owned by other companies expire.

That's all for this week. Next week, I'll talk about the Satellite Rallies we held from 2003 through 2007.