Saturday, 23 August 2003

Crossing Falls

It didn't work.

Setup was simple, lining up the dish was simple, dealing with the strange high angle of the dish was even simple. The tuner would tune to the satellite, but the modem would just sit there blinking with no actual connection to the 'net.

I was out of GSM mobile phone range and on the very edge of CDMA coverage, so talking to the Broadcast Operations Centre (BOC), was a bit complicated, and no-one could tell me what went wrong or why.

This was the time that I learnt the value of a persistent technician, a dedicated support centre, staffed with individuals who understand their technology and appreciate what it might be like to be in the bush on your own trying to make this stuff work. The guys at the BOC went out of their way to assist and we finally nailed the problem.

Initially I'd tuned to B3 in the new location, because that was what I was supposed to do. It didn't work, so I tuned to C1. That still didn't work. It turns out that the modem can receive tuning frequencies from the satellite and I missed an update, because no-one sent out any notifications.

We then tried to use the modem management software to put the new frequencies in, after one of the BOC staff actually found a 360E in their demo setup and read the list from its configuration. No matter what, I still couldn't talk to my modem. It appears that if it is connected to the dish, it ignores configuration parameters from the Ethernet socket, but no manual that I have access to will tell you that.

Initially we wondered if the problem was due to my wireless link, we even tested the Ethernet cable that had let us down in Dunsborough, but none of that seemed to be the cause of our challenges. None the less, it was decided that it would be prudent to eliminate the wireless link from the equation and I made an 80m Ethernet lead that has since been used many times, to link the computer directly to the modem on the other side of the property.

So, I've finally modified the frequencies, gotten on-line and now I need to still migrate to the new B3 location, which I was pretty hesitant to do. So, I noted down all the frequencies, crossed my fingers and tried it. After reprogramming the new settings, I was finally back on-line on the trusty B3 satellite in its new orbit.

Suffice to say that I was not looking forward to our trek down the Stuart Highway where the plan was to setup the dish in a new location every night.

During our stay I modified the cooling setup and instead of using aspirated air in an open box, I sealed the boxes, attached ruddy big heat sinks to both the inside and outside of each box and forced air around the box on the inside - with an extra one on a hot chip on the modem - to make the air the same temperature everywhere. On the outside I blow air across the heat-sink, to make it cooler than the box, thus sucking heat from the inside of the box. Not pretty, not efficient, but it appears to do the job.