Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fixed at last

Closed for Lunch

We are in the parking lot of
Mobil Satellite Technologies, our HughesNet VAR, in Chesapeake, Virginia (map). We've already canceled the service appointment we had here tomorrow, but I am hoping they have a part I could use to tidy up our system. Unfortunately, the parts guys are at lunch, so we are waiting in the lot behind the enormous service bays.

We spent last night at the Wal-Mart just a mile or so east of here (map). After spending most of the day in front of yet a different Wal-Mart further east, with the D3 controller still unable to find the satellite after several hours of searching, we conceded defeat on account of sunset rapidly approaching. So we stowed the dish and made our way back to Home Depot to take care of our returns and exchanges, then came here. We also canceled the planned fuel stop, as the price of diesel at that station had jumped from $2.67 to $2.86 in the two days we were stuck fiddling with the satellite hardware.

The good news is that I was able to completely break down the replacement mount into its constituent parts while we were there, making it all much more compact. We needed to get it off the roof before driving, and now it's neatly stowed in the scooter bay until we figure out how much of it we will keep.

After we relocated here and realized that the D3 would again take hours to find the bird, we did some quick calculations based on our driving GPS and the satellite look angles, and I was able to dial it in manually in a very frustrating twenty minutes or so. Controlling the motors through the web interface is a painfully slow process, but I had not yet downloaded the correct version of Don Bradner's excellent control program DSAdmin to do it any faster.

Once we were thus on line, I was able to download the latest D3 software and satellite tables, as well as the DSAdmin program, and after upgrading the firmware, loading the tables, and recalibrating the dish, the D3 was able to find the satellite in just a few minutes. This morning we moved the bus to the other end of the parking lot and in a different orientation and tried again, just to be sure, and the third test was right here in the parking lot of our VAR. While the D3 is slower to acquire than our old D2 was, at least it is all once again working fully automatically. Plus, the D3 controller will allow us to change over to our spare modem in the event this one dies, so all is again as it should be.

I now seem to have a surfeit of miscellaneous MotoSat/HughesNet parts that I will need to dispose of one way or another. We'll be keeping the items that appear likely to give us trouble in the future as spares, assuming I can find places to store them. If Mobil Satellite has the part I want, a different style of feedhorn, we can get rid of some bulkier items in favor of keeping some smaller ones.

As soon as we wrap up here we will continue south on US-17, skirting the eastern edge of the Dismal Swamp. We are making our way to Washington, NC, where the Wal-Mart will be offering flu shots in the next couple days.

Photo by slimmer_jimmer, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. You might want to take a fresh look at a tethering data plan for one of your 3G phones, as a backup for the satellite. Pricing for all carriers has been changing, as the iPhone shakes things up.

  2. Sean,

    If you guys are around New Bern this Sunday, the Goldwing drill team practices at 3PM. Come out and watch us do our thing. Who knows, maybe we can get you back on a 'Wing for awhile! Let me know and I'll provide directions to the practice pad. There's plenty of room for Odyssey! Goldwing Jay

  3. @Brent: I have tethering available on my Blackberry as needed, so we do have that as a back up, finally. But as you know, 3G and often even slower technologies simply don't reach many places we stay, so we consider the VSAT a vital link. Besides that, sharing the tether even between our two laptops is a PITA, and accessing the Internet on the tether and the file server on our LAN simultaneously is out of the question without adding yet more hardware.

    Having the tether backup has come in handy, though, while troubleshooting the VSAT problems.

    @Jay: Thanks for the offer. We'd planned to be farther south by then, but we might just slow down a bit to catch you. Send me the details in email; my address is on the "Who We Are" page linked at the top of the sidebar.

  4. I know a guy in Christiana TN that has some old fans in a corner, another box wouldn't take much space and would give the spiders another home for the next two or three years until he goes fulltiming.

    Just a thought!

  5. We don't know you, but we spotted you on Highway 17 in Washington today. We followed along for a half-mile or so (nearly to the Wal-Mart) trying to figure out *what* kind of bus you had.

    After a bit of frustrated Googling looking for a brand of bus called an "Odyssey" and we stumbled over your page. We have a 40' Foretravel that we went to California in this summer, so we were interested.

    We just wanted to say 'hey' and that we've enjoyed poking around your site learning about your bus.

    Travel safely!

    D. Swain


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