Posts Tagged “MotoSat”

So the new elevation motor for our F2 satellite dish finally arrived. Many thanks to Solar Mike for letting us use his address. But of course the package did not include any of the insulated Scotch Locks I was promised it would. Big surprise, it was hard enough getting a tracking number from MotoSat.

MotoSat F2 Motor Repair in Slab City

“If you’re near a Lowe’s or home Depot…” the MotoSat tech started to tell me where I could get some Scotch Locks. I cut him off with a laugh, “Yeah, right!” A couple standard insulated wire connectors I had would have to do the trick.

After a day of brief flash floods, and too many days of sharing our MiFi wireless internet connection, I was able to quickly and easily replace the motor set – thus completing yet another repair on our dish. All seemed well as the dish successfully completed its calibration. Then upon search, it returned a motor stall error, azimuth this time. Big Surprise.

Sending the dish up again resulted in success. A fluke? Perhaps. But something didn’t seem right. When the dish went down, it’s azimuth was way off. While the D3 controller reported 0º azimuth, the dish was clearly out of alignment. After a couple more tests we could could not reproduce the error. So we are back online with good ol’ satellite 91 West – telling ourselves again that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Deep down we are hoping we don’t have another motor going bad, however, because MotoSat informed us of an interesting clause in their warranty agreement. All replacement parts are only covered under warranty from the original system purchase date. So the replacement motors – yes, motors plural – we have installed, are only covered until our original warranty is up. A date which is quickly approaching. As I said, big surprise.

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Here’s a long overdue shout out to the fine folks at EagleSat. This small family-owned business in Longmont, CO serviced our MotoSat satellite internet system the last time we had problems. Which was apparently not the last time.

EagleSat Repairs MotoSat F2 Satellite Dish on Artic Fox Fifth WheelAt the time we had trouble locking on to our Satellite, with frequent motor stall errors. My usual multiple calls to MotoSat for support, and their routine responses about upgrading firmware, resulted in determination that a shop repair was necessary.

We weren’t about to return to Salt Lake City again, and pickings were slim for mobile internet experts in Wellington, CO. Our choices were an upholstery shop that sold MotoSat systems in nearby Fort Collins, or driving a couple hours to EagleSat. We opted for the latter and were glad we did.

One phone call to Frank, and we had an appointment scheduled and parts on the way. The next week we spent a day with he and his son Adam working on our rig, and we were home before dark. They cleaned up our entire system, replaced all the motors, and yes, even upgraded the D3 firmware.

So here we sit now, waiting for another elevation motor set to arrive. As soon as we set up here on the slabs, the dish wouldn’t budge. After troubleshooting all I could, the first person I called was Adam. He was polite, generous with his time, and helped me determine that both our elevation motor was shot, and I could do the repair myself. All I had to do was call MotoSat for the part. Oh that, and find an address for shipping.

Slab City Community SignSolar Mike was kind enough to let us ship our parts to him. I’d be on the roof reassembling everything right now if MotoSat hadn’t left a message saying the part is on back order and it may ship out next week. At least they were kind enough to call and let me know! In fact, Matt was the nicest tech I’ve dealt with at MotoSat in a long time. Maybe he hasn’t been there long enough to develop the characteristic arrogance and impatience I have encountered in the past.

But there I go digressing once again. It’s just a good thing we now have our MiFi for internet service redundancy! I could think of worse places than Slab City, USA to be waiting on parts. Ones that cost money for instance. But if I run into any challenges putting our F2 mount back together, I know who I’ll be calling …

EagleSat is a satellite communications company specializing in remote site connectivity and network interoperability. They offer premium mobile satellite solutions for commercial use and the recreational consumer (Motor Coaches and RV’s). EagleSat offers a full-line of mobile satellite systems for Internet access (voice and data) and/or television reception. And they know their stuff – there is a reason they service MotoSat systems, but not sell them!

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We hit the road yesterday for the first time since early December. And as with all first days on the road, things didn’t go quite as smoothly as we would have liked. We are definitely rusty.

First, we missed our exit to the Slabs, and almost ended up in Quartzsite. Drove about 25 miles out of our way.

Next, when we were in search of water, we took a wrong turn and drove another 10 miles in the opposite direction. The small road we were on was so flooded from the recent rains, we couldn’t find a dry enough place to turn around.

RV kitchen mishapOnce we got to the Slabs, I opened up our door, and saw hummus everywhere. Good thing the flour didn’t spill too!

As I proceeded to clean up the mess, Jim tried to turn on the Motosat dish. Guess what? That pain in the ass dish is acting up again, and won’t go up. Thank Dog we have Internet redundancy with our MiFi setup. If we couldn’t get online to manage Tripawds, we would be on our way to the nearest service shop. Apparently our F2 motor is dead . . . again.

All this, during our first day back on the road. In the past, I might have fallen apart at so many mishaps in one day. Because when you’re new on the road, multiple screw ups in one day happen a lot, and they can be upsetting. At least to me they were. Jim’s always been a little better about not letting them get him down.

But after almost three years on the road, I’m happy to say that we are both able to handle these things with a smile.

A few cocktails also work wonders.  Good thing we’re stocked up.

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BLM Boondocking HWY 50 Salida, COMotoSAT’s answer for any connectivity issues with our mobile satellite internet system always seems to be, “Upgrade your firmware.”

So, I always make it a point to make sure ours is current before calling for support. I also turn to others for help. Like Sean who had this advice regarding the best positioning for quick access…

“Try increasing the size of the search window, especially in azimuth. The internal compass, like all compasses, is prone to a lot of error, and sometimes even the declination table is off. So it is possible that the bird is sitting there a few degrees outside the window, and the mount will search the whole window first, before expanding to a broader search.

Calibrating the compass also helps – the real way, which involves turning the rig around an exact 180° – especially if it has not been done in a while.

Lastly, be aware that if you park such that the bird is nearly directly above the way the dish points when stowed (usually directly aft), then the dish will search all possible elevations at a few degrees azimuth before spinning all the way around to try all the elevations at ~360° azimuth. This can add significant time to the search. We try to avoid parking in this orientation, and, if we want to stop someplace just to put the dish up, I even try to park such that the bird will be found in the first ~90° of azimuth – saves time and wear on the drive motor.”

Well, it turns out that compass calibration isn’t even possible with our dish. One expert installer informed us that only older systems have a compass.

But we recently tested Sean’s parking position theory when it took forever for our system to identify any signal. We had inadvertently parked with 91W directly to the rear of our rig. Sure enough, when we relocated and parked pointing a little more West, we were online within a couple minutes. This position works best for us anyway, especially when boondocking. Doing so prevents the dish’s large shadow from covering our solar panel throughout the day.

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During our stay at Landa Park in New Braunfels earlier this year, I thought we discovered the headquarters of HughesNet, our mobile satellite internet service provider. But it was just some company with the same name that I have decided to call the team at Hughes: FAPCo

FAP (Fair Access Policy) n: A download threshold assigned by Hughes to each HughesNet service plan that limits the amount of data that may be downloaded during a typical day. A small percentage of subscribers who exceed this limit will experience a temporary reduction of speed.

What is FAPCo New Braunfels TexasHa! Temporary? Reduction? Like I said, Ha! You definitely know when you’ve been FAP’d, because your connection will crawl to a virtual halt. Without warning. And it can stay that way for up to 24 hours.

Our service plan comes with a daily download threshold of 375 MB. Every once in a while, if we don’t pay attention to how much time we spend online – or what we download – in a given day, we may get FAP’d. But during our stay at Landa it happened a number of times. Enough to think someone was piggybacking our network. But we’ve learned to lock it down tight, and one look around made us really question if any of our neighbors were capable of hacking us. So we sought a better method for monitoring our daily HughesNet account usage. Here’s what we discovered …

Our fellow full-time geek friend Sean, of Our Odyssey told us about the HughesNet FAP Monitor. This Windows-only utility displays an icon indicating your current HughesNet usage status and warns of any imminent Fair Access Policy violation. We’re no dummies, but had a terrible time getting this to work on Rene’s machine, but with Sean’s perseverance we got it configured and working. For a while. One day it just stopped working. And we gave up trying to fix it after discovering various discussions about HNFP not working.

The one thing the HughesNet FAP Monitor was good at, while it worked, was making René obsessed about our current FAP status. So I quit trying to make it work after finding a better solution. One that works on my Mac (or any machine) and isn’t always flashing in my face.

Grease Monkey Firefox Add-on Fap Monitor ScriptThe Greasemokey Firefox Add-On allows you to customize the way a webpage displays using small bits of JavaScript. And the Hughes Usage Calculator script will customize the display of your Hughesnet account information page.

This method lets me check our threshold status, when I want to. The script adds a “Remaining (MB)” column to our HughesNet usage page with convenient color-coding to indicate when we should step away from the computers for a while. It was simple to set up, here’s how …

  1. Use Firefox
  2. Install Greasemonkey
  3. Install User Script
  4. Submit Your HughesNet Site ID
  5. Bookmark Your HughesNet Usage Page

This isn’t to say we’ll never get FAP’d again, but at least we can easily monitor our usage now without getting all obsessive about it.

Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot - BlackSince drafting this post we have discovered an even better way to avoid the FAP. We have gone redundant, and now also have a Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. This allows us to spread our bandwidth usage over two different accounts. It also gives us two methods to connect, in case there is something blocking our satellite, or we have n cell phone coverage. More about this later…

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