John's Musings


Yeah, Me Neither

The Outernet and Shit

You know what the internet is. Did you know there was such a thing as the Outernet?


The Outernet is sometimes called the "Library in Space" and I believe the intent was to bring news, weather, and Wikipedia (encyclopedia type information) to areas where there is no Internet connection. The Outernet can be accessed by using an RTL-SDR device with a special antenna and Low Noise Amplifier (LNA). Or you can buy a kit for $90 from here. I opted to go this route. All you need to get going is to write an image file to an SD card, insert it, and then align and lock onto the satellite and it will immediately start downloading.



What you get in the kit is a Dreamcatcher version 2.03 computer board with ARM processor which has a built in RTL-SDR. It contains the following as well for the antenna.


  • L-band SAW filter (1525 - 1559 MHz)
  • Two-stage L-band LNA with 34dB gain


Because the signal from the satellite is weak, it is my opinion that it's best just to buy the Dreamcatcher kit rather than source parts and use a Raspberry Pi plus RTL-SDR, plus filter, plus LNA.


So when you receive the kit you receive the board, antenna and patch cable. That's it. No instructions or anything. Luckily it is a piece of cake to get working with the latest software. Download the software from here. Be sure to read the Readme.txt file for instructions. It's the closest thing you'll find to instructions. Because I bought the kit from them it instructs you to use the image file for the active antenna. At the time of this writing it is skylark-dc-1706222246-active-antenna.img.gz. Uncompress this file. The unpacked file should be named skylark-dc-1706222246.img


Now the easiest way to get this on the SD card is to download a program called Etcher. Then you select your file, select your SD card (I don't have one plugged in in the image below but you get the idea) and then click the flash button. IT IS THAT SIMPLE.




Now install the SD card into the slot next to the LED's labelled SD0_OS. Then plug it in the wall. THAT'S IT. Well, not really.


Now you need to align the satellite antenna.


The board creates a WiFi hotspot called "Outernet" connect to that WiFI and type the following address into the browser:


outernet.is


You'll see this:

Log in with user= outernet

pass = outernet



This is what you see next.



Click the little blue button on the top left and a toolbar will pop up. Click on Tuner > Status



You'll notice I have a lock and that I'm downloading in my example below. Yours may say no to "Lock", at least until you align the satellite.



There are a couple ways to align the satellite. I found this to be the easiest way. Obviously you need to know where to start looking. The Satellite we want is Inmarsat 4-F3 and it is located a little SW of North America.



The easiest thing to do is get a compass app on your phone and an inclometer app. Turn the compass until your heading is 212 degrees (and this is of course dependent on WHERE YOU ARE). Different compass headings for different locations. And slightly different elevations as well.



You can also get that information from an IOS app called "Dish Align". Shows you on a map which way to point and even has tools to help you align. I personally thought it was easier to get a lock with compass and inclinometer.





Takes a while to download information. Text based news comes down fast, and wiki articles are a bit slower. The Wiki articles seem relevant to current events (at least initially). The first one to come down I think was "G20" and of course the G20 summit is going on currently.


The weather takes a while and maybe it's because it is only published every so often daily. Might be a timing thing?. After 12 hours or so all I have are Ocean Currents data. Still.........it's cool.








Anyway, this is cool. Power goes out, internet goes out............betcha that satellite doesn't go out. You can still track news, and weather.


Well it took a while but I finally got the weather data! Here is wind, followed by heat.




And here are the various options for display. Quite a few things to display including precipitation. And the map zooms in.



YOU IS A SATELLITE HACKER AND SHIT.

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