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Old 05-01-2012, 16:03   #16
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

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Originally Posted by nv5l View Post
If you're a ham, you can use your computer and a good sound card directly -- no need for pactor. I've heard the speed is comparable to pactor 2. The program is called winmor.
WINMOR would be a viable replacement for PACTOR if the same number of stations supported it as support PACTOR. Speeds are comparable to Pactor2 and Pactor3, but if you can't find a station to connect to, it won't do you any good.

It may simply take a while for widespread acceptance, until then I would not want to count on being able to make a Winmor connection whenever needed while voyaging, particularly outside North American waters.

I participated in the beta testing of the Winmor application RMS Express, and it is nice work. I wish it success.

Chip
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Old 05-01-2012, 20:19   #17
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

I was very happy with Iridium, UUPLUS (email compression), and SailDocs (to fetch GRIB files and the text from web pages via email).

An important detail with Iridium is to connect it via USB or Serial, and then let UUPLUS control it directly. So that your computer does not "know" it is connected to the Internet.

I sailed for a while on a boat with a fancy Inmarsat Fleet broadband Internet. And... it was unusable. The Fleet system was great, but the computer side was a mess. The data cost something like $20/megabyte, and the connection was an Ethernet port. As soon as my computer would plug into the Internet, a ton of background processes would wake up and say "Hey, we haven't connected to the Internet in Weeks. It's time to check for a Flash update, and download it. Or Microsoft Office. Or the mouse driver. And etc..." It was a mess. At one point iTunes even started to "Authenticate" itself to check that I hadn't stole the music and movies on it, and when flakey satellite connection flaked out, it then decided I had indeed stolen everything on the computer and wouldn't let me play music.

Anyways, there's no way I am going to download updates at $20/megabyte, and even if I wanted to, there was so much background data traffic that my web browsing slowed to a complete crawl. Turning them off on the machine turned out to be very, very difficult. Since each program has it's own configuration, finding a way to turn each one off was very difficult. And then of course some of them do not have a way to turn off background updates and reporting. Firewall software did not work, since there are numerous browser plugins that periodically 'phone home' and appear, to the firewall, as coming from the browser. There's an absolute ton of software on computers these days that is written with the assumption that any Internet connection is an unlimited broadband connection.

So as a computer nerd, I of course then tried to put a Linksys router between the computer and the Fleet system, then program the Linksys router (with Linux firmware) to block everything except what I had whitelisted. So to visit a domain, I would have to add it to the whitelist. Everything else was blocked. Which worked, but was a lot of work.

Maybe a better solution would be a Chrome or Firefox plugin that blocks absolutely everything except the domain that is on the address bar. And communicates with a script on the router to whitelist the domain you are currently visiting. And then blocks images and other junk unless you click on them. And impersonates a phone, so that the website you get is "mobile optimized", which usually means less junk. And counts the bytes flowing and puts a $USD calculation up at the top, telling you how much it cost to load that page. And a few other details, but I don't want to bore you guys with technobabble.

Oh, there are also a few web proxies made for people with low bandwidth connections. I used to use one for missionaries in Africa. It was a simple script that would go to the remote website, cut out all the junk, even compress the whitespace and HTML, then send it to you. It worked for a 'few' websites, but none of the modern javascript heavy sites.

My other idea is, if I ever find myself in that situation again, to use something like a Kindle Fire to browse the web, simply because there is probably a lot less junk on it waiting for the Internet. Also, the newer versions of Android are more strict about not letting background processes use the data connection, though I am not sure if this extends to Googles internal maintenance processes. And maybe root it so that I can disable all the auto update nonsense, or, if not that, at least not install anything on it, so that it is unlikely to be doing a lot in the background.
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Old 08-01-2012, 12:33   #18
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Hello All,

My name is luis soltero, CTO of Global Marine Networks, and I have been in the HF and Satellite communications business for 15 years.

We have a lot to say about this subject and would like to take a few minutes to fill you in on the latest in the HF vs. SAT phone discussion what has now been ongoing for about 15 years.

Frist let me talk about HF vs Sat phones. There is a nice recording here that has a podcast on the subject

Index of /downloads/audio

You will also find a discussion on using your iPad for satellite communication as well as a discussion about different Broad Band satellite systems.

I am certain that you will find the information valuable.

1. Handheld satellite phones offer some really nice advantages over pactor. Here they are.
a. It is much less expensive to purchase a satellite phone plus several years of airtime than it is to purchase a new Marine SSB.
Here are some common prices.
$1195 - Iridium 9555 global coverage airtime $659 - 500 minutes valid one year
$595 - Isatphone mostly global coverage $750 - 1000 minutes valid 2 years.

b. speed.
speed of iridium is 2400 baud although if you purchase an AxcessPoint Wifi device or an WXA-200 router you can get over 3000 baud... Check this out.
Navigation iPad : the integral solution – Navigation Mac

speed of isatphone for download is about 60% of irdium for download (2000 baud) and bout 45% for upload (1600 baud).

Both of these phones are faster than pactor III on a usual connection. Typical pactor connections are between 1-5Kbytes per minute. Iridium is 15 (20) kbytes per minute).

and there is no contention so you can do your email antime you want.
c. satellite phones are more flexible than HF.
i. they are portable
ii. you can get all of your email and much larger selection of weather
iii. there are no time constraints on usage or time of day for usage.
iv. the can be used to dial 911 or 505 (sos) in case of an emergency from your liferaft.
v. you can make and receive voice calls to regular land based phones
vi. you get free incoming SMS.. i.e. "call home" there is an emergency.
vii. you can browse the internet in a pinch (its slow... but hey it works if you must have it).

for all these reasons it would be silly to go off shore without one.
2. handhelds vs broadband satellite devices...

the major advantage of broadband devices over portables is price of airtime. It takes 1Mbyte of data 68 minutes to transfer over iridium. At $1.29 per minute this means that 1 Mbyte of data cost $87. Note that 1Mbyte is a ton of data in the narrow band satellite business. Your typical grib file is 10Kbytes. So you can download 100 grib files for the cost of 1 Mbyte.

Compare this $90 per Mbyte price to the 3 broadband satellite services aout there.

BGAN ~ $5 Mbyte
FBB ~ $10 Mbyte
IridiumOpen Port ~ $12 Mbyte.

So... 10 times cheaper for data than a handset.

If you use a broadband satellite device the same way you would use an isatphone or an iridium handset your monthly airtime bill would be ** VERY ** low.

And.. these devices are fast enough to browse the internet. So... if you must browse then you have plenty of bandwidth to do so... Although you will want to use compression based software to reduce your airtime bill...

CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News is about 1Mbyte... this means that on an uncompressed link this page may cost you $10. If you use compression (our xweb compresses on average 2-5x) then that page cost $2. I.e. considerable savings.

One of the disadvantages of Broadband devices (as mentioned before) is that they are ethernet based. Wich means that if you connect your computer to an open connection you might end up with a surprisingly large bill. This is because processes running on your computer such as aniti virus programs, windows updates, adobe flash updates, etc... will detect the open internet connection and try to use it.

so... when using abroadband device you MUST use a firewall that blocs all unwanted traffic. This works fine if you use a service that provides you with compression but its difficult when using regular internet tools.

One device that you might want to look at is the wxa-200
Acceleration Appliance - Satellite Hardware - Redport Satellite Router and Firewall - Buy from Global

this device is designed to prevent airtime shock... When you hook it up to a broadband device ** NO ** traffic will go over it EXCEPT compressed email and web. Only your email and the compressed web pages you want to browse will be downloaded over the link. All windows updates, antivirus, etc... will be blocked from accessing the internet.

3. Free satellite E-Mail.

Iridium Satellite is now providing ** FREE ** email service to any subscriber using a 9555 or 9575 with the Purchase of an Iridium Wifi AxcessPoint appliance.

Iridium Axcesspoint Wifi Device - I-axwifi - 9555 Phone Accessories - Iridium Phones Terminals

This $179 device has additional advantages...
a. wifi connectivity to your phone
it allows any computer to connect to the phone via wifi. This eliminates the PROBLEMATIC USB interface to the computer. There are no drivers, modems, or windows DUNs to install. Simply connect via wifi to your device and voila... you are off doing email and weather.

b. it has a built in firewall which removes all traffic over the slow link except compression based web browsing and email. So... it works like the WXA-202 device mentioned above for Broadband devices but much less expensive and only for iridium.

Every iridium user should consider acquiring one of these...

4. Apple Mobile devices.

You can now use your iphone, ipod touch, or ipad with your satellite phone. If using a 9555/9575 you will need an AxcessPoint wifi device since the only way to interface to these phones is via wifi.

If using any other phone (including an isatphone) then a wxa-200 is required.

Once again... all this information is summarized in the audio recordings listed here.

Index of /downloads/audio

I know you will find this information useful.

Take care.

--luis
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Old 08-01-2012, 16:26   #19
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

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Originally Posted by stevewrye View Post
. . . I was looking up costs for a pactor and the price of the iridium sat phone a few weeks ago and I think the iridium was cheaper to buy and about the same price with 500 minutes for one year. Minutes were about 650 dollars. . . . .
Is that $650 for "extra" minutes?

A decade ago I had a sat phone with datalink which was far superior and easier to use than Airmail/Winlink. In real life I used 10 minutes per day to up/down load emails and download NOAA weather charts. If I wanted to check my financials on my bank's website that added another 10 to 20 minutes. So I was using a minimum of 300 minutes per month and including doing my banking - all of this was "Text-only" - I ended up near to 500 minutes per month. So I purchased that plan at the time.

So I don't think you can get by on 300 minutes per year (25 minutes per month) - you need to figure at least 500 minutes per month or 6000 minutes per year.
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Old 08-01-2012, 16:51   #20
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Osirissail, It was as Luis said, 659 dollars for 500 minutes good for one year. Over our last 2 year cruise 2007 to 2009 across the pacific we never used more than 350 per year and as long as we bought new minutes before date ran out we had left over minutes put on to our new 500 minutes. I only used minutes for weather when on passage or getting ready for passage and a few emails while not near and internet cafe. We had a lot of extra minutes when we sold the boat, some I used to call old friends just for the hell of it and some of the minutes went with the phone to the new owners of the boat. We had a woman who did all our bills and other business matters for us who was cheaper per month by far than doing it with Iridium.

Thanks Luis, for the info you posted, it made it a lot more clearer to me how all this stuff works now. When I go to buy I will be going up to Iridium in Washington State and spend some time going over all the bells and whistles, I'm lousy at all this stuff that comes in the new world but I love using it even if I don't know my A from my elbow about the best ways of using this stuff.
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Old 08-01-2012, 16:51   #21
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Your estimate for airtime usage is correct if you use unoptimized software. With compression based software you can do between 5-10 2-10kbyte emails per minute over iridium. You can download a 3 day grib file for the caribbean sea (that is 12 forecasts every 6 hours) in 1 minute (about 15 kbytes).

On average our users use about 3-4 minute of air time per day (1 grib file plus email 2x) when moving the boat. Most users consume about 500 minutes a year.

note that Iridium is about 5 times faster on average than pactor. With iridium you get 15 kbytes per minute (and as high as 20 see link above in my previous posting for a customer that downloaded 60 kbytes of data in 3 minutes). Wiht pactor your are luck to get 3 kbytes per minute on an average connection. So... Sailmail limits your usage to 10 minutes per day. So... if you can download grib files with sailmail given this limitation you can definitely download the same grib files for a small fraction of the 6000 minutes per year you quote.

take care.

--luis
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Old 08-01-2012, 17:02   #22
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

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Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
Is that $650 for "extra" minutes?

A decade ago I had a sat phone with datalink which was far superior and easier to use than Airmail/Winlink. In real life I used 10 minutes per day to up/down load emails and download NOAA weather charts. If I wanted to check my financials on my bank's website that added another 10 to 20 minutes. So I was using a minimum of 300 minutes per month and including doing my banking - all of this was "Text-only" - I ended up near to 500 minutes per month. So I purchased that plan at the time.

So I don't think you can get by on 300 minutes per year (25 minutes per month) - you need to figure at least 500 minutes per month or 6000 minutes per year.
I guess it depends on what you want the Satellite service for. We use our sat phone primarily for safety and offshore weather. Whenever we're coastal cruising there are usually better options available including free wifi and cell based broadband. This is about 90% of the time. As an example, we're currently in Japan and have a pay as you go cell data plan that costs about 50 US per month for unlimited internet access.

For us the sat phone isn't a complete solution but we use it in combination with locally available internet access.
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Old 08-01-2012, 17:10   #23
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Things improve, which is good, my sat phone usage was back in "dinosaur" age of electronics when the only choices were SSB Ham Airmail/Winlink or Sat Phone. Compression was in its infancy. But anyway, the two main purposes I have as a cruiser are communications and data-link.

With the current trend to make websites mega-megabyte and do away with "text," I would posit that you need significant bandwidth to satisfy those presently addicted to Skype and photo-sharing emails.

But for safety alone especially in ocean passages, I would not hesitate to have a sat phone on board - which is where the "rental" idea another poster talked about is quite attractive.
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Old 08-01-2012, 17:48   #24
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

You know I think the thing we aren't really talking about, and a determining factor, is a sat phone's uselessness when it comes to contacting other boats around you. Sure you can call 911 but can you talk to the ship that is 50 miles away or the other cruisers in the area to check for firsthand weather updates?
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Old 08-01-2012, 18:00   #25
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

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$1195 - Iridium 9555 global coverage airtime $659 - 500 minutes valid one year
$595 - Isatphone mostly global coverage $750 - 1000 minutes valid 2 years.
Holy mackinaw! I'm sticking with morse flashlights, semaphores and scrawled scraps of paper in corked rum bottles for now.
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Old 08-01-2012, 18:25   #26
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

I don't think it is about the uselessness of a sat phone talking to other boats.
But what is the best way too to receive weather in very out of way parts of the world and to communicate by voice and email. So what is better SSB/Ham and a pactor2 or 3 or SSB without pactor modem AND an irdium sat phone. What combination will do the best job for all your needs on a long passage making boat going to remote places.
We did receive a sat phone call every night just before the pacific puddle jump net went on the air from a boat that had no ssb. It was fun to hear the buzzer go off on the phone and pick up in the middle of the pacific and say good evening. The other boat would give us the needed info and we would give it to the net when we checked in on our ssb.
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Old 08-01-2012, 19:03   #27
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Aha, so in essence, both SSB and Sat phone's are the "new" standard for oceanic, especially things like the PPJ or probably even the ARC, etc.

But I do think and agree with "unbusted67" that being able to communicate with other boats "out there with you" is extremely important, especially in a crisis situation.

But I think "air time" could pile up fairly quickly with sat phones during a transit and not everybody (maybe most cannot) of the folks can absorb those costs. If only the rates and equipment would evolve faster, then pure Sat Phone would be clear winner. Until then I think first, I would go with SSB (as I have for the last decade) and add Sat Phone as an adjunct for increased safety and convenience.

Just like Wifi has carved out a large portion of SSB utility for inter-island and global friend/family communications, hopefully Sat phones will become viable enough in the future to take over the rest and I won't have get ear-aches and have to deal with propagation tables.
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Old 08-01-2012, 19:14   #28
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Hello Luis,

I have some questions for you, if you don't mind:

1. Iridium link speed. You write that connecting an AxcessPoint ir WXA-200 increases the speed from 2,4kbps to 3.0kbps. How does that work, as the satellite link that the phone has is 2.4kbps maximum? I think you have been misinformed and observed higher rate is the result of data compression, which a lot of devices, incl. Pactor modems, can do.

2. You claim the isatphone is 2.0kbps download and 1.6kbps upload. But Inmarsat claims the same 2.4kbps as Iridium. Are they lying?

3. You claim that satphones are 3 to 5 times as fast as Pactor 3. However, the satphones you reference are both 2.4kbps rate, while my Pactor modem is 2.7kbps which is actually faster than either satphone can provide. I regularly download gribfiles over Email and this is faster over my Winlink Pactor than it is over my satphone, which is conform the specifications.

4. You state Iridium will provide us with FREE email when we buy the AxcessPoint device. How does that work, do they send you cards with minutes as you use them? Or can you call a free number? Also, are there limits to this FREE service? Or is it not free and must we pay the regular full price for minutes used? Might it be that they just give a free email address like Hotmail, GMail etc. also do without the need to buy equipment?

thanks,
Nick.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lsoltero
Hello All,

My name is luis soltero, CTO of Global Marine Networks, and I have been in the HF and Satellite communications business for 15 years.

We have a lot to say about this subject and would like to take a few minutes to fill you in on the latest in the HF vs. SAT phone discussion what has now been ongoing for about 15 years.
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Old 08-01-2012, 19:51   #29
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

He said "speed of iridium is 2400 baud although if you purchase an AxcessPoint Wifi device or an WXA-200 router you can get over 3000 baud... Check this out."

Not Kbps. Kbps can vary with the protocol/process used to establish bit flip voltages/phases. It is better explained here: Baud versus Bits Per Second
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Old 08-01-2012, 21:04   #30
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Re: HAM/SSB/SAT Phone

Does anyone know if you can still text for free on your sat phone?
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