WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SATPHONE CONTINUITY? Published in Latitude 38

201412The following dialog between Jeff Thomassen of OCENS and the Editor of Latitude 38 was published under the title: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SATPHONE CONTINUITY?

Published November 2014
⇑⇓WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SATPHONE CONTINUITY?
After reading letters about Iridium and other satellite communication services in recent Latitudes, I noticed some misconceptions in the letters and the answers that were provided by the satellite phone store. I hope I can clear some of it up.

Before anyone heads offshore, they should consult their airtime provider to verify the details of their account. They will want to confirm minute balances and expiration dates or terms of their airtime package, and/or confirm that their account is set up for automatic renewal if it runs low.

In the case of Iridium, there are two kinds of plans: post- paid and prepaid. With postpaid plans, you pay a monthly fee, plus minutes. There can be many different variations on this depending on how the dealer wants to market it. So pay attention to the details.

The other type of plan is prepaid. With these you pay a one-time fee for a block of minutes that are valid for a set amount of time. If you have a prepaid airtime account, you can call or send a text SMS from your Iridium phone to the number 2888, and the system will reply with information on your remaining airtime balance and term expiration date.

If your prepaid minutes run out, you will not be able to make any further calls. Some but not all carriers offer a number that you can call, even after your minutes have been used up, that will connect you to customer service and may allow you to have more min- utes added to your account. However, this is not a foolproof method and can vary dependent on the provider. It’snot something that I’d want to rely on in an emergency.

Satphone owners should keep in mind that there are a number of entities between the end user and the network provider, be it Iridium or Inmarsat. For example, Iridium sells its airtime to distribution partners (DPs) that may add a layer of services and features to the package. These DPs then sell the airtime plans to the dealers, who may also add to the offering before finally selling the plan to the end user.
Trying to coordinate adding airtime or reactivations, and having that filter through the system so that the Iridium net- work will allow you to make a call, can take time, especially if it’s not a standard new activation or just adding minutes to a regular account in good standing. Also keep in mind that the dealer is on the hook for the airtime charges. If the end user does not pay or defaults on their account, the dealer still has to pay for the airtime. Thus the dealer is going to be very concerned about adding airtime if there is any uncertainty about payment.
In addition, dealers may have access to multiple DPs to tap into for airtime. SIM cards, and thus the plans, are tied to specific DPs that cannot be mixed. The dealer cannot sell you a plan (SIM card) that was sourced from one DP and add minutes to it from another DP. So if your dealer switches DPs, they may ask you to switch out your SIM card or refuse to add minutes to your older card.
As both a sailor and a satellite solution provider, I highly recommend that end users make a test call from their sat- phone each month as a best practice. Making a test call will do the following:
• Make sure the battery is charged. It is a good idea to fully discharge the phone a few times per year to keep it in top condition.
• By making a call you are verifying that your airtime plan is still active. If your phone will not register on the network, or gives you an error message, it may indicate that your air- time plan has expired. You will need to contact an airtime provider to obtain new service. This will most likely require that a new SIM card be sent to you.
• Making a successful call verifies that you remember how to make a call. Most satellite phones are treated as international, and require you to call all numbers as if you are making international calls — no matter where you are or where you are calling.
• The test also confirms that the phone is in operable condition. Verify that you are receiving a good signal, that you can hear the voice on the other end, and that they can hear you.
Many carriers have a dedicated number for making free test calls, but I recommend calling someone you know for better feedback.

Jeff Thomassen
OCENS, Ha-Ha Sponsor
Des Moines, Washington

Jeff — Everybody knows that satphones are frequently relied upon in life-and-death situations, and that 99% of the end users can’t remember the expiration date of their plan — let alone the very fine details of whatever plan their particular retailer talked them into. So we think it’s incumbent upon the vendor who sells the time to alert the end user a month in advance of the expiration of their plan and/or when 90% of their usage is up. If AT&T can do it by MTS and email with their cell-phone service, why can’t satellite time providers do the same? Besides, isn’t it in the best interest of the vendor to do this? It gives them the opportunity to sell more time and keep from losing a customer to a competitor.

Published December 2014
⇑⇓DIFFICULTY IN CONTACTING SATPHONE SUBSCRIBERS
I first want to thank Latitude for including my ‘Who Is Responsible For Satphone Continuity’ letter in the November issue. I am happy to assist in bringing this information to light, and hopefully assist users in their understanding of how the current satellite phone systems operate and what things to look out for. We’ve had many conversations with boatowners at the last few boat shows regarding all of this, and know that this is a hot topic in light of the Rebel Heart incident that kicked off all the publicity.

In response to my November letter, the Latitude editor replied as follows: “Everybody knows that satphones are frequently relied upon in life-and-death situations, and that 99% of the end users can’t remember the expiration date of their plan — let alone the very fine details of whatever plan their particular retailer talked them into. So we think it’s in- cumbent upon the vendor who sells the time to alert the end user a month in advance of the expiration of their plan and/ or when 90% of their usage is up. If AT&T can do it by MTS and email with their cellphone service, why can’t satellite time providers do the same? Besides, isn’t it in the best interest of the vendor to do this? It gives them the opportunity to sell more time and keep from losing a customer to a competitor.”

I agree that most satellite phone users do not keep very close tabs on the status of their accounts. In the case of Iridium prepaid plans — the primary airtime plan being faulted in this discussion for mariners’ being unable to use their phones because time ran out or expired — keep the following in mind:
1) Each time you make a voice call, you get a voice prompt with your current balance and expiration date before the call is completed.
2) Prepaid plans do not require monthly billings that might keep the user up-to-date.
3) Prepaid plans do not autorenew unless specifically requested by the end user, where an agreement must be in place between the customer and the vendor. Keep in mind that the dealer is responsible for the airtime. If they were to auto-reload a customer’s account without the customer’s fully agreeing to it, the customer could refuse to pay. Because these are prepaid minutes, the minutes cannot be retracted, so the dealer would be left on the hook.

Also keep in mind that satellite phone users are typically remote. This means that in most cases they are not getting regular email, phone calls or physical mail. Nor, in many cases, do they want to. So getting in touch with them can be rather difficult. Thus it is not quite fair to put all of this burden on the airtime vendor, but as you can see, it is important to pick your vendor carefully.

As an airtime vendor, we at OCENS truly understand why customers have satellite phones. And we understand the nature of how and where these devices are typically used. This knowledge is evident in all the products and services we both design and offer. Our goal is to help customers to get the most out of their equipment and service, so we make every effort to alert the customer as to the status of their accounts — even prepaid accounts. We send out a number of notices when their balances get low or expiration dates get near. We send alerts via the email address provided by the customer, and then again via SMS directly to the phones. We want to not only keep our customers, but also keep them safe and happy.

Jeff Thomassen
OCENS
Des Moines, Washington

Jeff — If you use email and SMS alerts to customers to alert them that their plan — even if it’s a prepaid plan — is about to expire, we think you’re doing everything that you legally and ethically should be obligated to do. We think that what you’re doing should be an industry-wide requirement.
When Profligate crewman Fin Bevin does the Ha-Ha, he always brings his Iridium/OCENS combo to produce GRIB files on the computer screen. It’s one of several great ways to get weather when far offshore.

Firmware Updates

From time to time satellite phone manufacture’s & carriers come out with updates to their devices. These updates are called firmware updates since they change the devices core functioning software. The updates can do anything from fix bugs found in the previous firmware release(s) to adding new features & tools. Running an outdated firmware means you’re not only missing out on these updates, but can also produce incompatibilities with value-add equipment like docking stations.

As of May 25, 2016 the following are the current firmware versions for these common satellite products:

  • Thrane & Thrane Sailor FleetBroadband – v 1.22
  • Thrane & Thrane Sailor IP Handset –          v 1.17
  • Skipper FleetBroadband 150 –                    v 1.7.0
  • Hughes BGAN 9202 –                                 v 5.8.3.2
  • Hughes BGAN 9201 –                                 v 3.8.1.1
  • Sabre 1 BGAN –                                          v 14.5.1
  • Safari –                                                        v R0.2.0.0
  • iSavi –                                                         v R0.1.1.0
  • Thrane Explorer 700 –                                v 3.08
  • Thrane Explorer 710 –                                v 1.06
  • Iridium Pilot –                                              AO12003
  • Iridium 9575 –                                             HL15002
  • Iridium 9555 –                                             HT15002
  • Iridium GO! –                                              v 1.4.1
  • Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro –                           v 5.11.0
  • Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro 2 –                        v 2

Listed below are the websites where the latest firmware is available. Always consult your owners manual for the steps to take to check the firmware of your satellite device, as well as the procedure on how to update it. Of course, always feel free to contact OCENS if you need any assistance.

INMARSAT

FleetBroadband

http://www.inmarsat.com/support/fleetbroadband-firmware

BGAN

http://www.inmarsat.com/support/bgan-firmware

ISatPhonePro

http://www.inmarsat.com/support/isatphone-pro-support

ISatPhonePro 2

http://www.inmarsat.com/support/isatphone-2-support

IRIDIUM 

9575:

Firmware Version HL15002 for the Iridium Extreme 9575

9555:

Download Iridium 9555 Firmware Upgrade and Instructions

GO!:

Iridium GO! Firmware Version 1.4.1 – Users (ZIP)

BEAM Communications (Inmarsat/Iridium SatPhone Docking Stations)

http://www.beamcommunications.com/common-resources

NOTE- BEAM firmware is located on the support page for each individual BEAM product associated with this link.

 

 

Tricks for your Mac – Turning of Bonjour

When the French say “Bonjour” it means “good day”, but when Apple says “Bonjour” over your satellite connection it may not be such a “good day”.

“Bonjour is Apple’s implementation of Zero configuration networking (Zeroconf), a group of technologies that includes service discovery, address assignment, and hostname resolution. Bonjour locates devices such as printers, other computers, and the services that those devices offer on a local network using multicast Domain Name System (mDNS) service records.”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

While this “Bonjour” sounds great and does work well when you are connected to a network via a high-speed connection and have other devices that you connect to on that network, it can make your day not so good and cause real frustration when trying to connect to the internet via a satellite phone system.

Bonjour is continually broadcasting information about your device to the network and then listening for what other devices or service are available to connect too. Each time your information is sent your system is using precious megabytes and bandwidth. Not a big deal at home or via a good and inexpensive Wi-Fi connection. But when you are connecting to the internet via your satellite phone you usually doing so via a very slow connection, such as and Iridium phone, and/or are paying a premium for data that is transmitted (i.e. $20 per megabyte for the FleetBroadband systems). Now it does not sound so great.

When you make a connection via your Iridium phone – your Mac is going to see that you are connected to a network and try to find out who is on this network that it can communicate with – this can use up your very limited bandwidth, or pipe if you will, and leaves very little if any room for your weather or email application to transfer its data. What you typically end up seeing is a stalled connection because the data is stuck in the bottleneck of the small pipe and then you receive a time-out error. If you are using one of the higher speed system where you are paying per megabyte – the system is using up data to do this – data for something that you may not care about or realize is being used.

There are a couple ways to reign in Bonjour when you are using your satellite phone.

OCENS software products employ a mechanism that automatically disables Bonjour when you use the dialer in OCENS Mail or WeatherNet so that the data flow is unimpeded by any Bonjour transmissions. When the connection is finished the service is re-enabled.

Another way is to manually disable Bonjour. You can do this by opening the terminal application on your Mac and entering the following command:

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.mDNSResponder.plist

Then hit enter. You may be required to enter your system password. Bonjour is now disabled.

Bonjour will automatically restart when you reboot your system. To turn this back on without the need to reboot your system you can enter the following command in same fashion as before:

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.mDNSResponder.plist

Bonjour is now re-enabled.

I hope this tip helps you to understand your system a litte bit more.

Bonjour!
Jeff

Handheld Satellite Data: The Importance of Turning Off Internet Applications

A while back, Mark posted a blog article regarding Spyware/Malware and it’s effect on your Satellite connection. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, here’s the link: http://blog.ocens.com/?p=321

Going off this premise, today I’m going to talk about applications that use your Internet connection and their affect on your Satellite data service, ESPECIALLY the handhelds. So first, let’s put these connections into context so it’s something we can understand.

 

Throughput

I apologize in advance… as this will get a little technical, but we will have to pull out some math to explain the underlining concepts.

When talking about files and their size, it’s important to understand the measurement standard used. All data, regardless of what it is, can be broken down to the smallest measurement unit, a bit. A bit is a binary code; think of it as a light switch, it’s either on (1) or off (0) the next measurement up from a bit is a Byte, which is 8 bits. From there, it follows the 1024 sequence of Kilobytes, Megabytes, Gigabytes, Terabytes and so forth:

bit
8 bits = Byte
1024 Bytes = 1 Kilobyte (KB)
1024 KB = 1 Megabyte (MB)
1024 MB = 1 Gigabyte (GB)
1024 GB = 1 Terabyte (TB)

When dealing with a data connection, however, you often hear companies talk about their transfer rate, bandwidth or throughput. This is a measurement of how fast data can be pushed over their service. Think of them as pipes… the faster the throughput, the larger diameter the pipe.

Throughput is measured in how many bits per second you’re able to push across the connection. The abbreviated listing ALWAYS has the “B” in lowercase, which stands for bits, as apposed to the “B” in uppercase, which stands for Bytes. For example, here are some typical connections and their advertised throughput:

Fiber Optic = 1 Gigabit/second [1Gbps] (1,000,000,000 bits per second)
Cable Internet = 30 Megabits/second  [30Mbps] ( 30,000,000 bits per second)
DSL = 7 Megabits/second [7Mbps] (7,000,000 bits per second)
56K Dialup Modem = 56 Kilobits/second [56Kbps] (56,000 bits per second)

Let’s do a little math. Let’s say we have a normal email that we want to send, and we want to attach 3 pictures that total 4Megabytes (MB) the email is fairly large… a page in length, so we will say the measurement of it is 6 Kilobytes (6KB) So, in total, the email size is 4.06 MB (4102 KB) If we break it down to the same measurement as the Throughput (bits) that means the email is 3360584 bits ( 4102 x 1024 x 8 )

Applying the throughput speeds listed, that means the email will take:

.033603584 seconds on Fiber
1.1201195 seconds on Cable
4.800512 seconds on DSL
600.064 seconds on a 56k Modem

So, what about Satellite connections then?

VSAT V3 = 3Mbps (3,000,000 bits per second)
Class 1 BGAN = 492Kbps (492,000 bits per second) (T&T Explorer 700 is a Class 1)
Class 2 BGAN = 464Kbps (464,000 bits per second) (Hughes 9202 is a Class 2)
FBB 150 = 150Kbps (150,000 bits per second)
Iridium 9xxx = 2.4Kbps (2400 bits per second)
Inmarsat ISatPhone Pro = 1.2Kbps (1200 bits per second)

So, that same email would take:

11.20119 seconds on a VSAT V3
68.29997 seconds on a Class 1 BGAN
72.42152 seconds on a Class 2 BGAN
224.0239 seconds on a FBB 150
14001.49333 seconds (that’s 3.89 hours!) on an Iridium handheld
28002.98667 seconds (that’s 7.78 hours!) on an Inmarsat ISatPhone Pro!!

Talk about pushing a watermelon though a garden hose!

Also keep in mind that these are theoretical times, since we haven’t considered overhead data usage to establish and maintain the connection, addressing information, error correction, and other things that occur in a data transfer.

If you take into account issues that can occur like what’s discussed in our blog article Satellite Data Connections Explained (http://blog.ocens.com/?p=296) it’s a feat of engineering that data can be sent at all! And this is just the time spent sending what you WANTED to send… so this brings us to the topic of the article:

 

Applications Internet Usage

Now a day, there are MANY programs running on your computer that utilize the Internet in one way or the other. Operating systems like Windows or Mac OSX use the Internet to pull updates or submit error reports. Internet browsers like Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari & Firefox use the Internet to pull updates as well. Antivirus programs use the Internet to update their virus definitions. Java and Flash pull updates from the Internet. Even hardware drivers can check into the Internet with the intent to pull updates or submit error reports.

On a typical Internet connection this isn’t an issue, and most of these programs are setup to pull these updates without the need for you, the user, to monitor and initiate them.

It’s important to note however, that they only know is that the Internet is “available” not what type of Internet connection it is.

These updates can range widely in size… anywhere from a couple KB all the way up to major updates (like version changes, or service packs) that can be in the MBs or even GBs!! Imagine pulling down Windows 7’s Service Pack 1 (73.7MB through Windows Update) over an ISatPhone Pro connection…

If any of these programs realize an Internet connection is available, and wants to pull an update on slow connection, it will bog that connection down further or even cause the connection to fail completely (watermelon the size of a house trying to go through a garden hose)

On top of that, if your computer contracts malware, spyware or viruses, they all try to push info over the Internet as well.

Then to compound the issue further, you pay for the usage done on a satellite device; per MB on broadband terminals like the FBB 150 or BGAN, or per minute on handhelds like the Iridium 9xxx or Inmarsat ISatPhone Pro.

 

How To Address These Issues

There are a couple ways to combat the issue of moving data over a Satellite Internet connection.

The first is to make sure your computer is clean of spyware, malware and viruses. You can also go through every application on your computer and verify that they are not set to download updates automatically. Though a tedious process, doing so will GREATLY decrease the amount of data trying to be pushed over your connection.

You can also employ devices like the OCENS Sidekick (http://www.ocens.com/Sidekick-Satellite-Wi-Fi-Router-P760C96.aspx) that employs a firewall and proxy server to manage that connection between your Satellite device and your computer, making sure that only the data you want to send is what gets through.

You can also employ services like WeatherNet, OCENSMail and OneMail to compress the data you’re sending… making it as small as possible to save time & money.

Any and all of these products truly are “Value-Add” services meant to maximize the value a Satellite Internet connection provides, while helping minimize the cost of using them.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to know more about maximizing your satellite connection please give OCENS a call.

Changing Your Signature in iScribe

when OCENS.Mail and iScribe are installed a default email signature is setup to help remind your recipients that you’re connected to a satellite system, and to keep their messages short. If you ever want to change the signature to something different & more personal here’s how to do it:

1. In iScribe go to File & Options
2. in the Options menu screen click on the Accounts tab
3. in Accounts click on the Properties button

From the Account Properties you can change the signature. At the bottom of the window is a Signature XML field that displays the current signature. Just edit that field to display whatever message you desire, then click OK to save it.

That’s it for changing the signature in iScribe. keep in mind that this is just for iScribe, if you use a different email client, like Thunderbird or Outlook, then you will need to look up the procedure for changing the signature within your selected email client program.

Satellite Data Connections Explained

Here at OCENS, we often receive calls from customers having issues using data over their handheld Iridium, Inmarsat, or Globalstar handset. Of these calls, 99.99999998% of the time they end up being an issue with poor signal strength. So, today I thought we should help explain what’s occurring when attempting to use a data service over a handheld satellite phone and what kinds of things can affect having a successful connection.

First, let’s explain the differences between the satellite systems, or “constellations,” as the type of constellation has a lot to do with how your satellite phone interacts with it.

 

Satellite constellations for sat-phone services come in two flavors, LEO or GEO:

LEO stands for Low Earth Orbit and is what Iridium and Globalstar use. In a LEO constellation the satellites are orbiting the planet. Iridium’s constellation, for example, has 66 satellites that polar orbit (on a north-south-north orbit) at a speed of 16,832 mph. At that speed, it takes roughly 100 minutes for any given Iridium satellite to do a complete orbit of the Earth. To help bring this closer to home; at those speeds it means the satellites take roughly 9 minutes to move from horizon to horizon. Suffice it to say, those satellites are moving FAST.

The advantage of a LEO constellation is that you can have truly global coverage. No matter where you are located on the Earth if you have a clear view of the sky you will have a satellite available. The disadvantage, however, is that because the location of the satellites are constantly changing so is the quality of the signal. Also, various elements of the area around you can have a great impact on your signal as the location of the satellites change. We will discuss both of these issues in depth later in this post.

 

GEO stands for Geostationary. An example of a GEO constellation would be Inmarsat’s satellites. Inmarsat’s I4 satellites (providing service to their iSatPhone and FleetBroadband/BGAN systems) are a 3-satellite, High Orbit Geostationary constellation sitting at 22,240 miles above the Earth at the equator.

The advantage of a GEO constellation is that as long as you have “Line of Sight” to one of the satellites, your signal from the satellite is assured. The disadvantages of a GEO, however, are that if you lose “Line of Sight” to the satellite, you will never regain signal until you move to a position where “Line of Sight” is restored. Also, as you move to higher latitudes north or south the angle of your “Line of Sight” drops closer to the horizon and the distance through which your satellite phone must operate to reach the satellite increases.

 

Signal Strength

When talking about signal strength, it’s important to remember that it’s a two-way transaction between the satellite and your satellite phone. The “signal bars” that display on your phone show how well your phone can “hear” the satellite; but they do not, however, show how well the satellite can hear the phone.

When trying to explain the communication relationship between satellites and satellite phones, I like to use a reference involving two people having a conversation. One of those individuals is speaking in a normal tone of voice.  The other has a megaphone. It’s also important to remember that this communication is “Line of Sight” meaning that both parties have to be looking each other in the eye while having this conversation (kind of a funny conversation, isn’t it??)

When signal issues occur, it literally means one of two problems:

  1. Phone can not “hear” the satellite
  2. Satellite can not “hear” the phone

Of those two problems, the MAJORITY of the time it’s because the satellite cannot “hear” the phone because the return signal from the phone is always going to be weaker. Because of this it is much more susceptible to interference.

A popular area where this occurs is in places like a marina where there are an abundance of additional signals occurring within that space: radar signals, RF signals, WiFi signals, and even other satellite devices… all these things can affect the communication between your satellite phone and its constellation. If we go back to our example, imagine a room full of people all talking at the same time and you trying to have a conversation with the megaphone person located on the other side of the room. While you may be able to hear the megaphone clearly, it will be almost impossible to have an enjoyable two-way conversation given the difficulty megaphone man will have in hearing you.

Antenna placement can also affect your signal quality. If you place your satellite antenna too close to something like a radar antenna it’s like trying to have a conversation with a person standing right next to someone else that’s a chatterbox. Now apply the concepts of a LEO, where the satellite (person you are talking to) is constantly moving around the room.  You may be able to barely hear each other while the person is on one side of the room, but as you (or they) move in the direction of the chatterbox, a robust conversation becomes impossible.

 

The Differences between Voice & Data Calls

If you’ve ever called in and talked to one of our technical support people, you’ve probably heard us say that you need “at least 4 bars of signal” when attempting a data call. The reason for this is as follows:

In a voice call, information is sent as it’s created. As you talk, your voice is converted to a signal that’s “streamed” through the system to your recipient on the other end.  Signal strength and quality come into play in how much of your conversation is heard between you and the person you are calling. If you hear words being “chopped off” or “dropped,” or the call itself drops it’s because there is interference. HOWEVER, the over all assessment of the success of your conversation lie with you and your party on the other end. You decide if you understand what’s being said and when to end the call. (The caveat being a complete signal loss, where the call is then terminated.)

In a “Data Call,” however, a whole new set of rules apply. Data is transmitted in containers called “Packets” The majority of data transfers use a protocol called TCP, which stands for Transmit Control Protocol, to send these packets. It’s not really important within the scope of this article to explain all of how TCP works; but what IS important to understand is that this is a two-way rule. When a packet is transmitted, a confirmation is sent from the recipient back to the sender before the next packet is sent. If the sender never gets the confirmation, the connection is considered “Lost” and the data transfer fails. Doing this ensures that all the information requested is received correctly. Applying our example again, imagine having to follow these rules when having a conversation, while also having the “noisy room” conditions explained in the previous section. Kind of a difficult and daunting task, isn’t it?

Because of this TCP rule, signal strength and quality play a MUCH more important role in the ability to transmit data than they do in a voice call. If at anytime one party to a data call does not receive the confirmation it’s waiting for then the TCP rules state that the data is lost.  The data conversation terminates and you have to attempt the data call again, use more of your money, more of your plan’s minutes, and more frustration and headaches. Ensuring that you have the best signal possible when attempting a data call ensures that you have the best chance of making sure both parties in the conversation are able to successfully follow the TCP protocols rules.

 

Hopefully this post helps to better explain what’s occurring when you attempt a data call. If you have any questions, or if you would like to know how to improve your satellite phone’s ability to send data, please give OCENS a call.

OCENS.Mail Service for Apple iOS and Android Devices

 

OCENS always strives to provide easy-to-use value-add services for use with your satellite system. OCENS.Mail was designed with that ideal in mind; to give you a means to inexpensively send and receive email over your satellite system regardless of where you are located or what satellite system you have.

With OCENS.Mail for iOS and Android (empowered by the Optimizer 102) we can now provide you with OCENS.Mail service directly to your mobile devices; giving you the benefit of a truly mobile communications platform without the need for an AC powered computer, cables and precious space.

 

Apple iOS

To setup OCENS.Mail on your Apple iPhone or iPad, follow these steps:

  • Connect your iOS device to a WiFi (non-Optimizer) or cellular network
  • Go to the App Store and install the XGate app
  • After the app is installed open it
  • The initial screen will ask for Full Name, OCENS.Mail username & OCENS.Mail password
  • Once finished, you will be taken to the main Page of the app

Initial app setup

  • Tap Settings
  • Tap Server
  • Select xgate.ocens.net
  • Select port 443 (Unless using the Iridium AccessPoint, then leave it on port 3333)
  • Tap Save
  • Tap Connection in the Settings page
  • Select Network Connection
  • Tap Save
  • Return to the main
  • Tap Mail
  • Tap the arrow button
  • Tap Send/Receive Mail to start a mail transfer
  • The webXacc listings are now updated within the application and can be used

 

Setting up the app to use with a satphone:

  • From the Main XGate screen tap Settings
  • Tap Connection
  • Select your satellite device (use the “webXacc” listings for Optimizer connections)
  • Tap Save
  • Connect to the WiFi network of your satellite device (use the Optimizers WiFi if set to a webXacc setting)

Mail Transfers are done by tapping the arrow button in Mail and selecting Send/Receive Mail.

 

 

 

 

Android

To setup your Android smartphone or tablet, follow these steps:

  • Connect your Android device to a WiFi (non-Optimizer) or cellular network.
  • Go to the Play Store and install the XGate app
  • After the program is installed open it
  • The initial screen will ask for your Full Name, OCENS.Mail username & OCENS.Mail password
  • Once done, you will be taken to the Main Page of the program.

Initial app setup

  •  Select Settings
  • Select Mail Server in settings
  • On the Server drop down, select xgate.ocens.net
  • Change the port from 3333 to 443 (unless using the Iridium AccessPoint, then leave the port on 3333)
  • After those settings have been changed, hit your back button, then the back button again to go to the main page
  • Select mail, then Send/Receive Email
  • Select Send/Receive Email at the top to start a mail transfer
  • Once finished, all the “webXacc” Optimizer settings will be available.

Setting up the app for use with a satellite device:

  •  At the main page select Settings
  • Select connection
  • At the Select Router drop down, choose the entry that corresponds to your satellite service (If using an Optimizer be sure to select the “webXacc” entry for your setup)
  • Connect your Android device to the WiFi network of your satellite device.

Mail Transfers:

To receive and read email:


  • Click on the mail link from the main page
  • Click on Send/Receive Email
  • Click on Send/Receive Email button to start the transfer
  • Once the transfer is finished, hit your back button
  • Click on email
  • Click on the received messages to read them

 

 

To send email:

  • Click on Mail from the main screen
  • Click on Email
  • Click on your device menu button and select compose
  • Write your email then click send
  • Hit your back button to go back to the mail menu
  • Select send/receive email
  • Click on the send/receive email button to start a mail transfer

 

 

 

Basic Computer Networking Terminology

This blog post will go over some basics of networking terminology. To learn more, please visit the references listed at the end of this post or give us a call here at OCENS.

 

Network Designations – the following designations presented here explain networks in context with the Sidekick appliances, though these designations are used throughout Network Engineering.

LAN – stands for Local Area Network. This is the network of device(s) relying on the Sidekick network management appliance for connection, both to each other as well as access to your satellite service. A LAN can be as small as a single computer, or as vast as an entire building and accounts for all the computers, networking equipment, servers, printers, Internet phones, smartphones, tablets, PDAs and more.

WAN –Stands for Wide Area Network. This is the network the Sidekick uses to provide service to the Internet for its LAN. WANs typically refer to the Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) network.

Some other network designations to note:

GAN – Stands for Global Area Network. In short, this is the Internet.

BGAN – Stands for Broadband Global Area Network. Inmarsat primarily uses this designation to refer to their broadband satellite service (FleetBroadband and BGAN terminals)

 

IP Address – Stands for Internet Protocol Address. Every device, when connected to a network, is assigned an IP Address. This allows your device to communicate with other devices and available network resources. Think of this as your cell’s phone number, allowing you to receive and make calls, send text messages, and access other services.

 

DNS – Stands for Domain Name Service. DNS provides a means to attach a name to an IP Address making it easier for us to request resources. An example of DNS being used is when we try to access the Internet: Without DNS, to get to www.google.com we would have to remember the website’s IP Address (173.194.33.46 is google.com). The concept of DNS is similar to that of your Contacts List on your cellphone; it’s MUCH easier to remember your contact’s name then it is to remember their phone number. DNS functions in a similar way, storing network address information associated with the network’s name.

 

Server – a computer or application that is hosting a service. A Mail Server, for example, is generally a computer that is hosting, or providing, email services. If you use OCENS.Mail, the application you install to use our service (called the OCENS.Mail Gateway) is in fact a server application.

 

Client – Usually refers to the recipient, be it computer or application, of a server’s hosted service. For example, a mail client is a software application receiving its mail service from a mail server. iScribe, the mail client we provide for use with the OCENS.Mail Gateway, is a client of the OCENS.Mail Gateway server.

 

Firewall – a specialized type of server. ALL data transmitted over a network is assigned a specific port number, based on the type of data it is. For example, standard website traffic (http) is usually assigned port 80. Secure website traffic, like when you login to your bank account, is usually assigned port 443.

A Firewall controls what ports are open or closed for inbound and outbound traffic flowing through it. Some firewalls are also capable of routing specific ports to specific outbound or inbound IP Addresses. This is called Port Forwarding for inbound traffic, and Port Triggering for outbound. Say you wanted to host your own website from a computer at home. That website would reside with a server application (called a webserver). In order for people to be able to see the website, you would need to set your firewall to forward all inbound web traffic (port 80 typically) to that webserver’s IP Address.

Typically data types flow on their universally assigned port numbers, but it is possible to change those port number assignments, either locally on a specific computer or as a whole on a network, by use of the next term:

 

Proxy – another specialized type of server. Whereas a firewall controls the opening/closing of ports and where specific ports are routed; a proxy controls how data is used within those ports and can assign (and keeps track of) port assignment changes.

Proxy servers stand as an intermediary between their clients, and the resources they are requesting. As such, they are capable of controlling when, how, and if those resources can be accessed. For example: say you want to control what kinds of websites you want available to specific individuals, like children. You would employ a proxy server (called a web proxy) to control who, when, how, and if specific sites can be accessed by specific clients. Typically, when this is done, the web proxy changes the specific port used for outbound web traffic, and the firewall then closes port 80 for outbound traffic, thus disabling someone from trying to get around the proxy.

Proxy servers and their configurations are very complex, and it would be hard for me to explain EVERYTHING they can do in this post, but I will touch on some of the basics as they are used with the Sidekick appliances:

Compression – Compression is a function by which the data is squeezed, or compressed, as small as possible before being sent. This is done to help reduce transmission size and duration.

Captive Portal – Captive portal is a means by which you can control who has access to specific services. For example, if you wanted to control who can access the Internet, you would enable captive portal on a web proxy that would require a login before the Internet can be accessed. Ever been to a Starbucks and used their free Internet service? If so, do you recall their initial page requiring you to agree to their service terms? That is a function of captive portal on a web proxy.

Traffic Shaping – Traffic Shaping, or Quality of Service (QoS for short), is a means of prioritizing specific types of traffic over other types of traffic. For example, suppose you have Internet Phone services on your network. Because of how Internet Phone services function, it’s extremely important that their data reaches its destination as quickly as possible. Utilizing QoS functions in a proxy, you are capable of making sure any Internet Phone traffic is handled and routed the moment it comes in, regardless of whatever else is happening on the network.

Caching – Caching stores commonly used resources at the proxy server for faster access. For example, how often do you access www.google.com? With caching enabled on a proxy, instead of your request to www.google.com going to the internet and waiting for the reply back, the proxy will store the www.google.com page and present it to you when requested. Over a satellite system this also means a cost savings since the proxy, which is local to your network, is providing the requested site instead of your satellite Internet connection.

Whitelists/Blacklists – White/black lists are a means of controlling what kinds of services individuals can access. For example, say you’re a Packer’s football fan and you despise the Vikings. You could set your proxy to allow the Packer’s website through, but block requests to the Vikings site or even re-route requests for the Vikings website to the Packer’s utilizing the functions of whitelists and blacklists. Because of the complexity and the vast amount of sites out there, generating your own blacklist can take quite a long time. Because of this, there are services available that provide a pre-configured blacklist for you. Some are free while others require a usage fee based on what proxy server software they support and the complexity of the list.

Usage Reporting – All proxy servers provide reporting of who did what and when. These reports are useful when evaluating what your satellite airtime is being spent on as well as troubleshooting connection issues when they arise.

 

Least Cost Routing/Failover/Load Balancing

I’m group these topics together because they function similarly and are related; they all are a means of managing and optimizing multiple WAN connections. Some functions can be utilized at the same time, while others are an either/or setup.

Least Cost Routing (LCR) – This is a means of utilizing the most cost affective WAN connection available at the time. For example, say you have a FleetBroadband terminal and Cell Data receiver. Because Internet service is less expensive over the Cell Data receiver you want to route all your Internet traffic over it when the service is available, and switch to the FleetBroadband when it isn’t. This is called Least Cost Routing.

Failover – Failover is VERY similar to least cost routing. Basically, it means that if connection A isn’t available, switch to connection B. Since Least Cost Routing and Failover are pretty much the same function, most setups that utilize one will utilize both at the same time.

Load Balancing – While load balancing is similar to failover and LCR in that it utilizes multiple WANs, how it uses those connections is different. With Load Balancing, the Sidekick takes the inbound/outbound data traffic and spreads the load among the different WAN connections, thus effectively improving service. Load Balancing can function along with Failover since it would switch to the available WAN if another goes down.

 

VPN – Stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s a means of joining two networks together, when they aren’t physically together. For example, say you want to have access to your work network (giving you access to it’s supplied resources like printers, servers, ect) from your boat? You would need to setup a “VPN Tunnel” linking the two networks together to act as one. An individual can link to the VPN, or a LAN management appliance (like the Sidekick) can link the entire LAN.

 

VoIP – Stands for Voice over Internet Protocol (IP) this is an emerging service that has been growing and developing quite a bit as of late. The old traditional telephone systems haven’t changed in many many years; but with the increasing demand for additional features like video calls, teleconferences, multimedia presentations and more they just are not capable of keeping up with the newer demands. VoIP however, uses an Internet connection to supply those services and more. Some examples of VoIP technology are Skype, Google Voice, and Vonage. Also, most cellular smartphones provide the ability to utilize VoIP services.

 

References:

If you would like further information regarding the topics in this post these resources can explain more:

Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) – http://www.iana.org

The IANA is the governing authority for maintaining official assignments of port numbers and their uses. They are also the governing authority managing the IP Addressing assignments that make up the Internet. If you are ever interested in how the Internet as a whole functions, IANA and their documentation is a great place to start.

PF Sense – http://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Main_Page

This is an Open-Source Firewall and Router suite, and their wiki has a lot of useful information regarding their functions.

Squid Proxy – http://www.squid-cache.org/

This is an Open-Source Web Proxy Server, with great documentation and support.

Wikipedia.org  – www.wikipedia.org

Wikipedia it is a great resource for learning and provides useful information and resources. RFC documentation regarding different topics from network designations, TCP/IP functions, DNS and more can be found here. RFC (Request for Comments) documents are the governing documentation for Computer Network Engineering and their underlining technologies.

HowStuffWorks – www.howstuffworks.com

This site is owned by the Discovery channel, and is a great learning resource for explaining how specific things work.