NDFD Data Available in WeatherNet and GRIB Explorer Plus for the iPad

For decades some of the finest weather forecasts in the world were captured in the weather charts produced by the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center. Forecasters poured over the very best available models, buoy, ship of opportunity and satellite data, combined this with their years of forecasting experience and local knowledge and produced weather charts every ocean mariner learned to rely upon. Until the 1990’s, these charts were only available via weatherfax broadcast and mariners went through reams of chart paper and hours of time tuning their weather fax radios to receive the data. With the growth of the Internet in the late 1990s, chart distribution expanded to this medium and OCENS WeatherStation was the first such service to make them available to satellite phone users.

For years, NOAA has been working on the next step in this evolution. To move the static OPC and NHC weather charts and their classic picture file formats into GRIB data so these data become all that more relevant to the at-sea user now dependent on satellite phones, electronic charting and so many other components of the electronic ship. The first realization of these efforts is that which is now available in the NDFD data just released in WeatherNet and GE Plus. NDFD data preserve all the human intelligence and local knowledge put into the OPC and NHC charts but make this information available in the form of GRIBs which can be animated, layered and closely analyzed.

For a lot more information on the NDFD data, including where to find it within WeatherNet and GRIB Explorer Plus for the iPad, check out the extensive YouTube video on the topic prepared by OCENS at:



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.


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.



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:

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.

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.






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




Portal Mode the best feature in the new WeatherNet 3 software

With the new release of WeatherNet 3 back in June, OCENS software developers created some new features with the aspiration of making WeatherNet 3 with an intuitive interface that is convenient and powerful. One of these new features is the Portal Mode: a new means of using WeatherNet that integrates a handful of functions to create a seamless experience.

The thoughts behind the Portal Mode feature are to make the requests of WeatherNet product files more accessible with the click of a button, along with being able to update WeatherNet product files based on the user’s Wizard selections and current geographic location whether or not WeatherNet 3 is linked to a GPS. (GPS integration is another new feature of WeatherNet 3)

Of the three main modes  of  WeatherNet 3 (Basic, Library, and Portal), Portal mode is the most robust due to its ability to identify, acquire, and update new products relative to the user’s wizard selection and current location. Portal mode provides quick access to just the data you want without losing access to the immense storehouse of weather and ocean products which is the WeatherNet library.

The Portal mode building blocks are:

1)- The Launch Wizard button (in the upper left corner) which links  the user to the new Content Wizard in order to select  the type of weather files they are interested . The Content Wizard provides pages of content based on the different types of weather data: like GRIB data, weather charts, text weather forecasts, etc. that make up the WeatherNet 3 weather product list.

2)- Buttons (across the top of the screen) that link to specific pages of content in the Content Wizard to allow the user to revise their weather product selection or focus on just one or two types of products of particular interest to them

3)- The Content List (also called the Content Tree; on the left edge of the Portal mode screen) is a list of all the weather products selected by the wizard based on the user’s weather interests and geographic location.  Because it is the Wizard’s function to identify all weather products relevant to the user’s interests and location, we recommend that you check the Content List after finishing the Content Wizard to fine tune your selection and make sure that only the files you need are selected before hitting the download button.

4)- The Refresh List button (under the Content List)  will update the Content List based on movements in the Map area.

5)- The Re-Center & Reload Map button (at the base of the screen) is useful if the WeatherNet software is linked to a GPS. Clicking the Re-Center & Reload Map button will re-center the map to the user’s present geographic location and refresh the Content List relative to this updated location and the user’s wizard selections.

What makes the Portal Mode the best feature in the new WeatherNet 3 ?                 Portal mode heightens WeatherNet 3 functionality by using its ability to dig and inquire into the WeatherNet file database. It does that by using as a reference the user’s interest selection and current location to provide a set of suggested products that matches user criteria.

For a visual instruction about the Portal Mode on WeatherNet 3 click on this link http://www.youtube.com/user/OCENSSupport

OCENS Mail includes a powerful GPS repeater

OCENS Mail Feature – GPS

OCENS Mail includes a powerful GPS repeater

With the GPS repeater functionality of OCENS Mail, GPS informaton can be imbedded in your email headers, sent into tracking services such as OTrak, and be used to supply data to your other navigation software or connected devices.

GPS Enable
“Enable GPS input” must be checked before any options in this dialog can be configured. Once enabled Wireless Email Gateway must be configured to read GPS data from either a physical COM port or from a network TCP/IP socket or port.

To read GPS data from a physical port select the “GPS on physical port” box, this will enable the Port and Baud pull down lists. The Port pull down list contains a list of all the physical COM ports on the system, select the COM port which corresponds to your GPS. Next, from the Baud pull down list, select the baud rate at which the GPS has been configured. By default most NMEA 183 devices (i.e. your GPS) use 4800 baud for this setting.

The Wireless Email Gateway should now be configured to read GPS data, to confirm that GPS data is streaming into your system hit OK to return to the main screen. Then observe the state of the GPS icon on the Toolbar, if all is well you should see a green status icon. See the GPS section under toolbars for a description of the different states of the GPS icon.

Alternately, to read GPS data over the local area network, select “GPS on TCP port”. This selection enables the entry of a host by either name or IP address and a TCP port number. The host and port number must be entered as hostname:port where hostname is the name or the IP address of the computer hosting the GPS and port number is the TCP port used to repeat the data.

Using at TCP port for GPS data allows one to configure a GPS on a remote computer interconnected to the Wireless Email Gateway machine via a LAN. The remote computer could, for example, be running the Wireless Email Gateway configured to read GPS data from a local COM port and repeat it to a TCP port (see below). As long as the remote Wireless Email Gateway is repeating data to the same TCP port that is being used by the local Wireless Email Gateway, the local Wireless Email Gateway will read the data and optionally repeat it to local COM ports.

Repeat GPS output
The GPS repeater is a very powerful tool which allows multiple applications running on a local computer to access one GPS. This allows you to repeat the GPS data stream out to two additional virtual com ports as well as another network port. For example, the repeater can be used to configure Wireless Email Gateway not only to read the GPS from a physical serial port for vessel tracking but to also configure an electronic plotting program such as MaxSea, Nobeltec, or others.

Both “Repeat GPS output…” check boxes are used to enable the repeating of physical GPS data to virtual COM ports or to a network TCP port.

When enabled, Repeat GPS output to COM port, will create a new COM port on the local machine and repeat GPS data to it. To enable this feature place a check mark next to the option and then assign a COM port to the new (to be created) device.

Repeat GPS to network port creates a socket or TCP port on the local machine which can be used by network aware applications (such as the Wireless Email Gateway) to read GPS data over a network.

Enable Logging 
The enable logging functions are used to debug your GPS connection. Enable logging will create debugging information in the main status window. The Wireless Email Gateway will inform you of failed COM port creation as well as other errors which might help isolate a GPS problem.

The “Dump NMEA data…” option configures the Wireless Email Gateway to dump raw NMEA sentences to the status window. Enabling this feature results in a large amount of text being displayed in the primary status window. You should only use this function if you want to see the raw data being generated by the GPS.


Tip: How to Export and Import Batches in WeatherNet

This tip applies to WeatherNet 3 as well as previous versions. Consider doing this before upgrading to WeatherNet 3 to preserve your current batches.

  1. In the Library Window, click on Batch > Backup Batches… This will backup your entire list of batches.
  2. The Save As window will pop up. Name your file, and select the Desktop or another destination folder that will make it is easy to find your backup file. Click “Save.”
  3. To import your batches, in the Library Window, click on Batch > Restore Batches…
  4. In the Restore Batches window that pops up, select the backup file that you created and click  “Open.”
  5. Your complete backup batch will now be imported into your current WeatherNet version.

Using the Auto Dialer in WeatherNet 3

When using WeatherNet 3 with any satellite phone connection or the Optimizer 102, the Satellite Dialer option in the WeatherNet 3 settings needs to be selected.

To select the satellite dialer option:

  1. In WeatherNet 3, go to the Account Control Settings (gateway icon).
  2. Under “Connection Information,” select “Satellite Dialer” as the Default Connection.
  3. Click “Finish.”