Skylark v1.0 User Manual

syedkarim edited this page Jan 21, 2017 · 31 revisions

Mobile support is a work in progress. We are actively working on this issue.

**Login with username/password: “outernet” and “outernet”

How Outernet Works

Outernet provides a unique service that we refer to as filecasting. We send files over Inmarsat satellites, which transmit radio waves in the L-Band frequency range. These waves are received by the radio on the receiver, which turns them back into files, which are then stored on the receiver. The receiver emits a WiFi hotspot, allowing access to the saved files through a web browser.

Components

There are 5 components required to build and operate a L-Band receiver:

  • L-Band Antenna
  • Amplifier
  • Software-defined Radio (SDR)
  • Skylark software on a single-board computer (CHIP)
  • Power source

All of the required components are included in Outernet’s full DIY Receiver Kit with CHIP and a battery. For specifications of these Kit components, see Appendix 3. For hobbyists and tinkers, the L-Band hardware can also be used for Inmarsat reception, including SafetyNET, EGC, and AERO.

Hardware Specifications For Outernet Reception

L-Band Air Gap Patch Antenna: We strongly recommend purchasing from us (included in the kit).

  • Center frequency: 1542 MHz
  • 8dbi signal transmission
  • SMA male connector

Software Defined Radio (SDR) Tuner Dongle:

  • Ultra-low phase noise 0.5PPM TCXO
  • RF-suitable voltage regulator custom heatsink
  • SMA female connector
  • SDR frequency range of approximately 25MHz-2200MHz
  • Must have a bias tee enabled for use with the Outernet Amplifier

Amplifier:

  • Center frequency: 1542 MHz
  • Gain: 34 dB
  • Voltage: 3.0V - 5.5V
  • Current draw: 25 mA

CHIP:

  • Skylark demodulates and decodes the signal. Read more about Skylark on page 6.
  • If purchased with a kit, CHIP comes with Skylark pre-installed.

Power: The receiver requires 2 Watts of power.

How The Components Work Together

Antenna: Tuned specifically for the L-band.
Amplifier: Reduces system noise, boosts gain, and amplifies the signal. The green light indicates the amplifier is receiving power.
SDR Tuner: Tunes into a particular frequency within the amplified signal and passes the signal to the computer running the demodulation software.
Computer: Runs software that demodulates and decodes the signal, and manages the received files.
Battery: An external battery or USB power is required to power the device.

Getting Started

DIY RECEIVER ASSEMBLY

  1. Install the Skylark or demodulation software on your chosen computer device, if not already installed (see page 6).
  2. Connect the male connector of the Antenna to the female connector of the Amplifier.
  3. Connect the male connector of the Amplifier to the female connector of the SDR.
  4. Insert the SDR USB into the USB port of CHIP
  5. Connect power to the CHIP (RAV Battery shown). If the C.H.I.P does not light up, press the CHIP power button.

![](https://github.com/Outernet-Project/Information/blob/master/kit1.jpg)

SET UP THE RECEIVER

After assembly, use a Wi-Fi enabled device to complete the receiver set up:

  1. Open the list of WiFi networks on a Wi-Fi enabled device and connect to the wireless access point named Outernet.
  2. Open any browser and type http://my.outernet.is in the address bar.
  3. Login with the credentials for username and password: “outernet” and “outernet”.

OUTERNET SOFTWARE: SKYLARK

How Skylark Works

The files that are filecast by Outernet are encoded, modulated, and sent to several Inmarsat satellites. These satellites transmit the radio waves in the L band frequency range. The waves are received by the radio on the receiver and then passed on to the software demodulator. The demodulator turns the analog signal into bits and then passes them onto the decoder, which extracts the file information from the data and reconstructs the files on local storage.
The software components involved in this process are:

  • the demodulator (sdr100)
  • the decoder (ondd)
  • file indexer (FSAL)
  • web-based UI (Skylark)

FLASH SKYLARK ON CHIP

Users with a CHIP with preinstalled software purchased from Outernet may skip this section.

Important: This method of Flashing the CHIP (FEL Flashing/Clean Flashing) will clear all your old received files stored on the CHIP, and any configuration you have done. Make backups of the files before you start this process if you wish to keep them.

Arrange these first:

  1. You need a computer running Windows, Linux or macOS with a free USB port.
  2. The computer must have hardware virtualization support (Intel VT-x or AMD-v).
  3. You will need to download and install:
  4. You will need a piece of wire or a straightened paperclip to be used as a FEL header. The FEL header is used to connect two pins on the CHIP computer that is part of the Outernet DIY kit. The exact connection is as shown in this image:
  5. You will also of course need the CHIP itself. For flashing, it is best to remove the other parts of the DIY kit that are connected to the CHIP and just use it standalone.
  6. You will need a USB cable to connect your CHIP to the computer for flashing. Ensure this is a full “data” cable, not just a “power/charging-only” cable.
  7. Download the latest “.ova” file from https://archive.outernet.is/images/Skylark/

Step-by-step Instructions:

  1. Install Oracle Virtualbox and Oracle Virtualbox Extension Pack, if not already done.
  2. Start Oracle Virtualbox, and remove any old “outernet flasher” VMs already there. If asked “remove all files associated with this”, select yes.
  3. In you OS file manager, double click on the “ova” file you downloaded earlier. This should start the import of the Outernet Flasher VM into Virtualbox. If not, there might be something wrong with your Oracle Virtualbox installation. Do not start the VM yet.
  4. Connect the FEL header on your CHIP as shown above.
  5. Connect the CHIP to the PC running Virtualbox using a USB cable.
  6. If your OS asks you for permission to install drivers when you connect the CHIP, ignore those prompts.
  7. In Virtualbox, select the Outernet Flasher VM and start it.
  8. A new window should open, showing the Outernet Flasher VM booting, and then detecting your CHIP.
  9. It should detect your CHIP and start flashing:
  10. When the process completes you should see something like this:
  11. If it starts all over again with the message “Starting Outernet Flash”, that’s ok. Ignore it.
  12. Once you see the “Please be patient. This can take 5-6 minutes” message, you can shut down the Virtualbox window, but do not disconnect the CHIP.
  13. Once the light on the CHIP starts blinking, the flashing is done.
  14. Wait till the blinking has stopped and then you can disconnect the CHIP from the computer.
  15. Remember to remove the FEL header from the CHIP!
  16. Reassemble your Outernet receiver with the newly-flashed CHIP.

Initial use instructions:

  1. Once you have reassembled the receiver, power it up.
  2. When the CHIP has finished booting, its LED (small light on the board) will start blinking.
  3. At that point you should be able to see a Wifi access point called “Outernet” close to the CHIP. If you connect to this access point and go to http://10.0.0.1 using the browser (best if you use a laptop/desktop, not a mobile phone or tablet) you should see a login window:
  4. The username and password are both “outernet”. For further help, go to: http://forums.outernet.is

Satellite Reception Guide

To receive files, two things are required:

  1. A lock on the satellite signal. A lock is required to receive data packets.
  2. Reception of data packets. A weak signal or high error rate can prevent packet reception. In Skylark, check the Tuner Settings.

Tuner Settings

Once logged into Skylark, click the icon in the upper-left corner for Applications. Then click on the icon for Tuner. There are three tabs, Satellite, Custom, and Status. With Satellite active, you can find information about the satellite: To change the satellite, choose a different one from the dropdown and click “Apply”. For more information, see Appendix 1.

Click on the Status tab and you will find a list of changing values (see image below). You may need to make adjustments to the antenna positioning if these values are not acceptable. See the next section, POINT THE ANTENNA, for information on adjusting the antenna.

Of these values, you will want to pay attention to:

  • SNR: needs to be over 3.0 dB. Make fine adjustments to the antenna’s position to increase the value.
  • Lock: either “yes” or “no”. If yes, you have a signal lock. If no, packets cannot be received, adjust the antenna.
  • Symbol error rate: should be as low as possible.
  • Packets received: the number of data packets successfully received.

Some other values include:

  • RSSI: This describes the signal strength.
  • APkMn Ratio: This describes how much the signal stands out from the noise.
  • Frequency: This is a preset value.
  • Freq. Offset: This is the difference between the preset frequency and the actual received frequency.
  • Valid packets: This is the number of valid packets being received.
  • Packet error rate (PER): The number of packets that were lost due to interference or poor signal.
  • Transfers: This will tell you current downloads.

Point the Antenna

To achieve a signal lock and an acceptable SNR, the antenna needs to have a clear view of the satellite:

  1. Determine which satellite you will be getting service from, and which direction it is relative to the device’s current location (see Appendix 1).
  2. Find a location for the receiver with a clear view of the sky.
  3. Point and angle the antenna in the direction of the satellite.
  4. Roughly speaking, an antenna’s angle relative to the ground corresponds to its latitude. At the equator (0°), the antenna would be flat on the ground. At 30°N, the angle of the antenna facing south would be 30° relative to the ground. At 65°N, the angle of the antenna facing south would be 65°.
  5. Move any objects in the periphery of the antenna that may create interference.
  6. Connect to the device via WiFi, and check the Tuner Settings.
  7. If you do not have a signal lock, adjust the direction and angle of the antenna.
  8. Use Tuner Settings to help make the proper adjustments.

If you have achieved signal lock and the device is receiving data, you should be able to see files in Skylark. If the device has signal lock but is not receiving packets, you will need to readjust the antenna.

SKYLARK GUIDE

Skylark is the content management software of the receiver. Outernet continuously sends content over its filecast stream. Once received, the content is displayed in Skylark.

Header Bar

The Outernet Logo in the upper left will launch Applications, displaying your options for interacting with the software. In the next section, we will describe the Applications. The Search Icon in the upper right allows you to search for folder paths or words in a file name. The User Icon in the upper right enables you to logout.

Applications

You may browse through the applications to understand each application’s functionality. Here, we will describe a few.


FILE MANAGER
Skylark’s File Manager organizes content in a file structure format, the way a computer organizes files. Click through the folders to find content. To delete a file or folder, right-click its name and select Delete. You may interact with files while connected to the receiver, or, for off-line access, right-click on the file and select “Download to computer” to download onto your device for later use.

NETWORK
The network application provides information and settings for the built-in WiFi. Do not modify the pre-configured settings unless you are confident in what you are doing. To modify, follow these steps:

  • Network Mode – select “connect to a wifi router” and enter the credentials of your own internet WiFi access point to allow the receiver to send anonymous signal strength information to http://status.outernet.is/. This information helps us impove our service.
  • Hotspot Config - rename the Outernet WiFi. Check “Do not show in scan lists” to keep it from appearing in the available WiFi networks on devices.
  • Country – Set the WiFi to regional standards.
  • Channel – Set WiFi Channel.
  • Security – Enable to require users to provide a password to connect to the device’s WiFi.

**WEATHER**
The weather application delivers live interactive weather information (using NOAA data). Data you can access includes but is not limited to wind vectors, temperatures, relative humidity, total precipitable water, total cloud water, mean sea level pressure and ocean currents. The actual data (for the previous 24 hours) is what is displayed when you select "Now". If you click "<>", into future days, then weather predictions are shown.
**WHAT’S NEW**
Through What’s New, you can see the recently received files. Only files received within the last 3 days are shown here.
**WIKIPEDIA**
Access encyclopedia-like information through the Wikipedia application.

News
News from a variety of sources

Troubleshooting

No signal or not receiving any data

  • Use a compass or a Satellite Finder application to ensure the antenna is pointed in the correct direction.
  • Try restarting the receiver (disconnect and reconnect power).
  • Check the connectors between the components.
  • Adjust the antenna to increase SNR.
  • Make sure the correct satellite preset is selected in Tuner settings.
  • If you are seeing that data packets are being received the Tuner settings section, but the files say "waiting for data…", please wait for at least 5 minutes. File names are not visible until signaling data is received, which may take up to 5 minutes.
  • Check that you have enough storage space under Storage Devices and plug in an external storage device as needed (Appendix 2).

**If applications are not receiving data** * Check that there is a signal lock and packets are being received. * Wait and give the receiver time to finish downloading content. * Try restarting the receiver. * Check that you have enough storage space under Storage Devices (Appendix 2).

Is my firmware up-to-date?

  • Firmware images are updated over the air, so as long as the device is tuned in, it will automatically update by receiving the new firmware package. For very large changes though, it may not be possible to send them over the air, so it is recommended that users keep an eye on the forums at http://forums.outernet.is

Technical Support

The quickest way to find answers or get support is to visit our forum or read our documentation.

FORUM
Our team is active on the forums, and often users have already found resolutions to common questions. If a question has not already been addressed in a previous posting, our developers will quickly respond to new posts: http://forums.outernet.is

DOCUMENTATION
Documentation of our software is available on our website: https://outernet.is/docs

GITHUB
Most of our code is open-source. View our code on GitHub: http://github.com/Outernet-Project/

CONTACT US
For questions related to an order, contact us using the form on our website: https://outernet.is/about/

SOCIAL MEDIA
Facebook: facebook.com/OuternetForAll/
Twitter: @OuternetForAll

Appendix 1: Choosing a Satellite

Outernet filecasts over three Inmarsat satellites offering coverage on every continent and on open waters. All satellites use L-Band and have a bitrate of 2kbps, or 20MB of content per day.

I-4 F3 Americas
Position: 98°W
Coverage: North, South, and Central America, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans
Outernet Frequency: 1539.8725 MHz

Alphasat
Position: 25°E
Coverage: Europe, Africa, Middle East, East Asia, Atlantic and Indian Oceans
Outernet Frequency: 1545.94 MHz

I-4 F1 APAC (Asia-Pacific)
Position: 144.0°E
Coverage: Asia, Australia, Pacific and Indian Oceans
Outernet Frequency: 1545.9525 MHz

Appendix 2: Storage

Available Storage

Skylark has NAND flash on CHIP, about 7GB available for received content (on CHIPs shipped by us, 3GB on some CHIPS shipped by NTC).

Adding External Storage

External storage may be used to add other data archives, to be used over the UI. Use of external storage to increase the available storage for downloads is no longer supported.


The device may be formatted using one of the filesystem formats: FAT32, and Ext2, Ext3, and Ext4 on Linux).

Appendix 3: DIY Kit Component Specifications

  • Internal storage: 8 GB (7 GB available for Content)
  • External storage (optional): Up to one storage device
  • Wi-Fi range: 10ft./3m
  • Wi-Fi maximum clients: 6
  • Power Requirements: 2 Watt Battery or USB Power

Outernet L-Band Air Gap Patch Antenna RHCP Specifications:

  • Center frequency: 1542 MHz
  • 8dbi
  • 4 in SMA male connector
  • Dimensions: 12cm x 12 cm x 1.5 cm
  • Weight: 3.5 oz

Outernet/Inmarsat Amplifier Specifications:

  • Center Frequency: 1542 MHz
  • Gain: 34 dB
  • Voltage: 3.0V - 5.5V
  • Current draw: 25 mA
  • Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Weight: 0.3 oz

Outernet Elonics RTL-SDR Tuner Specifications:

  • Ultra-low phase noise 0.5PPM TCXO
  • RF-suitable voltage regulator custom heatsink
  • SMA female connector
  • Bias tee enabled
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 1.3 x 1.7 cm
  • Weight: 0.8 oz

CHIP Single Board Computer by The Next Thing Specifications:

  • Comes with Skylark pre-installed
  • WiFi built in
  • 1GHz Processor
  • 8GB storage
  • 512 MB RAM

RAVPower External Battery Pack Specifications:

  • Detects the optimal charging current a device needs
  • Output: 5V/2.4A max
  • Input: DC 5V/2A (Standard Micro USB Port)
  • Capacity: 10050mAh
  • 4 status LEDs keep you informed of remaining battery capacity
  • iSmart Port Charging
  • Dimensions: 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Weight: 7.2 oz
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