by Don Bradner
Users of the original D1 (LCU-1) Datastorm controller are very familiar with the Datastorm Administrator. This program was the only way of deploying the Datastorm, and in general the controls were fairly intuitive and easy to use.|
The standard shipping controllers today are the D3 and D4, and many users have the D2 (see my article on the D2 here). Motosat did not originally make available a programmatic Administrator. Motosat, in making the D2, was very interested in removing Windows requirements, so all control of the D2 or D3 (besides its front button search and stow) is done from a web interface that will work with a Mac, Linux, or anything with a web browser.
The problem is that browser-based control is slow and sluggish. Every 1-second screen refresh involves the exchange of 10s of thousands of bytes of data. There are numerous delays with nothing being displayed at all.
I decided to write a Windows-based Administrator program based on the D1 look-and-feel, with the primary goal of faster and easier operation compared to the web interface. The result is the D2/D3 Administrator, shown here (slightly reduced in size):
Download this free program using this link.
D2 or D3?
The program recognizes whether the controller it is attached to is a D2 or D3, and changes its look accordingly. Most functions work the same with both, including the following (D2/D3 specific items are further down this page):
Search/Stow/Stop - These are standard controller functions and work the same way as the web interface.
Reset Controller - A software reboot of the controller which can be helpful if it can't find your modem.
Configuration checking - Hughes may change your transponder without notice, which can cause a conflict with your controller settings. At startup, the Administrator checks the configuration in both the modem and controller and warns of conflicts in satellite, transponder frequency, polarity, and symbol rate. Warnings look like this:
Make notes of the differences, as normally you will want to change the controller to match the modem. After clicking the warning, the screen will show a red mismatch label like this:
The program will not stop you from operating with a mismatch, since there could be reasons why you would want to, including test pointing at a different satellite. There are also possible spurious mismatches, as the controller will sometimes momentarily post numbers like "8xE-28" or similar and those will be seen as "bad" values. Closing the Administrator and restarting will clear that type of mismatch. Some modems may have multiple changes in symbol rates in the course of minutes that are not worth making controller configuration changes for; if that's the case they can be safely ignored.
When the configuration matches, it will show green as in the first image, above.
Map Submit - If you use Sterling Udell's DSLocator and have the box checked, clicking Map Submit will show this box which allows easy submission of your location to the Datastorm Map:
Enhanced Manual Control - The motor section has normal single buttons that will move elevation, azimuth, or skew by the amount selected below the controls. There are also double-arrow buttons for each direction which will move the dish in that direction for as long as the button is pressed, or until a motor stop is reached.
Force Range - Forcing ranging of the Hughes modem can cure a number of ills, and is also a technique used when the rate code is not as high as it should be - rate codes are determined during ranging. This is a "hard" forced range as compared with the "soft" one that is located in the modem's advanced configuration, and as such it will usually break the occasional TX15 ranging error that Hughes seems to run into every few months.
D2-Specific Compass items - The D2 Administrator will show Magnetic and True Compass values, as well as Target Azimuth, in the left pane. The D3 does not use a compass, so those items are not shown for it.
D3-Specific Generic/Hughes mode This option appears if you set the D3 configuration to Generic Mode. There are a number of advantages to using Generic Mode, with a major one being that there is never a communication problem between the controller and the modem. No more -48 errors, ever! The dish can even be deployed without the modem turned on. No need for a startup delay in the configuration, and the search button can be pressed as soon as there is GPS lock.
The problem with doing it this way without D3Admin is that the modem needs to be told its latitude and longitude in order to cross-pol and range. The controller only sends this information to the modem in the Hughes Mode. D3Admin steps in as a connection point, automatically sending the controller's GPS information to the modem, after which the modem will reset. The controller will only do this if there is a difference in location between the two units, typically caused by a move of more than 1/2 mile.
If the search is initiated from the button on the D3Admin, location setting will occur automatically, and the modem may well complete ranging before the controller is done with its peaking routines. If the search is begun using the controller button, the D3Admin displays a separate Set Lat/Long button. Note that when the location was wrong, the modem failed to cross-pol and range, as it could not connect to the Hughes system:
The resulting status lines:
Questions about this program are welcome in the forums.
About the author: Don is a semi-retired pet shop owner and long-time programmer who runs this site for the fun of it.