User’s Guide to Setting Up and Using Outernet Dreamcatcher V 2.03
With Skylark 4.4 (As of November 23, 2017)
This guide is designed for new user who ordered components from Outernet to set their equipment up using a Wifi capable Windows, Linux or Apple computer. Phase I and II can be done inside without looking at the sky.
PHASE I - Pre-Turn On Inside
Step 1 Purchase the necessary equipment from Outernet:
a. Dreamcatcher Board which comes with a Wifi dongle.
b. Active or Passive Antenna - your choice, but you only need ONE antenna. I prefer the active antenna because it performs better, and has a wider beam making easier to operate on moving platforms (like ships) and at higher latitudes.
Active Antenna Passive Antenna
c. You don’t need anything else from Outernet.
Step 2 Purchase a 2 or more amp USB Power cube at an electronics store, and a short USB to micro USB fast charging/sync cable which will be used to power the Dreamcatcher Board. Also obtain a high quality micro SD chip 4 GB or larger for the Skylark program.
Step 3 Assemble the equipment.
a. Make sure you connect your antenna to the correct SMA connector. The top connector is for a Passive Antenna and is marked LNA_IN; the second one down is for an Active Antenna and is marked LNA_BYPASS. You do not need a software defined radio (SDR) or LNA amplifier as you did before with CHIP or PI configuration.
b. Plug the Wifi Dongle into one of the 3 USB Plugs on the left side of the Dreamcatcher Board.
Step 4 Download the latest version of the Skylark Program for Dreamcatcher which is located at https://archive.outernet.is/images/Dreamcatcher Skylark/
Unzip the file with any standard ZIP File program such as 7-Zip.
Step 5 Write the skylark-dc image file to a high quality micro SD chip larger than 4 GB with a program such as Win32DiskImage available at http://win32_disk_imager.en.lo4d.com/download
Make sure the micro SD chip (new chips, old chips and especially chips being re written which had Skylark on them) are completely cleaned of all extra partitions and formatted FAT32. Recommend using Rufus2.17 SD card formatter available at http://rufus.akeo.ie/ which will look like this when you set the Format Options. If you have to re write the Skylark image to the same micro SD chip, make sure you completely clean the micro SD chip.
Step 6 Insert the micro SD chip with the Dreamcatcher Skylark image into the Dreamcatcher Board’s SD0_OS which is the SD holder 1/3 of the way up on the right side of the board next to the blinking LEDs.
PHASE II - Energize Dreamcatcher Setup
Step 1 Energize the Dreamcatcher by plugging the 2 or more amp USB power cube into an AC outlet. Don’t forget, if you are using too small a power cube or a computer USB connection, the board’s lights will blink and look correct, but there won’t be enough power to run the Dreamcatcher Wifi or its satellite receiver correctly.
Step 2 Access the Skylark Program by using your computer operating through its Wifi to connect to the Dreamcatcher’s Hotspot. At this point you can alternatively use a tablet or SMART Phone to continue the setup, but I will illustrate the procedure with a Windows 10 Laptop.
Step 3 To be able to access the Dreamcatcher’s Wifi Hotspot, you need to be within 10 feet of the device because the Dreamcatcher’s Wifi Hotspot is not very powerful. It is, however much more capable if connected through your home Wifi to you router (which is covered in PHASE IV).
Step 4 Find the Outernet Wifi Hotspot by going the available Wifi tab and selecting and connecting to Outernet. For the rest of the Phase II and III setup, you will be accessing the Dreamcatcher thru this Outernet Wifi Hotspot.
Step 5 Open your Web Browser and type (in the URL section) my.outernet.is and you will see the Skylark 4.4 Guest Logon Screen:
Skylark Guest Logon Screen
If you don’t see this screen something is wrong, and I suggest you power off and on the Dreamcatcher with 5 minutes of rest in between. If the problem persists, re write the image to the micro SD Chip. The Dreamcatcher board has a power button located on the bottom left side which you press for 10 seconds to activate a shutdown. It is not necessary to use it, as the Skylark image is read-only and can’t be corrupted by a sudden power shut down. Give the Dreamcatcher about 5 minutes to boot up again before checking for a logon screen.
Step 5 To access all the full features of Skylark, you will need to login with Username outernet and Password outernet
Skylark Login Screen for full feature control
Step 6 Next, you will see the Skylark Welcome Screen.
Step 7 Select the correct satellite by opening the Applications icon,
then go to the Tuner icon.
You will see the default tuner screen:
Default Tuner Screen
The tuner icon will show you the default satellite selection as Europe, West Asia, Africa (25E) with the Active Antenna choice at the bottom.
Select a satellite based on where you live:
North/Central/South America are on Americas (98W)
Europe, West Asia, Africa are on Alphasat (25E)
Asia Pacific at (144E) is currently off the air
Then select whether you have an Active or Passive antenna.
98W 25E 144E
Finally, you need to Click the Apply button to make the changes. You are now ready to take your device outside and point it toward your selected satellite.
Select your satellite and antenna type then Click Apply
PHASE III - Outside Acquiring the Satellite
Step 1 Power up the Dreamcatcher/Antenna outside, and point to the satellite you’ll be on. It is not critical to be precise since both antennas have fairly large beam widths (the Active antenna being the widest), but precision can only help.
Step 2 Based on where you are, find your elevation and magnetic azimuth from a site such as www.dishpointer.com
Elevation and Azimuth to INMARSAT 4-F Americas from Chicago
For your first satellite acquisition effort, go outside to a location with a clear unobstructed view of the sky. (Later, once you confirm your system is working, you can try to find a better more permanent location. Many people are able to operate thru windows or off balconies with partially obstructed views.)
Step 3 Go back into your tuner program from your computer’s Wifi which will still be connected through the Dreamcatcher’s Hotspot, and select the Status Tab.
If you are receiving a signal at this point, the SNR (dB) line will be flashing at a value above 4, the Lock line will say yes, and the Rssi (dBm) line will be flashing between -100 and -120. At the very bottom of the screen you will see what file is being downloaded at any time. My picture shows no file being downloaded from Alphasat at this time. This picture represents a connection to Alphasat (25E) from a latitude of 25.14 S in the midafternoon with a correctly pointed active antenna.
At this point some people have problems of low SNR and low Rssi signal; or low SNR with high Rssi signal levels.
Other than the Dreamcatcher board being bad or the connection to the antenna being loose, the other primary causes are interference or the satellite is not broadcasting.
a. Interference In residential areas, interference sometime comes from other satellite receivers such Dish or free-to-air satellite equipment. In urban areas it can be many things. My advice is move your equipment to another location and check again. In urban areas, you may have to go blocks away.
b. Satellite not broadcasting In September 2017, the Asia satellite (144E) signal was temporarily turned off, so if you were in Australia you would get no signal. In October 2017, the Europe frequencies were changed, so if you didn’t change your frequencies or re write your micro SD chip with the latest version of the Skylark image for Dreamcatcher, you would also see no signal. Best way to find out what is going on in these respects is to consult the Outernet Forum at https://forums.outernet.is/ As of November 2017, skylark-dc-1710101557.img.gz is the latest compressed Skylark Dreamcatcher image file with the latest satellite frequencies and a Tab to select the Active or Passive antenna.
Phase IV - Connecting the Dreamcatcher to Your Home Router by Wifi
Step 1 On the Applications Screen, open the Network Icon
Step 2 You will see this default Network Screen which is set to Create a Hotspot called outernet with no password.
Step 3 Open the Wifi Client tab, and fill in your Access Point Name and Password (if you use one).
Go back to the Network Mode Tab and select Connect to a Wifi router. Then Click Apply and Reboot. At this time you will loose the Wifi connection between your computer and Skylark’s Hotspot as Skylark connects to your local Wifi as a client, and gets assigned an IP address by your router.
Step 4 You will be connected to the Dreamcatcher Skylark now through your local Wifi from your router. You can go to any computer on your router’s network, and use any Web Browser to access Skylark through its newly assigned IP address, or by typing my.outernet.is as before. If for some reason, you can’t access Skylark through your router, cycle the Dreamcatcher off and on as you might have in Phase II Step 5, look for the Outernet Hotspot, and repeat this setup.
Step 5 In some installations, a Wifi repeater is desirable. Most Dreamcatcher installations can reliably connect with your existing Wifi device to your router, however, low Wifi signal levels do cause unexpected disconnects requiring you to manually reboot the Dreamcatcher. Many users install their Outernet gear outside their residence in open area such as gazebos, decks, sheds, garages, etc. In these situation a Wifi repeater assures reliability of Outernet reception. Install the repeater as far as possible from your Wifi, and as close as possible to your Dreamcatcher.
Step 6 Unlike the Skylark program for the CHIP computer, Skylark 4.4 for Dreamcatcher will not automatically return to the Hotspot mode if it detects a loss of its existing Wifi connection to a router. If you move from one Wifi location to another (for example moving from one hotel to another where you connected to a fixed Wifi), it is impossible for the average user to fix the problem, and will require you to re write the Skylark image file and start all over again.
When you plan to move out of one Wifi network into another, make sure before you move and loose connectivity to your Dreamcatcher, you reset the Skylark Network to Outernet hotspot. After the Dreamcatcher reboots with the new settings, make sure you can access it through the Outrnet hotspot in case something went wrong, and the program did not reset.
Step 7 Alternate Connectivity Approach is to use a USB to Ethernet Network Adapter instead of going through the Outernet Hotspot approach. Be careful, NOT ALL USB to Ethernet Network Adapters work both natively under Skylark and Armbian. Specifically the TP-Link TL-UE300 does work properly.
Phase 5 - Additional Storage
Step 1 The built-in micro SD data chip will not act as additional storage at this time.
Step 2 Additional storage is best provided by installing a FAT32 formatted Type 2 USB Flash Drive. Most forum members report the maximum size that works to be 32 GB or less. It should be plugged into one of the USB plugs on the left top side of the Dreamcatcher below the Wifi dongle.
Step 3 Access to files is done by going to the File Manager on the Applications Screen. Access the External tab, right clicking the file you want to run, and Downloading to Your Computer. Several Forum Members run the Rachel Data Base, videos, music, and pictures this way from Skylark.