Thursday, August 18, 2022
Scenic Forest Office - first use / testing

Over the past several months I have had the experience of working with two clients who purchased the Starlink satellite Internet package. Having experience with the system, and being generally impressed with its operation, a bug was planted in my mind. This package / service is the final piece in the puzzle to be able to work while well away from cell towers. The "RV package" allows for two nice features. First, the antenna is not tied to a physical location. Second, the service, month-by-month, may be suspended and resumed at will. I figure I'd only have the service active for three or four months per year (July/Aug/Sep) and maybe June or October.

While the service is designed to offer internet access, WiFi calling capability on a cell phone plan will allow the cell phone to work as if it were in a cellular coverage area. A cell phone and a laptop are the keys for me to be able to have my office be somewhere remote and scenic.

A small component needed is electricity. The satellite kit is composed of a gateway / router that offers wifi and the antenna. The gateway connects to 110vAC and the antenna connects to the gateway. Its consumption fluxuates from 25 to 50 watts of power. The laptop also fluxuates from about 25 to 50 watts of power - the higher end when the battery needs charging with the lower end for just the laptop. The laptop would not need to be turned on for a full working day - but it could be. The satellite system would be turned on for the full working day - to allow for phone calls / text messages / e-mail messages to arrive.

From these measurements I chose to go with 200 watts of solar panel to charge a deep cycle battery. The battery would power a 300 watt inverter.

This trip to a "forest office" is a first test of the setup. Performance was lacking in that a couple calls did not 'ring' when they should have. I knew of the call when a voice message came through. Additionally, I did have some dead air when on a call as well as a few dropped calls. On one session I did have a couple disconnects for a remote computer connection.

The antenna wants a clear view of the wide sky. The satellites move overhead and are not stationary like the old school satellite internet systems. I think one tree at the campsight might have been an issue. This is something I need to work with and it does limit me to not being fully "in the trees" for a campsite. Though, it is possible for the antenna to be out in a clearing with me being under a tree as WiFi should have decent range out in the forest without other metal or masonry structures or WiFi radios around.

I had the option of camping for a few days but in the end camped for only one night. I goofed and left the poles for the tent at home. The station wagon is suitable for sleeping but it's not quite as comfortable as a cot. The main reason to cut the trip to one night was the forecast for the following night and next day - 10F cooler (66F high / 39F low) with a greater chance of rain. I decided to pack up and take the long way home - with a thought to check out a new-to-me camping area that has been recommended - the north section of the Medicine Bow National Forest - the big green area just below I-80. Daylight wasn't on my side so I didn't check out any new camp area though perhaps yet this season.

As you might recall from the prior trip, the jeep is in need of repair of the rear axle. Depending upon my schedule and that of the repair shop the jeep might not be usable for the remainder of the season. This will mean I'll be visiting car accessible camp sites, of which there are many.

For this camping event, I had one specific site in mind - this page, about 1/2-way down, to the old homesite comment. I happened to travel to this site on this trip. For better or worse, the site was occupied. When I pulled up, the people at the site were looking in one direction - I grabbed the camera and looked as they were - and there was a moose.

There's the site. A large, open area with the South Fork of the Michigan River just behond the vehicles. This site is the "end of the road" for street vehicles. The road does extend into the forest, but an offroad vehicle is needed. Bottom line - not much traffic will be driving on the road. The campsite I chose was "second to last" - about 500 yards before this site.

Set up at my campsite - the screen room, solar panels, satellite antenna (white rectangle item).

On the table, in the center, is the white gateway/router. Below the table is a deep cycle battery with power inverter (red box). The black box below the red inverter is the solar charge controller. The solar panels send energy to that controller and the controller sends power to the battery - as the battery would wish it - limiting charge to not overcharge or harm the battery. I went with a basic lead-acid deep cycle battery and not a higher tech Lithium battery.

The bonus for the office. The river is not visible from the screen room due to the grass but I can hear water noise from the screen room.

I think the satellite antenna was a bit too close to the trees at the right of the picture. The antenna has a long enough cord that I could have moved it away (for possible better performance). Next time.

Someone else looking to set up at the end of the road - friends of the folks already there I guess.

This shot readily shows "the tree" that I think blocked signal at times.

Saturday Morning

The stars last night were FANTASTIC though there is one item to note. Laying in the back of the car I could look out the back passenger window. The view was to the south-southwest. Plainly visible in the stars was a cross, in the same proportion as a crucifix. At the end of each arm was a line of two or three stars. The line of stars at each end aligned with the stars at the other end.

Sleep was not finding my eyes. I'm a night owl (it's 12:52am as I type this) and with sunset / darkness about 9:30pm I went to bed an hour or so before normall. I tossed and turned for a while. Each time I'd look out the window, the cross was there.

Now, as I type this note, I wish I would have thought to give attention to how many stars were at the end of each arm. Did each have a symbolic three or did and arm or so have only two. I don't recall. It was nice to look out and see it up in the sky.

I noticed light appearing on the eastern horizon - great, morning already - no more rolling around trying to sleep.  Nope. A 1/2 moon came over the horizon. Check the clock - 1am - ah well, roll over some more. I did get some sleep as I awoke with the sun well above the horizon (8/8:30 perhaps).

About 9:30 two young kids started putting up and down the road - I bet they were happy to be out doing something fun.

Spending a bit of time at the water

I spent a couple hours helping some folks with computer questions. While I wasn't sitting at the water, I did enjoy being out in nature.

About lunchtime or early afternoon I checked the weather for the next day. Seeing the forecast I decided to pack up. This first test / experiment was good. I have a few things to change and once they're tended, I'll get out for another scenic test.

From the river picture to this I-80 Eastbound picture was a nice stretch from Gould Colo to I-80 in Wyoming. Spacious ranch valley and wide open space to stretch the eyeballs - void of photos. I find the drive from Walden up through Encampment and Saratoga WY to be enjoyable. Not much traffic, wide views, ranches, cattle, and the North Platte River.