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My Satellite Phone   -   2003/02/18Viewed 161 times this month, last update: 2005/05/06


I just got my shiny new Globalstar satellite phone. It's the size and weight of a brick, but I think the geek factor more than makes up for it. It's not as expensive as I thought it would be, especially since I got my employer to pay the start-up fee.
It's a roaming tri-mode phone, so it can talk to other satellite service providers when outside of the contenental US, and any analog or digital cell service provider. Damn I'm geeky!

Update 2003/02/18: Yes! I connected to the internet! Now, with two cables, my laptop and the phone, I can do work from Antarctica! It was really hard too. Terribly complicated. Eg. pppd /dev/ttyUSB0 38400 defaultroute.

Vanessa took this picture of me when we went out to the Mojave for my 25th birthday. This is my first real use of my satellite phone. My Mom called me to ask what my favorite veteranerian hostpital is, beacuse her dog got bit by a racoon. The twist? I'm in the very center of the dry lake north of ludlow, in the middle of the Mojave Desert.


Update 2005/04/27: I had to give back my phone when I left Kwikmed over a year ago, and I've missed it. Especially when contemplating the long walk back from Saline Valley, when we were very low on gas. So, today I ordered a new phone, another globalstar GSP-1600 from Satellite Discount Store, and a car-kit from a seller on eBay.
When they both come in, and I install the car-kit, I'll have a satellite car phone, complete with privacy handset, just like back in the 80's, except my range is a wee bit greater.
I'll also now be able to sit back and do billable work while Vanessa drives us out to Mammoth or Vegas!
I also have plans to allow Xastir to occasionally report my position via satellite when outside radio APRS coverage.

Update 2005/05/02: Finally! The car kit and phone arrived, and I've installed the car kit onto the center console of my truck. I ordered the privacy handset, but may or may not use it. The speakerphone works remarkably well! I also love having another antenna on my truck that is hard for even ubergeeks to identify! I was initially very upset that it didn't work right away, but it turns out one of the cables from the cradle to the antenna has a break in it. The center conductor doesn't conduct at all in fact. However, the little 3 foot micro cable lets me put the antenna on the dashboard for testing. I already ordered a replacement cable, because the broken one was too short for my big ol' truck anyway. LMR-195 coax with SMA connectors, in case you wondered. Very hard to track down, but HRO in Anaheim ordered the cable for me.
The car kit components, I didn't even know I was buying one still in the original packaging!
My Truck with the goofy looking antenna. I thought about painting it, even got the plastic paint, but why hide my wierdness?
And the phone in it's cradle, in a comfortable spot on my center console.

Update 2005/05/06: When a product or system is engineered so well that it's practically flawless, we geeks have a saying for it: "It just works". I've always liked the design and function of the Globalstar GSP-1600 phone, but today the rightness of it's design is truly evident.
Today was testing the phone's data capability with my laptop. I connected my Toshiba Satellite laptop to the Globalstar car kit with a USB to serial adapter cable. Linux, as always just figured out what it was, and assigned it as /dev/ttyUSB0. I opened up a terminal, became root, and typed "pppd /dev/ttyUSB0 38400 defaultroute". The PPP (point-to-point protocol) daemon (program) sent it's handshake signal out ovet the serial line, and the phone automatically switched to data mode, and dialed into Globalstar's internal ISP. When the setup was done, my terminal displayed to me my IP address. I took a picture with my camera, as I would if I were out on a trip, documenting my journey, and uploaded the picture to my laptop using gphoto2, and resized it to 640x480 using ImageMagick's "mogrify" program (mogrify -geometry 640x480 filename). I used ssh to copy the resized image up to my Linux server at home, then to log into my server, and start up Pine. Using pine I sent an email to myself with the image as an attachment, as I would if I were sending a "wish you were here" to Vanessa. While I was typing in my IMAP password to Pine, the phone lost reception, and disconnected. No problem, pppd restarted the connection, and not one character was lost.
When I was done sending the email, I started up Xastir, and connected to an Internet APRS server, with a filter to limit the bandwidth by filtering out stations too far away from me. Now, even without a radio I can see all the nearby stations, even ones I couldn't hear with a radio, due to mountains or other obstructions. I sent out a position, read some weather stations, and closed up shop.

As a geek, one of the highest levels of satisfaction I can achieve is when I am able to use technology to to amazing things, like communicate by diverse means, and in expressive ways even when I'm a hundred miles from another soul, let alone a phone.

Comments:
mom (2003-03-12): I wish I could have been in that beautiful desert instead of heading for the emergency room! How very (!!!) nice that you had the capability to answer when I need you to!

And what a wonderful start for a 26th year. Happy Birthday, dear!

anonymous (2003-11-22):

Matt Bell (2005-05-02): Wow, that IS a wierd looking antenna..

Erik (2005-05-02): Heh, yeah. I like it.

jack (2006-07-28): wow, a satellite phone that is awesome. i am so fed up with cell phones these days. they are all being made to be smaller and smaller yet more and more delicate. they also seem to keep getting worse voice quality. All of the new technology that comes out is for video/mp3/internet on their cell phone. Who the hell would want to do any of those things on a cell phone? . i am truly jealous of your big clunky satellite phone that works anywhere. I wish i could afford it.

Erik (2006-08-16): Well, nothing is perfect. The globalstar phone is very finiky about reception in satellite mode. Often you need an almost wide-open sky for it to work. The tripple-mode operation though is very nice, so you've got two chances in getting cellular reception, and satellite backup.

Solomon Lim (2006-10-07): how much does it cost you to make a 20 minutes call?

Erik (2006-10-08): Solomon, my provider, GMPCS has several price plans, like cell providers. My plan is $50/month, which comes with 50 free minutes per month, and $0.75/min over 50.

Darren J (2007-03-29): Hey, I am purchasing a GSP 1600 in a few days. I was curious if I will need a Serial to USB Connector to hook up my Toshiba A100 Laptop. I will be on Baffin Island for a month. PLease email ANY info about this to me at
Argento102@gmail.com

Thanks,

Darren

Erik (2007-04-07): Darren, if your laptop does not have a DB-9 serial port on it, then yes, you'll need a Serial-USB converter.

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