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Is Starband's Satellite Internet Service Palatable? 259

Posted by Cliff
from the dishing-out-the-satellite-packets dept.
George Thomas asks: "Since Centurytel bought out my local teleco, my internet access has been limited to about 14k compared to the 48k I previously enjoyed. I am interested in reader experiences and/or comments about internet access by satelite dish, specifically Dish Networks, because they offer 128k up and 350k down. I live in a rural area and cable is not a viable option. I am currently running Red Hat 7.2 on an old Supermicro LX series dual PII MB. I have USB ports native to the board, but don't have a clue whether they will work with the USB modem supplied with the hardware package. Also I can boot to Windows95 with LiLo, but my copy of Windows doesn't support USB. I can replace the MB if necessary, but would rather not if I can avoid doing that. Any help will be gratefully appreciated." Of course, Dish Network used to be a reseller for Starband. Now, it appears that things have flip-flopped and Starband is now offering 'upgrades' for Dish Network service. So are any of you Slashdot readers current Starband customers? If so, please share your thoughts on the service.
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Is Starband's Satellite Internet Service Palatable?

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  • Not for gaming... (Score:5, Informative)

    by geckofiend (314803) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:34AM (#3451008)
    The CW I was handed when I looked into satelite ISP services is that the high latency of the connection makes it useless for gaming.

    If you want to surf the net or read email you're fine. Try anything which requires a low ping time and you're hosed.

    YMMV but I steered clear. (Then again I can still at least manage a 45k connection.)
    • Re:Not for gaming... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shamanin (561998)
      Though ping (ICMP level) results may be high, TCP/IP level communication can be optimized by the modem vendor using higher level protocols such as TCP-PEP (TCP with Performance Enhancing Proxies) which minimizes the traffic that has to traverse the modem => satellite => modem path. These optimizations along with IP QoS (Quality of Service field in IP packets) is what to look for when shopping for IP over Satellite vendors.
      • The modem adds 100ms of latency to each transaction. Period.

        Three parts to a TCP handshake, that's 300ms.

        Unless TCP-PEP does something about this? If it does, please share.

        The TOS bits aren't going to do any good once it hits the open Internet - most routers at peering points ignore the QoS bits because there isn't any incentive for peers to provide better quality of service to a competitors customers.

        End-to-end QoS over the public internet is technically feasible by utilizing TOS bits, but won't happen unless there's a financial incentive involved.

        Not that this should be a surprise to anyone. Greed is what drives the Internet now, thanks to corporations.
    • Gaming is not the only thing affected by high latency, as Jerry Pournelle [jerrypournelle.com] wrote on his website:

      "View" Tuesday, October 2, 2001 [jerrypournelle.com]
      .
      .
      .
      I am now willing to believe that Microsoft and Earthlink and the Hughes satellite people all worked together to create the most frustrating system possible, guaranteed to drive everyone insane.

      There is no other explanation of why this imbecility works the way it does. Clearly no one really tried to make this work and did any testing. Why should they?

      The MSN home page, for instance, is designed for maximum problems with high latency systems: it wants about 50 requests for little files, and since there is a delay for each one, it takes literally about 4 minutes to download the MSN home page. Updates are just as bad. I suppose there is going to be some magical fix for all this when things are adequately cached, but I wouldn't count on it.

      I have no choice but to sit there and wait for Microsoft to deliver its stupid home page with all the stupid little files, but once I get my updates I can be certain I will not go THERE again. Ye gods!

      All right. Once it works it works fine. But ye flipping gods , the contortions I have to go through to get it going.

      I don't know if the problems are hardware or software so I am going to get an Intel D815 system to install this on and try again.
  • Don't bother (Score:4, Informative)

    by First_In_Hell (549585) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:34AM (#3451012) Homepage
    getting a good signal is like pulling teeth, if the moon, sun, trees, and mars are not aligned correctly, you lose signal strength. I always seem to be operating at 50% of what they say I should be. Pure crap!
    • Is SSH (or any remote terminal access) workable? I have some rural property that I'd like to move out to, but I need some kind of connectivity for telecommuting. I all need is SSH.
      • Please don't think about it if you need to do any type of interactive computing. Press a key now and a second or two later, it shows up. Think 2400 baud modem days. Sats work good for batch transfers, data streams, and the like. They suck in the interactivity department.
        • Latency is different than speed. My 2400 baud modem had excellent latency, but viewing a page of text took a long time.

          This will be the exact opposite. A page of text will appear instantly, but each keystroke will take a second to turn around.

          So, think the OPPOSITE of a 2400 baud modem.
          • Yes I know that...but the mind percieves it as being really slow. I have several sites in my organization that have sat connections. It feels like you are on an old modem when I telnet into them over the sat link. Type a character, wait for it to appear, type another one. If you are a good typer and type ahead, you hardly notice it until you want to go back and change something. File transfers do zip along once they get started and the pipeline gets full. Web pages seem like they take a while though. Most pages will open up multiple connections to download images et al. If they all open at the same time, the overall wait is only a second or two, but if they get staggered, then it feels like it takes a lot longer to download. You may be getting 60K/second, but if it takes a second or two to start to see something, you percieve it as taking longer.
      • I use both land-line (dial-up) and satellite, not quite at the same time. If I'm in a hurry, I go to the next room and use a computer routed through the land-line, otherwise I stay put and go through the satellite. If you can live without the feedback of an immediate echo, the satellite is pretty useable. You quickly learn that Cut&Paste (and PuTTY) is your friend.
        During "normal" hours it can be a royal pain sometimes with minute+ response times. The "always on" can be uncommunicative for hours at a time. Things are generally very useable from 1AM to 7AM with a second or 2 response.
        At the moment (5:40 CDT), the satellite is behaving itself, about second or 2 response, 3.3 Kbyte/sec download ftp transfer (from a 13Kbyte/sec capped DSL), usually 4 to 5 Kbyte/sec upload (during better times), I think I've seen some 80+ Kbyte/sec downloads, wee hours of course.
    • Well, I don't know if I would go that far. A friend of mine has it and says that it has been reliable for him. Definetely not for gaming as was mentioned earlier to due the high latency (traveling through the sky for a while), but he says he hasn't had problems getting a good connection. Only complaint he has is that speed varies (ie While downloading goes from 100kb down to 40kb and then goes up to 80kb)
  • USB Compatibility (Score:1, Informative)

    by KingKire64 (321470)
    Ok... Well if The modem is USB 2.0 and you have 1.0 then it wont work. If The modem is USB 1.0 and you have 1.0 then it should work... Is the question more along the lines of will this work with linux Becuase if you upgrade to any newer version of windows you should have no problem. As for linux dont know.
    • Re:USB Compatibility (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Ok... Well if The modem is USB 2.0 and you have 1.0 then it wont work. If The modem is USB 1.0 and you have 1.0 then it should work... Is the question more along the lines of will this work with linux Becuase if you upgrade to any newer version of windows you should have no problem. As for linux dont know.

      Actually, USB 1.1 (or as you call it, 1.0) is completely compatible with 2.0. Any 2.0 device can plug into a 1.1 USB port and work perfectly - just at the 1.1 speed and not the faster speed that goes along with 2.0 :)
    • At least in Brazil (yeah, we have Easyband here, marketed by Embratel), the reports I received is that it works with Linux, but not very well, once it seems to depend on some kind of software that runs only on Windows.

      The exactly value varies, but seems it's somewhat 40-60% slower on Linux.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Holy Shit. This board isn't used for tech support questions.
  • microsoft only (Score:3, Informative)

    by neomagi (576884) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:37AM (#3451040)
    i was consulting for a company that was interested in sat connectivity. it was the best option, until the tech support informed me that it had to connect to a Microsoft box, but they told me from there i could route to a linux firewall then to my network. that wasn t very long ago.
    • Cringely [pbs.org] covered this in an article /. covered a while back. Basically, once installed with the Windows software, he was able to move it over to a Linksys router with no problems.
  • Over Usage? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I've heard of problems with Dish Network setups before. If your a power user and love to suck down MP3's, Divx and porn.. umm I mean demo's. They will eventually throttle your bandwith back to 'balance' the usage. Of course this means it might eventually be faster to keep the 14kbps. Of course they may have changed there policies since then to.

    Anyone wanna verify this?

    ---
    Go ahead, hit me, no ones looking.
    • Not sure about StarBand, but I use DirecPC and get throttled quite a bit. If you use P2P, or lotsa downloads, or stream stuff, expect to see download speeds drop after a few hours of continued usage.

      My speed tests out at a little over 500kbps, but when throttles, it drops to 90-100kbps.

      And for games? Forget it. UO and DAoC work fine, but anything relying on ping is gonna suck.
    • there can be some minor bandwith problems durring peak useage hours. and I know for sure that DirecTV's direcway/directpc does have a "fair access" policy where some power user types get capped from time to time. supposedly at random
    • by CausticPuppy (82139) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @12:41PM (#3451577) Homepage
      Not sure about Starband, but I've been investigating DirecPC (DirecWay) and the best way to explain their FAP is the "leaky bucket" analogy.

      Basically, a Satellite connection is essentially a 56k connection that's burstable to 350k. OK, it's not really that simple.

      You have a water bucket, and you can get water out of it at 350k, but water is only trickling in at 56k. After the bucket is empty, you're only getting data as fast as the bucket is being refilled. If you wait 8 or 9 hours, your bucket is full again. If you use Satellite return, instead of phone-line return stream, your upstream bandwidth also counts toward your FAP.

      DirecWay I think has a 180MB "bucket" during peak times. I've also seen DirecWay users, with properly tweaked connections, getting 1.5 megabit or greater download speeds (meaning that FAP will approach quickly!) rather than only 350k.

      Go to www.broadbandreports.com and visit the satellite forums. People are constantly posting their current speeds, settings, etc, as well as their thoughts on the service.

  • by lactose99 (71132) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:39AM (#3451062)
    According to the Starband website [starband.com] (PC requirements section), Starband can work with either USB or Ethernet. I would think that an Ethernet-based model would work fine.
    • This is a recent development, I think. My dad has SB, and if you don't use the proprietary Windows-only driver, you get like 10% of rated through-put. Apparently the actual line speed is *much* lower than advertised, and they make the Marketing numbers by using compression.

      The Ethernet option's bound to have the same speed limitations.
    • by jthuck (233281) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @01:00PM (#3451706)
      I am a starband user and can tell you there is a lot of confusion about how it works. I'd strongly suggest StarbandUsers.com for anyone interested.

      Here's a best case scenario WRT latency:
      Pinging x with 32 bytes of data:
      Reply from x: bytes=32 time=681ms TTL=111
      Reply from x: bytes=32 time=671ms TTL=111
      Reply from x: bytes=32 time=701ms TTL=111
      Reply from x: bytes=32 time=641ms TTL=111

      Its very important to remember this doesn't affect download so much as its really a pretty fat pipe. They also use something called BST or NetGain, which improves TCP connections by eliminating some of the reconnection and handshaking overhead. Unfortunately, they only provide a windows version of NetGain (called "deterministic network enhancer" in network properites :), so you pretty much have to have a Windows gateway box before your router/hub/switch/etc. If you don't, you'll still get a connection, but it will perform at less than 5KBps. With netgain, I see 60 quite often.

      Only FTP and HTTP traffic are routed over this BST tunnel, and socks proxies no longer work.

      The standard modem, model 360, has an ethernet jack and it is supported, but again, without NetGain its useless.

      I'm happy with my service having received what I expected. I generally use it to download source and bins from work, or other updates from the web. The always on connection is another plus.
  • I don't see how a company simply changing hands could cause that. My parents are stuck with a tiny phone company with horribly outdated equipment, and even they get better connects than you. You need to make a service call! Tell them there's noise on your line... with a 14.4 connect, I don't see how you can't hear it yourself!
    • Many phone companies will not do anything to improve a line unless you can't connect below their threshold in BPS. Last time I check with my local company 14.4 was the cut off. At that time I was connecting at 23k on what should have been a 56(53)k connection.
    • I used to work for an ISP that covered most of rural montana. Even in the worst cases, we could ALWAYS squeeze out 28.8. If there was ever a case of bad connections like that, we didn't wait a second to jump all over u.s. worst's (local telco, now qworst) back. We quote the tarrifs for the state (you can usally find them on line), and tell them to get out there and fix it now, not tomorrow, NOW.

      As to answer 'what changed', I can envision one situation that would cause that to happen, even though it would make no sense. Perhaps the new company dropped their PRI's and set up some modem bank or some such. I can't imagine why, but v.90 modems pretty much can only go above 28.8 when they are analog only on one side. If you connection goes analog, digitial, and finally analog on the ISP's end, the best you will ever get is 28.8 - period.

      Also check to see if the local telco dude did sometime to effect the lines in the neighborhood. It's best not to call, but wait until you see the van ot ask the guy personally. I've found that they're usally no further than one hour away from getting stoned. If you have good timing and play your cards right, and a bag of Herbal Essence, you can usally get anything you want and it'll be done faster, better and cheaper.

      By the way, when did this turn into supportdot?
        • I can't imagine why, but v.90 modems pretty much can only go above 28.8 when they are analog only on one side.
        Then you clearly have no understanding of how modems (modern modems) work.

        The whole "56k" thing is just an inventive trick. It works only because the ISP end is digital. That means the ISP hardware is transmitting pure digital crap to your modem in the form of discrete PCM codes which it knows will equal a specific analog value at the receiving modem -- and within some tolerance, it's consistant. It doesn't work in the other direction because the analog end cannot be sure of the exact PCM code to which it's analog output will coorespond and the conversion is highly inconsistant.
  • Starband experiance (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stoke (86808) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:40AM (#3451072) Homepage
    I installed Starband for a company on long island. The service isnt horrible, but it does have some problems.

    Large downloads usually max out at 60kb/s with uploads being in the 5-10kb/s range. Web browsing feels much slower, with waits of a couple seconds before the page even starts to load.

    The USB modem is huge, around the size of a flatbed scanner. (this was a year ago, maybe it's smaller now)

    Weather also plays a factor.. clouds hurt and rain basically kills the connection.
    • Large downloads usually max out at 60kb/s

      This means it maxes at full bandwidth. Which is quite good.

      Because if you have 520 ms latency which is the standard for SAT you cannot get more than this speed. TCP window cannot grow more. It is inherent feature of the protocol. Look into TCP/IP design and implementation for discussion related to bandwidth x delay product and the RFCs on SACK and windowing options

      • by TheSync (5291)
        Because if you have 520 ms latency which is the standard for SAT you cannot get more than this speed. TCP window cannot grow more. It is inherent feature of the protocol.

        Ah, grasshopper, satellite services may tweak TCP protocol to achieve better throughput, see RFC 1106 [isi.edu], RFC 2488 [nasa.gov], RFC 2760 [nasa.gov], and there are also proprietary [internet-2.org.il] solutions as well.
        • Stop chirping you cricket ;-)

          If a machine actually starts using these it can go beyond. Most don't. And let's don't even mention windows which does not grow the window properly as per the RFCs and can barely climb to 30-40Kbytes.

          In other words, if you are using the link for general purpose traffic which is the question asked here (office on starband) that is what you get 50kbytes. Been there, done that.
    • Large downloads usually max out at 60kb/s with uploads being in the 5-10kb/s range.
      Question... is that kB or kb? Either its comparable to a 56kbps modem or its 8 times as fast... significant difference there. saying kb implies kilobit.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The rain issue may just be with your LNA getting wet. Try cutting the bottom out of a one-liter pop bottle and splitting it down the side. Then snap it over the LNA, with the big end pointing to the dish and the split on the bottom. This has worked wonders for me on a different sat antenna. I haven't see a StarBand antenna, so its physical configuration may prevent this exact solution. But anything you can do to keep the LNA dry should help.
  • get rid of the USB (Score:4, Informative)

    by dagyo (544701) <dagyo@nOSPAm.diesellabs.com> on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:42AM (#3451091)
    google search on "starband linux hack" revealed the following: "No, I never did, because it turns out it's a lot easier to just remove the USB daughter board in the satmodem, and just use it with a straight 10BaseT ethernet connection instead of the stupid USB connection. We are using the Starband service with the external Gilat Satmodem 180, which has both a USB jack and an RJ-45 ethernet jack on the back of the case. The USB daughterboard is easily identified and is clearly labeled with a "Warning: this card is not removable" marking. All you do is unscrew the screws holding the USB card to the back of the case, pry up the double-sided tape that's holding it down, and slide the USB card out the back of the satmodem case. I recommend installing some duct tape over the hole left by the absence of the USB daughterboard. :) The satmodem becomes a 10BaseT ethernet DHCP server and router after that procedure is done, just like a cable modem or DSL modem. That way you don't have to use any special drivers or kernel modifi-cations to use the Starband system. You can use a standard ethernet card which is properly supported in the Linux kernel."
  • ethernet option (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hajmola (82709) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:42AM (#3451094)
    the 360 model modem has both USB and ethernet interfaces (connection w/crossover cable). the problem isn't with the hardware and line of sight crap - even with a shitty signal i still pull in at damn fast speeds. it runs over a proprietary packet control protocol that combines multiple requests into a single big request sent to the starband gateway. unfortunately, no drivers for this have been released for linux so you're stuck using windows. if you DON'T directly connect the starband modem to a windows machine you'll get really shitty speeds like others have been posting. using their proprietary software, however, speeds stuff up TREMENDOUSLY (6 KB/s without and unreliable - steady 300 KB/s with!)
  • What is it with these damn USB modems? They're a pain in the rear arse. I assume they're cheaper than ethernet ones. But is that the real reason, or is it because it makes it harder to share an internet connection? Yes, I know it probably can be done, but that means having to keep a computer online.

    As an owner of a Netgear RT314, I firmly believe in this cheap-o internet gateway routers that hide in the corner using very little power or attention. None of them that I've seen have USB ports though.

    Finally, driver support for USB modems seems crap and restrictive, and still relatively immature. Ethernet modems enjoy true plug and play, and very mature drivers in most operating systems. I can only think of one thing worse than a USB modem: a PCI one.
  • starband under linux (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I've tried Starband under Linux about 9 months ago and discovered that ping times are around 7 seconds on average which makes telnet and ssh sessions unbearable. Starband also uses propietary compression/decompression software (that doesn't work under Linux, of course)... the result is speeds are about that of dial up with greatly increased ping latencies. I did find that the service performed well for streaming audio and video under windows, but that a duplex dial-up line is both less expensive and faster for any other work... you might also try pricing out ISDN in your area (I have tried this service in other areas and found it to be acceptable, if a little pricey). Good luck.
  • by lindsayt (210755) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:44AM (#3451108)
    If you live anywhere in what can be loosely called the "midwest" or the "east" you need a clear line of sight to the southwest. I've been told that the US satellites are both approximately over Arizona - my dish (in Minnesota) is just barely aimed above the horizon, but I have 97% signal strength and have only once lost the signal, and then briefly, during a thunderstorm. It's fine through Minnesota blizzards even. A professionally-aimed dish (or very carefully amateur-aimed) should never get lower than 80% signal strength - just watch out for trees.

    Latency can be an issue if you need fast ping times - expect no better than 200ms, best-case. But of course for web-browsing, email, and file downloads, it's fine. I now just have dish for TV though, because I qualify for 1Mbit synch. DSL. But Dish would certainly be a good choice in a rural setting.
  • The one friend I have who *had* a StarBand setup cancelled it. For these reasons: - *Constant* disconnections. I'm talking about a dozen times a day. - Sub-5k upload speeds. Tech support said that his speed was 'normal', despite the promises of 25k upstream when he signed up. - Latency from hell. You will not be able to play any online games without being at a *major* disadvantage. He was happier back when he had a DirecPC dish and had his upstream going through a modem. If you only want to web-surf or read usenet, and you don't mind outages, isn't a dial-up cheaper?
  • and he has to have a proprietary driver package running on a Windows box in order to access the system. Otherwise we would have put a Linux box in for him. This could have changed in the past year, however.

    As far as speed is concerned, his downloads are pretty fast but getting a download started is laggy. He does not do any gaming either.

    Jerry Pournelle (www.byte.com) has a satellite connection and writes frequently about his experiences in a column. I recommend that you check the archives to see whether he has some advice that fits your situation.
  • by stienman (51024) <adavis@NOSpam.ubasics.com> on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:45AM (#3451123) Homepage Journal
    From their FAQ: ... StarBand Model 360 satellite modem that connects to an Ethernet or USB port on your existing PC.

    As with most broadband modems this has an ethernet port, which generally connect directly to your ethernet card. Don't use USB. Use LILO to boot to windows, get it set up in your USB-less version of windows, then steal the settings (which most likely is a simple DHCP setup). It's far easier for them to put the smarts into the modem and configure windows as little as possible than it is to field tech support and keep configuration programs and drivers up to date on all versions of windows. You will likely find that the USB driver is a simple USB ethernet driver anyway, and you may even be able to find generic linux drivers for whatever chipset it's using - but you may have to 'research' the innards of the modem to determine the chipset since they probably don't advertise it in the USB strings.

    Therefore you'll most likely find that it'll be easy to set up in windows, easy to set up in linux, and easy to set up with a gateway.

    Make sure you find a service provider that has a money back gurantee or free month or something, though, just in case.

    Please note the gratuitious use of "likely" and "may" in this post. I've not used them.

    -Adam
    • Chances are usb will work fine, I managed to get my Alcatel Speedtouch USB modem working with red hat 7.1 and Mandrake, its also pretty unlikely they will send you a usb2 modem as only the latest motherboards are equipped with it.
      I would spend some time researchin wether anybody else has got sat withing with linux though as most of these products are so tailiored to windows they dont work easily with anything else.
    • Try Win98 or newer. I had no idea that Win95 does not support USB until I went to order my VisorPro (check my journal for that story), Handspring mentions that Win95 does not support USB and they do nopt support connectivity with Win95. Have not investigated further, but they sound like they know what they are talking about.
  • READ THE FINE PRINT! (Score:5, Informative)

    by DnemoniX (31461) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:47AM (#3451136)
    I have a friend here at work that came in a couple months ago and was livid. Starband/DishNetwork decided to filter out all of the ports used by the major P2P file sharing services. Apparently in the fine print they don't have to let you use the service for anything but web sufring and e-mail. Not only having extremely restrictive ToS, the speeds aren't that great, and they lock you into huge service contracts. But if you can't survive on a modem and you live in the boonies, I guess it is better than two soup cans and string.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I was an owner of the system. I speak with authority in saying it was shiat. I was one of the VERY first customers after they stopped making you buy a PC w/it. (Had model 180 modem, and a better dish than that currently distributed.) Installation blows. Connectivity blows. Speed blows. Disconnects are horrible. The software DESTROYS winblows and your TCP/IP stack.

      Now Dish owns the service and customer service blows with supreme crapfullness. The system sucks so bad that Dish is selling the business unit now (to Starband I think.)

      Try out wireless DSL. I live in the sticks but it works great. Someone in your area probably offers it. I am a greedy power user demanding mucho P2P, Gaming, and bandwidth... I love it and it's $10.00 cheaper than Crapband. Crapband does filter P2P... I got a level 25 tech support guy to admit it before they went public with the knowledge. Shameful.

      P.S. My signal was at 95%, and the installer was capable. He actually called and apologized to me when he saw that I cancelled my Crapband service.
    • So, you find a friend in town with good dsl access and setup a vpn...
  • by poffy (212553) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:47AM (#3451141)
    Here is how I have my Starband setup.
    My Starband PC is a G333 Gateway PC running Windoze 2000. SB's software will not work with Linux. The old 180 modem that I had (before forced upgrade to 360 modem) you could hack for an ethernet connection. I loved this, as I was able to use Linux as the gateway. No more.
    I've got 3 WinME's, One Mac, 2 W2K, and One Linux box all networked together and using Starband.

    I am in the same boat as you - in the stix, with no hope of cable or DSL. Starband was my only option over dialup. Given that, Starband ain't bad. I would not go by their rated speed. I'll get 100kb download speeds, and since I never upload, I can't state what that would be. If you don't mind the occasional outages due to snow, fog, or heavy rain it's not a bad deal. I know that some complain about slower speeds on occasion, but given the alternative it does not bother me much.
  • Perhaps, perhaps... (Score:4, Informative)

    by knewter (62953) <josh...rubyist@@@gmail...com> on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:49AM (#3451162) Homepage
    I've used Starband satellite internet service for a little over a year now (ok, so six months of that I wasn't using it because I lived out of the country, but my family was). My experience is when it works, it rocks (as far as download times go...gaming is, as they say, completely impossible). Upload, download - great speeds. Those are the pros. Now, however, there are some caveats.

    The service goes down fairly often.
    This was my experience at the beginning, but it seems to be doing much better. Now it only goes down when there's a big, nasty, thick storm (i.e. - when the satellite tv is down as well). This is okay, and it's not too often that it's down now. At first, however, they were just putting their service down for days at the time with no warning, no discounts (20 days out of 30 that we had internet access, and we paid the full amount. Sheesh.

    Broken images
    I don't know if this has to do with my D-Link network switch or what (the old one had a corrupt table inside it on one of the PROMs, screwed up our network. I have a strong feeling this is the case again). All I know is most of the time I have 20-75% of webpages with broken images. I have to right click, h for show images (Internet Exploder), just to see the images. Again, YMMV.

    Now, as for linux connectivity, I don't really see why it should be that hard. Maybe the USB side would only work with Windows, and maybe they only support Windows, but the newer version of their hardware (and I think the only one you can get, now) has both USB and ethernet (RJ-45). It should be a plug-and-play affair on any sort of router, but I can't vouch for this.

    Hope I've been of some help,
  • Starband is poop (Score:5, Informative)

    by belgar (254293) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:53AM (#3451193) Homepage
    1) Latency is insane. Don't even *consider* it for any type of gaming.

    2) It will work if you plug it directly into your switch, apparently (The modem has an Ethernet port in the back, as well). HOWEVER...the software (Internet Page Accelerator) that keeps file from being chewed in Win95/98/2K is really needed. Graphics on sites get eaten in transit, and it's just ugly. We used their suggested proxy package (WinProxy [ositis.com]) to allow our mostly-mac network to connect using the IPA on the proxy machine, and it worked, (downloads 30-40k on average) with a fair number of errors (page won't load, hit reload, it's fine, that type of thing).

    3) Starband technical support is totally, totally useless -- even if you're using the systems they recommend and support. They keep buying JD Powers & Associates ratings every year, but it's horrible.

    4) Upload over the proxy was stupid. We had 40-60% of our larger ftp and mail chewed in transit, and rendered useless. And, it was a total bitch to get it working right -- it just "started" working one time, after using the same settings for over a week.

    I wouldn't recommend it unless you have no other option, and need fast download speeds.

    On a side note, I don't think the submitter did much looking into the task at hand before the article was posted. There is a *wealth* of information out there on this topic. Try Starband Users, [starbandusers.com] for starts. And, Macworld has a very comprehensive article [macworld.com] that outlines some of the problems I mentioned above, which I would assume also apply (partially, anyways) to a Linux setup.
  • USB and Win95 (Score:2, Informative)

    You can get support for usb with Win95, as you can get drivers, although limited, that work well. To get more info follow this link [usbman.com].
  • Starband woes (Score:2, Informative)

    by SpacePunk (17960)
    Ok, I'll start by saying that if you can't get anything else then Starband is ok as a last resort.

    A company that I do work for got the Starband service a year ago when they were still shipping their 180 model modems, and at that time it worked quite well. Then Starband switched everyone over to their 360 model modems, and the service went downhill from there when the new modem was installed. My technical evaluation of the model 360 modems is that they suck, and that makes the Starband connection suck.

    With all that said, if you can stand the high lag times (a 'good' ping return is around 700ms, but more often 1400ms and higher), and if nothing else is available in your area then it's ok because it beats the crap out of using a modem on a phone line with multiple D/A conversions.
  • by tarsi210 (70325) <nathan AT nathanpralle DOT com> on Thursday May 02, 2002 @11:57AM (#3451226) Homepage Journal
    From their FAQ:

    PLEASE NOTE: Networking the StarBand service via a router or other hardware device connected directly to the StarBand satellite modem is expressly forbidden. A Windows-based PC running the StarBand software must be the interface with the StarBand satellite modem as it converts Internet requests into a protocol optimized for satellite-based Internet connectivity. Circumventing this optimization software creates excessive and unauthorized traffic on the StarBand network and may result in a measurable decrease in transmission speed or complete service outage.

    What? Windows knows how to slow down my Internet connection? Imagine. I take "converts...into a protocol optimized" to mean that the Starband software is sitting there in the background going, "A packet? What's this? He wants a download? HA! I'll just stick this in a buffer for 5 minutes and then send it on. That'll keep his pr0n addiction in check."

    I....think I'll stay with modem, thanks. (as painful as it might be, at least I get low-latency, if slow, pr0n.)
    • by mjprobst (95305) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @12:22PM (#3451420) Homepage Journal
      Actually, this is probably not true. I worked for a satellite network service provider who offered a commercial (site/citywide) version of this for folks who couldn't get a landline to their town for reasonable price.

      Most commonly used network protocols do not consider the minimum 500ms latency involved in communicating via geosynchronous satellite. The signal goes up to the satellite, down to the hub center, out to the Internet, back to the hub center, back up to the satellite, and back down to your dish; light and radio signals can only move so fast.

      We "solved" the problem by supplying turnkey Linux servers with TCP proxy software (vendor will remain unnamed, lest I get zapped for disclosure beyond public company documents) and all outgoing traffic was routed through this. It would hijack the TCP connections and use some kind of satellite-specific protocol when talking to our data center. It broke some of the strict semantics of TCP, going to a NAK-based protocol and increasing the window size. By clustering ACKs, using forward error correction, and increasing window size it allowed higher throughput on TCP connections and made terminal sessions just about tolerable, the local echo would start working in .5 seconds and it _seemed_ much more responsive. Same for web page loads--no more waiting 5 seconds for each one to start.

      Our optimizing software did NOTHING for UDP, but we hijacked FTP connections and tossed them through a proxy cache hierarchy. I'm sure this software has probably improved since then, and might have the capability to hijack well-known UDP-based protocols and process them the same way--substituting a satellite-efficient protocol in the middle.

      If they're selling this product mostly to Windows folks, they've decided to support this optimizing software on Windows only. It might be a poor technical choice, but I assure you that "connection optimizing software" isn't a figment of their imagination.
  • Well I'll admit not to knowing that much about satellite connections and have read many good posts here on the subject. But Linux and USB support right now have still a ways to go. Its true you can get USB modems to work as long as you have a Linux compatible modem. Even the popular Alcatel Speedtouch finally got on the bandwagon with producing a driver so Linux users could hack their distro to get it to work ( of course with a LOT of sweat and knowledge. ) Of which, utilizing the HOWTO's on that matter really sux, ONLY because I personally haven't enjoyed that success as of this posting. With many hours of hard work and pulling my hair out, I've relegated myself to only connecting up using my External Modem 56K! Until I can afford a Ethernet Modem. Ethernet, truly is the way to go for a modem for high speed transmissions.. won't infringe upon your CPU usage or blatantly drop you due to the early stages of Linux USB support. Good luck!
  • I'm ok with it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by refactoringdr (163991)
    I have starband, and I, too, live in an extremely rural area. I'm satisfied with it. I haven't seen the reliability issues that others complain about and I get anywhere from ~150kbs to >600kbs download times depending on the time of day, etc. Web surfing feels pretty snappy modulo the initial start time (due to satellite latency). I also have never seen any bandwith throttling by the providers, (and I've downloaded a couple .iso's).

    Having said all of that, you need to realize the following facts:
    - You can't beat physics. The signal has to travel 45,000 miles. Your ping times will never be below 600ms. Therefore, this cannot be used for real-time, reaction-based gaming.
    - Heavy rain kills the connection.
    - PtP stuff seems to only work marginally (I have had some success with it, but also, I haven't experimented extensively).
    - The 360 modem (the only option) does have both USB and ethernet connection, HOWEVER all of its acceleration is done by Windows drivers and the modem must be DIRECTLY CONNECTED to the windows box. If you want to home network, you have to install a second network card and use the windoze box as your gateway. Therefore, linux boxes can be on your network, but you have to have a windoze box to drive the modem.

    Hope this help.

    Don Roberts
    roberts@refactory.com
    The Simplest Consultant That Could Possibly Work
    • It is not possible that it MUST be directly connected. The nature of the ethernet standard ensures this is not necessary.

      There is no way for the computer or modem to tell if it is directly connected, or connected via several switches/bridges/etc.

      • The point of the parent poster (and many others) is that the accelleration software is windows based, and without it you will see very poor performance. The accelleration software is absolutely necessary to compensate for the way most web pages work (often requiring 30-50 connections per page) and the inherent incompatibility of this this method for use over satellite, with minimum latency of >500 ms.

        Sure you can connect in another way, but it would defeat all performance advantages of having the fat satellite pipe.
        • Sorry. I thought he was referring to physical layer connections.

          By the way... the inherent incompatability of that method over satellite is bunk.

          I maintain several satellite interent connections (500+ms pings) and we utilize no such software or techniques.

          Of course, we're not using starband.. we're using much larger dishes with more power on commercial grade services.

          THe software has to do with how starband is structured, not satellite in general.

  • Has satellite internet service. Look around his website [jerrypournelle.com] for details.

    The main problem is latency. If you are downloading iso's it's great. 0.5 seconds to initiate the download, then it just comes roaring in. A site with lots of graphics, frames, and associated files that have to be downloaded individually sucks because there's that high latency on every file.

  • My dad uses it and constantly has problems. The first problem is that the modem has to be plugged into a Microsoft windows machine. No routers or linux. Then, from the microsoft machine you can do connection sharing. The service goes down often. With our setup it goes down whenever it gets the least bit stormy. In addition to this we have repeatedly found the tech support to be unhelpful, and downright rude. The cost is too high for that many problems. But, then again what are your options if you live out in the boonies. If you can wait about 6 months I bet they will have a better option for the reciever. I know that right now their parent company is selling a reciever similar to the starband one that supports linux and routers. Hope this helps.
  • The current consensus over at DSLReports doesnt seems too good. http://www.dslreports.com/comments/1652
  • Also I can boot to Windows95 with LiLo, but my copy of Windows doesn't support USB. I can replace the MB if necessary, but would rather not if I can avoid doing that.

    Hang on here...

    I know that this might not be the most slashdot-correct thing to say but you would replace your mobo before upgrading to a version of Windows that supports USB? In all seriousness, Windows 2K doesn't suck much at all. Just don't make a habit of it.

    If you don't want to *buy* a copy, then I guess you could always use your Tivo to *steal* a copy.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I do tech support for Starband, Direcway (Direct TVs version of 2-way satellite), DSL, Cable, 2.4 Ghz wireless,and Dial-up. I also have telco return satellite at home. Here's the low down:

    IMHO, Starband is the better of the two "2-way satellite" flavors. If you want it for pure download speed, you will be happy. The claims they make on speeds are pretty on target. Ping times, however are the Achilles heel of 2-way satellit. The problem comes from there geosynchronous orbit. The satellites are 28,000 miles above the earth. For the signal to go up to the satellite, down to noc, noc to sat, sat to you is a 600 ms baseline round trip. Light only goes so fast. So if you plan on doing any online gaming, forget it.
    Not to bad mouth Direcway, but there speeds are...lacking. Nuf said.
    I have a telco return satellite for two reasons.
    1. Money. Instead of $79 (or whatever the current promo is)per month, I pay $40/month.
    2. The ping times are still, high, but I can routinely get into the upper 300 ms range.
    Also, a few more things. The 2-way satellite upstreams are very slow. Don't expect to run a server. Look for anywhere from 30-50 KBps. Those speeds are also kind of misleading, as the software that comes with the satellite runs an acceleration program jsut for port 80 traffic. So if you want to do FTP, expect slower speeds.

    To sum up, these satellite are not very mature yet. They do work, but are aimed at the web browsing home user. I personally like the telco return variety, but if you want a connection that doesn't tie up a phone line, don't play games (like Quake, etc),and you want to add satellite tv on for a slight additional charge, go for the Starband. I know a lot of people that love it.
  • The major problems with starband service:

    Bandwidth throttling. If I pay 600 bucks for equipment and install and another 70 bucks per month, I want *premium* service. No hassles, no throttling, no nothing. Pipe, Pure Pipe.

    Latency Not just for gamers, if you want to video or voice conference, it's terrible. Not a chance. No voIP, no nothing.

    There is a company called Skynet that is on a LEO system. Low Earth Orbit. meaning less latency, and a truckload more of bandwidth. It's vapor so far, since the fiber on earth is not utilized much, but wait a couple years and it'll rock. [skynet.com]

    The biggest caveat is that Skynet is supported by Bill Gates. You can look at this as a plus or a minus. The minus is that Microsoft has its finger in every pie. The plus is that Microsoft has a inherent interest in getting broadband to everyone, if only to stuff those bloated apps down the pipe.

    Starband stinks. Use ISDN
  • DIRECWAY works... (Score:5, Informative)

    by speleo (61031) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @12:14PM (#3451361) Homepage

    I don't have the Dish system but I do have a Hughes DIRECWAY [direcway.com] system on my motorhome [motosat.com] with a MotoSat [motosat.com] Datastorm [motosat.com] mount.

    It works very well, but you have to keep in mind there is some latency as the signal has to travel up to the satellite in the Clarke belt and back down both ways in addition to the latency in the ground network. I have the business service with a static IP address and have seen as much as 2 Mbit/sec download. But the upload is slow--usually around 64 kbit/sec and sometimes as high as 100 kbit/sec but never any higher. It would suck for gaming.

    The "modems" require a USB connection and a PC running Windows--you have to use the DIRECWAY software/drivers and it only works on Windows. I run Windows 2000 on the satellite access machine and it works well. Other folks are on XP and 98 but a variety of problems do crop up on the "consumer" versions of Windows I hear.

    To let other operating systems access the satellite network you can use Windows' Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). I'm using this and share the connection via Ethernet to an Apple Airport base station and allow my Macs and Linux machines access the network via the wireless connection. It works very well.

    BTW, last I heard, EchoStar (the parent of Dish and Starband) were getting out of the Internet access business and leaving DIRECWAY as the sole comsumer satellite Internet provider as part of their yet-to-be-approved takeover of Hughes Electronics (parent of DIRECTV and DIRECWAY).

    YMMV.

  • by kninja (121603) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @12:22PM (#3451424)
    I have installed it for use at a rural residence where I used to live. We had a 26.4 modem connection max, as rural phone lines are often low quality for data. We've had starband since it was available. They sent us an upgrade modem which worked with a netgear router, as the original did, but about march of this year, they wanted original customers to flash upgrade their modems or else service would be cut off. (They were moving us to a different part of the network.) Then it would not work with the router, no matter what. We had to buy winproxy, which was the only thng thay supported. I was a little disgruntled by this obvious ploy to sell copies of winproxy, as it took me several days to figure out how to set up the $%@# winproxy software, but now it's working well and pretty stable, so I can't complain too much.


    The Pros of Starband:

    Fast internet for those without hope of DSL or Cable.

    I've seen downloads of 300K/sec. K not k!

    AIM and other programs do work through the proxy server, provided you specify the correct ports. The proxy server is actually faster than the netgear router was too.


    The Cons:

    High ping times 600-1200 ms. No Games for you!

    Filesharing is limited. Some things do work, but they have bandwidth police I'm told.

    I don't fully trust the company after they made their modem only work with winproxy. That bothered me a little bit. They essentially have a monopoly at this time, and they know it. Our router is now a paperweight.

    You must have win98 or 2k. I won't ever upgrade to Me or XP, so I don't know or care about them. No official Linux support as of yet. I doubt there will be for some time. It *might* work, but I haven't had time to meddle with it. Their mission control software is somewhat usless and windows only. I tried installing it to run a proxy server off of a
    windows 95 box and it didn't work.


    The mixed blessings:

    The hardware setup fee is a hefty initial cost, but the money we saved from canceling our extra phone lines paid for it quickly.


    The bottom line:


    We are saving time and money because of this service. It is worth it if you use the internet a lot and live in a rural area beyond DSL or cable. If you can get DSL or cable get it, otherwise starband is a decent option.

  • by mo (2873) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @12:54PM (#3451666)
    Please note that bad latency does not only affect gaming. I used to have DirectPC and it made ssh sessions all but unusable. To experience this, try typing each shell command with your eyes closed until you hit enter, and only open them after you see the output.

    Not only that, many modern webpages are riddled with many small images. Depending on how your browser parllelizes image requests, the latency can even affect your browsing experience too.
  • Why starband? (Score:3, Informative)

    by shepd (155729) <slashdot.org@ g m a i l . com> on Thursday May 02, 2002 @01:02PM (#3451719) Homepage Journal
    Nebulink [nebulink.net] works with linux and supports most any DVB card (USB, PCI, ISA, whatever you want). If you are looking for an open solution (hey, this is slashdot!), that would fit the bill.

    Also, unlike most other satellite internet services, Nebulink is upfront with their limitations. You'll get 8 gigs transfer maximum for $55 US/month at whatever speed is available on their satellite, whereas most other satellite services randomly throttle your speed. Not to mention the hardware costs are generally significantly lower (used take-away BUD $FREE, DVB adapter $199).

    Your return trip times (read: web browsing) on Nebulink are faster since a modem uplink is lower latency than a satellite uplink.

    I'm not advertising (well, maybe I am indirectly), I'm just a satisfied customer who wrote an onofficial (and badly in need of fixing) how-to!
  • Thoughts. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mindstrm (20013) on Thursday May 02, 2002 @02:09PM (#3452154)
    It seems a lot of people are claiming problems with disconnection/weather/etc.

    Solutions: This is satellite folks. It's radio. There is a wealth of knowledge out there about how to get new amplifiers/bigger dish/etc. I'm not suggesting you go outside any legal limits, or try to overpower things... but as with all satellite stuff.. if you are having trouble getting through weather, or with weak signal, you need to amplify and/or get a bigger dish.

  • Satellite Internet usually provides respectable speeds, but the latency is terrible. Speed is the raw bandwidth number (usually measured in megabits per second) while latency is your ping time, for example. There's plenty of bandwidth on those birds but regardless of how fast they run, you still have to send every packet into space and back down to earth. Since the satellite is over 20,000 miles away, that's a pretty long delay (many hundreds of milliseconds).

    If you need the connection for file transfer (FTP, Gnutella, etc.) you'll be fine because you're doing big streaming transfers -- it doesn't really make a difference if your multi-megabyte download starts and ends half a second later than it would using a terrestrial connection. Email is no problem because it happens in the background. Web pages will be a little sluggish because you have to wait for all the HTTP transactions to complete. If you do any amount of interactive work, though -- such as telnet or SSH, where you're sending and receiving one character at a time while you type -- the lag will be absolutely unbearable.
  • Checkout what the Kiwis are doing with their Waikato Wi-Fi project in rural New Zealand [idg.net.nz].

    They're getting 12km hops using solar powered relay stations.

    You don't need many neighbors cooperating with you to hop all the way to a T3 or better with this.

  • but my copy of Windows doesn't support USB

    I think you mean your computer doesn't support USB, I know of no version of win9x and up that don't support or atleast can't be made to support usb.
    • Allright - then tell me how to get my USB working properly under Windows 95b. No drivers that I can see for it that will work and no USB device I've tried using will configure properly. If you can tell me this I'll be happy to send you my generic PS/2 mouse so I can use my Wacom Graphire on my personal system.
      • Windows 95C was the Win95 that included built-in USB support. Other than that, you're counting on the hardware manufacturer, and in this case, it doesn't sound like thats a very good prospect.

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