[ldm-users] Novra S-300 install at NIU...thoughts and comments (post outage notice)

NIU's NOAAPort ingest server was down for about 90 minutes between 20:30Z and 22Z to take out the Novra S75+ and replace it with the Novra S-300. No data should have been lost if you had backups to weather, weather2 and weather3. Weather.admin.niu.edu unfortunately did not have data during that time, I was testing something and didn't have any backup. I think everyone was OK, though, so you shouldn't have lost data, since weather2
and weather3 remained up.

For non-NOAAport dish owners, or wanna-be owners, or the curious, you can delete this message now. For everyone else...

Well, I got a pleasant surprise when a package arrived this morning with a Novra S-300 in it. If you put them side-by-side with an S-200, they look the same, except for the marking telling you that it's an S-300.
Size-wise, they are identical.

So, the first step was unpacking and hooking it all up. The box comes with a Novra S-300, a crossover Ethernet cable, a CD for the Novra management system stuff for Windows to configure everything, the obligatory
FCC/whatever Canada's FCC equivalent is statement about interference...
and that's it. The instruction manual is, like the S-200, in a PDF file on the CD.

I figured this would take about 30 minutes to do, but budgeted 2 hours in case something went wrong. Something did, and I'll talk about that in a moment.

First off, if you've setup the Novra S-200, you'll recognize most menu items on the S-300 interface. There's new items for the DVB-S2 protocol and the Variable Coding Modulation (VCM) protocol required for when NOAAport begins the new DVB-S2 broadcast two weeks from today. But otherwise, you've seen it once, you've seen it all.

Once I hooked up the Novra to my laptop, I had to go into the instruction manual to find the default password. Once I did,
after several minutes of reading, I successfully logged on.

Once in, as stated above, the menu was easy and familiar. The network settings can pretty much be left alone, unless, like the way I set up my Novra S75+, you can tweak things to match the settings on your older
receiver.

Then I went to work in putting in all of the info required: frequency, L/O frequency (5150), voltage for my LNB, MPE's, Symbol Rate, etc. So I did all of that, in about 15 minutes, and then...

Nothing. No signal! Hmmmm. Well, I spent a good hour going back and reviewing everything, and the manual: in my tiredness today, I had to have fat-fingered something, right? Actually...no. It was all good.

Well, did I get a bad unit? What's going on here? As I was scratching my head, I decided to try something. I had set the voltage at the highest one: 21 volts. I set it to 18 volts, the next lowest one...nothing.
Set it to 13 volts...bingo. Everything roared to life. Signal strength
-45 dBm shows up, and I lost a few packets around 20:30Z, but I was still tweaking stuff and rebooting the box. I put it back at 21 volts, where it should be, and it was all good. I have no clue why that happened.
That was the only major issue I had during the install.

The second minor issue was the symbol rate. Sure, 6.349 Ms is what you want, but when you type it in, it goes to 6.348, for some odd reason. But, the Novra S-300 now has an "autodetect" feature which, after checking the box, locks onto the correct rate, 6.349. That's a handy feature to have if you forget it.

So after about 90 minutes of tweaking, I looked at the ldm logs. All good...no errors/dropped packets. Since it's obvious that the S-300 is the S-200 with a little extra circuitry, the gain from the receivers was identical. That is to say, both are at least 3 dB higher in gain than the S75, and 3 dB higher or so versus the S75+ with the latest firmware on it. In other words, I'm screaming signal.

It will be very interesting to see how things go in a few weeks with the DVB-S2/VCM switchover. First, the gain is roughly 2 dB due to forward error correction with that modulation scheme, and, on paper anyway, the new NOAAport signal should be even more of a flamethrower...correct me if I'm wrong, but it's at least by a couple of dB higher. So, a *potential*
5 dB upgrade awaits us in a few weeks. Minimum 2 dB, for sure.

Anyway, I posted this so that as you get your S-300s...watch out for the
gotchas, and get ready for 30 megs/second! One final note...there's no Linux management system with this yet. The S-200 had the "CMCS" for the command line Linux interface, but it doesn't work with the S-300. I asked Michael Borgford @ Novra when it will be available; I asked after close of business, so I don't have an answer for that. I suspect it will be very soon though.

Thoughts, comments, concerns, and general panic welcome.

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Gilbert Sebenste                                                     ********
(My opinions only!)                                                  ******
Staff Meteorologist, Northern Illinois University                      ****
E-mail: sebenste@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                                  ***
web: http://weather.admin.niu.edu                                      **
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