Satphone Blogging — Resurrection


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 13, 2013      

Some of you may recall the lower budget satphone blogging system we used during our 2010 Denali ski expedition. I still use the Iridium 9555 satphone, but the other ingredients came back from Denali a bit ragged and I had most of the stuff just stored away or put into use in other applications (the solar panels come in handy for temporary use at Field HQ, for example). Louie says he’ll file dispatches from some glacier in Alaska at the end of the month, so I resurrected the system and sent it up to him. It took quite a bit of work and money to put it all back together. Hopefully it’ll be worth it!

WildSnow satphone blogging 2013.

WildSnow satphone blogging 2013.

The basic ingredients:
— Acer netbook, same one used on Denali, rebuilt, SSD hard drive
— Iridium 9555 satphone
— Brunton Solo battery acts as charge and voltage controller
— Anker battery (smaller) for spare, runs satphone and charges iPods, can be connected directly to panels or to main battery
— Miscellaneous connectors made in WildSnow modshop, standardized to either cigarette plugs or one size electrical jack
— Brunton fold-up solar 26 watt arrays, 2, jumpered together or can be operated separately
UUplus optimized satphone email service
— Optional satphone external antenna (not pictured) improves performance in fringe areas or when phone needs to be used in RF blocking shelter

Basically the system works like this: you set up the solar system so it keeps everything charged up, then on the computer you write your blog copy and process your photos. Using the UUplus satphone data service, you upload everything as email to a ground person back in civilization who assembles the blog post and publishes it. It’s possible to go all the way to publication from the remote location, but doing so requires many more expensive satphone minutes and preferably more bandwidth. Thus, using a ground person is much more efficient and practical.

It takes quite a bit of care and expertise to successfully use the system. On Denali, I was surprised at how much time it took me, and how easily things could be broken or otherwise disabled. Problem is, you don’t have a desk and you don’t have a repair shop.

Setting up the solar is simple. Always use plenty of panel wattage, as there is nothing worse than having slightly less power than you really need. Hook up a fairly large battery pack to the panels, for storage and to act as charge/voltage regulator. Hook everything else to the battery, being careful of how much load you ultimately put on the system (be sure there are various fuses in the system, and check equipment and wires for overheating).

Extensively test everything at home, and bring as much redundancy as possible to the field. For example, our system doubles up on just about everything except the satphone (though on Denali we did have two satphones of the same model, which was good).

There are many ways to remote blog (with photos) these days, with more or less money, different gear and so forth. Our system still seems to be one of the most efficient in terms of weight and cost, though it’s still pricey and the weight does add up.

Comments

7 Responses to “Satphone Blogging — Resurrection”

  1. Lee Lau March 13th, 2013 12:48 pm

    Lots of food pictures please Tyler and Louie. Looking forward to it

  2. Samuel Savard March 13th, 2013 1:19 pm

    Amazing set up! You guys are geniuses…Can’t wait to see the blog posts!

  3. Jesse March 13th, 2013 1:22 pm

    16 pounds according to the previous post… Yikes. Well, your readers appreciate it!

    I know that your gear choices are always incredibly well thought out, but I’m sort of surprised you still use a full laptop for this. I would have thought an ipad mini or even a touch would be enough, and you wouldn’t just cut down on the computer weight but also power requirements. Especially if you still have someone back at “HQ” actually publishing the posts.

    (It occurred to me that it might be hard to get photos directly from a camera onto a tablet, but I just checked and apparently there are SD card readers for ipad)

  4. Lou Dawson March 13th, 2013 2:04 pm

    Jesse, the idea is total capability with Photoshop to really process/compress the photos before they get sent on the expensive/slow satphone connection. Also, a real keyboard for real writing, card reader built-in instead of yet another accessory, and so on. We even pack a mouse along in case that might be useful instead of the touchpad. More, the SSD drive in the netbook has plenty of storage space, and so on. Believe me, for real publishing content work it’s much better than trying to use an iPad and actually not that much heavier. More, we pack two batteries for each netbook, so if a battery bricks or just runs out of power, more power is available without needing the solar.

    I’d agree there might be tablet options, but cost is a concern as well. The customized netbooks still only end up costing about $350 to $400, that’s with SSD drive, RAM upgrade, and a monster 10 hour battery. I’ve also priced out small hardened computers that can even be used underwater. They’re way too expensive, though if we did this all the time I’d probably spring for one.

    Lou

  5. Lou Dawson March 13th, 2013 2:06 pm

    I should have mentioned that on Denali we did haul the system up the mountain and back down, but Louie’s trip is base camping. They’d perhaps move camp a short distance by ferrying loads, but it’s not a mobile expedition. Nonetheless, due to shipping cost and weight charges from the air service, one still has to be weight efficient and the system in that way is pretty similar to what we hauled on Denali, in fact, nearly the same. Lou

  6. Jesse March 13th, 2013 3:41 pm

    That makes sense. Now that I think about it, I’m sure you explained all this at the time. Thanks!

  7. Jack March 13th, 2013 3:58 pm

    Lou, Looks like an amazing rig. The 12-V cigarette-lighter plugs look heavy and clunky, but then again those cables are all good for plugging into a vehicle, or somebody else’s battery source. Still very cool.

Got something to say? Please do so.





Anti-Spam Quiz:

You can subscribe to comment notification by checking the box to left, but you must leave a brief comment to do so, which records your email and requires you to use our anti-spam challange. If you don't like leaving substantive comments that's fine, just leave a simple comment that says something like "thanks, subscribed" with a made-up name. Check the comment subscription checkbox BEFORE you submit.
If you need an emoticon for a comment just copy/paste off the following list, or use text code you might be familiar with.

:D    :-)    :(    :lol:    :x    :P    :oops:    :cry:    :evil:    :twisted:    :roll:    :wink:    :!:    :?:    :idea:    :arrow:   
  
Due to comment spam we moderate most comments. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear shortly after approval. Comments with one or more links in the text may be held in moderation, for spam prevention. If you'd like to publish a photo in a comment, contact us. Guidelines: Be civil, no personal attacks, avoid vulgarity and profanity.

  Your Comments

  • Lou Dawson 2: Al, indeed, personally I prefer just a regular non-adjustable pole for near...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Thanks Bob, I finally got back to editing this. Appreciate you seeing it. D...
  • Doug G: Had the pleasure of attending the Exum climbing school in the middle 70s. C...
  • Al: Had 2 poles replaced under warranty after both failed while touring. First ...
  • Lou Dawson 2: You think that thing could ever happen? Sounds pretty far fetched at this p...
  • Jim Milstein: Could be, Lou, but Red doesn't believe in global warming, so would not be c...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Jim, you're probably right along with the other locals, 10,300 feet in Col...
  • Hacksaw: Colorado First Tracks Heliskiing worked out of Marble back in the day.pack...
  • Jim Milstein: This reminds me of the ill-starred Village at Wolf Creek, which we locals a...
  • John Coulter: I started working construction on 1972 when I graduated from high school in...
  • Brian Lindahl: It looks like the 20L model can't use the refillable cannister. The cannist...
  • Patrick: well for gosh sakes, and thank gawrsh, you've got some Colorado back-countr...
  • Mitch R.: What GPS app for iPhone do you use?...
  • Rick: More winter Denali ascents ... http://www.adn.com/uncategorized/article/win...
  • Martin: For my Canon DSLR I have a 3rd party charger that can charge from USB, 12V ...
  • See: I’ve been playing around with a “6000 mAh Lithium jump starter.” Results so...
  • Louie III: Yeah, luckily the A7 can charge via the micro-usb port on the camera. Unfor...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Caspar, Louie mentioned to me that he was charging the camera with USB and ...
  • Caspar: Hey, how did the Sony a7 charge? With an external AC charger for the batter...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Thanks Mattia, a report here would be valuable. I'd imagine you'll have suc...
  • Mat: Thanks for the reply Lou, I think that the easiest think I can do is to ...
  • XXX_er: "An insider also told me that the litigious nature of the U.S. as opposed t...
  • Dominik: Mattia, Just from curiosity - what size khion do you own? Dominik...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Mat, you are not the first to share with me that their European Khion had a...
  • Mike Marolt: JW had a massive influence on my brother and I. He set the benchmark of wh...
  • Mat: HI Lou, thank for your post, I'm an italian skier and I own a pair of Khio...
  • Wookie: does anybody make climbing shoes that cover the ankle anymore? They used to...
  • ptor: Lou...Just like an avalanche death (another one in Chile yesterday), the so...
  • See: Granted, the chemical stuff tastes pretty foul....
  • See: In my experience you need to put mineral sunscreen on thick, reapply freque...

  Recent Posts

Facebook Twitter Google Instagram Youtube

Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. While the authors and editors of the information on this website make every effort to present useful information about ski mountaineering, due to human error the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use. ...

Switch To Mobile Version