StarLink is King

Part 2 – The King is dead.

In my previous post I discussed how we found ourselves on the wrong side of the digital divide during a pandemic, and all the unique solutions we used to survive. Now with the trees in full bloom, Amazon and eBay deliveries complete, and one last trip to the hardware store to get a few hundred feet of wire I was ready to set-up my 30 foot tower, and let the sweet sweet internet flood the house.

I picked a spot that should have been clear to the north. Only one small gotcha on my plan. The Saturday that I had planned on raising this monument to the internet gods–my helping hands had other plans, one boy was working, one boy was getting ready for prom, and my girl had a birthday party to attend. So it was a busy weekend, but that is normal around these parts. With 2hrs on my hands, what better time to start the project. I headed down to the end of the driveway and began setting up the tower. 

I happily started putting all the pieces together like a kid on Christmas morning. One leg, two legs, three legs–we have a tripod I’m off to a good start. The first two 4ft sections all set with the StarLink securely sitting on top of it. All I need now is a little muscle and I should be able to get the Dish up in the air. As I pushed the center pole up, I heard a clinking sound. As I turned to look to my right, I saw one leg had lifted and separated. My tripod was quickly becoming a 12 foot blunt object. I was stuck. If I let go, the tower will fall. I can’t stand there all day because no help was coming. I rolled the dislodge leg over to me and I reached down to pick it up. It was at this moment when I realized mistakes had been made, as the tower started to tip over.

My mind flashed the label on the military bag which said two man carry, which implied it takes two to set the tower up. Now before my sarcastic side could tell me where else I zagged when I should’ve zigged, the tower was bouncing off my head on its way to slamming into my shoulder. The force of the tower plowed me to the ground in a twisted knee position.

OK, time to call the wife, I thought as my head was ringing and my eyesight was blurry.

I growled at Alexa to call the wife. Alexa politely informed me that new permissions were required to make a call. You have to be kidding me! Not to be daunted, I make an announcement which would play at the house, but everyone was getting ready for their individual events and my request was only half heard, and it lost the urgency in translation.

I got myself into this mess. I’ll have to be the one to get myself out. Seems only fair. One option I thought of was I could just drop it to the ground, but I was too stubborn. I came down here to set this up, and I’m not done until that dish is in the air. At this point, I will be happy with it being 4 feet off the ground.

I reached out and grabbed the leg that started it all. That was the simple part, since I was kneeling right next to it. I was blinking a little too rapidly for my liking but having had multiple concussions in my lifetime I knew what they felt like, and this was minor compared to those in the past. So I twisted slowly to get under the tower and started to lift.

My old back wasn’t happy with the exertion. It complied, but it complained all the way up. Standing up, I angrily slapped the leg into place. Not nearly the victory that I hoped it would be, but I’ll take it. There it stood at roughly 8 feet, a good start. I packed up and headed back to the house where I had 30 mins to get ready for the afternoon events.

The next day it was all hands on deck. We had shovels to level the ground, we had stakes, hammers and guy wires to secure the tower we were set. My loving and understanding wife Leslea wore two hats that day, as supervisor supreme. She provided engineering advice, as well as being the safety coordinator for the duration of the work. We quickly hosted the tower up to 24ft and secured it. I was proud of the teamwork and we were able to accomplish what we set out to do that day.

Tower standing tall.

I got back to the house, fired up the connection and after about 20 minutes the dish started to report that obstructions were everywhere.

I felt defeated, as I was already frustrated and bored with my unintentional new hobby of calling tree removal companies, only to have them shake their head and run away screaming. These trees might be less of a challenge since they are further away from the house. That was my irrational thought as I dug up a couple of new tree services to come out and give me a quote. That was 3 weeks ago, and I’ve still not heard from any of them.

So with a heavy heart I canceled the service this past weekend, sold the tower, and boxed it all up.

The service has so much potential and for those who can get above their obstructions, or cut them down this will be a game changer. I knew our trees would be a deal breaker, what I didn’t know was the heavy investment I would have to make to remove those obstructions around our house. The cost of tree removal was just too high to make it feasible. Unfortunately, our adventure with Elon has come to an end, but perhaps yours are just beginning and if that is the case here are some simple install considerations when dealing with StarLink that I have figured out so you don’t have to.

Obstructions are a common issue so make good use of the “check for obstruction” tool in the phone application and see if there is anything blocking the sky. Even power lines will have an impact. The dish will need 100 degrees of clear sky to track the satellites. This may shrink as they bring more satellites online but I wouldn’t expect it to shrink by much.

With that in mind here are some guidelines for distance from obstructions when placing your Dish.

Obstructions to the North need to be at least 2.5x further away than they are taller than the dish. So, if a tree to the North of your install location extends 20ft above your dish, then it needs to be at least 50ft away from your dish.

Obstructions to the East and West need to be at least 1.5x further away than they are taller than the dish. So, if a tree to the East or West of your install location extends 20ft above your dish, then it needs to be at least 30ft away from your dish.

Obstructions to the South need to be at least 0.5x further away than they are taller than the dish. So, if a tree to the South of your install location extends 20ft above your dish, then it needs to be at least 10ft away from your dish.

Once you have the dish set up for 12 hours or more, you can go to the phone application : Support : Advanced : Debug

From there you can select the Copy the data option.

Switch over to a browser and go to:

Paste the data, and it will graph out your obstructions to help you find where the obstructions are coming from as far as direction. Priority should be to the north, then east / west, and finally south.

This is BAD – you want 0%

So now can visually see where your obstructions are.

Armed with that knowledge, you have a couple of options.

1)Move Dish.

2)Raise the Dish Higher.

If you want to go higher, several people have had success with something like this tower found on eBay

3) Cut Trees down that are causing the Obstruction.

4) Deal with it, and hope that it gets better over time as they bring more Satellites into service, reducing the obstruction window.

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