Panbo

Iridium 9555 hands-on, & OpenPort/FB150 news

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 12, 2009
Iridium_9555_SMS_message_cPanbo.JPG


These are big times in the small world of global satellite communications for medium size boats! Yesterday Inmarsat demoed Fleet Broadband 150 hardware and service in Miami (my people were there, and even called me via FB150, full report soon) and today Iridium issued a press release boasting about the extensive sea trials its OpenPort system has endured, and how it's now shipping (actual FB150 hardware, like KVH's TracPhone FB150, won't ship until sometime "this summer").  Meanwhile, yours truly was using the new Iridium 9555 handset to text himself (above) and call his patient spouse from Camden Harbor...

She said I sounded a little drunk, and it was only eight in the morning!  Since then I've talked to other people plus listened to my own voice messages, and there does seem to be a slight slur built into this sat phone.  But that's extremely minor; I'm not sure if it's this new model handset or my location or improvements in the overall Iridium system, but voice quality on this test is noticeably better than when I tried an Iridium 9505A back in 2007.  And, perhaps most important, I didn't experience any annoying delays during either test.
   Text messaging, at least inbound ones, work well too.  Friends and family go to the messaging.iridium.com, type in your number, and up to 160 characters (I used all 160 below)...and about 30 seconds later the phone beeps and is ready to show you the message (above).

Iridium_messaging_test_cPanbo.JPGUsing the 9555 as a modem was more problematical.  Lord knows its mini USB plug is a heck of lot easier than the 9505's ungainly old serial dongle, plus the included driver seemed to load fine, but there's very little in the manual about how to complete the connection, and I failed to.  I did call Iridium technical support, where I was quickly connected with a knowledgeable tech who reminded me about how to install a standard windows modem on the 9555 port, and gave me the Iridium number that connects to the Internet.  I still didn't quite connect.  But I'm sure it would work, though at Iridium's sad 2.4 bps data rate, with a little more effort, like actually reading the modem manual the tech emailed me.  And I may try that, though it is Spring in Maine and I have a new boat, and, besides, if I were really going to use this sat phone for email anywhere, I'd get GMN's XGate or OCENS Mail (they're twins), which would make the Iridium connection seamless and painless, and the email much faster.

Iridium_9555_modem_mode_cPanbo.JPGPS 5/13  I talked over the phone more today and some parties thought they heard a little delay, though not enough to cause difficulty.  And I was pleased to find that the phone worked fine inside the cabin of Gizmo, that is to say underneath a fiberglass cabin top, electronics helm, and antenna mast. But I did see the signal strength bars drop once in a while inside the boat, possibly as the active satellite finished its pass (they do a full earth orbit every 100 minutes!).  At any rate, check out this "not drunk" Google Voice recording:

Comments

There is some amount of "annoying delay" inherent in all satellite communications. This is especially noticable in Inmarsat and other systems dependent on high altitude geostationary satellites, but the delay, even though still present, may be less noticeable in lower orbit constellations, such as Iridium's. The delay is caused by the round trip distance the signal must cover, exacerbated by the fact that the speed of light is just too slow. To be frank, I personally don't see a fix for the latter problem; but then I'm no Einstein.

Posted by: Larry Brandt at May 13, 2009 11:47 AM | Reply

Hello All,

This is Luis Soltero at GMN (the author of XGate) commenting on the 9555.

The 9555 is a very new and Iridium is still working through issues with the firmware. There are several problems with the USB data implementation that users should be aware of. As of firmware version HT09007.zep the following problems exist.

1. The firmware is not compatible with the iridium direct internet 2.0 drivers or the GMN Iridium Direct Connect drivers. If you install a windows DUN using the iridium software or our automatic dun installer you will not be able to do data through the phone. This is because there is an issue with the interpretation of some of the AT command sent to the phone by the drivers during the initialization phase and the phone chokes when you try to make a call.

The work around for this problem is to manually install a standard 19200 baud modem followed by creating a DUN that uses this modem and dials 008816000025.

Iridium is aware of this problem and will address it in the next release of the firmware. For now just be aware that you must manually install the dialup adapter if you wish to do data through the phone.

The phone seems to work reliably on all version of windows 32 bit including win2k, winXP, and win Visa.

2. Iridium only supports the 9555 on win32 platforms. The phone will not install on either win XP/64 or win Vista 64. Currently Iridium has no plans to support 64 bit architectures. We hope this will change in the near future since many of the new laptops are being distributed with vista 64.

GMN has now has drivers for the 9555 that will allow it to work on vista 64. If you have a vista 64 machine and want to do data then please contact us for info. Note that this is not an Iridium supported configuration but extensive testing at GMN shows that the 9555 works reliably using the GMN drivers.

3. Mac OS X is not supported. The 9555 will not work on the mac. period. Plugging the phone into the a mac usb port generates errors in the system.log file and a serial port is not created. It is not possible to use the 9555 on a mac at this time. There is no work around and Iridium has stated that it does not currently plan to support the mac. Note that the 9505a does work on a mac. If you have a mac and you want to use Iridium then you will need to purchase a 9505a. Note that the 9505a was End-Of-Lifed on May 1. There are still new phones out there but once the stock runs out you will not be able to purchase a new phone. GMN currently has 14 9505a's in stock and is reserving them for Mac users. Please contact us if you need one of these.

4. the 9555 kind of works under Linux. It is possible to reliably establish and do data transfers using the 9555 on Linux using XGate. There is an issue where the phone does not hangup properly. Iridium has been made aware of the situation but states that it does not plan to support linux at this time. So... if you plan to use the 9555 under linux you will need to watch the data transfer carefully and manually hangup if the system fails to hangup the phone after the connection ends.

5. Once connected removing the USB cord from the computer does NOT hangup the phone. The only way to force a data call drop manually is to power off the phone. This is a known issue that Iridium plans to address with the next release of the software.

As far as performance goes for voice and data... there is no perceptible difference between the older 9505a and the 9555. Voice quality is about the same and the data transfer speeds are exactly the same. The USB port is nice when connecting the phone directly a windows computer but is not as flexible a serial port. Ethernet Serial port servers, PDAs, long serial runs (e.g. 100' or more) do not work with the 9555 since it using a USB which has cable length limitations and requires drivers on the host.

I will update this posting when we have had a chance to review the next version of the firmware. Users purchasing 9555 should be aware that the firmware is influx and that one or more firmware updates may be required in the future to make the phone work correctly.

Take care.

Posted by: Luis Soltero at May 25, 2009 11:56 AM | Reply

Thanks, Luis, excellent info.

I did try installing the standard Window's 19200 baud modem, per Iridium tech support, but had also already installed the drivers on the Iridium CD. Is that why I couldn't quite make the data connection? I'm pretty sure a second support call would have done the trick, but I was already late returning the phone. Too many gizmos, too little time!

Posted by: Ben at May 26, 2009 9:50 AM | Reply

Hi Ben,

First thing you need to do in the 9555 is go to menu->setup->phone info then hit select to see what version of the firmware you are running. If you are running anything less than HT09014 then the iridium direct connect drivers will not work. If you have installed the iridium direct connect drivers and tried to use the phone then you must power down the phone, power up the phone, and then install the 19200 baud modem.

The power restart is important. Unless you power reset the 9555 the 19200 baud modem will not work. The drivers for iridium direct connect put the phone in such a state that it refuses to work over the usb port until you reset the unit.

The latest firmware version is HT09014. Send me your phone and I will upgrade it for you. Normally there is a $100 fee (plus shipping) for doing the upgrade (plus shipping) but we will wave the fee for you.

HT09014 continues to have all the problems listed above except the one for direct Internet. Direct Internet works (and so does the GMN iridium direct connect driver) with the new firmware. All other issues including total failure on the mac continue to be a problem.

However, as long as you are using a win32 platform you will not have problems doing data over the 955.

As far as I know GMN is the only company currently supporting the 9555 on the 64 bit platform. To use the 9555 on vista x64 and any of the Windows 7 (both 32 and 64 bit) release candidates you must use XGate and the 9555 drivers including within.

Also... note that although some issues persist on the linux platform XGate has been modified to overcome these and the 9555 works reliably on ubuntu 7.X-9.X distributions. Xandros on the eeepc is also supported.

Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions on doing e-mail/weather/browsing over your 9555.

Take care.

--luis

Posted by: Luis Soltero at June 13, 2009 3:31 PM | Reply

Thanks, Luis, this will be helpful info for other folks who have an Iridium 9555, but I already returned the one I tested. I will add, though, that if I had purchased a 9555, and then learned that the data connection was flaky and I had to pay $100 plus shipping for a corrective firmware update, I would not be a happy camper. Why can't this phone be upgraded by the owner via USB?

Posted by: Ben at June 13, 2009 7:13 PM | Reply

Hi, bit late to this discussion, but here at mailasail we fairly quickly figured out how to work around the dialup issues that Luis is referring to above - basically you just need to slightly tweak the standard modem driver and remove an errant AT command which causes a glitch.

Basically if you use any recent version of our email acceleration software it will workaround the glitch mentioned above. If you use phone firmware version 9014 or newer then it shouldn't even need the workaround.

We have also identified the issue with the phone not working on a Mac and reported the correct fix to Iridium. It's hoped that they will implement this fix in the final firmware update due out shortly, but I haven't bugged them again recently to check it's been implemented... (Sad if not since it's a very simple fix...)

(Note quietly we have figured out how to make the Mac work ok without an Iridium side fix, but I think it's best we keep this under wraps for the present or else Iridium may decline to actually fix the real problem... The point is it should be possible to use a Mac and the 9555 by the end of the year.)

Essentially though all this talk of "drivers" is completely over-stated. There is no real "driver" as such needed. The 9555 is a USB device of a predefined class called an "ACM Modem". As such it needs only that your desired operating system properly supports the USB standard and you are good to go.

...Sadly Windows largely does not support prety much any standard that they did not themselves invent..., hence the reason you need a kind of half driver with windows. But in reality it's just a short text file which basically says to match this USD device ID and use this builtin bit of windows to work with it. It's not really a driver as such...


The 9555 works well, it's new antenna is WAAY better than the older phone and with acceleration software (such as ExpressMail) you really can get some emails through it (we would suggest 10-20 large text emails a minute are achievable).

Good luck all!

Posted by: Ed Wildgoose at October 1, 2009 7:57 AM | Reply

Luis Soltero

When you say there is no way to work on a MAC and no workaround note I am running Windows XP on my MAC using VMWare Fusion -- I should be able to emulate any PC connection as far as the device is concerned -- would this not be a simple workaround for MAC users?

John Pasmore
www.very.fm

Posted by: John Pasmore at October 2, 2009 11:15 AM | Reply

Hello All,

Here is the latest on the 9555 + Mac.

Just plugged in the 9555 with firmware version HT09014 into a mac mini running snow leopard (10.6) with the latest updates as of Oct 2. The USB fails with the following kernel error.

Oct 2 17:02:53 new-host-2 kernel[0]: E:[AppleUSBBluetoothHCIController][initHardware] failedExit.
Oct 2 17:03:53 new-host-2 kernel[0]: E:[AppleUSBBluetoothHCIController][FindInterfaces] bulk IN pipe open failed!
Oct 2 17:03:53 new-host-2 kernel[0]: E:[AppleUSBBluetoothHCIController][FindInterfaces] some interface pipes were not found. Device is no good as a transport
Oct 2 17:03:53 new-host-2 kernel[0]: E:[AppleUSBBluetoothHCIController][initHardware] failedExit.

so the phone can't be used natively on the mac.

However, with vmware fusion 2.05 or greater the USB can be mapped into a windows virtual machine. I have installed and tested the phone on an XP VM running under vmware fusion 2.05 using OS X 10.6 (snow leopard) without issue. Note that under 10.5 with earlier versions of fusion this was not possible. 10.5/10.4 with the latest version of fusion might work but I no longer have machines with the older OS to test.

Anyway, although not heavily tested the fusion solution does seem to work with the 9555.

I haven't tested bootcamp but assume it will work since at that point you have turned your mac into a pc.

So as of this writing mac users can only use the iridium 9555 if they turn their macs into a Windows PC.

--luis

Posted by: Luis Soltero at October 2, 2009 6:11 PM | Reply

I think a face-off of the available Iridium data compression services would be a really useful article. The ones I'm aware of:

* GMN/GlobalMarine XGate
* OCENS Mail
* MailASail Express Mail

Seeing how these compare against each other in a few different situations would be great.

Posted by: ScottE at October 5, 2009 11:10 AM | Reply

Hello All,

We have recently been conduction test of the 9555 with the Beam docking stations under Mac OS X 10.6. The latest version of XGate (3.42) has been modified to include support for this configuration. So mac users can now use the 9555 natively for e-mail, weather, and web browsing as long as they also purchase either a Beam PotsDock or IntelliDock.

The 9555 does not work natively with the mac when hooked up directly to a USB port. Please see previous postings on this blog for details.

Only the USB interface on the Beam docking stations can be used with the Mac. The bluetooth interface can not be configure for use with Mac OS X.

Also, note SBD tacking with the PotsDock is also supported. The Beam PotsDoc has a built in GPS and microprocessor controller. The unit can be programmed to send SBD position information to our tracking website on a fixed intervals. This feature provides for fully automatic vessel tracking using the the 9555. Please see http://www.globalmarinenet.com/xtracker.php for details on our hardware based tracking solutions.

Take care.

Posted by: Luis Soltero at October 14, 2009 3:22 PM | Reply

hey, i need the gmn driver for the winvista64 version for the iri 9555. can you send it or just tell me how to get it, please? thansk a lot
klaus

Posted by: klaus at October 25, 2009 7:22 AM | Reply

Hello All,

We have just finished evaluating the latest pre-release of the Iridium 9555 firmware (HT09017) and we are happy to report that Mac OS X is fully supported. This means that Mac users will finally be able to use 9555 phones directly connected to the mac without the need of a Beam docking station.

The firmware upgrade package (which only works under windows) also includes drivers for win vista 64 and win7 32 and 64 bits. To upgrade the firmware you must use a win XP -> win 7 host.

Iridium is currently testing the firmware and has not published a release date. Until the firmware is released the only way to use the 9555 with win7, win Vista64, and Mac OS X is as describe here in previous postings.

Take care.

--luis

Luis Soltero, Ph.D., MCS
Director of Software Development, CTO
Global Marine Networks, LLC
StarPilot, LLC
Tel: 865-379-8723
Fax: 865-681-5017
E-Mail: lsoltero@globalmarinenet.net
Web: http://www.globalmarinenet.net
Web: http://www.starpilotllc.com

Posted by: Luis Soltero at December 25, 2009 6:01 AM | Reply

Dr Soltero:

I have a mac. Is there any word yet on the release date of the new firmware?

Bill Hopkin

Posted by: bill hopkin at January 12, 2010 8:10 PM | Reply


Hello Bill,

I just checked with Iridium and they say that the new firmware should be released on Feb 15.

In the mean time you can use your 9555 with an intellidock... You might want to consider one of these docking stations anyway. They are very nice and we highly recommend them for all users. The retail price of the docking station is $750 which includes the privacy handset.


Take care.

--luis

Luis Soltero, Ph.D., MCS
Director of Software Development, CTO
Global Marine Networks, LLC
StarPilot, LLC
Tel: 865-379-8723
Fax: 865-681-5017
E-Mail: lsoltero@globalmarinenet.net
Web: http://www.globalmarinenet.net
Web: http://www.starpilotllc.com

Posted by: Luis Soltero at February 1, 2010 3:39 PM | Reply

Is there an update on the release of the firmware HT09017 that was due last week? and if it is released where can I get it?

Posted by: Hamish Jenkins at February 17, 2010 2:28 AM | Reply


9555 Firmware Version HT10001 was released today Feb 18, 2010.

Please contact your Iridium vendor for a copy of the firmware.

Take care,

--luis

Luis Soltero, Ph.D., MCS
Director of Software Development, CTO
Global Marine Networks, LLC
StarPilot, LLC
Tel: 865-379-8723
Fax: 865-681-5017
E-Mail: lsoltero@globalmarinenet.net
Web: http://www.globalmarinenet.net
Web: http://www.starpilotllc.com

Posted by: Luis Soltero at February 18, 2010 12:38 PM | Reply

Dr. Soltero:

The link globalmarinenet does not provide any information with regards to the use of the 9555 for transmission of track data using SBD. Can you provide a link to more information? Thank you.

Reference - From post on Oct 14th, 2009: "The Beam PotsDoc has a built in GPS and microprocessor controller. The unit can be programmed to send SBD position information to our tracking website on a fixed intervals. This feature provides for fully automatic vessel tracking using the the 9555."

Posted by: Patrick Minix at February 24, 2010 10:08 AM | Reply

All (nearly) Iridium units can do SBD - the usage of SBD should not (as far as I know) vary depending on what unit you use. All of them just use the Iridium SBD AT commands.

Obviously to use SBD you will need appropriate setup of the device, and an airtime plan - it's not included with a standard plan, you need to bolt it on. Also some setup needs to be done by the SP *per device*. Speak to your airtime provider for full info

The 9555 with firmware HT10001 works absolutely fine with Mac's now - speak to your local Iridium partner to get your phone upgraded - it's a simple upgrade, I doubt you will be asked to pay for it if you have given some business their way.

64bit Vista/XP/Win7 has always kind of worked, but you needed to edit the "driver" to get it recognised. This is now partly done if you use the "driver" (hey, it's just a short text file) supplied with the firmware for HT10001, however, for some reason they only made half of the changes we recommended... This means that if you use either the 9555 driver from our Downloads page, or the one from the HT10001 upgrade (probably on new CDs in the box) then your phone will be recognised by the phone

The second bit is that you need a "modem driver" to dial the internet. You can either use the generic 19,200 baud builtin driver (and then add the usual "AT+CBST=71,0,1" in the advanced Initialisation box), or you can use the driver supplied with the latest ExpressMail. Currently the driver included with DI2 from Iridium doesn't have the extra config lines that say it's ok on 64bit versions of windows and hence it declines to use it. All it takes is to add a couple of lines via cut'n'paste, but while you are waiting for Iridium to do this use one of the resources above. (Probably GMN has a similar installer if you are one of their customers also)

So, with some caveats, the 9555 now works near flawlessly on all popular operating systems!

Bye all

Posted by: Ed Wildgoose at March 29, 2010 6:18 AM | Reply

For email compression and weather providers, don't forget Sailmail which works over any type of connection and is very inexpensive. With it's roots in SSB email, Sailmail has a long history of low bandwidth data transfer and works seamlessly on Iridium and INMARSAT.

A service provider comparison would be interesting to see, as claims and prices are all over the map.

Posted by: Anonymous at March 29, 2010 8:42 AM | Reply

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