3/4/11

HughesNet Survival Guide

The majority of the population, especially in the US, are lucky (or smart) enough to live in an area well enough populated to make providing a decent DSL or cable connection a worthwhile venture for companies. But sadly for many, including myself, a decent internet connection is just not possible. Really only leaving you with two options: 56k Dial-up or satellite. Both options suck but satellite is the lesser of two evils.

I have been a HughesNet customer for a few years now and I thought I would share a few of the helpful tricks I have picked up over the years to make it a tad more bearable.

1. HughesNet Service Tools (HST)

HST

First things first, as you probably already know HughesNet has a ridiculously small daily limit of how many megabytes you can load from the internet each day; and very unfair rules when you go over that limit.

The best way to combat this is to go here HST and download and install the “Status Meter.”  Personally, I recommend installing it on every PC you own as it reminds you when you are nearing your daily download limit.

 

2. HughesNet System Control Center (HSCC)

This is the second destination on our tour the HSCC. This for some can be a tricky thing to access depending on your routers configuration. The first thing to do is open up your browser of choice, and type http://192.168.0.1/ into the address bar (or just click the link). If all is well you should see a page that looks something like this…

HSCC 

If you instead see something else, like your routers configuration page, you will need to change the routers default I.P. address. But as this process is different for every router, if you don’t already know how to do it, you will need to contact the manufacturer.

Once you reach the HSCC, there are many very useful features which I will cover in this guide.

One good thing to checkout, especially if you’re a new customer, is the System Info page. The top two numbers are you signal strength. Anything above 150 on the top number and 30 on the bottom should be adequate, but if over time you see them steadily decreasing, even when the weather is clear, it could mean the dish was not grounded properly.

Signal Strength

 

3. Understanding Download Limit and Refill time

One of the most useful things in the HSCC is the “Download Allowance Status” link at the very bottom of the page. This shows you exactly how many megabytes you have left for the day and when that allowance will refill.

Download Allowance

The time of night or day that the daily allowance refills can be changed based on three things…

1. If you go over your download limit then whatever time you went over, the clock will from then-on reset exactly 24 hours later. (Example: if you go over your limit at 3.23pm starting the next day your limit will always refill at 3:23pm every day.)

2. If you decide to use a restore token (explained in more detail later) then it will set the refill timer to exactly the time it was when you used the token. (Example: If at 10:00am you use a restore token from then-on the download allowance will refill at exactly 10:00am each day.)

3. Because HughesNet sucks. From time to time, with no explanation that I can find, the refill time will just randomly change just to bug you.

Getting the refill time to one that suits you can make HughesNet a little more bearable. For instance in my case, I like when it refills late morning so that I can watch a few YouTube videos with yesterday’s leftover megabytes without having to limit myself for the rest of the day.

 

5. Restore Tokens

If you do go over, the download limit things become very sad for you. What happens when over the limit is for the next 24 hours your internet connection will be nearly unusable (even worse than Dial-up). What they claim happens is your speed is restricted to 5-10KBps but the reality is a bit worse. While its true you are limited to that speed, for some reason web pages will often either load incorrectly or not at all, requiring many page refreshes and at those speeds it quickly becomes unbearable.

But there is hope… The restore tokens are a nice/cruel item you will find under HST. The first thing to know is how to sign-in to access them. If you already know you SAN number you can skip this part. Otherwise we need to go to the HSCC.

Click the button at the top of the HSCC labeled “System Info.” There, the very top number next to where it says “ST Name” is your SAN number, but the first three letters HNS are not part of it. You can just copy and paste this number, however, you must make sure that there are no spaces before or after it or the sign-in will not work.

Now once you sign-in you should be greeted/infuriated by a page that looks sort of like this…

Resroe Tokens 2

Here you have two options.

1. Option one is your monthly complementary token. Meaning that once a month if you go over your daily limit you can use your complementary restore token to refill your daily download allowance, while also changing the refill time as explained above. Unfortunately, you can only have one of these, meaning you can not save this month’s free token and have two next month.

2. Unfortunately, option 2 is nowhere near as kind. You can purchase a restore token at the completely absurd prices of $10.50 for one or $25 for three.
(Uninformative Rant: Seriously, do they really think this to be a fair price? Often times going over your limit is just an accident that's not your fault. Before the restore token system was put into place you could just call them and apologize for going over your limit, and they would restore it for free!)

 

6. Turbo Page

This is without a doubt the most useful tip you will find in this guide. On the HSCC there is a tiny blue wizard on the top right side (shown in picture below); click it.

Wizard

Now on the left side you should see a list of links including the option “Turbo Page.” Click it, then click “Turbo Page Configuration.”

Turbo Page

This is an option that you will want to change constantly. Depending on what you are doing, enabled or disabled may be better under different circumstances. Some things and pages will only work with it, while others are best without.

Explaining exactly what Turbo Page is, is outside the scope of this guide. But really it’s just something that requires experimentation. But here are a few of its effects (at least in my case).

“Google Image Search” results will sometimes not load unless it is enabled. Gamefly.com game information pages will also not load with out it.

The Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace gives an error message unless it is disabled. While PlayStation Network store seems to regularly change its mind which way is better.

In my case, YouTube videos are much faster with it disabled while other HughesNet customers say the opposite.

I have also noticed that during storms when the satellite signal is weak things work much better with it disabled.

Ultimately, you just have to play with it and see what works best for you.

 

7. Downloading

I am an internet junky and a gamer. That means I download a ton of stuff. I am in a never-ending fight to clear enough space on my 2.5 Terabytes worth of HDD space for the next night worth of downloading. Which is where Internet Download Manager and the 2:00 am to 7:00 am ET limitation free Download Zone comes in.

HughesNet offers their own Download Manager which I have not tried do to personal preference, though any manager that allows scheduling should do the trick. But I recommend either IDM (Internet Download Manager) or JDownloader. With these during the day you can make a list of all the things you want downloaded, then set it to start downloading automatically during the Download Zone, and more importantly stop when that time is up.

Important: I am on the Pro Plus Plan, and during the Download Zone with it when Turbo Page is enabled my average speed is about 180Kbps but it fluctuates wildly. And I only get about 2.0gb to 2.5gb a night with the amount downloaded each hour varying greatly. With Turbo Page disabled my speeds hold between 190kbps to 220kbps, and each Download Zone, I get almost exactly 700mb an hour or 3.5gb a night.

The best way to monitor how much your downloading each night is the download usage page. To get here go to this link “Customer Care Tools” and click “Check Usage” then select your modem from the list. Then type in your SAN number (explained under “5.Restore Tokens”). And you should see a page like below showing how much you have downloaded each hour, with the Download Zone highlighted in blue.

Usage

Just to make sure your computer does not continue to download anything after the Download Zone, it is a good idea to set either Windows Task Scheduler or your Download Manager to Shutdown your PC after the Download Zone. Or if you’re like me and want your PC to start-up more quickly the next morning, you can create a batch file for windows Task Scheduler.

To do this just open up Notepad and paste this (without  quotes):

“Rundll32.exe Powrprof.dll,SetSuspendState Sleep”

Save it anywhere on your hard drive. Then rename the file extension from “.txt” to “.bat”. Now just set Task Scheduler to run it after the Download Zone and it will put your PC in hibernation mode instead of shutting down.

Note: If you do not see file extensions, you must open up any folder, then press the “Alt” key. Second, click “Tools'” and “Folder Options.” Finally, click the “View” tab and uncheck the box next to “Hide extensions for known file types.”

8. Gaming

This is by far the most depressing part of this guide so be warned. You cannot and will not ever be able to really enjoy online gaming over satellite internet. Console games, like the ones on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, will almost always immediately kick you out for high ping, if they let you join at all.

Any kind of fast paced game like shooters, racing games, or even World of Warcraft are never playable. Any game that requires frequent real-time interaction with the other players just doesn't work.

But that's not to say there are not still a few options. Here are a few games I have managed to enjoy over HughesNet…

Pangya
A strangely addictive MMO Golf game. It does have the occasional disconnect during games but still very enjoyable.

Wizard 101
It’s certainly no WoW, and it is aimed at kids. But its turn based combat makes this very playable despite some lag and occasional disconnects.

Shin Megami Tensei Imagine
This one’s playability is a little more questionable. I have managed to make a fair bit of progress in it, but the lag is pretty severe. With very delayed reactions in combat and when navigating menus I’ll say this one is playable but just barely.

Another way to get your social gaming fix, is most all browser based games like Travian or Advance Wars By Web. They work perfectly as long as there is no real-time interaction with other players.

XBLA
Although using Xbox Live to play games online does not work with HughesNet, purchasing games from the Market Place does if your willing to sacrifice a Z or two.

Note: It is not always consistent. But it has been my experience that the Marketplace can only be accessed with Turbo Page Disabled but then when you try to download something it still usually does not work.

The best way to do it, is to add content to you 360’s download queue from the browser based marketplace. But, unfortunately, most games are too large to be downloaded during the day. And, to my knowledge, the Xbox 360 has no way of scheduling downloads, so you have to stay up until the unlimited download zone to start the downloads. But be carful because if something does not finish before the download zone ends it will continue to download and use up your daily limit very quickly.

PSN
Fortunately on the Sony side of the fence, the PlayStation store for the most part works as it should. Except occasionally a download will hang, and to get it started again you have to stop the download and restart your PS3 then start the download back up. It also seems like whether or not turbo page should be enabled changes from one day to the next. You just have to experiment.

9. Other Noteworthy Tips

Sometimes during the Download Zone, HughesNet will go down anywhere from a few seconds up to an hour when the modem’s firmware is updating. There is nothing you can do about it. But it is a good idea to set a high limit on how many times your download manager of choice tries to restart a download before moving on to the next in its queue.

It is also a good idea to go through your programs like Antivirus and windows updater and schedule their updates for the Download Zone. Also disable any auto updates in programs like Adobe Reader.

If you load a lot of flash content like games and videos, right click on one of them them and go to “Settings,” then click the folder icon and move the slider to “Unlimited.” This way flash content is stored on your Hard Drive so it does not have to keep reloading and using your precious daily megabyte allowance.

 Flash

Every once in awhile your HughesNet modem will freak-out! Such as while typing this very document my internet is going off and on in intervals of about 15 seconds. When things like this happen just unplug the power to the modem for about 30 seconds then plug it back in and wait about 2 minutes for it to reconnect and all is usually well again.

Going over your download limit sucks, a lot! A few good tools to help monitor and control your bandwidth usage are Net Limiter and Network Meter.

If a web page is not loading, you can check if the problem is on your end here "Down for Every One or Just Me"

As they will all be used fairly often it is a good idea to bookmark the following…
HughesNet System Control Center
HughesNet Service Tools 
Customer Care Tools (Especially usage page)

If you have any other helpful tips for surviving the horrors of Satellite Internet, feel free to leave a comment or email me directly with the “Contact” link at the top of the page.

9 comments:

  1. Any success with Neflix streaming to TV via Roku, Blu-Ray, etc.? I have the HN ProPlus plan, the second-fastest plan offered.

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  2. I guess it depends on how you define success. Netflix streaming technically works fine last time I checked (just before they added an extra fee for streaming). The problem is that like any kind of video streaming service it uses a lot of bandwidth very quickly. Any HD content would go over your daily limit in just a few minutes. It is possible to get through an SD TV show or two but it will still push that daily limit to the edge.

    As-for Blu-Ray, things work fine. They do however sometimes have streaming bonus features that will kill that daily limit in a hurry! But I have never encountered any problems watching the main content.

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  3. Portal 2 works for the ps3 online and off... idk how to schedule downloads for the ps3 if there is a way...As long as you keep monitoring the download allowance meter you should be just fine.... Your information is very reliable.. My computer wont download the status meter though could tell me if there is a way??

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  4. Do you have an updated version of this post? Hughesnet goes on monthly, not daily data allowances, now. We are having some serious issues with them, since I go to school online, which consists of a never-ending stream of tutorial vids, and have to share our precious 20GB a month with 3 other adults, because that is the highest cap they have. Highway robbery, I might add. And now, the Download Zone even has a 20 GB cap on it.

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    Replies
    1. Athena.. I feel your pain. Absolutely same situation. Except SIX of us sharing the net with two students ::sigh::

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    2. Richard... NOT real helpful after a two year contract has been signed.. ::sigh:: not to mention right now they are out of plans (how that works i dont know) and have the same limit! They ARE a bit cheaper, but no extra bonus time so actually they are even more expensive if you use that time at all, because its 89 more or nothing once you go over your first 20.

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  5. What should I do if the satellite receive strength is low - like 116

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    ReplyDelete