Using the Iridium GO! with Sailmail is normally straightforward:
- Connect the computer WiFi to the GO!
- Open Airmail’s internet-access window
- Check the box near the bottom that says “First connect to iridium GO”.
- Verify signal strength and click the green button to connect.
But sometimes things go wrong. This article will review the more common issues and explore solutions.
Can’t Connect WiFi to the GO!
Open Windows WiFi connections (lower-right “system icons” on the desktop). You should see a network named “IRIIDUM-XXXXX” where “XXXXX” is the serial# for your Iridium-GO. This is normally an open network, with no WPA2 key or password required. Check the box to “Connect automatically” and click “Connect”. You should then see “Connected, open”, or (more likely) “no internet, open”. This “no internet” notation does not indicate a problem, because the Iridium GO cannot connect to internet by itself and fails the Windows connection checks.
But there is no Iridium GO! on the WiFi network list
The Iridium GO! is a 2.4 GHz 802.11b WiFi device, the simplest of the many levels of WiFi available. And as such, it should be compatible with everything. And pretty much any computer built-in WiFi will be compatible, but add-on WiFi adapters may not be. For example, the TP-Link TL-WN725N 802.11/bgn USB adapter iworks perfectly, while the “newer version” Archer T2U Nano (802.11/ac) ought to work but doesn’t.
If you don’t see the Iridium GO on the WiFi list, then check your adapter settings, be sure the 2.4 GHz band is enabled, and that 802.11b is supported. And of course, make sure that the GO! is powered on (antenna raised).
OK, the GO! WiFi connects, but won’t stay connected
We mentioned Windows connection checks. In a normal application, Windows will try to automatically connect to the “best” available WiFi network.. Normally this would be the strongest network with auto-connect enabled, which would likely be the GO– assuming that GO unit is near the nav station with a remote antenna. But then Windows runs its connection checks (NCSI- “Network Connectivity Status Indicator”) and discovers that the GO has no internet connection. It will show “no internet” but also start looking for other “known networks” — and may disconnect the GO believing it is useless.
So it is important that the only “known network” which has automatic connection enabled is the GO. Open Windows settings, Network & Internet, Wi-Fi, and click on “Manage known networks”. Check each entry and be sure that ONLY the Iridium-GO connection is set to “Connect automatically”.
You can also disable the Network Connectivity checks, see this article: Disabling Windows NCSI. Turning off NCSI won’t change the auto-connect behavior (and disabling auto-connect for all other networks is still important) but will stop Windows from looking for a “better” connection. (It may still show “no internet”, there are also passive checks).
Not just disconnecting, the GO! disappears from the WiFi list
If the Iridium-XXXX network disappears from the list of WiFi connections, that’s different. Either the GO has stopped transmitting (i.e. hung or broken), or is being interfered with by another WiFi device. the best tool to isolate these problems is a “WiFi Analyzer” app for a phone or tablet (i.e. a “second opinion” separate from the computer). You want a “spectrum” display showing signals in the 2.4 GHz band, or a scan list showing signal strength and channel. You should see the GO as “IRIDIUM-XXXX”, and hopefully nothing with comparable or stronger signal strength on the same channel– particularly if the interfering signal is another device on your own boat.
If you suspect interference with the WiFi signal, you can change the Iridum-GO’s channel: Connect its WiFi, open a browser and enter the address “192.168.0.1” (without quotes– and yes, it opens slowly). That opens its login page. Enter username and password (defaults are “guest” and “guest”). Click on “Communication” in the top menu-bar, this opens WiFi settings. You can change your SSID (network name) here, as well as the assigned channel. Hot tip: Stick to channels 1, 6 or 11. WiFi signals are wide and take up 4-5 channels at a time, so there are really only three independent channels that don’t overlap: 1, 6 and 11.
NOTE: You can change the GO to be a secure network, but this is NOT advised. Sailmail connections are already secure, and this is just one more thing that can go wrong when communications are the most important. Same with changing the GO’s username & password: Yes, your marina neighbors might be able to access your GO, so you may want to change it. But if you do, then post the new login in LARGE print at the nav station. And don’t forget to change Airmail’s settings GO settings.
GO connects to internet, but can’t connect to Sailmail
This would be a situation where the GO! connects to internet (Iridium GO reports “Connection complete”) and then tries to connect to a Sailmail server (“Opening connection to: 184.108.40.206:50”– for example, for Server1). But then nothing happens and it times out after 20 seconds.
The “Opening connection to …” message means that the WiFi is connected to the GO, the GO successfully connected to the iridium satellite network, but Airmail was unable to establish an internet connection to the Sailmail server.
There are two possibilities: either something is actively blocking the internet connection, or the internet connection is being routed through a “dead path” (other than the GO) which is not working.
First, blocking: Some “internet security” programs will block unknown outgoing connections, Norton and McAfee and others will do this depending on how they are configured. Our recommendation is to skip the third-party security programs and use Windows integrated anti-virus and firewall– they work as well as any, don’t cause problems, and no security software is effective if it can’t be kept updated– and you can’t update anything at sea. But at least, as a test, disable or uninstall and third-party security software.
Dead path: This situation can occur when there is more than one possible network path, for example, the GO connected via WiFi and a wired (or second WiFi) connection for a boat network– for example to connect to an instrument system (such as the B&G H5000) or a chart-plotter. Whenever there is more than one network connection, Windows will prioritize which path to use for internet traffic.
When dialing the GO, Airmail communicates directly with the GO at its 192.168.0.1 address. But once connected, then Airmail connects directly to the Sailmail server but it is up to Windows to choose the path, and it may choose badly. Networks with internet connectivity have priority over those without internet, and wired networks have priority over WiFi. So, for example, if there is a wired connection to an H5000, and WiFi to the GO, both will show “no internet” and the internet path is unpredictable.
There are options to make routing predictable: Turn off Windows NCSI, this will stop Windows active testing for internet connectivity. Alternately the wired connection can be set up with a static IP and no gateway address. The “metric” setting for the wired network can also be set very high to discourage its use. And the “Route” command can be used to specify that internet traffic be sent via the GO’s 192.168.0.1 address. THe problem with any of these choices is that they have to be un-done when the computer leaves the boat and wants to do “normal” internet.
The ideal setup in this situation is add a separate router to the boat network, and let the router do the routing on the boat. For example, any of the PEPwave BR1-series can connect to wired devices (H5000 CPU, computer, chartplotter), to the GO as a “WiFi as WAN” connection, and to a cellular network for near-shore internet. The drawbacks are cost and the setup can get complex. There are also travel routers than can connect wired and WiFi networks with a WiFi-WAN or WiFi Repeater) functionality. We’re working on a “Boat Networks” article, in the meantime don’t hesitate to reach out to email@example.com. “
That all works, but Airmail only connects once, then I have to close and re-open to connect again
This is a bug with Airmail ver 3.5.036. Update to ver 3.5.054 (or later when available), in the meantime close and re-open Airmail’s internet window.
The GO’s IP address conflicts with my boat network
The GO’s IP address is 192.168.0.1, it acts as a WiFi-connected router for the 192.168.0.xxx sub-net. If you already have a boat network (cellular router, B&G Zeus, etc) using the same 192.168.0.xxx subnet then there will be a conflict and things won’t work properly. The GO’s IP address is hard-coded and can’t be changed, so you will need to reconfigure the boat network to a different subnet (e.g. 192.168.anything-but-zero.xxx). Sorry.
And yes, Airmail’s GO settings do allow you to specify a different IP address for the GO. That was in anticipation of Iridium fixing the obvious oversight, but almost a decade later we’re still waiting. If this ever gets fixed then you can change Airmail’s GO address, but not until then.
Other relevant topics:
- Iridium GO!
- Disable NCSI
- Boat networks