Othernet Dreamcatcher On Sale for Only $49

Over on the Othernet website the Dreamcatcher hardware is currently on sale for only US$49. This is the lowest we've ever seen it for sale.

If you weren't already aware, the Othernet project aims to bring live data such as news, weather, video, books, Wikipedia articles and audio broadcasts to the world via a free satellite service and cheap receivers. Although an internet connection provides the same data, Othernet's satellite broadcast is receivable in remote areas, will continue working in disasters, and costs nothing to continually receive roughly 200MB of data a day. The trade off is that the service is downlink only, so the data that you get is only what is curated by the Othernet team.

Currently the public service is in a test period and is only available in North America. Europe has come online recently too, however they write that the current version of Dreamcatcher that is for sale may not be optimal for receiving the EU signal.

While currently active, they write that the Othernet satellite service is not guaranteed to continue long term. However even if the service discontinues, the Dreamcatcher can still be used as a TX/RX capable LoRa radio. In a previous post we demonstrated a fun application with two Dreamcatchers and a LoRa chat application.

Othernet Dreamcatcher
Othernet Dreamcatcher

36 comments

  1. Val

    My board just arrived today so I gave it a try. Everything looks very good and works (turns on and boots, I couldn’t test Othernet connection yet). I didn’t get any signal likely because
    1) I wasn’t sure about the direction
    2) it was a very cloudy day
    3) I’m not sure how good my cable is

    Skylark boots just fine and the touch screen is responsive. The board seems to have a lot of potential thanks to wide variety of sockets and on-board touch screen.
    Sockets:
    – direct RF input (whatever it is)
    – LNB RF input
    – 2x MicroSD
    – USB
    – MicroUSB power
    – MicroUSB OTG
    – 3.5 mm audio input
    – 3.5 mm audio ouput
    – UART
    – 2 pins for audio speaker
    – 5V pin
    – 3.3V pin
    – a bunch of GPIO pins
    – power button

    The display board also has a MicroSD socket, not sure if it’s accessible/connected.
    There are quite many LEDs on the board too.

    • Val

      A bit more info (based on a few links found online):
      – based on Allwinner A13, which has NEON (for faster data processing), GPU (Mali 400) and VPU (for video decoding and encoding)
      – it looks like it has 1ppm TXCO and RTL-SDR on board
      – looks like it has LNA and SAW filter for 1.5 GHz range
      – the port labeled “Direct” can receive AND TRANSMIT!
      – looks like it’s possible to run ADS-B stuff directly on board without any connected dongles

      We still need to explore the Dreamcatcher 3 to find out all the features. It looks like internally it’s very similar to Dreamcatcher 2, and fortunately there are quite many articles on Dreamcatcher 2.

      • zefie

        I’ll drop my notes here:
        – AFAIK “Direct” is direct access to the LoRa chip’s 2.4ghz, “LNA” can be 60 MHz – 6GHz (? I think) but no real info on how to mess with the chips (but docs for chips are open)
        – USB OTG is fussy due to the dtb (device tree binary) that is provided. I have used a USB HDD over it a couple of times but can’t quite pin down how I managed to get it out of device mode and into host mode.
        – Having USB Mass Storage attached to a hub or the USB port will delay the SD boot. I have not tried booting off USB, but it is peculiar.
        – Have not had luck getting touchscreen working in Armbian (display works, no touch response)
        – Can install xorg and run lxde on Armbian, but Kodi refused to launch
        – The little unused trace across the board from the actual SMA, where it looks like two SMA’s would literally attach to each other, is amusing to me.

  2. Roy

    Well, 2 days later and still no shipping confirmation. Did yours actually ship? Or was just the label printed. My shipment shows up on the USPS website, but still shows that USPS hasn’t even picked up the package yet. Monday morning this is going to get “real”.

    • zefie

      Average consensus is that it takes about 2-3 days from when they print it, until it actually gets to the USPS. If it doesn’t update within a week then contact Othernet, but I’m sure you’ll have it by then 🙂

    • Val

      I can see that my parcel has been actually shipped and started moving through USPS delivery system, not just label printed.

  3. Roy

    Anybody receive theirs yet, or even a shipping confirmation?! I got a “shipping confirmation” soon after ordering, but when I clicked on the tracking link, it only lists it as a USPS shipment label indication, meaning that somebody printed the label but never shipped the product. Kind of disconcerting after hearing about people being ripped off in earlier offers.

    • Val

      As I understand it was CHIP’s manufacturers who ripped people off, not Outernet/Othernet. I’m also waiting for my order, let’s see how it goes.

    • JTC

      I ordered mine a few days ago. Got a tracking number within 24 hours, but it took a few days before the tracking data reflected any movement of my order, but mine is on the way, due to be delivered on the 3rd of April.

      • Val

        Same here – it takes a few days for the parcel to appear on the USPS website, but it does appear there eventually.

  4. Val

    $49 is a good price for the kit even if they are going to stop transmitting very soon (and 67% discount looks more like a liquidation sale more than regular a sale).

    I have no illusions regarding Othernet/Outernet as I’ve seen how many times they’ve changed frequencies making old hardware obsolete, but it’s an interesting project worth playing with.

    I’m mostly interested in this kit as a single board computer that can be used for many different things, but being able to receive broadcast from a satellite even for limited time is a pretty nice bonus.

    • zefie

      I have a theory about the liquidation of v3.03/MK1 kits. There are talks on their forum that the EU beam does not work that great with the current kit, and Syed (project leader) has mentioned a v3.04 board and a different LNB.

      • zefie

        Sorry for double post, I wanted to add that it has been reported on their forums that they temporary blocked EU orders until the issues is addressed, and I believe they are providing those in the EU who did get the 3.03/MK1 kit free exchanges for the new kit when its ready.

        For tinkerers, or users in NA, the current kit is fine. (something about the EU SES-4 beam being narrower).
        Syed has also stated on the forum if you are from the EU reaaaallly want the current one, he will sell one you one but it won’t work that great.

        Also consider the MK1 LNB may not even be manufactured anymore, as it is created by a “ghost” company “Maverick Satellite”, with a dead URL on the box.

      • Val

        Yes, it does look like liquidation sale but it’s fine. Still an interesting kit and the price is right. Can’t wait to see what else I can catch on Ku band using that LNB.

  5. JTC

    I agree that while from an investment angle, Othernet is a risky venture, from a technological and a humanitarian perspective, it’s one worth supporting. Othernet could bring vital information to places on earth where you can’t just tether your cellphone to a laptop and check out the weather forecast or read up on current events. I personally stand to benefit from this as I spend most of my time traveling in some of the most remote areas left in the U.S. (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, etc…). I plan on installing an Othernet receiver in my travel trailer. I do wish the link was bi-directional in nature, but perhaps that will come later if this first phase of the project turns out to be a success.

    • Phil

      It’s legit..but….poorly planned. The tech and manufacturing aspect of their gear is good. However, (as stated in previous discussions here) it seems they had (have) no planning structure to stick to. So many changes over the years and still no guarantee of anything permanent. They have however (through their stuff ups) given us some nice, affordable hardware to play with. What they are trying to do is not easy, so good on them for having a go.

    • zefie

      It is legit, I ordered one, came within a week, set up and running now.

      Even if the service discontinues, if you are a hobbiest (for example, you enjoy the Raspberry Pi), I would pick this up for the $49, because not only do they offer a generic armbian to play with, but I believe (not 100% sure have not tried it) that the LCD is 100% Pi compatible as it seems to be attached to a header and uses an “adafruit28” driver.

      So the board + lcd + lnb is already worth the $50, if not worth more, regardless of Othernet/Outernet’s status.

      • Phil

        Exactly. Whether the outernet project gets up or not, we have benefited from them. Their patch antenna was good value if you weren’t in a position to build one.

  6. Kevin Elliott

    I wish I understood why RTL-SDR.com enthusiastically supports this project. It has gone through so many ups and downs. I like Othernet, and I like the team there, and I own a bunch of their SDRs, but I just wish the posts here were a little more honest and less hypey about it.

    • Seasalt

      “I wish I understood why RTL-SDR.com enthusiastically supports this project. It has gone through so many ups and downs. ………. but I just wish the posts here were a little more honest and less hypey about it.”

      I think we just have to remember that …

      “SPACE IS HARD”

      Outernet..Othernet have pioneered in a area of technology where no one else has gone. “Low cost space / satellite receivers.”

      I feel this is exactly the kind of project RTL-SDR should be promoting.

      • Val

        Space is hard, but they don’t launch or even develop their own satellites, they merely rent bandwidth. They are as space-related as CNN.

    • Michael Robertson

      Exactly, first they used the rpi, and sold the L band antenna and amp and filter (which i bought) then they used the chip pc, which I bought and ended up being a scam (never recieved it) and I lost money on it (only bought it because it was reccomended by outernet) then they ended up going to much higher freq’s with the LNB which now doesn’t transmit over Australia. Its great idea except its just poorly executed, and they need to come up with a decent sytsem design before the hardware etc otherwise you end up buying a whole lot of stuff which isn’t very useful.
      I too really wonder why RTL-SDR support this project.

      • admin

        Despite the numerous changes and set backs, it’s still an interesting service that I hope really takes off one day. Every iteration seems to be getting closer to the optimal solution.

        • Val

          I’d say even if the project never takes off (which is likely IMO), it already inspired enough people to explore radio and satellite communications to make the project worthy. It’s not what they wanted probably, but it’s still important for the world IMO.

          My interest in single board computers and satellite communications began with L-band Outernet kit which included CHIP computer, RTL-SDR v.3 dongle, Outernet LNB and awesome patch antenna.
          CHIP silently died in less than half a year, but it’s still a cool item in by SBC collection. Everything else still works and is being used in different projects. It was a good buy even though I’ve played with Outernet for really long time.

          Ironically, thanks to Outernet I’ve learned about Inmarsat, Iridium and other satellite communications services which already provide great two-way communications for the case of natural disasters (in addition to SW ham radio) making Outernet redundant.

          Anyway, even though I don’t like their approach to business and crowdfunding, I wish them the best.

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