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Why does my WiFi connection keep dropping out?


There are several things that could cause your tablet or PC to disconnect from the PMC-Eight when using the wireless WiFi connection either with ExploreStars or with the ASCOM driver.  

The primary reason is that the level of WiFi traffic in your local area may be high causing the dropouts.   WiFi devices in the US can legally operate on several channels which are designated 1-11. Most of these channels overlap each other slightly and 3 of them do not overlap. Channels 1, 6, and 11 are the non-overlapping channels. The PMC-Eight is delivered with channel 6 as the default.

With high traffic areas, channel 6 is a common channel so it is better to select a channel that is not used by many devices.   We provide a tool called the WiFi Dongle that plugs into the ST4 port of the PMC-Eight that is used to increment the WiFi channel of your PMC-Eight. Instructions on how to do this are included in the PMC-Eight User’s Manual.

The tool WiFi Info View is freely available and can be used to see all your local WiFi traffic and help you determine the best channel to select for your circumstance.   Changing the channel on your PMC-Eight will typically solve any connectivity issues you may be experiencing. 

Sometimes changing the PMC-Eight channel does not seem to correct the issue and you may still experience dropouts. The next common cause that we have seen is related to the quality of the tablet or laptop WiFi hardware that is used. Some inexpensive Windows or Android tablets may not always be as reliable as a more expensive laptop or desktop computer. We have had reports of varying levels of reliability when using a wide range of different Windows or Android devices running ExploreStars. 

If you continue to experience dropouts with a specific device, try using ExploreStars with another device, either a laptop or desktop computer to see if there are any changes in behavior and/or the problem goes away.   Also make sure that the PMC-Eight antenna is positioned vertically, and that the PC or Laptop is not too close to the PMC-Eight, try to stay at least 2-3 feet from the PMC-Eight. If you are having issues with your Windows tablet, you can try using the Android version of the ExploreStars application on an Android Tablet or device to see if that solves the issue. 

Finally, there are a couple of other things that you need to check. First you need to make sure that your tablet or PC is not set to go to sleep mode and always stays on, and make sure that there is no screen saver enabled while you are using the ExploreStars or ASCOM driver wirelessly. When the screen saver is enabled and activated, the ExploreStars application is no longer actively polling the PMC-Eight and the PMC-Eight will stop the mount from tracking.  Second, a dropout can also occur if you were to walk out of range of the PMC-Eight WiFi signal with your device. This is a safety feature designed into the firmware to ensure that the mount does not drive the telescope into the tripod if you were to forget to park or stop the tracking by walking away from the mount with your tablet.   See Knowledge Base Article XXX for a workaround to this problem.