Troubleshooting your Bobcat hotspot

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by ARDEVD

Taking matters into your own hands.

Chances are that most owners will at some point run into some kind of issue with their Helium hotspots. Luckily, in many cases, its possible to resolve the issue on your own as long as you know how to figure out what’s wrong and what you can do about it. This guide will try to take you through the general flow of nailing down the most common issues. 

 
 

Ping

A great first step is to verify that your Bobcat is actually connected to the local network. Ping the hotspot IP and verify that it’s actually responding to the network.

In the example above, my hotspot is responding to pings, indicating that the unit is powered on and has network connectivity.

 

Sidenote: Notice the ping response time. In my case it varies between 8.69ms and 167ms. This is due to the fact that my hotspot is connected to WiFi. WiFi being a shared space where only one node can transmit at a given time. Frame drops, re-transmissions and interference are only some of the problems that face WiFi connected hotspots. Take note.

 

Checking the Diagnoser

Your first stop should always be the Bobcat Diagnoser. Bobcat includes a handly little web interface that includes some very useful information regarding your hotspot. You can view the temperatures, current sync status, and miner software information through the menu available there.

 

To access the Diagnoser you’ll need to point your browser to your hotspot local IP. If you don’t know what your hotspots IP is (hint: you should) then you typically find this on your router’s adminstration web app, which is where you’d also go to set up port forwarding necessary for the hotspot to not be relayed.

 
 
Once you’re in the Diagnoser, the first thing to check is the sync status. It shows a breakdown of the current sync status. What block the chain head is at, what block your miner is at, and the gap between the two. For your hotspot to be functioning on the Helium network the gap should be less than 50 blocks or so.
 
In my case, you can see that my hotspot is within two blocks of the chain head, which is perfectly fine and my hotspot is currently online and generating activities. If you find yourself slightly out of sync you should wait a few minutes and check the status again to verify that the sync gap is decreasing. If it’s growing you should probably try to optimize your network setup. If the hotspot is on WiFi, try to get a stronger signal going or hook it up to ethernet.
 

If the sync gap is very large (1000+) you’ll most likely be stuck syncing for quite a while. Helium firmware updates include the latest blessed snapshot at the time of the update release, but new snapshot updates are uploaded several times each day and they can be downloaded and loaded using the fastsync endpoint. That process is described here.

 

If your miner isnt syncing at all you can try to resync it to see if that gets the sync going. If that doesnt help, try to reset the hotspot. Both commands are available through the Diagnoser. Once the sync gets going, try a fast sync

 

If either the sync status looks good, or the sync status returns empty data, it’s time to look deeper at the miner software status. The actual piece of software that runs the mining is contained in a docker container. The software itself is open source and the Github repo is here. The docker image is available here but I haven’t been able to find the Dockerfile used to build it anywhere.

The miner status output shows some important pieces of information. Pay attention to the OTA version and the miner image version as well as the miner status. You can see that my hotspot has been running for about an hour, meaning for some reason, the miner software, or the hotspot itself rebooted at that time.
Scrolling further down we see a helpful summary showing that our hotspot is connected to the Helium Peer-to-peer network and that port forwarding is in order, as evidenced by the nat_type value of ‘none’.

 

Scrolling all the way to the bottom you see an error section. If your hotspot mining software is having any issues chances are the error will be listed here. This might include network connectivity errors or other critical issues that need to be resolved.

Hotspot LED

The hotspot has a LED that indicates the current state of the hotspot. Ideally, the LED should be green which indicates the hotspot is booted and the miner software is running. If you’re having issues with the hotspot it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the hotspot to make sure the LED stays green. If you see it cycling between red, yellow and green, this typically means the hotspot is stuck rebooting. The most common cause I’ve seen is that the miner software fails to start, causing the hotspot to reboot and try again. This can be caused by a bad firmware update and/or snapshot. Some users have luck with just pulling the power and booting up the hotspot again, while others have to end up contacting Bobcat support and have them connect to the hotspot and fix things up.

Green: Miner is running

Yellow: Hotspot is not connected to the Helium network

Red: Miner software is not running

 

If you have any questions, you can find ardevd on Discord, or leave a comment on his original article.

 

Feel free to leave him an HNT tip at 13zSxUxreCdYyG3nhPo5xVK51SGTeV63gCy96r3vc3EeghGrxVu

 

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