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Hotspot status and diagnostics

Video Introduction

When setting up a new hotspot or analyzing the performance of an existing one, there are many things you need to check in order to ensure top performance. The status check tool enables you to perform a live test of the actual hotspot instead of relying on the information provided by the blockchain. Before we dig into the tool, lets check out a few concepts first.

Let's address some common questions before we dive into the real time status check feature.

Why is the blockchain data sometimes incorrect?

Sometimes the blockchain data (displayed by the Helium explorer or Hotspotty) shows that a hotspot is offline when it is actually online. This is because the Helium network and its blockchain are built on top of the libp2p library, making it a decentralized network. The downside of a decentralized network is that there is no single source of truth to the data. Blockchain transaction get collected by hotspots and sent to blockchain nodes. These miners then propagate these transactions to other nodes until they get processed by the consensus group (read validators) and are included in the transaction blocks that form the Helium blockchain. This communication method is called gossiping, meaning that one blockchain node talks to other nodes that then talks to other nodes until the information is shared among the entire network.

This gossiping activity can take up to a few days to finish syncing on all nodes. Hotspotty runs its own instance of the blockchain, the helium explorer is based on a blockchain node run by stakejoy, and other community tools also have their own nodes. Understanding the gossiping method will clarify the why some hotspot statuses are showing differently on different platforms.

What is a relayed hotspot?

Port 44158

When a hotspot is online, it communicates with the Helium network, but that doesn't mean the network can connect back to the miner. The communication from the world to the hotspot happens via port 44158, which ensures that all data can easily flow from and to the miner without any issue. If the port-forwarding isn't correctly configured, the miner can still communicate to the network, but it will first establish a direct connection to another unrelayed hotspot in the network via the libp2p protocol. This means that most data transmitted from and to this hotspot will first pass by another hotspot. As you can imagine, doing this will add more friction and slowness to the hotspot performance.

For example, the PoC rewards require witness receipts to be submitted within a period of time, and if a hotspot is relayed, it often times this information doesn't get submitted in time, making the hotspot no longer eligible for the PoC rewards.

Another example is that the non-relayed hotspot acting as a proxy for the relayed hotspot for its data communication, might be on a spotty internet connection or even be plugged out all of a sudden so the data can no longer reach its destination through this hotspot.

The listen address

The listen address is the address the network uses to communicate with the hotspot. If your hotspot is not relayed and accessible, the listen address will look something similar to /ip4/108.53.113.177/tcp/44158, meaning that this hotspot's IP address is 108.53.113.177 and is configured on the port 44158. All good there.

If the port-forwarding is not configured properly, the hotspot will be relayed, which means that all communication to the hotspot will be done via the p2p network using another hotspot as an intermediator. In this case, the hotspot listen address will be something like /p2p/11uwqFkaZZDiUBDCB9gdKdD9JxrKPsp7MRLkWUvkCYEwtS5YqYr/p2p-circuit/p2p/11127YbdxPgbyGBXiFegqv56mh76Yqv9XfD3cEvH9672sBcqLw7. If this is the case, you need to fix the port-forwarding of the device for optimal performance.

Real time status check

Let's finally dig into the real time status check tool and how you can use it to debug a hotspot status. Because the Helium network uses gossiping (explained above) as a communication protocol, you can't be 100% sure that the information provided by the blockchain is correct. Before the release of this tool, the only thing you could do is to wait for the hotspot information to be updated in the blockchain and hope for the best, knowing that updates can take up to a few days to complete.

Our real time status check uses a blockchain node to force a direct connection with the hotspot in question, and diagnosis the current hotspot status.

hotspot-page

When you go to any hotspot status page, you have two sections, Blockchain data, and Real time status check (displayed in the image above). The Blockchain data is the latest information pulled from the blockchain, which is usually correct but can be outdated. If you want to double-check the data, you can run the status check by pressing the button.

hotspot-page

The result of the status check consists of several components:

  • 1 - Shows if the hotspot is Online, Offline, Likely online or Likely offline. If a real-time connection failed, it will say that the hotspot is Likely online if the hotspot was recently active based on blockchain data (< 12 hours) or Likely offline in case the most recent activity was older than 12 hours ago. If the real-time connection failed and there has never been any activity, it will say that the hotspot is Offline.
  • 2 - Based on the listen address, we can know if the hotspot is relayed or not. This data is retrieved by pinging the hotspot, and not based on the blockchain data.
  • 3 - This is the average time it took to get a ping response from our servers in Northern Europe to the miner. Keep in mind that the hotspot responding to the ping request is much more important information than the actual speed of the ping test.
  • 4 - When the system tries to ping the hotspot, it uses two data sources, the miner performs a ping using the miner's peer-book (list of listen addresses), so that would be the latest value available on the network. The blockchain tries reaching out to the device using the data stored in the blockchain. Let's list some available options:
    • Miner 5/5 pings succeeded & Blockchain 5/5 pings succeeded: Our system was able to ping the hotspot using the address from the miner and from the blockchain. This means that everything is good on the hotspot end and the blockchain contains the actual address of the device.
    • Miner 5/5 pings succeeded & Blockchain 0/5 pings succeeded: Everything is good on the Helium miner, but the listen address on the blockchain is outdated and will be updated as soon as the gossiping is finished.
    • No listen address & Blockchain 0/5 pings succeeded: Something is wrong, the device can be offline or unresponsive. The miner couldn't reach it using its peer-book address and neither by using the listen address from the blockchain.

Let's perform a few status checks that will represent different results to demonstrate the tool better.

Case 1:

hotspot-page

Everything good, we were able to verify that the hotspot is not relayed, and was able to ping it from the miner address as well with the address from the blockchain.

Case 2:

hotspot-page

This is a tricky one, the system could not reach the hotspot from the address presented on the blockchain, and the miner could not fetch the listen address for the hotspot. The address presented on the blockchain also reflects that the hotspot is (or at least, was) relayed. Likely online comes form the fact that, even not being able to ping the device, there was activity recorded on the network. In this case it was recorded six hours ago, which means that the hotspot can still be online but having some issue or it just went offline six hours ago.

One thing you can do here is run the status check another time or wait a few hours to test again.

Case 3:

hotspot-page

Looks like the device is actually offline, which means that there has not been any proof of coverage activity reported to the blockchain for this hotspot. The listen address on the blockchain reflects that the hotspot is relayed, and the miner couldn't ping it.

Port Check

A relayed hotspot can be fixed by forwarding the TCP port 44158 to the local IP address of the hotspot. This can be configured in the router settings. After opening and forwarding the port, it can take some time for the blockchain to update the information. While this information is being gossiped across the network, you can already use the port tester to confirm that port 44158 is indeed open. If the result of this check is positive, and you forwarded the port 44158 to the local IP address of the hotspot, you can be confident that the hotspot will show as "not relayed" in a matter of time.

The port test must be performed using the public IP address of the network to which the hotspot is connected. If this information is available on the blockchain, that IP address will be filled in automatically. The network IP address might have changed and might not yet have been updated on the blockchain. If this info is unavailable, we use the IP address from which you are using Hotspotty currently. That might not be available or might be different from your hotspot network (VPN, mobile internet, ...). To be 100% certain, you can connect to the same network as the hotspot with your computer/phone and go to whatismyip.com to get the correct IP address.

To run the port test, click on the three dots, and select "Test relay status (port test)", which will open a form that is pre-filled with the hotspot's IP address or in case that is unavailable, with your current external IP address. You may need to change the IP address to the network where the hotspot is located.

port-check

port-check

Resources

Here are some resources you can use to help you understand more about the miner and help you fixing your relaying status: