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Wireless control set-up / CPC 1100?

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#1 darkman

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 07:07 PM

I’m in the midst of ordering the gear to go with my new baby and need some help on setting up a wireless control system for the CPC: I’ve read through a bunch of ads and past threads / posts but am still trying to make sense of how it’s actually done. I don’t want to end up with a collection of stuff that doesn’t work.

Help!

(I promise to stop asking stupid questions soon)

#2 sessionthree

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 07:39 PM

I use a netbook at my telescope (connected to my wireless network) with NexRemote running on it. I VNC into my netbook and control everything from my inside computer. (VNC lets me "see and control" my netbook desktop from inside.) I typically run:

1) NexRemote for telescope function control
2) SkyTools 3 Pro for GoTos and interactive star charting
3) PHD Guiding for autoguiding
4) ImagesPlus Camera Control for photography

One nice thing about NexRemote is that you can have it use a joystick for control of each keypad button. I use a wireless Logitech gamepad. There's an ini file in the NexRemote installation folder that allows you to customize which button corresponds to which key on the controller.

This setup has worked very well for me lately (and it's very nice now that it is getting colder.)

-Clayton

#3 Digital Don

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 10:46 PM

I have an Orion BlueStar on my CPC 1100.

Cartes du Ciel, RTGUI, or C2A can control the telescope via Bluetooth. In this case, Bluetooth connectivity replaces a physical cord between the telescope and a computer. While the setup is convenient and works very well, in reality I seldom use it since I don't keep a computer in the observatory.

I believe the BlueStar has been discontinued by Orion, but there may be other options.

Don:usa:

#4 psu_13

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 09:57 AM

I briefly had the SkyFi box working with Nexremote. If you set up the wifi/serial connection you can use any rs232->tcp redirector to make a fake serial port in your PC that Nexremote (and any other program that expects a serial port) will happily talk to. It was pretty nice, but I find myself happy just using the control box on the telescope for now.

The SkyFi is pretty excellent and works very well, but I ended up not really liking using the laptop (or iPhone) to move the scope around.

In addition, I would think that you could get similar functionality from one of the various serial to wireless dongles that are available (e.g. WiSnap). Although you'd have to do more manual setup, whereas the SkyFi is pretty turnkey.

Edit: Note, I was not controlling a CPC. But I think it would work the same no matter which telescope was on the other side.

#5 Edward E

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 01:27 PM

Besides the CPC, what equipment do you plan to use? What software do you want or plan to use with your setup?

#6 darkman

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 05:09 PM

The Nexstar software was my plan to drive the beast. I’m open to options. The goal is to try and drive from the laptop instead of the HC. Wireless everything is the goal, but I admit fully to be technically challenged in that area.

#7 Larry F

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 12:06 PM

You have three choices for wireless control now, it seems: (1) ScopeStuff sells a Bluetooth interface, (2) Southern Stars (formerly Carina) sells a 802.11 Wi-Fi adaptor. (3) Since the hand control is an RS-232 device, you might also be able to adapt Omega Engineering's wireless RS-232 device, but this isn't primarily set up for scope control (I use it for wireless control of the Mallincam, and it needed some minor re-engineering by the manufacturer to make it work properly for that application, although I suspect it would work in stock mode for scope control because the HC is constantly sending it signals and it won't hibernate from lack of input).

I have the older and now unavailable StarryNight Bluetooth setup for CPC and it works fine, but I think if I had to choose today I'd go with the Southern Stars product especially if my computer had built-in Wi-Fi. It seems simpler to install and connect. It got a good review in Sky & Telescope. You have to purchase a special connector cable from Southern Stars since the jack at the bottom of the Celestron HC is not a normal RJ-11 even though it looks like it.

If you use NexRemote, you can connect directly (and you can set up a planetarium program on the "virtual port"), but if you use a planetarium program like CdC as the primary scope driver software then you need to load ASCOM. Load ASCOM Platform 5.0, then the 5.5 upgrade, then the Celestron drivers. There is a thread somewhere on this forum that discusses the connections.

#8 gapalp

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 12:39 PM

I second using a laptop or netbook with the physical connections to the scope / cameras, then remote controling the laptop or netbook that is connected to the scope over your wireless home network. I use Microsoft Terminal Services (mstsc.exe), usually already installed on Windows. Its also known as Remote Desktop Connection. Once connected, its like your sitting in front of the "telescope computer" and can control the scope / cameras from there.

#9 Larry F

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 01:35 PM

I didn't advocate two computers. The Southern Stars SkyFi device is battery powered, self-contained and functions as the router. A SkyFI on the scope and a remote netbook or laptop is all you'd need.

You could do it with Remote Desktop as you suggest, but it seems like an unnecessary complexity and is less cost effective. You'd also need a separate router on the remote PC; otherwise, there'd be no hub for the 802.11.

#10 Edward E

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 02:00 PM

I use a Bluetooth device from AirCable that is properly configured and connected to my scope (NexStar GPS 11 with upgraded MC board) via the RJ-11 connector at the base of the HC (not the PC Port on the scopes base)and power it with the 12 volt auxiliary port on the scope (not the main Power-In to the scope). A Kensington micro dongle is plugged into a USB port on my HP laptop (OS-Windows 7 Pro) and configured using Toshiba's Bluetooth Stack. NexRemote is setup to initialize the scope for use (star alignment accomplished using a wireless logitech rumble pad) and ASCOM uses the virtual port on NexRemote so that I can use one or more of my astro programs (Sky Chart 3.X, AstroPlanner, Stellarium, C2A, Sky 6 Pro, Virtual Moon Atlas 5.1 etc).

I did not have problems setting my system up but I have encountered others, here on these forums, that could not get their Bluetooth/scope interface operational.

Using com port 2-10 works best. My micro dongle uses com 6 and ACSOM uses virtual port 5 (on NexRemote). Sometimes, this means going into Device Manager in Windows 7 and manually assigning com 6 to the dongle. Toshiba’s Bluetooth Stack likes to take over the lower com ports weather it uses them or not.

#11 Larry F

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 02:57 PM

When installing BT dongles I have found that Windows (both XP and 7) can do some strange things with port assignments. Sometimes you have to go in and delete some of those in a special way. If you find that your device wants to be assigned to a very odd port number, check out this article from StarryNights. I had an IBM XP laptop that had some trouble getting BT to work, and when I went into the Device Manager as StarryNights suggested, I found it had assigned all the ports from com 1 to com 65!! Once I deleted them, I could reinstall and everything was fine.

#12 psu_13

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 04:53 PM

The main issue with the Southern Stars box is that you are forced to use it as a router. I would rather it join the wireless network i already have in my house. That way my laptop can talk to the scope and the Internet at the same time.

#13 CT Sound Shooter

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 08:27 PM

Darkman,

For the year and a half, I've been using a Logitech Cordless Rumblepad 2 to wirelessly control my CPC 1100 via NexRemote on my laptop and I am very happy with my set up.

Even though there is not a gamepad button assigned to every NexRemote function, I have found this setup to be relatively cheap and always reliable. Cost is less than $50.

Hope this helps,

CTSS

#14 Edward E

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 01:11 PM

I agree; the wireless rumble-pad makes initializing the scope painless and quick. I even have NexRemote setup to talk to me in a cheery, british accent via AT&T voice synthesizer program.

Darkman, I have the Bluetooth components to get you setup if your interested. PM me for more info.

#15 gapalp

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 01:55 PM

Sorry, I was refering to sessionthree post about VNC.

Remote Desktop took me 10 minutes and cost me nothing. For me, it was neither complex or costly.

#16 sessionthree

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 02:25 PM

Sorry, I was refering to sessionthree post about VNC.

Remote Desktop took me 10 minutes and cost me nothing. For me, it was neither complex or costly.


Well, actually I was using remote desktop, but... I wanted the ability to control through the netbook or the inside computer at the same time. If I log into the netbook from the inside computer, it starts a login session that is independent of what is going on at the netbook.

To get around this, I was using remote assistance for awhile (with remote assitance, the same thing happens on each screen). However, remote assistance is a pain to get started every session since you have to send a request from the netbook, start it from the desktop, request control form the desktop, give control from the netbook, etc.

I switched to using VNC in the end simply because I had used it before for various applications, and it was much simpler to use in light of my complaints above. VNC is also very easy to setup (install and go for the most part) and free. (I use UltraVNC.)

#17 Larry F

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 04:51 PM

It makes sense to have the netbook or laptop at the scope if you are also going to be at the scope, and having Internet access there could be really useful. But if you only wanted remote control, observing from another area and wanted to stay wireless, you might not want to bother with the expense and power requirements of a computer (and some degree of set-up/log-on complexity and clumsy size and weight) when there are other choices.

Since Bluetooth has a limited (30' distance), think about the wireless RS-232 solution from Omega that I linked above. Advantages are many: 400' distance (and can go through walls), low power requirement (9v, seems to need about 350-400 mA power supply although it uses less), tiny size and weight (stick it on with a small piece of Velcro), simple connection (although you'd need to make the cable because of that peculiar hand control jack on the CPC), simple connection on the computer side (a similarly small and light receiver which functions as a serial-USB converter, powered through the USB port) and simple and stable driver software. I don't use it for that application so whoever chooses that route would be breaking new ground to see whether it would work. Another advantage is that apparently the Omega device allows one receiver to control 12 devices, so if you had other RS-232 devices at the scope (camera control, for example) you could outfit them with transmitters and then control all from the computer with one receiver.

Anyway, I think it's fun to try to adapt technology to new uses. I think I'm the only person who uses the Omega wireless RS-232 system to control a Mallincam. It allows me to avoid having cables running from the scope for people to trip on or to get cord-wrap strangle, or having to push those little buttons on the back of the camera in the dark to change settings. I never seem to hit the right ones. Plus, button-pushing results in scope shake, a problem if you're in the middle of a long frame integration. I posted more detail on the Mallincam Control Yahoo group a few weeks ago.

#18 mclewis1

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 05:40 PM

Larry,

What do you use for the video connection from the MCHP?

#19 darkman

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 06:29 PM

Larry,

I have a new laptop (still shiny) that I intend to use to drive the Beast. The scope will be mounted on the pier about 18’ to 20’ feet away from the dining room table, which I’m sad to say will be the primary base of operations, unless the range of the system is enough to set up in the 3rd bedroom (about 40’ to 50’ from the pier) . I also have a shiny new wireless router (Linksys) set up in one the bedrooms, giving me wireless Internet in and around the house.

The ultimate goal would be for everything to be wireless, including the video: during winter and the hotter months of summer keep myself in the house soaking up HVAC.

I haven’t purchased any of the scope control / wireless bits yet: I’m still working on understanding the requirements and reading (and re-reading) the advice and comments I am seeing here.

I’d again like to thank you and everyone else who is taking the time to respond: the electronics and hardware requirements of what I am trying to accomplish are something I am learning with a firehose at the moment. I am way behind the curve but catching up fast.

#20 darkman

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 06:37 PM

Clayton,
Thank you. The wireless Logitech seems to be a common recommendation, it’s good to see that it will work with Nexremote.

I hadn’t thought of using two computers: I need to think about that some more.

#21 darkman

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 06:41 PM

Don,

I wasn’t able to find the BlueStar for sale anywhere: it appears Orion has made the move to an IPhone app to replace it.

#22 darkman

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 06:44 PM

It does help, thank you

#23 darkman

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 06:50 PM

Larry,

Wireless control of the Mallincam is on my wish list: if you wouldn’t mind, I may pick your brain later to find out how they modified the unit and who to contact.

#24 Larry F

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 09:45 PM

I first posted a description in February here. I'd be happy to answer any questions. You can see the size of the transmitter unit on the photo on page 11 of the "Post a Picture of Your Assisted Video Setup" thread, 5th message. It's the small white box attached to the underside of the camera. The receiver is the same size.

#25 James Cunningham

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 10:27 PM

How did you set it up to run your scope? I need all of the details and all of the other things you had to buy in order to run it. Thanks.
Jim






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