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Mallincam and Remote Control

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#1 Devon

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 11:05 AM

I am finding that 'remote control' is becoming more of a 'necessity' as my age advances (mid 60's)... when the temp drops much below freezing, my warm clothes, heated vest, earflap cap, etc. just doesn't cut it. The Mallincam Xtreme is a HUGE help in this situation.
I have a 12'x16' roll-off roof observatory, with a 12'x16' attached workshop. There are two computers at the 'scope... one to control the telescope, and the other for Mallincam control using Stephan Lalonde's MallinCam Extreme Control. There is a composite video cable running to a 9" LCD monitor on my desk in the workshop, and I run the two scope computers through my network on my workshop computer using TightVNC. I can view and capture images while sitting next to a heater. The scope and stuff is 20 or so feet away, and I can see it through a clear plastic curtain over the doorway. In theory, I could run the setup from inside my house 150 feel away.
The setup is a bit slow and clunky (OLD computers), but it works. The Mallincam makes the difference. I would like to hear of other inexpensive 'remote control' setups, and find ways to improve mine with the Mallincam.
I've only been using the Mallincam Xtreme for a short while, but I've managed to collect a few 'screen captures' that are not too bad... the guys at our astronomy club (AOAS) are impressed at what the Mallincam can do. If interested, the images are at:

http://devonsite.com/AstroPhotos.htm if interested.

Thanks, and have a GREAT holiday, everyone!

Devon

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#2 Dwight J

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 03:01 PM

Hi Devon: you could use the Mallincam remote wireless exposure controller. This enables you to control the exposure time and to start and stop exposures. To change camera settings though you will need to use the software or wired remote. Our club has purchased a long (50') cable to control the camera settings via computer. These are available from Zengineering and can be up to 100 ft. This would give you remote control over all camera functions.

#3 Devon

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 04:47 PM

Thanks for the ideas, Dwight!
I am able to do exposure control and capture as well as all camera functions through the software on the remote computer now, and it works well, other than being a bit slower than sitting at the computer at the scope. TightVNC makes it like sitting at the parent computer.
I have bought several cables from Zengineering, but shorter ones for outreach work (used on different mounts).
The advantage of the setup I have now is almost no change in cabling or additional connections. All I have to do is unplug the composite cable from the scope monitor and plug it into the extention cable, and fire up TightVNC.
I prefer to sit at the scope when weather allows... just can't take that sub-freezing stuff!

#4 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 02:14 AM

That sounds like a great setup. If you have a fixed observatory that you can run wiring to there really isn't a need to do a completely wireless setup.

#5 Devon

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 10:21 AM

Hi, Travis!

There are about 12 (old) computers in my home network, all of which are connected by 100 mbit cabling. I have g/n WiFi for 'come and go' laptops. The network connections to the observatory are all cabled.
At the desk next to the scope, there are two computers... one for scope control, running SkyTools 3 Pro, or Voyager, or CDC... what ever software is needed. The other scope is running Mallincam control and image capture software. They are connected with a KVM switch so I can use one keyboard and mouse for both computers.
With TightVNC (remote control software), I can have the screens of both scope computers and full control on my one workshop computer screen, as if I were sitting next to the scope. I can move, GOTO, and sync the scope through whatever program is running on the control computer. I can also see and adjust the Mallincam images, and capture whatever images I wish.
Everything works the way it should, except for being a bit slow and clunky. If I had better, faster computers, and could upgrade to 1000 mbit network connections, it might be perfect... but that's way out of my budget.
I guess another way would to be get a full body heated suit, with heated socks, gloves, and hat. But... I'm old... I might get addicted!

Video astronomy cameras, like the Mallincam, open a number of doors for ways to do things. I love it. BTW, the shot of M-1 in my first post was taken while using my 'remote' setup...

Have a great one!

Devon

#6 mclewis1

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 10:50 AM

Devon,

I pretty much do the same thing as you for a remote setup. A small "weatherized" PC resides in the observatory 24x7 and handles all the scope control/video/imaging/broadcasting functions. I have both 802.11n and 100bt net connections between the observatory and the house.

The PC is a home made setup (miniITX form factor, no internal power supply, SSD (no HDD), minimal fans (system only no CPU fan on the ATOM CPU), real serial port, etc. It's been absolutely solid even in prolonged -20°C conditions.

I need to add a couple more video cameras to make the setup more functional (the pointing accuracy of the mount is quite good but I'd like to add both a wider field and perhaps a very wide field video capability). As it stands right now I do an initial alignment in the traditional fashion (at the scope) and once everything is running as it should retreat to the warmth of the house to observe.

I use TightVNC to control things as well, and WinXP on the observatory PC to maintain the best possible compatibility with older apps and device drivers for older cameras.

#7 Devon

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 10:43 AM

Hi, Mark...

I'm a wimp when it comes to tempature... about -5C is it for me. I grew up on a remote homestead in Alaska. Moved to the lower 48 about '68... it took 8 years, 4 months, 11 hours, and 37 minutes for me to get warm again....

I use a couple of Panasonic Toughbook (CF-29) computers at the scope. They are military grade, and can handle just about any conditions thrown at them. My outreach computer is also another one of these... you can actually sit out in the rain or snow with one and have no problems. I picked up three CF-29's a couple of years back... a bit old and slow, but tough as nails, with REAL RS-232 and printer ports. I run them through a KVM switch and external monitor, so I don't even have to open them up to use them.

I run XP-Pro on all of my computers. I've been in the IT and computer repair field for the last 30 years... and I'll stick with XP until the last dog dies. Windows-8? Gack!

Devon






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