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In the field vs. offline processing computers

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#1 Dave Lee

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 08:18 PM

One of my choices for getting into imaging leads me to 'resurrect' a 2007 vintage (Vista based) Dell laptop for 'in the field' computer work (would need a parallel port and that machine has an expresscard slot). If I go that route I could end up using the computer only for 'in the field work' (going to my newer Dell for post acquisition processing). Or I could just make this machine my 'dedicated astronomy machine' for all imaging work. Both machines would be networked via my router, so sharing data would be very easy.

I assume that many folks have 'field computers' that are different from their 'normal use computers'. Do you find yourself having to duplicate a bunch of software with single use license structures? I haven't (yet) gotten deeply into any astronomy software and am not sure about the mix of freeware/shareware/license stuff that I will run into. And I'm not sure how much of the 'offline processing work' that I will occasionally find necessary to use in my 'field computer'.



#2 rigel123


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Posted 25 March 2013 - 08:25 PM

I'm probably one of the rare ones that uses my Dell Inspiron 1525 for both the field work and processing. Of course with my camera I'm dealing with 4 MB files and not the 50 MB behemoths that large format users wrestle with so it handles them fine. Should I go to large format I'd probably get a desktop to process and just use the laptop for capture.

#3 Alex McConahay

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 09:15 PM

I use one computer in the field for acquisition, and then process at home on a different one.

I think most software packages allow installation on two computers (and even more) at one time, with the warning that them may not be in use simultaneously.


#4 blueman


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Posted 26 March 2013 - 12:41 AM

I find that processing with a large monitor with high resolution allows me to get things right. If I process with a 15.6" laptop, I just end up reprocessing again at home.
I use a 15.6" ASUS for acquisition and then a 17" ASUS for controlling that from inside the motorhome using wireless netword and Remote Destop. The 17" ASUS with HD screen does a pretty good job of processing because it has 1900 x 1080p resolution.

#5 LazyLightning



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Posted 26 March 2013 - 02:13 AM

My "in the field" is literally my backyard, but I have an Acer Aspire 15.6" HD LED laptop for acquisition only. I do all my processing though on my Alienware desktop connected to a 24" 1080p HD LED. I have not had issues with software limitations to a single machine.

I find processing on the desktop to be more convenient when it comes down to it, not to mention it is pretty fast.

#6 Dr Benway

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 08:08 AM

I use Dell D610 laptops in the field. I control them via TeamViewer and process with a 17" i7 quad core Asus G74 gaming laptop. The Asus has 16 Gbytes of RAM and makes PixInsight a breeze.


#7 jgraham



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Posted 26 March 2013 - 09:32 AM

I control everything from inside my house, so I don't have a field computer, but I do use different computers for acquiring and processing my images. My acquisition computers tend to be iron-horse olde reliables. In addition to acquiring images I use these for the initial processing, primarily stacking and producing the source image that is ready for detailed processing. This will get moved over to 'my' computer for processing with Photoshop. This gets around any problems with any single-site licenses. If I what to do something simple on my imaging computers I use something relatively inexpensive like Photoshop Elements.

#8 Dave Lee

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 09:46 AM

Thanks for all the comments. It sounds like 'dual computers' is hardly unusual (or an unmanageable problem).


#9 niteman1946


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Posted 26 March 2013 - 11:45 AM

Hi Dave,

My field computer lives in my OBS. It's an old Dell with Vista Home Premium sp2. Surprisingly, it's well behaved with various softwares. It had been my house box until this last year when it got retired by a new Dell 64 bit W7, which is what I now process on. So software migration was towards the new box.
And I agree, there appears to be few restrictions on "fair use" of the various softwares. Also, processing in the home is a lot more handy than in the OBS.
Good luck on whatever you decide.

#10 BlueGrass



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Posted 26 March 2013 - 11:24 PM

I've taken the route of optimizing both my systems for their unique roles. The imaging / control system it's a Dell D630 with 4gb of RAM, XP and a solid state drive. The SSD speeds things up considerable and makes the laptop more rugged. I do configure and take a backup D620 as a spare but it uses a standard hard drive. I'm going to rebuild the 630 to Win7 32bit some time this spring, but just haven't found the time. I have many basic processing apps on the laptop to get an initial look at images when sitting around the next day in the RV but leave all heavy lifting for my main astro system at home. It's a Win7 64bit i5 Quad with 16gb of RAM and some quality enterprise Constellation 500gb drives. For programs such as CCDStack, CS6, etc. it's nice to have the horsepower and memory to work with large image sets and speed things up. I've looked at some of the newer quad core laptops at work and with 8gb of RAM and Win7 64 I think they could work for both roles as well. You just dock it when you get home to a much large LCD and you're up and running. The price of large solid state drives is slowly coming down and it probably won't be long before you see these systems come standard with 500gb drives...

#11 tommax


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Posted 27 March 2013 - 12:46 AM


Your if your Dell D630 is running XP x86 (32bit) then you could pull out 1 gig of that ram and use it in another box as 32bit Windows (all versions) can only use 3GB ram so the rest goes to waste.

I have an old voting booth I picked up and mounted a 22" screen in the top section and a motherboard with an Athlon X2 5000+ in it and 3GB ram powered by a 1U server case power supply, it makes a nice big platform for playing around in my backyard, but I process things on my desktop which is Win8 x64 with 16GB ram and a 6 Core CPU... works great other than a few apps such a my copy of AstroArt 3 will not install on Win 8, no issue's with "the field box" being it's XP so everything runs on it. My biggest issue was storage because even once processed I don't like to throw out my original files which can be several GB in a night (I am learning so probably way to much) but I have a homeserver that can store 16TB of data so I am covered there... I think 2 machines for this hobby is ideal because XP seems most compatible with hardware and drives and is just right for that stuff and Win7/8 are nice all around O.S.'s which usually have the horse power to do the heavy lifting post processing can sometimes require.

that's just my opinion... I could be wrong.

#12 BlueGrass



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Posted 27 March 2013 - 10:15 PM

Hello. Not a bad idea but I'll leave the 4gb in for now, until I get Win7 installed and see it handles the available RAM. Each system is different on how much RAM is made available to the OS and it's all dependent on the enabled devices and the particular chipset of the system. I've seen XP 32 systems with only 3gb available on others with over 3.5gb available. So ... I'll see how 7 handles the 630 ... One thing about 7 that I really like is its stability and speed compared to XP. Since I also use the laptop when we're in RV parks or areas where WiFi is available, I keep an updated AV and firewall solution running and 7 handles those applications much better than XP. Thanks.

#13 Mike Clemens

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 10:56 PM

I use a P4-2.8ghz with a solid state disk for collection, and then move files immediately off onto a modern Core-i7 PC for processing.

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