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Mounts feature wishlist

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#1 Hilmi

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 12:40 AM

I just came over from the Meade demise thread in cats forum and found that what many people really want to discuss is what features they would love to see in the current generation of mounts. So I figured I would start a dedicated thread for that topic. But to begin with there are some rules to this thread.

1) This thread is not to discuss the reasons why any company is going to close down.
2) This thread is for realistic suggestions, one way to determine if that is realistic is to consider if adding that technology would push the price point to where people could not afford the mount.

I'll start with my wish list:
1) Simple homing switches, great for when you accidentally bump the mount or when working remotely and you really want to be 100% sure the mount is where it says it is before you close the observatory roof
2) Connectivity options Gemini 2 is on the right track with serial, Ethernet and USB, but if they would add a wireless dongle that doesn't require special drivers it would be even better.
3) A unified driver standard like ASCOM, but loaded on the telescope side so you could have 1 driver that would control all mounts. New version comes out, no worries you can update the built-into-the-mount ASCOM version. Don't want to use the built in ASCOM, no worries, the mount should support conventional method of connectivity.

3) More manufacturers of mounts aimed at imaging to offer those handy USB ports on the mounting plate like those found on the Paramount MX. I would also love to see a 12V power distribution panel along with that USB hub

5) Cable snag free design

6) Padded or otherwise ergonomic carry handles for mounts and tripods (I'm looking at you Losmandy, your folding HD tripod keeps on trying to stab me to death).

7) reflective tape pre-installed around the bottom of tripod legs to aid in night time visibility without adding lights. Could also be of use if one of those crazy night time off-roaders comes tearing through at night, the reflections might save you and your mounts life. It also looks cool

8) Some of the Italians seem to understand that a mount doesn't need to be ugly. Software bisque also seems to understand that too. How about offering premium versions at user request with those nice clear coat paint jobs that look so deep you feel you can fall into it. It's not for everybody but it offers one way to up-sell on the same mount. Users who want a pretty mount would pay for it as a custom order and since it is provided by the manufacturer, it doesn't kill your warranty.

9) Hand controller holders on all mounts, the lack of inclusion of such a simple item to me is just lazy design and has nothing to do with cost.

#2 orlyandico

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 12:52 AM

Reasonable-cost absolute encoders on both axes.

10Micron already does this, but I'm thinking even cheaper encoders like the Renishaw LM10 magnetic strip encoders (the 1000HPS which has the same capacity as the Mach1, costs more than the Mach1 - and that's entirely due to the encoders I'm fairly sure)

#3 Hilmi

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 12:57 AM

Orlyandico, why both Axis? Wouldn't a homing switch on the DEC axis be enough?

#4 orlyandico

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 01:03 AM

Makes long-exposure unguided tracking easier. And you can "perfectly" compensate for DEC backlash if you have an absolute encoder on that axis (or so says AP) - since you can measure the axis' absolute position, so when you reverse in DEC, you can take up all the backlash precisely.

#5 alpal

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 01:05 AM

Reasonable-cost absolute encoders on both axes.

10Micron already does this, but I'm thinking even cheaper encoders like the Renishaw LM10 magnetic strip encoders (the 1000HPS which has the same capacity as the Mach1, costs more than the Mach1 - and that's entirely due to the encoders I'm fairly sure)



I second that.
I'm in love with the specs of the ASA mounts.
Renishaw encoders - periodic error is no more.

#6 Hilmi

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 01:07 AM

Well, lets add it to the shopping list then :)

I'm thinking, if manufacturers are to benefit from this discussion, we should ask the people posting to say what level mount they expect to see the features in and for what use.

For me, all my list is for upper mid-level mounts for imaging purposes

#7 orlyandico

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 01:23 AM

I heard that iOptron was coming out with a revised iEQ45 with cheaper encoders. I suspect (given the discussion) that these would be Renishaw LM10's.

Remember they had a 1st generation encoder iEQ45 but it was about $4000 to $5000, which is shouting distance to a used Mach1. I assumed the revised one with "their own encoder" would be significantly less, i.e. $2500. The only way to hit that price point is with the LM10 (which is actually OEM'ed by Renishaw from a company in Slovenia).

I'm waiting for my LM10 and magnetic tape, and see if it will perform better than the Baumer shaft encoder whose mechanical mounting errors I can't tame...

#8 orlyandico

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 01:27 AM

Oh, and price-wise, I would like such a mount to cost between $2000 and $3000.

:tonofbricks:

I don't believe that's possible though. But if say somebody came out with an Atlas-class mount, with a true imaging capacity in the 30-40 lb range, for $3000 with encoders (or, a nice Maxon motor and gearbox, and a nice Ovision-class worm gear - to keep the fundamental PE below 10" p-p and the motor gearbox harmonics below 3" p-p) I think it would sell.

If such a beast existed it would probably kill the G11 :D and a lot of people - me included - might not go for the Mach1.

#9 cn register 5

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 04:30 AM

Would simple home switches be accurate enough to maintain alignment? They need to be accurate to about an arc minute of movement on each axis.

I'd go for Ethernet rather than USB, but both are more expensive in hardware and development time than simple serial or RS232. By simple serial I mean RS232 style serial signals at TTL logic levels.

A useful wireless approach seems to be what Celestron have done, a dongle that plugs into an Aux port on the mount. people who want it can buy it, those that don't don't. If the interface goes out of fashion the mount is not lost.

Orlando's extensive experimenting seems to indicate that accurate encoders may not be practical without increasing the price excessively. Hope I'm wrong.

A unified driver standard would be nice but requires that the mount manufacturers cooperate to define and implement it.

One thing to bear in mind with all these software things is that the cost of developing them is almost independent of the number sold. If you are selling millions of printers - or tens of millions of phones - the development cost is spread so thin that you can justify spending a fair amount on it. But mounts are made in the thousands, not the millions. If it costs, say $250,000, to develop this that's $250 on the cost of every one of 1000 mounts while it would be $0.25 on the cost of 1,000,000 printers.
I've worked in software development for a scientific instrument manufacturer's for nearly 30 years and have seen that this sort of thing is always much more difficult than people think.

Chris

#10 Hilmi

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 05:09 AM

Would simple home switches be accurate enough to maintain alignment? They need to be accurate to about an arc minute of movement on each axis.


They would be accurate enough to allow you to plate solve and sync even at ridiculously long focal lengths. Without homing switches, if you loose your position, especially if you are not remotely at the mount, it is a pain re-establish where you are as plate solve often fails to work if you are too far from your starting point and are operating at long focal lengths.

As for connections becoming obsolete, the good thing about USB connection is that all the new connections have been designed to be backwards compatible with the previous standards. So I would say an investment in the connector would not be obsolete.

#11 orlyandico

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 05:14 AM

Well......

One way to get around cn_register's issue with the massive software costs associated with designing such functionality is..

To have an open-source mount.

It doesn't have to be open-source hardware (hardware is hard to do).

Somebody has already written Arduino code that emulates the Synscan motor controller. So you can actually plug a Synscan handset into his Arduino contraption and it will work just like an Atlas or Sirius. With the massive benefit that you're freed from the tyranny of the Atlas gear ratios, and are free to use whatever super-premium motor and gearhead you want to use.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that there might actually be a market in souping up the venerable Atlas (in other words, something like a full hypertune with replacement RA worm and worm wheel, and replacement stepper motor gearboxes to reduce gear noise). Kind of like what AMG is to Mercedes... or Breyton to BMW. Weak analogy.

Would people buy a $2500 Atlas which has a guaranteed periodic error under 10", and gear noise below 2", and guaranteed 0.5" RMS guiding?

Or, getting back to the "wish list" - if somebody made up the CAD and GCode for a generic mount that anybody could have fabricated, and there were an open-source control software like OPENDrive - http://www.smolinski...OpenDriveSW.pdf

That might work. I think the people wishing for mount features don't need a wide variety of choices - probably a mount that can carry 30-40 lb for imaging would cover the vast majority of wish-makers. So it could be a single design, with modularity to add the parts you need.

And then control it with a RasPi (which is dirt cheap - $35 - and is a very powerful and tiny Linux box, probably more powerful than the Linux box inside 10Micron mounts).

#12 Hilmi

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 05:21 AM

On the software development front, small companies have an advantage. I believe Rene wrote Gemini II based on making money out of the sales of the units, not based on being paid a salary. So it took him several years till he got it to mature and stable. A large company might not be able to pay a salary to a person with a Phd for 3 years. The same person running a small company might do it as a labor of love

#13 orlyandico

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 05:25 AM

Personally... making an open-source telescope controller based on a RasPi or Arduino DUE is one of those things I want to do. It will be stepper-based, because steppers are easy to understand and you can get decent gearhead steppers relatively cheaply. Albeit I have no PhD. :D

Maybe after I put my encoder control project (which I also plan to open-source, once it works) to bed..

#14 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 06:24 AM

Gday Hilmi

As for connections becoming obsolete, the good thing about USB connection is that all the new connections have been designed to be backwards compatible with the previous standards.



So why wont my Meade LPI work under 64bit windows 7????
Its not the USB interface, its the drivers that sit behind it all.
If no one updates them, its just dead meat.
( And just for fun,the Meade LPI uses the same PID/VID as the Swann Versacam, and even that wont work under W7 64 bit.

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia

#15 Hilmi

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 06:35 AM

I know the drivers fall behind, but that is why I am advocating multiple connectivity options. I doubt it adds significantly to the price of the mount. Lets say adding USB and Serial Port costs $50 more and me as client I have to pay $100 more than if it had only serial port. I would go for it. Obsolete drivers are a separate issue compared to choice of connector. You can have a serial port device, but if nobody writes a control program for it for windows 7 you would still not be able to use it if you don't know how to write you'r own program. The reason LPI doesnt work on windows 7 is not USB, the reason is that it is an obsolete product which support was dropped. Many people don't care that support was dropped because they didn't cost a lot of money to buy and it is no great loss for many people if it no longer worked for them this many years after it was released.

Products become obsolete sooner or later, fact of life. Products have product life cycles and companies sooner or later stop supporting old products. Exceptions are there for premium products like Astro-Physics mounts, but these are exceptions

Besides, that is also where my proposal for a unified mount driver standard comes in. It allows anybody to write drivers for the mount.

#16 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 06:50 AM

Gday Hilmi

Obsolete drivers are a separate issue compared to choice of connector.


Thats utter bollocks in this scenario. I have a device that complies with a certain specification that now wont work because someone has changed the spec and the original supplier wont update to suit.

You can have a serial port device, but if nobody writes a control program for it for windows 7


rs232 is natively understood by Win7. Any application that uses native rs232 will work in Win7 etc, without any need for redeveloping "drivers" etc.
Any std windows program ( 32 or 64 bit ) that is written to access a std serial port will "just work" in win7.
Its only the programs that require a specific USB driver that seem to have problems.

Besides, that is also where my proposal for a unified mount driver standard comes in. It allows anybody to write drivers for the mount.


And what happens when they become "obsolete" ?????? ( like my LPI ), buy a new mount ???????
Sorry, but its not so simple.

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia

#17 Hilmi

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 07:00 AM

Then you would fall back to the serial port because as I mentioned I am pushing for both to be included. Those of us who want to use the USB connection can use it and those who want to use serial can use it.

I also disagree about rs232 just working. Try operating an RS232 rotator without software written for it. You would have to have write your own software for it, you are a skilled programmer so you can do that, but for most people, although the rotator is serial port, it is still obsolete if the manufacturer will not write a control program for it for the latest operating system.

#18 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 07:26 AM

Gday Hilmi

I also disagree about rs232 just working. Try operating an RS232 rotator without software written for it. You would have to have write your own software for it,


Just to put this in context, try operating "ANYTHING" without software "written for it".
All i am saying is that something written to work with bog std rs232 will work on dos, win98SE, win2000, winXP, Vista, Win7, Win8, as long as the rs232 port actually uses true rs232 protocols.
If you want to use a USB2rs232 converter inbetween, you need a specific driver that is written to suit. The problem isnt the rs232 protocol, its the *BLEEP* implementation of it provided by several providers of USB to serial converters.
Ie the real problem is the driver writers have taken shortcuts and dont do what they are supposed to.

you are a skilled programmer so you can do that,


Actually i am not, i am a Mechanical engineer who dabbles in microcontrollers.
I know quite a lot about the uProcessors used by Meade but thats it.
I couldnt understand a USB driver if my life depended on it.
But i do know that drivers arent all the same
and they dont all work properly.
Finding the real source of the problem is half the battle ;)

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia

#19 alpal

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 08:14 AM

Yes I have noticed that my driver for my QHY9 camera will only work
on the USB port originally assigned to it by the software.

The fix is to label the cable & the USB port on the laptop
& only use that.

Software usually has bugs.
The QHY9 still works perfectly.

#20 neilson

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 10:10 AM

Hi,
How about a wireless handbox controller. I bought one for my Meade LX200R 10". But they quit making them for some reason. Everything you buy has a wireless remote controller since the 1980's but most mounts still have a wired controller. And they have short cords so I have to buy extensions. I also think they should have wifi connection to my laptop.
It would be nice If I could plug my DSLR camera into my mount and that be controlled by it. My focuser too. And I would like my mounts wifi to transmit my DSLR's live view to my laptop.

neilson

#21 Hilmi

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 10:14 AM

Losmandy came up with a very elegant solution to the wireless hand controller. You access a web based controller via the browser on your phone. Works like a charm. I used it extensively when I had broken my hand controller and was waiting for a replacement

#22 orlyandico

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 10:31 AM

If the controller is based on a RasPi then a wireless controller via web is trivial to do.

The RasPi is proof that with enough volume, anything is dirt-cheap. :D

#23 neilson

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 11:44 AM

Using a phone to operate a mount is nice for some people but I want the controller itself to be wireless. Both features should be on the mount. As well as wireless laptop operation.
It really gets me why telescope mounts are so slow to catch up with modern technology.

neilson

#24 freestar8n

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 12:33 PM

I would just like to add that I like the speed and low latency of USB, and the ability to have 8 devices connected to a single hub 36' away that all plug into the laptop with a single cable. It is high speed and low latency and robust. I avoid having usb2serial devices and prefer things like filter wheels that are usb.

In terms of the complexity of software and devices with usb - I make devices based on the PIC18F4550 microcontroller, which has a USB stack and voltage source built in. If you connect it to a PC as a HID device, then there is no special "driver" installation required - and an app can talk to it directly with no separate installation.

This PIC chip allows a bootstrap mode so that firmware updates can be installed over the same USB port.

So I actually like working with USB devices and apps that talk to them.

I also have code that talks directly to things like astro cameras that do require device drivers and are not HID - but I still talk to them via a supplied SDK and it's no big deal - and the result is high throughput and low latency.

I think the main problem nowadays is that everything is in a state of flux and you don't know what the next big connection will be. I guess usb 2.0 might go away and rs232 would still be around in some form.

Right now I think the mount is the only thing in my setup that is rs232 - and I guess it's ok for it to stay that way. I just wouldn't want a lot of them.

Frank

#25 hottr6

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 02:04 PM

You guys are too sophisticated for me. I'd be happy with simple slo-mo controls that don't interfere with tracking and a worm block design that makes adjusting backlash trivial (in the dark, even!). Oh, and rotating rings for Newts.






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