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Will a new PC cure my malfunctions?

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#1 Bill1054

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 11:06 AM

My observatory PC is an old box running XP with 3.2ghz processor and 2 gigs of RAM. I have never had flawless behavior while imaging, what with one program or another locking up and requiring a reboot during the process of acquiring the target and initiating guiding, but usually if I get that far, the data acquisition works all right.

I use Maxim for data acquisition, SkyMap Pro to help orient the camera and OAG, and a guiding program controlling a QHY5L-II video camera. The processor sometimes runs as high as 80%, but usually calms down and stabilizes at a lower level.

I run a semi-automated operation from a backyard observatory, so I will go in to bed once I'm satisfied that everything is going well.

Recently I have found the next morning that the PC has rebooted itself and announced "recovery from a serious error". Note that I am not connected to the internet, so this is not a matter of automatic updates, etc.

Can't help but wonder if the same gremlins that generate trouble during the set-up phase are later causing a reboot.

Will a more modern PC with more RAM and faster processor be likely to help? If the new PC uses Windows 8.1, will this pose a problem for my astronomy software?

My computer smarts are seriously limited.

Thanks for any ideas!

#2 Bill1054

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 11:10 AM

Forgot to mention a piece of software that is a must for my situation: NexRemote. My mount is a CGE and NexRemote serves as a virtual hand control for the mount as well as providing a virtual port for other controlling software.

#3 rmollise

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 12:39 PM

Well, simple housekeeping tasks like defragging the drive occasionally and running CCleaner occasionally can easily fix such problems. I would start by doing those two things. ;)

#4 rmollise

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 12:40 PM

NexRemote is not causing your problem, but it might not be a bad idea to update to the current version, anyhow, if you have not done that in a while.

#5 Rusty

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 04:50 PM

Try increasing RAM to 4Gb. Go to the control panel and and make sure the page file is set to auto or at least 1.5Gb.

I strongly recommend getting System Mechanic (~$30 at Walmart). I've used it since V1.5 (now v11) and it's reliable and comprehensive - and indispensible.

#6 Bill1054

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 05:39 PM

Uncle Rod! My favorite blogger!! Thanks to you and Rusty for your help.

I have installed CCleaner Pro (trial) and will buy it if my problems vanish. I don't see an Auto setting for page file, but I did use Custom to set it to a large number. I am currently defragging the HD. The RAM in this PC was originally only 512 MB, and when I increased it, as I recall it could only go to 2GB. Pretty certain I would have voted for more if possible. Eagerly awaiting darkness to test the situation. I'm sure it's apparent that I am a real dummy where computers are involved.

#7 A. Viegas

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 05:51 PM

Hi Bill-

XP is limited to 4GB of memory, you can check if you have any open slots to add more memory -- there is a freeware program CPU-Z that can detect if you have any open slots for additional memory, but like you said its unlikely, as older XP machines on average had fewer dimm slots than current machines.

As for locking up and rebooting, its likely you have a device conflict, use this Microsoft resource to see if you an open conflict DevConflict

Windows XP is great for Astro use as its compatible with just about everything out there, I worry about Windows 8.1 which may have compatibility issues with older software. If you choose to upgrade you machine, I would recommend searching for a refurbished Windows 7 machine with 8GB of ram and ideally also USB 3.0 ports, should you choose to go the upgrade route.

Al

#8 rmollise

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 06:56 PM

Try increasing RAM to 4Gb. Go to the control panel and and make sure the page file is set to auto or at least 1.5Gb.

I strongly recommend getting System Mechanic (~$30 at Walmart). I've used it since V1.5 (now v11) and it's reliable and comprehensive - and indispensible.


More ram will not help with NexRemote.

#9 rmollise

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 06:58 PM

Uncle Rod! My favorite blogger!! Thanks to you and Rusty for your help.

I have installed CCleaner Pro (trial) and will buy it if my problems vanish. I don't see an Auto setting for page file, but I did use Custom to set it to a large number. I am currently defragging the HD. The RAM in this PC was originally only 512 MB, and when I increased it, as I recall it could only go to 2GB. Pretty certain I would have voted for more if possible. Eagerly awaiting darkness to test the situation. I'm sure it's apparent that I am a real dummy where computers are involved.


The Freeware version of CCleaner is actually more than good enough. :-)

You have plenty of ram to do what you want to do

#10 Bill1054

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 07:40 PM

I don't think there is a free lunch, but maybe there is free software, PHD for example, although I sent Craig $50 for his efforts. So I will install the free version of CCleaner when the trial period is over. In the meantime, I let the Pro version have its way with the computer. The HD is now defragged and some file compaction completed. There is a long-standing yellow flag in Device Manager for a missing video driver of some sort. The auto search failed to turn one up, so I disabled it.

Since darkness and the acid test is still five hours away, I tried connecting everything now without a problem. I suspect the video guiding camera takes more system resources than anything else, and my problems often arose when setting parameters for it. This time I connected to the camera via MetaGuide without a glitch and adjusted the video settings ok. Fingers crossed, I await the darkness.

#11 Rusty

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Posted 13 July 2014 - 07:44 PM

More ram will not help with NexRemote.


No, but it could solve an underlying, unrelated problem; Next Remote may not be the culprit.

Another issue could be heat. I'd make sure the case, power supply, and heatsinks are clean. Removing the HSF from the CPU, cleaning and replacing the thermal paste might help, although Pentiums throttle back if too hot.

#12 Bill1054

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 11:32 AM

I'm back after an intervening cloudy night with testing continued last night. In general my software cooperated nicely and there were no lock-ups or program crashes. However when I shut the observatory down this morning, the PC desktop was clear of the programs I had left running, and the "Recovered from serious error" flag was flying once again.

Here are the details for last night's program: Running Maxim DL v6.3 for camera and mount control via the virtual port in NexRemote. Guiding with QHY5L-II in MetaGuide. I had used SkyMap Pro earlier, but had shut it off. 20 minute exposures were captured with an STL11000 and an Ha filter.
Since I don't have a computer controlled rotator, I am not fully automated and can't image past the meridian. The CGE mount has always reliably halted at the meridian, so I don't hesitate to let it reach the limit unattended.

The series of exposures were captured as requested, including two that were made after the mount stopped tracking.

I'm perfectly happy that the system functioned well after the maintenance suggested (should I change the oil in my car?), but the Serious Error message remains puzzling.

Bill

#13 Bill1054

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 06:29 PM

When I googled the error name, I found some advice from MS as to how to set the VM to avoid this error. We'll see.

Bill

#14 Bill1054

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 09:29 AM

The No Page File settings squelched the error message, but not the reboot. Maybe this IS an overheating problem.

Bill

#15 Relativist

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 10:19 AM

How old is your hard drive? Mechanical drives, along with fans, are weak links. Consider ghosting your setup and replacing your hard drive.

First start with doing an error check. Also the computer should be logging the errors that cause the crash.

#16 Cellofan

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Posted 23 July 2014 - 03:24 PM

Hi Bill, control if there is present a trojan bump.exe with ctrl-alt-canc. This trojan consumes 50% of CPU resources.

#17 Thomas Karpf

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Posted 25 July 2014 - 06:33 AM

I'm back after an intervening cloudy night with testing continued last night. In general my software cooperated nicely and there were no lock-ups or program crashes. However when I shut the observatory down this morning, the PC desktop was clear of the programs I had left running, and the "Recovered from serious error" flag was flying once again.


'Recovered from serious error' can be caused by a corrupt page file. Follow the instructions on: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/317277. I would run a thorough Check Disk and defrag before recreating the page file.

#18 drollere

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Posted 04 August 2014 - 11:23 PM

how expensive is a new windows machine with the latest windows preloaded? i'd check first to make sure all the drivers, software and hardware play well with the latest windows environment, but if so then perhaps your time spent debugging is worth more than a new computer.








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