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Equipment Discussions >> Mounts

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orlyandico
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5975434 - 07/17/13 03:31 AM

I went through the last dozen pages of the SCT thread about Meade that spawned this thread...

The reality is it's possible to have an open-source mount control suite today. And for the mechanicals, any will do.

According to Dan Grey, the SiTech can be controlled without a PC. As I mentioned, Sky Safari can do it. None of this is open-source, however.

Incidentally, the Planewave Ascension is now bundled with SiTech. I could have sworn they used AP GTO before. That's a resounding plus vote for SiTech, I reckon..

How about this: the Arduino-based Synscan motor controller that I talked about, is compatible with EQMOD. With these two things, you have a full open-source solution. Requires a PC, however.


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Starhawk
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5975749 - 07/17/13 10:53 AM

So, what is really driving my thinking is it is possible to independently do the following:

(1) add a drive to a given mount
(2) build a pointing model on-board a mount
(3) Control a mount with a phone or tablet
(4) automatically align a mount
(5) autoguide without a computer
(6) control a camera with a computer
(7) control a few cameras without a computer.


Leaving the PC out is huge in terms of complexity of setup for mobile operation. However, it's also becoming clear every update to windows is a threat to the whole shebang.

So, if a high end mount could be controlled to build a pointing model on the fly in the field without a PC, that's new. If the technique used would allow you to motorize a custom mount and do the same, then that's huge for ATM or for observatories, but even more so, would allow a far easier entry for new mount makers.

What these things don't do at all is present themselves to your mobile device as effortlessly as a Bluetooth keyboard. I feel if we can get mounts to that point, the hobby will be vastly more accessible to modern users. If it were an Arduino project, that definitely sounds like a neat idea to me.

Like you say, there is a lot of stuff around. And you can get a low end mount which makes its own pointing model. Or you can get a high end mount to do it- but only with a PC. and we're still married to Com, and I really am starting to wonder if even the rs-232 converters will be available in 5 years (like the 5.25" drive).

-Rich


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Hilmi
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5975783 - 07/17/13 11:17 AM

Wll above features are actually available with various setups. Its just that nobody does it all. Meade got close and if they had added shutter release control with support for dithering they would have been spot on. But that's not open source

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Raginar
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Hilmi]
      #5975959 - 07/17/13 01:03 PM

So... you're basically making the Gemini-2? Maybe Rene would just let you help him out with that instead of reinventing the wheel. Much of what you're requesting is already done and working adequately.

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orlyandico
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Raginar]
      #5976265 - 07/17/13 04:02 PM

Thing is Rene has spent a good part of his life working on the hardware and software for Gemini 2 so it's extremely unlikely - impossible even - that he would open-source it.

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cn register 5
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Reged: 12/26/12

Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5976596 - 07/17/13 06:36 PM

Quote:

What these things don't do at all is present themselves to your mobile device as effortlessly as a Bluetooth keyboard. I feel if we can get mounts to that point, the hobby will be vastly more accessible to modern users. If it were an Arduino project, that definitely sounds like a neat idea to me.



This is the big problem. Getting a good user interface design (which this is essentially) is difficult.

My educated guess is that the functionality is about 20% of the job, the UI is the other 80%.

This is based on what I see at the company I work for where we make microanalysis equipment. Most of our time is spent developing and debugging the user interface.

I'm not sure that an Arduino would have the grunt to do it unless it presented a simple interface and put the UI on the display devices - all of them.

Chris


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orlyandico
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: cn register 5]
      #5976784 - 07/17/13 08:34 PM

I'm beginning to think that a Beaglebone Black is a better basis for a mount controller. 1GHz, runs Linux, has a lot of IO ports (much more than the RasPi), and $50.

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Starhawk
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5976852 - 07/17/13 09:29 PM

Orly, good suggestion! The Beaglebone Black also has 2GB of flash memory and a graphics processor. Pretty nice for such a little inexpensive device, and it looks like the sort of thing to do this.

Raginar: I just don't know the folks involved in Gemini II and if they'd be interested or annoyed. I've tried broaching this subject with Astro Physics, and I'm not sure if I'm not using the right words or what. Those of you who have been reading this thread seem to be right along with the general idea. It's a bit of work, but it's far more future-compatible than anything else i can point to. In a way, it does look like a lot of manufacturers are creeping towards this, but I am sensitive to how each of their approaches seems to be leaving certain pieces out which are an amazing amount of work to add after the fact.

I agree the UI is a very big deal. That has part of me hoping some way could be found to run this via SkySafari or something similar.

-Rich

Edited by Starhawk (07/17/13 09:30 PM)


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orlyandico
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite *DELETED* new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5976932 - 07/17/13 10:33 PM

Post deleted by orlyandico

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orlyandico
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5978290 - 07/18/13 04:43 PM

To my immense annoyance, the BeagleBone Black is considered "dual use" technology in Singapore. My order has gotten held up and I had to fill out and sign a compliance statement that I won't use it for nuclear, biological, chemical, or other military use.



Looks like a Digilent uc32 Arduino-compatible, along with the chipkit motor shield, together already have everything you need for complete mount control.

the uc32 is a 32-bit PICMX @ 80MHz, 512k of flash and 32k of RAM, and the motor shield has 4 motor outputs and 2 encoder inputs, enough to drive RA and DEC (assuming they are servos).

the uc32 has enough flash to hold a significant star library, although it obviously isn't powerful enough to plate-solve.


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Starhawk
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5979551 - 07/19/13 10:30 AM

Huh- I wonder what someone is using it for. Quite a surprise, there. Someone I know at work is a huge fan of the raspberry pi computers. And I suppose I should just be really happy to have escaped the old Motorola 8 bit HC-11s.

-Rich


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orlyandico
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite *DELETED* new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5979881 - 07/19/13 02:06 PM

Post deleted by orlyandico

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derangedhermit
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5980768 - 07/20/13 12:57 AM

Since there are a number of things to control, it seems to me that the basis of any network of devices would be based on the ASCOM model and API. The first problem is ASCOM platform is currently Windows-only, but I think the current developers would provide some support for ports to tablet and phone OSes (Android and iOS). Then apps like SkySafari can flourish in the environment.

(I wonder what the Southern Stars guys would say about having ASCOM on Android and iOS?)

I understand the current ASCOM is .NET or something, so you have to change the api to something else suitable for the other OSes. The protocols on the other side (the driver side) are whatever the devices need, just like they are today. You still have the same physical interfaces (wired or wireless) to choose from.

That gives you a framework on the device controller (mount, focuser, camera, dome, ...) side to work toward.

I think some monolithic soup-to-nuts device would be going the wrong way.


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orlyandico
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: derangedhermit]
      #5980823 - 07/20/13 02:34 AM

I don't think porting ASCOM is that easy... if it were the INDI / RTS2 guys would have done it.

My understanding is that ASCOM is too wedded to the Windows ActiveX technology that it really can't be ported to anything else..


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cn register 5
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Reged: 12/26/12

Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5980897 - 07/20/13 04:56 AM

ASCOM is COM. This was done so that scripting would work. Unfortunately there's no universal scripting language that's platform agnostic.

We would love to make it cross platform but it's difficult to see how. The closest I came up with was a very simple text based interface that could be sent over a wire. It used servers and clients to translate the text messages to something that was compatible with the OS and hardware at each end.

Chris


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derangedhermit
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: cn register 5]
      #5980905 - 07/20/13 05:13 AM

Chris, I went to the yahoo group where this seemed to be an active topic in 2008, and then died down. I'll sent you a PM, I'd like to discuss.

Lee


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orlyandico
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: derangedhermit]
      #5980947 - 07/20/13 06:56 AM

I just ran into another issue... if one is building an open-source telescope control system, the only choice is Linux.

And there are very little in the way of Linux drivers for most astro equipment. Even worse if you're on ARM Linux.

SBIG etc. do provide Linux drivers - but only for Intel Linux.

The only camera manufacturer who supports non-Intel Linux is Apogee - the RandomFactory Linux drivers support the Raspberry Pi (!!!!) and I imagine the developer might support BeagleBone if there were enough interest (the Pi code could probably work with a simple re-compilation).

This whole episode has made me even more interested in Apogee cameras.. I'll probably save up for one instead of an SBIG, FLI, or QSI, simply because they are more Linux friendly.


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cn register 5
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Reged: 12/26/12

Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5981027 - 07/20/13 09:04 AM

Quote:

I just ran into another issue... if one is building an open-source telescope control system, the only choice is Linux.




Can you explain what you mean please Orlando.

I'm under the impression that there's lots of options for developing and building software on other platforms, and lots of code available.

Chris


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petely
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Loc: England
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5981291 - 07/20/13 11:49 AM

So far as the BeagleBone Black goes, I'd give it a few months.
I received one about a month ago. My initial reaction was utter frustration which has since settled down to disappointment. You need to be aware that a lot of the I/Os are dedicated to the display. Great if you want a "dark" board for a dedicated operation, but not so hot if you want to see its output. It also has a bit of a glitch ATM where if you boot of the internal flash, the O/S can't see the external uSD card. You can boot off the uSD (slower than the flash by about 2x) and see the flash - just not the other way round. So until the suppliers get that sorted, my device is at the back of the queue.
There's always the Olimex A13 OLinuxino-Wifi. That has a touch screen available as a bolt-on (again: using many I/Os), internal flash and built-in Wifi. You can also attach a LiPo to it for true portable use.


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Starhawk
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Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite [Re: derangedhermit]
      #5981437 - 07/20/13 01:23 PM

It's really the Windows PC basis of ASCOM which started all of this discussion about a need to move beyond ASCOM if we are to move beyond the PC.

So, bringing up SkySafari is a perfect illustration. Basically, all mount manufacturers are stuck in COM- and dump all the figuring out on the User at the expense of a user experience about as pleasant as the worst the PC era has ever had to offer.

If, for the sake of discussion, we had a version of Sky Safari which was generally product enabled, we would just be migrating the find the magic driver and futz with the peices until they work model onto a tablet, now running either an emulator to run ASCOM drivers, or with rewites of these, all to make a modern device pretend to be what we wanted to get away from in the first place.

Then there would be some sort of hardware dongle with 8 RS-232 plugs on it. Maybe it could be wireless from there. It hardly sounds like it would be very high on the neato scale, and forget about it automatically knowing what to do to help a new user get started.

-Rich

Quote:

Since there are a number of things to control, it seems to me that the basis of any network of devices would be based on the ASCOM model and API. The first problem is ASCOM platform is currently Windows-only, but I think the current developers would provide some support for ports to tablet and phone OSes (Android and iOS). Then apps like SkySafari can flourish in the environment.

(I wonder what the Southern Stars guys would say about having ASCOM on Android and iOS?)

I understand the current ASCOM is .NET or something, so you have to change the api to something else suitable for the other OSes. The protocols on the other side (the driver side) are whatever the devices need, just like they are today. You still have the same physical interfaces (wired or wireless) to choose from.

That gives you a framework on the device controller (mount, focuser, camera, dome, ...) side to work toward.

I think some monolithic soup-to-nuts device would be going the wrong way.




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