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Equipment Discussions >> Mounts

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Starhawk
Space Ranger
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Reged: 09/16/08

Loc: Tucson, Arizona
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5981462 - 07/20/13 01:39 PM

Linux would see to be a pretty stable platform to work from. A friend of mine has been trying to do his entire observatory in Linux with frustration due to the limited support for it.

On the other hand, I am really wondering about what could maybe be possible as a new open standard to try to draw to.

So, for example, if we worked on something called AstroLinux, is there at least a generally understandable universal camera controller possible? Thinking out loud, the main control suite would have toggles for all of the features of an SBIG camera ranging to DSLRs, and it would be a command interpreter downstream from this which actually had the real differences for a given camera. It would likely be years, at best, if ever, for many cameras to be picked up. Is there a way to have an extremely dumbed down single channel ASCOM device without breaking what is good here, but making it obvious and as easy as possible for vendors to migrate to this standard for future cameras? I suppose what made ASCOM so heavily adopted was the "Just about everyone has a PC" concept. So, now we are in "Just about everyone has an iOS or Android device" era.

I'm starting to understand why Apple seems to give short shrift to backward compatibility at times.

-Rich


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orlyandico
Postmaster
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Reged: 08/10/09

Loc: Singapore
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5981584 - 07/20/13 03:07 PM

Chris, the reason I said only Linux is the choice, is because if you want everything about the software stack to be open-source, then you need an open-source OS as the basis.

There really aren't any other options. Building something open-source on top of Windows leads to the situation with ASCOM right now.

That said, I was wrong about Apogee - Starlight Xpress also provides drivers (or an API) that is generic and will run on any Linux regardless of architecture.

I found this software - http://canburytech.net/GoQat/download.html

it does a very creditable job, includes image capture, autoguiding via the guide port on SX cameras or via LX200... it is fairly complete. It only supports QSI and SX cameras, and QSI will only work on Linux Intel because it requires a library that is Linux Intel only.

As for the BeagleBoard.. yeah not being able to use the SD card as external storage while booting off the eMMC is annoying. But I've gotten over it. And I don't mind the numerous pins used by the LCD - I want to run dark. Having an LCD means you'll be running X. And developing X applications is a royal PITA.

But that said, a Beagleboard with the 7" LCD cape, and running GoQat, controlling an SX autoguider and SX camera, with a Gemini or any other LX200-compatible device, is the open-source holy grail we've been talking about. It even integrates with SAO DS9 and uses SExtractor for object extraction.

And it only uses Gtk2 so does not require massive GUI resources like a Qt-based library would.

Seems I really need to put my money where my mouth is and support SX, since they're the only game in non-Intel Linux land right now... (oh in theory Apogee could be there too)

BTW I tried building the Meade DSI library on the BeagleBone Black. Came to a screeching halt:

1) Angstrom Linux doesn't use usbfs, and usbfs is needed for the fxload shenanigans to upload the Meade firmware on hotplug

2) I don't have firmware for my Meade DSI 1 (I can extract it, but another headache)

Presumably if I use Ubuntu instead of Angstrom, I can get my Meade DSI working. It just seems so much effort for a dead (both product and company-wise) camera. But that said, the BBB is meeting my expectations nicely.


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orlyandico
Postmaster
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Reged: 08/10/09

Loc: Singapore
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5981603 - 07/20/13 03:16 PM

BTW SkySafari already controls a ton of mounts via RS-232, it even supports dumb encoders like the EkBox.

So yes, it is possible to build a universal mount controller - the brave folks at Southern Stars have done it.

But supporting cameras (as I've discovered) is a whole different ball of wax.

To clarify my earlier statement about "running dark" -

I want to build something that will allow me to image, without a laptop. And without using a DSLR.

That means, the BBB must be able to

1) control my mount pointing
2) auto-guide, include capturing from the AG camera and sending guide pulses
3) capture images and store them to the SD card

all this with a minimal GUI, because I don't want to waste my life writing a GUI. So I'm thinking a bunch of command-line Linux applications, a few push-buttons e.g. "start guiding" "calibrate guider" "capture image" and an SPI or I2C serial display.

This would be tiny, would consume tiny amounts of power (unlike a laptop which requires an inverter to use in the field) and it won't have a glaring screen to ruin everyone's night vision. If I can get this to work with my setup, I'll be happy...


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payner
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 03/22/07

Loc: Bluegrass Region, Kentucky
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5983110 - 07/21/13 02:29 PM

I downloaded Sky Safari Plus a couple of days ago. It was easy to learn the controls and setting in the app, very pleased. The graphics realized on an iPhone 4 are amazing; I didn't expect that viewing on such a small screen would be so pleasant for this type of program/app.

I had my Vixen NewAtlux mount setup, selected the StarBook/GEM options and selected the "connect wireless" option. The screen returned it could connect, but the mount was not responding. Can anyone suggest a solution for this mount? I also have a CGE mount and someone please tell me if I'm correct that mount requires "Skywire" to operate with the app. Thanks in advance for the help.

Best,
Randy


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orlyandico
Postmaster
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Reged: 08/10/09

Loc: Singapore
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: payner]
      #5983121 - 07/21/13 02:32 PM

best post your query on the southern_stars yahoo group.

the New Atlux is a fairly rare mount, it seems unlikely for people to know how to get it working with SS.

OT does the New Atlux also have the declination jumping of the SXW and SXD? I was thinking of getting one before, but wasn't sure of this issue..

I'm using the Skywire accessory to connect SkySafari (on ipad) to my Mach1.. but i'm going to build a bluetooth-to-RS232 project box so i can wirelessly control the Mach1 from my android phone (SkySafari on ipad doesn't support bluetooth).


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Hilmi
Post Laureate
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Reged: 03/07/10

Loc: Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5983336 - 07/21/13 05:24 PM

Maybe we are looking at this all wrong. Maybe what we need to build is Astronomy Specific PC hardware. I'm thinking one of those mini desktop PC's that's small enough to mount in a car's dashboard. Only thing is the enclosure is designed to mount onto a tripod leg. It would run windows 8 (since that works with touch screens very well) and a small touch screen would be integrated into the case. Maybe an 8" screen. The USB to serial adapter would be installed inside the case (perhaps several of them to allow multiple serial devices). The PC would semi rugedized using one of the shock proof laptop hard disks, and memory that' held in place with RTV silicon to prevent it popping out of place. Then the entire case would be rubberized to add to the shock resistance. The screen would come with a custom fit clip on red screen (replaceable as a consumable part). The computer case would be supplied with a compact wireless keyboard and mouse (or track pad) The cooling of the PC will be designed such as too not require many opening so as to prevent dust and moisture ingress. Failing that the machine will have filtered air intakes with user serviceable filters. I envisage the machine being moisture proof (water proof is an over kill). Then you can operate your usual software suite for imaging, but with a small compact machine that mounts directly onto your mount and reduces cable clutter by being close to the imaging train. Such a machine can be built from commercially available parts with minimal customization.

If somebody is allergic to windows 8, they could always install Linux on it and work with the free software that is available out there.


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EFT
Vendor - Deep Space Products
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Reged: 05/07/07

Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Hilmi]
      #5983477 - 07/21/13 07:07 PM

No need to use a shock-mounted hard disk at this point. If you want onboard mass storage capacity then you may as well just go with a solid state drive since they are coming down in price.

Better to use a software solution than a screen cover for the red screen.

A touch-screen control would be best if it were wireless.

10Micron uses a Linux solution that fits in a case that is about 3x6x6 inches which would probably be the type of form factor you are thinking of. Expanding functionality to full Windows 8 would be interesting I suppose.


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Starhawk
Space Ranger
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Reged: 09/16/08

Loc: Tucson, Arizona
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: EFT]
      #5983495 - 07/21/13 07:16 PM

Here is an off the shelf ruggedized PC about the size of what we could handle:

http://www.panasonic.com/business/toughbook/ultra-mobile-rugged-toughbook-u1-...

I'm still trying to figure out how its port architecture works, though. It looks like it is USB, so there would be the USB-COM trick.

Awesome- that's a $3200 computer!

-Rich

Edited by Starhawk (07/21/13 07:19 PM)


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Sean Cunneen
Let Me Think
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Reged: 08/01/07

Loc: Blue Island Illinois
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5983517 - 07/21/13 07:28 PM

I finished reading this whole thread and I find it very timely. I have a large GEM that I have been building for the past 2 years and now I am looking at moving from a timing motor to something more full featured. I have a couple of servo motors, drivers and a mystery (to me) self contained circuit board put together some years ago by an ATM. After watching a buddy control his AP 900 with his Iphone, I would love to have that functionality in my mount! I have a linux laptop and a win 8 laptop. I am a willing guinea pig for any solutions you guys come up with. I am going to spend the rest of my night googling everything referenced here as I am a builder, not a coder.

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orlyandico
Postmaster
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Reged: 08/10/09

Loc: Singapore
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Sean Cunneen]
      #5983565 - 07/21/13 08:00 PM

Sean, you're best off buying a SiTech. That is a complete solution that works today, offers a lot of functionality such as mount modeling, etc. And not very expensive either (cheaper than a G11 Gemini 2). If your existing servo motors are suitable you'd only need the control box and handset.

If it's good enough for Planewave...

On the other hand, if you want GoTo and telescope control at the absolute lowest cost.. https://github.com/TCWORLD/AstroEQ

AstroEQ is basically an Arduino implementation of the Synscan protocol. So you would build (or buy) the board, wire up some steppers, and attach a PC with EQMOD or a Synta Synscan handset.


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Hilmi
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Reged: 03/07/10

Loc: Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5984024 - 07/22/13 04:17 AM

Orly. Gemini II also designed to be attached to any mount since you can define custom gear ratios.

The toughbook is an overkill. A PC of the specs I describe can be built for less than $1000 if parts are purchased in bulk quantities of 50 or more.


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orlyandico
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Reged: 08/10/09

Loc: Singapore
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Hilmi]
      #5984046 - 07/22/13 05:34 AM

Hilmi, true, Gemini 2 is also workable. But it's 2X the price of SiTech..

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Starhawk
Space Ranger
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Reged: 09/16/08

Loc: Tucson, Arizona
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5984285 - 07/22/13 10:49 AM

The thing which bothers me about the field PC is its the same problem as dragging a little NetBook out. It wants power, care, and feeding, and uses a non-real time OS which randomly introduces surprise incompatibilies and bizarre UI detours with every update. It's going to have the peculiar problem with ports and getting the magic driver talking to the right emulated COM port, so it really isn't progress except making the box it's in a little more field compatible.

Meanwhile, this isn't any progress towards making a standalone system capable of working when COM dongles finally become unavailable in 5-10 years.

-Rich


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Hilmi
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Reged: 03/07/10

Loc: Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5984323 - 07/22/13 11:22 AM

Quote:

Meanwhile, this isn't any progress towards making a standalone system capable of working when COM dongles finally become unavailable in 5-10 years.




Com dongles? What's that? Sounds rude


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Whichwayisnorth
Pooh-Bah
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Reged: 07/04/11

Loc: Southern California
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5984582 - 07/22/13 02:46 PM

Search on Amazon for mini computers. You can find some that are incredibly small. Then you need to use an open source OS like Linux so that it boots fast and only has the functions you need for your mount. Blue tooth, WiFi, etc. Use an app to connect to the computer and control it. Docking station on the mount to recharge. You could also enable voice control.

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payner
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 03/22/07

Loc: Bluegrass Region, Kentucky
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5984901 - 07/22/13 06:11 PM

Quote:



OT does the New Atlux also have the declination jumping of the SXW and SXD? I was thinking of getting one before, but wasn't sure of this issue..




I had a Sphinx SXD and really enjoyed the mount, but needed more capacity in a relatively lightweight package. The New Atlux fit the bill in this regard. The SXD had noticeable dec jump, but for visual observation it was solid with keeping an object centered. I don't perceive the dec jump with the New Atlux, but it retains the centering of the SXD.
It appears the New Atlux can be setup to run with Sky Safari, but at considerable effort.

Best,
Randy


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orlyandico
Postmaster
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Reged: 08/10/09

Loc: Singapore
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: payner]
      #5985026 - 07/22/13 07:51 PM

Whichwayisnorth - I believe I mentioned early on this thread that iAstroHub by Anat uses one of those mini Android PC's - the Rikomagic Mk802 - to do mount control, plate-solving, autoguiding, and image capture.

Anat is using a QHY5 for guiding and a QHY8L for capture.

I am currently trying to get my QHY8 working on my BeagleBone. The drivers for the QHY series on Linux are all over the place - the CCD software that Anat is using with his QHY8L doesn't officially support the QHY8 (non Pro, non L) but I scrounged the QHYCCD forums and it seems the original QHY8 is supported if you can get the firmware - which is also on the QHYCCD forums.

So I was (again) wrong to assume that only SX and (to a lesser extent) Apogee are Linux-friendly. QHY is as well, although much more hackery is required.


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cn register 5
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 12/26/12

Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5985467 - 07/23/13 03:12 AM

There's a guy working on Linux drivers for the Atik cameras - and they had one running using a Raspberry Pi at Astrofest this year.

So both non-Intel and Linux.

Chris


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orlyandico
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Loc: Singapore
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: cn register 5]
      #5985564 - 07/23/13 07:17 AM

The SX and some QHY camera are working on the RasPi..

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Starhawk
Space Ranger
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Reged: 09/16/08

Loc: Tucson, Arizona
Re: Open Source Mount Control Suite new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5985755 - 07/23/13 10:11 AM

The little rikomagic mk802 IV is definitely a slick little computer. This is closer to what I'd like to see become the backbone for something like this since it doesn't need much power and effectively is a little hub ready for some sort of tablet or smartphone to be the wireless controller.

-Rich


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