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ASI120MM capture issues

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#1 egratudo

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 12:13 AM

Hello all,

 

I bought a new laptop, an ACER aspire, 8 gb ddr4 ram, 256GB ssd, usb 2 and 3, windows 10 with an i5 7200u processor. I bought this laptop with planetary imaging in mind. I can not for the life of me get my ZWO ASI120mm camera (usb 2.0 version) to play nice with this laptop. I have reduced USB traffic settings, i have tried different USB cables, i have updated everything i can think of, windows is current on updates,  I have tried 3 different capture SW's, Firecapture, sharpcap, and the ZWO one. they are all most current versions, they all run like crap, nothing seems to help. I get a few images then it freezes and says capture fail. Every once in a while it will work for mere seconds at a time and freeze again. I frequently get such a long freeze that the SW thinks my camera is not connected and it boots me out.

 

I am in need of suggestions on what to try next. This ran perfectly on my MacBook pro running win7 before, even if it was slow as can be tolerated.

 

please help!

 

Jeff



#2 leveye

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 01:17 AM

Try using a different cable than the one it comes with. Some people have had issues with the ones supplied by ZWO


Edited by leveye, 07 November 2016 - 01:19 AM.


#3 GenevaBrown

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 02:32 AM

Are you running the laptop on battery power?

If yes.....  check Control Panel>Device Manager>Universal Serial Bus Controllers>USB Root Hub(s)>(right-click)Properties>Power Management, and uncheck "Allow the computer to turn off the device to save power".

Just a possibility that needs eliminating.



#4 Astro829

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 02:50 AM

Are you running the laptop on battery power?

If yes.....  check Control Panel>Device Manager>Universal Serial Bus Controllers>USB Root Hub(s)>(right-click)Properties>Power Management, and uncheck "Allow the computer to turn off the device to save power".

Just a possibility that needs eliminating.

I would turn off sleep on everything even if you're run plugged in.



#5 james7ca

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 04:21 AM

I have that same camera (ASI120MM, the USB2 version) and I could never get it work for guiding under PhD with either Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (using either an Asus Core i3 or an Intel Compute Stick). However, it worked fine under Windows 7 when running on an old Acer netbook. The problem that I had (during guiding) is that I would get frequent split frames and rarely lockups. This could also happen during simple image capture sessions using software like SGP.

 

My final conclusion, the USB2 version of that camera has problems with both Windows 8 and 10, but your problems will vary depending upon the PC hardware and perhaps the particular sample of camera that you got. I tried to resolve this on the ZWO forums but never found anything that worked, it even affects the ASI120MC that I also have. You can go to the ZWO forums and and read the entire thread:

 

  http://zwoug.org/vie...&t=2268&start=0



#6 happylimpet

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 05:36 AM

I have that same camera (ASI120MM, the USB2 version) and I could never get it work for guiding under PhD with either Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (using either an Asus Core i3 or an Intel Compute Stick). However, it worked fine under Windows 7 when running on an old Acer netbook. The problem that I had (during guiding) is that I would get frequent split frames and rarely lockups. This could also happen during simple image capture sessions using software like SGP.

 

My final conclusion, the USB2 version of that camera has problems with both Windows 8 and 10, but your problems will vary depending upon the PC hardware and perhaps the particular sample of camera that you got. I tried to resolve this on the ZWO forums but never found anything that worked, it even affects the ASI120MC that I also have. You can go to the ZWO forums and and read the entire thread:

 

  http://zwoug.org/vie...&t=2268&start=0

I cured this above problem (split frames) by selecting the 'wdm driver' option in PHD2 to connect.

 

With regard to OP, disable anti-virus software sometimes helps.

 

I tend to get this sort of thing (with tha ASI1600mm) when there are conflicts with other USB devices. Perhaps try unplugging other things. However never seen it with my USB2 asi120MM.

 

Good luck.



#7 Kokatha man

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 06:30 AM

...silly perhaps, but are you using an actual usb2 port to connect the camera, or trying to employ a usb3 port? - there can be issues with the latter. ;)



#8 jsmoraes

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 06:55 AM

I had some problems with some softwares and windows 10. I had success solving those problems with compatibility mode intallations for those softwares. Some need compatibility with windows 7, other with XP, and anothers with windows 8.

You can let windows 10 does the choice, or you can set that choice. Uninstall your ASI, re-install it, but before running the installation program, set it to run with compatibility to win 7 or XP.

 

It may be a good idea.  :waytogo:


Edited by jsmoraes, 07 November 2016 - 06:56 AM.

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#9 jsmoraes

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 07:20 AM

note: click with the right botton of mouse on the ASI intallation program. In the oppened window call for Property options at the bottom. Click on Compatibility tab. Check the box compability mode and set the option you prefer: windows 7 or windows xp sevice pack 3



#10 egratudo

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 10:18 AM

Thank everyone for the suggestions. I will try these things out tonight and see if i can achieve any success. If not i think i will just buy and load WIN7 and see if that solves these issues.

 

Jeff



#11 RedLionNJ

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 04:22 PM

Another possibility (not explicitly mentioned above, far as I could see at a glance) is the chipset/driver for the USB2 bus. Two possibilities here:

 

1. Maybe the chip just isn't compatible with the way the ZWO driver uses the USB connection to try to eke out the maximum bandwidth

2. Maybe the driver for the USB chip isn't the best one available for that device. Particularly with newer laptops, it sometimes pays to seek out (online) the newest driver for the motherboard and install that, then suddenly all sorts of other chips start noticing "hey, there's a new driver for me, too, now I know who I am!". And you end up with a whole bunch of replaced drivers and things work a lot better.

 

Good luck!

 

Grant


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#12 egratudo

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Posted 08 November 2016 - 10:22 AM

Well, So nothing worked. I tried it all from power management settings to trying different drivers. The old ASI120MM USB 2.0 camera just does not like win10. I have purchased a copy of win7 (i already feel better just having bought it) I will update when i get it installed and report the results.

 

Thanks again for all the replies!!!

 

Jeff


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#13 happylimpet

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Posted 08 November 2016 - 10:52 AM

There is no way I am updating my astro laptop from Win7. Everything works. I like it that way.


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#14 egratudo

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Posted 08 November 2016 - 11:14 AM

There is no way I am updating my astro laptop from Win7. Everything works. I like it that way.

i bought this laptop with astrophotography in mind, nice fast ssd, fast ddr4 RAM, good strong i5, but it came preloaded with WIN10 with no option for anything else. Wouldnt it be nice if OS's got better with time. but oh well, its microsoft, not really known for their positive direction to time graph lol so its back in time for me

 

Im with you, back to WIN7 where everything makes sense the hardware plays nice.  :waytogo:


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#15 james7ca

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Posted 15 December 2016 - 11:44 AM

Jeff (egratudo), any update on whether you ever got your ASI120 to work on your Acer Aspire?



#16 old_frankland

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Posted 16 December 2016 - 10:08 PM

Been there, done that.  Went round and round with my telescope dedicated Dell laptop.  No go with the 120MM.  Plugged it into my family travel Dell laptop computer and all was good.  Been lunar imaging with out a hiccup.  From speaking with others, this is a common issue with ASI cameras -- works well with some computers, won't work at all with others.

 

If you have a couple friends that will let you plug the camera into their computers, you'll likely hit upon a computer that will work.  You can try to compare computer specs......but so far, as far as I can see, there is no good rhyme or reason.

 

ASI suggests making firmware changes to the camera, reducing frame rate essentially.  Others may know more about that. 

 

I was fortunate that one of my computers works with the camera.



#17 james7ca

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 12:25 AM

Jim, thanks for the feedback. However, I've been doing some testing on my approximately 3-year-old ASI120MM using a new Acer Aspire Core i3 notebook and the situation seems to be more nuanced that I could have expected.

 

For several days I tried to get the camera to work well on that notebook running a clean copy of Windows 10 Home (Anniversary Edition) and I could never get it to work reliably for guiding using PhD v2.6.2dev7. Although I saw some connection problems and disconnects during the first 30 minutes of testing those problem eventually went away (completely) and I proceeded to do some guiding tests indoors using an artificial star. Well, over two days I did about 10 hours of guiding and I had consistent problems with the horizontal frame sync on the camera's output (frame splits about 1/3 of the way from the right edge of the image). When that happens PhD loses the guide star and then you might have to disconnect from the camera and reconnect to get the camera's output to return to normal. I did a lot of testing to try and fix that problem, rebooting the camera and Windows, trying the "compatible" firmware that ZWO offers (didn't fix the frame split problem and even introduced new and undesired behaviors, so I returned to the standard firmware), different USB cables, then trying to use a USB2 hub instead of a direct connection to the notebook's USB2 port, switching from the ST4 guiding port ("on camera") to a direct serial connection to the mount, and other things. Nothing worked and I had these frame sync errors on average about every 15 minutes (sometime more often, sometimes more like every 20 minutes).

 

I should also mention that I'm using the latest version of the "ZWO ASI Camera" driver from within PhD.

 

Well, since I had seen this exact same problem on two other computers (an Asus notebook Windows 8.1 and an Intel Compute Stick running Windows 10 Home) I was just about ready to give up and then I tried something that was suggested by jsmoraes in post #8 (above). So, I uninstalled the ZWO driver software and then installed the software using that software's Windows 7 compatibility mode (through the preference pane for each installer app that you can access through the app's desktop icon) . Then, in kind of a "shot gun" approach I decided to try a third USB cable. Amazingly, for the next day and after at least another 6 hours of testing I had zero errors while guiding using PhD.

 

At first, I said to myself that it can't be the installation using the compatibility mode, it must be the USB cable. So, I switched back to the cable I had been using previously and everything worked fine. Then I switched back to using the ST4 guider port, then I started stress testing the connection, rebooting, stopping and the restarting the guiding again and again, disconnecting the camera and then reconnecting (both through software and by disconnecting the USB cable), installing a USB hub between the camera and the computer (usually not recommended), then installing a second hub between the first hub and the computer (daisy chaining through two hubs), then trying a 25' unpowered USB repeater while plugged in to the hub. Well, everything continued to work without a single hiccup.

 

So, you might think problem solved? Well, not so "fast" because then I went back to the Intel Compute Stick which I also could never get to work and amazingly that system was also now working (without ever having changed anything on that particular installation).

 

Actually, the situation is more complicated that this because when I first got the camera about three years ago I was using a small Acer netbook running Windows 7 and I used that configuration for probably over a year and never had any problems with guiding (at least not with anything that appeared to be related to either the camera or the computer). In fact, when I couldn't get my Asus Core i3 notebook with Windows 8.1 working with that camera (because of the split frames) I would often go back to the netbook running Windows 7 and the camera always worked correctly under that system (as it still does today, since I tested that configuration just in the last week).

 

So, what does all of this mean? As I see it there are at least three possibilities.

 

First, the camera itself may be changing its characteristics, meaning the hardware is just unstable and you may have periods when it will appear to work and then for no apparent reason it just stops "behaving" and nothing you can do will make it work again. That seems somewhat unlikely although I have had a few nights when guiding did work even on my Windows v8.1 Asus notebook (but very rarely, and it aways did return to the split framing errors on the next night or perhaps after a week of inactivity). The problem with this theory is that the camera always seems to work on the netbook running Windows 7 (even during periods when it wouldn't work on the other computers).

 

Possibility two, it really is the installation under the Windows 7 compatibility mode that fixed the problem on my new Acer Core i3 notebook (thanks jsmoraes), and the fact that it is running fine under the Intel Compute Stick is just a random fluke. I guess that is a possibility but it seems highly unlikely. Unfortunately, I can't go back and test on my other notebook computer (the one running Windows 8.1) because that computer now has a hardware fault in the motherboard (it crashes very frequently, basically that 18-month-old computer is now pretty much nothing more than a door stop).

 

Possibility three, the problem is in the ZWO drivers and it just depends upon where those drivers are loaded in memory (the drivers may be doing something like corrupting their own memory from a buffer overrun or some type of other fault in the handling of their resources). Actually, this scenario matches every behavior that I've seen but I have no real way of knowing for sure whether this is true. So, the reason why the Windows 7 compatibility mode seems to work is because the drivers are being loaded into a different area of memory, or the order of the memory allocations has been changed, etc. Given this, it's certainly possible that on any given computer the driver might work or it might not and this behavior could change with any modification to that same computer's runtime. I'm going to continue to investigate this to see if I can confirm whether this may be true.

 

Of course, if case three is true then their will be no way to  fix this problem with certainty until ZWO looks at (or fixes) their driver code and that seems a very unlikely outcome because I think ZWO has basically stopped supporting that line of their software. What I mean is that all of ZWO's other products are using a new set of driver code and the USB2-based ASI120MM and ASI120MC are still using old, camera-specific drivers. I guess I should add one other note here, I also have the ASI120MC color camera and that also stopped working once I switched from using my old Windows 7 netbook, so it seems unlikely that I have a simple, one-off hardware problem with the mono ASI120MM.

 

Lastly, it's interesting to note that right now my ASI120MM seems rock solid and it continues to work no matter what I do, even things that ZWO recommends against, like using the camera through a USB hub, or using a USB repeater, or using long runs of USB cables between the camera and the host computer. Thus, at least in my case, I think those kinds of setups can actually work as long as the camera and drivers are functioning correctly.


Edited by james7ca, 17 December 2016 - 08:19 AM.


#18 entilza

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 09:00 AM

Hey James, I'm still unsure how this fixed the Intel compute as you did nothing there, this sort of adds more confusion.  My intel compute has always worked as well...

 

I am almost thinking what if it was not the cable itself but the connectors by trying different cables perhaps the connections re-seated/cleaned the contacts or something at both ends.

 

Anyway, Does the ASI120MC work too?



#19 phileefan

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 11:31 AM

Jeff,

 

Maybe try the ASICamera group on Yahoo. Hope this helps.............................



#20 james7ca

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 11:48 AM

I just finished more testing, the color ASI120MC does NOT want to work on the Acer Aspire, won't even stay connected. But it still works on the old netbook running Windows 7.

 

Let's be clear here, I've probably done more testing on this issue that anyone on earth other than maybe the engineering team at ZWO (and maybe more than them, at least since they stopped working on the problem a few years ago, yes this problem was mentioned in the release notes for one of their earlier drivers). It's not the cable or something simple like that (although that is usually ZWO's standard fallback, that or they claim that your computer's USB2 port is just too slow to keep up with the streaming rate from the camera).

 

In any case, after three successful days of testing on the mono ASI120MM on my Acer Aspire (probably 15 to 20 hours of simulated guiding using an artificial star) I swapped that camera back into my system after testing the color version of the camera (which, as I said earlier won't even stay connected) and now the mono camera is getting split frames again. Interesting thing about that, they happen on a very regular basis, the initial frame split happens at about 17 minutes and then after that you might get 20 minutes, and then 17 minutes, and then 20 minutes. So, it doesn't appear to be a completely random act. That's another reason I think this is a simple software issue, probably something to do with a multiple of some buffer count or size or a frequency parameter in the driver itself. Right now I'm about 80% certain that it is a driver problem, but I guess it could be something in PhD (but that seems somewhat unlikely, other than that certain configurations of PhD might be more likely to trigger the failures).

 

It's also possible that ZWO is trying to use some tricky hack to avoid either the split frames or the drops in the connection. The problem with those kind of "fixes" is that if they run under a slightly different set of circumstances they will either fail or cause some other weird behavior that probably would have never happened if someone had just fixed the real problem to begin with. I should know, since I worked for many years as a programmer developing drivers for both standard computers and embedded devices. You just can't outsmart a piece of hardware with a tricky hack, you need to fix the underlying problems or it will just come back and bite you.

 

Another interesting thing about the ZWO drivers, I've never gotten the ASCOM drivers for the ASI120MM or ASI120MC to work on the Acer Aspire, the camera either won't connect or drops the connection after about 10 seconds. This was true even when I had it working for 3 days using the "ZWO ASI Camera" driver/interface in PhD. This is very odd, but it is actually my last remaining hope for finding a solution for these problems since if I can resolve the connection issue for the ASCOM drivers it may also fix the the split frames (it's possible that the two are related, opposite sides of the "coin").


Edited by james7ca, 17 December 2016 - 12:19 PM.


#21 phileefan

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 12:47 PM

Jeff,

 

Perhaps a silly question, but did you go to the ZWO website to download the most current drivers and download the drivers for usb 2.0 and not 3.0? 

 

Sometimes I overlook the simple things......  I've been running a Dell laptop with an i5 processor and 8gb ram with windows 8, 10 and 10.1 and have had no issues with the ASI120MM usb 2.0 and currently the ASI224MC usb 3.0 cameras. 

 

Lastly, when I have an issue with something of this nature, I would uninstall the program and do a reinstall it using the most updated drivers. Hope this helps, clear skies......

 

 



#22 entilza

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 12:56 PM

Can you also give me your test parameters you are using. I would like to run your test on my computers and camera in hopes to reproduce. What am I looking for exactly.

If one test scenario is if I can get the ASCOM driver working with my camera then I will retest that. However I one time took 4000 1" frames through sharpcap and it worked fine.

#23 RedLionNJ

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 12:58 PM

There is no way I am updating my astro laptop from Win7. Everything works. I like it that way.

 I have to chime in here and agree with Nick. I use an ASUS with an AMD processor out in my observatory and have used a variety of planetary cams over the last few years, including five different ZWO models (120MC, 120MM, 174MM, 224MC, 290MM). The USB2 models were always through a powered USB2 hub. The USB3 models are through a NON-powered USB3 hub.

 

The 120MC and 120MM did originally have issues, even on Win7, but a combination of newer ZWO drivers and newer AMD drivers (for the motherboard and USB) solved intermittent and "split screen" issues. I was able to get extremely close to the suggested maximum frame rates on both cams, over several iterations of the ZWO drivers. I suspect the 120MC and 120MM are working right at the edge of what can be reliably delivered via USB2. There may even have been "forgiving" interpretations of the USB protocol and perhaps smaller-than-optimal RAM buffering involved. It's those kind of symptoms.

 

Then I sold the 120 pair and focused exclusively on the USB3 models - never an issue with USB3.

 

I'm pretty sure there ARE some USB2 issues native to the 120MC and 120MM and those only manifest themselves with some cables/USB chipsets/drivers. But like James, I was never able to definitively conclude a single source of issues.

 

But right now, I am sticking with what I have (USB3 cams) with Win7. Everything I have works, no reason to change anything.

 

Grant



#24 egratudo

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 01:28 PM

Hello all,

 

I did everything i could think of, including everything all of you awesome people suggested. I was never able to get my ASI120mm usb 2.0 version to work on my Acer laptop running win10. I am basically to the point of scapping the camera and looking into other options that use usb 3. I am a fan of QHY, I use the QHY8L for DSO imaging and have been very very happy with their product. Im thinking of pulling the trigger on a QHY5LIII series planetary imager. Im still in the "research till it hurts" stage of my purchase.  this whole experience has put a sour taste in my mouth about the ZWO cameras. but im still open minded due to the fact i hear great things about their usb3.0 camera and win10. 

 

oh well, the quest for happy hardware vs software continues :)

 

Jeff


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#25 james7ca

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 08:59 PM

Can you also give me your test parameters you are using. I would like to run your test on my computers and camera in hopes to reproduce. What am I looking for exactly.

If one test scenario is if I can get the ASCOM driver working with my camera then I will retest that. However I one time took 4000 1" frames through sharpcap and it worked fine.

I doubt that you will see this problem when doing capture under SharpCap. You need to be guiding on a star because sometimes the split frames happen only for a few seconds or only last for a minute or two. Note also that when the ASI120MM was actually working on my Acer I could usually run for about twenty minutes without problems and in actual practice I think it would be unlikely for a planetary photographer to take a 20 minute sequence without changing filters or stopping the camera. In fact, this split frame problem is a bit subtle, since I think it would be hard to see in many star fields because of the sparse number of stars and the mostly black background.  Since I'm using an artificial star field I have orientation patterns as part of the background so that I can actually see how the frame is being split. Without that and unless PhD loses its guide star you might not even know that you had a problem.

 

I've even wondered what would happen if the frame split happened during guiding and then PhD just happened to pick up another guide star, that might only affect a single sub, or maybe not even that if the split happened such that you fell very close to another star. I've actually seen that happen when guiding with the ASI120MM. So, some people could be having this problem and not even know it. One symptom of this kind of split frame is that your subs may show a sudden shift in their alignment, but if PhD locks on another star it may be fine after that happens (until, I guess the camera returns to its original framing).

 

In my setup, the split always happens about 1/3 in from the right side of the frame, so the left part of the frame now appears over on the right (and the center shifts too, so the offset affects the entire frame). It's always the same (or very nearly I guess, I don't know the exact pixel value where it splits).

 

Yes, it wold be useful to know whether you can get the ASCOM drivers to work under the latest release of PhD v2.6.2dev7. That's a pretty easy failure to spot, the camera won't stay connected and you get a series of dialogs (eventually) that say that the camera is not responding. Then after PhD makes several attempts to connect it will just drop the camera connection. In my case, and with the latest ASCOM drivers from ZWO (for the ASI120) this all happens in a minute or two when you first try to use the camera.

 

One other bit of information here. ZWO is apparently using a endpoint size on their USB2 cameras that isn't officially supported by the USB2 spec. This is why they have the so-called "compatible" version of their firmware (that version of the firmware conforms to the spec, but in my hands it makes the frame transfers a lot slower, so much so that the camera is almost unusable). I think the "compatible" release of the firmware was targeted to AMD processor and chipsets, not Intel.

 

The other thing that I've noted is that ZWO's firmware updater runs surprising fast, I mean the "download" completes in a second or two. That seems very odd and I asked them about that and they said that was normal. The reason I think that is odd is that it usually takes several seconds to re-write an EEPROM, unless they are doing a single page of memory (128 or 512 bytes or something like that). That could mean that they are not rewriting the entire EEPROM, and thus if your firmware ever got corrupted there would be no way to recover (using their updater). Of course, maybe there is nothing to their firmware except that single page, it could be all in the chipset or an ASIC.


Edited by james7ca, 17 December 2016 - 09:44 PM.

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