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Simple Hand Controller for Astro-Physics Mounts (Open Source)

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#1 cytan299

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Posted 29 July 2018 - 04:47 PM

Hi guys,

   

   While waiting for 7 months for my Mach1GTO, I spent some of the time designing and building a simple hand controller for it. One reason why I built it (besides the long wait for the Mach1 delivery) was because I couldn't justify the cost of the AP keypad which I will only use for a few minutes at the beginning of my imaging session. I know that the mount can be controlled with a phone, but I really wanted to have real buttons and joystick, rather than with virtual buttons. Thus the simple hand controller.

 

My specifications for the simple hand controller is to only move the mount. It does **not** initialize the mount, sync the mount, have star maps or goto capability. This means a computer is still necessary to be connected to the mount.

 

My other requirements for the hand controller are:

  1. The hand controller connects to the keypad port on the CP4.
  2. Uses a joystick to move the mount.
  3. Be as cheap as possible smile.gif

I think I have achieved my goals, especially the cost. The cost for one controller is between $150 to $200 smile.gif

 

I have uploaded my hardware and software to:

 

   https://github.com/c...hand_controller

 

Both hardware and software are open source. 

 

  

  Since I have just received my mount, I haven't had the chance to even test it out in the field yet. But I have checked that it works in my living room. After I have tested it in the field. I'm sure there'll be updates to make it better.

 

Here's photos of my handcontroller:

 

closed_small.jpg

 

and it hanging on my mount:

 

IMG_3213.jpg

 

 

Enjoy!

 

cytan


Edited by cytan299, 29 July 2018 - 04:53 PM.

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#2 mosentos

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Posted 29 July 2018 - 07:45 PM

Awesome work! smile.gif  

 

One suggestion I would make is maybe the addition of a 3d printable case, as an option to the acrylic.  I imagine, the vast majority of people who would undertake this project already own a 3d printer.  It would probably take the cost down a bit as well.

 

Again, amazing work!


Edited by mosentos, 29 July 2018 - 07:49 PM.


#3 Marcelofig

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Posted 29 July 2018 - 08:09 PM

Fantastic idea!

 

I'd just add a big red stop button.


Edited by Marcelofig, 29 July 2018 - 08:21 PM.

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#4 carballada

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 02:01 AM

I will follow this topic with so much interest !!!! smile.gif



#5 cytan299

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 05:51 AM

Awesome work! smile.gif  

 

One suggestion I would make is maybe the addition of a 3d printable case, as an option to the acrylic.  I imagine, the vast majority of people who would undertake this project already own a 3d printer.  It would probably take the cost down a bit as well.

 

Again, amazing work!

Hi Mosentos,

   Thanks for the compliments! Since the project is open source, I'd imagine some user will make a 3D printable case. Since I don't have a 3D printer, I use Shapeways. In my case, it is definitely cheaper to do laser cutting than 3D printing. Laser cutting with Ponoko costs about $60 (not including shipping) and from my experience using Shapeways, 3D printing should cost around $150 to $200. As usual YMMV,

 

cytan 



#6 cytan299

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 05:53 AM

Fantastic idea!

 

I'd just add a big red stop button.

Thanks!

 

FYI, when the hand controller is  in navigation mode, hitting any of the buttons issues a "STOP" to the mount. But since, I can only use the hand controller when I'm right next to my mount, I think the "big red button" is the power switch on the power supply :)

 

cytan



#7 Dagobert

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 07:46 AM

Very cool.  IMHO this should ship with every AP mount.  


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#8 mikefulb

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 01:05 PM

Very nice - and I think it wouldn't be hard to make this a complete replacement hand controller if anyone was interested.

 

I think if you added a RTC and a GPS module (both cheap) you could have the current time and geographical location always available.

 

Next if you look in the INDI sources for the Astrophysics driver you'll see we have the code required to initialize the mount from scratch.  When I image using INDI and my Mach1 I do not need an AP hand controller or to initialize the mount with the ASCOM driver.  I just start up Linux/INDI and image.

 

If you really wanted to get fancy you could move to an Cortex M processor with more flash storage and put NGC/Messier and other catalogs in as well.

 

At some point I imagine just getting a Bluetooth/Serial bridge and using SkySafari makes more sense however.

 

But for a simple move the scope around joystick you've done a great job.  I am disappointed AP hasn't at least put gamepad support in the ASCOM driver and you're left with a $$$ solution they sell to just center a planet in the camera while imaging.

 

I've been looking at a solution a user of the PMC-Eight mount came up with using a Winows utility called "AutoHotKey" to map gamepad events to mouse events at a particular location within an application window - in this case the AP ASCOM driver virtual keypad - but thats getting off topic!



#9 cytan299

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 01:24 PM

Very nice - and I think it wouldn't be hard to make this a complete replacement hand controller if anyone was interested.

 

I think if you added a RTC and a GPS module (both cheap) you could have the current time and geographical location always available.

 

Next if you look in the INDI sources for the Astrophysics driver you'll see we have the code required to initialize the mount from scratch.  When I image using INDI and my Mach1 I do not need an AP hand controller or to initialize the mount with the ASCOM driver.  I just start up Linux/INDI and image.

 

If you really wanted to get fancy you could move to an Cortex M processor with more flash storage and put NGC/Messier and other catalogs in as well.

 

At some point I imagine just getting a Bluetooth/Serial bridge and using SkySafari makes more sense however.

 

But for a simple move the scope around joystick you've done a great job.  I am disappointed AP hasn't at least put gamepad support in the ASCOM driver and you're left with a $$$ solution they sell to just center a planet in the camera while imaging.

 

I've been looking at a solution a user of the PMC-Eight mount came up with using a Winows utility called "AutoHotKey" to map gamepad events to mouse events at a particular location within an application window - in this case the AP ASCOM driver virtual keypad - but thats getting off topic!

Yes, there are a lot of possibilities to make a handcontroller.

 

For example the  rDuino scope :

 

http://rduinoscope.byethost24.com/?i=1

 

does what you want, I believe. But code needs to be written for AP mounts.

 

I discarded what you suggested because that wasn't my goal. I didn't want to initialize the mount because I'll always have the computer connected. Even with the AP keypad, it's really either it does it or the computer does it, and not both.

 

 

Furthermore, if I wanted what you said, IMO it's actually *cheaper* to buy a used AP keypad which goes for about $600 to $800 which will just work. One thing all of us forget is that our time isn't free. 

 

cytan


Edited by cytan299, 30 July 2018 - 01:26 PM.


#10 Stelios

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 01:25 PM

  I am disappointed AP hasn't at least put gamepad support in the ASCOM driver and you're left with a $$$ solution they sell to just center a planet in the camera while imaging.

 

 

 

What $$$ solution? Just buy Luminos ($20?) for your smartphone. It connects to the GTOCP4 WiFi, obtains the live coordinates from the mount, has a full-screen direction pad, can slew to anything (built-in planetarium), sync (recal) and park. 

It doesn't have "real" buttons, but I've not found this to be any kind of problem in practice. I've never wished for--or missed--a handcontrol.

 

edit: I think the simple handcontrol is a great idea for those wishing "real" buttons. I'm all for enthusiast projects, but in this case there are ample alternatives.


Edited by Stelios, 30 July 2018 - 01:27 PM.

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#11 cytan299

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 01:28 PM

What $$$ solution? Just buy Luminos ($20?) for your smartphone. It connects to the GTOCP4 WiFi, obtains the live coordinates from the mount, has a full-screen direction pad, can slew to anything (built-in planetarium), sync (recal) and park. 

It doesn't have "real" buttons, but I've not found this to be any kind of problem in practice. I've never wished for--or missed--a handcontrol.

 

edit: I think the simple handcontrol is a great idea for those wishing "real" buttons. I'm all for enthusiast projects, but in this case there are ample alternatives.

Hi Stelios,

   To each their own. I don't like virtual buttons. And in this setup, I don't need wifi either.

 

cytan


Edited by cytan299, 30 July 2018 - 01:29 PM.

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#12 mikefulb

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 02:03 PM

Cytan,

 

  I understand you design criteria - just throwing out ideas if anyone wants to further your work.  Thank you for making the sources available for sharing.



#13 cytan299

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 02:57 PM

Cytan,

 

  I understand you design criteria - just throwing out ideas if anyone wants to further your work.  Thank you for making the sources available for sharing.

No, that's fine. I open sourced it so that people can take it and run with it. I really hope people do try to build one or improve upon it. Building one is really not that difficult :)

 

cytan



#14 Stelios

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 04:23 PM

Hi Stelios,

   To each their own. I don't like virtual buttons. And in this setup, I don't need wifi either.

 

cytan

Wifi comes with the mount. The CP4 serves it. 

IMO, if *AP* were to offer a "simple" controller, people would say "why doesn't it init/park/sync/slew etc." and we'd end up with the original handcontrol frown.gif

 

I can see the convenience of actual buttons while looking at eyepiece or screen. 


Edited by Stelios, 30 July 2018 - 04:23 PM.


#15 cytan299

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 09:48 PM

Wifi comes with the mount. The CP4 serves it. 

IMO, if *AP* were to offer a "simple" controller, people would say "why doesn't it init/park/sync/slew etc." and we'd end up with the original handcontrol frown.gif

 

I can see the convenience of actual buttons while looking at eyepiece or screen. 

Maybe I should have called it a "simple, minimalist hand controller" smile.gif

 

Anyway, I hope some people might build it.

 

cytan


Edited by cytan299, 30 July 2018 - 09:49 PM.


#16 cytan299

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Posted 12 August 2018 - 01:17 AM

Just a quick report on my use of the simple handcontroller after just *two* sessions with it :

 

  1. I made an error and had mapped East to 3 o'clock and West to 9 o'clock. Swapped them and it now follows the traditional mapping. Fixed.
  2. To me it is really useful for moving the scope to a star for the first sync when looking into my finderscope. And using it for Polemaster calibration.

cytan


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#17 CharlesW

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Posted 12 August 2018 - 11:20 AM

Does anyone remember the RAGING arguments a few short years ago between the AP guys and the SB guys, as the AP guys wanted to take the high ground over hand controls and no computers? Now that AP wants an ala carte $1000 for their HC, no one seems to be arguing that point any more. How times change. 

 

Very nice ice work on your device. Have you tried this with the lights out to see how bright your LEDs are?


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#18 cytan299

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Posted 12 August 2018 - 11:46 AM

Does anyone remember the RAGING arguments a few short years ago between the AP guys and the SB guys, as the AP guys wanted to take the high ground over hand controls and no computers? Now that AP wants an ala carte $1000 for their HC, no one seems to be arguing that point any more. How times change. 

 

Very nice ice work on your device. Have you tried this with the lights out to see how bright your LEDs are?

LED brightness is controllable in one of the menu items.

 

I'll have to write a manual for it. But right now I'm messing around too much with my new Mach1GTO :)

 

cytan



#19 Starhawk

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Posted 12 August 2018 - 11:58 AM

NO!  Yanking power is not the way to issue a stop unless you don't care what happens when you restart.

 

-Rich

 

Thanks!

 

FYI, when the hand controller is  in navigation mode, hitting any of the buttons issues a "STOP" to the mount. But since, I can only use the hand controller when I'm right next to my mount, I think the "big red button" is the power switch on the power supply smile.gif

 

cytan



#20 epdreher

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Posted 12 August 2018 - 12:23 PM

I don't think anyone is advocating yanking power prior to properly parking the mount unless absolutely necessary.

 

There is no on/off switch on the CP4.  Power is removed by simply parking, then shutting off the power supply.



#21 cytan299

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Posted 12 August 2018 - 12:57 PM

NO!  Yanking power is not the way to issue a stop unless you don't care what happens when you restart.

 

-Rich

Hi Rich,

  I'm not advocating using the switch on the PS during normal turn off operations. However, if I see my scope hitting the pier, I'd turn off power straight away. I'll sort out any initialization issues later. 

 

cytan


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#22 FlankerOneTwo

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Posted 12 August 2018 - 11:13 PM

An interesting project, nicely done! I came up with another way to do this - since I'm using a laptop, I use AutoHotKey to map keys to send mouse down / mouse up events to the slew buttons on the AP ASCOM interface panel (actually it determines which mount I have connected and sends events to the appropriate ASCOM panel). This works even if the panel is minimized (it stays minimized). Currently I have them mapped to the arrow keys on the main keyboard, but you can just as easily map them to an external USB keypad (numeric keypad or something like a gaming keypad). I have other keys mapped to increase / decrease the slew rate and emergency stop.  Because I have a USB hub on the mount, I can just connect the keypad there, instead of directly to the laptop.

 

You can implement use of a joystick as well, would just need to write an AutoHotKey timer handler to manage the joystick polling. You could use this to implement proportional slew rates as well although I don't know how intuitive that would be in actual use.


Edited by FlankerOneTwo, 12 August 2018 - 11:19 PM.


#23 cytan299

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Posted 13 August 2018 - 05:54 AM

An interesting project, nicely done! I came up with another way to do this - since I'm using a laptop, I use AutoHotKey to map keys to send mouse down / mouse up events to the slew buttons on the AP ASCOM interface panel (actually it determines which mount I have connected and sends events to the appropriate ASCOM panel). This works even if the panel is minimized (it stays minimized). Currently I have them mapped to the arrow keys on the main keyboard, but you can just as easily map them to an external USB keypad (numeric keypad or something like a gaming keypad). I have other keys mapped to increase / decrease the slew rate and emergency stop.  Because I have a USB hub on the mount, I can just connect the keypad there, instead of directly to the laptop.

 

You can implement use of a joystick as well, would just need to write an AutoHotKey timer handler to manage the joystick polling. You could use this to implement proportional slew rates as well although I don't know how intuitive that would be in actual use.

Thanks for posting your method. Many ways to skin a cat. 

 

cytan



#24 t-ara-fan

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Posted 14 August 2018 - 02:25 PM

Awesome work! smile.gif  

 

One suggestion I would make is maybe the addition of a 3d printable case, as an option to the acrylic.  I imagine, the vast majority of people who would undertake this project already own a 3d printer.  It would probably take the cost down a bit as well.

 

Again, amazing work!

Fourteen bucks for an enclosure from Digikey.  Not as sexy as 3D printed, but quick and cheap.



#25 t-ara-fan

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Posted 14 August 2018 - 03:09 PM

  I am disappointed AP hasn't at least put gamepad support in the ASCOM driver and you're left with a $$$ solution they sell to just center a planet in the camera while imaging.

I tried ASCOMPAD with my Mach1GTO.   ASCOMPAD worked fine on my old Sirius HEQ5.  With the Mach1GTO, it works on one axis (E/W IIRC) but not the other (N/S IIRC).  Well it sort of works N/S, but at a very very very slow rate.  The speed on the E/W is adjustable.

 

The ASCOMPAD software release was 2011, maybe (probably!!) it isn't compatible with the latest ASCOM-2 driver? 




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