So I'm finally to the point with my NexStarEquatorial direct-to-motor, NexRemote/hand controller replacement ASCOM driver that I'm ready to open it up to some initial beta testers. Since we're moving into a full moon phase, now's a good time for experimentation. For those who haven't heard me mention it before, my goal for some time has been to find a solution to the manual nature of having to wake up and hibernate NexRemote for automating my remote observatory. While of course Celestron has now decided to develop a new Windows native replacement for NexRemote, at least for newer mounts, it didn't come in time to prevent me getting started on the driver I'd envisioned and I now have it operational. Essentially I've implemented the important components of a NexStar hand controller directly into an ASCOM driver that communicates with the motor controllers directly through the PC or AUX port of the mount. The driver automatically saves and restores the current position of the mount on exit so that even if the mount is powered down in between sessions, when the driver starts back up, everything's still where it was.
This driver is targeted towards full system automation and imaging, so it only supports the NexStar mounts in equatorial mode (thus the name). It also relies heavily on imaging software capable of plate solving and aligning automatically (i.e. something like Sequence Generator Pro). With a good polar alignment and starting point, there's no need to do any sort of manual alignment at all, but it does support manual entry of coordinates from a plate solve to get the current reference if desired. I actually don't use it because SGP handles that all for me. Below are a couple of screen shots of the setup and hand control dialogs for the driver. They're still in a state of flux and subject to change, but I thought I'd share the look so far.
I'm currently using this with my CGE Pro, and after finally figuring out a coordinate system oddity they had, it's working great (for the last couple of months of testing I couldn't image in the west because the range was limited to only 23 degrees above the horizon! Thus the new Azimuth Offset value that screwed up the look of my setup dialog! ). I've also tested extensively with my 8SE mount, although not necessarily treating it as a fork mount for much of the time. I still need to finish implementing the "reverse" checkboxes that you see in the setup as it turns out different mounts define positive in different directions.
At any rate, at this phase, I'm looking for knowledgeable imagers and observatory operators using SGP or similar software with targeting, plate solving, and sync capabilities who'd like to try out the driver. The assumption is that you know enough about your mount and how things work to be able to give good feedback (and ASCOM logs) from your experiences. I'd like to cover the gambit of NexStar mounts including CPCs, CGEs, CGEMs, etc. Currently the driver only supports direct communication through a PC or AUX port connection, although I expect I'll add the hand control command wrapper at some point in the not too distant future. So if you're interested in giving it a shot, drop me a line and let me know the details of your setup and we'll go from there. I also still need to spend some time on some documentation, but if there's enough interest, I'll attempt to get people going quickly. Oh, and I need someone in the Southern Hemisphere, as I really have no way to test the coordinate transformation there!