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Sky Safari Pro and Sky-Watcher AZ-GTi support

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#126 tkottary

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Posted 11 June 2020 - 03:10 PM

Awesome!! Just tested with   Skywatcher  SynscanLink  as scope type , was able to control the mount from Skysafari!


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#127 Brian Musgrave

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Posted 12 June 2020 - 12:34 PM

I have been following this thread with great interest for well over a year. Now that native support for SkySafari (iOS) is available, I have ordered an AZ-GTi for my TV85. I do have a couple questions (please pardon my ignorance).

 

Total beginner question 1: Now that SkySafari supports the AZ-GTi does one still need to use the SynScan app at all (e.g., for doing alignments) or can the mount be managed entirely via SkySafari Pro (iOS)?

 

Total beginner question 2: How do I update the firmware using iOS or a Mac? I did not see options on the SkyWatcher site (although I do see options for Android and Windows).

 

Thank you all for this thread. It is really exciting to see that a truly elegant software/hardware solution now exists for this mount. 


Edited by Brian Musgrave, 12 June 2020 - 03:15 PM.


#128 Astrojedi

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Posted 12 June 2020 - 05:23 PM

Can you provide clear instructions on how to connect directly to the mount via Skysafari. If I use the Syncscan option in the configure menu what IP and port do I need to use. I tired a few known combinations and nothing works. If I use the SyncscanLink option it connects but still needs the SyncScan app. I thought the update was going to allow the user to connect directly to the mount.



#129 ccs_hello

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Posted 12 June 2020 - 06:07 PM

Still needs the Synscan app, which is the equivalent of the Synscan handbox, but in the "app" form.

 

There is a need to use a physical handbox (or its equivalent) when running Synta's mount in AltAz mode.

<-- I.e., AltAz mode needs both the mount's intelligent motor controller as well as the handbox

 

SkySafari does not have a virtual AltAz handbox module by itself.

 

Read theory of operations:

https://www.cloudyni...5#entry10197280


Edited by ccs_hello, 12 June 2020 - 06:09 PM.


#130 Astrojedi

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Posted 12 June 2020 - 06:25 PM

I am not sure that is correct.

The motor controllers are in firmware on the mount. Also the pointing model is now created by SkySafari so not sure why you need the Syncscan app. Maybe you are referring to some other functional component.

I believe the Syncscan app is still facilitating the initial connection to the SkySafari App.

#131 ccs_hello

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Posted 12 June 2020 - 06:38 PM

If you know the new intelligent motor controller (with the new firmware) can do tracking by itself, please show the low level command.

AFAIK, this is what the existing intelligent motor controller (with the firmware that I am aware of) can't do.

  <-- P.S. Synta published its protocol spec in github and last time when I checked, it is not there

 

AltAz when tracking needs to know its 3D geometric model (different tracking when near celestial equator than zenith).  This is done by handbox.

 

In EQ mode, tracking is as brain-dead as a low-constant-speed moving only in RA axis.  That's what the intelligent motor controller can do and is hardcoded to do (shoot-n-forget.)



#132 Astrojedi

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Posted 12 June 2020 - 08:39 PM

I am using the mount only in EQ mode.

#133 Astrojedi

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Posted 13 June 2020 - 09:58 AM

Still needs the Synscan app, which is the equivalent of the Synscan handbox, but in the "app" form.

 

There is a need to use a physical handbox (or its equivalent) when running Synta's mount in AltAz mode.

<-- I.e., AltAz mode needs both the mount's intelligent motor controller as well as the handbox

 

SkySafari does not have a virtual AltAz handbox module by itself.

 

Read theory of operations:

https://www.cloudyni...5#entry10197280

As a test I setup the mount in Alt Az mode, did a 2 star align, centered a target and then disconnected the app from the mount.  The mount kept tracking the target just fine for over 2 hours. No issues.
 

So, your theory that the Syncscan app is the motor controller for the mount in Alt Az is incorrect. I don’t see any evidence for that.



#134 btschumy

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Posted 13 June 2020 - 03:47 PM

The whole reason for supporting the SkyWatcher Wi-Fi mount natively in SkySafari was because the Synscan app can't do anything in the background.  On iOS, apps in the background have very limited capabilities.  It would not be able to control the motor.  Before this update, on iOS, you had to have two devices, with the SkyScan app in the foreground on one and SkySafari on the other.  As far as I know, the whole point of this feature was to bypass the Synscan app.



#135 ccs_hello

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Posted 13 June 2020 - 03:58 PM

Okay, got the time to check the recent update from Synta.

Here is the short version:

The intelligent motor controller in AltAZ mode can be told to track at a fixed speed on Alt axis, and another fixed tracking speed at AZ axis.

It is "shoot-n-forget" and the tracking speed will stay in effect even if the handbox is disconnected.

The intelligent motor controller itself does not know the 3D geometry celestial model nor it knows the needed tracking speed changes over time.

The master (handbox or virtual handbox -- Synscan app in AltAz mode) has to do that part of work.

Tracking accuracy when there is no master, will depend on FoV, user's latitude, where the scope is pointing at, duration of the exposure, etc.

 

 

Long version, evidence, and descriptions:

TL;DR

Documentation source:  https://skywatcher.c...on-development/

 

First doc: "Synscan Pro" app command set

https://inter-static..._version_10.pdf

Its page 2 has a very useful diagram illustrating the relationship.

Note the control master can be physical handbox, virtual handbox (Synscan Pro mobile app), or EQmod (which is only for EQ mount)

 

Second doc:  SkyWatcher Motor Controller command set

https://inter-static...command_set.pdf

 

This is the low level motor controller protocol (without the handbox capability.)

Note that it (with the right firmware) has two independent motor channels which can be set with a different tracking speed,

If EQ mount, only RA axis needs to have its tracking turned on and is set at a fixed value and stayed at the same value all the time.

In AltAz mount, Alt axis and Az axis hve to be set at different values and needs to be adjusted by its control master.

Note the control link is either through TTL or LVTTL level serial Rx/Tx signals, or thru WiFi (UDP port 11880.)

 

Third document: Synscan Serial Communication Protocol version 3.3

https://inter-static...l_version33.pdf

 

This is a high level command set, and is how external world (such as a SkyMap program) interacts with the handbox.

The communication is thru RS232 serial.



#136 Astrojedi

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Posted 13 June 2020 - 04:52 PM

So are you trying to say that the Syncscan app keeps controlling the motor in the background even when I am controlling the mount via SkySafari? If so, I don’t understand the point of this update.

#137 ccs_hello

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Posted 13 June 2020 - 06:31 PM

In AltAz mode, unfortunately, the Synta's intelligent motor controller is not good enough to run by itself without a handbox's assist.

(Remember that's it's just a motor controller in its core, no more and no less.  AltAz needs better understanding on 3D geometric model.)

 

It used to be not much a problem when Skymap program just needs to communicate with an EQ mount's handbox or thus EQmod to instruct it to a new GOTO coordinate, while the mount (with handbox) does its own thing (e.g., tracking.)  EQ is simple enough.

 

AltAz is not; and the virtual handbox (the app) adds a new level of complexity in it.

As Bill in post #134 had stated quite well, iOS' multitasking, unlike a modern PC OS, is not truly a multitasking OS.  <-- (I call it as a best effort multitasking)

I.e., in IOS, the virtual handbox in AltAz mode is a hard nut to crack.

<-- The more I think about it, the more I think in iOS, a Skymap program might have to do all the hard work all by itself to overcome this iOS limitation.



#138 Astrojedi

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Posted 13 June 2020 - 10:00 PM

Or the SW SDK could have the required functionality.

#139 ccs_hello

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Posted 13 June 2020 - 10:44 PM

Yes.  That is the fourth link in the above SkyWatcher URL.

The library is SynScanLink and there is a mode that the Skymap app can bypass the "SynScan App" altogether and 

direct-interact with the SynScanLink library (which runs also in the same iOS device) which in turn talks (over WiFi) to mount's intelligent motor controller.

 

I think this approach is to avoid the iOS app simultasking issue, but calling the library (sourced from Synta) as a single, monolithic app.

 

Thanks for the pointer!


Edited by ccs_hello, 13 June 2020 - 10:45 PM.


#140 Astrojedi

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Posted 14 June 2020 - 11:15 AM

This is why I don’t understand why we need the Syncscan App. Can you not include the SW lib binary in the App. I just don’t understand how you can make this approach work on iOS with the binary running in another app space.

#141 ccs_hello

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Posted 14 June 2020 - 02:05 PM

All I can say is that in AltAz mode, Sky Safari Plus/Pro or any other Skymap programs will need to use a

software module be it app (SynScan app) or in the form of library (SynScanLink library) to do its job.

 

That software module in both case were written by Synta. 

If the module is not functioning as expected, is this (any) Skymap app developer's fault?



#142 happycamperjohn

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Posted 14 June 2020 - 10:32 PM

Awesome!! Just tested with   Skywatcher  SynscanLink  as scope type , was able to control the mount from Skysafari!

I just did a daytime shakedown iOS test of this. I use my mount in Alt-Az mode. I also chose Synscan Link in SS and agree that SS was able to control the mount directly (note that the Synscan app was auto-started by SS and flashed up briefly before disappearing to the background). I do have a question for you tho'.

 

I found that if i tried to do an alignment purely in SkySafari i got the usual "Command Failure" due to objects being too far from the predicted area - totally expected given that it was a daytime test with "bogus" stars. I was able to to do an alignment using North Level in the Synscan app and then just "agreed" with where synscan placed the scope for the 2-star alignment. Then in SS I was able to control the mount and do a GOTO back to one of the alignment stars and the scope slewed nicely around to where it was pointing initially. So although a very rough test, it's promising.

 

My question is: Given that you probably did a proper night-time test, were you able to do initial alignment from SS? (or did you do it in Synscan and then move to SS).

 

EDIT: 'Hopefully having a quick getaway this coming weekend - so will test it thoroughly then, and report back.


Edited by happycamperjohn, 15 June 2020 - 10:05 PM.


#143 happycamperjohn

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Posted 19 June 2020 - 11:17 PM

As promised, last night I tried to do a real-world test of Sky Safari Pro 6.7.2 on my iphone 6 running iOS 12.1.2 with my Alt-Az AZGTi...

 

A couple of things up-front.

 

1) I've been aligning my manual push-to scopes in SSP for years now - so I know how to to do it well.

2) I've also used the Synscan App on quite a few holidays and was happily able to align the AZGTi using any of the available methods - so i know how to align in Synscan.

3) Location in SSP is auto-gleaned from GPS - so no set-and-forget mistakes

4) I havent gone to the website and RTFM'd the community forums yet, and since the options in SYNSCAN LINK are pretty limited, I figured it was worth a quick try. I did however have a good look at the help on SSP app and there wasn't much help there about this anyway.

5) I havent read this thread in minute detail, so apologies if i've missed the bleeding obvious.

 

OK, back to the report so far...

 

I tried aligning my mount using a few different methods below...

 

ALIGNING ONLY IN SSP (Which is, frankly, why i got the SSP upgrade)

 

- I booted up the AZGTi and connected via wifi to my phone. All good.

 

- Selected Synscan LInk in SSP.

 

- Hit Connect in SSP : Synscan App auto-opened and then auto-backgrounded, leaving SSP again.

 

- The slewing controls work in SSP so I slewed to Canopus and hit ALIGN in SSP. Success.

 

- I usually do a 3-star alignment in SSP - and anything less than 2-star just annoys me as i do a lot of high power viewing. So, I then slewed around to Rigil-Kentaurus-A and hit ALIGN again. This is where i got the COMMAND ERROR (the one that says the star is too far away from where SSP thinks it should be). Slewed away from Rigil and then back again. Align -> COMMAND ERROR. In 3 years of using SSP, i reckon i've got the centreing wrong maybe 3 times. (also tried canopus and sirius).

 

- So i slewed over to Sirius. Align -> COMMAND ERROR.

 

- btw. With the 1-star align method, if i hit, say, GOTO Rigil, instead of manually slewing, then Rigil could not be seen (even in a 3 degree field EP).

 

- I tried this method a few times, closing the apps each time. No luck.

 

 

So I moved on to a method that i would rather not have to try, which kind-of defeats the purpose of the SSP Upgrade...

 

ALIGNING IN SYNSCAN APP Then Goto in SSP:

- I booted up the AZGTi and connected via wifi to my phone. All good.

 

- Started up Syncan App and did a 2-star alignment (Same stars as above). Goto and slewing within Synscan worked OK. I say OK, because, as I've found the AZGTi is known for not having the best goto accuracy. But it was still MUCH better than the 3-6 degree miss from the first method. I left it tracking on Canopus (very nice tracking).

 

- Then booted SSP. It did a little handshake with Synscan App and then the Synscan disappeared into the background as usual.

 

- in SSP i "Connected" the mount successfully, but when i hit "LOCK", then cross hairs were maybe 6 degrees away from where Canopus was on the map, so SSP thought the mount was pointing about 6 degrees to the left of Canopus. Bummer.

 

- So i selected Canopus on the map and hit ALIGN in SSP... -> COMMAND FAILURE.

 

- Repeated this 2 more times with same result.

 

So far, It's looking like i can only do a 1-star alignment in SSP, which is not good enough for me, since the next goto can be up to 6 degrees out.

 

So my question is: What am i doing wrong? I guess i've missed something along the way. Given that i only like to change one variable at a time, perhaps it's now time to try

 

1) An AZGTi firmware upgrade - there's bound to be a newer one than mine. I'll also post this to the SSP website to see if they have any wisdom to share...

2) RTFM the website :-)

 

Clear Skies

John


Edited by happycamperjohn, 20 June 2020 - 08:24 PM.


#144 Astrodave

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Posted 20 June 2020 - 01:24 PM

Works great just like the Android version. Thanks guys this is awesome. I can finally retire my old Android phone from astronomy duty.


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#145 happycamperjohn

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Posted 20 June 2020 - 07:27 PM

Works great just like the Android version. Thanks guys this is awesome. I can finally retire my old Android phone from astronomy duty.

That's great news. A few questions?

 

- Do you align with synscan app first? Or SS?

- And do you do a 1-star align only in SS?

- What phone/ipad are you using? (i may need to upgrade my phone)

 

Ta

john


Edited by happycamperjohn, 20 June 2020 - 08:25 PM.


#146 Astrodave

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Posted 21 June 2020 - 07:50 AM

Always align with SynScan first. AFAIK there’s no way to do it in ss. I always do a north level in synscan then open up ss and click connect. Same as in the android version. After that I only use ss to do gotos. Doesn’t matter which iPad or iPhone to be honest as long as they are capable of running this version of ss. 


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#147 happycamperjohn

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Posted 22 June 2020 - 12:33 AM

Always align with SynScan first. AFAIK there’s no way to do it in ss. I always do a north level in synscan then open up ss and click connect. Same as in the android version. After that I only use ss to do gotos. Doesn’t matter which iPad or iPhone to be honest as long as they are capable of running this version of ss. 

Last Question Dave, I promise. I had a better night last night (upgraded firmware, synscan app, and also added synscanlink app - dont know if that last one helped or not). Pointing was off by about less than a degree on average.

 

The Question: if you align in Synscan and then only use goto in SSP, do you find that your crosshairs in SSP are not pointing at what you know you are seeing through the scope? (to fix this, I tried doing a synscan align, followed by a single align in SSP which seemed to make the crosshairs "slightly" more accurate - but still bizarrely quite "off").

 

cheers

john



#148 Astrodave

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Posted 22 June 2020 - 12:28 PM

Some times I see that but only when doing a sync in synscan and then going back to SS. The goto on the azgti is atrocious as a general rule anyway. One night it may be bang on all over the sky and the next everything on one half of the sky is 10 degrees off.


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#149 ChuckM

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Posted 22 June 2020 - 07:15 PM

Last Question Dave, I promise. I had a better night last night (upgraded firmware, synscan app, and also added synscanlink app - dont know if that last one helped or not). Pointing was off by about less than a degree on average.

 

The Question: if you align in Synscan and then only use goto in SSP, do you find that your crosshairs in SSP are not pointing at what you know you are seeing through the scope? (to fix this, I tried doing a synscan align, followed by a single align in SSP which seemed to make the crosshairs "slightly" more accurate - but still bizarrely quite "off").

 

cheers

john

 

John,

 

I have the exactly same problem. If you try Luminos App, this problem is not present. Currently I’m a SynScan WiFi Beta Tester with Simulation Curriculum and have logged this issue.
 

Chuck


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#150 Roger Corbett

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Posted 24 June 2020 - 04:46 PM

“The goto on the azgti is atrocious as a general rule anyway. One night it may be bang on all over the sky and the next everything on one half of the sky is 10 degrees off.”

 

That sounds awful!  I thought it was much, much better than that.  If that's the consensus among users, then I'll skip buying it.  Which is a shame as I wanted a lightweight, go-to, Sky Safari controlled mount for my Zhumell Z100!




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