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SGP Alternatives

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#1 bigeastro

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 01:31 AM

I am at my witts end with SGP  using multiple instances or single instances.  I have used it for a couple to three years.  What other options are there out there for automated data gathering?  What is another good alternative?    CCD Commander?  Nebulosity?  I have Maxim DL and am thinking I can get FocusMax also.   I was pondering CCD commander or even some of the DC3 products.   I am not sure if Nebulosity would work.  For me SGP has never really been very stable at all.  I need to try something else.

 

I don't really need to do mosaics or multiple targets in one night.  All I would like to do is create a sequence and focus within the sequence.  I would like to run more than one instance since I have to run three scopes.

 

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.


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#2 f430

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 01:40 AM

I'll be interested in suggestions as well, as I'm really tired of SGP instability.


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#3 cfosterstars

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 01:51 AM

Well I have tried MaximDL, Nebulosity and BYEOS. MaximDL is probably the most capable, but is the most expensive. I also found absolutely terrible customer support. I was using a Canon6D and a firm ware upgrade totally ruined the ASCOM connection so I was completely down for 8 months before they did any fix. I also got not response for my posts to their support site.  Its got a steep learning curve and if its got any problem then good luck. Nebulosity was just not very useable for me. Never really got it to work, but its cheap. BYEOS was great but it will not work with anything but a DSLR. The only other possiblity I can think of is APT - Astro Photography Tool. No direct experience.

 

I personally have loved SGP. I have had very few issues and the service was great. I have been using it for three years also with mutiple systems and cameras with no real issues. I am sorry to hear that you have had a bad experience.


Edited by cfosterstars, 19 December 2018 - 01:53 AM.

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#4 einarin

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 03:05 AM

I've had minimal trouble with SGP.

Maybe multiple instances can cause problems.

 

There are other alternatives.

I use also AstroArt7 in my own machine - it now does sequencing and also has script language.

Then there are these newcomers which I haven't tried yet:

https://software.sta...ex.php/voyager/

<https://bitbucket.org/Isbeorn/nina



#5 rockstarbill

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 03:57 AM

Voyager. Far superior, in terms of data, but has some work to do in terms of status reporting to an active user looking for feedback and watching the system.

#6 rockstarbill

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 04:10 AM

I personally have loved SGP. I have had very few issues and the service was great. I have been using it for three years also with mutiple systems and cameras with no real issues. I am sorry to hear that you have had a bad experience.


SGP is terrible. While I won't dump my laundry list of disdain here, it's focusing is the worst of all AP software. The absolute worst. Not only is it horribly inaccurate, it takes way, way, way too long to run. I'd throw that software out the window based on that aspect alone.
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#7 einarin

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 06:09 AM

So which software is better for focusing and how is it more accurate and faster (with same focusing settings) ?



#8 iwannabswiss

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 06:48 AM

MaxPilote is what I've been using and overall the software itself is pretty good; the best part it's free.  However, be prepared for a lack of support since it's free software.



#9 dhaval

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 07:21 AM

It really depends on how much you are willing to spend. Prism is a very good alternative - does everything, but the Advanced version (the highest of the 3 available versions is $450). CCDCommander, CCDAP are also very nice tools - however, they seem to depend on other software for some critical functionality. Then there's ACP of course, the cumulative cost of which is around $2K if you decide to use ACP+Expert - but that is a complete automation suite. 

 

With all that said, I still believe SGP is a very good software and I am sorry that you're having issues with it. In our remote observatory, almost all of us use SGP (I also use Prism for another set up that I have) and we have never had any issues. One of us actually runs a dual set up with SGP and he's rarely had any issues. 

 

DISCLAIMER: Not that it matters, but I do have to admit that one of the co-founders of SGP has his remote rig in our observatory.

 

CS!


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#10 Jeff Struve

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 07:33 AM

I use Maxim, but was going to go to SGP... I don't run multiple instances, but isn't that a lot of processing for 1 computer... unless it is a very, very beefy computer?



#11 Peter in Reno

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 11:34 AM

I am sorry that some of you have issues with SGP. So far, I've had about 15 consecutive and successful automation with SGP and my equipment. Never had a single issue and I sleep peacefully while SGP does the dirty work for me including Auto Focusing every 1.5C and auto Meridian Flip. My setup is always portable. See my signature for equipment.

 

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#12 rockstarbill

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 11:39 AM

I am sorry that some of you have issues with SGP. So far, I've had about 15 consecutive and successful automation with SGP and my equipment. Never had a single issue and I sleep peacefully while SGP does the dirty work for me including Auto Focusing every 1.5C and auto Meridian Flip. My setup is always portable. See my signature for equipment.

Peter


I've had successful runs with SGP. Other than some UI clunkiness, and it's worst in class focusing routine, it does work. Most of the time... but when it doesn't work well, it fails miserably.

I'm moving to Voyager though. It's robust focusing capability and the design of the sequencer and drag scrip interface are far superior.

#13 rockstarbill

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 11:49 AM

So which software is better for focusing and how is it more accurate and faster (with same focusing settings) ?


SkyX, FocusMax, Voyager Robofire, heck I bet the Pikachu meme can focus better.
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#14 Stelios

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 11:58 AM

I've had the occasional SGP crash (generally when I'm changing something, never during an actual run) but other than that I like it a lot after I got over the learning curve.

 

I'd also like to understand what part of SGP's autofocus is bad. Once configured it racks the focuser to the outermost of focus evaluation points, then goes inward for each of (9 in my case) evaluation points till it establishes a V-curve. Then it moves to the optimal predicted position adjusting for backlash. The time taken is to acquire and download images, and move the focuser. How do other software accomplish this better? 



#15 Peter in Reno

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:02 PM

SkyX, FocusMax, Voyager Robofire, heck I bet the Pikachu meme can focus better.

Do any of them have multi-star focus like SGP has or require to slew to a bright star, focus it, slew back to target DSO and plate solve? What about automation? Other than Voyager, do other auto focuser software work with automation software? I believe SkyX does not support automation.

 

Peter


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#16 cfosterstars

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:05 PM

I think that with any software, your experience can vary. I have had no issues with SGP that were not my own issues. I have even run multiple instances many times with no issues. However, SGP is not designed for multiple instances and using that way is only successful as a matter of chance. If you use anything beyond what it is designed to do you are taking your chances. If you want software that is design to do multiple instances you have to look elsewhere that SGP - but dont blame SGP that it has issues with multiple instances. Thats like blaming a chevy for not being a BMW. Its simple not. Yes there are better focusing routines out there. I tried several such as focusMax4. I never got it to work as well as SGP. SGP does have issues with OTAs with central obstructions - I have issues with my SCT, but FocusMax had the same issue. 

 

I really like SGP. I like it much better than any other software I have used and it is not expensive. That is not to say there is not something better. I have a 600$ MaximDL licence that is a complete waste - but that is for me. Others clearly have used it and like it, but it is not nearly as well supported any more due to lower priced competition. 

 

Every software package has its pluses and minus and everyone will have there own issues and experiences. For me, I like SGP and will stick with it. I have received almost immediate support feedback even over weekends. There is a lot to be said for that alone. I certainly did not get that from MaximDL and that was enough for me to move on and cut my losses.


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#17 rockstarbill

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:06 PM

I've had the occasional SGP crash (generally when I'm changing something, never during an actual run) but other than that I like it a lot after I got over the learning curve.

I'd also like to understand what part of SGP's autofocus is bad. Once configured it racks the focuser to the outermost of focus evaluation points, then goes inward for each of (9 in my case) evaluation points till it establishes a V-curve. Then it moves to the optimal predicted position adjusting for backlash. The time taken is to acquire and download images, and move the focuser. How do other software accomplish this better?


Try the other solutions. It will immediately make sense why I'm saying it's bad. I've lost actual data frames because of poor SGP focusing runs while I was asleep. I've been awake and watching systems that SGP literally messed up focusing on, took the exact same system into another focusing tool minutes later, and had drastically better results. Personally I like @focus3 and Robofire. The former requires SkyX and the latter comes with Voyager.

Try Voyager. Use Robofire and run the VCurve first light wizard. Then run focus and note it learned your focuser on its own. No tinkering with steps and watching lines or any of that business. That's how software should work. It's also got an AI layer so everytime you run focus it learns more.
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#18 rockstarbill

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:07 PM

Do any of them have multi-star focus like SGP has or require to slew to a bright star, focus it, slew back to target DSO and plate solve? What about automation? Other than Voyager, do other auto focuser software work with automation software? I believe SkyX does not support automation.

Peter

Voyager can automate Sky X and can do either local field or single star, allows you to use focus max, sky x, etc.

Edited by rockstarbill, 19 December 2018 - 12:11 PM.


#19 bigeastro

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:09 PM

My current failures are catastrophic, involve focusing and downloading, and totally knock me out of the program.  This is occurring only with the ASI cameras. 

 

The Moravian is rock solid and has never really given me problems with the program.  It occurred long ago with the 1600 and I ended up being satisfied with the use of USB 2.  

 

Last night I had several failures.   I am talking at least five which totally knocked me out of the program.   I observed that two of them were associated with an inability of the program to download the ASI 183 file at all.  I received a dark download with no stars.

 

In addition, there are a plethora of annoying issues with the applets and their positioning, and just weird things that I probably need to log to properly document.   Sometimes without rhyme or reason the integration times change from seconds to minutes.   The applets for the separate functions, ie plate solving, camera temperature control, environment data and so on and so for the do very strange things and disappear from time to time.

 

I owe it to myself to try and stabilize my situation and look at other options, that may not be as robust in features but are more stable for my configuration.

 

I saw one interesting post regarding what was the best focus program.  I think that has a deeper meaning than apparent.   I think that focusing is probably one of the most important tasks that needs to be accomplished.  Maybe what I need to do is identify what is most important and choose the applications that do that the best and are the most reliable.  

 

With all the time and effort that we place in this hobby, paying a couple of grand for the top of the line software (if indeed it is proven to be the top of the line) is really the best value out there all things considered, especially personal time and frustration.

 

So, I am starting to look at which software package does the best focusing, capture, and tracking.  I really don't care that much about anything else if I get total stability and the ability to run different cameras at the same time. 



#20 Peter in Reno

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:14 PM

ZWO is well known for writing sub par camera drivers, native or ASCOM. I know that SharpCap works well with ZWO cameras but that's mostly for planetary imaging and very short exposure times or video.

 

Peter



#21 bigeastro

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:17 PM

In regards to the beefy computer comment.  How many resources are really used when running a sequence?  I don't think that the activity is a resource hog.  I think the only time things are iffy is when the download is actually occurring.  Is there not something in the code that could just manage the downloads so they can properly complete?  I am not sure that the computer demand is that great when running basic sequences, except maybe at the time of download.  This would be exacerbated when multiple downloads are occurring at one time.  However, could this not be managed by firmware, drivers and software?  Not sure.



#22 bigeastro

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:22 PM

I think the focus on focus, pun intended is a real issue.  I can't tell you how many frames are ruined by bad focus on either of my reflectors.  I am talking about either outright boot you out of the system failures or just plain old bad focus on a hole set of frames.  If I could improve on that one item, I would be one giant step closer to stability.  This is why the focus comment really captured my attention, and started me thinking that I needed to prioritize what I wanted to do to get stability for multiple or single instances that I desired.   Focus is on the top of the list behind basic capture and successful download.



#23 Peter in Reno

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:25 PM

You said "reflectors". Is it possible that SGP focuser is having difficulty dealing with star spikes caused by secondary mirror vanes?

 

Peter



#24 bigeastro

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:32 PM

SGP's focus routine is very good for refractors.  I had one and it focused great and produced a near perfect v curve.   Reflector focus is all over the place from time to time.  I also tend to pre-focus on stars that are not too bright for fear of capturing the diffraction spikes as part of the routine.  The SGP focus routine has always worked much less efficiently on reflectors.

 

How about Focus Max?  Is that still one of the leaders for focus routines?  At one point years ago I had it when it was free and it seamed to do really well.


Edited by bigeastro, 19 December 2018 - 12:36 PM.


#25 rockstarbill

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Posted 19 December 2018 - 12:36 PM

I think the focus on focus, pun intended is a real issue.  I can't tell you how many frames are ruined by bad focus on either of my reflectors.  I am talking about either outright boot you out of the system failures or just plain old bad focus on a hole set of frames.  If I could improve on that one item, I would be one giant step closer to stability.  This is why the focus comment really captured my attention, and started me thinking that I needed to prioritize what I wanted to do to get stability for multiple or single instances that I desired.   Focus is on the top of the list behind basic capture and successful download.

Thank you for helping make my point. SGP's Achilles Heel is focusing. While some folks in this thread have pointed to systems with CO, I have seen the same issues occur on Refractors which do not have CO. The most recent was on a TEC140 with a Feathertouch and HSM and it happened last night. While earlier focus runs were going fine with good V Curves, SGP starting having an incredibly bad time trying to focus, even though there were no local issues with clouds, no mechanical issues with the focuser or the motor, etc. Minutes later, in a different program (Voyager), focusing was not only working just fine, the results were drastically better. Focusing is critically important to getting good data. This was not the first time I had seen SGP go on the wayside in terms of focus runs. I have threads from other prominent members here having significant problems with its focusing logic. 

 

Since the topic of this thread is Alternatives to SGP (and not Come Defend SGP) I'll stand by the comment I made that the focusing logic in Voyager is significantly better. See this post here, where a member tested focusing specifically using SGP, Voyager, and FocusMax.




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