Posting not on behalf of my company, but as one of those who want to see the astronomy software community remain open and welcoming to new software developers and instrument makers. I have been given permission to post this info.
Some of you may have noticed the changes to the ASCOM Initiative Website that appeared a couple of weeks ago. The new content relates to ASCOM Alpaca, a cross-platform and internet extension to ASCOM. Quoting from the new Alpaca Developers page:
For over twenty years ASCOM has enabled astronomy programs to connect to ASCOM-compatible astronomical devices through standard APIs built on Microsoft COM technology. These APIs have been (and still are) very successful and support a wide variety of astronomy programs and devices that run together on a single Windows PC.
In today's heterogeneous network-connected world this is a significant limitation and so we have introduced ASCOM Alpaca, which provides the path for:
- Astronomy programs and devices to be connected across Windows, Linux, and MacOS.
- Observatory systems to include programs and devices on multiple platforms
- Devices that can operate via WiFi or Ethernet and avoid the problems with USB
- Interoperability between astronomy programs and devices running under different operating systems
- Implementation of astronomy programs and device control logic written in different languages on different operating systems
- Current unmodified Windows astronomy programs to use ASCOM compatible devices connected to any networked PC or other platform via Alpaca, or to a self-contained Alpaca device.
- Current unmodified Windows-resident devices (mounts, focusers, etc.) to be used by astronomy programs running on networked PCs, Macs, and mobile devices that use Alpaca for device communications.
The introduction of ASCOM Remote in 2018 began the process of extending the ASCOM ecosystem to include the internet, Linux, and Mac OS, including small embedded controllers like the Arduino and Raspberry Pi as well as astronomy software on those platforms that wish to use instruments which are hosted on Windows systems.
As of early 2019, this effort has grown into a new wave of development, with several astronomy instrument vendors embracing the implementation of the ASCOM Alpaca API as ReST end-points, reachable over the internet. This effort is much farther along that you might imagine, and we can expect vendor announcements in the coming months. In addition we already have one cross-platform planetarium program, Cartes du Ciel, and a cross-platform capture program CCDCiel, both by Patrick Chevalley, that now support the Alpaca protocols, giving them access to today's unmodified Windows-resident ASCOM-compatible devices from Mac OS and Linux.
Obviously this announcement is for developers, as Alpaca is enabling technology. I'm posting this announcement here because there are a number of members who are developers, or who may want to develop new devices and apps outside Windows, not to mention the potential for the Raspberry Pi and Linux communities here.
If you are a user, please see the ASCOM Frequently Asked Questions section where some common questions and possible concerns are addressed in a non-technical way.
Note that there are a couple of videos on the ASCOM Alpaca Developers page that you may find useful for discussions with fellow developers. One of them is a demo of an Alpaca-speaking Rasberry-Pi/Linux based rotator simulator written in Python being controlled by the Field of View Indicator in an unmodified Windows copy of Software Bisque TheSky X.
We all owe Peter Simpson a huge debt of gratitude for designing the protocols which implement the successful ASCOM interfaces, and which have become the basis of Alpaca, as well as for implementing the all-important middleware ASCOM Remote. Thank you Peter!!
Edited by Bob Denny, 05 March 2019 - 02:40 PM.