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Design for Observatory Mini-PC

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#1 bryanwells

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Posted 27 October 2019 - 12:52 PM

I am nearly done building my observatory in a remote forest area.  I am strictly battery power with solar, although I have a generator I don't want to rely on.  I have a warm-up room which is roughly 30 feet from the telescope.  I currently am using a laptop computer running Windows 10 at the telescope for alignment, targeting and focus using CPWI, guiding with PhD2 or Metaguide, and imaging with SharpCap or APT.  I also use Stellarium on occasion.  I currently bring my laptop home and use Pixinsight for image processing on my desktop.  I might eventually want PI at the observatory.

 

I was reading another thread about Mini PCs for Observatories (https://www.cloudyni...permanent-piers) and realized I need more basic information on how to actually set up the MiniPC in the Observatory and possibly a laptop or monitor in the warm-up room.  Can you tell me or show a sketch of what you have connected and how you have the observatory wired?  At home before I built my observatory, I left my laptop by the telescope and used remote desktop from my office to do most of the things I needed.  It was a bit clunky and the remote desktop over my network gave a display that was just adequate.    

 

Can you describe how you configure you hardware, computer and network to run a (remote) observatory with a display/computer in a warm-up room?  I suspect my biggest limitation is power, and the mini-PC helps, but I still need a network, a display and other gear. I am curious if there are options I am not aware of that are well suited for this kind of set up.

 

Thanks


Edited by bryanwells, 27 October 2019 - 12:55 PM.


#2 rgsalinger

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Posted 27 October 2019 - 01:43 PM

If power is the issue then I'd buy a set of these https://www.amazon.c...451413741&psc=1 .

 

Then just put the laptop in the warm room. That way you do not need a minicomputer at the mount or a router to image. You now have 4 USB ports at the mount to connect up two cameras, a focuser and "something else" which could be a powered hub.

 

I'd bury the cable in the ground in a conduit so that the animals don't eat it. Still, I bet a nice shielded cable would run reliably in nothing but a ditch for a long time. 

 

These have worked for me down to around 20F. I don't know if they would work under the conditions you find in Maine in the winter but I'm not sure how a mini PC would work at zero either.

 

Rgrds-Ross



#3 Taylor

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Posted 27 October 2019 - 02:44 PM

I use a Winbook TW102 I got off of eBay NIB with the keyboard dock for $120. I power it off of a USB 2.1amp adapter.

I’m also fully solar so I look to minimize power draw.

Not sure if that approach would work for your setup.

#4 bryanwells

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Posted 27 October 2019 - 08:52 PM

If power is the issue then I'd buy a set of these https://www.amazon.c...451413741&psc=1 .

 

Then just put the laptop in the warm room. That way you do not need a minicomputer at the mount or a router to image. You now have 4 USB ports at the mount to connect up two cameras, a focuser and "something else" which could be a powered hub.

 

I'd bury the cable in the ground in a conduit so that the animals don't eat it. Still, I bet a nice shielded cable would run reliably in nothing but a ditch for a long time. 

 

These have worked for me down to around 20F. I don't know if they would work under the conditions you find in Maine in the winter but I'm not sure how a mini PC would work at zero either.

 

Rgrds-Ross

 

I see what you have in mind and it looks good.  The only issue is that my QHY165C is USB 3.0.  I am not familiar with the design to push a USB signal over CAT 6.  And if I had USB 3.0, I wounder how that would work with the fast frame rate of my camera? It would be easy to run a conduit and a 30' CAT 6 wire to the warm room.  I have run the system in zero degrees Fahrenheit successfully using a wireless connection with remote desktop.  I am not sure what the performance would be on a 30' cable exposed to those same temperatures or even colder.  But I wouldn't mind staying home on those frigid nights anyway! 


Edited by bryanwells, 27 October 2019 - 08:54 PM.


#5 mclewis1

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 07:41 AM

There are a number of USB extension products (called USB extenders) that use Cat 5/6 twisted pair cabling, these are designed to offer longer distances than what it possible with regular USB cabling. They tend to be pretty expensive for USB 3 compatibility and speeds. Have a look at the Icron products for example. Always keep in mind that extending USB for simple devices is quite easy but extending high speed devices like cameras takes a bit more capability.

 

What most folks are doing however is putting the small headless PC at or close to the mount and using regular USB cabling between that PC and the devices being controlled. Then a wired or wireless Ethernet connection is made between that small PC and other devices in the house (these can be other PCs or tablets or even phones). This remote control is simply a remote window/desktop opened to the PC controlling the scope/camera/etc. 



#6 rgsalinger

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Posted 28 October 2019 - 09:49 AM

I use an ASI071 and it works as well over USB 2 as USB 3. I guess if you are going to do planetary or "lucky" imaging then it makes sense to have a USB 3 requirement. I think that with power at a premium even a 20 watt draw from a mini computer can be an issue if you ever wanted to run remotely from home. 

 

You might also consider security. My observatory is pretty inaccessible and is built out of concrete blocks with steel security doors. I don't worry about getting my PC's stolen. If you have a more traditional structure, anything you leave inside is risky. Doesn't sound like an issue in rural Maine thought. My systems run off 3000 watt LIPO battery packs and draw, including a computer, around 50 watts of energy. Removing the small form factor computers cuts 20 watts off that number.

 

Finally, I agree that wireless is the way to go if you have two computers, but that router draws another 10 watts of power when it's running. 

 

Rgrds-Ross




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