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PC Recommendations for Lunar/Planetary Imaging.

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#1 Rustler46

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Posted 17 January 2020 - 03:48 AM

In preparation for this year's apparition of Mars (along with Jupiter and Saturn), I'm considering getting a Windows-10 PC laptop for use with Firecapture, AutoStakkert!-3, Registax and perhaps PixInsight. While I love my 2012 MacBook Pro (with Intel i7 quad-core, 2.3 GHz, 16 GB memory, 500 GB SSD, USB-3.0), I'm tiring of porting the needed Windows programs to run on the Mac. So I'm looking into getting a PC, perhaps with the following specs:

  • Intel i7 or i5
  • 16 GB memlory
  • 500 GB SSD
  • 2 or more USB-3 ports
  • Windows-10

When using my present Mac laptop with Firecapture, my ASI290MC camera would capture up to 150 frames per second, depending on the brightness of the subject. I attribute that to the USB-3 interface and solid state drive for storage. 

 

So what would you forum members recommend as best for lunar/planetary imaging? Might I be better in using my MacBook Pro with something like Parallels (or VM Fusion) and a copy of Windows-10?

 

Any advice would be appreciated.

 

Kind Regards,

Russ



#2 Tulloch

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Posted 17 January 2020 - 06:23 AM

Hi Russ, in my experience (which admittedly is limited to a sample size of 1 smile.gif ), you don't really need a particularly high spec computer to take planetary videos. I have an 8th generation Intel i5, 16GB RAM, a 1TB hard drive (non SSD) running Windows 10 and I can get 250 fps on Jupiter with my ASI224MC through USB-3 (with a 2m cable and small ROI). Now stacking and processing will be faster with a 10th generation i7 chip, but the i5 does just fine for me...

 

For lunar photography with larger chip sizes and ROI's I would expect that a faster SSD hard drive might be needed to get the capture speeds up, but there may also be an issue with USB-3 protocols that limit transfer speeds, but I'm sure others have more experience here.

 

Andrew


Edited by Tulloch, 17 January 2020 - 06:24 AM.

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#3 descott12

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Posted 17 January 2020 - 09:05 AM

I typically throw away my video files once I stack them but, if you are like most people and you keep them, then 500GB will fill up quickly.  I would add a large secondary storage to move older data off the main disk.


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#4 GeorgeInDallas

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Posted 17 January 2020 - 09:43 AM

Russ,

 

I have a MacBook Pro almost identical to yours (year, SSD, I7, etc). I use bootcamp to run Windows 10 in native mode. I run all of my image acquisition and processing software on this system. It only requires a reboot to switch from Mac OS to Windows.

 

https://support.appl.../en-us/HT201468

 

good luck 

George


Edited by GeorgeInDallas, 17 January 2020 - 09:46 AM.

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#5 PiotrM

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Posted 17 January 2020 - 12:57 PM

  • Intel i7 or i5

If you want performance and value then there are multiple i5, i7 and even i9 plus incoming 4000-series AMD processors. For capture CPU doesn't really matter, bit of RAM and a really good storage. For processing likely the upcoming 8-core AMD processors and top end mobile Intel i9 would be best. Quad core i7 is quite old for 2020 in terms of performance.
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#6 Rustler46

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Posted 17 January 2020 - 07:29 PM

Russ,

 

I have a MacBook Pro almost identical to yours (year, SSD, I7, etc). I use bootcamp to run Windows 10 in native mode. I run all of my image acquisition and processing software on this system. It only requires a reboot to switch from Mac OS to Windows.

 

https://support.appl.../en-us/HT201468

 

Thanks for the suggestion, George. Bootcamp looks like a good alternative. For image acquisition and processing (Firecapture, AutoStakkert!, Registax, etc.) would the Home version (64-bit) be adequate? I can get the Home version for less than $130 on DVD. There seems to be options - Download, DVD, USB-stick, OEM system builder). Any recommendations?

 

Russ



#7 GeorgeInDallas

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Posted 18 January 2020 - 03:30 PM

Russ,

 

I use Windows 10 Home and it seems to do everything I need. I bought it on a USB-stick as I don't have a DVD reader on my laptop. I think that it comes as a 64 bit version. I paid  $130 at Fry's. I have a cousin who lives in Coos Bay, Frank Price. I haven't been in contact with him for many years. Do you happen to know him or his wife Nancy?

 

Good Luck,

George


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#8 Rustler46

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Posted 18 January 2020 - 10:48 PM

Russ,

 

I use Windows 10 Home and it seems to do everything I need. I bought it on a USB-stick as I don't have a DVD reader on my laptop. I think that it comes as a 64 bit version. I paid  $130 at Fry's. I have a cousin who lives in Coos Bay, Frank Price. I haven't been in contact with him for many years. Do you happen to know him or his wife Nancy?

 

Good Luck,

George

 

Hi George - thanks for the comment. I just purchased Windows-10 Home, 64-bit on DVD ($100) along with a 128 GB USB 2.0/3.0 thumb drive ($18). They should be here within the week from B&H Photo. That way I can use my MacBook Pro booting with Windows or Mac OS as needed. That should handle the software versus operating system problems.

 

I don't know any Frank or Nancy Price. But there is such a pair in the local phone directory. I'll send their address/phone number via private message. 

 

Best Regards,

Russ


Edited by Rustler46, 18 January 2020 - 11:23 PM.

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#9 Rustler46

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Posted 24 January 2020 - 05:31 PM

I now have a Windows-10 64-bit OEM DVD. Before I start using this to install Windows-10 on my MacBook Pro (mid-2012, 16GB memory, 500GB SSD), I have some questions for those familiar with using Bootcamp.

 

My SSD has 307GB free space. Most of my work is done in the Mac OS side. For the Windows partition I will only be using Firecapture, AutoStakkert!-3 and Registax-6. I want to allocate enough SSD space for Windows-10 to run those programs. For my uses I want to allocate most of the SSD to the Mac OS side.

 

My Questions:

  • What is the minimum Windows partition size to run my windows programs?
    Some references I have say 64GB is the minimum, but 128GB provides for a better user experience. The only "user experience" I am interested in is running the above programs without a hitch.
  • When using Windows under Bootcamp, do I have access to the computer's USB ports?
  • Also in Bootcamp do I have access to any of the partition that is allocated to the Mac OS?
    I know such programs as Parallels and VM Fusion can easily jump back and forth.

For saving Firecapture videos I know that the Windows partition is available. But I'd like to keep that to minimum size. So I have a 128GB USB 3.0 thumb drive that could be used for video storage. These could be accessed to feed videos into AS!-3. 

 

I might just bit the bullet and allocate 128GB to the Windows partition. This would leave ~180GB free on the Mac OS side.

 

I'm open to suggestions from experience lunar/planetary imagers.

 

Best Regards,

Russ



#10 Tom Glenn

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Posted 24 January 2020 - 06:05 PM

I can't speak to Bootcamp, but I use VMware to run Windows 10 on my MacBook Pro.  Although it works, I really don't like having to do it this way, but I don't want to buy another computer right now.  I only have a 60GB portion of my 500 GB SSD dedicated to the Windows side of things.  But I run Firecapture on the Mac side, using the Mac version, which works well.  If you prefer the Mac side of things, I would recommend that for capture.  I only use Windows to stack the videos and use deconvolution and sharpening software such as Astraimage or Registax.  I then move the files back to the Mac side for Photoshop.  I have it setup so that my documents folder is shared between the Windows and Mac side, so that even though I only have 60GB on the Windows side, I can process files much larger than that through the internally shared documents folder.  This is critical, as otherwise the file sizes would become a huge problem.  I frequently process 100GB individual video files.  If I was buying a new laptop today, I would opt for at least a 1TB internal SSD, if not 2TB.  My main problem with using a joint system is that with VMware, it doesn't interface properly with hardware.  Even if I wanted to, I can't use a camera, or even access an external hard drive through the Windows side, because apparently the virtual machine doesn't know how to communicate with hardware connected to the Mac.  It sounds like you will avoid this problem (hopefully!), since Bootcamp allows you to shutdown the Mac completely and run entirely in Windows.  But then you won't be able to access shared documents folders, so I think you have to be more generous with your allocated hard drive space.  Because of all these annoyances, I would probably recommend that someone buy two separate computers, but I myself don't follow this advice (yet) because it just gets so expensive that it's not very practical.  Good luck figuring it out.  


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#11 descott12

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Posted 24 January 2020 - 06:21 PM

My main problem with using a joint system is that with VMware, it doesn't interface properly with hardware.  Even if I wanted to, I can't use a camera, or even access an external hard drive through the Windows side, because apparently the virtual machine doesn't know how to communicate with hardware connected to the Mac.  It sounds like you will avoid this problem (hopefully!), since Bootcamp allows you to shutdown the Mac completely and run entirely in Windows.  

I use Parallels ( another VM like VMWare) every day for my normal work and it works really well. It does seem to handle hardware pretty well but I have to think there has to be a performance hit running thru a virtual machine and there are definitely some hardware glitches from time to time for sure. I have never tried to capture hi-res video over USB via the VM so who knows how well that would work.

I think Bootcamp is probably the safest bet.


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#12 Tom Glenn

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Posted 24 January 2020 - 06:24 PM

I use Parallels ( another VM like VMWare) every day for my normal work and it works really well. It does seem to handle hardware pretty well but I have to think there has to be a performance hit running thru a virtual machine and there are definitely some hardware glitches from time to time for sure. I have never tried to capture hi-res video over USB via the VM so who knows how well that would work.

I think Bootcamp is probably the safest bet.

Yeah, I don't know what the deal with my VMware connection is, because it is supposed to be able to interface with hardware.  I haven't put much effort into troubleshooting this, however, because I'd rather just avoid the problem altogether.  Thankfully, the Mac version of Firecapture allows me to do this.  


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#13 Rustler46

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Posted 24 January 2020 - 07:03 PM

Russ,

 

I have a MacBook Pro almost identical to yours (year, SSD, I7, etc). I use bootcamp to run Windows 10 in native mode. I run all of my image acquisition and processing software on this system. It only requires a reboot to switch from Mac OS to Windows.

 

https://support.appl.../en-us/HT201468

 

good luck 

George

George, I have some questions:

  • How much SSD do you have in the in the Windows partition?
  • Has that worked well for your with lunar/planetary imaging?
  • What is windows "native mode"?

Thanks for your help.

 

Kind Regards,

Russ



#14 GeorgeInDallas

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Posted 25 January 2020 - 09:06 AM

Russ,

 

My MacBook has a 256 GB internal SSD drive. I have partitioned it with 64 GB for Windows 10 and 192 GB for the MacOS. I use an external Samsung 500GB USB-3 SSD drive for data capture AVIs. Both Windows and MacOS have full access to the data on this Drive. Windows 10 has full access to all of the MacBook hardware interfaces (USB, etc.) 

 

When I say Windows "native mode" I am trying to imply that the Windows runs on the MacBook hardware without any intervening software such as is used in VMWare. I used Bootcamp because I wanted access to the full performance capabilities of the MacBook hardware. I wanted to run my video capture at the highest frame rates achievable with the USB-3 camera and external SSD drive. 

 

As far as I can tell, this has worked great for Lunar and Planetary image capture. I am able to capture frames as high as 400 FPS for small ROI such as used for Mars.

 

George

Attached Thumbnails

  • Screen Shot 2020-01-25 at 7.37.41 AM.png

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#15 GeorgeInDallas

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Posted 25 January 2020 - 09:49 AM

Russ,

 

In an earlier post you comment about using a 128 GB thumb drive for video capture.

 

"So I have a 128GB USB 3.0 thumb drive that could be used for video storage. These could be accessed to feed videos into AS!-3."

 

My experience has been that it is not uncommon to capture 300 GB or more during an evening of planetary imaging. Also, I don't think a thumb drive will be as fast as an external SSD USB-3 drive which advertises read/write speeds of 540 MB/s. I use one similar to this one advertised on Amazon for $89. 

 

Samsung T5 Portable SSD - 500GB - USB 3.1 External SSD (MU-PA500B/AM), Blue

 

George



#16 Rustler46

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Posted 25 January 2020 - 08:01 PM

Thanks to all for your advice and comments - Andrew, Dave, George, PiotrM, Tom!

 

Based on your help I've been able to get Windows-10 Home available on my MacBook Pro (mid-2012, quad-core i7, 16GB memory, 500GB SSD).

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-25 at 4.45.05 PM.png

  • Using BootCamp the 500GB SSD has been partitioned with 370GB for Mac OS, 130GB for Windows
  • Windows-10 has been configured with minimal install and features, leaving 108GB free of the 130GB total. I just wanted to be able to run a limited number of windows programs - Firecapture, AutoStakkert!-3 & Registax-6 for now. 

At this stage I didn't opt to enable Windows to access the internet. Microsoft wanted me to set up an account, which I'd rather not do. I decided not to use most of the features available with Windows-10. Again I just want to run some windows programs. Most of my day to day activity will be on the Mac side. On that partition around 40% (152GB) of the 370GB is free.

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-25 at 4.41.46 PM.png

 

Some time ago I replaced the original 250GB SSD in the MacBook with a 500GB SSD. Now the 250GB SSD resides in an external USB 3.0 enclosure. That will be useful for storing lunar/planetary videos and TimeMachine backups if the internal partition fills up. 

 

So next step is to download the Windows programs I need. This will be done on the Mac side, with the program installer files copied onto a flash drive. Then on the Windows side the programs will be installed. That's my plan of action. If all else fails I can enable internet access on the windows side to download the programs. Since Firecapture is also available as Mac OS beta, I may see if one of the versions gives a higher video frame rate.

 

Thanks again for all the helpful comments.

 

Kind Regards,
Russ

 

Edit:

Now all three lunar/planetary imaging programs are installed - Firecapture 2.6, AutoStakkert!-3 & Registax-6. The bluetooth mouse along with the built-in trackpad are working. If I can get internet access without signing up for a Microsoft account, that would be next.


Edited by Rustler46, 26 January 2020 - 02:36 AM.

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#17 Rustler46

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Posted 28 January 2020 - 01:57 AM

Thanks to all for your advice and comments - Andrew, Dave, George, PiotrM, Tom!

 

Based on your help I've been able to get Windows-10 Home available on my MacBook Pro (mid-2012, quad-core i7, 16GB memory, 500GB SSD).

  • Using BootCamp the 500GB SSD has been partitioned with 370GB for Mac OS, 130GB for Windows
  • Windows-10 has been configured with minimal install and features, leaving 108GB free of the 130GB total. I just wanted to be able to run a limited number of windows programs - Firecapture, AutoStakkert!-3 & Registax-6 for now. 

At this stage I didn't opt to enable Windows to access the internet. Microsoft wanted me to set up an account, which I'd rather not do. I decided not to use most of the features available with Windows-10. Again I just want to run some windows programs. Most of my day to day activity will be on the Mac side. On that partition around 40% (152GB) of the 370GB is free.

 

Some time ago I replaced the original 250GB SSD in the MacBook with a 500GB SSD. Now the 250GB SSD resides in an external USB 3.0 enclosure. That will be useful for storing lunar/planetary videos and TimeMachine backups if the internal partition fills up. 

 

So next step is to download the Windows programs I need. This will be done on the Mac side, with the program installer files copied onto a flash drive. Then on the Windows side the programs will be installed. That's my plan of action. If all else fails I can enable internet access on the windows side to download the programs. Since Firecapture is also available as Mac OS beta, I may see if one of the versions gives a higher video frame rate.

 

Now all three lunar/planetary imaging programs are installed - Firecapture 2.6, AutoStakkert!-3 & Registax-6. The bluetooth mouse along with the built-in trackpad are working. If I can get internet access without signing up for a Microsoft account, that would be next.

Previously I had Firecapture running in Mac OS Mojave under a "wineskin" as a 32-bit windows program. Strangely that shortcut icon still runs FireCapture, even though I didn't get 64-bit Winery or 64-bit Firecapture. Only 64-bit programs can be run under the latest Mac OS, Catalina - 32-bit programs are no longer supported. But whatever happened it is a nice surprise. So now for image acquisition, I can stay under the Mac OS with Firecapture. I'm much more comfortable operating within the Mac environment. When it is a windows-PC (under Bootcamp), I fumble around with simple tasks. Thankfully once in the program (Autostakkert!-3 or Registax-6) it looks the same regardless of the OS.

 

Rustler



#18 GeorgeInDallas

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Posted 28 January 2020 - 11:27 AM

Russ,

 

Have you verified that you can get the performance you want running Firecapture in that configuration?

 

George



#19 Rustler46

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Posted 29 January 2020 - 11:58 PM

Russ,

 

Have you verified that you can get the performance you want running Firecapture in that configuration?

 

George

When I get a clear night that would be something to ascertain. Seeing Firecapture running on the Mac side, leads to the question whether this is the beta Mac OS Firecapture program or whether it is still running under the wineskin. So I right-clicked on the Firecapture icon on the Mac Desktop and chose show package contents. Therein were two folders:

  • MacOS
  • Resources

Nothing in either folder (or any of their subdirectories) makes any reference to wine. There are several references to the OS being Mac OS.

 

In the Mac OS Applications folder I removed everything related to Windows programs running under Wine. After doing so I ran Firecapture 2.6 by double clicking on its Desktop icon. It fired right up. The script running in a separate window shows the FireCapture OS is Mac OS.

 

Therefore I'm sure that this is the Mac OS version 2.6 of FireCapture. And it must be a 64-bit program, since the current Mac OS Catalina does not support 32-bit programs. I must have just forgot that I downloaded the Mac version of FireCapture.

 

So I can run a direct comparison of FireCapture running under Mac OS or under Windows-10 when booted under either OS. Maximum frame rate under each OS would be a nice comparison to see. Also number of frames captured in a set time like 3 minutes would be telling as well. If there is a significant difference, it's nice to have the option of using either OS. There might also be differences in full frame or ROI capture. 

 

There is some advantage to running all lunar/planetary software under Windows. That way the videos captured are already present in the Windows environment. If captured with the Mac OS, then videos would need to be moved to the Windows side via USB thumb drive or External USB SSD. Sure the Parallels or VM Fusion programs make such transfers unnecessary. But those are extra cost programs. A reboot in another OS takes scant few minutes.

 

As far as I know there are no plans for AutoStakkert!-3 to ever be offered for the Mac OS. And Registax-6 hasn't had a new version out in years. So the wavelets module in that program will continue to be a Windows only option. But all this is great information to have. But nothing matters until I get some more clear nights.

 

Kind Regards,

Russ


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