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Any experience using Microsoft Surface Go for astroimaging (capture only)

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#1 Henry from NZ

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Posted 21 February 2020 - 04:56 PM

Hi

 

A little background.

 

I have a Mac household and limited knowledge about Windows besides the very basic as I have to use it at work. I would appreciate people who know Windows better to comment please.

 

I have a Mac desktop that I use for all serous work including processing in Pixinsight. I have a very old MacBook Air which I take with me when I am on the road for minor Word Processing, web browsing and email only. I have an iPad for media consumption but I don't do work on it. My almost 10 year old MacBook Air is dying with intermittent video problem that is not economical to fix. Its battery is also failing (it had been replaced already once before). It is basically due for replacement. At the same time my son's school is requesting that he has an tablet device with him for "learning" purpose so we are also needing a tablet for him (don't get me started -- I hate this idea but all his classmates bring their own devices and he is missing out on activities because he does not have one).

 

At the moment I have a mount side PC running Windows 10 in headless mode controlling all the astro hardware. I dial into it using Windows Remote Desktop from my MacBook Air to control it. This however requires a local network to be present (at home) or a Wifi AP to be set up when I am mobile.

 

I am thinking to get a Microsoft Surface Go because:

 

1. I can give my current iPad to my son so we don't have to buy him a new one. The Surface Go should be sufficient for general media consumption for me.

 

2. The Surface Go underpowered it is, should still perform on par as my old MacBook Air for what I am currently using it for.

 

3. Presumably I should still be able to dial into the mount side PC and control it from the Surface Go?

 

My idea is that by buying one device I can both replace the ageing MacBook Air and also free up an iPad for my son.

 

 

QUESTION:

I am wondering though, can I potentially put all the Astro capture software on the Surface Go as well (i.e. ASCOM, Voyager, SGPro, PHD2, etc) so that I can connect the astro gear directly to the Surface Go and bypass the mount side PC altogether. This would be very convenient because I will do away with the need of having some kind of network connections. Having a screen and keyboard would make trouble shooting a lot easier too.

 

Has this been done and if so what is the experience like? Presumably I need some kind of USB-c hub to expand its connectivity?

 

Are there better options?

 

 

Thanks


Edited by Henry from NZ, 21 February 2020 - 05:02 PM.


#2 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 21 February 2020 - 06:14 PM

I don't have a Surface, but do use either a laptop or tablet / phone to VNC into the mount-based Raspberry Pi that drives the rotisserie via WiFi.    That the laptop and the mount aren't physically connected, I think, is important.

 

The difference with the Surface-as-mount-computer is that I can turn off the screen on the laptop / tablet / phone once the system is running, which kills the glare from the screen and risk that I might touch something.  Not sure what the Surface will do in terms of shutting down stuff if you, effectively, "close the lid".  And by having the at-mount computing platform physically on the mount, I don't have any wires to trip on, nor any wires that will be jiggled as I use the laptop.  It's amazing how little it takes to ruin your images through vibration.

 

I suppose you could run everything over a USB3.0 cable to an at-mount USB hub, with the equipment fanning out from there, and I believe lots of folks do this.  But there are also many tales of trouble with USB devices colliding with each other for access to the cable.

 

So the issue isn't so much the Surface as a computer, but the Surface as combined (not separable) user interface and computer that could be a problem.  It's a tool designed for in-your-face interactive content creation.  At-mount computation is a set of process control tasks; very different.



#3 OldManSky

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Posted 21 February 2020 - 07:23 PM

The biggest issue with using the Surface as the mount-side computer is the ports (or lack thereof).  Most have only 1 USB-C port (and sometimes a USB-A port), so you'll need a powered hub to connect all your stuff.  The Surface also has a nasty habit of turning off the power to those two USB ports that it has, to save power (even when on AC!), and even if you tell it not to.  Annoying.  I let some folks in my NYC office buy a few to act as "use at work and at home" computers, and after a year I took them all away and gave them Dell laptops instead -- nothing but troubles with the Surface units, and I got tired of spending IT resources supporting them.

 

The other issue is the cost -- compared to a laptop or a tablet for remote connection only, they're quite a bit more expensive.

 

But it will work, at least some of the time :)



#4 Henry from NZ

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Posted 21 February 2020 - 08:09 PM

I am glad I have checked before buying the surface go. 
in particular the auto shut off “feature” will be a deal breaker. 
I guess it is back to the drawing board for me.

 

Being a Mac user I will probably just end up letting my son use my iPad, as it is really just a luxury for me and I don’t strictly need it day-to-day. I will get a new MacBook to replace the dying MacBook Air, and continue to dial into the mount side PC via Remote Desktop as I am doing now. 
 

I wish the higher spec iPad can be more a laptop replacement but until one can run native Mac OS software on it it can never be. 



#5 steste1122

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 12:11 AM

I have and use a Surface Go for imaging.  It works very well using NINA, I would think the other programs you listed would work as well.  Auto turn off is a windows feature, you can turn it off as I have.  I remote into it using Teamview.  The detachable keyboard has hot buttons for screen brightness as well so you can leave it open and have the screen off.  It comes with Windows S but its easy to convert it to full Windows 10 and is free to do so.  It comes with S because microsoft intended it for office use and wanted to lock it into its eco system.  The full Windows 10 allows you use it like any other Windows PC.  Its not the fastest thing out there but it does the job very well.

 

Edited to add photo of it running tonight.  Its a little cold out.  Also first night out with the RASA 8.

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Edited by steste1122, 22 February 2020 - 12:39 AM.


#6 Henry from NZ

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 03:25 AM

Hi steste1122,

How do you connect the gear to the Surface Go?

Is it via a powered hub?

How long does the battery last if you turn the screen off?



#7 OldManSky

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 12:29 PM

Upgrading the OS from "S" to "regular" might be the way to get the auto-shutoff of USB ports to stop.  It doesn't work reliably keeping the "S" version.



#8 steste1122

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 01:06 PM

The longest I have used it on battery was a little over 4 hours just to get an idea of how long it would go.  I would say fully charged it would go about 6 hours, maybe more as it was pretty cold out when I used it.  I connect all my gear using a usb-c hub non powered.  The Go uses a full featured usb-c 3.1. Rest assured it can power plenty of devices, it can also be charged over the usb port as well so if you had a hub/dock that would work.  Large file transfers to a Samsung external SSD are pretty quick.

 

Microsoft says the Type Cover is water resistant.  I can attest to that after forgetting to fold it underneath more than a few times and letting the dew/frost fall on it.  Just leave it open it will dry out and so far has been fine.  Of course its removable too so you could just pull it off and carry it inside when you dont need it.  The touch pad does lose some effectiveness when its below freezing but thats most laptops anyway.  The Go itself I have had no issues with frost or dew, it keeps itself warm enough to prevent frosting over the screen or dew settling on it.



#9 steste1122

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 01:15 PM

Upgrading the OS from "S" to "regular" might be the way to get the auto-shutoff of USB ports to stop.  It doesn't work reliably keeping the "S" version.

 

He would need to do the upgrade anyway, in S mode it limits the apps that can be installed only to the WIndows store.  Details on how to do so are here https://www.windowsc...ndows-10-s-mode. Calling it an upgrade really isnt right though.  I would call it an unlock because after installing the upgrade you don't even have to restart, its ready to go right after.  And its free.


Edited by steste1122, 22 February 2020 - 01:16 PM.


#10 MikiSJ

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 01:22 PM

...It comes with Windows S but its easy to convert it to full Windows 10 and is free to do so.  It comes with S because microsoft intended it for office use and wanted to lock it into its eco system.  The full Windows 10 allows you use it like any other Windows PC.  Its not the fastest thing out there but it does the job very well.

I don't think that is an accurate statement in all cases. I bought an inexpensive HP laptop to use scope side and it came with Windows 10 S. This level of OS does not have Remote Desktop Connection and also does not like programs not bought from the Microsoft store. I had to upgrade to Pro as Windows 10 Home also does not have Remote Desktop Connection. Upgrading to Pro was not cheap and I wish I had investigate the Windows OS tree better.




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