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Building Raspberry Pi 3B system

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#1 moxican

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Posted 25 February 2020 - 11:03 PM

I want to take my observatory to a new level by making everything remote controlled. I will either go with the Raspberry Pi 3B system or with a remotw mini PC. Reason why I want to side with the Raspberry Pi 3B is because it is more budget friendly and a lot less complicated.

But the thing is I do not know much about other systems (other than Windows). Where I am lost is, what software/hardware/app would it need in order to operate reliably and remotely. 

My system would consist of controlling a mount (NEQ6 via 5V FTDI), ASI224mc for guiding, Nikon D5100 with DSUSB2 or FTDI shutter control (I have both).

In the near future I will have QHY 178m + ZWO EFW as well as a software controlled focuser via FCUSB. I have a powered USB 3.0 port as well.

 

I found some how to's online and they all require NOOBS and Raspbian installed. Would I still need these two programs regardless? How will Raspberry Pi 3B handle cold and elements?


Edited by moxican, 25 February 2020 - 11:05 PM.

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#2 Benach

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 03:08 AM

Moxican: the best way is slowly building your RPi up. So start with your mount, then go to your camera, guide and slowly but surely work yourself through all the equipment you have.

Raspbian is the OS thus probably needed. An RPi is not not cold resistant per se. It is just a PCB. But if you put it in an insulated housing, most of the risks are minimized.
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#3 BGRE

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 03:54 AM

Too much insulation will result in overheating and a reduced component lifetime.

Proper thermal design is required.


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#4 a__l

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 04:22 AM

Industrial mini PC (with SSD) -10С to + 50С

The most reliable Linux, Ubuntu (if you have drivers).

Alternatively (for Win), there are remote power-on reset devices (over IP) or consider a Watch dog Timer for PC device or both.

The PC (and everything else) through this device can be remotely turned on/off to save power.


Edited by a__l, 26 February 2020 - 05:08 AM.

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#5 brave_ulysses

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 07:17 AM

if you want a pre-packaged solution, check here:

https://www.stellarm...larmate-os.html

 

you might check in the observatories forum for some rpi experience

https://www.cloudyni...-observatories/

 

good luck!


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#6 Arjan

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 07:41 AM

Have a look at INDI, this is what Stellarmate also uses internally.

 

I have rolled my own, based on a Pi4, and built it into the housing of my NEQ6 mount. See also here.

This Pi4 runs everything: mount control, platesolving, guiding, camera control and also the planetarium application KStars.

 

INDI-NEQ6.jpeg

 

The time and location is resolved by means of a built-in GPS receiver.

Control from a laptop (or tablet or phone) is done through a remote desktop connected with VNC in a local WiFi bubble.

The only cable going off mount is 12V power...

 

 


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#7 mark77

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 10:20 AM

I am up to 10 Raspberry Pis running my observatory, i expect to be adding more

 

I have

1 controlling the dome rotation

1 controlling the dome door open/close

1 running the telescope

1 on the finder came

3, 1 on each of the 3 scopes.

1 for GPS time

1 for an all-sky camera

1 on the scope mount monitoring temperature and az/el (its a GEM mount, but I want that info anyway)

 

 

Everything is either open source or code I wrote.

The code I am writing is all Alpaca based (ASCOM for the rest of the world).

 

I now have Alpaca based device drivers on the dome, dome door. each of the 3 scopes controlling the camera, focuser, filter wheel and rotoator all in one.

 

I would really like to start sharing this with others if someone wants to try it out.

My software currently supports

ZWO cameras

ATIK cameras

ToupTek cameras

 

ZWO filter wheel

 

Moonlite nitecrawler focusers.

 

Raspberry pi relay board for switching things on and off

 

 

Mark


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#8 moxican

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 11:58 AM

Have a look at INDI, this is what Stellarmate also uses internally.

 

I have rolled my own, based on a Pi4, and built it into the housing of my NEQ6 mount. See also here.

This Pi4 runs everything: mount control, platesolving, guiding, camera control and also the planetarium application KStars.

 

attachicon.gifINDI-NEQ6.jpeg

 

The time and location is resolved by means of a built-in GPS receiver.

Control from a laptop (or tablet or phone) is done through a remote desktop connected with VNC in a local WiFi bubble.

The only cable going off mount is 12V power...

I love this project Arjan. 

Which program is gonna control camera exposure, focusing and filter wheel?

In winter it get really cold here, -20C often times. Can the raspberry handle that?

Also, is the gps locater necessary? 


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#9 Arjan

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 02:37 PM

I love this project Arjan. 

Which program is gonna control camera exposure, focusing and filter wheel?

In winter it get really cold here, -20C often times. Can the raspberry handle that?

Also, is the gps locater necessary? 

All control is inside EKOS and callable from KStars. Please check out the INDI website, become a member and post your questions and progress. It is a very supportive forum.

Nice thing is that you can handle everything remotely from a warm location, even focusing if you have a motorized focuser.

 

I have a Canon 450D, which is handled quite well now. There is support for many other cameras.

 

The Pi4 gets fairly warm, so apart from starting up I don't see a problem, really.

 

GPS is needed for the time mostly if your location doesn't vary. You can also set it manually, but you would have to open a terminal every time. I have done this but got fed up with it. Now it is all automatic.

 

Like Benach said, if you like to face the challenge you can start out gradually and learn how it works. Try installing the software on your Pi and see how it works, the INDI installation contains several simulators for e.g. mount, camera, etc For installing there are a number of scripts which do most of it for you. Stellarmate is a pre-rolled version which I have heard works like a charm.



#10 a__l

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 06:17 PM

The Pi4 gets fairly warm, so apart from starting up I don't see a problem, really.

 

 

This is the problem. So need round-the-clock work. The consequence of this is a possible freezing of the device. Which sometimes can be solved by restarting, sometimes only by switching the power. In addition, the camera may freeze. Which is also necessary to switch the power. Perhaps other devices.

 

Another point. At -20° C, it is probably necessary to heat the mount. Controlled heaters. Otherwise, it will not work correctly.

 

And further. In the summer (day), the mini-comp will overheat. Need to remotely disable.


Edited by a__l, 26 February 2020 - 06:58 PM.


#11 moxican

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 06:26 PM

At the moment I do not have a Raspberry. I am pretty good with computers, hardware/software, but do not have too much experience with raspberry unfortunately.

 

But let me get this right so I can get started with it (I really want to do this).

 

1. I will get a Raspbery Pi 3 or 4 (I don't know if it matters):

    - Does the available RAM matters? (1Gb, 2 Gb, 3 Gb)

    - Feel free to link one

2. Purchase and insert a micro SD card

3. Load ubuntu linux on it

4. Load Raspbian on it

5. Load INDI for camera, mount, guide, focuser, filter wheel support

 

Did I get this right? Furthermore, does RPi4 compatible with USB 3.0 hub (powered that is)?


Edited by moxican, 26 February 2020 - 06:32 PM.

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#12 Arjan

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Posted 27 February 2020 - 05:40 AM

  • I would go for largest RAM Pi4, many shops sell these for about $60.
  • Then buy a fast micro SD, I got 64GB to enable storing images locally.
  • Make sure you have a good power supply, USB 3Amps or so, see also recommendations on the Pi website. This especially applies when you plan on USB powering peripherals.
  • Hook up HDMI display and keyboard/mouse.
  • Get Ubuntu (I like this better than Raspbian because it is a bit less specific). The 20.04 LTS will come in April, but you can start with 18.04 LTS release. Not sure about the status of Pi HW support these days. Otherwise use an older one. (See Pi website for instructions)
  • Then get the full INDI package, including EKOS and Kstars.

Note that it is a learning curve (I personally like that but others don't), but the good thing is that when everything fails you can always revert to a pre-rolled installation!

 

good luck.


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#13 Joshm1084

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Posted 28 February 2020 - 02:46 PM

I've been using my Raspberry Pi 3B for a little over a year now and have absolutely loved it, however there were some bugs and performance issues to overcome at first.

 

My first foray with using it was just installing the Indi/Kstars applications on a standard pre-built Ubuntu Mate image. While this worked, it was really sluggish and I had lots of issues keeping the Kstars software running without crashing. 

 

After that I tried the Stellarmate OS, which is really again just the Indi server running in the Ubuntu Mate environment and being controlled by a mobile app. It worked better than my previous attempt but still did not have the performance I wanted, and I had tons of issues getting the Stellarmate mobile app to work and alway found myself using VNC to connect to the Pi.

 

My latest setup has been working perfectly for a while now and has by far been the fastest performance wise. I started with a fresh install of Raspbian Buster Lite, added the LXDE core desktop for when I need a GUI. Then installed the Indi Server with all drivers and Kstars. Also installed the Indi web manager. The biggest difference is on my Pi I only run the Indi server, no programs or graphical interface, everything is controlled from Kstars on my desktop inside my house. I could run PHD2 on the Pi itself if I wanted but its been working just fine running on my desktop remotely. The Pi runs the drivers for my Celestron mount, my QHY guide camera and my Canon DSLR. I also tested it with a friends ZWO 183MM and Mini Filter Wheel, all works perfect. 

 

If you're just starting for sure go with a Pi4 4gb model, it will be much faster and has the advantage of having USB 3.0 ports. 

 

Side note, you dont have to use the Kstars software to control your gear through the Indi server. It works well through Astro Photography Tool, which will also connect to your gear via the Indi server. 


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#14 Joshm1084

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Posted 28 February 2020 - 02:49 PM

At the moment I do not have a Raspberry. I am pretty good with computers, hardware/software, but do not have too much experience with raspberry unfortunately.

 

But let me get this right so I can get started with it (I really want to do this).

 

1. I will get a Raspbery Pi 3 or 4 (I don't know if it matters):

    - Does the available RAM matters? (1Gb, 2 Gb, 3 Gb)

    - Feel free to link one

2. Purchase and insert a micro SD card

3. Load ubuntu linux on it

4. Load Raspbian on it

5. Load INDI for camera, mount, guide, focuser, filter wheel support

 

Did I get this right? Furthermore, does RPi4 compatible with USB 3.0 hub (powered that is)?

Ubuntu and Raspbian are both OSs that you would load onto your SD card for use on the Raspberry Pi. Can pick one or the other.

 

Personally I feel Raspbian runs much faster. 



#15 moxican

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Posted 28 February 2020 - 03:04 PM

I did decide to go with the RPi 4. I have read all around and I have some understanding on what I need Indi server for, but what are the drivers everyone referring to and where would I get them.

I also came across Astroberry package. It claims it is a one-shot package. Would I still need Raspbian or Ubuntu to run Astroberry?



#16 Arjan

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Posted 28 February 2020 - 05:55 PM

If you install full, you get the drivers included

#17 avarakin

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Posted 06 March 2020 - 01:02 AM

I did decide to go with the RPi 4. I have read all around and I have some understanding on what I need Indi server for, but what are the drivers everyone referring to and where would I get them.

I also came across Astroberry package. It claims it is a one-shot package. Would I still need Raspbian or Ubuntu to run Astroberry?

I run 2GB version of RPi4 and love it. Keep in mind that they dropped prices on this version recently - it is just $35. 

I prefer Ubuntu based system.

I published my script which I used for building a Pi4. It is based on Ubuntu Server 19.10 image:

 

https://github.com/a...n/AstroPiMaker4

 

It has most of the things you need. 

 

I prefer to install everything myself  because I want to know what exactly my system has.

Also I am not super comfortable with downloading and running images, which are not supplied by major distribution like Ubuntu.

 

Alex


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#18 avarakin

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Posted 06 March 2020 - 01:08 AM

This is the problem. So need round-the-clock work. The consequence of this is a possible freezing of the device. Which sometimes can be solved by restarting, sometimes only by switching the power. In addition, the camera may freeze. Which is also necessary to switch the power. Perhaps other devices.

 

Another point. At -20° C, it is probably necessary to heat the mount. Controlled heaters. Otherwise, it will not work correctly.

 

And further. In the summer (day), the mini-comp will overheat. Need to remotely disable.

I ran RPi3 for couple of years and now I run RPi4 and so far no weather related issues.

I am based in NJ, so winters are -10C and summers 35C. RPi is mounted permanently outside in the observatory.

The only trouble I had was that $10 flash card went blank.

 

On the other hand, I had 2 PCs died within 2 years, so RPi is much more reliable for equipment outside.

 

Alex



#19 a__l

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Posted 06 March 2020 - 01:51 AM

On the other hand, I had 2 PCs died within 2 years, so RPi is much more reliable for equipment outside.

 

 

I do not think that they are fundamentally different. If military components are not used.
If it's cold, you need to warm. If heat needs to be cooled.



#20 Arjan

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Posted 06 March 2020 - 08:39 AM

I do not think that they are fundamentally different. If military components are not used.
If it's cold, you need to warm. If heat needs to be cooled.

I think they actually are fundamentally different: Pi has no moving components, and less components in general, so MTBF is likely an order of magnitude higher.



#21 avarakin

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Posted 06 March 2020 - 09:07 AM

I think they actually are fundamentally different: Pi has no moving components, and less components in general, so MTBF is likely an order of magnitude higher.

Agreed, RPi is so much simpler and smaller comparing to modern PC, all connections are soldered vs sockets in PC which makes it much more reliable.

 

According to raspberry.org: "The Raspberry Pi is built from commercial chips which are qualified to different temperature ranges; the LAN9512 is specified by the manufacturers being qualified from 0°C to 70°C, while the AP(processor) is qualified from -40°C to 85°C. You may well find that the board will work outside those temperatures, but we’re not qualifying the board itself to these extremes."

 

Some folks brought it to extreme by running it inside helium bath:

https://www.geek.com...trogen-1555235/

 

Apart from better long term reliability, I can also say that I saw huge improvement in terms for USB reliability once I migrated from Windows PC to RPi, running Linux. Best part is that I no longer need USB hub - Pi has 4 USB ports. It also has IO pins which allow to connect other peripherals like focuser, mount etc directly without USB. 



#22 Arjan

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Posted 06 March 2020 - 02:03 PM

Indeed, I connect the GPS and NEQ6 internally to uarts on the IO connector, so I have still 4 USBs for other things.
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#23 a__l

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Posted 06 March 2020 - 05:05 PM

I think they actually are fundamentally different: Pi has no moving components, and less components in general, so MTBF is likely an order of magnitude higher.

Fans? I am talking about an industrial mini PC (see #4).



#24 moxican

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Posted 06 March 2020 - 05:20 PM

I run 2GB version of RPi4 and love it. Keep in mind that they dropped prices on this version recently - it is just $35. 

I prefer Ubuntu based system.

I published my script which I used for building a Pi4. It is based on Ubuntu Server 19.10 image:

 

https://github.com/a...n/AstroPiMaker4

 

It has most of the things you need. 

 

I prefer to install everything myself  because I want to know what exactly my system has.

Also I am not super comfortable with downloading and running images, which are not supplied by major distribution like Ubuntu.

 

Alex

Great!!! So, the 2GB version is perfectly capable of handling everything for you then.



#25 moxican

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Posted 06 March 2020 - 05:22 PM

Agreed, RPi is so much simpler and smaller comparing to modern PC, all connections are soldered vs sockets in PC which makes it much more reliable.

 

According to raspberry.org: "The Raspberry Pi is built from commercial chips which are qualified to different temperature ranges; the LAN9512 is specified by the manufacturers being qualified from 0°C to 70°C, while the AP(processor) is qualified from -40°C to 85°C. You may well find that the board will work outside those temperatures, but we’re not qualifying the board itself to these extremes."

 

Some folks brought it to extreme by running it inside helium bath:

https://www.geek.com...trogen-1555235/

 

Apart from better long term reliability, I can also say that I saw huge improvement in terms for USB reliability once I migrated from Windows PC to RPi, running Linux. Best part is that I no longer need USB hub - Pi has 4 USB ports. It also has IO pins which allow to connect other peripherals like focuser, mount etc directly without USB. 

This is great, thanks for confirming this




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