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Remote astrophotography cabling & control

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#1 jcschultz01

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 12:22 PM

Just curious what people use to communicate between the mount, telescope and a remote'ish computer?

 

My system has a USB3 B male (camera/guide/focus/filter/mount) to a USB3 A male (laptop) which works well.  

 

However, I like to sit in the garage, fewer bugs & warmer, when  setting up.

But the longest cable I have been able to find is a 25 foot Tripp-Lite super speed active repeater cable which has 1 embedded repeater.

 

I have tried a 100' USB 3 cable but there is a USB distribution box on the telescope so that only one cable to the laptop is needed.  The longer cables I have found have a couple repeaters in the USB cable  and I then exceed the 7 layer limitation of USB3. And things don't work.

https://acroname.com...vices-my-system

 

Wondering what others do? 

 

Fiberoptic can maintain the speed but connecting everything seems problematic, in part because I can only find USB2 to fiber.

 

thx



#2 AAbby

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 12:40 PM

I use a travel router (https://www.amazon.c...0?ie=UTF8&psc=1) set in extender mode when I'm at home, and in AP mode when I'm at a remote location.  No lengthy cable necessary for me and gives me great flexibility as to where I want to park.  At the remote location, that is often 30-40yds away in the front seat of my Jeep.

 

I'm using an ASIAir Pro as my astro computer so I just connect with the app.  But if I were using a mini PC I'd be using VNC Viewer or one of the many other remote desktop sharing applications.


Edited by AAbby, 26 September 2020 - 12:41 PM.

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#3 F-Astro

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 02:00 PM

Without going into too much detail (unless needed, then happy to provide more), this is what I do. My scope is on my driveway and I control/view on my 65 inch TV inside. I have a NUC PC in a box sitting at the scope. I run a CAT 5 (i.e. ethernet, my house has CAT 5 wiring but CAT 6 works too) cable and an extension cord to power the system from my house. The magic piece is a KB extender box (actually two boxes); a transmitter and a receiver.

The transmitter KB box sits in my imaging box with the PC and a multi outlet power strip used for power. HDMI from the PC goes to the KB box, along with a USB cable (PC to KB) for keyboard/mouse control. A CAT 5 cable comes out of the box, connected to a CAT connector dongle (to be connected to the house KB box).

The receiver KB box is next to my TV, it has a HDMI out, connected to my TV. It has a CAT 5 in, which will connect to the CAT 5 out from the transmitter KB box at the scope. I also have a wireless keyboard/mouse at the TV. It has a USB transceiver that also plugs into the receiver KB box in the house.

So what I do when I want to image is set up the scope, bring my electronics box out. I have an extension cord and a long CAT 5 cable wrapped tied together used to tie the KB transmitter box to the house KB receiver. I connect the power cord to the box surge protector/outlets, and hook up the CAT 5 cable end to the CAT 5 dongle in the box. In my setup I put a CAT connection in my garage and tied it to my home network, but for simplicity lets say you just direct connect the CAT cable to the receiver KB box.

So when I turn on my PC in the box, the KB transmitter sends the video signal (HDMI out) and receives the keyboard and mouse commands from inside through the CAT 5 cable. Works fantastic. Only one computer needed. No WiFi to mess with.

If memory serves me the KB box (set) cost me $280 and the CAT run can be up to 300 feet. If need more info, please let me know.

Fran



#4 Lead_Weight

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 02:06 PM

I have a raspberry pi at the telescope with Ethernet. I run Ethernet to a wall outlet on the outside of my house where I put a Powerline adapter. Then inside another Powerline adapter at my router. This basically gets the wired Ethernet connection to the inside of my home without the need to run wires everywhere. Then I control the scope from my office or a laptop in my home.

#5 Iamhondo

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 02:35 PM

I've been doing localized remote control for over 15 years.

 

Currently, I rely on a PC at the mount location -- a mini PC from Minix or Kingdel -- and a network router (either ethernet at home or battery powered wifi at remote). It's very important to have the PC as close to the mount and camera as possible.

I use RealVNC on the mount-side PC (no display, no mouse, no keyboard). You can use RealVNC version 5 without internet access (I never have it) or if you have internet access, you can opt for the newer versions of Real VNC. For accessing/controlling the mini PC, I use an Apple iPad with the VNC Viewer app. The app provides all the control I need for the PC. I could use a laptop but the iPad (sometimes iPhone) lets met have (almost) full control of the PC.

In the olden days, I used a network based on ethernet-over-powerline adapters when I had access to AC power. That let me connect the mount-side PC and a remote laptop at ethernet speeds. But the wifi operation gives me enough speed for the normally plodding pace of long exposure photography.

 

I have a small observatory. But for too cold winter or too hot summer nights, I'll sit in my car just outside the observatory and enjoy a climate-moderated environment while I control the rig inside.

 

For some star tracker work, I'll use a rig in my yard and control it using my household wifi. I do some other shenanigans like usb wi-fi adapters on very long active USB cables to let me extend the range of my portable wifi router.

 

There is some new features of ASCOM -- network spanning, platform freedoms -- that can help with extreme remoteness. That's developing but operational. It works best with fast internet access. So I'm disqualified.

If you want good remote control, you need to presume there's a solution, think outside the box, and be an aggressive shopper. (Not every hopeful-looking technology pays off.)

 

HTH,

Joe



#6 Joshuasnoesky

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 03:29 PM

I have a old pc in my obsy, about 20 feet away from the house, running Ubuntu and Ekos/kstars as my equipment controlling software.

The pc is connected with a ethernet cable to the router.

 

Thru my laptop within my home i can startup my obsy pc and the only mnual things i have to do is to roll off my roof and to power up the mount etc.

Then i can take over control from my obsy pc with AnyDesk.

 

This way i can startup imaging etc. Using a sequence within Ekos/kstars i can take a nap during imaging throughout the night.

 

In the morning i close the roof and put the cap on the telescope, download the images to my laptop and start processing these.



#7 astrohamp

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 05:54 PM

Mount and NUC connected via ethernet to a USB powered wireless travel router.  This broadcasts wireless LAN (no internet) via a two hop 'mesh'/bridging wireless link to the indoor Widows Remote Desktop control/EAA view station.   NUC PC at scope powered by solar charged battery box.  USB3 connection from mount 'hub' to NUC for imaging camera using it's USB2 hub for OAG guider camera and EAF focuser.

I'm researching a point-to-point dedicated wireless link  to eliminate the mesh node hop mid ground.

For close proximity operating all on battery I use a 25' long powered HDMI monitor cable and BlueTooth keyboard into my dark shed and the single scope mounted NUC PC.



#8 Alex McConahay

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 05:57 PM

Most common way I think nowadays is to have a computer at the mount/scope/camera outside doing all the work. 

 

It is connected to the home network either through Cat 5/6 or through wireless. 

 

A home computer (desktop or whatever) dials in on a remote desktop and monitors/adjusts/controls whatever is happening on the computer outside. 

 

There are a thousand variations of this. The keys are a cheapo computer on the outdoor rig, whatever floats your boat in the way of connecting it to the house (whatever meets your distance, etc....requirements), and a decent remote program (there are a thousand of them). 

 

Trying to extend USB's and all that just gets way too complicated and has lots of weird problems. 

 

And, you can monitor that outdoor computer with your phone or whatever when you go out to the movies and let the imaging rig run itself at home. (Remember going out to the movies?)

 

Alex


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#9 jcschultz01

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 10:29 PM

Thanks for the ideas and the details.  I thought someone MUST have figured out some options but couldn't find the topic on the forum. 

 

I am kind of liking the "tiny PC at the mount" concept but have to dig into the details. The resulting capability for very remote would be good as some of the posts pointed out. 

 

I also still like my original concept of USB over single mode fiber optic but don't think the technology/price point is there for me yet. 

 

My time frame is the Oct new moon (or maybe the Nov one) so we'll see.

 

My fallback is to have the mount close to the trailer or a long power cord.  

 

Like to hear more ideas too!!

 

THANKS!



#10 dghent

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Posted 26 September 2020 - 11:15 PM

Here's a good write-up on the topic: https://darkskies.sp...remote-imaging/


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#11 mewmartigan

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 10:40 AM

I have a computer out at the mount actually running everything. I then use Chrome Remote Desktop (free) to watch and control the outside computer as needed.


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#12 vakulenko_sergiy

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 10:51 AM

+1 for schema with cheap mini-pc on/near the mount.

 

Actually I running 2 remote rigs remotely (500km) for last 5 years using this this concept.


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#13 smolony

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 07:03 PM

I just put a laptop out by the scope in a box and then hit that computer with either Teamviewer or Chrome Remote Desktop on another computer in my house.  I'm not sure if you have two computers and a wireless network but if you do it works great.  I even connected to it on my smart tv through the internet app.

 

Just a thought.

 

Sean



#14 APshooter

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 07:31 PM

I use cat 6 or 5ghz wifi too my laptop via VNC.

#15 kathyastro

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 07:45 PM

My mount has an RS232 connector.  Since my computer has a real RS232 port, I use a serial cable.  RS232 has a distance limit of 50 feet officially, but where I used to work, we routinely ran it a couple of hundred feet with no problem. 

 

For mounts that have an RS232 port, if the computer has only USB, put the USB-RS232 adapter at the computer end of the connection.  That way most of the cable length is a standard that can handle a longer distance.



#16 Iamhondo

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Posted 29 September 2020 - 01:06 PM

"...a good write-up..."

Yes, very good and comprehensive. I agree with virtually everything with two exceptions:

 

1) The write up says more than 64gb not necessary for the storage on the mini-pc. But if you're doing planetary/lunar images, you'll eat a lot of space with video files. That can be compounded if you're doing lunar mosaics. That can reduce your free space. Reduced free space can cause a lot of trouble with Windows Update. So 64gb minimum -- yes, if you're only doing long exposures. 128gb if you're doing lunar/planetary. And even if you are only doing long exposure, you'll feel cramped with a 64gb storage limit.

 

2) I use the HooToo TM-05 router for wifi. It seems designed for outdoor use. Battery lasts a long time.

 

Joe



#17 jcschultz01

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Posted 29 September 2020 - 09:35 PM

Busy for a couple days but getting back to this topic.

 

Thanks for the responses.

Teh https://darkskies.sp...remote-imaging/ is a great link.  

This is a lot to absorb and obtain so it looks like Nov at the earliest for whatever I pick. 



#18 Bill G.

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Posted 29 September 2020 - 10:35 PM

Long runs and USB3 don't play well together. Have not used USB3 with active extenders but would still be hesitant to use just because so limited with straight cable. I've used 50ft usb2 with active extender bu was not doing anything that taxed the setup.

 

As far as the PC at scope....

A question or 2 about your setup.... is it permanent or do you have to setup each time?

I ask because I have to setup (roll the whole setup out of the garage, plug in network and power). I had a mini-pc setup and used TightVNC to remote from my laptop. Initially I was using wifi but performance was sporadic so I put a network drop in my garage and then ran a cat5 to the mini-pc. That worked but I still found myself taking the laptop out to the scope with me to do the alignments, selecting guide star etc because I needed to see the screen. Trying to use the on-screen controller for alignment just didn't work well.. But the laptop was still on wifi (sporadic) so had put in a hub at the scope to plug into when I went out there . 

Finally came to the resolution that this just wasn't working well.

 

So, I'd already bought a new higher powered laptop for image processing so decided to take out the mini-pc and just use my old laptop at the scope. Now, I use the old laptop at the scope (on cat5) to get setup and acquire images. Once setup, I close the lid, and go back inside and use my new laptop with TightVNC remote to run everything.

 

For me, the mini-pc via remote just was a pain. Once all is set up, it was fine...but getting there each time was a pain. If a more permanent setup, it would probably be fine. So now I use the old laptop at the scope for setup, focus, and selecting guidestar. I start guiding and acquisition then go remote from there.

 

Bill G.



#19 Alex McConahay

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Posted 30 September 2020 - 12:11 AM

>>>>>Once all is set up, it was fine...but getting there each time was a pain.

 

A lot of people have their rig on a dolley, and the whole thing, tripod and all roll out. 

 

You can add a shelf between the legs, and stick your computer on it, and let it roll in and out also. Fully connected full time. Just insert the power plug and the Cat 5 connector. 

 

And as for not enough power in the mini. I just have not had that problem. Of course, my mini is a lot newer and more powerful than my old laptops I use to run the observatories. 

 

Alex\



#20 jcschultz01

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Posted 30 September 2020 - 07:19 PM

I have a raspberry pi at the telescope with Ethernet. I run Ethernet to a wall outlet on the outside of my house where I put a Powerline adapter. Then inside another Powerline adapter at my router. This basically gets the wired Ethernet connection to the inside of my home without the need to run wires everywhere. Then I control the scope from my office or a laptop in my home.

Hi

I like the size and power requirements of the Raspberry Pi 4.  I don't mind running an Ethernet cable but I know nothing about a Raspberry Pi.  Can you recommend a reference on how to get going with one?  I didn't find any articles on CloudyNights but will look on the web.  Thanks. 



#21 pgoelz

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Posted 30 September 2020 - 07:46 PM

I'll provide a slightly different (and cheaper) approach.  

 

I use a cheap 4 port USB to CAT5 hub at the scope and a run of CAT5 back to the house to an outlet in the garage that is passed through the wall to my PC.  The hub is only USB2 but I find that it is more than adequate for simultaneous scope, imaging camera and guiding camera control including image 16MP downloads.  If I run the guiding and imaging cameras at fast frame rates (like >1 second), there are occasional dropped frames but no bad behavior.  In normal use guiding at 1 frame/second and downloading images every 30-240 seconds, it never misses a beat.  To the PC in the house, everything looks and operates like it is connected via direct USB.  

 

When I set up, I put the scope in the driveway, unroll a power and CAT5 cable, plug them in and turn the scope on.  Back in the house I start NINA, ASCOM hub and Stellarium and connect just like everything was plugged into the PC.  Works great.  For polar alignment I use the drift routine in PHD2 which requires a PC display at the scope.  For that I just bring out my laptop and remote desktop back to the PC in the house over WiFi until I am aligned.  

 

I considered a mini PC at the scope but it didn't look like anything affordable had the grunt to run the imaging camera and Stellarium at the same time.  And frankly, the USB to CAT5 solution is simpler and less expensive.  I like using Stellarium but I am finding that it might not be absolutely necessary if I rely on the framing assistant in NINA.  But I like the visual confirmation of where the scope is pointing.  

 

Paul



#22 jcschultz01

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Posted 30 September 2020 - 09:20 PM

Long runs and USB3 don't play well together. Have not used USB3 with active extenders but would still be hesitant to use just because so limited with straight cable. I've used 50ft usb2 with active extender bu was not doing anything that taxed the setup.

 

As far as the PC at scope....

A question or 2 about your setup.... is it permanent or do you have to setup each time?

I ask because I have to setup (roll the whole setup out of the garage, plug in network and power). I had a mini-pc setup and used TightVNC to remote from my laptop. Initially I was using wifi but performance was sporadic so I put a network drop in my garage and then ran a cat5 to the mini-pc. That worked but I still found myself taking the laptop out to the scope with me to do the alignments, selecting guide star etc because I needed to see the screen. Trying to use the on-screen controller for alignment just didn't work well.. But the laptop was still on wifi (sporadic) so had put in a hub at the scope to plug into when I went out there . 

Finally came to the resolution that this just wasn't working well.

 

So, I'd already bought a new higher powered laptop for image processing so decided to take out the mini-pc and just use my old laptop at the scope. Now, I use the old laptop at the scope (on cat5) to get setup and acquire images. Once setup, I close the lid, and go back inside and use my new laptop with TightVNC remote to run everything.

 

For me, the mini-pc via remote just was a pain. Once all is set up, it was fine...but getting there each time was a pain. If a more permanent setup, it would probably be fine. So now I use the old laptop at the scope for setup, focus, and selecting guidestar. I start guiding and acquisition then go remote from there.

 

Bill G.

I don't have a permanent mount.  I roll the tripod out of the garage at night for imaging.  Covered during the day and I leave it outside if not too severe weather and/or it will be clear in a couple days but not permanent and not observatory. 

HOWEVER I want to take the setup to darker sites and access the telescope from our 5th wheel trailer. Hadn't thought about an old laptop and tightVNC.  Would this run SGP/PHD2/Stellarium do you think?  



#23 PeteM

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Posted 30 September 2020 - 09:27 PM

Another vote for putting a computer out by the imaging rig and connecting via RDP/Teamviewer/VNC/Google Remote Desktop. I have used this method over the last 10yrs with or without an observatory. For my mobile setup I have my desktop/laptop in a tote that carry out to the rig each night. Makes it easy to haul back and forth. Even cut holes where the power/usb/ethernet/RS232 ports are so there are no bent cables that fail after a while.


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#24 GazingOli

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Posted 02 October 2020 - 03:23 AM

can I use an ASIAIR pro instead of a mini computer and connect via VPN or Chrome Remote Desktop instead of using the ZWO ASIAIR app?

 

CS.Oli



#25 Bill G.

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Posted 04 October 2020 - 08:14 PM

>>>>>Once all is set up, it was fine...but getting there each time was a pain.

 

A lot of people have their rig on a dolley, and the whole thing, tripod and all roll out. 

 

You can add a shelf between the legs, and stick your computer on it, and let it roll in and out also. Fully connected full time. Just insert the power plug and the Cat 5 connector. 

 

And as for not enough power in the mini. I just have not had that problem. Of course, my mini is a lot newer and more powerful than my old laptops I use to run the observatories. 

 

Alex\

Alex,

   I do have mine on dollys, with shelf and the works. I just run a power cord and cat5 to it. It was getting everything aligned that was a pain. I had to use another laptop to remote in to perform the alignment and had to take it out to the tripod anyway so I had a screen to look at while doing it. I set up in my driveway so it gets rolled back inside every night.

 

I don't have a permanent mount.  I roll the tripod out of the garage at night for imaging.  Covered during the day and I leave it outside if not too severe weather and/or it will be clear in a couple days but not permanent and not observatory. 

HOWEVER I want to take the setup to darker sites and access the telescope from our 5th wheel trailer. Hadn't thought about an old laptop and tightVNC.  Would this run SGP/PHD2/Stellarium do you think?  

I used the laptop over the mini PC just to be able to do the alignment. A mini PC ran everything just fine but not having a screen out there (and wifi that reached reliably) was annoying. The older laptop is about 6 years old, i5, 8M ram and runs everything at the scope with no problem. Just wasn't great to do a lot of processing of image files.

 

If you are getting a few nights use before pulling it back in, the mini pc would be fine. I'm not saying it is not a workable option either way, I just found it to be a pain having to have another pc out there anyway in order to do the setup, focus, etc. then take that laptop back in to do the remote. I found it easier to just leave the one laptop outside (and I had a spare), do the setup and close the lid, set it in the tray when done, then head back inside. The cat5 run ensured quick response with the VNC. With the wifi, it was sporadic. Was gonna add a repeater but decided the cat5 run was not a big deal. Gotta run power out anyway. 

Bill G.

 

 


Edited by Bill G., 04 October 2020 - 08:15 PM.



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