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USB speed and computer vs Cameras and connectivity

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#1 unimatrix0

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 02:04 AM

Maybe this will help some people figuring out issues they may have, similar to mine. 
Issues, that repeat itself or happens periodically (and drives me insane) : 
- Camera won't turn on (lot's of disconnecting/connecting to get a screen) 
- Camera doesn't run right, runs with errors, cooling isn't running right or PC can't find the camera. 
- Imaging software like Sharpcap or APT etc. hangs or freezes or crashes. 
- Mouse stops working

- Keyboard stops working 
- One or more USB device disconnects unexpectedly
- The mount is "jumpy" while slewing with EQMOD or Stellarium, etc. 

-  The guiding is less than spectacular (pulses sent to the mount too small or too large, making it over or under correct) 
All of the above happened to me at every single time, whether it was one of those, or more of a combination of those issues. 

 

My once upon a time gaming desktop just can't handle it, and all those USB connections are an overkill. (mount+guidecam+cmos color cam+keyboard+mouse+usb wifi dongle)

It used to be a pre-built "gaming" rig in its day and was actually quite expensive back then. 
It's an i7-2600 CPU 3.40GHz with 12GB of whatever-sticks- I- found -cheap- memory.

Sounds powerful but that CPU is from 2011.  

Here is where I tracked down my issues. 

It's 6 USB connections and they are all  USB 2.0 and also the power supply of the PC is  280 or 300 Watts. 
 

USB speed matters a lot. Especially if the devices are large bandwidth data transfer, such as images or video. 
Quote wiki: 

(USB 2.0 transfer speed is 480 megabits per second (Mbps), while USB 3.0 transfer speed is 4,800 Mbps. This means USB 3.0 is approximately 10 times faster than USB 2.0.

More recently, USB 3.1 has also been released and has a data transfer rate of 10,000 Mbps.)
Note:  Both of my cameras are USB 3.0 and both require USB 3 connections for optimal functionality. 
I also have to mention, that dedicated astro cameras are drawing more current and sending more data than DSLRs, since the CMOS cameras are constantly looping video as soon as you plug them in, while DSLRs only transmitting when they are in "live view" or just after taking an image. 
  Also to be noted,  USB speed is worthless if the CPU/Video device can't handle the tasks and the Hard drive isn't fast enough with its read/write specs.

Also speed comes with a price that they require more voltage through the cable. 

 

Having the keyboard; mouse; 2 cameras; USB wifi dongle;  Telescope mount - all USB connected to USB 2.0 ports,  not to mention the desktops' power supply is 300W and the hard drive I'm saving my subs are an HDD, 

I think it's quite obvious what's wrong. 

 

My options are-  Buy or build a PC with USB 3.0 or 3.1 connections.  

Buy a powerful laptop with plenty of USB connections. Gaming laptops have them, while the generic mainstream ones are leaving behind the USB plugs, which really bothers me, because they are going for style over purpose and functionality-  copying Apple.   
I also have to reduce my USB clutter, although the wifi/ mouse/keyboard solve themselves if I'd buy powerful laptop, that's 3 USB down. 

A modern PC should be able to handle 3-4 devices plugged in, even if they high volume data transfer. 

I'm leaning towards the laptop, but since very powerful laptops are 2x 3x the price of a similar spec desktop, I feel like crying while browsing the web for a system. 

Anyway, I'm just writing down in case someone else have random issues and can't track down what's causing it. 

 


Edited by unimatrix0, 28 February 2021 - 02:21 AM.


#2 speedster

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 03:50 AM

It might not be too tough to get a handle on what's going on.  We can eliminate several things:  CPU speed is fine, HDD speed is fine, PC power is fine, and magnitude of guide pulses are a function of guiding software.  To me, the mouse/keyboard dropping out would be the first place to start.  Unplug everything else and just see what's up with that.  The hardware you have will easily handle the data volume. 



#3 CoHPhasor

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 04:47 AM

Take a look at QUALITY USB add-in cards.

Your USB bus is likely having catastrophic failures, which is understandable - save usb 2 for keyboard/mouse/mount and leave camera work to usb 3. USB is not magic, even though many people treat it that way. Bus speeds and number of devices concurrently connected are theoretical.
Also, if this is a gaming pc, it should have the ability to take on an SSD as an extra drive. (Your OS doesn't need to be fast, just where you read/write large  data to)
SSDs are very cheap now (Like $120 for a Samsung 1TB) and you can move files to a slower HDD after the session.

 

An example of a usb 3 PCI-E adapter

 

Adding a drive should be super easy, and adding a card generally is too.
(Make sure you have a PCI-E expansion slot free before making a decision)
 



#4 robbieg147

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 05:19 AM

For normal imaging not EAA I use a USB 2 hub and plug everything into this including my USB 3 camera. Never have a problem the sub is downloaded while the next one is being taken.

 

As regards programs hanging I find some anti virus programs can cause problems, for example auto focusing with APT I get crashes unless I turn off Malwarebytes.



#5 EdDixon

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 08:34 AM

Everything I use is SSD based and USB 3.0 based.  That combo speeds a lot of things up.  The laptop has a SSD drive for the OS.  I have a separate external SSD drive just for astro data.  I have an Anker USB hub to combine things at the scope into one line.  For colder weather I have a powered long USB cable to run the data inside.

 

One of my older desktops has an add-in USB card like the one referenced by an earlier poster.


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#6 MattZ40

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 11:21 AM

It sounds like adding a PCIE USB 3.0 adapter would be a worthwhile addition, as would an SSD. AP aside, it's nice to be able to move data more quickly, and the fast booting and response of an SSD is priceless.

Before going through all the trouble and expense of a new machine check the most simple things first. I've found USB physical connections to be less than reliable which could cause many of the issues you describe. Are the cabled USB connections tight in the sockets? Turn up the volume, see if the connections jiggle easily and listen for the connect / disconnect sound. If you hear it disconnect, that's a simple problem that the most expensive and advanced laptop won't fix. I had the issue with almost every moving USB connection. They work fine with stationary devices like an external drive, not so much with the moving connections on a camera or mount. For USB A (big square ones) I push down in the center of the male connector with my thumb nail, bending it into a very slight V shape. That will hold the electrical connections together more securely. Afterwards you may need to insert it at a slight angle to get it started, but once it's in it'll stay there. I haven't had to try it with a micro or mini USB, they seem more secure but the same idea could be used if necessary.

Not a clear pic but you get the idea:

20210228 104608


#7 unimatrix0

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 12:20 PM

Thanks for the advices,  I was just reading someone else on a different forum, that also to clear out all the usb device info left over in the PC. 
What I mean is, if I keep switching which USB port had what connected to it, it can get messy. 

I just use this to clear out inactive connections: 
http://www.nirsoft.n...vices_view.html
usbdeview.gif
See what happens later when I test again. 
Also, I bought a QHY 178c camera and the issue I'm having is, when I connect it, Windows makes 2 "ding" sounds, but one is the regular "connected ding" sound , the other is the "disconnected" ding sound immediately. 
It still works though. 
If I connect it to my laptop it makes  "2 ding- connected" sounds after each other and it's connected. 
I tried to figure out why there is a disconnection sound and what exactly is not connected with this camera when I connect it to my desktop. 
 



#8 EdDixon

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 01:07 PM

Shorter high end USB 3.0 cables tend to work better than longer older ones.



#9 jdupton

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 01:09 PM

unimatrix0,

 

 

I tried to figure out why there is a disconnection sound and what exactly is not connected with this camera when I connect it to my desktop.

 

   The double USB connection and reconnection sounds are normal for many devices. What you are hearing is that the device first connects as a generic USB device. It then downloads personalization firmware from the device driver and then reconnects as the intended fully functioning device. This behavior is a side effect of the USB interface chip being used inside the device. They are called double-enumeration interface devices. (Cypress Semiconductor makes interface chipsets called EZ-USB that are very popular.) It is not necessarily indicative of any problem with the USB in your system.

 

 

John


Edited by jdupton, 28 February 2021 - 01:12 PM.


#10 sn2006gy

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 03:20 PM

USB speeds don't really matter that much for astrophotography - they matter more for planetary and lucky imaging.  My gear is all remote and I had failure after failure after failure trying to use USB 3.x reliably.   Ever since switching to USB 2.0 everything has ran fine and the downloads being asynchronous from camera are not a problem and to be quite honest, even at APS-C the difference in download speed isn't humanly discernable for photos in 2 vs 3 - the files simply aren't large enough to have any meaningful download time difference.

 

Honestly, the whole USB 2 vs 3 vs 3.1 vs 3.2 vs whatever they come up kind of makes me sad... usb3 is 12+  years old and we're still having problems with reliability in it these days unless cables are very short and conditions are climate controlled (inside a house).

 

The other annoying thing with USB3 is that every USB3 camera i've used still requires USB 2 to boot up, so you can't even run it on a dedicated high speed/high voltage USB 3.1 circuit - has any camera come out that boots USB3 direclty?



#11 CoHPhasor

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 03:22 PM

To be clear, when I referenced SSD only needing to be used for writing your frames to, and using your current HDD for your system, I was offering THE CHEAP METHOD.

There js no question, using SSD for your OS is a much better system experience.

I just mean to say that if you dont want to spend a ton on a drive big enough for subs and your OS, your problem is still solved by a smaller SSD dedicated to subs.

Using an SSD for your OS provides faster boot tines and shortens launch time for larger programs, absolutely.

If you want to clone your current HDD to a new SSD you can use the free tool Macrium Reflect, it will clone your Windows drive whike its running.

#12 Phil Sherman

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 03:32 PM

You stated that the computer is a desktop. You shouldn't be using a USB wifi dongle but should be using a buss card to get wifi. I'd also take a look at the USB chain again and see how many USB root hubs you have. Make sure that each of your high speed devices, ie the imaging camera and guide camera are located on different root hubs to separate the traffic from them.

 

You should also be able to get a USB3 buss card to add USB3 capability to your computer.

 

Many of your devices place almost no load on the USB devices. A keyboard, mouse, and focuser have very little traffic to run them. EQMOD does have a continuous data stream to and from the mount but that traffic is measured in kilobytes/second, nowhere near even the USB2 data speed capabilities.



#13 unimatrix0

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 03:34 PM

To be clear, when I referenced SSD only needing to be used for writing your frames to, and using your current HDD for your system, I was offering THE CHEAP METHOD.

There js no question, using SSD for your OS is a much better system experience.

I just mean to say that if you dont want to spend a ton on a drive big enough for subs and your OS, your problem is still solved by a smaller SSD dedicated to subs.

Using an SSD for your OS provides faster boot tines and shortens launch time for larger programs, absolutely.

If you want to clone your current HDD to a new SSD you can use the free tool Macrium Reflect, it will clone your Windows drive whike its running.

I have a 120GB SSD installed for Windows 10. But the drive that has the directory for SharpCap and APT is on E:  which is a 1 TB HDD. 

Ok, so I did more testing. 
The QHY camera works ok with a short USB (2.0 or not) cable to the PC. 
If I insert a USB splitter /hub - again, the camera will not work. It needs a direct connection with a fat, thick USB cable directly to the PC to get any image. 
Once I connect it to a longer (20ft) with a repeater built into the USB.  My mouse stops working and I get no picture.  I tried all the USB plugs on the computer. 
I have another 20ft USB cable - Same. No image, temperature control on the cam doesn't work either. It works only with direct connection (5ft usb cable) to the PC. 
BTW, is the camera fan always running at Max speed? As soon as I plug in the power cord?  Is that normal? 
 


Edited by unimatrix0, 28 February 2021 - 03:42 PM.


#14 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 03:35 PM

Are there any USB 3.0 cables that are better than (should be used instead of) the ones supplied by ZWO?



#15 CoHPhasor

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 05:29 PM

I think an understanding of cables, protocols andother factora is in order.

Remember me mentioning "theoretical maximums"?
The protocols for transport are sonewhat resistant to data transmission problems, but problems in those transmissions greatly affect it, like retries, collisions, etc.

The difference betwern usb 2 and 3 is not "magical new metals" or something akin.
The difference comes in *the configuration* of the same wires.

If the spec is followed, and the wires inside the cable are the same quality, and the cable is the same length, the USB 3 cable will outperform the usb 2 cable once you push enough signals from enough sources.
The required shielding, and arrangement of the wires (crossing at proper angles, etc) make a difference, as well as how the wires interface to their connectors.

These discussions are had across the internet. "You dont need CAT7 to dp 10Gb/s, a good CAT6 will do it!" Yes, for 10ft.

Good cables with heavier gauges always perform well, and sometines punch above their weight. I think youre pushing the bus pretty hard and there is no reason to not go all in on usb 3.

ps, most often people are confusing gigaBITS for gigaBYTES - it takes 8 of one to mKe the other. ;-)

#16 unimatrix0

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Posted 28 February 2021 - 09:50 PM

Ok, all bets are in. 
It's the PC. 
I just borrowed my wife's mini pc ($120).  I have to give that back or if I brake it I have to buy a new one (I had to do a lot of negotiation) 
The little thing has 4 USB connectors - 2 USB 3.0 and 2 USB 2.0,  also only 120Gigs of space and can be only expanded via mini SD cards.  Kind of like a raspberry pi, but Intel and Windows 10. 

Just had to install the drivers and SharpCap, EQMOD etc. 
Slow as hell of a pc  for sure, but it worked. 
Connected everything -  mount +1 ZWO mini + QHY179c + keyboard/mouse (Logitech wireless)  also plugged in a USB wifi antenna, and connected a 1440p monitor via HDMI 2.0
,just to put a big load on it and see what happens. 

Bamm, everything connects and working!  
Stressed it even more: 
Tried it with a  50ft repeater cable and I split the repeater cable into 4 USBs and plugged in the mount+cameras. 

Works 100%.  Tried unplugging/re-plugging; switching plugs;  running both cameras at the same time with diffferent software, 

while slewing the mount via EQMOD and browsing the web. 
Still works 100%  

Can't keep this mini pc and I don't want to, but it was a good testing subject for troubleshooting. 
I'm gonna buy a new PC, doesn't have to be crazy fast, but obviously my old desktop has issues and can't deal with too many USB connections.

Still kinda stress testing with sensor analysis (which always failed on the old PC)  and now it's doing something insanely long exposure, but that's fine, I screenshotted this while also being remote-connected to the mini pc from my home-office desktop. 

 histogram.JPG

 

 



#17 CoHPhasor

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Posted 01 March 2021 - 03:16 AM

I appreciate that this test shows the problem is in your PC, but that's what I was trying to tell you.

Your computer's USB bus is inferior.
Notice that hers had usb 3 and usb 2 ports?
That means 2 buses, no sharing. ;-)

It's worth $20 and one evening to install a USB 3 card and find out.

If you are dead set on a new PC, so be it - but I'd rather use the money on astro accesories. a Core i7 should easily handle the job - after all, you just did it with a **** mini PC... ;-)


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