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#1 ZepHead

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 08:24 AM

Hi all,

 

I'm trying to get a sense of what I should be looking for to make my EAA rig a fully remote setup.

 

My current setup is a Celestron Evolution 8" SCT on the Evo altaz mount.  I'm using an ASI533MC Pro which is connected to the mount using a short USB2 cable from the built in hub on the camera.  The USB3 port is then connected to my laptop via a 15' cable, allowing me to control everything from inside my house (cable is running through sliding patio door).  Since I'm tethered to the mount by the 15' length of USB3 cable, it limits my ability to target some sections of the sky (the house is in the way).

 

I'd like to setup a Windows 10 miniPC at the scope.  The miniPC will need to run CPWI, Stellarium, and SharpCap at a minimum, with ASCOM drivers and everything else needed to make it all come together.

 

If you have something like this in your current setup or if you have a solid recommendation, I'd be very much obliged to hear your thoughts.  I'm sure CPU and memory are my primary requirements.

 

I started looking at the Beelink line of miniPCs, they seem to make some nice units.

 

Any assistance would be most appreciated.

 

Thanks!


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#2 alphatripleplus

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 08:37 AM

Just curious if you considered adding a second laptop (as opposed to the mini pc) at the scope. 



#3 Toups

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 08:42 AM

Hopefully this ins't a hijack, interested in the above plus with a solution that accepts a computer PCI or PCMCIA card since I would like to support a Firewire 800 camera interface.



#4 james7ca

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 09:09 AM

This question seems to get asked at least once every two weeks here on CN. You can find many, many references here on CN using the following Google search term (just copy the following text into your browser's search/address bar):

mini PC site:cloudynights.com
You can skip the ads that are shown at the bottom of the first page.

 

In any case, below is a lengthy thread that covers lots of different mini PCs, it's been updated fairly frequently for the past two years and you can go for the "deep dive" or just look for specific recommendations. Not much has changed in the last two years in terms of mini PC offerings, the latest and greatest are still using the low-power Intel Gemini Lake processors (better than earlier Atom-based PCs and less expensive than the Intel Core i3/i5/i7 models).  A quad-core Gemini Lake model would give you all the performance that you probably would need.

 

  https://www.cloudyni...s/#entry8665020



#5 PirateMike

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 09:12 AM

I have been using a Beelink and it works well for me. I did upgrade the memory to 16gbs and that really helped a lot. It runs smooth and I have had no issues with the computer itself.

 

I am running Ascom, EqMod, CdC, PHD2, Platesolve2, Focus Boss, PowerBox and Voyager.

 

Miguel   8-)

 

.

 

I had to edit the information on the amount of memory that the computer now has. My mistake. tongue2.gif


Edited by PirateMike, 05 March 2021 - 09:44 AM.


#6 SanjeevJoshi

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 09:26 AM

The specs and guidance on other threads will get u going.  I will just focus on one metric - number of CPU (physical) cores.  Assuming a new to recent vintage chip, make sure you get at least 4 physical cores (8 virtual).   Manufacturers hide this info in the offers so they can sell low end stuff.    Look up the exact model you are buying and check info on benchmark sites.  I found 4 physical to be minimum needed when using flats and darks with a midsized and bigger camera.   Even scope control started choking with darks and flats.   I started with Beelink U57 and in 3 months I needed to change out (not upgrade).   My current one - Ryzen 7 - 4800 with 8 physical cores should last me until it breaks physically.



#7 Noah4x4

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 11:11 AM

You don't state what you actually want to do.But...

 

1.   Long exposure astrophotography requires minimal computing power.

2.   Capturing and saving short subs for later post processing requires a little more computing power.

3.   Capturing and saving short subs whilst live stacking requires far more computing power.

4.   Running an 'end to end' 4K UHD remote controlled (wireless) EAA set up like mine requires a great amount of computing power.

5.   The higher your camera resolution and the larger your senser the more data it generates, so the further up this scale you need to be.

 

I listened to the traditional astrophotographers in Cloudy Nights  that were pursuing long exposures on large pixel small sensor, low resolution CCD and got my fingers and wallet burnt because I totally underestimated the computing power required for my Atik Horizon and ASI294mc CMOS. I am on my third computer upgrade. You need at least an 8th Generation i7 processor and 16Gb RAM for (4). However, if you stay with a 1080p resolution display you can survive with less, but why buy a 4K UHD camera then limit its display output?

 

Be careful of another thing. Computer processors run in generations. An early generation i7 is slow. Sanjeev offers some good advice, but using CPU Benchmark tools will reveal what to expect from any processor.

 

Lastly, beware as 15' is about the limit for USB2 cable (less for USB3). Many of us now have a mini-computer at the scope and control it from a second computer indoors using remote desktop (over wireless or Cat6 cable). Once again, people will tell you that they suffer no problems with USB. But they are probably not live stacking 2 second subs from a 3008 x 3008 resolution camera.



#8 ZepHead

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 02:15 PM

Thanks for the replies and guidance.

 

I haven't had any issue live stacking short exposures in SharpCap over the 15' USB3, with flats and darks applied.

 

My goal is to continue to be able to do that by remote controlling the miniPC at the mount using my much better workstation with dual monitors.  I don't see myself going with option (4) in Noah's list right away, more option (3) for now.  Perhaps 4K displays might be in my future though, so I don't mind spending extra now so that I don't get my fingers and wallet burned too.

 

I will focus my research on 8th Gen i7s with 16 GB of RAM.

 

Noah can you provide detail (or maybe a link) about your specific miniPC?

 

Thanks again for everyone's help!

 

Frank



#9 Lastinline

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 02:35 PM

I recently built up a mini PC for EAA that I am very happy with. Like @Noah4x4, I am controlling this via remote desktop @ 4K. During EAA I run CDC for mount navigation via ASMOD, and SharpCap Pro for live stacking, as well as a number of browser tabs.

 

My machine is an Intel NUC with Core i5-8259U, which is a quad-core notebook chip. This is an 8th-gen chip, not the latest 10th generation (which have model numbers like i5-10210U), but is plenty fast for my needs, and for most EAA astronomers (I think).

 

If you are looking at processor specs alone while shopping, I will add that a holistic benchmark comparison may be useful to get a relative measure vs. other offerings. Here is a useful site for that.

 

I added 16GBs of RAM and a 500GB SSD, for a total of around $550, not including a copy of Windows 10.

 

This is the actual product link at Newegg, but looks to be sold out at the moment.

 

Good luck!

Ji-Soo


Edited by Lastinline, 05 March 2021 - 02:40 PM.


#10 james7ca

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 02:39 PM

Frank, instead of taking a few recommendation that were posted in your thread why not reference the VAST body of knowledge and recommendation that already exist on CN? Just use the search term I provided in response #4 (above).

 

In any case, given your planned work flow (remote access using your workstation with dual monitors) I don't think you'll need anything like a Intel Core i7 for the mini PC. In fact, I use an inexpensive Gemini Lake mini PC with a quad-core J4105 processor that sits outside with my scope while I control everything (including processing) from indoors using a Dell Core i7 desktop. I do have a pretty fast WiFi link to the outside and that allows me to transfer files at over 60MB/s (that's megabyte, not megabits). Plus, my imaging camera is a 16MP ASI183MM Pro and the mini PC has no problems handling that 4K resolution camera (since only the capture and mount control is done by the mini PC, the heavy lifting/processing is done on the desktop PC).

 

One important point, however, you definitely want to get a mini PC that comes with Windows 10 PRO, don't get a Windows Home PC (you'll need PRO to support Microsoft's Remote Desktop utility, although there are third party VNC apps that will even work on Windows Home). All of the details on this aspect of the setup can be found in the links you will get with the Google search.

 

All that said, however, you can never have too much computer power, or memory, or disk space so if you don't mind paying over $300 for your new mini PC (with Windows Pro) then you can spend and spend and spend on whatever you like. Plus, if you want SharpCap on the mini PC to do all of the processing then you will likely want to get a more powerful unit (for scope side).


Edited by james7ca, 05 March 2021 - 02:51 PM.


#11 Broglock

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 02:46 PM

I use a NUCi7 and with out checkingis a gen 7 or 8 w/16 gig of RAM, which runs circles around my gen1 Xmodel w/24 gig of RAM. Both will run the mount since I control the NUC with gen 1 and actually had a gen 1 Xmodel box at the mount before the NUC. Earlier processors do not have the AVX instruction set which is necessary if you want to run Sharpcap in 64bit mode. I'm still setting up a monitor at rig, working on headless operation (probably need to upgrade main desktop). Everything in steps waytogo.gif ! Slow and steady it's expensive enough without making mistakes shocked.gif  !

 

Noah is definetly one of many I would recommend paying some attention to as he was one who helped to steer me in a proper direction, if there is such a thing in this never ending rabbit hole! 

 

Good Luck nothing like staying warm while being able to look at the sky cool.gif .


Edited by Broglock, 05 March 2021 - 02:51 PM.


#12 Noah4x4

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 12:29 PM

Frank, I put my computer specification in my Cloudy Nights signature (below).

Most members post their telescope and camera details but few publish their computer specifications. I think we should encourage more focus on computers now that the paradigm is dominated by large sensor high resolution CMOS. In barely five years, SharpCap has become dominant and the live stacking of short exposures along with other immediate processing tasks have increased demands on CPU and RAM.
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#13 EdDixon

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Posted 08 March 2021 - 04:07 PM

I’m going to give the Intel NUC a try as well.  I ordered an Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit NUC8i3BEHS Mini Business & Home PC Desktop (Dual-Core i3-8140U, 16GB DDR4 RAM, 512GB SSD) today.  I have a couple of different scopes and mounts.  I want to get away from having a laptop setup beside the scope and work mostly from inside (both home and car).

 

I have been working with the RP4 and Stellarmate for some time, but wasn't really happy with how it worked.  The response time (even for hard wired network) seemed slow and on and off some.  The photo exposure area was limited compared to most anything else.

 

I already have an assortment of accessories for powered USB hubs, cameras, power options and network cabling, etc.  Lately I have been testing with polar scopes and a right angle viewfinder for both an iOptron SkyGuider Pro and a Celestron AVX mount.  I am able to get star trail free 3 minute exposures with a 300mm lens currently with just the polar scope alignment.



#14 SanjeevJoshi

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Posted 11 March 2021 - 09:16 AM

I’m going to give the Intel NUC a try as well.  I ordered an Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit NUC8i3BEHS Mini Business & Home PC Desktop (Dual-Core i3-8140U, 16GB DDR4 RAM, 512GB SSD) today.  I have a couple of different scopes and mounts.  I want to get away from having a laptop setup beside the scope and work mostly from inside (both home and car).

 

I have been working with the RP4 and Stellarmate for some time, but wasn't really happy with how it worked.  The response time (even for hard wired network) seemed slow and on and off some.  The photo exposure area was limited compared to most anything else.

 

I already have an assortment of accessories for powered USB hubs, cameras, power options and network cabling, etc.  Lately I have been testing with polar scopes and a right angle viewfinder for both an iOptron SkyGuider Pro and a Celestron AVX mount.  I am able to get star trail free 3 minute exposures with a 300mm lens currently with just the polar scope alignment.

Dual core?  May choke if you use darks and flats with a bigger camera.   What happened with me, as noted earlier in this thread.   If you keep the processing and computing light on the scope side, you may be ok.



#15 EdDixon

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Posted 11 March 2021 - 12:29 PM

Dual core?  May choke if you use darks and flats with a bigger camera.   What happened with me, as noted earlier in this thread.   If you keep the processing and computing light on the scope side, you may be ok.

This is a Dual-Core i3-8140U model with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD.  So far it has done well with initial testing.  Seems about like my current Dell desktop or gaming laptop.  Will know more after testing with a mount, guiding, and long exposures.

 

First real problem was getting remote desktop to work at all.  The issue is password related and ties back to the weird way Microsoft handles accounts.  VNC is still DOA for any action, which is likely a network or password issue of some sort.



#16 alphatripleplus

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Posted 11 March 2021 - 01:22 PM

Moving from EAA to Astronomy Software & Computers for a potentially better fit.



#17 astrohamp

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Posted 11 March 2021 - 03:12 PM

I would like to add CPU benchmark as another way, along with Lastinline's suggested link, to gauge a mini PC's ability to do the tasks at hand.

My Intel Pentium Silver J5005 processor NUC continues to work for me.  I do see a newer similar processor group that includes the N6005 (N for laptop, J for desktop I believe), that has better specs for a 10w TDP.  The rising Ryzen force is also one to consider for low power small format PCs.


 



#18 DanH.264

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Posted 11 March 2021 - 03:44 PM

More processing, memory, and storage is great, but I find that surprisingly little is needed to run tools like CPWI, SharpCap Pro, ASTAP, and Cartes du Ciel. I run my ultralight/ultracheap 2nd remote rig off a Win 10, quad atom X5-Z8350 with 4GB RAM and 32GB SSD. As long as I do not need faster than 1FPS with an ASI385MC, it does not run out of memory or CPU.

#19 jerr

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Posted 12 March 2021 - 03:17 PM

If Beelink then T34 8/256Gb should make to your list.
Just acquired one and am very pleased with slickness, build quality and performance.
This will never be a gaming computer, but for AP is more than I expected.
Wifi and Bluetooth capability on the board are nice add-ons. But WiFi antenna is of low power so external one is needed if you’re not close to your network. Some that live in dusty area were also concerned about fan cooling. Otherwise two thumbs up!


Edited by jerr, 12 March 2021 - 03:29 PM.


#20 EdDixon

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Posted 12 March 2021 - 04:34 PM

For a comparison, I ran some Passmark data.

 

Dell Desktop PC
    Intel® Core™ i7-10700 CPU @ 2.90GHz   2.90 GHz
    12.0 GB
    500 GB SSD
    Passmark 4538

 

Intel NUC
    Intel® Core™ i3-8140U CPU @ 2.10GHz   2.30 GHz
    16 GB
    500 GB SSD
    Passmark 3810



#21 rgsalinger

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Posted 12 March 2021 - 07:50 PM

If your laptop is working fine for what you want to do, then the solution is to use a second small computer inside the house and not bother about spending a lot of money for a replacement for the laptop.

 

Pretty much any Win10 Pro computer can connect to the laptop via windoes remote desktop using your home wifi or router. So, if there's already another computer in the house just use the network. If there's no other computer you can use, then really any old computer that runs Win10Pro will do. I buy older refurbished boxes for around 200 dollars. 

 

Now if the laptop is NOT doing what you want, that's another matter. I'm also envious (just a bit) of being able to look at a 4K screen in real time. Sounds like fun, but if you are happy with regular HD, Windows Remote Desktop on the LAN should be just fine. 

 

Rgrds-Ross


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#22 Lastinline

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Posted 12 March 2021 - 11:46 PM

For a comparison, I ran some Passmark data.

 

Dell Desktop PC
    Intel® Core™ i7-10700 CPU @ 2.90GHz   2.90 GHz
    12.0 GB
    500 GB SSD
    Passmark 4538

 

Intel NUC
    Intel® Core™ i3-8140U CPU @ 2.10GHz   2.30 GHz
    16 GB
    500 GB SSD
    Passmark 3810

The NUC benchmark seems reasonable, but the Dell result seems very low for that desktop chip. Did you run the benchmark yourself? There might be something going on with that machine.



#23 EdDixon

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Posted 13 March 2021 - 03:00 AM

The NUC benchmark seems reasonable, but the Dell result seems very low for that desktop chip. Did you run the benchmark yourself? There might be something going on with that machine.

Yes, ran them about the same time.  Its an Inspiration 3900 I think from about 3 months ago.



#24 EdDixon

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Posted 13 March 2021 - 03:27 AM

The NUC benchmark seems reasonable, but the Dell result seems very low for that desktop chip. Did you run the benchmark yourself? There might be something going on with that machine.

System shows as a Inspiron 3880.  Ran test again and got same kind of result.  Only low marks area was graphics as it has a standard Intel MB 630 system (no add in card).



#25 EdDixon

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Posted 13 March 2021 - 03:40 AM

The NUC benchmark seems reasonable, but the Dell result seems very low for that desktop chip. Did you run the benchmark yourself? There might be something going on with that machine.

The passmark value is the overall one.  The one for CPU is about 16764.  The CPU value for the NUC system was about 5600.


Edited by EdDixon, 13 March 2021 - 03:48 AM.



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