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Recommendation for controlling scope with minipc

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#1 mirkog

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 03:31 AM

ph34r.png NEWBIE ALERT :ph34r:

 

Dear all, 

 

I have recently started my journey into stargazing and astrophotography. I am amazed by the amount of things that I am learning - a small fraction of what I still have to learn.

Since I am quite comfortable with RPi and Linux I initially used a RPi4 and StellarMate to manage my setup (see below). However, StellarMate is turning out to be problematic. Almost every time I update there is some issue (mostly, after reboot I am unable to connect either via VNC or SSH) and I already had to re-burn the image on the card a handful times - problem that I will probably mitigate by buying an HDMI adapter so I can see on screen what's wrong.

Meanwhile I was evaluating to put in good use a MiniPC that is covered in dust on a shelf (Coofun J3445). However I found myself unable to identify which software would allow me to control that setup (at a similar level as KStars/Ekos, i.e. supporting GoTo, (polar) alignment, focus, astrophotography) with the specs of that MiniPC.

 

Any help would be very much appreciated.

 

My setup:

  • Celestron NexStar 6SE
  • DSLR Camera
  • Celestron Focus Motor
  • GPS USB Dongle


#2 MikiSJ

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 03:42 AM

I have a CGX mount and an ASI294 camera but the following will also work for you:

 

CPWI and SGPro for the mount

SGPro for the camera and Celestron Focuser

 

There are less expensive programs to control your camera.

 

The miniPC you want to use has a Celeron processor and I don't know if that will be enough for processing your images, but should be ok to control the mount and camera.


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#3 mirkog

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 04:00 AM

I have a CGX mount and an ASI294 camera but the following will also work for you:

 

CPWI and SGPro for the mount

SGPro for the camera and Celestron Focuser

 

There are less expensive programs to control your camera.

 

The miniPC you want to use has a Celeron processor and I don't know if that will be enough for processing your images, but should be ok to control the mount and camera.

Thanks, I forgot to mention that I have been using StellarMate only as a headless hub... I am trying to do most of the stuff indoor with my MacBook Pro (Intel i9, 32 GB Ram, Radeon Pro 560X 4 GB)...



#4 Rac19

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 04:45 AM

I use an Intel NUC running CPWI, SharpCap for DSO imaging and FireCapture for planetary imaging. I access the NUC from the comfort of the indoors using RDP. RDP requires Windows 10 Pro on the NUC but you can get around with VNC and the like. I found TeamViewer to be a bit too laggy, being web hosted.

 

There RDP and VNC clients for the iPad and no doubt also for the Mac. I even have an RDP client on my Apple TV.

 

By the way, the Celestron Focuser can function as a USB bridge so that there is no need to connect the mini PC through an HC. Instead you connect the Focuser to an Aux port on the mount and the mini PC to the USB port on the Focuser. 

 

CPWI also has a Gamepad interface using the thumb-sticks for both manual slewing and manual focusing. I operate without an HC these days.

 

EDIT: I notice that you are using a DLSR. That won't work with SharpCap or FireCapture. Backyard EOS or Backyard Nikon are some options. I used Backyard EOS with my Canon 760D originally and captured perfectly good planetary images with it. I have never used it fir DSO.

 

My current camera is a ZWO 1600MC, which is a bit dated but still pretty good. It has a Sony APS-C, 16 MP sensor. Using a dedicated astronomy camera with SharpCap or FireCapture is a different experience to using a DSLR with Backyard EOS or Backyard Nikon, one that I have come to prefer.

 

There are choices to make wth dedicated astro cameras between mono and colour (OSC) as well as cooled or not. Mono requires 3 times, even 4 times, as many frames, using filters, and more processing but yields more detail. I am not sure that cooling provides much benefit for my level of imaging, but it depends on your requirements.


Edited by Rac19, 15 April 2021 - 06:51 AM.

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#5 sbradley07

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 06:38 AM

 

ph34r.png NEWBIE ALERT ph34r.png

 

Dear all, 

 

I have recently started my journey into stargazing and astrophotography. I am amazed by the amount of things that I am learning - a small fraction of what I still have to learn.

Since I am quite comfortable with RPi and Linux I initially used a RPi4 and StellarMate to manage my setup (see below). However, StellarMate is turning out to be problematic. Almost every time I update there is some issue (mostly, after reboot I am unable to connect either via VNC or SSH) and I already had to re-burn the image on the card a handful times - problem that I will probably mitigate by buying an HDMI adapter so I can see on screen what's wrong.

Meanwhile I was evaluating to put in good use a MiniPC that is covered in dust on a shelf (Coofun J3445). However I found myself unable to identify which software would allow me to control that setup (at a similar level as KStars/Ekos, i.e. supporting GoTo, (polar) alignment, focus, astrophotography) with the specs of that MiniPC.

 

Any help would be very much appreciated.

 

My setup:

  • Celestron NexStar 6SE
  • DSLR Camera
  • Celestron Focus Motor
  • GPS USB Dongle

 

The chip in that minipc might be a little underpowered for the task, but it's pretty easy to test it out.  Try NINA software...it's free and will let you test your equipment to see what performance will be like.  Connect to it using Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP) from your Mac for headless operation.  

 

BTW - I gave Stellarmate (kstars/ekos) a good run, but came to the same conclusion as you...it's just too unstable to trust for a night of imaging.  In my opinion, ever since they started adding mobile support (to compete with ASIAir I suspect), the quality of the code has become very unpredictable.  I had to move on.  


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#6 mirkog

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 06:41 AM

I use an Intel NUC running CPWI, SharpCap for DSO imaging and FireCapture for planetary imaging. I access the NUC from the comfort of the indoors using RDP. RDP requires Windows 10 Pro on the NUC but you can get around with VNC and the like. I found TeamViewer to be a bit too laggy, being web hosted.

 

There RPD and VNC clients for the iPad and no doubt also for the Mac. I even have an RDP client on my Apple TV.

 

By the way, the Celestron Focuser can function as a USB bridge so that there is no need to connect the mini PC through an HC. Instead you connect the Focuser to an Aux port on the mount and the mini PC to the USB port on the Focuser. 

 

CPWI also has a Gamepad interface using the thumb-sticks for both manuka slewing and manual focusing. I operate without an HC these days.

Thanks, sounds like a great setup.

I have installed CPWI and SharpCap on the Mini (I don't think that FireCapture would work with my DSLR). I have also tested the RDP connection, and it's so much smoother than VNC.

Great tip about the focusser. I was doing the opposite (i.e. connecting via USB to the mount and controlling the focusser indirectly via AUX, but I will check if this is any better - serial port kept changing constantly.



#7 Rac19

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 06:56 AM

Thanks, sounds like a great setup.

I have installed CPWI and SharpCap on the Mini (I don't think that FireCapture would work with my DSLR). I have also tested the RDP connection, and it's so much smoother than VNC.

Great tip about the focusser. I was doing the opposite (i.e. connecting via USB to the mount and controlling the focusser indirectly via AUX, but I will check if this is any better - serial port kept changing constantly.

I prefer RDP, partly because I use it daily for work. It simply does a good job. I wasn't actually aware that SharpCap would work with DLSRs, see my edit to post #4. You learn something every day.

 

EDIT: My mini-PC is nothing flash but it does have 12 GB RAM. Only about 8 GB) seems to get used but I like to have some headroom. It also has 256 GB M2 SSD in addition to the system (C:) drive so that there is never an issue with storage space while capturing images.


Edited by Rac19, 15 April 2021 - 07:01 AM.


#8 mirkog

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 07:51 AM

I prefer RDP, partly because I use it daily for work. It simply does a good job. I wasn't actually aware that SharpCap would work with DLSRs, see my edit to post #4. You learn something every day.

 

EDIT: My mini-PC is nothing flash but it does have 12 GB RAM. Only about 8 GB) seems to get used but I like to have some headroom. It also has 256 GB M2 SSD in addition to the system (C:) drive so that there is never an issue with storage space while capturing images.

I will test this method for using DSLR with SharpCap and let you know if it works. :)



#9 eshy76

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 08:03 AM

Agree with Steve above - another vote for NINA - pretty comprehensive for free software and it will keep up with you if/when you move onto a dedicated astro camera, guiding, etc...

...should work with your DSLR as long as it is Nikon or Canon and I know it works with the Celestron Focus Motor (I have it).


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#10 Rac19

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 08:27 AM

I will test this method for using DSLR with SharpCap and let you know if it works. smile.gif

From what I have read, a private individual developed an ASCOM driver for Canon DSLRs and at some point Robin Glover (of SharpCap) became involved.

 

My limited understanding of the DSLR interfaces is they use a preview mode for live-view and movie mode during image capture. With a dedicated astro-camera you capture images the same way for live-view and image capture, pulling them directly off the sensor, similar to a webcam. Am not sure that DSLRs support Region of Interest (ROI), allowing you capture a smaller part of sensor for faster capture and less storage space.

 

None of this is discourage you from using a DSLR. It's just to explain that they work differently. I will interested to hear how you go.


Edited by Rac19, 15 April 2021 - 03:55 PM.

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#11 MikiSJ

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 10:29 AM

I should also add that I use RDP to my scopeside miniPC with near excellent results. I say near excellent inasmuch as the miniPC's WiFi is sometimes overloaded if I am doing something scopeside from my warm room laptop that stalls the WiFi interface. I do not have to do anything except stop the RDP and restart the RDP from my laptop. I do not know what triggers the restart, but it does not affect what is going on with the miniPC.

 

Also, if you do decide to get a dedicated imaging camera in the future, might I suggest an ASI (other brand) product that has a built in USB hub. I run both an ASI guide camera and Celestron focuser from the hub on my ASI294MC-Pro.

 

Good luck getting your kit up and running. There are two knowns here: the sky will be clouded over the first time you try to use a new kit and the sky will always be there in all of its grandeur.


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#12 mirkog

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Posted 15 April 2021 - 10:44 AM

I should also add that I use RDP to my scopeside miniPC with near excellent results. I say near excellent inasmuch as the miniPC's WiFi is sometimes overloaded if I am doing something scopeside from my warm room laptop that stalls the WiFi interface. I do not have to do anything except stop the RDP and restart the RDP from my laptop. I do not know what triggers the restart, but it does not affect what is going on with the miniPC.

 

Also, if you do decide to get a dedicated imaging camera in the future, might I suggest an ASI (other brand) product that has a built in USB hub. I run both an ASI guide camera and Celestron focuser from the hub on my ASI294MC-Pro.

 

Good luck getting your kit up and running. There are two knowns here: the sky will be clouded over the first time you try to use a new kit and the sky will always be there in all of its grandeur.

Haha, very true. I thin I can count with one hand the times I could effectively test my setup since I got it (roughly 1 month). But one does not come to London for the weather I am afraid...



#13 jl09

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 07:00 PM

I have the ACEPC AK1 Mini PC with the Celeron J3455 Processor, running windows 10 pro on an SSD I added. The setup works pretty well most nights, remoting in with RDP, running NINA, CPWI, and PHD2, while connected to a ZWO imaging camera and ZWO guiding camera and celestron mount (USB from Mini PC to focuser).  

 

For several months I've been running the latest NINA nightly updates, and I've noticed in the Advanced Sequencer that the graphics they've implemented tend to lag a bit on my setup. If I also run Stellarium along with the other 3 apps, the PC runs OK, but I can notice a bit of a slowdown and everything gets a bit laggy. Anyway, it's been working. However, I've been actively searching for an upgrade to a more powerful mini pc. 


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