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AlpacaScope v2.0.0 release: Now with a GUI :)

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#1 synfinatic

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 08:28 PM

Figure I'd do a quick little announcement for AlpacaScope 2.0.  This is a major release for all the Windows users out there: a proper graphical user interface!

 

Since a picture is worth a thousand words:

 126884700-13caa5e7-fca7-4fc2-8c1e-33dad1

 

 

What is AlpacaScope?  Simply, it is designed to sit in between any ASCOM or Alpaca compatible mount and tools like SkySafari which speak the Celestron NexStar or Meade LX200 protocols.  AlpacaScope supports the SkyFi and Alpaca auto-discover protocols to make configuration easy- most people should only need to specify the telescope protocol & mount type and click Start!

 

If your mount already supports Alpaca, then you're ready to go!  If your mount only supports ASCOM, then you will need to install, configure and run ASCOM Remote: https://github.com/A...Remote/releases to convert ASCOM to Alpaca.  Please be sure to configure/start ASCOM Remote before starting AlpacaScope!

 

You can get AlpacaScope 2.0 here: https://github.com/s...ases/tag/v2.0.0

 

FYI: This is my very first GUI application ever.  Sorry, it's not more sexy. smile.gif


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#2 Bob Denny

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 09:06 PM

WooHoo -- Thanks for doing this. I just updated the listing on the ASCOM web site Projects in Progress page for this.

 

Snap4.jpg

 

 


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#3 EmeraldHills

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Posted 24 July 2021 - 11:59 PM

I can't WAIT to try this. I've been so grateful for WiFiScope - but it's been kludgy for me sometimes. Hope I can figure this out.


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#4 asl547

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Posted 26 July 2021 - 09:07 AM

It would be helpful if you could explain (a) what settings are needed in Sky Safari, and (b) what specific settings you need to enter in AlpacaScope (including, where applicable, port numbers and ip addresses). Also, I am confused by the fact that your post mentions Windows (I assume that the Windows PC runs the telescope mount) but your github page also mentions Mac OS and, further, has a number of files for various versions of Linux. Without some further explanation or documentation, it isn’t readily clear to me how (in terms of the practical steps required) you would use this application.



#5 scopewizard

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Posted 26 July 2021 - 09:45 AM

It would be helpful if you could explain (a) what settings are needed in Sky Safari, and (b) what specific settings you need to enter in AlpacaScope (including, where applicable, port numbers and ip addresses). Also, I am confused by the fact that your post mentions Windows (I assume that the Windows PC runs the telescope mount) but your github page also mentions Mac OS and, further, has a number of files for various versions of Linux. Without some further explanation or documentation, it isn’t readily clear to me how (in terms of the practical steps required) you would use this application.

Here is the easy way to look at this. You run Sky Safari in your home computer (Mac, Linux or Win). You select an Alpaca connection to find the Alpaca driver on the remote box(at the mount) and connect to it.

Old way was to remote control the mount box with all software running on it. With Alpaca, you only need the drivers running on the mount box. It reduces the need for a more powerful box at the mount. The other advantage is the OS software. The mount box can be a Linux, Win, Mac and the home can be Linux, Mac or Win or the same as the mount box. 



#6 synfinatic

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Posted 26 July 2021 - 11:59 AM

It would be helpful if you could explain (a) what settings are needed in Sky Safari, and (b) what specific settings you need to enter in AlpacaScope (including, where applicable, port numbers and ip addresses). Also, I am confused by the fact that your post mentions Windows (I assume that the Windows PC runs the telescope mount) but your github page also mentions Mac OS and, further, has a number of files for various versions of Linux. Without some further explanation or documentation, it isn’t readily clear to me how (in terms of the practical steps required) you would use this application.

 

I'm going to answer the questions in the order of operations, not the order you asked:

 

b) Do what you normally do to get your mount & ASCOM up and running.  Then install/configure/start ASCOM Remote.  ASCOM Remote exposes the ASCOM API as the new Alpaca API.  The first time you run ASCOM Remote, you will need to go into the Settings and enable your telescope mount.

 

Then, most people will install / run AlpacaScope on the same computer as ASCOM.  As for IP addresses / Ports- the defaults should work 99% of the time.  If you're one of the 1% then either ASCOM Remote isn't running, is using non-standard settings or is running on a PC on a remote network from ASCOM Remote.

 

The only thing you really should worry about are Telescope Protocol and Mount Type.  The Telescope Protocol is how AlapcaScope communicates with SkySafari, NOT the telescope mount!  I support both Celestron NexStar/Advanced GT and Meade LX200 GPS in SkySafari.  If you're using something other than SkySafari, pick an option that your software supports.

 

If using Celestron NexStar, then you can choose the mount type to be reported to the SkySafari/etc.

 

a) Configure SkySafari like you were using a SkyFi.  Select "Auto-Detect SkyFi" and "Celestron NexStar/Advanced GT" as your telescope (assuming you selected NexStar in AlpacaScope).  You can run SkySafari on the same computer or a different computer/iOS/Andriod device.  If running on the same PC, SkySafari will report it was not able to discover the SkyFi- that's OK, it will connect anyways.  If using another device for SkySafari, then it should auto-populate the IP address of the computer running AlpacaScope.

 

As for why there are versions for Mac/Linux/Windows:  The answer is that advanced users (say people with remote observatories) who which to control their mount remotely may find supporting other platforms useful.  Also, I do all my development on a Mac and because AlpacaScope is written in a programming language called "Go", support for all these operating systems is easy. 

 

Anyways, there is more docs on the readme: https://github.com/s...tic/alpacascope



#7 Bob Denny

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Posted 26 July 2021 - 08:25 PM

I need to point out that Alpaca does not need Windows!!!! AlpacaScope provides a gateway from SkySafari to a mount that is connected to Windows. I happen to be working on updated/clarified information for the ASCOM Initiative web site which might make it easier to understand the cool things that @synfinatic used to make this possible. Specifically you might get something out of the Alpaca Developer Info here. Do not use the diagram there to assume Windows is needed. It is simply accessible. For now, though, just follow his directions and enjoy!! I'm working on a whole new set of info on Alpaca for that web site. 


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#8 synfinatic

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 10:26 AM

So since there seems to be a fair bit of confusion about how ASCOM, Alpaca, AlpacaScope and SkySafari all work together and should be configured, I took a couple of hours to write some documentation (with pictures!). 

 

https://github.com/s...in/Configure.md

 

Anyone reading this thread and interested in giving it a go, I'd be grateful if you could leave feedback in this thread so I can improve the docs to be more clear (I'm not a tech writer by trade so please be patient).

 

Also, just to be clear: the above documentation assumes you are using ASCOM with your mount.  If you have a native Alpaca driver for your mount, the directions are possibly a little different?  I honestly don't know since I don't have anything which speak Alpaca natively.  Anyways, if you're in that situation and need help, reach out and I'll do what I can (we both can learn together!) or if you figure it out please let me know. smile.gif


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#9 Bob Denny

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 10:58 AM

If the have an Alpaca mount, then they connect directly to it. No need to use ASCOM Remote as a proxy between Alpaca and the COM-based mount on Windows. And no need for Windows (ha ha broken recording). I’m happy to help as well.

My only comment is the “Auto-discover ASCOM Remote” could change to “Auto Discover Alpaca Mounts” … the mount exposed by ASCOM Remote is actually an Alpaca mount at that point. ASCOM Remote is just a proxy providing the Alpaca face on the COM-based ASCOM mount.

Anyway BRAVO!!!!

Edited by Bob Denny, 27 July 2021 - 10:59 AM.


#10 synfinatic

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 11:39 AM

So that brings up an important point- if you have multiple Alpaca devices, AlpacaScope is dumb and just connects to the first one it discovers.  There is no chooser to select between devices.  Hence, if you have both an Alpaca telescope and focuser, it might connect to the focuser.  :( 

 

In those cases you'll need to turn off Auto Discovery and manually enter the IP/Port... at least until AlpacaScope is smarter.



#11 EmeraldHills

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Posted 27 July 2021 - 01:18 PM

Sunday night skies are supposed to be clear. I'm going to try working through this step-by-step. I use Green Swamp Software's server (which is another form of ASCOM) so I'm looking forward to seeing if this will lash up Sky Safari. Thanks! 


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#12 synfinatic

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Posted 31 July 2021 - 08:04 PM

Well this ended up being a lot more work than I expected, but I've just released v2.1.0 which adds support for saving & automatically loading the AlpacaScope settings.  Should make it much easier for people to use AlpacaScope who for whatever reason can't use the default settings. 

 

Enjoy: https://github.com/s...ases/tag/v2.1.0


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#13 Bob Denny

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Posted 01 August 2021 - 05:14 PM

Well done! I've now added this to the ASCOM Initiative web site's downloads section. The link leads to your ReadMe. I've been enjoying watching my _______ (you know what) tests running and seeing the scope move around in SkySafari!

 

Snap2.png


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#14 Bob Denny

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Posted 01 August 2021 - 05:53 PM

I should mention that many ASCOM scopes don't support being slewed to equatorial coordinates unless their sidereal tracking is ON. You can set up the ASCOM Telescope Simulator with ASCOM Remote to give yourself an Alpaca scope to talk to from SkySafari. However if you use Stop in SkySafari, the effect is to turn off sidereal tracking ("stop" means Stop). Now you won't be able to move the (simulated) scope until you go over to the ASSCOM Telescopt Simulator and turn sidereal tracking back on. This is also true of many of the real mounts that run on ASCOM-COM (Windows) like PlaneWave and Astro-Physics. SO beware of using the Stop button. Ideally, Sky Safari (or maybe AlpacaScope?) could make sure sidereal tracking is on before asking the scope to slew. 



#15 synfinatic

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Posted 01 August 2021 - 11:21 PM

I should mention that many ASCOM scopes don't support being slewed to equatorial coordinates unless their sidereal tracking is ON. You can set up the ASCOM Telescope Simulator with ASCOM Remote to give yourself an Alpaca scope to talk to from SkySafari. However if you use Stop in SkySafari, the effect is to turn off sidereal tracking ("stop" means Stop). Now you won't be able to move the (simulated) scope until you go over to the ASSCOM Telescopt Simulator and turn sidereal tracking back on. This is also true of many of the real mounts that run on ASCOM-COM (Windows) like PlaneWave and Astro-Physics. SO beware of using the Stop button. Ideally, Sky Safari (or maybe AlpacaScope?) could make sure sidereal tracking is on before asking the scope to slew. 

Huh... I guess I've never pressed the Stop button :)   But yeah, that would be very easy to have AlpacaScope keep track of the stop command and re-enable tracking when doing another goto.

 

I'm kinda curious if AlpacaScope should also make sure the mount isn't parked?  Not sure if that would be best categorized as "useful" or "dangerous"?



#16 synfinatic

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Posted 02 August 2021 - 10:55 AM

And v2.2.0 is now available: https://github.com/s...ases/tag/v2.2.0

 

This release has 3 changes:

  1. AlpacaScope will now by default issue "enable tracking" as necessary after clicking Stop in SkySafari
  2. Clicking "Reset Settings" no longer deletes your saved settings on disk. 
  3. Fixed terminology in GUI for Alpaca Mount (no longer refers to ASCOM Remote)

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#17 Bob Denny

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Posted 02 August 2021 - 12:12 PM

AWESOME!!! Well done. I’ll test it tonight.

By the way, we’re about to release an “omni simulator” package for Linux/Mac/Windows that is pure Alpaca for all devices. I’m testing on the Raspberry Pi. It’s working great. The guts are the same highly tested simulators that are now included in the Platform but stripped of Windows dependencies and ported to self-contained .NET Core. The setup dialogs are browser based. Stay tuned on the ASCOM Talk Help forum.

Edited by Bob Denny, 02 August 2021 - 12:12 PM.

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#18 Bob Denny

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Posted 10 September 2021 - 12:39 PM

OK, I've moved this to the Telescope Drivers page and marked it Featured!! 

 

Snap1.png


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#19 synfinatic

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Posted 10 September 2021 - 02:12 PM

Nice!  Thanks Bob!


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#20 Bob Denny

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Posted 10 September 2021 - 06:41 PM

I also made an announcement on the ASCOM Talk Help group for AlpacaScope

 

AlpacaScope - A Cross Platform Alpaca adapter for SkySafari

 

Sorry about the big yellow advisory at the bottom. but ya know, there are still folks out there who have bad info... Alpaca does not depend on or require Windows :-)



#21 Cey42

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Posted 10 September 2021 - 07:17 PM

Just finished 2 hours of indoor testing. I ran CPWI, ASCOM Remote Server, AlpacaScope, SkySafari and SharpCap. I had no issues controlling the scope from SS. There were no disconnects. SS stayed responsive. SS did not crash. It was all very good.

 

 

I like that both ASCOM Remote Server and AlpacaScope are small lightweight programs.

 

 

Now looking forward when I can try this live outside.


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#22 Bob Denny

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Posted 10 September 2021 - 10:13 PM

WooHoo!! Keep us up to date! Bravo @synfinatic
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#23 Ambart3561

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 07:16 PM

AWESOME!!! Well done. I’ll test it tonight.

By the way, we’re about to release an “omni simulator” package for Linux/Mac/Windows that is pure Alpaca for all devices. I’m testing on the Raspberry Pi. It’s working great. The guts are the same highly tested simulators that are now included in the Platform but stripped of Windows dependencies and ported to self-contained .NET Core. The setup dialogs are browser based. Stay tuned on the ASCOM Talk Help forum.

Thank You Bob!

 

I have a RPi + WiFi at telescope running VirtualHere Server making all USB devices scope-side available to any computer in-the-house-side over LAN. I will follow your "omni simulator" discussion on your help forum. In the mean time I will be implementing  AlpacaScope in the manner described by Cey42, Thank You for that post Cey42.
 



#24 Bob Denny

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Posted 24 September 2021 - 08:28 PM

I need to point out another issue. In ASCOM and Alpaca, there is a Connected property that an App uses to connect physically (USB/Serial) to the mount. Maybe the mount is powered down. So an App needs to set Connected = True to even use the mount. AlpacaScope checks Connected and if it is False, then AlpacaScope will fail to start up "Unable to connect to telescope ID 0".

 

In actuality the ASCOM driver is reporting that Connected = False which is OK. So to allow AlpacaScope to use the scope and successfully start up, Connected must be set to True on the ASCOM side. It would be better if AlpacaScope not only checked if Connected is True, but if not it would set Connect = True. Be prepared for an error here. If you set Connected = True, and the mount is powered down etc. the driver will raise an exception. Reporting that via the error message would be the best response. 


Edited by Bob Denny, 24 September 2021 - 08:29 PM.


#25 synfinatic

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Posted 25 September 2021 - 04:19 AM

I need to point out another issue. In ASCOM and Alpaca, there is a Connected property that an App uses to connect physically (USB/Serial) to the mount. Maybe the mount is powered down. So an App needs to set Connected = True to even use the mount. AlpacaScope checks Connected and if it is False, then AlpacaScope will fail to start up "Unable to connect to telescope ID 0".

 

In actuality the ASCOM driver is reporting that Connected = False which is OK. So to allow AlpacaScope to use the scope and successfully start up, Connected must be set to True on the ASCOM side. It would be better if AlpacaScope not only checked if Connected is True, but if not it would set Connect = True. Be prepared for an error here. If you set Connected = True, and the mount is powered down etc. the driver will raise an exception. Reporting that via the error message would be the best response. 

Good to know Bob. I have a PR out to address this: https://github.com/s...cascope/pull/45

 

But I'm still in Italy and have no way of testing right now (yes, woe is me!).  So probably won't have an official release out until October.  Obviously if anyone wants to give it a try they're free to pull the code and test. smile.gif


Edited by synfinatic, 25 September 2021 - 04:19 AM.



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