Very cool. Why did you go for SMOS instead of ASIAIR? I keep getting warnings about how SM is too hands-on when ASIAIR can do the same or more, but much more seamless. Other posts hint that SM offers more, because you can really manually dial things in. What's your perspective there?
I enjoy the idea of 3D printing my case, installing the RTC etc. No concerns there - coached a student putting together a raspberry shake and still have it running at our school.
Did you need to power your external drive separately?
Does the SM do live stacking just like ASIAIR?
I'm brand new to any of these tools, INDI, kStars, Ekos. Have a string of clear nights coming up, so guess I'll just read up while the camera is clicking away... Thanks for your help.
ASIAir vs StellarMate vs Astroberry vs Windows / Mac forms a continuum from "appliance" to "bucket of parts you get to figure out and assemble". The question is whether you want something that's all packaged up as an appliance (the Air), or something that has more flexibility (not focused so much on the ZWO products) but requires you go to a couple of separate applications to configure things. In exchange for that one-stop user interface, the Air is more limited in what it can do. Sounds like you've already decided not to go with the Air, and that's fine. Lots of alternatives.
StellarMate has a user interface to bring a bunch of the utilities together, though not everything. Astroberry has all the software you need pre-loaded, and much of the platform infrastructure pre-configured (e.g. WiFi hotspot, VNC services, web access to the desktop, etc.), but not the integrated UI. It's the one I went with, as I am comfortable working with the Raspbian system already, and don't mind learning a few new tricks in configuring it along the way.
Neither Windows nor Mac have the software preloaded, of course. Easy (if not a bit tedious) to do, but you have to go out and choose, find, and install them, in addition to getting them all to work together.
All this said, in your original posting you ask if you should make the bigger leap to StellarMate. I think what you are really asking is, "What platform is best for me to begin the process of actively controlling and automating the operation of the telescope?". Fundamentally, this means adding a computing platform to the mount, either physically at the mount, or through extension cables from a short distance away. My own telescope is never used at home (too many trees here), so I valued having something self-contained that I can put on a 3-wheeled cart and moved across the street to where it can see the sky. A Raspberry Pi-based solution with Astroberry was the eventual choice, as the Pi sits comfortably on the tripod's eyepiece tray, consumes very little power (all this has to run from batteries), and has all the necessary software pre-loaded. If you are more comfortable with Windows and have a suitable laptop and power source that can be out with the telescope, that can work too. Some use a small "NUC" format computer. More assembly will be required, however.
As you, I started with a mount, telescope, and camera triggered with an intervalometer. The first piece of automation was a Raspberry Pi 3B (already had one) with PHD2 running on it to add autoguiding. This was pre-Astroberry, so I loaded it by hand. Not a big deal, but it's a lot easier these days. Next step was intended to be swapping out the intervalometer for a software solution, but I found my camera (a Nikon D3200) didn't support computer control very well, so the intervalometer stayed. Instead, I added plate solving with ASTAP, using the guide scope and camera for the imaging part. That helped precisely aim the telescope to the targets I wanted to image. I also upgraded the Pi3B to a 4gb Pi4B, and O/S to Astroberry. This provided the base to upgrade to a new camera (went with a cooled astro-oriented one), removing the intervalometer, and using the Pi take the pictures. You get the idea - there's a sequence of enhancements and refinements you can / will do over time, to a large extent driven by what you have and what you need to improve on next. I'm currently annoyed by temperature-induced focus changes, so next will be automating the focuser; parts are on order.
Besides the hardware platform (Pi or laptop), you need to choose your top level manager. Lots of choices out there: Windows-based ones such as NINA, SGP, Voyager; multi-platform ones such as KStars / EKOS and CCDciel. I landed on CCDciel because I like its user interface, and it was compact enough to actually run on the Pi-3B that I started with.
Edited by TelescopeGreg, 25 October 2021 - 01:50 PM.