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Did you ever have a night when... something had changed? (but ... what?)

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#1 EmeraldHills

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 05:22 AM

Boy. I was all set up by 8:45pm. But when I hooked up the laptop to the cable from the camera and the cable from the mount, something was... different. The laptop couldn't "see" the mount at all. I had just operated with this exact same setup just 7 days ago. But tonight, something was awry. Somebody is going to say it was a USB cable. And maybe you're right. But these cables are all brand new and I take very good care of them. I subbed out cables just in case. No joy. Finally, after a series of 3 or 4 reboots and switching to different ports, I at least saw the mount long enough to polar align (in Sharpcap). Figured it was just a fluke. Hooked up the cables to the ikron raven (the USB extender via CAT7 cable) and moved inside. Once again, something was different. I have a year's worth of muscle memory in all of this. But something was different. Same deal. Couldn't see the mount. Frustrating. I tried for hours. I checked and double-checked. Power-cycled the mount. Subbed new cables. It was as if... Windows had done an update that rendered iOptron Commander unreliable or something.

 

Is it just me... of does anyone else find iOptron Commander a bit ... quirky anyway?

 

Honestly, it just made me want to go back to GS Server (or EQ Mod). I wished so much that I had just gone with a Skywatcher EQ8. Sigh.

 

So here I am, headed to bed at 5:21am with absolutely nothing to show for my night - except more curiosity about what it could have been.

 

Thanks to Brian, Frank, Curtis, and Simon who stopped by at various times during the 2 hours of searching for answers. You guys are great friends. I love this camaraderie. I just wish we could have "found the answer." Sigh.

 

Good night.

 

or... Good morning, actually.

 

Sigh. 


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#2 cmooney91

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 08:38 AM

I feel your pain, I hope you find the smoking gun.



#3 alphatripleplus

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 08:45 AM

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



#4 bobharmony

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 08:51 AM

I feel your pain as well, in my case it resonates with what has been going on here the past couple of sessions.  It is so frustrating to do the same setup as previous sessions and have something unexplainable happen to change the normal functioning of the system. 

 

In my case the autoguider camera seems to have decided to provide poor quality images recently.  Like you my first suspicion was a USB failure of some sort, although it also coincides with switching to a newer version of PHD2.  I have gotten out my electrical contact cleaner spray, I have a spare USB cable waiting in the wings to replace the existing one, there is  plan to switch back to the old PHD2 version, and the thought of switching USB hub ports for the camera.  We shall see.  I have been using this setup without mechanical changes for three years - maybe it is just showing its age, but there are so few good nights for AP around here, it is frustrating to lose any of them to unexpected failure.

 

Good luck with the troubleshooting and I hope you come to a resolution very soon!

 

Bob


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#5 EmeraldHills

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 08:51 AM

I've heard multiple friends voice the question, "What could possibly go wrong?" Let's make a list of some (not all) of the thing that can [go wrong] -- in astronomy in general, but with EAA in particular.

 

  • Equipment could be faulty, especially if it's cobbled together on a low budget. In other words, a device might literally have "broken."
  • Cables might have shorted out or just "gone bad."
  • Dampness/moisture might have spoiled something.
  • Harsh temperatures (at either extreme) might have warped or damaged something.
  • Windows is a complicated platform. Perhaps a user made adjustments in one area without realizing the impact those adjustments would have on another. What's more, Microsoft might have rolled out an update and that update might have unknowingly 'broken' a relationship or link.
  • User error: Maybe there's a cable plugged into the wrong socket or just not connected properly.
  • Having to set up every time is, in and of itself, a challenge. 
  • We tend to use "nightlies" and beta software. Something could be awry in the software itself.

This is a partial list. What other maladies have YOU experienced?


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#6 arbit

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 09:37 AM

I've heard multiple friends voice the question, "What could possibly go wrong?" Let's make a list of some (not all) of the thing that can [go wrong] -- in astronomy in general, but with EAA in particular.

  • Equipment could be faulty, especially if it's cobbled together on a low budget. In other words, a device might literally have "broken."
  • Cables might have shorted out or just "gone bad."
  • Dampness/moisture might have spoiled something.
  • Harsh temperatures (at either extreme) might have warped or damaged something.
  • Windows is a complicated platform. Perhaps a user made adjustments in one area without realizing the impact those adjustments would have on another. What's more, Microsoft might have rolled out an update and that update might have unknowingly 'broken' a relationship or link.
  • User error: Maybe there's a cable plugged into the wrong socket or just not connected properly.
  • Having to set up every time is, in and of itself, a challenge.
  • We tend to use "nightlies" and beta software. Something could be awry in the software itself.
This is a partial list. What other maladies have YOU experienced?
Here's one.

Go to balcony 1 - all well
Go to Balcony 2 - laptop doesn't recognise anything.
Go back to Balcony 1 - all well
Back to Balcony 2 - nothing
?????

Turns out Balcony 2 had an AC motor close by, with a magnetic field strong enough to disrupt the USB data transmission.

Changed to a shielded USB cable and all was well. :-)


Sent from my SM-N960F using Tapatalk

Edited by arbit, 24 November 2021 - 09:44 AM.

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#7 EmeraldHills

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 10:42 AM

Oh my goodness, Arbit. I would NEVER have thought of an AC motor causing interference! That's amazing! Thanks for the case study! Yikes. Ouch.



#8 arbit

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 10:48 AM

Oh my goodness, Arbit. I would NEVER have thought of an AC motor causing interference! That's amazing! Thanks for the case study! Yikes. Ouch.

Yes, took some time to figure that one out :-)

Sent from my SM-N960F using Tapatalk
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#9 Axident

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 04:44 PM

Hi Doug.

Unfortunately issues often appears where it do not fit in.
Try to go to Device manager in Windows and expand Ports (COM & LPT). Then see if the serial connection for your mount is there. If it is and you cannot connect it might be I correct settings with the COM port number. Here I simply guess as I don't know you software and the settings.
If the mount does not show up I would actually go to the mount with a laptop and short, known good, cable and make same check as above.
If it still doesn't show up I would go for reinstalling the drivers. Uninstalling the drivers might has to be done first.

If it still fail then you know my email and you are welcome to contact me and we could arranger a Zoom meeting and do some troubleshooting. Friday to Sunday this week I do not have much planned so you can pick almost what ever time you like if needed.
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#10 EmeraldHills

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 05:23 PM

I noticed one of the comm ports was set to 9600 and the other was set to 115k. Is it significant? Remembering this issue from EQ Mod, I set both to 115K. It didn't fix it.

 

I tried uninstalling and reinstalling multiple times. I also tried deleting and letting the system re-create the ports.

 

Thanks so much for offering to Zoom. I'll set things up in my office exactly like they were in the field and try it again. Like an intermittent automobile engine problem, it will probably work in my office. hahaha

 

Hi Doug.

Unfortunately issues often appears where it do not fit in.
Try to go to Device manager in Windows and expand Ports (COM & LPT). Then see if the serial connection for your mount is there. If it is and you cannot connect it might be I correct settings with the COM port number. Here I simply guess as I don't know you software and the settings.
If the mount does not show up I would actually go to the mount with a laptop and short, known good, cable and make same check as above.
If it still doesn't show up I would go for reinstalling the drivers. Uninstalling the drivers might has to be done first.

If it still fail then you know my email and you are welcome to contact me and we could arranger a Zoom meeting and do some troubleshooting. Friday to Sunday this week I do not have much planned so you can pick almost what ever time you like if needed.



#11 Axident

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 05:51 PM

Hi Doug.

The speed is significant. If it has not been set correctly then there will be no communication. Usually I would look up in some documentation for choosing the correct baud rate. But you choose the wrong value you will at least not break anything. Both baud rates you tried are very common used. Often is also possible to set up a preferred baud rate. If you can do it it has to be done on the mount. Most likely through the hand control.
If you could list the device names and models I could take a look in the manuals. Please also write in which order the devices are connected from the mount to the PC.
One question. Do you power it up with battery and do you might use a daisy chain? As I recall you mentioned you used daisy chain in a video. But can't recall which mount you used in the video. Daisy chain is easy to use but is highly NOT recommended. However when you set it up in your office the have both the long cable and maybe sorter cable available. And for troubleshooting purpose it's best also to use same power source and power cables connect in the exact same way as you do it in the field.

Edited by Axident, 24 November 2021 - 05:51 PM.


#12 EmeraldHills

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Posted 24 November 2021 - 06:18 PM

speed: Odd that it doesn't tell us to check the speed. When I opened the properties panel, they were already set at 9600 and 115K respectively. Maybe a user with a CEM70 that is working will tell us what they're SUPPOSED to be? (Tapio, if you have a second, would you mind looking at the properties of the two extra iOptron-associated com ports/devices sometime when you have your mount connected to see what the speed should be?)

 

This is a CEM70G.

 

I power it with the supplied power supply.

 

I don't use a daisy chain setup at all. 

 

And I tried it last night with short cables - just to take the ikron USB extender out of the picture. It wouldn't persist with short cables either. (It did sometimes connect - but only for 5 seconds or so.)


Edited by EmeraldHills, 24 November 2021 - 06:25 PM.


#13 Mark Lovik

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 10:08 AM

I decided to configure my EAA setups with a minimum of complexity because of these types of problems.  My attitude is "the more the stuff" the more to break.  This attitude would not help your specific problem .. since the mount control is fundamental to getting EAA to work.

 

Sometimes it's the little things that cause problems (like the AC motor signal interference described earlier).  One of the foundational technologies for EAA is plate solving.  I was ecstatic when I finally had plate solving working at home.  One key for this to work is the proxy code that allows Sharpcap to monitor the slew (goto) commands and know the last intended position of the sky.  I had this nailed and had a nice workflow that just worked. 

 

Then I decided to show off my working EAA rig to some interested friends at the club observing site.  You may guess the result ... the proxy could not connect and failed.  Went home and everything was fine.  Then I looked at my configuration ... I was using the home network for the proxy and had no network remotely.   All my camera and mount control software is on the same laptop ... so the fix was easy ... reconfigure the proxy.  Of course diagnosing this process took hours ... and a bit of embarrassment. 


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#14 Mark Lovik

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 10:29 AM

This general topic leads to a fairly important question in EAA.  What is your strategy to setup a robust EAA rig (one that you trust to just work ... most of the time)?

 

Some different approaches I have seen

 

General

 

1. Carefully document everything.  Settings, versions of software, labeled connectors, software and hardware setup order.

2. Version control - only update software under controlled environments (like at home), and have tests setup to make sure everything works as expected.

3. Careful marked storage of all items (cameras, cables [in storage bags], focusing masks, and so on.  I have broken a Bahtinov mask during imaging by being sloppy with storage of the mask.

 

Specific

 

3. Carefully configured imaging rigs (this is prevalent in astrophotography).  Computer, centralized power, and cabling are all mounted as an imaging assembly.  Then treat everything as a dedicated unit and touch nothing.  Make sure the unit is protected for any transport.

4. Observatory approach:  this is similar to #3, but the scope stays mounted.  The key here is to touch nothing.

5, Minimal approach.  Carefully measure everything and only add features when they are found essential to the EAA viewing experience.   The fewer the features, the less that can go wrong.  The less complex the feature is (direct short USB vs extended USB) the less that can go wrong.

 

I choose 1. 2, 3, and 5.  I am working up 3 EAA optical systems, but share mount and cameras.  My biggest risk to my EAA setups is my daily assemble and teardown process.  I do have dedicated screw on reducer spacer assemblies for each scope.  That way EAA or visual changes are fast and simple.


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