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The Open Astro Initiative & ZWO ASIAIR Pro/Plus

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#1 joeytroy

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Posted 07 August 2022 - 02:43 PM

Ladies & gentlemen gather around as it's story time!

 

So what in the world is the Open Astro Initiative you ask? Well, let me tell you...recently at ALCON 2022 https://alcon2022.org/ I gave a presentation on the ASIAIR Pro & Plus along with the Open Astro Initiative. Simply put "The Open Astro Initiative" is about Open Source and allowing users to take advantage of using the ASIAIR Pro/Plus devices with a custom operating system so you can image the night sky or EAA with any Astro Hardware on the market (QHY, ATIK, Domes, Weather Stations, etc).

 

In my humblest of opinions, the ASIAIR Pro/Plus are the best devices on the planet for Astrophotography and EAA. Unlike a PC these devices are relatively cheap as they are Raspberry Pi computers and they also include ZWO's custom 4x12V DC Ports for dew heaters, and camera fans to what ever else you need to power on your rig. Also, they use very little power so they are great to use at a dark site using a battery. The problem is that ZWO locks you into the ZWO ecosystem (think Apple) and if you don't want to use ZWO equipment or just a Canon or Nikon DSLR camera you are out of luck.

 

So what I have done is taken open source technology and leaned against other developers (huge thanks to our very own Ken S. for work on the ASI POWER drivers!) to create prebuilt images for the ASIAIR Pro/Plus using different Open Astro software (INDI/INDIGO) and also enabling the 4x12V DC Ports to work. Here is a breakdown of the current offerings

 

Open Astro 1.0: Rasbain 10 32bit Core using INDI controlled with KStars for simplicity. Supports Pro & Plus

 

Indigo Sky 2002-04-04: Rasbain 10 32bit using INDIGO *Known Issues – Only power ports 2, 3, and 4 work. Supports Pro / Plus coming soon

 

Astroberry Server 2.0.4: Rasbain 10 32bit using INDI, PHD2, and much more. Supports Pro / Plus coming soon

 

Stellarmate OS: 32/64 bit images available for purchase. Instructions are posted on GitHub to configure the power ports. Supports Pro / Plus coming soon

 

More information, downloads, and documentation are located at

https://www.openastro.net/

 

If you have any questions or comments, or would like to help with this project please let me know. I am sure I missed some great Rasberry Pi software out there or maybe some one wants to port to a different OS like Ubuntu, Fedora, etc. Again this is all open source built by the people powered by the people so everyone can get involved!


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#2 glancey

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Posted 07 August 2022 - 03:45 PM

This sounds terrific. I've used Stellarmate, Astroberry and generic Indigo on Raspberry PIs. There's also CCDiel, a great Indigo client. But it's the power ports, the polar alignment, integrated guiding and other features that seamlessly align (using ZWO cameras and focuser, of course), that sways me towards the ASIAir appliance. 

 

One question, before I try one of the Open Astro downloads on my ASIAir Plus, is whether your Indigo distributions will boot from a USB drive? The ASIAir Plus boots from the internal eMMC drive and that would have to be overridden in the Raspberrian configuration for your solutions to work.

 

Glenn



#3 joeytroy

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Posted 07 August 2022 - 04:15 PM

Glenn,

 

Right now as it stands the only way to boot the ASIAIR Plus using a different OS is to fully wipe the Raspberry Pi Compute Model 4 using the Raspberry Pi Computer Module 4 I/O board. There is no way to bypass the internal storage to boot off a USB or SDCard because the board ZWO daughter card does not have jumpers to bypass. I have instructions on Open Astro to do a backup using dd command in Ubuntu. The other option is to purchase another CM4104032 board which is what I have done for development purposes.

 

https://www.openastro.net/install/


Edited by joeytroy, 07 August 2022 - 04:16 PM.

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#4 glancey

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Posted 07 August 2022 - 05:13 PM

Glenn,

 

Right now as it stands the only way to boot the ASIAIR Plus using a different OS is to fully wipe the Raspberry Pi Compute Model 4 using the Raspberry Pi Computer Module 4 I/O board. There is no way to bypass the internal storage to boot off a USB or SDCard because the board ZWO daughter card does not have jumpers to bypass. I have instructions on Open Astro to do a backup using dd command in Ubuntu. The other option is to purchase another CM4104032 board which is what I have done for development purposes.

 

https://www.openastro.net/install/

Can the CM4104032 board just be popped out from the ASIAir Plus case and replaced, or is it soldered in?

 

Glenn



#5 glancey

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Posted 07 August 2022 - 05:22 PM

Can the CM4104032 board just be popped out from the ASIAir Plus case and replaced, or is it soldered in?

 

Glenn

A simpler option that I've used is to run an RPi 4 off of a Pegasus Astro Ultimate Powerbox to get the power ports.

 

Glenn



#6 joeytroy

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Posted 07 August 2022 - 05:30 PM

Can the CM4104032 board just be popped out from the ASIAir Plus case and replaced, or is it soldered in?

 

Glenn

Correct, there are just 4 screws that hold it onto the daughter board.



#7 galacticinsomnia

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Posted 07 August 2022 - 05:31 PM

wow.....



#8 joeytroy

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Posted 07 August 2022 - 10:13 PM

A simpler option that I've used is to run an RPi 4 off of a Pegasus Astro Ultimate Powerbox to get the power ports.

 

Glenn

Glenn,

 

It maybe simpler but it's not more cost effective now. The power box is $277.88 and a Raspberry Pi 4 is $125 on Amazon and that doesn't include case. An ASIAIR Plus is $299 and you can find a used Pro for normally under $175-225 depending on the deal.



#9 mgirdwood

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Posted 08 August 2022 - 03:04 AM

Thanks for the info, unfortunately i dont have an AsiAir just a few RaspPis so I had hoped from your first sentences that that this was an initiative to increase the scope/usability of the existing Open source solutions not just the ASIAir product.

 

I have tried the Astroberry offer recently and although i found the interface quite user friendly i eventually gave up but gave up as it was too flaky.  Maybe i will give Indigo a try.

 

For reference though here in Europe and AsiAir is 440Euro and there are very very few on the second hand market, a new PI 4gb with case and power supply is 159Euro and a pegasus powerbox mini is 224Euro so in this case its a cheaper alternative.


Edited by mgirdwood, 08 August 2022 - 03:25 AM.


#10 joeytroy

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Posted 08 August 2022 - 11:30 AM

Thanks for the info, unfortunately i dont have an AsiAir just a few RaspPis so I had hoped from your first sentences that that this was an initiative to increase the scope/usability of the existing Open source solutions not just the ASIAir product.

 

I have tried the Astroberry offer recently and although i found the interface quite user friendly i eventually gave up but gave up as it was too flaky.  Maybe i will give Indigo a try.

 

For reference though here in Europe and AsiAir is 440Euro and there are very very few on the second hand market, a new PI 4gb with case and power supply is 159Euro and a pegasus powerbox mini is 224Euro so in this case its a cheaper alternative.

Right now it's just getting all the different versions of open source to work with the ASIAIR product line. The big difference between that and just a RPi is installing the PigPio service and the ASI Power driver. With the ASIAIR Plus I had to create a custom Kernel to support the USB drivers as ZWO had a custom board built out.

 

For what it's worth you can build your own ASIAir with an RPi 4 if you are up for it as well. Here is a company that sells the ASI Power power ports https://www.teleskop...R-V1-3.htmlMy. 



#11 Oort Cloud

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Posted 08 August 2022 - 11:44 AM

This sounds terrific. I've used Stellarmate, Astroberry and generic Indigo on Raspberry PIs. There's also CCDiel, a great Indigo client. But it's the power ports, the polar alignment, integrated guiding and other features that seamlessly align (using ZWO cameras and focuser, of course), that sways me towards the ASIAir appliance.

One question, before I try one of the Open Astro downloads on my ASIAir Plus, is whether your Indigo distributions will boot from a USB drive? The ASIAir Plus boots from the internal eMMC drive and that would have to be overridden in the Raspberrian configuration for your solutions to work.

Glenn

SD cards are notorious for failing at the least opportune time. You should have a spare one, already imaged and ready to go when the primary one fails (which it will at some point). In this case, you could use the spare one for testing other OS while keeping the primary one ready for showtime.

Ignore that...I was thinking in terms of the Pro, which I have. I keep forgetting the + does not use SD for the OS.

Edited by Oort Cloud, 08 August 2022 - 11:46 AM.

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#12 dciobota

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Posted 08 August 2022 - 12:02 PM

So, help me understand this.  You are stripping the software and installing an open source version only to gain the 4 power ports on the asiair?  I see no other benefit vs just buying an rpi4 and installing something like StellarMate or Astroberry on a regular rpi4.  

 

As far as power ports, there are several options for small power distribution boxes that you can just attach to an rpi case if you want something monolithic.  I honestly don't see the point in spending the money on an asiair (and try to find one used at the price you mentioned) instead of buying a new rpi4 kit for about half the price of the asiair and adding your own power box.  And if going the Stellarmate way, spending extra money on the software.  Am I missing something here?

 

I agree zwo should open up their ecosystem to include all other indi supported cameras.  But that's really the only limitation.  It has a wide variety of mount support outside the one offered by them.  But honestly, stripping what I think is the most beneficial part of the asiair, its user interface simplicity and good hardware integration (within its limits, yes) is taking away pretty much the reason why I chose to buy the asiair in the first place.

 

And what you're proposing to do is pretty irreversible at that, especially for people not very familiar with linux.  

 

Honestly, I just don't get it.  At least not from the explanation of the OP's intent.  It's like stripping the engine out of an exotic car and putting a chevy engine in it because parts are more readily available for it.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy hacking things myself, but that doesn't mean the end result is useful, just informational maybe.

 

Edit: I can see one benefit maybe, and that is using one of the original asiair boxes that I believe are not supported anymore.  Maybe you can find one of those used cheap.  Still, I don't know what hardware limitations those have that would make them less useful than just buying an rpi4 with case.  Still trying to wrap my head around this whole project tbh.


Edited by dciobota, 08 August 2022 - 12:06 PM.

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#13 glancey

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Posted 08 August 2022 - 12:35 PM

Glenn,

 

It maybe simpler but it's not more cost effective now. The power box is $277.88 and a Raspberry Pi 4 is $125 on Amazon and that doesn't include case. An ASIAIR Plus is $299 and you can find a used Pro for normally under $175-225 depending on the deal.

I agree it's not as cost-effective. It also requires 2 devices instead of just one attached to your imaging rig. I might look into getting a spare CM4104032 board and trying the Open Astro solution on my ASIAir Plus. Unfortunately, they are all on back-order.

 

Glenn



#14 joeytroy

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Posted 08 August 2022 - 12:45 PM

So, help me understand this.  You are stripping the software and installing an open source version only to gain the 4 power ports on the asiair?  I see no other benefit vs just buying an rpi4 and installing something like StellarMate or Astroberry on a regular rpi4.  

 

As far as power ports, there are several options for small power distribution boxes that you can just attach to an rpi case if you want something monolithic.  I honestly don't see the point in spending the money on an asiair (and try to find one used at the price you mentioned) instead of buying a new rpi4 kit for about half the price of the asiair and adding your own power box.  And if going the Stellarmate way, spending extra money on the software.  Am I missing something here?

 

I agree zwo should open up their ecosystem to include all other indi supported cameras.  But that's really the only limitation.  It has a wide variety of mount support outside the one offered by them.  But honestly, stripping what I think is the most beneficial part of the asiair, its user interface simplicity and good hardware integration (within its limits, yes) is taking away pretty much the reason why I chose to buy the asiair in the first place.

 

And what you're proposing to do is pretty irreversible at that, especially for people not very familiar with linux.  

 

Honestly, I just don't get it.  At least not from the explanation of the OP's intent.  It's like stripping the engine out of an exotic car and putting a chevy engine in it because parts are more readily available for it.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy hacking things myself, but that doesn't mean the end result is useful, just informational maybe.

 

Edit: I can see one benefit maybe, and that is using one of the original asiair boxes that I believe are not supported anymore.  Maybe you can find one of those used cheap.  Still, I don't know what hardware limitations those have that would make them less useful than just buying an rpi4 with case.  Still trying to wrap my head around this whole project tbh.

Well I don't expect everyone to be over the moon on this project :lol: I just figure the hardware is solid and the drivers to make the power ports work, then why not use this simplistic device for imaging the stars if you are not a ZWO hardware owner (EFW, DSO, EAF)? Is it better than ZWO's own application and software suite? Of course not but it does allow for anyone to use any astro hardware they see fit and lean against known technology in INDI/INDIGO. Sure you can buy a power box and and an RPi and do the same thing. Again take it or leave it, it may not be for everyone but if one user enjoys the work then I did my part :waytogo: In terms of irreversible sure it is you can easily reload the systems from a backup and go on using the ASIAIR suite if you have ZWO equipment.

 

I agree it's not as cost-effective. It also requires 2 devices instead of just one attached to your imaging rig. I might look into getting a spare CM4104032 board and trying the Open Astro solution on my ASIAir Plus. Unfortunately, they are all on back-order.

 

Glenn

Glenn,

 

They are a pain to find. I picked one off eBay for $164 which is way overpriced but that is the new normal of electronics these days. You will also need the RPi Compute Module 4 I/O board, a computer jumper, and a Micro USB Cable to reload it. One thing to note is that the Micro USB cable is so slow for transferring images to the Compute Module 4. I am surprised Raspberry Pi didn't upgrade the cable to a USB-C cable for faster through put??


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#15 Jay6879

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Posted 08 August 2022 - 06:27 PM

Well I don't expect everyone to be over the moon on this project lol.gif I just figure the hardware is solid and the drivers to make the power ports work, then why not use this simplistic device for imaging the stars if you are not a ZWO hardware owner (EFW, DSO, EAF)? Is it better than ZWO's own application and software suite? Of course not but it does allow for anyone to use any astro hardware they see fit and lean against known technology in INDI/INDIGO. Sure you can buy a power box and and an RPi and do the same thing. Again take it or leave it, it may not be for everyone but if one user enjoys the work then I did my part waytogo.gif In terms of irreversible sure it is you can easily reload the systems from a backup and go on using the ASIAIR suite if you have ZWO equipment.

 

Glenn,

 

They are a pain to find. I picked one off eBay for $164 which is way overpriced but that is the new normal of electronics these days. You will also need the RPi Compute Module 4 I/O board, a computer jumper, and a Micro USB Cable to reload it. One thing to note is that the Micro USB cable is so slow for transferring images to the Compute Module 4. I am surprised Raspberry Pi didn't upgrade the cable to a USB-C cable for faster through put??

 

I cant see myself ever doing this modification as the asiair works perfectly as it is for me but man I love watching people dig into the guts of devices and modifying or hacking things.

 

Will you be doing any videos on your channel?


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#16 joeytroy

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Posted 08 August 2022 - 08:12 PM

I cant see myself ever doing this modification as the asiair works perfectly as it is for me but man I love watching people dig into the guts of devices and modifying or hacking things.

 

Will you be doing any videos on your channel?

Never really thought about it. Maybe I'll put something together just cause waytogo.gif  


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#17 joeytroy

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Posted 10 August 2022 - 04:12 PM

Alright the reloading video of tearing apart the ZWO ASIAIR Plus and loading the OS and booting it up and using KStars

 

https://youtu.be/7bfgTqcNSFQ


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#18 joeytroy

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Posted 10 August 2022 - 07:12 PM

Released Indigo Sky for ASIAIR Plus

 

Indigo Sky 2002-04-04: Rasbain 10 32bit using INDIGO *Known Issues – Only power ports 2, 3, and 4 work. Supports Pro & Plus

 

Download

https://www.openastro.net/downloads/



#19 joeytroy

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Posted 11 August 2022 - 07:49 AM

Released AstroBerry Server for ASIAIR Plus

 

AstroBerry Server 2.0.4:  Rasbain 10 32bit using INDI, PHD2, and many more tools. Image is completely up to date as well

 

Download

https://www.openastro.net/downloads/


Edited by joeytroy, 11 August 2022 - 07:49 AM.


#20 carbonbadu

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Posted 11 December 2022 - 09:58 AM

Best option i see is to inject all camera drivers on asi air os to be able to use the other hardware

#21 decep

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Posted 11 December 2022 - 11:56 AM

Best option i see is to inject all camera drivers on asi air os to be able to use the other hardware

Unfortunately, this will probably not work.  The indi framework only provides an interface for managing and configuring hardware.  The exact controls for the cameras are not the same across vendors.

 

For instance, there is no standard way of configuring gain on cameras.  ZWO, Touptek, Altair, and PlayerOne use the same control setting for gain, but QHY and Svbony use a different control name.  Some cameras do not support a gain setting at all (Starlight Xpress).

 

Some Altair and Touptek one shot color cameras start in RGB mode (as opposed to 16bit RAW).  Almost all vendors use their own setting for changing the camera between modes.

 

The indi framework does a good job of advertising the settings and their purpose, but ASIAIR platform only has to pay attention to ZWO settings.



#22 Viorelu

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Posted 12 December 2022 - 04:45 AM

Hi joeytroy, nice work you did there. However, it looks like the current AsiAir Plus is not based on raspberry pi anymore, nor any CM module present but a single board powered by some Rockchip RK3568B2 (i just got received my Plus couple of days ago version 3.x don't recall what's the x value). Really a bummer as i don't see any way of "replacing" the current OS in there. Any ideas ?

 

Regards,

Viorel


Edited by Viorelu, 12 December 2022 - 07:55 AM.


#23 joeytroy

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Posted 12 December 2022 - 06:31 AM

Hi joeytroy, nice work you did there. However, it looks like the current AsiAir Plus is not based on raspberry pi anymore, nor any CM module present but a single board powered by some Rockchip RK3568B2 (i just got received my Plus couple of days ago version 3.x don't recall what's the x value). Really a bummer as i don't see any way of "replacing" the current OS in there. Any ideas ?

 

Regards,

Viorel

Viorel,

 

Do you have images of the internal system when you took it apart? I would be interested in seeing what ZWO has done. With chip shortages as they are, they may have had to switch boards.



#24 Viorelu

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Posted 12 December 2022 - 07:28 AM

Will take it apart now and take some pictures. Give me a couple of minutes.

 

Regards,

Viorel

 

front
back

 

The pictures size exceed 500kb so i've added them in my gallery and linked them here, I hope they're visible. Let me know if you need any close-ups on any area while i still have this thing... "open".

 

Regards,

Viorel


Edited by Viorelu, 12 December 2022 - 07:43 AM.


#25 joeytroy

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Posted 12 December 2022 - 12:40 PM

Wow yup totally replaced the board. Be interesting to poke the bear. I have the mini coming in this month so will see if they replaced that board as well.


Edited by joeytroy, 12 December 2022 - 12:40 PM.



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