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malc-c

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Everything posted by malc-c

  1. Not always... , computers being what they are sometimes it goes pearshaped.... Some nights you can roll the roof back, power up, boot the PC and be imaging in less than 20 minutes.... I park the scope, shut down and close up for the night. Now you would think that as nothing has moved or been touched, the next session would be the same... nope... PC issues (I remote desktop into the PC from the house), power issues, detached cables, or Windows updates occur and then nothing works (my equipment is old from the windows 7 days), or it all works, but for some reason the guiding is not as good, so you spend hours running the calibrations to see if it can be improved. All part and parcel for astronomy
  2. Glad to read you are getting somewhere. This is how I set up my system, and my workflow. Like most things there is more than one way to get the end results, and we all have our own methods. I use basic equipment, which is dated by current standards, but it works for me and I don't have the money to upgrade. The first thing I did on the observatory PC was to install ASCOM, EQMOD, CdC, Sharpcap, APT and PHD2. I just installed them, one after another, including any drivers needed for my hardware. Then I used a GPS dongle purchased from Maplins (remember them) and used the option in EQMOD to set the long lat and elevation form GPS device. I then manually created a new observatory location in CdC using the same information displayed in EQMOD that it in turn obtained from the GPS device. That was the only two applications that required the site data. At this point I tested the functionality of using CdC to control the mount. I then set up APT, just basic things such as folder location, camera control (my 400D uses a serial control cable) and the like. Once I tested the long exposure control of the camera I selected a bright star (Arcturus comes to mind) and after a slew instructed from CdC , centre the star in the image by taking 10 second exposures and making small adjustments using the NSWE buttons in EQMOD. Once centred I then opened up Sharp cap and adjusted the finder guider so that the start was also centred in the finder / guider, so that both the finder and the main scope are aligned. I also have a red dot finder on the OTA and that too was lined up so all three devices are optically aligned. I entered the details of the finderscope and camera into Sharpcap, and then used the excellent polar alignment tool to PA the mount. Lastly PHD2 is launched and the details of the camera and the finderscope entered, and the connectivity to the camera and the mount checked. Now whilst it's possible to use APT to control the mount, and relay info for tracking etc I use each application singularly. I use CdC to select the target and start tracking the target. This application is then minimalized, and I then get PHD2 guiding, and once that is guiding, it too is minimalized This leaves APT up and running. I then set up a plan of usually 20 x 4 minute subs at 800ISO and if the first one turns out OK then let the thing run. As I mentioned before, this is just my way. Others will suggest plate solving (which is basically how Sharpcap sets up the PA), and you can delve into the preferences of each application and set up limits, auto flips at the meridian, etc, but me, I keep things simple
  3. As Tomatobro states, the only way to have EQMOD running is to have the mount powered up and connected to the PC. If the mount is unpowered or the EQDIR cable disconnected the com port or communications won't be established and EQMOD will constantly pop up and vanish as it can't connect to the mount. Whilst EQMOD is not a standalone program, it can be used without any other instruction form other software via the tool box utility which is uses to initially set up the application, provided the mount is powered and connected to the computer.
  4. Agree with Julian, contact the retailer from where it was purchased and explain what's happening. Making that call now means that you'll still have consumer law on your side should the retailer try to worm out of their responsibilities. Having said that, most of the large retailers in the UK are decent and have excellent after sales service, so you should be fine
  5. Excellent... I don't use Stalerium so can't comment on why there was a conflict of ports. I use Cartes du Ciel, and when you use its hardware interface popup, selecting EQASCOM as the telescope and clicking the connect button launches EQMOD. Anyway, its irrelevant as you've resolved the communications issue between mount and PC
  6. The lazy astronomer covers what I was typing at the time very well. The only issue you may have is prolific chipset used hasn't been supported by Windows 10 for several years. But there are drivers that can be used IF you find that to be an issue. - try the attached if device manager complains PL2303_64bit_Installer.zip
  7. The newer mounts with a USB - B port don't need any special cables. A standard USB A - B cable of no more than 3m will be fine. With the mount powered up and the cable connected, windows Device manager (presume your running windows as you mentioned ASSCOM) should detect the mount and create a virtual com port. By default this com port will be set to 9600 baud, the speed at which data is sent back and forth. On mounts with a built in USB port they work at 115000 baud, so you will need to open the properties and of the port and change the speed. Once done close the properties and make a not of the com port. If the entry for the port has a yellow exclamation mark, then chances are it needs the driver, which should be available for the Skywatcher website. Download and run the driver installer, and reboot the PC if required, and then change the speed setting as directed. The download and installed EQMOD (no need to install ASCOM platform as you have already done so by the sounds of things. Once installed, run the TOOLBOX option, and under the setup section, with EQASCO selected in the drop down box click Driver Set up. Under EQMOD Port details set the baud rate to match the 115000 speed we just set, and select the same COM port number. Under mount type select Synta EQ, and under site information enter your long/lat info. Then click OK. Once back at the toolbox, click the test connection which will launch EQMOD. Under the slew control section, change the 1 in the dropdown box to 4 and then click on the NSWE buttons the mount should move. If that works then it has proven the communications are working fine. If you remove the USB lead and simply use the handset, does that work, or do you get a "no response " message for either or both axis ? - If the handset works but the USB doesn't, then you need an EQDIR cable such as this one - Again, when you plug this into the computer it will be detected, and as it used FTDI chipsets, windows should install the COM port driver automatically. Once that is done leave its speed set to 9600 - don't change it. Power off the mount and the computer. Remove the handset and connect the other end of the EQDIR cable to the same port the handset would normally go. Power on the mount and power on the computer. Follow the same steps above with the Toolbox to point EQMOD to the new port and new speed of 9600. Test the connection as before Let us know how you get on
  8. There are guys on here that are far more experienced in the dark art of collimation than I, but having spend a long time in the past resolving an issue I had with my 200P I got quite good at collimating. But I use a Hotech laser collimation tool, with the self centring adapter. This, plus the hole in the cap method, and the string method for centring the secondary and squaring up the vanes (basically pull a length of white cotton between the anchor points along the vanes (like the lines in the images above), then checking with a set of callipers all helped get the optics aligned. If you type in "collimation" into the search bar above and read up on all the previous discussions I'm sure you'll get it tighter
  9. The problem with public forums is we all have differing opinions based on our own needs, or interests. For me I originally purchased an explorer 200P on and EQ5 pro goto mount. It was great, gave me nice bright views, and originally purchased as a visual scope, but soon got interested in imaging, and shoved an old Philips SPC900 CCD webcam in place of the eyepiece and took some video of the moon onto an old Asus Netbook... I was hooked, but then found that adding a DSLR camera to the set up and added camera cables etc I soon found the mount limited. At that time (10 years ago !!) I was in the position to build an observatory and upgrade the mount to an HEQ5. I modified a canon D400 and added a guidescope. I made a loss when I sold the EQ5 and tripod, and with hind sight should / would have gone straight for the HEQ5/200PDS set up... but then at the time of purchase that would have pushed my budget to the max, and as mentioned I hadn't really considered imaging. There are loads of people who love and use Dobsonians - they give the largest aperture per £, easy to use (can't get more basic than their design) and as mentioned basic photography can still be achieved using a Dob or ALT/AZ mount. There are countless threads on imaging, and recommendations form other members. One option is a decent mount (ideally EQ) and using a camera with a 55-300mm range of lenses. Ideal for wide field constellation shots, or nice tight images of bright galaxies, the Moon and bright nebula... That's thrown another spanner in the works for you
  10. Collimation is one of those topics that everyone has opinions on, and can be hard to document as sometimes taking a picture of what you see with your eyes are two different things. But taking your image and comparing it to one I took when I was resurrecting my scope (hence the cobweb which was the reason for the image !) your collimation looks off. There seems to be a slight twist in one vane and the secondary doesn't seem central as you'll see by the yellow lines in the images below Laying the line straight and in line with the left vane, the one on the right is slightly out. I also feel the reflection of the focuser tube is not centralised in the secondary This was how my collimation was before I cleaned and overvalued my 200P having been sat in the observatory unused for 3 years. The secondary needed a little tweek, but you can see how the vanes are true and square. The goal of collimation is to get nice round stars. If you locate a bright star and then rack the focus all the way in and all the way out and get nice airy rings than that's all that matters
  11. I've not used one, but that looks a very capable scope, and if your current AZ mount (you've not told us what that is) can take the weight this could make for a very good imaging rig with a dSLR or dedicated astro video camera. There was a couple of recent SGL challenges of creating an image using 30s subs and non goto mounts and some of the results using non EQ mounts were amazing. What scope and mount do you currently own ?
  12. My advice would be to contact a specialist retailer such as Rother Valley Optics, First light optics or some of the smaller retailers. Explain your budget and who will use the scope and what their interests are and they should be able to advise you what they have in stock to meet your needs. If they are in a reasonable travelling distance then go and see the scope. Often seeing something in reality is totally different to seeing a glossy picture.
  13. One thing to think about is if you opt for a Goto version of the EQ5 (or any goto system for that matter) is that you don't need to worry too much about the positioning as the goto handles that for you... whether you use the handset or a computer and software, once you told the system where a couple of stars are you simply select the target and and it does the rest
  14. MC004 is for a Dob mount. L3 an L4 are small surface mount ferrite beads that form a filter with two capacitors, possibly C8 and C9. They are possibly BLM31PG500SN1L (or equivalent) with the following spec:, 1206 [3216 Metric], 50 ohm, 3.5 A, EMIFIL BLM31P Series, 0.015 ohm Available form most online suppliers (but most are affected by shortages due to CV19) Having repaired several SW motor boards you may find that then two 16F886's have blown as well depending what you did to damage the board. If you replace L1 / L2 and still get a "no response both axis" then you'll need to replace the PICs and have them programmed. as covered in this thread EDIT - On HEQ5 / EQ6 boards L3 and L4 are Ferrite Beads - on the MC003 Schematic I have (similar to a MC004 for a Dobsonian) L4 is shown as an inductor....with no component value. It connects pins 1 and 4 of the link cable connector to ground.
  15. Do a search on YouTube for "Astronomy Shed" - there are some old, but excellent videos on balancing a scope in three axis so the centre of gravity matches the balance point.
  16. Not silly questions at all. Polar alignment is a requirement of an EQ mount, so that is one process that would need to be done. However, for visual observation it only needs to be an approximation, but the closer the better the tracking and goto's will be when / if you purchase an EQ5 with the pro goto kit. Before I had my observatory I used a compass to mark out North on a patio, and then when I had polar aligned on a clear night, marked where the tripod legs were positioned. The next day I drilled holes in the patio and screwed in three stainless steel washers as permanent markers. Then it was just a case of placing the mount down on these markers and alignment was good enough You would need to polar align each time the scope is moved, again for visual use precise alignment is not such a requirement. There are ways to PA when Polaris is not visible, but having sight of it makes life a tad easier. An EQ mount will point at the same targets as an AZ mount, but often the positioning is not intuitive until you get used to it. Once you get used to thinking in rotational positioning it all falls into place. For imaging I personally would say a 8kg payload would be on the limit for an EQ5. It really depends on the the scope. Place a 200P on an EQ5 and even a slight wind will play havoc with tracking and taking stable images, especially when additional equipment such as guide scopes and cameras are added. There used to be an accepted "rule" that the payload should be no more than 2/3 the stated load capacity of the mount when used for imaging. But these days a short tube refractor can weigh 8kg and may perform very well on an EQ5 as it's not affected by the weather as much. Astrophotography is a deep hole, with no real bottom. At one end of the scale you can attach a mobile phone to an eyepiece and take an image, maybe assisted by a bracket costing just a few quid to hold the camera, right the way up to dedicated cameras and precision mounts that equals the cost of a luxury car. My advice, having been through a change of mount form an EQ5 to and HEQ5 is to work out exactly what you want to do imaging wise and if you really want the frustrations that go with it. If you are mainly a visual observer who wants to take the odd image then an AZ mount is still a possibility. If you want to take hours worth of 5 minute exposures to be stacked and processed then an EQ mount is a must, mainly as it ellimiates field rotation over the period of the session.
  17. Yup, as I feared, the LCD is unique to that product - found these images of the internals of Mead handsets and the connector is non standard for an off the shelf component http://staff.washington.edu/seymour/astro/guts2.html
  18. Googling the images it seems that the handset used a 2 line x 16 character LCD. However whilst that may well be standard the interface to the PCB may well be propriety, meaning that a standard off the shelf 2x16 LCD can't be fitted. I would also advise against plugging in a Synscan handset - it is more probable that the pin outs are different on the connector and damage could result. The communications protocol will be different too so it wouldn't do much.
  19. Well there is always the backup of the backups My workflow uses a shared network drive (1TB) as the default backup drive. Macrim Reflect runs on all PCs, with backup plans that back up / copy important documents and files to that shared drive. I also back up the most important files to dropbox, but only the really critical files as space is limited. I then have a backup that mirrors the shared drive to the NAS. So in effect I have two restore solutions, the NAS if the shared drive fails, or the shared drive if the NAS running the RAID fails. When imaging, the raw images are saved to the observatory PC. Whilst I have macrim running to image the machine on a regular basis, I use SyncToy to monitor the folder where APT saves the images to and copy them to a folder on the shared drive (and thus to the NAS). It does this in real time, so should the observatory PC have a hard drive problem it can be reimaged quickly and I haven't lost any images other than the one that may have been in the process of saving to the disk at the time of failure. Imaging drives is another thing - I recently messed about with NINA on the Observatory only to find it didn't support my old Canon DSLR, and then uninstalling caused other issues. So it was a simple case to run the rescue media from a USB drive and apply the previous drive image to the PC. 20 minutes and I was back to how things were before I messed about. Again, these images (compressed) are stored on both the shared drive and the NAS. With random ad hock images stored on flash drives as a back up mainly as one or two PCs don't really change much in terms of applications installed. As you say, it's all well and good having all these system, but you also need to be diligent when it comes to deleting anything from the machines.... chances are its the one folder you thought wasn't important and this one that is never backed up
  20. Basically what you are doing by mirroring one drive to the other is essentially a RAID, but with out the advantages a RAID system has to offer. Trust me, RAID is a must, especially if the NAS supports hot swapping. I got my old Netgear NAS off e-bay for around £50 with two 1TB drives, which I later discovered were cheap ones and not really suited to 27/7 running when one failed nine months later. I didn't lose any data as the drives were mirrored, although I had lost redundancy until I got a replacement. I bought a pair of more reliable drives which arrived next day. This is where the advantage of RAID comes in as it was a simple case of insert the first drive and let the NAS rebuild the array across the first new drive, and then when complete, pull the remaining old drive out and insert the second new drive in its place and let it rebuild the array once more - Took around a day or so and didn't need any other intervention, I just left it to do its thing.
  21. Personally I would suggest investing in a NAS drive. I picked up one a few years back like this one and use Macrim Reflect to back up files / folders / dives to it. The drives are run in RAID so mirror each other and if one ever fails juts plug in a replacement and the raid is rebuilt with no loss of data. To be honest, if you just accidently erased the files, the data is still there, just not indexed, and most disk management systems will still mark the sectors on the disc as having data when new applications are installed unless the disk is very tight on space. Most recovery tools are run on a different machine with the effected disk connected as a secondary drive. However, if you have since retaken the images then it a case of closed gate and bolted horse.... But moving forward no doubt you have learned a lesson here and will now look at a more robust data storage option
  22. I think it was more a problem with limitations of the language EQMOD was written in (VB I believe) that held EQMOD developing into something with a nice glossy GUI...
  23. I must admit I'm amazed at the patience of people on here, paying upwards of £2K and waiting a year for a product after the order was placed.... I would have already gone bald having pulled my hair out in this time. I'm sure most of those customers would be more than understanding about staffing issues or cash flow if they had been informed, which as has been discussed wouldn't take that amount of time or resources to do, and communication with customers is all part and parcel of running a business. Good luck with recovery of your deposit... sadly I feel that more and more customers will be going down the court route.
  24. This may mean more to you than me... But it suggests that the underlaying hardware protocols are functioning in that the USB chipset is detected and dealt with by the OS. But as the communications is handled by "the driver" and this is where you are getting the issue, then that is where I would look. Google is full of similar issues where direct connection with a handset works, but when used with a Pi and EQDIR cables it fails, example here Maybe the issue is USB3... does the Pi have USB2 ports.
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