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malc-c

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Posts posted by malc-c

  1. 1 hour ago, skyguynca said:

    For most plans I can scale up or down. I have alot of experience in building tooling and jigs for my cnc shop, to building the machines in my cnc shop. I have also built 9 airplanes from scratch, plans only.

    I can handle a fork mount.

    Thanks

    David

    Pardon me... I lack the clairvoyant skills to have known you are so talented 

  2. Reading through the manual, it seems that the connection between the computer running the firmware loader application and mount is via USB cable, as the USB to TTL Serial conversion is done in the mount.  The software and firmware can be found non the skywatcher website.  Updating the firmware appears to be no different to other mounts, in that once the loader software has detected the mount and established connection clicking update sends the firmware file to the mount, reprogramming the micro controller(s).  With modern mounts that have USB ports there is less, almost no risk of physically damaging the motor board compared to older mounts that needed USB to TTL serial convertors which were blown due to the wrong convertor being used.   However, if power failed whilst the firmware is uploading then it will corrupt the firmware, but it shouldn't brick the board as the bootloader will be preserved so you should be able to repeat the steps as per page 26 of the star adventure manual 

    It is always advisable to update the firmware with the mount powered from a reliable external source rather than using the battery pack.  One other cause could be the wrong version of firmware being uploaded, especially as there are experimental versions on Skywatchers website  

  3. 1 hour ago, dazzystar said:

    Thanks a million Malcolm!

    A guide scope and camera are next on my shopping list!

    You're welcome... but like I said, it's just one way.  Some of the modern software have their own "driver" built in and can talk to the mount without EQMOD or GSServer ( a more flashier GUI version of EQMOD originally developed for the EQ8, but will work with other Synta EQ mounts).  10 years ago when I built my observatory the way I described was basically the norm for those running a windows machine.  A lot has changed in those 10 years...but as my equipment hasn't, and the newer software over looks older gear (and the developers can't see the point in adding that feature), It's how I roll (as the kids say !!)

    As for guide scopes, I used to have an ST80, but sold that and converted the SW 9 x 50 finder into a guidescope to accept my old Mk1 QHY5 - You can still do this, but with a modern camera for around £195 from FLO  - Like all things astro, there are plenty of options, and that is just one of them

    Anyway, glad to hear you got there in the end and can now control the scope.

  4. Not that it really matters but this was my workflow, which works with my basic equipment.  Not saying you should do so, but thought I would post it anyway juts in case it helps.

    • Download and install ASCOM platform and install (along with any prerequisites such as DotNet)
    • Download and install the driver for the EQDIR cable I use, which in my case is an FTDI based cable that replaced the handset (In your case this is the Prolific chipset built in the mount)
    • Download and install EQMOD, setting it up  via the Toolbox to use the com port allocated to the EQDIR cable.  For me my EQDIR cable runs at 9600 so no need to make any changes.  I also set the position co-ordinates for the observatory
    • Download and Install Cartes du Ciel as my planetarium application of choice, and set it up with the same location data that was entered into EQMOD.
    • Open up the setting in Cartes du Ciel to choose the EQMOD.ASCOM driver (the wording may have changed with the newer version) and connect to the mount (this launches EQMOD)
    • Download and install the ASCOM drivers for  my cameras
    • Download and install PHD2 and check the connection to both guide camera and mount

    Now there are a million ways to skin a cat, and my working method is just one option.  I use CdC to handle the pointing of the mount, PHD2 to guide and APT to control my dSLR camera and take all the subs.  Others will use NINA or APT to control the mount, plate solve, take the exposures and make the tea !   I can't comment on how best to use them as I'm old school and prefer to stick with what I know and what works with my old kit (one of the reason I dropped NINA as it doesn't support serial shutter release for old Canon cameras).  The bottom line is it doesn't matter what software you use, so long as you can point the scope at a target, track it via guiding, and get a decent image at the end of the night, which is what we are all aiming for

    • Like 1
  5. I'm wondering if the driver downloaded form the SW website is custom written to work with the synscan app

    Quote

    This ASCOM driver allows ASCOM clients to connect to SynScan App running on Windows, Android or iOS. After installation, choose "SynScan App Driver" as your telescope in the ASCOM client's ASCOM Telescope Chooser. SynScan App version 1.00 or above is required.

    So basically you have the com port on the mount that has the PL2303 com port driver installed on the windows PC.  Then you need the "ASCOM  compliant driver" which is going to act like EQMOD or GSServer would as being the interface between the planetarium application and the mount.

    So one possible thing to try to establish communications - Having installed the PL2303 driver I posted, down load EQMOD from here 

    Once  installed open up EQASCOM TOOLBOX  and under the setup panel ensure EQASCOM is selected in the dropdown box, and click on Driver set up.  

    This will launch the driver - Under mount type chose "SyntaEQ " if not already defaulted to this option

    Set the baud rate to match the 115200 set in device manager for the port, and set the port number to match that assigned to the mount's com port

    For now as this is just a test ignore the site info  - click OK

    Place the mount in the default parking position,  weights down and scope pointing North

    With the mount powered on and connected to the PC click the "test connection" button - if all is well this should launch EQMOD and establish communications with the mount.  If it keeps timing out and closing / opening over and over again, then click the disconnect button on the Toolbox to close EQMOD.

    Assuming it connects, in the "slew control" section, change the 1 to 4 in the small drop down boc between the RA and DEC rate sliders.  

    Now click on the NSWE buttons - the longer the click the more the mount should move.   

    Move the mount as if pointing at a random target and click the park to home button - the scope should move both axis to revert the mount back to the default home position.

    Under whichever planetarium software, or any application that needs to control the mount, when in the option to select the mount just choose EQMOD HEQ5/6 (as this was what EQMOD was originally designed for back in the day).  Don't worry about your mount not being listed, EQMOD interrogates the motor board to obtain information from it so it knows the correct gear ratios etc.

     

    Naturally this can all be done in the day time - Fingers crossed 

    If  you still get issues seeing the com port (even though Device Manager states its working fine) then you might just have to reside yourself to the fact this won't work for some reason, and purchase and use a LYNX FTDI EQDIR cable instead 

     

     

    • Like 1
  6. What messages are you seeing in device manager - does it show the com port is installed correctly with no yellow exclamation marks or messages that the driver isn't installed ?

    Not saying it will work, but this is the old Prolific 2303 chipset driver form prolific that I use for a USB to serial virtual com port for my serial shutter release on my DSLR.  You may need to remove any existing 2303 driver via device manager just so that you know you have a clean installation.

    PL2303_64bit_Installer.zip

    One possible issue is that you are having a permissions issue under windows.  If the software is being run under a user profile that lacks administrator privileges then it will fail to load the driver. 

    One thing you can do to verify the driver for the chipset used is to google the hardware ID.  Here's an example (its using the CH340 chipset found on my Arduino Nano, but the same applies to any hardware)

    driver.png.7a2847c5942be0ea498eff4e70024dbd.png

  7. I think they are mount and camera specific.  What mount are you using and does it have the SNAP port (as detailed in the manual).  If the handset had the multi purpose port then this is normally used for camera that have the old style shutter release port - which I believe is propriety rather than being a 3.5mm jack socket like that on older canon cameras.

    If you google "synscan shutter release cable" and check out the results form online suppliers such as First Light Optics or Rother Valley Optics (other retailers are available) and see if you can find a match

     

  8. 47 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

    There is another option that currently exists only in my head - but it is cheapest of the lot :D and most portable.

    Finder scope converted to guide scope with 3d printed adapter + web camera, Raspberry PI Zero 2 and custom guide software (or maybe even adaptation of PHD2) that is controlled via smart phone :D

     

    I thought I covered that 

    1 hour ago, malc-c said:

    Options for guiding:

    • Basic finder guider - £190 to £220 - Required a computer of some description to run free software to track and command the scope

     

     

    😉

    Joking apart, there are lots of possibilities

  9. 14 hours ago, hix said:

    My barrier to guiding is mostly that I plan to image whist out in the wilds as I live in an urban space. 

    I have limited electrons at my disposal and running a laptop isnt high on my list of priorities. 

    I

    Options for guiding:

    • Autoguider - £280  to £800 (Skywatcher to StarAid) - No need for any  laptop or software - totally standalone
    • Basic finder guider - £190 to £220 - Required a computer of some description to run free software to track and command the scope
    • Guidescope / camera - £300 - As above, a computer of some description is needed to run the free software
    • Finder Guider with dedicated astro PC - £500 - products like the ASiair plus
    • Off axis guider - £100 to £250 + camera - Requires some form of computer or dedicated astro PC
    • Off axis guider and illuminated eyepiece - £250 - manual guiding (ie the old fashioned way :) )

     

    • Like 1
  10. I do think that the forum should have a sticky post on this subject seeing how many times it gets asked and how many times the answers are posted !

    In a nutshell:

    a) - If the Skywatcher mount has a B type USB port then you can use a standard A-B USB cable to connect the mount to the PC.  Irrespective of the operating system used on the PC the mount will be seen as a com port.  You will need to go into the settings for the com port, which for example in windows is done via Device manager.   If the driver is missing then you need to download and install the Prolific driver from the Skywatcher website.  Once installed set the BAUD rate to 115200 and save the settings.  You should then be able to set your chosen planetarium  up to point to that com port as detailed above

    b) - If the handset has a USB port  but the mount does not, then then follow the same procedure as above but with the A-B USB cable connected between the handset and the PC, with the handset plugged into the the RJ socket on the mount.  Depending on the version of firmware on the handset you may need to place the handset into "PC-DIRECT " mode to enable pass through of the commands.

    c) - If the mount has wifi and the PC is running windows then using the above mentioned windows application, connectivity can be wireless

    d) - Even with built in USB ports, some people have mentioned issues using method a, mainly due to the use of the Prolific chipset in the mount.  An alternative is to replace the handset with an FTDI based EQDIR cable between the PC and the port where the handset normally connects.  FTDI chipset is natively supported under windows so no need to install drivers, and as they run at the default 9600 Baud, no need to change the settings in Device Manager

    Hope that helps  

  11. I'm not familiar with the mount so a quick google came up with this

     

    My only concern with the angled bar is that it takes the centre of gravity for any OTA outside of the central point of the tri-pod.  My gut feeling is that if you had a scope up to the quoted 15lbs pointing at the zenith hanging off that angled bar there could be a tendency for the thing to topple over.  Its just a feeling, and in practice it may be more stable than it looks.

     

    • Like 1
  12.  

    31 minutes ago, noah4x4 said:

    If not intending to pursue EEVA (live stacking etc), then why post the question in an EEVA equipment forum?

    Can't answer that, but with a lot of sections to choose from maybe it was a simple mistake ?

    Quote

    I have two Intel seventh generation i5 NUCSs purchased within the last 18 months and it is already evident that they won't run Windows 11, so how is the timing of purchase any guarantee of future proofing? It is also still possible to buy new low specification Celeron specification PCs.  My post deliberately embraced the full gamut of imaging from single exposures (1) to the opposite extreme of high resolution, live stacking at 4K UHD (6). I clearly stated that (1) requires minimal computing and (6) significant, with escalating demand on CPU and RAM in between. The OP needs to determine where he fits within that range.  But my response was because I was concerned that the common thrust of this thread was that "almost any PC will do", which isn't helpful to the unwary.  Equipment specifications are also changing fast after many years of being stuck in the low resolution CCD paradigm. 

    Thing is none of us can predict what upgrade path the OP would take.  Whilst I can understand your frustration, and intent to advise the OP on the pitfalls of lower spec machines, we were responding to his request for suggestions based on the current needs and equipment which was

    On 16/12/2021 at 12:56, dazzystar said:

    Hi All,

    Going to be using NINA, Sharpcap on my outdoor rig (when I buy it) which will consist initially of an EQ3 Pro, Startravel 102 scope and an ASI178MC camera. I therefore need a mini pc that can be battery powered which everything can be connected to so I can control it via my main PC over Windows RDP. What would be there minimum specs I should be considering based on all the heavy processing image work would be done by my main PC in the house?

    Cheers

    Daz

    None of that equipment requires a threadripper running on a £700 mother board with a £1000 GPU.  Granted if the OP has the money, then purchasing such a beast of a machine would be a way of future proofing his needs, should he choose to replace the mount and scope with something that warrants the use of 4K or 8K UHD cameras and be able to live stack the huge amount of data such cameras produce.  But 

    Quote

    The reason I wasted so much money was because people keep reinforcing the stereotype that virtually "any PC will do."  My point is that it is vital to think holistically  and much depends NOT upon what you plan to do today, but what you MIGHT  be doing next year. 

    This is a very valid point.   But how do we know just where we will be in the hobby in 2, or 5 or even 10 years time.  My equipment hasn't changed much since I built the observatory 10 years ago.  My interest  comes and goes depending on other things in my life.  But I know a good friend who had pretty much the same level of equipment as me when I first got to know him, but now his rig (and his approach to astronomy) is far more serious, with upwards of £10K of scope and cameras sitting on an EQ8 mount and has had the privilege of many of his images adorning Astronomy Now and other magazines .  He's just upgraded his observatory PC to a NUC last year mainly as his old trusty Dell laptop was showing is age, but he got one that suits his current needs and most people can't predict what technology will be available in 5 years time, and if there is some PC currently available that will be future proof enough.   I mean you mention windows 11.  Microsoft told us that Windows 10 was going to be the last ever OS it would develop, so you would think buying hardware in the past 12 - 18 months would be futureproofing for your needs... only to find, as you did, that the new OS won't run on it (at least not without some hacking of the install routine, but that's a different story).

    One other thing to consider is budget.  Looking at the OP's equipment I get the impression that his budget for a PC is proportional and inline with the amount he spent on his mount and scope.  Maybe this is why people recommended a basic no frills "any current pc" will do ? 

     

  13. 10 hours ago, heathenwoods said:

    Thanks, guys. I think I struck lucky with the seeing. 

    That's often the problem.  Sometimes you can get lucky and get stunning crisp and contrasting images with basic equipment, and the next fall below expectations - the quality of the air and how turbulent it is can make all the difference.

    As others have said, for the money that's a very good image

    • Like 1
  14. No expert, but how good was the polar alignment ?

    To be honest drift whilst using a video camera shouldn't be a problem as you typically stack the individual frames, and the registration of each frame is handled by the stacking software.

    • Like 1
  15. There's a balance between safety and inconveniencing others who are there for the same reasons.  If its a public spot and there is no official start party then you are under no obligations to turn headlights off when entering any carpark etc.  You might want to use the side lights if your night vision is adapted enough, but turning lights off completely whilst driving is technically against the law and can result in an non-endorsable fine of £50.

    If its an organised event and you can't get there to set up in daylight, then cover any interior lights or footwell lights with red film, or turn them off altogether.   Use dim side lights when entering the site or car park, and when setting up use red light torches, which should be turned off once you are up and running as even red light that is intensely bright can be an annoyance.

    • Like 2
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