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As I am about to embark on the next step of astronomy - computer guiding, imaging (DSLR & Webcam), processing and all that entails - I am thinking of using a dedicated computer for this and all my other astronomy, rather than having to keep unplugging my existing laptop and taking it outside.  As I don't have a permanent observatory (one day!) and have to set up outside each time, another laptop almost certainly has to be the way to go but I was wondering if from experience anybody could recommend a suitable machine (new or second hand) or at least define what the minimum requirements should be to deal with what can be considerable computing demands e.g. RAM etc?     

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You won't need power machine. Average office small-sized laptop (or notebook, although less powerful) will do just fine. As long as you don't go lower than 2GB in RAM or less than dual core CPU. The modern CPUs such as Core i3 will be more than sufficient for your needs and won't cost you a fortune.

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I would have thought any, with a min 2Gb of RAM, USB2 and a proper keyboard would do.

I have my main laptop with up to 64GB, Win7 Ultimate, and a hacked about HP Pavilion under XP 32bit with just 4GB RAM and it works fine, although a bit slow when trying to process afterwards.

Go for a S/H 64bit system as 32bit won't address any extra RAM over 4GB.

Post session proccessing is what uses resources.

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I use an IBM thinkpad T41 - it will do almost everything except high frame planetary image captures.

It is anceint and runs windows XP.

If you go for something then a large hard drive would be nice. 

I've also a second hand Desktop in my observatory which is better -HP Compaq DC5700 Intel Dualcore @ 3.00GHz 2GB Ram 80GB HD

£50 of ebay

Lee

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Laptop and fast post-processing and taking the thing outside don't really mix - you might like to re-think the equation slightly and either go for a simple light laptop for the capture / guiding, then a custom or cheap 2nd-hand jobbie with lots of processing and RAM inside for the processing.

I second the used ThinkPad as they're built from cast iron or something and should last ages.  For about £400 you could get a custom built power house desktop indoors, super fast and better than any off-the-shelf laptop for anything close to the money (monitor extra, they are about £100 new).  Those eBay HP DCxxxx series slim desktops are not bad but not very future proof or upgradeable, maybe a graphics card but that's about it.

I know someone who builds such custom PCs, PM me if interested and I'll direct you to his website.

Edited by jonathan
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Get one with a big screen. You'll be surprised at how many windows you can end up having open at the same time. But don't spend a lot. In the dark is easy to trip over things. You don't need much processing power to guide a mount. Get a cheap external hdd and stack your images on a more powerful machine at your leisure.

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One thing about buying 2nd-hand laptops, don't expect much out of the battery, plan for a mains supply.  Even a brand new laptop might only give you about four hours of battery life, much less in the cold.

Edited by jonathan

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I use an HP/Compaq mini 311 netbook for my capture.  Very cheap to pick up on eBay (about £100) and the batteries give you about 5-6 hours when new.  Mines about 4 years old and I still get 4 hours out of it with the screen on.  I've set it up so I can close the top and the screen goes off but everything stays active -means I can control it from inside via wireless and VNC.

Would be useless for processing, but runs APT, PHD, EQMOD and WifiScope (for skysafari control of the scope via EQMOD) very well.  Has 2Gb of RAM.

You can also pick up an oversized battery for £30-odd quid to give you about 7 to 8 hours, and a 12v lighter socket PSU for about a tenner. All in all, a great netbook for capture.  I use a DSLR and capture to both card and APT on the netbook, so I ave a backup if my card fails for some reason.  Can also use that to preview and analyse the images via a network share whilst it's capturing :)

All good stuff!

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Greetings

My weapon of choice is a second hand DELL XPS M1710 with 4 gig ram 256 meg graphics and 500 gig hdd 1900x1600 screen res (full hd) duel core 2.33Ghz.

plenty of grunt to run QHY132e on guide scope , PHD2,5dmk2 imaging,Back yard eos, Stallarium, Ascom, WIN7 ultimate. plenty of usb ports and even game pad runs to control scope tracking.

second hand from ebay £110

Andy

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