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Painless remote control options


Ajohn
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I've been nosing around the web looking at things like Rasberry Pi autoguiding and things like that. I'd appreciate any links people have on that subject or anything similar relating to telescope control. There doesn't seem to be single source of links and hours on google bought up the starynights posts and a couple on here eventually but it's slow going.

Thinking around the subject - Laptops have the USB ports etc but not wanting to get cold I have wondered about another approach. Basically using a USB to Ethernet Hub Server at the scope. I would be inclined to run a cable to what ever I was using to drive it. 50m cables don't cost much, longer than that and cable and a crimping tool might work out cheaper. If I wanted to be close to the scope all that would be needed is a shorter cable. If I remember correctly even my netbook has an RJ45 socket. Probably another length as well if I drove the car somewhere. Some might favour wifi but I'd guess something could be plugged in to handle that.

Anybody tried this or have any thoughts? I've not really tried imaging but as I see it I would need 4 ports. Fortunate as that is what is about at reasonable cost. Webcam, Camera, Autoguide Port and Handset probably with the usual irritating RS232 socket.

One other thought was that Linux boxes used to be used purely as firewall routers when people mostly wired things up. Any old PC could be used even a 486 I believe as it didn't have much to do. This could be something a Rasberry Pi could be persuaded to do with adequate bandwidth.

I would be ideally connecting up to a Linux box but chances are that any sort of hub might have linux in it anyway or maybe it's some form of ASIC or specifically written software as that would probably be cheaper in the long run.

I make some really weird typo's at times. I've checked but ................

John

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I have some success with this

http://www.incentivespro.com/products.html

you only need to pay for Windows drivers, the Linux client is freely downloadable and does run on the rPi . 

However at the moment the most "painless" remote control is probably a remote terminal application using RDP or similar.  But it isn't the most flexible.

Routers do usually run Linus as an OS but some run vxWorks or QNX with some very high end routers having custom s/w probably Unix based..  None that I know of run  Windows!

I have an Edimax 3G router that you can download the source code for which is Linux based.

Any Linux box will route.  You just have to set it up right.

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Thanks Gkec. That indicates that there might be some mileage in what I suspect I will end up doing. There is some OS software around too. More google needed.

Nick Morris. A definite option. That is the sort of thing a USB hub server does - just a minimal pc of some sort in a small box that serves usb ports over ethernet. It seems even Maplin sell one. They can be rather expensive but I'd guess those will serve multiple users at the same time. It should be an option on all OS's but I'll bet there are no drivers for Linux which is what I run.

On other comments relating to windows home I would have assume that VNC can be installed on anything but the way I would like to do it the USB ports will look as if they are actually on my PC. No remote desktop involved.

There is some Pi stuff about but I've not looked that hard and have seen comments about video bandwidth if it tries to do anything with it like autoguiding. There is a demo on youtube somewhere but no details, just autoguiding I suspect.  Another set up is shown here.

http://www.brahmand.me/astropi/

:mad:  I forgot remote focus but then thought hang on, dlsr's have magnified live view which might help a little.

A 'pi might be able to handle a number of usb ports via a separate hub. Maybe there is a board with lots already.

Ethernet can also be sent down a mains cable but I've not looked at bandwidth.

:shocked: There was a reason I posted in DIY. I feel things like VNC and Teamwork belong some where else but maybe not as any suggestions are welcome.

John

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Edited by Ajohn
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Thanks Gkec. That indicates that there might be some mileage in what I suspect I will end up doing. There is some OS software around too. More google needed.

Nick Morris. A definite option. That is the sort of thing a USB hub server does - just a minimal pc of some sort in a small box that serves usb ports over ethernet. It seems even Maplin sell one. They can be rather expensive but I'd guess those will serve multiple users at the same time. It should be an option on all OS's but I'll bet there are no drivers for Linux which is what I run.

On other comments relating to windows home I would have assume that VNC can be installed on anything but the way I would like to do it the USB ports will look as if they are actually on my PC. No remote desktop involved.

There is some Pi stuff about but I've not looked that hard and have seen comments about video bandwidth if it tries to do anything with it like autoguiding. There is a demo on youtube somewhere but no details, just autoguiding I suspect.  Another set up is shown here.

http://www.brahmand.me/astropi/

:mad:  I forgot remote focus but then thought hang on, dlsr's have magnified live view which might help a little.

A 'pi might be able to handle a number of usb ports via a separate hub. Maybe there is a board with lots already.

Ethernet can also be sent down a mains cable but I've not looked at bandwidth.

:shocked: There was a reason I posted in DIY. I feel things like VNC and Teamwork belong some where else but maybe not as any suggestions are welcome.

John

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I have tried a USB/Ethernet hub and although it worked it was Windows only and didn't work well with high data volumes as produced by cameras.  

Using a mini PC as a USB/Ethernet hub is just an expensive way of implementing the functionality of IncentivesPro USB director.

I also tried USB-IP as used in your link.  I came to the conclusion that spending some money, about £50 I think, was worth several days of trying to get USB-IP to work especially with Windows.

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All points taken on board.  For my use, the main reason for switching to a PC at the telescope is so that my imaging keeps on running no matter what happens to computers in the house.  It also means that I can do away with a USB hub and hopefully minimise points of failure......

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Thanks for the replies. I hope more keep coming.

A lot of the 'pi stuff seems to run on SD cards. I would have thought that will slow them down and just wouldn't compete with on board flash and ram.  With the cards a lot would depend on the hardware on the 'pi not just the card speeds - just as it does when downloading from cameras or directly from it's card.

I have found 1 hub that seems it may have something to offer - I have no connection with the seller

http://www.amazon.co.uk/warranty-EasyAcc®-SuperSpeed-Ultrabooks-Raspberry-x/dp/B00IZA09SU/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

It would need a soldering iron to add local power and just 3 ports so  :laugh:  I have asked a stupid question. The reviews suggest that it works with Linux. Not surprising as this sort of thing was added to the kernel when the open source software was developed.  I've had my main machine running Linux for at least 15 years now  :smiley: do I know my way round it really - no, I mostly stick with the desktop and delve deeply only when I need to. So if I run into grief I ask on linuxquestions.org adding please be gentle. The various distribution forums can be helpful as well.

I'm pretty sure there are a few spare wires in an ethernet cable connection. Might be a simple way of managing remote focus.

I've used a sata hub with card reader and usb ports for a long time. Other than one failing after more years than I can be sure of can't say as I have had any problems with it. I use it to load up all of my photo's and to back up my drives at times. As it's close to the screen I also use it for keyboard and mouse comms. It comes with it's own power supply which I suspect helps a lot. The unpowered hub in my monitor is hopeless.

I'd guess the 'pi board is this one?

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/RASPBERRY-Pi-2-Model-B-version1-1-Board-QUAD-CORE-1GB-RAM-The-Very-Latest-/261757168772?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item3cf1f16c84

If there is a decent C dev kit available I might be tempted to have a go at doing something with that in the summer.

John

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Everything pretty much runs from an SD card on the RPi because that's it's main form of mass storage.  Once it's in memory however it will stay there unless the memory is required for something else, so it's only really start-up times that are affected.

Your link is indeed the new RPi I was talking about.  Not sure about a C development environment though.  vi/vim and make always did the job for me.  There is Eclipse, though I think that would probably be rather memory and CPU hungry for the RPi.  Of course there's nothing stopping you from developing on another more powerful Linux machine and cross-compiling for ARM.

James

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I had a look at using C on it. It seems running a dev kit on it is a rather slow option.  :sad: Only problem with that approach is that I retired at a rather early age from a job that involved a lot of electronics and software. The will to write software can fade as surprising as that might sound.  Due to that experience I also looked to see if there were any RTOS's available. There are but that would probably turn out to be a major undertaking.

I may have found an answer INDI

http://indilib.org/

It seems windows versions are also available but I didn't look at that.  Looking briefly that does seem to be capable of controlling remotely over wire or wifi. It also looks like the bits needed at the telescope end have been ported to 'pi. On the other hand it should also work via a remote hub. The mention using 'pi USB and suggest adding a powered hub. The new board has 4 and the soldering iron could be used again if the current it can give isn't high enough. The board also seems to have additional port i/o and there is a neat idea for remote focusing of both finder and scope on the site. They also seem to have some sort of autofocus arrangement.

I still have a couple of philips CCD webcams. Some seem to have had a bit of trouble using those. I had hoped to use that as a guider and debayering one of them as per the thread on the subject. It's an odd ball on linux and needs a kernel patch to work well or at all, not sure. Sad if they can't be used as from the few I have played with they are still the best.

:sad: Not much luck with my question on Amazon so far - eg Why don't you just use a 5 port USB hub. Also a link to a usb via ethernet using a long wire to get over USB's distance problems. More useful but USB 1.1. Not sure about distance but I have laid 100ft plus cables in the house in the past without using anything special to drive them. If distance is a problem a 'pi would need a repeater as well.  :grin: Maybe wifi would be simpler after all. It's just I'm sure some one local has tried to hack our printer every now and again.

John

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could you not simply use some cheap USB to Ethernet adapters (think 100m max length IRC) and a powered usb hub at the scope end? That way you could do it cheap and with minimal hardware

 That's what the remote hub I posted a link to seemed to be when I first looked.  Must have been wishful thinking. Some one posted a link to a device of the type you suggest but usb 1.1 and no speed spec. I've  looked for better but so far haven's found much. I'm not sure about max distances but having used a networked PC at work it seems to be a pretty long way with just typical pc gear. I got some people in to wire up an office once. I'm sure some of the cables were over 100ft. Later larger premisses and an IT Dept rather than me plus much longer cables but I'm not sure if repeaters were used. They sometimes do this by using ethernet switch boxes.

INDI and a Pi seems to be good option as it can take care of the lot on one cable but that needs looking into. I'll ask a few questions on their forum shortly. The 'pi linked too has 4 ports and i/o pins which I suspect could drive the remote focusing they describe on their site - just model servo motors.  :grin: I can cope with loading up Linux software, I'm just not keen on writing the stuff any more. The habit dies easily and I have the feeling if I started again I might not be able to stop. The INDI instructions look pretty straight forwards anyway.

I have found usb extenders with a spec of sorts, ebay 361045474841. 251378758676  Once the distance goes up so does the price. There is also a lot of USB 1 stuff about.

John

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Yes, I got a USB via Ethernet kit and when I got it discovered it was only USB 1.1 and no good for imaging :(  Not much will run with USB 1.1 these days except jeyboard and mouse :grin:

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+1 for VNC.  I would probably (and did) skip the Pi and went to an Intel i5 barebones PC to ensure compatibility with current software etc.  AP is hard enough without having to struggle with computers too!

Yes. I use a Gigabyte BRIX. Small, low power, enough ports. can hang it on a wall.

The only (well, OK, not only, but important) thing is to turn off all automatic updates. The most annoying thing is when you're halfway through a "sesh" and the O/S decided it's more important to shut down so some piece of software can be updated than to let the user get on with why they bought the wretched thing in the first place.

Edited by pete_l
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Yes, I got a USB via Ethernet kit and when I got it discovered it was only USB 1.1 and no good for imaging :(  Not much will run with USB 1.1 these days except jeyboard and mouse :grin:

There is another way but how to use it ? eg, the page may load slowly.

http://www.fiberstore.com/10-100-1000base-t-gigabit-ethernet-auto-negotiation-copper-sfp-optical-transceiver-p-20036.html

There are also some that use 2 cables. Others look to be even cheaper but not sure how they connect. There might just be a reasonably priced UK supplier. There are some cheapish dual fibre managed ones on ebay but straight links like the above would be better. Not that I know much about them. Looking further they all use 2 fibres.

John

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Yes, I got a USB via Ethernet kit and when I got it discovered it was only USB 1.1 and no good for imaging :(  Not much will run with USB 1.1 these days except jeyboard and mouse :grin:

:evil:  Looking a bit more.

Cat 5 and 6 cable  can be used for up to 100m including 10m of the flexible stuff. The rest needs to be solid cored with kink bend limitations of 4 times it's diameter. In the case of Cat 5 it  sounds like it would be better to use 5e. The cable is pretty cheap so a dedicated line or two wouldn't be out of the question.

Not much info about on  a fibre optic arrangement but this

http://www.fiberstore.com/-p-32658.html?currency=GBP&gclid=CJXP8Ir8zMMCFSbHtAodXCsAnA

going on this just plugs into the usual connect on a router or what ever

http://thefarmingforum.co.uk/index.php?threads/fibre-optic-internet-diy.6846/

Treasure Island GB again, when UK supplier sell them they must laugh all of the way to the bank.

There are also active USB extension leads about such as these

http://mdrelectronics.com/ProductDisplay.asp?PID=5651

Going on that link it may be possible to just link the usual 20m ones up to each other. Just like the ethernet USB extenders there would be a need to check they don't just really use USB 1. There may be USB 3 ones about.

Then there is wifi. If I did that I would want it on a totally different network than the rest of the  house. It's pretty busy already. That doesn't sound too difficult to achieve. There are no signs of wifi usb extenders. It might be possible to use a couple of 'pi's for that or  just one as a transceiver to another beefier one near the scope.

:grin: VNC and turn the auto updates off - I just get a pop up telling me some are available. I suppose VNC is ok for people who can't sort other ways out. I don't have any software chuntering about on the internet all on it's own either - can't say the same for other things in the house, mac's, windows, phones, tv, ipads, radio and etc. I've run my current set up for around 3 years, time to upgrade really but it's still as fast as it was when I initially installed it.

John

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