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Skyportal or SkyFi3 wifi scope control - user experience survey


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I am hoping that people will post here to report their experiences with these wifi scope control devices. What are you using them with? Which mount? Which software do you use, SkyPortal or SkySafari or something else? What hardware do you run the software on, i.e. what device and what version - e.g. iPad Air with 16MB. Finally, how do you find the performance? Do you experience lag, loss of connection, crashes?

If we get enough responses, this might provide answers to some questions such as:

Is the latest SkyPortal dongle any different to the original Skyq Link? Does the latest one perform any better?

What are the best partnering/host devices? Android, iPad, iPhone.

Do newer host devices with more powerful processors perform better than older devices?

Personally, I have been using a Celestron Skyq link on and off for a couple of years. When I first got it, there was a partnering Skyq app from Celestron that was pretty poor. Then the SkyPortal app came along, together with support in SkySafari, which improved things a lot. To answer my own questions, this is my setup:

Original Skyq link dongle

SkySafari 5

Original iPad with 16GB

Celestron AVX mount with Starsense

And this is my experience to date:

The software is robust, it always connects to the mount and recognises the Starsense camera and aligns quickly and accurately. Goto works well. But trying to control the scope using the virtual buttons on the touch screen of the iPad is very frustrating. There is a lot of lag between touching one of the buttons and the scope moving. This lag varies seemingly at random. Sometimes it moves almost immediately, sometimes after a long pause, sometimes it just never responds. Then the amount that the scope moves doesn't really relate to how long you touched the button for. Some nights the lag will be manageable, other nights it can be bad enough to be pretty much unusable. For me this is the main issue I have with using the dongle vs the handset. Last night I was trying to frame the Orion Nebula, and it took about 15 mins (and even then it wasn't exactly how I wanted it). I would much prefer using SkySafari to control the mount over using the hand controller, but the lag is so frustrating that usually I use the hand controller. I would be prepared to invest in a newer version of the wifi dongle, of the SkyFi 3, or a more up to date iPad, or an Android device, if I knew that this would solve the issues.

So, please post your own experiences here. Hopefully it will help people make a more informed purchasing decision, or allow people to upgrade with some degree of confidence that it will pay off.

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SkySafari 5 pro on iPad Air 2 64Gb

usimg SkyFi  (the one with the USB port)

connected via rs-232 to Meade Lx-90

 

All features of SkySafari work great in this setup.  No connection issues and the performance is good.

 

 

Have tried WifiScope instead of the SkyFi.  Currently the Ascom driver for the Lx-90 does not allow the skewing buttons to work properly in SkySafari.   Also not sure if the date and location information is sent to the scope.  (Both happens on the SkyFi)

 

 

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On my LX-90, yes.  The skyfi plugs into the serial port that is on the hand controller.  The serial control can be used at the same time as the hand controller is used normally.  The rule is not to do something silly like start a slew, then try to do something with the handbox - although, the hand box won't like that happy anyway.

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17 hours ago, Max N said:

That's great input, thanks.

Am I right in thinking you can still use the buttons on the hand controller when using SkyFi?

You can also use the HC directional buttons in SkyPortal or SkySafari when using Celestron WiFi.

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8 hours ago, cjdawson said:

On my LX-90, yes.  The skyfi plugs into the serial port that is on the hand controller.  The serial control can be used at the same time as the hand controller is used normally.  The rule is not to do something silly like start a slew, then try to do something with the handbox - although, the hand box won't like that happy anyway.

Skyfi is looking like a good option, thanks

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10 minutes ago, noah4x4 said:

You can also use the HC directional buttons in SkyPortal or SkySafari when using Celestron WiFi.

You're right, I'd forgotten about that, I'll give that a try next time out.

Do you have SkyPortal?

How do you find it?

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Skysafari 5 Plus is much better than the free SkyPortal APP.

The Plus version is worth the £9.99 investment. But you probably don't need the Pro version.  Plus offers 2.5M stars and 31,000 DSO's.  Unless you invest in a seriously big scope and set up in Death Valley or Galloway, you probably don't need 'Pro's, 25M stars down to 18th magnitude.

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On Sunday, January 22, 2017 at 22:36, Max N said:

Sorry, I meant do you have the SkyPortal dongle - but I see from your signature you have the Evolution. Do you have any problems with the wifi?

Yes I did, but now I don't.  

The Gen2 version has an improved antenna, but the Gen1 Evolution that I have did suffer from reputed WiFi woes caused by "WiFi Clutter". Initially I had such problems, then after three months I discovered other undocumented causes... 

In my Android tablet I found a hidden "battery saving" APP. This nuisance was turning off SkySafari (or SkyPortal)  after n minutes of inactivity. I deleted it and things improved.

I then discovered in SkySafari that if the <read out>  rate is set too high that too can cause WiFi  drop outs. By read out rate I mean the number of times per second that data is sought by the APP. I lowered that and things further improved.

Celestron also updated the firmware for the Evolution mount, also for Nexstar HC + and Starsense during 2016. Other stuff like 'forgetting' your home WiFi assists. I also have a WiFi only tablet so I don't get interferance from local 'hot spots'. I don't think using cell 'phones will be quite as reliable as they are constantly seeking a connection. Direct Access Mode is arguably the solution then.

I have progressively eliminated these issues and conclude that whilst the early Gen1 Evolution's did have some potential problems due to the weak antenna most reported incidents probably had a far more material software or local environment cause (as described). New Gen2 Evolution's now seem fine but they now retail at £1,799. I bought mine (Gen1) for merely  £1,585 in April 2016, so I am content with suffering its rare WiFi lapse! 

One bonus of my initial experience was it forced me to learn how to properly use the HC. Those that skip that and immediately pick up a tablet tend not to gain the experience of what is in the HC 'menu tree'.  Then when something goes wrong, or they want to be more ambitious  (such as astrophotography using a wedge), they don't have the same awareness of primary set up parameters as it's like skipping a chapter in a book if one has become dependent on automated inputs from a tablet. A second bonus is that the search for solutions meant I discovered SGL and Cloudy Nights. I hence flew through the enormous learning curve and now have a level of competence that I would not have if dependent on a tablet. I love WiFi and Tablet,  but don't skip learning HC skills.

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Thanks for the detailed feedback. I'll try some of your suggestions next time out. I'm using iPad but I'll look for the equivalent battery saving APP!

I'll check the read out rate in SkySafari. Also will make sure the firmware is up to date on everything. I'll also forget the home wifi.

One thing I found helped was to make sure nothing else was running on the iPad. I usually power it down completely then power back up and only start SkySafari. But this might only be an issue because my iPad is very old and has a puny processor.

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