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SteveNickolls

Remotely Controlling Imaging Queries

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Mods, I hope this is the best place on the forum to post, please feel free to move it to a more appropriate forum area if needed!

I have a few queries connected to developing my current imaging set up. I presently use an active USB cable allowing BYEOS to control my DSLR at the bottom of the garden on a CG-5 Go-To mount. In the near future I am considering adding a guide camera utilising the mounts ST-4 port and a mini pc to control both the image taking and guiding processes.

I am wondering then if it is possible instead of having two USB cables (one for the camera, the other for the guide camera) to use a Cat 5e LAN cable (crossover type) to connect the mini pc with my laptop in the kitchen and then remotely oversee the processes from indoors? The mini pc would initially have BYEOS and PHD installed on it but as time moved on the mini pc would be used to control other functions as my experience and imaging needs grow.

I am unsure whether such a set up would work under Win 10 Home edition or if it requires Win 10 Pro.  I also cannot understand how after an initial set up of the network on both pc’s using a spare monitor, keyboard and mouse for the mini pc that the mini pc would boot up for each subsequent imaging session into the new network without the input devices having to be re-attached.

I’m hoping all of these points will have been overcome by fellow SGL members and I would be grateful for comments, the least technical the better 🙂 .

Best Regards,
Steve

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Are your powering your setup from a battery or the mains?  If the latter then you might consider using a powerline ethernet adapter instead of a Cat5 cable.  As far as Windows goes, I don't see a reason why Pro would be needed of Home edition.  Once setup properly, your miniPc can just be powered on, then you log onto it from a pc in your home using Remote Desktop Connection or a 3rd Party alternative.

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I think your windows version (on both pcs) will determine whether you can use RDP or not. I never got on with it and use teamviewer instead, with is not Windows-variant dependent. 

You will have no problem booting up your 'headless' mini PC - it just works(once you've installed the OS and remote access software, of course 😉 ). When you log in remotely, you are providing the necessary keyboard/display for you to use, and the software will all carry on running when you disconnect. 

I started off using wired ethernet for my bottom-of-the-garden setup, but added a WiFi repeater in the garage and now run it wirelessly.

HTH

Ady

 

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Hi scitmon and thanks for your reply. I am currently powering the DSLR using a dummy DSLR battery powered from the mains (I run a rcd protected extension cable down the garden) as I don't have to worry about the battery giving up in the cold half way through an imaging session. The mount is run off a 7Ahr battery pack.

I will have a look at the powerline ethernet adapter you mention. I'm relieved to hear RDC would operate on Win 10 Home and that allows the ability to 'see' the mini pc on boot up from the laptop. 🙂

Cheers,
Steve

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Hi Ady, thanks for this. I know I'm on a learning curve so very grateful for whatever fellow SGL members can assist with. I will need to look up what TeamViewer is, he, he. Thanks too for the idea of using a wireless connection as an alternative. It's very likely however that for starters I will go with a wired set up until I am familiar with how things operate then experiment with a wireless set up later on. 

Best wishes,
Steve

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That's a good approach, Steve.

Just to let you know when you do get round to it, if you are working via WiFi and there's a problem, plugging in the ethernet cable will automatically switch over to wired networking. Which means you don't have to interrupt that session to debug the issue ☺ 

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Been down this road.  Remote desktop requires windows pro, if you're using Windows 10.  At least the computers I have did...  Very annoying.

I started to use teamviewer but I found it a little unreliable.  Ended up biting the bullet on Windows upgrades.

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21 minutes ago, Jbro1985 said:

I started to use teamviewer but I found it a little unreliable

I have had teamviewer issues with it 'detecting' commercial usage then putting a bar on the device until I emailed their support, but luckily this didn't affect all devices at the same time (phone, tablet and laptop), so I always had a means of connecting. 

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Just FYI,

there are free alternatives for Team Viewer, 

I prefer VNC Viewer/Server.

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If you have (say) a 16 megapixel camera beware of the limitations of the TeamViewer/RDP wireless two computer route. I found the video compression degrades the image quality on the (indoor) laptop screen. It's fine for low resolution cameras, but I now connect my Atik Horizon to Intel NUC with Iris Plus Graphics by long 'active' USB3 then use Thunderbolt display cable to a 4K UHD monitor. Over longer distance Cat 6 or other of the solutions are necessary, but cable is better than wireless if you want to grow your system into end to end 4K UHD and use all the benefits of having a large sensor high resolution camera.

The free (non-commercial) version of TeamViewer forces you to connect to the slow Internet. You can use <Send To> to wirelessly transfer files but expect about 400kbs/s. Remote Desktop does offer peer to peer independent of the Internet, but requires an upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.  I then tried scope control using Celestron Nexremote. The problem with that is it converts a Serial output to USB and demands Windows 8 compatibility mode. Sadly, USB3, USB2 and Serial won't always play nicely.

In summary, I spent £££££'s on the wireless dream. I got it working. But suffered so much lag, drop outs and similar I reverted to cable for Camera ONLY as described. However, I use Celestron direct WiFi for scope control and a MKIT20-WL wireless focusser, none of which require a local Network or Internet. It is a more expensive solution, and I have invested in full 4K UHD experience. But it delivers the results I was seeking. You might find wireless to be a tedious challenge unless your camera is low resolution basic requiring low watt-hours, low data transfer and looks OK on a low resolution display. 

 

 

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Hiya.    Here's a few thoughts to add to the mix.  I'm just comming into the thread, so might repeat things what others have said already...

1. Forget about ST-4, you have a goto mount and using PHD you are better using pulse guiding.    result is that you'll end up with one less cable and better results (PHD is designed for pulse guiding)

2. Windows remote desktop requires that the service side is running windows professional, so won't allow a connection on windows home edition.    Alternatives will work, Teamviewer, VNC are a couple of examples.

3. As long as you can get a good network connection for both PC's you will be able to remote control the scope.   The quality of the connection will determine the quality if the images you see remotely.

4. WIFI comes in many forms these days, they're not all equal.   The protocols are 802.11a/b/g/n/ac or for short you have the choice of a, b, g, n or ac.  a and b are extremely old and new kit doesn't bother with these.  G allows 54Mbps, again it's old and probably not used.  N allows about 300Mbps, and AC is much faster - I think it's comparible with Gigabit networking.     For Remote control of a PC, you should be fine with G, N or AC.   That is provided that you have sole access to the channel with no interference.  (which can be a tall order)      The distance of the PC from the Access Point (The Wifi antenna) determines the max throughput of the signal, the further you are the weaker and slower things go.

4. Wired network connections - These offer the best throughput the cables are normally 10/100/1000 Mbps.   The better cables Cat 6 and above allow 1000Mbps without any second thoughts.  You can get a 100m run from the switch - if you have a router (which you most likely to) all you need to do is run a standard patch cable (not cross over) to the switch and plug in there, it'll then be available on your network without any issues.

 

I think your idea is good and should work without much difficulty.

My own setup I'm running two cameras, filter wheel, and mount from a laptop.   I think remote into the laptop using Windows Remote Desktop and can work with it like that.   For my purposes, I run over a wifi (N) and it works just fine for my needs.   The data is captured and stored on the laptop running the camera, I transfer it afterwards.  This helps to keep the network traffic down a little.

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If possible run cat5 from you existing router in the house down to your kit. You can buy a length of cable from ebay ready to go with connections cheaply or make your own. Just grab an old wifi router, turn off dns (some setting will also need to be made for wifi) and plug your network lead into this. You will then have spare connection ports near you mount and a strong wifi signal.

I just house a cheap £50 desktop and router next to my mount in a waterproof wooden box. I can then run this via team viewer from any location.

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Thank you all, Jbro 1985, anyj1, Roland, noah4x4, cjdawson and Mark for your kind help today, your insights and ideas. I need to mull all of this over and make a roll out plan. 🙂 

Cheers All,
Steve

Edited by SteveNickolls

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So, just to elaborate on where I landed with this, after a number of different options were attempted. 

I have a full outside set up, including laptop, which runs everything (mount, 2 cameras, filter wheel, focuser, etc.) through SGP and PHD2, primarily.  Obviously, none of that requires an internet connection.  

I have a WIFI extender and that laptop is connected to the WIFI network through that.  I control the outside laptop from an inside computer connected to the same WIFI network using Remote Desktop.

The outside laptop saves images as they are acquired to a folder on its hard-drive that syncs with one drive (the syncing does obviously require internet).  

I have a folder on the inside computer that syncs to the OneDrive folder, so the acquired images are in three places; on the outside laptop, on One Drive and on the inside computer.  This, by the way, would get rid of any file transfer throttling by Team Viewer if that is your chosen application. 

I don't use Team Viewer as above, but this system enables me to view the image in full resolution from the normal desktop of the inside computer in real time.  After a session, to avoid clogging up one drive and the outside laptop, I move all the acquisition files to an external hard-drive I have connected to the indoor computer.

If your internet connection is rubbish then this isn't a good solution.  I am fortunate to have an OK connection.

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Thanks Jason for your help detailing your working set up.

As I mentioned in an earlier post today I'm going to take a little time out now considering options but it's really good to be aware of what has worked for others and where problems will arise rather than follow a route that leads to ultimate frustration. I'm acutely aware that there's not a one fit solution, leading to the creative solutions others have suggested in this thread and that's a good thing. 🙂 

Best wishes,
Steve

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Each to his own, but I'm not sure I understand the need for high quality images when remoting to an astro PC.

I can do a whole imaging session (after first alignment and focusing at the mount) from my mobile screen if need be - although normally I do use a 7" tablet for all that extra screen space 😉 . I only view images remotely for framing - until the images are stacked and processed there's not much to look at... The resolution is of perfectly good quality. 

If I'm at a dark site, I use a portable WiFi router (running off 5v) to provide the tablet/phone connection, and it works fine. 

If you are starting out, just look to get a reliable network connection - wired or WiFi.

Ady

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Agree with this.  I don't check in real time myself as once all seems to be good, I head up and let the automation do it's thing.  Using a cloud based file enables the option though.  Also means no mucking around with file transfers as everything syncs locally to the remote PC (which is my processing system)

To be honest, I find that remote desktop has a high enough  resolution that by using autostretch on  sgp you can sort most of the wheat from the chaff if you want to anyway!

Edited by Jbro1985
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There's no need to use a cloud based sharing service.    Instead there's nothing stopping you from sharing a folder on the laptop, then connecting to that share from the desktop and copying the files directly across the network.  There won't be any thottling involved and you can pull the files off as fast as you make them.

This is the method that I've setup on my astro laptop, so that I can simply copy the files off over wifi.  it's fast enough for the deep sky images.

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52 minutes ago, cjdawson said:

There's no need to use a cloud based sharing service.    Instead there's nothing stopping you from sharing a folder on the laptop, then connecting to that share from the desktop and copying the files directly across the network.  

Completely agree (although if you had your cloud storage set up, there's no reason not to use it). If you aren't an IT guru, the same applies as to imaging as a whole - start simple, then grow slowly; solving each problem as it occurs. 

Even with all the wifi and networking stuff I've got sorted, occasionally I save to a USB3 thumb drive on the astro PC and then walk the files up the garden 😉

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7 hours ago, adyj1 said:

start simple, then grow slowly; solving each problem as it occurs. 

I certainly intend following that advice.

Cheers,
steve

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Just for clarity, W10 Pro is only required on the host machine (the one you are connecting to).  It isn't required on any other machine.  On any other machine you can just download the free RDP client app to connect to it from PC, Mac, iPad or iOS and Android.

Edited by RayD
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Hi Steve,

Another late entry to this thread. 

You don't say what sort of mini-pc you will be using or how it will be attached to the imaging set-up However, I can strongly recommend that you get a 12 volt powered mini-pc that you can attach directly onto your telescope.  Also, while your attaching things, consider adding a USB/Power hub - think Pegasus or Hi-Tech Astro. That way you can have almost all your cables actually on the OTA. The only dangling cables would be your network cable and a DC power cable to the hub.

Regards, Hugh

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To be clear, the two computer wireless solution (e.g. using RDT or TeamViewer) is wholly fine for regular Astrophotography as you are processing all data on the primary (one assumes more powerful) computer at the scope and simply using the other computer merely a 'dumb terminal' indoors to control everything.

But if your intention is Electronically Assisted Astronomy (EAA) surely you want to see fully optimised images on the indoor display screen? If your camera and primary (outdoor) computer are 4k 'UHD' enabled then you will lose benefits by putting a mere 1080p 'HD' laptop indoors, and that is before any degradation of image caused by the TeamViewer (or RDT screen) replication process over WiFi that creates a marginally more grainy image on screen. The difference isn't conspicuous until one uses direct 'Thunderbolt' or HDMI cable to a 4K UHD monitor.  

Of course, if your camera has (say) merely 1920 x 1080 resolution this will be of little consequence as 'HD' is its limit. But recent developments in CMOS make large sensor high resolution 4k UHD (16 megapixel) EAA viewing more affordable. My experience is that wireless might then be too slow and of lesser display quality compared to cable. You will be lucky to get 400kb/s data transfer rates using the free version of TeamViewer even over 802.11ac wireless as it forces you to connect via the Internet (but why.....are they looking at your data?). Peer to peer (without Internet) is only possible with the full cost version of TeamViewer or Remote Desktop that requires Win 10 Pro. With regular AP you don't need file data to migrate between the two computers. However with EAA you at least want primary quality video output to your (indoors) display device. 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, noah4x4 said:

Peer to peer (without Internet) is only possible with the full cost version of TeamViewer or Remote Desktop that requires Win 10 Pro

As noted above, W10 Pro is only required on the host machine, not the client. The RDP app, used to access the host, is free across all platforms.

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