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SteveNickolls

Remotely Controlling Imaging Queries

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4 minutes ago, noah4x4 said:

TeamViewer [...] forces you to connect via the Internet.

Apologies for not correcting this earlier - TeamViewer allows connection between two local IP addresses without going via the Internet using the free version. I use it when at a dark site with no internet connection.

Ady

Edited by adyj1
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1 hour ago, hughgilhespie said:

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

12 volt is fine if your power supply consistently outputs a full 12v and your mini computer isn't too demanding.

The quoted voltage range of my Intel NUC i5 with Iris Plus 640 Graphics is "12v to 19v +/- 10%". What I found was that it sometimes spluttered when using my Tracer 8Ah or MaxOak K2  at 12v  because it requires over 40 watts at peak and these degraded to around 11.7 volts after a comparatively short period of use. You need a truly dependable 12v source, especially if adding camera, focusser etc to its demands.

More successful was using my MaxOak at 20v and reserving 12v for other devices. That actually measured 19.3v, so it is clear manufacturers boast optimum outputs not averages!  Frankly, I had so many other problems with power, hubs and wireless,  I eventually brought my NUC indoors, ran 'active' USB3 to it from camera then Thunderbolt cable to 4K UHD monitor. At last, 100% reliability as I could use a mains electricity adapter, and still wirelessly control my scope using Celestron WiFi and MKIT20-WL wireless focusser. 

In summary, the WiFi routes are fine in most situations, but we are ever closer to position where the latest cameras and computers are demanding more power and better connectivity and hence more preparation is necessary. 

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2 hours ago, adyj1 said:

Apologies for not correcting this earlier - TeamViewer allows connection between two local IP addresses without going via the Internet using the free version. I use it when at a dark site with no internet connection.

Ady

 This might be true of earlier versions. But I was recently told by TeamViewer Support that in the latest downloaded version that today this is only possible using the paid for commercial version. It was also flaky and unreliable over the Internet, so to get peer to peer I switched to Remote Desktop, which was also free in Windows 8, but now you need Windows 10 Pro, so cost applies there.  I suggest that if your rig is using an older version of TeamViewer you don't ever upgrade and potentially lose this functionality.

However, this isn't relevant to my main point. For AP it isn't material. However, the wireless route does degrade the (indoors) on-screen view so for EAA cable is typically better, assuming that your camera is large sensor high resolution. 

EDIT - more information.

Just realised why TeamViewer might now require the latest free download to run over the Internet. If it permitted peer to peer, how could they check and prevent commercial use? Best suggestion is don't upgrade if you have it working using an older version else risk losing this functionality. 

Edited by noah4x4
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1 minute ago, noah4x4 said:

 This might be true of earlier versions. But I was recently told by TeamViewer Support that in the latest downloaded version that today this is only possible using the paid for commercial version. It was also flaky and unreliable over the Internet, so to get peer to peer I switched to Remote Desktop, which was also free in Windows 8, but now you need Windows 10 Pro, so cost applies there.  I suggest that if your rig is using an older version of TeamViewer you don't ever upgrade and potentially lose this functionality.

However, this isn't relevant to my main point. For AP it isn't material. However, the wireless route does degrade the (indoors) on-screen view so for EAA cable is typically better, assuming that your camera is large sensor high resolution. 

Thanks for the heads-up about TV, noah. I will be uninstalling it if I have to pay for offline screen control, as there are other free options. 

EAA sounds very, very expensive. It is perhaps worth making it clear that your very high (for AP) remote setup is intended for that use. As I said before, when you first recommended 4K UHD on this thread I couldn't understand why someone would need anything approaching that it for AP. 

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1 hour ago, noah4x4 said:

12 volt is fine if your power supply consistently outputs a full 12v and your mini computer isn't too demanding.

The quoted voltage range of my Intel NUC i5 with Iris Plus 640 Graphics is "12v to 19v +/- 10%". What I found was that it sometimes spluttered when using my Tracer 8Ah or MaxOak K2  at 12v  because it requires over 40 watts at peak and these degraded to around 11.7 volts after a comparatively short period of use. You need a truly dependable 12v source, especially if adding camera, focusser etc to its demands.

More successful was using my MaxOak at 20v and reserving 12v for other devices. That actually measured 19.3v, so it is clear manufacturers boast optimum outputs not averages!  Frankly, I had so many other problems with power, hubs and wireless,  I eventually brought my NUC indoors, ran 'active' USB3 to it from camera then Thunderbolt cable to 4K UHD monitor. At last, 100% reliability as I could use a mains electricity adapter, and still wirelessly control my scope using Celestron WiFi and MKIT20-WL wireless focusser. 

In summary, the WiFi routes are fine in most situations, but we are ever closer to position where the latest cameras and computers are demanding more power and better connectivity and hence more preparation is necessary. 

Good point!

Skywatcher mounts are also a bit picky about input voltage. I run my set up with a nominal 14 volt supply that becomes about 13.2 - 13.6 volts at the Pegasus hub I use.

However, when I was looking at choice of mini computer to mount on the OTA, quite a lot of the options specified 19 volts - this is a sort of standard for laptops. When I queried the manufacturers, none of the ones I asked said that their machines would work on 12 - 14 volts. So, choose carefully and check, check and check again!

Regards, Hugh

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Intel NUCs do run on between 12v to 19v (+ or - 10%) but are a bit fickle at the lower end and ideally need a consistent 12v. If merely 11.7v the more powerful ones can struggle at peak load. Hugh, you are also right, most laptops are 19v or 20v.

This makes the MaxOak 50000 mAh power bank such a good buy due to its low cost, high watt hours and great versatility. It can run a depleted laptop in the field at 20v or a NUC at 20v or telescope/camera at 12v and keep going for eight hours. However, I don't think it wise to attempt using its 20v and 12v ports simultaneously. 

Sorry, I thought I had made it clear that my 4K UHD set up was primarily used for EAA where the primary objective is the best possible on screen 'near live' view. For AP you don't need the same display quality (albeit desirable). 

However, given that Sony and Samsung have already launched retail 8k display (TV) technologies I reckon that it won't be long before 4K UHD will become the computer display standard (rather than 1k 1080p HD). Consider DSLR or even phone camera technologies where at least 9 megapixel have now become routine. Why are computer screens and most astro cameras so laggard?  CMOS now makes large sensor high resolution astro cameras affordable. The debate as regards AP is very different as post processing is used to enhance images. But with EAA you do want the best on screen display and in my experience wireless isn't the best or easiest route except where it is not practical to use cable.

 

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Following this with some interest as I'm planning on remote control for my (As yet in planning) obsy. I'm expecting the computers at either end to be Win7 Pro. I'm also planning to control my small rig from the conservatory as well. Hmm...two computers with two screens each in there, with remote computers at each telescope.

I may be using a 55" Panasonic OLED TV for the final colour grading of my images, due to its very good gamut (They're used in pro grading suites), rather than just resolution.

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4 hours ago, hughgilhespie said:

You don't say what sort of mini-pc you will be using or how it will be attached to the imaging set-up

My initial intention was to get something such as this-https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0749J27Y2?tag=stargloung-21 so very low power. I would (at least for sometime) be only using it to run BYEOS (for my current imaging cameras), and PHD for the guide camera. I would not be looking to automate focus control, use a filter wheel or plate solve), so quite basic. My initial thought was to control the mini pc at the imaging location down the garden (around 20 metres) using a crossover LAN cable but was not sure of the practicality.  The mini pc sited on the mount would connect to the DSLR by a short USB connection and use the mount and guide camera's ST-4 ports (initially) to control guiding. My mount (a CG-5) is run off a battery and the DSLR is usually powered by a dumb battery connected to the mains supply. However if things prove too complex as it is all sounding I might just go ahead initially without a mini pc etc. etc. and simply use another USB cable to control guiding using my laptop (Win 10 Home) in the kitchen.

Regards,
Steve

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Hi Steve,

I think the specification is probably  fine for what you initially want to do. But I have a sensible practical suggestion to help you test this assumption....

My suggestion is start by using your existing laptop at the scope simply to get everything ELSE working. Then (later) buy the mini-computer and swap that into its place and get that fully operative. Then progress to  cabled (or wireless) remote connections between the two computers  as the LAST step.

The first reason that I say this is that  I rather too ambitiously started the other way round and prematurely attempting wireless connectivity confused and disguised a gazillion other problems like USB3, USB2 and Serial to USB device conflicts and power problems. But if you can get the camera and other devices set up fully operative (which you can do indoors) with your existing laptop then you are ready to progress unhindered by any unresolved other problems.

If you don't run into any brick walls with the basic set up  (like lack of battery or processor power) with merely your existing laptop you can then be more confident that the mini-computer will be fine. But if you do have problems with the existing laptop, you then know that you might need a higher specification mini-computer. 

I have an Atik Horizon camera which itself demands 2 Amps and I had also bought a i5 NUC that demands a full 12 volts and 50 watts at peak. A pal with an identical camera has merely an i3 NUC. It demands less power, but it hasn't got equivalent graphics handling, and he ran into problems with its lesser WiFi capability and wishes that he had gone one notch higher. So don't risk underestimating battery, computing, WiFi or cable power. By making gentle progress as I have suggested you can eliminate unforeseen problems before they become too costly.

Next step once the basics are working, is remote cintrol. I recommend getting the two computers connected by Cat 6 cable given that 20M is quite long for 'active' USB . Such cable is cheap and is your fall back (especially for testing). Don't underestimate the challenges with USB and hubs! 

Attempt wireless remote control LAST.

Wireless might be the ultimate goal, but in my experience it can be a bucket load of trouble if any other stuff is still flaky. I succeeded by putting together ever higher specification kit (like upgrading my laptop from 802.11n to full 5G 802.11ac wireless), but I still suffered nuisance problems with lag and drop outs.

I got so fed up with having to reboot locked up computers I even invested in a 7" mini-monitor for my NUC so I could diagnose stuff at both ends (remember the computer at the scope is 'headless' with no display). I also ended up with a seperate wireless mouse and keyboard for the NUC (which shouldn't be necessary if TeamViewer or RDP is working OK).  

It was at this point I noticed the distinct quality difference between the display output on my 720p mini-monitor at the scope and the 1080p laptop indoors - pretty obvious really, but who considers display when buying an astro camera? It then dawned on me that I had a 4k camera and a 4k NUC that was being degraded over wireless and finally hitting a mere 1080p HD display (which is still good). This doesn't matter with AP as all processing is done on the more powerful NUC, but if you aspire to enjoying the best 'near live' EAA view indoors I realised what I had previously been doing was imperfect.  I then deleted the inferior laptop, brought my NUC indoors (using cable) and directly connected it by Thunderbolt display cable to a 4K UHD monitor. Awesome! Overkill possibly yes, expensive yes, but if buying other high end components, surely one wants to ultimately match them with a high end display? Not suggesting anybody follow my perhaps extravagant and indulgent path, just learn from the limitations I discovered. So start simple and build. If you go straight to remote control (cable or wireless), another issue WILL bite you. 

 

 

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I use exactly that MiniPC Steve.  I have it attached to my HEQ5 mount using some self adhesive velcro strips and attach my DSLR, guide camera and autofocus controller using coiled USB cables to the MiniPC.  The coiled cables help to ensure that nothing gets tangled as the mount slews around the sky.  The HEQ5 connects by bluetooth using a BT-EQDIRECT adapter to EQMOD.  The MiniPC connects to my home wifi, so I can control everything from indoors over Remote Desktop on my Win10 laptop.  As others have indicated, it's only the host PC that requires Win10 Pro for Remote Desktop, and that's what's on the MiniPC.  My Win10 Home laptop connects easily.

The MiniPC is running EQMOD, PHD2, APT and Stellarium, and with my setup I usually get blind plate solves (via PointCraft in APT using ASPS) in around 90 seconds, and near solves in about 20 seconds (PlateSolve2, again via PointCraft in APT).

I think the best aspect of this setup is that once I have my polar alignment completed and guiding running, I can start an imaging plan in APT and then it doesn't even matter if the MiniPC loses either its wifi connection to my home network or the Remote Desktop connection to my laptop - the plan will continue regardless.  I can then just reconnect the laptop remotely when it recovers.

The MiniPC, the mount and my DSLR are all run from mains power from a weatherproof mains extension reel with RCD protection.

Hope some of this information is helpful.

Graeme

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Thanks Noah4x4 and Graeme, you have made very helpful, valid points which will make my decisions easier. My laptop is quite a high spec one with an i7 processor and the concept of trying things out with the laptop and guider first is excellent. I'm reassured Graeme over the mini pc's capabilities in terms of what programmes it can comfortably run with. So to get the terminology right in my head, the mini pc will be the host and the laptop indoors the client? The mini pc comes with Win 10 Pro installed. 🙂

Thanks everyone for this help, it is very much appreciated by me and may serve to help others on this route.

Cheers,
Steve

 

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20 minutes ago, SteveNickolls said:

So to get the terminology right in my head, the mini pc will be the host and the laptop indoors the client?

 

Exactly right

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I am with Noah on this one. Having a display mount side really helps allot. I was lucky as my garden shed it only about 5m away so I managed to run vga and usb cat5 extensions to run the mouse, keyboard and monitor from there. Just having a headless unit to start out with can be a real pain.

 

The only thing I would add is that if you can do without wifi then don't bother. It will just cause you extra issues along the way.

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Glad to assist Steve. 

I have been involved elsewhere in some cutting edge forum threads on this subject where a huge minefield of potential problems has been uncovered. It is really wise to get your basic AP (or EAA) set up running before attempting remote control of any type. It's then easier to reach your goals. Here are two more thoughts....

People have succeeded with very basic systems using Raspberry Pi (which has inferior 802.11n WiFi and no USB3). However, for example, Atik's dedicated wireless software for the Pi (Atik Air) will choke on the Atik Horizons data demands. Of course, if you buy a lesser camera, that worry might appear irrelevant, that is until Christmas 2019 when CMOS cameras are half the price (we can hope) and you want to upgrade again. A degree of future proofing components is no bad idea.

One thing I did think odd about the Kodlix mini-computer that you mentioned was that it claimed to have 'HD' graphics then rather remarkably claims an upper 4096 x 2016 pixel resolution (which is 4k UHD) at 30hz, yet the price is merely £150.  

I am not an expert, but am concerned that 30hz is a incredibly slow refresh rate and £150 does seem too low for 4K. If you don't want to suffer lag and stutter a capability of achieving 4k UHD at 60hz is much better.  If limited to a regular lower resolution (1k) CCD camera you might be OK with this mini-computer. But it illustrates how easily you can stumble over manufacturers claims if you buy a more demanding camera. Begs the question, what resolution is your DSLR? I bet it's over 6 megapixel?  By trying things out first with your existing laptop and comparing its graphics and refresh rates you can better assess stuff like this. Frankly, you don't need 4K UHD for AP,  but if it's in your budget range it's well worth it (IMHO) for EAA, even if merely future proofing.  Also check what graphics capability your i7 laptop has? It might even be the one to make the 'Host'!

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@noah4x4  I think I get it now - we probably qualify as "mutually exclusive" when it comes to offering advice on what kit to buy. 

Your speciality is the ratified air of EAA, and mine is low-end budget AP (or attempts thereof). No reason for us to fall out, but we are going to be offering drastically different advice that applies to very different audiences. Everything I use for remote automated AP doesn't add up to the cost of that £1,500 camera 😉 

I think that £150 kodlix box is a cracking astro PC and would be an upgrade for me 😂 

 

 

 

 

 

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A fair observation today about respective audiences based on equipment price adyj1. But let me make a prediction about next years NEW audience..... 

Whilst the Atik Horizon OSC and ZWO ASI1600 retail at circa (I agree expensive) £1,200 they are replicating features of far more expensive CCDs.  Let's not debate "CCD versus CMOS" as CCD will probably win on technical grounds. But CMOS wins on price by a comfortable margin when comparing features. 

Almost all DSLRs and phone cameras are now CMOS. I perceive that the reason CMOS hasn't yet had similar impact in the astro-community is perhaps our own stubborn resistance to change. Yes, CCD is possiby better for AP, but that isn't tne only purpose of an astro camera. I am similarly amazed that we still operate in a paradigm of serial to USB devices and Windows 8 compatibility,  but I digress.  The break through made by this new generation of easy to use CMOS, high resolution,  large sensor, low read noise, small pixel cameras will hopefully pave the way to encourage manufacturers to soon introduce a wider range of budget CMOS astro-cameras that are far more affordable. However, a perceived current lack of demand means CMOS sensor manufacturers are inevitably not focused on supporting the low volume astro-community, so we are our own worse enemies. But EAA and CMOS enthusiasts (like me) can encourage positive change. Having recently talked to some manufacturers, I think this could happen quite soon, possibly around the end of this year when Steve (OP) might be buying (e.g. having wisely first tested the water with his DSLR and his existing laptop). We are possibly on the brink of a CMOS revolution.

The astrophotographers will probably continue with CCD (fair enough), but ever worsening light pollution is stimulating a new and ever faster growing generation of EAA enthusiasts and that will stimulate demand for cheaper but higher specification CMOS cameras. In the event that this happens (which seems inevitable) purchasors of this new generation of affordable budget CMOS cameras will regret not investing in marginally more in computing and display power today. That is why I advocate some future proofing in anticipation.

The Kodlix is awesome value at £150 (but I notice is no longer available on Amazon UK). But is perhaps suitable only for a 1k camera/display (given the 30hz limit on UHD) and the modest processor may stutter if the data demand are high. My data hungry Atik Horizon (£1200/16 megapixel) saves 48mb image files, but that is little different to my four year old 24 megapixel DSLR that cost me merely £200 used (but still in mint condition).  Now consider how wireless bandwith has jumped from 28kb/s and data storage standards have reached terabytes in barely a decade, whilst display has had a journey from 720p to 1080p to 4K UHD to 8k. 

The astro camera market is patently lagging behind in the wider adoption of more affordable CMOS,  I hence feel my warning to not underestimate future computing & display & power requirements  is relevant to all audiences, not just current high end purchasers. 

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10 hours ago, adyj1 said:

I think that £150 kodlix box is a cracking astro PC and would be an upgrade for me 😂

Thanks for the vote of confidence over the mini pc 😄

 

18 minutes ago, noah4x4 said:

We are possibly on the brink of a CMOS revolution.

I really do hope so. Worth keeping those £ in the pocket ready for future use at the right moment.

Cheers,
Steve

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Another thought about CMOS...

An argument for larger pixels is that they are useful on faint objects. That is not in dispute. However, the Atik Horizon albeit a native large sensor, tiny pixel camera can offer "bigger" pixels simply by full full colour binning. Here, combining pixels enhances sensitivity at the expense of resolution. This is possible because CMOS binning is achieved by software rather than on-chip (CCD uses that). Hence, one of the major arguments for CCD is less relevant.  I can use high resolution on bright objects and lower on faint objects. Having flexibility and control ticks another box.

A new generation of budget CMOS will similarly offer the best of both worlds, but at lower price than equivalent CCD. I hope you don't have to wait too long Steve, but it is sound advice to first experiment with your DSLR and existing laptop, so a little patience until we see what Atik announce is sensible.

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46 minutes ago, noah4x4 said:

I hope you don't have to wait too long Steve, but it is sound advice to first experiment with your DSLR and existing laptop, so a little patience until we see what Atik announce is sensible.

Thanks noah4x4, yes I've learnt such a lot with my DSLR's and part of me feels they still have a lot left to give so I'm not really in a desperate hurry to spend what is rather hard earned money and prepared to sit out some CMOS developments. The only caveat is I'm not getting any younger of course 😬 but am prepared to wait. My original idea of adding guiding to the existing gear was that I could become familiar with guiding hardware and techniques and au fait with the software, all things that would eventually be useful with a future dedicated astro-camera. Using a remote mini pc would be the icing on the cake and reduce the number of cables across the garden.

Cheers,
Steve

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5 hours ago, noah4x4 said:

The break through made by this new generation of easy to use CMOS, high resolution,  large sensor, low read noise, small pixel cameras will hopefully pave the way to encourage manufacturers to soon introduce a wider range of budget CMOS astro-cameras that are far more affordable.

This has all been a very interesting read, and the perceived trajectory of imaging cameras becoming more affordable CMOS astro cameras. But would I be correct in thinking that the price change that you are envisaging would result from the switch from CCD to CMOS? In other words, you wouldn't expect a price fall for the likes of ZWO cameras which already use CMOS? Or are you saying that you see the prices of all astro cameras, in general, falling?

Also, it strikes me in my naivety that one of the consequences of the take up of CMOS cameras for astro is that they'll be through a re-purposing from existing applications, so there might not be such ready availability of mono cameras, to wit the ASI071 AP-S and ASI094/128 full-frame cameras being only available in colour versions. I hope I'm wrong!

Ian

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Something to remember is the cost of filters. 1.25" aren't too bad, (Though 3nm Astrodons are ruinous in any size) but when you get to the 2" or bigger that you need for APS-H or larger the costs become crazy.

Regarding resolution, the measure you need is "/px, not number of pixels, that just gives you the FoV. As an (Extreme) example the camera on the Liverpool telescope (2m f/10) has 4096x4096 15micron pixels. Even binned 2x2 it's still working at 0.30"/px.

Now planning the network in my new house. Will include at least 2 external cat6 links.

My next camera is likely to be one of the 16200 variants. Debating between Atik, Moravian, and SX in order of cost.

Edited by DaveS
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