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festoon

Which Compute Stick?

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I've been looking to purchase a compute stick for my EAA set up.

I'm not sure to spend more on the Intel M3 or go for the less costly Atom version

The stick will be running sharpcap in live stacking mode connected to an atik cooled ccd camera, Skywatcher goto mount connected using ASCOM, stellarium scope, stellarium to control mount, and platesolving in sharpcap.

Which of these two sticks would be more suitable for the job STK1AW32SC (Intel Atom x5-Z8300 1.44 GHz, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB eMMC) or STK2M3W64CC (Intel Core m3-6Y30, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB eMMC)

Would the M3 give much superior and stable performance for a live imaging application? Or is the Atom more than sufficient?

(ps I have this before in a different topic but did not get much response, so I thought I would post directly in video astronomy section)

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Hi

I'm afraid I've no experience of using a compute stick but from what I've read they lack power and I wouldn't get one! Surely, you'd be better off with a notebook/laptop to do the things you mention?

Louise

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Hi Louise, @Thalestris24, you do make a very good point...why not use a laptop. My reasoning was that this set up is not going to be in an observatory, but outside potentially for a long time exposed to frosty conditions. I would be particularly worried about the effects on the screen and the battery, especially when bringing it inside after a session finishes. Indeed last night I had this set up outside with my laptop. With the laptop in a rucksack. Bringing it in at around 11pm, I got a bit worried about the laptop dewing.

I thought the advantages of the compute stick is it would be relatively easy to cover and insulate, and it doesn't have a screen or battery that could be effected by the conditions.

I have also seen reports of lack of power, so on this basis surely the M3 version would be the more sensible choice?

Edited by festoon

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You can use one of the click lidded storage boxes to hold the laptop i.e. those sold by Tesco for under bed storage, & with the lid on the 'running' laptop will generate enough heat to keep frost at bay....

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Thanks @Dr_Ju_ju for the suggestion. Would it not be an issue when the bring the laptop inside that going from cold (even in a box) to inside that you risk the laptop dewing?

Does anyone have any positive experiences with a compute stick? I'd imagine for the cost surely they were capable of being usable? Afterall they are designed for streaming video to a TV!!

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Hi

Video streaming isn't in itself computationally intensive. I use one of my desktop PCs as a tv with, in principle, 4 separate tuners. It uses very little cpu bandwidth to just watch. Recording uses a bit more :). I think there are probably better alternatives to compute stick such as a 'mini pc' (e.g. Kingdel) as well as actual laptops. Lots of people find ways to use their laptops outside ok (Disclaimer: I'm not one of them - yet!).

Louise

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thanks Louise @Thalestris24, I had never seen these kingdel before. I'm definately open to suggestions like this. So if anyone has similar ones to reccomend to me, that would be super.

Look pretty nice

Particularly like this one https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01AU7T1NO/ref=psdc_428651031_t1_B01AFRL8OY?th=1

Pro's - 12V power supply - so easy to power from powerbank, looks to have a nice amount of RAM, SSD, lots of USB slots, WiFi.

Size wise its about twice as long as compute stick, and more square in form factor, and x3 times heavier than compute stick. However, it doesn't cost much more than the M3 compute stick.

Does anyone know what this means "The mini PC works with RAM at at lower voltage 1.35V instead of normal 1.5V"

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Hi

I can't personally recommend a Kingdel (or anything similar, even). The lower working voltage probably reflects a lower speed and corresponding lower power requirement. Obviously any system in a small box is likely trying to save as much power wherever it can. I think the mini pcs are essentially laptops without a screen or keyboard or a battery. I would maybe post a separate question about which computer is ok for outside in one of the 'getting started' threads - I'm sure you'll get many replies. All different...

Louise

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I have a compute stick with the m3 chip and it’s great. It’s the same power as a surface pro 3 and runs windows 10 nicely. 

Both the atom and the m3 will work for eea (and ap) however, if you have a large sensor camera you’ll want to go with the m3 version due to the larger memory and faster chip. On smaller sensor cameras like the asi290 the atom is perfectly adequate.

I went for the m3 version because it gave me room to expand and I knew windows 10 would be smooth. Windows on an underpowered machine is always horrible.

If you do some digging on this forum and on cloudy nights you’ll see quite a few people using the compute stick in various configurations. I have my compute stick headless at the scope and it connects to the main WiFi. I then rdp into it from my iPad Pro which makes it a great wireless experience running sharpcap, motor focus and the mount wirelessly from my iPad. I can walk around anywhere inside and outside my house and have full viewing and control from the iPad since rdp runs across the main WiFi.

So long as the WiFi reception is good the response is pretty much instant. If you crank up the resolution to the almost 4k native iPad screen resolution it’s a bit sluggish but still usable. Most of the time I stay streaming at hd. 4K is nice for detail on a wide field, but most of the time I’m zooming in anyway.

It also runs off a usb c power so I can use a standard lithium ion battery pack in the field if I want and be completely wireless there too.

The compute stick is a really great compact solution. It’s not the cheapest, but there’s nothing smaller that I know of that can do the same. The Nuc form factor machines are also good, though much bigger, they are cheaper. But you can’t run them off a regular L Ion battery since they tend not to have a mobile chipset.

If you search my old posts I’ve outlined exactly the items I have and what I’ve been doing with them. I think I have exactly the m3 stick you’re looking at.

 

edit: just found an old post with all the details. It’s a bit out of date since I’ve made a few tweaks upgrades and additions... but the core compute stick bit is all the same.

 

Edited by London_David
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^^^^ What he said!

I also have the M3 and it runs everything flawless. One thing to note is that the newer M3 model has only one USB port on the actual stick itself. There are two additional ports available on the charger unit which are connected via the USB-C charging cable. So if you power the unit via a battery in the field you will loose those ports an will need a hub if you need more than one USB port.

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I have a lot of experience of this challenge, having progressed from a simple low budget DSLR system to a end to end 4K UHD EAA system. My advice, you need to look holistically at your final destination or risk a lot of costly mistakes as your rig progressively evolves. 

You can succeed with low budget Compute Sticks if your camera isn't demanding. But today, even inexpensive cameras can be significantly data intensive as the price of megapixels tumbles. Then, just as you discover you need more computing power, you learn you need more battery power. Next consideration is connectivity. The higher the camera resolution, the greater the computing 'oomph', the greater the power; the more challenging the bandwidth. Tackle each problem sequentially (rather than holistically) and you will waste money.

You are best served by posing this question; "I want to adopt a <name of camera> and be an EAA observer <state outdoors/indoors> from <state distance from scope> using a <state 1080p or 4k UHD> display". Then people can more specifically recommend the computing; battery and connectivity that you will require.

I could have had a nice holiday from the money I wasted by repeatdly underestimating my requirements and hence having to upgrade each time I turned a corner. For example, there is no denying you can build an EAA system using Raspberry Pi. But you are then limited to previous generation wireless and USB2. You can run an Intel NUC on 12v, but if at peak capacity it won't perform as well as at 19v. With the price of megapixels tumbling with the advent of CMOS, this needs much more planning than "which compute stick". Investing in cheap options can prove more costly if you fail to you look at the holistic picture.

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thanks @noah4x4 :)

I understand where you re coming from with the experience.

If it helps current camera Atil 414Ex (1.4 megapixel USB 2.0)...probably one day will be ASI 385MC (2.1 megapixels USB 3.0)

Indoor observer

I have a Wifi router which extends well into the garden for my current PC, so distance to scope about 5-6m

Display happy with 1080p as will be very happy rdp from laptop

Edited by festoon

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4 hours ago, noah4x4 said:

Raspberry Pi. But you are then limited to previous generation wireless

Dont disagree overall but the above is factually incorrect - RP3IB+ uses 5ghz and I get 350mb wirelessly. 

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1 hour ago, festoon said:

thanks @noah4x4 :)

I understand where you re coming from with the experience.

If it helps current camera Atil 414Ex (1.4 megapixel USB 2.0)...probably one day will be ASI 385MC (2.1 megapixels USB 3.0)

Indoor observer

I have a Wifi router which extends well into the garden for my current PC, so distance to scope about 5-6m

Display happy with 1080p as will be very happy rdp from laptop

The key clues for me are you mention "indoors", USB3.0, Windows Remote Desktop and there is the likelihood of using stacked subs in Atik Infinity or Sharpcap which consumes a surprising amount of 'oomph' and storage once you get into even low multiples of megapixels. I suspect it won't be long before you more fully embrace scope and focuser control and each step adds to the computing 'oomph that you will need.

I personally think you might ultimately regret buying anything less than an Intel core m3 6Y30 with 4GB RAM and 64GB eMMC, MicroSDXC ac, Intel HD Graphics, HDMI, USB3.0 at around £347 with Win 10 Pro Operating System (for RDP). 

It's probably more powerful than you currently need, but (say) the future availability of astro cameras does depend on the availability of sensors in much wider camera markets.   For the sake of perhaps £100 I would err on the side of caution and invest in something greater than Intel Atom or other similar budget stick versions. Even my mobile phone camera is now 10 megapixel. The trend is hence moving rapidly upwards (with falling prices) with the advent of CMOS. However, I suspect low resolution CCD so highly favoured because of their high sensitivity  might even become more expensive due to sensor shortage e.g. outside the astro market who buys them? Most DSLRs now boast 24 megapixels.

Going up the scale, I have an i5 NUC and it's excellent with my 16 megapixel CMOS camera, but I have a colleague that suggests his NUC i3 is borderline with his and he wishes he had spent a little more. You probably don't need higher than M3, but don't be too frugal. 

I concur with Stash_old. My apologies. The Pi B3 has indeed recently been updated to improve wireless to embrace 802.11ac. But is still merely USB2.0 when you potentially need USB3.0. I know a host of people that started with Pi, had a bit of fun, then soon had to start again at (say) their first camera upgrade or when adding new devices or software components. For example, I have just added Celestron's graphics intensive CPWI scope control and the extra overhead is surprising. It's not easy when on a tight budget, but it will cost you more in the long haul if you skimp. I could have bought a decent holiday with what I wasted by underestimating connectivity, storage, WiFi and particularly power needs. 

Edited by noah4x4
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12 hours ago, noah4x4 said:

I have an i5 NUC and it's excellent with my 16 megapixel CMOS camera, but I have a colleague that suggests his NUC i3 is borderline with his and he wishes he had spent a little more. You probably don't need higher than M3, but don't be too frugal. 

I think you hit the nail on the head here :) I'm with you that M3 is the minimum needed. And based on some of the earlier disucssions here (and on a seperate thread), I have also been considering a mini PC.

I've tried to summarise my current thinking in the table below looking at various options both compute stick and mini pc

image.thumb.png.a2770cb5b61299eb106d181e695a15d5.png

For the cost I've included options like window 10 pro licence. Processor benchmarks and preformance data came from passmark.com. There are probably hundreds of other mini pc's I can add here, but I hope the 3 added are representive of high end-mid range processors. Feel free to give me suggestions of ones to add, or let me know if what is here is wrong :)

Based on this I would rule out the kingdel as it is bigger, uses more power, relatively older i5 chipset, and with the added cost and hastle of needing a windows 10 pro licence will push the cost above £400

That leaves me with the question of

m3 compute stick - reasonable performance, small, medium cost, low power consumption, will require a step down voltage transformer or separate battery

i5 NUC - Excellent performance, more expensive, probably will require a 19V battery supply or step up transformer from 12V battery

GN41- lower cost, reasonable performance, can run off 12V power supply with no tranformer modding

 

Edited by festoon

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One other thing a lot of the Intel i5 NUC's say power requirement 12V to 19V. But then others say 19V supply needed. Has anyone run one of these succesfully off a 12V LiFePO4 battery, and what is the effect?

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Hi Festoon,

I originally ran my "12v to 19v" i5 NUC with Iris Plus (4k) Graphics using a MaxOak K2 50,000 mAh at 20v (its actual output is 19.3v so within the + or - 5% advisable tolerance). This performed great. But the MaxOak only outputs 3.5A at best. I hence needed a seperate 12v battery for  my camera/focuser that also require over 2 amps. Even if I had used both the MaxOaks 20v and 12v outputs the amps available were too low. I hence sought a single battery solution. My camera can't take 19v, so it had to be at the lower end.

I then switched to a 12v 22Ah Tracer, which is as reliable a brand as it gets (and expensive). Pumps out a steady 12v for hours and up to 10A available. It worked, but I suffered from significantly lag, slow connectivity etc. compared to 19v, when running camera, auto-focusser and scope control software on the NUC i5 that at a peak load can require around 50 watts . Admittedly, I was driving 4k UHD screen data between two  identical NUCs over Windows Remote Desktop and dropping resolution to 1080p had a beneficial effect. Frankly, I found the margin for error slim.

As soon as I connected my NUC to its regular mains AC/DC (19v) adapter it was again flying. I mentioned earlier my pal that regrets buying an i3 NUC, albeit his power needs are lower. Frankly, I don't think you dare cut corners with computing 'oomph' or power. I also have a 16v supply and that drives the NUC OK, but whilst 12v will work, load more devices/processes and you risk performance issues. Remember too that many Chinese "12v" batteries output between merely 10.6v and 11.3v, rarely 12v. My NUC i5 will choke at 11.3v as it then would need 4.5 Amps to achieve 50 watts. Its supplied AC/DC adapter is rated 19v, 65 watts, which perhaps confirms everything we need to know! More recent more powerful NUCs have adapter with a 19v, 120 watts rating. However, older Celeron and Pentium models are genuinely merely 12v.

I here must emphasise that my 16 megapixel camera creates frames each exceeding 48mb. Your 2 megapixel camera will be much less demanding. But I am not running my mount from a common supply (my Evolution has its own internal supply). I would recommend a combination of a MaxOak K2 at 19v for a NUC i5 and seperate 12v supply for other devices. I now use a mains AC/DC adapter supply, as once resigned to cat6a cable (desirable for a 4K system) one extra cabke is neither here nor there. 4k UHD and wireless do not sit comfortably. 

Edited by noah4x4
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Another though Festoon,

It might help you if I show you an image of my rig to illustate how I affix stuff to my tripod's central rod. I constructed a triangular 'MDF' box with a 14mm hole through its centre so it slides up the rod and sits on the tripods leg spreader. Inside, I conceal all cables except the bits that do the final connecting.  I then affixed VESA plate/NUC to side A; Focusser control to side B; Battery to side C.  Neat cable solution eh? If I want to go to a dark sky site it just slides on and off as one comprehensive unit.

Telescopewithcabletidy1.JPG.65ded8ac463bfab32e8efa41db8a7e06.JPG

Box-closeup1.JPG.701182fc35d68333a1ec56a90c4b0e25.JPG

 

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Does anyone of the M3 compute stick owners know does the M3 compute stick (STK2M3W64CC) come with windows 10 home or pro?

 

Edit ignore this question...I think I just found out from amazon page that its win 10 home......

 

How easy is it to upgrade from windows home to pro. (will need pro to use rdp)...is it just a licence upgrade or a full os upgrade?

Edited by festoon

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1.  You only need Win 10 Pro on one computer to run RDP.

2.   If you search hard enough you will probably find a computing device available with no operating system where you can optionally order either Win 10 Home or Pro. I have not looked other than at their NUCs, but try Scan Computers where I bought my gear - very reliable - fast despatch - great service. 

3.  If you do have to accept Win 10 Home, the upgrade (about £100- £125) is easy. You just pay by credit card and download the upgrade, just like any other Windows update . Win 10 Pro is (IMHO) much superior. 

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Here is a link.... https://www.scan.co.uk/products/intel-compute-stick-windows-10-dual-core-intel-core-m3-6y30-4gb-ram-64gb-emmc-microsdxc-ac-wifiplusb

But if you phone them my guess is they may assist with Win10 Pro. All of their Scan range of mini-computers are routinely Win10 Pro and worth a look. BTW, I am not quite sure how you hook this 'computec stick' up as it is normally designed to plug directly into a display.  Do check it has all the ports and connectivity you need! It might be easier with one of the mini computers.

Edited by noah4x4

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thanks @noah4x4 :) Have emailed Scan computers, asking questions about windows pro on compute stick

Edited by festoon

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I've been using Azulle pc stick for EAA been good fit for me.  Came with Win 10 pro 32G SSD (10G remains after updates/sharpcap/stellarium/ascom etc) usb 3 port, usb 2 port, Ethernet port, HDMI port, micro sd port / card for extra storage.   I run it remotely from laptop inside.  Runs on 12V power tank, mount connects to ethernet port, camera to usb 3 port, focus control usb 2 port.  My only gripe would be one more usb port would be useful for guide camera.  Course I could also just get out of chair and manually focus telescope #lazy..

IMG_5421 - Copy.jpg

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