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Which Compute Stick?


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IMHO there is one big problem with everything being on one expensive pc (mini or otherwise)  as it runs in a harsh environment it is more likely(I did say more likely !!!!)  to go belly up. So if you have spent £400 ($500)  and it doesn't last ,lets say,2yrs that's an expensive item - as normal ok if thats not a problem.

And really the ONLY items that require speed/capacity are CCD camera's - nothing else (i can think of ? ) needs an I5-7 processor power,high spec graphics , USB 3 or large power wattage! Mount,Focuser,Rotator ,GPS,Weather station even guide camera's  run  well on far far less spec'd systems - even all on 1 system.

With Indi and now Ascom Alpaca (although new) giving distributed processing there is no need ,IMHO, to spend a fortune (Relative I know) and I would say that the item shown by our friend from Wisconsin,or the M3 stick, would probably perform just as well as the £400 items discussed here accepting the CCD/4k graphics limitation - if you want/need that!.  

Ok I accept 4k graphics might be missing or slower but IMO the Hyperstar would be (and  is) , more beneficial in EAA - as you are only as good as your weakest link !

While I would normally condone future proofing  - in IT even 18 months is a very long time things change so fast! 

But its all up to the individual's needs and how deep their pockets go!  

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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

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 destinati

Just bought an M3 intel compute stick....and a 128gb micro SD card...fingers crossed it is up to the job!!! First job will be to upgrade it from the default windows 10 home to windows 10 pro. No

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Just bought an M3 intel compute stick....and a 128gb micro SD card...fingers crossed it is up to the job!!!

First job will be to upgrade it from the default windows 10 home to windows 10 pro. No one has been able to help me with process as every company I have asked says its something you need to do online once you have set the syetem up.

The start installing all the software :) I think I'm going to have a few weeks of being busy :)

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Some relevant information I learned about this month...

A reason why high resolution (16 megapixel) cameras often stutter and suffer from lag over Windows Remote Desktop (or similar) is 'RemoteFX Compression'. 

You might have a 433Mbps wireless network or an even faster Cat 6 cable LAN and it won't let more than 10 Mbps through the system.  4K UHD screen data requires far more than this. The reason it exists is that in commerical networks or across the Internet it is designed to prevent any single user from throttling the wider network by excessive data. But if strictly confined to your home network you don't need this degree of compression and if you reduce it or disable it then your WAN/LAN network will become turbo charged. Not only can I now run my 'end to end' 4K UHD system wirelessly, I reckon that I could now achieve that using lesser computing power and certainly lesser network capacity, hence saving considerable money. Hence, lower specification compute sticks are potentially more viable, but do check their memory and storage capabilities as each individual 16 megapixel frame tends to exceed 48Mb. I still favour an Intel NUC (and you would need Iris 640 Graphics for 4K UHD). But this tip will speed up data flow on any system, including 1080p HD.

To learn how to fully manage RemoteFX Compression and its enviroment visit this document;  https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/administration/performance-tuning/role/remote-desktop/virtualization-hosts

But below is the key text for the purposes of reducing or disabling RemoteFX Compression (note applies to Windows 10 Professional etc).

RemoteFX data compression

Microsoft RemoteFX compression can be configured by using Group Policy under Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Remote Desktop Services > Remote Desktop Session Host > Remote Session Environment > Configure compression for RemoteFX data. Three values are possible:

  • Optimized to use less memory Consumes the least amount of memory per session but has the lowest compression ratio and therefore the highest bandwidth consumption.

  • Balances memory and network bandwidth Reduced bandwidth consumption while marginally increasing memory consumption (approximately 200 KB per session).

  • Optimized to use less network bandwidth Further reduces network bandwidth usage at a cost of approximately 2 MB per session. If you want to use this setting, you should assess the maximum number of sessions and test to that level with this setting before you place the server in production.

You can also choose to not use a RemoteFX compression algorithm. Choosing to not use a RemoteFX compression algorithm will use more network bandwidth, and it is only recommended if you are using a hardware device that is designed to optimize network traffic. Even if you choose not to use a RemoteFX compression algorithm, some graphics data will be compressed.

I was so frustrated by lag and stutter that I decided to completely disable the RemoteFX compression algorithm, but others tell me that the less aggressive three values (bullet points) will also work great - just don't do it over the Internet or your office network!. My system now flys irrespective of the screen data load I am transmitting using Remote Desktop. Sorry, I don't know how to do this in TeamViewer or  VNC, or even if it is possible.

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3 hours ago, festoon said:

Just bought an M3 intel compute stick....and a 128gb micro SD card...fingers crossed it is up to the job!!!

First job will be to upgrade it from the default windows 10 home to windows 10 pro. No one has been able to help me with process as every company I have asked says its something you need to do online once you have set the syetem up.

The start installing all the software :) I think I'm going to have a few weeks of being busy :)

Upgrade to Win 10 Professional is easy.  You pay your money to Microsoft and it auto-updates.

Windows 10 professional gives you so much more control. See my tip about RemoteFX compression in previous post.

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thank you @noah4x4 for the advice...very much appreicated.

From reading what you say above the one thing I did not work out...is did you disable remotefx on the computer you have at the scope, or the computer you have indoors, or both?

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The computer at the scope is running Windows 10 Professional. Hence you reduce or disable RemoteFX compression ONLY on that as it is acting as the primary 'server' device.

The computer running indoors is simply replicating the screen output for the primary device with keyboard/mouse (albeit that is running 'headless'). It hence performs a the role of a dumb terminal.  But even if simply receiving and re-drawing 4K UHD screen data it requires a data transfer rate exceeding the artificial restriction of 10 Mbps. However, at 1080p HD no amendment might be necessary.

Frankly, I would initially try without adjusting RemoteFX compression as if your camera isn't demanding it may run fine on normal Windows Remote Desktop settings. However, if you suffer any lag or stutter, then try it before investing in greater computing or network power.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just wanted to report back, that I got my M3 compute stick a few weeks ago. The first thing I did was do the required windows updates - then I upgraded to Windows 10 Pro to allow me to use RDP. I have also inserted a 256GB microSD memory card as additional memory, and a neat USB3.0 hub to give me a few more USB ports. It happily runs synscan mobile via a serial com port from USB to the AZ GTi mount. Stellarium, Sharpcap, Stellarium Scope all installed fine. Astrotortilla installed fine also.

Also I've moved my wifi router to be on the 5GHz band to avoid any interference with my USB 3.0 CMOS camera. Also followed the suggestion of @noah4x4 and disabled remoteFX compression.

First and second light were very successful over the weekend. To power the device outside I used a USB type c cigarrete adaptor capable of supplying 5V, 3A - connected to a 12V lithium polymer tracer battery. I'm using the same battery to power my AZGti mount. I also bought a USB type C inline voltmeter/ammeter. Under no load this supplied 5V. When under stress (>2A) the lowest reported voltage was ~4.8V but the compute stick kept going. Comparatively, even with the as-supplied power supply plug (using the same voltmeter and >2A current) was reading 4.9V. The spec of the supplied power is 5.2V 2.2A DC.  So a small difference using a 5V cigarette adaptor would be expected. The only time I saw an issue was attaching the USB hub to the compute stick caused the compute stick to freeze. However I saw no more issues after reboot. Just taking the USB of the camera in and out caused no problems, and this only occured when attaching the hub. So I guess there may be a lack of stability at the moment of connecting multiple USB devices at the same time but no problems if the setup remains unchanged.

The compute stick ran for several hours, and my RDP connection indoor was fantastic (as long as I placed my router just outside my back door). Was happily running stellaium, and sharpcap acquiring raw16 bit frames. Platesolving (via sharpcap interface) only took a few seconds. Stacking in sharpcap was not an issue.

In summary, very happy with the outcome. I might try a wifi usb high gain antenna with the compute stick to see if I can keep my wifi router indoors. I also may and try use a programmable buck converter to match the as supplied power supply - so convert my 12V DC to 5.2V. However I have understood from Intel forums that the compute stick is very sensitive to over voltage. So as long as I see no issues, I will continue with the cigarette adaptor setup I have now.

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7 hours ago, Thalestris24 said:

Glad you got something working - in spite of my reservations when you first asked!

Louise

I think the M3 processor is a big improvement on the previous stick using the Atom processor. It honestly feels as quick as my i5 laptop

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The issue with compute on USB is that (a) the data needs to travel both ways - one as part of processing and once for reading results.

An eGPU with compute where the monitor is connected to the GPU would be more effective. As the data only needs to transverse the slower PICe/ThunderThingy bus once.

Data (in CPU memory) -> GPU (stored in GPU memory) -> GPU processing -> GPU results stored in memory -> GPU render to screen -> SCREEN.

 

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4 hours ago, NickK said:

The issue with compute on USB is that (a) the data needs to travel both ways - one as part of processing and once for reading results.

An eGPU with compute where the monitor is connected to the GPU would be more effective. As the data only needs to transverse the slower PICe/ThunderThingy bus once.

Data (in CPU memory) -> GPU (stored in GPU memory) -> GPU processing -> GPU results stored in memory -> GPU render to screen -> SCREEN.

 

Hi @NickK - very sorry but I'm not following this...could be its just over my head technically :) Is it possible to please explain what you mean?

I don't think I'm using the GPU on the compute stick as I am remote desktoping to it

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  • 2 months later...

People argue cable is the only reliable solution for large sensor high resolution cameras. But USB (or HDMI) is limited. The signal dies in under 30 feet of cable. Cat6 cable or wireless is far superior. However, many slimline modern computers don't have RJ45 Ethernet connectors (e.g. for Cat6). Fortunately, you can buy cheap USB to RJ45 converters. However, you may also need a powered Network Switch..

Wireless can be much easier than cable  if you know how to (say) manage Windows Remote Desktop and RemoteFX compression. See my earlier post. You might have a 433 mbps wireless network, but if RemoteFX compression is strangling it,, you might struggle to exceed 10mbps. Resolve that and you can discard cables. But best advice, keep any USB cables short. 

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On 19/02/2019 at 12:13, festoon said:

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?

I have run my i5 NUC off 19v and 12v (well 13.7v) and noticed no difference at all - it is powered by a 20 amp power supply and runs the mount, PHD2, electronic focuser, SGP, etc concurrently along with a ZWO guide camera and Atik 16200 imaging cam plus CdC and Stellarium.  

Edited by Skipper Billy
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On 29/06/2019 at 22:12, Skipper Billy said:

I have run my i5 NUC off 19v and 12v (well 13.7v) and noticed no difference at all - it is powered by a 20 amp power supply and runs the mount, PHD2, electronic focuser, SGP, etc concurrently along with a ZWO guide camera and Atik 16200 imaging cam plus CdC and Stellarium.  

Quality of 12v battery is crucial with a NUC. I had no problems with my Tracer 22aH. But my i5 NUC didn't like the 12v output of some cheap Chinese battery packs that offer circa 12v but soon deplete to 11.3v. The NUC needs an absolute minimum of 11.6v.

However, I have recently tried a different solution with interesting success. Connect  a 12v DC battery to a 12v DC/240v AC Bestek 300w power inverter (£26). Then use its 240v output with the manufacturers AC adapters supplied with camera, focuser  etc. This is a great replacement where mains electricity is not available and often used by caravanners etc. Whilst this sounds convoluted, the supply seems to be more regular/reliable as the NUC then gets its 19v, the camera get 12v, focuser 12v, with each receiving the correctly specified voltage/amperage as it uses it own AC adapter as if connected to the mains. Just make sure you buy an inverter that has enough wattage. I put battery, inverter and plug sockets in a small plastic easy to carry tool box.

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5 hours ago, noah4x4 said:

However, I have recently tried a different solution with interesting success. Connect  a 12v DC battery to a 12v DC/240v AC Bestek 300w power inverter (£26). Then use its 240v output with the manufacturers AC adapters supplied with camera, focuser  etc. This is a great replacement where mains electricity is not available and often used by caravanners etc. Whilst this sounds convoluted, the supply seems to be more regular/reliable as the NUC then gets its 19v, the camera get 12v, focuser 12v, with each receiving the correctly specified voltage/amperage as it uses it own AC adapter as if connected to the mains. Just make sure you buy an inverter that has enough wattage. I put battery, inverter and plug sockets in a small plastic easy to carry tool box.

Thats a fairly inefficient way of doing things - in the end although I was satisfied that the system worked on 12v in my nice warm and dry dining room I wanted to be sure that in the damp, freezing cold middle of the night that I had removed as many potential failure points so I put one of these (see link below)  in a project box to give me nice smooth 19 volts.  The box in the photograph gives out 12v to all the outlets on the side and 19v out of the top for the NUC - the other cable in the top is the 12v supply into the box. 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fenshine-12V-19V-Converter-Voltage-Regulator/dp/B07L6BX7NM/ref=asc_df_B07L6BX7NM/?tag=googshopuk-21&linkCode=df0&hvadid=255644877778&hvpos=1o4&hvnetw=g&hvrand=5202075056603707898&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9046988&hvtargid=aud-545671390501:pla-717633515400&psc=1

 

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Edited by Skipper Billy
Forgot to include link!
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It is the same basic principle Skipper Billy. My core point was that not every 12v battery offers a true12v and an inverter/regulator adds the 19v stability one ideally needs.

I wholly agree that using a 12v DC to 240v AC inverter then using AC/DC adapters to produce the correct lower outputs is less electrically efficient than a direct 12v DC to 19v DC converter. However, the fact mine offers a 240v possibility (from12v)  gives me more options on a miserable cloudy night. in tent or caravan. I can then power toaster, TV or fridge (but pub always wins).

Edited by noah4x4
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