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Paul M

Ubuntu 20.04

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Having abandoned my Raspberry Pi 4B/Astroberry because of severe instability issues I've been looking at getting a dedicated  NUC/mini PC for imaging. Looking round I see almost infinite choice but a couple of machines in my price range come with Ubuntu 20.04 installed. This seems to be a 64 Bit o/s ?

Ok, me thinks that as much as I like APT, going Linux would allow me to put KStars etc on there and make use of the hundreds of hours of learning I put into Astroberry. Although it was tough going with Ekos in my experience, I finally got an appreciation of its power and functionality.

An other reason for going Linux of some flavour is in saving the cost of a W10 license.

But, but, and thrice but, I seem to have memories of some Linux based astro software not working on 64 bit. Am I confused, is this even a stick I am holding, let alone the wrong end of it? 

Would I be setting myself up for endless woe by going with 64 bit, or Ubuntu in general. or...I don't know what else could go wrong....

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Ubuntu should be pretty stable distribution. I use it all the time on servers and it just works.

64bit version is available for 64 bit desktop processors. Astroberry and other software for RPI is 32bit because architecture is 32bit - ARM processors. I believe that most RPI astro distributions in fact use Ubuntu as base OS.

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I've been running a 64bit Linux distro  (MX Linux) for the last couple of years, no problem.

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I run 64-bit Linux (Mint, in my case) on mini-PCs at the pier and haven't come across any problems as yet.  I can't really see why there would be any with Intel CPUs, to be honest.  I think the place where there have been more issues with 64-bit recently is on ARM-based systems because they're relatively uncommon still.

James

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The biggest problem is making sure the Linux version (Ubuntu etc) is supported using the default drivers (Nothing to do with Indi) especially graphics drivers and normally very recently released  Intel based ones. Having said that I have been running 64bit on 2 PC's (one mini 64bit Intel Ubuntu 18.04 and the other Fedora AMD 64bit) and on the whole no problems - but, I like most, dont probably have the same set up in terms of Mount,cameras etc - mine is  AZEQ6,ZWO camera's,Canon DSLR  - so I cant say yours will be 100% ok.

P.S. I also run ASCOM 64bit on Windows 64bit and have very little problems with my kit.

perhaps this will help http://www.linuxandubuntu.com/home/32-bit-vs-64-bit-operating-system

You would be better putting this on the Indilib forum to get answers from developers directly(OK James is one for Oacapture) but I doubt there will be any "major" problems - I did say doubt- as you will always get some problems - software deveopment isn't wood carving 🙂

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14 hours ago, Paul M said:

Ubuntu 20.04 installed.

Hi

I can recommend Ubuntu, especially in its kubuntu guise. The kstars and indi chief developer uses the latter so all the stable versions will run out of the box on any recent Ubuntu distribution. 

We're currently running kubuntu 20.04 on an old dell portable which sits next to the telescope. You can vnc or ssh into it from anywhere. Or just sit next to it with a pair of binoculars... (like in the good old days it says here!).

Our recommendation would be -especially when starting out- not to skimp on the nuc. Give yourself a fighting chance with something decent. After all, you wouldn't run a windows based ascom box on a 2Gb rpi...

Cheers and good luck.

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25 minutes ago, alacant said:

You can vnc or ssh into it from anywhere. Or just sit next to it with a pair of binoculars

Wouldn't pair of reading glasses be enough since you already sitting next to it?

I can see why would one want binoculars if they are in their house but don't want to use VNC or SSH :D.

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1 hour ago, vlaiv said:

Wouldn't reading glasses be enough

No, because you'd be in the bar with a cool beer!

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1 hour ago, alacant said:

I can recommend Ubuntu, especially in its kubuntu guise.

Great, just the job. I know I can replace the o/s with something more suitable but if what's there is good for the job then it's one less thing for me to struggle with.

My budget isn't spectacular but I'll shop round for the most bang for my buck.

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Wow, on my phone and only just realised there were lots of replies!

Thanks all for your replies. My mind is most definitely heading in the Ubuntu direction!

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15 hours ago, Paul M said:

Having abandoned my Raspberry Pi 4B/Astroberry because of severe instability issues

Out of interest Paul did you have all the devices going through an external powered USB hub and a decent PSU for the PI. I'm surprised to hear about severe instability issues, unless it was a broken bleeding edge (or what ever they call the latest beta version) release of KStars etc.

Also disabling the internal serial port in raspi-config is key for some accessories (liek GPS dongle and mount) else they can be flakey or not work.

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4 minutes ago, 7170 said:

Out of interest Paul did you have all the devices going through an external powered USB hub and a decent PSU for the PI. I'm surprised to hear about severe instability issues, unless it was a broken bleeding edge (or what ever they call the latest beta version) release of KStars etc.

Also disabling the internal serial port in raspi-config is key for some accessories (liek GPS dongle and mount) else they can be flakey or not work.

I had it all ways up! Spent months trying different things. My last ditch attempt was to use the Pi as a server only and run KStars/Ekos on my laptop. 

It proved unusable again. Crashing and restarting or just not responding. It would start an exposure but not download from the camera. Just bizarrely unstable as soon as it was given guiding to do or anything else for that matter.

Maybe my Pi had a dry joint on the board or something but it was fine until the USB traffic picked up. Indi forums contain a lot of reports of USB issues on the Pi's which have been continued on the latest models.

Anyway, I won't be wasting another clear sky on it unless I hear of a positive diagnosis and solution.

 

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2 minutes ago, Paul M said:

Anyway, I won't be wasting another clear sky on it unless I hear of a positive diagnosis and solution.

Very wise, its a shame it didn't work out given the amount of time you had to invest. Fingers crossed for the mini-pc approach! :)

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I initially used a Raspberry Pi 3B for two years and upgraded to the RPi4 a over a year and use KStars/Ekos orunning on my mount with very few issues. On the 3B the USB2 only connections were a bottleneck but that has been fixed in the RPi4.  Also it best to run them using an SSD not from a memory card as that slows the whole system down and impacts saving images from USB3 cameras.  The  inbuilt wireless connection on the RPi4 is probably the weakest link.  

Ubuntu OS is probably more stable than Windows unless you are using the very latest cutting edge version.  With Ubuntu it's best to stay on the last but one official release to be bug free.

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56 minutes ago, wornish said:

The  inbuilt wireless connection on the RPi4 is probably the weakest link.  

Why is that?

I'm planing to add RPI control to AzGTI and want to have it act as access point for both AzGTI and my phone controlling the mount. I'm hoping that will be more stable and better than AzGTI being access point.

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2 hours ago, wornish said:

The  inbuilt wireless connection on the RPi4 is probably the weakest link. 

 

1 hour ago, vlaiv said:

Why is that?

I'm planing to add RPI control to AzGTI and want to have it act as access point for both AzGTI and my phone controlling the mount. I'm hoping that will be more stable and better than AzGTI being access point.

Probably because the Pi4 requires a heatsink. That large chunk of metal can reduce the WiFi signal, depending on the type of heatsink used.
For reasons of quietness and reliability I prefer passive heatsinks - no fans. However ones that completely cover the Pi4 board, like this one
pi4-heatsink.png.abfc9892102b06c9aec2fc23e0dd1247.png

that cover both the top and the bottom make the onboard WiFi unusable. I have 3 Pi4's. One with a fan assisted stick-on heatsink in a plastic case and two with this sort of passive radiator. The plastic cased one makes too much noise. It was fine when new, but after a few weeks became noisy. The other two are great (apart from having no external points to fix the Pi4 to anything) but in effect have no WiFi. I would imagine the same applies to the onboard BlueTooth, although I have no use for that.

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I have that same case and I was connecting via ethernet/VNC.

When in use in the cool night air the case barely got warm so not an heat issue.

It seems almost certain that the main problem is the peculiarities of the Pi's USB architecture and the non standard USB interface of the ASI120MM camera. But even when that wasn't connected the Pi was given to random freezing and crashing. It was great until a USB device was run in anger.

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I got myself a Pi a couple of years ago.  It wasn't up to the job of running my kit at the pier, but it did serve to get me used to the idea of Linux.

I bought a cheap refurbished Dell laptop for £280.00 and I haven't looked back since.  I am running Ubuntu 16.04 on the laptop and it has been absolutely flawless.

The only real problem that I had with the Pi was the speed of transferring the image files.  It really was painful.

I'm using Indi, CCDCiel, Cartes du Ciel, ASTAP and PHD2 on the Linux laptop.   I use VNC to access it from indoors.  Finally, I am using SAMBA to map the laptop's image directory to my imaging PC.  I just drag and drop the files across.  It all works on WiFi.

CCDCiel is greatly underrated in my opinion.

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2 hours ago, vlaiv said:

Why is that?

I would agree that the internal wireless is the weak part but I would qualify that statement further.

Inside a house the wifi is perfectly adequate for usual PI use. However using a PI on the mount as a controller for your equipment is putting it in an environment it is probably not designed for.  Namely it is next to large chunks of metal, which maybe blocking the signal depending on which way the scope is pointing too.

Also if you have it outside and are sitting inside the distance and obstacles in-between (eg metal coated insulation used in many houses in the external walls only) will block the signal a lot. It is for that reason that I use a USB wifi dongle (sold as a long range option) with a 5dBi external antenna - cost just £13 GBP. It works very well from the observatory to inside the house - a rock solid, fast connection that doesn't drop.

If you are right next to the mount connected to the Pi on internal wifi, using an iPad via you won't have an issue.

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2 minutes ago, 7170 said:

I would agree that the internal wireless is the weak part but I would qualify that statement further.

Inside a house the wifi is perfectly adequate for usual PI use. However using a PI on the mount as a controller for your equipment is putting it in an environment it is probably not designed for.  Namely it is next to large chunks of metal, which maybe blocking the signal depending on which way the scope is pointing too.

Also if you have it outside and are sitting inside the distance and obstacles in-between (eg metal coated insulation used in many houses in the external walls only) will block the signal a lot. It is for that reason that I use a USB wifi dongle (sold as a long range option) with a 5dBi external antenna - cost just £13 GBP. It works very well from the observatory to inside the house - a rock solid, fast connection that doesn't drop.

If you are right next to the mount connected to the Pi on internal wifi, using an iPad via you won't have an issue.

I think that would be my main usage scenario - in the field imaging where I need to connect AzGTI, RPI and android phone together into sort of LAN. I guess it should work ok in that case.

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16 hours ago, vlaiv said:

Why is that?

I'm planing to add RPI control to AzGTI and want to have it act as access point for both AzGTI and my phone controlling the mount. I'm hoping that will be more stable and better than AzGTI being access point.

The range of the inbuilt WiFi is affected by the types of case you put it in.  Metal ones especially affect the signal.  Useful comparison here.

https://www.martinrowan.co.uk/2019/08/wifi-signal-strength-with-raspberry-pi-4-cases/

 

I use the FLIRC case and it works OK.

 

I don't use any large heatsink or cooling fan and the RPi4 works fine, the inbuilt temperature monitoring simply slows the clock down if it gets too hot. Mine will run all night no problems.

Edited by wornish
typo
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I've been using Pi's for some years now as webservers, sql servers and now my telescope server.  But then, "I don't do Windows."  I haven't owned a windows machine since 1995. When I worked as a programmer, I was all UNIX/Linux.

The Pi3 is very stable, but the USB2 ports are a drag with fast cameras and  running them remotely with VNC or SSH is reliable, but slow.  The usual problem is having the Pi3 too far from the WiFi router.  The antenna is tiny and it is therefore range-challenged.  If you can manage a cable, running things via a direct ethernet connection will change your world.

The Pi4 -can- be stable, but 64 bit OS versions have only recently begun to stabilize.  I am running Ubuntu Mate 64 bit, that is still beta.  I did run the (still beta) Raspbian 64 bit, but I ended up having to compile a lot of the INDI drivers to get them to operate properly, rather than just download the pre-cooked versions.  Also, the software available for download seems to be more stable for Ubuntu distribution versions.  I am presently using:

AstroDMX_Capture: general imaging

CCDCiel: pointing some imaging, plate solving, auto-focus and general operations platform

Astrometry.net: plate solving (integrated with  CCDCiel)

PHD2: guiding (run independantly and/or managed via CCDCiel)

Carte du Ciel (SkyChart): planetarium and pointing (integrated with CCDCiel)

Siril: Stacking

StarTools: Image fiddle-faddle (making me look better than I have a right to)

GIMP:  Final image touch-up

With the exception of StarTools, which requires a modest fee, the rest merely ask for donations from those who are able.  I strongly recommend the support of all of these fine programs if you are using them.

I have found a few of things about the PI4:

You really need heat sinks AND a cooling fan, especially if you intend to overclock the Pi.  As to overclocking...for operational astronomy use (running the scope, cameras imaging and plate solving), there is not a lot of gain by overclocking and it does really increase the temp load.  That is one thing that can lead to instability.  I run mine stock.  Frankly, while you -could- do image touch-up with a Pi4, that task really wants a machine with more beef.

I have had problems with the USB3 ports on my Pi4's.  The problem isn't software or design as much as purely mechanical.  They seem to have no patience for cheap USB cable connectors.  Every single USB3 instability I have experienced was down to the cable connection.  Wiggle it or hold your mouth just right and it works.  Slew the scope and it becomes unstable.  Better quality cables and ensuring a good tight fit is critical to stable USB3 operations.

Like the Pi3, the Pi4 has a weak WiFi signal.  It is better than the Pi3, but not much.  This leaves 3 choices:  1> Use a separate USB Wifi device with a "big -ole antenna," such as those sold for laptops, 2> Place your WiFi router nearer to the Pi4, or 3> Run an ethernet wire to your network.  Myself, I hate wires, but running the network connectivity over a wire changes the whole picture of what can be done.

This is a rather unique case, but I'll mention it anyway  I focus using a WaveshareHAT board. There are a few other add-on boards that I have not tested, but the same may be true and is worth consideration:  The board plugs in on top of the Pi4 GPOI pins and offers the option of running power to the board and powering the Pi with that single power supply through the HAT board.  Nice, simple, clean, less wires.  This works OK on a Pi3, but Pi4...DON"T DO IT!  You'll be plagued with low-voltage issues.  Also, don't try to use the remote power ON switch setting AND adding the standard USB power cord.  Disable the remote powering option and power the two boards separately from separate supplies. Additionally, keeping a Pi4 cool is paramount.  Trying to cool it with an accessory board riding on top of the main board via the GPIO port is more complicated.  I had to build a special case with an extra side fan to keep things manageable.  If I hadn't already gone to all that effort, I would have added the board via external ribbon cable in a separate enclosure.  This rant is particularly for the WaveshareHAT board, but I have seen Arduino and other boards that have the same feature of powering the Pi through the HAT board using one power source.  I haven't tested these, but I wouldn't trust them either.  

 

 

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Ah, forgot about this thread. Well, I went for Ubuntu on a generic Single Board Computer:

Everything is loaded and waiting for a clear night :)

 

 

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