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Is Pixinsight worth a new computer?


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I need some guidance from the numerous Pixinsight users on the forum. Currently I image process using various bits of software including APP, Startools, Affinity plus a few minor add-ins. Although I am still learning the whole processing workflows, I feel that the images I am producing are not as good as I would like given the amount of integration time. I am seriously considering Pixinsight as this seems to be the best option for processing. I also object to spending £30 a month on PS on principle. However......

Having checked the specifications for the system requirements for PI it would require me to buy a new PC for the processing. Although I have a reasonable PC, it does not meet the recommended requirements for PI. So not only would I have to buy the software but I would need a new computer too. My question is this. Is the improvement with PI, is it worth the cost of a new PC? I do sort of need a new PC anyway, but this would require quite a good specification and higher cost.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Thanks,

Ian

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Tee hee - that should, of course, have been 16Gb RAM🤣

Plus a direct feed from the National Grid

To both of you, please feel free to share a stacked typical night's worth of data with me (here, via the ST forums, PM, whatever works for you). Along with that, a StarTools rendition that you're not

Posted Images

You can get a 45 day free trial of PI, so it may be worth trying it with your current PC to see how it performs and to see how you get on with PI.

This is what I did and I liked the results I was getting with PI. Previously I was using PhotoShop and couldn't do what I wanted with that but I now have a basic routine for each image and I'm still picking up things each time I use it.

It does take some time to get to know the software but a search of YouTube will produce some good tutorials which are a great help and you can stop & start them as you progress through with your own image. ;)

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Not to tell you how to spend your money, but rather drop anywhere from £1k to £5k+ on high spec new PC components* (plus the £200ish on Pixinsight), stick with what you've got and focus on learning how to get the most out of the software on your images. Startools, for example, is very simple to begin using but (as with most things) to get the best out of it you really need to learn what it's doing and how to find the optimum settings for your data.

 

*seriously, the ryzen threadripper CPUs that always top the pixinsight benchmarks are ~£3.5k alone!! 

Edited by The Lazy Astronomer
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I used to use PI (still on PC) but I never bother with it anymore since getting APP and Affinity Photo. There are some great plug ins for Affinity like AstroFlat Pro. Affinity is getting better all the time and can even do astro stacking now.

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Photoshop is less than £10pm and includes lightroom, seems reasonable to me, why object on principle? Its easier than PI and very useful, especially if you buy plugins

I have  PI  from  when it first came out, I haven't found it requires any heavy  duty hardware (2018 macbook pro)

as Martin said, get the trial to see if  you can get your head around it, requires you to think about what you want to  do and change default settings rather than follow a strict workflow . Its one of those things that seems mysterious then after a while it just clicks

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I run Pixinsight on an old laptop which has been upgraded to W10 pro. The main issue is that it won't run Starnet as it's missing something in its hardware. Also some of the larger process windows are too large to display properly but if parts of the various options are minimised they work fine. That's due to the screen resolution. As I use this laptop to capture the data I tend to start processing here. I find the various processes run fairly quickly even though it's a Core Duo with 4gb ram.

i don't have the same issues on my 1 year old i7 laptop with SSD.

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I use PixInsight and it is a steep learning curve when you start out with it but I feel it is worth the effort. I agree with the earlier post, make use of the trial and see how your pc copes. Also, you can practice using the data released here from the IKI observatory as well so no need to worry about how many imaging sessions you can get in over those 45 days.

I imagine PixInsight will just run slower, however, with the learning curve a slow pc give you that ‘processing time’ to read Warren Keller’s second edition, Inside PixInsight. It’s available from all good bookshops and some rubbish ones too (always wanted to say that!)

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Ps isn't £30 per month!

I use Ps and PI but find PI a nightmare most of the time and only use a few functions in it. However, the few that I do use are very helpful. I just like the layers environment in Ps.

Olly

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13 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

I use Ps and PI but find PI a nightmare most of the time and only use a few functions in it. However, the few that I do use are very helpful. I just like the layers environment in Ps.

I'm completely with Olly on this 👍 However, I DID buy a new PC and as this coincided with a desire to try PI, I had it specced to meet PI's requirements which meant an Intel i5, Windows 10 (64bit) and 16 Mb Gb RAM - not exactly a really high specification but it works very well for me so this doesn't need to be silly expensive.

I wouldn't rely purely on PI but I do think that PI and PS combined in your workflow is a great way to proceed, PI for calibration, alignment, integration and deconvolution (perhaps some noise reduction too) and then straight into PS for the 'interesting' stuff!

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23 hours ago, Clarkey said:

Having checked the specifications for the system requirements for PI it would require me to buy a new PC for the processing. Although I have a reasonable PC, it does not meet the recommended requirements for PI. So not only would I have to buy the software but I would need a new computer too. My question is this. Is the improvement with PI, is it worth the cost of a new PC? I do sort of need a new PC anyway, but this would require quite a good specification and higher cost.

For me, PI was night and day compared to a lot of the other tools out there. You will need "Inside PixInsight" as the missing user manual, but it does exist and a wide range of excellent tutorial content is available online also. It has a steep learning curve but is definitely best in class for the low-level bits (from calibration up to integration) and I would argue is best in class for a lot of the "post" processing like colour calibration, deconvolution, etc. It's definitely the tool to use if you want to make every little bit of your data work its hardest!

Photoshop, Affinity etc are great finishing tools but I've never found I need Photoshop; I have it for work, but haven't ever reached for it in my workflow - I find I can do it all in PI just as easily.

In terms of PC spec, PI can run on quite low-end hardware - it'll just be kinda slow to process stuff, but if you're patient that's not an issue. It's hard to advise without knowing what your current rig is.

Storage performance and CPU performance are the two big ticket items for PI, though having enough RAM to take advantage of both is also important. NVMe solid-state PCIe disks for your working files (I still use spinning disks for bulk storage), a CPU with a few cores (AMD these days are by far the best bang-for-buck for PI and other multithreaded applications), and at least 32G of RAM are all ideal. But I did for a long while use PI on an old Intel 2600K with 16G of RAM; upgrading to NVMe made a huge difference. Going from that to my current rig (an AMD 3950X w/ 32G RAM and faster NVMe disks) delivered a pretty major performance boost because of the much greater volume of faster CPU cores, but it doesn't enable any more functionality - just takes less time when you hit "go" on a process!

If you're looking to go for a new PC anyway, then just consider PI in your mix of requirements. You'll be looking at around £1.5-2.5k for a high-end workstation-spec machine. I would also recommend considering your monitor - most people I know haven't upgraded theirs in years even if they have upgraded their PCs, and if you're producing images for others then getting something reasonably accurate for colour (optionally with a colorimeter so you can calibrate) is in my view an important consideration.

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10 hours ago, discardedastro said:

Storage performance and CPU performance are the two big ticket items for PI, though having enough RAM to take advantage of both is also important. NVMe solid-state PCIe disks for your working files (I still use spinning disks for bulk storage), a CPU with a few cores (AMD these days are by far the best bang-for-buck for PI and other multithreaded applications), and at least 32G of RAM are all ideal. But I did for a long while use PI on an old Intel 2600K with 16G of RAM; upgrading to NVMe made a huge difference. Going from that to my current rig (an AMD 3950X w/ 32G RAM and faster NVMe disks) delivered a pretty major performance boost because of the much greater volume of faster CPU cores, but it doesn't enable any more functionality - just takes less time when you hit "go" on a process!

Thanks for your very detailed reply. I think my current PC has similar specifications to your old one but with a slightly faster processor. I'll maybe do the PI trial during the summer to see how I get on with it. If I feel the benefit (on a slow PC) then I will invest in a new computer. To be honest I really could do with a new monitor now, regardless of the software I am using!

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On 09/04/2021 at 01:27, The Lazy Astronomer said:

Not to tell you how to spend your money, but rather drop anywhere from £1k to £5k+ on high spec new PC components* (plus the £200ish on Pixinsight), stick with what you've got and focus on learning how to get the most out of the software on your images. Startools, for example, is very simple to begin using but (as with most things) to get the best out of it you really need to learn what it's doing and how to find the optimum settings for your data.

I have used Startools and really like some of the functions for teasing out detail. I just struggle to get a good background as it seems to pull detail from noise. But I think you have summed up my dilemma in terms of how much is me and how much is the limitations of the software.

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Unless you have a desire to splash out on a high spec machine, I would consider a reconditioned desktop.

I recently purchased a Dell Optiplex 790 short form factor (SFF - smaller and more compact) and they are very easy to upgrade. I bought one last year for c£300 via Amazon with an Intel i3 and 8GB of RAM + 500GB spinning hard disk. Now it’s got an i7 installed (£90 off eBay) 16GB Ram and a 500GB SSD (from Crucial UK) plus a 2TB Hybrid SSD hard disk for storage (£50 off eBay). You can get cheaper 790’s on eBay, but sometimes there is no warranty and if something was wrong with the item I would prefer to argue with Amazon to get my £300 back.

Just want to add that I am not a skilled IT individual, however, there are some very clear YouTube videos out there that show you what you need and how to install it.

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55 minutes ago, Hughsie said:

I recently purchased a Dell Optiplex 790 short form factor (SFF - smaller and more compact) and they are very easy to upgrade. I bought one last year for c£300 via Amazon with an Intel i3 and 8GB of RAM + 500GB spinning hard disk. Now it’s got an i7 installed (£90 off eBay) 16GB Ram and a 500GB SSD (from Crucial UK) plus a 2TB Hybrid SSD hard disk for storage (£50 off eBay). You can get cheaper 790’s on eBay, but sometimes there is no warranty and if something was wrong with the item I would prefer to argue with Amazon to get my £300 back.

Going second-hand for PC parts can work well but you do need to be very careful - there is an incredible amount of fakes, misrepresentation, and scams on PC parts on eBay. I'd definitely avoid hard disks (SSDs probably fine) on eBay as many will have had a rough life. Even things like RAM are somewhat reliant on people having proper ESD control etc to avoid damage. The scam/fakes side of things is much worse if you're buying relatively new bits, too. GPUs in particular are incredibly sought-after on the second hand market at the moment because of lack of supply (most retailers have waiting lists for the current generation of hardware), so there is a lot of scamming going on.

Second-hand cases, motherboards, RAM, monitors etc will normally be OK, but for the quiet life I'd always buy new.

One thing also to consider especially with smaller cases is heat dissipation - higher end parts, particularly CPUs, need large air coolers or water cooling (easily done with all-in-one units which are sealed at the factory) to work fully. They won't die prematurely unless they're really abused, but they'll thermally throttle themselves and slow down if not adequately cooled. AMD recommend a 3-fan watercooling setup as a minimum for a 3950X, for instance.

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3 hours ago, Clarkey said:

I just struggle to get a good background as it seems to pull detail from noise.

I have the same problem with Startools, but I've seen Ivo get good backgrounds from other people's data, so I'm convinced I just need to find the right settings to get it to work well.

Pixinsight is recognised as one of the best stackers though; I'm yet to try it myself, but l hear it's worth the cost for the stacking ability alone. Plus, from other responses here it sounds like you don't actually need a high end PC for it.

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Your shiny new PC will depreciate far more than the £120 a year that PS costs, but if you have to upgrade anyway that's a moot point.

I too am apposed to subscription software but I pay for PS because I see it as great value for money.  Before the subscription model PS cost ~ £600 to buy, sure you owned the software back then but that was a huge outlay and no version updates unless you paid for them, what we have access to now is a bargain IMO.

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One key question you need to think about is how big are your images. I have been using an ATIK 460 ex and PI chews theough those frames fairly quickly on a reconditioned i7 desktop with 16GB Ram ( from these guys https://www.tier1online.com/ - they sell recon corporate machines so nothing super speedy, but good quality).

I am also using some data from an ASI 6200MM full-frame camera at a remote observatory and those 9576 x 6388 frames are beasts! Start working on a mosaic and you need plenty of coffee breaks.

Download the trial and see how you go with your typical image dimensions.

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1 hour ago, old_eyes said:

I am also using some data from an ASI 6200MM full-frame camera at a remote observatory and those 9576 x 6388 frames are beasts! Start working on a mosaic and you need plenty of coffee breaks.

Yeah, excellent point - full frame I would argue demands a pretty high-end PC, realistically. Technically so long as you've got a reasonable amount of RAM you can get away with a lot, but practically it's really painful. I've got some images off a Nikon Z6 which is 6048x4024 natively and I think if I were doing an awful lot of that, I'd be looking at something Threadripper based with 64G or more RAM, especially for mosaics! The ASI183MM I'm using today is reasonably high resolution but since it's monochrome the resulting files aren't huge, and once you've got an LRGB master set the processing is generally quick stuff anyway. OSC is a different beast altogether.

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28 minutes ago, discardedastro said:

Yeah, excellent point - full frame I would argue demands a pretty high-end PC, realistically. Technically so long as you've got a reasonable amount of RAM you can get away with a lot, but practically it's really painful. I've got some images off a Nikon Z6 which is 6048x4024 natively and I think if I were doing an awful lot of that, I'd be looking at something Threadripper based with 64G or more RAM, especially for mosaics! The ASI183MM I'm using today is reasonably high resolution but since it's monochrome the resulting files aren't huge, and once you've got an LRGB master set the processing is generally quick stuff anyway. OSC is a different beast altogether.

It's a mix. Calibration and stacking you can leave to computer to get on with it. Noise reduction, even on mono images, is quite time consuming. Building and processing the LRGB image is variable. Some processes are quick, histogram and curves transformation, others take quite some time. With PI it makes the use of Previews to test out what you are going to do very attractive! 'Playing' with the data is a lot harder for big files, and that is the way we seem to be going.

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1 minute ago, old_eyes said:

It's a mix. Calibration and stacking you can leave to computer to get on with it. Noise reduction, even on mono images, is quite time consuming. Building and processing the LRGB image is variable. Some processes are quick, histogram and curves transformation, others take quite some time. With PI it makes the use of Previews to test out what you are going to do very attractive! 'Playing' with the data is a lot harder for big files, and that is the way we seem to be going.

True. The latest PI release with the quick subframe previewing has helped a lot in my workflow for that sort of thing, particularly noise reduction - but things like TGVDenoise, MureDenoise, and Deconvolution are still very processor intensive with poor previewability (and in the case of deconv particularly a lot of trial and error required on most images).

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We just need a supercomputer each  - that's all!

supercomputer%20fugaku.jpg?itok=WBLNzL95

Fugaku 415 PetaFlops

When I was a young academic, the CDC Cyber 205 could do an amazing 400MFlops. The Intel i3 over 300 GFlops, nearly 1000 times as fast. Ain't progress great?

http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/userdata/images/large/51/91/product-105191.jpg

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