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Anyone using ALPACA ASCOM 6.5?


vlaiv
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I've posted related question about INDIGO just few seconds ago in software section as well - this is sort of follow up, but a bit separate.

INDIGO has ALPACA agent - which means that in theory I could connect from windows machine via ASCOM to it and use all hardware connected to my INDIGO Sky setup (rpi4 running INDIGO server).

I haven't looked at ASCOM 6.5 yet, I did not know it was even released. Anyone using it? Is it different than regular ASCOM 6.3 as far as local functioning? Will software made for 6.3 work on new 6.5 version?

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1 hour ago, vlaiv said:

I've posted related question about INDIGO just few seconds ago in software section as well - this is sort of follow up, but a bit separate.

INDIGO has ALPACA agent - which means that in theory I could connect from windows machine via ASCOM to it and use all hardware connected to my INDIGO Sky setup (rpi4 running INDIGO server).

I haven't looked at ASCOM 6.5 yet, I did not know it was even released. Anyone using it? Is it different than regular ASCOM 6.3 as far as local functioning? Will software made for 6.3 work on new 6.5 version?

I use it with NINA and works perfectly, no difference that I can see from previous version, as regards using anyway…👍🏼

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3 minutes ago, Stuart1971 said:

I use it with NINA and works perfectly, no difference that I can see from previous version, as regards using anyway…👍🏼

So simple upgrade and nothing special - download and install over existing version as all other upgrades?

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Ok, no idea how to get it running :D

I loaded ALPACA agent on INDIGO, I exposed my mount thru it - and I now have no clue how to connect to it:

image.png.dbc4532087514abfdeff68fd3fbe007f.png

I don't have any drivers that would be ALPACA remote mount or anything like that?

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1 minute ago, vlaiv said:

Ok, no idea how to get it running :D

I loaded ALPACA agent on INDIGO, I exposed my mount thru it - and I now have no clue how to connect to it:

image.png.dbc4532087514abfdeff68fd3fbe007f.png

I don't have any drivers that would be ALPACA remote mount or anything like that?

Hmmm, me neither, but watching with interest….👍🏼

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Actually - there is now Alpaca menu in telescope chooser dialog :D

I'm trying to connect to RPI Alpaca device but so far failing. Could be that firewall or something is causing trouble. Will need to check it out.

 

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Found it!

By default, Alpaca devices use port 11111, probably because that is default port of ALPACA remote server for windows (equivalent of Alpaca agent under INDIGO), but it should be using 7624 port of INDIGOSky web server.

Just issued get on that url and got reply:

image.png.eff55d40d521adb420c1c175322be9e0.png

Going to give it a try now.

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It works.

I'm able to control mount from SGL (limited, park / unpark and things that SGL provides - next up will be stellarium and PHD2).

There is auto discovery that works like charm - just needs to be enabled in Alpaca menu of ascom device chooser dialog.

Have to go and do some errands now, but will try other stuff (including camera control) when I get back.

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Yes, updated to Stellarium 0.21.2 which gave me ASCOM telescope plugin control and it was simple as choose, connect - select Vega and slew!

And it went onto completely different part of the sky :D

This is because apparently things were not synced at the beginning - but when I parked it / unparked - next slew went where it is supposed to go.

It works. Simple as that.

Next, I'll need to try my imaging camera and possibly build dark library that I'll use on next clear night (which could be this weekend - full moon and all)

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12 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

Yes, updated to Stellarium 0.21.2 which gave me ASCOM telescope plugin control and it was simple as choose, connect - select Vega and slew!

And it went onto completely different part of the sky :D

This is because apparently things were not synced at the beginning - but when I parked it / unparked - next slew went where it is supposed to go.

It works. Simple as that.

Next, I'll need to try my imaging camera and possibly build dark library that I'll use on next clear night (which could be this weekend - full moon and all)

So do I understand this correctly, you have your SGP software running on your PC, you have the latest ASCOM installed, and you have an RPI with indigo sky running on there, then you open SGP and you can choose the indigo drivers on the rpi and they will then run with SGP OR I assume any imaging software that uses ASCOM, like NINA or such like…?

So the ALPACA allows a bridge between the indigo drivers and ASCOM. 
OR have I missed the mark entirely…?

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2 minutes ago, Stuart1971 said:

So do I understand this correctly, you have your SGP software running on your PC, you have the latest ASCOM installed, and you have an RPI with indigo sky running on there, then you open SGP and you can choose the indigo drivers on the rpi and they will then run with SGP OR I assume any imaging software that uses ASCOM, like NINA or such like…?

So the ALPACA allows a bridge between the indigo drivers and ASCOM. 
OR have I missed the mark entirely…?

That second thing - ALPACA allows INDI/INDIGO devices to be identified / used as ASCOM devices.

With INDIGOSky running on RPI4 I load Alpaca agent and define which INDIGO devices (mount, camera, etc) I want to expose over ALPACA interface (it is form of REST over HTTP for controlling devices).

With ASCOM I can "create new device" - when I open any software that works with ASCOM devices and I open "device chooser dialog" (for example one that lists telescope mount ASCOM drivers installed in the system) - there is option to manually add or discover (auto discovery works good) remote ALPACA devices.

With auto discovery - I already get my mount from INDIGO in the list - and I can connect that as if it was local ASCOM device as far as application is concerned.

Both my SGP and Stellarium though it was regular ASCOM device connected directly to my windows machine - but in fact it was bridged by alpaca to RPI running INDIGO. If I install NINA - I'm sure it will also work with mount / camera in that same way.

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4 hours ago, vlaiv said:

So simple upgrade and nothing special - download and install over existing version as all other upgrades?

Yes, simple upgrade. I did not look at the update logs to see what was different, but ASCOM 6.5.1 has been out for a a few months (I think), encountered no issues with any connected equipment. I dont use INDI connections. Stellarmate users I have spoken with found the 6.5 ASCOM OK.

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6 minutes ago, GalaxyGael said:

Yes, simple upgrade. I did not look at the update logs to see what was different, but ASCOM 6.5.1 has been out for a a few months (I think), encountered no issues with any connected equipment. I dont use INDI connections. Stellarmate users I have spoken with found the 6.5 ASCOM OK.

Why would STELLARMATE users be bothered about ASCOM….?? 🤔🤔
OR do you mean with ALPACA..?

Edited by Stuart1971
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Small update.

Cameras also work but there are couple of issues.

First - forget about wifi. With wifi, frame download is painfully slow. Even if I do all optimization - it still takes couple of seconds to download frame from guide camera for example. That is simply no go for guiding where we want corrections every few seconds.

I measured my wifi speed to be 20mbps, so half of 802.11g standard of 54mbps.

1000mbps on ethernet sounds much better.

SharpCap crashes when using alpaca ascom drivers. SGP works properly with both of my cameras. Did not test PHD2 yet. Need to get small gigabit switch and 50m ethernet cable.

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I think it is alpaca thing.

If I'm using web panel image updates every second for 3000x2000px image and every half second for 1920x1220px image (main camera and guide camera).

This is jpeg preview in browser - but it shows that download of images is fast enough in RPI and for some reason it is very slow even over gigabit (measured ~940mbps) link.

Will now try AIN imager to see what will happen.

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I don't understand the reticence with ascom here, it's been very stable for a long time. Updates typically add features, like Alpaca since V6. 

It's good to hear that you had a simple job of getting ascom to talk alpaca to the indi bridge.  

I've invested a lot of time and effort into writing embedded alpaca devices and it's good to hear that they will also work with astroberry equivalents. 

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On 17/11/2021 at 13:59, vlaiv said:

I've posted related question about INDIGO just few seconds ago in software section as well - this is sort of follow up, but a bit separate.

INDIGO has ALPACA agent - which means that in theory I could connect from windows machine via ASCOM to it and use all hardware connected to my INDIGO Sky setup (rpi4 running INDIGO server).

I haven't looked at ASCOM 6.5 yet, I did not know it was even released. Anyone using it? Is it different than regular ASCOM 6.3 as far as local functioning? Will software made for 6.3 work on new 6.5 version?

Hello,

I am running Alpaca with my Optec focuser. Optec has Alpaca drivers on their website.

I was able to connect and control my focuser from my main Linux PC. Pretty cool stuff!

I think everything that works on version 6.3 will work on version 6.5.

If I knew more about programming I would love to help the community by writing Alpaca drivers...but I have only basic skills in Python, and I don't understand the whole REST JSON stuff.

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Findings so far:

In this combination, at least for me, it is still not usable combination - running INDIGO server + ALPACA agent and using ASCOM software on Windows machine to control equipment. Issues that I found so far:

1. Software does not seem to work well in this combination - you can't define/discover new devices from either PHD2, SharpCap or SGP. I need to use ASCOM diagnostics to be able to add new dynamic drivers (discover equipment). Granted - this only has to be done once and then device stays in list of devices for further use.

2. SharpCap simply crashes when I try to open ASCOM camera with ALPACA driver (no entry point found exception)

3. Download is painfully slow. ALPACA uses rest / JSON protocol and image data is base64 encoded - which adds size. Even with compression it takes 10-15s to download single sub that is otherwise few meg. This is true both for slow wifi and fast ethernet. On the other hand AIN imager produces multiple FPS in preview mode and downloads full sub in less then second - even 12mb sub (this was on ethernet - will try wifi again just to see how it fares)

4. No easy way to configure camera parameters with these ALPACA drivers - you need to access INDIGO control panel via web and configure cameras prior to connecting by ALPACA driver (very counter intuitive for ASCOM users)

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Vlaiv, 

Does SGP needs something extra for Alpaca to work? I use Prism v.10 to control equipment, and in the hardware setup menu, I simply chose the Alpaca Leo Focuser and that was it... 

Regarding cameras, I don't know if there are any Alpaca drivers yet from any vendor. A 1 gigabit network connection should be able to handle downloads from cameras. In my particular case I have a Moravian CCD that is hooked up to a Moravian Ethernet Adapter, and I don't see any difference between USB 2.0 and Ethernet connection regarding download speed. That said I don't have a Moravian CMOS guider to test with lower exposure times... But overall the Ethernet connections are rock solid. 

Why do you have to use INDIGO?. Alpaca should be sufficient to connect to hardware.

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18 minutes ago, dan_adi said:

Does SGP needs something extra for Alpaca to work? I use Prism v.10 to control equipment, and in the hardware setup menu, I simply chose the Alpaca Leo Focuser and that was it... 

I don't need anything particular - as long as I define / discover device.

I can't do that from SGP because of the way it was written. There is ASCOM device chooser dialog, and SGP does not use that, but instead asks ASCOM to list defined devices. ALPACA device that uses dynamic drivers can only be created from ASCOM dialog.

Once you create / add device - it stays there and you can subsequently choose it in SGP and use it normally.

This is small deviation from normal workflow people are used to and someone trying to do it for the first time - will get lost.

20 minutes ago, dan_adi said:

Why do you have to use INDIGO?. Alpaca should be sufficient to connect to hardware.

I first started off with idea of using INDIGO alone for portable setup, and controlling it from my phone via web browser. Some time passed from that point and I changed the way I look at things. I'd rather now have remote setup as I moved to dark location in the mean time and don't have the need for portable setup any more (I won't be traveling to the dark site as I'm already at dark(ish) site). Since winter is about and my observatory is not yet complete - I'd rather sit in my study in warm and image with equipment in the back yard - hence remote setup.

I learned that INDIGO released new version in the mean time including some apps - like AIN imager which should make this thing easy. Then I also learned that it supports ALPACA and wanted to try it out - instead of using / learning new piece of software I could use windows software with many features that I already know - PHD2 and SGP.

INDIGO is exposing its drivers / devices via ALPACA interface so I can connect to them remotely. I don't need ALPACA drivers for any particular piece of hardware as INDIGO has drivers for all my kit implemented. In principle - this setup works, but there are some glitches that I don't like and those are the reason why I won't be using it like this (I outlined those in previous post).

I'll experiment with ALPACA more as support grows.

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