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Stellarmate stability?


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Currently fighting a fair bit with Stellarmate - it's occasionally brilliant, but frequently frustrating.   

Jasem was extremely helpful helping me initially set it up a few months ago, but not really had much chance to use it since.   I'm sure problems are down to user error and my inexperience, but I just wanted to check in with experienced long term users how stable you find it.  

Do you get a full night of imaging from it? Or a fair few crashes? Find it buggy? 

Recently dusted off my gear and updated the app and stellarmate operating system to the latest versions (1.61) which caused three full nights of frustration, just when motivation had returned and was high! It just wouldn't plate solve, whatever I tried, so couldn't get past stage one -  polar alignment and spent clear moonless nights problem solving.  User mistake #1 - no backup before update.

The last few nights I have been trying an older version of the operating system which seems to work better (1.58), but is quite finicky.  I have developed some workarounds (possibly superstitions!) that get me some of the way toward it doing great things.  


For example I have to check the correct GPS coordinates have been saved in site management in ekos through vnc and that I'm not in Nova Scotia today!

I have to edit an existing preset and save it again on the ipad app (but without making any changes), so it uses the guide scope details for plate solving for polar alignment and plate solving rather than the primary scope if the workaround is not applied.

Guiding works very well if it works first time (asi120mm mini with skywatcher 9x50 finder). If calibration fails, it fails again and again.  Restart OS and start again after recentering target.

Same thing for the camera module with settings not being added to the sequence.  Seems to work for a few exposures but then crashes the operating system.  I suspect this could be due in part to using a pentax k70 camera.  I can get round this when I find my old intervalometer as I don't really need the camera attached to the pi, but the larger previews are great to have along with the sequencer and nicely named files.

Dedicated camera is on the distant horizon - ZWO mono model is the eventual dream, but more likely an astro modified canon.  I would hope different well supported equipment would iron the imaging issues out.

The ipad app itself seems to crash / hangs syncing more than the operating system itself on the pi.  Bypassing the app to vnc into ekos / kstars seems a lot more stable, but is less user friendly - however I have become a bit more confident with using it this way since the nights of total frustration a ways back. 

That turned out a bit longer than I thought it would!  Back to the question for experienced users - once you have it nicely set up, do you find it reliable for a full night of imaging?

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On 20/01/2022 at 14:56, malftobe said:

once you have it nicely set up, do you find it reliable for a full night of imaging?

Yes. I have the traditional non-StellarMate, non-AstroBerry installation of INDI + Kstars/Ekos on a Raspberry Pi 4 and connect to it through MicroSoft RDP, running XRDP on the Pi. Both the Pi and my laptop are connected to my home network through an ethernet cable, no WiFi. This setup is stable and has been this whole season. But I have learned the hard way in the past to never ever update the Pi during astro season. (In all fairness, that experience was from the days when there was no distinction between stable and nightly builds of Kstars.) I leave updating for summer recess and have a backup micro SD card before I do update.

I run  Ekos/Kstars on the Pi with the local StellarSolver and internal guiding, and it just works.

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@malftobe I have found KStars/Ekos to be stable but like @wimvb I don't update during the season unless really necessary, and i'm using Astroberry.

I was having issues with crashes on nights with a lot of subs (>200) and it turned out there was a bug with the PI where the sound alerts don't work and after a while caused a crash. I'm not sure if the StellarMate has the fixed version, if not just in case in EKos turn off all the sound alerts.

The only thing I find to be temperamental at times is platesolving.

Running KStars/Ekos on Astroberry will happily go on for hours without issue, except if using a DSLR for me, and I think that is because the files are too big to handel really (i'm running on a PI3 only).

Recently I've been using CCDciel on the PC connected to indi server running on the PI remote as I've been imaging some targets that aren't in KStars and this combination has worked flawlessly (along with PW PlateSolve2).

 

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I am actually in the process of changing over to NINA from EKOS but nothing to do with EKOS I just want a windows based program.
But I have run both Astroberry and setellarmate without any major issues.
I have had a few crashes but all have been when setting up and I was messing around with things and clicking on lots of things pretty fast. I never had an issue once it was sequencing and I just left it to do its thing.

What RPi are you using ? 

Steve

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2 hours ago, wimvb said:

Yes. I have the traditional non-StellarMate, non-AstroBerry installation of INDI + Kstars/Ekos on a Raspberry Pi 4 and connect to it through MicroSoft RDP, running XRDP on the Pi. Both the Pi and my laptop are connected to my home network through an ethernet cable, no WiFi. This setup is stable and has been this whole season. But I have learned the hard way in the past to never ever update the Pi during astro season. (In all fairness, that experience was from the days when there was no distinction between stable and nightly builds of Kstars.) I leave updating for summer recess and have a backup micro SD card before I do update.

I run  Ekos/Kstars on the Pi with the local StellarSolver and internal guiding, and it just works.

@7170 and @wimvb Brilliant tip about not updating during the season.

Really good to know that you’re finding Ekos and kstars just works and will happily go on for hours.  I’m hoping I can get to that stage with it soon. Bypassing the stellarmate app using vnc to access Ekos seems much more stable  in my very limited experience.  
 

The day after I posted, I ran  a simple set up of just guide camera and eqmod mount connected with eqmod cable to start with the basics. I got a good few flawless hours after a few initial hiccups. But then tried to goto the same target  after the target had passed the meridian and the plate solver would not re centre on the object - it got somewhere near but would not do further slews / iterations. A reset of the pi worked and plate solving did its job and  it re centred then carried on (although I forgot to then restart the guiding) until I packed up, so a good result for me. I’m waiting for the clouds to clear for another go, but could be a good few days here!

Hopefully I can get a good configuration and shy away from updating for a good while.

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1 hour ago, teoria_del_big_bang said:

I am actually in the process of changing over to NINA from EKOS but nothing to do with EKOS I just want a windows based program.
But I have run both Astroberry and setellarmate without any major issues.
I have had a few crashes but all have been when setting up and I was messing around with things and clicking on lots of things pretty fast. I never had an issue once it was sequencing and I just left it to do its thing.

What RPi are you using ? 

Steve

Hi teoria, how do you find the stellarmate app on the iPad?

I too am hoping the crashes will be behind me once the set up is done properly - I’m tempted to experiment with  a fresh install on a new sd card without all the pentax drivers to see if that was conflicting with some other things. 

Running stellarmate OS on a pi4b 4gb using the official 3 pin power supply plug. 
 

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8 hours ago, malftobe said:

Hi teoria, how do you find the stellarmate app on the iPad?

I too am hoping the crashes will be behind me once the set up is done properly - I’m tempted to experiment with  a fresh install on a new sd card without all the pentax drivers to see if that was conflicting with some other things. 

Running stellarmate OS on a pi4b 4gb using the official 3 pin power supply plug. 
 

Ah, actually (should have mentioned this 🙂 ) I never used the app. I do not have an IPad and I tried on my phone a little but my eyes are not too good these days so never relly got on using my phone as everything was just too small. I always used my laptop or my desktop so I could use my dual monitors and used Teamviewer or Remote Desktop.
It may well be the app is more of a problem than the RPi and stellarmate or Astroberry.
The RPi 4 with 4Gb should be absolutely fine foe either of these.
So many people use either of these it cannot normally crash otherwise they would not be using it.

Steve

Edited by teoria_del_big_bang
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1 hour ago, teoria_del_big_bang said:

Ah, actually (should have mentioned this 🙂 ) I never used the app. I do not have an IPad and I tried on my phone a little but my eyes are not too good these days so never relly got on using my phone as everything was just too small. I always used my laptop or my desktop so I could use my dual monitors and used Teamviewer or Remote Desktop.
It may well be the app is more of a problem than the RPi and stellarmate or Astroberry.
The RPi 4 with 4Gb should be absolutely fine foe either of these.
So many people use either of these it cannot normally crash otherwise they would not be using it.

Steve

Cheers teoria, the app for me is definitely extremely sensitive. It can crash when pressing any button. I’m used to it crashing and closing back to the iPad Home Screen on my first click on preset or edit in the Ekos alignment module and hangs quite often. I wonder if there is a way to clear the cache for the app somehow - or I may reinstall it entirely. Unfortunately I don’t know any way to roll back an app to an earlier version on iOS, so will have to wait for the next update.
 

Unless of course my next session proves fruitful - in which case I’ll never update!!

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On 20/01/2022 at 13:56, malftobe said:

Stellarmate - it's occasionally brilliant, but frequently frustrating.

That was my experience also. Switched to a Minix pc and later NUC's and never looked back. The Minix was new but the NUC's were all purchased used. All had Windows 10 pro.

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10 minutes ago, Tomatobro said:

That was my experience also. Switched to a Minix pc and later NUC's and never looked back. The Minix was new but the NUC's were all purchased used. All had Windows 10 pro.

@Tomatobro I’m probably going to persist with stellarmate a while longer, but I have had my head turned looking at mini pcs after reading other threads.
 

Are you running apt / Nina or something similar on the NUC? Are you able to Remote Desktop into it and control it easily through a tablet?

 

 

 

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The NUC's I have are i3 versions with 4gb of ram and 64 gb of memory.

The voltage input is marked as 19v dc but all mine rune quite happily on 12 volt (actually 12.9v)

All run Remote desktop via windows 10 pro and have excellent  WiFi range

Runs Sharpcap 4.0 sequencer, Cartes du ciel, PHD, Baader focuser, 2nd version of Sharpcap 3.2 to run observatory camera, Pulsar dome software and EQMOD all at the same time. I did a trial run with NINA and it worked OK but I prefer Sharpcaps Sequencer.

The USB port connects to a Startech powered 7 port 3.0 unit

The most I paid for a used NUC was £79 and its 8 years old

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On 20/01/2022 at 14:56, malftobe said:

once you have it nicely set up, do you find it reliable for a full night of imaging?

Hi

We supply remote and some our own stuff on the ground. We use mini-pcs at the telescope running Ubuntu 20.04, Kstars and EKOS. It's as bulletproof as we know, especially over the network.

Maybe give yourself a bit more umph with a decent pc rather than the pi?

Edited by alacant
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45 minutes ago, alacant said:

Hi

We supply remote and some our own stuff on the ground. We use mini-pcs at the telescope running Ubuntu 20.04, Kstars and EKOS. It's as bulletproof as we know, especially over the network.

Maybe give yourself a bit more umph with a decent pc rather than the pi?

Very good to know alacant. That is a strong recommendation from yourself for the reliability for kstars and Ekos on multiple systems. 
 

I think my first course of action before I upgrade the hardware is to get more familiar with using kstars / EKOS through vnc rather than using the stellarmate app itself. 

Edited by malftobe
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17 minutes ago, malftobe said:

get more familiar with using kstars / EKOS through vnc

Hi

Maybe even better, do a few nights real time sitting next to the telescope with a laptop. A €100 refurbished Dell from eBay is fine. You can then always vnc into that if (when?!) it gets too cold.

 

 

 

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23 minutes ago, alacant said:

Hi

Maybe even better, do a few nights real time sitting next to the telescope with a laptop. A €100 refurbished Dell from eBay is fine. You can then always vnc into that if (when?!) it gets too cold.

 

 

 

Great idea, it can add to the  frustration with the little icons on the iPad! 

 

Ultimately I’d like to ditch the laptop entirely. My laptop is too old for the latest kstars, but I can try to borrow a newer laptop for a few evenings to learn my way around. 

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2 hours ago, Tomatobro said:

The NUC's I have are i3 versions with 4gb of ram and 64 gb of memory.

The voltage input is marked as 19v dc but all mine rune quite happily on 12 volt (actually 12.9v)

All run Remote desktop via windows 10 pro and have excellent  WiFi range

Runs Sharpcap 4.0 sequencer, Cartes du ciel, PHD, Baader focuser, 2nd version of Sharpcap 3.2 to run observatory camera, Pulsar dome software and EQMOD all at the same time. I did a trial run with NINA and it worked OK but I prefer Sharpcaps Sequencer.

The USB port connects to a Startech powered 7 port 3.0 unit

The most I paid for a used NUC was £79 and its 8 years old

Thanks for all the specs on the NUC’s and your thoughts on different software. 
 

When you mention the 12v - Are you connecting it directly to a 12v battery or do you use a step up converter to 19v?

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13 minutes ago, malftobe said:

Thanks for all the specs on the NUC’s and your thoughts on different software. 
 

When you mention the 12v - Are you connecting it directly to a 12v battery or do you use a step up converter to 19v?

Mine runs from direct 12v, most of the older intel NUC will run fine on anything from 12v to 19v, but apparently some of the newer ones will only run on 19v….👍🏼

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@malftobe for remote control via VNC I now use UltraVNC on my windows laptop. It is opensource/free and I have found it to be much more stable/reliable (not dropping connections) than TigerVNC that I used before, or using the Astroberry web browser remote control option. Maybe worth trying this as I assume UltraVNC will work with Stellarmate too.

On my iphone I use the "VNC Viewer" app by RealVNC - it is free, and it works very well too.

Also I note you had an issue with meridian flip with EKos and EQMOD and re-centering on the target. Sometimes that can happen if you have lots of sync points from previous sessions still in the mount model. My approach now is to clear the mount model at the start of each session from indi control panel (clear model/sync points). I've not had that problem since, also check the mount limits and status messages in Indi control panel at the time of having an issue like this as sometimes they will give a clue . I once had it where RA would not change, and it was because it had reach a limit I had set and not realized it was still on but EKos was not saying this in its status window at the bottom.

Edited by 7170
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1 hour ago, malftobe said:

Are you connecting it directly to a 12v battery or do you use a step up converter to 19v?

Before I had my observatory I ran it from a 12 volt battery. Now in the observatory I have  an adjustable power supply from the mains the output set to 12.9v.

I did some tests once and found that once booted the NUC would still run at 11 volts dc

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26 minutes ago, 7170 said:

@malftobe for remote control via VNC I now use UltraVNC on my windows laptop. It is opensource/free and I have found it to be much more stable/reliable (not dropping connections) than TigerVNC that I used before, or using the Astroberry web browser remote control option. Maybe worth trying this as I assume UltraVNC will work with Stellarmate too.

On my iphone I use the "VNC Viewer" app by RealVNC - it is free, and it works very well too.

Also I note you had an issue with meridian flip with EKos and EQMOD and re-centering on the target. Sometimes that can happen if you have lots of sync points from previous sessions still in the mount model. My approach now is to clear the mount model at the start of each session from indi control panel (clear model/sync points). I've not had that problem since, also check the mount limits and status messages in Indi control panel at the time of having an issue like this as sometimes they will give a clue . I once had it where RA would not change, and it was because it had reach a limit I had set and not realized it was still on but EKos was not saying this in its status window at the bottom.

@7170 I’ll have a look into realvnc and ultra vnc. The vnc bundled in with stellarmate is ok, but I do struggle a bit on the ipad with the screen not quite fitting (I assume I’ve set the resolution incorrectly somewhere), so if you can use reavnc on a smaller screen on your phone it seems worth a try. 
 

Very interesting about the meridian flip issue. I’ll have a look at clearing the model and sync points. That’s very helpful. I’ll see if I can navigate to the status window also. 

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@Stuart1971 and @Tomatobro interesting to know about the 12v power for the nuc’s. Hoping to get things over to a dark site at some point, running off battery, so really useful information.
 

I have a buck converter for the pi but am yet to use it. I have little clue on the electric / power side of things, so really appreciate the insight in case I go down the nuc route. 

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