Computer Questions


Shawn Quinn
 

Greetings everyone,

 

I hope this is not too off-topic.  I’m about make some investments to support planetary and solar imaging with my AP-130 and Stowaway with a monochrome camera - likely the ZWO ASI174MM (seems to be one of the only cameras available with a global shutter these days).  Given that there does not seem to be a good stacking program for the Mac, I’m contemplating the purchase of a Windows based laptop.  I will use the laptop for image capture, image processing (stacking), controlling my Mach 2 mount and later, autoguiding.  I typically travel near and far to dark sky locations so my set up has to be portable.  It’s been decades since I bought a window based PC and am wondering if there are any significant lessons learned or pitfalls to avoid when buying the Laptop PC for Astronomy.  For example, are the old RS-232 ports necessary/useful given the USB/Bluetooth/WiFi?  Backlit keyboards?  Dust/moisture resistance?  MIL-SPEC?  Compatibility issues with APCC, other Mount Control Software?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Shawn


ap@CaptivePhotons.com
 

A brief ramble.... 

I think a lot of people are moving toward putting small, headless computers on their mounts (or tripods or OTA's), and using those just for image capture, running a session manager (SGB, NINA, TSX, whatever), mount control (APCC, APPM), and maybe planetarium software.  Then they move the images to a more capable computer for processing.

This way you can get a small, quiet (vibration free), and power thrifty computer for remote use, and a big, beefy, power guzzling monster if you need it for image processing.  These small computers are often called NUC's (as that was Intel's brand term, though many do not use the term for obvious trademark reasons). 

Then RDP in from a laptop, tablet, or the big computer to control the mount.

To me this opens up a lot of possibilities, including that the image processing computer doesn't have to be windows (for those of you who drank the Apple Kool Aid , or if you like Linux). 

My NUC (I did buy Intel, and like it, though they are about twice as costly as an off brand knockoff) just lives strapped to a leg of my tripod, and shares battery power at a remote site.  I have a big desktop at home, a laptop for the road (could be a tablet or even a cell phone, though there typing can be a pain). 

Just a thought.

Linwood


Eric Weiner
 

I'm one of the few who uses a USB extender to remote everything back to my house.  It works flawlessly.  I can provide details if you wish.




Emilio J. Robau, P.E.
 

I just don't see a big benefit to a NUC.  Basically the only thing I can see is power consumption.   In fact, I think it adds another level of complexity.  If you have to have a laptop to connect to the NUC or bring a monitor and a keyboard and a mouse, then what the heck.  Why not just buy a little more power capability and use a laptop and can the NUC.   In addition, if your rig is set up as a dual camera rig with two scopes as mine is (just received my 1100 for the field) then the NUC becomes even more difficult to integrate.  I purchase all my computer equipment from Dell Outlet and the prices are very reasonable.   I think adding a NUC may be pleasurable for the tinkerers and another technical challenge to pursue and get some satisfaction out of, but for me a good powerful laptop from Dell Outlet with enhanced memory is my simplest solution.  This is especially true if you are running two scopes and cameras.  Well actually two scopes and two cameras and one guide camera since I don't have encoders.


thefamily90 Phillips
 

Hello Shawn,
I have been in the exact position you find yourself in. I ended up just buying an Acer Laptop and use it exactly as you are planning. I use the ZWO ASI174 MM camera for my lunar images. Everything has worked out just fine with no problems encountered. Just make certain you download all the drivers etc from ZWO. I use Firecapture for imaging and Autostakkert for stacking. Plus Registax to use wavelets and photoshop for touch ups.

Jim P 



From: main@ap-ug.groups.io <main@ap-ug.groups.io> on behalf of Shawn Quinn <quinnfamily@...>
Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2022 11:04:37 AM
To: main@ap-ug.groups.io <main@ap-ug.groups.io>
Subject: [ap-ug] Computer Questions
 

Greetings everyone,

 

I hope this is not too off-topic.  I’m about make some investments to support planetary and solar imaging with my AP-130 and Stowaway with a monochrome camera - likely the ZWO ASI174MM (seems to be one of the only cameras available with a global shutter these days).  Given that there does not seem to be a good stacking program for the Mac, I’m contemplating the purchase of a Windows based laptop.  I will use the laptop for image capture, image processing (stacking), controlling my Mach 2 mount and later, autoguiding.  I typically travel near and far to dark sky locations so my set up has to be portable.  It’s been decades since I bought a window based PC and am wondering if there are any significant lessons learned or pitfalls to avoid when buying the Laptop PC for Astronomy.  For example, are the old RS-232 ports necessary/useful given the USB/Bluetooth/WiFi?  Backlit keyboards?  Dust/moisture resistance?  MIL-SPEC?  Compatibility issues with APCC, other Mount Control Software?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Shawn


--
Jim Phillips


thefamily90 Phillips
 

P.S. The only mount control you need is the AP keypad as you only need to keep the image on the laptop screen. It is perfectly fine to have it wander around on the screen. Much easier than Astro Imaging.

Jim P 

From: jim phillips <thefamily90@...>
Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2022 11:22:24 AM
To: main@ap-ug.groups.io <main@ap-ug.groups.io>
Subject: Re: [ap-ug] Computer Questions
 
Hello Shawn,
I have been in the exact position you find yourself in. I ended up just buying an Acer Laptop and use it exactly as you are planning. I use the ZWO ASI174 MM camera for my lunar images. Everything has worked out just fine with no problems encountered. Just make certain you download all the drivers etc from ZWO. I use Firecapture for imaging and Autostakkert for stacking. Plus Registax to use wavelets and photoshop for touch ups.

Jim P 



From: main@ap-ug.groups.io <main@ap-ug.groups.io> on behalf of Shawn Quinn <quinnfamily@...>
Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2022 11:04:37 AM
To: main@ap-ug.groups.io <main@ap-ug.groups.io>
Subject: [ap-ug] Computer Questions
 

Greetings everyone,

 

I hope this is not too off-topic.  I’m about make some investments to support planetary and solar imaging with my AP-130 and Stowaway with a monochrome camera - likely the ZWO ASI174MM (seems to be one of the only cameras available with a global shutter these days).  Given that there does not seem to be a good stacking program for the Mac, I’m contemplating the purchase of a Windows based laptop.  I will use the laptop for image capture, image processing (stacking), controlling my Mach 2 mount and later, autoguiding.  I typically travel near and far to dark sky locations so my set up has to be portable.  It’s been decades since I bought a window based PC and am wondering if there are any significant lessons learned or pitfalls to avoid when buying the Laptop PC for Astronomy.  For example, are the old RS-232 ports necessary/useful given the USB/Bluetooth/WiFi?  Backlit keyboards?  Dust/moisture resistance?  MIL-SPEC?  Compatibility issues with APCC, other Mount Control Software?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Shawn


--
Jim Phillips


ap@CaptivePhotons.com
 

On Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 11:22 AM, Emilio J. Robau, P.E. wrote:
just don't see a big benefit to a NUC.  Basically the only thing I can see is power consumption.   In fact, I think it adds another level of complexity.  If you have to have a laptop to connect to the NUC or bring a monitor and a keyboard and a mouse, then what the heck. 
I think this varies a lot by the style.  I am into "set it up, give it a target, go to bed and let it work".  In that mode not having a laptop out in the dew is a definite benefit, plus you do not need a place to keep the laptop, and for some laptops a power brick (mine for example requires a Dell and only a Dell adapter, it won't run off the same voltage from another source).  Now if you are a more hands-on person, or have a permanent observatory, I think things are a lot different - plenty of power, probably a good home for it to live, and if you are hands on most of the night then it's a lot more convenient to just have the laptop or desktop-on-observatory.

Linwood


 

Hi Shawn

First regarding the requirements, solar and planetary are a bit different than deep space. For planetary you want to ensure you have plenty of very fast disk (SSD at a minimum, probably 1tb+) and fast USB 3 ports (very important for planetary lucky imaging). Extra ram definitely helps buffering - min 8gb preferably 16gb.  Graphics card//gpu is not critical. Requirements for DSO are much more moderate, so anything you do with planetary should be fine for astro.

Second, like Linwood I too prefer a NUC style computer (a small headless computer mounted on the OTA or nearby). It consumes less power (no screen, and typically optimized for lower power profile), can be accessed by computer or mobile device, and can be configured to have fewer cables and possibilities for snagging

If you are doing solar and planetary, you may be sitting by the telescope and 'live imaging' so some of those advantages may not be important for you. So a laptop may be equally suitable.

However, just having come off the Jupiter opposition last night, i was able to stay inside the entire time and avoid mosquitoes and generally keep comfortable while imaging.

Regarding your specific questions:
>>>are the old RS-232 ports necessary/useful given the USB/Bluetooth/WiFi?  
Generally no, they are not required, but it will depend on your equipment. modern equipment is all pretty much USB

>>>Backlit keyboards?  Dust/moisture resistance?  MIL-SPEC?  
If you go laptop, a good backlit keyboard that can be color adjusted is a great help. typically gaming laptops have this option
I would get some silicone port covers to keep things dust-free inside. Back to the NUC thing for a moment, you can also get a fanless NUC, which can definitely help reduce dust-related wear

>>>Compatibility issues with APCC, other Mount Control Software?

If you buy a new Windows 10/11 computer you should be fine. 
 
hth

Brian

On Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 8:04 AM Shawn Quinn <quinnfamily@...> wrote:

Greetings everyone,

 

I hope this is not too off-topic.  I’m about make some investments to support planetary and solar imaging with my AP-130 and Stowaway with a monochrome camera - likely the ZWO ASI174MM (seems to be one of the only cameras available with a global shutter these days).  Given that there does not seem to be a good stacking program for the Mac, I’m contemplating the purchase of a Windows based laptop.  I will use the laptop for image capture, image processing (stacking), controlling my Mach 2 mount and later, autoguiding.  I typically travel near and far to dark sky locations so my set up has to be portable.  It’s been decades since I bought a window based PC and am wondering if there are any significant lessons learned or pitfalls to avoid when buying the Laptop PC for Astronomy.  For example, are the old RS-232 ports necessary/useful given the USB/Bluetooth/WiFi?  Backlit keyboards?  Dust/moisture resistance?  MIL-SPEC?  Compatibility issues with APCC, other Mount Control Software?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Shawn




Emilio J. Robau, P.E.
 

In the observatory, I typically cover the monitors and keyboard with a towel.   The computer sits below the desk so it is not so prone to dew.  I think the trigger for not using the NUC is actually the dual setup.  In the observatory it is a triple setup.  Also, I usually do a couple of targets a night.  I have thought quite a bit about going for a NUC, but I have opted out for a laptop at least for now.  I am hoping that my proposed power setup for the mobile rig that consists of a 50 ah Lifepo and a 24 ah Lifepo for the laptop and two small dew heaters will be adequate.  My calcs show I will get one night of service from the setup.  I have not tried it yet.  Crossing my fingers.   For the laptop, I purchased a cigarette lighter power converter for my particular laptop.  I think that the inverters are somewhat inefficient and would cause more of a power draw.  Hope it all works.  

At this point I hope it all survives Hurricane Ian.   Luckily the observatory is empty right now and has been since Mid May.  The observatory survived Irma.  I hope it is not tested again.


 

I’ve tried several methods: I run Parallels on the Mac in order to run Windows. I have done this for years to process my videos (for planetary). I stack subframes on the Mac with  pixinsight. I also have a 6 inch palm top windows 1024x768 machine that I take to the field (an older, thinner version of this: https://www.amazon.com/Handheld-Industry-Portable-Computer-Notebook/dp/B07QS399RT/ref=sr_1_6?crid=1IVO8U10P48PZ&keywords=gpd+micro+computer&qid=1664295344&qu=eyJxc2MiOiIyLjYxIiwicXNhIjoiMC4wMCIsInFzcCI6IjAuMDAifQ%3D%3D&sprefix=gpd+microcomputer%2Caps%2C3065&sr=8-6&ufe=app_do%3Aamzn1.fos.2b70bf2b-6730-4ccf-ab97-eb60747b8daf

I also have 4x4 minicomputer with 15” touchscreen and foldable keyboard https://www.newegg.com/asrock-4x4-box-4800u/p/N82E16856158069?Item=N82E16856158069

All work for doing practically anything.


Oberon510
 

+1 on the NUC here - I also use an i5 version for slightly lower power consumption (and cost) - remote to it using RDP (MS Remote desktop App) from my Macbook Pro via a small wifi AP with 2 lan ports (Mount/NUC). I also velcro'ed a powered USB3 hub to it for extra ports and to cover extra power needs to USB devices otherwise ports on NUC are fine.

NOTE - my setup uses a LiPo4 portable battery so this setup suits me at home and at star parties. I have a separate battery pack for the Macbook

On the RS232 side my mount is lan connected so I can't really comment.

Good luck
Ken


thefamily90 Phillips
 

I also used Parallels as well. I liked it but I think it slowed my computer down. It certainly worked but I prefer a separate computer altogether for my imaging and processing.

Jim P

From: main@ap-ug.groups.io <main@ap-ug.groups.io> on behalf of Oberon510 <ken@...>
Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2022 2:34:41 PM
To: main@ap-ug.groups.io <main@ap-ug.groups.io>
Subject: Re: [ap-ug] Computer Questions
 
+1 on the NUC here - I also use an i5 version for slightly lower power consumption (and cost) - remote to it using RDP (MS Remote desktop App) from my Macbook Pro via a small wifi AP with 2 lan ports (Mount/NUC). I also velcro'ed a powered USB3 hub to it for extra ports and to cover extra power needs to USB devices otherwise ports on NUC are fine.

NOTE - my setup uses a LiPo4 portable battery so this setup suits me at home and at star parties. I have a separate battery pack for the Macbook

On the RS232 side my mount is lan connected so I can't really comment.

Good luck
Ken

--
Jim Phillips


Roland Christen
 

hey, Lin,

Better batten down the hatches. Hope you can escape the fury (keeping fingers crossed): https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES/conus_band.php?sat=G16&band=GEOCOLOR&length=96

Rolando

-----Original Message-----
From: ap@... <ap@...>
To: main@ap-ug.groups.io
Sent: Tue, Sep 27, 2022 10:27 am
Subject: Re: [ap-ug] Computer Questions

On Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 11:22 AM, Emilio J. Robau, P.E. wrote:
just don't see a big benefit to a NUC.  Basically the only thing I can see is power consumption.   In fact, I think it adds another level of complexity.  If you have to have a laptop to connect to the NUC or bring a monitor and a keyboard and a mouse, then what the heck. 
I think this varies a lot by the style.  I am into "set it up, give it a target, go to bed and let it work".  In that mode not having a laptop out in the dew is a definite benefit, plus you do not need a place to keep the laptop, and for some laptops a power brick (mine for example requires a Dell and only a Dell adapter, it won't run off the same voltage from another source).  Now if you are a more hands-on person, or have a permanent observatory, I think things are a lot different - plenty of power, probably a good home for it to live, and if you are hands on most of the night then it's a lot more convenient to just have the laptop or desktop-on-observatory.

Linwood


ROBERT WYNNE
 

Could you expand on "good and powerful". I sounds like it's not the most up to date multi core processor nor packed with max RAM. Something between entry level and the most powerful loaded with RAM laptop. -Best, Robert

On 09/27/2022 8:22 AM Emilio J. Robau, P.E. <ejr@...> wrote:


I just don't see a big benefit to a NUC.  Basically the only thing I can see is power consumption.   In fact, I think it adds another level of complexity.  If you have to have a laptop to connect to the NUC or bring a monitor and a keyboard and a mouse, then what the heck.  Why not just buy a little more power capability and use a laptop and can the NUC.   In addition, if your rig is set up as a dual camera rig with two scopes as mine is (just received my 1100 for the field) then the NUC becomes even more difficult to integrate.  I purchase all my computer equipment from Dell Outlet and the prices are very reasonable.   I think adding a NUC may be pleasurable for the tinkerers and another technical challenge to pursue and get some satisfaction out of, but for me a good powerful laptop from Dell Outlet with enhanced memory is my simplest solution.  This is especially true if you are running two scopes and cameras.  Well actually two scopes and two cameras and one guide camera since I don't have encoders.


Tim Lewis
 

Shawn,

 

I would suggest the following:

 

Keep your Mac and load with with Pixinsight for processing

 

Get a top rail.

 

Buy a mini windows computer (about$300), with I3 or I5, 8gb ram, 256 gb ssd, thumbdrive) .  Make sure it has windows pro.  Load your acquisition software (perhaps apt or sgp).  Load PHD2.   Load ascom and drivers.Load Connectify.

 

Buy Pegasus Ultimate Power Box.  Mount the mini on top off the Pegasus and install them both on the top rail  Connect power and data  to mini.  Connect mount to Pegasus. (data only)   Connect amera, guide camera, dewstrips  (no additional controller required),  focuser (no additional controller required) to Pegasus, power and data

 

Run power cable from Pegasus through the mount to power source.  Run Mach2 through separate power source. 

 

When turned on, the mini will create a peer to peer network using connectify.  From your Mac, change your network to whatever you name the peer to peer.  Install remote desktop client (free) on your mac.  Acquire your mini and run your mini from your mac via peer to peer network. No cables running from the scope to your computer.  Only a power cable running through the mount. 

 

This is the short version.  It actually takes most of us a few days of trial and error to get everything working.  

 

Regards,

 

Tim Lewis

 

Sent from Mail for Windows

 

From: Shawn Quinn
Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2022 10:04 AM
To: main@ap-ug.groups.io
Subject: [ap-ug] Computer Questions

 

Greetings everyone,

 

I hope this is not too off-topic.  I’m about make some investments to support planetary and solar imaging with my AP-130 and Stowaway with a monochrome camera - likely the ZWO ASI174MM (seems to be one of the only cameras available with a global shutter these days).  Given that there does not seem to be a good stacking program for the Mac, I’m contemplating the purchase of a Windows based laptop.  I will use the laptop for image capture, image processing (stacking), controlling my Mach 2 mount and later, autoguiding.  I typically travel near and far to dark sky locations so my set up has to be portable.  It’s been decades since I bought a window based PC and am wondering if there are any significant lessons learned or pitfalls to avoid when buying the Laptop PC for Astronomy.  For example, are the old RS-232 ports necessary/useful given the USB/Bluetooth/WiFi?  Backlit keyboards?  Dust/moisture resistance?  MIL-SPEC?  Compatibility issues with APCC, other Mount Control Software?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Shawn

 


ROBERT WYNNE
 

Good luck. Ian looks to be heading across the Florida peninsula and almost out to the Atlantic. If it does that it will regain enough energy to reform into another major hurricane. -Best, Robert

On 09/27/2022 8:39 AM Emilio J. Robau, P.E. <ejr@...> wrote:


In the observatory, I typically cover the monitors and keyboard with a towel.   The computer sits below the desk so it is not so prone to dew.  I think the trigger for not using the NUC is actually the dual setup.  In the observatory it is a triple setup.  Also, I usually do a couple of targets a night.  I have thought quite a bit about going for a NUC, but I have opted out for a laptop at least for now.  I am hoping that my proposed power setup for the mobile rig that consists of a 50 ah Lifepo and a 24 ah Lifepo for the laptop and two small dew heaters will be adequate.  My calcs show I will get one night of service from the setup.  I have not tried it yet.  Crossing my fingers.   For the laptop, I purchased a cigarette lighter power converter for my particular laptop.  I think that the inverters are somewhat inefficient and would cause more of a power draw.  Hope it all works.  

At this point I hope it all survives Hurricane Ian.   Luckily the observatory is empty right now and has been since Mid May.  The observatory survived Irma.  I hope it is not tested again.


ap@CaptivePhotons.com
 

On Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 02:46 PM, Roland Christen wrote:
Better batten down the hatches. Hope you can escape the fury (keeping fingers crossed):
So I was meaning to ask (or maybe it's George) what the wind rating was on an AP1100, can it do Cat 3 hurricanes?   :)

The eye does not look like it will pass overhead, so my observing opportunity is more limited, will probably leave it safe and dry inside. 

I'm inland enough no storm surge risk, and have the shutters up.  But it keeps shifting south (toward us), and now looks like Port Charlotte and a lot of Fort Myers is going to end up under water. 

So... after passage, is the air more still?   The light dome may be greatly reduced for a day or two from power outages (got to look for the up side in these things).  Which reminds me, need to charge my battery.... 

Linwood


 

>>>The eye does not look like it will pass overhead, so my observing opportunity is more limited,
>>>after passage, is the air more still?   The light dome may be greatly reduced for a day or two from power outages (got to look for the up side in these things)


Talking only about the upsides of a hurricane hitting you? Boy, talk about making lemonade out of lemons! 





On Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 12:03 PM ap@... <ap@...> wrote:
On Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 02:46 PM, Roland Christen wrote:
Better batten down the hatches. Hope you can escape the fury (keeping fingers crossed):
So I was meaning to ask (or maybe it's George) what the wind rating was on an AP1100, can it do Cat 3 hurricanes?   :)

The eye does not look like it will pass overhead, so my observing opportunity is more limited, will probably leave it safe and dry inside. 

I'm inland enough no storm surge risk, and have the shutters up.  But it keeps shifting south (toward us), and now looks like Port Charlotte and a lot of Fort Myers is going to end up under water. 

So... after passage, is the air more still?   The light dome may be greatly reduced for a day or two from power outages (got to look for the up side in these things).  Which reminds me, need to charge my battery.... 

Linwood




Roland Christen
 


what the wind rating was on an AP1100
Dunno. Don't have a wind tunnel.

Rolando


-----Original Message-----
From: ap@... <ap@...>
To: main@ap-ug.groups.io
Sent: Tue, Sep 27, 2022 2:03 pm
Subject: Re: [ap-ug] Computer Questions

On Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 02:46 PM, Roland Christen wrote:
Better batten down the hatches. Hope you can escape the fury (keeping fingers crossed):
So I was meaning to ask (or maybe it's George) what the wind rating was on an AP1100, can it do Cat 3 hurricanes?   :)

The eye does not look like it will pass overhead, so my observing opportunity is more limited, will probably leave it safe and dry inside. 

I'm inland enough no storm surge risk, and have the shutters up.  But it keeps shifting south (toward us), and now looks like Port Charlotte and a lot of Fort Myers is going to end up under water. 

So... after passage, is the air more still?   The light dome may be greatly reduced for a day or two from power outages (got to look for the up side in these things).  Which reminds me, need to charge my battery.... 

Linwood


ap@CaptivePhotons.com
 

On Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 03:16 PM, Brian Valente wrote:
alking only about the upsides of a hurricane hitting you? Boy, talk about making lemonade out of lemons! 
I've been in Florida way too long.  I arrived in 2005.  In that year they (literally) ran out of letters for Hurricanes. Wilma (the worst) was late September or October if I recall.  Then by the end of the season (which went past Jan 1) they were using Greek letters. 

So sure... Might as well try to find some upside, this year we're only at "I". 

:) 

Linwood