How do I connect SiTech.exe over TCP/IP network to a ZWO ASI533 camera connected to a 2nd laptop?


Rusty Fletcher
 

Hello Don,

Yes sir... I met someone named Don at either the 1994 or 1999 Texas Star Party that was running Mel Bartels Go-To system. That is the only two times I have been to TSP. I am slightly more inclined to think it was in 1999. Over a period of several days this person and I talked for hours about how he designed and built his scope.

The scope I currently own and have owned since 1990 is a 17.5" f4.5 Coulter. Except now it has been completely redesigned. The only remaining part of the original telescope is the primary mirror which was re-coated by Spectrum Coatings in 2018. 

I also own a small 4.5" Orion f4 scope mounted on the side of my large scope that I use for auto-guiding. Sometimes I switch tasks and guide with the 17.5" and do imaging with the 4.5" if I want a much larger field of view.

I am sure, in the future, I will need more advice doing this upgrade.

Thank you again for your help! 

Rusty


Don W
 

Hi Rusty,

I am glad you got inspiration from the 1994 Teas Star Party.  But I didn't have a telescope there.  A friend from San Diego had moved to work at the McDonald observatory and I drove from my home in San Diego to visit him and he show me all around the observatory.  I took one day to go to the Star party.  All that was 27 years ago, and that is a testament to our long term interest in astronomy.  The Star Party was inspiration for me too - at that time my telescope was a DOB, a Coulter 13.1 inch that I had installed digital setting circles, but it was all push-too.  But the setting circles made finding targets easy.  SiTech now is far better.
Don W


Rusty Fletcher
 
Edited

Hello Don!

Actually I was at the 1994 Texas Star Party also. I could not remember if I met you at the 1999 or 1994 Star Party. I am fairly certain we met. I remember you were struggling with getting your encoders to work properly. We examined your scope thoroughly and I was dreaming to building something like you had done! Your telescope inspired me. After I get my scope updated I plan to take lots of new photos with the ZWO ASI533 Color Camera. 

Thank you for your advice and help!

Rusty


Don W
 

Hi Rusty,
 Glad you got it working on the table top.  It sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you, but it will reward you with a beautiful and very functional system to enjoy for years.

I was at the 1994 Texas Star Party, but not in 1999.  There are several "Don" members in this forum, so that is why I sign Don W.  This is a great hobby!

Don W


Rusty Fletcher
 

Hello Don,

Today I checked the guide speed in ServoConfig and it was set to 15 sps. It was not set to 15 sps in PHD2. I set it to 1 (representing 15 sps) in PHD2. I am not certain if that is what fixed the problem but after shutting everything down, restarting both computers and restarting the SiTech Controller II...The SiTech Controller II booted up in blinky mode. I then re-initialized the scope (Using The Sky 6 software) and synced my location in "The Sky 6". With both computers running I restarted the SiTech Controller II a second time and blinky mode went away. I then started the PHD2 software tool that allows you to manually guide by pushing N,S,E,W buttons with your mouse. It worked. Moving N,S,E,W results in the cross-hairs in "The Sky" slowly moving the proper direction. It's working great!. Since I have all the electronics working and I am starting to understand how SiTech.exe works I will be doing the physical upgrade to my telescope. It will probably take 4 to 6 weeks because I cannot work at it everyday. I want to repaint both the rocker-box and the tube assembly. I am taking the entire telescope and mount apart, fine tuning it, cleaning all the gears, designing a mounting system for the new motors, and reassembling everything. By the way... I met a guy named Don ( I don't remember his last name) at the Texas Star Party in 1999 that had build his own telescope designed after "Mel Bartels" system. Don that wouldn't happen to be you... would it sir?

Thank you Don!

Rusty Fletcher


Don W
 

Hi Rusty,
ServoConfig has the controls for how the mount moves for the different speeds.  Look at your settings for the Guide Speed.  Normal guide speed is 1X or 15 seconds per second.  With that setting, when you press "East" tracking will stop and the ra servo will not move.  If you have a setting much less than 15 sps, then the tracking of the RA servo will go West.  The RA servo will move at the rate = Sidereal rate minus the Guide Speed rate.

So on your table top, set the Guide speed to 15 sps.
Don W


Rusty Fletcher
 

Hello Don!

My GPUSB adaptor came in the mail today. I plugged it into a USB port and connected it to the SiTech Controller II. It automatically loaded the USB driver on my laptop and appears to be working correctly. I selected GPUSB in the mount options. The PHD2 software says it is connecting to the mount and working. But now I have another problem. Please keep in mind that I am still doing all these tests with the motors and electronics lying on my desk. In PHD2 there is a tool that allows you to manually guide by pushing N,S,E,W buttons with your mouse. I used this test on the first laptop and zoomed in real close on a single star with "The Sky 6" planetarium Software connected to SiTech.exe. With PHD2 running on the second laptop connected to the SiTech Controller II with the Shoestring GPUSB adapter... I pushed North and the star moved slowly North. When I pushed South the star moved slowly South, When I pushed West the star moved slowly West. The East button does not move the star East. Instead It moves the star West!

At first I thought there must be a problem with the Shoestring GPUSB adapter. Then I thought of another test. I put the SiTech Controller II in "Guide" mode and used the hand-pad to move Up, Down, Left, and Right. It turns out Up, Down, and Left slowly move the star the correct direction accordingly. But the "Right" button (or East)  moves the star to the Left direction (or West). Both "West" and "East" hand-pad buttons slowly guide the star to the West.

When guiding "West" or "East"... both the Hand-Pad and the Shoestring GPUSB adapter move the star the same direction (WEST). It does not do this when the hand-pad is in Slew or Jog mode. Is there a change that needs to be done in the SiTech.exe configuration that will fix this problem?

Additional data... After doing lots of tests in Guide mode... it appears that both PHD2 and the Hand-pad are moving the star slightly slower to the West when I press the "East" button than when I press the actual "West" button. Is there a solution to this problem?

Thank you for any help or advice!

Rusty Fletcher


Rusty Fletcher
 

Thank you Don!

That sounds like the answer.

Rusty


Rusty Fletcher
 

Hello T. van Hees,

Thank you for your input. I think the bottleneck is when the auto-guider camera and the main imaging camera attempt to download images at the same time it slows things down by about 30% to 40% for just a second or two. But, that is time that I want to save by separating the cameras and connecting them to separate computers. This will speed up the process and allow for better auto-guiding to compensate for my homemade ALT/AZ mount that I built over 20 years ago. Ideally... I want to cycle through auto-guiding corrections on both axes every 2.5 to 3 seconds. That's my goal. Unless I purchase a much more powerful computer I can't see any other way to fix the problem. Using two older computers does solve it. Both computers are running dual core processors and 4 GB memory on Windows 7 professional. Running everything... (SiTech.exe;   The Sky 6 connected to SiTech.exe (ASCOM);   ASI Studio V1.4 running "Deep Sky Imaging" connected to my ZWO ASI533 Camera;   PHD2 Guiding 2.6.9  connected to both My Mead DSI II Camera & SiTech.exe (ASCOM))... on one computer is just too sluggish!

Rusty


Don W
 

Hi Rusty,
Since your main concern is to separate the guiding functions from the mount control and imaging, putting the guider on a separate PC is only possible if that PC is not using ASCOM to connect to the mount control.  The only way I know to do this is to use the "old" ST-4 style commands which are simple timing on-off signals.  SiTech servo II has a "guider port" which does this.

Many autoguiders have a port to connect directly to the SiTech controller that use this system.  PHD2 can also use this port using a GPUSB adapter made by Shoestring.  This system only sends guide commands to SiTech controllers, it does not allow anything except guide commands (no slewing or any other commands).  It would allow you to use two PC's by simply separating the guider from all ASCOM connections.

Basically the ST-4 guider system sends timed on-off signals on 4 lines to either move north-south (Dec) or East-West (RA).  The timing signal "ON" time lets the mount move at your designated  guide speed (1x = sidereal, or 15 arcsec per sec).  These correction signals are very short, typically  making corrections of 0.2 or more arc-sec.

So get a GPUSB adapter and you can run PHD2 on your separate PC.

Don W


T. van Hees
 

On Tue, Jun 8, 2021 at 01:58 AM, Rusty Fletcher wrote:
Hello Don!

I like your Idea! If I understand everything correctly, I would connect my Meade DSI II Camera (That I use for auto-guiding) to the first computer running PHD auto-guiding software with a connection directly to the guider port on the SiTech Controller II box... I think that is what you are suggesting. Then connect the primary imaging camera to a second computer which would also run SiTech.exe. I could connect the primary imaging camera to SiTech.exe because the software for both would be running on the same computer. My goal is to have each camera connected to a separate computer to speed up the image download time... especially the auto-guiding image download time... and still be able to send auto-guiding commands... and Go-to, Sync, Park, and other commands from each computer to the telescope. In this scenario the second computer controls the primary imaging camera and would be the one on which I would run PlateSolve, PointXP, and "The Sky 6". If this works this is a great solution!

A few questions:

How would I connect the computer running the PHD auto-guiding software directly to the guide port on the SiTech Controller II? I think that is basically a ST-4 guiding port... correct? Will I need to buy some type of adapter?

Also... will the guide port work as well and as fast as using pulse guiding? With Mel Bartel's system I have always used pulse guiding.

Will the SiTech Controller II system support a connection that controls the telescope from one computer connected directly to the guide port, and a second computer connected through the USB port simultaneously? 

Thanks!

Rusty


 Hello,

I would first try to find out where the bottleneck in your current system is - sorry if this is the wrong thread for that, I could not find the one discussing it.

I do not know the specs of your laptop but I am quite sure you do not need a $1400 setup to run your imaging sessions, especially not for DSO with the cameras you are using: People are using Raspberry PIs for that (me, too).

For my main imaging rig I am getting by with a 4 year old NUC (Intel i5-7260U Dual-Core, 8GB RAM, cheap 1TB SATA SSD), it cost me 600€ (with a smaller SSD and a spinning disk at the time). Any entry-level laptop with a recent i3 processor should best these specs (The first result on Amazon is a Dell for 500€ - there are certainly better deals). It works fine even for planetary imaging at up to 100fps (the SATA SSD is the bottleneck here). Downloads from the guiding cam (ASI290MM or QHY 294M) are instant, CPU load never exceeds 20%.

I do not know TheSkyX as I automate my setup with Voyager or SGP, but as it is not really recent tech I do not think it would be the resource hog. If it is, as a free alternative, many people are very happy with NINA, which could replace TheSkyX for planning and automating your sessions.

Which process exactly is keeping your CPU so busy and how high is your RAM usage? Maybe the CPU is swapping image data to the hard drive during downloads.


Rusty Fletcher
 

Hello Don!

I like your Idea! If I understand everything correctly, I would connect my Meade DSI II Camera (That I use for auto-guiding) to the first computer running PHD auto-guiding software with a connection directly to the guider port on the SiTech Controller II box... I think that is what you are suggesting. Then connect the primary imaging camera to a second computer which would also run SiTech.exe. I could connect the primary imaging camera to SiTech.exe because the software for both would be running on the same computer. My goal is to have each camera connected to a separate computer to speed up the image download time... especially the auto-guiding image download time... and still be able to send auto-guiding commands... and Go-to, Sync, Park, and other commands from each computer to the telescope. In this scenario the second computer controls the primary imaging camera and would be the one on which I would run PlateSolve, PointXP, and "The Sky 6". If this works this is a great solution!

A few questions:

How would I connect the computer running the PHD auto-guiding software directly to the guide port on the SiTech Controller II? I think that is basically a ST-4 guiding port... correct? Will I need to buy some type of adapter?

Also... will the guide port work as well and as fast as using pulse guiding? With Mel Bartel's system I have always used pulse guiding.

Will the SiTech Controller II system support a connection that controls the telescope from one computer connected directly to the guide port, and a second computer connected through the USB port simultaneously? 

Thanks!

Rusty


Don W
 

Hi Rusty,
You could run the guiding function on a separate PC to separate it from the Main camera and SiTech, which would allow platesolving.  You can't do this using pulse guiding, but you can guide using a cable from a guide camera to the SiTech controller, using the radio handpad with the Servo I or direct with the Servo II.  This would completely separate the guide operation from all other activity.
Don W


Rusty Fletcher
 

Hello Don!

Thank you for your advice and help. I tested both laptops under "Windows Task Manager - Performance", as was discussed in another post. It turns out the CPU does get used consistently at about 80% and often hits 100% when all the processes I want to use are all running simultaneously. I think it hits 100% when the computer is attempting to download both an auto-guiding image from PHD and a deep sky image from my ZWO ASI533 Camera simultaneously. With everything running on one laptop the processes are as follows:

SiTech.exe;   The Sky 6 connected to SiTech.exe (ASCOM);   ASI Studio V1.4 running "Deep Sky Imaging" connected to my ZWO ASI533 Camera;   PHD2 Guiding 2.6.9  connected to both My Mead DSI II Camera & SiTech.exe (ASCOM).

This test was done using the camera's and motors lying on my desk... so the images were done with dust caps on... no actual guiding commands were sent to the SiTech.exe driver. Also, I plan to stay inside my house on cold nights and remotely control both laptops using "Remote Desktop" on Windows 7 since all my computers are running Windows 7 Professional. There will be some additional CPU usage when using Remote Desktop over a TCP/IP network.

if everything is running on one laptop my concern is it's just too much for one laptop to do with the ease and grace that makes for great performance. I was in the computer business for almost 20 years. I sold my business in 2015. I learned that even though a computer can often handle a job... it is wise to allow for extra memory and CPU usage for everything to run smoothly and at peak performance. Especially when doing critical work. With 1 second exposures I want my guiding camera to update every 2.5 to 3 seconds to maintain good round stars. I confess my homemade mount could handle many improvements but I have learned, by experience, that good auto-guiding will make up for my mounts poor performance. If there is any way I can divide all the task's between two older laptop computers I want to do it. The other option would be to purchase a new (very powerful) $1,400 laptop but I don't want to do that ... I want to keep my wife happy! Lol She approved my purchase of the SiTech Controller II. I think she is still happy!  :-)

I timed the download speed of my auto-guiding images. With everything running on one computer I found that it definitely slows down the auto-guiding speed by about 30 to 40%. That is enough to require that I throw away a lot more of my main images when doing deep sky imaging. When I ran the PHD auto-guiding software by itself on just one laptop with 1 second exposures the performance was about 2.5 seconds per update. Using 2 computers to run everything definitely makes some difference. I could run PlateSolve connected to my guiding camera because that is the computer I am using to run SiTech.exe. But, I would prefer to use PlateSolve connected to my primary imaging camera. It will allow for faster centering of objects and will probably work best with PointXP because the primary imaging camera is mounted on the primary imaging scope. Maybe with your expertise and possibly the advice of others this could be made to work. Thank you sir!

Rusty Fletcher


Don W
 

Hi Rusty,
I seriously doubt you can connect to a second computer.  The connection is via ASCOM, internally on a single PC between SiTech and your camera control program.  In order for SiTech to do any platesolves, it must communicate both ways to and from the camera control software, so they must be on the same PC.
Don W


Rusty Fletcher
 

Hello All,

SiTech.exe is running great on my 1st laptop. It connects to The Sky 6 Planetarium Software, running on the same laptop, beautifully... How do I connect over a TCP/IP network to a ZWO ASI533 camera connected to a 2nd laptop? I want to use the camera with PlateSolve & PointXP

SiTech.exe with Plate Solve and The Sky 6 are running on the first computer... the ZWO ASI533 camera is running on a second computer. The two computers are networked together through a router. The connection is good... I can transfer files, etc.

Is there a way to setup SiTech.exe & PlateSolve to use the camera to access images automatically?

Thank you for any help or advice!

Rusty