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DavidLJ
30-08-2017, 08:26 PM
Being interested in video astronomy my current setup is :

Win10 laptop (telescope control program) ← USB ←→ RS232 → SW mount SynScan hand control
+
Win10 laptop (video capture program) ← USB → Video camera

The laptop has built-in Bluetooth connectivity.

I would like to explore the possibility of operating the telescope and camera remotely (say within a 50 meter range) by replacing both USB cable connections with a WiFi link but still using the same telescope control and video capture programs on the laptop. Can this be done?

Any suggestions will be gratefully received.

rally
30-08-2017, 10:19 PM
Should be fairly straight forward if you have another PC or laptop with WiFi or a USB WiFi dongle, although 50m would need direct line of sight or have an intermediate WiFi bridge, or something with decent in built aerials.

You would run something like RealVNC Server on the telescope PC/Laptop and simply leave it as it is, then run RealVNC on a 50m distant PC/laptop and then the distant PC becomes a duplicate screen, keyboard and mouse of telescope PC
If there isnt much going on then you could even use a smart phone or iPad - but the novelty will soon wear off and you'll want proper control !

Lots of other programs options can do the same thing

If you have really graphic intensive software - eg a planetarium package or real time video then you will find the screen updates to be a little glitchy because the screen updates arent instantaneous - it works OK, but laggy.
If you arent watching a planetarium screen or video then you would hardly know the difference.
Otherwise you could use a 50m long network cable instead - then its almost the same as being there.

DavidLJ
31-08-2017, 10:38 AM
Thanks Rally for your informative reply. I guess that I could achieve the same result by using TeamViewer to connect the two PCs. But I was hoping to move the laptop itself away from the telescope site for a few reasons :


get it out of the weather (dew, etc.)
minimise screen light pollution when the telescope is sited with other visual telescopes at a public outreach session
more convenient access to mains power rather than using portable power

I wondered if there is some reasonably priced wirelessly linked product that could sit on/by the telescope mount and to which the camera and the SynScan hand control could be connected so allowing the programs on the laptop to control them in the usual way.

iborg
31-08-2017, 11:39 AM
Hi

I suspect that you can't readily get away from a computer at the scope, but, a smaller possibility may be NUC.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Next_Unit_of_Computing

And now you've gone and made me read what NUC means!

Philip

redbeard
31-08-2017, 12:34 PM
Hi David,

For controlling your mount try one of these.

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Hi-link-HLK-RM04-Serial-Wifi-Ethernet-Wifi-Module-RS232-RS485-Module-Antenna/262864450295?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBI DX%3AIT&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649

I use one and it works really well.

The cool thing with this device is that it can be controlled with just about any software that can control a mount. It is a wireless Ethernet to serial device. It is also a plug in Ethernet to serial device.

How I use it is I create a virtual serial to Ethernet port using third party software, (http://www.hw-group.com/products/hw_vsp/index_en.html). You point your control software to the virtual serial port on laptop and that then gets sent via Wi-Fi to the module listed above. The module then automatically converts the Wi-Fi data to serial data. It has a DB9 connector on it to connect to your mount. Not sure what type of serial data your SynScan mount uses but if it is standard like a PC then all good. I have a feeling that Celestron scopes use a slightly different logic level which would simply need an extra converter.

So you place the module at the scope and you connect to it via Wi-Fi.

What I have done is created my own software to control the mount, (I have a Meade), and I have customised it to work how I like it. I can also use the smart phone app "Orion StarSeek' to also connect to the module, it has a driver for most mounts.
This is really cool as the app is cheap, I paid $12 for it, and it's like a clone of sky safari.

As far as video capture is concerned, I'm not sure how you would do that from Wi-Fi alone as it is USB. The suggestion I have with your current system would be to run a long USB lead, you can get powered ones that will do the distance.
And if you did that, then you may as well run ethernet cable to the module above and have better reliability than just Wi-Fi.

I also think a small pc of some kind would be a big help for capturing video. As mentioned, you could remote to it, and if you are in the field, then keep the lid shut and use remote all the time, no light pollution that way.

You may need a wireless camera to do the wireless capture without a pc.

What about a Raspberry pie? You can load Linux or Windows on them and have it do the capture stuff???

Happy to chat more if you have any questions.

Cheers,

Damien.

DavidLJ
31-08-2017, 03:27 PM
Thanks Philip and Damien for your detailed replies. They are much appreciated. I'll need to ponder on what you have written and come back later. In the meantime I do have to admit to being a bit of a techno klutz and have little ability to use hardware other than on a simple plug-and-play basis.

dbowie
31-08-2017, 03:52 PM
I looked at all the cheaper alternatives but I decided to support an Aussie innovator and bought one of these. It works seamlessly on my Heq5 iPad Skysafari and Serge has proved his after sales service time again...

https://www.astrodevices.com/Products/NexusII/index.html

Camelopardalis
31-08-2017, 05:25 PM
Just a heads-up, Skywatcher have released their own wifi dongle for controlling their mounts via a smartphone app...

redbeard
31-08-2017, 07:51 PM
Hi David,

I just found this product: https://www.iogear.com/product/GUWIP204/

Seems to do the wireless USB thing.

Also a better explanation of the wi-fi to serial device. I have attached a small picture to show how it's connected.

Between these two, should solve your issue.

Your limit will always be the wi-fi distance but you can also get wi-fi extenders.

Cheers,

Damien.

DavidLJ
01-09-2017, 12:32 PM
Many thanks to one and all who have so generously given of their time and knowledge in replying to my query. This is truly a great forum. As previously mentioned, I have little ability when it comes to the technical side of computers so the following musings may be quite wrong. But if so no doubt someone will correct me.

From past experience I assume that the laptop can link wirelessly to just one IP address at a time. So if that link is made to a single purpose device such as a mount controller it would seem that it cannot simultaneously link to a different device such as the camera even if the camera had direct WiFi connectivity (which it doesn't). So to be able to use the laptop to wirelessly control both the mount and the camera at the same time it seems that the single WiFi link must bridge the gap between either :



the laptop (running the two control programs for mount and camera) and some other WiFi unit at the telescope to which the both the mount hand control and the camera are connected, or
the laptop monitoring and interacting (say via TeamViewer) with a separate computer at the telescope which runs the two control programs there.

On that basis :

Philip : The Intel NUC does seem to be one solution (see 2 above) save that I don't see how TeamViewer could be used since the Intel NUC would not have a screen to monitor. Also it ends up as being quite pricey. The cheapest unit seems to be just over $200 but by the time that Win10 has been added the cost jumps considerably. And as it probably uses mains power, for field use the additional cost of a 12v to 240v inverter needs to be added. Nevertheless, maybe a possibility.

Damien : Although nicely priced at $24, the Hi-link HLK-RM04 Serial-Wifi-Ethernet Wifi Module RS232/RS485 Module+Antenna, being a single purpose solution for controlling the mount, does seem to rule out the simultaneous use of the laptop's WiFi connection for camera control. But maybe using the IOGEAR Wireless 4-Port USB Sharing Station instead would allow for that simultaneous use through that device's USB port connections to both the SynScan hand control and the camera? I have written to IOGEAR to ask but have not yet had a reply.

Brenton : The Nexus unit looks great but seems to rule out wireless control of the camera.

Dunk : The new SkyWatcher WiFi dongle is interesting but it doesn't presently seem to work with Win10 on the laptop.

I have found another possibility (maybe?). StellarMate Gadget (https://www.stellarmate.com/) was released very recently. I have written to them using their website Contact form asking if it is suitable for what I want but as yet have received no reply.

dbowie
01-09-2017, 12:48 PM
Im kinda still at your stage but have the gear getting it sorted indoors while weather is s%#t, time permitting and being Mac tried every easy solution, in the end I bought a small windows laptop because no native Mac drivers for QHY cameras that will sit by the telescope and handle cameras. Mount control is wireless via Nexus Skysafari Ipad. Then thru WiFi TeamViewer remote desktop from PC laptop at mount to to my MacBook pro for camera control. How sophisticated or simple you want to get is up to you (raspberry Pi is another solution) and configuration, platform and hardware etc..hope this helps try the Software and Computers forum on IIS, theres plenty guys running full integrated systems can help...good luck..

Merlin66
01-09-2017, 01:35 PM
David,
You may be over thinking things....
Consider an older s/h laptop which can run your mount (NEQ6/EQMod?), CdC (for acquisition), PHD for guiding and finally your camera control (AstroArt) connect this via a powered USB Hub (leaves only one USB back to the laptop) and then use Teamviewer (via WIFI or direct Cat5 link) to a computer inside. Once set-up you can close the lid of the laptop - no light interference.

I even added a Shoestring dongle to the JMI focuser on the C11 for remote focusing.
I have three cameras on the go - DMK51 on an electronic finder, Lodestar for guiding the spectrograph and ATiK 314L for spectral imaging

hamiland
01-09-2017, 03:29 PM
Interesting thing to consider seeing as the NUC has been suggested. The Intel compute stick will run an imaging load quite well, Under $200 and comes with Windows 10. Part Number is STK1AW32SC if you want to google it, I just attach one to my mount with Velcro.

iborg
01-09-2017, 08:34 PM
Hi

As it happens I am thinking of getting a NUC for oter purposes.

I came across this one for $300, ready to go. For your purposes, may need an internal drive and more RAM, adding to the price, but, at least it has an operating system and is otherwise ready to go.

Power required is 19V DC, but, this is likely to still be an issue.

As for no monitor, you are correct, but, I believe that these do have normal video output, that would be readily seen with Teamviewer etc.


Overall, I suspect that some of the other options would be better for your purpose.


https://www.scorptec.com.au/product/Branded-Systems/NUC-&-Mini-PC/66794-BOXNUC6CAYSAJ

Camelopardalis
01-09-2017, 10:14 PM
I've been using a NUC for a year and a half, they run perfectly off 12v (if you look in the Intel spec PDF, it actually lists 12-19v).

Unless you buy it already fitted out by a third party, you do need to add RAM and storage, but neither of those need be expensive. The bottom of the machine lifts off after undoing 4 screws. The RAM and storage secure in very easily.

I use my NUC headless and access via RDP - this is a built-in function of all Windows OS for aeons, no additional software required. Since RDP is such a prevalent protocol, apps for non-Windows platforms are common, some even written by Microsoft (not that that in itself should add any legitimacy :lol: )

DavidLJ
04-09-2017, 06:30 AM
Just a brief update. I have received a reply from StellarMate to the effect that it is not suitable for what I want. No reply so far regarding the Wireless 4-Port USB Sharing Station.

ChrisV
04-09-2017, 09:25 AM
David.

I do video astro remotely - two ways. I started with a long 20m USB extension cord from a computer inside to a 12V powered USB hub sitting on the scope (I got it from MWAVE). You can run sharpcap/stellarium etc on the computer inside. This is the easier way to do it.

The other way is to use wifi - but it can be fiddly to set up and has some issues (see below). As Dunk says, a NUC, is a great option. But I have a PCstick on the telescope - its really small, uses less power and has enough grunt/memory etc for video astronomy. e.g.
https://www.mwave.com.au/product/intel-compute-stick-32gb-with-windows-10-ab77650?gclid=Cj0KCQjw0K7NBRC7ARIsA EaqLRFhWllhTdfqh1HxTF5YKITkqTHEGeWt ELyU5hTThpuyngwlPnxIACAaAiouEALw_wc B

I connect to it from my computer inside via wifi. I use RDPwrap to control the PCstick (you can also use remote desktop client etc). There's a few threads about it on cloudy nights, e.g.
https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/563964-evolution-8-intel-compute-stick-i-think-i-am-in-eaa-heaven/. Read this thread!!!
I power the PCstick from the 12V at the scope with a ciagerette plug-USB adaptor.

For image capture and stacking/processing, I have sharpcap running on the stick. You can also control the telescope from the stick - use Stellarium & Stellarium Scope. I usually use sky safari - but this is a separate bluetooth connection and I run that from my phone.

The only issue is that the wifi on the PCstick is pretty crap. It has a short range and can get blocked by all the metal on your scope. I've stuck a big USB-wifi dongle on the stick to extend its range. Then you are left with just one USB3 port - so I use a 12V powered USB hub if I have more than one camera connected.

I'll put up a pic of how I do it tonight. Or if you go to NSAS viewing nights I occasionally get up there.
Wireless USB hub sharing etc doesn't work with this. Another option is to use a USB hub than has ethernet connectivity - that will go a long way. I haven't tried this - but others on cloudy nights have.

Chris

ZeroID
04-09-2017, 09:44 AM
Pick up an old laptop PS, they run at between 16v and 19v depending on make and model. 19V seems to be the norm.

DavidLJ
23-09-2017, 11:28 AM
Just a short update to close off this thread.

My sincere thanks to all who have replied giving of their time and expertise.

I never did get a reply from the Wireless 4-Port USB Sharing Station people.

At this stage, and not wanting to spend a lot of money on the matter, I've decided to compromise and limit the wi-fi connection to just the telescope control. To that end I've picked up the new SkyWatcher Wi-Fi Adapter ($99) leaving the camera control to continue to be handled on the laptop via a 15 meter (non-powered) USB cable. The SkyWatcher Wi-Fi Adapter has no independent power supply simply drawing power through its stubby cable connection to the mount. Nevertheless it has a reasonable wireless range of at least 40 meters which is more than enough for my needs. Although it is meant to be compatible with SkySafari on my iPad that does not presently seem to be the case. And that is a pity because SkySafari is a great tool for use in outreach sessions. The default telescope control program is the SynScan app which is a free download. This is not a planetarium program being more of a software replacement for the SynScan hand control. Even so it is quite sophisticated, easy to use and plenty good enough for my immediate purpose.

With this setup I can now control both the camera and the telescope from a distance of 15 meters. Of course this is only after using both the laptop and iPad right next to the telescope during setup because of the need for hands-on adjustments for polar alignment, star alignment and focus. This 15 meter space allows for reasonably non-light polluting use during an outreach session and also comfortable indoors control of the telescope and camera when they are located in the open adjacent to the observatory.