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Old 24-02-2013, 11:53 AM
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Which program to run imaging automation????

Ok I have focusmax working aside from a few side issues, but now it is time to pick which automation program to buy.

ACP looks good but has a big price tag. CCD autopilot looks good too but I heard it can issues with reacquiring the guide star especially doing a meridian flip. However price looks great and has heaps of features.

CCD commander I know nothing about at all but I think is a contender.

Now could you recommend which one would work best with the following limitations or inclusions:
  1. Maybe only dial up internet for sending commands, data will be stored on large drive and I will pick the data on a regular basis when I drive down the house. For now though I will be setting up imaging when I drive down and going to bed at a regular time like all people and letting the scope collect the data while I sleep.
  2. Can I use internet with the program you recommend? Can it operate without using internet?
  3. Is automation complete with the program you recommend and are you currently using it in total capacity, if not in what capacity?
  4. What problems have you encountered with any automation software? Do these hurdles make you wish you bought something else?
  5. What made you decide on the software you chose?
  6. Can you run mount hub pro with the automation software and do you use their software in the automation command line?
  7. Is there any automation software I should consider aside from those listed?
I want to make the right purchase, so your help will be beneficial in the process.

Thanks for any help you guys can supply.
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Old 24-02-2013, 12:03 PM
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Hi Paul

Its been quite a few months since I did any automated runs, but a few thoughts on the process of finding the right software:

- Its worth trying out trial versions for them all if you can while you're right there with the gear
- There is a lot of variation in how the user interface is done
- Initially I found CCDAutopilot most intuitive, but lots of trouble (albeit with my basic gear) reliably acquiring a guide star with my 50mm finder/SSAG setup (BIG problem as you say)
- CCDCommander much less fancy interace, but rock solid operation (has never crashed on me), powerful options, great support

What sort of software do you have and plan to use for plate solving and planetarium support? There are variations in how closely those integrate with different programs.

I find its easier to pull out a CCDC script and tweak it to what I'm doing than bother programming Maxim now, regardless or whether I plan to go to bed or not. I'm usually only asleep upstairs or in a nearby tent, and set CCDC to call my mobile using Skype if an error is generated.

No experience running remotely over internet sorry. Believe ACP is designed from ground up to do this sort of thing via browser. Outside my price range.
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Old 24-02-2013, 12:32 PM
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Thanks Rob for your detailed response. Lots to consider and some things I ahd not thought of as being available or necessary. I like the idea of skype call if there is an error. That is a great idea for sorting problems out.

I am using pinpoint for plate solving (works flawlessly for me and never had a problem with a plate solve) and that is integrated with maximDL. That plate solved really well last night when doing acquire star work. I did several runs and each time it put me in the exact same position after focusing at the meridian. Using the Sky 6 for planetarium, tpoint for pointing with AAG tpoint mapper for pointing.

Perhaps I ought to mention the gear I am using. PME with robo focus, QSI683 camera, TSA102. This is the first unit to get automation, then I will automate the RC12, once I have the refractor behaving.

I am considering getting rid of the SSAG and replace it with a STi. I have one already and it has features that I need in automation, that the SSAG does not have. For instance a shutter for dark subtraction.

Does any of this information change your assessment? ACP would be nice but like you I am reluctant to spend such a lot of money. However, it might be necessary.
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Old 24-02-2013, 01:33 PM
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Paul,

I tried the demo version of all three of the automation packages you mentioned. I also read up on SequenceGeneratorPro but didn't try it. In the end I chose to stump up the big bucks for ACP. I already had a full licence for PinPoint so I was able to save a little by upgrading that.

CCDC is probably the easiest to get started with. Unlike Rob, I did manage to crash it once or twice. It would have been adequate for what I generally do now (leave the scope running for a few hours while I sleep.)

CCDAP is more capable and has some neat wizards. I didn't entirely get on with the scheduling GUI (forget to hit the update button and silently lose all your changes, WTF?) and a couple of times it misbehaved when left unattended.

ACP is the most comprehensive and configurable of the packages, as you'd expect for the price. There's very little it can't do and if it doesn't you can script it. It takes a while to configure and get your head around, but it has always operated flawlessly for me since I got it set up. I console myself on the price by thinking it will be the perfect solution if/when I ever get a remote obs. Bob Denny also offers first class support on the DC-3 Dreams forum (the other packages seem to be well supported too...)

If you have the time I'd also recommend playing with the trial versions to see what suits you best. I could probably have learned to live happily with any of them but I found ACP suited me best. Disclaimer: I'm a computer geek for a living, so YMMV

Cheers,
Rick.
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Old 24-02-2013, 01:47 PM
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I've had success with CCDC.

QSI have released a beta firmware update that sorts out my previous issue of CCDC not being able to select high or low gain depending on whether your binning 1x1 or 2x2. You can now select that "automatically", which is what most other cameras do. I'm yet to try this out at the scope, but will hopefully get some clear weather in a fortnight's time.

CCDC interfaces with Maxim and Focusmax. It uses the Pinpoint LE that came with Maxim, so no need to spend dollars on the full version of Pinpoint. Copes with meridian flips and finds guide stars via the OAG on my QSI583 using a Lodestar autoguider. I'm using an FS-102 Tak, so our setups are similar. It also uses the AAG cloudwatcher, which is considerable cheaper than a Boltwood. Mark Bolton has one of these out at Leyburn - I've been watching how it compares to his All Sky Camera and the results are reliable.

I've run it via Remote Desktop Client and Team Viewer, so you should be able to interface with it via the internet, although I've only run it from 20m away.

For the record, you don't need a shutter for your autoguider. I'm happily using a dark library that was shot with the lens cap on the front of the scope. The lodestar is a fair bit cheaper than the STI.

DT
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Old 24-02-2013, 09:34 PM
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Paul
I've used CCDC and found it to be good, however I and several others have shifted over to Sequence Generator Pro. Meshes seamlessly with PhDGuiding and Elbrus to give more functionality than CCDC.
See this site for more information which I've posted at another site and you could read it there. It's got a 45 day free trial of all functions so you can bash it to death. See http://www.mainsequencesoftware.com/SGPro.html for auto meridian flips, plate solving as well as auto star selection and guiding.
I now use nothing else.
Allan
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Old 24-02-2013, 11:51 PM
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Thanks guys,

lots to consider.

David I have the full version of pinpoint so it is no real drama for me. I fully accept your advice

Rick you are not the first person to say go for ACP. A mate here has ACP and said it is the best.

Allan I will investigate your suggestion. Gray suggested the same thing.

Time to try a few programs out and see which I am happiest with.
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Old 26-02-2013, 12:54 PM
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Been using CCDAP for a while now without issues but I don't use Maxim. Using TSX, CCDSoft, Focusmax. Hoping soon to dispense with CCDSoft because scripting for the Camera Add On (in TSX) is now being developed (in beta). No problems acquiring a guide star after meridian flip as long as a suitably bright one is available on the guide chip of my STL.

Cheers, Marcus
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Old 26-02-2013, 01:43 PM
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Paul

I use CCDAutopilot

I can't say enough good things. Since having this I can't keep up my processing With the data collection.

Never had an issue acquiring a guide star, but I also don't flip that often as the mx can track 2 hours past.

I set multiple targets for a night and go to bed.

I use the theskyx for plate solving and ccdsoft for automation. I also use @focus2 I find it easier to setup, quicker and just as accurate as focusmax.

The wizards are great and the support forums are very active with any help.

Last edited by cventer; 26-02-2013 at 07:51 PM.
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Old 26-02-2013, 07:30 PM
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Thanks for your thoughts Marcus. Which rotator are you using?


Quote:
Originally Posted by cventer View Post
Paul

.....
I can't say enough good things. Since having this I can't keep up my processing With the data collection.

.....

I set multiple targets for a night and go to bed.

...
The wizards are great and the support forums are very arive with any help.

That is what I am looking forward to Chris. I am over staying up till 3 or 4 each night I image and checking to make sure things are running right.

I don't plan at this stage to do flips but I am planning on multiple targets each imaging night.

I will take a look at their forums.
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Old 26-02-2013, 09:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Haese View Post
Thanks for your thoughts Marcus. Which rotator are you using?
Just the old manual Tak CAA. Most of the time I frame my subject so that there's a decent guide star available on both sides of the meridian without having to rotate. CCDAP automatically adjusts the integration time for searching and guiding up to a maximum interval you set. I typically have my max set to 15 seconds (fairly arbitrary) and that's fine for guide stars down to mag 10 ... remembering I currently have to guide through filters. You can set the max integration time to anything of course as long as your mount can track accurately during that interval - no problem for a PME!!
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Old 02-03-2013, 05:51 PM
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If you are only going to have a dial up connection I think using Radmin to access the computer may be problematic. You will need this if you are running anything but ACP. We used CCD Commander for a while but the connection was not quick enough to support Radmin. We changed to ACP and it works a lot better. ACP has a fully functioning 60 day trial. It really is the gold standard.
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