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Go Back   IceInSpace > Beginners Start Here > Beginners Equipment Discussions

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  #1  
Old 10-08-2018, 10:51 AM
Imme (Jon)
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My remote network setup (For Dummies because I am one!))

Our good mate Alex has asked for some info on how I set up remote operation so here I go…..

This thread is my journey on how I went from sitting in a shed monitoring a laptop controlling my scope to being able to sit in front of the heater inside (in future I plan on being able to control things over the internet remotely from anywhere)

DISCLAIMER - I am not a computer whiz kid and up until 4 weeks ago I had absolutely no idea on how a network worked other than a blue cable went between two computers and they talked to each other.....magically it seemed.
I will probably describe things in this thread that are not the 'done thing' in the IT world but hey, what I've done has worked. Everything I have done was Google/YouTube learnt.

My setup pre-networking -
  • Observatory located 70m from my house
  • Observatory roof electronically controlled through some form of button/relay setup (I'm not an electrician either and have no idea about automation!)
  • 1 x desktop computer running my mount/guiding/imaging which was located on a small desk next to the telescope in the Ob's in what was effectively open air when the roof was open
What I've done -
  • A warm room was setup in the obs to house my computer.
  • I ran 5m repeater USB cables to the new computer location from the mount hubs

Things to think about - if you're thinking of remote access then everything needs to be able to be electronically controlled obviously, by a computer....this includes focusing, mount movement, equipment turn on/off (unless you're happy walking over at the start/end of the night to manually do it), roof open/close (if installed)......everything you do manually you need to be able to do electronically!

My issues here were focusing, turning equipment on/off and the roof open/close.....these were the three items which required manual intervention which I needed to address.

Focusing - there are plenty of tutorials on the web on how to do an Arduino focus unit with a stepper motor or you can buy one. I was lucky and had a unit some guy on ISS made which was secondhand when I bought it…..cheap. Myfocuserpro I think the design was called. I fashioned up a bracket from some aluminium to mount it. System works great with APT.

Turning equipment on/off, this is where things start getting a little complex (for me anyway!)
  • The control computer in shed – The computer powerpoint is always switched on however computer is shutdown when not in use. There is a thing called WAKE ON LAN (WOL) that is a setting on many computers. You find the setting in the BIOS menu (you know when a computer starts and it says 'hit f2' or something....that's how you get into it). My understanding is that a message gets sent from your remote computer (the one in house) to the control computer (the one connected to telescope) and turns it on. This is done from the shutdown state so the computer is completely off until you ask it to start up. (I'll talk about the actual networking later to allow this to happen)
  • Turning on other electrical equipment - I bought a USB controlled 8 relay circuit board from a company in Bulgaria (Someone on here recommended them). Turned up really quickly and is good quality, cost was about $50. This thing basically has 8 computer controlled switches on it of which 4 control power to a bank of 4 x double powerpoints (homemade setup - powerpoints I had in shed $0, project box to hold it all $30).....the other 4 relays are used for my roof. All telescope associated power is connected to the powerpoints. Relay 1-mount power, Relay 2-Dew controllers (preset heat setting), Relay 3 - camera power, Relay 4 - light in observatory so I can see telescope through a webcam I setup on the wall (this is in case I want to physically 'see' what is going on). Basically all I need to do once my computer has been remotely switched on with the ‘wake on lan’ function is open the USB controlled really program and click on which switches I would like to turn on or off. The remaining relays 5-8 control start/stop/open/close functions of the roof and are controlled the same way as the first 4.
So I think that’s everything that needs to be addressed….now for how to attach the system together (network it). I bought a 100m long Cat6 cable from ebay ($30), a couple more short Cat6 cables for connections ($10) and an old TPG broadband router from ebay ($11.25) and 70m of conduit to run underground from shed to house….guess you don’t need to run it like this, you could just plug in/out as it is needed….but mine is a permanent setup so I decided to bury it at about 100mm deep.
I have a second computer in Obs I wanted networked, that’s why I purchased the cheap router. If you don’t have this need you can skip the Obs router step below and go straight to the house with the cable.
Network connections……Obs computer - short Cat 6 cable to cheap router (or use long cable to house router which you probably already have if you don’t want to network other computers in Obs) – cheap router to house router using 100m Cat6 cable – house router to house control computer using short Cat6 cable.
Once everything is connected together get the free download of Teamviewer on all devices and make each computer ‘trusted’ to the other which is a function in Teamviewer (I think it’s called ‘trusted’)
I also set static IP addresses on my computers. The reason I did this is Teamviewer goes back and forth over the internet. Setting a static IP means I can dial directly in to the computer in Obs and just use the local LAN I set up, not over the internet (I’m on a data limited plan).
And that’s it!
To operate all I need to do is switch on the house desktop, open Teamviwer, select the Ob’s computer and tell it to turn on. I then use Teamviewer to connect to the Ob’s computer….basically that means I have the Ob computer screen in front of me like I was sitting there. Once I have control of the Ob’s computer I open the USB relay program from which I can open/close the roof and switch on/off all equipment. If I want to physically see what’s going on I connect through to the webcam using the Windows Camera tab and turn the light on in the obs.
My next step…..Organise a weather station that is USB controlled so I can monitor weather conditions at the obs and organise a static IP for my house router so I can dial in from anywhere.
If anyone wants clarification on any of the above don’t hesitate to ask…..I’m no professional obviously but I’ll answer what I can.
I’m not saying what I’ve done is the right way of doing it….but it has worked for me…….so I’ll call it my ‘hacks’ way!
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  #2  
Old 10-08-2018, 12:45 PM
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xelasnave
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That is excellent.
Thanks for taking your time to put that post together.
I qonder if others have done similar.
Alex
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  #3  
Old 10-08-2018, 02:21 PM
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Merlin66 (Ken)
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Jon,
Good write-up, thanks.
I still do the manual, open roof etc.
Just wondering, when the observatory is automated, what about the dust covers on the telescope?? Work without them??
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Old 10-08-2018, 02:49 PM
Imme (Jon)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merlin66 View Post
Jon,
Good write-up, thanks.
I still do the manual, open roof etc.
Just wondering, when the observatory is automated, what about the dust covers on the telescope?? Work without them??
That's one I'm still toying with......I'm very new to this remote thing and working out the issues as I go.
From what I've heard, most remote guys either don't use a dust cap on the lens or they purchase a flip up cover that also has a light source in it to do the flats (can't remember the manufacturers name at the moment). They're about $800 I think.......I'm going to try and automate something using an RC Car steering servo motor (light and good power) to do this, worse case and it doesn't work for me I'll just park the scope with the lens facing straight down to stop dust buildup.

As for an actual dust cover for the whole setup I'm thinking I might attach some light weight material to the actual roof of the Ob's. When it opens it will roll the fabric off the telescope, when it closes it will roll it back on (I've got 9m of roof roll to play with so it should work I think, be harder for smaller roofs without as much 'roll distance'). If the fabric doesn't work I'll buy another USB relay and a very cheap 12 volt light duty winch which will drop a cover down from the roof....obviously being attached to roof it will roll out of sight with it as the roof opens.
I think the key here though is you need to build in a breakaway system so if the cover snags the scope when coming off then the cover tears away from whatever mechanism is in place to move it to save breaking/bending anything on the actual scope/mount!
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Old 10-08-2018, 05:44 PM
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xelasnave
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Sky watcher focuser control.

Sorry I was trying to post a new thread
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  #6  
Old 10-08-2018, 05:50 PM
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Merlin66 (Ken)
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Alex,
I use the SW accufocus motors on all my refractors.
The shoestring FCUsb adaptor and the free FocusPal software works well for me.
I haven’t needed or tried an ASCOM alternative.
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  #7  
Old 11-08-2018, 07:43 AM
Imme (Jon)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xelasnave View Post
Sorry I was trying to post a new thread
No worries Alex....relevant here I think anyway
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