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  #1  
Old 05-11-2018, 11:24 PM
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Stonius (Markus)
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optimising laptop for astrophotography?

Are there any definitive lists of things to do/tweaks to make?

I've noticed that when capturing planetary video, firecap runs fine at fairly high frame rates, but stalls every4-5 seconds, as if the bus is being polled or something. Sometimes it gives up, sometimes it recovers. SGP also has the occasional frame that will not download from the camera no matter how long you wait. The result is a hang. This could be associated.

I know there are lists of tweaks for video editing, but the requirements are different here.

Anyone know of any lists?

Cheers

Markus
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  #2  
Old 06-11-2018, 06:19 AM
glend (Glen)
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Markus, your problems may not be your laptop. What sort of camera are you using? The ZWO USB3 cameras are known for being very quirky in relation to cable length, USB drivers, etc. Are you using an extension cable, if so what sort? I would eliminate possible issues like these before assuming it's the laptop. Although there are some laptop USB drivers that should be changed, Sam from ZWO loaded some new drivers onto my laptop via a Teamviewer support session a couple of years ago.
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  #3  
Old 06-11-2018, 07:52 AM
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Atmos (Colin)
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Fiddling with the USB Traffic is something else to consider if you haven't already. This is done through the ASCOM driver OR in SharpCap directly.
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  #4  
Old 06-11-2018, 08:33 AM
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Merlin66 (Ken)
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Markus,
I only do spectroscopy and solar imaging.
For solar imaging I use an ASI 1600mm and an ASI 174mm, these are both USB3 cameras.

To achieve the high frame rates I needed I went for an MSI laptop, i7 USB3 with 16Gb memory, 1Tb SSD and 500Gb HD. It is lighting fast!!!

I use Firecapture with both cameras, and , touch wood, have had no acquisition issues/ problems.
With a suitably sized ROI I can get >100fps easily.
Process in AS3! and Registax.
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  #5  
Old 06-11-2018, 12:04 PM
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sil (Steve)
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+1 to Merlin's response.

If you want a laptop for capture than damn well stick to making it for capture. You do NOT need it to be connected to the internet, you do NOT need antivirus and other garbage running in the background, you to not do anything else with it at all, ever. ideally. NO USB hubs, camera connected directly to USB 3, use a basic mouse as gaming mice do "polling" things that effect the system. have a dedicated SSD to record directly onto and a large external HDD to transfer to to move files to processing machine. dont install anything thats not essential, drivers for camera and firecap is all you need.
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  #6  
Old 07-11-2018, 11:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glend View Post
Markus, your problems may not be your laptop. What sort of camera are you using? The ZWO USB3 cameras are known for being very quirky in relation to cable length, USB drivers, etc. Are you using an extension cable, if so what sort? I would eliminate possible issues like these before assuming it's the laptop. Although there are some laptop USB drivers that should be changed, Sam from ZWO loaded some new drivers onto my laptop via a Teamviewer support session a couple of years ago.
Hmm that's interesting. I just bought a 2m USB3 extension cable, but haven't used it yet. Usually, the ASI290MM goes through a hub to my computer. The HDD is attached to the laptop's other USB port. It's a Thinkpad X1 from a couple of generations ago. I wonder if they've incorporated whatever they did with your drivers into the official drivers. Or if not whether they're generally available. I don't want to trouble support just yet until I've troubleshot (is that a word?) a bit more.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Merlin66 View Post
I use Firecapture with both cameras, and , touch wood, have had no acquisition issues/ problems.
With a suitably sized ROI I can get >100fps easily.
Process in AS3! and Registax.
I can get up to 200 fps with High speed selected and the USB speed on max. Of course, it becomes more stable with High Speed turned off and USB speed reduced - which affects frame rates too. I still think the polling is the issue. It captures fine for maybe 4-5 seconds, pauses, captures fine for a few more seconds, pauses. Sometimes it just tells me the capture failed and quits. I guess the other possibility that it's writing to buffer and the HDD is too slow to keep up with the data writes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sil View Post
If you want a laptop for capture than damn well stick to making it for capture. You do NOT need it to be connected to the internet, you do NOT need antivirus and other garbage running in the background, you to not do anything else with it at all, ever. ideally. NO USB hubs, camera connected directly to USB 3, use a basic mouse as gaming mice do "polling" things that effect the system. have a dedicated SSD to record directly onto and a large external HDD to transfer to to move files to processing machine. dont install anything thats not essential, drivers for camera and firecap is all you need.
I wish I could have one laptop for Planetary, another for Deepsky and another for work, but it doesn't work that way. I take your points about turning off antivirus. Forgot about that one. I'll have a tweak and let you know if I come up with anything other than buying more memory or an SSD.

The USB speed setting does confuse me. Is it bandwidth? In which case you'd want more, right? even though the program warns you to set it lower if you have issues. But surely you can't be controlling the clock speed of the USB bus from software? I would have thought that is a BIOS level thing?

Anyway, thanks for the input, I'll keep you posted.

Markus
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  #7  
Old 08-11-2018, 01:35 PM
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Okay, I have it figure out. It was the hub I'm using a cheap Mbeat USB 2&3 powered hub. For some reason, whenever you have more than one device plugged into the hub, it creates these 'pauses' in capturing - I assume because it's polling the other devices and multiplexing the traffic into the one USB connection to the computer. That's my theory, anyway. Presumably, all hubs will have the same issue.

Simply by connecting the camera direct to the computer I can get the following rates with a 3rd Gen Lenovo X1 and a USB3 External SSD.

At full-frame 16-bit I can get a sustained 81fps
Full Frame 8-bit gives 171fps
With a 656*536 ROI in 8-bit mode, I can get sustained 340fps.

So since I'm shooting mono, I guess my new Planetary setup will be camera plugged straight into the computer, with Filter Wheel, focuser, etc running off the hub.

Just tested this setup and it works (ie, it's not the computer's internal USB bus that is the bottleneck as shown by the fact that plugging in the hub is non-disruptive to the high speed video coming in off the ASI290).

Cheers

Markus
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  #8  
Old 08-11-2018, 02:24 PM
glend (Glen)
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Yes, I should have mentioned that my ASI1600 is cabled directly to a laptop USB3 port (with no other traffic on that port), and my filter wheel, guide camera, go via the MBeat hub.

When I say the camera is cabled directly, I mean via the active extension to the laptop.
Glad to hear it's sorted.
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  #9  
Old 08-11-2018, 02:26 PM
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Merlin66 (Ken)
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Markus,
Sounds good!
All's well that ends well.
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