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Old 20-12-2020, 07:05 AM
vin_ap (Caleb)
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Astroberry-RPi4-Kstars-Ekos ----back to drawing board!

For the past week nearly two, I've been re doing my setup to go standalone, so my entire setup can be run from a battery.

This got me exploring Astroberry on a RPi4. This was the cheapest under $150 computer and also the lightest option.

Setting up the Pi4 was simple and easy as I have done this many times before with Ubuntu/Linux packages. Once installed I came across kstars\ekos which is the main imaging package and INDI drivers(similar to ASCOM).

From this point the setup was not simple by any means, getting all the USB's to work on the Pi connected to all the equipment was at least 2-3 day worth of reading and trying different things. Eventually yesterday I had everything working and got to a point I understood 90% of the available setting was confident that I could complete a imaging session.

Now I had my mount polar aligned and setup the telescope, the fact that there was only two cable connected to the power(battery) was a joy to see and experience. Powered up and I was connected to all equipment the felt so good how well the system was working.

Slewed to the horsehead nebula and started to frame the target, this is where things got difficult. Being used to framing in (spoilt) NINA, faming my target was very difficult (not impossible). Unless you have a motorised rotator in your setup might as well forget it. Anyways now realising I was not going to be able to continue on my current project I decide to burn the rest of the night exploring and getting trial images.

Slewed to M45 and framed it to some level and started, Autofocus routine plate solving, guiding and capture. Every one of these routine threw rocks at me but eventually got it to work.

I tried a few different targets and did some trial runs. Everything worked but not without issues. Tracking would stop then I need to chase a setting that fixed it, then PHD2 guiding would stop then troubleshoot that etc.

Finally it was time to pack up. Reflecting on this experience I can say that the Astroberry RPi4 setup was great and the ability to control so much of your equipment was awesome as much as it was overwhelming when things didn't work. This setup has great potential and the ability to keep your setup simple, but I think the software and the development has atleast another year to go before it can catchup to something like NINA/SGP. The software reliability is a 4/5, planning required prior to setup 2.5/5 (needs a lot of planning). For me given that I can only do a few hours of imaging a night and returning back to the same target and being able to frame that target pretty accurately is important, I've decided that I am going back to NINA on a laptop.

I will still keep exploring an setting up the RPi4, because I think it could be work for me one day but for now back to the drawing board.
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Old 20-12-2020, 07:12 AM
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Outcast (Carlton)
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Have a look at Stellarmate; similar to Astroberry in that it uses Kstars/Ekos via Indi based software but, I think it's more mature & has better documentation & support.

It's author, Jasem has helped me out a few times when I've had issues....

I'm about to start over with it as I've changed to an Ioptron mount from a SW so, got to figure the mount part out again...
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Old 20-12-2020, 01:21 PM
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mswhin63 (Malcolm)
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I had quite some time with my Raspberry Pi4 8G, I instead installed a automatic focuser using a TIC 825. I have some issues, although after returning to Windows and APT, it appears is my equipment not Astroberry.

The only think that I am not happy is that the Developer of Ekos Indi is the same developer for for Stellarmate.

I get the feeling that Stellarmate may end up being the effort that will convert Indi to a non open source solution. In the meantime, one I get my hardware sorted I will revert back to Astroberry and continue.

Astroberry give the ability to do all I want in a full remote system.
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Old 20-12-2020, 04:37 PM
kens (Ken)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mswhin63 View Post
The only think that I am not happy is that the Developer of Ekos Indi is the same developer for for Stellarmate.

I get the feeling that Stellarmate may end up being the effort that will convert Indi to a non open source solution. In the meantime, one I get my hardware sorted I will revert back to Astroberry and continue.
I don't have any concern like that. There are actually many developers for Kstars/Ekos/INDI (and I count myself as one) and we all have copies of the open source code. Even if the main github repository were removed, any one of those copies is publicly available with fully up to date version of the code. And that same code could be used as the basis for future versions. To be honest, I think the software is so extensive that it is beyond the ability of any single person to maintain and support it so to be viable it really needs to be open source.
What you are mainly buying with Stellarmate is the initial system setup and guaranteed support, rather than the code. Anyone could build a DIY Stellarmate equivalent and many do. But when you do that you rely on yourself and the community for support.
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Old 20-12-2020, 07:18 PM
phomer (Paul)
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Caleb,


One minor thing to note is there is no requirement to use a rotator, the framing works in any orientation.


I would also point out that success with INDI is dependent on getting the settings right and there are quite a few.


Paul
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Old 20-12-2020, 08:14 PM
vin_ap (Caleb)
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More reading today and I've been playing more with the settings and going to give it another try.

Paul,
could you please show me a workflow for framing. The problem is, I have a 1" 183 sensor and with most targets with my setup doesn't leave me with too much area left to crop hence the rotation is critical to be within 0.5 deg, which I can easily & repeatedly achieve with NINA. With Kstars I can get the location right with the ASTAP solver but no rotation indicator or I don't know how to proceed. Without this when I setup over multiple nights my rotation could be slightly off every night for the same target which would be a major issue.

Caleb
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Old 21-12-2020, 08:10 PM
phomer (Paul)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vin_ap View Post
More reading today and I've been playing more with the settings and going to give it another try.

Paul,
could you please show me a workflow for framing. The problem is, I have a 1" 183 sensor and with most targets with my setup doesn't leave me with too much area left to crop hence the rotation is critical to be within 0.5 deg, which I can easily & repeatedly achieve with NINA. With Kstars I can get the location right with the ASTAP solver but no rotation indicator or I don't know how to proceed. Without this when I setup over multiple nights my rotation could be slightly off every night for the same target which would be a major issue.

Caleb
Caleb,


Not sure I can help with workflow, I just let the scheduler deal with that.
If I do it manually I focus, frame, guide and then capture.


There are two important things.


1) Ensure you have the files loaded for your field of view
2) Make sure the focal length is set correctly


Paul
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Old 28-12-2020, 09:53 AM
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Andy01 (Andy)
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Joining the party tonight (& tomorrow night) with a recently acquired Rpi4 (from the classifieds here on iis) Stellarmate and my macbook pro. Desperately, hoping to get everything working.

I have used KstarsEkos for the past 6 months on the macbook, guiding, focussing, capture, FW all good, but for life of me I could not get platesolving to work - even using the new stellarsolve - guess I probably have a setting wrong somewhere?

I'm hoping that a freshly paid download & install of Stellarmate on the pi will resolve this once and for all.
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Old 28-12-2020, 01:14 PM
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mswhin63 (Malcolm)
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I just recently located the hardware issue on my system and it appears that using a webcam for guiding on Linux was my main issue, I reverted back to Windows and APT to resolve and now returned to obtain great results.

I did have a Kstars crash once but on this occasion PHD2 did not crash, so my upgrade to an ASI 120MM for guiding did resolve the PHD2 crash. The upgrade worked so well, I now have completely reversed my use on webcam for guiding.

The main advantage of going to Indi was that it was the only one that had drivers for the TIC 825 stepper controller that allowed me wonderful autofocus capability at a much reduced cost.

After the first crash I managed a good image of the Tarantula nebula with my cheap filter giving me great star but questionable colour balance.

I hope to post more on Astroberry in the future.
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Old 30-12-2020, 09:58 AM
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pmrid (Peter)
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I have gone through several phases of trying Pi-based astronomy and then back to Windows. But every time, I have not been able to commit to the Pi solutions. Whether it is Astroberry or Stellarmate, both come down to the EKOS KStars apps and in that sense, both are pretty similar. The issues that tend to drive me away are generally compatibility - I can’t get my Starlite focuser to work or my SBIG CCD (an STF8300). I spent a lot of $$ on Pi systems and accessories but have ended up regretting it. Even the Pi4 with 8GB of RAM cannot overcome those compatibility problems.

Some of the best things you can do with Pi4 gear is convert them to USB boot and attach a SSD as the boot drive. It speeds the system up enormously. But ... if the thing won’t talk to my equipment, it is of little real use to me.

Peter
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Old 30-12-2020, 11:46 AM
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mswhin63 (Malcolm)
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I think you are right, for me it is experimenting to get thing stable, but so far it appears to be drivers that are the issue. ASCOM has many more years of development under their skin and so the drivers are more refined. I still have had some issues with ASCOM but nowhere near enough. I also believe that every time the Linux OS needs updating the other products suffer.

I am confident now that I can get my system up and running now, but once complete I intend on leaving it alone while stable. At least with Windows based systems updates are not so fussy.

Personally as a side project I hope to create an ASCOM driver for my focus motor and then possibly go back to Windows and APT.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pmrid View Post

Some of the best things you can do with Pi4 gear is convert them to USB boot and attach a SSD as the boot drive. It speeds the system up enormously. But ... if the thing won’t talk to my equipment, it is of little real use to me.

Peter
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Old 30-12-2020, 12:58 PM
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Andy01 (Andy)
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Progress report: with special thanks to my mate “The Bluester” here we updated the pi with the latest build of Stellarmate 3.5.0

It connected via indi/ekos to microtouch focuser, QSI camera & FW, Sx Guidecamera & temma mount ok without too much drama.
Screensharing with my macbook pro also works ok.

We then loaded an image of M42 & it slewed to target so all good!
Took it outside last night & again, plate solving, slew to target, meridean flip, autofocus, guiding & image capture all good too- fantastic!

Still an issue to resolve when using kstars though, as it’s super slow when searching for a target to sync & slew too- so that may be resolved by direct connection via ethernet.

Hoping to get the macbook to do most of the heavy lifting instead of the pi, so still sorting that out.

Oh and for reasons unknown the Temma thinks it’s parked when the counterweight is 90 degrees east (or 6 hours ahead)- very weird- must google!

Last edited by Andy01; 30-12-2020 at 01:04 PM. Reason: Formatting
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Old 30-12-2020, 01:21 PM
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The_bluester (Paul)
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We will have to enable verbose logging of everything under the sun next time, to see if I can work out what is hanging it up, but a very promising start to say the least.
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Old 30-12-2020, 05:38 PM
kens (Ken)
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Progress report: with special thanks to my mate “The Bluester” here we updated the pi with the latest build of Stellarmate 3.5.0
With Stellarmate you can also get support from IkarusTech (Jasem) since that is included in what you paid for
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Old 30-12-2020, 05:44 PM
kens (Ken)
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We will have to enable verbose logging of everything under the sun next time, to see if I can work out what is hanging it up, but a very promising start to say the least.
What is hanging up? I've had issues with my RPi3 stopping responding periodically. I have narrowed down the problem to Temperature and/or Voltage regulation. I have so far resolved it by removing the USB drive I had been booting from and reverted to SD card boot and switching off the driver logging to file. I suspect a beefier, better regulated power supply would also have helped.
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Old 30-12-2020, 07:22 PM
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The_bluester (Paul)
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We were finding when using it all on board via screen sharing (Using it's hotspot mode to a Mac laptop a couple of feet away) that it would be great for a time then suddenly get very very laggy and non responsive, particularly if you pulled Ekos down out of the way and tried to search an object in Kstars. If you connected to it via the smartphone app it appeared OK via that route but you would have to reboot it via the smartphone to get it to respond again in any other way. At one point we had it guiding and while it was non responsive, you could hear the mount guiding still.

That is using an SD card to boot it (Pi4) and a genuine Rpi power supply, I doubt it would be heat, it was doing it in about the same amount of time between the (Warm) garage and when we did a test under the stars last night. The temp was low enough outside to have us in jackets and beanies! The Pi was in a FLIRC case that is supposed to double as an effective heat sink. Logging was per the out of the box configuration so I might have to look at that.


The next step will be to put it in direct connect mode and set the Mac up with the right IP address so we can eliminate anything to do with screen sharing bandwidth limitations over wifi. Regardless, it was a very promising start with it up and running and connected to all Andy's gear successfully and plate solving and pointing working. One other issue for us to look at is probably more related to the Indi driver for his Temma, the park/initial position is given as pointed at the pole, counterweights down, but it actually seems to be pointed at the pole, counterweights east and it is a bit nerve wracking due to the relative RA and Dec slew speeds of the Temma, some slews to and from the park position take the camera nerve wrackingly close to the pier! It is supposed to be able to be set to a different position within Ekos, but once done it would head on back to the original position regardless!

Last edited by The_bluester; 30-12-2020 at 07:34 PM.
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Old 30-12-2020, 08:19 PM
AnakChan (Sean)
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I’ve managed to put Astroberry on my ASIAir Pro and got the DC ports working even.

However what is the actual usage difference between the Astroberry and Stellarmate? Both use EKOS/KStars.....I understand the packaging may be a little different (i.e. INDI drivers support, etc.) but from a usage perspective both are VNC access too? Or does Stellarmate have an ASIAir-like tablet client app that doesn’t need an entire screen to be VNCed/RDPed back to the client?

Edit: question answered. Just watched the Stellarmate App V2.1.0 demo.

Last edited by AnakChan; 31-12-2020 at 08:09 PM.
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Old 30-12-2020, 08:26 PM
kens (Ken)
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The RPi wil start to throttle down from CPU temp somewhere around 80C but it can get to that pretty easily under heavy load. You can check the temperature - the command depends on the OS. In Raspbian its using vcgencmd and on Ubuntu I use "cat /sys/class/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp"
I found the unattended-upgrades process was a problem as it put a big load on the system. But the main issue was that under load it was drawing to much current when adding in the wifi, USB drive and the mount (the only device I have connected). So even though I had a 3A buck converter supplying it the voltage dropped enough to kill the Pi (or at least its USB hub). My mount also kept tracking so I just had to reboot to get things working again.
But the solution so far has been to minimise the power load which is why I removed the USB drive (draws up to 220mA). Plus I run Ubuntu server only (no desktop, no VNC) and by turning off driver logging that means minimal IO to the SD card. To be fair, some of this I've also done as I'm running a Pi3 (in fact a Pi2 right now) so I wanted minimal CPU load anyway just for performance.
I believe the official RPi power pack is rated at 3A so with several USB devices connected its rating could be marginal when the CPU is under load.
And if I understand right, with Kstars/Ekos running on the Pi that could be loading up the CPU. Easy to check through the system GUI tools or with the "top" command.
Another thing you could try is to run a bash script that pings the Mac every few seconds and logs the time and result to a file. That way when you reboot you can check the log to see if it was still pinging but had lost connection or had actually shut down. I've got a script if you want to try that.
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Old 31-12-2020, 07:41 AM
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I did read the suggestion elsewhere to run the USB devices through a powered hub not direct to the Pi as it can cause issues, that is probably the next thing to test. I had imagined that would only be an impact for devices powered by the USB connection, there is only one, the guide camera, but it also currently has a keyspan device for the mount and an inbuilt keyspan or similar inste the microtouch focuser controller, maybe they are too much and we should move all to a powered hub. In one way that would actually be handy as it would allow the Pi to sit down on the tripod where we currently have it mounted up top and that would make it easy to use a direct ethernet connection instead of the wifi.
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Old 31-12-2020, 04:06 PM
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I am using a Rock64 Pi copy with Debian and kstars ecos. It seems to run two cameras filter wheel and mount fine through a targus hub without the power . Runs the Osc ,guide camera and mount direct USB fine without the hub on a 2amp Li battery.

In the previous old Ubuntu laptop with less memory, the osc colour files when looping or displaying slowed the system and so I think the full display of each image chews up available memory and I was was forced to set the system to skip display of each full osc image while imaging .

I have noticed that any change in the method of network control during a session creates chaos. Direct Ethernet or wireless network connection through a router using VNC control is more stable.

Possibly, If I could wirelessly connect a large enough touch screen for direct control of the Rock64 that would avoid any latency problems and make the system network free. Expensive though.
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