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  #1  
Old 28-11-2011, 12:41 PM
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CCDCommander or CCDAutopilot - which is better?

I have recently moved to using an SBig CCD and aas a result hav eto use CCDSoft V5 for image acquisition. I used to use AstroArt4. AA4 has a very simple method of automation which I was happy with. CCDSoft uses WSH which is far more powerful and can auotmate not just CCDSoft but also The Sky 6 and FocusMax or indeed any other windows app. This enables very powerful automated sequences to be developed (eg mosaics/plate solves/surveys) but at the cost of complexity. Indeed I am have issues just trying to find documetation for the methods and properties for the objects I need to control. The web is little help here with only simplistic examples out there.

It seems that the alternate is to use a tool and two seem to be available, CCDCommander or CCDAutopilot.

Can anyone help me make a choice here, I have given CCDCommander a bit of a go and it seems pretty good, it did crash once though so I am looking for a recommendation based on experiance.

I want to drive:

ST-2000xm
CFW-8 or CFW-10
AO-8
Moonlite CFL with stepper
G11G

and sometimes

QHY5 guidecam.

The setup is temporary and I have limited open skies so ease of use is more important to me that the nth degree of functionality (no supernova searches for me ).
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Old 28-11-2011, 01:14 PM
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My advice would be to forget about CCDSoft and have a serious look at MaximDL.
James

Last edited by Moon; 29-11-2011 at 07:34 PM. Reason: typo!!
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  #3  
Old 28-11-2011, 06:53 PM
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I can only comment on CCDsoft as I have been using that for a few years.

It is an all round good program but its been neglected for several years and is now looking a bit old fashioned.

It works, its fairly easy to use, it is somewhat user friendly and intuitive.
Its even better if you use a PME mount as it integrates nicely with that and the Sky 6.0.

I find the autodark subtract feature in autoguiders does not work well (perhaps it is my settings but it does a poor job for some unknown reason), it is limited to 4 filter preprogrammed imaging. So if you want to do a HaLRGB then you have to do the Ha by itself.

It does not recognise hardly any cameras except SBIG unless you pay for a $100 plug in program which is incomplete and does not have all cameras (at least last I checked). It does not allow you to access some of the features of FLI cameras such as ghost image control, user defined download speeds, dew controller on the ccd window.

It does not exhibit autoguiding graphs, allow you to dither, remove hot pixels, average guide stars for guiding.

Maxim does all the above. Some have had trouble with it when doing T-point models assuming you wanted to do that.

So yes Maxim is normally recommended and I am about to switch over for the extra functionality but CCDsoft is free with SBIG cameras so that is a major plus.

It also allows direct guiding with your PME should you ever get one. That means no need for a guide cable. Its supposed to be better than guiding with a cable as well (I can't verify that but I do like it). Perhaps Maxim lets you do Direct Drive, I haven't checked.

And of course Maxim is US$499!!

That's 499 reasons why CCDsoft is awesome!

Greg
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Old 28-11-2011, 06:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moon View Post
My advise would be to forget about CCDSoft and have a serious look at MaximDL.
James
Sorry James but that sort of suggestion doesn't Really help at all. MaximDL costs a fair bit and since he already has CCDSoft wants to use that program with another controlling program. Ccdcomander works well with CCDSoft and there are quite A few using it reliably.
He wants to know the quirks of the control programs and not the capture programs and how they work together.
I would vote for ccdcomander with CCDSoft from my limited experience with them both.
My 2c
Allan
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  #5  
Old 28-11-2011, 07:08 PM
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Bassnut (Fred)
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James is correct actually.

It's quite possible all th automation you need is already within DL and the sky for the items john mentions.
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  #6  
Old 28-11-2011, 07:43 PM
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bert (Brett)
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I have used maxim and ccdsoft for some time and am also a user of ccdautopilot.

I use ccdautopilot in my home observatory and my my remote observatory both with ccdsoft.

Some of my observations:

Maxim does not work well with Autopilot and Adaptive optics combined. The packaging says it should, but it doesnt. However it works very well with ccdsoft.

Maxim is better if you want to just set a target and let it run its course. If you lose a guide star (especially with ao), tough. The rest of the night is a goner. Why maxim? because of dither via AO function, and maxim is better gui, I find ccdsofts gui to be a pita.

If you want to multiple targets, and never want a lost guide star ruin your night, get ccdsoft and autopilot.

Ccdsoft has some caveats. Software Bisque seems to make anything ascom as hard as possible to make work, and requires a camera plug in for almost anything other than sbig and apogee. It gui is backward step over maxim.

I use ccdap5 and have used ccdap4 for a while. If I ever have problems my issues are fixed quickly in the ccdware forums.

I have not used commander, I was told it was mostly script based where ccdautopilot is graphics based and 'tick the boxes' was more suited to my knowledge.

Brett
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  #7  
Old 28-11-2011, 08:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by allan gould View Post
Sorry James but that sort of suggestion doesn't Really help at all. MaximDL costs a fair bit and since he already has CCDSoft wants to use that program with another controlling program. Ccdcomander works well with CCDSoft and there are quite A few using it reliably.
He wants to know the quirks of the control programs and not the capture programs and how they work together.
I would vote for ccdcomander with CCDSoft from my limited experience with them both.
My 2c
Allan
Your 2c was well spent - I was not looking to move to yet another acquisition program. I am trying to establish the relative merits of ccdcommander and ccdautopilot given the kit/software I have. I get that Maxim is better than ccdsoft but looking at the doco the scripting is the same - perhaps a little easier to automate, not sure, it does at least seem to suppport filter offsets but it looks like you would still need to use an add on like ccdcommander.

Thanks for all the feedback, I guess I will continue to evaluate ccdcommander and post my findings here.
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Old 28-11-2011, 08:22 PM
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Greg,

You have turned off AutoContrast I assume? I spent a few days fighting that feature....

Regards,

John

Quote:
Originally Posted by gregbradley View Post
I find the autodark subtract feature in autoguiders does not work well (perhaps it is my settings but it does a poor job for some unknown reason
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  #9  
Old 28-11-2011, 08:45 PM
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Allan,

Johns original question contains a hint of a misunderstanding - he says that as a result of buying an SBIG camera he must use CCDSoft, implying that his understanding was he must do so as opposed to it just being an option - albeit a free one.

I think that once someone starts travelling down the automation path the relative merits of any piece of software or hardware starts becoming dependent on how well it is going to integrate with everything else.

There isnt much point buying something now and investing an immense amount of time and frustration into it all, only to discover that it wont work properly in the future.

Those who have used this sort of stuff will appreciate just how many 100's of hours it can take to get it all working.

The value of this community is that it can help people avoid mistakes just as much as help them through their problems.

I think that is where James and Fred are coming from.

In any event - its a good discussion.

Cheers

Rally
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  #10  
Old 28-11-2011, 09:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rally View Post
Johns original question contains a hint of a misunderstanding - he says that as a result of buying an SBIG camera he must use CCDSoft, implying that his understanding was he must do so as opposed to it just being an option - albeit a free one.
Err no not really - I meant simply must as in I have CCDSoft and ImagesPlus and Nebulosity and AA4 (!) of those only CCDSoft and AA4 support the ST2000 and I'm just not in hurry to buy MaximDL as well...unless, of course of this forum that it is utterly essential. The jury is split on that one...
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  #11  
Old 28-11-2011, 10:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnH View Post
Err no not really - I meant simply must as in I have CCDSoft and ImagesPlus and Nebulosity and AA4 (!) of those only CCDSoft and AA4 support the ST2000 and I'm just not in hurry to buy MaximDL as well...unless, of course of this forum that it is utterly essential. The jury is split on that one...
Software is a real gamble sometimes and it's use is very personal. I find that I just can't get my head around maxim all the time and prefer the simple setup for CCDSoft. Just being an old f@rt I suppose. It's a bit quirky but I've used it so long that I can just set it up and off it goes. For ccdcomander I was extremely impressed by the responsive backup and quick problem solving for new users on the forum.
Software can cost a lot in money terms as well as time getting to figure out all the bells and whistles. It would really be a help for someone getting into it to see it in operation and have a buddy that's already been there and done that.
I wasn't having a real go at anyone but think that it's such trial and confusing when so many recommend different programs that really you can't make a choice in the end.
Allan
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  #12  
Old 28-11-2011, 11:51 PM
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Allan,

I agree - AP is a game where everyone could do with a "Phone a Friend" !!!

Having it work on someone else's system in front of you is certainly handy.

Cheers
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  #13  
Old 29-11-2011, 06:25 AM
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My experience is with using Maximdl. I agree it required some reading to understand, but it's breath of functionality is the reward. I personally love the scripting of the automated capture routines. Here I have a full list of routines for different objects, including various routines inclusive of narrowband filter selections. In one routine I named "high dynamic range objects", I have LLRGB capture with six different exposure lengths per colour channel. All you do on the night is load the sequence, and you're on your way. Also the plate solving function is extremely simple to use. Another feature I love is the point scope here. A simple calibration routine is run that allows you to click on your image to centre your FOV.

As for mosaics, the plate solve feature will certainly help in aligning your frames. Not sure if it can do it automatically though, never tried it my self.

Cheers

Steve
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  #14  
Old 29-11-2011, 06:46 AM
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I know of a professional observatory using CCDCommander who is desperately looking for an alternative...... Reliability is key but the issue is nothing is perfect. I use MaxIm DL and ACP5 (have used it since DL 3 and ACP3) and these 'high end' products crash and burn as well on a regular basis.

You need to understand that it is MORE than just the software. It is your hardware, their drivers and combinations thereof that also add to the reliability mix. How well does your telescope or camera communictae with your computer?
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  #15  
Old 29-11-2011, 08:56 AM
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I don't use either of these programs
Just for the record
ccdcomander US$99

CCDAutoPilot 5.0 Professional US$295
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Old 29-11-2011, 09:42 AM
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I will stick to answering the direct question. I hear where john is coming from, I was in exactly the same position in about 2005.

I have been using CCDCommander with CCDSoft and TheSky for the last few years. I have little bad to say about CCDCommander.

I have never had CCDCommander fail, crash or cause adverse effects as part of operation.

I have had situations where CCDCommander functionality didn't perfectly suit my needs (small, particular differences in needs) and these have been met by the author including changes in the next release to add additional configuration options.

It is important to correctly configure the associated software (CCDSoft, CCDCommander, TheSky, FocusMax) and small configuration changes in those have been the source of most problems I have had. My other problems have come from hardware or not fully taking in to consideration the behavior of hardware and software in error or limit situations such as horizons and meridian. It takes time to learn all this as you go.

I build my scripts via import, where I generate the import file specifically myself in an access database.*

I have used CCD Auto Pilot briefly as a trial product. I found it offered different ways of doing the same thing. It may we'll have additional functionality but it did not offer any improvement in the time it would take to build a script, and that is where my focus was, as it is that which takes the most time and I needed no improvement in the actual execution of the script from what CCDCommander provided me.

Roger.
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Old 29-11-2011, 11:15 AM
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Perhaps not. I'll check that out. Thanks for the tip.

Greg.



Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnH View Post
Greg,

You have turned off AutoContrast I assume? I spent a few days fighting that feature....

Regards,

John
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  #18  
Old 29-11-2011, 07:28 PM
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I use maximDL, complex yes, powerful yes, but it will do just about anything you need for AP. Only crashes if you are using dodgy drivers usually and if thats sorted it is rock solid. Had a look at the CCD software and thought it is just tacking program on program. With maxim its all there, yopu just have to learn to use it.


Mark
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  #19  
Old 29-11-2011, 09:19 PM
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Hi John,

I'm not a CCDSoft user, however I've used CCDC a lot and never had it fail - very bulletproof. I trialled CCDAP4 and is certainly a nice graphical environment, however crashed on me a few times (BAD!) and wouldn't reliably find a guidestar for me (no doubt a problem with me or my gear, but I couldn't fix it after considerable fiddling and couldn't see much point with automation if this aspect wasn't rock solid). CCDC is considerably cheaper and the support forum is excellent.

I've read reports from far more accomplished imagers saying both products are great and deserve a decent trial to see what fits with your workflow. They each differ a bit in some other nice features (like auto sky flats, guider calibration, mosaics). CCDC is happiest with the full version of Pinpoint (if you go that route).

Sorry I can't comment on the critical aspect of integration with CCDsoft however. Could I suggest you give the trial versions of each a decent go to see if work and are intuitive for you?

Last edited by RobF; 01-12-2011 at 09:55 PM. Reason: spelling
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  #20  
Old 01-12-2011, 02:34 PM
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Thanks to all for your thoughtful responses, I suppose I am looking for the impossible - a low cost, high reliability and easy to use imaging automation tool. It looks like MaximDL get most of the ticks (except for $$$).

So I am happy to persist with CCDCommander and my hybrid of programs for now - though it is more fraught with danger than a monolithic solution as each product upgrades independantly (eg I had an issue between the Moonlite ASCOM focuser driver and CCDSoft and both CCDSoft and The Sky seem to dislike ASCOM...still I seems to have achieved a useable configuration, my only remainig concern is CCDCommander seems to have slowed the max correction rate I can get out of my AO-8 by apprx 50%.

I will do some more testing when I can but for $100 I think CCDCommander is the go for me.

John
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