Mar 282015
 

My old XP desktop in my garden observatory finally started chugging so I checked out the price of an upgrade to a newer version of Windows. Doing so, I found this little beauty which is a quad core PC with Win8.1 for a few dollars more than Win8.1 on its own.

IMG_0766

Setup was a doddle and the stock SSD had 21GB free after updating Windows. I then installed ASCOM, DSSR, DVS, DFM, DSR, AstroKam, TIS driver, TeamViewer, Cartes du Ciel, AviStack, StarTools, Krita, Sony Vegas, Microsoft ICE, LibreOffice, VirtualDub, 7Zip, DeepSkyStacker, AdBlockPlus, Canon DPP and Utilities, AS2Cull, EQMOD, EQDIRECT and SPC900 drivers. This left the SSD with 14GB free.

It starts from cold in 20 seconds and is very nippy because all programmes are on the SSD. Power consumption is 8W with no camera and 11W with my DMK21 attached. I can afford to leave it running 24/7 which will cost me around $12 a year. There is no fan so it is totally silent which makes it great as a media player. The aluminium case doesn’t even get warm to the touch.

It is roughly 40% as powerful as my 8-core AMD 3.1GHz, 8GB, 64bit W7 desktop PC, based on these comparison processing times:

DeepSkyStacker image stack: Pipo = 34Min, AMD = 15min.

AviStack batch video processing run: Pipo = 36min, AMD = 13min.

However, the Pipo wins hands down on a bang per buck and bang per watt basis.

It runs my HEQ5 Pro and DMK21 under DSSR with no problems which is why I bought it. It can autoguide all day long while constantly capturing video clips with no dropped frames. One thing to note is that you need to be wary of how much power your devices suck from the USB ports. I have to run my DMK21 camera from a front port and a portable HDD capture disk from a rear port. A powered USB hub should solve this problem.

I added an un-powered 4 port USB hub which lets me add a mouse, keyboard and DSLR together with my EQMOD cable, DMK21 camera and 500GB capture disk.

Here is one of the its first capture and processing tests. Intermittent clouds makes for a jerky video with stacking artifacts but I think it performed to spec.

 

I can see the Pipo being a lot of use in astronomy. You could strap it to your scope tripod with a battery pack (or solar cell) and control it via TeamViewer. Or, have a bunch of them running in a cupboard as a video and imaging processing farm.

Would I buy it again? I already have, and #2 is my new media PC. Netflix, YouTube, iPlayer, etc all play 1080p video without a hitch. The great thing is I can also do video or image processing on it overnight.

ps I have heard rumors than Win10 will be offered as a free upgrade to Win7 and Win8. This would make the Pipo even more of a bargain.

 

 Posted by at 8:19 pm
Mar 152015
 

It was a gorgeous, clear sunny Spring day in the Scottish highlands yesterday and I captured this time-lapse. Lots of crackling and a nice eruption about 2/3rds in.

This was capured using DSSR’s new EzyTrak guider which is in development. The full 5 hours DSSR session can be seen below speeded up 600x.

 Posted by at 10:51 am

First Test of EzyTrak

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Mar 112015
 

DSSR’s autoguide module seems to cause most problems for new users so I am now revamping it to make it a foolproof guider. The new guider is called EzyTrak and is currently only available to my user group but will be released soon with DSSR5. Below is the result of a trial run on Jupiter (animated in DVS).

 Posted by at 10:58 am
Feb 282015
 

Here are some pics of my second observatory which is an HEQ5 Pro mounted on a small table outside my garage. The control cables run into the office in the garage corner and are stored coiled in the empty gas meter cabinet on the wall. The hardest part of making this was drilling a 55mm hole thru the wall for the cables. It only takes a minute to remove the cover bag, install the scope and connect the wires. The mount is on the south-east corner of the garage so it can cover the whole sky except the north-west quadrant. Perfect for solar, lunar and planetary work.

DSC04521 DSC04524

 Posted by at 8:45 pm

DSSR Eclipse Notes

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Feb 282015
 

The next eclipse of the Sun will occur on March 20th this year and here are some tips on how to use DSSR to guide your scope during it. First, here is a white light simulation of what the eclipse will look like from Inverness, Scotland. Note that this was created in CdC and is an alt-az view, which is why the Sun is rotating and the Moon follows a curved track.

General Tips

If your camera is in auto exposure mode the sky brightness will vary during the eclipse which is maybe what you want. I intend to use a fixed manual exposure which I think will look better in the time-lapse animation.

Do a dry run on the Sun before the 20th.

Use new or recharged batteries and have spares ready.

Use a remote release cable or intervalometer as a backup to DSLR usb capture.

Use DSSR’s recticle to centre the Sun before you start guiding.

White Light

I have tried to get DSSR to do a virtual guide on this animation but it breaks down near the point of maximum cover. What I suggest for WL is that you guide for as long as you can on a sunspot and then stop guiding. Then, right-click on the 6 or 12 o’clock position to begin monitoring. Stop monitoring and then right-click on the picture in the guider window to show the monitor box in the main video window. Then use your HC buttons to keep the monitor position lined up with the red box. You can start guiding again when a surface feature reappears (remember to click in the guider picture to hide the monitor box).

H-Alpha Light

You might be luckier in h-alpha if there is a prominence or surface feature in the uncovered portion of the Sun. DSSR should be able to guide right thru the eclipse on it. If there is no feature then follow the procedure for white light above.

Poor Man’s Guider

I don’t have a full disk video camera so I can’t use DSSR for the eclipse. My plan is to use a Canon 1100D DSLR connected to a NexStar 4SE and use Canon’s utility app to capture a full-disk WL still every 5 seconds. My guider will be a sheet of cling film over my monitor on which I will draw the dotted outline of the Sun in the Canon preview window. I can use this with the HC buttons to keep the Sun aligned.

Construct Time-Lapse Animation

Coming soon – how to use DSV to create a time-lapse animation with your results.

 Posted by at 12:10 pm
Feb 282015
 

DSSR version 4.10 adds support for cameras from ZWO Company as shown in this screen shot.

ZWO camera

I don’t have a ZWO camera myself which is why the video screen is black, but several users have confirmed that their ZWOs display and capture fine.

This was only possible thanks to the support offered by Sam of  ZWO Company and the generous help given by Robin (author of SharpCap) who even donated some SharpCap code for DSSR. A big thanks to both of them.

 Posted by at 11:37 am

DSSR Error Debugging

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Feb 282015
 

DSSR started displaying error messages and even refusing to load on some PCs in December 2014. Even my garden observatory PC was affected even though no code had changed. I can only surmise that some Windows update had upset DSSR. Most errors were easy to fix and DSSR 4.10 now has a debug mode and improved error logging that help me fix any future errors.

First off, check that your Windows text size in your Windows display settings is set to the default 100%. DSSR may not start and will certainly not autoguide if it is not 100%.

Next, start DSSR and click the I Agree (debug) button. You will then see a series of boxes with a letter code like A, B etc. Click on the OK buttons and remember the last code displayed before DSSR crashed. If you get as far as the main DSSR window make sure logging is running and then write down exactly what you are trying when you see the error. Close DSSR.

You can then use my software support group to post your results together with the relevant log which should be in your capture folder. I will get back to you in a matter of minutes (or days) with a fix.

 Posted by at 11:17 am
Feb 272015
 

We just had some problems with new users which was tracked down to the Windows text size which can be altered in Control Panel>Appearance and Personalization>Display.

Any setting other that 100% may prevent DSSR from starting and will certainly prevent it from autoguiding.

Apparently, a lot of laptops are now shipped with 125% text size out of the box and these need to be changed to 100% before running DSSR. This will also solve problems in other software with text not displaying correctly.

If you have trouble reading text at 100% then use a lower screen resolution which will not affect DSSR.

 Posted by at 2:27 pm

DSSR Fixed – Again

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Feb 222015
 

DSSR 4.9 is now available on the Downloads page.

This version fixed a problem where the WinTrak window was not showing for some users. It also has improved error logging and the expiry date has been removed. This version should see you out.

I also uploaded new versions of DVS and DFM where the only change was to remove the expiry date.

Enjoy and clear skies,

Starry Dave

 Posted by at 9:53 am