ASCOMPAD and PMC-8 Connection Problems


Mark Lamb
 

I have had my G11/PMC-8 for more than 2 weeks, and it is my 1st mount, so I am playing in the dark.


I have had issues with wifi dropping while using it outside, but it seems to work fine (for 5+ hours) in my basement in my dummy testing, most of the time.  I have had ExploreStars shut down on its own, but the laptop still being connected to the PMC-8 wifi (this has happened with 2 separate computers), and I have had ExploreStars stay open, but the laptop disconnect from wifi (and stop tracking).  I have Chrome browser with many tabs open in the background (though they are NOT connected to the internet, as tablet is connected to the PMC-8).  Could unconnected Chrome generate interrupts that cause the tablet to disconnect from the PMC-8?


I have gotten ASCOM Poth to work (wifi, have not tried physical serial) and slew/track with CdC for very long periods of time (unattended) in my basement sessions as well.


Today, I had Poth disconnect on its own and seen the following error with my basement wifi testing:

Error.  Addittional non-parsable characters are at the end of the string.

And with this, I noticed that the wifi network was switched from PMC-8 to my home wifi.  (I was away when this happened.)


I have installed ASCOMPAD v209 and have used the settings that Jerry used for the mount (though mount Slew rate 8 of 0 gives Undefined, and Rate9&10 left at default 1). I also used Jerry’s Gamepad buttons settings, with the addition of having D-pad’s N/S/E/W assigned to identical N/S/E/W, and Emergency Stop mapped to Button_5.


My laptop/tablet is communicating to the Xbox controller, as pushing the buttons made the changes to the driver’s button mapping.


However, when I used the Xbox controller, with Poth and CdC running, it (either D-Pad or left joystick) does NOT rotated the mount’s axis; it does nothing.  When I push the Poth’s N/S/E/W buttons (either touchscreen or mouse-click) the mount moves.


What do I need to do to have Poth/PMC-8 react to the Xbox controller?


For those who use PoleMaster and use ASCOM, how do you get the mount to do the rotations required?  (Do you start with ExploreStars to get alignment, and then switch to ASCOM/Poth?)


I also have Stellarium installed, but it does NOT seem to have a button to connect to mount.


How do I connect Stellarium to Poth/PMC-8?


Is CdC preferable to Stellarium?


Thanks!



W. Christopher Moses
 


I have had my G11/PMC-8 for more than 2 weeks, and it is my 1st mount, so I am playing in the dark.


I have had issues with wifi dropping while using it outside, but it seems to work fine (for 5+ hours) in my basement in my dummy testing, most of the time.  I have had ExploreStars shut down on its own, but the laptop still being connected to the PMC-8 wifi (this has happened with 2 separate computers), and I have had ExploreStars stay open, but the laptop disconnect from wifi (and stop tracking).  I have Chrome browser with many tabs open in the background (though they are NOT connected to the internet, as tablet is connected to the PMC-8).  Could unconnected Chrome generate interrupts that cause the tablet to disconnect from the PMC-8?


I strongly doubt the tabs would make a difference.

Make sure your laptop/tablet is set not to go to sleep at all. I've seen that cause issues.

Can you reproduce it at all. Maybe there is some location you are moving the laptop that has really bad reception?  I always try to avoid setting my laptop right next to my large 12v dc power supply.


I have gotten ASCOM Poth to work (wifi, have not tried physical serial) and slew/track with CdC for very long periods of time (unattended) in my basement sessions as well.


Good


Today, I had Poth disconnect on its own and seen the following error with my basement wifi testing:

Error.  Addittional non-parsable characters are at the end of the string.

And with this, I noticed that the wifi network was switched from PMC-8 to my home wifi.  (I was away when this happened.)


Can you reproduce this?


I have installed ASCOMPAD v209 and have used the settings that Jerry used for the mount (though mount Slew rate 8 of 0 gives Undefined, and Rate9&10 left at default 1). I also used Jerry’s Gamepad buttons settings, with the addition of having D-pad’s N/S/E/W assigned to identical N/S/E/W, and Emergency Stop mapped to Button_5.


My laptop/tablet is communicating to the Xbox controller, as pushing the buttons made the changes to the driver’s button mapping.


However, when I used the Xbox controller, with Poth and CdC running, it (either D-Pad or left joystick) does NOT rotated the mount’s axis; it does nothing.  When I push the Poth’s N/S/E/W buttons (either touchscreen or mouse-click) the mount moves.


What do I need to do to have Poth/PMC-8 react to the Xbox controller?


Sorry, never used it.  I've been meaning to try it.


For those who use PoleMaster and use ASCOM, how do you get the mount to do the rotations required?  (Do you start with ExploreStars to get alignment, and then switch to ASCOM/Poth?)


Get the polemaster roughly aligned, so you can see Polaris, and then use ASCOMPad or POTH to rotate the mount as instructed.  Also, if you really need to, you can always manually rotate the mount.  Just be sure to bring it back to zero using the levels when you are done.


I also have Stellarium installed, but it does NOT seem to have a button to connect to mount.


How do I connect Stellarium to Poth/PMC-8?


I can help you with TheSkyX, but not Stellarium.  I know somebody here will be able to help with that one.


Is CdC preferable to Stellarium?


Ditto


Thanks!



Steve Siedentop
 

Hi Mark -

I can answer some of these...

Chrome...
It's unlikely that Chrome is generating outbound traffic significant enough to disrupt coms.  However, it's worth testing.  If you need these tabs retained, try adding them as "startup pages" (I think that's what it's called) in Settings.

WiFi...
Windows 10 is Power Management is integrated fairly tightly with WiFi connectivity.  Check this out for some guidance on setting:
http://www.thewindowsclub.com/wifi-gets-disconnected-after-sleep
Have you considered connecting directly via the serial port?  While it's primitive and adds "one more cable," it seems to be quite stable.  I'm going to test WifiScope from Main Sequence Software to see if I can get the PMC8 working with SkySafari with the PMC8 connected to a laptop/compute stick via a serial cable.

Polemaster...
In spite of what the manual says, I move the mount manually by loosening the clutches.   I've never had a problem doing this on my CGEM DX, NEQ6 Pro, or the ES G-11.
I haven't checked it out yet, but I've been told that the latest PHD2 update includes some changes to the Polar Alignment routine that may be worth checking out.

Stellarium...
I believe you need StellariumScope installed to use Stellarim with ASCOM.  Stellarium connects to StellariumScope which connects to the POTH which connects to the PMC8.  I used this with EQMOD and found it all to be more trouble than it was worth.  I settled on CdC.
http://welshdragoncomputing.ca/x/index.php/home/stellariumscope/download-stellariumscope
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WX6TTxYBxCs

Stellarium vs. Cartes du Ciel
Stellarium has a much nicer UI, but CdC seems to have quite a bit less overhead.  CdC also is a bit more simple to connect.  Connect the PMC8 to the POTH, connect CdC to the POTH.

-Steve


On Wed, May 16, 2018 at 3:12 PM, lamb_mark@... [ESPMC-Eight] <ESPMC-Eight@...> wrote:
 

I have had my G11/PMC-8 for more than 2 weeks, and it is my 1st mount, so I am playing in the dark.


I have had issues with wifi dropping while using it outside, but it seems to work fine (for 5+ hours) in my basement in my dummy testing, most of the time.  I have had ExploreStars shut down on its own, but the laptop still being connected to the PMC-8 wifi (this has happened with 2 separate computers), and I have had ExploreStars stay open, but the laptop disconnect from wifi (and stop tracking).  I have Chrome browser with many tabs open in the background (though they are NOT connected to the internet, as tablet is connected to the PMC-8).  Could unconnected Chrome generate interrupts that cause the tablet to disconnect from the PMC-8?


I have gotten ASCOM Poth to work (wifi, have not tried physical serial) and slew/track with CdC for very long periods of time (unattended) in my basement sessions as well.


Today, I had Poth disconnect on its own and seen the following error with my basement wifi testing:

Error.  Addittional non-parsable characters are at the end of the string.

And with this, I noticed that the wifi network was switched from PMC-8 to my home wifi.  (I was away when this happened.)


I have installed ASCOMPAD v209 and have used the settings that Jerry used for the mount (though mount Slew rate 8 of 0 gives Undefined, and Rate9&10 left at default 1). I also used Jerry’s Gamepad buttons settings, with the addition of having D-pad’s N/S/E/W assigned to identical N/S/E/W, and Emergency Stop mapped to Button_5.


My laptop/tablet is communicating to the Xbox controller, as pushing the buttons made the changes to the driver’s button mapping.


However, when I used the Xbox controller, with Poth and CdC running, it (either D-Pad or left joystick) does NOT rotated the mount’s axis; it does nothing.  When I push the Poth’s N/S/E/W buttons (either touchscreen or mouse-click) the mount moves.


What do I need to do to have Poth/PMC-8 react to the Xbox controller?


For those who use PoleMaster and use ASCOM, how do you get the mount to do the rotations required?  (Do you start with ExploreStars to get alignment, and then switch to ASCOM/Poth?)


I also have Stellarium installed, but it does NOT seem to have a button to connect to mount.


How do I connect Stellarium to Poth/PMC-8?


Is CdC preferable to Stellarium?


Thanks!




Mark Lamb
 

Chris,

Thanks!

My tablet/laptop is NOT going to sleep.  I have set the power management to keep the pc awake and display alive for 5 hours after interaction, when on AC power.

I know how to do PoleMaster align, my question was since I have not been able to get XBox controller to interact with the mount, do I have to use ExploreStars to rotate and after PM alignment, then switch to ASCOM?  (I expect that since the Poth buttons seem to work, I can use them, but I really would like the controller to work.)

I have been running Poth/CdC for 5 hours since the Error, and it has worked without any problem.  I also think that was the same error I got in my basement testing with the laptop several days ago, but it only occurred once.

Outside, my tablet has been on the same small table as the PMC-8 box, ~ 1 foot away, with the power supply on the ground.  In my basement testing, the tablet/laptop has been  about 4 ft away from the PMC-8.  Without a controller, the tablet HAS to be close to the mount to make position tweeks (touch screen positioning while observing in an EP is a PITA, but using a Non-touchscreen is even more of a problem).


Mark Lamb
 

Steve,

Thanks!

I have NOT been using StellariumScope.

I like the idea of Stellarium FoV with scope/sensor for composition, but I noticed that it seems that most folks use CdC.  I had NO PROBLEM getting CdC to work, and will keep using CdC as I have too many bugs (mainly my inexperience) to work out.

I have not tried serial cable, though I have bought one, as I want to try to get one thing working at a time.

 


Mark Lamb
 

For the 1st time in a week, we had decent conditions last night, so I setup outside.  I only connected my Win10 tablet using ASCOM wirelessly using POTH, CdC, and ASCOMPAD.  I used XBox controller w/ ASCOMPAD to do the rotations need for PoleMaster, as well as tweeking the GoTo pointing.

Everything worked without any disconnects over the 2+ hours.  As far as connections were concerned, my only complaint was that XBox controller w/ ASCOMPAD does work unless the ASCOMPAD window is visible and the active window.  So tweeking the mount's direction required bringing ASCOMPAD up from the hidden tray before using the controller, but at least it can work though a PITA.  (I have posted my ASCOMPAD issues to the EQMOD group, and my only response so far is that it might be an XBox controller driver issue.)

My entire session had my camera connected instead of EP, and I was trying out the trial version of APT.  APT worked, but I could not get it to platesolve.  Earlier in the day, I installed PlateSolve2 and ASPS and their respective catalogs, but APT could not find the catalogs.  I sure this is user error, as this is the 1st time I have used the software.

So progress is being made, although slowly.
 


Mark Lamb
 

I got good weather for Wed/Thurs and again set up my G11/PMC-8 using wifi, with POTH, CdC, and APT.

On Wed, everything worked without any problems for more than 3 hours.  I was able to get APT to platesolve and I took many 60s/ISO1600 frames of M101 (for experience not for AP output; still unguided).  The downside was that we had high/thin clouds, but it accomplished the learning purpose.  I also took longer unguided exposures, up to 5min, to see how the G11 was working.  From a full frame PoV, the 5 min frame did not seem to show any obvious stars trailing; I guess my PoleMaster alignment was good.  Progress!

The next night, the situation was not a favorable as the PMC-8's wifi issues arose after about 3 hours.  It was a shame as the sky was perfectly clear, and the problem arose as I was starting to shoot M101, and was wanting to try multiple 120s/ISO800 shots.  This was the 1st time I had wifi drops using POTH.

So today I decided to try physical serial hook-up, and it does NOT work at all.

I performed the PUTTY process to convert the PMC-8 to serial, with the last step showing "ESX0!".  (This process seems very "hacky", and the switching from wifi-serial and back needs to be directly integrated into the PMC-8.)

I have connected the PMC-8 to my tablet with a Sabrent CB-FTDI USB/DB9 cable (with FTDI chipset) through a powered USB hub, as my tablet has only 1 USB connection.

When I run POTH and try to Connecting Scope, it does not connect and I get the error:
"Error connecting to telescope."

With the PMC-8 oriented with the lights to the left, the Explore Scientific logo on top, and the mounting groove on the bottom, the monitoring lights are as follows:
Top Left:  Off
Top Middle:   Green Solid
Top Right: Off
Bottom Left: Green Blinking
Bottom Middle Off
Bottom Right  Red Solid

I believe this is the same light indications as when I had wifi disconnects.

By the way, there seems to be confusion as to what is the top vs bottom on the PMC-8 documentation, as my user guide shows the lights on the right, and I believe has have seen other documentation that shows the lights on the left (as I have it).  To me, it is most natural for the bottom to be the grooved side, and therefore lights on the left.

Why doesn't my PMC-8 connect to POTH via serial?

Thanks!





 


W. Christopher Moses
 

I don't have the instructions in front of me, but I would double check that things are really getting switched to serial mode and that you changed the ASCOM driver to use serial mode.

For the first, just issue the "%%%" and "###" instructions from putty to enable and disable the diagnostics mode.  DIagnostics mode is just a bunch of numbers, but it means you are properly connected.  There are pretty detailed instructions in the document titled (something like)  ESAN002.pdf in the sdk.  Are those the instructions you followed?

Also, in the driver, make sure you set it to use serial mode.  It is an option right at the top.  Note - telling the ascom driver to use one vs the other does not switch it.  It simply tells it which mode the PMC-8 is in.  Make sense?

I'm almost certain it is one of those. 



Mark Lamb
 

Chris,

Thanks!

I did NOT go into the driver to change from wifi to serial.

So, I redid the process, and changed the driver to serial, but I get I different error when trying connect POTH:
"Error connecting to telescope.
801131620- ASCOM Utilities
The port 'COM1' does not exist"

Again, my tablet has only 1 USB port, and according to Device Manager it is COM3.

Can this work with only COM3 on my tablet?

How do I fix?


W. Christopher Moses
 

Hi,
Glad you are making progress.
The com port can have any number. It doesn't have to be com1.  In this case, it looks like your machine has randomly decided to use com3.  Just set that in the driver under Serial Port Setup.  Do you know where I'm talking about?  If not, I'll upload a screen shot.


W. Christopher Moses
 

Also, I would make sure you have closed putty


Mark Lamb
 

Chris,

Thanks!

I have been out of the house, going to church immediately after I sent my last reply.

I just got back to my computer, and I changed the PMC-8 driver port to COM3.

I am in my basement, as we are forecasted to be cloudy and/or rainy for the next several days.

After the COM3 change, my tablet is operating my G11/PMC-8 via the serial cable, hopefully the serial connect will not have the erratic communication drops the wifi has.  There is NO REASON that the wifi should problematic as the tablet is just a few feet away and the data transmission rates are minuscule.  When the PMC-8 has dropped wifi in the past, it has been after it has been working for at least an hour, so I am wondering if it has a bad electrical part or too narrow operating envelope, and as something heats up it flakes out.  (Though I would expect the aluminum case is a good heat sink, assuming the heat generating parts are thermally coupled to the case.)

Now hopefully I can find ASCOMPAD to work when it is not the active window; it is working the exact same way on the serial cable as it was with wifi (as expected).  At least the XBox controller works (and a HUGE improvement over using touchscreen/mouse), but having to switch to the ASCOMPAD window everytime is a PITA.

I also will need start trying guiding with PHD2.  My QHY5L-II-Mono cam came more than a week ago, but I have not yet tried it.  Being a newbie, I have too many things to get to work, and I have been to add one thing at a time.  

Is there a way experiment with PHD2 with the guidecam and mount while the mount is inside and no actual stars to track?

At some times I feel that the PMC-8 is still an early stage "beta" or maybe "alpha" product instead of commercial production release.  The process of going from wifi to/from serial seems very kludgy, and almost like an unofficial "hack", akin to processes that allow my Oppo bluray player to rip SACDs.


W. Christopher Moses
 

Hi,

I'm glad you got things workings.

I agree that there is no reason the wifi connection should be having problems.  I've only used it a few times and I never had any problems but I was just tinkering around.  

I also agree that ASCOMPAD is a pain. maybe there is an "Always on top" switch somewhere that I'm not aware of.  I've only started playing with it recently.  Usually, I use the controls on the POTH or slew directly to a target in TheSkyX.

I've been meaning to connect a wireless XBox controller to it, but really just for fun. 

I also, also (lol) agree that the current method of switching between wifi and serial is kind of a hack.  Actually, I just wrote a program to do it automatically, and to send the common commands to the PMC-8.  I'm pretty sure it all works, but I need to spruce-up the interface a bit.  Hopefully, I'll get a chance to do that this weekend. I'll post the executable here and the source on github asap.

I think the entire AP world would rejoice if there was some decent way of simulating tracking.  The only method I've ever seen is very, very convoluted.  In short, no.

The PMC-8 is new.  We all have to decide how much we want to live on the cutting edge.  For most people, I think it will just be a matter of figuring out which configuration, programs, and workflow suite them best.  The nice thing is that the PMC-8 gives us lots of flexibility to customize those.  It also has lots of potential for future development.  Just my opinion.
 
Keep me posted.


Mark Lamb
 

Chris,

Thanks a lot!  One step closer.

I expected that the newness of the system was a risk, but I was hoping that it have been out a year would have worked out almost all of the kinks.  I guess that the low volume of these types of products means they will never be as finished as most things.  It is basic economics, and we want ES to be financially viable!  So, we are basically beta testers providing ES revenue.

With that frustration off my chest, it is great that ES is based in the US (though Chinese owned) and Jerry has been very helpful and responsive.  This forum has also been very helpful.

The open source nature should make the PMC-8 less likely to "strand" the buyer if the manufacturer ends its production.  The "community" could also develop extra functionality that could make the PMC-8 the preferred platform.  I am not however a coder at the basic level, though I have been a high powered developer of models using Excel, MATLAB, and Javelin (20-30 years ago) for higher level solutions.

I do not have worry about the physical mount platform, as the Losmandy G11 is beautifully built and has evolved over the past 20 years.