Topics

#TECHNICAL #FIRMWARE #iexos-100 #iEXOS-100 #TECHNICAL #FIRMWARE


James Nicholls
 

Hello there,

first time poster, I've recently taken delivery of an iExos-100 mount.

I'm using an old laptop I've resurrected and installed Ubuntu 18.04 Linux onto, and I intend to use this for controlling the mount (via INDI) and for capturing.

I've successfully used telnet to set the mount from WiFi to USB, and it's now taking orders from KStars :)

However, I'd like some advice on how to best update the firmware, as this looks as if it will be tricky under linux. Has anyone done this?

The options that seem to present themselves are
  1. Run the windows .exe for the configurator under Wine. I'm worried that if the wine handling of comms isn't perfect, it could be risky
  2. Work out how to communicate over the serial port to upload the firmware
I have access to both this Linux machine and a modern MacBook Pro, but I am not a windows user.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Wes Mcdonald
 

James

I would give wine a go at the configuration manager.  You can't hurt the PMC8.  If the comms work you are good.

Also you could bootcamp your Mac and run windows to use ascom etc if you wish.  I use my Mac mini and it works great.


Wes

--
Wes, Southport NC
PMC-8, ES ED 127, 10" LX200GPS, Astro-Tech 8" Newt, ETX-90
Polemaster, Orion ST-80 and SAG
Electrical Engineer, Retired


Jerry Hubbell - Explore Scientific VP Engineering
 

On Thu, Jun 18, 2020 at 09:59 AM, James Nicholls wrote:
However, I'd like some advice on how to best update the firmware, as this looks as if it will be tricky under linux. Has anyone done this?

Hi James,

Thanks for your purchase and welcome to the forum!
Unfortunately for LINUX users, the microcontroller firmware update program (compiled) provided by Parallax only runs on Windows. The OpenGOTO Community of PMC-Eight developers (Chris Moses specifically) has created the PMC-Eight Configuration Manager tool to do several things with the PMC-Eight including making it easy to update the firmware. This is also a Windows program since it uses the Parallax firmware update tool.  The only option is to use a local Windows machine for you to update the firmware, or send your mount back to who you purchased it from to get them to program it.

The processor is an open-source processor so the code to load the firmware may be available to port it to the LINUX platform. Here is a link.
https://www.parallax.com/microcontrollers/propeller-1-open-source

Here is a link to the source code for the firmware update program called Propellent.
https://www.parallax.com/downloads/propellent-library-and-executable-source-code

Maybe you can use this to develop a program similar to the Configuration Manager, that would be awesome.

Thanks
--
Jerry Hubbell
Vice President of Engineering

Explore Scientific, LLC.
jrh at explorescientific.com

www.explorescientificusa.com
1010 S. 48th Street
Springdale, AR 72762
1-866-252-3811

Author: Scientific Astrophotography: How Amateurs Can Generate and Use Professional Imaging Data
             Remote Observatories for Amateur Astronomers: Using High-Powered Telescopes From Home


Mark Slade Remote Observatory (MSRO) IAU MPC W54 Equipment
Wilderness, VA
Mounts
: ES PMC-Eight G11 + Telescope Drive Master (TDM)
Scopes: ES 165 FPL-53 ED APO CF, ES 102 FCD100 ED APO CF
Cameras:  QHY174M-GPS + FW, QHY163C
Misc: 3-inch 0.7x Focal Reducer Field Flattener, Filters: Luminance,
Red, V-band Photometric, Diffuser, 200 lpmm Spectral Grating

Software: MaxIm DL 6, Cartes du Ciel, Astrometrica, AstroImageJ, AutoStakkert!


 

This firmware loading problem might be solvable with a bit of experimentation...
 
It always struck me as a bit odd that Parallax had development tools for multiple platforms, but somehow, Propellant.exe was wedded to windows.  Those developers had to be doing something to support not just development, but also firmware loading and testing on the platforms that they favor.
 
This thread reminded me of that, and after a bit of digging around, I found that Parallax has a gcc (GNU C) compiler on their downloads page, and it has extensions for working with the Propeller chip, including a separate firmware loader program!
 
From the manual page (liink below), it appears to be standalone.  You download the version+platform gcc compiler kit, uncompress it, and copy the propeller-load binary from its /bin and run it command-line.  No, I haven't tried it - not set up for that at the moment.
 
On the manual page are links to the download page.  Here's where it gets a little messy... This appears to be all the Parallax gcc releases, so you have to sift through three pages of stuff to find the download of your dreams.  
 
What I do know: I've pulled a few of these down and unpacked them, and the propeller-load binary sizes are different between platforms, so if you try this, you probably want to be careful about getting the platform choice right.
 
What I do not know: Parallax has the "Propeller 2" chip in beta, and I do not know if there would be any compatibility issues between it and our chip, so my going-in would be to suggest starting with a download of the older v0.3.4 version for your platform, which should put you in the "Propeller 1" era that I think we are in.  Then if that works, try moving up to a newer Propeller 1+2 release, if you like.
 
Between the wording in the doc, the relatively static releases, and the cohort using the development tool, I expect that this will work ok, perhaps with a few caveats that might need some doc.
 
It might be better with a wrapper of some kind to pretty propeller-load up a bit, and maybe just include it in the INDI kit somehow, but the first gate to get through would be confirming that it works as-is, so somebody on INDI and a *nix (yes, MacOS is a *nix) needs to take it for a spin. :-))  
 
Hope this helps...
 
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2 290M
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64


James Nicholls
 

Hi folks,

thanks for the warm welcome and the replies!

So, it looks like I got this working.

First, I followed a few dead ends:
- I got both the windows configurator and the parallax windows tools to load under WINE for Linux. However, I couldn't get past the need for USB drivers, so those apps couldn't connect
- I had a good look at the source code for the propellent program. However, it's written in Pascal, and would probably take too much effort to make independent of windows.
- Next I tried a number of serial terminals to verify the connection and the communications with the mount, but there were no clear ways to upload

What I did next was to start looking more generally at options for the firmware for the processor itself. On the parallax site, I came across an old tool called 'BST', and a command line loader called 'BSTL'. There are windows, Mac and Linux versions. The apps are old, i386 builds, but I got them working in Ubuntu. The link from the old website supporting them is out of date, but hunting around the website you can find a link to an updated build.

BSTL has done the trick, I think. I've uploaded the latest firmware and it's reporting that updated firmware over the serial link. KStars is connecting via INDI. I looks like clear skies tonight, so hopefully I'll get to give the mount it's first try-out tonight!

Another route I didn't investigate that also showed some promise is a C++ Library called PropellerManager. That looks like it could be easily integrated with some cross-platform apps as a general communication tool. It also looks like Parallax have a wifi updater as well.

If it's useful, I'll do a summary of the steps I've taken to get the mount up and running under linux. It's not actually that hard when you know what to do, it's just finding the right combination of software and configurations that takes some research.

--
Bresser 130/650 Newtonian Reflector
iExos-100 Mount
QHY 5II-C CCD
Controlled via Ubuntu 18.04 running on an old MacBook Pro


Jerry Hubbell - Explore Scientific VP Engineering
 

On Fri, Jun 19, 2020 at 01:27 PM, James Nicholls wrote:
If it's useful, I'll do a summary of the steps I've taken to get the mount up and running under linux.

Hi James,

Thanks for all your hard work in looking at this. This has been a great contribution to the community. If you don't mind, I would like you to post your findings and any documentation you care to create in the DEV subgroup and also maybe submit any procedures or other documentation about doing this work in the Wiki Submission subgroup also.

Thanks again for your work. I am currently busy on other things, but I will try and review and comment on anything you care to share.

Clear Skies!
 
--
Jerry Hubbell
Vice President of Engineering

Explore Scientific, LLC.
jrh at explorescientific.com

www.explorescientificusa.com
1010 S. 48th Street
Springdale, AR 72762
1-866-252-3811

Author: Scientific Astrophotography: How Amateurs Can Generate and Use Professional Imaging Data
             Remote Observatories for Amateur Astronomers: Using High-Powered Telescopes From Home


Mark Slade Remote Observatory (MSRO) IAU MPC W54 Equipment
Wilderness, VA
Mounts
: ES PMC-Eight G11 + Telescope Drive Master (TDM)
Scopes: ES 165 FPL-53 ED APO CF, ES 102 FCD100 ED APO CF
Cameras:  QHY174M-GPS + FW, QHY163C
Misc: 3-inch 0.7x Focal Reducer Field Flattener, Filters: Luminance,
Red, V-band Photometric, Diffuser, 200 lpmm Spectral Grating

Software: MaxIm DL 6, Cartes du Ciel, Astrometrica, AstroImageJ, AutoStakkert!