Topics

ES macOS Apps? #ExploreStars

Patryk Gutaker
 

Hi,

do you plan to introduce macOS versions of ExploreStars and Firmware update utility?
I use Mac's only, at home and in the office as well, and don't want to mess up my systems with VMHosts/BootCamp and/or Windows stuff.

All the best,
Patryk

Jerry Hubbell - Explore Scientific VP Engineering
 
Edited

On Mon, Sep 9, 2019 at 11:57 AM, Patryk Gutaker wrote:
do you plan to introduce macOS versions of ExploreStars and Firmware update utility?
Hi Patryk,

If you are planning on doing astrophotography with you PMC-Eight using MacOS, then I would not suggest you use ExploreStars as a better solution is to switch the PMC-Eight system to the wired USB connection and use the INDI Server for MacOS with the PMC-Eight INDI driver that is available for it. This is basically the same as using the PMC-Eight ASCOM driver on the Microsoft Windows platform. Then you can use your desired third party apps that support INDI.

Unfortunately, I don't see us creating a version of ExploreStars for MacOS. As far as a firmware utility, currently the code that does the update is Windows only but I think the source code is available for the propellent.exe program and would need to be ported to MacOS. We do no have a development platform for MacOS, but someone on the forum may be fluent in MacOS software development.

For Apple systems, an iPad running iOS running ExploreStars is your best choice. ExploreStars is wireless only on all three platforms, Windows, Android, and iOS.
 
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!

Steve Siedentop
 

Hi Patryk -

As far as the Firmware Update utility is concerned, with the exception of the Propeller component to push the update to the chipset on the PMC Eight controller itself, it should be doable.  The Firmware Update Utility is a front-end for the documented commands that we used to have to type manually through a terminal session.  It's not doing anything magic behind the scenes that you can't do yourself...it just makes the process easier and less error prone.

I haven't tried to open Chris Moses' solution in Visual Studio for Mac, but I'll download it from GitHub and give that a try some time this week.  I imagine there will be a few rabbit holes to go down, but most of the functionality should lend itself to other platforms.

I don't know enough about the updater for the Propeller chipset on the PMC Eight to know if running it on a Mac is even an option.

That being said, I'm running BootCamp on my MacBook Pro and don't have any issues.  I did have issues when running Windows in a VM with VMWare Fusion.  BootCamp creates a separate partition so there's no overlap with the MacOS.  The only difference you'll see is that you have to hold down the option key if you want to log in to one OS versus the other.

Regarding Explore Stars, I believe work was being done to refactor it as a UWP application so it can be easily compiled for multiple platforms.  Not sure where the development team is with this.  Once that work is done, a Mac version may be an option.  The real question is how much value would a Mac version of the application give and how many people out there will use a Mac version over an iPad version.  From a business perspective, because doing this isn't free and because there are a lot more tablet users of the application, I'm thinking the best allocation of resources would be for the iPad or iPhone/Android version rather than a Mac or even a Windows version.

-Steve


On Mon, Sep 9, 2019 at 11:57 AM Patryk Gutaker <patryk@...> wrote:
Hi,

do you plan to introduce macOS versions of ExploreStars and Firmware update utility?
I use Mac's only, at home and in the office as well, and don't want to mess up my systems with VMHosts/BootCamp and/or Windows stuff.

All the best,
Patryk


--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 G11, Skywatcher NEQ-6, Celestron AVX
Scopes: ES ED127CF FCD100, Celestron C6, Stellarvue SV80ED, Coronado Solarmax 40
Cameras:  CentralDS CDS-600, Canon T3i, Orion Starshoot SSAG
Msc: Moonlite Focusers, Astrozap Dew Straps, Pegasus Ultimate PowerBox
Software: PixInsight, Cartes du Ciel, BackyardEOS, Stellarmate/INDI/K-Stars/EKOS, Astro IIDC, SkySafari

Jerry Hubbell - Explore Scientific VP Engineering
 

On Mon, Sep 9, 2019 at 02:06 PM, Steve Siedentop wrote:
I don't know enough about the updater for the Propeller chipset on the PMC Eight to know if running it on a Mac is even an option.
Here is the source code for propellent.exe
https://www.parallax.com/downloads/propellent-library-and-executable-source-code
 
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!

Patryk Gutaker
 

Hi Jerry and Steve!

Thanks for replies and sorry for a daleyed reply. I don't own iEXOS-100 yet. As for now, I'm gathering info to make the right decision (iEXOS-100 or EXOS-2GT /wo PMC) when the right time will come.

If you are planning on doing astrophotography with you PMC-Eight using MacOS, then I would not suggest you use ExploreStars as a better solution is to switch the PMC-Eight system to the wired USB connection and use the INDI Server for MacOS with the PMC-Eight INDI driver that is available for it. This is basically the same as using the PMC-Eight ASCOM driver on the Microsoft Windows platform. Then you can use your desired third party apps that support INDI.
Jerry, I already use INDI on RaspberryPi wirelessly connected to my home network together with SynScan on EQ3-2 and it works fine. Switching from wireless mode to wired serial mode bothers me the most with iEXOS-100. The case would be to do i.e. 3-star alignment using ExploreStars on iPad and then switch to wired serial mode to let INDI drivers do the rest, like pointing to a DSO and then capturing images, right?

The real question is how much value would a Mac version of the application give and how many people out there will use a Mac version over an iPad version.  From a business perspective, because doing this isn't free and because there are a lot more tablet users of the application, I'm thinking the best allocation of resources would be for the iPad or iPhone/Android version rather than a Mac or even a Windows version.
You're absolutely right Steve and I fully understand your point as I'm a iOS/macOS Senior Software Engineer.

I haven't tried to open Chris Moses' solution in Visual Studio for Mac, but I'll download it from GitHub and give that a try some time this week.  I imagine there will be a few rabbit holes to go down, but most of the functionality should lend itself to other platforms.
I'm gonna do the same as You and look around what's going on inside his code.

Here is the source code for propellent.exe
https://www.parallax.com/downloads/propellent-library-and-executable-source-code
Jerry, I just did a quick look at the link You've mentioned and the code is 6yo, written in Delphi/Object Pascal. Althou I did some work in Delphi back in 1998, I think it would be real pain in the ... tryin' to use it on macOS, so it's a no-go unless someone will take the time to rewrite it in todays common languages.

Could you be so kind and confirm the use-case regarding mount workflow with INDI, I've mentioned above?

Thanks for your support!
Clear skies!
Patryk

Jerry Hubbell - Explore Scientific VP Engineering
 
Edited

On Thu, Sep 12, 2019 at 04:09 PM, Patryk Gutaker wrote:
Jerry, I already use INDI on RaspberryPi wirelessly connected to my home network together with SynScan on EQ3-2 and it works fine. Switching from wireless mode to wired serial mode bothers me the most with iEXOS-100. The case would be to do i.e. 3-star alignment using ExploreStars on iPad and then switch to wired serial mode to let INDI drivers do the rest, like pointing to a DSO and then capturing images, right?
Hi Patryk,
Your usage is not quite right because the ASCOM standards and the INDI drivers I believe assume and require a physical polar alignment. There are no alignment functions built into the drivers at all. You cannot perform a "virtual" 2 or 3-star alignment in ExploreStars and then switch over to the ASCOM or INDI driver and expect the alignment data to be there. This data is not stored on the mount controller.

The design philosophy of the PMC-Eight system is totally different than the legacy hand-paddle mount controllers that all the other manufacturers provide. The PMC-Eight hardware only provides the precision motor system control required for the mount. All the astronomy specific functions including a "virtual" polar alignment function is abstracted out of the hardware controller. The ExploreStars application is the astronomical mount control system. Basically you can consider that we split the traditional hand-paddle controller into 2 pieces where all the astronomy calculations are done at the software layer in the application. 

I would refer you to the PMC-Eight Programmer's Reference for more details on the design philosophy for the PMC-Eight system and also a presentation I did a year ago on the design.

Programmer's Reference
https://02d3287.netsolhost.com/pmc-eight/PMC_Eight_ProgrammersReferenceManual_Release2_2019_March_07.pdf

PMC-Eight design presentation
https://explorescientificusa.com/pages/pmc-eight-vision-technology

Thanks for your interest
 
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!

Patryk Gutaker
 

Hi Jerry,

Your usage is not quite right because the ASCOM standards and the INDI drivers I believe assume and require a physical polar alignment. There are no alignment functions built into the drivers at all. You cannot perform a "virtual" 2 or 3-star alignment in ExploreStars and then switch over to the ASCOM or INDI driver and expect the alignment data to be there. This data is not stored on the mount controller. 
Yeah, I already know that. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. What I meant is: now I do physical polar alignement, then after powering up the SynScan, I do 3-star alignement outdoors with hand-controller and after that I head to my house, connect Kstars/Ekos to the setup and control everything from my warm room at home (slewing/shooting).

After a brief read thru Programmer's Reference the workflow for iEXOS-100 seems to be similar with one additional step in-between: I should do physical polar alignement, then do 3-star alignement with ExploreStars, switch to wired serial mode and then head home to connect KStars/EKOS.

In order to not bother you, as you, as a VP have more important issues to deal with, I'll start another thread and see what owners have to say in this matter.

Thanks for your time to help me understand!
Patryk

James Ball
 

The 2 or 3 star alignment information is held in the ExploreStars app so once you disconnect that and connect to either wireless or wired INDI that alignment information will be lost.  Only if you use a program that will do the same alignment will you be able to tweak the alignment in software instead of using something like a Polemaster or Sharpcap to make the physical alignment more accurate.
--
James Ball
Dawson Springs, Ky
Mounts: iEXOS-100
Scopes: Meade ETX90RA(deforked now) Sky Watcher 150MCT
Camera: ZWO ASI 120MC-S
Software: Explore Stars Android, ASCOM, Stellarium Scope, Stellarium, AS!3, SharpCap, RegiStax6.

 

Patryk,
 
Pulling up to 50,000 ft may help...
 
Explorestars and wireless for visual and *maybe* some unguided AP with a DSLR+lens and intervalometer, as long as you're doing short exposures and very short focal length. 
 
*OR*
 
ASCOM or INDI and a wired connection to a computer (probably via a powered hub), for guided Astrophotography, and some visual if you like.  Lots of different mount and camera control programs once you're in this world.  And yes, you might connect with wireless, but network latency and/or dropouts will frustrate you when you guide, whereas wired just works. Close timing and a fast connection is required. 
 
Don't try to blend Explorestars and ASCOM/INDI, they are mutually exclusive. 
 
Here's a typical workflow for me on an EXOS2 PMC8 and ASCOM - no doubt you'll have parallels in INDI.  I'll need to figure INDI out one day, when Win7 gives up the ghost on me. :-)
 
1.  Mount setup and initial balance.
2.  Connect mount, cameras, etc, to laptop via hub.
3.  Start BackYard Nikon, connect camera, check initial focus
4.  ASCOM POTH has the mount connected, but parked.
5.  Start sharpcap for polar alignment.
6.  Polar alignment with sharpcap
7.  Disconnect sharpcap, unpark mount.
8.  Start Cartes du Ciel, connect telescope
9.  w/CdC, Slew to southern target for PHD2 calibration
10. Start PHD2, perform calibration, stop guiding
11. w/CdC, Slew to imaging target  
12. Center on target and sync with astrotortilla (plate solver, uses DSLR)
13. Begin guiding, with PHD2
14. Begin imaging with BYN and DSLR after confirming focus on target.
15. Retire to house and monitor scope laptop from indoors with TightVNC 
 
You mentioned earlier that you were deciding between the iEXOS-100 and the non-PMC8 EXOS2, w/handset.  I'd encourage you to decide between the iEXOS-100 and the PMC8 version of the EXOS2, and pass on the non-version. Not being parochial, just looking at what I know the PMC8 version can do.  

FWIW...

- Bob
 
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2-IMX224C
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64

Dan Kahraman
 



On Fri, 13 Sep 2019 at 20:30, Robert Hoskin <devonshire@...> wrote:
Patryk,
 
Pulling up to 50,000 ft may help...
 
Explorestars and wireless for visual and *maybe* some unguided AP with a DSLR+lens and intervalometer, as long as you're doing short exposures and very short focal length. 
 
*OR*
 
ASCOM or INDI and a wired connection to a computer (probably via a powered hub), for guided Astrophotography, and some visual if you like.  Lots of different mount and camera control programs once you're in this world.  And yes, you might connect with wireless, but network latency and/or dropouts will frustrate you when you guide, whereas wired just works. Close timing and a fast connection is required. 
 
Don't try to blend Explorestars and ASCOM/INDI, they are mutually exclusive. 
 
Here's a typical workflow for me on an EXOS2 PMC8 and ASCOM - no doubt you'll have parallels in INDI.  I'll need to figure INDI out one day, when Win7 gives up the ghost on me. :-)
 
1.  Mount setup and initial balance.
2.  Connect mount, cameras, etc, to laptop via hub.
3.  Start BackYard Nikon, connect camera, check initial focus
4.  ASCOM POTH has the mount connected, but parked.
5.  Start sharpcap for polar alignment.
6.  Polar alignment with sharpcap
7.  Disconnect sharpcap, unpark mount.
8.  Start Cartes du Ciel, connect telescope
9.  w/CdC, Slew to southern target for PHD2 calibration
10. Start PHD2, perform calibration, stop guiding
11. w/CdC, Slew to imaging target  
12. Center on target and sync with astrotortilla (plate solver, uses DSLR)
13. Begin guiding, with PHD2
14. Begin imaging with BYN and DSLR after confirming focus on target.
15. Retire to house and monitor scope laptop from indoors with TightVNC 
 
You mentioned earlier that you were deciding between the iEXOS-100 and the non-PMC8 EXOS2, w/handset.  I'd encourage you to decide between the iEXOS-100 and the PMC8 version of the EXOS2, and pass on the non-version. Not being parochial, just looking at what I know the PMC8 version can do.  

FWIW...

- Bob
 
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2-IMX224C
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64

Dan Kahraman
 

Hi Robert:

Prior to PMC-8-E5 I would watch my laptop outside with Anydesk but I relied on an Internet (wireless) signal between the two computers.
How are you accomplishing this with TightVNC? If you are connected in PMC-8 you disable your wireless Internet connection...

Dan

On Fri, 13 Sep 2019 at 20:30, Robert Hoskin <devonshire@...> wrote:
Patryk,
 
Pulling up to 50,000 ft may help...
 
Explorestars and wireless for visual and *maybe* some unguided AP with a DSLR+lens and intervalometer, as long as you're doing short exposures and very short focal length. 
 
*OR*
 
ASCOM or INDI and a wired connection to a computer (probably via a powered hub), for guided Astrophotography, and some visual if you like.  Lots of different mount and camera control programs once you're in this world.  And yes, you might connect with wireless, but network latency and/or dropouts will frustrate you when you guide, whereas wired just works. Close timing and a fast connection is required. 
 
Don't try to blend Explorestars and ASCOM/INDI, they are mutually exclusive. 
 
Here's a typical workflow for me on an EXOS2 PMC8 and ASCOM - no doubt you'll have parallels in INDI.  I'll need to figure INDI out one day, when Win7 gives up the ghost on me. :-)
 
1.  Mount setup and initial balance.
2.  Connect mount, cameras, etc, to laptop via hub.
3.  Start BackYard Nikon, connect camera, check initial focus
4.  ASCOM POTH has the mount connected, but parked.
5.  Start sharpcap for polar alignment.
6.  Polar alignment with sharpcap
7.  Disconnect sharpcap, unpark mount.
8.  Start Cartes du Ciel, connect telescope
9.  w/CdC, Slew to southern target for PHD2 calibration
10. Start PHD2, perform calibration, stop guiding
11. w/CdC, Slew to imaging target  
12. Center on target and sync with astrotortilla (plate solver, uses DSLR)
13. Begin guiding, with PHD2
14. Begin imaging with BYN and DSLR after confirming focus on target.
15. Retire to house and monitor scope laptop from indoors with TightVNC 
 
You mentioned earlier that you were deciding between the iEXOS-100 and the non-PMC8 EXOS2, w/handset.  I'd encourage you to decide between the iEXOS-100 and the PMC8 version of the EXOS2, and pass on the non-version. Not being parochial, just looking at what I know the PMC8 version can do.  

FWIW...

- Bob
 
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2-IMX224C
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64

 

Dan,
 
No, I never use the PMC8's wireless, it's always via wired.
 
Indoor laptop w/TightVNC ->house wifi-> Scope laptop w/TightVNC-> ASCOM, etc. -> USB HUB -> PMC8, etc.
 
- Bob
 
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2-IMX224C
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64

Dan Kahraman
 

Hi Robert:

I am new at this. Connecting to the PMC8  disables my Internet connection. I will figure it out.

Dan

On Fri, 13 Sep 2019 at 22:09, Robert Hoskin <devonshire@...> wrote:
Dan,
 
No, I never use the PMC8's wireless, it's always via wired.
 
Indoor laptop w/TightVNC ->house wifi-> Scope laptop w/TightVNC-> ASCOM, etc. -> USB HUB -> PMC8, etc.
 
- Bob
 
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2-IMX224C
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64

 

Dan,

No worries.  You can open a separate thread on that and get some troubleshooting help for it.  

--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2-IMX224C
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64

Patryk Gutaker
 

Hi Robert,

thanks for sharing your workflow!

According to your workflow, the mount, when in wired-serial mode, doesn't need to be "aligned" like the EQ3-2 SynScan. It's like SynScan PC-Direct mode with EQDirect.
Now, when all the puzzles are in the right place, I'm thinking of buying iEXOS-100 and putting it into the wired-serial mode forever.
I need a lightweight mount because of my spine injury and the location where I live in. Althou I have a small house based in suburbs of Warsaw, I need to take out the gear everytime I want to do some astrophotography and after it's finished I need to collect all the things and hide'em home because there are some guys wandering around at night stealing things...
The only question remains is: will the iEXOS-100 will give a significant improvement over my EQ3-2 SynScan GoTo excepting the weight and portability.

All the best,
Patryk

 

Patryk,
 
You're most welcome - glad it helped!
 
- Bob
--
Mounts: ES PMC-8 EXOS2
Scopes: SV 102EDT, ZWO 60/280 Guide
Cameras:  Nikon D5300, Altair GPCAM2-IMX224C
Software: ASCOM, CdC, AstroTortilla, BYN Pro, Sharpcap, PHD2
Computer:  Thinkpad x230, Win7Pro/64