Anyone use SGP / TSX / PHS2 on a PC stick?


#1

I’m working on a portable system, using an EOS and a portable mount, SGP, PHD2 and TSX. I know a NUC can handle that all with ease but I was wondering about these PC sticks. In the past I had issues with Netbook PCs and their ability to download clean images from a CCD without banding. Things have moved on a little since and I wonder has anyone used one of these for acquisition?


#2

Buzz,

That combo works fine on my crappy atom PC, same hardware as a windows stick, the only difference is that my pc has a builtin battery. 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 2 USB2 ports.

The only caveat is that you need to add a HDMI screenless dongle so the system will keep awake and use full hardware acceleration when you use remote desktop. I use teamviewer.

I am using connectify (www.connectify.me) to access my headless PC. This software set the wifi card in AP and Client mode at the same time, it is very useful cause while I am at home I can access the box though my home router, while in the field I can access the box directly in AP mode. The nice thing is that once configured you dont need to change anything, just boot the PC and you can always access it regardless if you have internet access.

Before I had an extra wifi card in my system, one was set as AP and the other as client, but I can achieve the same with connectify and the builtin wifi interface.

Cheers,

Jose


#3

I tested my setup with an atik 460EX and SBIG STF8300

Cheers,

Jose


#4

Looks like you can even get Compute Sticks with an M5 processor these days (for about the price of a NUC…) And you can get a full size tower with a real i5 Skylake in it for the same price as well.

Wonder why you were getting banding? Seems all that data should be cached in the camera. USB is ECC so data out should equal data in! Maybe cheap shielding internal to the device causing random noise?

Jared


#5

Jared - it was in the days before I used SGP. I was using MDL and a Netbook with a Starlight H18 CCD. The computer apparently used its micro resources to manage the USB (rather than have fancy I/O chips) and a download would be interrupted randomly - causing broad bands across the image (seen after stretching). Switching to a notebook, using the same software fixed the issue instantly.


#6

@jmtanous - thanks for that information, I have my NUC setup to dynamically reconfigure itself depending upon if it detects my home network but this stuff is a bit new to me. What do you mean by AP? Adhoc?

edit - Access Point - just worked it out!


#7

i am using the 4-core atom based stick ($150 with 32b W10 home installed.) slightly slow, but has worked flawlessly for almost a month… for the first time last night SGP crashed which led to a pier crash, but that was my fault.

for now i have the stick on the leg of my tripod where my 1st stage USB hub used to be, but i have a 12V-5V converter with powerpole connectors ready to go - this thing can very easily ride on the OTA itself.

you need to do a little bit of work to get RDP going as it’s not natively enabled on W10 home. teamviewer and vncserver won’t work out of the box because without a monitor, W10 does not create a framebuffer. but you can buy a “null monitor” HDMI connector to solve that problem if you don’t want to go down the RDP route.

rob


#8

There’s a thread on cloudy nights about using the Intel Compute Stick. I use it all the time with SGP works great.


#9

thanks for that - it was very informative. Certainly worth a play for an ultra portable rig.


#10

I use an InFocus Kangaroo PC for my portable setup. It connects directly to my iPad which I use as a screen/input device. Nice add-in feature in the latest software allows me to connect directly from my iPad to the internal wireless eliminating the need for a cable. Main knock against it is that it doesn’t have an internal fan so is somewhat prone to overheating if used in warm climes.

I’ve used it to run two instances of SGP (to control 2 DSLRs) plus a ZWO ASI178MM for autoguiding.
…Keith


#11

Well I ordered an M3 stick for the hell of it, plus a 128GB micro SD card. I ordered one without an OS as I have a spare 64-bit Win 10 pro disk.

@jmtanous -I have a couple of clarifications:

*With connectify - am I correct in assuming that the application tries to join your home wifi network and if it does not find it, creates an adhoc network? Can you set them both with fixed IP addresses? That would make Microsoft Remote Desktop connection much easier.

  • In regard to the dongle - it seems a few posts suggest that you don’t need one if you are using MRD.

@pfile The power is fed into the M3 stick with a USB cable. I’m also assuming I can find a way of connecting this to a different DC power supply. I don’t like the idea of mains out in a damp field. Did you take apart an old charging power supply cable and rig it to a DC to DC converter?

I have a couple of outreach events at local schools and this system will be great. (As long as it does not get stolen :cry:)


#12

@buzz - i found a 12V-5V DC-DC converter on amazon that has an integrated microUSB cable. there seem to be a lot of these types of things which are for car applications. at first i was thinking i’d buy one of those car cigarette lighter 5V USB power things but this required less fiddling. so far i have not used it though, since i have AC power available.


#13

Even better connectify always setup your NIC as AP and client mode regardless if it can connect or not to your home router. You need to setup connectify this way cause it is not the default behavior. So you can always connect to your haedless box directly accessing it as AP. If the headless box is connected to the internet it will provide internet access to the connected clients, you can also connect to the headless box using its connection to your home router (or from the internet teamviewer)

You can set an static IP address to the AP interface, so you always know how to access the box. When I am at home I access my headless box via my regular router cause my observatory is in my backyard and the signal of the headless box is weak. However when I am in the observatory I connect to the box directly using it as AP, then the box will route me to the internet. In the field I connect to the box in the same way however since there is no internet I can only use teamviewer with the fix IP address of the AP interface.

It is like having 2 nics, one set up as AP and the other as client.

Regarding the headless hdmi dongle, well I had some issues with power management, for instance the PC suddenly went to sleep for no apparent reason despite the fact that I tuned off all the battery save options and explicitly set it to always be on. But I must admit that I never tried RDP, probably RDP will keep the box awake. As soon as I added the HDMI dongle all the power management issues went away. Probably a bios issue, go figure.

Cheers,

Jose


#14

thanks for that folks - Connectify have a 75% discount at the moment and I bought a license for 3 computers for £15.


#15

Just come a bit unstuck - the M3 stick has a unique power connector. It is not standard micro or mini USB but is symmetrical. I wonder if there is a 12Volt adaptor available for it.


#16

hmm - this must be different from the atom stick? perhaps they feel that no USB adapter can supply enough current to run the M3 stick so they purposefully used a different connector.


#17

pfile - I just worked it out - it is a USB-C connector - I haven’t come across one of those before. Should be able to get a fleabay adaptor which I can then attach to a decent 12-5V power module.
SGP works great.


#18

My phone is USB-C, so now that’s another cable I have to have roaming around. Thankfully my laptop also has USB-C/Thunderbolt3. It’s actually a pretty sweet port, gobs of bandwidth. For instance on a single USB-C port my laptop supports:

  • 2 1920x1080 monitors
  • USB3 camera
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Sound

Oh, and that same port also powers the laptop! So just a single cable to go from laptop to desktop. It’s pretty nice, when it works :-/

Jared


#19

ah, ok. that makes sense. wave of the future and all :smile:


#20

Anyway found a Macbook USB-C charge cable for £5 which may work for battery operation- for this portable setup I have loaded most of my normal apps with the exception of Maxim / TSX but am additionally reviewing some lighter apps for use with EOS.

Using Win10 Pro - SGP - PHD2, with Nebulosity, C2A, PinPoint, APT, PoleMaster, CCDTools and Connectify and ASCOM loaded - take up 20GB.

Thanks for the tip on Connectify BTW. It is really useful. I also didn’t realise the distinction between Adhoc and AP. Adhoc WiFi uses slower rate than access points. It makes remote operation less sluggish. I shall use it on the NUC too.

Using Windows Remote Desktop - it seems to work fine without a dongle. I was powered for four hours and nothing seems to have hibernated. (I haven’t hooked it up to the mount yet though)


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