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The EKOS thread - Including KStars and INDI.


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For those of us not tied into Windows there are other applications that can be used to control your observatory and this thread is dedicated to EKOS which comes with KStars and is on many Linux platforms and Apple Mac. There is even a version for Windows which is also very good.

These three software applications are all open source using the KDE platform and are regularly updated/features added/enhancements added/bugs squashed etc.

 

Underpinning the application is the INDI Library an open source software system used to control astronomical equipment, similar in operation to ASCOM which of course is Windows only. ASCOM is still very good but if you fancy something different like using a Raspberry PI then INDI is the way to go. Astroberry is the flavour of Linux for the Raspberry PI and comes with many astronomy based tools. However if you have an old computer lying around then Debian, Red Hat Linux, OpenSUSE, Mandriva Linux to name but a few can be used. Of course it runs on Apple hardware too so your choices are large.

 

I personally use the Raspberry PI4 to control my observatory equipment and have the sequencing/capture/control of the equipment done utilizing EKOS. The PI has a very small footprint, is light weight, has USB3 and USB2 connectors, uses very little power and houses a powerful quad processor inside. A lot of people use them mounted onto their telescopes as they are so lightweight. Astroberry can be used in headless mode meaning no monitor/keyboard/mouse is needed to control them. It is possible to control it with a tablet, web browser etc. as it can generate its own wifi network for use in the field - literally. Or simply plug it into an Ethernet connection at home and control it from in front of the fire. At the moment the latter is what I do.

 

EKOS is described here but essentially is an observatory automation and control tool.

I know that there are lot of members using this or Stellamate, Apple Macs, etc and thought this would be a good thread to share our experiences, tips and insights.

Windows users of other automation applications please go easy on us ?. This is just an alternative way of capturing the images we all love and have no intention of persuading you otherwise.

 

 

Edited by TerryMcK
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Another user here, superb bit of software but occasionally get minor annoying gremlins that come and go sporadically.

Now using a RPi4 as a server and linked via ethernet cable so I can sit in relative warmth. Download speeds for images over cable it stupid fast compared to wifi connection. My wifi is pants so went for hard wiring.

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@MarkAR Absolutely Mark that is the way I go too. I have structured cabling everywhere at home and ran a couple of Ethernet sockets outside housed in a weatherproof box. Plug a drop cable into that, run it to the PI and get gigabit speeds. 40MB files from the cameras come down in the blink of an eye. 

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For people new to Astroberry you do not have to know anything at all about Linux so no new esoteric commands to remember. I’m sure that Stew can concur that Stellamate is similar too and is essy to use.

Astroberry is a total operating system that can be loaded onto a microSD card using a Windows application called BalenaEtcher. After downloading the image and flashing it to the card you then put the card into the PI and boot up. Instructions on how to flash this are on the astroberry.io website.

Following the initial setup instructions you will soon be able to remote into the operating system from a webbrowser like Chrome and you will then see a graphical interface similar to Windows with everything logically placed on screen and in menus.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Another KStars/Ekos/INDI plus RPi user here.  Been using it for a couple of years now and well pleased.  I have also added my own remote focuser system based on the Astroberry Focuser.  I also control other things such as dew heaters using the Astroberry Board INDI driver suitably modified. The whole setup is very easy to use and very reliable.  I once used Windows and ASCOM - what a delightful breath of fresh air this system is!

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Posted by: @GazAstro

Are you guys using the polar align feature and are you using PHD2 or the inbuilt guiding ?

Cheers

No I don’t use the polar align feature as I have a polemaster. It is possible to get it working on Linux but I actually use Windoze for Polemaster. It is simple and reliable and use an old laptop for that. Once aligned the Windoze PC is disconnected and plays no further part in the rest of the imaging session.

I use PHD2 or EKOS in built guiding. I only recently tried the in built guiding as it now has simultaneous multistar guiding and is extremely good. PHD2 is brilliant but I think it has a worthy competitor with EKOS guiding. No doubt both will get even better so try both out yourself. 

I’m running EKOS on the Raspberry PI4 under Astroberry. 

 

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Managed a quick 40 mins between clouds ! Yaaay, it all works, polar aligned in 5 mins ??plate solved near the pole but failed in the East, probably just tweaks ? Guiding worked but very rough - suspect the thin clouds (and the mediocre performance of my Az-Gti.

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  • 2 months later...

I was out imaging the other night with my Astroberry equipped Raspberry Pi 4 which is excellent. I have been controlling it with a Windows PC, actually a Windows 10 PC virtual machine running under VMWare VSphere. This up to now has been a great way of running KStars/EKos and communicating with INDI server onboard the PI. It has worked flawlessly.

 

However the operating system Microsoft Windows 10 barfed the other night and decided to reboot itself in the middle of a capture run. I examined eventviewer application log and found that I had two errors which had caused the reboot

 

EventID 13

Volume Shadow Copy Service information: The COM Server with CLSID {4e14fba2-2e22-11d1-9964-00c04fbbb345} and name CEventSystem cannot be started. [0x8007045b, A system shutdown is in progress.

 

And  EventID 8193

These are occasional bugs that have been around since Windows 10 was released maybe even longer. I was running 1903 version of Windows 10 at that point.

 

I have since upgraded this PC image to Windows 10 Version 20H2 and hope that the bug has been squashed but who knows.

 

image.png.69e3e2c60953b974242ed36d2706adc7.png

 

In the meantime I thought I may as well just use a Linux virtual machine to control INDI on the PI. So I downloaded a version of Linux called Ubuntu Mate Desktop. I have just installed and configured it.

 

This distribution of Ubuntu is similar to the one that is used on the Astroberry image. That version is version 16 whereas the one I downloaded is the latest version 20.04.2.0 (Download it for free from here)

 

I installed Kstars and xrdp onto the Ubuntu Mate Desktop. I also download ASTAP and its associated V17 star database so I can use the Ubuntu system to do the platesolving. Download that from here

For reference the Ubuntu virtual machine is configured to use 4 CPUs and 8GB RAM from my VSphere system which is a 12CPU Xeon Processor with 64GB RAM so is ultra fast. The VM will be very quick at plate solving with this hardware indeed the Windows PC image uses similar virtual hardware.

I have a gigabit ethernet running to the Raspberry Pi and image transfer back to the virtual machine is brisk to say the least.

 

I am now able to RDP into the Linux Virtual machine (see here on how to do that - no need for VNC) and then fire up Kstars/EKOS and control the PI. No more reliance upon Windoze 10 which is still buggy and can fall over at the drop of a hat. In the UK we have a minimum amount of time to image due to perennial clouds and the last thing you want is a faulty operating system to hinder progress.

 

Here is a picture of the Ubuntu Mate Desktop whilst running KStars/EKOS in simulation mode.

 

image.thumb.png.42d421c3f7fd2f10682200bd400d6746.png

 

I'm going to run this as the sequencing computer next time out. When that is only time will tell.

Edited by TerryMcK
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26 minutes ago, TerryMcK said:

I have since upgraded this PC image to Windows 10 Version 20H2 and hope that the bug has been squashed but who knows.

I have had 20H2 installed on my machine since September last year. According to the event viewer, the logs report no problems with VSS at all. Let's hope it has been fixed, the problem has been around at least 4 years.

 

Brian

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You don’t actually need a computer at all if you get a Raspberry PI and load Astroberry onto it. I only use an external remote computer for convenience and to have captured images indoors on another computer as well as on the PI the instant they are shot.


The Astroberry system can be accessed externally by anything that has a web browser such as a PC, tablet, mobile phone etc. The web browser interface negates the requirement to have a screen, mouse and keyboard attached to the PI although you can do that if you wish. 
Stellarmate is similarly accessed, being based upon a PI, and both systems use EKOS as the observatory control.

 

Everything you need is on Astroberry including plate solving, PHD2 guiding, Firecapture when you want to capture planets or the sun, many different planetarium programs and much more. 
 

I bought a backup PI4 last week with a Flirc case for £56 + £19.

I already had a 128GB memory card and a PI power supply but these are also reasonably cheap.

 

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