Sunday, September 12, 2010

Astro Setup

Over the past few years it has become the case that updating your laptop implies moving to Windows 7, but for may amateur astronomers our software is limited to run under Windows XP.

This post describes my solution to this problem. At each turn I have outlined hardware and software versions with links to sources where available. Perhaps this may be useful to others who may be looking for a working solution.

Synopsis

Windows 7 Professional can create and run Windows XP Virtual PC, this XP PC can have XP based software and drivers installed and will run your astronomy applications as well. It is important, or at least I decided it was, to have all needed applications available in the XP PC because this will limit switching back and forth between the Virtual XP PC and the host Windows 7 PC in the field, where is can be important to keep things simple.

The sketch below shows the components of my hardware and software setup.


Windows 7 Professional is installed with Virtual PC support enabled. The XP Virtual PC runs as a self contained environment form which all astrophotography can be made. This consists of NexGPS from Celestron to run the hand held GPS receiver via a USB to serial converter. SkyTools 3 is used as a planning and logging tool for all observations. SkyTools interfaces to the mount through the Celestron ASCOM driver and base ASCOM software. Again, a USB to serial converter is used to communicate with the mount on a hardware level. Push Here Dummy (PHD) auto guiding application is used and this application communicates to the mount for guiding updates through the Celestron ASCOM driver and the Meade deep sky imager for guide image acquisition. Nebulosity2 from Stark Labs is used to gather images form the QHY8 CCD through its installed divers. Nebulosity can also be used to gather images from the Meade DSI and or the Canon 50D camera if needed.


Windows 7.



Windows 7 Professional was purchased and installed and used to replace the Windows Vista that was pre installed on my HP pavilion dv7 laptop. This was a bit painful, due to the cost, and I was a bit unsure of the entire path as it was a road not taken, at least for me. There is a step involved to activate the PC virtualization facilities, the details I do not recall.

I updated the memory in the laptop to 8GBytes because when the Virtual PC runs it requires its own share of memory. You need to keep in mind that you are running two Operating systems at the same time and and I found that the host Windows 7 PC and Virtual XP PCs were consuming nearly the 4GBytes that were previously installed. Handling images can be memory intense and I believe this was a good step.

The Virtual XP PC will look something like this when it it running. Maximizing the XP PC's window causes it to take over all the screen area and at this point it will look and drive like you have your good-ol XP PC back.


Astrophotography Hardware/Drivers/Software


GPS to Serial converters to NexGPS

Prolific USB to Serial Converter
* Serial Converter driver software
* Driver link: (CD provided)
* Install File:
* Installed Version: Prolific, 7/25/2005, 2.0.2.1, Signed

NexGPS
* Serial Converter driver software
* Driver link: http://www.celestron.com/c3/downloads.php
* Install File: NexRemoteInstall_1_7_15.exe
* Installed Version: 1.5.0


Celestron Mount to Serial Converter to SkyTools

Prolific USB to Serial Converter
* Serial Converter driver software
* Driver link: (CD provided)
* Install File:
* Installed Version: Prolific, 7/25/2005, 2.0.2.1, Signed

ASCOM Base
* ASCOM Base suite
* Driver link: http://ascom-standards.org/index.htm
* Install File: ASCOMPlatform5b.msi
* Installed Version: 5.0

ASCOM Base Update
* ASCOM Base suite update
* Driver link: http://ascom-standards.org/Downloads/PlatformUpdates.htm
* Install File: ASCOMPlatform5.5.1Update.exe
* Installed Version: 5.5.1

Celestron ASCOM Driver
* Installs a driver for all computerized Celestron telescopes
* Driver link: http://ascom-standards.org/Downloads/ScopeDrivers.htm
* Install File: Celestron(5.0.20)Setup.exe
* Installed Version: 5.0.20

SkyTools Pro 3
* Complete set of software tools for observation planning, charting, and logging
* Licenced software, link: http://www.skyhound.com/
* Install File: on shipped CD
* Installed Version: 3.1d


QHY8 to Nebulosity2

QHY Drivers
* QHY8 64/32bit winUSB Driver
* Driver link: http://www.qhyccd.com/download.html
* Install File: QHY8Drv.zip
* Installed Version: 2.0

Nebulosity
* Capture and processing application for a wide range of astronomy CCD cameras.
* Licenced Program Link: http://www.stark-labs.com/nebulosity.html
* Install File: setup_Nebulosity2.exe
* Installed Version: 2.3.0


Meade DSI to PHD Auto Guiding

DSI Drivers
* Meade DSI Driver
* Driver link: http://www.meade.com/support/downloads.html
* Install File: Envisage_v7.05.exe
* Installed Version: 2.0

Push Here Dummy Auto Guiding
* simple, yet provide powerful, intelligent auto-guiding.
* Licenced Progam Link: http://www.stark-labs.com/phdguiding.html
* Install File: Setup_PHDGuiding.zip
* Installed Version: 1.12.0


Software Compatibilty Matrix

USB Serial Conversion:= Windows 7
NexGPS
:= Windows 32 and 64 bit claimed
NexRemote:= Windows 32 and 64 bit claimed
ASCOM (Base):= Windows 7 support is not clear
ASCOM Celestron:= Windows 7 support is not clear
Starry Night Pro:= Windows 7 support is claimed
SkyTools:= Windows 7 support is claimed
Nebulosity:= Native Windows 7 support is not clear.
PHD Autoguiding:= Native Windows 7 support is not clear.
Meade DSI Driver:= Windows 7 with Envision 7.09 at http://www.meade.com/support/downloads.html
QHY Driver:= Windows 7 support is claimed

Perhaps at this time it may be worth trying windoes 7 native...


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