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  1. #31

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    [QUOTE=Bob Denny;84770]Ahhhh thank you William. The advice you refer to is valid 100% of the time. I should have steered Roger in that direction to avoid confusing him vs the documentation. However, doing that makes FocueMax dependent on ACP running. However, I happen to know that the Astro Physics ASCOM driver is an executable type, a "local server", and itself may act as a hub. Or said another way multiple clients (ACP and FocusMax in this case) may simultaneously connect to the AP. This makes the ACP Hub unnecessary. If the telescope driver is instead a DLL in process type (and many were back in the day when the help was written) then a hub is needed since only one client may use the driver at a time. If multiple clients try to use the DLL driver simultaneously then the two instances of the driver will clash trying to grab the COM port.

    Roger either way will work, but it is simpler with the Astro Physics to just select it directly from FocusMax. The extra benefit of going direct is that you can use FocusMax separately without ACP being in the picture.[/QUOTE

    DEAR BOB AND DEAR WILLIAM,
    HERE IS THE AMAZING REPONSE THAT I RECIEVED FROM STEVE BRADY AT FOCUSMAX.
    WELL, IT IS CERTAINLY "AMAZING" TO ME AND I WOULD NEVER HAVE THOUGHT THAT THE CONNECTIONS WOULD WORK IN THIS WAY.
    TO ME, THE LAST LINE IS EVEN MORE AMAZING: I do not need to connect the focuser in MaxIm as all commands from ACP to move the focuser are from ACP to FMx.
    I do not connect the telescope or focuser in MaxIm, MaxIm is only used to control the camera.

    ROGER
    HERE IT IS FROM STEVE BRADY:
    I have used FMx with MaxIm, TheSky, ACP/ACPS, Optic for years with my Paramount ME. Here are my connections:

    1) ACP ==> MaxIm (for camera control)
    2) FMx ==> MaxIm (for camera control)
    3) TheSkyX ==> telescope driver (Paramount)
    4) FMx ==> ASCOM Telescope Driver for TheSkyX
    5) ACP ==> ASCOM Telescope Driver for TheSkyX
    5) FMx ==> Optec focuser I do not need to connect the focuser in MaxIm as all commands from ACP to move the focuser are from ACP to FMx.
    I do not connect the telescope or focuser in MaxIm, MaxIm is only used to control the camera.
    I hope this helps
    Steve

  2. #32
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Mesa, AZ
    Posts
    29,391

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    Hi Roger -- It was very nice of Steve to help you out with ACP.

    When you have a chance I'd like to chat by phone. We are closed weekends, so might you have some time this Monday? My schedule is pretty full today.
    -- Bob

  3. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Denny View Post
    Hi Roger -- It was very nice of Steve to help you out with ACP.

    When you have a chance I'd like to chat by phone. We are closed weekends, so might you have some time this Monday? My schedule is pretty full today.
    Bob, Thanks for offering to chat by phone on Monday. Please let me know what would be the best time. Would I call you?

    I tried to follow Steve's very helpful suggestions, but I did not get far. Steve did open my eyes a little bit though, and it gave me hope.
    Although I have two degrees from MIT and a PhD from Stanford, I am feeling like a dunce.

    The good news it that ACP itself seemed to run pretty smoothly, with the only problem being the FocusMax.

    I have a 2015 pinpoint license. Can this be used for an upgrade to ACP?
    Warmly,
    Roger
    roger@csdr.org
    website (not astronomy): www.csdr.org
    Landline: 650 854-4751
    Cell: 650 644-7617

  4. #34
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Mesa, AZ
    Posts
    29,391

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    If you can give me some times Monday I'll call you. Send your phone number to rdenny@dc3.com.
    -- Bob

  5. #35
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Mesa, AZ
    Posts
    29,391

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    We are set for 1PM PST Monday. We have your phone as (650) 85*-***1. If that's not right mail me a good number.
    -- Bob

  6. #36

    Default 1PM phone call - Steve Brady helped me over the weekend

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Denny View Post
    We are set for 1PM PST Monday. We have your phone as (650) 85*-***1. If that's not right mail me a good number.
    Bob, Just to make sure that you got my email message --
    Steve Brady was able to help me over the weekend with a generous amount of technical support.
    As a result, the FocusMax Vcurve worked well last night, and ACP ran smoothly.
    If you are too busy to call, or you want to give a priority to someone else who needs urgent help more than I do, just let me now
    Warmly, Roger

  7. #37
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Mesa, AZ
    Posts
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    We did the call and I was able to get FocusMax and ACP to talk directly to the AP (rather than going through TheSky). At first I was not able to talk to the AP directly (no COM port or IP address or power off message). I think that's why Steve decided to use TheSky. I validated that TheSky and the Bisque plugin for AP was able to talk to the mount, and thus the COM port was correct and the power was on. In the AP Setup (Chooser > Astro Physics GTO > Preferences), the COM Port was already set correctly. However, I saw a check box "Use ASCOM COM Port". It was unchecked. I don't know what it is there for, but I tried it. Checking it solved the problem. Now ACP and FocusMax are able to connect and share use of the AP mount, the driver's control window becomes available. No hubs or TheSky pass-through needed. I made sure that MaxIm was set to ASCOM Direct and for the AP directly as well, and chacked that it could also connect while FMX and ACP were already connected. Gotta love LocalServer drivers.
    -- Bob

  8. #38

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    I have two more beginner questions:

    1. T-Shirt flats. Can I do T-shirt flats with ACP? If so, should I treat it like a dome flat?

    2. ACP crashing. I have a slightly annoying problem with ACP crashing once or twice a night. If I am correct, ACP will run fine and cooperate with Maxim DL and FocusMax for at least three hours of imaging provided that I take a peek from time to time, push an innocent key on the keyboard (like right arrow) from time to time, and just show that I am around and paying attention.
    But if I go to bed while ACP is running, and I don't do my peeking from time to time, ACP seems to crash after about one hour or so. Cleverly, it does not do this usually when I am awake.
    I am wondering if this is my MacBook Air (running with parallels) trying to save power? Of could it be something in Maxim?

  9. #39
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Christchurch, Dorset, United Kingdom
    Posts
    157

    Default T-Shirt flats and VMs

    Hello Roger.

    Re 1: You can set up ACP to use dome flats and substitute a T-Shirt though my opinion of the T-Shirt method is that the resulting flats are generally of such poor quality that they introduce as many problems in post processing as they solve. T-shirt material is simply not sufficiently homogenous enough to create valid flats.
    If you have no choice other than this method then you must move the material between each sub frame, both x, y and rotate, otherwise you will introduce residual large scale weave pattern and blotching in the calibrated image.

    Far better to use LED tracing panel flats suitably attenuated with inexpensive neutral density photographic studio gel filters.

    (To avoid “beat” pattern (stripes) appearing in LED tracing panel flats, caused by the PWM variable brightness control, use the panel set to maximum brightness and sandwich a couple of sheets of neutral density studio gel filter behind a piece of clear plexiglass attached directly over the panel so that the flats exposure time is around 2 seconds for around 70% of sensor saturation.

    I can’t recommend any electroluminescent flat panels, I have found the lack of output in the red part of the spectrum too limiting for narrow band filter flats, SII and Ha flats take way too long an exposure, but inexpensive “Daylight” LCD tracing panels, suitably attenuated work quite well, although rather difficult to find ready-made in sizes above A3.

    Re 2: As a Mac user myself it pains me to say this but I would recommend using a dedicated Windows machine for the observatory.

    Macs have never been designed for complex external hardware control, and Parallels was not built for this either, the prime reason for Parallels is to run Windows desktop office type applications on a Mac and despite years of trying they have never really solved the issues around shared access to the Thunderbolt (USB) ports and controlling specialised hardware.

    Having tried to use Macs to control CNC machinery in my workshop, lathe, mill and 3d printer I had to admit defeat in the end and install a Windows box, the symptoms are just the same as you report, eventually either the Mac or the VM will go into hibernation, or some background process will start up on either the Mac or the VM and take the focus away from running the machinery, and running an observatory is just like running a CNC lathe or mill, only a lot slower!

    Some of the MacBook Air models are reported to suffer from thermal control issues, leading to unexpected processor and memory clock speed changes, and these cause problems in maintaining Thunderbolt port connectivity, and Macbook OS energy management is difficult to assert control over.

    Despite the above, in Parallels setup you will see there is a choice of either having Apple or Parallels “Hypervisor” in control of the Mac hardware. The default is Parallels controls Hypervisor but some users on the CNC forums recommend using Apple Hypervisor control.

    If you currently have Hypervisor control in Parallels configuration set to Parallels try swapping to Apple, or vice-versa.

    Under system settings on the MacBook, pre, OS “Big Sur” - select item “Energy Saver”, for OS “Big Sur” select item “Battery” and under “Power Adaptor” adjust the slider for “Turn the display off after” to “Never” and enable “Prevent computer from sleeping automatically while the display is off”.
    Disable “Enable Power Nap while plugged into a power adaptor”.

    I assume you always run the MacBook on the power adaptor in the observatory as that is the most stable configuration but if using it on battery then in the MacBook settings item “Energy Saver” or “Battery” select “Battery” and deselect “Put hard disks to sleep when possible” and ensure that “Enable Power Nap while on battery power” is deselected.

    Under the MacBook settings item “Desktop and Screensaver” select “Screensaver” and change “Start after” to “Never”.

    Lastly, on the Mac OS side if you have “Time Machine” setup to carry out hourly backups to a network drive then disable Time Machine while the MacBook is running the observatory as Time Machine backups will freeze the VM for long periods and this causes connected Thunderbolt hardware to drop out and crash ACP.

    On the Windows VM, create a custom “Power Plan” for the observatory and enable it, use the instructions given in this post on the Diffraction Limited forum, it was written for an older Windows build (1909), than the current 20H2 but it is still valid:

    https://forum.diffractionlimited.com...ate-1909.6546/

    You will need to log-in to the Diffraction Limited forum to view it.

    You may find some of the USB suspend settings either missing or different to how the linked post describes, depending on whether Apple or Parallels Hypervisor is selected under Parallels configuration but those settings that are present as described should be configured in the Windows Power Plan.

    Remember that when running a VM on a Mac that both the VM and the Mac are trying to apply independent power saving measures and these will often be in conflict which can result in connected Thunderbolt (USB) devices being randomly disconnected by either host or VM and this will bring down ACP.

    For long term observatory stability and retention of any remaining user hair, far better to install a dedicated Windows box in the observatory and monitor / control that remotely from the MacBook. The free Windows Remote Desktop app for Mac works well on a modern Mac / MacBook over a local network, or TeamViewer / AnyDesk etc for remote internet control.

    If you do decide to setup a dedicated Windows machine you will need a Windows Pro license to utilise Windows Remote Desktop, it is not included with Windows Home versions.

    Finally, if you have not already updated the Mac OS to “Big Sur” then don’t, it’s not yet stable and causing a multitude of issues from lost permissions to run purchased software and application incompatibilities that cause regular crashes.
    If you are running OS Catalina, Mojave or earlier then better to stay on that platform until Apple get a grip over the problems they have introduced with Big Sur rather than blaming the application developers, which is Apples current stance.

    I have had to roll back my three year old iMac Pro from Big Sur to Catalina because of daily application crashes.

    Sorry if the answers are not straightforward Roger, maybe other ACP users here that run on Mac VM’s have a different experience and can suggest alternative solutions and tips.

    William.
    Last edited by William Bristow; Jan 3, 2021 at 11:35. Reason: Correction - addition

  10. #40

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    William
    Many thanks. Apologies if you get this twice. I tried to answer earlier but I seem to have deleted it instead of editing it.
    Here it goes --again.
    As you mention, I may have to eventually give up using my Mac with Parallels and buy a PC. But first I need to wait for covid to go away, and see what happens here in the San Francisco Bay area when the planes start flying again. Will they ruin the night sky like they have done in some places, like the area around Nice in France? I am gambling that that won't happen. But I better wait to see before buying more equipment.
    In the meantime, I have done the following in response to your advice
    - I set up ACP for dusk flats instead of dome (with T-shirt)
    - set the Apple screen saver to "never"
    - Changed the hypervisor from PC to Apple. If this does not help, I will switch it back.
    - I also checked all the Apple power settings, and I had previously checked the PC settings (maybe I should check again)!
    Warmly,Roger

 

 

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