Category : Astronomy Software

Windows 10 Install on Observatory PC

After upgrading my laptops and the home PC I didn’t think I would upgrade the observatory PC for a while yet, as I was expecting problems with drivers etc. But last night I decided to just go ahead and upgrade my observatory PC which was running Windows 7 Pro to Windows 10 Pro.

My observatory PC has gone through a couple of internal changes since it was installed. It’s now an Intel i3 CPU with 4GB RAM and an SSD drive. I also seem to have gone through all the Windows OS’s in the last few years as well.

The observatory PC began with Windows XP Pro, then I upgraded to Vista Business, then Windows 7 Pro and now Windows 10 Pro. Why Pro you ask? Well so I can connect to it through Remote Desktop Connection.

Anyway, I chose the upgrade option, it downloaded the software, and then installed it OK. After making sure I turned off sending lots of free private data to Microsoft I was ready to test it all.

My dual monitor set up still worked OK, Windows 10 still saw my ZWO 120MM-S camera, the Ethernet still worked. Great! The only problem was with the Prolific USB drivers (I knew these were going to be trouble!).

I have 4 of the Serial to USB cables on my observatory PC. The 1st connects the EQ8 mount through the Hitec Astro EQDIR cable and the other 3 are for my 3 Lakeside Focusers, which connect to 3 telescopes.

Unfortunately I did not document exactly what I did to get them all working, I just did get them working. I began with 3 of them in Device Manager showing exclamation marks against them. I know that I did right click on all the drivers and uninstall all of them including the device drivers and tried the Hitec Astro Windows 8/10 EQDIR driver (EQDIR installation instructions) and the 64bit USB to Serial Prolific drivers that I mentioned in my other post.

After re-booting a few times and letting Windows find the drivers and do whatever it wanted after installing the above drivers it all seemed to work out fine. I then just needed to re-map the COM ports to the correct numbers that I like, otherwise I find Windows always seems to change the COM port numbers around. This can be done by right clicking on the COM port in the Device Manager and then choosing ‘Advanced’ where you can change the COM port number being used. It is always recommended to then re-boot after changing the COM port numbers.

So far Windows 10 seems fine, everything works (except for AmCap, which I never really use anyway). EQMOD connected OK so did all the Lakeside focusers. I did not have my Starlight Xpress USB filter wheel connected, nor my Atik 460EX connected – but I am sure they will be fine. The main headache always seems to be these Prolific USB to Serial drivers.

Windows and Prolific Serial to USB Adapter

Are you having problems with Windows 8 or Windows 10 and your older (maybe not official) Prolific Serial to USB Adapter on your observatory PC?

Well you are not alone, and now after reading this article:

I am a bit worried about upgrading the observatory PC from Windows 7 to the free upgrade of Windows 10.

But at least in the article they do say that at least one driver version does still work on Windows 10 and that is v3.3.2.102

FocusMax Downloads

Over the years I have kept a few copies of Focusmax on my computer. So because Focusmax is not free anymore and v3 is no longer supported I decided to put them available for download onto this blog.

Focusmax Downloads – a few old v3 files

Moved from Vista to Windows 7 and added Samsung SSD’s

Well that was a short life for Vista on my observatory PC. I only upgraded from Windows XP Pro to Vista Business in January, but I wanted to add an SSD (Solid State Drive) to my observatory PC to speed things up, so now was a good time to install Windows 7 Professional.

Why Professional? Well, so I can control the observatory PC from the house using the in-built Remote Desktop Connection software.

I have already installed SSD’s in both my laptops and the speed increase is amazing, no more noisy spinning hard drives for me. The price of  SSD’s has also decreased. I bought a Samsung SSD 240GB for my home desktop PC and a Samsung SSD 120GB version for the observatory PC. They cost (in 2014) £85 for the 240GB and about £50 for the 120GB version.

I have decided to keep the previously used hard drives inside the PC but use them for storage of the images and video when they are being recorded by the telescopes, so leaving the SSD drives with just Windows and my astronomy programs on.


EQ8 EQMOD and EQDIR Cables on Vista

My new EQ8 mount was delivered the other day and I noticed straightaway the handset port has changed since the EQ6 version which was a 9 pin serial RS232 type connection.

The new EQ8 handset connector is a standard Ethernet type connection. So this meant I needed a new EQDIR connection cable. Yes I know, I could have taken apart the EQ6 one and made my own cable. But this time I could not be bothered.

So anyway, I bought a HitecAstro EQDIR cable, the newer ones where there is no box of tricks, just a cable. These cables also work with the EQ5 and EQ6-AZ GT.

I started off installing the Prolific USB to Serial drivers, which I got from the HitecAstro support pages, and then I plugged in the cable into the PC and into the EQ8 mount. The cable was recognised by Vista and given a COM port number. Great so far!

I then fired up EQMOD Toolbox and tried to get the toolbox to find the COM port for me. But it could not find the COM port the computer had given the cable. This always worked for me, when on XP. So immediately I thought there was something wrong with the cable, had I bought the wrong one etc.

So I emailed HitecAstro and David Jackson replied nearly straight away, he then offered to phone me back and walk me through the set-up. That’s brilliant customer service. Well once I had provided my phone number to David and he phoned up I had sorted it out.

The problem was that the auto COM port selection just did not seem to work anymore – it must be Vista. I decided to choose my COM port and then just connect to EQMOD – and it worked!

So if the auto searching for the COM port does not find your mount port, then don’t worry straight away. Just select the one it should be and try it out.

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