Tag : observatory-pc

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.

Upgrading the Observatory PC from Windows XP to Windows Vista

The support for Windows XP is finishing in April 2014. So really it was time to upgrade the observatory PC. I was previously using Windows XP Professional 32bit edition for quite a while in the observatory. I had no real issues with it, and I know a lot of people still use Windows XP on their Laptops or Desktop PC’s for running their observatories.

I had a spare copy of Windows Vista Business 64bit lying around, so I decided to use that, instead of paying £50 or more for a copy of Windows 7. Come to think of it, it would have been a lot more as I would ideally have wanted the Business edition of Windows 7 which can be quite pricey (as I like to remotely control the observatory PC from in the house by using Remote Desktop Connection and that’s only available if your Windows PC is the Business or Professional editions).

My main worry when upgrading was drivers, and especially 64bit drivers! I went for a clean install of Vista and after it was complete I was amazed to see that the internet was already connected (so the ethernet driver had been installed for me) and the sound was working (so sound driver installed OK), and it had installed the driver for my USB Hub PCI Card. As I use about 8-10 USB ports on my observatory PC.

A great surprise and my biggest worry was my old NVidia graphics card which runs 2 monitors, but once Vista started to do it’s hundreds of extra updates – which took it to  service pack 2, the graphics card was recognised and the driver came from Microsoft and everything worked.

So that was the basic drivers, now came the main astronomy software, namely:

QHY5 software
Atik drivers
Maxim DL
Lakeside Focuser drivers
Starlight Xpress filter wheel drivers
Imaging Source ICapture and Drivers

Before the install I had backed up my FocusMax settings, Maxim Configurations and my EQMOD settings (as my EQ6 mount was still parked).

I had no problems installing any of the software on Vista 64bit, and once the main software was installed I overwrote the default settings files with my own backed up ones.

The only problem I ran into was with the classic USB to Serial adaptor software drivers, as I have 3 of these. 1 for EQMOD, and 2 for the Lakeside Focusers. There are so many different USB to Serial adaptors. I bought mine from eBay. I kept the original CD driver disks, but there are usually newer drivers if you know where to look and make sure you get the correct driver – as there seem to be hundreds of different ones.

Then it was a matter of checking which adaptor was set to which COM port and then telling EQMOD and the Lakside ASCOM software which COM ports these were. I then fired up Maxim and checked all the connections worked to the cameras (QHY5 and Atik 314L+), filter wheel and EQMOD.

Early days yet, as there is no real test like actually opening the observatory roof up and doing some observing or imaging to really test the software and Vista 64bit.

I am glad I left the PC in the observatory whilst doing the upgrade, as it meant I did not need to unplug any of the many cables in the back of the PC. Plus as it was a Professional version of Windows I could go into the house and use Remote Desktop Connection to remotely install and test the software without sitting in the observatory.

Now I shall stick to Windows Vista until they drop support for that, which hopefully will be a while yet. Then I suppose I shall be installing Windows 7 Business 64bit.

BTW my PC specifications are: Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz CPU, 3GB RAM and 500GB SATA Hard Drive.


Control your Observatory PC from your iPhone

Since I wrote the post on controlling your observatory PC remotely (and I had the letter about this published in Astronomy Now).

I have now discovered that you can now control your Windows based observatory PC from your iPhone, iPad or Android device – whether it’s a phone or a tablet device.

Why and How can I do it? Well you can do it as Microsoft have released a Remote Desktop app.

Just make sure your observatory PC is running a Pro, Business or Ultimate version of Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8.

I have tried the app out on my Nexus 7″ Android tablet, and it works really well, even though the PC desktop does look quite small on a 7″ tablet. I think controlling your PC via a smartphone sized screen would be a bit too small.

You can download the apps on Google Play and from Apple AppStore. Search for ‘Windows Remote Desktop App’

Have a play and see what you think. Tell us how you get on.