My primary job responsibility at Software Bisque right now is our upcoming mobile products, and some R&D along those lines. I know that's been long in coming, and there have been many behind the scenes distractions, developments, and delays. It's going to be worth it I think, and when we can tell everyone about some of the more interesting side developments around our mobile strategy, it's going to be very exciting!
My secondary responsibility is to just do pretty much whatever needs to be done on whatever needs to have something done to it. Clear?
My primary passion is graphics, and imaging. The two go hand in hand, and so I tend to direct work cycles in that direction whenever I can get away with it. Whether it's demonstrating our mount and software at star parties, or fighting off mosquitoes in Okeechobee county to test some new dithering code, it's really what I love doing best to tell the truth. Because of this, and of course my other passion for the Mac platform, I've been following the lead of Matthew Bisque and Evan Warkentine into the X2 plug-in arena. My first X2 plug-in was the Canon DSLR plug-in, which I did just because I wanted to use it myself. The hardest part was figuring out the Canon SDK and getting it to work on both platforms. Next, of course, was figuring out how X2 works. To Matt's credit, he's been updating the documentation regularly, and has been patient and helpful with my questions.
I love cross platform, and I like to take credit for bring Software Bisque back to the Mac! In that vein, using ASCOM for device control really is not an option for me. Getting ASCOM to work on other platforms is... not practical. I realize this is a sore point with some people on the Windows platform, but really as far as I'm concerned peoples' opinions and feelings don't matter near as much to me as having my camera work on my Mac. It's as simple as that. Further, I can write the plug-in once, and it works on both platforms, and then I have the ability to use my own X2 plug-in along side perhaps even some ASCOM controlled devices when I do have to occasionally use Windows. I am a cross platform developer after all, I just prefer Mac, and we can argue about it over a beer or some hot chocolate at some conference or star party some time if you like<vbg>. Oh, and X2 works on iOS too.... and Android. (OMG, did he just like say the "A" word? Shhhhhh). Considering that the future of device control is clearly IP based... well, that's how I see it, and I have been wrong from time to time.... but I've been right from time to time too.
So, this is my blog, here's an update on my own X2 adventures.
There was some delay getting the Canon SDK to support the latest crop of cameras (5D Mark III and 6D). We finally got that in there, and then discovered that Canon broke our undocumented means of detecting if mirror lock is turned on or off. I've lobbied Canon to add mirror lock control and the ability to take darks with the shutter closed via Fred Mertz, who is Canon's representative to the astronomical community. Fred is very sympathetic and understands why I and other Canon astro software developers need this functionality. Honestly though... it might be long in coming. For current users with a Mark III or 6D, the workaround is to not use Mirror Lock. The next build is in the wings for testing, and will require the user to tell the plug-in if the mirror lock is enabled or not. No way around this I'm afraid (for now). There are lots of other improvements coming too, such as more accurate short exposures, and the ability to read just the red, green, or blue pixels for users doing Ha or OIII imaging with their DSLR.
The new QSI 700 series cameras are coming soon, and I've been talking with QSI about this. Support on Windows will come from QSI just like it does now, and support on the Mac should be trivial for me to implement. I'm a hardware fiend, and I do the work on this driver off the clock just to play with their cameras! QSI has been extremely helpful, and wrote the Windows X2 plug-in themselves. All I had to do was port it to the Mac using their own low-level cross platform API.
Starlight XPress Lodestar
Another project that kept getting pushed to the back burner. The Windows X2 plug-in is working great and I just need to test the relay guiding some more. On the Mac, I'm having a low level USB issue, that once solved will allow this same code to work on the Mac. On Windows with DirectGuide on a Paramount, it's simply fantastic. This little camera never fails to pick up stars wherever I point it. My plan is to give Starlight Xpress the code so they can add other cameras, and/or we'll work out something to add the other cameras. They all use the same API on both platforms so it shouldn't be a Herculean task.
At the bottom of the queue I'm afraid, but they are in the queue. They have expressed an interest, and have offered to supply me with a camera, so the only thing holding this back is time to spend on it. They also have a Mac OS X low-level driver so we should see this cross platform camera added to the family soon as well. I'm hoping that actually within a couple of weeks I'll be getting to work on this.
This was a really easy device to talk to. It's just serial and any serial device can be communicated on Windows or Mac (or anything else) quite easily. I have two of these myself so I had a strong desire to see this support on the Mac, and to be able to use those scopes with @Focus2. For this X2 plug-in, I chronicled the process on both Windows and the Mac and created a "Programmers Guide" if you will. It takes the reader step by step through the process of creating an X2 focuser plug-in, even using some of the optional interfaces. While the document covers a focuser plug-in specifically, it is generally applicable to all kinds of X2 plug-ins and it's a good overview of how to make an X2 plug-in. I've been doing the same thing with the Lodestar plug-in, so a camera specific programmers guide will be forthcoming. The programmers guide is attached to this blog by the way.
Well, Evan has been working on X2 for video support in TheSkyX. I have an Imaging Source camera and have used it for lunar and planetary imaging in the past. The summer months in Florida aren't so great for deep sky imaging, so I'm thinking of getting back into Planetary and Lunar imaging again. First I need an X2 video driver for my camera on the Mac....
So much code to write... so may targets to image.... so little time... and such lousy weather ;-)
Anyone interested in writing an X2 Plug In should read the HowTo-X2Focuser.pdf attachment at the bottom of this blog! It'll get you going in the right direction, right out of the box.
06-15-2013 9:00 AM