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Linux! And the F u t u r e....
Richard S. Wright Jr.'s Blog

So, I got an email recently from a colleague who is not familiar with Linux and had a handful of questions about Linux, ARM, and how this worked with TheSkyX. When I was finished with my answer, I realized it would make a great blog topic. If all these acronyms are giving you a headache, read on.

LINUX! OMG, 15 years ago I hated Linux. How things have changed. I used to say Linux is free software only if your time is worthless! Things have changed, and over the years a gradual familiarity with Linux has improved not only my confidence, but my competence. It's a great OS for people who love to fool with their computers at a low level, and it's a great OS for setting up "don't touch me, just let me run forever" types of installations. Here's some questions from my friend:
>Ubuntu, Debian, Raspbian and Mint are all Linux-based (or Linux-like?) operating systems.
Yes. There are others too. Red Hat, Centos, etc. They are all very similar, but have some differences between them that need to be accommodated. Sometimes the core OS is really the same, just the user interface is different (this is called the Desktop, or shell).
> ARM processors are 32-bit only.
No, ARM comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions just like Intel processors. They also are available in single and multiple core versions, also just like Intel CPU’s. The low level CPU is different though, so you cannot run code compiled into machine language for one CPU on the other kind.

>Raspbian is an ARM-specific version of Debian.

Yes, specifically geared towards the Raspberry Pi. It comes pre-packaged with all the necessary drivers, and low level hardware support that is in the Raspberry Pi specifically. You can actually run other ARM based Linux's on the Rasbperry Pi too.

>Mint is an ARM-specific(?) derivation of both Ubuntu and Debian.
No, Mint is just another variation of Ubuntu. It’s like whipped cream on your ice cream sundae, or no nuts. 
Side note: I'm running Ubuntu Mint on my Odroid ARM based computer. TheSkyX for Raspberry Pi runs unaltered on this... and at the cost of a little more electrical juice, it totally kicks the Rasbperry Pi's butt performance wise.

All OS’s come in ARM and Intel versions, just depends on which CPU architecture it was built for. Even Windows has an ARM version. ARM processors are good performers, but are designed for low power applications, such as embedded computing (phones, tables… little box computers, etc.). 

Opinion: Based on my observations only, it seems ARM processors really can’t compete with Intel in terms of CPU power, but time passes and both technologies have gotten more powerful such that even a low end ARM processor is quite a capable little processor today. Intel can’t compete with ARM in terms of power efficiency… efforts to do so (Atom, etc.) have not taken hold. Why? Possibly they are low power, but not as efficient or as good performing at the ARM alternatives. Everyone just runs the same old bloated software on the “power efficient” Intel CPU, and the experience is poor.
>What we have been calling TheSkyX for Linux works on 64-bit (only) editions of Ubuntu and Debian.
Our SkyX for Linux is an Intel-64-bit compiled version of TheSkyX. It works with 64-bit Ubuntu and Debian pretty much without much fuss. It should work on other Intel based Linux's, but may require some tweaking to the installed runtimes and libraries, configuration files, etc. We (I) haven’t spend the time to research this further yet really. The occasional motivated user has done so, but none of that is documented.
>What we have been calling TheSkyX for Raspbian works on Raspbian and Mint.
Not just Mint, most 32-bit ARM based Linux’s. Ubuntu and Debian “flavors”, one of which is Mint.
That was the end of the Q&A, but I'll add a few other remarks. You only need to know slightly more than someone else to appear to be an expert. I promise I am no expert on Linux, but I can make my way around it now. I have two laptops with native Linux's installed, a few VM's setup on my Mac Pro, 5 Raspberry Pi's, an ODroid, a Panda Board, and a Tegra from NVidia to experiment and play with... I mean... um... conduct important R&D ;-)
Software Bisque was laughed at when we first proposed taking a computer out next to your mount to do imaging (this was before my time). My predecessors here lead the way and helped create the hobby/industry we take for granted today. I believe we are on the verge of another such revolution, one where now the laptop will disappear and an embedded computer with the mount/imaging train is going to do everything we need. Sure, use a laptop to access it... or a tablet... or your phone (or the Internet from far away). It's so obvious too, and after several years of talking about it and showing off our prototypes, and explaining how it would work, there are now others on the market doing exactly this... or trying to. I think of course we have the better mount for this<g>, but also a very compelling software solution that many of our users are already taking advantage of. We are charging ahead, and I think Linux will be the bedrock of this revolution because in truth, no one cares what OS is being used. They just want to turn on their system and image. We are building that now, and some of our tech savvy early adopters aren't even waiting for the shrink wrapped box.
P.S. Good luck with the Eclipse, you won't hear from me again until afterwards!

Posted 08-17-2017 9:33 AM by Richard Wright


Roystarman wrote re: Linux! And the F u t u r e....
on 08-23-2017 6:27 AM

I think the embedded computer is not that far away. At TSP I saw a younger astronomer using one of those computer sticks to run his atlas mount and a DSLR . He used his laptop as a remote terminal to set up the software and imaging session. I think he was using SG pro, and after it was all going near end of astronomical twilight he unplugged the Laptop and let the mount and camera do its thing. The next iteration will be adding a small computer into a mount and providing ports to connect devices and a monitor Keyboard for control. Once running simply unplug and leave it be. I guess the next design discussion will be what options are available  built in touch sensitive LCD, would be up my alley and would like to see retrofit packages for the old ME that can probably house a mini ITX computer right now? The heat will keep the dew off.

Walter Boyd wrote re: Linux! And the F u t u r e....
on 08-24-2017 10:01 PM

Linux is a useful software. Upgrading to the latest long-term support (LTS) release of Ubuntu means, as with the Mint 17.x series, the Mint 18.x release cycle is now locked to its base for two years.


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