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TheSkyXPro

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Posts 6
patient1 Posted: 12-27-2017 11:35 PM

hi,

I run a Mac Pro (Sierra 10.12.6) and I would like to buy TheSkyXPro, but before I do can I have some clarification on system requirements and setup?

I have a Celestron Edge HD 14" and a Skywatcher EQ8 mount.

what cables do I need to connect my Mac with the mount? and what would be the maximum cable length I could work with, without any latency problems?

I want full control of the mount, cameras, focusers and filter wheels.

Do I need a USB to COM Port Adaptor?

Are the Ethernet to COM Port adaptors faster? (will I get higher frame rates)

Hopefully a cable, camera and Tpoint add on is all I need.

Do you have any recommendations for equipment that you know work well with TheSkyPro?

 

Top 10 Contributor
Posts 2,363
Software Bisque Employee

patient1:
I have a Celestron Edge HD 14" and a Skywatcher EQ8 mount.

what cables do I need to connect my Mac with the mount?

and

patient1:
Do I need a USB to COM Port Adaptor?

Yes, for interfacing TheSkyX with your mount, you'll need a serial-to-USB converter. You'll also need the "PC-Link" (RJ12 to D-sub 9) cable that should have been provided with the mount.

patient1:
I want full control of the mount, cameras, focusers and filter wheels.

So you're asking the above, and below, cabling questions about not just the mount, but the other devices as well? If so, please specify the makes and models, or at least the interface type (e.g. USB, RS232).

patient1:
and what would be the maximum cable length I could work with, without any latency problems?

This depends upon a number of factors. Basically, any length is possible, but how that's most-economically achieved varies by length. It would probably be easier to answer if you at gave an idea of the distance you're hoping to achieve.

patient1:
Are the Ethernet to COM Port adaptors faster? (will I get higher frame rates)

Do you mean for your camera? Unless it uses RS232/RS422/RS485 serial communications, a COM port (that is, serial) converter wouldn't be involved. A USB-over-Ethernet converter could help, if your camera uses USB communications and you need to operate at distances greater than the 5 metre (un-boosted) maximum of USB.

patient1:
Do you have any recommendations for equipment that you know work well with TheSkyPro?

Are you referring to cameras, focusers and filters? If so, then the answer is most of them (at least, most commonly used for astronomical work). Perhaps one or more members of our Software Bisque Community will be willing to offer suggestions.

Brian S. Rickard
Software Bisque, Inc.

Top 25 Contributor
Posts 1,218

I'm another customer with an EQ8, although am not running it on the Mac these days - using Windows and EQMOD at present.

Just a couple additonal comments on cabling.

The maximum length for USB 1.1 devices is 3m, or about 9' 9".

The maximum length for USB 2.0 devices is 5m, or about 16' 4".

A lot of serial devices run at USB1.1 speeds, but may be electrically compatible with USB2.0.

So, generally, you want to keep the cables 16' or shorter, and if you have old 1.1 devices, they have to be 9' or shorter.

The USB-to-RS232 adapter to the cable to the EQ8 hand controller can be extended on the RS232 (phone wire) side. Wire length doesn't impact latency in any significant way.  I don't know what the practical maximum is. I'd suggest keeping it under 25'.

Have fun,

Colin

Not Ranked
Posts 6

hi and thanks Brian, sorry for my late response.

I guess essentially what I want to know is will the SkyXPro be able to guide my scope via the EQ8, control a motorised focuser, flip a filter wheel and give me access to control several camera types.

I see that many people have converted their EQ8 with PCdirect modification, using an ethernet cable and plugging into where the hand controller normally goes. I presume they will be using an astronomy program instead of the SynScan. This may also reduce cable clutter.

When it comes to setting up the SkyXPro, will I need a usb for each external device? or will it work using a usb hub?

With all the info on the web about different systems and setups I have yet to see simple pics of the equipment setup complete with all the power adaptors, usb cables, serial to usb etc.

thank you for helping.

Not Ranked
Posts 6

hi Colin,

Thanks for the info.

I have seen many people have made modifications to the EQ8, a mod called PCdirect gets rid of the hand controller, an ethernet cable from the PC to the hand controller slot on the EQ8.

have you come across this or know anything about it? I managed to download a schematic and instructions but was wondering if there is much point if SkyXPro can talk to my mount anyway.

(I blew up my EQ8 motherboard the other night, no idea how it happened)

cheers.

Top 10 Contributor
Posts 2,363
Software Bisque Employee

patient1:
I guess essentially what I want to know is will the SkyXPro be able to guide my scope via the EQ8, control a motorised focuser, flip a filter wheel and give me access to control several camera types.

The scope (really mount), yes. The answer to the rest is "probably", as TheSkyX Professional Edition with its optional Camera Add On can control most such equipment. Here's a list of devices supported by the Camera Add On. While we try to keep it fairly up-to-date, it may not be exhaustive.

patient1:
I see that many people have converted their EQ8 with PCdirect modification, using an ethernet cable and plugging into where the hand controller normally goes.

TheSkyX has native support of the SynScan controller without need of the mentioned modification. However, this user-developed TheSkyX native (X2) plug-in can be used to control Sky-Watcher mounts equipped with an EQDIR cable. And for the record, while an Ethernet cable could be modified as part of the EQDIR cable construction, the result is definitely not an Ethernet cable.

patient1:
I presume they will be using an astronomy program instead of the SynScan. This may also reduce cable clutter.

Yes, an EQDIR cable would be used in place of the SynScan controller. And, yes, this method reduces the number of involved components/cables.

patient1:
will I need a usb for each external device? or will it work using a usb hub?

You could either connect each USB device to a unique USB port on the computer, or add an intermediate USB hub.

patient1:
With all the info on the web about different systems and setups I have yet to see simple pics of the equipment setup complete with all the power adaptors, usb cables, serial to usb etc.

There are numerous possibilities of equipment and cabling combinations, so a "simple pic" is unlikely to match your needs, unless it happens to illustrate your exact combination.

Brian S. Rickard
Software Bisque, Inc.

Not Ranked
Posts 6

hi Brian,

thanks once again for your guidance.

Top 25 Contributor
Posts 1,218

patient1:

I have seen many people have made modifications to the EQ8, a mod called PCdirect gets rid of the hand controller, an ethernet cable from the PC to the hand controller slot on the EQ8.

have you come across this or know anything about it?

Yes. It's quite popular. There is an EQMOD Yahoo Group, and also a Skywatcher EQ8 Yahoo Group:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/EQMOD/info

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/SkywatcherEQ8/info

 

Synta / Synscan / Skywatcher / Orion mounts such as the EQ5, EQ6, and EQ8 have the calculation brains in the hand controller, and the hand controller sends commands to the two motor boards in the mount.  The EQ5, EQ6 signals between the hand controller and motors are +5V serial.  The EQ8 is +3.3V serial, a lower voltage, and can easily be damaged if you use the wrong voltage.

The EQMOD solution replaces the hand controller an EQDIR interface cable to the PC and EQASCOM software for Windows.

The EQDIR cable provides a PC USB to RS232 serial interface at +3.3V levels to the motor boards in the mount. This is NOT an Ethernet cable (as Richard points out).  It just happens to be an 8 conductor cable with an RJ45 modular plug on one end. Electrically not compatible with Ethernet. Plugging into an Ethernet jack will damage the mount.

patient1:

I managed to download a schematic and instructions but was wondering if there is much point if SkyXPro can talk to my mount anyway.

If TheSkyX is working well for you, don't bother.  Years ago there was no documentation for software developers to control the mount;  Skywatcher eventually fixed this, and it was possible for developer like Software Bisque to support this mount natively.

The main advantage of EQASCOM for the EQ8 is that you have total control of the drive motors. People get better guiding and tracking performance using EQMOD, and also if they are building a robotic telescope, they can start up and shut down the scope and do everything without touching the hand controller.

You can also do satellite tracking with an EQ8, by vary the drive rates of the two axes in real-time.  The Paramount and LX200 are also able to do this.

patient1:

(I blew up my EQ8 motherboard the other night, no idea how it happened)

cheers.

Sorry to hear that.  Make sure you do not plug in or disconnect the hand controller or any other cables with the power switched ON. This can damage the electronics.  Some people talk about "hotplugging", and this is a terrible idea.

Once it is repaired, check the firmware versions in your mount and hand controller. If you don't have the latest, update to the most recent hand controller and motor controller firmware for your mount. It will improve its performance substantially. 

I also recommend you turn OFF the encoders - it will improve pointing accuracy with them OFF.  This is the opposite of what you'd expect.  The problem is that the encoder resolution is too low. This is unlike the optional encoders for a Paramount ME II which are much better. But then again, the EQ8 is a lot of value for money.

 

Top 100 Contributor
Posts 213

In reply to OP:

since you asked about macOS, you might want to consider also the X2 driver developed here http://www.bisque.com/sc/forums/t/30583.aspx

It works with any EQDIR cable connecting your mount to USB plug of your Mac. No handset needed. In the chooser menu for telescopes, just select Skywatcher EQ mount.

If you wish to control everything with TSX and macOS, choose carefully your equipment which must be supported (actually the choice today is much wider than few years ago). See here:

http://www.bisque.com/help/theskyx%20pro%20info/Welcome.htm#t=Camera_Add_On.htm

but feel free to ask! In case you need USB-serial adapter, I'd recommend the Keyspan. It just works.

Good luck,

Antonio

 

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