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    Richard S. Wright Jr.
    Senior Moderator

    The Astro Road Warrior is finally home for a while. What a whirlwind month I've had! In October, I taught my last OpenGL class at Full Sail and have “retired” from that second career to spend more time in this one. I'm very excited about this change and the time it's going to free up for astronomy related projects. It also frees up my travel schedule quite a bit, and November was quite a thrill ride to prove that point. First I spent a few days at the Arizona Sky Village before attending SWAP and ASAE. I was home less than a week from that, and I was back again out west, this time to the California desert for the first ever Paramount Workshop. Home from that one day, and I was on the road with two mounts in tow for the Chiefland star party. Whew… I'm ready to spend some time in the office again writing more code!

    The Paramount Workshop was great! Over fifty Paramount owners converged along with four staff members from Software Bisque. Steve Bisque, Sarah, Donald McFarland, and myself arrived Friday at the Goat Mountain Astronomical Research Station (GMARS), which is the Riverside Astronomical Societies dark sky site near Yucca Valley California.

    We had customers from as far away as Hawaii and the east coast fly out to spend the day with us and it was an overwhelmingly positive experience for us, and I think for participants as well. I don't know another astronomy club in the country that has such a full featured dark sky site. We held the hardware class in the garage, and the software class in “GMARS East”, which is a converted house with sleeping quarters and full bathroom with shower.

    Steve Bisque lecturing.

    Sarah Bisque shows how to take apart worm blocks, just for fun!

    The main clubhouse is also a converted house with a full kitchen. Outside a picnic area and BBQ grill was the site of lunch and dinner.

    The skies were dark for a site so short a drive from metro Los Angeles, but the weather gods threw a lot of wind and poor seeing our way. It didn't stop of some diehards who setup on the pads with their Paramounts. The four of us from Software Bisque spent a few hours each night going around and helping new users master our software, and there were several Paramounts on site in the club members' observatories. We did some tune ups, one MKS 5000 upgrade, Wi-Sky installs, new setup assistance, and troubleshooting. One guy even brought his Paramount 1100 GT! Both OPT and Woodland Hills also sent some of their sales staff to get brushed up on our product line as well, and OPT recorded both workshop sessions to be posted later on YouTube.

    Six hours worth of classes and demonstrations filled the daylight hours too. In addition to the attendees learning about new features, or more streamlined workflows, we also learned a lot by listening to feedback, and discovering first hand some of the more common questions and misunderstandings. Building awesome products we want to use ourselves will only get us so far… we also do listen to our customers, and I think some priorities and new features have been shuffled based on our experience. This is good for everybody!

    We had an ME II, an MX+, and three MyT's on site, and we did our first customer delivery there (don't worry the rest are coming soon). We had the latest daily build (which wasn't on our web site yet, but is now) available on DVD and a USB drive for the attendees as well, and we showcased two new polar alignment tools that are now available (as well as the ability to control the Paramount MYT). I also did some of my own imaging demonstrations, shooting the Witches' Broom (Veil Nebula). I cleared up some misconceptions about focus, helped someone use our guiding feature for the first time, and got to play with someone's f/2 fast star system (which was pretty cool).

    The RAS volunteers were amazing. I don't want to miss anyone, but I have to point out a couple of people who went the extra extra mile. Bob Massey made me lattes every night so I'd feel like I was near a Starbucks (and his wife made cake pops)! Frank and Linda Boecker were very hospitable and let me stay at their house the night before the event. Mark Melynk “lent” me his Paramount MX for my own use so I could make a go of imaging Friday night when our truck full of equipment was running late (Poor Donald, he got stuck in bad weather trying to get out of Colorado!). Alex McConahay was the master drill sergeant who kept everyone (including us) on time, and made things happen. To commemorate the event at GMARS, they even made up a “retired jersey” type poster and had us all sign it.

    GMARS is littered with astronomy memorabilia like this, it really is a kid's playground for us amateur astronomers.

    Only 24 hours at home and I was off again, this time to the Chiefland Star Party. This north Florida event is typically a strong imaging event, and it's only a few hours drive from where I live. I brought two mounts (try as I might, I could not fit all three in my car!), and setup a tent as “base”.

    Many attendees came to see the new Paramount MYT, and couldn't believe that it was hefting a 150mm refractor, and handling it quite well! The food and company at this event is always first class, and we had a few good nights of weather. The night I arrived, it was 27 degrees, and 100% humidity! Jack Frost must have been in attendance as well, as everything outside was growing a crisp white fur coat of ice that evening.

    At the Paramount workshop, several people asked about dithering without guiding, and meridian flips. I told the attendees that I had written my own Java Scripts to perform these tasks, and I've attached them to this blog. These scripts do the dither between exposure by performing a small slew to a nearby position. As soon as the optic crosses the meridian, the slew will cause the meridian flip operation. Your using ProTrack, you have a TPoint model loaded… there is no need to a closed loop slew, you're just there, and you continue imaging. One of the perks of unguided imaging ;-)

    Now… I have some code to write, back to work!

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