Thursday, October 22, 2015

Updating the FocusLynx software on XP

Optec has recently updated their focus software which controls the Starlight Instruments Handy Stepper Motor FocusBoss II hardware.

The new software goes with new firmware, allowing many more steps than the original 32000.  This now allows the HSM to run the full focus distance from fully racked in to full extension.

Under Windows 7 and later, the update is simple.  Under XP, the software installer will stop and not progress.  I tried a new download, tried rebooting in safe mode.

I contacted Optec and they provided a quick way to force the install.  Note that a previous version of the FocusLynx software needs to be installed.  The version that was on the CDROM shipped with the Starlight Instruments hardware was already on my netbook, so this was the first hurdle complete.

This method requires using the command line.  Paths should be exact for where the files are located.  I've updated the example for what I used on my machine.

msiexec /a “path to .msi” /qb TARGETDIR="path to program folder"

msiexec /a “C:\setup\SetupFocusLynx_Starlight(2.0.0)\Setup_FocusLynx_Starlight(2.0.0).msi” /qb TARGETDIR="C:\Program Files\Starlight Inst\FocusLynx"

Running this command allowed the software to update with no problem!

The Optec tech says that the software that they are using to build the updates no longer supports XP, so it's likely that futher updates may not work on the platform.  So long as this trick works, then I can continue to use XP.

Hope that other users will find this helpful when working on their observatory machines.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Crescent Nebula with Color Calibration

I used the Spyder3 device to calibrate the monitor on the laptop.  I found that there is a very small cone for viewing where the calibration appears good to the eye.  The off-axis performance of the screen is lacking.  Now that this has been done, I can at least confirm colors.  The contrast is not so great, so I am unable to properly evaluate functions of noise reduction and clipping.  Thus, these tasks must be done on a separate system or on a different display.

In the meantime, I reloaded the files into PI and did the ColorCalibration step again.

This fixed a lot of the green color cast and made the pictures look much better than they were before.

I can see that there are big problems in the dim areas of the sky where the noise reduction dropped off too much data.  Also, I had a heavy hand on histogram stretching, clipping many of the stars.

For what it's worth, here are the modified images.

Crescent Nebula GSSP 2015 - Version 1

Crescent Nebula at GSSP 2015

A first pass through the data, as noted earlier.

Crescent Nebula at GSSP 2015
This was completely processed on a laptop with an uncalibrated monitor.  Wow.  The colors are completely skewed.

I'll have to calibrate and redo the processing to fix it.  I can see that working on the laptop is not going to be practical for any color-critical work.  Also, the NR steps have been too drastic.

Lesson learned.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Digital Data from GSSP 2015

During GSSP 2015, I used a the QSI camera with the SV4 to image a familiar target.  I knew that there would be a limited amount of night to use, so I wanted to get the most from the super-dark skies of the area.  Thus, my target was the Crescent Nebula.

I'd imaged this target before at GSSP in 2012.  At the time, it was a real challenge and I struggled with chasing squiggly lines all night.  Last year, I didn't worry about it and went after different targets.

With the new camera, I wanted to return to the target and see what I could get with a different tactic.

The weather posed a challenge of course.  Green data is a little thin, with only a few subs for integration. On the nights I wanted to get Ha Continuum data - the clouds didn't cooperate.  In the end, I haven't used the Ha Continuum data yet, so I may end up removing that filter from the mix.  At the moment, though, it's a good filter for using to test star images.