Re: Why AP mount don't have a USB port?

Zak Foreman

While chewing on the idea about an ethernet controlled mount, I reached a very similar conclusion to Christopher, namely a modular GTOCP with a range of extensions.

Although I like the idea of Ethernet to connect to and control a mount, I'm left trying to convince myself that it would be actually more useful than serial.

Sure, it would be simpler to attach the mount directly as a resource on either the local or wider network but a local PC would still be required and at the cost of increasing the complexity of the controller.

After all, wouldn't a network port on the mount require some form of OS to be useful? Then once on the network, how reliable and secure would this OS be, for example against attacks or simple user error? (I'm thinking a locked-down Linux would probably do the trick)…

Considering that remote control of a mount is already achieved through software running on a PC next to the mount, unless AP want to get deeper in to the software business, or partner up with established providers, there doesn't seem to be much room for improvement over the current situation.

Then there's the abundance of both serial and USB peripherals (cameras, filter wheels, focusers and rotators etc) that make up an imaging platform. Some form of local PC is still required to provide power, connectivity and drivers to these devices.

I submit to the group that two options are available: The first, as alluded to initially, would simply allow the mount to be accessed directly over the network using tcp/ip. Aside from the odd compatibility issue with certain serial to USB adapters, would this make any difference from a user's perspective as a PC is still required locally for peripheral and observatory control?

The second is an altogether grander (and riskier and costlier) affaire: A standalone, integrated remote controller. This device would combine the mount controller electronics within a modular, ruggedized server that could also host all the connectivity ports for accessories (i.e. USB and serial, as well as VGA for local / console access), an update-able OS for the device drivers, and a robust suite of browser-based remote control software.

Sure, this approach has a barrage of problems (choice of OS vs driver support for example), but wouldn't it be a dream come true for remote imagers?

I realise that this is already what people achieve using their own choice of software (e.g. ACP) and hardware, from laptops for mobile observers, to desktop or even rack mounted servers for permanent installations.

Just imagine though, only power and network required at any observatory (even non-permanent), everything else connected to one modular control box, designed, built and tested by AP specifically for their mounts but with the possibility to extend its use for any peripheral via modules and combined with an internal web-server, running either custom or OEM' d software for remote control through a browser or app from anywhere in the world.

The modules I could think of:
Core module : GTOCP
Remote control model : Ethernet port, webserver running APCC, ACP or equivalent.
Wifi / Bluetooth module : wireless access to LAN, close range remote control.
Accessory module : 4 USB ports, 4 serial, preloaded with range of drivers, maybe choice of OS depending on driver availability
Storage module : 2/4/6 bay RAID, to store and host captured images before processing
UPS module: graceful shutdown during power outages

Obviously more aimed at the permanent installation, as casual users most likely would simple use a laptop and achieve most of the above functions, but even for the casual observer, removing the headache of trail and error with software and hardware compatibility, and replacing it with a box that just worked, would not doubt still be appealing.

Just my thoughs...

--- In ap-gto@..., "Christopher Erickson" <christopher.k.erickson@...> wrote:

I would love to see a gradual migration to a modular interface socket, where
the user would have a choice of swappable interface modules, including:

RS-232 - Still the universal denominator
USB-HID - USB interface that wouldn't need drivers!
Ethernet/IPv4-IPv6 - Rock-solid, multi-device interface with unlimited
Ethernet/IPv4-IPv6 with PoE - Ethernet with power, all in one connector
FTDI fiber-optic - All of the benefits of Ethernet with lightning and ESD
WiFi - For iPhones, iPads and the WiFi'd observatory
Bluetooth - For Android phones, tablets and more
Xbee wireless - For the more-serious astro-geek robotic observatory
I2C - Fast & simple multi-device interface standard used between

And of course more modules could come out in the future, as computer
interfaces evolve over time.

I would be thrilled if AP were to lead the way into the future with a
modular interface socket that would be available to other manufacturers as a
licensed or license-free standard.

Each module would be about 3/4" x 3/4" x 1.5" and would plug flush into a
matching socket on the mount's control box.

I think this would be a great boon to mounts, focusers, filter wheels,
optical manifolds, rotators, dome controllers and all other observatory
devices that have low data rate requirements. Cameras and such will always
need high-bandwidth interfaces that will follow the latest interface
standards and will always be at a greater risk of quick-obsolescence
accordingly. Anybody want a camera with a parallel or SCSI interface? I
got boxes of them.

Years ago I remember arguments from stubborn Apple Mac users about why
didn't GOTO mounts have SCSI-II interfaces. Sounded just like the arguments
for USB today.

Christopher Erickson
Consulting Engineer
Summit Kinetics
Waikoloa, HI 96738

-----Original Message-----
From: ap-gto@... [mailto:ap-gto@...] On Behalf Of
Daniel Marcus
Sent: Thursday, October 18, 2012 10:05 AM
To: AstroPhysics E-group
Subject: RE: [ap-gto] Why AP mount don't have a USB port?

Hi Anthony
my poor laptop only has one serial, 1parallel, 1 eithernet and 2 USB1
ports : (( Can't cram in the USB2 and extra serial adapters into the slots
at the same time as they will not fit. Really need a good way to control the
mounts, and supporting equipment easily. There should be a way to get -
camera, guide camera, mount, filter wheel, focusers (2) and possibly a
filter tuner and extra focuser and camera for those with Halpha scopes.
Never mind the roof or dome controls, weather inputs, and cameras to view
remote what is going on. That is a lot of stuff to get working all at once.
Be nice to have a hub to plug them all into at the mount and then send the
signals back via a single LONG cable to where your main computer is located.
With a big lightning arrestor protecting the whole thing! Need a good IT guy
to get it sorted out. I'm with AP though, I want a device that will not
become obsolete. I intend to own the mount for 20 to 30 years, and I want it
to run on Windows ver 45. Serial will be around for a LONG time, and mounts,
focusers and filterwheels do not need fast communications unlike cameras.
Have 2 PCI serial cards in the main obs computer, works just fine. Have more
troubles with the USB extender hub and drivers than I do with the serial
Either net would be nice if there was an easy way to assign all the stuff.

Daniel Marcus

To: ap-gto@...
From: ayiomami@...
Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2012 20:52:08 +0300
Subject: Re: [ap-gto] Why AP mount don't have a USB port?

Similar cards exist for USB2.0 for those of us whose laptops are

exclusively USB1.1. Some software and hardware, specifically requires USB2.


???? 10/18/2012 20:40, ?/? chris1011@... ??????:

You cannot put a PCMCIA card into your laptop? There's a place for one
in my Dell laptop. Here's one for $29.00:

-----Original Message-----
From: popkrab <popkrab@... <>>
To: ap-gto <ap-gto@... <>>
Sent: Thu, Oct 18, 2012 12:33 pm
Subject: [ap-gto] Why AP mount don't have a USB port?
I have a Mach1GTO and it works very fine except when I do polar alignment
routine by using star drift method.
I use this mount for imaging by connecting the mount to my laptop
computer. I
would like to know why AP don't provide a USB port on CP3 controller
box? What
is a different between old fashion serial port and new USB 2.0 port?
Because I
have to buy a good quality USB2serial adapter. Sometime this adapter
was fail
during imaging session. If I can choose, I would preferred a USB
connection than
serial port.
What are good points of serial over USB interface?
Thank you very much.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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