Kstars – Why do I use it?

Initially, I wanted a Linux imaging software to replace my old Meade DSI pro.  I found the Kstar with Ekos allowed me to use my old Meade DSI pro CCD imager and run under Linux.

Why Linux?  Lots of reasons.  Mainly, I never cared much for Windows and found the OS very limiting.  I like the reliability and Unix utilities running under Linux; it makes connectivity easy to the remote server.  Note – Kstars/Ekos will also run under Windows and MacOS.

I was familiar to Kstars but not with Ekos.  It was a bit overwhelming to understand, and use Ekos, but once I was familiar with the operation and understanding how the software interacted with Kstars, remote Indi lib servers, it became easier to use.

I think Kstars/Ekos is great for remote operation.  and that is the next big reason why I am using this software.  I leave in Minnesota where it’s challenging to image out in the elements whether it’s summer or winter.  In the summer months, the mosquitoes are out in full force and in the winter, well, it’s downright cold.  I wanted to be in my nice basement while controlling the telescope and taking images.

I wanted to use a simple server at the telescope, not an expensive laptop. This is where Indilib (INDI) really shines.  The Indi Server software runs on various ARM platforms.  I have installed Indi on Pine64, Raspberry Pi3, and Odroid-4u.  I can setup a little server with minimal hardware and fuss.

Setup Overview

Here is the remote block diagram of the remote setup:

Current Setup

For an internet connection, I use a LAN/WIFI router  near the telescope pier to provide a good WiFi signal to my tablet.  This allows a remote desktop connection between the the main computer and tablet  to allow manual focus, polar alignment, guide scope alignment, etc.  I am also using hard-wire Ethernet connection rather than WiFi connection to interface to the remote Odroid computer.  This is to allow maximum transfer speed during image transfers to the main computer.

The Desktop is running Linux Mint 18.2 using the latest (bleeding) distribution of Kstars/Ekos.

The software integrates with my favorite guiding software, PHD2.  I can either use the built-in guiding module or use PHD2 software running locally on the Ekos server. 

WebManager

This is a web based manager for the Ekos server.  This allows to manage the drivers and startup the server.  Once the server is powered up I can manage the devices and start the server using the WebManager.

Features, I like

  • Ekos Scheduler
  • Ekos Web Manager
  • PHD2 Integration
  • Astrometry Plate Solving
  • Full Observatory Automation
  • Mosaic Support in Ekos Scheduler
  • Polar Alignment
  • Ekos Live Cloud Support
  • Good Forum Support

I hope to go into these features with later blog posts.

More Info on Kstars/Ekos

Stellarmate

For people who don’t want to bother with loading images to a raspberry pi and wants support for Kstar/Ekos, I recommend getting Stellarmate.  This is available here stellarmate.com.   They have some excellent tutorial videos explaining setup and operation.  You can get the hardware, or the integrated image.  This is supported on Raspberry Pi3 and 3B using 16GB class 10 micro SD card.

More to follow with future articles.

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