Notes on upgrading observatory computer to Windows 10, Summer 2020
Just as we did for the upgrade of the computer from Windows XP to Windows 7 in 2012, this page is to document the process of installing a new computer in the observatory, and noting any steps we need to take or problems we encountered. It is mostly for our own internal records, but perhaps it could help someone else installing observatory software as well.
- Installed UltraVNC on both old and new computers so we can transfer files easily via VNC.
- Installed ASCOM platform 6.5 from here.
- As part of that installation, I found that the system required me to enable Microsoft .NET 3.5 via the Control Panel. Ultimately that only worked when logged in to my normal user account, not the telescope account; that is probably related to trying to contact the local Windows Update server, but not being logged into the Swarthmore domain. It worked just fine from my domain account.
- Installed the ASCOM 2X mount adapter for TheSky (used to be called "TheSky-controlled telescope driver") from the Software Bisque site, linked from the ASCOM page.
- The Edgeport/4 (USB-serial converter) - plug and play. Windows recognized it right away and set it up automatically. The COM ports show up in Device Manager as COM3, COM4, COM5, COM6, corresponding to ports 1-4 on the device.
- Now working on the RCOS TCC. This could be exciting as they went out of business and the software is so old. Fortunately we have good notes from the previous update.
- Download the full installation package (1.5.17) and the update (1.5.26) from the archived RCOS support site. I'm going to keep local copies of these installers this time, in case they disappear off the web.
- The last full installer there is 1.5.17, so download and install that first.
- Then download and copy over just the 1.5.26 RCOS-ae.exe file into the Program Files (x86) -> RCOS TCC folder, replacing the copy of RCOS-ae.exe in that folder.
- To get the presets from the old install, copy over the file RCOS.dat from the old installation. This has those values saved. There is also a file named RCOS-rotator.dat that I copied over, though I don't think we have saved much in the way of rotator settings.
- Based on last time, these programs can run into problems with Windows User Account Control, and need to be run as Administrator (at least once). This sequence worked:
- Right-click the RCOS-ae executable and then choose "Properties", and in that dialog, select "Run as administrator." Answer "yes" in the resulting dialog about allowing the program to make modifications.
- Do the same thing for the RCOS executable, again choosing "Run as administrator."
- Having done that once, it now works to simply double-click the RCOS executable - so something about that initial run sets things up to work on subsequent runs.
- Connected to the telescope and tested this out - everything works! The RCOS TCC is set up on
- Hmm, several days later this stopped working, and it only worked to run it as administrator every time. That's a pain since you always have to acknowledge the dialog. A little searching turned up these instructions for how to make it possible to run an application using "Run as Invoker" to get it run as needed without having to acknowledge the admin dialog. After following those instructions (and adding both RCOS TCC and RCOS ae to the recipe) things work as they should. Will have to keep an eye on this, but it's working for now.
- ACE SmartDome - I transferred the whole folder over from the old PC and put it in Program Files (x86). After a few false starts with bad serial cables, I made sure I had a known-working cable and it worked just fine.
- TheSkyX Professional - downloaded from Software Bisque website.
- The version there is nominally the same as what we have installed already, 10.5.0, but the build is quite a bit newer (10305 old vs. 12545 new).
- Initial installation was uneventful. Now to get settings transferred as much as possible so we don't have to transfer everything by hand. It looks like settings are stored in My Documents -> Software Bisque.
- Copied over the file
AppSettingsas well as several files from the subfolder "Field of View Indicators". On restarting TheSkyX, it has the correct FOV indicators, though I'm sure we'll need to configure some other things, including the telescope interface.
- Also three files (those that appeared to have been modified) into the subfolder "TPoint": "TPoint base run in", "TPoint base run outmod", "TPoint Settings.tptx". We may need to revisit the pointing model once we're up and running, since I believe it has shifted from being a standalone program to now being integrated within TheSkyX itself. And it wouldn't hurt to check the model, especially at low elevations.
- Had to go in and set up the mount manually. Chose "Paramount ME" as that is what we had specified before.
- After that was set up and we could connect to the mount (currently using a serial port connection - has been robust for us), go to "Tools" in the main Telescope panel in TheSkyX and choose "Bisque TCS". This connects to the mount and lets you set a few more parameters:
- Under "Periodic Error Correction", choose "Get" to read the parameters from the mount, check that they look appropriate, then check the box for "Apply PEC".
- The max slew speed was set to 20% because we have been having some issues with cold weather last winter. I set it back up to 70%, but we may want to revisit that when it cools down.
- I read all parameters from the mount and saved them to a text file along with the drivers.
- Slightly out of order here (done after some of what is below), but to get an ASCOM connection to work from MaximDL, at one point I had to right-click on TheSkyX and choose "run as administrator". I'm not 100% sure that was the key factor in making it work, but it was suggested somewhere, and things started working right after that.
- Apogee Camera (U16M) and filter wheel (AFW-50-10S):
- This one required a little digging. Apogee sold to Andor a while back, who sold to Oxford Instruments. And although they have some links here and there that would seem relevant, all were dead ends, and it appears that the necessary drivers are no longer anywhere on their website, at least not that I could find.
- A little digging on the MaximDL support forum led to this post, which revealed that the filename for the driver installer is apgSwInstall-x86. Searching for that string on the old computer revealed that I still had a downloaded copy of it from 2013! Good thing I didn't clear out the Downloads folder...
- After unzipping that file and running the installer, the camera and filter wheel showed up fine in the Device Manager, under "Apogee USB".
- Just for posterity, I'm going to link to my copy of the driver installer here: apgSwInstall-x184.108.40.2066.2907.zip. That file is dated July 2013 (at least that's when I downloaded it) but as of July 2020, those drivers are working fine for me running Windows 10.
- To get the installer, I opened MaximDL on the old PC, and chose "Check for updates" from the menu. That took me to the Diffraction Limited website with a link to download the latest version, 6.22. This is a big jump from our installed 6.13. Reading release notes, it looks like there are number of improvements to guiding, including a multistar guiding mode.
- Basic installation from the downloaded installer was uneventful.
- Current filter order:
- Need to get settings copied over, and note filter order in the filter wheel in particular. It may be simplest to re-enter these manually using the above list. I saved current settings as a "Configuration" on the old computer, with the current date in the configuration name.
- Started MaxIm DL once on the new computer to enter the license info, and so it would create the Settings folder.
- Copied the Settings folder from old computer which was in Documents -> MaxIm DL 6. From that folder, I copied all of the text files (not the subfolders, which seem to be hardware/plugins) into the corresponding location on the new computer.
- Even with settings copied over, I had to go through the camera setup, to have it search the USB bus for the camera, and same for the filter wheel. But once the drivers were installed in the previous step, this worked fine in MaximDL. (I tried it once before installing those drivers, and it didn't work - so the separate install of drivers outside of MaximDL is definitely necessary.
- I entered the filter names as outlined above.
- Compared the guiding interface on old and new machines and copied in the settings.
- Copied the Lodestar calibration files into D:\Telescope Data, so MaximDL could find them to calibrate the Lodestar images.
- ACP -
- On the old computer, I started ACP and exported the current profile, which saves everything in a zip file. Copied that zip file over to the new computer.
- Installed ACP from the installer, and all seemed to go smoothly.
- Now going through the setup process for ACP from the Users' Guide.
- Copied the Guide Star Catalog folder (needing for plate-solving) over from our old installation. This lives in C:\Users\Public\Documents\ACP Web Data\.
- Copied over our UserActions.wsc file from the old computer. Compared it to the template UserActions file (using Meld) to keep any changes to overall file since old ACP version, but insert our new code. Ran the command from ACP docs to register this file with Windows scripting services.
- Also copied the Python script for shutter control (
ShutterOpen.py) to the C:\Program Files (x86)\ACP Obs Control folder (which is where UserActions lives as well). A test plan shows this to be working correctly to control the shutter if invoked from ACP.
- Compared the old AutoFlat.vbs file to the one in the new version, and copied in (again using Meld) just our edited lines that handle controlling the shutter when flats are run. Haven't tested yet.
- Initially ACP wouldn't connect to the dome - seemed to be having issues with the ASCOM driver. After communication with ACE, a run of the ACE software as Administrator seems to have gotten that installed correctly, and now ACP connects.
- Anaconda Python. We need this to run the Arduino. Installed it and also added the
- Meld for file comparison/merging.
- Tried to mount the tel_data disk as before, didn't work. Realized that I needed to enable NFS access for Windows. Followed instructions here to enable this, and make write access use the telescope:research UID and GID. Also set up a batch script to mount this, and put script in Startup folder.
- Arduino IDE to enable use of the Arduino over a USB port.
- Installed a driver for our Philips webcam SP900NC, but so far am unable to get it to work.
Hardware / system settings
- Formatted D: drive as NTFS, named as "Telescope data".
To consider for later
- Windows subsystem for Linux (enable via Control Panel --> Turn Windows Features On or Off). This enables installing a Linux distribution as well and running some Linux executables. I don't have a specific use case for this yet, but it's an interesting option to have.
- Anaconda Python distribution.