How's it going guys

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How's it going guys

Post by Oknoder » Thu Feb 09, 2017 12:01 pm

Just a brief word about myself, I have been enthralled with astronomy since I was a child and my father, who is heavily into astrophotography, took me out camping to see Haley's Comet. If I'm lucky maybe I will be able to see it when it swings through again. I took a break from the night skies while I attended University and started a family. I only picked it back up maybe four years ago. I am a relative newbie when it comes to astrophotography. The only reason I embarked down this money pit is i have been relocated to NW North Dakiota for work, and the skies have absolutely zero light pollution and fairly clear and still skies.

I was pointed here from Doug, I think, after posting to his video reviewing the Apogee Ascent A8050. The camera is great, fairly sensitive, with a very quick response, due to the sensor being interline. My main problem is the integrated filter wheel, while it is beautifully build and a solid piece of engineering, there is absolutely no driver support for it, ASCOM or native. I have been going round and round with a couple of reps from Apogee, but from the sounds of it, since they were bought out a few years back, they have refocused their resources into microscope imaging. It looks like they are phasing out their astro division at least the amateur side of things. They have an ASCOM driver and they point everyone to it, saying it supports all their cameras, both new and old. While this may be true, its pointless if the filterwheel connected to it is not supported.

I have a couple ideas on how to get around the issue, but as I'm more comfortable dealing with hardware like machining and eleelectronicthan programming when it comes to building a driver using C# or even C++, I'm beginning to tread out of my depth. I have gotten to the point of decompiling the native and ASCOM drivers supplied from Apogee. I already know doing so is technically wrong, but after spending thousands on equipment, and the company is basically telling me I should have bought one of the filter wheels that supports ASCOM, I would love to hear them complain. Mind you there is no documentation anywhere I could find, listing which one were supported, as it turns out only five filter wheels are covered, even their newest 17 slot model isn't, which is supposed to be their crown jewel of 1.25 filter wheels.

Since I know next to nothing about drivers maybe someone a little more knowledgeable can point me in the correct direction.

1) Might be possible to substitute one of the supported filter wheels with my CFW31-8R. Not sure how entailed this route would be, but I know I would have to substitute the GUIDs and alter the amount of filters supported. This sounds like a far simpler solution than rebuilding a new camera server driver from the ground up, but what do i know.

2) When stripping down the filter wheel to install my new filters, I noticed that the proprietary interface between cam and wheel is done with four separate conductors, which makes me think this is a simple USB com port. Creating a driver for just the filter wheel is a much more surmountable molehill. Ultimately I will have to inspect the wire harness with a multimeter and an oscilloscope, to determine the RX/TX lines from the +/-vDC. This option would require a permanent mod to the filter wheel case to allow a bypass for a USB cable, not really ideal but what can you do.

3) I could also bypass the inner electronics and just install an Arduino for control of the stepper already being used. This is by far the easiest solution, but since it would also require the cutting of an access hole for the USB/IO interface. Really only the RX/TX lines need to be replaced as it would be fine getting its pwr from the propriatary plug it shares with the camera.

4) Either sell of both the camera and fw, and chalk it up to a reason learned, or pay someone far more skilled than i, to build a new camera server, with integrated filter wheel. Sadly I feel this should be something Andor, Oxford Instruments or Apogee, whoever owns them this week should cover, but alas. At the very least they should list this issue to the public, considering it is still possible to buy this camera
/filter wheel combo.

Well that's enough ranting for me for one day,

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Re: How's it going guys

Post by Doug » Thu Feb 09, 2017 8:37 pm

Hi Matthew!

Amazing! Another Sucker besides me with the A8050! WOW! First off, welcome to the forums! I hope you stick around a while and I think you'll find this community very helpful.

Anyway, I've been contemplating rebuilding an ASCOM too, however, I don't think the ASCOM standard allows multiple devices to share the same USB cable. And the A8050 has both a FW and Camera on the same USB cable as one.

I've been trying/fighting with ANDOR to make this ASCOM driver, they aren't helpful at all. BTW, just in case anyone else reads this thread, Andor products are the last thing you should be looking at...their customer service is non-existent.

Now with all this said, YES, No ASCOM driver =TRUE. I did find the person who originally made the ASCOM driver for Apogee, his name is Chris, and Yes Chris says he could do it...but...of course for a fee and other conditions: ... -sgp/922/7" onclick=";return false;

I've asked Andor to contact Chris and provide the ASCOM driver. Their response is I would have to talk to Sales and arrange how I would pay for a driver for a camera they built...Not really a good answer.

Anyway, back to the A8050, you may already know this, but, MDL does provide a "wrapper" that supports the A8050 and FW. I'm using MDL V6 right now. I wanted to try to use SGPRO and without the ASCOM driver it will not work.

You could do what you've out lined, but, for $500 you can buy MDL Pro. If you look around you maybe able to find a coupon code too." onclick=";return false;

What software are you using now?

I too for the most part enjoy the A8050, it's well built, but, I've had issues, and warranty and mostly's been a never ending saga that started back in 2014.

I'm glad you made it to the forums and please stay in contact. I don't plan on letting Andor get away with this travesty. Seriously, make a product, and don't support with the STANDARD ASCOM? Really? I've got a ladder I need to buy, it doesn't have any rungs, but, that's ok we're in the Andor Zone.
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Re: How's it going guys

Post by Oknoder » Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:06 pm

I have so much software its only funny till you look at all the equipment, thankfully I do a bit of outreach on occasion and can get rid of some of my unused equipment. That way the wife doesn't notice a large stockpile of unused stuff hanging around. Right now I have it whittled down to a mid sized bedroom, a good portion is used as my workbench/solder/reflow table. I have been trying to consolidate everything into one or two simple programs that can be automated as it isn't easy gaining access to my scope especially in the winter. Last night I had to plug in the warmer that is housed in my USB hub/Focuser control/Power distribution box, that resides on the top rail of my scope. About halfway through my 50m trek did I come to realize, I was not properly dressed for a dark walk in a North Dakota winter. I have made most of my equipment somewhat idiot proof, that way I can use it to a percentage of its abilities.

As for software I primarily use Maxim DL, but only V5. When I acquired a Nikon D810, which is not supported in my older version, I figured I would either have to upgrade or find greener pastures. Since I have never been completely fond of Maxim DL and its clunky way of needing a suite of various other programs and plugins to get the full use out of the program Sequence Generator Pro seemed like a perfect fit, for a substantially lower cost. Especially when taking into account the added cost of focusmax, pinpoint and the numerous other bits and pieces I have acquired over the last couple years. SGP seemed to bring a great many of these things together, and in all honesty it works much more seemlessly than everything else I have worked with. I mostly use TSX for my planetarium software, only because I got used to it from when I was using a MYT, which I no longer have. I am not a big fan of companies like Diffraction Limited/SBIG/Software Bisque wanting and fighting with their customers over silly propriety rights on drivers and whatnot. I understand the hardware but when you restrict access and features from drivers you are hurting only the customers. SB not allowing their mounts, which are top of the line, in terms of build quality to utilize other programs without going through TheSky first does nothing but hinder the end user. Since they seem to only allow ASCOM drivers to be used within their software through their own X2/ASCOM driver standard, which does nothing but allow a bare minimum of the function that is available through the ASCOM interface, I do not know who they think they are sticking thier noses up at, but sadly it is the people who are potentially buying their wares.

From all of my investigating there are almost a dozen of us with a couple of Apogee's bum products. My father was the one who pointed me in Apogee's direction, wanting to purchase a camera from an American company, and as I am not a fan of SBIG because of their insistence on keeping their drivers so close to their chest it makes using the equipment to its fullest a PITA. When I purchased a SBIG camera with dual chips it was pushed as a great feature, but in reality it turned into a complete mess of inefficient hardware needing specialized software to even make it work. This is how I came to purchase Maxim in the first place as it was one of the only current programs that supported dual chip cameras. CCDops which came with the camera was grossly outdated back then and they only add functionality for new equipment, not add or improve the present functions they have utilized already.

Currently I primarily am using SGP, since my main cameras are two SBIG STF8300s 1 mono, 1 OSC and my two FF Nikons, a factory D810 and a Mono modified 800e. I have learned it is much easier to shoot all my RGB frames at one by using a OSC chips. The Apogee catastrophe was so I could have a camera/filterwheel combo for all my narrowband filters, in a similar size to the 8300 ccd. Apparently when doing my research I was occupied brushing up on information such as sensor sensitivity and well capacity, instead of researching their current customer service record. Which up until they were purchased was glowing. Oh well I am beginning to believe that if I ever get this hobby to be as simple and idiot proof as I know it can be, I will probably lose interest and find something else to aggravate me, LOL. I have been a lurker on your site for a year or so now, and a member for a month or so, but tend to not post too much, as I like to read everything I can get my hands on, and responding eats into that time.

Clear Skies,

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Re: How's it going guys

Post by DkN » Wed Feb 15, 2017 8:13 am

Welcome to the forum. Wow what a problem. Quite sad that they couldn't bang out a quick driver for this device. It's funny that the little companies like Atik and SXCCD and QHY have no problems making the drivers that simply work and a high end maker like Andora won't support you guys.

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