MOANA: computer set up

Moana’s brain

Here are my notes for Moana’s computer setup, for remote astronomy.

The remote computer is a shuttle. It has 2 com ports, allowing robust connection to the mount (and over a longer distance than USB).

A first step was to get in the BIOS (F2 or Del) and disable the EUP (Energy Using Product) power management, then, still in the BIOS, to allow the device to boot once powered, so in essence the computer power on and shut down is controlled by the Switched PDU (WebPowerSwitch) rather than by the on/off button.

The second step was to prevent the computer from going to sleep, adjusting Windows setting > Power and sleep > Never sleep. Indeed if the computer goes to sleep, it cannot be waken up remotely, as one needs to physically hit a keyboard key.

Then I updated Windows.

Then I installed 2 remote desktop applications, Chrome Desktop (Free) and RemotePC (Affordable using the ever going discount). Two apps are mandatory, so if one updates automatically or needs to be updated manually, the process can be seen through with the other app. With one app, one would likely loose connection at the first update.

Then I installed the gear drivers, Ascom platform, the Ascom drivers, the star catalogs for plate solving, Carte du ciel, Phd Pro, the collimation tools, Voyager, NINA and SGP, then Pixinsight for on premise processing and data volume reduction.

My Switched PDU controls 4 items:

  • The computer.
  • The mount 12v power supply.
  • The “rest of the gear” 12v power supply: 2 cameras, 2 focusers, 1 filter wheel, the dew heaters. This does not allow too much granularity in terms of switching gear on and off. Most remote imagers have a Pegasus Power box to switch and control all electronic separately. I don’t and so far it has work well to control both the main scope and the piggy back.
  • The light panel.

It should be noted that the PDU is always on, and so is the Internet switch (which I do not really need, since the computer is the only thing on it -maybe one day the mount will be connected there too). The pier has 2 internet cables: one for the PDU, and one for the internet switch.

Here is what the web interface of my Switched PDU looks like.

I can connect from anywhere in the world to the PDU, by just typing the static IP of the observatory followed by the port name my PDU is listening on.

The light panel is a cheap but large led drawing panel, slightly modified and controlled with Pulse Width Modulation from a Pegasus Pocked box. Light intensity change is achieved through PWM by wiring the panel like if it was a dew heater. This is cheap and effective.