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INDI Library v1.9.7 Released (29 Jul 2022)

Bi-monthly INDI Library released with new drivers and bug fixes.

Another "Build Experience" Story - Ubuntu 20.04LTS

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In the hope that it might be helpful I've jotted down my experiences over the last few days with building Linux/Kstars/INDI/EKOS from scratch. The contents below have been my experience and Your Mileage will definitely vary. 

I'm a big fan of Jasem's Stellarmate and the polished implementation he's managed to put together. I bought a Pi4 4GB to run it but even using an external SSD as boot/storage it was slow. Capturing an image from my Canon 600D would take 9-10 seconds to download so polar alignment was arduous. I'd need to let it take two images before I saw the first in the PA screen and it took a lot longer than it should to complete. I decided to hang on to the Pi4/Stellarmate but also try a small PC build with faster processor etc.

I don't have any facility for a permanent setup so whatever I use has to be portable and battery powered. The new PC needed to work with the following components:
1. Zenithstar 61 APO
2. ZWO ASI 178MC
3. ZWO ASI EAF
4. Explore Scientific iEXOS-100 Mount
5. u-blox GPS USB Dongle

I bought a Beelink GK55 mini PC which has a Celeren 4125 quad core at 2GHz (bursting to 2.7), 2x USB3 & 2x USB2 plus a M2 256GB M2 drive which had Windows 10 preinstalled. I say had because I removed it and added a Kingston 256GB SSD that I already had. The Beelink uses a 12v supply and uses just 12 watts of power.

I downloaded the current Ubuntu 20.04.3 LTS Desktop image and burned it to USB stick using Rufus. Booting from this was quick and I was soon running with gnome desktop although I'd prefer KDE or something else but I found no choice at build time. Next was the fun of adding all the software and configuring it.

First up was to update the OS which also created access to repos for the WLAN driver:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Then install the WLAN driver:
sudo apt install rtl8821ce-dkms
Then configure it through the usual network UI.

Next the following two changes via the Settings menu:
Switch off screen locking -> Settings -> Power
Disable WiFi auto off -> Settings -> Power

Then the GPS daemon install:
sudo apt-get install gpsd gpsd-clients
(I added gpsd-clients so that I can use cgps or xgpsd to check that there is data coming from the GPS.)
and start it up:
sudo systemctl enable gpsd
sudo systemctl start gpsd

I found that there was no data forthcoming and after searching the OS for gpsd config it seems that gpsd seems to be looking at /dev/ttyUSB0 for GPS data but this device was using /dev/ttyACM0.
The fix was to edit /etc/default/gpsd
and change line to :  DEVICES="/dev/ttyACM0"
The restart it with:
sudo systemctl daemon-reload
sudo systemctl restart gpsd
Now cgps shows data from the GPS dongle 

Then to install Kstars/INDI/EKOS:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:mutlaqja/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indi-full kstars-bleeding

I tested EKOS initially with the Canon 600D and download times dropped from 9-10 seconds when using the Pi 4 to 1-2 seconds with the new setup. Outstanding!

The most difficulties I've had have been in the remote control software. I tried TightVNCServer, TigerVNCServer, different window managers due to Gnome apparently having a "known issue" with black or grey screens but with no success and finally settled on Nomachine. Nomachine uses a protocol called NX instead of VNC so you need a NX protocol client to talk to it. Fortunately they are available for Windows/Linux/Android etc, and all are free. It is very fast (try dragging Kstars constelaltions around with the mouse and see how smoothly it works) but it does seem to chomp CPU when in use. Anyhow, I couldn't get any other combination to work but I expect someone on the forum may have a quick how-to for that. I be interested to see it for Ubuntu 20.04.3 LTS with Gnome.

So to install Nomachine on Ubuntu it needs to be downloaded from the website and installed as follows on the current version number as of today:
wget https://download.nomachine.com/download/7.6/Linux/nomachine_7.6.2_4_amd64.deb
sudo apt install ./nomachine_7.6.2_4_amd64.deb

As Nomachine will run on a headless unattended host I made the following change:
Start the Nomachine Service App
Go to Security -> uncheck Require Permission to let Users Connect

If the host firewall is running you'll need to allow Nomachne through using:
sudo ufw allow 4000/tcp
Check whether it is by running:
sudo systemctl status ufw

Then install your Nomachine client of choice and connect to the Beelink.

In preparation for running truly headless I needed a dummy HDMI dongle to tell the Beelink that it had a monitor. I picked up a set of XTVTX 3PCS 4K HDMI Dummy Plugs and one works fine.

As for powering all this in the field I run a single 12V cable from a TalentCell 72W 100WH 12V/8300mAh 9V/11000mAh 5V/20000mAh DC Output Lithium ion Battery Pack. All the other devices are powered from their USB cable connected to the mini-PC. I ran this lot today for 5 hours on this battery and it used around 50% of the available charge. There is a dew heater connected to another LIon battery pack due to the dew heater taking 1-2A of power on its own.

So that's it. I'm a happy bunny with the performance of the new device and am sure there will be further customisation. I need to work out how to run a WLAN hostspot if away from home, but there's always something needs doing - right ?





 
WO ZS61 II, ASI183MC Pro, ZWO 120MM-S Guider, ZWO EAF, HEQ5 Pro, INDI/EKOS on Ubuntu 20.04
The following user(s) said Thank You: Jasem Mutlaq, Ron DeBry
Last edit: 10 months 1 day ago by Damian.
10 months 1 day ago #76480

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I just picked up an N5095 Beelink on which to install Ubuntu and KStars/Ekos, so I appreciate the detailed description!

Did you sort out the hotspot? I go remote fairly often. With my RPi I have an external usb wifi adapter and switch the Astroberry hotspot back and forth. Its on the (almost useless) internal RPi wifi at home, I swap it to the external adapter when I go remote.
2 weeks 3 days ago #84629

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Hi Ron,

Good luck with your build. Mine has been solid since day one, and has effortlessly coped with changing mounts, cameras, focusser etc.

I did play around trying to do something fancy with looking for a local hotspot then timing out and running my own. In the end I decided to keep it simple and leave it standard but use a mini hotspot that's battery powered.

I use one of these GL iNET devices and a LiPo battery. Runs for ages. Just give it a new WLAN SSID and enable the DHCP server. Make sure it's powered up before the Beelink and then tell the Beelink the SSID/Password you set. Leave it near your mount. Add the new SSID/Password to your tablet/PC whatever you control it with and you should be done. NoMachine should work straight away with it.

In testing at home it's worked fine but I've yet to test it in the field. I was getting about 5MB/s transfers which was enough for me :)

Image of it is attached. I probably wouldn't take it through an airport though ...
WO ZS61 II, ASI183MC Pro, ZWO 120MM-S Guider, ZWO EAF, HEQ5 Pro, INDI/EKOS on Ubuntu 20.04
The following user(s) said Thank You: Ron DeBry
Last edit: 2 weeks 2 days ago by Damian. Reason: Adding image
2 weeks 2 days ago #84641
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Thanks, Damian. I will look into travel routers. The club sites I travel to have mains power, so no need to make anything that looks like a time bomb :)
2 weeks 2 days ago #84650

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I was able to follow your excellent how-to (plus a bit of internet searching to fill some gaping holes in my linux knowledge). I have my Beelink set up now with Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, NoMachine, KStars and PHD2. I even had the same issue as you with my USB GPS dongle!

The built-in wifi is much better than the RPi's (no surprise, especially as my RPi is in a metal case), but I added my usb wifi adapter (Panda Wireless PAU06), which was plug-and-play. This allows me to run a hotspot on one interface and connect to home wifi on the other, so *I think* I should have access to the box over wifi from my laptop at a remote site without any heroics.

I haven't plugged in any astro gear yet - I will keep using the RPi until the next time I bring the mount back indoors.
1 week 3 days ago #84870

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Good idea Ron to run two wifi adapters - I didn't think of that

Pleased it's up and running.

All you need now is clear skies (coming in v3.7 apparently...)
WO ZS61 II, ASI183MC Pro, ZWO 120MM-S Guider, ZWO EAF, HEQ5 Pro, INDI/EKOS on Ubuntu 20.04
1 week 2 days ago #84883

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Hooked it up to the rig tonight (indoors). I'm struggling with Nomachine vs the VNC solution I used with astroberry. Logging in with one computer boots me off the connection from another. I frequently connect with both the (obviously immobile) desktop and a laptop for doing things at the rig and on the couch. Not a deal-breaker, but a pain (and there might even be a setting to allow two connections - I will look).

A bigger issue is the look and feel of the windows within the ubuntu desktop itself. I'm not sure if it is nomachine or what, but I cannot see things like the minimize icon on any of the KStars windows. This will make it a pain to move the Mount Control window out of the way, or briefly visit the INDI configuration window. It is much worse on the high-dpi laptop display. Again, there might be a way to get nomachine to deal with the high-dpi display that I just need to find.

Meanwhile, I will search for more information on a VNC solution that works with ubuntu 22.04.
1 week 2 days ago #84908

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Hi Ron,

Check out this video (the section on setting up vnc under ubuntu is timestamped). This approach works for me.

If you are using two machines you could potentially use vnc on one and no machine on the other.

Mike
iOptron CEM40G, SharpStar CF90IIApo with Moonlight focuser, ASI294MCpro, ASI120MM-S, DIY MyFocuserPro2, RPi4 8Gb 480SSD running KStars/Ekos/Indi under Ubuntu Mate 22.04, DIY flat box
Skywatcher Flextube 12" Dob, Meade LX75 8SCT, Skywatcher NEQ6Pro

Last edit: 1 week 2 days ago by Spartacus. Reason: Leave link as plain text
1 week 2 days ago #84909

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Hi Ron,

Yes Nomachine kicks me off the old display when I connect with a new one. As I'm only ever in front of one, that's not been a problem for me.

I don't have the window component visibility problems you describe. Maybe it's related to how the NoMachine server makes display options available and are interpreted by different resolution clients. Would this page be of help ? -> www.nomachine.com/configuring-how-you-view-the-remote-desktop
I use the default server settings and it works ok with both a 10 inch tablet and a full wraparound desktop monitor (although the latter is a window, not full screen).

Thanks for posting that link Mike. The guy mentions using a VNC server setting of high resolution which might have been where I struggled with black screens on the clients. That said, the price for high res is slower response over the low bandwidth links we use in the field. X11 is needed for VNC and I've found it to be heavy on resource.

These are all trade offs but for me I'll likely stay with NoMachine for now. We need to get to the bottom of your missing window widgets though Ron if you're to run with NoMachine.

Mine is set to "Scale to Window"
WO ZS61 II, ASI183MC Pro, ZWO 120MM-S Guider, ZWO EAF, HEQ5 Pro, INDI/EKOS on Ubuntu 20.04
Last edit: 1 week 1 day ago by Damian. Reason: Added screen capture
1 week 1 day ago #84914
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OK, so from the NoMachine forums ....

Installing the free version of NoMachine on the computer to be accessed means one connection is allowed to that computer at a time. If you want to connect different users to the same server computer, you should try the evaluation of Enterprise Desktop. This will allow unlimited connections to the same physical display of the machine you are accessing (users will see the same desktop)
WO ZS61 II, ASI183MC Pro, ZWO 120MM-S Guider, ZWO EAF, HEQ5 Pro, INDI/EKOS on Ubuntu 20.04
1 week 1 day ago #84919

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Thanks for the clarification about NoMachine. That is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it is another inconvenience. While imaging with astroberry, I tend to keep an open vnc connection on the desktop on one floor of the house and the laptop on the other, but I'm sure I could get used to having to log in again more frequently. I will keep exploring vnc options. There is something fundamental I am missing, because I get the same error message when I try to start either tigervnc or tightvnc. There is probably some precursor installation I have missed.

I don't have a lot invested in the system yet, so I'm thinking about maybe starting over from scratch with an Ubuntu server install followed by a different desktop (you noted being forced to use Gnome - that comes from choosing the Ubuntu desktop installation option).

One thing I find clunky about Gnome for KStars is actually something the Gnome developers probably think of as 'elegance'.

In this first image of an astroberry install (not mine, I stole it from a google groups post, but mine is similar) you see how the various KStars component windows each have a Windows-style tab near the top of the screen. Switching from one to another is a simple matter of clicking on that tab. If I need to adjust something in the INDI Control Panel it is a single click to bring focus back to the control panel.


In Gnome, the KStars windows are organized as dots in the main KStars icon on the left. To bring the INDI Control Panel to the front you need to click on the KStars icon, then click on the pop-up window for the component you want. (you can also see in the screenshot where I don't have a minimize widget on the Mount Control window - which is a pain given that Mount Control is persistently on top).


I don't know if there is an Ubuntu desktop flavor that is more like the Debian buster desktop, but I'm looking.
1 week 3 hours ago #85000
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Try Ubuntu MATE I am running it on my imaging mini PC.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Ron DeBry
6 days 18 hours ago #85013

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