The MUP Astro Hat PCBs arrived from DirtyPCBs just before the weekend and they look quite nicely done.

I’ve been keeping my expectations that this will actually work in check throughout this project but with PCBs in hand, I was finally starting to believe it just might work.

Reality however had other plans.


The PCB layout is now complete.

As this is the first PCB I’ve laid out and intended to have manufactured, I expect many mistakes to have been made and will be utterly surprised if it works at all, especially the switching power supply.

For a few years now I’ve remote operated my LX90 and associated imaging gear via indilib over wifi using an olimex A20 stored below the scope. With my eye on a zero image shift focuser and a lack of spare ports on the USB hub coupled with an urge to not increase the cables and control boxes even futher, it’s time for a change and a new “hat”.

After poor results trying out Ekos’ Polar Alignment helper module the other night I spent a little time looking over the indilib and Ekos source code.

To recap, last session I noticed Ekos was failing to wait for the scope to stop slewing before taking the 2nd polar alignment image resulting in variations of:

A few nights ago I tried to use the Polar Alignment module of KStars/Ekos to obtain an accurate polar alignment without the need to spend time drift aligning. Ekos had other ideas though.

Polar Alignment

The way Ekos works is you slew the scope to a star in the south and then east as you would for a normal drift align. Ekos takes an image and plate solves using a local (or online) install of to determine exactly where the scope is pointing.

Ekos then slews the scope 30 arcminutes in RA only and takes/solves a second image. It uses the result of those two images to calculate[^2] the polar alignment error. At least, that’s the idea.

I use a Logitech Harmony One IR remote to control my various home entertainment systems which includes a mac running iTunes[^1] Most of my smart playlists select tracks based in part on the ratings of each track. To help encourage myself to rate more of the tracks I’ve create a small utility called Iris.

It’s nearly Halloween and my family have been digging out Halloween decorations which is how a broken Tigger toy landed on my desk.

Opening the pumpkin and exposing the internal circuit/wires showed the source of the problem. Three of the power wires connected to the LEDs had snapped along with a battery ground wire on the original circuit board and both of the resistors each had a snapped leg.

Our first iPad game, Neutron Flux, is available on the App Store[^1]

Neutron Flux is a game of simple rules. Place atoms until you reach a cell’s limit, cause explosions/chain reactions and capture your opponent’s squares. Capture all the squares to win the game.

Using an LCD monitor + computer for sheet music display along with the first version of Page Turner has turned out to be a much nicer experience than struggling to page turn manually. The monitor and need for a computer is not the most convenient pairing though. An iPad on the other hand is portable and just about the right size for showing one page of sheet music[^1] and then there’s the touch screen for annotation. Unfortunately my Page Turner pedal, which is serial based, will not work with it.

It was time to make Page Turner Mk II, a USB device that plugs into the iPad’s camera connection kit and identifies itself as a USB keyboard device. It sends a page forward or backward keypress depending on which foot pedal is pressed.

Last year I switched over to a 64bit operating system and realised there were no 64bit drivers available for the MX716 CCD camera I use for astrophotography. Unable to pass up the opportunity to learn about windows driver programming I spent a bit of spare time creating two drivers for the camera (firmware loader and blockIO driver).

The driver supports both the original StarlightXpress software, AstroArt and MaximDL. In addition, the MaximDL universal firmware may be used (see installation instructions for details).

I’ve also created 64bit drivers for the newer Lodestar guiding camera and SXV USB2 range of CCDs. Both the SXV and older MX716 drivers are now available for download direct from the Starlight Xpress site.

My thanks to Terry from StarlightXpress for his assistance and openness on the SX hardware.