Windows Based Mini PCPersonallyIthinkthatthisisthebestoptionforthosewhoareusedtoWindowsPC’sandlaptops.AminiPCis basicallythesameasstrappingyourdesktopPCorlaptoptothesideofyourtelescopebutinamuchsmaller format.WhenchoosingaminiPCit’sbestthatyoufindonethatyoucanpowerviaa12vcigarplugasthatwill more than likely be the only power source that you have when out with your telescope.ThemaindifferencebetweenaminiPCandyourstandarddesktopPCisthatitdoesn’tcomewithascreen,mouse or keyboard so we need to connect to it somehow. But firstly you will need to set it up.JustconnecttheminiPCtoyourTVoranymonitorthathasHDMIinputs,amouseandakeyboard.Younowhave anormaldesktopcomputer.Allyouneedtodoistodownloadandinstallallofthesoftwareanddriversthatyou willneedtorunyourequipment.Ifyoualreadyusealaptoptocontrolyourequipmentyouwilljustmirroryour setupontotheminiPC.Ifnot,andthisisyourfirsttimesettingsomethinglikethisupthenthislistiswhatIhave setup on my mini PC:1)ASCOM Platform (This is essential as this is how the software on your mini PC will talk to your equipment)2)Driversforyourequipment.MostcommonmountdriverscanbefoundontheASCOMsitealongwithother equipment here: https://ascom-standards.org/Downloads/ScopeDrivers.htmIfyourequipmentisnotontheASCOMsitethenvisityourequipmentsmanufacturerswebsiteanddownload any available drivers for your equipment.3)Equipmentcontrolsoftware.IuseAstroPhotographyTool(APT)whichcontrolsmyimagingcamera,mountand platesolving.ThereareplentyofothersouttherelikeBackYardEOS/NikonforcameracontrolandN.I.N.A.which (like APT) is an all round equipment controller.4)IfyouwanttoutilisetheplatesolvingfunctionsinsoftwarelikeAPTorN.I.N.Athenyouwillneedtodownload andinstallsomethirdpartysoftwarelikeeitherASTAPorPlateSolve2.ASTAPworksbestwithN.I.N.Aand PlateSolve2 with APT. These can be downloaded from within APT or N.I.N.A.5)GuidingSoftwarelikePHD2.Forthisyouwillobviouslyneedtohaveaset-upthatincludesaguidecameraand scope.Evenifyou’renotguidingyetitwillbeworthdownloadingandinstallingthisasyouwillmorethanlikely need it in the future. Guiding is a must for long exposure Astrophotography.6)PlanetariumSoftwaresuchasCartesduCiel.Thiscanbeintegratedtotalktoyourmountcontrolsoftwareso all you need to do is to click on the map and your scope will slew to the selected target.The following are not essential but can be considered for download:7)DeepSkyStacker.8)Image processing software like PhotoShop or GIMP.When you have all the software and drivers downloaded and installed you now need to set up how you will connect to your mini PC.As mentioned earlier, your mini PC will not utilise it’s own screen, mouse or keyboard while its running all of your equipment so we need to be able to mirror what’s happening on the mini PC on a laptop or tablet.To do this the mini PC will need to create its own WI-Fi hotspot. This function is built in to windows 10 natively but it does not create a stable enough connection for the long periods of time that are needed.There are lots of programmes that can control your Wi-Fi and create a stable hotspot but the best that I have found is Connectify. It is definitely worth the £25.98 cost for the Lifetime Hotspot PRO license. I was unable to find a free hotspot creator that was any good. Just set up the Hotspot with a username and password and ensure that you change the hotspot settings to force the hotspot to automatically start when you power on the mini PC.Now shut down the mini PC and unplug the HDMI cable, mouse & keyboard. Power on your mini PC.On your laptop click on the Wi-Fi symbol and connect to the hotspot that you created. If you have the PRO version of Windows then you can use Remote Desktop, if not, download TeamViewer to your mini PC and laptop and use that as your connection. When connected a new window will open and you will see the Desktop of your mini PC.Your mini PC is now set up and all you need to do is to connect your equipment and test it all out.The Raspberry Pi set-up tutorial will be coming soon.
Ifyou’renotoneforthecoldtemperaturesinwinteroryouwouldsimplyliketoconductyourastrophotography from the comfort of your living room then a mini PC or Raspberry Pi is the way forward for you.ThankstosoftwarelikeASCOMandINDItherearemanymounts,cameras,guidecameras,focusers,filterwheels, and even full dome set-ups that can be controlled remotely from a few meters away or in a different continent.In this guide I will take you through the two systems that I use - a mini Windows PC and a Raspberry Pi.BothsystemsarefairlyeasytosetupbutIpersonallyfoundtheWindowsMiniPCeasiertosetuppurelybecause I’m used to using Windows, but the astro-related software made for use on the Pi makes it well worth considering.Both have their pros & cons so you will need to decide which could work for you better than the other.Ifyou’reusedtoWindowsthenIwouldsaystickwithitasitseasiertosetupanduse.ARaspberryPiisabitmore complicatedtosetupbutit’swellworththeeffortasthesoftwaretocontrolyourequipmentisoneofthebestthat I’ve used. You can however, buy pre set-up Raspberry Pi’s like the ASIair by ZWO and Stellar-Mate.TheASIairismainlysetupforownersofZWOdevicesliketheirguideandimagingcamerasandmotorfocusers, butaStella-Mateisdesignedfornearlyallcamerasandequipment.Bothofthesedevicesarearoundthe£130- £150markbutarealsellingpointofStellar-Mateisthatyoucandownloadtheoperatingsystemfor£39.00and installittoaRaspberryPithatyoumayalreadyown.Thiscansaveyouasmallfortuneinanalreadyexpensive hobby.