Connecting to KStars

Connecting to KStars

When connecting to KStars using a Rasperry Pi running Astroberry, there are multiple way  to manage your imaging session. As winter approaches, this article looks at your options.

Written by Jonathan Eames
October 22, 2021

Winter is coming… 

This has nothing to do with Game of Thrones (except when the blokey above turns up to ruin your imaging session cry), but it can get cold outside in winter and sometimes our laptops just don’t like getting being out there… and we don’t always want to be outside either. Much more cosy once everything is running well to keep watch inside, glass of wine in hand and the family happy.

There are many ways to interact with your Astroberry server running KStars on your Raspberry Pi – I am not talking about how you physically connect to it which I discuss in a previous post but where you actually run your Kstars software.

What are we trying to achieve…

In connecting to Ekos, we should always bear in mind our sessions objectives:

  • A fast and viable connection to KStars and Ekos;
  • Depending on our physical connection speed
    • Best place to run KStars / Ekos
    • Best place to be saving our images;
    • Most efficient way to plate solve, guide and align our mount utilising our imaging time well.

Our Options

Option 1 – connecting to KStars / Ekos on your RPi desktop directly using VNC viewer

With this method, you use VNC viewer to remote into the Astroberry RPi desktop and directly control KStars/Ekos

Pros

  • VNC viewer is free to download and use (personal use, up to 5 devices);
  • VNC Viewer will run on most operating systems – Windows/Mac/Linux IOS and Andriod tablets and phones;
  • Astroberry Server comes pre-loaded with VNC server out of the box.
  • Your Desktop / Laptop can be powered down during the imaging session so less power needed in the field;
  • You can easily run more than one RPi session consecutively from different mounts / RPi’s by setting up multiple profiles.

Cons

  • Extensive use of RPi’s resources, laggy desktop can occur on an under-resouced RPi or poor connection;
  • Image files need to be stored on RPi or USB SDCard otherwise imaging time is lost waiting for download between captures.

Option 2 – connecting to KStars / Ekos on you own Laptop / Desktop running KStars using Indi Server

Using a remote version of KStars installed on your laptop or desktop computer, you use a connection to an Indi Server on the RPi to run your session but all control is manged from your local machine not the RPi.

Pros

  • Uses very little resources on the RPi;
  • No screen display time lag;
  • Remote machines seem to have more processing power and storage capabilty than RPi’s.

Cons

  • Reliant on the stability of the network connection – failure of the connection will terminate your imaging session;
  • A slow network connection does not help with good guiding control or fast alignment;
  • Your remote device must stay on during the session- this could cause problems in the field with laptop battery lifespan;
  • Cannot change remote device once imaging session has started without aborting it.
  • There is no automatic way of shutting down KStars on the laptop which will also shut down the headless RPi astroberry server. You can however send a shudown command from your local machine that will be launched on Astroberry Server but you have to use ssh to do this.

 

How to connect to KStars / Ekos on your RPi desktop directly using VNC viewer

  • Download and install VNC viewer on your chosen device(s);
  • Create an account so your connections sync across all your devices (recommended);
  • Create a new connection (File/ New Connection)
    • Use most default values except for
    • Enter the Static IP address (1)  of your RPi and the connection a descriptive name (2);
    • If you do not know it, you will need to find it from your router’s dhcp client list or from the RPi itself if it is allocated dynamically – best practice would be to assign a fixed IP to your RPi for ease, especially in the field. The default is http://astroberry.local or http://10.42.0.1 (which is the default IP address assigned by Astroberry).
  • Double click the new connection to start it – you will be asked fo the astroberry password and to accept the certificate offered – save for future use when offered.
  • When the Astroberry desktop opens, start KStars and configure your session etc.
Connecting to KStars

How to connect to KStars / Ekos on you own Laptop / Desktop running KStars using Indi Server

  • Open KStars on your remote device – start EKOS from the toolbar button to display the EKOS main window;
  • Create a new profile to your RPi
    • Set the mode to Remote (1);
    • Tick INDI Web Manager (2);
    • Enter the Host (Web Manager) IP Address (3);
    • If the IP Address is not known, click Scan (4) and if a web manager is found, its IP address will be shown (5) for use above;
    • Save the new Profile;
  • Start the new profile and use EKOS as if connected directly.

NB In the Capture module, remember that saving images locally is on the remote computer whereas on the RPi is remote – this is reversed from a direct connection with VNC viewer.

Connecting to KStars

My Conclusions

Whilst both scenarios have their use case, I prefer connecting to KStars using VNC viewer and having everything on the mount. I like that I can use a tablet to check on progress even when under a duvet!

What do you think? I welcome comments as always…

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