Digital Setting Circles Software Compatibility

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This page lists the software packages that will work with my Digital Setting Circles interface. Note that some of these packages require installation of the ASCOM Platform in order to support my interface. For each package, I'll describe the settings needed to get my interface to work with that package. I'm not going to go into detail on how to use each package--consult the help file or user's guide for the software for more information.

The ASCOM Platform

ASCOM is an organization that is developing software interface standards for controlling various types of hardware associated with astronomy, such as telescopes and focusers. One goal of this effort is to relieve software makers from having to understand how to interface with the variety of devices that users might have. Instead, the device makers (like me) develop software drivers using the interface standards. The drivers will then work with any software that uses the ASCOM standards.

Installing the Driver

Here's how to install my ASCOM driver to allow your ASCOM-enabled software to talk to my telescope interface:

1) Download and install the ASCOM platform from http://ascom-standards.org/downloads.html. Read the instructions on that page to determine whether you need to download the Full Setup or the Runtime Setup.

2) Ensure that the ASCOM driver for your software package is installed. Details on how to do this for ASCOM-enabled software are given below.

3) Download my ASCOM driver setup program (ekbox.exe) and run it to install the driver. The ASCOM platform must be installed before installing the ASCOM driver for my interface!

Configuring your Software

Exactly how to configure your planetarium software to work with the ASCOM driver varies with each software package. I'll give a description of how to get started with each package I've used. Before you start, connect your telescope interface to your computer and turn it on.

Run your Software and Find the ASCOM Telescope Chooser:

This is the ASCOM Telescope Chooser window. It's in this window that you'll do most of the configuration of the software. With each software package, you'll follow a different procedure to get here. I'll explain the procedure below where I cover each package.

Set the Interface Properties

Once you've found the ASCOM Telescope Chooser window, make sure that "David Ek's DSC Interface" is the one selected in the list box, and then click the Properties... button. When you do, the Scope Properties window will appear:

Enter your observing site's latitude and longitude and local time correction (which is NOT automatically adjusted for daylight savings time), the COM port to which you've connected your telescope interface, and the encoder ticks per revolution of the telescope on each axis. Click the Test... button and follow the instructions to determine whether the driver needs to reverse the encoder counts from the RA/Az encoder. Finally, you can enter some descriptive info about your telescope (all of which is optional). When finished, click the OK button. Then click the OK button on the ASCOM Telescope Chooser window.

Perform the Alignment

The next step is to perform the alignment process. In Hallo Northern Sky, this process begins automatically after you click the OK button in the ASCOM Telescope Chooser window. For Cartes du Ciel, click on the Connect button in the Configuration Panel. In Starry Night Pro 4, click the Connect button in the window on the left side of the screen.

This will begin the alignment process. First, you'll be asked to move your tube so that it's at zero degrees declination (for an equatorial mount) or altitude (for a dobsonian):

Do so, and click the Continue... button. Next you'll be asked to point your scope to 90 degrees declination or altitude:

Do so, and click the Continue... button. Next you'll be shown a list of stars and asked to select one and point your telescope at that star:

Make sure you highlight the star in the list by clicking on it, then point your telescope at it and click the Continue... button. You'll next be asked to repeat the process for a second star:

Do so, and then click the OK button. That completes the alignment process. It can actually be done fairly quickly if you can find your alignment stars in the sky easily.

TheSky 5.0

(Special thanks go to The Software Bisque for sending me a copy of TheSky and TheSky Pocket Edition for testing!) You can either configure TheSky to talk to my interface as a Tangent Instruments BBox or you can use the ASCOM platform. To configure it for the BBox, select "Setup..." from the Telescope menu. In the dialog that appears, select "BBox by Tangent Instruments" as the the Control System:

Then click the Settings... button to set the encoder resolutions:

Enter the COM port to which you connect the interface, and make sure that the Baud Rate is set to 9600. Note that you enter the encoder tics per revolution in two places. Use the same numbers for the Communication Box entries as you do for the Encoders entries. Use TheSky's interactive help if you don't know what to do with the remaining inputs. Then click the Configure BBox button to send the encoder resolutions to the interface. If you have version 2.00 of the firmware in your interface's microcontroller chip, this only needs to be done once (or whenever the resolutions change).

If you want to use the ASCOM platform with TheSky, the ASCOM driver for TheSky is included with the ASCOM platform download. After you install the ASCOM platform and my ASCOM driver, look in \Program Files\Common Files\ASCOM\Planetarium-Plugins\TheSky. See the file "install.txt" in that directory for installation details. Once it's installed, you select it by selecting "Setup..." from the Telescope menu, and then specifying "Telescope API" as the Control System. Then click the Settings... button to get to the ASCOM Telescope Chooser. Then follow the above instructions for configuring my ASCOM driver.

Once the software is configured for the interface, select Link > Establish from the Telescope menu to begin the alignment process (described above for the ASCOM driver).

TheSky Pocket Edition 1.10

In TheSky PE, select Setup... from the Telescope menu. In the ensuing window, Select BBox for the telescope type, and then tap the Settings... button. Note that you enter the encoder tics per revolution in two places. Use the same numbers for the Communication Box entries as you do for the Encoders entries. The CCW settings need to be checked if your encoder values increase opposite increasing RA or declination (you may have to experiment to determine which settings work for you). Point declination is the declination at which you point the telescope in the first step of the alignment process. Once you've finished configuring the software to work with my interface, select "Establish Link..." from the Telescope menu and proceed with the alignment process.

Starry Night Pro 4.0

Starry Night Pro 4 requires the ASCOM platform in order to work with my interface, so follow the instructions above to install the ASCOM platform and my ASCOM driver. In addition, Starry Night Pro 4 requires its own ASCOM driver to be installed. The ASCOM driver for Starry Night Pro 4 is included with the ASCOM platform installation and is located in \Program Files\Common Files\ASCOM\Planetarium-Plugins\StarryNight. See the file "install.txt" in that directory for installation details.

When Starry Night Pro 4 is started, you'll see several tabs along the left side of its window. Click on the Telescope tab, and the tab will expand to a window. In the window, click the Configure... button and the ASCOM Telescope Chooser window will appear. Configure the ASCOM driver as described above. Then click the Connect button to perform the alignment process (also described above).

SkyMap Pro 9

(tested with the trial version) SkyMap Pro 9 requires the ASCOM platform in order to work with my interface, so follow the instructions above to install the ASCOM platform and my ASCOM driver. In addition, SkyMap Pro 9 requires its own ASCOM driver to be installed. The ASCOM driver for SkyMap Pro 9 can be found on the SkyMap web site. Follow the link to the Library on the main page and look for Drivers. The ASCOM driver is in their Driver Library. Installation instructions are also found there.

When SkyMap Pro 9 is started, select Configure... from the Telescope menu. The following dialog box will appear:

Select ASCOM Driver in the list box. Then click the Configure... button and the ASCOM Telescope Chooser window will appear. Configure the ASCOM driver as described above. Then choose Open Connection from the Telescope menu to perform the alignment process (also described above).

SkyChart III

(tested with the trial version, release 3.5.1) Select Connect... from the Telescope menu. Then select Tangent Instruments BBox from the list of telescope interfaces. Then enter the COM port and the encoder steps (a negative sign means that the directionality of the encoder needs to be reversed--you may need to experiment here).

Enter the remaining inputs as appropriate (refer to the SkyChart III online help if needed). Then click OK to begin the alignment process.

MegaStar 5

(tested with the trial version) Choose Select Interface from the Scope menu and select "BBox/Sky Wizard CTI" from the list of interfaces. Then select Comm Setup... from the Scope menu, and specify 9600 baud, 8 bits, 1 stop bit, and no parity for the communications settings. Then select Encoder Setup... from the Scope menu. The following dialog box appears:

Enter the encoder resolutions and the output ranges. The output ranges should go from negative one half of the encoder resolution to positive one half (but don't forget that zero is also included in the range. For example, if your encoders have a resolution of 4000 tics, the range should be from -2000 to +1999. For an odd number resolution, say 4001, the range would be from -2000 to +2000. If the encoder directionality needs to be reversed, check the Reverse box (you may need to experiment here). Then click the Send Steps to Box button. For some reason, this returns an error message ("Invalid return from Z command"), but it works anyway.

Next, select Connect... from the Scope menu. You'll confirm your communications settings, and then Megastar should report that connection was successful. Finally, select Star Alignment... from the Scope menu to perform the alignment process. Consult MegaStar's online help for more details.

Earth-Centered Universe

(tested with the trial version) Select "General Settings..." from the "Telescope" menu. Specify "Microguider III and 5, or Ouranos Interface" as the telescope interface type.

Then specify the correct port and baud rate (9600) and click OK. Next, select Encoder Settings... from the Telescope menu.

Specify the encoder resolutions and whether they need to be reversed (again, some experimentation may be needed), and click OK. Finally, select Enable Telescope Interface from the Telescope menu to begin the alignment process. If necessary, you can change the alignment stars by selecting them in the sky view and than choosing Select Alignment Stars from the Telescope menu.

Mel Bartels' scope.exe

(freeware) If you’re using Mel Bartels’ software, you’ll need to modify the config.dat file to make the software work with your encoders. Here is the relevant section of config.dat, with settings appropriate for my interface:

[*** encoder section ***]
EncoderString Ek
EncoderComPort 1
EncoderBaudRate 9600
SerialWriteDelayMs 50
AltEncoderCountsPerRev 4608
AzEncoderCountsPerRev 4389
AltEncoderDir 1
AzEncoderDir 0
EncoderErrorThresholdDeg 0.100000
TrackEncoderErrorThresholdDeg 1.000000
MakeEncoderResetLogFile 1

You can download Mel’s software for free from his web site. There is also plenty of documentation on his site, so consult that if you need more info. If you have questions about the software, please contact Mel directly (he’s very helpful).

Cartes du Ciel 2.75

(freeware) Cartes du Ciel 2.75 requires the ASCOM platform in order to work with my interface, so follow the instructions above to install the ASCOM platform and my ASCOM driver. In addition, Cartes du Ciel requires its own ASCOM driver to be installed. The ASCOM plug-in for Cartes du Ciel is found on the Cartes du Ciel download page. Download and install the ASCOM plug-in (it comes as an installation program--just run it to install).

After you start Cartes du Ciel, choose "Select Interface Type" from the Telescope menu and then click on "ASCOM" on the menu that pops up. Next, select "Configuration Panel..." from the Telescope menu. The Configuration Panel will appear:

In this window, click the Select button to access the ASCOM Telescope Chooser. Once my interface is selected in the chooser, clicking the Configure button will allow you to configure the driver. Click the Connect button to begin the alignment process.

Hallo Northern Sky 2.2.2

(freeware) ASCOM support is included in the Hallo Northern Sky program as of version 2.1.5. Select "ASCOM Telescope Driver" from the Screen menu (or hit Ctrl-8) and the ASCOM Telescope Chooser will appear. Follow the directions above to select and configure the driver for my interface. When you click the OK button in the Telescope Chooser window, the alignment process will begin.

PalmDSC for Palm OS

(freeware) Doug Braun has written a freeware program for Palm OS that works with my interface. Doug always recommends using the very latest beta version of is software. Consult his web page and documentation for details.

Astromist for Palm OS

(commercial, but with a free version available) Astromist is a planetarium-type program for the Palm that is capable of controlling several different types of telescopes, including my own interface. I haven't tried this one out yet but it appears to be gaining in popularity. Consult the Astromist web page for documentation and instructions on how to use it.

Digital Setting Circles 2.2

(my own freeware) When you start the Digital Setting Circles program, select Properties... from the File menu. Enter a description of your telescope, the COM port to which your interface is connected, and your encoder resolutions. If you need to reverse the directionality of the RA or az axis, check the box.

If you're not sure whether the RA counts need to be reversed, click the Test... button and follow the instructions. When you have the form completed, click OK. Then select Initialize... from the Scope menu to begin the alignment process. The alignment process is identical to that for my ASCOM driver.

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Last update: 2 Sept 2006