Required Computer Interface
 
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Computer Interface
 
This page contains some notes about the computer interface. It is our hope to dispel some myths/fears about using a computer in the field.

1. A computer is required for the stepper system  to operate. There is no way around it.

2. The computer specs that we require for operation are as follows:

      1. A 486-50 processor or faster
      2. Minimum of 2 megs of RAM for basic operation
      3. Minimum of 2 megs of hard drive space
      4. Working parallel (printer) port
      5. Working floppy drive

      6. Working screen
    3. We have purchased over a dozen laptops, from various internet sources, that meet or exceed these specifications for an average price of US$75.00. The lowest price we have paid is US$50.00, the highest is US$125.00.

    4. When you have a program like Scope running on a laptop under DOS, the precision pointing, error correction, and other features, are readily available. These types of features are not typically available in a custom made GoTo box.

    5. Most of the laptops we have used operate just fine off a small 12 volt marine (U1-DC-6) battery. The circuitry uses the same battery. You need not use the laptop battery or the power inverter that plugs into the wall socket. The battery can last for multiple nights, depending on the laptop's power requirement.

    6. The computers we ship out boot directly to DOS, not Windows XX. DOS is a much more stable environment than Windows and does not 'crash'. (Windows 95 and 98 are actually overlays to DOS). Once in DOS, the autoexec.bat file commands DOS to open the Scope.exe program automatically. You need not know any DOS commands to operate a system we sell.

    7. Shipping laptop computers alone costs less than US$20.00 via Priority Mail from the USPS. It does not cost a small fortune to ship them. To date, none have been damaged during transit.

    8. Laptop screens need not be so bright that they damage your visual dark adaptation. You simply go to an office supply store and buy a package of red sheet protectors. Tape/clip/velcro them over the laptop screen. USE MULTIPLE LAYERS.

    9. You can run a planetarium program with scope on ONE laptop. The program is called GUIDE.

    10. You can absolutely use a desktop computer instead of a laptop. They are recommended for use only if you have a permanent site however, ONLY due to their bulk.

    11. If you plan to observe in a sub freezing climate, you may wish to insulate the laptop screen from the cold. The liquid in the screens do sometimes freeze. This need not be a dramatic affair. Some simple chemically activated hand warmers and a piece of thick cloth are all that is needed. Extremely cold climates may require a dew heater to keep the screen warm.

    12. The steppers and circuitry are 'tuned' to each laptop individually. Should one ever break, all that is required is a replacement laptop. The boxed pcb, the cables and steppers need to be returned for a day to be retuned to the new laptop. You need not reship the entire scope should a laptop ever break.

    13. The laptops we typically get are not the huge Osborn types. These are comparable in size to the newest laptops available. Please look here for a picture or two of what the Field Ready PCB looks like with a laptop attached.
     

Electronics and software by Mel Bartels
Conversion design by Lenord Stage
GoTo & Tracking Systems
 5000 Green Hollow Dr.
Arlington Texas 76017-5910
(817) 468-0154

 
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