British Astronomical Association
Supporting amateur astronomers since 1890

Secondary menu

Main menu

Home Forums General Discussion
Terms of use

Lap tops and observatory use

10 posts / 0 new
Last post
Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 week ago
Joined: 10/01/2013 - 12:11
Lap tops and observatory use

Posted by Americo Watkins at 11:20 on 2012 Dec 18

Are laptops/tower unit Pc ok for use for telescope control in domed observatories-aside from power supply safty problems.I have used cheap re-furbished laptop for this purpos during the recent cold/ damp nights, but it performed poorly in use has failed on returning to the house. Might this be a problem associated with this particular laptop or is there a more general problem associated with such use?Cheers eric

Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 week ago
Joined: 10/01/2013 - 12:11
Re:Lap tops and observatory use

Posted by D A Dunn at 16:02 on 2012 Dec 18

Eric,As you say the safety issue is the main worry.As to why your machine failed. If it was cold initially then damp could have got in. My advice would be to start the machine indoors for a laptop or keep it running if you have a desktop permanently in the observatory. If I recall, ordinary commercial computers are only designed to work in the 0 - 30 Celsius range. Did the machine recover after warming up indoors?RegardsDavid

Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 week ago
Joined: 10/01/2013 - 12:11
Re:Lap tops and observatory use

Posted by Americo Watkins at 16:21 on 2012 Dec 18

David,I do not keep the computers in the observatory. Last use, it worked fine, though the night was not as cold.However, when I bought it in and tried to use it the next morning in the house, having been indorrs all night it started up, loaded and after a few minutes of use failed. I have tried it again today within the hosure and it still wouldn't start up. Tried it just now in the study and it loaded up. I get a feeling it may be the laptop. I've got another referbished one coming tommorow. I'll see how I get on with that. I also have an old Tower systgem I could use and keep running if problem persists.Eric

Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 week ago
Joined: 10/01/2013 - 12:11
Re:Lap tops and observatory use

Posted by D A Dunn at 18:16 on 2012 Dec 18

Eric,Maybe it is just an old machine and some of the components are at their limit. Capacitors particularly fail with age.Looks like trying another one might be a good idea.Good luckDavid

Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 week ago
Joined: 10/01/2013 - 12:11
Re:Lap tops and observatory use

Posted by TonyAngel at 22:40 on 2012 Dec 19

I have used both a laptop and a desktop pc in the observatory. I have found that dew is the problem. With the desktop I was advised never to switch it off as that is when the problems start. I have found with the laptop I also never switch it off until I have brought it back to the house and let it run inside for a few hours. Saying all that I still sometimes have problems.For my setup I use a computer in the observatory running VNC server and another in the house running VNC client, but I am going to try and get rid of the observatory computer and replace it with a USB server. I still need an internet connection because I have an IP camera in the observatory to keep an eye on things.

Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 week ago
Joined: 10/01/2013 - 12:11
Re:Lap tops and observatory use

Posted by Americo Watkins at 12:34 on 2012 Dec 20

Tony,thanks for the comments. I've just aquired another re-con lap top and will take your advice and keep it running after returning it to the house after use.Eventually, I will run an observatory laptop or pc from the house, I can then enclose the computer into warmer, drier cupboard, which hopefully will reduce any problems.In returning to regular observing, I don't recal the dampness being so prevelent when I regularly observed many years ago, yes there were some weeks, but it seems to be months now. B ut then I suppose the summers were warmer and longer and policeman didn't seem so young and .....Cheers eric

Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 week ago
Joined: 10/01/2013 - 12:11
Re:Lap tops and observatory use

Posted by Dave Jones at 14:20 on 2012 Dec 20

Hi EricAt my local observatory (Norman Lockyer, Sidmouth Devon) we regularly use our laptops outside for our member's telescope and camera control.We all use boxes to keep them in, large plastic boxes from a well known stationers, and if you can get one with clip on lids they are even better.We drill small holes in the sides for cable entries and have the box on the side so the lid is at the front. Once we have done all our setup and start imaging we snap on the lid and the residual heat from the laptop keeps the temperature high enough inside to prevent dew or frost forming. (it also helps to keep light pollution to a minimum if there are lots of members imaging or observing at that time)HTHDave

Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 week ago
Joined: 10/01/2013 - 12:11
Re:Lap tops and observatory use

Posted by Nick Atkinson at 19:33 on 2013 Jan 14

Now is a good time to buy a new lap top or mother board for your tower. Maybe the problem lies in buying a reconditioned computer with aging integrated circuits. I have used my lap top out doors in sub zero temperatures but always bring it indoors when The observing session is over.

Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 week ago
Joined: 10/01/2013 - 12:11
Re:Lap tops and observatory use

Posted by Americo Watkins at 08:18 on 2013 Jan 18

I have another lap top now running windows xp. Seems to be running ok except that after about an hour it shuts Sky X down saying that it has encountered a serious problem. Able to Re-load again but continues to repeat after about an hour. Sent of the automated microsoft report format. reply advice is something about either driver not fitted or that it shuts down to protect from possible damage due to a driver?I also bring the lap top in after use.cheers

Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 week ago
Joined: 10/01/2013 - 12:11
Re:Lap tops and observatory use

Posted by Richard Miles at 23:46 on 2013 Jan 21

I'll just mention that I have had 3 laptops out in my observatory these past 9 years. They are switched off when not observing. The reason why they have all survived is that the volume inside the enclosure is about 1 cubic metre and I always have loose silica gel exposed on trays, etc. to keep the relative humidity of the air low. I also have about 50W or so residual heating by way of three eyepiece-type heating tapes. (That reminds me with not having observed for about 6 weeks now the humidity will be approaching unacceptable levels so I'd better reactivate the silica gel when I get a chance.)So humidity is the key factor when it comes to electronics. Surface leakage currents across insulators play havoc. Silica gel of the indicating variety is the magic solution provided it is frequently regenerated by heating in an oven.