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SIPS version 4.1
 The first minor release of SIPS v4 fixes issues identified especially in the tools newly added to the SIPS v4, like the Program Editor. But the most important additions to v4.1 are new device driver classes for telescope flaps, including calibration covers, and for general switches. So, the list of supported devices is finished, at last for now. The v4.1 should support all major hardware components used to run an observatory.

New Flap (telescope cover) devices

Especially remotely operated telescopes are often equipped with motorized, computer-controlled cover, which protect the optics against dust when the telescope is not operating.

The Flaps tool provides a GUI allowing to open and close the cover, as well as to set light source brightness, providing the flap is equipped with flat-field calibration light source and the used driver supports this feature.

New Switch devices

An observatory is often a more complex set of instruments than just a telescope and camera. Some devices are supported in SIPS through the specialized drivers and associated GUI tool windows (e.g., focuser or observatory dome), others need not special treatment beside turning on and off (dew heaters, telescope fans, calibration light sources, etc.). Such devices are typically attached to some remotely controllable switches, possibly allowing also setting of analog value (e.g., the voltage). The Switches tool in SIPS then allows controlling of such array of individual switches.

The “switch” can be either just on/off switch or a more complex device allowing setting of output value in defined range. For instance, a fan controller or dew heater controller may allow to regulate fan speed or heating power using output voltage.

  • Binary switches are controlled by the On and Off buttons. Actual switch state is indicated by an icon, either glowing red to indicate “on” state or just gray for “off” state.

  • Analog switches show current output value as a number, and new value can be set either by count-box or slider.

The switches driver API allows also for read-only “switches”, only displaying current value, be it on/off state or analog value. Such switches then lack GUI controls allowing to modify the state.

Flaps and Switches in WebSIPS

Of course, both Flaps and Switches devices are newly included into SIPS REST API and thus they are accessible from SPL scripts as well as from the web browser based version of SIPS (WebSIPS).

Redesigned Dome control tool

Constructions of observatory housings are very different. If the housing is motorized and controlled with a computer capable to communicate with a host PC, it is possible to control the observatory dome or roll-off roof operations from the SIPS software package through the Dome tool.

The Dome tool GUI adopts itself to the capabilities of the connected driver. The image above shows the Dome tool connected to the ASCOM dome driver simulator, which implements complete functionality contained in the driver interface:

  • Dome azimuth (rotates the dome).

  • Dome opening altitude (typically an observatory dome slot is opened from 0 to more than 90 and setting altitude is not necessary).

  • Shutter, be it dome slot shutter or roll-of-roof.

But if the dome slot opens as a whole and does not need altitude settings, the Altitude related controls will be omitted and the Dome tool window will be shrunk (image below left). Also, if the Dome tool is used to control a roll-of-roof observatory, the Azimuth and Altitude controls are not displayed and the tool window show the Shutter related controls only (image below right).

Remark:

The SIPS dome drivers may optionally return up to four temperatures. Depending on the number of measured temperatures, the Dome tool shows them at the bottom of the tool window.

Weather station tool updates

Beside fixing of some bugs, which caused wrong lines drawn in the weather history charts, the Weather station tool also adopts to the capabilities of the connected driver. Different drivers may provide different set of measured values. The image below shows the Weather station tool window with ASCOM Observing conditions simulator driver, providing artificially generated data on all available channels. This is why the window shows all values as well as all history graphs.

In reality, the majority of weather station devices and their drivers provide only a subset of all possible channels. The Weather station tool window then shows only a reduced number of values and graphs. Also, the sound alarm check-boxes only for supported channels are provided.

Handling of new camera models

Newly introduced camera models or new features, available for existing camera models, require support in camera drivers. SIPS v4.1 now supports Moravian Instruments cameras:

  • C1+ cameras with rolling-shutter sensors, like the C1+9000.

  • C2 cameras with global shutter sensors, equipped with GPS receiver used for precision image timing, like C2-3000 GPS, C2-5000 GPS, or C2-12000 GPS.

Bug fixes

Several bugs were fixed in the v4.1:

  • The let and sprint instructions optional program name of the assigned variable, imported from another program, was not properly initialized to empty string in the Program Editor Graph mode.

  • The let instruction custom view combo-box, offering variables to be assigned, contained local variables only if these variables were marked “public”.

  • The SPL compiler wrongly reported error, if the index or position expression in the embedded functions slice, delete, insert, item, replace, subst, and char were of integer type, real type was required, despite these positions were are always converted to integer.

  • The Weather station tool could display distorted history charts if the used computer timing mechanism activated the tool a few milliseconds prior to programmed time. Now the tool is resistant to such possible timer activation uncertainties and history charts should be displayed correctly.

  • The Imaging camera tool used the exposure time, defined in the Exposure tab, also for inter-image guiding calibration, despite the calibration dialog box allows to define different exposure time for calibration only.

  • The Automatically connect to selected driver option for drivers/tools other than camera worked only for non-PnP drivers or PnP drivers connected when SIPS started. If a non-camera PnP driver (e.g. USB connected dome controller) was not present (enumerated) upon SIPS startup and was added only later, SIPS did not dynamically connect to such device, despite the option for automatic connection was checked.

Warning:

If you upgrade to SIPS v4.1 from some v4.0.x version, it is recommended to uninstall the previous version first and only then to install the v4.1 as a clear install. The v4.0.x installation package mistakenly created a copy of the SIPS main driver configuration file “sips.ini” in the “\Users\Public\Documents\SIPS\ini\” folder. This causes issues with some ASCOM drivers (e.g. ASCOM driver controlling telescope mounts). Uninstalling the previous SIPS version removes the wrong copy of “sips.ini” from the Public Documents and v4.1 installation does not create is again.

Or, it is not necessary to uninstall the previous SIPS version, it is enough just to delete the “\Users\Public\Documents\SIPS\ini\sips.ini” file. This file can be deleted prior to installation of v4.1 or after the v4.1 is installed. The SIPS v4.1.1 is modified to handle the superfluous “sips.ini” file without issues.

The problem with duplicate “sips.ini” in the “\Users\Public\Documents\SIPS\ini\” folder arises in v4.1, as the new version allows 3rd party device drivers to be included in SIPS through “sips.ini” in the Public Documents. SIPS newly offers device drivers defined in “sips.ini” in Program Files and also drivers defined in “sips.ini” in Public Documents, but drivers in both files should not be duplicated. This means drivers defined in “sips.ini” in Program Files are the ones distributed with SIPS itself, as this INI file is overwritten with each new SIPS version, while the INI file in Public Documents are left untouched by SIPS installation to allow definition of 3rd party drivers.

SIPS is a freeware and can be downloaded from the Download section of this web site.

Do you want to stay informed about new SIPS versions and features? Follow @sipssw on Twitter.

 
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