Vista Imaging

Mid-project, I tried switching my imaging computer over to a different one (“better” because it was more modern and had more disk space). I expected change-over issues (correct!) but thought better now before any real projects are underway. The new machine is running Windows Vista, and that has been the source of many compatibility problems. (Also it doesn’t have an old-style serial port, so requires USB-Serial conversion.)

This nightmare is now in the past, as the nightmare that was Vista was short-lived. Here’s how it went:

General: UAC mode

When things started going wrong with Vista and drivers, one of the first things I found on many support discussion boards was documented problems with the Vista security monitoring feature, UAC (User Account Control). If it was only annoying popups I’d live with it, as they gradually go away as you configure whitelists; but the boards suggested it actually interfered with other configuration needs. So I turned the feature off for now (administration function on the user definition). That did, indeed, permit at least one function that had been failing to proceed.

Once everything is working fine, I may try turning it back on. My theory is that it is interfering with setup and configuration but might not interfere with production use.

Serial Port

I have two USB-to-serial adapters: an old Keyspan unit and a modern no-name (some Best Buy house brand that I forget).

  • Driver for the no-name installed fine from a supplied CD, but I haven’t tried the device yet.
  • The Keyspan driver (downloaded from their web site) didn’t install completely on first try. On a second or third try, carefully paying attention to all the UAC pop-ups, it installed OK. I bet it would have benefited from turning off UAC, but I hadn’t discovered that yet by this point.This Keyspan unit then worked fine with MaximDL to support a serial connection to the telescope (once other ASCOM problems were resolved). Uses simulated com port COM5, set at 9600 baud.

Planetarium Software

I was using TheSky6 and Starry Night Pro. Can’t find my CD for TheSky — still looking. But I did have the install DVD for Starry Night Pro 6.

  • Starry Night installer (version 6.0.0) doesn’t work on Vista. There is an update on their web site that patches the application, but you must already have the app installed. Investigating this, I discovered the Vista “older operating system compatibility wizard” which allowed me to run the Starry Night installer in a simulated XP environment. This worked, installing the program cleanly. I was then able to download and run the 6.0.3 upgrader from the supplier, and the result runs cleanly on Vista.

ASCOM drivers

For Maxim and PEMPRO control of the mount, I need ASCOM to work. The ASCOM main controller module installed fine, as did the Gemini driver. Basic function worked via Maxim, but attempts to get at advanced mount control configuration generated a Windows error message about some missing DLL. (mssfmtdsomething.dll).

I found and downloaded the missing DLL (it’s some kind of visual basic formatting package). But nothing changed. Turns out you also have to run a DOS-level command “regsvr32” or something to activate the DLL. This command fails with a bizzare error code which, looking it up on the internet, lead me to the advice that you can’t user-install missing DLLs like this with the UAC security running. Turned off UAC, successfully installed the missing DLL, and then successfully exercised the ASCOM driver in Maxim.

Maxim DL

Maxim is my main overall application, and is the front end through which other problems appear. So far

  • The basic application seems to work ok
  • Telescope control encountered the ASCOM problems listed above; seems to work once they were fixed
  • SXV-H9 control not working yet (see Starlight Xpress problems below)
  • Other camera control (DSI, Lumenera) not tried yet
  • Filter Wheel not tried yet

PEMPRO

Not tried yet — need to resolve SXV driver problem

Starlight Xpress SXV-H9

Frustrating first evening, complete failure.

  • Tried installing drivers and test program from supplied CD. Those drivers seem incompatible with vista. Two symptoms:
    • Every time the camera is connected the drivers re-install, a sign of a failed install
    • Neither the test program nor Maxim can see the camera
  • Then discovered a hidden directory @ SX (http://www.starlight-xpress.co.uk/Vista.htm) that gives Vista installation procedures and different drivers.
    • Followed this procedure — still doesn’t work.
    • I suspect one problem is that the driver installer is too smart — it seems to be checking “windows update” and never actually reports to me that it can’t find the drivers so that I can tell it where I put them.
    • Maybe there is an old version online somewhere that Windows Update is finding. Note to self: Try this with network off.
    • Manually using device manager to apply these drivers doesn’t work. Get an error message about “missing line in dif file”.
  • Then found, in the SX discussion board, a guy with exactly the same problem I’m having: http://www.starlight-xpress.co.uk/discus/messages/1/47.html?1216286352
    • He reports it’s fixed by
      • Turning off UAC
      • Using a special older .dif file from the author
  • I wrote to the author, Terry, and he sent me some files to try, which I’ll try tonight.
    • The theory is that older cameras (and I may have one of these) have some kind of incompatible firmware boot-up procedure, and an older driver (version 100 instead of 119) is reported to work with it.
    • I’ll carefully chronicle a test of this tonight
      • Carefully clean all traces of old drivers off machine
      • Turn off networking
      • Install Vista drivers and the 100 file from Terry
  • It worked. The oldest (100) driver installed cleanly, although it was still necessary to use the device manager to do it. Tested the camera and I can see it now from Maxim — even took some pinhole images (indoors) to confirm.

Fallback: downgrade this computer to XP. Would prefer not to do this, as it will have a limited support life time.

TruTech Filter Wheel

Installed drivers, and it works fine with Maxim DL through a USB-Serial connector.

Lumenera

Not tried yet other than installing drivers (which seemed to work)

DSI

Not tried yet other than installing drivers (which seemed to work)

Conclusion

With several more weeks of work like this it eventually “worked”, getting to a point where in a typical evening I could get an hour of actual imaging time, mixed with an hour or more of farting around with Vista settings.

As soon as Windows 7 came out, I got rid of Vista, and the memories now only occasionally haunt me.

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