Tuesday, October 31, 2017

KStars 2.8.7 Released!

Another minor KStars release is now available for Linux, MacOS,  & Windows. KStars 2.8.7 brings several bug fixes and new improvements!

So what's new in this release?


  • Sounds! While KDE users on Linux enjoyed sound notifications since they were introduced in KStars, users on non-KDE desktop and on other OSes couldn't get the sounds. This is now fixed by using Phonon & libVLC. There is a known issue with the sounds being abruptly cut-off under MacOS, we are investigating this bug.
  • Fixed annoying issue with slightly incompatible frame sizes for DSLR captures. The frame size is now always subframed to the maximum resolution entered by the user when using a DSLR for the first time in Ekos.
  • GPS fixes: When a new GPS location is received, KStars will now explicitly changes the current location to GPS Location. The time is also updated accordingly with the GPS UTC & Offset values.
  • Fixed orientation of solved Align frames. Now all solved images shall rotate correctly in the KStars Sky Map to reflect the orientation of the captured image.

  • Various fixes for Rotator Control.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

KStars 2.8.5 is released!

So here comes another minor release for KStars v2.8.5 just less than two weeks after 2.8.4 was released. KStars v2.8.5 is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. In addition to the usual bug-fixing and enhancements, here are a couple of useful features for our users:

1. Log Manager

Users complained over the year that it was hard to get logs for Ekos & INDI to diagnose issues. Due to the complexity of Ekos & INDI, logs are absolutely necessary in order to diagnose any issues. With 2.8.5, it's now super easy to enable logs and they're all in one place. From the Ekos Summary screen, click logs to open the Log Manager and then select which specific Ekos module and/or INDI driver you want to diagnose. Start Ekos as you normally do and then all the logs are stored locally, even if you are using remote INDI drivers!


2. Filter Manager

While users were able to select filter focus offsets in previous version of KStars, it was only applicable in the capture module. Not only that, you were limited to locking a specific filter when running the focus module, but what if you need to lock the filter depending on what current filter is in use? What if you don't need to run autofocus on filter change for all filters, but specific ones? The Filter Manager is here to resolves these issues.


My primary motivation behind this is due to my recent imaging session with IC5070. I wanted to use Luminance filter as the locked filter for both Lum and Hydrogen-Alpha, and when using OIII/SII, I wanted Ekos to keep the current filter and focus with it. With the old system, you were limited to one locked filter for everything, but now it is much more versatile and configurable. Please test away and report any bugs to KDE Bugtracking system. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

KStars 2.8.4 aka Juli is released!

Less than two weeks after the release of KStars 2.8.3 comes another minor bugfix release. Download KStars 2.8.4 for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Major highlights:

  • Robert Barlow submitted a patch to add elevation information for all cities. The information was built from Google data. It closes Bug #382462. The elevation data is also now sent to the INDI drivers.
  • Stars and Deep Sky Objects labels are now zoom-dependent so they appear larger when zoomed in which improves usability.
  • Rotators are now fully tested and supported with Ekos capture and align module. In Ekos align module, use Load & Slew to go to any arbitrary target, and then have your rotator exactly match the orientation of the target in the image!
  • Fixed several issues with internationalization of some strings discovered by Khalid AlAjaji. Khalid also submitted significant translations for KStars in Arabic!
  • Jérôme Sonrier submitted a fresh new updated Daylight Saving rules. He is also working on getting rid of the static TZ rules in KStars and using the ones provided by the system.
  • Added PSF (Point Spread Function) convoluted star detection algorithm adapted from PHD2 to improve auto-selection of stars during guide module calibration phase.
  • Fixed bug in processing Load&Slew data when some keywords are missing.
  • Fix layout issues for RTL languages.

This release is dedicated to Juli, my lovely German Shepard companion for the last 7 years. She is accompanied here by Tommy when he was just a small puppy back then. Long live and prosper my good girl!


Monday, September 11, 2017

KStars 2.8.3 aka Tommy is out!

The bugfix release of KStars 2.8.3 is available for all major platforms (Note: MacOS version is delayed to 2017-09-13). In this version, we finally managed to release translations for Windows & MacOS users, thanks to the efforts of Hannah and Kevin over at Craft, and the KDE translation team.

KStars in Arabic
A major bug that was fixed is inaccurate asteroid and comets positions. After exhaustive troubleshotting with the aid of JPL Horizon ephemeris, the problem was traced to imprecise Earth ecliptic longitude angle. The Earth coordinates are important if we want to calculate positions of solar system bodies from a geocentric point of view. Valentin traced the problem to problematic VSOP87 files and promptly generated new data files that solves the discrepancy in Earth ecliptic longitude.

However, while that greatly improved the accuracy, it was still a bit off. While checking KStars Florence (1981 ET3) asteroid position against that of Stellarium, I noted KStars epoch of date position exactly match the J2000 position reported in Stellarium! This was not a coincidence, it turns out we didn't account for precession in KStars. After that is taken care of, the comet and asteroid positions are now accurate on the order of arc-seconds! This is a 100-fold improvement in accuracy from previous versions.


Several fixes and improvement to Ekos with fixes in PHD2 support along with the ability to disable streaming from remote cameras right from the guide module. Another issue that was resolved is the focus module always running autofocus even when the HFR is below the threshold. This was tricky to trace down as it was due to a switch of HFR algorithms when the HFR check is first requested. For those using domes, the align module now properly waits until a slaved dome reaches its target before proceeding with image capture. More over, the Mosaic Tool was simplified and now dragging the mosaic grid produces precise jobs for all orientations.

Numerous stability improvements from GSoC 2017 projects made it into the release. GSoC 2017 student Csaba Kertesz concluded the project and KStars is now much more bullet-proof than before.

This release is named after my lovely loyal German Shepard Tommy! Isn't he a good boy?

Tommy


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hundreds of visual surveys in KStars!

With the KStars "Hipster" 2.8.1 release, I introduced Hierarchical Progressive Survey (HiPS) in KStars with three sample catalogs in the optical, infrared, and gamma regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.




Now users can browse from hundreds of online HiPS surveys and can enable them for overlay in KStars. Everything from radio, infrared, optical up to gamma rays is available along with a short description on each survey of interest.

Since these surveys literally take hundreds of gigabytes of storage space, they are downloaded on-demand and stored in a local cache. The disk cache is set by default to consume 1 GB while the RAM cache is set to 300 MB. These settings are now configurable from the HiPS Settings to provide users the flexibility to balance system resources with catalog usage.



By default, overlays utilize nearest neighbor algorithm to map 2D images unto the celestial sphere. Drawing of HiPS overlays can be further improved by enabling Bilinear Interpolation at the expense of increased CPU usage.

These selections shall be available in the next KStars 2.8.2 release coming up soon.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

KStars 2.8.1 "Hipster" Release is out!

It finally landed! KStars 2.8.1 aka Hipster release is out for Windows & MacOS!

The highlight for this release is experimental support for HiPS: Hierarchical Progressive Surveys. HiPS provides multi-resolution progressive surveys to be overlayed directly in client applications, such as KStars. It provides an immersive experience as you can explore the night sky dynamically.

With over 200+ surveys across the whole electromagnetic spectrum from radio, infrared, visual, to even gamma rays, the user can pan and zoom progressively deeper into the data visually.


HiPS Support in KStars

HiPS support in KStars has been made possible with collaboration with the excellent open source planetarium software SkyTechX. This truely demonstrates the power of open source to accelerate development and access to more users.

Another feature, also imported from SkyTechX, is the Polaris Hour Angle, which is useful for users looking to polar align their mount.

Polar Hour Angle

GSoC 2017 student Csaba Kertész continued to merge many code improvements. Moreover, many bugs fixes landed in this release. The following are some of the notable fixes and improvements:
  • BUGS:382721 Just use less than and greater than keys for time.
  • BUGS:357671 Patch by Robert Barlow to support custom catalogs in WUT.
  • Improved comet and asteroid position accuracy.
  • Ekos shall fallback to user defined scopes if INDI driver does not provide scope metadata.
  • Fixed command line parsing.
  • Fixed many PHD2 external guider issues.
  • Fixed selection of external guiders in Ekos Equipment Profile.
  • Fixed rotator device infinite loop.
  • Fixed scheduler shutdown behavior.
  • Fixed Ekos Mosaic Position Angle.
  • Fixed issue with resetting Polar Alignment Assistant Tool rotation state.
  • Fixed issue with Ekos Focus star selection timeout behavior.
  • Ekos always switches to CLIENT mode when taking previews.
  • Handle proper removal of devices in case of Multiple-Devices-Per-Driver drivers
  • Display INDI universal messages for proper error reporting.
  • Better logging with QLoggingCategory.

Ekos Mosaic Tool with HiPS

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

KStars 2.8.0 is released for Windows, MacOS, and Linux



Here comes another KStars release: v2.8.0 For Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

This is a minor bugfix release to increase stability of KStars on all supported platforms. Nevertheless, there were few significant updates:

  • Default NGC/IC catalog is now replaced by OpenNGC project. Christian Dersch compiled this catalog from OpenNGC. KStars now include more objects with accurate positions!

  • Lots of C++11/C++14 code migration work by GSoC 2017 student Csaba Kertész. This also included memory management clean-up, usage of smart pointers, valgrind suppression file and other fixes.

  • Adding support to selection of telescopes from Ekos equipment profile directly. This facilitates having different profiles when utilizing different telescopes on the same mount.
  • Michael Fulbright, KStars & INDI latest developer,  added the ability to have a scheduled refocus every N minutes during a capture sequence. Michael also added dither size in pixels and dither timeout to UI.
Many small bugs were fixed, thanks to our users who are making use of KDE Bug Tracking facilities effectively.