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Lock Up the Developers!

"It’s now December 2009 and TheSkyX Professional Edition has not been released!  How is this possible?  Your developers must be a bunch of monkeys that sit around and Facebook all day... it is high time to lock those guys up and release TheSkyX Pro already!"  -Anonymous Customer

Harsh assessments like the above can be a good thing.  They make us take a hard look at what we’re doing and where we’re headed.  Yes, despite our best efforts, and blue sky release date estimates, TheSkyX Professional Edition is not shipping.  Stepping back, there are many reasons why.   

Have you noticed the computer industry is rapidly changing?

On the Windows side of the world,

  • Windows 7 is showing promise as a viable replacement to XP Pro.  Is it time to finally upgrade your ageing observatory computer?
  • Windows computers with 64-bit processors (so that the 64-bit OS Editions can be used) are now particularly affordable and really, really powerful. 

SB purchased a brand new Dell “box” from Micro Center last weekend.  It came with 8 GB RAM (remember, 32-bit applications cannot access this much RAM; 64-bit apps can), 1 TB HD, a relatively fast  ATI video display adaptor (critical to OpenGL applications like TheSkyX), and Intel's new Core i5 quad core processor running at 2.66 GHz.  (Four processors can do lots more work than just one!) 

All for $800.00.

The new Windows operating systems (both 32- and 64-bit editions) mean there's new technologies we're trying to exploit (like concurrent processing that takes advantage of every core in your computer) and extensive testing to be done.  This takes time.

On the Mac side of the world, or should I say "universe",

  • Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) is now 64-bit end-to-end and includes many exciting new technologies like OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch.
  • Apple's coming out with (and selling) so much new killer hardware it makes my head spin. 

Again, wrt TheSkyX Pro, here's yet another new OS with new features and technologies to use.  More time finishing TheSkyX Pro.

Then there’s the software development tools side of the world:

  •  TheSkyX is built on Nokia’s Qt, IMHO the world’s best development environment.  The trolls at Qt Software just released version 4.6 of their latest framework yesterday.  This latest framework has tons of features and powerful technologies for  Windows 7, Mac OS X, 64-bit hardware, scripting, and on and on and on. 
  • Qt 4.6 (and the previous recent release of Qt 4.5) on the Mac side is based on Cocoa (the future of Mac application development).

TheSkyX Pro, when released, will be built on the latest version of this powerful new framework.  We hope to offer true 64-bit versions for both OSes, too.  Did I mention this takes time?

Then there’s the TPoint Add On side of the world:

  • Patrick Wallace recently released a new version of the venerable TPoint Telescope Pointing Analysis Software.  Among the exciting new features is the ability to create the “ultimate super model” from your pointing data, with a single button click.  No more guess work adding terms when building a model.

We're busily trying to incorporate this new version into the TheSkyX Pro's TPoint Add On.

Then there’s TheSkyX Serious Astronomer Edition side of the world:

  • TheSkyX SAE users are providing great feedback.  Thanks everyone!

All the suggestions, changes and improvements in TheSkyX SAE go directly to TheSkyX Pro.

So, in the end, incorporating and digesting all the exciting new technologies into TheSkyX Pro has conspired to delay its release.  Should we be locked up for trying to make our products better in this rapidly evolving climate?  Hopefully not.

But the answer to the $64,000 question, "When will TheSkyX Pro actually be released?" will have wait until after the new year.

At the end of the day, we cannot express how much we appreciate everyone's interest in TheSkyX Professional Edition.  Thank you.  We hope you have a merry Christmas season and a happy new year. 

Posted 12-02-2009 9:39 AM by Daniel R. Bisque


Roystarman wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 12-02-2009 5:43 PM

So what does all that have to do with the original statement that you developers should be locked in a room and fed through a slot. :)

Roystarman wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 12-02-2009 5:47 PM

Really I just upgraded to Windows 7 64 bit on my desktop and now have 6 gig of memory. I only got 2 cores though. But it was pretty neat to watch CCDStack load in over 40 8M byte images and not choke like it used to when in the 32 bit world. I don't know if I'll cahnge my observatory or laptop over just yet. 32 bit with 4 gig seems to be enough for now.

Matthew Ota wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 12-04-2009 6:57 PM

Hey Bisque Bros, I would rather wait patiently for a bug-free Pro version than to have you guys rush out an unfinished product...just make sure it runs on WIndows XP...please.

reteps wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 12-07-2009 3:48 PM

The Sky 6 Pro & Orchestrate work just fine on my upgraded Win7 laptop (Celeron1.86, 2 gig ram and a measly 80 gig HDD).

Sky6 Pro starts faster and delivers stored images quicker than when I downgraded from XP to Vista. So I can wait for SkyX Pro as the Sky6 Pro does everything I need at present.  I now have 3 Supernova discoveries  2008fa, 2009J(independant discovery) & 2009gd and I would like to acknowldege the terrific assistance and patience that Daniel B gave me in writing out a script that allowed me to place my reference images directly into the Sky6 Pro. This was so very valuable with my ability to quickly check galaxies in real time. These guys know what they are doing, put your faith in them - they do it well and they support it like no other.

Happy to wait for the best of the rest..

Peter Marples

Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 12-08-2009 8:51 AM

Congratulations on the supernova discoveries!  

We really, really appreciate the positive comments.  

(Although, In this case, I can't take credit for the support; Matt and Tom are the 'guilty' parties.)

kevind wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 12-20-2009 6:34 PM

I am sure that the wait will be well worth it.  But, PLEASE, make sure it runs effectively on Windows Vista as I don' plan to upgrade to Windows 7 anytime soon.

Clear skies,


GRCO wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 02-12-2010 11:41 AM

It is now February 2010 and no update to the release date....

Please keep us betterinformed.

Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 02-13-2010 5:47 AM

Please visit TheSkyX Professional Edition page for the latest information regarding its release.

trimil wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 02-20-2010 11:14 AM

Old jokes:

1) In the life of every project there comes a day when it's necessary to shoot the engineers and start shipping.

2) The first 90% of any software project requires 90% of the time scheduled, finishing the last details requires the other 90%.

My days of program management are (thankfully) a fading memory, but I understand the challenges with anything as complex as this rewrite -- keep plugging, quality is more important than schedule.

A larger issue for me concerns the proliferation of task-specific software for astro imaging. Mounts, cameras, focusers, guiders, domes, weather stations, roof/dome controls -- this scene is becoming the software equivalent of a rat's nest! Under Sky6 and WinXP, my experience is not positive when more than three devices are involved in the lash-up. Is there a goal that SkyX will eventually integrate and improve the reliability of this tangle?

Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 02-22-2010 2:46 PM

trimil wrote:


Is there a goal that SkyX will eventually integrate and improve the reliability of this tangle?


In short, yes.  TheSkyX's new driver arch. tries to address this mess (in a cross-platform, standard driver model sort of way).  

As you surely know, the hardware must be up to the task, too.

astrotrf wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 03-02-2010 8:07 AM

@trimil:  My take on the software tangle is rather different.  I think the approach of one single huge all-singing all-dancing application to do everything is the wrong way to go about things.  I'm an *advocate* of the proliferation of task-specific software.  I'd like an application that controls my CCD camera -- but that's *all* I want it to do (because it's a big-enough job as it is).  I don't need it to also be an image aligner, RGB stacker, image processor, plate solver, etc.  Put all of that stuff in *separate* applications; interconnect them if you'd like.  The same sort of thing is true of the program that runs my mount.

Huge monolithic programs that take years to upgrade or port, and are so hugely complex that all of the bugs are *never* gone, are just not the way to go.  Development cycles measured in geological ages make people yearn for alternatives, and as a vendor, that's NOT what you want them thinking!

Additionally, interconnecting these programs should not rely on large, complex, ultra-magical glue software, no matter how sexy it looks.  The way to make interconnects simple and reliable is to use simple, reliable methods.  Open a TCP port; accept connections that provide human-readable ASCII commands; crack them and do what they say.  This is easy to write, easy to troubleshoot, and easy to debug.

There; now I've revealed essentially all of my secrets to writing ultra-reliable network-interconnected medical software.

Oh, and BTW, put *timestamps* on protocol log files -- with hundredth-of-a-second accuracy (or better, if the system clock allows).

Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 03-02-2010 1:24 PM

Thanks for sharing your software development secrets.  We'll keep them in mind...

m20168710 wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 03-08-2010 5:52 PM

Any further updates on when the release date is likely to be ?

Linas Petras

Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 03-09-2010 5:11 AM

>>Any further updates on when the release date is likely to be?

See TheSkyX Pro page for details:

rmdesantis wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-17-2010 10:57 AM

Today is April 17. Is the Sky X Professional being released?


Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-17-2010 11:21 AM

You can buy it at NEAF this weekend (exclusively).  That's where most of the SB staff is right now...

I'm here today working on getting the store ready to sell TheSkyX Pro.

WirelessDude wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-17-2010 11:35 AM

When will TheSkyX Professional be avaiable at the on-line store for purchase and download?


Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-17-2010 1:23 PM

As soon as possible...

WirelessDude wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-17-2010 6:12 PM

Excellent!!! I have funds in-hand, ready to buy!  ;o)

David Illig wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-17-2010 7:11 PM

It worked -- locking up the developers, I mean. I bought TheSkyX Professional Edition upgrade (for Mac) this morning. It is, as expected, smooth, very responsive, and it has an attractive interface. I have used it on my MacBook Pro this afternoon and also on a friend's Windows laptop this evening. The Windows laptop, by the way, is an older one, not so speedy, but you wouldn't know that from running TheSkyX. Congratulations to all on the excellent work!

And, of course, it's always great to see Tom and Steven and Richard Wright. For those who haven't gotten the word, Richard is working on a couple of things for the iPad. I'm sure we will learn more in due course.

David, reporting from NEAF

WirelessDude wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-17-2010 8:50 PM

Oh, goody!  I got my 64GB iPad a week and a half ago and look forward to the iPad version release!  After seeing the Starwalk app for iPad, I expect to have my mind blown by the upcoming TheSkyX for iPad...

trimil wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-24-2010 1:06 AM


SkyX might be a stretch on the iPad as there are no ports and the CPU is a bit underpowered. Using the iPad as a remote, wireless client makes more sense. A VPN program (there are several in the app store) lets you see and control anything shown on the display of the main PC that is running SkyX (Win or Mac). You could do this with the iPod Touch or iPhone two years ago, but the larger display of the iPad is much easier to navigate.

WirelessDude wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-24-2010 4:29 PM

Yep...  I use Desktop Connect for my RDP and VNC remote PC needs.  My plan was to do my telescope remote connectivity in this fashion.  However, there is a way to allow TheSkyX for iPad to remote-control telescopes via the Equinox 6 software that acts as a server for the iPad app to utilize.  The protocols used is standard from what I believe.  Starwalk already uses this architechture to allow its iPad app to control telescopes...

trimil wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-27-2010 1:10 PM


That would work if all you need to "control" is the telescope mount. But once you start adding other third-party devices like focusers, cameras, filter wheels, dome controls, etc., non-Windows operating systems run in to the age-old bugaboos of hardware drivers that were written for a bygone era. ASCOM stuff is never going to find a happy home on the iPad because it depends on ActiveX and other Microsoft APIs. The sad thing about ASCOM is that it kinda-sorta works, for a little while, and it gives us end users false hope that one day all our gadgets will live up the promises in the marketing hype. ;)

Maybe SB should just include  one of those mini-box PCs running stripped-down XP  with every copy of SkyX they sell -- problem solved? -- LOL.

Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-28-2010 6:00 AM

This video might be of some interest (thanks Al):

trimil wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-28-2010 10:31 AM

The NEAF video is interesting. Now when CCDSoft pops up an error message and tells me my ASCOM-enabled focuser doesn't work, I'll be able to see it on a portable device!

Sorry to be sarcastic, but isn't the real issue interoperability? We invest a lot of time and money in equipment that, from my experience, doesn't work very well as a system. Yes, the individual pieces are all fine and dandy -- getting them to play together as a reliable system is another story.

destrehandave wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-28-2010 11:02 AM

As a software developer, I feel the urge to chime in here.  Bill Gates and that dude over at Apple could make all of our problems like this go away in a few months, if they wanted to.  Unfortunately, developers pay the sin offering for the bickering of these immensely egotistical people who are intent on destroying each other.   Personally, I applaud SB and Stark Labs for even bothering with the MAC, Linux, and even handhelds.   Yeah... impressive technology.  But it's like the VHS - Beta wars:  just because one is better doesn't mean everybody is going to adopt it.  Criminy, there's an LX-200 protocol, ASCOM, and TheSky just in this little corner!  Development is expensive, and you have to go for the lion's share of the platforms.  The desires of the masses are great; development resources are scarce and precious.

My hope is that they get out a great, PC based product, work out any little kinks, and then move on to other platforms and minutia.

"Software is never finished... only published"

Just my fiddycents...


Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-28-2010 3:28 PM

>>"Software is never finished... only published"

Oh, how true this is.  If software is ever done, it's finished.

Hopefully, our investment in rewriting TheSkyX will pay off.  Only time will tell.

trimil wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 04-28-2010 3:52 PM


The Gates/Jobs rivalry ended ten years ago, and Jobs said as much when he returned to Apple. We now have these incredibly powerful operating systems, but they are not well suited for controlling dumb hardware devices like the ones used in this hobby. Good old DOS will run rings around W7, OS X, or Linux in terms of latency and handling interrupts, and almost anybody can use a simple Basic or C program in DOS to twiddle bits and make the lights blink. The problem is we have peripherals with interfaces from the 1980s attached to computers running modern operating systems and imaging software.

ASCOM is an attempt to bridge this gap between the high-level OS and the bits that need toggling to run a focuser motor back and forth. But ASCOM is wedded to Windows APIs, most of the market for sure, but the downside is a perpetuation of the idea that it's OK to make and sell dumb peripherals. Sometimes ASCOM devices work just fine, and other times they make me want to throw the whole ball of stuff in a trash can and buy a Dob. I've literally come to dread software updates because afterward it's likely that some device in my imaging system won't work anymore. It shouldn't be this way. Why can't a $4K CCD camera display it's set-up menu as a web page in a browser? My "digital" focuser has an RJ-45 jack on it to receive RS-232 serial commands -- how dumb is that? Why can't I send it a message to move to a new position using email protocols over an e-net connection?

Like SkyX, anything that gets us away from a Windows-centric programming model is in my mind a positive move. A platform-agnostic replacement for ASCOM is needed as well, even if that means we must pay higher prices for smarter devices (for the extra hardware and embedded software). I joked above about including a mini-PC with each copy of SkyX, but in reality similar capabilities can be embedded in cameras, focusers, guiders, etc., using technology available today.

WirelessDude wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 05-02-2010 12:07 AM

Is that the "Final Jeopardy" theme I'm hearing in the background?  ;o)

rmdesantis wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 05-06-2010 7:20 AM

Is there an estimated date when Sky X Professional will be available for sale on the website? I know that it was released at NEAF - but for those of us who weren't able to attend, what is the expected timing for us to be able to purchase the product?


Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 05-07-2010 3:03 PM

Take a look see at!

rmdesantis wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 05-07-2010 5:42 PM

Yes, thanks, I see it today. This leads to a different question - the website says that I can install it on one operating system. I have an XP laptop that I plan on upgrading later this year to Windows 7. Is there a mechanism to transfer the license from the XP machine to the Win 7 machine?

Daniel R. Bisque wrote re: Lock Up the Developers!
on 08-02-2010 10:57 AM


Is there a mechanism to transfer the license from the XP machine to the Win 7 machine?


TheSkyX Pro is available for Windows or Mac.  The Windows version can be installed to any Windows OS (Windows XP or later).  

There's no need to transfer the license from the Windows XP machine to the Windows 7 machine.


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