I've been on the road a bit, and it's always great talking to customers, meeting other vendors, and of course doing some sight seeing along the way. Had a great weekend in Pasadena at the Pacific Astronomy and Telescope Show. Steve, Tom, and I walked around old Pasadena on the last night and I used my iPhone to find out when the ISS was going to be over. When it did, I took pictures, and we pointed like a bunch of geeky tourists. A couple of the "normals" noticed, and totally freaked out when we told them it was the space station. Sort of an impromptu sidewalk astronomy event. It was really fun!
Just two weekends ago, I was invited speak at the Mid Atlantic Star Party in Robbins, NC. I must be a jinx to NC because this was my second star party in two months there and it was over cast both times. Still had a great time though, and after my talk, I was "mobbed" by a couple of guys who wanted to know if TheSkyX would work on their Netbooks. Well… yes, but it might not be too fast. I had already had an on-line discussion with someone about the OpenGL not being too spiffy on them, but TheSkyX does work. The "word on the street" is (according to these guys) that the netbooks are becoming wildly popular with amateur astronomers because they are cheap, have long battery life, and they can drive their telescopes in the field. I have to admit, my new super hot Mac laptop does not go out into the dew, but I use my last generation laptop (whatever that may be) for telescope control myself. The idea of those notebooks had not really occurred to me, but apparently it has to a number of our customers.
Today's Netbooks are designed to be cheap, portable, and have long battery life. There are some engineering choices that must be made to accomplish this, notably they do not have fast CPU's, and their graphics chips likewise have slow clock speeds, and not a lot of gates on those chips supporting a wide 3D feature set. They are ideal for on the road word processing and web surfing. Trying to get Seeker to run on one might be "possible" (with some), but it is a fools errand, you might as well try and run todays latest 3D intensive video game. Even if you got it to run, the frame rate would be very low, and your battery life would likely be measured in minutes, not hours.
TheSkyX on the other hand is a completely different story. When setting up the OpenGL rendering layer for TheSkyX, I intentionally picked an older subset of 3D hardware functionality so that it would run well on older and less capable 3D systems. The rendering needs for TheSkyX are quite simple compared to Seeker as well. In fact, TheSkyX does run on most netbooks quite well, and even has a non-OpenGL mode that is still faster than TheSky6 was. Getting it to work on a Netbook takes some tweaking… well, at least until now (or soon, I should say).
When TheSkyX Pro ships, there will also be maintenance releases of TheSkyX SAE and Student Edition. These will have some user interface tweaks and a "Small Screen" installation option that automatically sets the toolbar and dialog sizes appropriately, and sets the target frame rate to a smaller value to conserve battery life. Ideal for controlling a small scope in the field, or I guess use with a non-controlled scope or binoculars in the case of Student Edition.
I talked to Steve about this right after I got back from MASP, and Steve went out and bought a little HP Netbook himself so he could make sure everything looks and feels right. See, we do try and listen to our customers ;-)
10-29-2009 4:15 PM