×
INDI Library v1.8.1 Released (09 Sep 2019)

Monthly maintenance release INDI v1.8.1

For New Users: What is Indi, Kstars/Ekos and Why Do You Want or Need This?

8 months 2 weeks ago 8 months 1 week ago by werper.
werper
Expert Boarder
Expert Boarder
Posts: 82
Karma: 1
More
Topic Author
For New Users: What is Indi, Kstars/Ekos and Why Do You Want or Need This? #36873
I thought it might be helpful for new users trying to understand what Indi, along with Kstars/Ekos, is.
Comments/corrections/questions are welcome.

What is Indi, Kstars and Ekos and why would I want to use this software?

Indi is essentially a hardware "driver server" that is run on a Mac or Linux computer. It works together with a program called Ekos that controls all your AP gear. Ekos is a "client" astrophotography module within the Kstars planetarium program. Together, they make up a powerful trio of software that was written to work seamlessly in unison, typically via a standard home WiFi network and is VERY easy to get running. Ekos can be run on the server computer too and does not require it to be networked in order to use it.

Indi server is the heart of the system. Many/most people run Indi on a tiny Raspberry Pi computer that is running the Linux operating system. You can buy a complete hardware/software package that's ready to plug-in and run, called Stellarmate and for $179 it's a GREAT way to go and a super value. For people a little more experienced with computers, or Linux in particular, you can buy the Stellarmate OS for $49 or download the free Astroberry package and install it on your own PI. Both Stellarmate OS and Astroberry are complete, ready to run software packages - no Linux experience necessary and include all the software you need for a Raspberry Pi computer.

The Indi server computer, with its hardware drivers (specific to your astrophotography hardware) is then controlled by client software -which as mentioned above, is called Ekos. Ekos runs on Mac, Linux or Windows PCs. Ekos is a sophisticated "astrophotography control module" built into and is an integral part of the very robust and powerful (and FREE) Kstars planetarium program.

Ekos does all the heavy lifting and it is STRONGLY recommended to run it on a separate computer (laptop or workstation). Which is where the networking comes in: A Raspberry Pi runs Indi server, running all the drivers for your AP and "serving" them to Ekos. Ekos is typically run on a more powerful (than a Pi) remotely networked PC. Ekos is where you set up your AP session: target, plate solving, tracking, focusing, and of course imaging - and MUCH more. If you have the hardware, Ekos can probably run it. Ekos (which again, is built into the Kstars planetarium program) is the nerve center controlling all your gear.

Example Set-up
In my case, I have a Linux Raspberry Pi 3B computer that is running the Indi server software. Indi server is "serving" drivers I chose from the Indi hardware menu list for my specific gear. I then have a Windows 10 PC that is running Kstars/Ekos. Both computers are networked together via my home WiFi network. I simply point Ekos (via the network) to the Indi server and Ekos controls ALL my astrophotography hardware via my Win 10 workstation based on settings I made for that session. A session scheduler is also included in Ekos (I told you this software is powerful!) and you can pre set-up your night, then walk away and Ekos will do the rest, based upon what you configured it to do - AND IT WORKS!!

BTW: Indi, Kstars/Ekos is particularly well suited for remote observatory control.

About Indi
Indi server is a breeze to use - could not be simpler. It's mostly a drop-down menu listing all the hardware drivers supported by Indi - it's an impressive list that covers probably 99% of the most common and even some not-so-common gear, both high-end and low-end, and it's growing all the time. You simply "check" each piece of your gear on the list, save it as an "equipment profile" and start the server. That's it. When you restart Indi on another session, simply select your profile and start the server. Like I said - it's a breeze!

Networking Ekos to Indi
Connecting Ekos to Indi is also a breeze: you simply give the Ekos equipment manager your Indi server's network name or IP address and it'll automatically find it and connect up to it and all the drivers you selected in your profile. The network connection in my experience is rock solid - it just works. That said, sometimes you need to tweak some things for the AP hardware drivers to connect or function 100%. Plan to do some trial and error here. Once you get it sorted out, I have found it to be rock solid, before then however, it can be a bit finicky. As I mentioned above, you CAN run Indi and Kstars/Ekos together on the same computer to avoid networking, but you may experience performance issues, especially if that computer is a Pi. Most people run Indi on a Pi and connect to it via their network to Kstars/Ekos running on a laptop or workstation.

About Ekos
Ekos is the brains of the system and while configuring and using Indi is indeed a breeze, Ekos is a different animal. While Ekos IS user friendly, it also has a rather steep learning curve. This is in-part because of it's sophistication and vast number of powerful features and also in-part due to somewhat limited documentation leaving new users to learn by trial and error for the more advanced features. There is however, an excellent set of written (but not complete) and video tutorials that will easily get new users up and running using standard "must have" features with a minimum of fuss. Hopefully in time, a full-blown user-manual detailing every feature will be written (being a volunteer group, I suspect they'd LOVE to have an experienced technical writer volunteer - hint hint anyone out there!) Power users can get their fix on, with an astounding array of capabilities - although most are not needed to take excellent photos for the rest of us normal folk.

The Future of AP?
While I'd call running your astrophotography rig on a tiny SBC (Single Board Computer) like the Raspberry Pi with Indi server networked to a workstation or laptop running Kstars/Ekos client "experimental" at this stage, it has actually become a quite powerful, capable, and most importantly STABLE platform. In the last year or so, Indi, along with Kstars/Ekos has taken tremendous strides to become an ever more mature client/server AP solution that when used with a tiny SBC, many see (including myself) as the future of astrophotography.

Benefits
Benefits include MUCH lower power requirements, VERY low cost of entry: a SUPER-INEXPENSIVE $35 computer the size a a deck of playing cards that weighs only a few ounces, no more tethering an expensive and heavy laptop with cables to trip over, sorter, lighter, and easier to manage cables, and a COMPLETE, extremely powerful and inexpensive or even free software package instead of buying and running simultaneously, numerous (and sometimes expensive) programs that don't always play well together and as a result are not always stable.

All Rainbows and Unicorns? Not quite
The biggest con at this point is simply learning how to use it with your particular gear and configuring the system to work at its best for your rig (true for any system), but for many that is also part of the fun! While I too am a new user (with a background in IT), I've been working with Indi, Kstars/Ekos for about six months now and continue to be ever-more impressed with it. Mind you, it's not all rainbows and unicorns. I admit to getting off to a rather bumpy start - mostly due to me being in a rush and expecting "Push Here Dummy" software simplicity. (Which BTW, PHD II is included and works within Ekos, or you can choose to use Ekos' native tracker.) I've since spent numerous evenings learning, reading/watching all I can, working to solve problems, tweak s numerous settings here and there for better performance, to get this remarkable system ready to roll-out with my latest AP rig.

Bare in mind this is indeed essentially experimental/prototype software at this stage. (But I'd say it's well past alpha testing and is mature Beta software+, close to, if not pretty much ready for prime time use.) It's state-of-the-art (for non-scientists) and bleeding edge - all the cool stuff kids are using these days!

There ARE bugs in the system (say it isn't so!) and you may run into some problems. (Yep, you likely will.) And, like anything worthwhile, you'll have to put you time in. However, I've found this forum to be SUPER friendly and extremely helpful when I have had problems. Nothing I've encountered has yet to stop and force me to go back to other, better known AP software (SGP, APT, etc.). In fact, all of the problems I've experienced have been configuration errors on my part - part of the learning curve - and for me, that's all part of the fun of this wonderful hobby! For me, Indi, Kstars/Ekos is an adventure in building the future of AP. Never stop learning. Are you ready to rock?

TPO 8" Ritchey-Chretien Astrograph
Moonlite CS focuser with Motor Drive
RoboFocus Auto Focuser
iOptron iEQ45 Pro Mount
Stellarrmate OS (beta) RPi 4, 4GB
Canon T3i DSLR - Primary Cam
Starlight Xpress Lodestar X2 Guide Cam
Astromania 60 Guide Scope
Polemaster Polar Alignment Cam
The following user(s) said Thank You knro, Kaczorek, TallFurryMan, jnowat, wvreeven, AstroNerd, starman345, CygnusX1, Megiddo

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

8 months 2 weeks ago
Highkamp
Fresh Boarder
Fresh Boarder
Posts: 10
More
For New Users: What is Indi, Kstars/Ekos and Why Do You Want or Need This? #36875
Thanks Werper for this summary. I am just learning to navigate the Indi Ekos SM world and still have yet to connect even to SM . I am still a caveman lawyer with all this stuff but hope to get it up and running soon with the help of this great forum.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

8 months 6 days ago
werper
Expert Boarder
Expert Boarder
Posts: 82
Karma: 1
More
Topic Author
For New Users: What is Indi, Kstars/Ekos and Why Do You Want or Need This? #37200
You're welcome, glad it was helpful. It took me a bit at first to wrap my head around what Indi/Kstars/Ekos was and how they relate to each other and I figured others are probably wondering the same thing I was too.

TPO 8" Ritchey-Chretien Astrograph
Moonlite CS focuser with Motor Drive
RoboFocus Auto Focuser
iOptron iEQ45 Pro Mount
Stellarrmate OS (beta) RPi 4, 4GB
Canon T3i DSLR - Primary Cam
Starlight Xpress Lodestar X2 Guide Cam
Astromania 60 Guide Scope
Polemaster Polar Alignment Cam

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

1 month 4 weeks ago 1 month 4 weeks ago by Megiddo. Reason: Correcting my English ;)
Megiddo
Expert Boarder
Expert Boarder
Posts: 105
More
For New Users: What is Indi, Kstars/Ekos and Why Do You Want or Need This? #44417
Great stuff here. Worth reading a few times. I run everything on my Raspberry and use 'noVNC' to access it on everything else (PC, tablets, phone). I never thought of breaking up the processes and letting my Pc do the heavy processing.
The following user(s) said Thank You werper

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Time to create page: 0.613 seconds