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RE: [ASCOM] Is Ascom dead ;-)

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  • Matthew L. Bisque
    Doug, ... Okay. In the past, the ascom marketing alliance was able to persuade, direct and encourage volunteer programmers to write *telescope* drivers under
    Message 1 of 60 , Jun 1, 2006
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      >>No, we're not about to release all
      >>our proprietary MaxIm DL camera drivers
      >>as open source, either.

      Okay. In the past, the ascom marketing alliance was able to persuade, direct and encourage volunteer programmers to write *telescope* drivers under the guise of "standards", "initiative", "open-source", "free" and "scriptability." This "push" was due in part to the fact that the ascom marketing alliance did not have access to such telescope driver technology. Apparently, the same push doesn't apply to camera drivers since the ascom marketing alliance has its own proprietary camera drivers in a commercial product. I doubt we will ever see an "ASCOM Observational Planning Standard" for that matter, either. History shows that the only standards/drivers ascom pursues are for technologies not present in the marketing alliances commercial products.

      The root problem is that ascom portrays itself as an independent standard body when its not http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ASCOM-Talk/message/7372.

      >>ASCOM Camera and Filter support is planned, and we will act as both a
      >>client to ASCOM drivers, and as a server for other software that need
      >>to access our proprietary drivers.

      Exactly how is camera and filter "support" planned? Through your commercial product, correct? There won't be any ascom camera drivers like there are ascom telescope drivers. This goes directly against 1,2,3,4 of ascom initiative. Contrary to ascom, but good for Doug George's bottom line. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ASCOM-Talk/message/1411.

      Either the ascom initiative needs re-written to accommodate what's actually happening w/r/t camera drivers or the ascom camera standard should be dropped. I find it misleading and dishonest for the ascom marketing alliance to continue entertaining the ascom camera standard without re-writing the ascom initiative or at least make it publicly clear what's "really" happening.

      >>Focuser drivers, on the other hand, are quite simple and we (long
      >>ago) released all of our focuser drivers as open source.

      Don't pat yourself on the back too much; a focuser doesn't do much good without a camera, which leads customers right back to your commercial product.

      Also, over a year ago, you agreed "open source" is the wrong term http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ASCOM-Talk/message/7200. Ascom Initiative #3 still incorrectly uses the term "open source."

      >>It [ascom] also makes it possible for people to hook our application
      >>to others,

      Any published COM interface makes this possible, not ascom. Microsoft's COM is the underlining technology.

      >>I use MaxIm DL with TheSky/Paramount ME in my own home observatory,
      >>and they work very well together thanks to ASCOM.

      Let's give credit where credit is due. The Paramount is programmable through Software Bisque's RASCOMTele interface which has *nothing* to do with ascom. I'm sure it was convenient you didn't have to write the ascom layer that talks to the Paramount, but you are one of the principles in control of ascom.


      -----Original Message-----
      From: ASCOM-Talk@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ASCOM-Talk@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Douglas B. George
      Sent: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 4:29 PM
      To: ASCOM-Talk@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [ASCOM] Is Ascom dead ;-)


      I don't know the history of your interaction with others involved in ASCOM. But the whole point is NOT to force anyone to release their proprietary work. I hope that was simply a misunderstanding... but if not, then someone really owes you an apology.

      The real purpose here is to, over time, relieve the software vendors (and all the tinkerers out there) of the gruelling work of being forced to write their own device drivers for everything. Ultimately, the hardware manufacturers themselves should take responsibility for their own drivers. That's probably going to take some time and education, but it's starting to happen.

      No, we're not about to release all our proprietary MaxIm DL camera drivers as open source, either. Camera drivers are very complex and require a high level of support. Focuser drivers, on the other hand, are quite simple and we (long
      ago) released all of our focuser drivers as open source. I know that some people are using them with CCDSoft, via a wrapper someone wrote.

      We do support ASCOM drivers wherever possible, because it *does* relieve us from having to write a variety of drivers. It also makes it possible for people to hook our application to others, so they can build their own custom solutions.
      Right now we support Telescope, Focuser, and Dome interfaces. ASCOM Camera and Filter support is planned, and we will act as both a client to ASCOM drivers, and as a server for other software that need to access our proprietary drivers.
      When that happens you will have access to the DSLR drivers, through MaxIm DL.

      ASCOM support is currently available on TheSky, via add-on wrappers, and it is extremely useful for our mutual customers. I use MaxIm DL with TheSky/Paramount ME in my own home observatory, and they work very well together thanks to ASCOM.

      What I *would* encourage you to do is include ASCOM Telescope as a built-in option on your drop-list in TheSky (just as an option among many, alongside your proprietary ones). Right now it's a bit tedious for users to manually install the ASCOM Telescope API into TheSky. An easier alternative for you would be to provide a "slot" for the ASCOM installer to put it in, so the ASCOM installer doesn't run the risk of overwriting an existing Telescope API driver. That way it could be installed automatically by the ASCOM Platform without any extra user effort.



      Doug George

      Diffraction Limited
      Makers of Cyanogen Imaging Products

      25 Conover Street
      Ottawa, Ontario,
      Canada, K2G 4C3

      Phone: (613) 225-2732
      Fax: (613) 225-9688


      Sarah Bisque wrote:
      > Jonathan,
      > You still don't see our perspective, but you are getting close!
      > We had years of intellectual property in our scope drivers when ASCOM
      > inner circle tried to muscle us into supporting ASCOM. But we did not
      > see any benefit for our customers or for TheSky, but plenty of benefit
      > for our competitors if we shared these efforts.
      > This is *exactly* where you are with the DSLR drivers. If you can
      > abstract DSLR's to a nice little interface so that we don't have to
      > duplicate your work, then an ASCOM standard start to sound interesting
      > (provided it becomes a true open standard).
      > So can we muscle you into sharing your intellectual property?
      > Steve

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    • Gary J. Ferdinand
      I wish to respond to Doug and Steve s postings here (where Doug responded to Steve). If some people are berating you about that, then they are misguided. If
      Message 60 of 60 , Jun 2, 2006
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        I wish to respond to Doug and Steve's postings here (where Doug responded to Steve).

        If some people are berating you about that, then they are misguided.  If you
        need proprietary drivers for whatever purpose, then obviously you can and should
        use them!

        It *would* be really nice if, among the list of proprietary drivers in TheSky,
        there was an ASCOM entry (there out of the box, or at least directly installed
        by the ASCOM Platform instead of manually).  It would make things a little
        easier for our mutual customers, who wish to hook our stuff together. 
        For years now I have used ASCOM to allow me to use a robust combination of software to drive my mount, focuser, etc.  I have found ASCOM to enable solutions that otherwise would not have been possible or would have been extremely cumbersome.
        I have chosen not to use the Software Bisque products in my observatory for two reasons:  Lack of ASCOM support similar in scope to that of Bisque's competitors, as well as my observing Bisque responses to questions of support that I thought were unhelpful or judgmental.  Bisque has, to this point, lost significant business from me primarily due to its position on ASCOM - and I am not an ASCOM contributor (yet) and have no ax to grind whatsoever.  I have lost count of the number of times the ASCOM wrapper for The Sky has caused issues for those attempting to use a new release of The Sky.  Doug's comment above is well-taken.  Why should I invest in Bisque technology with the complexity issues inherent in its use with ASCOM?  I don't.  Bisque, you've lost business and it's low-hanging fruit.
         > There *is* a conflict of interest at the heart of ASCOM, and we have felt the
        > effects of this for over five years now. We have stated our case clearly
        > time and time again. Until ASCOM becomes in independent standards body, it
        > has a dim future.

        ASCOM has a very informal structure.  It's not so much that someone is
        controlling it; it's more like no one's really in charge.  Tim Long moderates
        this list.  Bob Denny maintains the web site and the platform installer (the
        latter is a task I know he'd *love* to hand off to someone else!).  Everything
        else is done by whoever decides to do it. 
        What I have seen is quite the opposite, Steve, and I agree with Doug here.  I see a set of wonderful people willing to devote their time, unpaid, toward advancing a degree of standardization so that the amateur astronomy community can benefit.  I'm sure there are underlying business interests here as well.  I view that is good, not bad.  It's a win-win between the authors of new "widgets" and their consumers.  I'll buy and be willing to pay (from my perspective) a significant amount for new or improved function -- as long as it fits into the overall scheme of things.  That scheme in my observatory is ASCOM, which I view as the glue, or enabler of some degree of sanity among my many software solutions.
        I believe that win-win would extend to Software Bisque's business and therefore its consumers should Bisque ever decide to join the effort, rather than holding back.  I have been in the computer industry for over 30 years and have seen how proprietary products have come and gone, while some standardization efforts have borne significant fruit for all concerned. I don't see too many Commodore's around today :-)
        Your point of view is, Bob Denny runs this show.  So let me call your bluff, and
        you can call ours.  My challenge to you is, involve yourself.  Take an honest
        crack at participating *positively* in the technical and organizational
        discussions here.  As a major applications provider your opinions would
        automatically have a fair bit of weight.
        This is an outstanding idea.  But let me emphasize what Doug already emphasized:   *positively*.  What appears to have helped make ASCOM work so far (as seen by me as user of the effort) has been that the participants all seem to share a broad, common goal and have an intense interest in making it come together.  I have participated in other standards efforts whereby some participants were anointed by their company sponsors to be present in the committee purely to make the effort fail.  I have to presume that were Bisque to do that, in today's internet world it would be noted loudly and clearly to Bisque's detriment. 
        Software Bisque please take Doug's "challenge" to heart.   In the long run I believe it will be to your business' benefit as well as my observatory's ;-)
        Gary Ferdinand
        North Chatham, NY (formerly Apex, NC)
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