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Version 6.2
Introduction

In line with previous Platform installers, 6.2 is a cumulative release that contains all enhancements and fixes from previous Platform releases and service packs.

Note Note

Driver and application developers: In order to maintain a healthy code base, some tidying up is planned for the the next major update and details of the changes are given in the Deprecated Features section below. Please will you review this and update your applications and drivers as advised; these changes are not scheduled for introduction until the second half of 2014 at the earliest. In the meantime service packs will be issued as required to correct bugs.

Platform Prerequisites

Platform 6.2 requires the following .NET framework version and library:

  • .NET Framework 4 Client or .NET Framework 4 Full Installation or later
  • For WIndows 8 and later the .NET Framework 3.5 option must be enabled in Control Panel / Programs and Features / Turn Windows Features On and Off
  • Visual C++ 10.0 libraries

While previous Platforms required .NET Framework 3.5, Platform 6.2 requires that .NET Framework 4 or later is installed on your PC. Framework 4 has been available for a number of years and is provided for all operating systems that the Platform supports (Windows XP onwards). This change is to enable Platform components to take advantage of the new features that Framework 4 provides.

The installer will advise you if your PC does not have the required support and will request that you install it before continuing with the installation. The framework can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Centre please check under "Popular Downloads - Developer Tools" if Framework 4 is not otherwise listed.

The Platform also requires Visual C++ 10.0 libraries and the installer will provide these if they are not already present on your PC.

Key Changes in 6.2 - For Everyone
  • The Platform now provides an ObservingConditions interface, which enables weather and astronomical observation related sensors to be presented in a consistent way.
    • An ObservingConditions simulator has been added to the Platform. This provides constant or continuously varying sensor values and the ability to simulate a slow sensor start start up.
    • An OpenWeatherMap driver has been added to the Platform. This driver provides a variety of weather related ObservingConditions sensors by exploiting the OpenWeatherMap Internet API. Further information can be found at the OpenWeatherMap.Org web site. Personal use is free, you just need to register and retrieve your personal API key. This key is then entered into the driver setup dialog from where you will also be able to set your location, either as a city name or as a latitude / longitude pair.
    • An ObservingConditions Hub has been added to the Platform. The ObservingConditions interface is very broad and most equipment manufacturers do not provide devices that support all of the interface's capabiities. The ObservingConditions Hub enables a collection sensor drivers from different manufacturers to be consolidated and presented to client applications as one virtual device.
  • Support has been added for the June 30th 2015 leap second
  • The DeltaT prediction modelling has been updated with the latest USNO data, which is considered good to 2018
  • The Telescope Simulator has improved simulation of Alt/AZ, German Equatorial and Equatorial modes
  • The Telescope Simulator has a new configuration option to disable the ability to Sync the telescope to a position on the other side of the meridian.
  • Help is presented in an easier to read style
  • The installer recognises Windows 10
Key Changes in 6.2 - For Developers
  • SOFA - Library upleveled to release 11
  • Driver Templates (VB) - Change the Rates implementation so that it is compatible with .NET v4
  • Driver Templates (VB) - Improved logging
  • Driver Templates (VB) - SetupDialogForm now uses a combo box for the COM port selector.
  • Dome Simulator .NET - Improved to run from an application that is not running a Windows message loop
  • SOFA, NOVAS31 - Improved robustness when client applications change the DLL search path
  • Dome Simulator - Improved log messages
  • Help - Now presented in easier to read style
  • Help - Removed unnecessary interface definitions to reduce visual clutter and increase focus on the components themselves.
  • AscomDriver.Connected - Clarified expected behaviour of this method when multiple client applications are using a single driver.
  • Telescope.Sync - Clarified that the way that Sync is implemented is mount dependent and that it should only be relied on to improve pointing for positions close to the position at which the sync is done.
  • Conversion and support functions added to Utilities.Util
    • Util.ConvertUnits: Converts between various speed, temperature, pressure and speed units to support use of the ObservingConditions methods.
    • Util.ConvertPressure: Returns atmospheric pressure at one altitude given the pressure at another altitude. Useful for working with weather stations that report atmospheric pressure at sea level rather than at observatory altitude.
    • Util.DewPoint2Humidity: Returns humidity given dew point and ambient temperature.
    • Util.Humidity2DewPoint: Returns dew point given humidity and ambient temperature.
Issues Fixed - Platform
  • Transform - Fixed missing Az/El coordinates after Transform was intialised with Topocentric coordinates
  • Chooser - Fixed compatibility issue when drivers are created in Visual Studio 2015
  • Focuser Simulator - Fixed issue when HALT was requested after a negative MOVE command.
  • Util.GetTimeZoneOffset - Now returns fractional time zone offsets where appropriate e.g. +5.5 for India.
  • Telescope Simulator - The Connected state will now follow the simulated hardware state. This means that the driver will now remain in the "Connected = true" state until the last client requiring it to be in this state has set Connected = false.
  • Diagnostics now handles file paths over 240 characters gracefully
Issues Fixed - Developers
  • DriverAccess - Improved compatibility with interface v1 drivers
  • NOVAS31 - Initialisation code is now thread safe.
  • Telescope Driver Template - SiderealTime method now uses the NOVAS31 component and correctly compensates for site longitude.
Known Limitations - Developers
  • The components in the Astrometry.NOVAS namespace are fully usable from .NET languages but are not fully accessible through COM from scripting languages because a number of parameters are passed by reference or use structures that do not pass across the COM interface. Two work rounds are available:
    1. Use the Transform component in the ASCOM.Astrometry.Transform namespace, it is fully COM compatible.
    2. Create your own COM presentation component that encapsulates the SOFA or NOVAS 3.1 functions that you require and presents them in a COM compatible fashion to suit your needs. This component can them be consumed by your scripting application.
Breaking Changes (For Developers)
  • None.
Deprecated Capabilites (For Developers)
  • The ASCOM.Astrometry namespace of the Platform has become overcrowded with components that have similar capabilities but that differ in small ways from each other (e.g. NOVAS2, NOVAS2COM, NOVAS3, NOVAS3.1). The recent realisation that some NOVAS routines use iterative algorithms that can fail, when in very close proximity to the poles, led to a search for an alternative and the SOFA Library was found to be an actively maintained and authoritative choice.

    The addition of a SOFA component brings the number of high precision astronomy libraries distributed within the Platform to 8! To reduce the maintenance burden, SOFA will become the primary high precision library for astronomical computing distributed with the ASCOM Platform and dependence of Platform components on NOVAS will be removed. However, the NOVAS routines provide functionality that is not present in SOFA e.g. major and minor planet ephemerides and consequently the NOVAS 3.1 component will continue to be distributed with the Platform.

    The following NOVAS components will be removed from the Platform installer at the next major update and moved into a separate installer:

    • Kepler
    • NOVASCOM
    • NOVAS2
    • NOVAS2COM
    • NOVAS3
  • The following VB6 based simulators will be removed from the Platform at the next major update. These drivers were moved to a "bug-fix only" maintenance mode when Platform 6 was released and are becoming increasingly out of step with their .NET counterparts, which are fully integrated into the Platform code base.

    Simulator

    ProgID

    Replacement

    Camera Simulator

    CCDSimulator.Camera

    Replace use of the CCDSimulator.Camera ProgID with ASCOM.Simulator.Camera, which will invoke the "Camera V2 simulator

    Dome Simulator

    DomeSim.Telescope

    Replace use of the DomeSim.Telescope ProgID with ASCOM.Simulator.Dome, which will invoke the "Dome Simulator .NET" driver.

    Filter Wheel Simulator

    FilterWheelSim.FilterWheel

    Replace use of the FilterWheelSim.FilterWheel ProgID with ASCOM.Simulator.FilterWheel, which will invoke the "Filter Wheel Simulator [.NET]" driver.

    Focuser Simulator

    FocuserSim.Focuser

    Replace use of the FocuserSim.Focuser ProgID with ASCOM.Simulator.Focuser, which will invoke the "ASCOM Simulator Focuser Driver" driver.

    Switch Simulator

    SwitchSim.Switch

    Replace use of the SwitchSim.Switch ProgID with ASCOM.Simulator.Switch, which will invoke the "ASCOM SwitchV2 Simulator Driver" driver.

    Telescope Simulator

    ScopeSim.Telescope

    Replace use of the ScopeSim.Telescope ProgID with ASCOM.Simulator.Telescope, which will invoke the "Telescope Simulator for .NET" driver.