The Standard Desk Calcumeter, H. N. Morse circa 1910

A few months ago in a little consignment shop in our locality, I stumbled across something I’d never seen before. Stamped as “The Standard Desk Calcumeter,” it appeared to be some sort of calculating device. Since I have an odd fascination for such things, and since the price tag on it was only $12, I snatched it up. A little research confirmed that it was a cleverly-designed mechanical adding machine, where the digits were entered using the tip of a stylus on the rotating disks visible through the front plate. The Reset wheel on the far right side provided a quick and easy way to reset all the wheels to zero.

When I first obtained it, this machine was a bit on the grubby side, and the reset wheel was very difficult to turn. It was apparent that it had not been used in many years (unsurprisingly). It would be a bit of a restoration project.

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At the request of a user, I updated my ASCOM Driver for Digital Setting Circles to include a couple of the northern constellations–Ursa Minor and Draco. These constellations were added because the user had a limited view of the sky and needed more northerly stars on which to align. However, in general it is better to choose alignment stars that are not so far north (or south).

The download link for the driver installation file has been updated on the ASCOM Driver page.

A year or so ago we bought a Subaru Outback, and then an Aluma trailer on which to haul it behind our class C RV. The Outback fits perfectly on the Aluma trailer, but figuring out the best way to tie the Outback down on the trailer was a bit of a puzzle.

A friend of ours (with the same trailer and Outback) suggested these lasso tie-down straps, which we tried. However, our trailer didn’t have attachment points in the best places for using those straps, and we improvised. Long story short, the straps didn’t work very well for us and frayed and broke–not very good when you’re towing down the highway. A better solution was needed.

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Finally. I’d been waiting for weeks for an evening that would provide decent enough conditions for me to attempt my first imaging session with my new telescope, camera, and mount. Between clouds and smoke from forest fires, I’d been stymied for quite some time, but last Thursday evening finally presented clear skies and a little dark time before the moon rose so I could set everything up and try some long-exposure imaging of deep sky objects.

My first attempt at imaging M31, the Andromeda Galaxy.
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The William Optics UniGuide 50mm guide scope

In my quest to put together a decent starter package for doing deep sky imaging, I purchased a William Optics UniGuide 50mm guide scope and a ZWO ASI290mm mini guide camera to use for guiding my main telescope during imaging. Both appear to be fine pieces of equipment, but when I did some bench testing I discovered that in order to bring images to focus in the ASI290mm mini guide camera, it had to be positioned in the guide scope such that it was just barely inserted. Some additional length in the guide scope would be a good thing.

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Well, comet Neowise has come and (pretty-much) gone, but it put on an impressive display while it lasted. I managed to get out my camera one evening and take a few pictures, including this one:

Comet Neowise, taken July 20, 2020 from Woodland Park, CO (elevation 8400 ft). Taken using a Canon 250D DSLR with a Canon EF 50mm lens at f/1.8, 5s exposure at ISO 3200, modestly processed with Affinity Photo.
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I’ve been running my NexStar 6SE scope in the field using an old 12V 7-Ah gel cell battery for awhile now, but it’s kinda heavy and has to sit on the ground, meaning I have to pay attention to not getting the power cord wrapped around the mount as I slew the telescope. I really wanted to find something that was light enough to attach to the arm of the mount itself but still had enough power in it to run the scope for at least an evening. Surfing some of the message boards, I found several reports of people using battery packs from TalentCell. The message board posts claimed up to several nights of observing with their battery packs. It sounded like I had found the answer.

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Having recently gotten myself a new Windows 10 laptop (an Acer Aspire E 15 that I really like), I’ve been going through the process of getting everything set up and installed the way I like (I’m kinda anal retentive about that). That gives me cause to explore new possibilities, like “how can I get my Google contacts and calendar (from my Android phone) to sync up with my installation of MS Outlook on my laptop (which I use for email)?” I’ve asked that question before but never found a decent answer. This time, though, I found a great solution, and it’s free!

GO Contact Sync Mod is a utility I found that runs in the background on my laptop, reaching out to Google’s APIs to keep my Google contacts and calendar sync’d with those in MS Outlook. It has a straightforward user interface where you can define the rules for reconciliation (like “if there is a conflict, the Google contact should overwrite the Outlook contact”). You can tell it how often to perform the sync and it will do so quietly in the background. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and it works so well that I forget it’s there.

(Why don’t I just use GMail and omit MS Outlook entirely? I have my own domain, including email addresses, so I don’t use a GMail address. And I much prefer MS Outlook’s interface to GMail.)