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Introduction
Introduction - ASCOM Platform 6 - Application Users

Please see Version 6.2 for information on the latest changes.

Platform 6 returns to a single installer for the whole platform, removing the need to install an update on top of the core platform and introduces a number of device interface changes to bring consistency to the information available. It also provides new flexibility for client and driver authors to innovate and add their own driver commands without having to release new versions of the device interfaces.

Platform 6 aims for 100% backward compatibility with current drivers and applications, providing an easy upgrade path and new capabilities that developers and enthusiasts can exploit.

Significant reliability and compatibility improvements have also been made in Platform 6:

  • Inno based driver installers that failed in locale's where "point" is not the decimal separator now receive the PlatformVersion string in the format that they expect allowing them to run to completion.

  • Inno based driver installers that are targeted specifically at Platform 5 are detected and provided with a PlatformVersion number that allows them to install on Platform 6, thus maintaining the current range of available drivers.

  • Checks for correct installation are now made when drivers are selected through Chooser. COM registration is checked and if issues are found, these are flagged and it is not possible to select that driver. This improves on previous experience where a difficult to decipher error message would appear when an application attempted to start the driver

  • The 32/64bit compatibility of in-process COM servers is now checked by the Chooser and invalid combinations e.g. a 32bit only driver being selected by a 64bit application are flagged to the user, again preventing difficult to decipher error messages from appearing when the driver was started.

  • The timer has improved compatibility with console applications and scripting languages.

  • The serial component will now detect a wider variety of serial ports.

  • The ASCOM Profile store has been moved back into the registry for improved performance, reliability and compatibility with drivers that bypass the ASCOM Profile functions and directly manipulate the registry. Profile Explorer has been enhanced to make Profile viewing and editing easy.

  • An ASCOM Windows event log has been introduced to record significant events and serious Platform code failures, improving fault diagnosis, leading to better Platform stability.

  • Diagnostics Tool now includes a comprehensive test suite and detailed report providing greater confidence that the Platform is properly installed.

  • Diagnostics Tool checks for correct COM registration of Platform 6 helper components and restores proper function if drivers or applications distribute and register earlier versions of these components.

  • The serial component is now compatible with devices that require RTS and CTS line use to be enabled, see Serial Port Configuration.

The Platform has been split into two installers: the main Platform and the Developer Components. This gives a more focused installation for the majority of ASCOM users, who are not developers, and allows us to make more frequent updates to the developer components, which we know from experience are enhanced more frequently.

The Diagnostics Tool tool has been considerably enhanced to provide a wide ranging report on the installed Platform and incorporates a comprehensive test suite that exercises every aspect of Platform functionality.

We've also included an easy way for you to check for updates to the Platform.

The following section describes changes introduced in Platform 5.5

Features Introuduced in Platform 5.5

The ASCOM Platform 5.5 update fixes some long standing issues with the original COM components in a way that maintains complete compatibility for existing clients and drivers. Key benfits are fixes for Vista security and presentation issues and an update to the serial port component that replaces it transparently with a more reliable .NET serial port implementation.

In addition, turning on serial tracing has been made easier by locating an option on the Chooser component. Lastly, profile tracing is also provided to aid driver author support. both of these options should normally be left disabled and only enabled to aid fault resolution. Logs will appear, ordered by rundate and time in a new ASCOM folder in you My Documents folder.

For long term application stability, Microsoft guidelines have been followed and the ASCOM profile store has been migrated from the Windows registry to a file system location. The new Profile store continues to be machine wide but if you are used to examining the ASCOM section of the Windows registry, you will find that this is no longer used, although the values at the time of migration are left intact! A new tool, Profile Explorer has been provided that allows the contents of the new store to be viewed and edited.

A key goal has been to maintain 100% compatibility with existing ASCOM drivers and applications and all existing applications will continue to work without any change by their developers. The benefits above will just appear after the 5.5 update is installed.

In the longer term this update provides developers with modern implementations of the ASCOM platform tools and a migration path to protect their applications from the possibility that the currrent VB6 based support components will stop working due to some future change in the Windows platform.

The Platform 5.5 update provides compatibility with all Microsoft operating systems from Windows XP to Windows 7, including the 32bit and 64bit variants.

Issues and Enhancement Requests

Please use the ASCOM Yahoo group: ASCOM Talk at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/ASCOM-Talk/messages to report and discuss issues that you come across when using the ASCOM Platform. You will find the Diagnostics Tool tool located in Start Menu / ASCOM Platform 6 / Tools; it will help greatly if you run it before reporting an issue as it provides concrete evidence to help diagnose and resolve the problem.

You may be requested to submit a Diagnostics log and supporting information to our Jira issue and enhancement tracking system: ASCOM Jira Issue and Request Tracking System at http://teamserver.tigranetworks.co.uk/jira. This is a straightforward process and ensures that you are aware of all discussion related to the issue and progress in resolving it. Jira also enables you to upload DIagnostics logs, screen shots or any other supporting evidence.

The Jira system above is also a very good place to make Platform enhancement requests and, of course, you can always log issues in Jira as a first point of call if you wish. Undoubtedly though, the quickest way to get help will be through ASCOM Talk .

Notes
  • See the section titled Version 6.0 for a summary of Platform 6 updates and new functionality.
  • See the section titled Version 5.5 for a summary of Platform 5.5 updates and new functionality.
  • This platform appears as ASCOM Platform 6.0 in the add/remove programs dialogue
  • Testing has been carried out in Windows XP 32, Windows Vista 64 and Windows 7 32 and 64bit bit environments and in UK, French, Japanese and US locales.
See Also

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