Frequently Asked Questions - Alpaca Cross-Platform and Internet

What is ASCOM Alpaca?
ASCOM Alpaca is a new (2019) standard that provides communication between astronomy programs and astronomy devices on multiple operating systems like iOS, Linux, Android, and Mac, using the internet (which means WiFi-connected mobile devices and also astronomy instruments connected via WiFi). It also provides transparent communications with existing unmodified devices, drivers, and programs on Windows.
Will Alpaca change or break my existing ASCOM-compatible astronomy applications?
No. Windows ASCOM programs will remain compatible with no changes whatsoever. However, if you install ASCOM Remote, an add-on middleware package, your unmodified Windows ASCOM programs will be able to use devices and their Alpaca drivers on other platforms as they become available in the future. For example, you will be able to use a self-contained WiFi-connected focuser running Linux on an Arduino or other embedded controller, again with no modifications to your Windows programs.
Will Alpaca change or break my existing ASCOM-compatible devices and their drivers or control programs?
No. Windows ASCOM drivers will remain compatible with no changes whatever. However, if you install ASCOM Remote, an add-on middleware package, your unmodified Windows devices and their drivers will become accessible from from Alpaca-compatible astronomy programs on other platforms such as iOS, Android, Mac, and Linux as become available in the future. For example, you will be able to control your unmodified Windows-connected telescope mount and driver from an Alpaca-enabled iOS astronomy program.
Will the ASCOM Platform be changed by Alpaca? Will the tools go away or change?
No. The Windows ASCOM Platform will continue as it is. The beauty of Alpaca is that the expansion of the ASCOM ecosystem is provided by the ASCOM Remote middleware, a layered add-on that provides transparent access to the Alpaca-extended environment from the existing Windows ASCOM environment, with no changes needed to any Windows programs or drivers.
When will Alpaca-compatible devices and programs be available?
We don't know. It's a chicken-and-egg situation. We have the eggs, now we need some chickens. The astronomy software and device suppliers that use the other platforms will need to incorporate Alpaca to gain access to and from the Windows ASCOM environment. Other than installation and configuration of ASCOM Remote, nothing needs to change on the Windows side, however the non-Windows devices will need to add Alpaca interfaces, and non-windows astronomy programs will need to add the ability to use Alpaca to control devices. This should make life easy for mobile astronomy programs because Alpaca makes unmodified Windows-connected devices like telescope mounts, imagers, etc. directly accessible from WiFi.

Frequently Asked Questions - Windows Platform and Tools

The ASCOM Platform installer is asking for the Microsoft .NET Framework. There are so many versions out there. Is 4.x "better" than 3.x? What should I do?
There has been confusion about getting the Microsoft .NET Framework installed. It is a pre-requisite to the ASCOM Platform. Please read the note for Windows 7 or Windows XP as it applies to you.
The ASCOM Diagnostics program gives me the error "Incompatible Driver xxxxx. This 32 bit only driver won't work in a 64 bit application even though it is correctly registered as a 32bit COM driver. Please contact the driver author and request an updated driver." Does this mean that the application I want to use will not work with this driver?
This will almost certainly not matter. Most astronomy applications are at present (Jan 2018) compiled as 32 bits and will work with 32 bit only drivers, even on 64 bit versions of Windows. You are seeing this because the ASCOM diagnostics program is doing a full check and is reporting this to help driver developers know of this potential problem. If you see the same error when you try to choose the driver in the Application then this is a problem because the application is running as 64 bits and a 32 bit application will not work. Note: This is not under the control of the ASCOM Platform. We do not have the ability to compensate for this fundamental differences between 32 and 64 bit systems.
The driver installer shows the message “The ASCOM Platform 5 is required for this driver”
This is resolved for most drivers, see Platform 5.5 only installers for information on how to fix this for your driver.
Why Can't You Just Add Logic to Your Program to Compensate For My Device's Problem?
See the Correcting for Problems (also in the menu on the left).
Where can I learn about The ASCOM Initiative and its technology?
See the About ASCOM section.
How can I get support for my ASCOM driver?
See the Support page for details. Always start with the company or person from whom you purchased the device. Sometimes these people hire a temporary contractor to write the driver. Then that contractor disappears from the ASCOM scene, and maybe the entire astronomy scene. It's important that the device makers themselves realize that the driver often controls their customers' experience with their product or device.
How can I use TheSky™ in the ASCOM Environment?
Yes, TheSky is compatible with the ASCOM environment. See Working With TheSky (also in the menu on the left).
Why don't my scripts work on a 64-bit system?
Most ASCOM drivers and the ASCOM support components are 32-bit. If you run your script by double-clicking it or using cscript on the command line, it uses the 64-bit script engine. The 64-bit script engine cannot use 32-bit components. On a 64-bit system, you must use the 32-bit script engine for ASCOM scripts. The easiest way is to use a command shell like this:

  c:\whatever\> %windir%\SYSWOW64\cscript.exe myscript.vbs (or myscript.js for JScript)
What is a Hub?
A hub is a program that allows multiple ASCOM astronomy programs to share a device. It looks like a driver, but it can allow more than one program to connect to it, and it in turn connects to the driver for the real device. Hubs can exist for any type of device. The diagram below shows a telescope hub only as an example.
The ASCOM Platform comes with two hubs, POTH and ASCOM Dome Control. In addition, the FocusMax program can act as both a focuser and a telescope hub.
What is POTH? What Can I Use it For?
See Using POTH (also in the menu on the left).
How do I enable and disable serial tracing?
Most drivers use the ASCOM "Helper" component to do serial port I/O. For those drivers that do, you can capture a trace of the serial traffic to and from the device by using serial tracing. Beginning with ASCOM Platform 5.5, the Chooser has a Trace menu. Use this to set the location of the serial trace log and to turn tracing on and off.