Oftentimes we retire an old laptop because it has become out of date or the hardware no longer meets our needs. I have found that converting an old laptop to a Linux operating system commonly adds life to a piece of equipment which would normally be sent to be recycled. Such was the case with my small HP Laptop which had seen better days. Instead of getting rid of it, I decided to convert it to a Linux Mint OS laptop. This is a variety of Ubuntu Linux which includes a ton of native drivers (which can sometimes be an issue with Linux) and has a user interface which feels a lot like Windows or a Mac.
My intent was to use this laptop as a secondary Astrophotography laptop for my smaller rig. Equipment I was interested in running:
1. Skywatcher HEQ5 Equatorial GoTo Mount
2. ZWO 533 MC Pro Cooled multi-color camera
3. Orion StarShoot Autoguider Camera
4. RedCat51 Telescope
Functionally I needed to have Planetarium Software to drive the mount, guider software for my guide scope/camera, plate solving, and imaging software to capture images for stacking.
Here is the software I installed:
1. KStars (Planetarium as well as INDI Server software (Replaces ASCOM)
2. EKOS Plugins for KStars. This is the backbone of the system for imaging, as it interfaces the mount, guiding, and image sequencing into one interface
3. Caffeine (Keeps laptop from going to sleep)
4. X11VNC Server (Remote desktop software that allowed me to control the laptop from inside my house)
5. Discord (So that I can chat with my fellow Astronomy enthusiasts while imaging)
A couple of things I learned:
1. The internal EKOS guiding software is very good. So much so that I uninstalled PHD2 in favor of the internal guiding
2. Take time and install ALL of the index files for plate solving. The solving software is quite good as well and allows for incremental solving to a ratio of accuracy
3. Using the Startup wizard in KStars was key to success. It finds all the drivers and asks you all of the questions the system needs to know. You will manually need to set up Aperture and Focal length to have successful plate solves.
4. If you want your planetarium experience to be similar to Stellarium, take the time to download the enhanced view files.
As a bonus, if you are a fan of EAA, or you are a planetary imager, the ZWO Studio suite is available natively on Linux.
For processing, nothing beats Pixinsight, and guess what....Pixinsight is built originally FOR LINUX. In fact, when you use Pixinsight on your Windows laptop, it is a PORT of the software from the Linux Version.
Feel free to message me on Discord if you have specific questions about this configuration. Most of this software is available from the package manager located in the start menu of Linux Mint.