Beta Testing the ASCOM Driver for Digital DomeWorks

Tags: digital-domeworks, ddw, ASCOM, astronomy, software, driver, testing, beta

Guidelines for Beta Testers

This is pre-release software that is likely to contain bugs, reliability and performance issues. Please do not use it on a 'live' system that you cannot afford to have a few problems with.

All testing is carried out at the user's own risk. We highly recommend that you are physically present during any testing so that you can intervene and prevent any equipment damage.

Obtaining the Latest Build

Please download the latest build from the Develop branch from our continuous integration build server. At the time of writing, the latest build was #6.1.5-Integration.227 but new builds will be available often. We recommend builds tagged recommended but you should be OK to use anything from the Develop branch. Pick a build and look under the Artifacts column. Click the little drop-down arrow next to View then click on the zip file to download it:
Downloading the build artifacts

Please note the build number you are downloading and quote it in any problem reports. This is also available from the About button in the driver's setup dialog.

If the build server asks you to log in and you don't have a valid login ID, you have two options:

  1. Log in as guest, using the link at the bottom right of the login box. You should be able to access the DDW project anonymously.
  2. Create a login for yourself, using the link at the bottom left of the login box.

Once you have downloaded the build artifacts, unzip the zip file to a convenient location. You should now have 4 folders:
Unzipped folders

For beta testing, please install the Debug build that matches the CPU architecture of your computer (x86 = 32-bit, x64 = 64-bit). If you;re not sure of your architecture, run msinfo32.exe and look under System Type.
Find your system architecture

Testing

You have two approaches to testing, depending on whether you have live hardware available.

Testing on Live Hardware

Simply proceed as normal.

Testing with the Simulator

To help us with our own testing, we have developed a simulator application that mimics the Digital DomeWorks hardware and produces the same output as a real system would. The simulator uses a real serial port and responds to commands sent from the driver, or any other application.

To connect the simulator and driver together, you will need one of the following:

  • A null modem cable (also known as a crossover cable).
  • A virtual comm port emulator, such a com0com.

We suggest using com0com as it is easier than making up cables and you can run everything on a single computer.

When com0com is used, it installs virtual serial ports in matched pairs. You cannot use virtual ports from different pairs. The simulator application should be configured to use the 'B' port (the higher numbered port of the pair) and the ASCOM driver (or application) should be configured to use the 'A' port (lower numbered of the pair).

Once the simulator is configured, set it to Online and it should appear just so:
Digital DomeWorks Hardware Simulator

The simulator provides a real-time display of what's happening in the simulated hardware, but other than that there should be no need to interact with it at all from this point.

The simulator is located in %ProgramFiles%\Tigra Astronomy\ASCOM Dome driver for Digital DomeWorks (for beta test builds there may be no start menu icons).

Diagnostic Output

In release 6.1.5 we have incorporated a completely new diagnostic engine, based on NLog. The debug build comes preconfigured to send log output to the debug channel as before, which you can view using a program such as DebugView from SysInternals. It also generates output to a log file located in your user profile home directory, at %UserProfile%\logs. You can open the log file in any text editor, or use a log viewer such as LogFusion to view it in real time.

Log files are named with the pattern {shortdate}-{loginId}-{machinename}.log and roll-over into a new log file at midnight. This was done to stop log files becoming too large, to avoid naming conflicts and to ensure that we can correlate logs to a person/computer once they are in our issue tracker, therefore please do not unnecessarily rename the log files before uploading them.

The log files produced by the debug builds can grow rapidly and take up a lot of space on disk. A run through Conform can produce a log file several megabytes in size. Unless you have limitless storage, you may need to keep an eye on the logs directory and prune the old logs occasionally. The Release builds emit somewhat less information into the logs by default, but are less useful for testing, so please continue to use the Debug build when testing pre-release code.

Sending Feedback and Bug Reports

When making feedback, please use our Jira issue tracking system. If you are testing against a specific issue in the system, then please add your feedback as a comment on that issue. Jira lets you attach log files and screen shots, please make liberal use of that facility.

When reporting issues, timing is important. Please try to identify the time that the issue occurred as accurately as possible and provide all available log files for that date and time. We can then try to correlate the issue between the various log files which will help us to zero in on issues faster. It is very hard to do much at all without a log file and some indication of the time of the issue.

Jira is at: http://jira.teamserver.tigranetworks.co.uk

If you don't have a login, once again you can self-provision your own login using the 'Sign up' link in the login box.

Note: although Jira is configured to allow anonymous users to browse issues, currently there is a technical fault that prevents this. You will have to log in to view any issues.

Technical Support

If you require technical support related to our software or issue tracking systems, then please raise a support ticket by emailing Support@tigra-astronomy.com

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