System specs for StarTools

Questions and answers about problems with the software, modules or functionality.
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System specs for StarTools

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A question that comes up often is "I'm looking at buying a new machine. What are the best specs for running StarTools?"

It is a question that is quite broad.

The thing to remember with all image processing software, is that every time you double the horizontal an vertical resolution of your image, the amount of pixels that need to be processed increases exponentially. For example, processing an image that is 1280x960, versus an image that is 640x480 in size, means that 4x as many pixels need to be processed and stored. Double the horizontal and vertical resolution again (2560x1920) and 16x as many pixels need to be processed and stored compared to the 640x480 image. Double the horizontal and vertical resolution again (5120x3840) and 64x as many pixels need to be processed and stored, compared to the 640x480 image. And so forth.

For a lot of reasons (algorithm complexity, 64-bit precision, etc.) processing a single pixel in StarTools usually takes longer than processing a pixel in simpler image processing programs. This means that waiting times become very noticeable on large images with StarTools.

If you keep your images small, waiting times may be acceptable, even on modest CPUs (single core pentium III or IV) with a modest amount of RAM (1Gb).

Likewise, if you process huge images, you can easily bring the latest Core i7 with 16Gb to its knees.

As a general rule, if you are looking for a new system that will run StarTools more smoothly with bigger images, then look for memory first, number for cores 2nd and clock speed 3rd.

I would recommend at least 6Gb of memory, and a CPU with 4 ('Quad') cores. Once those specifications are satisfied, go for the highest clock speed you can afford. Make sure your computer comes with a 64-bit operating system. Please note that, a the time of this writing, a 64-bit version of StarTools for MacOSX is not yet available. If your computer does not come with a 64-bit operating system, you can install a 64-bit version of Linux (such as Ubuntu or Fedora) for free alongside your other operating system.

One thing people tend to overlook is their monitor; make sure you buy a monitor that represents colours and intensity levels accurately.

If you would like to use a computer out while you're imaging at night (for guiding or as a planetarium/stellarium), you may want to consider a laptop with good battery life, instead of a desktop. When processing you can also use the laptop's screen as a secondary screen. Laptop screens are usually not very suitable for processing, but they do act as a good guide to give you an idea how your image will look like on someone viewing your work on a non-calibrated screen.

Hope this helps!
Ivo Jager
StarTools creator and astronomy enthusiast
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