ETX-90EC USER FEEDBACK - MAY 1999
This page is for user comments and information specific to the Meade ETX-90EC. Accessories and Feedback items appropriate to both the original ETX model, the ETX-90EC, and the ETX-125EC are posted on other pages as appropriate. If you have any comments, suggestions, questions or answers to questions posed here, e-mail them to me and I'll post them. Please use an appropriate Subject Line on your message. Thanks.
Subject: autostar cord Sent: Monday, May 31, 1999 17:54:15 From: LooneyRoo@aol.com well, i decided to make the autostar cord as suggested on your site... the cord was made with the same materials as was required by the posts and in the same way. but for some reason, the autostar update program won't agknowledge my autostar... are there any quick FAQ's on your site concerning this problem? i really wanted to update to the new version tonight... so please write back soon. thanks, and as always, GREAT SITE!!! ~noah p.s.- i used a volt meter and know that the cord is set up perfectlyMike here: I had the same problem. Two points: don't try to use COM2; it won't work with the current updater s/w. Also, you could try reversing the send and receive lines. Finally, as Jordan Blessing of Scopetronix has suggested, grab the SkyMap Pro 5 demo from http://www.wwsoftware.com/featureinformation.htm and try that. If it works then you know that you have an Autostar updater problem, not a cable problem.
Subject: Dec Failure Sent: Monday, May 31, 1999 0:22:20 From: email@example.com (Gregg Carter) Once again your site proves to be a great source of information. I experienced a Dec clutch lock failure exactly as you describe on your Web site (i.e., it was just fine the last time I used the scope, and then just when the scope was just sitting awaiting next usage, it failed). I also am sure that I did not "overtighten" the Dec lock. I purchased the scope at The Nature Company and am going to return it for replacement on Tuesday (the day after Memorial Day). Is this problem very common, or can I reasonably expect the replacement scope to be ok? I sure want to get this scope working, Gregg CarterMike here: Meade has fixed the problem but some defective components may remain in the channel.
Subject: New ETX-90EC User Sent: Friday, May 28, 1999 17:36:55 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gregg Carter) OK, I bought an ETX-90EC today. Got the AutoStar also, of course. Have pretty much got it all figured out, having gone through the menu structure and all. Now if the clear skies just hold up once it is dark..... :)Added later:
I'm going to post this question on the usegroup, but thought I'd ask you just in case you know the answer. The sky is clear and I was outside to do my alignment. Everytime I try I get the message "Motor Unit Fault" and the alignment procedure terminates. Interesting enough, I can manually continue to move the scope toward the start it was going for. I started in the home position (tube parallel to ground and pointing north) every time.Added later:
I did the "Reset" command and it's working like a charm. Did a two-star alignment since I wanted to use Vega and Spica as I have some obstructions at tonights spot. Did that and so far it's hitting everything I'm going for. This is going to be great!!
Subject: Re: RA Drive (Andrew) Sent: Monday, May 24, 1999 22:26:42 From: email@example.com (John Chalfen) Had a somewhat similar problem. My ETX hit a hard stop (using Autostar 1.0c) and I started experiencing the same problem. My solution was to open the bottom and check the worm gear. The screw holding the worn gear was loose, (as well as other screws and gears as I found out in there) and had started to work it's way out. Slew one way and it works fine, go slew the other way and the screw would work it's way back in until friction took over and turned the worm gear. Used a needle nose pliers to hold worm gear and and allen wrench to tighten screw. Works fine. *If* you decide to take the bottom off of your ETX, **be careful** of the battery leads. My negative lead popped right off the circuit board without much effort. Right now, my scope is external power only until I decide if it's worth pulling out the PC boards. (Not worth it yet with AC power and a gel cell option available). Also, you may want to look at the Scopetronix site first to see what you may be getting into. There is good info there on the internals of the ETX. -------------------------------------------------- TIA and TTFN firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com (I know...I know...)
Subject: etx 90ec/natural wonders Sent: Monday, May 24, 1999 20:40:21 From: LooneyRoo@aol.com i just wanted to let you, and those out there who use Natural Wonders as their dealer to know that they are no longer taking special accessory orders. They won't be selling anything but basic telescopes, a couple of eyepieces and maybe some autostars. other than that, meade has stopped shipment to them. that means, no filters, right angle viewfinders, auto focusers... etc. supposedly they (natural wonders) were having problems with a shipment of very expensive items (i'm guessing lx200 type scopes) and meade would not take back the defective equipment. so now they are only carrying basic items. also, while i was at the store today, the lady who has been helping me since my first purchase (the original etx, back in december) told me that i could swap my old autostarv1.0 for a new one. i have downloaded the software from meade's site, but have yet to purchase a cord to connect the autostar to my computer. (i opted not to make one myself, because i didn't want to fry my telescope) anyway, i was reluctant to trade in my old one, because i have never really had a problem with it... but tonight i went out and turned on my scope, when all of a sudden the autostar prompted me to the beginning start menu... the one that shows up when you first plug the autostar in for the first time. well, it was right then that i noticed that all of the memory was cleared. not that it was a problem though... all i needed to do was type in my location and retrain the drive. but i was curious to see if you had heard of autostars acting this way. maybe i will trade it in for a new one... ~noah p.s. - i've read somewhere that you should plug in the autostar after you turn on the scope... i keep mine plugged in most of the time (including the time when i turn on the scope)... could this have been the problem? this might be a warning to those who keep theirs plugged in... it might lead to a short in the autostar.Mike here: I would leave the Autostar plugged in, even with the ETX turned off.
Subject: Image Shift? or Major Malfunction? Sent: Monday, May 24, 1999 18:14:54 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Tim Donovan) Once again many thanks for this ETX "bible". I have been experiencing what I had thought was a collimation problem on my ETX-90RA. After meeting one of your frequent and knowledgeable posters at the local observatory, and seeing his ETX in action and talking with him, I'm not sure what exactly the problem is. When I attempt to focus in on an object, the image "slides" across the field to such an extreme that I have to alter the position of the scope to keep the object in view. I am focusing with two hands, one on the focus & one on the RA knob. This "sliding" seems to be getting progressively worse. I've searched your site for "collimation", "image shift", & found nothing that seems to describe my situation. Any thoughts on this, or have you heard of this before? Many thanks in advance! TimMike here: Some image shift during focus is normal. But Meade Daffron (email@example.com) noted in the ETX-90EC Feeback: "Focusing image shift is virtually GONE from the new /EC. This is wonderful! I'm surprised no one else has praised this little improvement. No more watching your image sway back and forth across the field as you focus!"
Subject: Report on firmware upgrade, and some questions Sent: Monday, May 24, 1999 7:54:21 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Robert Ramsey) Thanks for your great site - very well designed, moderated, and informative. I received the Scopetronix serial cable this past Saturday, and upgraded the firmware to 1.1.m. I did notice, when the upgrade was complete, that the Autostar went into initialization mode, asking for language preference, etc. I was wondering if I need to re-train the drive. I suspect I will need to, since all of the other user-supplied data (i.e., I had added a couple of locations to the site menu) was gone, overwritten, I assume, by the new code. Thanks, and keep the site as great as it is!!! Clay Ramsey email@example.comMike here: Retraining the drive is likely required since once you upgrade the Autostar, it is like having a new one.
Subject: Just some thoughts... Sent: Sunday, May 23, 1999 7:51:27 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Kevin P. Kretsch) Hi all, Reading mike's review of the 90EC, I was surprised at the strange RA movement, going for 1 hour motion and then stopping. I recall other people noting the same problem and I even experienced it myself briefly, but after switching on and off, this usually disappeared. My worry is that there is a small bug in the RA motor system, particularly when used with the Autostar (v1.0c). I got a 'motor unit failure' from the autostar for a while, with no motion using the arrows. Strangely, the normal hand controller worked perfectly. A gentle brushing of the RA encoder was required and the with the normal hand controller, everything is smooth and the '1 hour' stop thing is less frequent. Also, the 'RA runaway' problem has not occurred. (My Autostar is with Meade on the entirely unrelated problem of being dead, so I can't comment further here.) If anyone else can shed some light on this or have similar experiences, I'd be interested to hear. Please be extremely careful opening the base of the 90EC. The wires from the battery compartment to the PCB are fragile, and Murphy's law says if they break, they come off at the PCB. From painful experience I can assure you that a soldering iron has great difficulty getting in there... On the subject of cleaning optics, I very strongly recommend that all people read Al Nagler's advice on the Tele Vue (www.astronomy-mall.com/regular/products/tele-vue-optics/) homepage. In fact the entire site made for a very interesting afternoons reading. Quite an eye opener. (And I still have no great urge to buy televue eyepieces). The 'ask Al and Dave' section also contains some ETX related questions and answers which may or may not be use to some of you. Clear skies all, Kev. --- Kevin P. Kretsch B.A.(Mod.)Phys e-mail: email@example.com Photonic Materials Group, Tel: +353 1 608 1324 Department of Physics, Fax: +353 1 671 1759 Trinity College, Dublin 2, IRELAND.
Subject: Your etx 90-ec Sent: Saturday, May 22, 1999 22:33:02 From: Etxowner@aol.com Hey Mike! Have you had time to work further with your new scope? I know all etx owners are looking forward to more first hand info from you. Etx owners owe you a debt of gratitude for this great site. Thank You, ETX ownerMike here: Not yet. But will soon. Wanted to get the Autostar updated first. Stay tuned...
Subject: ETX-90/EC Dec Lock Sent: Saturday, May 22, 1999 15:06:54 From: Pierre.Henrotay@sni.be (Henrotay Pierre) Noticed your bad experience with the DEC Lock (right tube adapter). Is this a design error from Meade (and as such this would affect all telescopes sooner or later: it seems indeed that more and more of us encounter a problem with the DEC Lock) ? If so, why would the new right tube adapter last longer/not exhibit the same problem ? Sorry for all these questions, but I am getting anxious by now: my ETX (a few weeks old only) seems to require more and more tightening for the DEC Lock; if not tight enough, the motor of the scope is not able to raise the tube but however succeeds in lowering it. I am a bit reluctant to remove the OTA and inspect the adapter, being afraid of damaging anything or not being able to put thing back in a correct way. Anyway, there is little chance to get here in Belgium a replacement for the right tube adapter directly from Meade. Thanks for your site: a terrific source of info... Pierre Henrotay Belgium - Europe 50 36 N 5 52 EMike here: Not all shipped telescopes have experienced the problem but some may. The failure seems to occur quickly after initial use so if you've been using your ETX-90EC for sometime you will probably not experience the failure.
Subject: RA drive Sent: Friday, May 21, 1999 6:45:59 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Andrew Jackson) Pardon me if someone has brought this problem up before. I have (another) new ETX90/EC and have come across an interesting problem. When in polar mode (with the RA drive operating) and you slew the scope East you get the expected pause in the motor. What I did not expect and did not happen with the previous ETX90/EC is that even though the RA motor starts again within seconds, the scope does not move for nearly 120 seconds. I was wondering if anyone had a similar problem (and solution). Once it starts going it is fine, until next time I slew East. It has no problem when I slew West. Thanks for a brilliant site and an excellent service to all us Meade users and potential users. Andrew email@example.com
Subject: Autostar 1.1m Sent: Wednesday, May 19, 1999 19:29:35 From: WAB003@aol.com just to let you know... hv used the 1.1m Autostar update a few nights now and it appears that the tracking feature is improved over the 1.0c rev. Caught M13 last eve and it held it in the 18mm eyepiece for over an hour (would have been longer...stepped inside for a beverage and to retrieve some logging materials and became sidetracked. Was a little surprised to see it still centered when I returned 45 minutes later. ;-) For any others sitting w/ the 1.0c, the upgrade is relatively simple. I made my own serial cable w/ $7 in parts from Radio Shack. If a user isn't comfortable making D connectors w/ tiny phone wires, RS does carry an RS-232 connector that converts from a phone jack to a 25 pin D. If the computer in question uses a 9 pin serial port, there is another adapter to step from 25 pin to 9 pin. (at this point, it might be less complicated to pony up the 19.95 for a custom cable from Meade.) At any rate, I found the readme file instructions w/ the update file to be slightly in error. The indicate that the Autostar should be moved pat way through the Setup menu, start the update program, then activate the download menu selection on the Autostar. When I followed these inx, the update program wouldn't recognize the Autostar. I was successful when I moved completely through the Autostar download sequence (getting to the message, "downloading"... even though it hasn't started yet. THEN, startup the Update upload program and the Autostar was recognized immediately and the uploading began. Took 20-30 minutes and went very smoothly. The sequence of connection and upload is thoroughly described in the readme file and works well except for the sequence described above. Separately, I have received a couple of e-mails requesting additional info on the camcorder battery hookup. To assist w/ this, I have attached a picture of the connector. The expected battery life on a single charge is 4-6 times the life of a set of alkalines. When compared to using a set of NiCad AA's in the base, the camcorder battery also offers substantially longer cycle time and it will not "die" suddenly as will NiCad's. If a user plans a night of heavy slewing, this might be a worthwhile alternative to plugging into a car battery. Best regards, Bill Bailey
Clarification from Meade:
Subject: RE: Autostar download sequence Sent: Thursday, May 20, 1999 11:22:51 From: Meade Instruments His gist is that the Autostar needs to be in download before he starts the update program. Absolutely NOT. In fact the Update program checks for either state of the handbox. If it is in Download mode - cool, if it is not, we prompt for you to put it into download mode and we check again to see if it is in download. The code repeats that sequence until it is in download mode and then proceeds. The sequence is actually fairly unimportant. Having said all of that there is one caveat which needs to be mentioned. On the old 1.0c versions of the Autostar.ROM firmware, there were several commands which were not in place. Some of these commands would not allow the Update program to tell what version of the code was present. In these cases the only difference that I can see in the code is the addition of a dialog box which mentions that the firmware you are running is VERY old and that you need to download the newest version from the Meade WEB site as soon as possible. There was also a problem that the link list of astronomical bodies could have an invalid link (possible, but not likely). So there was an extra set of code for checking that possibility. That is pretty much it. If you turn on your Autostar and then start the Update program, any other chain-of-events would pretty much be allowed. In fact about the only thing I specifically DO NOT check for is turning the box on and off in the middle of running the program. I assume that once you start, you go through to the end of the update and then change power states. Hope this helps. Meade Instruments Corporation 6001 Oak Canyon Irvine, CA 92620 VOX 1.949.451.1450 FAX 1.949.451.1460
Subject: Autostar Cable Info Sent: Tuesday, May 18, 1999 8:21:04 From: Meade Instruments Appendix "B" has been updated on the Meade WEB site to be correct! Meade Instruments Corporation 6001 Oak Canyon Irvine, CA 92620 VOX 1.949.451.1450 FAX 1.949.451.1460Mike here: There was an error on the pinout information on the Meade web page.
Subject: dec fix/ Ongoing Saga Sent: Monday, May 17, 1999 14:03:57 From: firstname.lastname@example.org Just a quick note to let you know that I got my Dec Fix part from Meade last week, and had no problem installing it. However I did have to do it twice, cause the part came with no intructions, and I made the mistake of letting grease get on the wrong part. Seems to work OK now. By the way, I discovered after the fact that the fellow (Jordan I think) at Scopetronix.com has added note to his information on tightening up the dec and azimuth bearings (with pics) about the very problem that I had. Very helpful to anybody else facing any kind of problem with the declination axis. In fact his infomation might prevent some problems with snapping off the dec knob. Again, be aware of possible warranty problems if you take the scope apart. After my experiences so far, I want to make sure that my warranty stays intact as long as possible, and only went into my scope to install the part that Meade sent me. I am ready now to buy my fourth Autostar and try one more time to get this little scope to work the way it should have in the first place. By the way, all this experience with the dec axis makes it clear that there is no problem with removing the Optical Tube for use elswhere if you are so inclined, as long as you keep in mind that it may void your warranty unless you are doing it as a Meade authorized repair. I recall some early warnings about how the tube should not be removed blah blah blah. Well now, it appears that the only downside to removing the tube is the time it takes to retrain the computer. I should note, by the way, that despite my occassional frustration with Meade, the support people have been helpful once I got through to them, and with rare exception have returned my calls in a reasonable period of time. For folks having a hard time getting through, you might try the FAX number, give a description of the problem, and ask them to call you. Just a thought. Thanks for the forum Mike. Thanks to all of you who share your stories, and I might add that I would enjoy hearing from more of you who have had good fortune with your ETX/EC. Richard Blake Austin Texas
Subject: TEST SITE Sent: Sunday, May 16, 1999 20:27:32 From: BKSTA2@shell.co.th (HMA/3 (Sukun T.) .) Glad that Minoru finally got the ETX 90 EC. Keep on testing the ETX 90 EC for our group. Best regards, Sukun T. Bangkok, Thailand. 100.3 E, 13.5 N
Subject: ETX-90 Tune-Up Updated Sent: Sunday, May 16, 1999 15:48:40 From: email@example.com (Jordan Blessing) Just wanted to pass on that I have updated the ETX/EC Tune-Up page to address the common dec lock slippage problem. See it at: etxtu.htm I also wanted to urge everyone to take a minute and download the new SETI@Home software. You could be the one to discover ET! Get it at: http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu Clear Skies! -- Jordan Blessing ScopeTronix Astronomy Products http://www.scopetronix.com
Subject: Workaround for below horizon errors Sent: Sunday, May 16, 1999 0:50:35 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Walter Warren) I believe I've recognized the conditions that lead to "below horizon" failures in polar alignment mode on version 1.0c of the Autostar software. I believe I've had failures of this kind every time the two stars chosen are of the arrangement where the scope has to slew counterclockwise (as looking down the tube toward the base) to get from the first alignment star to the second. In a trial tonight, the scope first moved clockwise from Polaris to Arcturus in the southwest. Then it moved counterclockwise to Altair in the southeast. After aligning on those two stars I received "below horizon" messages for objects that hadn't yet set. I then did a two star alignment reversing those two stars. Using Altair as the first star and Arcturus as the second kept all movements proceeding clockwise. After that alignment the heavens were correctly in place and recognized by Autostar. Basically, with Autostar 1.0c the polar alignment of the scope must slew from east to west (clockwise if looking down the tube toward the base.) During an easy alignment, if you recognize that the first star chosen is in the western sky, it would be prudent to select a different first star. Walter Warren
Subject: polar alignment Sent: Friday, May 14, 1999 19:20:59 From: LooneyRoo@aol.com i was out with my etx tonight and polar aligned for the first time. (i have always been happy with alt/az mode, so i never tried the polar alignment mode) but tonight i decided to go for it. (have the deluxe field tripod) for the first 10 minutes or so, i had great success. i aligned without a problem and had mars in view under 258X magnification (9.7mm with 2X barlow) for approximately 5 minutes! i didn't even need to make a minor adjustment. the only thing that i noticed was that the motor made alot more noise in polar mode than it did in alt/az mode. i live in miami and figured that the low latitude position made the gears work a bit harder while moving the OTA. therefore i was not concerned. i then slewed to m3 and then to m13 without a problem. i do have light pollution where i live, but they still showed up as small faint fuzzies. i then decided that i wanted to take another look at mars. when i hit goto, the OTA did the dec adjustment without a problem, but would not move in RA. i am assuming that the OTA was too heavy and the gears slipped. i turned off the unit and brought it inside to have a look. i turned the unit on again and skipped throught the autostar setup and went right to the controls... again, the motor made noise but no movement. it would move left (which in this case was down) but not right (up). it was not hitting a hardstop, i know that for sure, because i'm always good about putting the scope in home position. is this gear problem something that i should worry about? it worked fine when i put it back in alt/az mode. i don't have a T-adapter, but i may take photos in the future, so this could be a problem. is there anyway to tighten the RA? is that what it needs? or is it just that my low latitude area is too much for the scope? any advice would be appreciated. thanks and sorry for the long question. ~noahMike here: I would hope that your latitude would not have an effect on the RA failure. Since it won't move the ETX "uphill" in Polar Align mode but does in Alt/Az mode I would not think the gears are the problem.
i don't think you understood my description very well... take a look at the pictures you made on your personal ETX-90/EC page... the two pictures right below the picture of the box. they show the scope pointing south in polar mode. okay, now you have an idea of what i am talking about.... now assume that the OTA was pointing left (directly away from the "computer control" box. (east) it then is moving in RA south (which is also up) that was where the error occurred the RA gears did not want carry the OTA south, instead the gears slipped and a loud noise was made. (again, i know it was not hitting a hard stop) the only thing i could think that was making the problem was the fact that i had a dew shield on... could the extra weight cause the problem? maybe a counterweight on the back of the OTA would help... i'm sorry if you have no idea how to help me and i'm being a nuisance, but if you could post this question, i would be very happy. thanks again.Mike here: There is no movement in Right Ascension to the south. Right Ascension is always east and west (in celestial coordinates). Declination is north and south. There have been reports that sometimes the OTA will not "go uphill", which means moving away from the horizon. This can be caused by extra weight (although I would not think a dew shield would be that heavy).
And more from Noah:
okay, i think i may have found the problem. i noticed in a post that you can tighten the RA by removing the fastener and moving it over a notch. well i did that, and it is working as of right now. hopefully this was all the problem was... i guess the RA lock was loosening with all the extra tension, and since i had never used the scope in polar mode i did not know how tight it needed to be. one other question... while i was using the scope last night (in polar mode) the autostar malfunctioned and started saying that objects were inthe sky that weren't (such as the moon) and the objects that were slewable, were not visible. (such as m13) is this one of the bugs? (i still have the 1.0 version) i have never had this problem in alt/az... so i assumed this was one of the polar bugs... thanks again for your help.Mike here: Sounds like one of the v1.0 bugs. Although the geometry issue that Dr. Palmer describes (on my ETX-90/EC writeup) could be a factor.
Subject: Your ETX 90 EC experience Sent: Thursday, May 13, 1999 23:52:36 From: BKSTA2@shell.co.th (HMA/3 (Sukun T.) .) Your experience on ETX 90 EC is a bit long and I have not gone through all the details. But, in general, I think the 90 EC model is not stable yet. Even in the unit Meade sent you which they should expect you to say something good about it, there're quite a number of flaws. Well, it seems that 90 EC should only be for those who can access Meade support without much difficulty. Even you had troubles in contacting Meade! Don't know why Meade (and also Celestron) chooses only snail mail and telephone communication. I would like to hear from someone who purchased the 90 EC and has no access to Meade support, specifically those who live in foreign countries with no Meade dealer to see if he experienced any problem on the unit and how it was solved (if at all !) Are you going to send back the unit to Meade after the review, say in 3 months' time? I ask this because it would make our group feel much more confident that your site is 'Neutral', not a site sponsored indirectly by Meade. Actually, for the product test, there are certain parties getting the products (scopes) from suppliers and write more good things than actual things. For Neutral test, the unit is usually purchased or returned to suppliers after completion. But why do you have to test the unit for Meade? I'm sure that Meade will also send the 125 EC to you soon. Anyway, I hope your site will remain as neutral as possible. Best regards, Sukun T. Bangkok, Thailand. 100.3 E, 13.5 NMike here: The ETX-90/EC is a loaner. I'm keeping my ETX-90/RA (original model). And I will continue to report my experiences, pros and cons, on any product whether loaned, donated, or purchased.
Subject: Sanity restored Sent: Thursday, May 13, 1999 22:57:09 From: email@example.com (John Chalfen) Found your site just after my dec knob sheared off. Thank you for saving my sanity. I thought that the troubles with the autostar were just me. Nice to know I'm not alone in the ETX/EX loony bin. Still on scope #1, just had to open it up and tighten up all the loose unmeshed gears and screws. Nice plastic in there ;). Just waiting for for the replacement dec piece and off I go again. To quote the guy at Meade when I called and told him " Ahhh Jeez!" Anyway, thanks for helping me restore my sanity by providing a common ground for all of us! -------------------------------------------------- TIA and TTFN firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com (I know...I know...)
Subject: It worked! Sort of! Sent: Thursday, May 13, 1999 6:12:56 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Meade Daffron) As promised, here's my report on the Dec knob fix using a washer. I removed the Dec lock knob on my ETX-90/EC (with the "setting circle" ring still attached to the knob) and placed a 7/8" washer with a 3/8" hole (er, 8 cents investment) on the center screw. Then I re-attached the knob. The result? I don't have to tighten the Dec knob anywhere near as tight now as before to achieve a good lock -- and I tested it several times, washer on and off, trying to slew upward in Dec from the lower tube stop. It works, and the way it works, best I can tell, is that it keeps the "setting circle" (metal ring) from being pressed against the plastic ring behind it (about the same diameter as the lock knob) when the knob is tightened. Obviously, the setting circle presses against this ring and either slows or stops slewing motion -- which can't be good for motors, gears, or plastic parts, BTW! The washer keeps the setting circle from contacting this ring when you tighten the knob. It seems Meade saw this problem and tried to fix it by coating the plastic ring with grease. Now the ring DOES serve a purpose -- it keeps the Dec axis from wobbling -- but it seems to me that instead of the ring, Meade should have installed a circular ball-bearing race or some other contrivance that still provides a wobble-free axis, but one that can MOVE! Because of this loss of contact with the outer ring, however, there's one tradeoff -- the scope now has a slight amount of play in the Dec axis when locked. You can see this when you rock the scope up and down with the knob locked. I took the scope out for a test run last night, and when slewing up and down using the hand controller, the object in the field of view would rock ever so slightly left or right before moving up or down. I didn't find the tradeoff objectionable, even at very high powers (see below). It's now MUCH easier to lock the Dec axis! (Someone will probably come up with a more elegant fix that works a little better, but for 8 cents, this is a pretty good fix for now! Jordan, are you listening?) BTW, my "test run" proved to me even more why I love my ETX. I had a very enjoyable time splitting Epsilon Bootes (3 seconds!) and the double in Leo's shoulder (can't remember the greek letter, I think it's Gamma Leonis) -- 4 seconds! The diffraction rings of the two stars in the Leo double just touched -- beautiful! And with Epsilon Bootes, at first I thought I had the wrong star -- until I caught some good seeing and realized the 5th-magnitude double was riding on the 2.5-magnitude primary's diffraction ring! Cool! At 3 seconds separation, it took good seeing and the kitchen sink -- my 9.7mm Plossl plus the 2x barlow. Thanks to Roger Wortley for his May 8 posting on the Dec lock fix! I don't know whether it will keep my right tube adapter from breaking -- time will tell -- but I am happy that I can lock my Dec axis now! Meade, are you listening? People are fixing your scope for 8 cents! How 'bout a simple Meade fix, for all your loyal customers, that's not a "handyman special"? Thanks Mike! Meade Daffron Richmond, Virginia
Subject: ETX Feedback Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 1999 20:46:35 From: email@example.com (motets) congratulations on receiving the ETX from MEADE! i hope you get your unit working asap so we can learn more from you. so far, your 'first nights' experiences are quire similar to mine. i evenhad my brother helped me on reading the manuals! however, i got it all figured out on the second night. here's my guideline on using the ETX in its alt/az mode for a quick GO TO star party!: 1. remember to rotate the ETX's fork arm base counterclockwise until it hits full stop. 2. face the computer control panel WESTward 3. now, turn the fork arm base clockwise until it is pointing NORTH. (about 45 degrees clockwise). then turn it a bit to the left. (this is to anticipate the additional movement that AUTOSTAR will do to the ETX once you switch the scope ON). i've bought a car compass that i stick on the fork arm base for to easily align the ETX dead north. 4. lock both RA and DEC locks. 5. power on! 6. ENJOY! HOPE this will help you also - just in case you need help >8p until now, i haven't used my ETX in its polar mode. i plan to set it up in polar mode when i'm back to the Philippines. also, as what i've sent to the etx mailing list, i think there's a bbug in AUTOSTAR. i have to use GMT/UTC's (with DST=YES) time instead of the local time in SINGAPORE for the AUTOSTAR to be able to correctly track the celestial objects. i bought my ETX-90/EC from Discovery Channel Store at a King of Prussia Mall, PA. so far, i am very pleased with my ETX. my ETX is now 1.5 months old >8p cheers, motets
Subject: re Autostar 1.1m Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 1999 18:39:51 From: WAB003@aol.com Have held off picking up an Autostar until the new rev was issued. The local Nature Co. called and said they had just rec'd a brand new batch that Meade promised them was upgraded. Not. Still v 1.0c. Will upgrade the unit myself, but it might be worthwhile having the local store power the unit up before you walk out the door. Used the 1.0c version a few times and generally had good luck w/ it. Tried to be very accurate in training the drives. Use a pocket compass and a line level on the OTA to do a quick align and hv hit the alignment stars in the finder scope every time. (and a few times in the 26mm eyepiece!) Given the relative slop in the drive mechanism, I think that's pretty good. The R/A tracking w/ the Autostar is adequate but nothing more. I hope this is improved in the software rev. I found the polar alignment tracking reasonably good when used in "manual" mode (w/o the Autostar) It may seem foolish to have the unit slew 350 deg to reach a point 10 deg away... but not really, given the hardstop limitations. It would seem that providing 360 deg contact rings and wipers would hv added to the mfg cost and reduced the long term reliability due to environmental contaminants building up inside the unit. Always tradeoffs. A suggestion for "very portable" users. The "Hershey Bar" lead acid camcorder battery (full size VHS camcorders) is an excellent source of 12V power that is easily rechargeable. Relatively lightweight and it will substantially outlast eight alkalines in the base. Just use a cigarette lighter adapter for the ETX and a female connector adapter that clips to the battery. Both available @ Radio Shack for under $10 total. If you don't already have one, the battery may set you back $15-$20. Rechargeable remote power that will still fit in the "gun case" or your backpack. Mike, you hv a wonderful site that is extremely helpful to NB's. Keep up the good work. Really helps demonstrate the usefulness of the web. Rgrds, Bill Bailey Cincinnati, OH USA
Subject: congratulations Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 1999 14:23:50 From: LooneyRoo@aol.com i just wanted to congratulate you on your new scope! meade made a good decision by sending you a free etx. (good for online advertising!!!) you use the free product and praise it on your site, meade can't lose. unless of course they continue sending you defective products (you would think they would have done a special inspection of your scope before sending it away, knowing that you would report any defection to us). i would suggest that they send you all the accessories, (that are 90/ec related) so you can test them out and make your own personal reviews. just a suggestion, however unlikely!!! well, good luck and happy slewing. ~noah
Subject: Software to drive the ETX90/EC - BUY DEEPSKY99 !!! Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 1999 13:52:52 From: Dave.Cordner@NSMG.seagatesoftware.com (Dave Cordner) Great Site, Thanks! I've been an ETX owner since August 97. I selected the ETX based on your reviews and the comments from the many other readers/posters of/to your site. Mike, you may need to find a Windows laptop... I know, I know, I'm a MAC user too but... This is a little long, so if you want to get to the real reason for posting this, scan down until you see *******DeepSky99******* (about half way down) Dave's ETX/RA : ETX/RA, JMI Wedge (original) Bogen tripod, Doskocil XL case..., several TV eye pieces, including a 9mm Nagler, OH-Yea! I've also built the Richard Berry CCD Cookbook Camera, and will use it with the ETX (90/EC) ;-), will post images soon. Inspired by work that Peter Ryczek (see Mike's Astronomy Links page) did, I adapted a Magellan I (DOB) kit to the ETX. I had previously acquired Starry Night Software from SiennaSoft for my MAC, (demo available on web). I really enjoy Starry Night and would buy it again. Now available for windows too, and has an SDK (Software Developers Kit) posted on their web site. Starry Night comes with a plug-in to interface to the LX200 (plug in from Casady&Green) C&G has many software products for the MAC including a tool called INFO GENIE, and another plug-in for Starry Night to read from the Magellan I computer. The combination of Info Genie and Starry Night and the plug-ins allowed me to create a fun environment with the ETX. With Info Genie in the background and Starry Night running, you can select objects from the Starry Night display of the sky and make a "view list". With the Magellan-I connected you can send coordinates to the Magellan and it's display will indicate to you how to move the telescope in RA/DEC to center the selected object. Additionally as you move the telescope the display changes too, neat! OK I'm easily entertained. While the interface is not optimal its fun. The biggest benefit of all this (INCLUDING THE ETX) is that my son who will be 13 this summer, "GETS IT", and is learning the sky with me. We have had great fun at the local astronomy club with our ETX and the Magellan / MAC DUO 2300 w/Starry Night configuration. So, IMHO (in my humble opinion), MEADE did a very good thing developing a mass-market product, the ETX, I'll eventually buy a 7" MAK LX200 too. We have a classic (early 70's) Cave Astrolla 10" F7 Newtonian. But the ETX goes outside more often than this noble scope, so which is better? The one you use... Well this year the ETX90/EC arrived! I acquired one in February, (Valentines day, thanks sweetheart! Godiva Chocolates do pay off!) followed shortly by the Autostar and Meade ETX tripod,... Now the Quest: To find software to drive the ETX90/EC automatically. As Meade describes the ETX90/EC/Autostar having LX200 like capabilities. LIKE is the key word, its a sub-set, no exactly the same. The result of this "Likeness" is that the ETX90/EC/AUTOSTAR will get confused if you "talk to it as an LX200". I've searched for MAC software to address this requirement (manage the telescope) but had not found any written specifically for the ETX90/EC, until I found DeepSky 99. Didn't really want to consider the Windows platforms because I'm a MAC user! Have to deal with Windows NT at work, and would rather not at home. As a MAC user (with 17 years of UNIX experience too) the IRQ, memory I/O range issues of dos & windows, yada yada yada, ptewie, please make it easier...I don't want an erector set, I want to use the computer, sorry that's another soap-box... I surrendered, and found several software packages for the Windows platform that have telescope control software. Starry Night with the C&G plugin for the LX200 works for a few moves but gets confused eventually, which requires that you re-align the telescope, and try again Robert Denny has developed a package called ACP - Astronomers Control Panel PC only - today, which can be used in conjunction with many astronomy packages available on Windows including Starry Night, and DeepSky99 (more on DS99 in a minute)(He says when Meade settles down on the Autostar SW he will develop ACP for the ETC90/EC too, and port to the MAC eventually) SkyMap Pro has an LX200 interface (demo available on web) (PC only) SkyChart III has an LX200 interface (demo available on web) (PC and MAC!) (cheap, bought it, I'd buy it again too) *******DeepSky99******* DeepSky99 release 2, by Steve Tuma and Dean Williams has an interface defined for both the LX200 and the ETX90/EC (PC only 95/98/(NT4.0 SP4/ IE5)) (demo available on web) (cheap, bought it, tell your friends, buy it!) DeepSky99 is not a planetarium software, but IMHO everyone who has the ETC90/EC should download the demo, drive your ETX90/EC with it, and buy the program. Get a cable and power supply (I bought mine from Scopetronics) hook em up and you will be impressed, not to mention have allot of fun. Deepsky has a large database which you can access with SQL, if you do not know SQL, it has wizards to help you. Start Deepsky99 "What's Up Messier" is a menu selection under the "Query" menu which, based on your local time, and location, will generate a spread-sheet (SQL result) from the database listing all Messier objects currently visible. Select: Query Select: "What's up Messier" Identify the objects you want to view (click on the PLN field in the spread sheet), Select: "show plan" from the "Planner Menu" and your selections are separated from the larger list (you've made a view objects plan) Now the telescope: Start the ETX90/EC Do your alignment (I updated the Autostar to the latest SW from Meade - needed the cable from Scopetronics, Meade's was not available yet) - pay attention to leveling the telescope and mount, (get a bubble level, see notes from other folks on the site) - Note: I've only had to use the EASY align so far, but it placed the target stars in the (std) Meade viewfinder, move to center, Enter, next step... works for me... No problems or complaints This is a less than $1000 telescope setup, don't be spoiled, no whining... ;-) Maybe not perfect, but hey it didn't cost $3500+ either (for the LX200 MAK) Cable up the com port on your PC (I use a DELL Latitude CP with NT40 Srvr - don't ask I'm in sales....) Connect to the rs232 port of the Autostar Select: the Telescope Menu, Select: Scope Setup, Select: ETX90/EC Select: the Telescope menu, Select: the "Scope Disabled entry" to enable the telescope - you will be prompted for the com port that the telescope is attached to, enter only the number, not the word (1 not com1 for example) Check that the interface is working: Select: the Telescope menu Select: current scope position, be patient, a dialogue should come up saying basically "Getting ETX90/EC position" A window should appear showing the current RA & DEC etc. of your telescope (of your last alignment star), if the RA&DEC are not displayed make sure the IRQ and I/O ranges are correctly set for your com port. (slap my forehead, - why programmers have flat foreheads - duh!) Reset preferences and try again (start\programs\deepsky99\reset preferences) Cool ready to go: Select: Telescope Menu Select: Slide show Deepsky99 will now position the ETX90/EC on the first object in the plan created earlier. If you have the CD in your drive and specified the location of the images folder and database folder during the startup (on the CD), when the telescope gets to the location you will have a form on the screen with fields for you to enter your impressions (viewing log) of the object along with an image of the selected object, cool... (shush I'm a child from the 50's) The Deepsky99 database is extensible too, you can import data to it... I generated a list of 20 objects, tried to view them all (am in Denver, light pollution... Dark site this weekend!) and the telescope did not get lost once! You can see the Ring Nebula (M57)(mag-9)(TV Plossl 17mm) with the ETX! (ok not last night, earlier this winter) Without a broadband filter too. I spoke with the Deepsky99 developer who indicated that he is using a small sub-set of the LX200 commands. He did this by testing each command, weighing its success and selecting the best of the LX200 command set for the ETX90/EC/Autostar. Meade apparently is slow on publishing the API, so developing in the dark - hum pun? ;-) You cannot go wrong with DeepSky99. try it you'll like it! Dave Cordner Systems Engineer Nerve Center & HSM
firstname.lastname@example.org (work) email@example.com (home)
Subject: Possible DEC fix ... Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 1999 11:05:38 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Meade Daffron) Hi, It's been about a month since you heard from me. (Congrats on Meade's recognition of your hard work -- FINALLY!) I was reading some recent postings on the 90/EC board and happened to read Roger Wortley's May 8 post about a possible fix for the declination movement problem, involving a washer placed between the declination circle and the fork arm. I visited my local hardware store at lunch today (Wednesday) and as luck would have it, they had lots of washers -- but none in the exact size Mr. Wortley described. (I had drawn a template on a Post-It note, based on his measurements.) There were several that were close, however, so I just filled a baggie with several candidates and paid my forty cents. I can't wait to get home and try them out; I'll report my findings -- and hopefully have a domestic equivalent to Mr. Wortley's washer -- tomorrow! I too have experienced dec slippage when my scope is pointed near the drive base, which I've corrected by tightening the knob a little further, and after reading what's happened to you, and Jordan, and others, I can't believe I haven't had my dec mechanism break on me -- I've had my ETX-90/EC since late January!!! Watch me discover that my luck has run out when I get home from work this evening ... :-( BTW, has anyone figured out just how tightening the dec lock knob makes the clutch engage? I've had mine off a few times, and I can't make myself understand how it works just by "eyeballing" it. I think we could all understand the problem a little better if we understood how that little mechanism works ... ? And now, since you didn't ask, my five reasons I DON'T want a 125/EC: 1.Sure, it's a bigger scope, but along with the primary mirror, the secondary obstruction will be bigger too, so the overall increase in aperture won't be a full 35mm. And my 90/EC already outperforms my old 6-inch newtonian in some respects! 2. It will weigh in at about twice the weight (and SIZE) of the current 90/EC. So much for that wonderful portability. The size of the 90/EC was a major consideration in my purchase. 3.They say it'll work fine on the current tripod? Maybe it'll work OK alt-az aligned, but as for polar-aligned, I wouldn't feel comfortable hanging the equivalent of TWO 90/ECs off one side of my "Deluxe Field Tripod" !!! Seems that lightweight aluminum tripod would get mighty tippy! And boy, now we'll have to make REAL SURE we tighten those leg nuts! Meade already caught us all by surprise when they re-badged the old ETX tripods and started charging $200 for them! Watch 'em come out with a new-improved, super-deluxe, heavy duty field tripod for $250 or $300! 4. I question whether Meade has done anything to beef up the mount design to accommodate a 100 percent increase in tube weight. (Sure, it's a bigger mount -- but is that the only difference? Are the motors, gears, materials, etc., the same?) Will this twice-as-heavy scope still ride on a plastic base with two nuts serving as the only mounting points for the tripod? (Remember, they say it'll fit on the existing tripod!) All this is fine for an eight-pound scope, maybe, but for one twice as heavy? I hope I'm wrong on all this and Meade has done their homework, but hey -- I'm about to go home and see if I can fix my $600 telescope with a four-cent washer!!!??? 5. For $895 (make that $1,095 if you have to get the tripod) -- I think I'd have to make the $100 jump to an LX-10 -- especially since the 125/EC isn't a portable scope in my book anymore. But no thanks, I wanted a portable scope -- so I'll keep my happily mobile 90/EC and maybe someday get it a bigger brother. I don't mean to sound QUITE so cynical, but after owning and experiencing the classic ETX and now a less-than-perfect ETX-90/EC (hey, I'm on my second 90/EC too), these are some points I feel deserve consideration before spending $900 or more! Clear skies (although we really do need some rain here in Central Virginia), Meade Daffron Richmond, VA
Subject: Autostar to PC cable & SkyGSC use Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 1999 1:22:12 From: email@example.com I applied Version 1.1m at the weekend. No problems applying it to the autostar, it took about 30 minutes. I made up a cable, 4-pin (autostar end) to 9-pin (serial port in PC) , it only uses 3 wires as per the existing cable descriptions on the ETX sites. The 4-pin telephone type plug needed filing down slightly to fit into the autostar socket. The LX200 cable that is used to connect to a PC is different. It uses a 6-pin plug at the telescope end. All I am waiting for now is a clear night to try it out and see if it has fixed the poor goto I experienced previously with version1.0c (see 'help please' subject title). PS: Does anyone know if the ETX can be driven by the Bisque Software, SkyGSC? I tried LX200 mode briefly with no success. Clear Skies, Steve Southern Internet id: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: ETX-90/EC home position and GO TO's Sent: Tuesday, May 11, 1999 8:21:21 From: JDeriso@Alphaind.com (Deriso, John) Mike, I gave up on that "large fork - small fork" stuff, and I used to agonize how precise "over the control panel" had to be. Then I realized that in the Autostar FAQ, Meade mentions rotating CW 3/8 of a turn from full CCW. Now I use the RA setting circles: 3/8 of a turn is 9 hours CW rotation. I have never tried polar align yet, always alt/az, typically on Capella and Arcturus (April/May). I only do a rough leveling with the standard field tripod bubble. Before locking Dec, I tilt up to Polaris and move the tripod legs to get approximate North azimuth with my modified Daisy red dot finder... it's also an enormous help during initial 2-star align, with final tweak eyeball-centering in the 26mm ep for both star targets. After align, my experience is that the target is in the ep field of view 80% of the time, and the red dot provides a sanity check and direction for correction otherwise. I am still using the original 1.0 firmware and occasionally get a screwy "below horizon" message. Following tips from your contributors, I occasionally stop "wrong-way slew" by hitting down arrow then GO TO. Usually works, not always. Another note: although always in alt/az mode, my unit sometimes goes bananas trying to find Polaris and will take off whining in some other direction. M81, M82, Mizar, no problem. We'll see what the new version firmware does... Jordan Blessin's shipping me a cable from stock, Meade's #505 might be still vaporware. In all honesty I was frustrated just as you seemed to be in your initial trials, the first time or two I tried GO TO. I calibrated the motors and trained the drive in the daytime as recommended, at least twice. Now I'm getting faster on setup every night that I use this gizmo, and I've learned to adjust my expectations as well as the 'scope. Last night I was hitting targets consistently even while the Autostar was beeping, warning 23% battery level. I have measured current drain with fresh batteries, if anyone's still interested, with both the stock controller and the Autostar. Give it and yourself a chance. John Deriso
Subject: External Power and ETX/EC Sent: Sunday, May 9, 1999 8:11:19 From: email@example.com (Chris Dugger) Is anyone having any problems with external power on their ETX/EC? When I have switched between internal batteries, and using a Kendrick 12v gel battery, every time, I initially get an Autostar error saying "motor movement failure", and then a description of possible cause scrolls across the screen, obstruction, overload etc. The power is off when I change to external power by the way. When I turn off the power and restart, it works fine. It seems to be the first time after having used the scope on internal batteries, the different battery pack confuses the unit. I have started just using the scope only with external power, and have retrained the motors using external power. Note my previous post regarding a software? bug leading to a runaway RA. Just another of the many little mysteries regarding this product. Does anyone wonder whether meade goes from design, straight to production, and skips any significant real-world testing? If they did any testing in real beta conditions, surely they would identify some of the problems that are being discussed, both mechanical and software based. This could really be a fine company with so little additional focus on better Q/A, and more customer service. Chris Dugger
Subject: V1.1m Autostar Firmware Sent: Saturday, May 8, 1999 19:40:59 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Paul M) Meade did not provide any release notes as to what bugs were fixed or what features were added. Does anyone know??
Subject: ETX DEC Update Sent: Saturday, May 8, 1999 14:05:14 From: ROGER_WORTLEY@compuserve.com (ROGER WORTLEY) This is an update to my Broken DEC saga I reported last week. My failure was the same part as mentioned in Mike Weasner's "Weasner Experiences the ETX-90/EC!", although previously it had become difficult to lock the DEC due to slipping as the telescope becomes worn in. My telescope also actually broke while not in use, as Mike's did. Broadhurst Clarkson & Fuller, the London Meade dealers, had received some spare "Right Tube Adapters" and offered to send me one or fit it while I wait. Being not too busy that Friday I decided to take the train to London and get it fixed. Bob in the maintenance department set at my scope while I had a cup of tea and browsed around. On finishing the scope we noticed that the OTA would still slip when being driven up. The problem appeared to be that the aluminium dial was gripping on the plastic rings and preventing the knob from rotating with the drive. Bob decided to introduce a washer between the aluminium plate and the spindle. The scope then worked perfectly. You would not believe the lack of force that is now required to lock the scope - it is almost negligible. The washer required needs to sit inside the small raised lip around the nylon bearing the dimensions of mine are 13/16in outside diameter with a 3/16in centre hole. If you're having problems give it a try, it seems to work for me. Even if your not having problems it still might save you trouble in the future. Let me know if it helps you. Thanks again to all at BC&F for their first class service and friendly help. Happy trouble free slewing. Roger Wortley
Subject: Shared Woes Sent: Friday, May 7, 1999 21:12:02 From: email@example.com (Richard Blake) Just a quick note to let you know that I am waiting for the exact same replacement part for the declination axis that you describe in your review of the EC. No hassle from Meade once I got hold of someone to talk to. I am determined to see this little scope work! This is my third time around with warranty service involving the mount, and I have returned two Autostars. The first Autostar performed much as you described, the second one had no illumination for the keypad. Still, I am not giving up. I need a small scope for everyday use, and this one has great potential. I think I will make sure my next Autostar has the latest software on it. Probably next month before they are in the stores. From now on, I buy anything that has to do with the ETX locally. I like the Meade service folks I have talked with, and I am excited at the possibility that Meade will bring some changes to what appears to be a somewhat moribund market for beginning amateurs like myself, but it seems likely that one way for Meade to keep the lid on prices is to use the dealer network and consumers as the quality control department for some of their products. I have learned a lot in the process, but would just as soon have been among the lucky folks for whom everything works as advertized out of the box. I look forward to seeing how your repair goes, as I will be doing the same thing shortly. And now I don't feel quite so fumble fingered, knowing that I am not the only one who had the declination knob fall off in his hands. Many thanks for the time and effort to keep your site up-to-date. Richard
Subject: ETX ec/90 Sent: Thursday, May 6, 1999 20:42:11 From: RonMcCafferty@email.msn.com (Ron McCafferty) I think congratulations are in order. Meade now thinks enough of your site, and it's about time, to send you an EC/90. I hope you get to keep it and are negotiating a 125 deal. Congratulations, Ron McCafferty
Subject: Weasner experiences the ETX-90/EC Sent: Thursday, May 6, 1999 12:02:19 From: DonMcClelland@webtv.net (Donald McClelland) First I wanted to reiterate what a fine site you have here. With all the dedication you've shown, Meade should hire you as a R & D liaison. Regarding the "small fork" you were puzzled about in the initial alignment procedure, upon closer inspection you'll find a smaller rectangular protrusion in the molding of one of the forks. With Meade's limited explanation I assumed this was the "small fork" they were talking about. Consequently I've had few problems with it when I used "easy alignment". Also I helped someone at the last star party with similar problems and his worked fine for the rest of the evening. Also I had shearing problems too and my scope is with Meade as I'm writing this. I suspect the ETX125/EC will be better and plan an upgrade as soon as it comes out. Clear Skies! DONMike here: I assume you mean that the left fork (which has the smaller rectangular area) is the one Meade means. Seems like it would have been more clear for the manual to have referenced the DEC lock (on the right fork) or the DEC scale (on the left fork).
Looks like you've got it right, though I don't have my telescope back yet to confirm it. Your absolutely right on how Meade could have described the fork. Looks like Meade is going through growing pains but as Dennis de Cicco in S & T put it "price alone makes it difficult to nitpic the ETX-90/EC." DON
Subject: autostar pinout Sent: Thursday, May 6, 1999 11:43:40 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gary) i just noticed that the meade autostar manual on line now has an appendix with the cable pinouts - looks like jordan and the rest of the crew were right, with the one pin being a blank - it also has the pinout for the handset connector glad i didn't fry my baby, or burn down the house! g
Subject: ETX90/EC Review Sent: Thursday, May 6, 1999 8:25:36 From: email@example.com (Peter Dawson) Just read your excellent review of the ETX90/EC! Having access to your views and your web site makes me feel as though I have a trusted friend who I can turn to when I need advice about my ETX....but only get voice mail at Meade's tech. department. In relation to your problem re/ the failed DEC locking mechanism, this has also been a common complaint at S.A.A. I wonder if it has something to do with leaving the DEC and RA in locked position for long periods of time. I know that the manual advises to store the instrument with both DEC and RA in the unlocked position. What do you think? Bye the way, did Meade send you the ETX and Autostar for keeps? If so, you certainly deserve it, given the effort you have put forward with respect to all things ETX! cheers, Pete ____________________ Dr. Peter Dawson Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB email" firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: Help please Sent: Thursday, May 6, 1999 8:20:48 From: email@example.com Thanks for the info, it looks like the Autostar's coming into the UK are at 1.0c software version. The 2 ETX's I returned had very sloppy drives, maybe from badly assembled and adjusted mechanisms but I would invalidate the warranty if I looked inside. My supplier, Dark Star in Wales, is going to replace the ETX again when the next batch arrive in the UK but will check out the drive mechanisms before sending it to me. It also seems I am not alone in the UK with ETX-90EC problems. What a pity it is not built and tested better. Meade need a good slapping for this. I wonder what percentage are failing? I read the S&T report, maybe they should evaluate one bought anonymously from a store. I have downloaded the new version of the code. Do you know if the LX200 to PC cable is the same as the autostar to PC cable??? I need to download the software to the autostar from my PC. I have seen the wiring diagrams but don't know the LX200 cable wiring. yours hopefully, Steve Southern internet id firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Many comments! Sent: Thursday, May 6, 1999 6:17:33 From: email@example.com (Gary) I tried the mirror site - works flawlessly - just a drop slower (initially) as my browser has the aol site cached, however i tried the mirror site again and images popped right up - moving away from aol is usually a good step... A user, Keven K. reported a failed autostar upgrade which locked his autostar - i remember reading something in the help/read me of the first autostar download version meade had (roughly april 6) - it said something about holding the down button, etc. to put the autostar into a rom receiving mode - if he still needs help, i'll see if i still have that old version, or he could call meade - but i definatly remember there is a provision if the autostar locks on a download. Next - (lotta coffee today) - I was happy to read that you finally got to try a 90 EC/Autostar - especially after your tireless work on the site helping others - I felt badly that you had the frustrations of working with the autostar, but i felt vindicated, that you, a "seasoned pro" had the same problems as me, a newbie! Before I returned my first autostar, i had called meade, and was speaking to a young woman (girl?) who tried to help me, and whenever i asked her something, she would put the phone down and ask someone else, then come back to me with an answer she didn't understand - unacceptable, so i finally spoke with a tech (i don't remember his name, could have been mike, but don't remember) and he gave me some tips, then suggested a complete reset - didn't really help). I sent a fax to meade, never responded to. Now, mind you, I am a newbie, but i do know sirius from procyon from aldebaran from mizar from arcturus from spica - how many poor shlamiels walking into natural wonders, who buy the scope and autostar for their kids, etc., will have that knowledge, when they see the brochures, boxes, etc. that show great graphics, and promise instant point and click operation? I've spent HOURS on this site, and every other etx site i could find for q&a, etc., and at this point (foggy/cloudy weather) i don't know if my THIRD scope will work properly! I was so impressed with the POTENTIAL of this scope, the potential of the anticipated 125, and the DS series, that i bought the stock, but to be honest, i have to wonder how much meade will spend on refurbishment, customer complaints, etc. - not good. MOST of the complaints i've read about the scope deal with the mechanics, rather than the optics (scope number 1 had excellent optics, scope #2 could not produce star point images before the focusing mechanism jammed - never got to star align it!) Meade has been very slow on the uptake in addressing their user's needs - it is understandable that with such a cutting edge product there will be errors or problems, but rather than really addressing them, it feels as if it was swept under the rug (februrary posts indicate that complaints to meade about the scope had technicians making the callers doubt their sanity - meade said there was nothing wrong with the scopes, despite the below the horizon errors, etc.). Meade did put up a buggy, then a working autostar upgrade, but i think they should have been more forthcoming - explaining the errors improved, actually putting up working asteroid and satelite databases to replace what is lost upon the upgrade, and basically following through. i think the scope has tremendous potential, with the bugs ironed out - however the way the encoders work (or don't work if not motor driven, i.e. scope moved manually after an alignment), and the scopes poorly written programming (slewing 370 degrees to hit a target) are really not acceptable. as i mentioned once before, hitting a hard stop will NOT stop the encoders - so if you hit a hard stop, you've just lost your alignment! as a final aside, it would be nice if meade made real latitude/longitude information available - i had to scour the web to find what i felt were accurate coordinates, then had to find a conversion to get them from decimals to degrees, minutes (who knew to multiply by 60? not this newbie!) ok, enough gripes. Thanks again for the clear review, and i'd be very interested to learn of more results. Gary
Subject: Meade's Gift Sent: Wednesday, May 5, 1999 23:08:02 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Art Griggs) I appreciated being able to read about the ETX90EC that Meade donated. Maybe they will send you a ETX125EC as well. BTW, I just ordered one from the Nature Company. - Art -
Subject: Autostar Woes Sent: Wednesday, May 5, 1999 21:49:23 From: email@example.com (Jordan Blessing) About time they sent you one! Guess who else's dec lock just failed ; ) I'm writing in response to Kevin P. Kretsch's letter in which he states a failed update left him with a dead Autostar. The Autostar has a built in bootstrap loader and should be able to recover from this. Hold down "ENTER" and the "Down Arrow" (the one on the lower right of the controller) then turn the ETX power switch on. The Autostar display should read "Flash Load Ready" and you can proceed from there. Good Luck! -- Jordan Blessing ScopeTronix Astronomy Products http://www.scopetronix.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Kevin P. Kretsch) I tried this and to no avail. To my knowledge, the bootstrap loader is only available on version 1.1g and later. So, it probably wasn't even an available option. Too bad. Thanks anyway, Kev. --- Kevin P. Kretsch B.A.(Mod.)Phys e-mail: email@example.com Photonic Materials Group, Tel: +353 1 608 1324 Department of Physics, Fax: +353 1 671 1759 Trinity College, Dublin 2, IRELAND.
Subject: Autostar woes Sent: Wednesday, May 5, 1999 12:55:33 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Kevin P. Kretsch) Autostar version 1.0c performed poorly, even alt/az was off. So, I downloaded the update from Meade, made up the cable and started uploading the new stuff to Autostar. THEN, about a third of the way through the upload, the update program gives me an error message, quits, and leaves me with a dead Autostar!! No emergency backup facility! Pocono Mountain Optics could do little for me, which is fair enough. They don't have any Autostars in stock as Meade have yet to resume shipping since the 1.0c 'inspired' delay. (At least that's what the guy said, paraphrasing of course.) But, Meade are good about it, and will upgrade me to Autostar 1.1m. So, it should all work out good in the end. It's just a shame it's like this at all (grrrrr, Mr. Meade)... Clear skies all, Kev. --- Kevin P. Kretsch B.A.(Mod.)Phys e-mail: email@example.com Photonic Materials Group, Tel: +353 1 608 1324 Department of Physics, Fax: +353 1 671 1759 Trinity College, Dublin 2, IRELAND.
Subject: Dec knob failures Sent: Tuesday, May 4, 1999 20:11:35 From: TONY.vonRUDEN@kla-tencor.com (von Ruden, Tony) Well, from monitoring this site I see that DEC clutch knob failure is happening to more and more people. It doesn't surprise me -- in fact I'm surprised that there haven't been more failures reported here. When my ETX 90-EC broke a month or two ago I complained to Meade that I thought the design was really poor -- the keyway in the hollow shaft leaves only about 3/32" of plastic taking all the loads on on that axis, and that the edge of the brass press-nut and keyway combine to form a nasty stress concentration in this area. Mine broke with very little force only my second time using it. Meade fixed it for free (it took about two weeks), however I'm sorry to see from Roger Wortley's post that they are still blaming the users for the failure. Thanks again for the great site!!! Tony
Subject: ETX/AutoStar Woes Sent: Tuesday, May 4, 1999 5:26:13 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Chris Dugger) Well, the saga continues. I returned my first ETX/EC to Astronomics because I believed that I had a progressive *mechanical* problem that led to a RA runaway that hitting mode would not clear, I had to turn off the power. I am using AutoStar version 1.1m. The second ETX worked very well, object within the eyepiece most of the time, for about 30-40 minutes, searching for multiple objects. Then, accuracy starts to get worse, the scope then loses its ability to move up in the dec axis. Even hitting the keypad won't raise the tube, although the motor is running. After a few seconds, the same RA runaway occurs. I power off, re-align, and the scope works again, the the process repeats. I am not making this up folks. Is anyone experiencing any bugs like this? Could this be a hardware problem with the Autostar? It is obviously the older Autostar with the upgraded software, but if there was a hardware error, I would think that it would not initialize or download the new version without an error of some kind. The real bummer is that the star test on the 2nd ETX does not look that great, slightly out of collimation, and on one side of focs, the outer edge of the disk has a flat spot at 4 o'clock. The mechanical side of the 2nd ETX are much tighter than the first one, no play in the dec axis. Any ideas regarding the possible cause of the repeated failures would be appreciated. Chris Dugger
Subject: Autostar ver 1.1m Sent: Monday, May 3, 1999 19:42:30 From: Etxowner@aol.com In response to Steve Southern's query re autostar problems, you stated that Meade's autostar upgrade had corrected a number of problems. Could you tell us what problems it corrected? In my experience all it did was change the version number! Thanks for your mighty Site! ETXowner PS; do new autostars come with ver 1.1?Mike here: Since I don't have the upgrade I really can't answer what problems it corrected. Supposedly it did fix the polar alignment problems that some people were having. I also don't know if the new Autostars are shipping with the new version but one would hope.
Subject: autostar update Sent: Monday, May 3, 1999 17:18:50 From: BillJensen@aol.com Thanks for a great site. Its a wonderful service to ETX users. My ETX-EC really doesn't work well with my obstructed site (no western exposure, and east is only good from 35 degrees to zenith) which makes the easy alignment out of the question. Just curious, as a mac user, have you heard of anyone getting the windows version of the updated software downloaded and installing it under virtual pc? The folks from southern stars have a cable that would work apparently between the mac and the autostar, so I was interested in the updated software to determine if that would allow me to use the scope (2 star alignment had low accuracy since the stars chosen were too close) I have had the scope for sale as a result of the usability issue, but i am not dying to sell it if I can get it to work well from home. In the field it seems to work fine. thanks again billMike here: I would suspect that it would work using VirtualPC or SoftWindows.
I wonder if meade will jump on the usb bandwagon, and make one that would work with iMac/B&W G3's as well as newer peecees.... I may give a call to their tech support to urge them along.
Subject: New user say thanks Sent: Saturday, May 1, 1999 23:52:48 From: ElFlako@worldnet.att.net (Edward Wemmerus) I just bought a new ETX-90/EC today and part of the reason for my purchase is your site. I had been looking at telescopes for the last several weeks and in the course of my investigations I found your site. Very nice by the way. Because of all the information I found on your site and the comments by other ETX users, I felt fairly confident that I would be happy with one. So far so good, but time will tell. I had been using an old "Tasco 60 mm Alt/Az that I bought a few years ago and it was a real disappointment. No surprise to anyone who has ever had one I'm sure but it was to me. I guess you do "get what you pay for" don't you. Well, I just wanted to thank you for the good work you are doing on your site and you can count me as one of your new converts to the ETX. Sincerely Ed Wemmerus Forest Grove, Oregon
Subject: Skymap Pro Update/ Broken DEC Sent: Sunday, May 2, 1999 2:58:59 From: ROGER_WORTLEY@compuserve.com (ROGER WORTLEY) The updated driver for Autostar is available from the sky map site. http://www.skymap.com It seem to work fine on the registered version but I haven't tried it on the demo but It should be ok. It will not work with Skymap 3.2 as the file structures are different. ********************************************************************* For Reference:- Copy of Email to my supplier regarding my DEC locking problem:- Further to our telephone conversation this morning when I informed you that my Meade ETX 90/EC had a broken DEC locking ring. First, let me commend you and your company on its attitude towards your customers in offering to replace it. It must be a great relief to Meade to know that their interests in the UK are being protected by your superb customer service. After owning my ETX for only three weeks I was disappointed when the Telescope refused to drive upwards as a result of the DEC knob captive nut coming loose. I can assure you that only sufficient torque was used to ensure scope was locked. I was extremely surprised to learn that Meade has informed you that they consider that this is caused by the dial being over tightened. (Must be getting a lot of complaints). Please would you pass my following comment along to your suppliers:- Any company that designs a product that can be broken so easily should not try to lay the blame on their customers. I also note from my researches on the web that earlier scopes were not fitted with vertical stops, and a keyway was introduced around the nut for the inclusion of such a device. I submit that the original design concept was undertaken and tested withou ta keyway which is a weak link. In fact my scope has broken at the keyway. I understand from our discussions that the problem might be the result of excessive grease being applied to the mechanism causing it not to lock the DEC knob without excessive force. If this is the cause the fault does lie with Meade corporation. This is really a great little scope and at very reasonable price, even at UK levels, but I would have been prepared to pay more money for this scope if it had more reliable fixings. There is no other scope on the market like this one, but there will be. It would be a shame for Meade to lose its foothold over a "pass the buck" policy. Thanks again to you all at BC&F for your assistance to date, but my real concern is that this might be an ongoing saga. ****************************************************************** Regards Roger
Subject: ETX-90EC; more of the same quality control problems Sent: Saturday, May 1, 1999 12:38:33 From: email@example.com (Don & Annie) > Subject: ETX-90/EC Quality Control problems > From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Matthew Newby) > I've got a couple quality control questions for you all. > > First Question/Background info: At this point, I'm on my third ETX from > the local Nature Company. The first one broke as soon as I got it home, > and it got returned/replaced the same day. The second one broke about > two weeks later--returned and replaced last Saturday. > > The problem has been the altitude tension knob--specifically the plastic > thingy it screws into on the other side of the metal disk. When turning > the knob to set the tension--going very gingerly, mind you--the center > plastic piece shears in half right behind the brass screw insert. On > the first one, I had tightened it to moderate tightness when it broke. > On the second one, I was simply applying enough torque to keep the OTA > from flopping around. I have exactly the same problem with my 3 week old scope. I, too, tightened the altitude tension nob only moderately, and it broke during my 3rd time out with it. Shutan Camera has none to replace mine with right now so I will be calling Meade on Monday for a return authorization number. Does anyone out there have any idea how long this might take?
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