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ASTRONOMY SOFTWARE FEEDBACK

Last updated: 18 April 2012

This page is for user comments on Astronomy software for the Windows (including the Meade AutoStar Suite), Macintosh, Android, and iOS systems. Items that are more "review" oriented will be posted on the Astronomy Software Reviews page. If you have any comments, suggestions, questions or answers to questions posed here, e-mail them to me for posting. Please use an appropriate Subject Line on your message per the Site Email Etiquette. Thanks. Remember, tips described on this site may invalidate the warranty on your telescope or accessories. Neither the submitter nor myself are responsible for any damage caused by using any contributed tips.


Subject:	DSLR photography and Drizzle
Sent:	Wednesday, April 18, 2012 07:41:02
From:	Jim Beston (james_beston@sky.com)
The Drizzle function in the Envisage image processing that Meade supply
is very useful. I would like to use Drizzle when doing long exposure
prime focus photography with my Nikon D5100 to take advantage of it's
"de-rotation" ability.
 
I guess what this comes down to is: "Is there a way to either use
cameras other than Meade's LPI and DSIs with Envisage software or is it
possible to get a version of Drizzle in am imaging suite that works with
DSLRs?
 
Thanks
 
Jim
Mike here: I don't use AutoStar Suite for imaging processing and it has been years since I even looked at it. I suppose you might be able to import a JPEG or TIFF file. For derotating alternatives (on Windows, which I don't use), checkout Registax and AstroStack. Perhaps someone can chime in with a response.

And:

Thanks for your reply,

My interest is in capturing images with exposures of several minutes
without "star trails". I have the impression
that star trails appear at shorter exposures with my DSLR at prime
focus, than I have seen with a DSI II and the Meade
Envisage/Drizzle software. This is why I wondered if I could get a DSLR
to work with the Envisage/Drizzle software.
The purchase of a de-rotator is not an option at the moment - assuming one cold be used in conjunction with a DSLR and it's adaptors.
I do not use the Autostar software for image processing.
Mike here: Field rotation when the telescope is mounted in Alt/Az will occur unless a de-rotater is used. I have my LX200-ACF on a wedge so don't have the problem with my DSLR. If your intention is to stack short exposures, the imager stackers I mentioned will likely do the job. With long exposures you will need to make manual guiding corrections, so unless you have a separate guide telescope or use an Off-Axis Guider, you will be limited to short exposures.

And:

Thanks Mike, your advice is, as always, much appreciated.

Regards, Jim


Subject:	Autostar Updater Issue
Sent:	Thursday, April 12, 2012 14:01:46
From:	Bosworth, Jeffrey (bosworjy) (bosworjy@UCMAIL.UC.EDU)
I stumbled onto your site
(http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_w2k.html) as I was looking for a
fix to an issue I have with the Autostar Updater application. I
installed the Autostar Suite on my Win 7 Ultimate (64 bit) OS desktop
with no issues at all. It prompted me to download and then installed the
latest version of Autostar Updater (5.9.3) which, even though not
connected to the scope (a new Meade LS-8 ACF w/Autostar III), executes
without a problem.
 
However, when I installed the suite on my Win XP Pro laptop which is
going to be my workhorse scope controller, etc. neither the old or new
updater app will work. I get an error message similar to the article on
your website "Autostar Updater and Windows2000 fix":
 
"Autostar Update.exe - Application Error"
"The instruction at xxxxxx referenced memory at xxxxxx. The memory could not be written"
 
The app window opens partially onscreen, I get that error in a dialog,
and when I click the dialog button AU shuts down immediately.  I don't
have data execution prevention turned on since I don't believe that is
even available with Win XP Pro. I have not yet had the chance to try the
specified fix  put an underscore character in front of the file called
"CONTEXT.hlp" in the AU installation folder. I don't even know if that
file exists since the post is referring to a quite older version of AU.
 
I was wondering if you have heard from anyone else with this issue and
found a fix. I can't imagine that I'm the only one and my laptop is
perfectly capable of handling the software requirements. It's a fairly
new Dell Inspirion with a Pentium 2 and 1GB RAM. All service packs and
updates have been installed. It is frustrating, to say the least,
especially after uninstalling, cleaning the registry, and reinstalling
several times with no luck.
 
I have not approached Meade yet since a conversation I had with one of
their reps over another issue related to the LS technology was very
disappointing and I'm not sure I'll even get sufficient help from them.
 
Thanks for your efforts on your great site!
 
Regards,
 
Jeff Bosworth
Mike here: I don't use Windows but vaguely recall a fix to ASU problems being to change the screen resolution.
Other than that, perhaps our resident AutoStar expert Dick Seymour, can assist.

And:

Thanks guys
 
Screen resolution causing the error? Geez, if so, the programmer of
Autostar Updater should be shot, or at least fired. No professional
programmer would build a Windows app that was hardware reliant to that
extent. Should it be higher or lower rez?
 
It's funny, I see all kinds of posts about issues with AU and Win 7 - 64
bit. That might be understandable since Win 7 is newer and 64 bit
programming is a tad more complex. But I don't have any problems with
Win 7 and AU.
 
If Dick can't come up with anything, maybe I'll just upgrade the laptop
to Win 7 32 bit. Hate to spend the money and invest in the time it will
take to restore my files and apps but it might be necessary. However,
I'm not convinced that will fix it.
 
On an unrelated topic,  I bought the LS-8 to alleviate a little bit of
the alignment tedium and be able to do what I really want to spend time
on and that is astrophotography. I realize the LS is alt-az but I
figured I could get the Meade equatorial wedge and tell Autostar to use
that mount setting. But NOOOO A Meade rep tells me that the wedge won't
fit the LS (different bolt hole placement) AND, get this, the equatorial
mount option is AS III is not implemented because the LS never was and
never will be designed for equatorial mount use. By extrapolation, it
was never designed for long exposure astrophotography. There is also no
field rotator that will fit it, either. Try discerning that in their
marketing literature. So I have this brand new 8" ACF with super optics
that is severely limited by the software and an Atik Titan color CCD
imager sitting in its box waiting to waste its expensive pixels on only
short exposures and webcam-type stuff. I could have bought a much
cheaper NexImage 5 webcam imager or something. So Meade is not gathering
favor with me right now.
 
Sorry to vent, needed to do so with someone who probably understands
where I'm coming from
 
Thanks!

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
On 4/12/2012 2:40 PM, Bosworth, Jeffrey (bosworjy) wrote:
> Screen resolution causing the error? Geez, if so, the programmer of Autostar Updater
> should be shot, or at least fired. No professional programmer would build a Windows app
> that was hardware reliant to that extent. Should it be higher or lower rez?

Mike is remembering a *very* old issue from (i think) version 2 (or earlier) of the 
Updater.  That was back in 2001 (Hey, Mike: try to run an *Apple* program from that era)
That programmer is no longer with Meade.  (not "shot", but left soon after that)

> Its funny, I see all kinds of posts about issues with AU and Win 7 - 64 bit. That might
> be understandable since Win 7 is newer and 64 bit programming is a tad more complex. But I
> dont have any problems with Win 7 and AU.

As for ASU on XP, i'm happily running ASU 5.9.3 (Jul 28 2011) on my ancient Compaq laptop 
with Win XP Home SP3 (fully patched). I just fired it up to confirm the 
version/build-date.  From the sounds of it, your *first* installation worked, and then the 
update is what got confused.
 From the sounds of it, that may be a hiccup in terms of which supporting library is being 
called.   AutostarSuite installs (if memory serves) an old version of Microsoft's .Net 
component.  Your notes didn't mention which version of Autostar Suite you installed.
Thus:

Things to try: (a) have you installed the Autostar Suite UPDATE?
http://www.meade.com/support/AutostarSuiteWebEdition55.exe

(b) install a "clean" copy of ASU:
http://www.meade.com/support/auto/Au2ver593.EXE

During the years of trying to help people, i've back-installed and front-installed ASU so 
many times i've lost count.   You probably do not need to "uninstall" the ASU you have, 
just let the (b) installation process overwrite it.
(ASU ends up in two different directories depending upon how you install it.
If you start with Autostar Suite, it ends up in:
Program Files/Meade/Autostar Suite/Updater
If you start withOUT Autostar Suite, it may end up in:
Program Files/Meade/ASTROWARE/Updater     (uppercase for emphasis)
If you have an installation with both locations, confusion may arise
(i have both, but manually installing (b) after (a) squared it away...
  it uses the "Autostar Suite" tree.
Digging through my 2008 log files, i see that the Astroware tree happened from a "MySky" 
updater installation.

(c) is your Win XP Pro system "fully patched"?
Over the years i've run ASU (up to 5.9.2, and *maybe* 5.9.3) on XP Pro, too.

> If Dick cant come up with anything, maybe Ill just upgrade the laptop to Win 7 32 bit.
> Hate to spend the money and invest in the time it will take to restore my files and apps
> but it might be necessary. However, Im not convinced that will fix it.

I'm fairly convinced that it may "fix" it (since you'll be reinstalling it)
but it really does happily run under XP.   I'm pretty sure the real problem is a 
supporting MS library mis-match.

The LS-8 firmware (what version firmware do you have?) DOES have "equatorial"  (Polar)
in the setup menus, but it's "not supported".  I think Andrew Johansen has tried putting 
his on a wedge.  I'm CC'ing him with this note.

good luck (gotta run...)
--dick

And:

From:	andrew johansen (johansea@optusnet.com.au)
> From the sounds of it, that may be a hiccup in terms of which supporting 
> library is being
> called.   AutostarSuite installs (if memory serves) an old version of 
> Microsoft's .Net
> component.

I have read lots of posts on the ASCOM site that the dotnets are all 
individual
( and standalone installs ) so if you dont have the required version loaded
( or enabled ) that may be it.
Dotnet is a black art to me, but check its properly loaded and all patches 
done.

> The LS-8 firmware (what version firmware do you have?) DOES have 
> "equatorial"  (Polar)
> in the setup menus, but it's "not supported".  I think Andrew Johansen has 
> tried putting
> his on a wedge.  I'm CC'ing him with this note.

I "put" it on a wedge, but never used it.
I gave up after trying to figure out polar home etc
Maybe i should actually try the menu option to see what happens :-)

Andrew

And:

Thanks for the responses guys.

I do have all Win XP Pro service packs and updates installed. The
updater did work once, pulling down and installing version 5.9.3 (the
latest from Meade's download site, as I stated). But it no worky. I
uninstalled EVERYTHING, cleaned the registry with CCleaner, and
reinstalled the entire suite again. At that point, not even the old
updater worked. I downloaded the latest AU update myself from Meade and
ran its install. Still no work.

So, that has triggered a brain pulse that tends to agree with you guys
that it is a .NET version issue. So I should install the most current
.NET version or go back in time? Ugh...

My LS-8 was manufactured 12/27/11. So I am assuming it has the most
current firmware. Don't know since I can't get the updater to work... It
does have a menu option for Equatorial mount type. When I queried the
Mead rep he said that it was an Autostar III thing that probably will
apply to other scopes but not the LS. I don't know if he was trying to
sell me a hugely expensive LX-200 GPS or what. I don't get why the LS
shouldn't be able to be placed on a wedge and set to track like a GEM.
It's just simple physics - rotate on the polar axis at constant
declination by shutting off tracking inputs to the declination motor.
How hard can that be to implement?

I will attempt to uninstall .NET to avoid conflicts and download/install
the most current. May be a few days but I'll let you know how it goes.

Again, thanks for the help and tell Meade to get the LS to work with a
wedge!!

Jeff

And:

> cleaned the registry with CCleaner,

I was using that last week for a dotnet 1.1 error
It left so much stuff behind, i was amazed.
( I ended up reformatting my drive :-(  )

> So, that has triggered a brain pulse that tends to agree with you guys
> that it is a .NET version issue. So I should install the most current
> .NET version or go back in time? Ugh...

There is NO current version
I have dotnet 1.0, 1,1, 2,0, 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 all installed
and coexisting the same time, 
and all are used by programs as required.

> I don't get why the LS shouldn't be able to be 
> placed on a wedge and set to track like a GEM. 
> It's just simple physics - 

Oooohhh if only you knew how they do it
in other firmwares, you wouldnt say that  :-)

Andrew

And:

> I do have all Win XP Pro service packs and updates installed.
 > The updater did work once, pulling down and installing version 5.9.3
 > (the latest from Meade's download site, as I stated).

Yes, but i was suggesting an overlay install via a different method.

 > But it no worky. I uninstalled EVERYTHING, cleaned the registry with CCleaner,
 > and reinstalled the entire suite again.

I haven't found it necessary (or desirable) to use registry cleaners (etc).
If the normal MS uninstaller process succeeded (i.e. no error messages) then the stage 
should be adequately clear for a reinstall.

> At that point, not even the old updater worked.
 > I downloaded the latest AU update myself from Meade and ran its install. Still no work.

Are you doing all of these steps from a privileged account?

> So, that has triggered a brain pulse that tends to agree with you guys that it is a .NET version issue.
 >  So I should install the most current .NET version or go back in time? Ugh...

The correct answer is "all".  My XP system (similar to Andrew's) has:
dotnet  1.1, 2.0 SP2, 3.0 SP2, 3.5 SP1 and 4.0

(..and before you ask why Microsoft does that, just compare it to the stack of Java 
Runtime Engines your system probably has... and Perl/Python in Linux can be worse)

Back on the subject of registry "cleaners", be ESPECIALLY wary of using them in Win 7.
Microsoft bundled the entire .Net mess into the one "4.0" that comes with Win 7.
**But it has all of the 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 3.5 entry points... but they're not "active"
If you need the older libraries, it's just a software switch to "install" them.
Good.  No need to dig up old (incompatible with W7's better protection scheme) binaries.
BUT: If you come in from the side with something like CCleaner, it can rip the guts out of 
that single installed package when it tries to "clean up" (for example) dotNet 2.0


> My LS-8 was manufactured 12/27/11. So I am assuming it has the most current firmware.
 > Don't know since I can't get the updater to work...

The firmware version is available from the handbox menus.
We shall assume it's 1.6a unless informed otherwise.

 > It does have a menu option for Equatorial mount type.
 > When I queried the Mead rep he said that it was an Autostar III
 > thing that probably will apply to other scopes but not the LS.

 > I don't know if he was trying to sell me a hugely expensive LX-200 GPS or what.

The LX200gps uses an "Autostar II", which is far less powerful than the CPU in the LS.
The new Meade "affordable" path to equatorial joy is their LX-80 GEM, $799 (mount only) 
with an Audiostar.

> I don't get why the LS shouldn't be able to be placed on a wedge
 > and set to track like a GEM.

Try it (astronomy as an Empirical Science... egad).
I'd have done it a while ago, but i simply had other things occupying my time
(step one: determine central bolt threading, acquire and use washers to shim my old wooden 
wedgie (since my old Meade Standard Wedge doesn't have a center bolt hole))

> It's just simple physics - rotate on the polar axis at constant
 > declination by shutting off tracking inputs to the declination motor.
 > How hard can that be to implement?

Having seen the disassembled code in the 497 Autostar and the LX200gps',
you'd be *amazed* how difficult it is... to begin with, they try to compensate for mount 
errors.  The user does a quick setup, but doesn't have the RA axis aimed at the pole.
The Autostars correct for that (at least in GoTo... for a while in 2003 they also 
corrected for the sidereal tracking, but that really messed up photographers (occasional 
blips of DEC)).

>   I will attempt to uninstall .NET to avoid conflicts and download/install the most current.
 >  May be a few days but I'll let you know how it goes.

We're pointing the finger of guilt at .Net, but that may be incorrect.
It could be *any* MSFC element that's got a messed-up registry entry.
(a) the installer asks the registy if XXX.dll is present.
(b) registry says "yes".  (despite previous over-enthusiastic "clean up" by user wiping 
out file in question by simple (or complicated) "delete file")
(c) installer therefore does not BOTHER to re-install XXX.dll
(d) Program, when running, uses registry-supplied link info to call XXX.dll
(e) which ain't there, so SPLAT happens.

Question:  Have you recently done an XP "System Restore"?
That's renowned (especially among the ASCOM crowd) for laying this sort of landmine.

Thousands of people are successfully running ASU 5.9.3 on Windows XP.
It really is something beyond Meade's control corrupted on *your* system.
(for once)

good luck
--dick
p.s. i purposely do NOT do "restores" or "clean ups" on my XP box specifically to create 
an as-messy-as-possible test environment.  If installed software can run on *my* box, it 
can run anywhere.  This system has been chugging along fairly happily since 2006.
Even disk expansions (30 GB to the current 120GB) were performed by "cloning" the disk 
(with partition expansion) with a Linux app.


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