Welcome to the Autostar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar, cables, and the Autostar updater software. See the Autostar Info page for information from Meade and other users on the Autostar, cables, and software. Send your comments and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, tips described on this site may invalidate the warranties on your ETX and accessories. Neither the submitter nor myself are responsible for any damage caused by using any contributed tips.
Subject: ETX Autostar Problems Sent: Sunday, April 30, 2000 12:09:50 From: email@example.com (KENNETH J NICHOLSON) I recently purchased an EXT-90EC and everything worked great for a few hours until the telescope would just start slewing erratically in the up or down direction for no apparent reason. I tried both the ac adaptor and the battery pack and it didn't seem to make a difference. After this happened several times, I called the store (Discovery Channel Store) and they were very nice and told me to return the Autostar controller for a new one as this was a known problem. The new Autostar controller was worst than the first one, I had difficulty in training the motors as I could not change the slewing speed in the horizontal direction, only in the vertical direction. After several resets I got it trained and then it would freeze up in the easy alignment mode on the first star. Again the store was very nice and let me exchange this controller for a third one which turned out no better than the second one, both of which were worst than the original. I called Meade and they informed me that I had a very old version 1.0j and should be using the current 2.oi level version. I bought the download cables and updated my Autostar to a 2.oh level and everything seems to work great now. The motors even seem to slew more smoothly. The version level can be checked by going to the Statistics mode and arrow down once when in that mode.
Subject: Faster Slewing Sent: Saturday, April 29, 2000 11:46:03 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dennis Persyk) After I have done the alt/az two-star alignment with Autostar I often want to point the ETX 90 EC to someplace in the sky under my own control. However, I am unable to get the drive motors to slew very fast -- may 1/10 the slew rate in GOTO mode. I key in different numbers from 1-9 but it has no effect. Before alignment I can control the slew rate by entering a number from 1-9. What do I need to do to obtain faster slewing? Thanks for a great site, Mike! Dennis Persyk email@example.com Hampshire, ILMike here: Can you change the slewing speed while trying to center the alignment stars? Once the alignment is successful, the number keys should select the slewing speed. If you can't change the slewing speed at either of these times, something is wrong. Perhaps the battery level is too low? Perhaps you are not pressing down hard enough on the keys? Since you can (have to, in fact) enter numbers when you first turn the Autostar ON, it would appear the number keys are functional.
My problem seems to be intermittent. I have full number keys input for all functions except slew speed when the problem occurs. Last night I had the full range of slew speeds after performing alignment. I'll keep my fingers crossed that the problem doesn't reoccur. Thanks for your input.
Subject: re: a big mistake... Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2000 20:17:04 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (richard seymour) Phil, First, the bad news: there is no fuse in the standard ETX, nor probably in the Meade power adapter. If you were running with the plug-in-the-wall power adapter, you may have simply caused the adapter to die. Try the ETX (first, with the Autostar) running on batteries. If it works, then it's the adapter. If it does NOT work, then try it on batteries with the original hand controller. If it DOES work, the Autostar is sick. If it does NOT work, then (if you are lucky) you may have "simply" "blown a trace"... caused a printed circuit line to have exploded (like a fuse) on the ETX's internal card. Such damage can often be easily repaired. Any television or radio repair shop could do it. Or anyone familiar with electronics construction and repair, such as an amateur radio hobbiest. Even the Autostar might be repairable if damaged in that way. The repair (there is a recent posting on Mike's site showing someone else's repair.. or on the site people.txucom.net/bedair/Autostar.html ) i forget exactly where... but there is a photograph of a damaged and repaired card.) good luck ... it's probably an out-of-warranty repair... --dick
Subject: is a computer needed? no. Sent: Wednesday, April 26, 2000 21:49:00 From: email@example.com (richard seymour) Larry asked if a computer is/was required to "run" the Autostar. No. The Autostar is a computer, and produces a stand-alone GoTo system. You can even happily watch stars with the default (comes with the scope) hand controller. (just like the controller-lesser etx90/ra!). Given a Polar Mount, it'll follow them as they move across the sky. A computer is handy once every two months to fetch a download of updated software from Meade (if you borrow one for that, be sure to arrange for about 4 days as Meade homes in on the download) --dick
Subject: This is almost getting boring... NOT! Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2000 22:29:16 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (richard seymour) Tonight another near-perfect tracking of the ISS by Autostar and ETX90. ('tis a pity the Shuttle wasn't there, too)(yet) This time i -did- remember (dare?) to bring my 9mm eyepiece to the fray, and -used- it! I thought the predicted staring point was too low and too north. But, just like the last time, (with sparkling fresh TLEs) at precisely the predicted second, the ISS entered the viewfinder .. maybe 1 degree to the north of the ETX lying in wait... ENTER to track, a few burps of speed 5, and off we went... it was tracking so well (and low down it's not moving as quickly) i popped in the 9mm eyepiece... THAT made touch-ups hairy... But it -could- be tracked. After a few seconds of driving myself batty keeping it in the field of view, i went back to the 26mm. And tracked the satellite across the entire northern sky, until it went into the shadow (about 8 degrees above the eastern horizon). Great fun. Now, you may remember my mention of a French drive-the-autostar program. I was partly mistaken.. it -does- have an English face (options>langue'>English). A screen-shot (from my screen) is available at http://www.wolfe.net/~workshop/eurosat/ In the lower left window, the straight white line is where the telescope is aiming... the curved line is/was ISS's path across my sky. The globe and Mercator map show the ISS's "footprint" on the planet (if yo're in the circle, you can "see" it). The colors are better on my screen... the grab is only 256 colors, the program runs 16-bit color. The comments on the page are to the author (i'm testing it here, there are still problems with the Autostar implementation) The download site is http://members.aol.com/marionjc/eurosat/ click on the left-column's "053 est en ligne!" to get to the download. There are five pieces: the four main chunks, and Eurosat32.zip, which is the frequently-updated main program. The author's away for a week (presenting it at an astronomy conference). The program was originally designed for radio telescopes, and can drive LX200's and SkySensors. The ETX/Autostar is being a work-in-progress. enjoy! --dick
Subject: Autostar Question Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2000 20:37:29 From: email@example.com (Larry Doyle) I am thinking about purchasing a Meade ETX-90ec with the ETX Autostar. While looking on the Meade website, and trying to gather some information on the Autostar I am left wondering if the Autostar REQUIRES a laptop computer to run it. http://www.telescopehouse.co.uk/ETX/autostar1main.html Although I do own a desktop computer I don't own a laptop. Would I need to bring along a laptop cpu. to be able to track objects ? Could you shed some light on this for me ? Thanks ! Larry Doyle
Subject: Autostar "wandering" Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2000 15:10:07 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Carrie and Ron Mariotti) New Autostar did not fix the problem. They also sent me a new control panel, and both drive motors. Scope is working well at about 95-99% battery power, no sooner do I jack it back up, it starts suddenly wandering. I even hooked up my laptop to it and ran Star Navigator, then began picking some stars with the software. I could see the "Telescope Field" slew accross the computer screen toward my target and just when it was getting close, it suddenly jumped to another point on the screen. That's when the scope immediately sped up to bring the Telescope Field back over my target. I could see that the Autostar was "loosing its mind" and unable to track its own position. At first I started using a power output of about 80%, which worked o.k. Then (in a bold move), cranked it up to 95-100. It has been working great ever since. I actually succesffuly completed the "Tonight's Best" tour (at least most of it). My only complaint now is a problem with tracking SOME satellites. It changes speeds while tracking, going fast, then reversing direction and going very slow, then back to an even faster rate, then slow, etc., etc.
Subject: I made a big mistake.... HELP!!!!!!! Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2000 12:55:10 From: email@example.com (HAAKE Philippe) Hello, I think I made a big mistake..... I did put the cable from my PC directly to the ETX in aux plug...... I don't know WHY.... but I did it..... Shame on me... Now nothing is working.... does someone know if there is a fuse somewhere to change, or shall I send it back to Meade??? thanks for all your help... Best Greetings From SWITZERLAND Phil ICQ 3128404
Subject: speed controlling an Autostar from rs232 Sent: Sunday, April 23, 2000 19:48:22 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (richard seymour) Back on April 13th, Steve@seametrix asked about programming speed commands. The LX200 commands which should work for the Autostar are the :Sw commands. The legal values are 2,3,4 (so the full command is :Sw2# ) The :Sw1# (one only) is -not- a valid command. The Autostar will respond with a "1" if you send the above, it will respond with a "0" if the argument is not 2 through 4. 2,3 and 4 change the speed: 2 is like pressing  (slowest) on the keypad 3 is like pressing  4 is like pressing  The changes can be seen by the size of the speed bar in the Status screen, and will affect the :Mx# commands, with "x" being n,e,s,w The speed you set will -not- affect an MA (goto Alt/Az) or MS (GoTo Object) command. It only affects directional slewing by Mn, Me, Ms and Mw The :R commands are completely ignored by the Autostar. (as of v2.0i) --dick
Subject: Sat Tracks: one-and-a-half out of four Sent: Thursday, April 20, 2000 23:13:45 From: email@example.com (richard seymour) Well, Tuesday and tonight I ventured out satellite chasing with the International Space Station (25544) and a Lacrosse 3 rocket (25018) theoretically passing overhead. Times are Seattle local, Pacific Daylight (GMT -7:00), 26mm eyepiece, ETX90/ec, Autostar, v2.0i. Two nights ago, the Autostar set up about 10 degrees too far north, and about 15 seconds late... add in high sky brightness and a high cloud layer, and I never managed to catch up with the ISS with the ETX90. Tonight was different. The first pass of the ISS was in the bright twilight (8:40pm). It was to be rising almost due West, pass North near Polaris (50 degrees high), then set in the NE. I loaded Heaven-Above's freshest TLEs (day 111.8). The Autostar's predicted acquistion time appeared to be about 15 seconds late for the spot where it was lying in wait... so i hit "Enter" 15 sec early (i sure couldn't see anything.. bright western sky)... I tried tracking where the Autostar was pointing with eye and binoculars, but still couldn't see it. So i paused the scope for 5 seconds, resumed, (the pan passed due north) paused... and then I naked-eye spotted the ISS.. about 15 seconds ahead of the ETX... mad slewing at speed 9 managed to catch up, and acquire in the eyepiece, but it was hard keeping the satellite in the FOV. The tracking was off so that lots of correction was needed. The last 20 degrees of track was followed until the satellite ducked behind a chimney (hmmm... a little midnight remodelling called for?)(hey, it's -my- chimney!). The next pass was of Lacrosse 3 at 10pm... rising in the NW, passing almost overhead, and hitting the earth's shadow about 45 degrees up in the SE. Again i couldn't see it, and started the track based upon the Autostar's predicted rise time. I finally -did- see it as it rose about 70 degrees up in Altitude. (the pass was to be 84 degrees up, so i figured the ETX would lose it overhead, plus it'd hit local overhead obstructions.) It was ahead of the tracking 'scope, and slewing almost caught it when it hit the overhead limit (the 'scope goes to about 95 degrees Alt before it starts spinning...). On an earlier night, i had the scope stop spinning and start tracking down as it passed due north. So this time i "helped" it by manually slewing Azimuth around to the proper area. More slewing to bring the tube down to near the satellite, and then it was lost to obstructions while still 80 degrees up on my east side. The final pass was of the ISS again at 10:15 pm, rising in the WNW, passing 35 degrees up in the north, disappearing about 33 degrees high in the NNE. I started the track about 5 seconds early while peering through the viewfinder... wait! What was that flicker just offside as i started it? I paused... and the ISS moved into the viewfinder! It passed a little high of the crosshairs, so i tapped Up, and switched to the eyepiece. There it was... and it was tracking! There was some drift, so i set slew speed 5 and made frequent, but not major, corrections... it was tracking well enough that i could leave the scope to grab the 2x Barlow, return, recenter a bit, pop in the Barlow, refocus, (drop to slew 4) and remain with the Barlow for the rest of the pass... which lasted all the way until it faded into the shadow. (again, the image appeared non-stellar: more like a shiny rectangle)(i should'a had my 9mm eyepiece waiting...) So that last pass was a first for me: i -never- naked-eyed the satellite... it was -all- done by the Autostar/ETX combo.. a few seconds of viewfinder, then all the rest was through the 26mm or 13mm eyepiece. Yet these were the same TLEs which were 15 seconds too late on the earlier orbit. This reminds me somewhat of psychology experiments back in college... random reward behaviour reinforcement would produce -much- more effort on the part of the experimental subjects, be they animals or people, than consistent reward. So i guess it's just normal nature that i'll be back outside the next clear(ish) evening... oh, yeah... the stars were pretty, too. clear skies... --dick (who writes these things to calm down the adrenalin rush...)
Subject: Re: Sat Tracking: Determining apparent speed Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 21:10:16 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (richard seymour) Or: "How's your French"? I've been corresponding with the author of a site (and program) for tracking satellites and displaying Earth/Sky/Sat info in fascinating ways... AND the program can control an LX-200 or Autostar scope to track the satellites. The only "problem" is that it's in French. Much of the operation is pretty straightforward, and the web pages can be funneled through Altavista's Babelfish to reasonably translate them. (my favorite: trotting the mouse) Visit http://members.aol.com/marionjc/eurosat/ Click on the left-side choice of "Nouveau! Le built 053 est en ligne!" and you'll see the download page. Fetch all five Zip files. That gets you the "demo" 30-day limit version. Click on your browser's BACK button to get back to the main frame. Click on the lowermost text on the photo, that'll take you to the main "advertising" page for the program itself, browse with the "next" button which is on the lower right. To view the pages in quasi-English, go to http://www.av.com Click on the "Translate" choice near the top. Once at the translation site, put the http://members.aol.com/marionjc/eurosat/ address into the big (right-hand) box. Choose "French to English" on the drop-box. Click Translate (or Go or whatever) You can now browse the site in readable English through the Babelfish frame... I'll return to your specific questions when i have better answers. But i believe the "100 points" aren't -waypoints-, but -changes-. But that's still a guess... i'm still excavating... ("digging" is looking into it, "excavating" is way in over my head...) --dick
Subject: Align Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 12:11:01 From: email@example.com (Pedro Junior Ashidani) I'm a little confused about the home position. ============================================================================ Mike here: The N leg goes on the North side of the ETX base (in the Northern Hemisphere). Some photos may show it incorrectly. In Polar Align mode, the N leg has to be on the North so that the ETX rotational axis is parallel to the earth's axis when you set the tilt for your latitude. However, in Alt/Az mode what really matters is where the control panel is located. In Alt/Az mode, the control panel on the ETX-90EC (or -125EC) base goes on the west side. So the N can either be on the North or South depending upon how the ETX base is attached or even something else when using some alternative mounting methods. ============================================================================ As you said above, the control panel should be on the west side. But on Meade manual I read that I must put the ota pointed to north and the vertical lock over the control panel. In this configuration the control panel should be on the east side. Can you help me? PS:Sorry about my poor english. =================================================================== Pedro Junior Ashidani e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Visite Araxa: http://www.aax.terra.com.br ===================================================================Mike here: Things are confused. The control panel should be on the West side but there has been one report that alignment and goto's worked fine when it was on the East side. So, do whatever works for you.
Thanks for your quick response. There is a small mark on the base ( an arrow). should it be pointed to north?Mike here: I believe you may be referring to the RA setting circle pointer. That is actually on the South side (in the Northern Hemisphere).
Subject: Cheap Autostar's Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 10:29:32 From: email@example.com (Bob Downes) I thought that you should know that last December I bought an Autostar #497 from the Discovery Store at the same time as my ETX. When I got it home (I live in the UK), I found that the Autostar wouldn't update. I took it to the UK main distributor, who also tried and I was told that the version of software that it had in it did not have the ability to update properly (something about compatibility with the current update software). They also said that it didn't have the ability to revert to the older version if the download failed and this was in fact the problem I had. They replaced it, which I thought was very good of them. Anyway, just thought I would throw my two penneth into the ring. Bob Downes
Subject: Autostar "Runaways" Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 10:18:17 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Carrie and Ron Mariotti) To: HQGLTZ@aol.com, email@example.com Herman, I, too, own ad DS-90 with a 495 controller and experienced the same problems you did with the sudden slewing of the scope using the AC adapter. And after many sessions with Meade and a little experimentation, I concluded the same as you. I have attached my post to MWeasners ETX Site about my solution. It's basically a modification to the Meade (Condor) AC power supply. I am currently using it with the output adjusted to 95-100% battery power. Since you purchased an adjustable power supply, I guess this is for more informational purposes. The output of the 10 battery pack is about 12-12.5 volts with each battery supplying around 1.2 volts each. The scope performs very well with the battery pack and is very stable, but the ac ouput varies with motor loads. It was my impression that surges/noise from the motors were causing a fluctuation in the power and thus the sudden "loss of mind." Ron M. Gainesville, VA
Subject: ETX-90EC and astronomical software Sent: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 19:34:25 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Kevin Edwards) While patiently waiting for my Autostar to arrive, I thought I'd drop you a brief line to ask whether the use of astronomical software such as Skymap Pro provides better pointing accuracy than is possible using the autostar alone. Best wishes, KevinMike here: Don't know about "better" but it can provide an alternative.
Subject: jcpenny autostar Sent: Monday, April 17, 2000 17:58:50 From: Astro1807@aol.com hey, following a tip from your archives, i found that on the internet JCPenny sells ETX autostars on sale for $99.99. This suprised me because in my reserch meade stuff has seemed pretty set in price. Could there be anything wrong with these?; possibly being older models with outdated programs? If so could i download the new versions of software from meades web site? You can see the product by searching jcpenny for Autostar thanx chrisMike here: It does appear to be the #497 on sale for $99.99 and the #495 for $69.99. With the proper serial cable, you can update the Autostar software via the downloaded software on Meade's web site.
Subject: Electric Focuser Sent: Sunday, April 16, 2000 19:29:46 From: email@example.com (Timothy J Sohacki) I got an electric focuser for my etx 90ec about two weeks ago, installed it, and have used it without any problems for approxamately 5 nights of viewing. Tonight, however, my autostar locked up while in the focus mode. This happened about three times in a hour and a half period of time. After entering the focus mode and pressing the focus arrow key briefly, it happens. No error message or anything, it just locks up and will not respond to any input. The batteries in the telescope are recently installed, and the autostar says they are 89% full. Any Ideas? Thanks again for your help, Tim Sohacki
Subject: debugger Sent: Saturday, April 15, 2000 11:02:19 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (richard seymour) Whilst looking into a Parisian's question about what LX200 commands the Autostar responds to, i see that "casual" access to the debugger was removed between v2.0g (it's there) and v2.0h (it's gone). The debugger is still -in- there, but reaching it requires that the ROM file provide either a different RESET vector or other mechanisms. Access via a control-B in the LX200 command set is gone. --dick
Subject: Comments upon Does (or should) a 495 work on an ETX-90 Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2000 23:30:24 From: email@example.com (richard seymour) My goodness, what a storm... (not all fallout appeared on the servers) (and showing the risks of me posting too early in the morning.. before coffee and reasonable restraint have set in) My own feelings are that the 497 is the better controller to use. It has a larger database (although i doubt if my ETX90 will ever resolve Pluto or any of those Black Holes...), and more "room" for expansion via Meade's programming efforts. It's what i bought. That said, in a perfect world folks would be able to use -either- handset on all the telescopes... those of us who want to dig into the sky, or move up to possible future products, will opt for the 497. Those just lightly dabbling will choose the 495. Folks who "underbought" a 495 and found they needed a 497's capabilities would either pay for an upgrade, or buy a second controller. (personally, i really -would- use a cross-compatible 495 as a backup on long trips). Or a 495 with a very customized database ("just Messiers, Doubles and Variables to Mag 6.5, please... hold the Asteroids") As firstname.lastname@example.org said, the patch won't work if the code moves. And it moves with -every- update of the code. Even the "minor" change from 2.0h to 2.0i moved things ... things which have been solid since v1.3c (when i started looking). (no, i didn't check to see if this particular item moved) The patch is also (as stated) completely untested. I do NOT know if it'll work. Someone privately asked if the 497's code would work with the 495's database. (due to the 495's limited memory). I honestly don't know... but i suspect that it would NOT. I think there's too much cross-knowledge hard-coded into the autostar.rom file about the dbase.rom file. That's one reason they both have to be updated at the same time. It's also not a question which i'm at all interested in pursuing. My personal goal in prodding the code is to better understand and use my 497 and ETX. To try and understand the strengths and faults, and to try to help other users when they encounter problems to distinguish between true bugs and misunderstood features. I've always viewed the Autostar's updating and programmability producing a far more flexible tool than the NexStar's controller... which is why i was surprised by the Sky & Telescope mention that the Nexstar's controller was going to appear in a third company's telescope. Meade should'a been there first. Now, back to your regularly scheduled postings whilst i continue to try to figure out creep-after-beep... --dick
Subject: Re: Your Note on Mike's Site Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2000 11:10:41 From: Stantastic@aol.com In a message dated 4/13/00 7:53:09 AM, email@example.com writes: << You'll keep drinking if the experience below doesn't ever repeat itself! If it does, maybe you could clue me in on exactly what you are doing? >> Hi, Kevin... ah, see, I spoke to soon -- went out last night for a quick romp in the heavens, and everything went back to "normal" -- almost nailed everything on center BEFORE the beep, then things started to creep away from center AFTER the beep. Ya know, though -- I'm a little surprised at how many people claim on Mike's site that they have so few successes "all" the time. I mean, even though I have the "creepie beepies" (a lot of others do to, apparently), I'm still managing to get my GOTO's "somewhere" within the FOV. I will admit that the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter (probably everyone's favorites) seems to miss almost every time, but they're still pretty close. It's the faint elusive little things, like globulars, nebula, and galaxies, that I still manage to hit. I guess I'm pretty "anal" about setting up the scope and getting it aligned, and it seems to work. I wonder if all those people that have so few successes just can't seem to do a correct "alignment" (i.e., spend that extra second or two to get it as "right as rain")? You're getting successful GOTO's, aren't you? On my trip to Hawaii with my wife a number of weeks ago, I was quite impressed with the Meade 16" LX200 that I got to look through and actually "play with" for a little while. Theirs was about a $16,000 decked-out scope (a little above my budget, I'm afraid), but it was soooooo smooooothhhh!!!!! There wasn't any backlash -- there wasn't any creep. You press the button and the scope slews. You let up, and it stops. Everything was precise. GOTO's were always smack in the middle, every time. I'd expect that from a $16,000 scope. Ah, my poor ETX-90 --- sigh!!! Take care... clear skies (looks like our nights are going to start clouding up down here in Southern Cal) Stan Glaser firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Autostar command sets Sent: Wednesday, April 12, 2000 23:20:22 From: email@example.com (Steve) Has anyone figured out the motor speed commands for programming? On the mailbag site there isn't anything that specifically says motor speed but I've tried everything that is close to doing this and nothing works. steve
Subject: re: LX200 commands Sent: Wednesday, April 12, 2000 20:58:28 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (RichardSeymour) The #:Q# command will totally stop the scope... *IF* it's stopping an LX200-commanded slew. (or, at least it used to under v1.3c) It may not stop a handset-commanded GoTo. But the autostar's LX200 code definitely commands both axes to HALT when it receives the :Q# If you're trying to stop a handset-commanded motion, it's entirely possible that latent features such as "slew over, engage backlash compensation" show up after a time interval. (similar to creep-after-beep). When i get near my notes, i'll supply translations for Proc Traps (actually, they're already archived on Mike's Site somewhere. try a keyword search on "IRQ" or Interrupts) --dickMike here: The Proc Traps are discussed in the Dec 99 and Jan 00 Autostar Feedback pages.
Subject: re: high voltage autostars... Sent: Wednesday, April 12, 2000 20:52:25 From: email@example.com (RichardSeymour) I've got an ETX90/ec and a 497 autostar. Way back (September) when i bought it, i asked Mike to voltage-check his Official Meade Powerlump, and he reported that it was putting out 16 volts (unloaded). The ETX-90 only holds -eight- batteries (total 12v). The autostar itself has a 5-volt regulator feeding most of the chips. The autostar gets upset if the supply voltage drops below 8 volts, since the regulator has about a 3-volt drop internally. Based upon Mike's info, i bought a radioshack unregulated "12v" supply. It puts out about 15.6 to 16 v unregulated. I have -not- gotten 'round to see what it finally puts out during the various operating regimes of the ETX/Autostar combo (sleep, idle, tracking, slewing, stalled). The "battery level" reports 100%. Other folks have reported "about 200 ma" for a normal ETX-90 load. My radioshack unit is only a 500ma -rated unit, so it probably drops lower than Meade's (Approx) 1.5 amp unit. I note that both the etx-125 and the DS-line all use 10 (15v) batteries. just more grist for the mill. have fun --dick
Subject: Does a 495 work on an ETX90/ec? Sent: Wednesday, April 12, 2000 09:15:10 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (richard seymour) I don't recall -ever- seeing a definitive answer... (lots of "it should"s) Since JCPenny is having their $69 sale, i'm sorely tempted to add a 495 to my tiny collection (1 autostar, 1 telescope) as a, er, "backup" device. At least, i -assume- their "DS-EC" controller is a 495. (ok,ok, it'll become a "back off" device and subject to cruel and unusual experimentation). But before i buy one, i'd really appreciate hearing from (at least) one person who's actually -used- a 495 with an ETX90 and had it work. (minor creep-after-beep still falls into the "works" category...) I also note that there may be -three- Autostars. During a clone operation they cross-check, and it would appear that there are three different codes: 0F for the 497, and 0A or 05 for the others. Likewise, during start-up, if the Autostar is a 05 or 0A, the default telescope model switches from ETX90 to DS-60. thanks for any info, --dickMike here: Don't know if you call it "definitive" but there is some info about the models vs scopes on the Autostar Information page on my ETX site.
Subject: Autostar runaways Sent: Wednesday, April 12, 2000 01:04:59 From: HQGLTZ@aol.com I emailed you the other day regarding my experience with Meade's DS-90 with Autostar VS my ETX125. One thing I noticed with BOTH Autostar versions is the problem of sudden runaway slewing while using AC power supply, and occasionally batteries. I checked my Scopetronix 12V 1 amp power supply with a digital voltmeter and found out it was putting out 16.5 volts. While the LX200 electronics work fine with 12v to 18v, the Autostar is not so forgiving. I tried another variable voltage power supply and found when I dropped the voltage to between 11.5 to 12.5 volts the slewing stopped. I can view for hours without any problem. As soon as I change to the Scopetronix power supply, or step up the voltage on the adjustable power supply, the Autostar runs away sooner or later, sometimes right after alignment. I dont' know if updating the Autostar helps or not, and as soon as I update, I will let you know. The only problem I found with dropping the voltage is that the slewing is slower. The tracking rate is also slower, but can be adjusted on the Autostar. So, check your power supply voltage if you are having a runaway problem, its better a little on the low side than the high side. If anyone is experiencing sudden slewing on battery power, I'll bet its only when the batteries a fresh. When the batteries are at 80 percent (about 11.5 volts), the problem will probably diminish. Great site Mike Herman
Subject: Autostar Serial Cable Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2000 18:24:47 From: email@example.com (Steve) Sorry to bother you. I was just wondering if the display on the Autostar is suppose to go blank when plugged into the computer? If not then I guess I have the wires wrong somehow. Thanks, steveMike here: Display should NOT go blank.
Thanks Mike, Even though your page mentioned the pins were on the Autostar I managed to confuse myself and reverse them again!
Subject: The "creepie beepies" CAN BE strange and wonderful... Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2000 02:04:10 From: Stantastic@aol.com Typical experience for months on GOTO's has been the "creep" after the "beep" -- (almost) always get the GOTO (almost) always nailed right smack in the center of the FOV, hear the beep, and then watch as my little fuzzy friends immediately start to drift off center as the motors are trying to compensate for backlash -- aarrgh!! But alas, last night, with my first real chance to operate under 2.0i, to my surprise at the moment I heard the beep I looked in the EP to find the GOTO object NOT in the center, but rather far off to the side. But then the creep started and wait . . . no . . . hold it . . . can it be . . . wonder of wonders . . . oh, my gosh . . . the object was actually moving TOWARD the center of the FOV, and as soon as the creep stopped, well, doggone it, there it was, smack in the center!!!! This calls for a drink!!!! Stan Glaser firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Serial Cable Sent: Monday, April 10, 2000 16:41:15 From: email@example.com (Steve) In regards to the Serial Cable does anyone know which pins on the 9 pin should connect to the phone like jack and in which order?Mike here: Check the Autostar Information page on my site for cable info.
Subject: Controlling ETX-90-EC with a computer Sent: Monday, April 10, 2000 12:04:41 From: Marionjc@aol.com I foud on your wonderful web site a very interesting information about the Command Set of ETX . Many thanks Greg for the info. I'm working on custom software to drive ETX on satellites and I need to know the entire command set, but as you, Greg, I found many commands are not executed by the scope: Command :Q# only stops a short instant the slew to an object. Command :RG# or :RC# or :RM# and :RS# are ineffective and I have not found the command to set motion rate from 1 to 9. So, it's relativly easy to perform slews to objects like stars, planets or NGC / Messier but much more difficult to track satellites because you need many commands of motion rate or many commands like Alt/Azimuth or right ascension / declination. So I eventually get the error message "Trap. proc.2 " or "Trap. proc.4" but I don't have the signification of each of them! I would be very glad to have all the command set for ETX if you have it, or E-mail addresses of programers using command set of ETX. Many thanks in advance. Best regards, Jean-Claude Marion
Subject: Does speed matter when aligning Autostar ???? Sent: Monday, April 10, 2000 04:56:19 From: firstname.lastname@example.org Some Autostar users advise: dont use up too much time when you align; do it as quickly as possible. I don't understand why would a delay matter between aligning star 1 and star 2? Wouldnt the goto gizmo be keeping track of how much time is passing by and be calculating how much the stars are moving in the meantime? I'm just wondering why it would matter if theres a delay between aligning the two stars? Thanks DanMike here: Well, I would think a delay could matter. Consider the extreme of waiting 12 hours before pressing the ENTER button to say you've centered align star #1. Would the Autostar have kept track of the time. Maybe or maybe not. Certainly seconds or even a minute might not matter too much but anything should be avoided I would think.
I earlier inquired: is it good practice to keep the time to a minimum between getting your bearings on star 1 and star 2 when aligning. The concern being that during this elapsed time the stars are moving, but Autostar may not be not taking this into account (... although why this is the case is beyond me.) At any rate, I asked Meadethis morning ... and they said "absolutely" ... do the aligning as fast as possible to keep the discrepancy between the two stars to a minimum. They also said this would be covered in a new edition of the Autostar manual which is coming out shortly.
Subject: #495 autostar Sent: Sunday, April 9, 2000 23:09:23 From: email@example.com (Kevin Edwards) I know that I'm probably treading a well-worn path, but does the #495 Autostar work with the ETX-90EC? I've heard many conflicting reports, with some people saying that it will work, but only in ALT/AZ mode. I would love to hear from anyone who can help! Cheers KevinMike here: Check the Autostar Models info on the Autostar Information page on my ETX.
Subject: Autostar Sent: Friday, April 7, 2000 19:44:25 From: Dschmit@us.ibm.com (Daniel Schmitz) Guess I'm the lucky one. Just back from a week off, several hours west of the light polluted skys of Dallas/Ft Worth. Version 2.0i , standard setup,,level,,point at Polaris,lock,,rotate to 0 degrees,,lock,,easy align with minor corrections and away we go!! slight pauase for an iridium flare,,,gonna miss those guys when they de-orbit them,,,maybe over my area,,,love the sight of space junk on re-entry! Hit the Messier Marathon and everything dead center. Tossed on the barlow with the 26mm on M51 then proceded on to the next targets,,all hit FOV with the barlow in place! I hope I'm not the only one having this kind of success. Switched over to tonights best just to see if my good fortune continued,,you bet!! With all the nit picking I'm here to let folks know that this little jewel has performed as advertised for me! Keep up the good work Mike,,clear skies,,(and enough $$ to afford the gas to get to dark ones!)
Subject: Autostar Fun Sent: Wednesday, April 5, 2000 06:55:42 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ellsworth G. Dutton) Mike, Somehow it is reassuring to hear that you have seen some of the problems a lot of us have been reporting for months. Nonetheless, I have just learned to live with them and have had many great observing sessions. I'm running 2.0h with a ETX-125 and for the most part works better than previous AS versions. I have spent entire evenings wandering through the Messier and <~12 mag NGCs in Leo and Virgo and have not missed a one with the GoTo, more than 30 in a couple hours with crude sketches! However, one real surprise a couple times has been immediately after a successful auto-alignment in the polar mode, a GoTo Saturn produced the tracker slewing to point almost 120 degrees off! and this was after almost nailing the two alignment stars. A power-down, power-up, and realign then everything was okay, and only took less the 5 minutes for both alignments. Like I said, you learn to live with it. Just one additional note, my ETX is mounted on a semi permanent pier and I have "rigidified" the ETX base. Also, I have not noted any daylight-savings time related AS problems, but sure wish the sidereal time display would be correct, if indeed that is what is supposed to be displayed below the local time when in the "status" function. General advice: If AS misses by more than a degree after initial alignment, power off and start over. If less than a degree, center a star or deep sky object and "sync". Expect bigger problems with longer slews as the backlash from different gravitational loading on the OTA will apparently strike most every ETX-125 that I've heard of or read about. A single "sync" seems to generally work for me after long slews to a new part of the sky or after reloading the tube weight on the drives as mentioned above. The sudden slews seem to be the biggest problem but I have only experienced these on rare occasions and with then only with older versions of AS. I'm still suspicious of colder weather and the AS, <32F, but have had none of that recently. Maybe, as you suggest, there are some RFI related problems with the controller which might explain some of the weirdness and randomness of the problems that have been seen by so many. Cheers, Ells
Subject: but serialously folks... Sent: Monday, April 3, 2000 23:08:31 From: email@example.com (Dick Seymour) John Chalfen wrote: > Been in computers way too long. thus, like me, you think anything over 110 baud is a blessing... > Two things occur to me about the 9600 baud transfer speed. > 1) It works with all UARTS. yup... i'm also sure that's why they chose it. > 2) Meade may be using 2 different UARTS in the Autostar. A cheap one for >the RJ11 connection, hence the 9600 baud limit, and a good one for the IR port. IR port? what IR port? (does the Flashlight LED blink faster than i've ever noticed?) > (Would seem a bit far fetched to use 2 UARTS, but hey, these are Autostars after all.) And the Word is "ch", er, "inexpensive" .. so it's "why use even one, if it's already on the 68hc11"? The rj12 (it's a 12, not an 11... handset, not telephone) port is driven by an rs232 level converter, which, in turn, is driven by the Async Serial Port (pins 20 and 21) on the 68hc11 cpu chip. The Autostar firmware has a provision for (during Download and Clone) the two corresponding devices to ask "F"?.. (for "fast") and, if they agree ("Y"), they'll both switch from 9600 baud to 125k baud for the cloning.. via the same rs232 port. i've never -seen- it happen (i don't have two Autostars), but it's there... >If I have to make a choice, I would go for option 1. It makes sense to >use a slow speed to allow all serial port connections to work, and use a >faster speed for IR cloning because (I assume) Meade is using a similar >chipset in all the autostars and knows what they specs are. Cloning is done out the same rs232 port as everything else. The 505 connector kit includes two rs232 cables: one a rj11-to-rj12 for computer connections (using the 9-to-rj11 adapter), the other a crossovered rj12 to rj12 for Autostar to Autostar cloning. At least, that's how my 497 Autostar is constructed. The communications from the Autostar to the scope base is even weirder... (the 68hc11 asks its little buddy PIC to do that) --dick (not a clone, barely connected)Added later:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Chalfen) Ooopps. That's what I get for staring at my palm pilot instead of the autostar. Nope, no IR port on mine either. Think I'll go back into my cave for awhile and see if I can get the red out of my cheeks. email@example.com --staring at Autostar (or is it a palm pilot?)
Subject: Autostar v2.0i firmware (well, database) error Sent: Monday, April 3, 2000 22:18:00 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dick Seymour) (sent to Meade...) Abstract: Constellation Center Coordinate Database incorrect. Environment: ETX Autostar 497, v2.0i firmware, ETX90/ec Seattle (from Autostar City list). PDT (also PST). When one Selects Object>Constellation>(any, i suspect)>GoTo The RA displayed is flat-out wrong. The Declinations are ok. (at least it is for Andromeda, Leo, Leo Minor... i only tested 3) Leo and Leo Minor are shown 5 hours low. Andromeda is 10 hours high, or 13 hours low. For example, Leo Minor is shown as 05:36 32 deg 24' It should be (about) 10:20 32 deg 24' Leo is shown as 06:02 13d 26', it's near 11:02 13d 26' Andromeda is shown as 11:16 37d 08', it's near 01:00 or 00:16 This popped up when i was doing Constellation Tours... Leo walks us through individual stars, so the "constellation" location doesn't affect pointing. Leo Minor, however, simply GoTo's the constellation "center", and it was a surprise to have the scope slew almost 90 degrees west of Leo on its way to Leo Minor. That's when i woke up to what was going on. Your rotated observer, Dick Seymour email@example.com
Subject: autostar Sent: Monday, April 3, 2000 08:07:50 From: firstname.lastname@example.org I just purchased a new autostar to go with my ETX125 and I don't know how to tell what level firmware the autostar is.If it is done on the statistics then I come up with version 2.0g, which would be old firmware in my new autostar, if thats the case I will return the autostar as it doesn't work very good. I have done everything in the book for two weeks and it doesn't come close to finding saturn or jupiter, but it does point to the western sky. thank you Dave PollardMike here: That is the version number. 2.0i is the latest.
Subject: Reverse Engineering the Autostar Sent: Sunday, April 2, 2000 16:36:25 From: email@example.com (Charles O'Donnell) Has anyone reverse engineered the Autostar computer from the telescope end? In other words, is information available to build a telescope with motors and encoders that will accept a cable from an Autostar computer that will make it go? It should be possible.Mike here: I don't think this has been done. But if you can design a system that understands the LX200 commands, you'll have a start.
Subject: Autostar Transfer Speed Sent: Saturday, April 1, 2000 23:31:04 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Chalfen) Been in computers way too long. Two things occur to me about the 9600 baud transfer speed. 1) It works with all UARTS. Since there is know way to know what serial chipset is in any given computer without looking, 9600 baud is a *very* safe way to go without having to make people check/change their port settings. People I know have trouble changing lightbulbs much less speeds on a serial port. 2) Meade may be using 2 different UARTS in the Autostar. A cheap one for the RJ11 connection, hence the 9600 baud limit, and a good one for the IR port. (Would seem a bit far fetched to use 2 UARTS, but hey, these are Autostars after all.) If I have to make a choice, I would go for option 1. It makes sense to use a slow speed to allow all serial port connections to work, and use a faster speed for IR cloning because (I assume) Meade is using a similar chipset in all the autostars and knows what they specs are. -------------------------------------------------- --TIA and TTFN (Don't forget to wear your peril sensitive sunglasses.) --Sometimes I think that the surest sign of intellegent life on other planets is the fact that they havent tried to contact us yet. (Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes) email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org (I know...I know...)
Subject: Re: [FW: Autostar Home Position Zeros] Sent: Saturday, April 1, 2000 14:02:44 To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Hi... i saw your notes on Mike's site... (<-- i should save this as a standard greeting) Whenever i find that the ETX is doing a consistent left or right displacement, i simply unclamp the Az (or spin the base on the table) and center the object. That usually suffices to rein in the wandering stars to within the eyepiece's field of view. If you're seeing the same displacement no matter what the Dec (vs. Alt) is, then perhaps just telling the telescope a slightly different -time- might have an effect. Stars move across the sky at 15 degrees per hour. If the objects are -just- out of view on, say, the right (when viewed thru the eyepiece), that's about 0.6 degrees off, to the (physical) left. (hmm... rereading Tom's note, i see he says "right" in the eyepiece, and "right" in the viewfinder... maybe he's using the right-angle viewfinder?) Anyway: that's the scope aiming 0.6/15 th's of an hour, or 2.4 minutes "early". Try setting the clock back 2 minutes 24 seconds. A watershed test for "wrong RA" versus "poorly aimed" would be Polaris. (but remember it's about a degree away from the true pole). If a GoTo there does -not- show the error, then the "change time" method may work. If a GoTo there -does- show the error, then the "rotate base" method may work. (and there's always SYNC, but no guarantees....) --dick (unguaranteed) (Tom, Dick and Larry? don't even go there...)And a response:
From: email@example.com (Larry Reidnour) Dick, I actually thought about something of that nature considering the consistency of the misalignment to the right of the eyepiece (and viewfinder, yes I do have the right angle viewfinder on my 125). I called Meade finally the other day and spoke with a technician regarding this. In a nutshell, he (in a nice way) told me that it was within specs if the object appeared in the viewfinder (which it always does) and that when I sent it in for "the fix" the first time because of the random slewing problems, "it would probably loosen up a little bit the more I use it and correct itself". Basically, I was pretty much told to live with it. My point which you have addressed is that if it consistently (just misses) to the right, then why can't it consistently put objects in the fov. Just last night,I was getting objects in the fov and others in that same spot to the right (horizontal cross-hair in the viewfinder just right of dead-center) and now even some to the left on the horizontal cross-hair of dead center! All of this falls "within specs" according to Meade, but if I could get the AZ to work like the ALT does, then I am nailing everything. THE AZ IS CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT BY A SMALL MARGIN WITHIN SPECS!!!! I know better man. If the ALT was off also, then I'd say the whole thing was screwed up, or better yet, if nothing appeared in the viewfinder, then I would say I'm screwed up. I did not have this problem before I sent it back to Meade. I just had it slewing on its own all over the place, but I was running 1.3c then. Dick, seriously, hardware of software, or combination? P.S I wouldn't touch Tom, Dick or Larry either, but I do remember Bob, Carrol, Ted & Alice! P.S.S. Still had the same problems with "sync". Didn't get that lucky.And a followup:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dick Seymour) Well, last night i went out for a satellite pass, and stayed out for a couple of hours (clear!). And the evening started as you described, constant offset from the desired state. For reasons of my own (curiosity, mainly), i didn't do any Official Star alignments... i just trusted the scope to get it right, with slight adjustment done via the unlock/lock method. In the beginning, it was horrid. Inconsistent (depending upon target), up to 8 degrees off. As the evening progressed, it got better (as i fudged with levelness of platform, re-aiming at known objects, etc.etc.) Eventually it was -dead- on (well, 7 points). Objects, ranging from Jupiter, Saturn, Sirius, stars in Orion, Castor... all ending up within the center half of the eyepiece (all down around 4 o'clock).. Just outside the FOV when the Barlow was tossed in. (it got good enough that i switched over to pure observing, instead of fiddling) My scope tends to show next-to-zero slop in the Az, but tons in Alt. Probably over 3 to 5 degrees. I've taken to gently pushing down on the nose of the scope to consistently move the slop to a known side. You might try gently nudging the RA assembly either CW or CCW to take out the play. I -am- still being beset by creep-after-beep, and (worse) creep after manual pointing. (i.e. simply using the Arrows to move to a non-GoTo'd target, and then having the scope helpfully migrate the target off-field... a real pain when changing eyepieces to max power...) (the sat track? in many ways the best performance it's done yet... still "off" in a number of ways, but that kind of just-out-of-reach performance which keeps us gullible people returning for more (oh, it hurts so good...)) My experience with consistent targetting is twofold... (1) practice and reaiming by the user as we learn our particular scope's quirks (2) some evenings it -never- gets it right (which may indicate a fault in (1)) So: what happens if you -do- unclamp/reclamp so what it thinks is correct becomes correct? Does the consistent "off" become "on"? I've even had nights when i fake an align... we do an "easy", and i accept (without electronic adjustment) its two targets. I may unclamp/clamp so that it really -is- pointing there. Then, after "alignment successful", i GoTo them, or one or two that appeal to me, and see how well it does. If it's consistently off, i unclamp/clamp to correct that. From then on, i frequently find that it's very, very good. [eyes mist over (no, that's fog)...] (almost as good as my first night with the scope (v1.1j) .. an Easy Align and a GoTo the Ring Nebula... as the Ring centered itself in the eyepiece my heart stopped and my lil' scope had won a friend...) (but that same night, it was consistently 5 degrees off on planets and moon). So, in your case, it's kinda "i donno"... If it's consistent, then it's probably mechanically solid (well, to an ETX's limits) I suspect there is a "sweet spot" mode of operation which will be repeatable, and will provide you with quite decent performance. You've just gotta find it (and the road to that may be bumpy). Once you do find it, you'll find the scope can operate fairly reliably (on warm nights). But then i reread your note: > My point which you have addressed is > that if it consistently (just misses) to the right, then why can't it > consistently put objects in the fov. Just last night,I was getting objects in > the fov and others in that same spot to the right (horizontal cross-hair in > the viewfinder just right of dead-center) and now even some to the left on the > horizontal cross-hair of dead center! Now, that's -not- consistent! [paraphrasing:] Some in the FOV, some to the right, some to the left. Try the manual (i.e. grab tube and twist (gently)) elimination (or bias) of slop. Try it during a "training" session, too. (that greatly helped my Alt slop). If that cures it (well, covers it), then you're facing the system not properly correcting for slop/backlash. > All of this falls "within specs" according to Meade, (does Meade own up to a numerically acceptable (to them) slop? 3 degrees? 6?) > but if I could get the AZ to work like the ALT does, then > I am nailing everything. THE AZ IS CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT BY A SMALL > MARGIN WITHIN SPECS!!!! I know better man. If the ALT was off also, then I'd > say the whole thing was screwed up, or better yet, if nothing appeared in the > viewfinder, then I would say I'm screwed up. I did not have this problem > before I sent it back to Meade. I just had it slewing on its own all over the > place, but I was running 1.3c then. Dick, seriously, hardware of software, or > combination? I suspect mainly hardware (slop... excessive to you, within reason to Meade) I have certainly seen differing performance between differing versions of the Autostar. I still rate v1.3c as one of the best. (unless you want to run Polar, if i remember) Mike has old versions, and i've got that one, too, if you want to regress. good luck, keep at it, give it a twist... --dickMike here (written Sunday day): See my just posted report update on the ETX-125EC. The Autostar put everything centered or nearly so in the 26mm eyepiece. Not bragging, just noting that it can work right. Don't know whether the hardward is different or I got that perfect alignment or what. Maybe the stars were with me!
From: email@example.com (Larry Reidnour) That one is going to be though to read Mike! Congratulations! Dick Seymour gave me some pointers which I am going to try. Will keep posted.Mike here: I spoke too soon. Had some guests over Sunday night. Autostar did lousy.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Larry Reidnour) Now that's more like it!(misery loves company) Just kidding Mike, seriously, I was considering taking mine back to the dealer telling them I gave Meade their one chance and asking for a new scope. I am dissapointed that happened to you and wondering if they are all like that. Why is it always with guests? You know I have a habit of "speaking too soon", but you get so excited when it goes good that I can't wait to get in to rpeort it. Maybe it's something simple on your end. I'll check out your report. Good luck on the next go-round.
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