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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
Last updated: 28 February 2001

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 etx@me.com. 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:	Autostar times
Sent:	Wednesday, February 28, 2001 16:43:38
From:	gav@barnacles44.freeserve.co.uk (Gav and Ali Hunt)
Can you help?. I have just bought an ETX125EC complete with Autostar for
my Father (currently using autostar version 2.0) .

We have been playing around with the autostar today to check if it is
possible to get details of the Mir space station. The BBC website gave
details that it would be overhead at 18.18 today. The autostar said that
it would be overhead at 17:18 today. Unfortunately it was cloudy
overhead tonight so not possible to verify which time was correct.We
cannot reconcile the difference, we live about 60 miles away from London
in the UK and have entered London as our home site. We are currently
using Greenwich Mean Time which has been entered into the autostar and
"daylight savings" is set to "no".We will move to British Summer Time
(Greenwich mean time plus 1 hour) in late March. Your help with this
problem would be appreciated to enable us to set up the autostar for our
first viewing.

Best regards

Gavin Hunt.
Mike here: Have you updated the Autostar with more recent Mir data? If not, I suspect that could be a source of the error. The orbital elements need to be updated as the orbit changes over time. See the "Tracking the International Space Station" on the Autostar Information page for info on updating the elements.

Subject:	Etx 90 problem
Sent:	Wednesday, February 28, 2001 11:10:02
From:	jdcjdr@skynet.be (Looping)
One of my friends has a big problem with his Etx 90 and Autostar and we
can not find a solution.

When setting up, he uses the two stars alignement procedure and nothing
works ! Autostar propose (for example) Arcturus as the first alignement
star. Ok, we go and when the telescope stops his motion, arcturus is
far, very far. The average error is about 45 degrees in RA We have done
everything possible, training engines, level of telescope, correct north
pointing, and so ....

any idea ?

Best regards,
Michel
Mike here: From your description of the 45 degree error I suspect a current time or time zone error. Verify that the selected location, time zone, current date/time, and daylight savings time setting are all correct.

Subject:	Update on Meade.com
Sent:	Wednesday, February 28, 2001 09:03:45
From:	mikaelr@hotmail.com (Mikael R)
I just wanted you to know that Meade has relesed some kind of fix for
Windows 2000 and there Upgrader program:

----------------------------------------------------
02/13/01
Windows 2000 fix: In order to make Update work under Windows 2000 you must 
install or reinstall the update program as follows. When prompted for the 
install directory, change it to "\Program Files\Meade\Autostar Update". If 
you reinstalled and you have any ephemeride data you want to keep, copy it 
from the old directory "\Program Files\Meade\Autostar\Autostar 
Update\Ephemerides" to the new directory "\Program Files\Meade\Autostar 
Update\Ephemerides". After reinstalling and copying the ephemerides you can 
delete the old directory "\Program Files\Meade\Autostar".
----------------------------------------------------

If the date is correct it has been out since 13 of February but I
haven't seen it before.

-MIKAEL

Subject:	Meade update for Windows2000 users
Sent:	Wednesday, February 28, 2001 07:36:18
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Just for everyone's information to keep us all up to date, Meade has
just posted on their "AutoStar Update" page a new explanation of proper
installation concerning downloading when using a Windows 2000
application. Through Dick Seymour's and others' input we have long been
aware of loading problems with Windows 2000 for the updater program
through Meade.

The explanations and steps are found at
www.meade.com/support/auto.html.  The post was just made yesterday,
but the date of the announcement curiously lists February 13, 2001.

P. Clay Sherrod
Arkansas Sky Observatory

Subject:	Re: more on decl. binding
Sent:	Tuesday, February 27, 2001 08:41:52
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	Graeme wrote:

> Lastly, here's a feature that would be really useful to have as part
> of drive training. As it stands, we have no way to verify the current
> drive training parameters other than suffer poor GOTO accuracy. What
> about having the facility where we can center the scope on an object
> and ask the scope to slew off the target in either axis. Then we ask
> it to re-center the object itself (like rubber banding!!) and any
> deficiencies in the settings would become immediately apparent if the
> target didn't reappear in the centre of FOV. This would be a fantastic
> way to check drive training!

Tech Support once recommended that i verify my training by slewing and
returning to -Landmarks-, since that removes any sidereal complications.
Given that hint, i could then "cheat" my training to achieve (well,
never quite) perfect "Return To" performance. It's pretty easy... train
on that Landmark called Polaris, and then lean on two slew keys at once
at speed-9 for a second or so. Then press [goto] (again).  Repeat in all
four 45 degree-offset directions, or all 8 major compass points. (up,
upper right, right, etc.)

Add wind, cold weather and clear skies, and you'll soon be asking
yourself: "all RIGHT, already... Why am i DOING this?"

I do wish the Training had a numeric readout/entry screen...
--dick
hmmm... now is that a reasonable patch?...

Subject:	Re: Percentages and Training
Sent:	Monday, February 26, 2001 18:06:05
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Stan, thanks for your comments and suggestion.  Let me tell you why it
needs to be done in the order I recommend.  I might add at this point
that my mail count since last Wednesday is nearly 300 responses that
indicate ETX owners are able to use their scopes properly for the first
time!

The Train Motors function must be done first, before the percentages are
entered.  The percentages are a "false" cover-up of telescope backlash
that will exist, no getting rid of it.  It does not take the backlash
out. "Train Motors" actually does reduce backlash by allowing the
telescope during the training process the "tell" AutoStar how much
backlash exists in each axis; hence the reason for offsetting in two
opposite directions with only ONE arrow to recenter.  By doing this, the
AutoStar and motors communicate the response time, the gear slack
take-up time required, and the percent of "free-wheeling" in the gear
train.

Once done, you can activate a FASTER response in either axis, or a more
sudden stop by adjusting the percentages.  What the percentages allow is
a "surge" of time in which the motors are accelerated over and above
whatever speed setting you have chosen.  This surge usually lasts less
than one-half second, at which time the normal rate of slew takes over. 
Hence, the time spent in the hesitation backlash is "fast-forwarded" for
you, the observer. The telescope still has the same amount of backlash,
but your percentage correction is covering it up so that you won't see
it.

Training actually takes out backlash.  Indeed, if you could do a PERFECT
(still working toward that one....) training exercise, and if AutoStar
was properly working, the result would be absolutely NO backlash
whatsoever seen....the computer would know how much the motors have and
take it out before processing your move.  (unless of course, your drive
gears are badly loose, or bound or whatever).

It probably does not make a LOT of difference either way....but I have
experimented both ways over a period of two months, and the sequence I
came up with is as ideal as we can get right now, and probably the way
Meade intended to make the things work right  (heaven only knows that
they would tell US about it!).

As for your scope, if you want to give it a shot and let me know, I
would like to hear the results; try it both ways with all OTHER setup
factors being constant.

Thanks, and keep in touch.
Clay Sherrod
-----Original Message-----
From: Stan
>Clay,
> What do you think about, FIRST (after a reset) setting the percentages to
>take out all perceiveable backlash, and then doing the drive training? Do
>you forsee any problems with approaching it from this direction? It appears
>to me that you may even get a more accurate drive training doing it this
>way, as you will not have any of the slow response/over correcting problems
>associated with the backlash and the object centering will actually be alot
>easier.
>
>
>Stan
>Houston, TX

Subject:	Re: dec drift
Sent:	Monday, February 26, 2001 09:19:53
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	Will Lockwood
Will - your problem is three-fold:

1)  battery power is the least efficient way of operating the telescope;
I have taken out my internal batteries and never use it that way; for
DC, I have a small rechargeable DC power supply that plugs into the
scope; for AC I use the Meade adapter which puts out 15.5 V, actually
improving all aspect of performance.

2) YOU MUST read carefully and follow the instructions by the letter of
my "Enchancement Guide" now posted (last week) on Mikes ETX site; it
gives careful step-by-step instructions on reducing and eliminating for
the most part your problems....it does work.  In less than a week I have
hear from over 200 ETX users who praise the techniques.

3)  If somebody at Meade told you that "2.0 is the latest firmware
version" he is sorely wrong.  You should go ahead and download from
their web page the "A2.4 Autoloader" which now contains an automatic
download of the "NEW" v 2.1ek firmware.  After doing that - FOLLOW PART
2 of the "Enchancement Guide" to achieve perfection.  Be sure and
consult the part about "Training and Reset" and also the Alt and Az %
adjustments that you can now use; try starting with 10% on your Altitude
axis (it is factory-set at 01%) and about 8% on the Azimuth (also
preset.)

Perhaps what the gentleman at Meade was referring to is the "shipped"
version of firmware going out with factory AutoStars; that WOULD be the
v2.0.

Anyway, your best bet - and if you carefully follow step-by-step - are
the "Enchancement" isntructions; I wrote them for problem ETX's like
yours; you will find in most cases, it is NOT the scope, but the
user....and YES, that pertains to me, too!  That's why I decided to
write it!

Good luck and be back in touch to let us know how it goes...REMEMBER:
1)DOWNLOAD NEW FIRMWARE AND CLOSE DOWN; 2) RESET (very important); 3)
RE-INITIALIZE YOUR DATA (including %, scope type, mount you will use,
etc.); and, 4) RE-TRAIN CAREFULLY.  Training is the key.  Take your time
and do it right....do it like the instructions say on the Enhancement
guide; use Polaris if you use Alt-Az and a high and distant terrestrial
object if you use Polar....but RESET first....and remember to set your
mount type to either "Alt-AZ" or "Polar" on the AutoStar before
training.

Clay Sherrod
-----Original Message-----
From: Will
>    I just had a conversation with "William" at Meade tech support and he
>adamantly claims that the Dec. drift problem is a matter of cold batteries and
>not the Autostar software. He says that he solves this problem all day long and
>knows that this is the problem. I should note that he also said my software
>(2.0g) is the latest version.
>
>I am running on a fresh set of Duracell Super Alkalines. Outside temps around 35
>- 40 degrees. I usually put the scope out about 30 minutes ahead of time to cool
>down. Can the batteries be my problem all along? Have you found that having a
>12v car battery or AC power supply eliminates this problem?
>
>All the best,
>Will
And:
From:	Richard Seymour
People who buy LX90's (the Autostar is included) are getting v21ek.

The 497's spread around the world in the distribution channels
 have everything from v1.0c to 2.0g.  There -may- be some newer 
 shipments with v21ek in them, but i haven't heard of anyone receiving one.

I have no idea who "Williams" is, but brought-low-by-cold batteries are
 a major cause of Autostar problems.  Not THE only cause, but they do
 cause repeatable flakey symptoms before they really bring things to a 
 frozen halt (as it were).  
I agree that following Codex Clay will probably do wonders for Will Lockwood.
--dick
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Dick -
Do batteries (cold, that is) actually cause drifting and random slew?  I
think I could imagine if they were too "hot" as it output, but it seems
to me that activity would simply die to a halt the weaker they got. 
Apparently cold does make them erratic, rather than just drop in output.
(??).

Thanks - I think I remember now that the LX 90 WAS getting a "fitted"
AutoStar complete with v2.1E, and some impressions that it might already
be matched ("trained" - which I would promptly do all over again upon
receipt) to the exact scope they come with....

CLAY
And from Dick:
There never was a version "2.1E" released to the public.
The "E" stands for English.

The version Letter (i/j/k) is only visible under Setups >Statistics,
and Meade should be, er, chastised for the confusing startup display.
(the confusion started with v1.3)

> Thanks - I think I remember now that the LX 90 WAS getting a "fitted"
> AutoStar complete with v2.1E, and some impressions that it might already be
> matched ("trained" - which I would promptly do all over again upon receipt)
> to the exact scope they come with....
I've never figured out if it was really "fitted", or if the (initial) LX90's
were just so clean/tight/backlash-free that the "default" values were good
enough (there was a (short) period when the default training values worked
 very well for me, too).  One of life's little questions that a readout of
the Training values (like Ratio and Percent) would've answered.
If we could see them, we could also note gradual drift over time with varying
 gear wear patterns and Training regimens.

> Do batteries (cold, that is) actually cause drifting and random slew?

Most assuredly and emphatically YES.

Warm 'em back to room temperature and thigs work great. (within reason)
The "Battery Level" display from the hold-mode-3-seconds Status screens
 gives a hint as you're approaching la-la land.
My ETX90 -began- to operate strangely at 68%
 some random slewing, erratic goto's, etc.
Hard failures (requiring reboots) didn't happen until 64%.
That was at about 34 F... bringing it back indoors and waiting a bit
would raise the level to about 74%, and things would work solidly.
If i purposefully ran it down to 68  to 64% indoors, i'd see similar
symptoms.  Batteries are electrochemical beasties... 
the "half the chemical reaction speed for every 10C lower" pertains.

> I think I could imagine if they were too "hot" as it output,
shy of melting something, up to 40 or 50C shouldn't be a problem.

> but it seems to me that activity would simply die to a halt the weaker
> they got.  Apparently cold does make them erratic, rather than just drop
>  in output. (??).
Most (reasonably inexpensive) digital systems have voltage levels 
-between- "zero" and "one" where operation is defined as "not guaranteed".
For "transistor-to-transistor logic" (which this stuff is, mostly)
anything above 1.8 volts is "high" (or "one"), anything below 0.8v is "low".
In-between is defined as "don't go here!"
Stuff like the I2C bus relies upon resistors tied to the regulated +5v to
 pull the signal lines "high".  The 5v regulator (in the Autostar) has
its own voltage drop (a volt or so, but i never trust them below 8v)
 (i vaguely remember measuring that "64%" was 7.4 volts)
The transitors then pull I2C lines low to impress their data upon the bus.
If the power supply (battery) behind that regulator gets close to the
margin of safety, the outlying pieces of the system (a coil-cord away)
might begin to think they're seeing low-going signals on the bus, and try
to act upon them.
Result: flakey operation, uncommanded slews, incorrect encoder readings 
coming back to the Autostar, etc.etc.

Signals in the noise, as it were.
--dick (equally noisy)

Subject:	Motor Calibration
Sent:	Sunday, February 25, 2001 19:11:47
From:	rabuffy@peoplepc.com (R Arroyo)
Hello, I'm a great fan of your site and find it very helpful. Keep up
the excellent work! I'm writing because I have a question about
calibrating the motors for my ETX125. I've read all three parts to
making a perfect GO TO telescope in the technical tips section, and was
wondering if the drive motors must be engaged before calibrating, or can
the DEC and RA locks be unlocked?

Thank You, 

Rick
Kansas City, MO
Mike here: Since the calibration exercises only the drive motors and not the gear train it probably doesn't matter whether you lock the axes. However, the test MAY expect a load on the gear train and so locking is probably best.

And:

From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
I believe calibration tells the system how far the motors will turn for
a given, fixed, amount of input power.  Hence having the clamps engaged
will make it more accurate.  Conversely, if the load -does- affect the
calibration results, then the -varying- load as your scope assumes
different postures in operation owuld mean that the calibration might be
incorrect (slightly).

Personally, i make sure my ETX90 clamps are engaged for Calibration.
It's only a short up-and-right, so it doesn't require a clear path for
major motion.

(i've -also- tried calibrating whilst pointing at Polaris for a
Clay-special Training sequence.  No obvious difference compared to a
calibration at due north, level barrel.)
And this:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
In motor calibration, I would always calibrate the motors with the load
on them, i.e., in the manner in which they will "feel" when in actual
use; therefore, the motors should be trained with the CLAMPS LOCKED
firmly to engage the drive train and thus move the scope.  You can
"calibrate" them without engaging them, but in my opinion it does not
set them as precisely as they would be with the load.
Thanks -
Clay Sherrod

Subject:	2.1ek in a 495 on an ETX-60AT
Sent:	Sunday, February 25, 2001 00:47:57
From:	star_journey@eudoramail.com (Gary Scott Horne)
Here's what I've found out so far....  

I'm using a 495 handset to push around an ETX-60AT (the later model, the
blue tube).  When I loaded in ver. 2.1i of the firmware (for the 495),
it only recognizes the ETX-70EC (the earlier version, the black tube). 
So it will not work for the AT models at all, since there are no
hardstops in the AT base.  However, when I loaded 2.1ek into the 495, it
now recognizes the ETX-60, the ETX-70, and the LX-90!  Proper alignment
procedures, and pinpoint goto accuracy.  All the functions seem to work,
and I've still got 31k characters left in memory to play with.  This
thing works better than the original handset that came with the ETX-60
(494)!  Definitely worth doing, if you have the 495 and the cable.....

Subject:	Rubber Banding
Sent:	Friday, February 23, 2001 23:45:06
From:	RBSAUER@aol.com
Thanks for the great site.  It keeps getting better and better!

Just thought I'd pass on an observation.

I believe others have said they had not seen this phenomena ("Rubber
Banding") in firmware versions prior to v2.1ek.  However, I was
experiencing it while using the Autostar and v2.0h firmware.  After
installing v2.1ek (using Updater A2.1) in December I still had it.  I
hadn't had time to Calibrate and Train the drives after installing
v2.1ek until Wednesday (2/21).  Interestingly enough, the rubber banding
disappeared after I recalibrated and retrained. Don't know how this fits
into the mix but I thought I'd pass it on.  I only have the one data
point, so I'll let you know if "it" returns the next time the skies
clear.

...After reading Clay Sherrod's Performance Enhancement Series - Part 2,
I see that he may have already discovered this fix.  I highly recommend
reading his very clear, concise and informative instructions on the Tech
Tips page.

Ron Sauer

Subject:	sherrod is correct.
Sent:	Friday, February 23, 2001 20:29:25
From:	dto@home.com (Daniel T. Ostheimer)
I did not have my level tonight, all go to slewing in the 26mm eyepiece.
First time after updating my autostar. Using the reset function cleared
all my problems, yahoooo. Do not forget the alt % function, helps
greatly with the backlash. Read part 2 of sherrods performance
enhancements if nothing else this year.   Thanks again for your great
web sight.

Subject:	asking for test participants
Sent:	Friday, February 23, 2001 10:00:52
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay), rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick), etx@me.com (Mike)
We would like to invite all of our valued ETX, LX-90, and DS Meade
telescope users to participate in a quick and easy test survey regarding
all such telescopes.  It has come to our attention that some models -
but not ALL of them - exhibit an odd pattern of slewing when the
telescope is FIRST TURNED ON WITH NO AUTOSTAR PLUGGED IN the appropriate
port.

Does YOUR AutoStar-controlled telescope move like this when you first
turn it on?  Does it move like a slew when the AutoStar is NOT plugged
up to the telescope?  Tell us about it.  All you have to do is the
following:

1)  Unplug your Autostar from the telescope completely;
2)  Make sure there is a power source to your telescope;
3)  If you have BOTH AC and DC capability, do two separate tests....one in EACH power mode;
4)  Turn on power and look for random slewing (without AutoStar attached);
5)  Carefully monitor:
        a) which axis (or both) slews and in what DIRECTION (up, down,
        left, right- WHEN LOOKING FROM THE BACK OF THE TELESCOPE!);
        b) try to TIME how long the telescope is in motion; write it down each time;
        c) most slews move, then hesitate, then slews again; if yours
        does this write down how long the hesitation is, and if it
        begins slewing again....keep it up but do not let the telescope
        run out of room and cause potential damage;
        d) after testing WITHOUT AUTOTSTAR, turn off power and hook up
        the AutoStar;  turn power back on....any movement now?

Please e-mail your test results to:  sherrodc@ipa.net as soon as
possible to get them included.  We are trying to determine if this odd
situation may have something to do with the widely-report "random
slewing" that is characteristic in several Meade GO TO models.  Thanks
for the time and the test!  We look forward to YOUR results!

Good skies and clear weather.....
Dick Seymour
Clay Sherrod
Mike Weasner

Subject:	495 for ETX-60AT?
Sent:	Wednesday, February 21, 2001 21:05:53
From:	star_journey@eudoramail.com (Gary Scott Horne)
This question has to do with the DS Autostar.  I wondering if Meade will
ever make the 495 autostar support the ETX60/70AT?  It currently will
run the ETX-70EC, but not the AT models.....

Thanks for everything!

Subject:	Fwd: Long Autostar Cable
Sent:	Wednesday, February 21, 2001 10:24:54
From:	Arycanda@aol.com
Please feel free to post the attached e-mail to your ETX site.

Once again, keep up the excellent work that has helped a great number of
us to straighten out the myriad problems with the ETX90-EC.  The
ETX90-EC is a great  little scope, but unfortunately in far too many
cases, not right out-of-the-box!!  Your advice and the correspondence
you have facilitated among hundreds of ETX users, have made an enormous
difference.  It has probably prevented what Sky and Telescope called the
"revolution" the ETX  represents in affordable quality telescopes from
turning into a revolution of another sort--namely a revolution of
disgruntled ETX purchasers against Meade!!

There are some good tech people in the Customer Service Dep't. at Meade
who have been very helpful to me, but more often than not I do not get
very knowledgeable reps when I call Meade.   In fairness to Meade they
have taken my ETX-90EC and Autostar back  for warranty repairs 4 times,
but I still have to rely on your site to provide answers to most of the
operational problems  of the Autostar and scope, as well as  to optimize
the performance of the Autostar/ETX.

                 Regards,

                   Nick Anderson

----------------- Forwarded Message -----------------
To:      Ottocycle

Dear Sir/Ms.

I came across your advice (on Mike Weasner's great ETX internet site) on
using long extension cables betwen Meade's Autostar and ETX and DS
scopes.  I have been using a 75' Cat 5 cable with a  so-called RJ45 180
degree interface coupler between the extension cable and the Autostar
supplied coiled cable, that orients the conductors correctly without
having to splice,  etc.  I use this long cable to enable me to control
the scope with the Autostar from inside the house.  I use the Astrovid
2000 video camera in place of a lens in the ETX scope, which  is 
connected by an Astrovid supplied 75' video cable  to  a high resolution
black and white security monitor, also located in the house.  While I
have had no problems in warm and mild temperatures, I find that below
35-40 degrees the Autostar extension cable will not function well (I use
a 13.5 volt Kendrick DC transformer for power, not batteries).  And of
course the main reason for the longer cable is so that I can use the
ETX90-EC and control it fro m inside the house on cold nights!

When I discussed this with Meade Tech Services, they thought that with
the colder weather, the resistance in the wire increased, causing a
voltage drop, etc.  They suggested using a "heavier duty" cable, but
were not more specific, suggesting that I should be able to get what I
need at  a computer cable speciality store.  I use a Kendrick heating
pad to keep the Autostar warm when it is used outdoors.

Have you had the same problem in cold weather?  Do you know what Meade
means by "heavier duty" cable.  I thought all Cat 3-6 cables were the
same 24 gauge, only the "twisting" being different.  Do they mean a more
insulated, outdoor type version of Cat 5 cable?   I suppose I could bury
the cable in the ground, but that seems abit excessive and impractical
for the set-up I have (see below). Since I am not very knowledgeable
about things electronic,  I would be greatly indebted to you for any
advice you have time to provide.

I will eventually go to remote computer control of the scope which I
gather is not  as limited by cable length and ambient temperature. I am
not ready to do this yet since I am still researching to find the best 
software program that is both compatible with my Mac G3 Powerbook and
has telescope control functions specifically for the Autostar/ETX90-EC. 
Several of the big astronomical software companies (Bisque.com and
Starry Night)  have told me that their Mac compatible software does NOT
consistently function well with Autostar/ETX scopes even though these
companies use the LX200 protocols.  So far, the only two  software
programs I have found that specifiy they are both Mac compatible and
Autostar/ETX control specific, are  SkyChart III
(www.southernstars.com/skychart/home.html) and Observer
(www.procyon-sys.com).

Another reason I want to have both Autostar and computer control of the
ETX-90EC is that I find that at the effectively higher power of video
camera viewing (especially in conjunction with the 2.5x Televue "Barlow"
lens) and hence narrower field of view, the ETX is not in most cases 
capable of finding  the objects in the Go To mode, nor accurate enough
to track them for long without "manual" inputs from the controller (I
get almost 100% accuracy when just using the standard 26mm lens for
direct optical viewing).  As a result, I really  need to be able to
initially control the slewing and tracking  at the scope, using the
viewfinder and an inexpensive Radio Shack 2.5" hand held portable T.V.
as my field monitor (I split the signal coming from the Astrovid camera
control box), afterwhich control could be taken over by a second person
at the computer inside the house  (keeping the object in the field of
view), giving me the time to get into the house and resume control of
the scope.   Right now, I  r un into the house after centering the
object in the field of view, with Autostar in hand and extension cable
trailing behind, hoping to make it in time to continue controlling the
scope before the object leaves the field of view.  Well, you can imagine
how crazy and funny  this can become--and I only tripped once! This, of
course, becomes academic in cold weather, since the  Autostar extension
cable ceases to function properly in any case.

I asked Meade about using a second, "remote" Autostar in a manner
similar to a personal computer (providing the second Autostar with its
own source of power independent of the ETX power) and interfacing it
with the other Autostar  at the scope; however, they said this was not
technically possible because of the internal configuration of the
Autostar computer input circuits.

Regards,

                  Nick Anderson
                  arycanda@aol.com     

Subject:	Re: AutoStar LST time display 
Sent:	Tuesday, February 20, 2001 21:20:10
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
More news on the LST front.  Much more.

(a) Ells' symptoms indicate that his polar axis is not -perfectly-
     aligned. (or is NOT canted just a tiny bit up).
(b) the "LST" display is misnamed.
  It is **not** truly "Local Sidereal Time".
   What it -is- is the RA of the point the Az (or polar) axis hits
    the sky.  It -should- be called "local telescope time", and is
   purely a fiction and a display of the quality of your tripod.

It's at best a measure of how level your base is (if Alt/Az).

If you were running Alt/Az, the LST display would not vary much,
irrespective of how much you fiddled while aligning (within reason),
 since the AZ axle points pretty much straight up.  Thus it reports
the "overhead" RA, which is the Local Sidereal Time.  Dumb luck.

Since he's running Polar, -any- misalignment of the RA axis could
 hit -any- RA, since they all come together at the pole.
The "LST" is merely the RA that the Autostar thinks the ETX RA axis
 is pointed at.

It has **no relationship** with the real Local Sidereal Time!!!

(stop shouting).

So it's not *fixed* in v21ek, my correspondents simply didn't 
happen to see the effect.

As a secondary effect, if you use LX200 commands to "set" the LST 
via a PC program, that overrides some of the ETX's internal alignment
 data,  and therefore corrupts its pointing accuracy.

Isn't that fun?
(you can shout again)

--dick

Subject:	Autostar Set Up, A recap of my system.
Sent:	Tuesday, February 20, 2001 16:23:38
From:	Robert.Lonn@cox.com (Lonn, Robert (CCI-San Diego))
Hello Mike, it has been about  8 months since I dropped you a note, but
I do read the updates weekly. Since I claim to be the "Father" of the
idea dealing with the leveling of the main scope tube, I must clarify a
few things for your readers. It appears that the way one levels the
scope can vary from user to user, so let me tell everyone what I
continue to do when I set up my scope. First I should mention that I am
running 2.1ek. Downloaded it about a month ago and had no problems with
the upload to the Autostar. As for aligning the scope this is what I do!

Face the North leg of the tripod towards Polaris. Rotate the tube CCW
till it stops and then rotate it back around till it is over the control
panel. I think this part is very simple to do and most everyone has
figured this part out. I will also assume that you have trained your
gears already on whatever object is convenient for you. Using Polaris is
a good choice, but I like to do mine during the day so I use the RED
light located on a TV tower about 10 miles away. Now the critical part.
With the Scope tube horizontal and facing north you use your level to
assure your tube is level. Now rotate the scope tube 180 degrees and
check for proper level again. Adjust your tripod legs till your scope
tube "(this is key) " tracks exactly level as you turn the tube a full
360 degrees. Now do your two star alignments selecting 2 stars that are
at least 180 degrees apart. Your GO TO accuracy of the Autostar is now
very precise with 95% of all objects in the FOV. Again the key is to
have your main tube track perfectly level across all 360 degrees of
rotation. I experimented last week with just using the round LEVEL
BUBBLE on the tripod. I then set my scope tube level facing north, but
did not check to verify all 360 degree rotation, but I knew it was off.
FOV accuracy dropped to about 50%. Changed things back using my
preferred system, 95% FOV, dead center!! I hope your readers find this
information useful.

Robert Lonn
San Diego, Ca.

Subject:	Check Your Mount
Sent:	Monday, February 19, 2001 18:09:28
From:	sburleigh@worldnet.att.net (Stephen D. Burleigh)
I bought a Meade ETX-90EC last Christmas for the family.  I found your
site's name at several sites and decided to investigated.  I found your
site useful and informative.  Here in Houston, Texas we have rain or
cloudy days on just about every weekend since Christmas.  We have never
been able to do a two-star alignment and now your scope is giving us an
error message -- Check your mount -- when we attempt to do a two star
alignment.  I have been unable to find an explanation for this error in
my Meade books or on Meade's web page.  Do you are any of your readers
have any ideas about this error message?

I thought that you might find it useful to have a sections on your web
page that documents such errors and the solutions to them.

Thanks,
Stephen D. Burleigh
Mike here: The most common errors in alignment seem to be due to a misunderstanding of the proper HOME position. See the tips on the Autostar Information page from more explanations on the HOME position and alignments. Also, check that the scope model in the Autostar is actually the ETX-90EC. Finally, doing a reset/retrain can help when all else fails. Good tip about the error messages; there is currently no concise listing of them and how to correct for them.

And an update:

Thanks for your quick response.

I called Meade today and was told that only the DS-90EC should give this
message.  He told to check to see if the correct model was enter into
setup. My son and I checked and saw ETX-90EC listed, pushed enter and
low and behold, it worked!!  Now we are set (if we can get a clear
weekend night).

So it appears that the wrong model was selected during setup.

Thanks again for your help!
Stephen D. Burleigjh

Subject:	495 and 2.1Ek
Sent:	Monday, February 19, 2001 17:12:53
From:	bobrose500@comcast.net (Bob Rose)
I got up with Dick, (about the 2 chip in the 495) and updated to 2.1Ek.
I don't know if Dick filled you in on any of this. I started out with
all the classic problems people have with their Autostars. Dick talked
me into drive training which I did at > 300X and very carefully. All
problems disappeared. I have learned great respect for the Autostar. It
is very precision if used properly. Most people don't realize it, but it
must be the motors that cause the problems. I know this because a 495
autostar that has difficulty guiding a DS114EC ( with over 1 deg FOV)
from one planet to another, will guide an LX90 (about 40 min. FOV) with
nearly every object dead center nearly every time. All objects in the
26mm FOV every time. Never a miss with proper pre alignment and drive
training on the LX90. With the DS114 the story is different even with
drive training, but  then again there is a price difference between
them. We need to spend more time investigating the motors and put a
little less blame on the Autostars. Oh! the LX90 did come with a 497
Autostar, I was just playing around with the old 495 trying to find the
differences.

There was speculation that the LX90's had specially matched autostars.
but I believe this comes from that they must be motor trained at the
factory. Mine was perfect right out of the box. The autostar did come in
same box as the OTA, not in the accessory box or the other box . 3 boxes
total. I was as if Meade didn't want them to get separated.

bob rose

Subject:	re: Autostar lockups
Sent:	Monday, February 19, 2001 13:08:44
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	john
From the sounds of your symptoms, it's either bad power, loose
connectors (poor cable-end crimping), or bad Autostar. There have also
been instances of bad ETX bases causing this.

You can almost rule out the ETX base by using the "default"
handcontroller... if that works faultlessly (remembering that it does
not demand as much information -from- the ETX base), then suspect the
Autostar system.

If you have replaced the batteries with new ones, tugged and wiggled all
connector ends (the rj45 connectors -must- "click" into place or they
are -not- fully seated), then the finger of blame swings inexorably
towards the Autostar.

I -wouldn't- blame the firmware, based upon the symptoms. (intermittent
is almost always hardware)(bloody obstinant is firmware).

If you vendor will let you test another Autostar plugged into your ETX,
then you can probably quickly find which lump is at fault. Try swapping
coil cords, too.

good luck
--dick

Subject:	Updater A2.4 and Windows95 ... happy together
Sent:	Monday, February 19, 2001 13:08:43
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
I can very clearly state that Windows 95  and Updater A2.4 are
quite happy together... that's what i run on two PCs.
I -am- using 4.00.950 B,  which is also known as OSR 2.

I -believe- (but have not tested) that there is no reason A2.4
 would not be perfectly happy on the original Windows 95.

It is only Windows 2000 (and perhaps Windows NT) which would
prefer to have the Updater installed in a "higher" directory.

You can also simply (?) run the A2.1 Updater, and use it to place
v21ek into your Autostar.

It performs the download correctly, and i think Mike's used it
on a Mac.

What A2.1 does -not- do correctly is bulk-load Comets, Satellites
and Asteroids... it slightly confuses their numbers.
BUT: unlike A2.3, it does -not- damage the Autostar's internal 
databases.

AVOID A2.3.   Use only A2.1 or A2.4.

The A2.1 kit is available from Mike's site.
After installing it (on the MAc) you have to place the v21ek 
autostar.rom and dbase.rom into the  Updater's "Ephemerides"
subdirectory (folder).
Then the A2.1 Updater will happily send it over.

--dick
And from Hal:
Thanks for the information.  I am wondering if my problem relates to
using Virtual PC on the Macintosh.  I just cant seem to get that
updater to work with my setup.  Previous updaters work fine, but the 2.4
updater goes through all 32 segments and then appears to start over
again and finally just quits returning me to the desktop leaving my
Autostar messed up.  I guess I will just wait for the next updater and
see what happens with it.  I have just about exhausted my options with
Virtual PC.
Mike here: I've not tried the A2.4/AS2.1ek combination from VPC4/Win98. I am still waiting for Keyspan to send me the eval unit of their USB-serial adapter for my G4.

Subject:	Switching scopes
Sent:	Monday, February 19, 2001 09:18:55
From:	DonMcClelland@webtv.net (Donald McClelland)
I just purchased the ETX-125 Friday and am now using the same autostar. 
Initially I just changed the scope reference in the autostar and
retrained but eventually realized that I should probably reset.  I'm
still getting motor fault messages, frequent random slews (straight up)
and one message that said (proc. trap 2).  Meade must be off for the
holiday today, couldn't get through.  My search function doesn't work on
your site but if you know where to look, I'd like to know where to look
to find more info. about switching scopes.  I really don't want to send
this into the Meade black hole (6 week wait).

By the way besides having an incredible site you've got some amazing
people helping you out e.g. Dick Seymour, Clay Sharrod, Jordan Blessing
and a whole slew of others.  My sincere thanks to all of you!!

Incidently the optics on this scope are absolutely awesome!

Don
Mike here: It appears you have done everything (reset/scope model/retrain). One suggestion is to check your location in the Autostar and be certain it still has valid data. If that still doesn't cure the problem and you have the cable, you can download a newer Autostar version into the Autostar; that could help. Unfortunately, the random slews may require a return to Meade (or at least an exchange from the dealer); see the Meade announcement linked from the ETX Home Page.

Subject:	we've got ignition!!
Sent:	Sunday, February 18, 2001 19:32:29
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Well....we can sleep well tonight!  I think (!!??) I have found a couple
of distinct things that are causing:

    1) some "creep after beep" and/or rubber banding
    for scopes that have downloaded 2.1ek up from 2.0 (which is our big
    complaint right now);
    2) slow drift in RA (low sidereal rate);
    3) GO TO accuracy
    4) alignment star accuracy (for intialization/setup);
    5) very slow response in lower ("5" and below) centering/tracking
    settings in azimuth (RA), particularly as being reported in the ETX 125.

I am going over notes tonight (just now clouded me out) and will
summarize (oh, come on...you KNOW it Sherrod - "summarize?") for a
complete overview.

The steps are very simple, and most of it has been attributed to user
carelessness, or misinformation from Meade AutoStar instructions.

The difference is absolutely remarkable!  I waited until dark and for
the skies to clear in anticipation and it was worth it.  All the little
flaws and irritations are gone!  I have one little "buff" scope and I
think everyone else can do the same with their ETX-EC's as well.

Check this out for a teaser:

    1)  Out of 37 objects selected (I used GO TO for objects separated
    by at least 90 degrees from previous object), 31 were locked in the
    field of view near center at 73x of the main scope;
    2)  Of those 31, 12 were dead center;
    3)  The six (6) NOT in FOV were immediately north (about - get this
    number:  22' arc minutes).
    4)  To CENTER an object (using 316x), I selected "2"...that's right
    "2" and it began moving the object immediately upon hitting the
    button; no hesitation;
    5)  Once centered, I let objects (Saturn & Castor) for the last 1.2
    hours out;  Saturn at 317x tracked DEAD CENTER - no deviation nor
    drift, even oscillatory - for at least 37 minutes; it finally
    clouded up;  Castor was tracked a similar length of time with no
    correction necessary;
    6)  Did a GO TO from MIZAR to M42 (to test declination grid
    expansion effects) at 156x;  M42's trapezium was right in the center
    of the field at 156x!

THIS is what the ETX can do....it's what it should do and can! 
Perseverence paid off in this one.  Of course, I have literally rebuilt
my drives from the ground up to tighten and reduce slippage which has
tremendously helped, in both axes (a couple of notes on problems that
solved in tomorrow's report).

Anyway....I'm going to sleep late tomorrow.  This has really got me
ready for the next clear night....and ANYBODY who is careful can turn
their ETX "buff" just like I did....

Clay Sherrod

Subject:	2.1ek Experience
Sent:	Saturday, February 17, 2001 18:50:27
From:	fergdaddy2@home.com (fergdaddy)
As promised, here is my experience with the new 2.1ek software on my
ETX90-EC and 497 Autostar.  You recall that I had a glowing report of my
experiences with version 2.0h.  Tonight was a different experience
altogether.

I set up with my Meade tripod and did my usual careful pointing of the
north leg to North using a magnetic compass.  I then leveled the base of
the scope using a 2-axis carpenters level and then finally, I leveled
the optical tube itself.  I had always found these preliminary steps to
be the key to getting optimum results with the Autostar.

I was observing here just outside Dallas on the first clear night we've
had since all the storms went through.  I did the 2 star alignment using
Sirius and Rigel.  I then slewed to Venus.   The ETX did not place Venus
in the field of the main scope, rather I had to make significant
adjustment on both axes to center Venus.  And then it happened.  The tug
of war began!  I would center Venus, and a second later it was as if a
demon took over and kept returning the scope to the original position of
where the Autostar had beeped.  I was continuously pressing the arrow
buttons to fight the scope back to center.  It was not just "creep after
beep", it was as if the scope downshifted and grabbed a couple of gears
as it persistently fought to return to the original position.  I had
never encountered this phenomenon before on any previous version of the
software.

I returned the scope to home position and performed another alignment. 
Same result.  I fought it for about an hour and gave up in disgust. 
Must say the view of the crescent Venus was spectacular and could see
some rather nice banding on Jupiter.  Fighting with the Autostar
completely took the fun out of it though.

I'll probably give Meade a short time to figure this one out and see if
they come out with a corrected version, otherwise I'm planning to return
to 2.0h. At least that one worked well on my scope.  Shades of Microsoft
in letting the end user debug the final product!

Hope you guys are having better luck!

Keith Ferguson
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Sorry about the bad experience with the new 2.1firmware.  I, too,
tonight was having significant alignment problems, with my alignment
stars not anywhere close to the initial Autostar slew; my GO TO in about
1/2 degree off on every object as well.  I re-aligned (I use Polar)
three times and started from scratch with the same results;  I used
various combinations of stars:  Procyon to Duhbe (which I do not like),
Procyon to Alpheratz, Sirius to Alpheratz and on and on.  My tracking
was excellent once I centered, but the GO TO is acting like yours.  How
about your tracking....any problems??

Hang in there, we'll get this one licked.  Thanks for the update.
Clay Sherrod
And:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Well, i donno...

I was going to mumble things about "needing to train", but i see (from
your note last week) that you -did- train.

You've got the fabled "rubber banding" full strength.

You might try homing in on the Alt/Az Percentages (new entries in the
Setup>Telescope  menu), trying initial values of 35% or 50%.

The other approach is Clay's: overcompensate and let the snap-back drag
you to your -real- goal.

Messy, but it works.

--dick

Subject:	the rubber band effect
Sent:	Saturday, February 17, 2001 06:21:04
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	mcd@silverlink.net
Your experience with the "rubberband" effect is all too familiar and
became quite a frustration with me using high magnification.  My object,
just like yours, always would be forced to return to its ORIGINAL
position after I would work to get it precisely centered.  Autostar just
knew where it wanted it to be, and that's all there was to it!

Several ways to rectify the bad situation:

1)  If you recenter the object several (4 or 5 times) and overcorrect
opposite the direction that AutoStar wants to move it a little more EACH
time, it will completely stop.  This was only occuring in altitude (DEC)
direction.  I found that overcorrecting until the object was OUT of the
opposite field of view also stopped the rubber band, usually on the
second try.  Curiously, you will find....IF you get it to STOP on you
FIRST OBJECT of the evening, every subsequent GO TO from thereafter
usually is FREE of the defect!  Don't know why...really don't care, as
long as it goes away.

2)  My rubber banding ONLY happens in Alt-Azimuth configuration.  My
primary alignment is normally in POLAR, and there is no rubber banding
for whatever reason in that mode.  When you center up your object, it
stays put and tracks precisely.

3)  In both cases, use the 2-star "Easy "Alignment" and be SURE to avoid
any star that AutoStar picks that is in the far north skies; right now
it has a propensity to pick "Duhbe" in Ursa Major as your second star,
which is much to close to the NCP for alignment purposes.  Hit your
scroll keys to select another star, making sure it is as far from your
first star as possible!

4)  I am finding that having one alignment star in the far SOUTH (such
as Procyon or Sirius right now) and the other in the FAR WEST sky (such
as Alpheratz) results in great precision alignment.  I would continue to
scroll through the stars until a good far-separated combo is found. 
HOWEVER, I also note that the more stars you refuse and the further you
go down the list for your second star, the more that AutoStar resets
your "Entered" second star centering after the beep. (this is
particularly the case in Polar mode; does not often happen in Alt-az). 
If this happens, ignore it - do not re-center the second star - and
merely proceed to your first GO TO; it should be good for the night!

I hope this helps, and good luck licking this problem; perhaps the next
version of firmware from Meade will address this problem.  Believe me,
they have heard plenty (from Mike's site users and elsewhere) concerning
the issue!

Good skies!
P. Clay Sherrod

Subject:	version 2.1ek Autostar
Sent:	Saturday, February 17, 2001 06:08:27
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	hallyhb@snowcrest.net
Glad you got your focuser up and running...makes quite a difference,
huh?

I assume from your question about your Autostar that you are loaded with
version 2.0 as comes standard from most factory units at the present
time.  Uploading to the new 2.1ek firmware is highly recommended and
very simple to do (you must have the #505 cable set to interface with
the computer) off the Meade site; just download the new A2.4 Autoloader
program and it contains the 2.1e stuff you need; there are a lot of
advantages to this new version and it seems it has eliminated some of
the random slewing bugs that ran around in the 2.0 version.  However,
some people are reporting "rubber banding", or a tendency for the
telescope to return to where it first takes you after each GO TO, even
after you've centered your objects;  my rubber band was ALWAYS in the
altitude axis (DEC.) and fairly substantial.  This was in Alt-Azimuth
alignment mode; in Polar, which I prefer, this is not a problem for
whatever reason.  Dick Seymour, Mike, Rick and many others have looked
into this phenomenon without much real explanation.  Nonetheless, it is
something you can live with, because the other attributes of 2.1ek much
outweigh this idiosyncracy.

Good luck on downloading and upgrading...let us know what you think!
Clay Sherrod
And:
From:	hallyhb@snowcrest.net (Hal Bonillas)
Thanks for your comments regarding the 2.1ek update for Autostar.  I
have already downloaded this newer version.  Each time the program would
run and upload the new data.  However, when it got to the last segment
of data (32), the program would quit and I would be returned to the
desktop.  The controller needed to be reset to the safe load mode for
each try.  I did this about 5 times with the same result, i.e., the
program quitting on me. I then downloaded the previous version of the
software (2.0i) and had no problem at all.  After all 32 segments were
uploaded the program returned to the starting point and I clicked on
FINISH and everything was as it should be.  My Autostar was initialized
and all was well.  By the way I have dowloaded the 2.1ek software twice
and get the same quitting behavior each time I run the program.  Perhaps
it just does not like Virtual PC and Windows 95 on my Macintosh. 
Anyway, at least my Autostar is working again and I do have software
installed that is later than it came with.  I have not had a chance to
test it yet and the weather looks bad again today.  I guess I will
retrain the drives today and wait for a clear night and see how things
go.

I think I will skip version 2.1ek (as if I had a choice!) and wait for
the next update and see how that one goes.

Thanks for your interest. 
Mike here: Sorry you had a problem loading 2.1ek. I seem to recall some comments about the 2.4 updater requiring Windows98. But since 2.0i is working for you, stick with it (as if you had a choice right now).

Subject:	Macintosh and Autostar Update
Sent:	Thursday, February 15, 2001 07:16:14
From:	hallyhb@snowcrest.net (Hal Bonillas)
I recently purchased a Meade ETX 125 and am very pleased with its
performance, although I did have some problems with the infamous
focusing knob, when installing the electric focus device.

Another problem has surfaced when attempting to update my Autostar
controller.  As a Macintosh user, I cannot update my Autostar without
using Virtual PC and making the modifications to the cable, etc.
(following the instructions found on this site).  Everything went
according to plan except for the fact that the installer program will
not work because I do not have the file msvcirt.dll which is required. 
I am running Windows 95 and according to the Read Me file need to update
my system.  This file is supposed to be available from the Microsoft
site, but I was unable to locate it.  Have you ever tried to get a file
from the Microsoft site?  Anyway, is there anyone who might have this
file, and if so, would it be possible to send it to me?  It would be
greatly appreciated.

I am running Virtual PC 3.0 and Windows 95.

Hopefully, Meade will come out with a version of the software for the
Macintosh soon.
Mike here: I never had this problem with VPC 2/Win95 nor with VPC3/Win98 on my Power Macintosh 8500 with G3 card. Since I only use Windows infrequently I've never bothered trying to update Windows. I'll post your message on the next site update.

And:

Evidently the problem was the result of not using Windows 98, which must
be required by the new updater.  I could not install Windows 98 on my
VPC, because it required an update disk.  However, I also had a copy of
Soft Windows 98, which I installed and it worked fine.  The updater ran
without giving me an error.  Now when I build up my courage I will
update my Autostar!  My Autostar seems to be running fine and I have no
problems with it.  Are there any problems associated with the new update
from Meade, ie., the new 21ek version?  If not, I will go ahead. 
However, I might wait for the next version if there are problem.  Again,
I would like to thank you for your help.  It is much appreciated.

Subject:	Autostar
Sent:	Thursday, February 15, 2001 01:45:07
From:	john.hatton@seacontainers.com (John Hatton)
I have just bought a Meade ETX 125EC and Autostar controller and am
experiencing regular lock up of the Autostar. It freezes and will not
respond to any key pushes, just like a normal computer can crash.

This does not always happen at the same place in the process, sometimes
during setup, sometimes during alignment and sometimes during selection.
Also, I sometimes get spurious messages on the screen, motor failure
(although they still work), meaningless symbols etc.

Is this a known fault and shouild I return it or see if it settles down
??

Thanks,

John hatton
Mike here: You may want to upgrade to the current version either via the download from Meade's web site or through your dealer. It is possible that something has become corrupted in the Autostar and installing the new version will correct that. If you can't upgrade, exchange it through your dealer.

Subject:	ETX-125 w/Autostar
Sent:	Wednesday, February 14, 2001 17:47:01
From:	mcd@silverlink.net (Michael Dosa)
Thanks for the wonderful web site.

After I two star align our ETX125,  and slew to say Jupiter, I see the
planet in the upper right hand corner of the lens. So I center the
planet with the up/down/left/right controls, but the scope corrects and
moves back to the upper right hand corner.

My question is can I update the Autostar with my new corrections so
Jupiter stays in the center of the display?

Thanks

Michael Dosa
mcd@silverlink.net
Mike here: This is the "creep after slew", also known as "rubberbanding" that is getting a lot of discussion on the current Autostar Feedback page. I've seen it and so have others. It has been seen in earlier versions of the Autostar ROM but I never saw it until the current (2.1ek) version. Got a report (below) that training with the OTA at 45 degrees elevation may help.

Subject:	tracking
Sent:	Wednesday, February 14, 2001 15:54:23
From:	saber@dircon.co.uk (Saber Properties Limited)
The sky tonight was great, plaeides were really beautiful, got home in
time to see the crescent of venus for the first time.

I bought the autostar handset today, couldn't align it too well, though
I did'nt expect much whilst it is still on my rabbit hutch. Once the AS
has slewed to an object and it continues to track it, how do you exit
slewing/tracking mode when you want to manually search the sky, without
turning it off and on?

I hope your skies clear up real soon

Sam
Mike here: Just press the arrow keys. No need to exit tracking mode. When you stop slewing, tracking begins again.

And:

but I find that if I want to slew in the opposite direction the scope is
slewing to, it doesn't work very well
Mike here: Well, if you mean does the tracking start up again when you release the slew button, yep, it has to.

And:

From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Sounds like you've got that ETX 125 off to the races!  Glad you have
gotten the Autostar, it really makes for another dimension to your
interest.  A quick align will do for casual observing, but taking your
time to precisely align really pays off when using the AutoStar.

Regarding overriding the A.S. once going.  You are correct; to manually
move the telescope you MUST turn off the scope's power; however, when
you do, if you decide you want to turn in back on to TRACK, you must
re-initialize for the new time, enter all that stuff and then re-align;
only after you align do your tracking motors engage, unlike the standard
hand control;  if you want to go back and forth from manual to tracking,
I would suggest using the standard hand controller for that evening;
that is what I do.

A NOTE:  when using the scope manually and moving by hand, MAKE sure
that both clamps are undone each time you move; you will wear out the
clutch plates if moving while clamps are engaged.

You mentioned that the scope does not want to slew opposite the
direction it HAS been slewing; this is fairly common and usually is a
result of the RA (azimuth) clamp not being securely tightened to engage
the clutch;  My unit (I use in Polar configuration) is reluctant to want
to move WEST for whatever reason, but will if I convince it that it is
supposed to do that!  I'll bet yours has a "westward reluctance" as
well!

Getting a good tripod will assist you more than you can imagine; it
really makes quite a difference in you satisfaction; another improvement
that totally reduces your induced vibrations is the electric focuser so
that your hand does not wiggle the scope when focusing.

Keep in touch...I really believe I hear a ring in your voice that says
you are loving the ETX 125 more and more each day....am I right?

Best skies...
Clay Sherrod
And more from Clay:
Sam - not to dispute your telescoper store, but the mounting of any
telescope is just as important in every way as the telescope itself. 
There is NO such thing as "overkill" when good stable tracking and
vibration-free observing is wanted.  The #887 is the perfect match for
the ETX 125; it may be oversized for the ETX 90, but perfect for the
125mm; being the same tripod for Meade's 8" Cassegrain, it is TOO SMALL
in my opinion for that scope.  So WHAT is it good for, if it doesn't fit
(per your outlet) the ETX 125?  Really, it's a super tripod and very
light weight by all comparisons. Does he have one to show you?  Has he
ever had one and seen it first hand?  If so, he would undoubtedly agree
it is pretty slick for the ETX 125!

Subject:	Meade speaks...
Sent:	Wednesday, February 14, 2001 11:24:13
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
In my "last try" call, I found someone who a) listens and b) seems to
know something.  It turns out the first person I talked to, Ryan, went
back to school and isn't at Meade.  The person I called next is, well,
one more black hole.  But Andrew seems to know what he's doing and how
to handle a "I'm *really* not happy" call.

On the issue of snap-back slewing, the recommendation is to train the
scope *with the OTA elevated 45 degrees*.  My guess is this handles the
weight of the scope and its impact on gear train backlash.  I'll try
this and report on the results.

I also talked at length about the problems with A2.3 in terms of letting
a non-op product out the door and about other 2.1Ek issues. My
impression is that Andrew a) had some interest in sorting things out and
b) understood my concern about Meade support being a black hole.  I have
a direct extension number to call back to.

I raised the issues about the badly out of date material on the web site
and got the impression this is an on-going fight within Meade.

Finally, on the issue of why should I deal with someone who isn't really
going to support me, I got a Name.  The Customer Support manager [will
get] a letter about the issues to date.

Cheers,
   Rick
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Good for you Rick - a while back I posted a summary of the importance of
using a 45 degree angle to train the telescope motors, and yes loading
the gear train is the principal reason.  For this, I have always advised
to TRAIN ON POLARIS, for obvious reasons:

    1)  being point source and bright you can use very high
    magnification;
    2) it does not move appreciably in the short time it takes to do a
    train, even at very high X's;
    3) it is elevated, thereby loading the declination axis.

THAT alone is why I want to re-train now in Polar since my intitial
training (way back) was in Alt-Az.  The LOADING on the telescope is now
entirely different in this orientation and I believe that will have a
torqueing effect on the motor recognition.

Great for you, finding the right names!  Sounds like you hit pay dirt
after all....and you thought it was all for naught....

"atta-boy!"

Clay Sherrod

Subject:	Summing up
Sent:	Tuesday, February 13, 2001 20:39:12
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
There's still some tweaking to be done to stiffening the tripod,
Autostar Updater still has some surprises, Autostar 2.1Ek is still
unreliable and, when it acts up, is basically useless in alt-az mode.
Aiming accuracy still leaves something to be desired (after many nights
of observing since the last time it happened, a body, this time Saturn,
landed in the main EP after a GOTO).  However, based on this evening's
observing, I can get the scope to work passibly well.  The last big
hurdle is to see if the scope still performs over different nights.  I
think it will but I can't be sure.

At the end of, I think, a month of laboring with a host of problems, the
scope works in half its range of options (equitorial but not alt-az) and
Meade has proven to be totally unresponsive (the "last try" call goes
tomorrow).  When I bought the scope, I expected to deal with problems of
finding my way around the stars, understanding limits on seeing, and how
to cope with observing from the suburbs.  Instead the work has been
trying to figure out how to work around software that crashes or moves
the scope inappropriately and how to work around a wobbly mount.  I
still can't recommend to my friends that the ETX is even vaguely "point
and shoot"; how anyone without access to resources and advice could hope
to use the scope is beyond me.  Not a great record.

I am more than grateful for all of the help to get to the point where I
can get back to observing.  I hope my small contributions at least pay
part of the bill.  I'm not dropping off-line but I think I've hit the
wall on contributions (and just maybe one or more addressee above will
find it a relief to have something like a dozen notes a day not clogging
their mail queue).  I will, of course, keep you posted on the tripod
stiffener, any response from Meade to my faxes, and anything else that
seems relevant to the ETX.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	RA drift observations
Sent:	Tuesday, February 13, 2001 20:28:49
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
At some point Dick mentioned what might seem to be drift (i.e.,
defective tracking rate) might well be slop in the drive trains. After
playing around with the scope this afternoon, trying to track the Sun
and later Venus, I'm inclined to go with the "slop in the drive"
explanation.  A few times, while adjusting the view in RA, the object
would continue to move, almost as if inertia were at work.  A brief blip
of opposing RA motion would stop the drift in its tracks. Even though my
scope setup this afternoon was probably off true North by more degrees
than I want to consider, once I acquired the Sun, it stayed put.  I even
went in long enough to get out dinner for the cats and the scope was
still tracking the same two big sun spots I'd selected before going in.

This evening, doing part 1 of Sky Gems, I saw this same "inertial glide"
in RA on several objects but was able to halt it with opposite RA
motion.  Even with the 12mm EP and 2X Barlow ( ~ 200X?), once an object
was centered and the image still, there was little sign of long-term RA
drift.  Now, I didn't stare at eta Cas for 45 minutes so who know what
might happen in that time but in the time it took me to get the view,
read Steve Coe's notes, and generally gawk, I didn't chase an object as
I did in alt-az.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	A2.4 Autoloader
Sent:	Tuesday, February 13, 2001 15:42:16
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Well, after a very frustrating night I was finally able to download
using the A2.4 AutoStar Update.  It went through it three times (once on
one Autostar and twice on the other).

The reason it took so long is two-fold and something that our fellow
users need to be aware of:

1)  although it refers to itself throughout loading and on the main
editing screen as "version A2.4" it is really not a "version" at all. 
After loading and re-initializing your AutoStar you are shocked after an
hour that your Autostar still reads "v2.1E" when you open it up; sure
enough checking under "ETUP/Statistics" it also reads "Version 2.1ek."

Obviously the first thing that crossed my mind is that I had screwed
up....and I started all over again only to find the same reference;  
eventually I figured out that (and Dick S. confirmed) the "version" is
still 2.1, even though the install feature keeps refering to A2.4, as
does the "Read Me" file.  This is VERY problematic and can lead to users
attempting to rectify something that is NOT wrong and thereby rendering
their Autostars useless!

2)  ONLY ASTEROIDS are loaded on the main download, and there is NO
indication of this whatsoever either on the ReadMe nor the download edit
screen, other than the index that shows "Handbox #" vs. "lib #.  Not
only that, but the Tour files must be loaded ONE AT A TIME....they
cannot obey the "Download All to Autostar" command.  It takes some
patience and repeated tries to actually learn the trick on downloading
the comets as well; there is the small box that MUST be checked in the
lower left part of the "comet," and "satellite" edit box which is really
easy to miss; if you do not click it, you will go back and forth
attempting to transfer the data, but it will not take the ephemerides.

Nonetheless, I finally successfully loaded all that I need:  all five
tours, 58 asteroids, 201 satellites, about the same number of comets and
all five of the "off the shelf" tours;  I am going to take Dick's advice
and load my USER objects through the Autostar I think, or perhaps use my
backup Autostar off the PC and then clone off of it to A.S. #1.

As far as I can tell , nothing new....even Lat. & Long. characteristics,
filing order, etc. are all the same between the 2.1 download and the 2.4
download; but since Meade insists that we are going to have to have A2.4
for "future" downloads, it probably is a good move.  All systems seem to
be "go" right now and I am still doing indoor tests (clouds and rain for
about another week!)

Hope to have more soon.

Clay Sherrod

Subject:	downloading bodies multiple times
Sent:	Tuesday, February 13, 2001 15:35:44
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
(warning: i haven't tested it much... but i believe the following is true:)

At worst, you should be able to [finished] the Updater,
then restart it, and the [send ephemerides to autostar] should become
 available.  If it's not, then simply dropping into any body's editing
 window, changing something (epoch date from 2000 to 2000), [apply
 changes] [finish] the edit window... then [send E to A] should become
 pushable.  The Updater libraries may have the old data still in them.
 re-installing the Updater may wipe out existing libraries, but may
 leave the old ones under the names  LIBxxxx.old

You tripped over a "feature" of A2.4...
Unlike all previous Updaters (including the infamous A2.3), this one
does -not- suck the old user bodies from the Autostar automagically.
You have to Push the [get bodies from autostar] button.

If you don't, then when it sends stuff -back- to the Autostar, you'll
end up with the bodies that were in the Updater's libary, and marked
 for sending.

If one of your Autostars has the proper body data in it, you can
connect it to the PC, start the Updater,
 press [get ephemerides from Autostar].
Wait until it finishes. 
 Then click [finished] on the Updater so that  it (the Updater) exits.

Unplug the donor Autostar, plug the empty Autostar onto the PC.
Start the Updater.  
Now tell the Updater [send ephemerides TO autostar].
It -should- send the ones it recently fetched to the 2nd Autostar.

Possible potholes: Before engaging the "send" step, press a body's
 button (Comet, Asteroid, whichever)... drop the list-of-objects
 menu by clicking on the little arrow to the right of (probably)
 < add new >  (or <select item>, i don't remember)
Verify that the ones you want have < handbox > written in front of their
 names.
If you want -all- of them, there's a "[ ] select all"  tick-box.
  You are invited to Tick it.
If you made any changes, click [apply changes], then [finished]
 (in the body-edit window)

If you did -not- have to make any changes, we can probably assume the
 rest of the bodies are happy, too.
If you -did- have to make changes, then we've got to assume you have to
 make similar changes to the other body-types, too.  Do so.
When back to the main window, and after all changes are made,
 press [send ephemerides to autostar]

The above babble quietly omitted one more pothole: Tours.
 In their infinite (divided into one> wisdom, Meade doesn't save the 
  Tours... so when you suck -from- Autostar, tours don't come.

I assume their theory is: you had to -load- them from the PC, so
 they're already there.
But that's not always true (PC might've crashed, after all).

--dick
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Dick thanks for the great summation; you've clarified some major points;
actually I did exactly what you recommended by re-installing the "good
data" from Autostar 2 back into the edit page and subsequently was able
to pull them up in Autostar one.  Also, I did have to load the tours one
at a time; regarding the comets, it is very tricky - have to hold your
mouth just right - to download "all to autostar" when in the 
command; it does not take it; I was able to go back to "unclicking the
 check and then suddenly, it took all of them! Go figger...
thanks for our help.

I'm going to print out this instruction and keep; it says it better than
I have seen (even from YOU!) before...

Clay

Subject:	"0" mode and Polar slewing
Sent:	Tuesday, February 13, 2001 08:07:59
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
I can't recall if this was already talked about or not but...

Dick, I think, mentioned that hitting "0" during satellite tracking
stopped the scope in its tracks (as it were).  While checking Sky Gems
last night, I bopped "0" while the scope was moving... and then it
wasn't.  Thinking this might somehow be tied to AUTO SELECT USER
commands, I tried it with Tonight's Best and... same result.  Both MODE
and "0" stop the scope in transit.

The fix is simple: "Doctor, it hurts when I do that!"  "Don't do that." 
I mention this as one more data point in the Autostar saga.

Cheers,
   Rick
And:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
My problem is just the opposite. (and i thought you duplicated it)
When i tap [zero] during a satellite pass... both main axes -take off-
in runaway condition... until i tap [zero] again.
 Tracking resumes.  Rather mis-aimed.
And -you-, Rick, then noticed (with repeated testing) that if you
did that -four times-, each runaway was slower, until finally it 
didn't run away.  It just stopped.
(i can -live- with stopping.  Runaways are far harder to correct)

> The fix is simple: "Doctor, it hurts when I do that!"  "Don't do
> that."  I mention this as one more data point in the Autostar saga.

But Doctor, i want to -see- the solar panels... focus is handy.

Have you folks seen:
sattracker.hypermart.net/iss.gif  ??

taken with an 8" LX200.  Similar to what i see (saw) in my ETX90.
--dick
And more:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
I still think this "0" phenomenon is plaguing other areas as well, just
as I have been pointing out regarding normal sidereal tracking; I think
there is "leakage" of the command from this key or whatever process it
carries into fundamental command recognition.

Clay
And:
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
Sigh... the "0" mode issue takes on yet another shape.  I put my scope
back to alt-az and then pretended I was doing this evening's ISS pass at
1745 EST.  Pushing "0" didn't stop the scope's motion (as it did during
a tour in polar mode) but neither did it cycle through different rates
as it did in the past.  The slewing rates speeded up regardless of the
focuser speed setting.  Cycling in and out of focuser mode and changing
focuser speeds had no effect.

Go figure...

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	Tonight's Gems
Sent:	Tuesday, February 13, 2001 03:07:50
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Michael Hadley)
To:	etx-90@pinefields.com
Rick,

Just wanted you to know that I went out last night and went through the
entire "Tonight's Gems" tour.  It worked great.  What was even better
was that I got to see some stuff that I haven't looked at in quite a
while. Just after I got past the planets I realized that there were
several DSOs in the tour that were going to be hard (impossible?)to see
with the 90ETX.  Even thought it was remarkably clear here last night,
there was a large amount of light pollution.  I decided to exit the
tour, go to high precision mode and start over.  When I got to the M1
menu item, I thought "is there any chance to see the Crab Nebula with a
3.5" scope with this much light polution?". The last time I looked at M1
several years ago was though my 8" under darker skis.  I had enough
trouble finding it then.  What the heck, I'm in high precision.  After
centering the reference star, I hit GOTO and the scope slewed a blank
spot in the sky...well, maybe there was somthing there.  I ran in and
got my Zoom eyepiece, hoping to darken the background sky with some
magnification, screwed in the nebular filter, and sure enough, I was
able to see the darn thing right in the middle of the eyepiece.  Made my
night.   While I was messing with eyepieces and filters it didn't seem
to drift in RA at all at that particular RA (pointing S.)and Dec (high
Dec). Anyway the tour has a lot of varety and works well.

Mike H.

Subject:	re: autostar satellite tracking
Sent:	Monday, February 12, 2001 21:21:41
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Emory,

> -So it appears that what I was seeing in one of the two auto stars
> was not what was actually there. 
"2 hours off" and "3 hours off" and "11 minutes off" seem to have
been caused by the two Autostars having differing Site data.
He edited them to -match-, and they proceeded to agree about satellites.
Here's my reply to his reply, with another question he asked that
looked worthy of general posting... if you wish)

> the two Autostars forecast different sunrise times.
The differing sunrises scream Longitude error... although a dose of
latitude could cause it, too.

> I still can't explain the two hour difference from Heavens Above
> which I observed after first entering the TLEs
> --But they are OK now.  I don't think its related but does
> H-A only list highly visible passes, whereas the autostar list the
> NEXT one no matter how faint? 
H-A takes into account sunlight and earth's shadow.  Autostar doesn't.
Autostar reports the next pass *over (about) 15 degrees elevation*.
Irrespective of sun/sky/shadow conditions.
So both can report passes that the other ignores.

> One final question--I have entered the sun as an astroid as
> you have written and it worked! But why can't the autumnal equinox
> work as well as the vernal equinox for the epoch?  or does it?

Er, look at the definitions of what is/are the orbital elements.

The Epoch is WHEN, and the RA of ascending node is WHERE the body 
crosses the celestial equator into the Northern hemisphere.
Sure sounds like the Vernal Equinox to me.  By definition.

--dick

Subject:	my download - what has happened? (or what is what?)
Sent:	Monday, February 12, 2001 20:56:45
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Need some quick help;  I just finished uploading the version A2.4 to my
2nd Autostar (or so I thought).  This Autostar had version 2.0 on it
(the one for my ETX 90).  Remember that I have already updated the ETX
125 AutoStar (which I will call A.S. 1) to versions 2.1ek last December
28. (with your help).

Here's the problem; I downloaded the firmware from the Meade site and
all the main pages indicate "A2.4", but when my Autostar #2 (the one I
just loaded with A2.4 supposedly) is turned on it now indicates
(copyright) 00 v2.1E.  It is exactly like Autostar 1 which I did on the
old A.S. update 2.1 from the Meade site on December 28!

I looked at the files under the Autostar program on my C-drive and the
Autostar update icon indicates 2.4; the ROM files indicate 12-13-00 and
2.1 which I understand is correct; the Update Help file indicates A2.4
as does the "read me"; but the MAIN AUTOSTAR FOLDER containing these
files still brings up a date of 12-28-00, the date I installed 2.1 on
the Autostar #1.

The auto-exe. file appears as a "new file" under the Autostar Program
file and is the new version.

What gives?  Should Autostar #2 be reading "A2.4" when it first fires
up?  The main screen in the Autostar Update Utility that comes up from
my "start" page reads Autostar A2.4....does the "A2.1E" on the Autostar
handbox indicate the ROM, or the actual firmware version??

Did I NOT upload A2.4, but only 2.1ek on Autostar #2?  If so, why did
A2.4 NOT transfer??

Please help if I need it; if it is supposed to say "A2.1E" that is
fine....I just expected "A2.4"  The operation appears to be INDENTICAL
TO Autostar #1 (already loaded with 2.1), which I suppose it should be
since the database and ephemeride ROM files have not changed
anyway....PLEASE ADVISE ASAP!

Thanks....Clay
And from our resident Autostar Expert:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
You have done everything correctly. 

If you reread  my initial (and many following) announcements
about Meade's posting of A2.4, you'll see that -all- they "updated"
with A2.4 is the Updater itself.
The FIRMWARE for the Autostar is **exactly** the same v21ek they
released in mid-December.  Bit for bit (including the 1992 internal
date)

So what you did, and what you got, is correct.

FIRMWARE (the stuff in the Autostar) is identified by a leading V: v21ek

UPDATER (the thing that runs in the PC) has a leading A:  A2.4

I could tell that you had a misunderstanding about what was going to
happen, but that particular mote of awareness was never engaged 
when my fingers were near a keyboard.  Sorry 'bout that.

--dick
And from Clay:
Dick -
No need to be sorry; I think you have told me something similar to that
time and time again....it's all a bit confusing!  Anyway, I reloaded a
second time on Autostar 2 and got the same thing, so I figure that
whatever I was doing must be correct.  Just now finished...it's after 1
am here, even too late for an astronomer.  Your help - and encouragement
through Meade Manual frustration is always appreciated and a bright spot
in a murky business to be sure!

I really appreciate your always being available when computer novices
such as myself get bogged down in "firmware" vs. "software" and versions
of all types.  I do the best I can with the poor instructional material
that Meade provides; it really is a pity, as I am a pretty intelligent
guy.....reading their info. makes me think I missed remedial "brain
situps" or something way back in the past.

Anyway, I understand now, but still happy I have done this.  I have been
able (just in the last hour) to go back and (comfortably) play around
with editing the satellites, asteroids and the like and have gotten
quite proficient at it.

Anyway, if the skies ever clear, I'm out to check it out.  By the way,
are you saying that the new 2.4 installer will absolutely not make any
possible improvements on creeping, slewing at random and drifting
problems we have been seeing?  Is that something that must be corrected
in the NEXT version of "firmware?'  (i.e., 2.2 et or whatever they
decide to call it?)

thanks again..about to fall asleep at the keyboard here!
Clay

Subject:	ETX motors
Sent:	Monday, February 12, 2001 15:51:37
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
The ETX uses PWM: (Pulse Width Modulation) to drive its motors. What
that means is that, rather than feathering/adjusting the voltage applied
to the motors to achieve different speeds, it fires (Pulses) -full-
voltage for varing durations (Width). I would -think- it also varies the
time -between- pulses (frequency), but it may not.  It may just control
as a percentage of a fixed overall frequency. Such a technique somewhat
relies upon (or ignores at its peril) the electrical and mechanical
latencies (and momenta) of the components involved. The motor consists
of coils of wire wrapped around a stack of laminated steel plates on a
shaft... the motor's armature. That whole thing -has- mechanical
resonances... both as individual components and as an entire device. 
The varying pulse widths are going to exert varying mechanical ringing
tendencies.  The ratio of the area "under" the ON pulse versus the
emptiness between them will be generating an effective "sine wave" of
differing amplitude. (this is also how triac lamp dimmers work... there
the "latency" is how long it takes for an incandescent filament to heat
up or cool down).

Various chunks of the motor require varying amounts of oomph to start
moving in concert with the pulse stream... hence the varying "notes"
you're hearing... and even though the motor is only being kicked at
fixed frequencies, the various resonances which are induced combine to
give the pure and mixed tones you report. Since the slowest slew speed
is -still- twice sidereal, there are obviously speed ranges that we
cannot reach from the keypad. (i've often wondered: is the -motor- speed
the same for "plus 2x sidereal" and "minus 2x sidereal", or is it really
"plus two", but only "backwards one"?) Or, best of all: is it "plus
two", and -stop- (for "backwards one")

The sound will also differ (even in polar) depending upon the weighting
of the barrel... my "lift the nose" sound (effort) is certainly
different from my "drop the nose" (coasting) sound. [or would be, if it
was here to listen to]

On a related note, -my- focuser -is- perceptably faster/slower thru the
four speed ranges.  Both audibly and count-seconds-from-end-to-end. I
-usually- live in the slowest range, but once in a while kick to top
speed for massive changes (from moon to local bird in tree). I also have
perceptible mirror-shift (in a 90!), so always try to approach my final
focus from "the rear".  Even with the shift and too-fast speed, the
electric focus still does a better job than i can manually.

--dick
And:
SFrom:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Dick - good descriptions of the motor operation; really!  The pulsing
sound is clearly audible and from what you say, there are indeed the
alternate pulsings between the cycles as you suggest.  I also have
wondered about the 2x sidereal question vs tracking.

You know the interesting thing about, at least my own, tracking is that
when I DO NOT get that image drift at high magnification, the ETX 125
tracking is absolutelly superb; it is much like Rick suggests in it
unpredictability. Remember my post where I was able to keep Saturn DEAD
CENTER (with NO vibrations and no oscillatory movement at all) for over
40 minutes??  THEN, I come home from the mountain after such happy and
seemingly rewarding times only to have the SAME SCOPE tracking all over
the place.

Since my last (and worst) episode with this scope, I have not had ONE
really long clear night in which a very accurate polar alignment was
practical;  I am really hoping - after reading the possibilities - that
some minor alignment error (even though I was extremely careful, I WAS
in a hurry) was responsible for my scope's erratic behavior the other
night;  otherwise, it sounds like the second verse to an
all-too-familiar tune being sung by many ETXer's out there right now.

Whatever it is, I can eventually isolate and rectify the situation (if
it is "operator error," by golly I'll have a good talkin' to that
operator!).

Thanks again, Dick....last nights download(s) went smoothly and I am in
the process of looking over the applications;  I edited about 320
objects into Autostar #2 and enjoyed playing around with the editing
tables for cometary ephemides....something I used to do by HAND (with a
little TI-55S calculator!) only 11 years ago, and thought I was in
computational heaven. The Little Wizard living in my TI-55S had to be a
lot smaller guy than the one in my PC, because he could not do anywhere
near what the PC is doing today.

Wish I knew the wizardry better, but I guess we all have our own niches
and I should be satisfied;  just hate looking like an absolute idiot
when it comes to the programming end of things; seems like I always used
"packaged" material when computers finally being infiltrating the
observatories.

Do you think I "got out just in time?"  Maybe that's what retired me:
"Let's put this old mule out to pasteur....he still think's there's a
dad-gummed WIZARD down there in that contraption!."

Thanks!  Clay

Subject:	Autostar
Sent:	Monday, February 12, 2001 09:52:58
From:	ARottal@gmx.de (Arno)
I have installed the 2.0i version with the AU 2.4.
Now I have a problem. After i turn on my etx with the Autostar it shows
me the version and so on and then it shows me only the message  
I tried to press all knobs, but it does nothing.
Now my Autostar can nothing but show me this message.
Can somebody help me ?
Thanks
Arno Rottal
Mike here: Have you tried loading the current version 2.1ek? You might have to go into the SAFE LOAD mode. See "Bad Download Recovery (SAFE LOAD)" on the Autostar Information page.

Subject:	NEED SOME HELP
Sent:	Monday, February 12, 2001 07:29:37
From:	rrgala@med.wayne.edu (Richard R. Gala)
I really enjoy your site.

I have had a EXT125EC with autostar since July 2000 and have been trying
to figure it out since then. It appears to be really quirky! It is my
first introduction to a telescope and I have recently taken up astromony
as a retirement project. I found your site a couple of months ago and it
has been a big help because I thought that all the trouble that I have
been having with the scope and autostar was my fault.  Now I see that
many people who know their stuff also are having trouble with the
system.

I have a few questions:

(1) I have autostar #497, software version 2.0g.  Recently, people on
your site have been talking about 2.3 or 2.4 versions.  I need a history
lesson as to what changes have occurred with the various up grades to
determine whether some of the numerous problems I am having may be
related to the software program I have..  Also where do you learn about
the upgrades besides your site?  And how does on load it on your
Autostar?

(2) I have the #932 45 degree erecting prism on my ETX 125.  Whenever I
tell autostar to find a object that is over head(most times I do not
realize it is overhead) The telescope tilts up until the erecting prism
hits the base of the telescope in trying to find the object.  Do others
have the same problem?  When the scope hits the base(the motors still
seem to be moving), have I damaged something?  Have I now messed up the
alignment?  Since I have not mastered finding objects with the autostar
as of yet, I do not even know whether I am aligning the telescope
properly.  I have talked to the Meade people in Calif and suggested that
they make a video on how to set up and run the EXT. They said that that
would be a great idea but so far nothing has happened.  I feel I am
working in a vacuum in trying to get this beast to work for me.

Dick Gala
Mike here: Current versions of the Autostar software (both the PC side and the Autostar side are available on Meade's web site and older versions are archived on my site. Visit the Autostar Information page for the links. You'll need a serial cable to connect the Autostar and computer to do the download. You can make your own (see the Autostar Information page) or purchase a ready-made one from a Meade dealer. Version 2.0g works so if you can't get any good results, I suspect you need to work on refining the HOME position. It sounds like you're using Alt/Az mounting, which is the simplest mode for the HOME position. But it can still be confusing; see the Autostar Information page for tips on aligning. I doubt you have damaged anything by having the erecting prism strike the base. But if you find you're using it a lot you might want to switch to Polar mounting mode (assuming you have a tripod that can handle that). If an obstruction is hit during the slewing, it will mess up the alignment and you'll have to either SYNC on a known object or realign.

And:

Mike,  Thanks for the comments and help.  I will try some of your
suggestions.  From what I read from your site, it seems that setting the
scope up on polar alignment seems to work better regarding finding
objects with Autostar and tracking.   Dick Gala

Subject:	Getting a buzz on...
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
Seeing this evening was (is?) pretty good but I think my thermometer
delusional.  It claims it's around 30 but it sure feels more like 25 and
dropping.  Anyway, the air calmed down and, for being in the 'burbs, was
fairly transparent.  Call it 8+ for air motion and 7 for transparency. 
The scope was run in equatorial mount and the tripod was set on grass. 
I was out from about 1900 to 2015 EST.  I generally keep the legs short
for maximum support and stiffness.  Typically, the inner, sliding part
is out perhaps 10% of its travel.  I don't have the added clamps sold by
ScopeTronix.

With my LV 12mm EP, I managed to actually raise the first diffraction
ring out of the three brightest stars in Trapezium, the first time I've
seen that.  There was, however, an occasional burst of rhythmic blurring
that smeared the image linearly about the width of the diffraction rings
and a touch more.  I thought it might be the handbox moving around (I
have Velcro patches around the base to park the handbox) but moving it
didn't help.  I shifted to Jupiter and came back but there was no repeat
of the blurring and it didn't reappear for the rest of the evening.

Although snap-back slewing, etc. didn't show up, I did see the problem I
reported earlier with objects drifting almost out of the FOV after being
centered.  I let the drift run and found that in many cases the object
very slowly drifted back in the opposite direction.  Think of periodic
error on steroids for a fair description.

The drift would be death for photo work and is irritating for visual
work but is just the good side of unacceptable.  This problem appeared
regardless of where to scope pointed but didn't occur with all objects
(I used Tonight's Gems to select objects).

Summing up, it appears that setting the tripod on cement, at least in my
case, makes the entire system far too "lively" while dirt provides
enough damping to keep motion and ringing to a tolerable level.  The
uncommanded slewing problems seen in alt-az mode aren't present in polar
mode although there is high amount of possibly periodic drift.

I used "0" focus mode a great deal and didn't see any obvious signs that
it influenced the scope's tracking rate.  Weather permitting, I'll try
the scope in equitorial mount with the Sun (I marked the tripod's
location during this afternoon's observing) and see how things go.

One problem I ran into, independent of the scope, was setting up on
grass.  Trying to swing the tripod around to align on Polaris and keep
the who thing level was a major challenge because the ground is so lumpy
right now.  I thought about setting up on a slab of plywood but then
thought that might bring back some of the "ringing". Suggestions,
anyone?

Cheers,
   Rick (who's going sit in front a fire and try to get warm)
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Rick - sounds like a pretty good night all around.  Is your drifting
after centering in RA?  If so, that is what I am experiencing and you
are right: it is a pain.  Glad the slewing problem (rubber-banding)did
not show up in Polar.

By the way, you DO NOT need the clamps for your tripod legs; simply call
Meade (I know that's bad to hear for you, but they are very cooperative
about this one) and tell them you have the "older tripod" and need the
leg clamp inserts for lock-down; they will send out via mail and you
will have within 4-5 with instructions on how to install in your
existing legs.

Thanks for the update!
Clay
Mike here: Simple to insert. See the end of the "ETX Field Tripod" comments on the Accessories - Tripods page for photos.

Subject:	A2.4 Update
Sent:	Sunday, February 11, 2001 11:32:30
From:	ourbabe2usa@netscape.net
After a long layoff from your sight, I am back! I was having the severe
"random slew" problems back in the 1.3 days. I had sent my scope back to
Meade and after months got it back, uploaded 2.0h and no more random
slew, but it's accuracy never was the same and I couldn't get it right.
Put the scope in the closet for a long while and finally saw that after
a year, there was a new update finally. I loaded A2.3 with the 2.1ek
firmware and it is working better than ever before. I even have
satalites and comets and asteroids again. (knew that was available
before, but couldn't get them on there). In browsing your sight again I
noticed there are some very knowledgable people in "addition" to Dick
Seymour, who was nice enough to help me out in the past, bringing some
valulable information to the table. My question when I noticed the A2.4
update in general terms is: should I bother going through the upload
process when I am very satisified and comfortable with 2.1ek loaded with
A2.3? On my level of using this instrument would the old saying apply,
"if it ain't broke, don't fix it? Without having to sift through the
mounains of information appearing on your sight....I guess I am looking
for the easy way out here. I have noticed the random slew just very
occasionally with the new firmware as I think I you mentioned you had
noticed, but not enough to make my viewing experiences unenjoyable as in
the "old days". Should I bother with it, is there such a difference
between 2.3 and 2.4 that I absolutely need it, or leave it alone? Would
be great to hear back from you on this and as in the past, always good
to hear from Dick. Thanks Mike!

P.S.  Just checked Dick's comments on 2.1 ek firmware right before I
sent this and he may have already answered my question (ain't broke,
don't fix"), but still would like to hear from you.  Thanks!
Mike here: Welcome back to your ETX! You do want to grab A2.4 now (or you can wait; it will be archived onto my site when a new version is released) to replace A2.3 (which had some serious problems). This goes on your computer. The current Autostar version is still 2.1ek, only the updater changed. So, no need to re-update your Autostar.

And:

Thanks Mike and good to hear from you again.  I'll sleep tonight now! 
This scope is working better now than it ever has.  I am getting a lot
of enjoyment out of it again.  Nice to be back.  Take care.

Subject:	Autostar Updates
Sent:	Sunday, February 11, 2001 10:00:58
From:	RollenM@aol.com
Purchase used EXT 125 last year, with v. 1.2g in Mod. 497.  It seems to
work pretty well (finds and tracks objects). However, I'm new to the
game, and have no basis of comparison. Question: Shall I continue with
this old version, or upgrade to a more curent one?  I believe in "don't
fix it if it ain't busted", but wonder if I might be missing some
significant new features.  If upgrade recommended, which of the latest
versions is pretty well debugged?
Thanks,
Rollen Maski
Mike here: Well, there's a lot to be said for not breaking what's working for you. No, you won't be missing much by upgrading to the current version. There are some bug fixes and some new ones introduced. So, if you don't need 30,000 objects in your Autostar *and* you're happy with your current version, then why upgrade? A lot of times we have "upgrade phobia" whether it is our computer operating system, computer applications, Autostar software, or even our telescope model, and even sometimes our car! Each upgrade adds new features but it also adds new risks and potentially new costs. If you're happy, stay happy. But if you want to be on the bleeding edge, take the risks and upgrade. Many times there will be joys associated with it. The current version on Meade's site is Autostar Updater 2.4 and Autostar ROMs 2.1ek.

And a reply:

Thanks for the advice.  Believe I'll continue with old version for now.

Subject:	Re: Polar alignment and observing the ground
Sent:	Sunday, February 11, 2001 08:40:49
From:	freedcha@ix.netcom.com (Charlie Freed)
To:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Clay,

Thank you very much for the tips, and giving me the benefit of the doubt
that I was in a hurry, a opposed to being unable to follow clear
directions. I had tried to follow most of this from the Meade books, but
without success. Your extra tips look to be the key. Of course, since I
have been armed with this new information, the Atlanta night skies have
been cloudy/rainy, with more of the same predicted for the next few
days. One clarifying question. All the instructions refer to setting the
home RA position by turning the scope fully counterclockwise, then
clockwise, but they never say from which perspective. I assume this is
referenced from the eyepiece end, as opposed to looking into the 5" lens
- correct?

One suggestion to others. I have found the addition of motorized focus
to be invaluable. It was very easy to install, and it makes small, slow
focus changes simple, with zero image movement. This is in contrast to
the major earthquakes when I adjusted the focus manually.

Meanwhile, I have spent the cloudy nights reading more of your articles,
and many others in Mike's site, and they are fantastic. I can't wait for
the skies to clear so I can apply your 2/01 notes in the Telescope
Performance section.

Thanks again,

Charlie Freed
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Charlie - great to hear from you!
Sorry about your sorry skies, but we too are experiencing the blight
here in Arkansas.

To clarify on Polar home position:

1) Turn the telescope so that it points NORTH (the objective lens) and
the setting circle should read 90 degrees; at this point your optical
tube is in the same "line" as your two fork arms, "pointing" toward the
north star; your control panel (where AutoStar plugs in) should be
facing WEST for home prior to beginning;

2) This should make your telescope "upside down," with the finder and
eyepiece facing the ground, under the scope;

3) IMPORTANT:  Now, lock the declination clamp firmly and UNLOCK the RA
(azimuth) clamp; rotate the telescope slowly COUNTERCLOCKWISE in RA AXIS
ONLY until it complete comes to a stop and cannot be moved any further
with gentle pushing; this is a "stop," and may take more than one
complete revolution of the scope....don't worry, it eventually WILL
stop!

4)  After stop, reverse the rotation and turn the scope CLOCKWISE only
so far as the telescope will position the EYEPIECE and FINDER on TOP of
the scope and the DEC. clamp knob will be directly OVER the telescope
control panel on its base (west).

5)  YOU ARE READY TO DO "ALIGNMENT/POLAR/EASY/TWO STAR" with your scope.

It's really very straightforward BUT:  make sure to do the
counterclockwise rotation to the stop EVERY TIME you set up or you will
eventually find your are OUT of home position and nothing will go where
it is supposed to?

At that point, you'll be looking at the petunias again!

Good luck...let us know!
Clay Sherrod

Subject:	Autostar
Sent:	Sunday, February 11, 2001 07:53:43
From:	ARottal@gmx.de (Arno)
Hi Again !
What do you think is now the best version of autostar, which supports
german language ?
Where can i download the updater 2.4 ?
When you buy Autostar and its completely new which version do you get as
the basis ?

Today i will chek if my autostar works good enough with the 1.3 version,
otherwise i'll download another version.
Greetings
Arno
Mike here: I don't recall which German language would be best but you can download the current Autostar Updater 2.4 software and the current Autostar 2.1ek software from Meade's Autostar update web page (http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html). When you buy a new Autostar you typically get what it was shipped from Meade with. That means if it has been sitting on the dealer's shelf for a year you get a year-old version. Some dealers may take the time to clone new versions of the software into their stock but I bet that happens infrequently.

And more:

Again and again some questions.
I went out in the garden testing my Autostar with the 1.3c
version........ so.... it did not work. Autostar couldn't point any
object in the eyepiece after i did the easy alignment. I think i'll need
to install  the version which i had when i bought my handbox. I took my
normal handbox, because Autostar did not work and then i observed some
nice winter objects, like M42, M45 and so on. I think i could see the
trapezoid in M42 with the 9.7 mm . ( I will chek this because i'm not
sure.)

Can you update your Autostar as often as you want or will autostar be in
a way damaged ?

If your Autostar does not work the last chance is to clone everything
from a autostarhandbox which works  to yours. Is that possible ?

Thanks for answering thousands questions of me.
Arno
Mike here: Version 1.3 was OK for many people. But, just like your computer, you can upgrade software all you want without fear of damaging the hardware. The only concern needs to be if a power surge comes through while you're connected. If you don't have a surge protector you'll like have more to worry about than frying your Autostar... And yes, cloning is possible and much faster.

Subject:	Tracking Satellites
Sent:	Sunday, February 11, 2001 00:37:17
From:	mcfarlnd@chem.nwu.edu (Adam D. McFarland)
With all of the recent press surrounding the ISS, I thought I would take
a shot at catching it through my ETX90.  After reading the 2/9 message
from Emory Braswell, I thought I would put my Autostar through a test
run - the results were rather discouraging.  I used the Heavens Above
(HA) page and Starry Night Pro (SNP) to monitor the Autostar's accuracy.
Initially, HA and SNP yielded very close predictions of ISS passes.  I
corrected the orbital elements in SNP to match those in HA and the two
yielded the same predictions, as would be expected.  A first attempt
with the Autostar resulted in very poor predictions, so suspecting bad
orbital elements, I replaced them with the same elements I got from HA
(following the instructions given on your Autostar Info -> Satellite
Tracking page).  I then tested the Autostar for three dates 2/12, 2/16,
and 2/20 for Chicago, IL.  The positioning was reasonable, but the times
were poor.  The 2/12 pass was two minutes late (Autostar=17:47,
HA/SNP=17:45).  The 2/16 pass was five minutes late (Autostar=19:42,
HA/SNP=19:37).  The 2/20 pass was ten minutes late (Autostar=18:23,
HA/SNP=18:13).  Considering a pass only lasts a few minutes, those are
pretty big errors.  I've double-checked the orbital elements to make
sure I entered them correctly.  I am running the most current software
version, 2.1ek.  The magnitude of error looks to be increasing linearly
with increasing date.  Is this round-off error or some other flaw in the
Autostar software?  Do users need to update the orbital elements every
night before using their telescopes?  Maybe I'm wrong, but expected the
Autostar to be much more accurate over the course of less than one
month.

Thanks,
Adam McFarland

Adam D. McFarland
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.  USA
mcfarlnd@chem.nwu.edu
Mike here: I'm not sure what's happening with ISS and the Autostar. Since previous satellite tracking reports have been fairly good, I don't know if the ISS predictions are off (they may be off currently due to the Atlantis docking) or if there is some bug in the Autostar code.

Subject:	Autostar
Sent:	Saturday, February 10, 2001 22:53:25
From:	ARottal@gmx.de (Arno)
Hello !
My problem is solved !
I downloaded the update version 2.1 with the rom 1.3c.
Now everything works well.
I think i'll wait until a version without bugs comes out.
I want to say that your ETX page is really well done !
Much usefull information for Etx users !
It helped me a lot. The download section is better than the one from
meade, i think.
Thank you

Subject:	ETX version 2.1 download
Sent:	Saturday, February 10, 2001 19:22:57
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	fergdaddy2@home.com
Good evening, Keith -
I noticed your inquiry on Mike Weasner's ETX site and would like to
offer a few comments regarding software version for your ETX, based on
experience with my ETX 125

First, my scope came equipped with Version 2.0 and I had considerable
problems with "Motor Unit Failure," improper slews, and residual
electronic backlash from the first day I used it (I use my scope almost
exclusively in POLAR mount, as I think it is more accurate, steady and
tracks smoother).

I finally (this is before downloading was a one-step procedure) after 5
attempts downloaded successfully to 2.1ek which help TREMENDOUSLY. 
Nonetheless, there are some inherent problems with it:

    1)  "Rubber banding" - after AutoStar slews GO TO your object and
    you center it perfectly, A.S. wants to (in version 2.1) PUT IT BACK
    where it first told you it was!  You have to re-correct several
    times and finally OVERCORRECT in the opposite direction almost TWICE
    the distance (to compensate for the A.S.) and it finally stops; it
    is very annoying and ONLY happens in Alt-Az mode; I do not see this
    in Polar at all. (the Altitude motors are affected by the rubber
    banding);

    2)  R.A. drifting or azimuth "slipping" occurs that appears the
    motor in azimuth is tracking a bit too slowly for sidereal rate;

    3) A few random slew events occur with no apparent reason.

There is a new version, A2.4, that is just out and it is getting
favorable reviews; I have downloaded onto my PC and will put on a backup
Autostar on Monday and compare both (2.1 and 2.4 firmware download) to
see if there is any difference in the two.  So far, users of 2.4 are not
seeing many of the idiosyncracies that popped up with 2.1.

I still say 2.1 was a tremendous improvement over 2.0; I was not able to
even use my computer many times with my -125 and simply reverted back to
the standard hand box to observe.  Now I can track Saturn at 256x for 40
minutes dead center in Polar mode - no exaggeration!

Hope this helps; I would not hesitate to encourage you to go ahead and
download 2.1ek firmware, but you now must do it using the A2.4 download
on the Meade website.  If you would like to wait until after Monday (the
12th of Feb.) I should have a good and objective comparision, since I
will be running BOTH off the same scope on the same alignment!

Good luck...
Clay Sherrod
Mike here: During some holes in the clouds I was able to show some guests Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn using the ETX-125EC and Autostar 2.1ek. I had done a quick and very imprecise setup with the Autostar (trying to get going before the clouds got thicker). GOTO on the planets was way off (Venus, the worse of all, about 10 degrees in altitude). I figured this was due to my sloppy alignment. Later when new guests arrived I took the time to do a better alignment (using Sirius and Pollux, which were the stars the Autostar selected) and the results were even worse than before when GOTOing the Planets. GOTO M42 was better. Syncing didn't help on the planets. Yes, the date and time were correct (and I assume the location was still correct although I never checked it). I also had the creep after slew ("rubber banding") but not as severe as other times. I also had a slight case of runway slew; a couple of times at speed five while I was attempting to center an object in the finderscope by tapping an arrow key the object would continue slewing even though I wasn't pressing an arrow key. I figured I had a stuck key; moisture level was fairly high. Since I've had much better results with 2.1ek on previous nights (when I took the time to be precise), I have decided that the Autostar was punishing me for my haste.

And:

From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
I've seen this too... too rarely to make it happen thrice, but
it -has- happened... and it was also a -very- moist location.
--dick
And a reply from Keith:
Hi Clay,

Really appreciate you taking the time to respond to my inquiry.  I have
really enjoyed the litle ETX90-EC with the Autostar.  I guess I have
been fortunate, or maybe I just got a "good-one", but I really have not
encountered the problems that a lot of folks seem to have encountered
with the ETX, Autostar combination.  I had been running vr.2.0h very
successfully.  I was truly amazed at it's ability to place deep sky
objects dead center in the main scope, objects you would have never seen
in the spotter scope to have been able to zero in on.  I was tempted to
leave well enough alone, but alas, as we all are, we like to push the
limits.  I went ahead and downloaded the vr 2.4 loader and vr 2.1ek.  I
had no problems in downloading to the Autostar, I did tell it to retain
my library of tours, etc, and they were all properly in place in the
handbox after the download.

I got out and retrained my drives, but it was too cloudy to really make
an attempt at getting an alignment last night here in Dallas.  Maybe
I'll get a chance to get out and try it next weekend.  I figured if
2.1ek  was a bust, I'd just reload 2.0h.  I have not tried using the ETX
in Polar mode, only alt/az.  That has always been pretty simple to set
up and has given good enough results for just casual observing.

I will be curious to read of your comparison.  Thanks for the info!

Keith Ferguson
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Hi Keith -
Glad your A2.4 download went smoothly; from the sounds of it, you will
probably be glad you did; I plan on loading a second Autostar tomorrow
night and running the version 2.1 upload with that of the 2.4 and see
what differences I might incur.  There have been several odd reportings
with the 2.1 firmware upload that may not exist in the 2.4 firmware
which I will really be looking at.

Regarding Alt-Az, if you are getting good results with it "....if it
ain't broke, don't fix it!"  The scopes are made to be operated either
way.  I really like the feel of a fork-mounted telescope in Polar
(having used them for three decades) and the tracking is a bit smooth
for detailed high power work.

It sounds like you've got a good one; glad for you.  I have always said
that the problems exist only when you hear about them; people with no
problems have nothing they really want to complain about!  So, the best
of observing to you....please give us a full report of your experiences
with the A2.4 regarding GO TO, tracking and the like since you had such
success with 2.0...we would be very glad to know about the results.

Clay Sherrod

Subject:	Autostar
Sent:	Saturday, February 10, 2001 09:48:24
From:	ARottal@gmx.de (Arno)
I am from Germany and today i wanted to update my Autostar with the
newest update on the meade website. I used the Updater 2.3 to get the
2.1ek version of autostar. There is now a problem. Autostar does not
display any tourfiles. I can do nothing but turn the etx90ec off.  I
wanted to reinstall the vesion but the update programm does not react
anymore when it tries to find out which tours and which data i have.
That happens when the update prog checks the curent configuration of the
autostar before the real update screen arrives. I can't update autostar.
Can you help me, because i don't know what to do ?
Do you know when a german version comes out for the Autostar ?

Thank You
An Amateur Astronomer

Ps: Please excuse my bad english.
Mike here: Well, you really need to use the NEW Autostar Updater 2.4 instead of the buggy 2.3. Try that. Also, read through last month's (in the Feedback Archives) and this month's Autostar Feedback page for more on 2.3 vs 2.4. Let me know if 2.4 gets you running again. Don't know about a German version.

Subject:	2.1ek Recommendations
Sent:	Saturday, February 10, 2001 09:47:21
From:	fergdaddy2@home.com (fergdaddy)
First off, great site!  I have been impressed by not only your knowledge
of the ETX and Autostar, but also by that of many of your regular
responders. I have a simple question(I think).  Now that version 2.1ek
has been on the street for a few days(weeks) and the new updater is
available(vr. 2.4).  Do you and any of the Expert responders have an
opinion as to whether 2.1ek is a worthwhile upgrade?  I have been using
vr 2.0h with my 497 Autostar and ETX90-EC with great success and have
not really experienced any of the significant problems presented at your
site.  Maybe I've just been lucky.  I know a site such as yours seems to
get a lot of mail with regard to problems when people encounter them,
but how about some comments as to people that are having things go well.
As for 2.1ek, I know many people would say that since I am having good
success with 2.0h, why change?  But the nature of a hobby such as this
is not to accept the status quo and continually push the limits as to
the instruments capability.  Thus my question as to whether the 2.1ek is
a worthwhile undertaking.

Thanks!

Keith Ferguson
Mike here: Other than some oddities (such as the creep after beep, which others had seen in prior versions but I had not until 2.1ek, and limited memory for satellites) 2.1ek does seem like a good version along with the 2.4 Updater. There has been a lot of traffic about these two software packages so if after you've read through them all, you feel comfortable or not, you'll at least be able to make a better decision for your own purposes.

Subject:	autostar satellite tracking
Sent:	Friday, February 9, 2001 19:47:02
From:	brass@uconnvm.uconn.edu (Emory Braswell)
I recently have become interested in satellite tracking-so after down
loading the latest version of the loader (01/30/01) and 2.1EK into both
my autostars (both because sometime back I built a power cord to run the
autostar by battery without being nursemaided by the 125--since Dick
Seymour had warned me about possibly blowing it I bought another)
anyways-- I consulted Heavens above for the ISS and found by looking
into the sky--that they were right! Several days later (cloudy) I
compared what my autostars predicted with what Heavens above predicted
and the autostars were late by ca. 3 hours! and more mind boggling
differed from each other by 11 minutes!  I checked the site lat and long
in both and they were identical.  Then I edited into the autostars the
TLE from the heavens above site and recalculated-- they were now late by
ca. 2 hrs but still differed by 11 minutes. Is the software not
calculating correctly?  Why are the two autostars different by so much?
Can anyone think of something I may be doing wrong?  I am really
interested in comets and astroids and am afraid that if satellites are
wrong,  they may be wrong as well.   Thank you--I really enjoy your site
but try not to pester you too much.  Emory

Subject:	SAO 23655 puzzle
Sent:	Friday, February 9, 2001 10:19:45
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
In proofreading "Tonight's Gems", I replaced the entry, in "Tonite's
Jewels", for eta Perseus with its SAO number.  The database returns a
curious title "Miriam in Becvar" for SAO 23655.  Any guesses as to what
that's all about?

Cheers,
   Rick
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Hi there Rick -
Yep...know exactly what they are talking about.  ETA PER is cataloged in
many ways with many variations of name.  In my Volume 4 of the
Smithsonian Astrophysical Catalog, Epoch 1950 (which by the way has not
been updated for 2000 coordinates, but the star data has been, which is
what Meade is using), the star in question is:

SAO # 023655
Magnitude (visual) - 4.0
Coordinates:  RA 02 4701.935        DEC +55 4122.43
Catalog Version (original tapes - F4, listing 99
DM # 55 714

In Burnham's Celestial Handbook, Vol. 3, Eta Per is listed as
    RA -  02H 47'.0        DEC - +55 degrees 41'

Eta Per is referred to by many names and the traditional naming has
changed from text to text.  The name is from the Arabic and has been
listed most commonly as:

    "MIRIAM,"
    or "MIRAM."

The latter spelling pronounciation is more typical to European science
and history, with the newer (and actually the closest to the original
Arabic origin) being "Miriam," the name applied by the Meade index.

So, WHERE did Meade get the spelling?  Oddly, from a European, a Czech
astronomer,  Anton Becvar who preceeded Wil Tirion by producing a
long-lived "Atlas of the Heavens," the precursor of the Tirion "Atlas
2000."  Becvar entitled the star "Miriam," and this is where Meade
picked it up, and correctly used Becvar as the reference!

As you know, it is a fine triple star, with the primary component being
about magnitude 4.0 and a secondary star of magnitude 8.5 or 9.0, with a
striking contrast of yellow and blue; a third star, 10th magnitude, at
position angle 114 degrees makes a 25-year trip around the two brighter
components.

So see, the Meade programmers did it right.  Their data input is totally
confirmed based on two sources:  The SAO catalog (which never lies) and
Anton Becvar, a "stellar" cartographer of the first class.

Anyway...you asked.  Like stopping your Chevy and asking a stranger for
directions across town and he proceeds to tell you how they built the
car in Detroit, huh?

Hope this helps....at least you know Meade has done their homework and
you have spot-checked them for accuracy!

Glad I could help!

Clay Sherrod
And from Rick:
Thanks for the clarification.  I was looking at "Miram in Becvar" and
trying to figure out what constellation Becvar is.  I did go back to
Burnham in hopes of a hint but came up empty which surprised me as he
does seem to frequently tell how Chevy's are built.  [g]

Cheers,
   Rick
And more:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
For those who weren't around when i posted it,

Some of the info about what's in the Autostar is detailed in:
www.wolfe.net/~workshop/astro/hr.html

which is also reached from Mike's site on his Autostar Info page.

The precursor page:
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_db.html

also holds.

I have -not- culled down to what stars are -in- the Autostar.
Those pages were developed with the pre-v21ek 14,000 object list.

--dick

Subject:	 Autostar back to basics question
Sent:	Friday, February 9, 2001 07:56:16
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
Dick...okay, we are REALLY back to basics on this one.  I have a
question that I am almost ashamed to ask, but really don't know because
it has never come up!  Remember here, I am not a computer wizard, only
an (ex-)astronomer.

Remember that I have both the ETX 90 and 125; I rarely use the -90
anymore and usually only to check out someone's problem or when I have
company over.  Here's the situation which seems to make a LOT of sense
if a person is fortunate enough to have TWO Autostars (you of all people
should especially be sensitive to this one):

BOTH have the Autostar, Version 2.1ek which I (wtih choice words and
your help) loaded a while back. One is for the -90 and the other for the
-125.  A couple of days ago, I came home and found out to my horror that
my Autostar for the ETX 125 had been knocked off the scope by my cat on
his way to the dinner bowl.  It hit the hard marble floor of the
sunroom, but I check it out and ran a "dummy" (that's the user) test and
it checked out fine.  But for a while, my heart sunk like I am sure
yours did.

Okay, here's the deal.  After that - and still wanting to load A2.4 to
use with the ETX 125 but hestitant to until all the voting is in - I
began to ask myself, "Self....why can I not use the ETX 90's AutoStar on
the ETX 125 IF I REINITIALIZE AND TRAIN WITH THE SECOND UNIT installed
on the -125?"

Self did not answer so I am asking you:  Can you interchange AutoStars
if re-training is done to marry the A.S. to whatever telescope motor
function it is hooked to?

Here's why I am asking (as well as a backup in case I ever have a "Dick
Seymour Accident - "DSA" as well call it in the field).

Suppose I want to download A2.4 on Autostar #2 (from the -90) to
experiment with my ETX 125 to see how it operates, test it, look for
bugs, etc.  This would allow me to RETAIN "what works....A2.1" on my
Autostar #1, and yet be able to carefully scrutinize new firmware and
downloads from Meade as they come off the wire.  WITHOUT ANY DANGER OF
LOSING an already working and happy Autostar.

If I use AutoStar back on the ETX 90, then I would merely re-initialze
THAT scope to accept the AutoStar precision.  Right?

Here's why I even am hesitant; when I download from my PC into any
Autostar I am using (normally) a TELESCOPE, probably the ETX 125.  Is
there a MATCHING of scope-to-Autostar that takes place during that
download (PC to A.S.)  that specifies that the telescope interfaced is
the ONLY one that will work well with the download?  Sounds
stupid....but I really do not know, and have never heard of this is
discussions!  Is there ANY interpretation glitches or problems as far as
the encoders and the TELESCOPE electronics are concerned when switching
from one AutoStar/one software version back and forth....?

If so - and YOU'RE the man to ask - then I am going to download A2.4
after I hear back and try it out on my ETX 125.  In essence then, I will
have TWO dedicated AutoStars for the ETX 125 once re-training and
initializing for scope, etc., one with A2.1 and the other with A2.4. 
This way I can always test new stuff as it comes down the pike....

DO YOU SEE ANY PROBLEM WITH THIS?  IT SEEMS ALMOST TOO EASY, like so
many things.  So I thought I would ask our "Team Expert."

Thanks - sorry about sounding really lame on this one.  Logic tells me
one thing, but only D.S. tells me to go ahead when the computer is
involved.
And:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Clay,

"tis a good question... it's even (i think) answered on Meade's
 Web page.

Yes... you can merrily interchange 497 Autostars.

Yes: you have to tell the Autostar three things:
 (1) Setup>Telescope>Model>   and press enter when you see yours.
 (2) Calibrate
 (3) Train

The last is actually kind of optional... primarily for best pointing.

(Four things?  (4) Enjoy )

> Suppose I want to download A2.4 on Autostar #2 (from the -90) to
> experiment with my ETX 125 to see how it operates, test it, look for
> bugs, etc.  This would allow me to RETAIN "what works....A2.1" on my
> Autostar #1, and yet be able to carefully scrutinize new firmware and
> downloads from Meade as they come off the wire.  WITHOUT ANY DANGER OF
> LOSING an already working and happy Autostar.
Yes, i've oft been tempted to buy a second Autostar so i can do 
fast-swap to see if some new problem is me or the Autostar.

> If I use AutoStar back on the ETX 90, then I would merely re-initialze
> THAT scope to accept the AutoStar precision.  Right?
Yep.

> Is there a MATCHING of scope-to-Autostar that takes place during that
> download (PC to A.S.)  that specifies that the telescope interfaced is
> the ONLY one that will work well with the download?
No, in fact it probably woke up after the operation thinking it was
an ETX90. (the default setting)
Since, if i remember correctly, the Ratios are the same for th 90 and
 125, it's not obvious when it's done that, nor does it hurt much.
Slight differences of vertical (Alt) travel limits.

The only model testing done by the Autostar is when a 495 or 494
Autostar checks if it's attached to an ETX90 or 125... and therefore
 -refuses- to operate (with message on display "Wrong Handbox")
The 497 Autostar code does -not- have that test.

Yup, Safe to do.
--dick
And from Clay:
Dick - great! Thanks for the great and very cleaer [could it be any
other way] info.  This will be a super way of verifying and testing new
downloads without the hassle of worrying about bugs and not "settling
in" on ANY new version until it is thoroughly field tested by the ETX
consumer guinea pig squad (C.G.P.S.), for which you are the Drill
Sargeant. 
CLAY

Subject:	 Tracking the sun
Sent:	Thursday, February 8, 2001 22:43:14
From:	kjhawley@msn.com (Frederic Hawley Jr.)
I have 2.1ek loaded on my Autostar and I'm trying to add the SUN into
the user objects.  I've tried to follow the instructions listed on the
Autostar Info page ("Adding the Sun"), but I think things in the
Autostar may have changed since these instructions were written.  For
example I don't see anything that comes up as "epoch", or "semi-major
axis"...  Maybe I'm missing something.  Can someone help me out.  I've
purchased this nice new solar filter and I'd like to see if I can have
my ETX 90EC track the sun.

Thanks in advance,

Jamie  
Mike here: Yes, that old trick won't work with 2.1ek. However, you can still track the Sun by just having the RA tracking start (see the "Quick "Align" with the Autostar on the Autostar Information page) and then manually slewing to the Sun's position (using the shadow technique).

Subject:	 More Fun?
Sent:	Thursday, February 8, 2001 21:35:20
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com ('Dick Seymour')
Dick,

I was just checking out your Lower Case patch on Mike's site.  Pretty
slick. What would really be neat is if you could enter characters via
the numbers (like a phone key pad).  Would you have to completely
rewrite the firmware to do something like that?

Mike H.
And:
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
Heck, no.  All that's needed is to scroll to desired letter and, since
Autostar knows it's collecting a name, bop a key which says make the
current letter lower case if it's upper case or vice versa (which
means adding a number to the letter's value if it's upper case and
subtracting the same value if it's lower - without an ASCII table in
front of me, I'm blanking on the value but I *think* it's 128).  Now,
if Autostar had no concept of how to even display lower case, *then*
I'd worry.
And more:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
weeellll... the original request also specified punctuation.
(and was Spanish, he'd love ene's and cedillas, too... they're in
there somewhere...)
And: "just bop a key" ... one of the problems with Autostar is lack
 thereof... and they're overcommitted (as Rick has been heard to
 mention re: [Mode])
Aaannnd: my patch is applicable to the 494/Starfinders, too.
   No number keys.

I work with what i've got in the time i've got to work with it.
(but can get distracted)

Elegance... i strive for elegance... that one's real dirty.
I'm far prouder of my one- or two-byte patches.
If i were to revisit the all-characters one, 
 i'd make it directionally sensitive:
   If you scroll UP, it's like Meade.
   If you scroll DOWN, it's all characters.
      (or vice versa)

There's a subroutine which handles keypad input ... i haven't looked
 at it from the standpoint of wedging in characters.  I just tweaked
 Meade's roll-over limits and start-of-range values.

My usual response to too-loose requests like that is:
YOU define the keystrokes you'd like/want/accept to make to enter
the characters (which key says "middle letter of the three"? for
 instance)., then i'll tell you if it's reasonably do-able.
(or i do it while trying to figure out the degree of reasonableness).
--dick

Subject:	 Autostar version ??
Sent:	Thursday, February 8, 2001 19:09:25
From:	bobc1111@home.com
Your response concerning "slewing delay" using Autostar, you mention the
current version as 2.1ek.  Where would I look to find out what version I
have now??? I just bought the #497 and have not used it yet.  This would
be the perfect time to return it should it not be the most recent
version.
Thanks
Mike here: When you power on the Autostar you will see (briefly the short version number). To check the full version more leisurely, go to the Statistics menu. Your dealer may or may not have Autostars with the current version pre-installed. But it is available from Meade's web site.

Subject:	 time clock
Sent:	Thursday, February 8, 2001 07:55:35
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	etx-90@pinefields.com (rick etx)
Rick, to clarify...
I have been able to confirm, just as Dick as been suggesting (lordy,
when are we going to start listening to the man!?), that the clock in
AutoStar begin the precise instant to the second that you press "enter"
with the exact time you have entered.  Whatever you put in is what you
get.  I get my time signals via internet on WWV.gov directly into the
computer and I agree that is an excellent idea; for someone like Dick
who tracks satellites and relies on perfect time, you can't do without
it.

What actually happens is that diurnal motion is moving all the objects
to the west while we dilly around confirming alignment stars, centering,
taking a sip of coffee, looking at charts and searching for the
flashlight.  Time is still ticking, but your scope is standing still. 
The sky is "moving."

If you "dilly" for eight minutes, then your scope will be "eight
minutes" off from the real sky above you, even though the AutoStar clock
still reads exactly the precise time eight minutes from when you entered
it.

I'm sticking with Polar mode and I believe some of my experiences are
due not to AutoStar reproduceable errors, but to other extraneous
factors that may never occur again (I may never find out if the weather
doesn't break!).  Remember the "wizard" that I said everyone has down
inside the computer that keeps it working?  Sometimes, just for tricks,
there's a little black magic thrown in.

Wishing for clear skies (we have a tornado watch right now, temperature
is a balmy 73 degrees).....
Clay Sherrod
And from Rick:
Now* I see the issue!  Check me on this, though.  You're saying that an
ETX thinks it's aligned on the sky as of X time when, in fact, you say
it did the alignment on the sky as of X time plus Y where where Y is
determined by the time needed to achieve alignment.  That if two ETX's
are side by side and one ETX points at some point in the sky while
another ETX is started up at the same instant, it will point at a
slightly different place in the sky *even though both ETX's clocks show
precisely the same time.* The difference in pointing between the
reference ETX and test ETX comes from the time to achieve alignment in
the test ETX.  Have I got that right?

While I see the arguement you're making, I'm not so sure that's what
happens.  Again, I think you're crediting Autostar with doing more
advance planning than it does or, in fact needs.  My guess is Autostar
has a set of conversions tied to a specific epoch which yields the
instantaneous alignment star position, using the scope's pointing frame
of reference or (loosely put) alt-az values, adjusted by bias values
(relative to the home position) derived at alignment.  Again, all that's
needed is the knowledge of the instant when ENTER is pressed during
alignment and the scope's position (relative to home).

[A side note: in writing "alt-az", I'm referring to the number of counts
obtained from the encoder wheels and not degrees from due north or from
the horizontal.  Still, I pretty sure the scope actually counts how far
it turned from home in rotation about the vertical and horizontal axis
of the scope itself.  Running the scope in AltAz or Polar mode only
determines how to interpret the counts and how to define where home is
relative to the sky.  As Al Einstein so wisely said, "hey, it's all
relative.")

During alignment, comparison of the expected result (that is, the
object's position as of the database's epoch advanced to the current
time and adjusted to the scope's pointing system of alt-az) and the
actual result, tested against an allowable range of error (from poor
positioning of home), either says yea or nay on the result.  In short,
if this is right, any delays in alignment, whether over a span of one
minute or eight minutes, are immaterial.  I've had alignments fail when
I pointed to the wrong star (I had a problem with Rigel and either beta
or lambda Eridani at one point early on - don't ask how I bobbled a 0
mag star for a 3 or 4 mag star) but I can't recall getting the right
stars but taking too long.  Anyway, I suppose a good test would be to do
two-star alignments on the same stars (this holding RA and dec
constant), taking the same care with accuracy i8n centering the stars,
but delaying hitting ENTER by some specific amount so the two processes
take significantly different amounts of time.  There's no way to hold
the factor of the Earth's motion constant in this test; the best way to
eliminate that would be to do the process with two scopes but then
there'd be issues of variations in drive trains. Clay, let us know how
it comes out.  [grin]
And from Clay:
Yes, Rick, I really believe this time delay happens; if it takes five
minutes for you to actuall start tracking an object after you have
entered your time, your telescope and the time in the Autostar will be
off by five (5) minutes.  I really don't see how it could be any other
way.  The Autostar is keeping perfect time....the Telescope that it is
hooked up to, on the other hand, is totally dependent on MY ability to
get of my duff and get it positioned to the sky!
Thanks - Clay
And from Rick:
Having punted on the integer math point, I'll agree it's certainly
possible that Autostar gets stupid on this one, too.  Heck, it's been
over 15 years since I last did any real-time programming (water
treatment plant control system) but even now I can come up with a
cleaner way of doing things to hold off user delays (e.g., the time to
go from home to finishing the 2nd star).

If we ever get a clear night, I'll try doing deliberately slow setups
and zippy setups to see if it makes a difference in how the scope points
afterwards.

Dick, do you have any feel for this issue and how Autostar handles it?
Does anyone have a hint as to how an LX-200 (Magellan?) handles this
issue?

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 Polar alignment and observing the ground
Sent:	Thursday, February 8, 2001 07:13:53
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	freedcha@ix.netcom.com
You have gone through what all of us do in Polar alignment; I still do
it if I get in a hurry; Mike W. is right:  you did not have the scope
set up in proper Polar "Home Position"  (happens to me all the time when
I get into a rush!)

To get your scope in "Home Postion" for POLAR alignment, you must do the
following:

1)  turn the telescope OTA to read 90 degrees on your declination circle
(assuming that your circle is set correctly; the best way to assure is
to mount your scope in Alt Az first, LEVEL the tube with bubble level,
and then adjust your circle to read "0" degrees; then go back to polar.

2)  your scope should be pointing straight out of the fork arms toward
north (or near Polaris; it does not matter at this time whether the
finder is up or down;

3)  now, unclamp your RA axis (making sure your DEC is firmly clamped)
and ROTATE BY HAND the entire fork arm and OTA COUNTERCLOCKWISE until
you reach a "hard stop."  Do not force.

4)  after reaching this stop, ROTATE the assembly BACK CLOCKWISE until
the eyepiece and finderscope are at the TOP of the telescope!  This is
true Polar Home Position for the ETX in Polar mode.

5)  at this point, using only the tripod and/or fine adjustments on it,
CENTER Polaris in first the finder, then in the main scope at medium to
high power; if you offset slightly (about 1/2 the FOV of your 26mm
eyepiece) TOWARD the "end" star in the "handle" of the little dipper
AWAY from Polaris, you will be even closer to true celestial north.

Hope this gets you looking up instead of down; during some times, if the
"counterclockwise rotation" thing is not done EVERYTIME (you'll be
surprised...you think you know how many turns the telescope has away
from that stop, but I guarantee you, you'll be wrong if you're like me!)
you will end up looking in some strange places for your alignment stars.

Thanks, and good luck!
P. Clay Sherrod
Arkansas Sky Observatory

Subject:	 Re: winding down the 2.1 trail
Sent:	Thursday, February 8, 2001 06:22:44
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
To:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Actually, the instance I cited with M2 is the only time I've seen it
(albeit I can repeat that circumtance on demand).  The tour's actually a
nice change from Tonight's Best.

I'm pleased to hear I'm spotting real problems and not just "operator
headspace" errors.

One of the things I did like about operating in polar mode was the lack
of rubber-banding and short-term wanderings.  If the scope didn't rattle
around and buzz the images on the least excuse, I'd stay with it.

I'm not sure I follow the scope clock issue.  I'd assume it doesn't
start running until after ENTER is pressed.  I get the current TOD from
USNO (via a nice Linux utility that factors in time of propogation so
that the system clock is typically within a few thousandths of second of
UTC) and then start a timer on my watch before going out.  I plug in the
local TOD and wait for the timer to hit that time, then hit ENTER.  The
clock matches system time even after a couple of hours.

The RA drift, which I thought was consistent, came and went during the
course of the day.  Whether this is a function of software problems,
alignment outcomes, or how much Allan Greenspan had for lunch is
anybody's guess.  Hitting "0" or MODE, however, had no discernable
effect.

Good luck with your experiments!

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 Re: concerning the crash on tour
Sent:	Thursday, February 8, 2001 06:22:43
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
To:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
I think the memory issue, in connection with Tonite's Jewels, may well
be the primary culprit.  As I'm finding out, when memory takes a walk,
all manner of things can happen.  [grin]

FWIW, I actually let the scope reach the first two objects and M2 is the
next in sequence; there was no skipping objects in this sistuation.

I've wondered about the horsepower needed to cope with driving the
scope, too.  Keep in mind, however, there are some very nifty tricks
that one can do with integer arithmetic and table lookups that speed up
otherwise nasty trig operations.  I'd be surprised if Meade didn't take
advantage of these tricks.  In general, when skipping though tours, I
haven't seen a lot of signs the scope is processor bound. Actually, one
of the few times I do see delays is currently during two-star
alignments.  Tonight, for example, the scope jumped for Sirius and then
clearly went through a couple potential candidates before settling on
Pollux.  I'd expect that changes of objects rely very little on
information obtained from the last object the scope pointed at.  I
assume the Autostar looks at the current location and TOD, the scope's
current postion, and then figures out where to aim at the next object
without a lot of regard for where it's coming from.

Cheers,
   Rick
And something from Clay:
Rick, good information.  I would tend to agree on all points but I have
a feeling (only Meade knows for sure) that the "tonight's best" tours
are put together in a sequential order that is pre-determined by minimal
movement and positional requirements for each NEXT object; in other
words, the logic of selection places the telescope in a stair-step
fashion, selecting the next most available object for observation.  This
would require (I would think...I'm not into programming, and I still
think that computers have a "wizard" inside doing magic that makes them
do the things they do) the AutoStar to have a sort-of predetermined
pathway that requires in memory a) where it has been (to get to the next
object in sequence); and b) where it is going next (to position the
telescope in the most logical sequential order).  That would be the only
way it could adapt as the seasons and the visible objects during any
particular night would be able to be determined. In other words, it
seems that the AutoStar must be "thinking" each time you activate,
simply because every night is different;  question is, does it do this
"thinking" while it is working for you (i.e., during the entire length
of time you are on the tour) or does it do it BEFOREHAND and then turns
you loose with pre-determined information for the exact night you have
called it up.

If it is the latter.....image the memory required to process and dump so
that you can use it.

Anyway, some random thoughts.  You're really doing a super job isolating
some important issues that we can all "worry" about on cloudy nights. 
Gosh only knows we have enough to worry about when it's clear and we can
use our telescopes!
And more:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Rick...based on what you explained, I agree and I think you are right
about the "one-at-a-time" computational aspects.  Nonetheless, the tours
appear to be the hungryest of all process (curious about satellites,
though....DICK??) as far as available memory required to process.  I
still think this is where some of the problems are arising;  I have
eliminated most specialized tours from my system for that reason (never
really used them too much anyway I guess).

Thanks....good work and good logic!
CLAY
And from Rick:
From:	Autostar Software Review Project (etx-90@pinefields.com)
I just went through a listing of Tonight's Best and the deep sky objects
are, as I thought, sorted in RA.  There's nothing wrong with that and I
found, without too much effort, other third party tours that are also
sorted in RA.  I think the only efficiency here is to save some time in
slewing around in RA and dec.  Tonight's Best, at least, jumps all over
the sky in declination, going from M31 to SMC, for example, or LMC to
M79.  And, of course, there's no guarantee the planets (listed
alphabetically in the TB tour) while be in a "firmware-friendly" order. 
The point here is I don't think anyone's stacking the deck on this tour.

I'll go a step further and guess that Autostar doesn't do any motion
prediction work at all but simply produces motor commands from scratch
for any motion, whether from a keypad or a tour.  As I said before, I'm
betting that Autostar places a lot of faith in tables and speeds up
number-crunching with integer arithmetic.  I looked into speed issues in
connection with real-time graphics display processing where, again, the
only way to get fast results with relatively low horsepower is the route
mentioned above.  The idea is that the computational heavy lifting is
done when the program is compiled, where time isn't a major constraint.

I highly recommend watching the sky through the finderscope as, for
example, you shift from Jupiter to Saturn or, if you're out soon enough,
Venus to Jupiter.  In the faster slew rates, persistance of vision and a
bright object draw lines of motion for the scope in the FOV and you'll
see at least two different lines of motion with markedly different
slopes before the scope slows down to its final positioning adjustment. 
It's an instructive experience.

Needless to say, we won't do this while the Sun is up or a very bright
light is in the way, right?  [g]

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 Re: Polar mode follies
Sent:	Thursday, February 8, 2001 03:41:09
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
I believe there is merit in running the focuser prior to checking for
changes in sidereal rate when using the "0" key for focus.  As I
mentioned, I was not aware of any problem until AFTER focus;  I, too, am
waiting on the next clear night to check out all of this once more; I
will let you know. 

Please advise what you find.

Clay Sherrod
And:
:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
I'll give this a brief try today although we're basically clouded out
today so trying to track the Sun is out.  I'll stick with eta Peg to
hold down the number of variables.

BTW, I did watch Io duck behind Jupiter last night but seeing was not
nice.  The haze cleared out but the air was shuffling around something
fierce.  The scope behaved itself for the most part.

I had a thought about minimizing snap-back slewing and so on; try
pushing a different rate button *after* the uncommanded move starts.
Since this seems to stop commanded slews, maybe it'll stop uncommanded
moves.  Right now the answer is a "definite maybe."  It looks as though
this trick might well be working but I ran out of time (it was come in
for dinner or spend all night outdoors - ah-hem).

Cheers,
   Rick
And more:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
Rick -
A reserved "amen" to all of the above.  There are really a lot of
frustrated people out there, from Autostar glitches to mechanical
puzzles and complete failures.  The more people I talk to, the more I
wonder why on Earth Meade does not address the problems.  I really do
like my scope, and am seriously looking at an additonal LX200 7" Mak,
which so far as I hear are pretty good mechanically and wonderful
optically.

But, you know, I resent doing business withmy hard-earned money with
people who really don't care if I'm happy or not!

On one hand, I will hear from an ETX-er who has had fantastic response
from Meade; on the other hand, there are those who leave the phone more
confused than before.  When I have needed to replace something that was
defective, there have been no questions and their turnaround time is
great.

My biggest problem is their lack of consistency in quality control, and
shipping out expensive (ETX 125's are NOT cheap when you outfit them
correctly) telescopes that are not suitable for paperweights, much less
astronomical accuracy.

I have grown to very much like my scope, but I can't help but imagine
like your friend if I was just getting into astronomy and was forced
into the position of - instead of getting something thrilling and
exciting the first time out - ending up with a telescope that did not
track, the clamps didn't work, the instructions were useless.....and on
and on.  I can honestly see why she took the scope back.

We lose a LOT of potential good new amateur astronomers that
way....that's why I try to help as many people overcome the confusions
and obstacles when first starting out.  There's always a better day if
you just work for it!

Clay
-----Original Message-----
From: Autostar Software Review Project (etx-90@pinefields.com)
>I'm aware of the gear tightening article you're referring to and used
>Jason's comments to do the azimuth tightening I mentioned.
>
>In S&T's review comparing the NexStar5 and ETX-125, they basically
>came down with the idea that if there was a scope with Meade's optics
>and Autostar and NexStar's hardware, life would be pretty good.  Hop
>off to Scopetronix to see Jason's comments on NexStar including some
>pictures of the guts.  The comparison with ETX guts isn't favorable
>for the ETX.
>
>In general, I've hit the point where I'll keep the ETX going mostly
>because a) I really do like it when it's behaving and b) I need to
>keep peace with the finance committee before poping for an 8" scope.
>But overall the ETX has turned out to be a lot more work (i.e., coping
>with s/w problems, slewing issues) than I expected.  Truth is, I have
>the feeling I'm back in the days of maturing PC's and Windows V3.
>Worse, the vendor, Meade, is darn near Sphinx-like with no replies to
>faxes or e-mail.  A friend bought an ETX-90 from a Discovery store,
>used it for a couple of weeks and the took it back.  Now, in all
>fairness, as far as I can tell, this was at least in part an impulse
>purchase and I think some "buyer's remorse" factored into the return.
>Michelle, however, was clearly frustrated with making the scope work
>and now I understand why.
>
>I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on the above.
>
>Cheers,
>   Rick
And:
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
Although I've had some level of interest in astronomy back to even
pre-school days, my active involvement comes from celestial navigation. 
There is a parallel in the celestial nav world with the present
situation, as I see it, with the ETX.

Most sextants go for $400+ to open and can go up from there but Davis
Instruments sells plastic sextants for anywhere from $100 to $200.  As
you can well imagine, wannabe Magellans tend to head for the Dais
sextants.  The Mk3 sextant is basically a slab of plastic with a sight
tube and a mirror, a swinging arm with a mirror on it, and a couple of
pieces of colored plastic to act as filters.  It takes skill to get a
useful sight out of one of these things.  The Mk15, Mk20, and Mk25 are
increasingly better screw-type sextants but the optics are still plastic
and the mirrors are too small.  It's a little easier to get a sight out
of them but again it takes skill to get a useful round of sights.  So
people buy one of these things because they can't see dropping a couple
of week's groceries on a bet, take a course with the Coast Guard
Auxiliary or US Power Squadron, and walk away frustrated because they
don't know beans about how to get a sight and are fighting their
equipment at the same time.  Worse, there are yahoos bragging about how
they routinely get 1 mile accuracy from their fixes.

The ETX-90, at least, is beginning, for me, to get the feel of a Davis
sextant.  When the air is calm and I focus up on a star, the Airy disk
is nice and round and there's one bright round diffraction ring, just
like it calls for in the books.  But too often either I've had to coerce
the star to stand still or seen it buzz back and forth as a motor runs. 
It's the equivalent of coping with a plastic sextant frame and skinny
mirrors.  In the ETX-90 Meade shows, for example, the Whirlpool Galaxy
in a way I've never seen it in my scope and, I suspect, never will. 
It's the equivalent of those claimed 1 mile fixes.

I wouldn't feel so bad if someone would acknowledge the problems and fix
them or show progress in that direction but that doesn't seem to be
happening.  I guess getting AU A2.4 to replace AU A2.3 is as close as it
gets.  It sure doesn't inspire me to drop $3K on an LX-200.

[...and at this point I said, "oh, stop whining and call Meade."  And I
did.  I asked for Ryan, the guy who'd said "send me the faxes on your
problems with AU and Autostar."  The first time I got sent to Investor
Relations (v. bad idea!).  I called Customer Support again, got another
person, asked again if Ryan was available, got "he's not here, and,
after I explained I was following up on the handling of issues in faxes
sent to Ryan, got "give me your name and number, I'll call back".  It's
now two hours later and the phone hasn't rung.  I'll try again tomorrow.
If that doesn't work, Meade gets a nasty-gram about ineffective
customer support, sent to the customer support manager - anyone got a
name? - and cc:ed to the CEO, with copies of the original faxes.  Anyone
remember "I'm mad as hell and not going to take this anymore!" from the
movie Network?]

Cheers,
   Rick
And from Clay:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Rick...the name I have is the name of the guy who started it with his
brother Herb, back in the 1970's when I was a budding astronomer.  John
Diebel is the founder and CEO of Meade and one heck-of a nice guy. 
Getting to him is difficult; he's the kind of guy who would talk to you
if only you could get past he bureaucracy.  I really believe that if he
was not sheilded from all this, he would be very concerned about the way
his customers are shuffled around.

Clay Sherrod
And from Dick:
SFrom:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Rick,

Ohhh... .for personal reasons i *love* your analogy...
I've still got the cheapest of the cheap (long before Davis started
making them) sextants, and (egad) decades ago i thrilled a friend
by giving her one of the middle-grade Davis models (it was on sale
at $66).(i -said- decades).

The el-cheapo sextant is like the ETX and a paper planisphere...
 if you limit the class of questions you -ask- it, it'll perform
  pretty well.   Ditto the middle-model.

Pre-ETX days i'd use the sextant to indicate the general area of the
sky (or horizon) where some Alt/Az-specified item was sought.

One of my earlier suggestions to engine@meade was to add a number
of surveyor's transit functions to the Autostar's programming.
Plus some dynamic ones (if i know that passing ship is 5 miles away,
and i'm panning the ETX to keep it centered, how fast is it going?)
(if a ship of known length passes by the center of view in XX seconds,
 how fast is it going?)(etc.)

> I wouldn't feel so bad if someone would acknowledge the problems and
> fix them or show progress in that direction but that doesn't seem to
> be happening.  I guess getting AU A2.4 to replace AU A2.3 is as close
> as it gets.  It sure doesn't inspire me to drop $3K on an LX-200.
Well, LX200's aren't upgradable (except for chip replacement),
 so you'd be saved the agony of updates.

If we assume Meade has a limited number of programmers working on
the Autostar, and that new products have been, well, perhaps not 
"popping" out the door, but appearing... and that there are obviously
software-intensive products in the queue (the AutoGuider for the LX90),
then they're got little spare time for "simple" repairs.
However, we -have- been receiving the benefits of the LX90's programming
effort in the form of v21ek...  The doubled database, Browse, Spiral,
and, indeed, bug fixes.
If you read the original ads for the LX90 (July 2000?), they speak of
an Autostar with 2 megs of memory.  But they managed to squeeze the
LX90 functions and database into our old 1-meg 497's.  At the cost
of multi-lingual.

MOST of the ETX functionality we use was there in v1.3c
And worked fairly well (altho the planetary pointing wasn't great,
 and comet pointing was downright whacko).
One of the nice things about the Autostar is that we -can- retrograde
the firmware back to any version we found best for our particular needs.
And/or test newer upgrades when they appear.

Meade's trying to cover for loose gears with (relatively) simple 
software... PEC may come later (altho that's pretty simple too... if
you've got an index sensor for your worm).

Clay's complaint (am i getting my attributions correct? please excuse me
 if/when i lose track of the depth of >>> in multi-tiered messages)
about the design/tolerances of the axle cone is far more damning than
software problems.  From the babble of the LX90 group, it sounds like
-that- beast has much tighter mechanicals. 

Meade does apparently have wide variance in their pro-active and post-
active response to problems and issues.  I agree that a few ounces of
prevention could save them -tons- of after-support.  Mike's been 
there and met people... he can give a better impression of how 
dedicated and motivated they are, and how well (or poorly) Meade
Corporate supports (or abandons) them.  I know of few companies who
"air their laundry" at all publicly.

A facet of human nature i've never truly understood is die-hard product 
loyalty engendered by "good customer service response" when the
product itself was, and still is, faulty.  The ETX125's runaway.
The loose cones.  The LX90's plastic dust covers.  The ETX's heat-
sensitive (or just droopy) secondary mirror glue.  The not-stunningly
precise flip-mirror rests in the ETX's. The collapsing tripods.
The ETX90 Right Fork Adapter.  4504s having intermittent Motor Unit
Faults every night. The list is long... 

Bugs in free stuff like the Updater i'm far more forgiving about.
The fact that Meade does devote even -some- resources to improving
the in-the-field product -i- find rewarding.  I'd be happy with the
ETX90/ra (no Autostar) as a scope.  I'm delighted with what i've got.
When i was buying my scope, the person who occupied the salesman for
15 minutes in front of me was -returning- his ETX90 (and getting a
replacement from the dealer, Rivers Camera in New Hampshire) because
it didn't locate and track the planets well enough for him.  Knowing
what i now do about the Autostar at that point, and the mechanicals,
i have always wondered if he returned his second one, as well.

My ETX performs well enough for -my- purposes.  I don't stress it for
-accuracy- (it won my heart its first Autostar evening... smack-dab
centered the Ring Nebula as my first GoTo'd object).  I only ask for 
close-enough-to-find accuracy.  It saves hours of chart-peering and
RA-ring setting, it doesn't require painfully accurate tripod tweaking.
My wife really appreciates Alt/Az's ease of reaching the eyepiece,
resistance to motion whilst focusing, and -any- scope with a sidereal
drive.
I've admitted to it before: i'm a forgiving "snapshot" observer.
Creep-after-beep/slew i can live with... there are lots of workarounds.
 
Like Clay, i appreciate it for its optics and portability. 
It delivers the performance i've asked for, at a price i was willing to
pay.  There are mechanical details of the Nexstar line i'd -like- to
have, but they would've raised the price, quite possibly above my 
ceiling (in which case i'd have become a frequent contributor to the
Orange Tube Lovers C-8 websites).  Autostar foibles and functions i've
investigated with the combined goal of appreciatively seeing how they
did it, and with the slight goal of tweaking what i'd like tweaked.
Frosting on the cake for me, a suspected source of probable misfunction
and failure for others.

have fun, it WILL get better... but may require bunches of patience...
--dick
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Rick - your problems with the ETX are unfortunately common and I was
plagued with even more than you are experiencing when I first received
my ETX 125; that is what led me to Mike's site;  perserverance paid off
and I was ble  - although YOU ARE CORRECT, MEADE SHOULD HAVE - to tweek
the telescope into a fine jewel of an instrument.

I still have problems periodically though, for no particular reason. 
The Autostar continues to "test" me and my patience.  My philosophy in
life is always "....consider the alternative."  Would - for the money I
have invested in my scope and all its accessories - be happy with
another telescope?

When I consider the exceptional optics, the overall beauty and
satisfaction (now that I have it fixed), the GO TO capabity,
portability, ease of setup and alignment....etc., I believe I have the
best bang for my buck.

I WILL go back to what I have been stressing is Meade's greatest
problem: the NOVICE consumer, who does not understand what is happening
with a defective scope and what to do; they are trying to LEARN
ASTRONOMY.....not be a mechanic!  If it were not for Mike's ETX site,
there would be a LOT of people in the dark.

With 32 years of experience with telescopes and astronomy, the ETX was a
totally NEW experience for me, and was very difficult to comprehend from
a technology standpoint.  I can only imagine if someone is getting one
that is defective for their FIRST telescope!

I suppose that is what the bunch of us are around for.....our
willingness to get out there and say "...don't give up.  It CAN be a
great telescope and one you'll be happy with!"

Good skies,
CLAY
-----Original Message-----
From: Autostar Software Review Project (etx-90@pinefields.com)
>See, I kinda think I'm not paying to do beta testing but to have a
>product that may have room for improvement but delivers its basic
>mission of visual observing.  The optics are there, the basic
>ergonimcs are darn close (why didn't someone stop to try the 8x25
>finder with a Barlow on a 90???), and conceptually Autostar is pretty
>good.  But when I can't keep an object centered or even in the FOV of
>the stock EP and don't feel confident that the problem is being
>addressed, I begin to have serious doubts.  Patience is waiting for
>ScopeTronix to come up with an aftermarket 8x50 finder with a diagonal
>that can be used with a Barlow and 12 mm Vixen LV in place on a 90.
>Fun is tweaking the focus in hopes of pulling out the Great Red Spot
>from my suburban front yard, not trying to cope with the blur induced
>by motors shaking the OTA.  Maybe I just bought someone else's
>problems when I bought this used ETX but, to date, I haven't seen a
>lot to make me think reliable observing of whatever's in the FOV is
>just around the corner.
>
>The problem with Tonite's Jewels is annoying but I can see where the
>tour is trying to put 10 pounds of rocks into a 5 pound box.  I can
>even deal with only having a 5 pound box.  Where I have a problem is
>not being sure that whatever I put in the EP's FOV will stay
>reasonably close to where I left it.  Some motion (enough to smear a
>photo) is understandable.  Heck, as long as GOTO puts the target in
>the finder, I'm happy.  I'll gladly take always seeing the target in
>the main EP but I don't demand it.  *But* once I get the object there,
>leaving the FOV for-sure gets a flunking grade and my ETX flunks at
>least once a night and often many times a night.  I don't think I
>dropped $1K for that experience.
>
>Cheers,
>   Rick

Subject:	 upgrading, French and v2.x
Sent:	Wednesday, February 7, 2001 21:24:50
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	sweiller@free.fr
Sylvain,

Version 2.0h is *broken* in non-English usage.  It works in English.

Version 2.0i -specifically- (and only) repairs that fault.

Version 2.0i will operate properly in French.

You must first get an Updater (you have that now) and then get the v2.0i
firmware ZIP (or ROM) files. Place the v2.0i Autostar.rom and dbase.rom
files into the Updater's Ephemerides directory, and you can succesfully
update to v2.0i.

However: the current -English- version is v21ek.  At this time there are
no non-English versions of that upgrade.  (Do you know when the LX90 is
scheduled to be available in France?  I would -hope- that Meade will be
shipping it with a French Autostar.)

Mike's site maintains an archive of all previous versions of Autostar
firmware.  They are at:

http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_archive/downloads.html

good luck
--dick
And:
Thank you for this information.

As problems have been reported with AU 203 what should I do ? Also how
do you place the .rom files in the ephe dir ?

> LX90 is scheduled to be available in France?  I would -hope- that

No answer for the time being.

Regards,

Amicalement,
Sylvain

Subject:	 Polar alignment
Sent:	Thursday, February 8, 2001 06:12:56
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	ggrainger@prang.com
Good morning Garrett -
I saw your post on Mike Weasner's site this morning and realize what you
were going through!  However, I am a bit confused:  you indicated that
the telescope "rotated the RA axis around" after you aligned on Polaris.
What version of Autostar are you using?  I am on 2.1 and the scope does
not rotate unless I do it by hand (or by controls).  Have you upgraded
to A2.4?  If so, then that would explain that.

Now, in proper "Home Postion" for POLAR alignment, you must do the
following:

1)  turn the telescope OTA to read 90 degrees on your declination circle
(assuming that your circle is set correctly; the best way to assure is
to mount your scope in Alt Az first, LEVEL the tube with bubble level,
and then adjust your circle to read "0" degrees; then go back to polar.

2)  your scope should be pointing straight out of the fork arms toward
north (or near Polaris; it does not matter at this time whether the
finder is up or down;

3)  now, unclamp your RA axis (making sure your DEC is firmly clamped)
and ROTATE BY HAND the entire fork arm and OTA COUNTERCLOCKWISE until
you reach a "hard stop."  Do not force.

4)  after reaching this stop, ROTATE the assembly BACK CLOCKWISE until
the eyepiece and finderscope are at the TOP of the telescope!  This is
true Polar Home Position for the ETX in Polar mode.

5)  at this point, using only the tripod and/or fine adjustments on it,
CENTER Polaris in first the finder, then in the main scope at medium to
high power; if you offset slightly (about 1/2 the FOV of your 26mm
eyepiece) TOWARD the "end" star in the "handle" of the little dipper
AWAY from Polaris, you will be even closer to true celestial north.

Please let me known about your Autostar version and about the Autostar
automatically rotating your scope to position the eyepiece and finder
beneath the scope.  I use Polar exclusively and have never, ever had
such a thing happen!

I am really curious!

Thanks, and good luck!
P. Clay Sherrod
Arkansas Sky Observatory
And:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Garrett...

You're doing it *perfectly*... welcome to Polar Observing.

Polaris is *not* at the North Celestial Pole.  It's just a little 
bit towards Cassiopeia.  
Look at where Cassiopeia is these nights...
The telescope will not "lift" its barrel more than 90 degrees,
therefore it has to spin the base (RA axis) so that the -bottom-
(non-eyepiece-side) of the barrel is pointed in the general vicinity
of Cassiopeia... sort upside down at this time of year.

Then it can "drop" the 3-quarters of a degree it needs to to point
-at- Polaris.

Result?  Your eyepiece is pointing kinda groundward 
(be sure to tighten the retaining screw... it's something us
 Alt/Azzers get a little forgetful about... clunk)

-dick
And from Garrett:
When this was happening, I was using the straight ver 2 out of the box.
I did the setup as you described and chose easy alignment. It (the
autostar) first rolled the scope over on its back and told me to align
on polaris. It then chose two other stars.

Well, I have since updated to ek. Last night I went to polar align. Did
the normal setup (aligned almost perfectly to north and again chose
easy). Well, it did not roll over this time - it just went to the two
stars. Way way off. Tried several times and kept getting alignment
failed - check stars. I finally gave up and did the alt/az. With the new
software, this seemed to work perfectly (much better than before).
Beautiful night. Great views of Orion nebula, pleiades (sp) jupiter and
saturn (I'm in Florida). Then the moon came up - with my new polarizing
filter it was great!

I'm still learning and having a ball.

I like the polar alignment with the 125 for several reasons. 1 - It's
quieter and seems to track better, although the alt/az last night was
almost flawless on all objects. 2 - The scope sits in a better position
for me (I'm an old guy) with the chair I use.

I will try again for polar alignment tonight and see what happens.

Thanks for all the help - I read your responses all the time!
And a response from Clay:
Garrett - AhHa!
The problem you have is now an easy one to solve!  First you had version
2.0 and the scope "rolled over on command and played dead."  That was
correct in the old version.  Forget all of that and erase it totally
from your mind.

I want you back on polar where you belong (maybe the reason I like polar
so much is the same reason you do!......getting on in years and a bit
lazy from the experience!).

Anyway, print out and keep my Polar Aligning instructions that you just
received.  They are still good.

Now, keeping in mind that your scope will no longer "roll over" (thank
God), you will be doing that YOURSELF when you turn the OTA to face
Polaris.  Go ahead and do your counterclockwise rotation to the "stop"
while your scope is upside down, and then counterclockwise BACK until
the finder and eyepiece are RIGHTSIDE UP!  You're there.

Now you tweak onto Polaris (or true north using only the tripod - not
the slow motions of the scope itself) and go to "Polar/Easy/2-star" and
have at it....you alignment stars will be where they should be!

In the new version your scope MUST be upright (finder and eyepiece up)
BEFORE entering your EASY ALIGN.  In that position you go to the right
places.

So you had a combination frustration; doing away with 2.0 was great, but
you were still "set in your ways" with an upside down scope.

Good luck....let me know!
P. Clay Sherrod
And from Garrett:
Many thanks to both of you for the invaluable help. Did a setup las
night - it actually worked. Still alot of slop in the drives but one of
these days I'll pull out the rusty screwdriver and attempt the
maintenance.

Mike - you ought to consider making Clay the resident editorialist -
something like 'Ask Clay'......
 
Again, thanks for your help and great site Mike.....
 
Garrett Grainger
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Garrett - Wonderful!  It sure beats looking at the patio, doesn't it?!
Really, though I have done it many more times than I would like to
admit.  Actually the OLDER I get, the MORE I seem to be doing it!  Think
there might be a correlation? [Mike...does that sound familiar per our
discussions!]

Anyway, I'm glad to have helped and it's super you are off and running
with your scope.  I hope you have many, many enjoyable evenings with it!
And...thanks for the kind comments.  Assisting others through their
frustrations makes me feel a lot better about my own!
Keep in touch, Garrett -
Clay Sherrod

Subject:	 Re: Lunar tracking
Sent:	Wednesday, February 7, 2001 20:52:13
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Asked:
>> Does [goto]ing the Moon select Lunar Tracking?
Answer one:
> No.

More Answer:  
Even in Lunar tracking, be aware that the Autostar does -not-
attempt to track the moon's motion in Declination!
It figures it out for the inital [goto], but does NOT try to
chase the moon's north/south motion during a subsequent long-follow.
And i think that can be as much as a half-degree across an overnight
session.

So you've -still- got to stay awake all night... ;-)

--dick
And:
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
Interesting!  From my celestial nav work, reducing Moon sights is
generally the toughest of the lot between selecting a limb to set on the
horizon as well as coping with its fast and complex motion.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 Re: "O" setting and focus/RA tracking rate
Sent:	Wednesday, February 7, 2001 20:49:55
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
Rick,

> I then sent the scope to eta Pegasus by pointing to it on the SkyMap
> display and issuing a "slew to eta Peg" command from the program. 

I've never used SkyMap... 
are you sure it does not send "correcting" commands if it thinks
the telescope has moved from the target?
The v21ek firmware still has the problem of not -really- going into
a "high precision feedback" mode, which the LX200 really does.
So SkyMap may think that the scope is pointing at whole-arcminute
(and RA minutes) positions, and be trying to get the -seconds- to
change just a little... so it pushes, and pushes and pu..and the 
minute finally flips.. and SkyMap thinks that it's gone too far!
So it pulls, and pulls, and pulls... flip.
Repeat.
It might be better to -manually- (with Autostar Keypad) slew somewhere,
and -then- let SkyMap follow along, without allowing it to think it
should exert any control.

> Dick asked which motors were running after the scope began to track
> and, as best I can tell, the RA motor was the only one running.
noting the flurry of trained ears listening to motors, i've only 
heard the Dec motor burp over ever-so-slightly when in Polar.
But burp it does (as a secondary note far different from the RA axis's
more or less steady puttering).

> in RA.  As best I can tell, this is possibly an encoder error as the
> handbox shows a change in RA of about .4' from 22:43.2 to 22:42.8.
Let's see... it's (reportedly, EDN Magazine, (Oct 12, 2000, pg 60)
but the two sets of numbers they gave don't agree)
a 12,320-to-one gear train, a 36-tooth encoder..
OR (reportedly) 4928 pulses per degree . Right.
If we believe the 12k-to-1 number, that's 2.9 arcsec of scope travel
per encoder tick.  If we believe the 4928 number, it's 0.73 arcsec
per encoder tick. (hey, what's  a 3-to-one discrepancy, anyway?)
In either case, that's a LOT less than a 0.4 arcminute dither.
(i've counted the vanes... it is 36 ticks per motor turn)

> This is not a gradual change like the error in declination but a
> dithering between two values with the display tending to stay on the
> erroneous value of 22:42.8 and briefly returning to the correct value
> of 22:43.2.  This effect also has caused shifts in the opposite
> direction and in about the same magnitude.
And I've certainly had fairly long (30 minute?) tracks where the
numbers rarely burble more than 0.2' ... right now i've got my 
Emergency Backup Starfinder purring away (you'd love it Clay, it
-only- does Polar...), and it's (Betelgeuse)holding at 05:55.1,
with rare excursions to .2  
A 0.4' jump is far beyond the system's numerical "jitter".
I'd start suspecting bad (or dusty) encoders, or grease on the 
encoder vanes feathering the "edge" of the vanes to uncertainty.

> And then 2 hours later, the scope froze up while displaying RA/dec.
Now THAT is a (near) specific symptom of the Autostar receiving 
LX200 goto commands faster than it can complete them... there's an
internal stack-overflow possiblity (a Sat Track program can reach
that state in 2 minutes... the precursor symptom is the Clock display
freezing for over a minute... the fix? Press keypad keys... before
a total glaciation.)  Even simply manually changing the slew speed
 (and seeing the display indicate that it heard you) avoids freeze-up.

> In short, there are problems although using the "0" or MODE choice of
> focuser control didn't seem to influence them.
Employing the LX200 feature set can dribble in a number of contributing
(and confusing) factors.

--dick
And:
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
richard seymour writes:
 > > I then sent the scope to eta Pegasus by pointing to it on the SkyMap
 > > display and issuing a "slew to eta Peg" command from the program. 
 > 
 > I've never used SkyMap... 
 > are you sure it does not send "correcting" commands if it thinks
 > the telescope has moved from the target?

Fair question but, insofar as I know, the answer is no.  There is a way
to get the program to track an object under SkyMap's control but if I
move the scope around with Autostar, everything moves as expected. 
Unfortunately, between the relatively slow rate for position indication
updates (I'll pass on trying to figure what's going on there) and the
erratic nature of un-commanded slews, I've never seen snap-back slewing
or creep-after-beep on the screen.

 > The v21ek firmware still has the problem of not -really- going into
 > a "high precision feedback" mode, which the LX200 really does.
 > So SkyMap may think that the scope is pointing at whole-arcminute
 > (and RA minutes) positions, and be trying to get the -seconds- to
 > change just a little... so it pushes, and pushes and pu..and the 
 > minute finally flips.. and SkyMap thinks that it's gone too far!
 > So it pulls, and pulls, and pulls... flip.
 > Repeat.
 > It might be better to -manually- (with Autostar Keypad) slew somewhere,
 > and -then- let SkyMap follow along, without allowing it to think it
 > should exert any control.

I did that most of the time except for the one "point and click" move.

 > > Dick asked which motors were running after the scope began to track
 > > and, as best I can tell, the RA motor was the only one running.
 > noting the flurry of trained ears listening to motors, i've only 
 > heard the Dec motor burp over ever-so-slightly when in Polar.
 > But burp it does (as a secondary note far different from the RA axis's
 > more or less steady puttering).

That could be (I'd be surprised if it didn't happen) but in a mix of
stuffing my ear next to the forks and using a screwdriver as a
stethoscope, I didn't hear much out of the Dec motor.

 > > in RA.  As best I can tell, this is possibly an encoder error as the
 > > handbox shows a change in RA of about .4' from 22:43.2 to 22:42.8.
 > Let's see... it's (reportedly, EDN Magazine, (Oct 12, 2000, pg 60)
 > but the two sets of numbers they gave don't agree)
 > a 12,320-to-one gear train, a 36-tooth encoder..
 > OR (reportedly) 4928 pulses per degree . Right.
 > If we believe the 12k-to-1 number, that's 2.9 arcsec of scope travel
 > per encoder tick.  If we believe the 4928 number, it's 0.73 arcsec
 > per encoder tick. (hey, what's  a 3-to-one discrepancy, anyway?)
 > In either case, that's a LOT less than a 0.4 arcminute dither.
 > (i've counted the vanes... it is 36 ticks per motor turn)
 > 
 > > This is not a gradual change like the error in declination but a
 > > dithering between two values with the display tending to stay on the
 > > erroneous value of 22:42.8 and briefly returning to the correct value
 > > of 22:43.2.  This effect also has caused shifts in the opposite
 > > direction and in about the same magnitude.
 > And I've certainly had fairly long (30 minute?) tracks where the
 > numbers rarely burble more than 0.2' ... right now i've got my 
 > Emergency Backup Starfinder purring away (you'd love it Clay, it
 > -only- does Polar...), and it's (Betelgeuse)holding at 05:55.1,
 > with rare excursions to .2  
 > A 0.4' jump is far beyond the system's numerical "jitter".
 > I'd start suspecting bad (or dusty) encoders, or grease on the 
 > encoder vanes feathering the "edge" of the vanes to uncertainty.

I'll drink to that!  [s]

 > > And then 2 hours later, the scope froze up while displaying RA/dec.
 > Now THAT is a (near) specific symptom of the Autostar receiving 
 > LX200 goto commands faster than it can complete them... there's an
 > internal stack-overflow possiblity (a Sat Track program can reach
 > that state in 2 minutes... the precursor symptom is the Clock display
 > freezing for over a minute... the fix? Press keypad keys... before
 > a total glaciation.)  Even simply manually changing the slew speed
 >  (and seeing the display indicate that it heard you) avoids freeze-up.

Can you expand on that a bit more?  Where are the GOTO commands coming
from at that rate that they don't during ordinary observing or are you
saying moving the scope around continually restarts the stack, stopping
a problem (stack overflow) that never really goes away?

 > > In short, there are problems although using the "0" or MODE choice of
 > > focuser control didn't seem to influence them.
 > Employing the LX200 feature set can dribble in a number of contributing
 > (and confusing) factors.

You've mentioned the LX200 feature set more than once.  How does one
differentiate the commands and what's the other set (or sets), anyway?

Cheers,
   Rick
And now more on the LX200 commands from Dick:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
CC:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
(Clay: i'm keeping you in the CC, but be aware that this is all
  deep computer stuff, with few definitions.. but a "stack" is the
 old pile-of-cafeteria-dishes place a computer puts numbers it wants
  for a short while, but in places it promises to give back when 
   finished... a stack overflow is when it lied about that give-back)

Autostar Software Review Project wrote:

ASRP>>> And then 2 hours later, the scope froze up while displaying
ASRP>>> RA/dec.
me> Now THAT is a (near) specific symptom of the Autostar receiving
me> LX200 goto commands faster than it can complete them... 
me> Even simply manually changing the slew speed (and seeing the
me>  display indicate that it heard you) avoids freeze-up.
 
ASRP> Can you expand on that a bit more?

can i babble on for days? i'll try...

Previous to v21ek, if LX200 commands arrived -during a GoTo slew-,
they'd push the 500-byte old slew data onto the stack, grab about
500 bytes more stack space, and start doing the new Goto...
If -another- LX200 command arrived during -that- (2nd) goto, it'd
 push those 500 bytes down, grab another 500 and...
   continue until death.
Even the dinkiest GoTo takes what, 30 seconds?  In a SatTrack program
doing every-three-second updates to scope motion, the stack would 
grow and grow and grow....  *and*, if a motion ever did complete...
it only cleaned that -last- stack-grab.

But: if you press a keypad -key- during a GoTo slew, -first- it
aborts the motion and clears the stack allocation.  Then it performs
whatever you keyed.  No stack death.  So leaning on a key (such as
a slew-speed number) would eventually get noticed, the stack would
get (somewhat) reset, and the speed request would show on the Display.

(you could watch this as it happened: set the Autostar to displaying
local civil time.  Start tracking a satellite via rs232 commands.
Within a few moments the clock would freeze.  
If it -resumed- before a minute (on your watch) passed, the system
would survive.  IF more than a minute passed... red-screen of death.
If you did it before such a death, leaning on a Slew Speed key would
 eventually restart the clock. Maybe.

> Where are the GOTO commands coming from at that rate that they don't
> during ordinary observing or are you saying moving the scope around 
> continually restarts the stack, stopping a problem (stack overflow)
> that never really goes away?
It doesn't restart the stack, the stack space is simply large enough
to accomdate a few dozen lack-of-returns.

V21ek is -much better- in this area.  If you send a :Q# (Quit) command,
They perform the same abort-and-clear that a keystroke induces.
However, there are lots of LX200 commands which -don't- affect motion
(such as "where am i pointing -now-?"), which you'd like to perform,
and yet which -shouldn't- clear a slew.  And Meade is trying to walk
the fine line between that class of commands and ones which require
clearing.  And there are still obviously some timing holes in there.
If 3rd party software -now- sends a :Q# before sending the next set
of coordinates and :MS#, then the stack overflow probably won't happen.
(EuroSat does that... and i don't see overflows.  SatTrack doesn't.
Nor does TheSky... and overflows are still reported).

>> Employing the LX200 feature set can dribble in a number of 
>> contributing (and confusing) factors.
> You've mentioned the LX200 feature set more than once.  How does one
> differentiate the commands and what's the other set (or sets), anyway?

I use the term "LX200 command set" to serve as the antonym for "keypad".

By it i mean the subset of LX200 commands which the Autostar accepts
and understands from its rs232 port.
Many of the "ETX-capable" programs are -really- LX200 programs, which
happen to (mostly) work with the Autostar, too.  TheSky (pre-v21ek)
had four bugs due to the Autostar not correctly performing commands
which the Meade programs must not use. (Set Site Latitude, for example)
Some of those LX200 programs -rely- on features the Autostar doesn't 
have ("Guide" speed; correctly formatted High Precision readback).

For completeness:
the Autostar understands three command input mechanisms.
(1) Keypad.
(2) many LX200 commands coming via the rs232 port  ( :mumble# syntax)
      List of valid commands on Mike's site under Autostar Items.
(3) the Download/Clone command set, also via rs232.  The display will
    announce "Downloading, do not turn off..." when in this mode.

When i say [goto] i mean that keypad key.
When i say :MS#  i mean that particular LX200 command.
When i say GoTo (no brackets) i mean a GoTo started by any means.
Download commands i'd describe verbally.

--dick

Subject:	 Autostar time
Sent:	Wednesday, February 7, 2001 20:47:48
From:	broadfoot@home.com (Alexander L. Broadfoot)
Mike, thanks for the great site and all the hard work!  I check in
almost daily to see what new information is available.  In response to
Clay Sherrod's February 5 e-mail concerning the Autostar clock and his
possible pointing error resulting from a delay between setting the time
and aligning the scope, I ran a few tests tonight (albeit indoors due to
the overcast in Phoenix tonight) using my ETX-90 and #497 Autostar to
determine when the Autostar clock begins keeping time.  As Dick Seymour
has previously indicated, the Autostar clock starts running the moment
you push "Enter" after inputting the time.  As you know, the Autostar
will let you adjust the time from the Settings:Time menu during an
observing session after the time has been set.  In the first test, I
initialized the Autostar, left the Autostar on the "Align:Easy" screen
for about 10 minutes, and then performed an easy align.  I then checked
the clock setting on the "Setup:Time" menu and, sure enough, the same
amount of time (about 10 minutes) had elapsed on the clock during the
"idle" period between setting the clock and aligning the scope.  I then
restarted the Autostar and, after entering the time, left the "Daylight
Savings" menu on the screen for about 15 minutes.  When I entered "No,"
I again checked the system time under the "Setup:Time" menu and
confirmed that the clock had continued to run during the 15 minute
period prior to entering the "No."  As a practical matter, I can't see
it working any other way.  Otherwise, one would expect the manual to
direct that any alignment would have to be performed immediately to
avoid a loss in pointing accuracy.

I think that the real culprit behind Clay's pointing problem is the
2.1ek firmware.  I only recently upgraded to 2.1ek (from 1.3) and I have
been regretting it ever since.  Sometimes alignment is ok, sometimes it
is way off.  Even when aligned "successfully," the pointing accuracy of
2.1ek is terrible.  To make matters worse, I suffer from a terrible case
of "snap back" slewing almost all the time, so even when I do locate an
object, I have to fight the scope to put that object in the center of
the field of view.  I recently found that the "snap back" slewing can be
overcome for a particular object if I overshoot the object by the same
distance as the scope missed the target.  The scope only seems to want
to reverse course so much.  Hopefully, Meade (or, better yet, Dick!) is
working on the problems in 2.1ek and will clean it up soon so we can all
get back to doing what we like best...observing!

Clear skies, Sandy Broadfoot

Subject:	 EXT 125 Alignment?
Sent:	Wednesday, February 7, 2001 18:32:08
From:	freedcha@ix.netcom.com (Charlie Freed)
I recently discovered your site & it is great. I purchased my EXT 125
after Christmas, and I am generally pleased with the optics. However, I
have worked hard to avoid having to ask what may be a stupid question,
but I must admit that I have flunked the alignment intelligence test. I
have polar aligned my EXT, but when I start the star alignment, it
always points to the earth, approximately 12 hours off RA. I am
obviously missing something very basic. I have re-read the instructions
far too many times, reversed the tripod mounting, considered
counterclockwise as viewed from both ends of the telescope, all with the
same result. Can you shed any light on what I am missing?

Thanks,

Charlie Freed
Mike here: Glad you like the site. I suspect you likely didn't get the ETX into the proper Polar HOME position before starting the alignment process. Check the tips on the Autostar Information page. Let me know if they help or not.

Subject:	 concerning the crash on tour
Sent:	Wednesday, February 7, 2001 17:18:43
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	etx-90@pinefields.com (rick etx)
Rick, just a quick thought regarding you problems with the "M-2" tour. 
It is my personal beliefs that the shut down of Autostar and many of the
idiosyncracies related to the tours (like the lunar eclipse situation
that was discussed some weeks back) are due primarily to memory
overload.

When you combine some curious factors of observer's location, time of
night, amount of telescope motion required, computation of spherical
transition between objects and the number of objects, I think there are
many times (and, indeed could perhaps be related to the actual date and
time of day that a tour is requested!) when Autostar is unable to
maintain commands to the telescope and simultaneously compute objects;
this would be the case if:  1) computed objects, i.e., planets, eclipse;
2) rushing through the tour; 3)  tough calculations involving long
spherical conversions., etc. AND (as I have heard when the Autostar
freezes) when a certain object is BYPASSED in the tour (more computation
necessary). (Dick.....help!)

Anyway, some random thoughts on some of the more common problems....
What do you think about 2.4 now....I am really getting anxious to try
it, but still leary.

Keep me updated!
Clay Sherrod

Subject:	 winding down the 2.1 trail
Sent:	Wednesday, February 7, 2001 17:07:05
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	etx-90@pinefields.com (rick etx)
Hi, Rick.
Although I have not yet had a chance to attempt to duplicate (golly with
all the problems you encountered with the "tour" I'm not sure I WANT to
try) your procedure you described.

You're doing a great job isolating and objectively reporting many
problems that I think are very common out there; almost every issue you
mention has been brought to my attention, or I have experienced myself.

1)  In Polar mode, I am having no problem with drift in declination
whatsoever, that cannot be attributed to mis-alignment;

2)  I am experiencing NO random slewing, even after fine-centering, in
declination. PLEASE NOTE that - IN ALT AZ mode - I had considerable
rubber banding, as you decribe, in declination, with the the scope
always trying to go back to its GO TO memory position after centering
it;  this would continue until I would re-correct at least five (5)
times.  The rubber band effect ALWAYS pushed my object southward.

3)  You report a 24" RA drift; I am experiencing a bad too-slow sidereal
as I have reported, but it is on the order of 22' arc.

4)  When aligning about three nights ago (Polar) I had an experience (my
first) in which the telescope took off (like your 180 degree free ride)
and slew toward the west and south, thereby heading for a base crash;
fortunately I was there and shut it down.

5)  I have initialized and carefully timed the Autostar clock without
"entering" first the 1st star and again the second star (2 tests);  as
you know the clock drive does not engage (just like in H.P.) until after
the "Enter" is pressed.  So time continues.....but it does not take into
account the human delay of centering and entering the alignment stars.

6) My rubber band effect in Alt Az (none in Polar mode) affects ALL
objects, not just computed objects; it always has.

7)  I still think the "0" function is affecting my sudden slow-down in
RA; if I DO NOT use it ("Mode" instead), tracking is not a problem.

Well, that's all for now....I'll run some more tests and be back soon.

Keep up the good work!
P. Clay Sherrod  

Subject:	 Polar Aligning
Sent:	Wednesday, February 7, 2001 12:05:08
From:	ggrainger@prang.com (Garrett Grainger)
Mike - Most wonderful sight at which to learn everything about the ETX.
I received a DS60EC, had problems, got hooked and bought a 125. Had more
problems got more hooked and now have, (probably a stupid) question
concerning Polar Alignment.

By the way, even with all the quality control issues, the guys at Meade
have been 1st class in every way and have provided top notch customer
service. A nice change in this day and age.

I prefer the polar align. The autostar seems to perform better vs
alt/az. I've only done the setup once so here's the question - I set the
tripod, do a rough align and then select align, 2 star, from the
autostar panel. The first thing it does is ask me to align on Polaris.
It rotates the whole telescope on the on axis, upside down so that the
eyepeice is facing the ground. Then it tels me to align it. Pretty
awkward sitting (laying) on your back to line it up! (no comments if I'm
really stupid by doing this)

Is this normal for the Polar alignment process with the autostar?

Garrett Grainger
VPIS
Dixon Ticonderoga Company
Mike here: If the eyepiece is on the bottom you likely didn't get the ETX into the proper Polar HOME position before starting the alignment process. Recheck the manual. Check the tips on the Autostar Information page.

Subject:	 Data Sniffing
Sent:	Wednesday, February 7, 2001 10:26:56
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
To:	rick@pinefields.com ('Rick Emerson'), rseymour@wolfenet.com ('Dick Seymour')
Hi Guys,

With regards to the following:

> Sure would be nice to know what's really going on.
>Got two PCs?  Have one monitor the transfer to the Autostar via
>a T-cable (only data-to-Autostar also connected to data-to-2nd PC)
>It'd probably work using both serial ports on a single PC, too.

>Capture such a transfer (from power-up to end of Updater session) for
>a known, limited dataset, and i'd be happy to kibitz about what you
>caught.

You probably already have this stuff all figured out but I thought that
you might be interested in the following URL....Mike

http://www.gumbley.demon.co.uk/scope.html
And:
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
Thanks for the tip!  As a matter of fact, the question of what the scope
is "saying" to my SkyMap program came up today.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 Polar mode follies
Sent:	Tuesday, February 6, 2001 21:53:42
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
I just came in from trying my ETX-90 in polar mode.  I leave it for
others to debug.

Using the Meade Deluxe tripod, tilted to 40 deg. (my latitude) and with
the home position centered smack dab on Polaris, I did an easy alignment
(2.1Ek chose Capella and Regulus).  Both initial guesses were off by at
least 5 degrees radially.  After completing the alignment, I aimed at
Jupiter and the scope was off by about 2 degrees.  The same thing
happened with Saturn and M42.  I did some of the Pretty Doubles tour and
had to do some searching to find the targets.

Anything in the field tended to dance and buzz with the motors.
Vibrational damping took much longer than in alt-az mode, no doubt
because the scope (without a wedge) is hanging way off center.  This
probably made the scope more prone to vibrating when the motors ran.

I finally decided that "enough is enough" and started to right the scope
for alt-az use.  As I did, the scope began to slew in azimuth and the
handbox displayed "Proc. Trap 2" - the Autostar version of the Blue
Screen of Death.  This is the first instance of this problem with my
scope.  At the time, other than adjusting the tripod head, the scope was
just tracking and hadn't been told to slew to a new target.

On re-setting the scope for alt-az work, and, of course re-aligning the
scope (this time it chose Sirius and Capella), the scope now was rarely
off by a degree and usually put the target in the 26mm EP's FOV.  The
scope was much more stable and images didn't "buzz".  For example, the
four stars in the Trapezium were resolvable in the 26mm EP while they
were hard to resolve in polar mode with the same EP.

The problems of drifting images and snap-back slewing returned, however.
Under polar mode, objects seemed far more stable although more than
once it *seemed* as though the tracking rate was off.  Stars drifted
off-center in a way that was different from un-commanded slewing.  For
example, the pitch of the motor noise didn't change.

Although polar alignment seems to be more stable on pointing, two
alignment attempts didn't give the same accuracy as alt-az and the
overall mount is far less damped than in alt-az mode.

Seeing in general was somewhere around a 3 or 4 (out of 10).  With the
near full moon, transparency is hard to gauge but probably a 5 or maybe
6.  Both Jupiter and Saturn seemed very fuzzy in polar mode but steadied
up significant;y in alt-az mode even though they were initially about
30-25 deg. above the western horizon.

Based on this experience, I'll stay with alt-az.

Cheers,
   Rick
Mike here: Two thoughts come to mind. Does the accuracy in Polar Mode depend upon the preciseness of the physical polar axis alignment? If so, then being off by a degree or two (easily done with the small scale on most tripods) might have an effect. Also, I agree that having the weight offcenter can be a source of additional vibrations.

And:

I'm still pulling the notes together but right now, based on indoor
"observing" (tracking scope position with SkyMap), polar alignment
doesn't seem to be the main issue.  If I understand Meade's how-to's
correctly, Autostar should clean up relatively minor errors in alignment
or, at the least, the pointing error on any new object should be
consistently the same.  Certainly in alt-az mode Autostar can handle
some pretty amazing errors in where "home" is.

I'm still collecting data but right now I'm getting an error rate of
about 18' per hour while tracking eta Pegasus.  Pressing "0" and leaving
the handbox in focus mode doesn't seem to have an impact.

Cheers,
   Rick
And from Clay:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Rick, this is good to know; so what you are seeing is that, while still
activated for focus, the rate error of 18'/hour REMAINS constant? Have
you tried the same situation, do a dummy "focus" routine and then back
out of "0" back to normal (shutting of the light)?  The reason I ask is
that I do not remember the tracking problem as I actually focused, only
once I back out of teh "0" setting and commenced observing. (I do not
leave mine in focus mode out of habit when we had to use "mode"....to
many wild focus runs when I really just wanted to focus!  Let me
know....great work!

Clay Sherrod
And more:
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
richard seymour writes:
 > > Anything in the field tended to dance and buzz with the motors.
 > > Vibrational damping took much longer than in alt-az mode, no doubt
 > > because the scope (without a wedge) is hanging way off center.  This
 > > probably made the scope more prone to vibrating when the motors ran.
 > Could you tell if the Alt/Dec motor was moving during sidereal
 > tracking?  If so, it might have thought that the RA axle was not
 >  dead on the celestial pole.

Who can say?  The closest I can get to an answer is to say the motors
*sounded* like they were running.

 > Try a one-star align... it starts by slewing in RA (and a bit of Dec)
 > to point -at- polaris... and asks you to adjust the -tripod- to 
 > "make it so!".

Actually, I sort of anticipated that issue.  I set up the scope so that
it was aimed at Polaris and tweaked the entire scope's position by
moving the tripod around.  I didn't do the easy alignment until after
Polaris was smack in the middle of the FOV.

 > I am also not a fan of Polar operation... my clearest sky is 
 > northerly, so viewing objects there requires contortions my body
 > is loathe to perform.  Or extract itself from later.
 > I recognize its -value-, but it ain't pleasant. 
 > (i guess we have to suffer for our sport...)

[l]  [creak & groan]

 > I've made myself a two-pieces-of-plywood wedge, which can freely
 > sit on a table, since it has a long enough foot under the ETX to
 > prevent fall-forward.  I clamp it to my normal plywood platform.
 > 
 > www.wolfe.net/~workshop/astro/photos.html  and  etx.html

Slick wedge!  I like the turnbuckle adjusters.

[BTW, my browser gave a very nice "lights coming on" effect as the GIF
stepped through increasingly finer resolutions, making the lights
"switch on" in the sunset photo]

 > > I finally decided that "enough is enough" and started to right the
 > > scope for alt-az use.  As I did, the scope began to slew in azimuth
 > > and the handbox displayed "Proc. Trap 2" - the Autostar version of the
 > > Blue Screen of Death.  This is the first instance of this problem with
 > > my scope.  At the time, other than adjusting the tripod head, the
 > > scope was just tracking and hadn't been told to slew to a new target.
 > I vote for hiccough in voltage due to wiggling of HBX or power-adapter
 > cable.

That's what I thought, too.  

 > > more than once it *seemed* as though the tracking rate was off.  Stars
 > > drifted off-center in a way that was different from un-commanded
 > > slewing.  For example, the pitch of the motor noise didn't change.
 > this -really- sounds like your RA axis wasn't dead-on-NCP.
 > 
 > thanks for testing & reporting 
 > (i wish i could)

You will, you will.

Cheers,
   Rick
And more from Clay:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Rick -
when I am experiencing the difficulty in slow RA tracking I am CLEARLY
able to hear a different pitch in the RA motor than when it operates
normally; it sounds higher-pitched as it might if it was "free-floating"
or free of torque.  Again, that sort-of points to mechanical;  but there
is clearly a difference in the sound.  As a matter of fact, I can
actually HEAR when the RA suddenly commences to track at a true sidereal
rate (almost like a resonance on top of the high-pitched sound).  Go
figure...
thanks,
Clay Sherrod
And:
No doubt about this point - whatever motor or motors are running don't
even hint at shifting pitch.  My absolute sense of pitch isn't too hot
but, as a guitarist, I sure know relative pitch.  No changes here.

As things stand now, the one thing I didn't think to do was actually run
the focuser motor (doh!!!).  I did run in and out 0 and MODE focus
modes, though, and it didn't seem to have any dramatic influence on what
was going on.

Although the error rate that I came up with looked like a repeatable
thing, it turned out not to be.  In fact, since both the snap-back
slewing and two-axis slewing problems are also not events I can cause to
happen at will, this isn't a big surprise.  I'd almost be more troubled
if it did happen all the time.

Somewhere around 0000 08 Feb UTC Io and Europa start to dance around
behind Jupiter and I'll try to observe that if the thin cloud cover we
have breaks up.  I'll be back to alt-az for this one and we'll see what
fun happens.

Cheers,
   Rick
And from Clay:
Thanks, Rick - As an ex-trumper player (actually played with Al Hirt in
N.O. while working through college!) I have a pretty keen ear for pitch
and this is a definite change.  sounds nice and clean when tracking
"sloppy-slow" and clattery when tracking properly.  I may have a gear
spinning loose and will check for that possibility.
Thanks again - CLAY
Mike here: Al Hirt! My hero! I also played trumpet in school (still have it). I was a soloist and first chair in high school. My director (where are you now Mr. Patton?) really wanted me to go into music at college but I stayed with astronomy.

And:

From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
Re: playing with Al Hirt: Um, why do I feel like I just tried to teach
granny how to suck eggs?  [g]

I've resisted tinkering with the drives after looking in the base.  I
did take some slop out of the azimuth worm gear but concluded that,
since I have no plans to do imaging with the ETX, nothing was bad enough
to risk making a hash of fiddling with the altitude drive train.

Cheers,
   Rick
And more:
Rick - don't blame you on messing with the gear works; I was not used to
using a scope with so much play and I had to do something I guess.

What I found in the DEC (Alt.) axis producing most slop was not in the
gearwork itself (although I did pre-load very slightly which helped),
but more in plastic-on-plastic "bearing" where the OTA pivot arms
presses through the right and left fork arm openings.  The pivot (rocker
arm) of the OTA support is tapered toward the outside of the fork arm
and is supposed to snug inside the hole of the fork arm once tightened;
there is so much slop (I have looked at, I think, five NEW ETX 125's
since discovering them, and it is a design flaw.  You can actually take
the end of the OTA in one hand and hold the fork arm in the other and
"rock" this pivot "bearing" noticably.  It introduces, I estimate
between .75 and 1 degree of play in all new scopes.  I took mine out
simply by putting two wraps of teflon tape on the setting circle
(non-locking, non-drive) side and adding a small bearing the same size
as the exposed end of the pivot arm off the OTA (the part seen on the
outside of the fork arm with the circle removed).  This torques the
bearing arm toward the locking plate and thus distributes the thrust of
the system toward the lock and away from the poorly-machined tolerance
of the pivot opening.  My Dec. now locks firmly (from de-greasing as
well) and has NO PLAY in most positions and only about 1/2 degree in
some IF I force it to rock; under observing conditions, I experience no
play whatsoever even in relatively gusty conditions.

It's an easy procedure; to degrease, definitely turn to Jason's "ETX
Tune-UP" under Mike W'.s Tech Tips pages.  De-greasing helped me more
than any single thing I have done mechanically.....now if we can just
call up "Rid-a-Bug" to come in and take care of Autostar!

Still cloudy....
Clay Sherrod

Subject:	 Lunar tracking rate
Sent:	Tuesday, February 6, 2001 20:29:41
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Mike Hadey asked:
> Just another random thought.  Do you know if the Autostar changes to
> the lunar tracking rate automatically when the Moon is selected as a
> GOTO object?

I'm pretty sure it does NOT change to Lunar (how would it know
when to change -back- to sidereal?).

--dick
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
I believe that during tours, the Autostar rate remains constant at the
pre-set sidereal rate and does not change to any other speed regardless
of what is selected.  The only time, based on what I have been told by
Meade and have read, that the tracking speed changes is when YOU tell it
to, and never defaults to any other except what you have selected.  This
is important to remember since - if a person was interested in doing a
series of lunar occultations for the course of one night and selected
"Lunar" as tracking rate, it would be easy to pack up at the end of
observing and forget that the scope was NOT defaulted to "sidereal." 
The next time out, this person would be fussing (not that ETX-users ever
"fuss" about their scopes!) that the thing was not tracking right on
some double star under high power!  The autostar will default to
whatever you selected until you change it.

Hope to try out my "missing 22 minutes" scenario soon and check your
variation on it.  I will let you know about the programmed vs. actual
positions of the stars in question this afternoon I hope.

P. Clay Sherrod

And more:

From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
The reason that I asked about the tracking was that I mentioned that
slight drift.  I was tracking on the Moon.  I need to do some
calculations to see if that was the drift I was seeing.  It looks like
there might be a break in the weather tonight. If so, I'll go out and
use the two star alignment (not easy) to pick some stars and see if I
can replicate the error we are discussing.

I'll be interested to see what you find.

Cheers,
Mike
And even more:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Mike, remember the drift (actually slow down of RA sidereal rate) that I
was experiencing when you check yours for the drift....mine is very
pronounced and seems to be related to the fact I am using the "0" key to
focus mode, rather than the "Mode" as before (never had any problem
until then.

Give me a report...curious to see what you can find.  Haven't done
research on our target stars with the "missing 22 minutes" yet; will let
you know soon.

Good luck!
Clay Sherrod
And this response:
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
Just got in from trying to repeat the alignment problems. With a full
moon and lots of light fog, there really wasn't much to look at so it
was a good night for experimenting. Good enough seeing for bright stars
and planets for a couple of hours.  Bottom line, I was not able to get
the problem to occur again.  I used two star alignments with multiple
combinations.  Never got as good as an alignment at the other night, but
nothing very bad either.  Even when I picked stars near the pole for one
of pair.

I verified that the drift problem was not due to Lunar Vs sidereal
tracking. It was a very slow creep after beep that would stabilize
eventually.  A small amount of "slow snap back" was fooling me into
thinking it was drift.

A couple of entertaining operator errors.  When I first tried the
Procyon/Dubhe pair I must have accidentally picked the wrong star from
the menu and then lined up on Dubhe.  The interesting thing was that,
while is said "align successful", as soon as I did a GOTO Jupiter, it
pointed at the patio,  I decided to try to GOTO Saturn just for the heck
of it and it dutifully pointed a couple of tiles over to the correct
relative position if Jupiter really was located in the patio.  I'm
pretty sure that this was my problem because I tried the same star combo
three more times and it worked fine. If you ever find that you are
hitting planets, and stars on GOTO's with reasonable accuracy and when
you GOTO the Moon it is way off in RA, check the date (I had Feb. 6
rather than Feb. 7. no wonder I had to slew so much in RA to get the
stars to line up).

The only thing different tonight Vs the night I had the problem, was
that I was using a power cable tonight and batteries then. I'm almost
sure that batteries weren't the issue because I spent two more hours
looking at doubles.  Also, the data in the Autostar the 1st night was
loaded with A2.3 while the data I have in there now was loaded with
A2.4.

Oh well,
Mike H.
And from Clay:
The difference in the A2.4 versus A2.3 may be the significant point; I
am using the 2.1 right now and planning to update soon (maybe sooner
now!)  I did, indeed check carefully the date, daylight savings, time,
etc.  All were correct from the get-go.  I need some clear nights to
check it further.

Thanks for reporting!  By the way, patio observing has been a pasttime
of mine as well, particularly when I forget to turn "counterclockwise to
stop and then clockwise" in the Polar Home position!  Works every time!

Clay Sherrod

Subject:	 Autostar 495
Sent:	Tuesday, February 6, 2001 19:10:44
From:	jpapes@hotmail.com (Joseph Papes)
I have an Autostar 495 for my DS-114 with a software version of 1.2.  I
just purchased an etx-90ec, and thought I would be able to use this
controller with it.  When I plugged it in, I got the message "Use ETX
Autostar with this model."  I plugged it back into my DS-114, went into
setup and changed to model to 90-ec.  I then plugged it back into my
90-ec, and got the same message.  First of all, is the 495 compatible
with the 90-ec ( I would think if I can select it in the setup).  Or is
just that i need to upgrade the software for the 495.

Thanks for you help.
Joe
Mike here: According to the "Autostar Models" page (on the Autostar Information page) the 495 is not for the ETX line.

Subject:	 Backup
Sent:	Tuesday, February 6, 2001 07:26:08
From:	sweiller@free.fr (Sylvain Weiller)
Thank you for your great site !

My questions is : is there a way to backup the content of the ETX (ROM,
RAM) to a hard disk before attempting to upload a new version of the
firmware ?
Thank's
Regards,

Amicalement,
Sylvain

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sylvain Weiller,
St Rmy ls Chevreuse (RER B),
FRANCE
LA N4842'07" LO E204'36" ALT 87m
E-mail: sweiller@free.fr
English Astronomy Web Site :         
http://sweiller.free.fr/
Mike here: I assume you mean a backup of items entered via the Autostar rather than items downloaded to the Autostar via the Autostar Uploader. I'll defer to our resident Autostar Expert.

And he duly reports:

From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Sylvain,

Versions of the Updater before A2.4 (and maybe 2.4) display a dialog box
that asks "do you want to save the data from the autostar" if you click
[send new firmware to Autostar].

The Updater (and A2.4 does, too) also has a button for [get data from
autostar] on the "main screen"

I am also having a friend write a reverse-Updater... which can read the
entire firmware load from the Autostar.  But at this time it is not in a
format which can go -back- to the Autostar.

--dick
Mike here: Thanks Dick. But where does this "backup" set of data go on the hard disk? And is a format that can be re-uploaded to the Autostar.

And from Dick:

Well, i just tested it... and A2.4 does -not- pull in the Tours
 by simply pressing "get ephemerides from handbox".  It gets
everything else.

I do not have an Autostar 497 available at this time for trying 
the "send firmware to handbox" button. (my Starfinder would burst
at the seams).

However: on the theory that you can only put a tour INTO the 
Autostar via the computer, "it must already be on the hard drive"
right? (mais non?).
This theory falls apart with the TOurs Meade may have pre-loaded
into your Autostar at the factory.

Anything pulled -from- the Autostar goes into the LIBxxxx.rom
files in the Ephemerides folder.  And are available for putting
back into the Autostar, for editing, for individually selecting
for Autostar placement or not.  They are in the format the 
Updater uses for its data.  They are not (easily) worked upon
-outside- of the context of the Updater.
That's another little project.
And a response:
I mean to backup the whole original data in the autostar as furnished by
Meade in order to be able to put it back in case of problems.

Indeed when I used the latest Meade update program to go from version
1.x to version 2.x, the choice of french language turned it into a
completely unusable autostar with all messages posted completely mixed
up in a way it is difficult to imagine !!! I did the transfer from the
PC a few timers with the same result (the autostar was working nicely in
english) Now after I have done an exchange of autostar I have again a
working french version 1.x and I want to be able to put it back it in
case I would like to go to version 2.x and experience problems.

Regards,

Amicalement,
Sylvain

Subject:	 "O" setting and focus/RA tracking rate
Sent:	Tuesday, February 6, 2001 06:23:17
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	etx-90@pinefields.com
Rick, can't say that I was "glad" to see your mention of the newest "0"
setting for focus; I thought it was a Godsend at first, as it really is
a mess trying to change MODE back and forth, particularly when
attempting to center and focus both on a new object.

Nonetheless, your description of the "0" setting changing the SPEED of
the motors is absolutely correct; I have noted this time and time again,
particularly in the R.A. (I use Polar).  In addition, IT APPEARS to
affect the sidereal drive as well, changing the rate as much as minus
27%! (tracking rate decreased).  I have not put a acid test to just
which settings (1-9) on the Autostar for focus changes the rate of
slewing when in the "0" mode, but have noted substantial differences
that appear right now to be a random pattern, not related to numeric
speed or time of focus, etc.

If you hear any further, please let me (us) know....this is a real pain
and I will definitely go back to "Mode" focusing until I find out what
is going on.  By the way I am using 2.1 firmware, loaded with the last
2.1 updater.  Probably about to go over to 2.4, but waiting for the bugs
to crawl out!

Thanks for letting us know about this (yet another) minor glitch.
P. Clay Sherrod
And from Dick:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Clay,

IS this only seen with v21ek, or is it a hold-over from previous 
versions as well?  (i haven't noticed rampant focusing affecting
 Alt/Az tracking)
Thinking a bit more (it's "early" for me.. so conclusions and trails
to them are highly suspect)... the Az (RA in Polar) motor is told 
what speed to move.. and left to do it.  Focusing shouldn't affect
it at all (if MEade did it right)... if you've ever had your 
Autostar die in mid-motion (cough), you'll see this... the motors 
keep doing whatever the last thing the Autostar said to do before
it kissed this mortal coil goodbye...
I would not be at all surprised if you couldn't -unplug- the Autostar
once set up for Polar tracking... and it'd keep on ticking.
(the "default handcontroller" probably makes use of this... )

--dick
Movie review: if you're a Trekkie (with a sense of humor),
 or know one, Galaxy Quest is quite good.
And a response from Clay:
Hi Dick!  Thanks for the "two thumbs up!"  My oldest son (a movie and
Trekkie nut at age 27) has also recommended the movie; I have a weird
sense of humor (that goes along with the other residual "weirdness"
about me), so I would most likely enjoy.

I did not notice any of this sidereal speed (or slew speed) variation
before 2.1ek, but of course I was always using "Mode" to getting into
focusing. Last night was particularly troublesome using the "0" key, no
soon than I would get something focused at high power, than I had to
re-center more than once to overcome the scope's slow-down.  Eventually,
this motion would stop. But EVERY time I focused, I experienced the same
thing, always a slowing, but the exact amount (and the relationship to
the rate of focusing chosen) I did not keep up with (I normally use "1"
all the time anyway, since anything under "5" for focus speed is the
same!).

I do understand your thinking on the continuance of RA tracking once
set; whatever is introduced appears to be "residual" in that it
eventually "goes away."

Be curious to see if other start reporting it....I just took it in
stride until I heard of the same thing from Rick.

Clay
And from Dick:
Clay,

> I did not notice any of this sidereal speed (or slew speed) variation
> before 2.1ek, but of course I was always using "Mode" to getting into
> focusing.
I don't think [zero] selected focus before v21ek. (unless you have 
 an LX90 with 21eI)

> Last night was particularly troublesome using the "0" key, no soon 
> than I would get something focused at high power, than I had to
> re-center more than once to overcome the scope's slow-down. 
> Eventually, this motion would stop.
So you'd slew, it'd resume RA drive, you'd slew, it'd resume RA drive...
Since there are repeated updates of RA drive speed, and they're WRONG,
then it's not a simple "Autostar sent wrong speed once" syndrome.
It's "Autostar sends wrong speed many times".  Grump.

> But EVERY time I focused, I experienced the same thing, always a
> slowing, but the exact amount (and the relationship to the rate of 
> focusing chosen) I did not keep up with (I normally use "1" all the
> time anyway, since anything under "5" for focus speed is the same!).

> I do understand your thinking on the continuance of RA tracking once
> set; whatever is introduced appears to be "residual" in that it
> eventually "goes away."
?? residual means it -doesn't- go away (in my dictionary)  ??
How about "effervescent"?

However, i can certainly believe that the focus speed is leaking into
whatever "speed updates" the Autostar makes to the RA drive (i think
it gets overly fussy, and just -can't- leave well-enough alone)

> until I heard of the same thing from Rick.
And -he- looked into it because i've met it in Sat Tracking in a 
different way: the Alt/Az drives runaway if [zero] is pressed during
 a track...

I have, of course, abstracted your first note and sent it along to
Meade (i may not have my Autostar... my i've got Email and friends
who report things...)
--dick
And from Clay:
Looks like you need to borrow an Autostar; we'll keep you busy in the
meantime.  What I meant by residual is that it stayed around long enough
to infiltrate (sounds bold, doesn't it?) the workings of other systems
outside of what it was intended to do.  It sounds like the problem is a
bit larger than a nuisance if you had run-away slews during satellite
tracking.  Mine doesn't sound quite so bad now.

You are right:  I will center, say, Saturn and focus; once focused, the
sidereal rate appears to drop and hence the planet begins to drift
predictably;  I re-center, and the speed (drift) continues consistent to
what was established by going to "0" and altering the sidereal rate.

Clay
And more:
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
To:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
I'm not sure if we're talking about the same thing or perhaps there's
some version issue (in scope bases and their electronics, Autostars, or
firmware) that's causing a problem but...  The interference in satellite
tracking caused by the "0" key isn't reproduced here in polar tracking
of "normal" objects, at least on my scope.

Specifically, right now I'm running a tour called "Orion multiples"
(found on WMES) indoors.  The scope is set in polar mode and, so far, is
pointing at each object on the tour without a problem.  I'm watching the
scope's motion with SkyMap Pro and the scope's position moves around on
the chart as it should.

If I press "0" while the scope is moving from one target to another,
*all* motion stops.  It doesn't matter what the rate for the focuser is
or what the rate for fast slewing is, everything stops after the first
press on "0".  *No* focuser rate is displayed on line 1. Pressing "0" a
second time displays the focuser rate and the scope resumes sidereal
rate motion but does *not* resume slewing.  No amount of presses on "0"
resumes slewing.  The only way to get going is to press "GOTO" again.  I
assume that the time spent in "suspended animation", if repeated often
enough or allowed to run long enough, will cause the scope to lose
alignment simply because the Earth continues to turn, stopped scope or
no.  [s]

Autostar Updater A2.4 seems to be very stable and perhaps reloading
firmware 2.1Ek with A2.4 will clear up some problems.  Or maybe not.

I'll continue to play with this issue but, for now, the situation here
is "Problem Not Reproducible".

Cheers,
   Rick
And more:
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
Uh, not to be unkind but... I don't see this one as a major problem. The
real risk is accidentally hitting MODE or 0 and stopping the scope and
the work-around is simple: "look before you push". Otherwise, I can't
see how centering and focusing can happen concurrently.

In focus mode, the up and down motion buttons are tied to focusing,
otherwise they move the elevation gear drive.  I suppose one could try
to focus during the last few seconds of a Go-To operation but I'm not
sure I see how focusing on a moving object is going to give the best
focus setting.

What does bother me about this problem is it suggests something about
how "snap-back slewing" might work.  It also raises the question of why
the slew motors run at what seems to be focuser motor rates.  In that
sense, it says something about other, more severe problems.

If using MODE or "0" are ruled out for some reason, there's still the
two-speed controller that comes with the focuser.  It's a little zippy
even in low gear but it does work.

Cheers,
   Rick
And from Clay:
Thanks for your messages, and I think we are somewhat on the same
wavelength; I understand about the satellite tracking situation with the
"0" key and understand its functionality vs. that of mode.  I am not
having any difficulty in overriding slewing or slow motions when in "0"
key; I was referring to the fact that HAVING the "0" designated as an
alternative for focus to pushing MODE actually prevented an accidental
"focus when slew was intended" and and accidental "slew when focus was
intended," as has happened to all of us when focusing through "Mode."

My problem is that - using "0" to focus - selecting rates of focus on
"0" ALSO appears to significantly cause a reduction in tracking rate of
my RA sidereal motor that I DID not have using the MODE key.

Plain and simple, that's it.  If I use MODE to focus and change focusing
rates (ha, big joke), it does not interfere with the sidereal tracking. 
But using "0" always slows down the sidereal motor for about an interval
of 2 minutes or until what time as I have re-corrected centering the
object to offset for this slowdown a total of about five times.

The slowdown is significant, moving the object about 2 arc minutes per
30 seconds as if the clock drive is not even working (it is, however, as
I can hear the normal pitch of the motor in RA.

Have not tried this in Alt-Az yet because clouds have moved in for a
while.

Thanks again...and thanks for the remarks about A2.4.

Clay Sherrod
And from Rick:
Clay Sherrod writes:
 > Thanks for your messages, and I think we are somewhat on the same
 > wavelength; I understand about the satellite tracking situation with the "0"
 > key and understand its functionality vs. that of mode.  I am not having any
 > difficulty in overriding slewing or slow motions when in "0" key; I was
 > referring to the fact that HAVING the "0" designated as an alternative for
 > focus to pushing MODE actually prevented an accidental "focus when slew was
 > intended" and and accidental "slew when focus was intended," as has happened
 > to all of us when focusing through "Mode."

Oops - my error.  I seem to have mis-read your comments.  My
apologies. 

 > My problem is that - using "0" to focus - selecting rates of focus on "0"
 > ALSO appears to significantly cause a reduction in tracking rate of my RA
 > sidereal motor that I DID not have using the MODE key.

I can't say that I found that effect.  I'll test it today by pointing
the scope at something and leaving it pointed there while leaving the
scope in "0" focus mode.  I'll track this with SkyMap's display of the
scope's pointing.  

 > Plain and simple, that's it.  If I use MODE to focus and change focusing
 > rates (ha, big joke), it does not interfere with the sidereal tracking.  But
 > using "0" always slows down the sidereal motor for about an interval of 2
 > minutes or until what time as I have re-corrected centering the object to
 > offset for this slowdown a total of about five times.
 > 
 > The slowdown is significant, moving the object about 2 arc minutes per 30
 > seconds as if the clock drive is not even working (it is, however, as I can
 > hear the normal pitch of the motor in RA.

I'll watch for this by zooming in to about 10'.  

 > Have not tried this in Alt-Az yet because clouds have moved in for a while.

Ah, me, time to get the old 747 out of the barn and do some flying,
eh?  [wink]

 > Thanks again...and thanks for the remarks about A2.4.

You're welcome!

Cheers,
   Rick
And a response from Clay:
Rick - thanks and I look forward to the results of your indoor tests. 
Seems like we do an awful lot of indoor "observing" with the ETX doesn't
it?  Much to the chagrin of my wife....[wink back].
CLAY
And more from Rick:
Sigh... worse and worse...  It doesn't take pushing the "0" or MODE
buttons to send my scope off target.

Initial conditions: 40-15N 75-18W UTC-5, polar mode, start time 11:05:00
EST

I set the scope up in polar mode and let it cycle through "easy"
alignment.  It chose Altair and Alioth (a curious choice given the scope
is in polar mode).  I then sent the scope to eta Pegasus by pointing to
it on the SkyMap display and issuing a "slew to eta Peg" command from
the program.  After stopping, the values on the setting circles were
consistent with the reported position.  Dick asked which motors were
running after the scope began to track and, as best I can tell, the RA
motor was the only one running.

The scope's position began to drift downward (south) in declination and
dropped about 3' in 10 minutes.  This happened without engaging the MODE
or "0" button focus mode.  The same rate and direction appeared when the
"0" was pressed and "Speed = Fast" stayed on the handbox.

The one unusual thing I did see, and which I haven't diagnosed, was the
scope's reported postion shifted in RA by about 24", moving down in RA. 
As best I can tell, this is possibly an encoder error as the handbox
shows a change in RA of about .4' from 22:43.2 to 22:42.8. This is not a
gradual change like the error in declination but a dithering between two
values with the display tending to stay on the erroneous value of
22:42.8 and briefly returning to the correct value of 22:43.2.  This
effect also has caused shifts in the opposite direction and in about the
same magnitude.

And then 2 hours later, the scope froze up while displaying RA/dec.
Restarting the scope and re-aligning (Capella and Vega) at 1315, the
scope was set to track Vega.  In 20 minutes there was a very slight
drift up in declination (approx. 2' or 6'/hr), enough to ruin a photo
but not seriously affect viewing.  The 24" dithering effect was seen
again, this time shifting up in RA instead of down but by the same
amount.

In short, there are problems although using the "0" or MODE choice of
focuser control didn't seem to influence them.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 A bad time
Sent:	Tuesday, February 6, 2001 06:08:33
From:	edutton@infi.net (Ells Dutton)
Clay,

This may not be much help, but...

I recall that in the past some people had suggested that AS did not keep
track the of lapsed time between the beep and Enter when GOTO objects or
initial alignment stars were centered.  I've always tried to minimize
this gap.  My typical initial alignment goes pretty quick so don't
recall an experience similar to yours.  But, I have never understood why
AS didn't do better, especially on the initial alignment stars since I
have a semi-permanent mount (scope removed each night and not "Parked")
and have N/S and level alignments nailed.  Everyone seems to have
written the misaligns off to slop in the drives.  I've never held out
much hope for "fixing" AutoStar.

One timing feature that has always bothered me and about which I never
got a response to when inquiring here is the 2nd time that is displayed
when in the AS Status mode (holding the Mode key down for 2 seconds and
stepping down).  The label displays

Time   Hr:Mi:Sc
LST    Hr:Mi:Sc

The first line is always the local time as set by the user and is always
correct.  I thought the LST stood for Local Standard Time, but did
notice that occasionally the 2nd time was very close to Local Sidereal
Time, handy feature and probably is what it is supposed to be.  But,
often the 2nd time displayed (LST) is nowhere near local sidereal, I
mean off by many hours, no apparent relationship to local sidereal time,
even though the scope is operating well GOTOing and tracking.  I have
mostly ignored the LST.  Just now I fired up the scope (AS 2.0i) on the
bench to review for this message and now I can't get it to read anything
but perfect local sidereal time (checking against the R.A. reading with
the scope pointing at AZ = 180.0 in Status mode.)  I don't know, maybe
it is correct more often than I realized but have just not been paying
attention. Seems like your problem could to troubleshot by comparing the
scope's LST vs reality, if indeed it does consistently display something
resembling Local Sidereal Time.

General comments -- I've been using and abusing this scope a lot, going
on 16 months now, and it keeps on ticking and coming fairly close to
what it is suppose to do.  AS 2.0i works very well for me.  By the way,
when it fell and the base shattered a year ago, the the OTA including
collimation was unaffected. Collimation is, and has remained, as close
to perfect as I can discern but I have a grand new appreciation of the
effects of seeing conditions and scope temperature stability at high
powers.

Am waiting for an opportunity to try you star magnitude limits tests.
Pleiades is slipping away from the zenith.  Is your book in print?

Cheers,
Ells

Subject:	 Cable
Sent:	Tuesday, February 6, 2001 05:27:27
From:	htanissa@lau.edu.lb (Heidy Tanissa)
Do you have an idea how to make a custom made 505 cable for linking the
ETX to a PC ?

Many thanks
Heidy 
Mike here: See the Autostar Information page. Some info on cables is there.

Subject:	 Success & a semi-sweet Failure
Sent:	Tuesday, February 6, 2001 01:21:22
From:	stantstk@pacbell.net (Stan Glaser)
just a quick note for those who might have tried some satellite tracking
(ETX90-EC, 2.1ek, AC power):

Discovered that ISS was passing overhead Tuesday (2/6/01) and decided to
give satellite tracking another try. Entered the most recent TLE's from
Heaven's Above website in the afternoon, did an in-house test just to
see how things would play out, and gave the results a thumbs-up for the
evening's event. Set up the scope about 10 minutes before AOS, did a
two-star align, and got everything ready. With about 5 minutes to spare,
helped my wife in the kitchen, then we both went outside to take a look.
I caught the ISS by eye low in the horizon before the Autostar was to
begin, did some quick "eye"ing to see if things were lined up, and
waited for AOS. About 15 seconds before AOS I noticed a slight
misalignment was going to occur, but I decided to just follow the rules
and press ENTER at 0. I hit the ENTER key, saw ISS in the viewfinder,
but not in the crosshairs, so I did some "quick" button-pushing (Dick
Seymour is familiar with THIS procedure) and managed to get it centered.
Watched in the eyepiece for about 30 seconds or so as ISS was
successfully being tracked by the ETX -- Yes, Dick, it DOES look like a
tiny T-shaped blip of light!!!!! -- but then I started to lose it again.
Frantically pushed some buttons and got it in the FOV, and then it
slipped out again, and THEN -- instead of hitting the UP key, I hit the
MODE key accidentally!! Darn -- well, that ended that!!!! So, continued
to watch by eye as our little dot faded from view. 

Then did a GOTO on Venus and Autostar nailed it rock solid in the center of view!! No creepie beepies and no creep after slew!! Left the scope running, went in for dinner, ate, washed dishes, came out more than an hour later -- what a surprise! There was Venus, smack in the middle -- still!!! Sometimes, some nights, you just get damn lucky. You just gotta love this little thing when it works like you'd expect it to, huh? Take care, and clear skies... Stan Glaser stantstk@pacbell.net


Subject:	 Re: time and again....
Sent:	Monday, February 5, 2001 20:00:44
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Clay,

Well, i still don't have my Autostar back to test anything.
But, if i did, i'd recreate your experience... with one difference.
After setting the time, then setting Polar, I'd lean on the MODE
key to get to the status display.
Then scroll up a few times to the live time display.
(your choice if you use local sidereal time or local civil time).
Watch the clock run for 20 minutes.

Now comes the hard part... how do we tell if a simulated setup
would be on-the-spot, or 20 RA minutes off?
One way would be to use the same lean-on-MODE to check the Alt/Az
of your pointing.  But in Polar, the Alt/Az readout is totally weird.
I suppose another way would be to mark the wall/ceiling where it 
-thinks- the stars are, and then see if a start-from-scratch (but
20 minutes later) immediate-Align sequence aimed at the same spot.
(for completeness, you should also preform an immediate-sequence
 at the 20-minutes-early time, too)

Or do three cycles outside (use the 20 minutes for dinner, hot coffee,
catching up on Email...)

I'm going to ponder upon your experience (until i get my Autostar
back)

puzzled, and far more than 20 minutes "off"...
--dick
And from Clay:
thanks for the input; no kidding about this, I worried about this all
night - in the back of my mind (darned if LOGIC isn't trying to work
again!) I have this suspicion that my 20 minute-or-so offset in GO TO
R.A. is NOT clock related.  I have no basis for such logic (mine never
has had a basis to begin with), but have been mentally creating various
scenarios that could result in such an odd result.  The curious thing is
that, except for that 20 min. "lag" in the right ascension pointing, all
objects last night (at 210x mind you) would have been DEAD CENTER.  So
whatever it is a result of is recurring and part of the initial sequence
of set-up to go-to.

I am going to try the "Mode/time" readout today and let it run after my
initializing "Polar/Easy..." but prior to hitting enter and just see
what happens.  It is  a good suggestion!
And from Dick:
I shall also scrutinize the code to see if Polar alignment differs (in a
timely respect) from Alt/Az (which is what i checked last time).

--dick
And more from Clay:
Dick, so far I have done two indoor tests since you wrote.  I intialized
up to "align/easy" and noted the time (which had progressed a bit since
I entered time by the right amount);  then I went off and watched the
news for 20 minutes and "Mode"-ed to time which sure enough read off 20
minutes had passed, so the clock WAS indeed ticking.

Then, I got into easy align (re-initialized from scratch), entered and
went to my first star for alignment....pressed "enter and went to next
star. This time I did NOT enter and went off and left it for a
while....checked the clock later, and it was still tickin'.

I am going to try again tonight to reproduce the same results I had last
night to see what steps I may have missed.  In the long run, I will be
the first to admit this may boil down once again to (arghh! can I say
it?.......):  HUMAN ERROR.

Clay
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk
Mike -
Goooood Gosh!  What a coincidence....or is it?  I've encountered some
strange cross-over stories in my time, but this is really weird.  I
wonder if the actual alignment star choices had something to do with it?
They say to never use a star close to Polaris for Polar mode.

I have to tell you...I WAS NOT in High Precison last night...first time
in a long time, so our encounters were identical.

I am printing out your story right now to scrutinize;  it is funny and
full of mystery and intrigue.  It beats network TV.

I'll get back with you after I digest what you have told me; I was going
to attempt to replicate the problem tonight, but "no go."  Clouds have
moved in big time and we're to have thunderstorms for the next three
days.

This is an incredible story, and a lot fun!

See you soon -
Clay Sherrod
-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Hadey 
>Clay,
>
>With regard to the following:
>
>> "Setup/Align" Easy, Polar Two-star at which time the scope took off in
>> the right direction!  First to Procyon (off about a half degree, I
>> noted) and then off to Duhbe after centering;  well...Duhbe
>> was also off
>> about a half degree in the finder and I centered it too,
>> using the same
>> key I had used to center Procyon.  "Alignment Successful."  End of
>> story?  Nope.
>>
>> First object for my night's test run was to GO TO Jupiter; I
>> could tell
>> by looking after it got there that it was not close; looked in the
>> finder and - sure enough - it was a half degree off, about 20 minutes
>> arc west of where it should have been.
>>
>> It was DEAD center in declination, only RA.  Went to Saturn after
>> that....20 minutes or so off, the planet west of where it should be;
>> Rigel, same story...even the bloomin'm MOON was off a little more than
>> 20 minutes arc west of where the scope was pointing.
>>
>> The it dawned on me - in every case ONLY the RA error key to slew
>> WESTWARD was necessary about 21 to 22 minutes arc.  Declination was
>> perfect slewing.  Tracking was perfect after getting the object
>> centered.  So what do I think happened?
>
>This EXACT same thing happened to me. Even the same stars...three times in a
>row!  I'm not sure that it is a "time to align" problem though (I wasn't in
>High Precision mode). It was about  1.5 weeks ago (last time it wasn't
>raining or snowing in Scotland). I thought I had done something really bad
>in training or entering data.  Exact same RA error on the "GO TO" objects.
>Finally I stood back and took a deep breath and thought I'd try another star
>for the 2nd alignment.  Duhbe seemed a little near the pole to me.  In polar
>alignment, I've always had better luck with one star in the So. and the
>other in the E. or W.  So I started over.  Autostar started with Procyon
>1st.  Off a few deg. in RA, pretty close in dec., when Autostar started to
>slew to Duhbe but I pushed mode and the Autostar picked Aldebaran.  Same
>initial RA & Dec. error as Procyon. I centered and entered and then hit 5 GO
>TO objects in the Tonight's B. tour in a row.  Turned it off and did it
>again.  Great accuracy using Procyon and Aldebaran.  Then I turned it off,
>started over and used Procyon and Duhbe just to see what would
>happen....same large RA error.  At that point I wanted to spend some time
>looking at things since it was a clear night so I went back to the Procyon
>and Aldebaron alignment and spent a pleasant couple of hours looking at
>double stars.
>
>Tonight I had a 20 min. hole in the clouds so I ran out and did a very quick
>set-up (tripod legs on X's scratched in the patio from a "drift alignment").
>The 1st star of the 2-star alignment was Betelgeus.  The 2nd was Arcturus
>sitting NE with a large separation from the 1st star.  After I hit "Enter"
>the scope immediately slewed about 1 deg. in +RA.  (I saw this before, Dick
>Seymour theorizes that it may be the scope "catching up" to the alignment
>time-lag.)  Anyway I went to the standard TB tour, skipped the Moon so I
>could see other things (not a good place to start when it is at it's current
>phase) and hit Jupiter, Saturn, M32, and Andromeda. DNO! (right on).  I have
>never had this much accuracy.  Went on to a couple of high Dec. globulars.
>Not quite as centered but well within the FOV of the 26mm EP.  Hit the
>middle of the double cluster.  It was starting to sprinkle so I decided to
>try the Moon....perfectly centered.  I couldn't believe it.  In fact it was
>so good I decided to leave it there for awhile and check the tracking.  It
>was starting to rain so I only left it for about 7 min.  I did notice the
>same slight RA drift that I mentioned before (Moon moving to left in EP).
>But I have not had a real chance to level the tripod head.
>
>It looks like there may be another break in the clouds so maybe I'll go out
>and try the Duhbe/Procyon combo with the "you pick 'em alignment" and see if
>I get the same results.  I'll let you know.
>
>Cheers,
>Mike [H]

Subject:	 time and again....
Sent:	Monday, February 5, 2001 18:44:11
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Does anybody REALLY know what time it is?

I very much hate to pry open the can of worms again, but here I
go....just got in from observing on a most frustrating night; bad
seeing, had to set up on the deck so I had a lot of vibrations (ground
is soaked from thawing out finally) and my GO TO just absolutely sucked!
I needed to test something on the scope or I would have just thrown in
the towel.

But let me tell you this story.  I went out after dark and was in a
hurry to initialize and set up.  Initialized at 05:54 CST.  Set up in
Polar alignment (as usual) and got a very accurate bead on north and
locked down well.  Easy 2-star Polar alignment, the scope chose Procyon
and ran into my tripod as it was looking at the deck.  Couldn't imagine
what had happened (maybe slipping RA clutch or clamp) so I re-set the
scope to Polar home and got it all set up again for quick align;
re-initialized at 06:08 and did another Easy 2-star; same thing...except
this time it chose "Rigel" and pointed straight overhead and beeped at
me!

Shut the system down again, re-polar aligned and initialized at 06:14
and - well, this time I stopped short and decided to check all my
settings under "telescope" to make sure nothing had gone amiss.  Sure
enough, "Alt-Az" was activated under mount and NOT Polar.  Well that
explained all that.  Changed it and immediately went back to
"Setup/Align" Easy, Polar Two-star at which time the scope took off in
the right direction!  First to Procyon (off about a half degree, I
noted) and then off to Duhbe after centering;  well...Duhbe was also off
about a half degree in the finder and I centered it too, using the same
key I had used to center Procyon.  "Alignment Successful."  End of
story?  Nope.

First object for my night's test run was to GO TO Jupiter; I could tell
by looking after it got there that it was not close; looked in the
finder and - sure enough - it was a half degree off, about 20 minutes
arc west of where it should have been.

It was DEAD center in declination, only RA.  Went to Saturn after
that....20 minutes or so off, the planet west of where it should be;
Rigel, same story...even the bloomin'm MOON was off a little more than
20 minutes arc west of where the scope was pointing.

The it dawned on me - in every case ONLY the RA error key to slew
WESTWARD was necessary about 21 to 22 minutes arc.  Declination was
perfect slewing.  Tracking was perfect after getting the object
centered.  So what do I think happened?

The LAST time I initialized, I entered my time at exactly 06:14 and THEN
I decided to check the system and settings; I check the mount, the
clamps, the latitude setting, level....then I check my settings under
"Telescope."  THEN I aligned two stars and, after the second beep and
alignment successful MY CLOCK DRIVE STARTED RUNNING as we would expect.

How LONG from the time I entered my local time to when the sidereal
motor engaged?  EXACTLY 22 MINUTES.

So this, unfortunately, takes me right back where we were two weeks ago.
It "appears" as if the internal clock missed 22 minutes or so.  I
believe, since I suspected it before, that the time interval and
consequently the inaccuracy in RA pointing was the exact time of delay
from entering my TIME until the alignment was COMPLETE - the 22 minutes
or so that my RA was off for the rest of the session.

What do you think?  This goes back to the "shut down" idea of the motors
during High Precision and during alignment costing time off of what we
enter upon initialization.  I think the time entered (by me) is not
activated until alignment is complete, and hence, the sidereal clock
begins moving RA.  If this is the case, then it would be critical to
have everything checked out way ahead of time, which I usually
do....only this time I was running late and in a hurry (not enough
"time.")

Your comments are welcome....this absolutely baffles me; I was in total
agreement with Dick on this thing until tonight.  The two times are just
too close. Appreciate you guys losing some sleep over this one if
possible.

Thanks....not a good night, and not a happy camper,   CLAY

Subject:	 AutoStar update from 1.1
Sent:	Monday, February 5, 2001 12:54:48
From:	dehager@ix.netcom.com (Dana E Hager)
I am finally unpacking my 90EC after one year (work does that time warp
thing). The current software is v1.1. May I upgrade to the most current
version or do I need to go patch by patch.

Sorry for the bandwidth but you have an impressive amount of information
and I am beginning to fry my brain...

Thank you,
Dana E Hager
Mike here: As I recall you have to upgrade to 1.3 (available in the Autostar Archive, linked from my Autostar Information page).

Subject:	 quick etx RS-232 cable
Sent:	Monday, February 5, 2001 09:44:18
From:	groveman@home.com (Howard Groveman)
Thanks for your terrific site.  Here is another easy source for the two
items needed to make an Autostar to RS-232 cable:

http://www.radioshack.com (not the store!):

DB9 Female to RJ12 Adapter Cat.# 950-0287 $2.99 -or- DB25 Female to RJ12
Adapter Cat.# 950-0282 $2.99

12-Foot Ivory Coiled Handset Cord Cat.# 940-0459 1 $1.99 Many other
colors available for $4.99 but a few colors are on sale for $1.99!!

Just attach the 4 pins as per your site and it's done. Shipping is only
$4 or so from radioshack.com and the parts arrive in 2 or 3 days
usually. No guarantees of any kind :) Regards, Howard

Subject:	 RE: ZERO / MODE focus
Sent:	Sunday, February 4, 2001 20:02:43
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
This one turned out to be easy to reproduce.  For anyone else who wants
to have a go, here are my location co-ordinates: 40-15N 075-18W EST
(UTC-5).

Using the TLE's on TS Kelso's web site (http://www.celestrak.com) for
ISS, I found a pass will occur on 07-Feb-2001, starting around 18:03:46
EST (2.1Ek gives variously 18:05 and 18:06) with AOS in the SSE and LOS
in NNE, a maximum altitude of 21 deg., and pass lasting about 5 minutes
(read "plenty of time to fiddle with buttons").

Pressing the "0/lightbulb" button produced a marked increase in motor
speed.  Pressing 0 a few more times produces progressively slower
"run-away rates" until scope motion stops altogether.  My guess is the
value associated with the focus rate is somehow being passed to the
slewing motors.

Of course, pressing MODE brings everything to a stop.

I'll add this to the 2.1Ek punch list.

The check to see if there's enough slewing room is a good idea. Meade
gets an "atta-boy" for that one.

Cheers,
   Rick

Richard Seymour writes:
 >>>You can try the satellite/focuser runaway in the comfort of indoors.
 >>>We're not trying for -accuracy- of sat-tracking, merely barn-door
 >>> "does it run away?"
 >>Hmm... I see what you mean.  OK, I'll fudge the clock setting to 
 >>matcha pass and see what happens.
 > 
 > It's even simpler... you don't have to be too close to the pass-time
 > (you can start "tracking" even if it says there are thousands of
 > seconds before AOS)
 > 
 > If you've never tracked a satellite, or have only done it with 
 > pre-v21ek firmware, it's a little different now.
 > 
 > You select your satellite, it figures the data.
 > You push [goto] to tell it to get ready...
 > NEW: It will first slew to the -end- of the track (LOS point),
 >  Then it will slew to the -beginning- (AOS) point.
 >   Then it will start counting down seconds... 
 > 
 > You push [enter] to actually start the slow rise from the AOS point.
 > 
 > If you press [zero] to engage focus early in the track, the speed-up
 >  of the runaway is quite obvious... if you wait until the barrel is
 >  already racing along with the satellite, it's harder to tell it's
 >  gone whacko...
 > 
 > The go-to-LOS-first pre-slew is to guarantee that the ETX doesn't
 > hit a hard-stop during the pass.
 > 
 > Have fun
 > --dick

Subject:	 Re: new ETX125 person
Sent:	Sunday, February 4, 2001 16:58:07
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	Sarah
Hello Sarah and welcome to the wonderful world of ETX 125!  You're in
for a world of fun and discovery; the scopes are absolutely fantastic,
putting a lot of excitement back into a hobby that seemed to go the
wayside of CCD's, imaging, computer enhancement and anything but
"observing!"

The new Autostar firmware that you  probably looking for is "A2.4" and
is available for downloading onto a PC immediately by going to
www.meade.com and clicking the "Autostar Update" button on the home
page.  At the end of the descriptions of various downloads available,
you will find the last to be a description of this 2.4 version.

Double click onto it and it will begin downloading to your computer;
prompts from thereon show you the way to proceed.  At that point, once
in the computer (very simple) you must connect your Autostar to both the
telescope and the PC with the #505 Meade cable set and follow the
instructions (you can also get those instructions by double clicking the
highlighted "505" note at the TOP of the same web page) provided with
the cables and the "READ ME" file that comes with the A2.4 firmware.  BE
SURE TO PRINT IT OUT so that will fully understand the process.

Good luck, and let me know if you get stuck....there are plenty of folks
on Mike Weasner's ETX site that will guide you along!

Good skies and bright comets.....Clay Sherrod
-----Original Message-----
>Hi Clay,
>
>I've read many of your wonderful updates, am an interested in downloading
>that new controller software, where can I get it?
>
>
>Thanks,
>Sarah
And more from Clay and Sarah:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Sarah, Hi - and yes, definitely print the "Read Me" file for the new
A2.4 firmware.  I suspect you have version 2.0-something on your
Autostar which gave me quite a bit of trouble.  Why don't you go ahead
and download the version A2.4 on your computer from the Meade web page? 
That way you can print directly off of that folder (it will be under
your program files) the "Read Me" and still have the firmware ready if
it checks out!  No harm in that!

Right now, A2.3 is a nightmare, so stay away from it pending the "field
test" of A2.4.

I am sorry you had trouble with your ETX 125 and Autostar; familiar
song;  I had considerable trouble myself and opted to get in and
overhaul mine to my liking and it paid off.  Changing from 2.0 to 2.1
firmware made a LOT of difference, though and I am hearing good things
about A2.4.

Glad you are enjoying the scope and all is working well for you now.  If
you guys ever need assistance, don't hestitate to get in touch and
ALWAYS check out the ETX web site on a regular basis....there is always
something to be learned and I'll bet if you have a question, it's
already answered there someplace (I still have to really look, and even
then I forget!).

Great skies above!
Clay Sherrod
-----Original Message-----
>Hi again Clay,
>
>Thank you for all of your guidance and support!  We are having so much fun
>with this now that we got the glitches worked out (we had to exchange the
>first ETX 125 and the first Autostar controller because of motor-control and
>unresponsive-button problems, respectively).  I've read that the Autostar
>version 2.1ek is great but you haven't received reviews on the 2.4 yet?
>After all the trouble we've had getting our new beast to behave I'm a
little
>hesitant to jump right in and mess with its firmware!  But I'll go back to
>Meade's site and see if I can find the Autostar update and I'll print out
the
>instructions.
>
>Again, thanks for the welcome and the info!
>
>Sarah

Subject:	 60 etx - question
Sent:	Sunday, February 4, 2001 15:30:20
From:	sdbmayfield@blomand.net (Steven Mayfield)
I  was  exploring  the  possibility  of  controlling  my  telescope 
from  a  spare  bedroom.  Is  an  "extension cord"  for  the  autostar
available  or  can  I  fabricate one  ?
                                            Sincerly, Steve Mayfield
                                            sdbmayfield@blomand.net
Mike here: Not that I recall but you could probably make one from parts at Radio Shack.

Added later: I just remembered that Scopetronix has a 25 foot extension cord ($14.95).

And more:

Thanks  I  appreciate  it.  You  are  so  helpful  !!!  I   have 
designed and  made  a  telescope  pier  that  could  save  60/70   ETX 
users  some cold  cash  that  could  be spent   for  other   items.  I 
will  send  them if  you  like  later.  I   plan  on  using  the  cord 
to  remotely  control the  60mm  while  doing  some  ccd  imaging  from 
the  comfort  of  a spare  bedroom  until  I  can  save  up  and  build 
a  small  observatory. I  am  waiting  on  a  wireless  camera  I 
purchased  from  Yahoo  auctions which  I  plan  to  modify  and 
download  the images   to  a  vcr  and later  through  the  use  of  a 
snappy  or  similar  device  download  to my  computer.
   Thanks  again,  Steve  sdbmayfield@blomand.net

Subject:	 READWAIT Correction (A2.4)
Sent:	Sunday, February 4, 2001 00:55:25
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com ('richard seymour')
Thanks a lot Dick,

I'll let you know how I come along with the disassembly.  I changed the
read-wait from 60 to 5 (zero making me a little nervous) did a "seconds
patched" 2.1Ek. and uploaded.  It only took 8 minutes as opposed to
forever. That's fast enough I think I'll try zero in the read-wait just
to see what happens.  Anyway, everything went up OK.  A2.4 doesn't give
you the option of  discarding the user data that is already in the
handbox.  It just gives you a message informing you that your data will
be saved.  I had the TB tour in already so as soon as the upload was
complete, I tried out the eclipse in the tour and it works fine.  No
bug.  Must have been the A2.3 uploader.

A couple of other interesting observations.  Since I had just tried out
the eclipse bug prior to sending up a new 2.1Ek load, the date was still
set for Jan-9.  I think it is interesting that the thing keeps the date
and astro-data but won't keep your site or owner information which, of
course, is the biggest pain to key in.

I've been "dry labbing" all of this because it has been continually
raining for the last several day's.  As soon as it quits I'll re-train
the drives and see if everything is normal from an operation standpoint.
So far A2.4 is a HUGE improvement over A2.3 as far as I'm concerned. 
Other than being a little trickier to clean the data out of the Autostar
when not in "expert" mode, and not being able to know what tour
information is really in the handbox because it won't download tours
when you do a "get from" (boy the e-data goes up and down a lot quicker
w/ r-w @ 5 as well), I have no issues.... so far.

Cheers,
Mike
And more:
I must have been spaced out the first time I timed the new SW upload w/
RW @ 5.  I did it again and it was really 18min 30sec NOT 8min as I
previously thought. I decided to waste the morning and get some data. 
All with A2.4 Uploader pushing up "second patched" 2.1Ek FW.  Data in
the Ephemerides Folder: Asteroids - 58, Comets - 134, Satellites - 161,
Tours - 6 (How Far Is Far?, Messier Marathon, Double Club, Star's Life,
Pretty Doubles, Tonight's Best)

READWAIT in Reg.    2.1Ek Upload time     Ephemerides Upload time
    60                   32'25"                 2'25"
    10                    N/A                   1'15"
     8                    N/A                   1'13"
     6                    N/A                   1'33" (see pause caveat below)
     5                   18'30"                 1'52" (see pause caveat below)
     2                    N/A                   2'10" (see Pause caveat below)
     0                   18'20"                 1'12"

I did the FW uploads twice each (very consistent times).  Since
uploading the E-data was quick, I did this several times for each of the
above RW times.  You obviously have to exit the Uploader before you
change the Registry, but you don't have to re-boot or anything.  I also
exited between FW uploads and E-data uploads.

The reason that I did the E-data at so many places is that I noticed a
significant pause in the middle of the comet upload with RW set @ 5.  It
then also paused in satellite upload.  I repeated  @ 5 several times and
it always paused (except the 1st time when I sent you the bogus
results). However the pause occurred at different points each time
(21-26 comets). There were never any error messages and everything
looked like it went up OK.  When I dialed up the comet and sat. data in
the Autostar it all seemed to be there w/ the appropriate stats. As did
the Tours (including the L-eclipse on Jan-9, Dick).  Since Zero worked I
decided to try different #s between 0-10.  As you can see from above, RW
@ 2 was the worst.  The program paused 20 secs before anything happened.
I thought it was hung.  I tried RW @ 8 several times and never saw a
problem.  I did not bother to do a 2.1Ek upload @ 8 because it looks
like it would probably be pretty close to "5". I can tell you though,
the difference between 18 min and 32 min seems like forever. I've left
the data in from the last "8" E-data upload and I'll see how the scope
behaves outside.  I know, I know, "10" makes more sense, but where's the
fun in that?

Cheers,
Mike
And:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Mike Hadey,

(oh, lord...Mike and Mike..) 
> I changed the read-wait from 60 to 5 (zero making me a little nervous)
> did a "seconds patched" 2.1Ek. and uploaded.  It only took 8 minutes
> as opposed to forever.
WOW!   During cloning the two Autostars kick to 125kbaud... 
Let's see: 8min*60sec/min*950char/sec= 456,000 bytes.
Er... somethings's wrong... let's see... there are about 220k bytes
(useful) in the Autostar.rom file, and i'd guess 500kbytes useful
in the dbase.rom file... hmmm...
(the "950 char/sec" is the speed the Autostar is willing to feed -to-
my PC when i test my reverse-downloader.  ...and it isn't spending
time handling the delays required when writing to the Flash Ram.

> That's fast enough I think I'll try zero in the read-wait just to
> see what happens.
We wait with held breath.  
With luck the Updater does a cycle of handshake (oh, yes.. there 
-is- a Y/N repsonse from the FLash Burner.. so the Updater will wait.)

> I had the TB tour in already so as soon as the upload was complete,
> I tried out the eclipse in the tour and it works fine.  No bug. 
> Must have been the A2.3 uploader.
Well, i've never used the A2.3 Updater.  Only A2.2.  Which may share
A2.3's bug. And who -knows- what upload (of firmware) put my
most recent copy of T'Best in there?

 Since i don't have my Autostar back (yet), i can't test.
Ohhh... i can call a Starfinder owner and see if -they- trip on it.

> A couple of other interesting observations.  Since I had just tried
> out the eclipse bug prior to sending up a new 2.1Ek load, the date
> was still set for Jan-9.  I think it is interesting that the thing
> keeps the date and astro-data but won't keep your site or owner
> information which, of course, is the biggest pain to key in.
Since there's no guarantee that the firmware-you-just-loaded didn't
-move- the storage locations for the Site, etc, AND since it's easier
to simply force a RESET... they do.  Adding sneaky reset everything-
but-this code leads to potholes.  I'm a fan of "clean slate".
Some downloads i've done -have- lost date and time...
Ahhh... you're (re)loading the -same- firmware... hence date/time
didn't move.  You'd have different results (betcha) if you leaped
from 2.0h to 21ek.

> So far A2.4 is a HUGE improvement over A2.3 as far as I'm concerned.
another vote...
> Other than being a little trickier to clean the data out of the
> Autostar when not in "expert" mode, and not being able to know what
> tour information is really in the handbox because it won't download
> tours when you do a "get from" (boy the e-data goes up and down a lot
> quicker w/ r-w @ 5 as well), I have no issues.... so far.
The Jewels tour -will- confuse things... the A2.4 Updater still seems
tp be a bit ungraceful with HUGE tours.

thanks!
--dick

Subject:	 Snap-back with a vengance
Sent:	Saturday, February 3, 2001 19:34:17
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
I've just brought the scope in from over nine hours of service.  I took
it out around 1330 (EST) to have a look at the Sun.  The scope did a
nice job of tracking the Sun until around 1630 when I went looking for
Venus (all of this despite a very rough alignment guess). I did some
Moon watching and then went off to Jupiter and Saturn as the sky
darkened.  I finally did a real alignment with Sirus and Pollux and then
spent much of the evening with the scope, doing the Double Club tour. 
Oddly once I did the real alignment, snap-back slewing showed up big
time and continued until I hit the azimuth stop (my error) and got a
motor fault.  Ooops!  I parked the scope, re-aligned the scope, and
continued the tour.  Snap-back slewing continued as before.  Gngh!

At least now we can rule out this is planet only effect.  I also saw
some two-axis slewing but not as bad as some times.  Oh, for a logic
probe and the source code!

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 RE: 2.1Ek punch list to Meade
Sent:	Saturday, February 3, 2001 05:36:06
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
Hi Rick & Dick,

I appreciate you copying me on your software/firmware discussions. 
Rick, by the time you read this, you may have already sent your list to
Meade. I have one possible addition for the 2.1Ek Firmware.  I haven't
used it enough to verify the problem, but I thought that I would mention
it in case someone else noticed it.  The last two times that I have had
the scope out I have been using polar mode.  In polar mode, I have not
encountered the "snap back" problem in Dec that exhibits itself in Alt
in the Alt/Az mode. However, after aligning on the 2nd star (easy
align), right after the message "alignment successful", the scope
immediately slews clockwise (can't remember whether that's an inc. or
dec. in RA) about 2 degrees. The last alignment star is obviously no
longer in the FOV.  However, when I selected the "Tonight's Best" tour, 
all of the object were well within the FOV.  I SHOULD have selected the
last alignment star and executed a "go to" to see if it re-centered. 
I'll try that next time.

Now, on to the new A2.4 uploader experiments along with the "Tonight's
Jewels" tour.  I started from scratch.  Emptied the Ephemeridies folder
and ran the Auto.exe download to re-populate it with the latest from
Meade.
1) Did a complete new upload of the 2.1Ek software to the handbox
2) Deleted all of the data in the handbox.
3) Did a "Get From" to make sure the handbox memory was clear.
4) Drug & Dropped "Tonight's Jewels" to the tour button....This resulted
in an "Out of memory" pop-up message from the uploader. This is
interesting because there is no other data selected for upload. When I
tried this before with A2.3. and nothing else selected for download, the
tour appeared to load fine.
5) Clicked the tours button..."Tonites Jewels" shows in the menu as
selected for handbox.
6) I decided NOT to try to upload at this point so I deleted the tour
and exited to the main menu.  At this point there were still objects in
the other "libraries", just not selected for upload. So..
7) At this point the handbox data is still clear so I click Finished to
exit the program.
8) Moved all of the lib*.rom files to a backup folder.
9) Re-start loader, re-D&D TJ tour to button, get same "Out of Mem".
Clicking on tour button shows the TJ tour (only one in menu of course)
selected for hndbx. Deceased to upload this time.  Exited to main.
10) Click the "Send to" button.
11) Got and error message "LibAsteroid.ROM" not found...Interesting.
A2.3 didn't care. Clicked OK.
12) Click "Get From".  Since there is nothing in the hndbx data, this
creates 0-byte libx.ROM files in the Em. folder. (note that this won't
work if there is no LibTour.ROM in the Em. folder because A2.4 doesn't
download tours as 2.3 did when you click "Get From"  is clicked.
Therefor, you have to create a 0-Byte txt file of that name for the Em.
folder if you want to upload a 0-Byte tour.rom).
13) "Send to"...Got pop-up summarizing what was going up (1 tour and
nothing else).
14) "Send to"....There it goes!   TJ seems to go up without a hitch.
15) Click Finish to exit program and initialize Autostar
16) Select tj tour (only one in box), push "Enter"...Searching..../\/
"Proc. Trap 2"  Handbox frozen.  Same as before.

Rick, I was wondering if you could email me a copy of your LibTour.ROM
file that contains the TJ tour and gets you a little further than me.  I
wonder if my handbox has slightly different hardware or something.  I
have had no other trouble with freezes except for the Lunar Eclipse
problem that I reported (Dick is familiar with this one).

This brings me to something weird.  After doing above, I deleted the TJ
tour and loaded the "Tonight's Best", set the date to Jan. 9 to see if
the Lunar Eclipse was still giving the same "Proc. Trap" error.  Guess
what Dick, the Lunar Eclipse now works in the "Tonight's Best" tour!  I
tried the next eclipse (had to change my Lat & Log to see it) and that
worked too.  I also noticed that you can load a bunch more Astro-items
and tours than with A2.3. If the 2.1Ek is really the same version, it
means that the uploader was doing something funny.  I wonder if the
eclipse data is calculated or in a database that gets uploaded somehow. 
I may find my original copy of 2.1Ek, send that back up, and try again. 
Which brings me to another question. Have either of you tried to reduce
the Read_Wait setting in the registry to see if you can upload Firmware
faster?  Would that have any affect?  It takes forever or I would be
more willing to play with it.

And one last item.  The first time I wrote the "Pretty Doubles" tour I
used the Autoselect command for each menu item. The tour works OK but
you can't get out of it by holding the Mode button, no matter how long. 
The only way out of the tour, short of turning of the scope, was to
scroll to the end.  Is that a bug or a feature of the Autoselect
command? The tour posted on Mike W. site is where I just used the
sequence of doubles. I have no trouble getting out of that one.

If I get the up the energy to upload the earlier 2.1Ek I'll let you know
the result.

Cheers,
Mike

Subject:	 Autostar and cold humid weather
Sent:	Friday, February 2, 2001 15:38:51
From:	jdcjdr@skynet.be (Looping)
Some of us here in France and Belgium have a strange problem with the
Autostar. It seems to appear when the weather is cold and humid. The
Autostar screen become black and nothing you can do will brings it back
to live.

One user says he was in these conditions and decide to disconnect the
Autostar and to warm it  in his pocket. This way to do was succesfull.

Do you ever hear about this problem ? Until now I did not encounter it
with my own equipment.

Best regards,

Michel
Mike here: This problem has been reported from users in the United States. Keeping the Autostar warm seems to help.

Subject:	 Autostar
Sent:	Friday, February 2, 2001 12:25:52
From:	GSkoubis@ussco.com (Skoubis, George)
Keep up the excellent work.
I have a few questions before I purchase 505 cables for the autostar
497. Can I upgrade without my telescope? In other words can I detach
autostar and bring it to a PC and upgrade it using Meade's software and
then attach it back to my telescope, or does it do configuring based on
or along with the drive motor of the telescope? Also I am currently
using 1.0e, can I just upgrade straight to the latest version?

Thanks in advance-George
Mike here: The telescope provides the power to the Autostar so you need the telescope to update the Autostar software. As I recall you have to upgrade to 1.3 (available in the Autostar Archive, linked from my Autostar Information page).

Subject:	 Re: Long Jewel Tour
Sent:	Thursday, February 1, 2001 22:05:15
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
etx-90@pinefields.com wrote:

> I suppose I could try re-writing the tour with just USER to see what
> happens.  The problem is, I don't see a way to hold memory use
> constant so changing the script would narrow down the problem to
> either excess memory use or flaky response to a string of AUTO SELECT
> USER commands.
"simple"... make it LONGER.... by converting the AUTO SELECT USER
strings (partially) into scrolling text.
Do a search/replace of AUTO SELECT USER 
to " AUTO SELECT " (newline) USER

(the quotes are intentional and part of the new string)

> Eh, but who's to say that A2.4 doesn't build a total memory image from
> the four (or six, if you count landmarks and user objects) groups?

Sorry, i wasn't clear: i believe it *does* 
My olny question is whether it creates two loads (Tour and Other),
 or one... hmmm... the Tours trade off against Objects for space,
so my vote is pretty solidly in the "one" category.

Inside the Autostar, the only mechanism available for bulk-transfer
during Download are "read block" and "write block" commands.
But a block  can be a single byte.  Maximum 256 bytes.
During Clone they shovel it in (usually) 64 byte packets.
I'll dig deeper into Clone to see what the -sending- Astar is doing.
(may take a day or two)


> Sure would be nice to know what's really going on.
Got two PCs?  Have one monitor the transfer to the Autostar via
a T-cable (only data-to-Autostar also connected to data-to-2nd PC)
It'd probably work using both serial ports on a single PC, too.

Capture such a transfer (from power-up to end of Updater session) for
a known, limited dataset, and i'd be happy to kibitz about what you
 caught.
>> *In* the Autostar, the various body types are arranged as linked
>> lists...
>  Uh, FORTH code???
I don't -think- so, but possible.  It's a common way to deal with
 volatile data.  Garbage collection only occurs if the area fills.
That's why the Object you just -changed- moves to the end of the 
 scroll-list.
 
> FWIW, I did some Sun observing today. 
nice
> It sure would be nice to know what I did (or didn't) to avoid
> it today.
er, no SYNC?

--dick
And:
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
richard seymour writes:
 > > I suppose I could try re-writing the tour with just USER to see what
 > > happens.  The problem is, I don't see a way to hold memory use
 > > constant so changing the script would narrow down the problem to
 > > either excess memory use or flaky response to a string of AUTO SELECT
 > > USER commands.
 > "simple"... make it LONGER.... by converting the AUTO SELECT USER
 > strings (partially) into scrolling text.
 > Do a search/replace of AUTO SELECT USER 
 > to " AUTO SELECT " (newline) USER
 > 
 > (the quotes are intentional and part of the new string)

Let's see if I have this straight.  I have a tour that reads

AUTO SELECT USER 23:59:59 -89d59m59s "Object" "Yada yada yada yada"
"yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada"

AUTO SELECT USER 23:59:59 -89d59m59s "Object" "Yada yada yada yada"
"yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada"


and it should become

" AUTO SELECT "
USER 23:59:59 -89d59m59s "Object" "Yada yada yada yada"
"yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada"

" AUTO SELECT "
USER 23:59:59 -89d59m59s "Object" "Yada yada yada yada"
"yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada"

(^ Ain't EMACS a grand editor for this stuff? ^  [grin])

 > > Eh, but who's to say that A2.4 doesn't build a total memory image from
 > > the four (or six, if you count landmarks and user objects) groups?
 > 
 > Sorry, i wasn't clear: i believe it *does* 
 > My only question is whether it creates two loads (Tour and Other),
 > or one... hmmm... the Tours trade off against Objects for space,
 > so my vote is pretty solidly in the "one" category.

I can see that.

 > Inside the Autostar, the only mechanism available for bulk-transfer
 > during Download are "read block" and "write block" commands.
 > But a block  can be a single byte.  Maximum 256 bytes.
 > During Clone they shovel it in (usually) 64 byte packets.
 > I'll dig deeper into Clone to see what the -sending- Astar is doing.
 > (may take a day or two)
 > 
 > 
 > > Sure would be nice to know what's really going on.
 > Got two PCs?  Have one monitor the transfer to the Autostar via
 > a T-cable (only data-to-Autostar also connected to data-to-2nd PC)
 > It'd probably work using both serial ports on a single PC, too.
 > 
 > Capture such a transfer (from power-up to end of Updater session) for
 > a known, limited dataset, and i'd be happy to kibitz about what you
 > caught.

Uh, truth is, even if we know exactly what's going on with the
transfers, short of writing a new third-party version of Autostar
firmware (above at least my present skill level), it's not going to
change the real problem: getting Meade to clear up the problems with
slew control and crippled tour support.  OTOH, if there's a way to get
someone at Meade to talk about the firmware, the need to reverse-
engineer these boxes becomes moot.  I'm for taking the "human
engineering" (to use a hacker term) route into the boxes.

 > >> *In* the Autostar, the various body types are arranged as linked
 > >> lists...
 > >  Uh, FORTH code???
 > I don't -think- so, but possible.  It's a common way to deal with
 >  volatile data.  Garbage collection only occurs if the area fills.
 > That's why the Object you just -changed- moves to the end of the 
 >  scroll-list.

The FORTH idea popped up only because I recall that FORTH was written in
response to some astronomical project's needs and is very big on linked
lists.

The comment about garbage collection does trigger a comment about AU's
object editing, though.  Specifically, I suspect users want to know the
order in which items in an object group go into the handbox and,
ideally, want to set that order.  For tours, being able to set the order
of the list would be nice.  As it is now, the list of tours is shown
alphabetically but that's not how the load.

Comets and asteroids could be sorted by RA, RA & Dec., or name order.
Sorting satellites is a little tougher because they can move around a
lot (e.g., wxsats which are in a Sun-sync polar orbit).  Probably the
most one can hope for is to go with an alpha sort or to be able to
somehow (via drag and drop?) order the name list to suit.  Anyway, I'll
add that to the 2.1Ek punch list but mark it as probably an AU mod.

 > > FWIW, I did some Sun observing today. 
 > nice
 > > It sure would be nice to know what I did (or didn't) to avoid
 > > it today.
 > er, no SYNC?

There was a nice spot group coming in from the east along with a few
freckles elsewhere but mostly the Sun was surprisingly clear of spots.

I rarely hit SYNC.  I did mess with it a bit but generally found that
once I left the area where I'd done the SYNC, the overall aiming skill
degraded.  Meade specifically cautions, in their FAQ, against using SYNC
heavily for just that reason.  Since I'd planned to swing the scope in
hopes of snagging (maybe) Mercury and Venus, I left SYNC alone.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 New Uploader Software (A2.4)
Sent:	Thursday, February 1, 2001 05:36:24
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
Mike Hadey writes:
 > Hi Dick, Rick & Mike,
 > 
 > I gave the new uploader software a brief try this evening.  Much, Much
 > better!  My biggest complaint with the earlier versions was the immediate
 > download of the data in the handbox.

Certainly seeing the handbox immediately go into download mode, with the
risks associated with an uploader failure, is a little un-nerving.

 > Now you go right to the main screen and all "buttons" are active.  I didn't
 > realize that the 2.3 uploader must have stored data in the handbox in a
 > different manner.  I was able to load many more asteroids, comets, and
 > satellites, along with 8 tours.  Note that I did NOT re-upload the 2.1ek
 > firmware.  I want to play with A2.4 some more and see what happens.  I did
 > manage to overload the memory by dragging the "Tonites Jewels" tour and
 > dropping on the other 8 that were already there.  The software seemed to
 > handle it OK without messing up the data in the Autostar.

I suspect "Tonite's Jewels" is hard on memory because of the extensive
text compared to most tours.

 > On a different topic.  The "Tonites Jewels" tour, that Rick has mentioned
 > having trouble with, takes up so much memory that I haven't been able to
 > load many other tours at the same time.  I decided to load it by itself
 > (make sure memory was not overloaded) and see if I got the same problem that
 > Rick was talking about.  I couldn't get the tour to work at all.  After
 > entering the tour, it started searching../... and then I got the "trap
 > Proc." error that I got when encountering the lunar eclipse that I described
 > earlier.  This completely locks up the handbox.  Again, I need more time to
 > try some things out.  I think I'll do a fresh upload of the 2.1ek firmware
 > and exercise the A2.4 updater again when I get a chance.

It's interesting to hear it doesn't play at all for you.  I ran it last
night (and skipped over some objects hidden behind trees, etc.) but
didn't see any major problems (seeing the "Slewing..." prompt covered
over by the text on line 2 is minor - unless I try to break out of the
tour before it decides it's ended).

One of the points that puzzles about how any version of Updater
interacts with a handbox is the rule for updating the handbox's
contents.  Specifically, does updater write a completely new memory
image during each upload or does some material remain while other parts
are replaced?  Dick, I think this is your area of expertise.

Mike [Hadley], you might want to think about enabling "Expert mode" in
your Updater so you can use the Expert panel to flush your handbox's
contents.

Cheers,
   Rick
And more from Rick:
The quickest way to see Tonite's Jewels collapse is to run it past the
planets (the data from the handbox is used for them) and on to stars,
Messier objects, etc.  Once the line 2 crawl starts, hit MODE repeatedly
to break out of the tour and you'll see the appropriate prompt on line 1
(e.g., "Select Item:") and the crawl will continue on line 2.  I ran
Tonite's Jewels yesterday evening *without* trying to break out and it
did well; it's trying to leave in mid-tour that seems to trigger the
problem.

I've seen the above problem with 2.0h and 2.1Ek.

The other Tonite's Jewels surprise (and possibly scope-breaker) is to
set the scope to 40-15N, 75-18W, UTC -5 hrs, set the time and date to
12:00:00 30 Jan 2001, and start the tour.  Slew to each object.  The
first two objects will the Moon and Venus.  No problem there but when
you select the next item, M2, the scope will slew up and around briefly
(Venus and M2 aren't too far apart right now), pause, and then slew
towards what I can only assume is the reciprocal values for the correct
azimuth and altitude.  BE PREPERED TO STOP YOUR SCOPE!!  The firmware
will try to drive the OTA down through the base.

I've only tested this with 2.1Ek.

Good luck with the testing and watch the OTA motion *closely* if your
try the second experiment.
And:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Mike Hadey and Rick Emerson wrote, regarding Tonight's Jewels:

Mike>  Did you have 2.1ek or 2.0i when running the tour last?

Rick>>> I did manage to overload the memory by dragging the "Tonites
Rick>>> Jewels" tour and dropping on the other 8 
Rick>>> I suspect "Tonite's Jewels" is hard on memory because of the
Rick>>> extensive text compared to most tours.

Mike> The "Tonites Jewels" tour, that Rick has mentioned
Mike> having trouble with, takes up so much memory that I
Mike> haven't been able to load many other tours at the same time.
Mike> I decided to load it by itself...
Mike> I couldn't get the tour to work at all.

I've had a friend run it... and he saw -different- symptoms.
(he didn't elaborate)
BUT... he was able to have the first 5Kbytes of it run.
So I agree that it's probably a length problem... it's too bloody long!
 (20k bytes).

So, again, i sent it along to engines@meade for them to masticate on it.

R>> One of the points that puzzles about how any version of Updater
R>> interacts with a handbox is the rule for updating the handbox's
R>> contents.  Specifically, does updater write a completely new memory
R>> image during each upload or does some material remain while other
R>> parts are replaced?  Dick, I think this is your area of expertise.
Yes... er, maybe... i -thought- that the Updater sucked the entire
64kb page of user space in (when it pulls), and put it all back out
when it wrote.  
Based upon A2.4's operation (as report by you-all), the Tours and 
other-bodies may be separately dealt with (they compete for the same
free space, but can be loaded independantly).
Back in firmware V1.3 days, the [expert] function of the Updater 
included a tick-box matrix which let you send individual Body types.
Comets separate from Asteroids, etc.

*In* the Autostar, the various body types are arranged as linked lists,
with their initial pointers stored at known addresses.
Each pointer is 3 bytes (page, then 16-bit address).
All initial pointers are in Flash Ram page 6.
 UserOb at 8001
 Landmarks at 8004
 Tours at 8007
 Asts at 800A
 Comets at 800D
 Sats at 8010

So the "Tours" are just one of the guys...

>> Mike [Hadley], you might want to think about enabling "Expert mode"
>> in your Updater so you can use the Expert panel to flush your
>>  handbox's  contents.
I think (unverified by personal experience) you don't have to go
"Expert" to effectively do that.  The new updater doesn't -read-
from your Autostar unless you tell it to, and lets you -write-
zeroed-out LIBs if you wish.  Nirvana... (of a sort).
--dick
And:
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com
richard seymour writes:
 > Mike Hadey and Rick Emerson wrote, regarding Tonight's Jewels:
 > 
 > Mike>  Did you have 2.1ek or 2.0i when running the tour last?
 > 
 > Rick>>> I did manage to overload the memory by dragging the "Tonites
 > Rick>>> Jewels" tour and dropping on the other 8 
 > Rick>>> I suspect "Tonite's Jewels" is hard on memory because of the
 > Rick>>> extensive text compared to most tours.
 > 
 > Mike> The "Tonites Jewels" tour, that Rick has mentioned
 > Mike> having trouble with, takes up so much memory that I
 > Mike> haven't been able to load many other tours at the same time.
 > Mike> I decided to load it by itself...
 > Mike> I couldn't get the tour to work at all.
 > 
 > I've had a friend run it... and he saw -different- symptoms.
 > (he didn't elaborate)
 > BUT... he was able to have the first 5Kbytes of it run.
 > So I agree that it's probably a length problem... it's too bloody long!
 >  (20k bytes).

I agree that length seems to be the primary candidate for blame at this
point although I do wonder about the extensive use of AUTO SELECT USER. 
"Caldwell Cruise", for example, relies on the existing object database. 
"Double Club" (all of these tours are on Mark Crossley's site), uses the
simple USER command (as opposed to AUTO SELECT USER) with brief text. 
It behaves far better than Tonite's Jewels.  I suppose I could try
re-writing the tour with just USER to see what happens.  The problem is,
I don't see a way to hold memory use constant so changing the script
would narrow down the problem to either excess memory use or flaky
response to a string of AUTO SELECT USER commands.

 > So, again, i sent it along to engines@meade for them to masticate on it.

Would be nice to get some sort of reply out of them.  

 > R>> One of the points that puzzles about how any version of Updater
 > R>> interacts with a handbox is the rule for updating the handbox's
 > R>> contents.  Specifically, does updater write a completely new memory
 > R>> image during each upload or does some material remain while other
 > R>> parts are replaced?  Dick, I think this is your area of expertise.
 > Yes... er, maybe... i -thought- that the Updater sucked the entire
 > 64kb page of user space in (when it pulls), and put it all back out
 > when it wrote.  
 > Based upon A2.4's operation (as report by you-all), the Tours and 
 > other-bodies may be separately dealt with (they compete for the same
 > free space, but can be loaded independantly).

Eh, but who's to say that A2.4 doesn't build a total memory image from
the four (or six, if you count landmarks and user objects) groups?

 > Back in firmware V1.3 days, the [expert] function of the Updater 
 > included a tick-box matrix which let you send individual Body types.
 > Comets separate from Asteroids, etc.

Sure would be nice to know what's really going on.  

 > *In* the Autostar, the various body types are arranged as linked lists,
 > with their initial pointers stored at known addresses.
 > Each pointer is 3 bytes (page, then 16-bit address).
 > All initial pointers are in Flash Ram page 6.
 >  UserOb at 8001
 >  Landmarks at 8004
 >  Tours at 8007
 >  Asts at 800A
 >  Comets at 800D
 >  Sats at 8010
 > 
 > So the "Tours" are just one of the guys...

Uh, FORTH code???  

 > >> Mike [Hadley], you might want to think about enabling "Expert mode"
 > >> in your Updater so you can use the Expert panel to flush your
 > >>  handbox's  contents.
 > I think (unverified by personal experience) you don't have to go
 > "Expert" to effectively do that.  The new updater doesn't -read-
 > from your Autostar unless you tell it to, and lets you -write-
 > zeroed-out LIBs if you wish.  Nirvana... (of a sort).
 > --dick

True.  Just blow away the LibXxxx files, let A2.4 build new, blank ones
on start up and voila!  Nothingness!

FWIW, I did some Sun observing today.  I have a very handy aiming point
to confirm my scope's home position points smack at Polaris.  A little
tinkering with the OTA's elevation pretty much means that I can just
push ENTER for an alignment and be within a few degrees of the desired
spot when slewing to the Sun.  I didn't see any snap-back slewing or
two-axis slewing despite last night's demonstrations of both.  It sure
would be nice to know what I did (or didn't) to avoid it today.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 Tracking with ETX's
Sent:	Wednesday, January 31, 2001 21:53:38
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	claudia@shire.maps.susx.ac.uk (Claudia C Eberlein)
Claudia,

I saw your note on Mike's site.

I agree with him that hours-long accurate Alt/Az tracking is the
norm for my ETX90/ec, too.  
Proper alignment is critical (for long tracking),
-instantaneous- tracking may wander a little (less than 20 arc sec),
but overall the object should never leave a half-degree field.

What he neglected to mention is that the tracking rate is
 *adjustable* in the Autostar.
It comes with Sidereal and Lunar, and an additional "Custom" option
you can stuff numbers into.  As far as i can tell it accepts +/-999
arc seconds per minute.  (so Lunar is -35 ).

have fun
--dick
And:
From:	claudia@shire.maps.susx.ac.uk (Claudia C Eberlein)
Hi Dick and Mike,

Thanks a lot for your e-mails which confirmed for me that the standards
in this field aren't quite as low as Celestron's technical support tried
make me believe. When I contacted them I had hoped they tell me how to
change the clock frequency (similar to the "Custom" feature in the
Autostar) but instead they just waffled on how difficult it was to
convert decl/RA into alt/az coords and that the Nexstar 4 computer
wasn't quite up to it. They themselves had measured drifts of 1 arc min
per minute on average.

Well, first of all the conversion from decl/RA to alt/az is simple
trigonometry. As it happens, I am a theoretical physicist and I worked
it out for myself in order to see how large a deviation one could get if
the scope wasn't exactly level etc. Such a stupid answer might do for
the general public. "Oh, it's done by computer. Huh-hmm, it must be very
difficult."

Second, for objects in the south the scope has to move just azimuthally,
and but then I had just the same problem. So, it definitely is the clock
frequency of the drive (or some slipping clutch).

In any case this is unacceptable to me (and should be to anyone). The
scope has 4 different tracking rates: sidereal, lunar, solar, and King.
What is the point of having them if the uncertainty in the rates is far
greater than the difference between them. To me this is a clear case of
misrepresentation in advertising a product, and I'll return the scope to
the dealer and ask for a refund.

Optically it wasn't much good either - though I cannot say how it
compares to the ETX90 or 125 since I have not had a chance to look
through either of them. Doing the star test (on Polaris!) at 90x I saw
the tell-tale signs of spherical aberrations: a fuzzy doughnut with
smaller rings inside intrafocus and a fuzzy blob with rings outside
extrafocus. At 190x Saturn looked fuzzy and could not be focussed
anymore.

To understand just how frustrated I am bear in mind that I belong to the
disadvantaged lot on the other side of the Atlantic who have to pay 150
to 200% of the US prices and that on much lower average salaries. The
Nexstar 4 is sold here for 599 Pounds (about $900). Both Meade and
Celestron prohibit any US dealer from selling their products outside the
US. Each have only on importer in the UK, and this naturally leads to
price fixing.

I'm not sure what to do next. I'll certainly continue to enjoy my 6"
Newtonian (which is by Orion UK and of decent quality) but that isn't
very portable.

				All the best,

					Claudia.

Subject:	 Re:  Re:  2.1Ek punch list & features
Sent:	Wednesday, January 31, 2001 20:56:52
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
I spent about the last 90 minutes with my ETX and didn't find any real
changes, just additional notes about how things work (or don't).  Here's
an interesting one:  Snap-back slewing happens at the rate used to move
from the scope's starting point.  Shift the view at the 8X speed, and it
returns at that speed.  Shift at 16X or 4X, and the return is at that
rate *even if a new rate is selected after manually re-centering*.  In
otherwords, whatever is causing the snap-back action "remembers" how
fast the scope moved to re-center the image.  The correction rate isn't
whatever the current slew rate is. Dunno what that means but there it
is.

Cheers,
   Rick
And more from Rick:
At a guess, it looks as though the initial rate is stuffed into a
scratch space in the firmware and that space isn't updated as the scope
slides back to something like its previous position.  BTW, I'm beginning
to think more and more that "snap-back" doesn't go back (or at least
try) to the exact last endpoint but to something near there.  I've found
that if I move the scope far enough past the desired point, it comes
back to a point closer to what's desired in the first place.

All in all, I think there's some sloppy coding that only shows up in
special cases.  I looked at the Sun at lunch time and there was no
snap-back problem as I sniffed around the Sun's image with the 26 and
12mm EP's.

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