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 email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (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, MichelMike 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, >WillAnd:
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. --dickAnd:
From: email@example.com (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.... CLAYAnd 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, MOMike 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.
From: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (Clay), firstname.lastname@example.org (Dick), email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: AutoStar LST time display Sent: Tuesday, February 20, 2001 21:20:10 From: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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. BurleighMike 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: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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. --dickAnd 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! DonMike 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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 FergusonAnd:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 SherrodAnd:
From: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Clay Sherrod) To: email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Clay Sherrod) To: email@example.com 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 SherrodAnd:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 hattonMike 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: email@example.com (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 firstname.lastname@example.orgMike 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: email@example.com (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 SamMike here: Just press the arrow keys. No need to exit tracking mode. When you stop slewing, tracking begins again.
but I find that if I want to slew in the opposite direction the scope is slewing to, it doesn't work very wellMike here: Well, if you mean does the tracking start up again when you release the slew button, yep, it has to.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 SherrodAnd 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: email@example.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, RickAnd:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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). --dickAnd:
From: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, RickAnd:
From: email@example.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. --dickAnd more:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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. ClayAnd:
From: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Michael Hadley) To: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (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....ClayAnd from our resident Autostar Expert:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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. --dickAnd 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: email@example.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. --dickAnd:
SFrom: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 messageMike 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: email@example.com (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 GalaMike 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (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! ClayMike 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 MaskiMike 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: email@example.com (Charlie Freed) To: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 FreedAnd:
From: email@example.com (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 ArnoMike 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.
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. ArnoMike 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 email@example.comMike 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Clay Sherrod) To: email@example.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 SherrodMike 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.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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. --dickAnd 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 FergusonAnd:
From: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 FergusonMike 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: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, RickAnd:
From: email@example.com (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 SherrodAnd 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, RickAnd more:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (Clay Sherrod) To: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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. --dickAnd 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, JamieMike 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: email@example.com (Mike Hadey) To: firstname.lastname@example.org ('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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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. ThanksMike 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Clay Sherrod) To: email@example.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 SherrodAnd 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 - ClayAnd 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Clay Sherrod) To: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Autostar Software Review Project) To: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Autostar Software Review Project) To: email@example.com (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, RickAnd 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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! CLAYAnd from Rick:
From: Autostar Software Review Project (email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Clay Sherrod) To: email@example.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 SherrodAnd:
: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, RickAnd more:
From: email@example.com (Clay Sherrod) To: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 (email@example.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, > RickAnd:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, RickAnd from Clay:
From: email@example.com (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 SherrodAnd from Dick:
SFrom: firstname.lastname@example.org (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... --dickAnd:
From: email@example.com (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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) >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: email@example.com (richard seymour) To: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 --dickAnd:
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: email@example.com (Clay Sherrod) To: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 ObservatoryAnd:
From: email@example.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) -dickAnd 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 SherrodAnd 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 GraingerAnd:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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... ;-) --dickAnd:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (richard seymour) To: firstname.lastname@example.org (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. --dickAnd:
From: email@example.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, RickAnd now more on the LX200 commands from Dick:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (richard seymour) To: email@example.com (Autostar Software Review Project) CC: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 FreedMike 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: email@example.com (Clay Sherrod) To: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (Clay Sherrod) To: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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 CompanyMike 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mike Hadey) To: email@example.com ('Rick Emerson'), firstname.lastname@example.org ('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.htmlAnd:
From: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, RickMike 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.
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, RickAnd from Clay:
From: email@example.com (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 SherrodAnd more:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, RickAnd more from Clay:
From: email@example.com (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 SherrodAnd:
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, RickAnd 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 - CLAYMike 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.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, RickAnd 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: email@example.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?). --dickAnd:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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
From: email@example.com (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, MikeAnd even more:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 SherrodAnd this response:
From: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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. JoeMike 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: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.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. --dickMike 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Clay Sherrod) To: email@example.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 SherrodAnd from Dick:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (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. ClayAnd 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...) --dickAnd 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. ClayAnd more:
From: email@example.com (Autostar Software Review Project) To: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, RickAnd more:
From: email@example.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, RickAnd 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 SherrodAnd 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, RickAnd 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]. CLAYAnd 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (Heidy Tanissa) Do you have an idea how to make a custom made 505 cable for linking the ETX to a PC ? Many thanks HeidyMike 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 email@example.com
Subject: Re: time and again.... Sent: Monday, February 5, 2001 20:00:44 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (richard seymour) To: email@example.com (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"... --dickAnd 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). --dickAnd 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. ClayAnd:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Clay Sherrod) To: email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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 HagerMike 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, >SarahAnd more from Clay and Sarah:
From: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 email@example.comMike 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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: READWAIT Correction (A2.4) Sent: Sunday, February 4, 2001 00:55:25 From: email@example.com (Mike Hadey) To: firstname.lastname@example.org ('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, MikeAnd 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, MikeAnd:
From: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, MichelMike 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-GeorgeMike 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: email@example.com (richard seymour) firstname.lastname@example.org 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? --dickAnd:
From: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, RickAnd 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: email@example.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). --dickAnd:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com (richard seymour) To: firstname.lastname@example.org (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 --dickAnd:
From: email@example.com (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: firstname.lastname@example.org (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, RickAnd 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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