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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
Last updated: 31 January 2001

Welcome to the Autostar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar, cables, and the Autostar updater software. See the Autostar Info page for information from Meade and other users on the Autostar, cables, and software. Send your comments and tips to etx@me.com. Remember, tips described on this site may invalidate the warranties on your ETX and accessories. Neither the submitter nor myself are responsible for any damage caused by using any contributed tips.


Subject:	 New Uploader Software (A2.4)
Sent:	Wednesday, January 31, 2001 20:15:39
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
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. 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.

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.

Cheers,
Mike

Subject:	 New Autostar Client Update 
Sent:	Wednesday, January 31, 2001 19:27:28
From:	mirko@mirko.cc (Mirko J. Ploch)
There's an new Autostar Client Update program on Meade's site
(http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html). It's version A2.4 and was
posted on 01/30/2001. It does not have a new Autostar rom version. I
haven't tried to use it. I just noticed the new version. I was able to
upgrade my ROM with A2.3 using Win98. I was not able to get A2.3 to run
under Win2k.

-=mirko=-

Subject:	 Autostar Updater 2.4
Sent:	Wednesday, January 31, 2001 15:38:43
From:	stantstk@pacbell.net (Stan Glaser)
I just noticed a NEW updater, v2.4, posted on Meade's website with a
01/30/01 date. I downloaded it, but haven't tried it. Since I finally
had a successful load of firmware 2.1ek with the AS Updater v2.1 a few
months ago, I find no reason to mess with a good thing at this time.
Besides, again, since I run on a Mac, it's still one big pain in the
behind to go firing up VirtualPC just to dink with it. I don't think
Meade's ever going to release a Mac version (Java based or not, promises
or not)...

Take care, clear skies

Stan Glaser
stantstk@pacbell.net

Subject:	 ETX90 with Autostar
Sent:	Wednesday, January 31, 2001 10:24:28
From:	claudia@shire.maps.susx.ac.uk (Claudia C Eberlein)
Hi, I have a question for the ETX-with-Autostar community. I have just
bought a Nexstar 4 Maksutov. One of the things that doesn't work so well
on it is that in alt/az mode it lags about 10% behind in tracking
sidereal. I asked Celestron's Technical Support and they said that in
alt/az they have measured an average drift of about 1' per minute. Given
that sidereal motion is 15' per minute a drift of 1' per minute is a bit
much to call normal. How does the ETX do for that? From how much I paid
for it, the Nexstar 4 should be vaguely comparable to the ETX90, but
that much drift in tracking disappoints me very much.

Many thanks,

Claudia Eberlein.
Mike here: If you get a good alignment, tracking will be much better with the Autostar. I've gone away for nearly an hour and came back to find the object still in the 26mm eyepiece.

Subject:	 2.1Ek punch list & features
Sent:	Wednesday, January 31, 2001 06:33:43
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
[Author's note:  My thanks to Dick Seymour for pointing out the focus
mode feature in 2.1Ek.]


Autostar firmware version 2.1Ek ("2.1Ek") has two new features that
Autostar users will find useful.  Both changes are documented in 2.1Ek's
README.TXT file but a little clarification of those comments is in
order.

First, a "spiral search" feature was added to the code.  If, after
selecting an object and pressing GOTO, the object didn't appear in the
main eyepiece when slewing stopped and the handbox beeped, press GOTO a
second time and the scope will begin a slow counterclock-wise piral
motion around the stopping point.  When the object appears in the
eyepiece, press GOTO again to stop the search.  Use the motion buttons
to center the object and you're all set!

Pressing GOTO twice in succession will start a spiral search.  There is,
so far as I can determine, no time limit on the wait between successive
GOTO button presses.  Pressing any other button after pressing GOTO
stops the succession.  Pressing GOTO while a spriral search is in
progress will stop the search.

Second, pressing the 0 (zero) button (also marked with the lightbulb
symbol) will now put the handbox into focus control mode.  If you have a
Meade electric focuser, this is great news.

Prior to 2.1Ek, the only way to get into focus mode was to press on the
MODE button for two seconds or longer.  This is a problem when using a
guided tour; it takes the telescope out of the tour or, in some tours,
advances the tour past its current target before exiting the tour. 
Pressing the 0 button, focus control is immediately available without
affecting the guided tour.

In this focus mode the current focus speed is displayed and can be
changed as before, using the up and down motion buttons.  Press 1 or 2
for fine, 3, 4, or 5 for slow, 6 or 7 for medium, or 8 or 9 for fast
focus motor speeds.  The selected speed is displayed on line 1 of the
handbox display.  Press 0 again to exit from focus mode.

There are two points to be kept in mind when using the "0 as focus mode"
feature.  Pressing 0 still turns on the LED flashlight on the top of the
handbox as it did prior to 2.1Ek.  This will affect battery consumption
if you're relying on AA batteries to power your telescope. Shining the
flashlight in someone's dark adapted eyes may not be appreciated. 
Handle the handbox accordingly.

Pressing the MODE button, even briefly, while in focus mode as selected
by pressing 0 will reverse the operation of the flashlight. That is, the
LED will now light when not in focus mode and will go out after pressing
0 to go back into focus mode.  This not only sounds confusing but is a
bit confusing until you work out the rules of when the flashlight is on
or off for yourself.  A few presses of the MODE and 0 zero button while
watching the flashlight will make the situation clearer.

Pressing the MODE button for two seconds or more, with its added
displays of the telescope's pointing in AltAz and RA / Dec., timers,
time of day, etc. still works as before.  The 0 button focus mode is an
added feature that simplifies focusing during guided tours.

                            # 30 #

(c) Copyright, 2001, Richard B. Emerson, all rights reserved

Subject:	 Re: Mac ETX Cable
Sent:	Wednesday, January 31, 2001 00:24:35
From:	stantstk@pacbell.net (Stan Glaser)
To:	Robert Muller
Hi, Robert --
OUCH!!! You're absolutely right!! And it's been working for over a year
-- sooooo, I took another look and realized that I f--k-d up by leaving
off one small important detail in the drawing!! Sorry to you and
everyone else  :-( Meade's cable ends in a DB9 female, and the only
DB9 to 8-pin DIN converters that I had used DB9 females, so I had to
make a DB9 male to DB9 male converter, and that's what I left off the
drawing. Stupid, stupid mistake.
Here's the correct drawing:

Meade DB9 female     DB9 male-----DB9 male     DB9 female-----8-pin DIN 
 (RD)  2 -------------- 9 ---------- 9 ---------- 9 ------------- 5 (RXD) 
(SND)  3 -------------- 5 ---------- 5 ---------- 5 ------------- 3 (TXD) 
(GND)  5 -------------- 3 ---------- 3 ---------- 3 ------------- 4 (GND) 
                                                  7 ------------- 2  <--
         not necessary (it was part of my converter for another project) 

I checked the above drawing 5 times; it's correct!  :-) To make it
simple, build it any way you want, but the important connections are pin
2 of the Meade connector to pin 5 of the 8-pin DIN, pin 3 of the Meade
connector to pin 3 of the 8-pin DIN, and pin 5 of the Meade connector to
pin 4 of the 8-pin DIN.
Really sorry...and no, you didn't miss
a thing.
Stan Glaser
stantstk@pacbell.net
Robert Muller wrote:

Hi Stan: Pardon me for bothering you but I'm trying to make a 8 pin
din cable for my powerbook. You posted the following on Mike Weasners
site back in September.  I have a question.  The Meade cable
only mates pins 2, 3 & 5 to the autostar with pin 2 for data from
the autostar to the PC.  Pin 2 isn't on your adapter, I'm sure I am
missing something but could you explain? Robert Muller From
your Post.... First, I'm assuming you already own the ETX Interface
cable kit (or made one on your own). It is designed for a 9-pin D-type
serial connector for the PC, not the Mac (at least not any of the latest
Macs with either 8-pin DIN or USB connectors). My old computer had the
8-pin DIN connector, and I had already made a 9-pin D-type to 8-pin DIN
adapter for numerous other devices. The pinout connections for that
adapter are as follows:
9-pin D-type      8-pin DIN
3 --------------- 4
5 --------------- 3
7 --------------- 2
9 --------------- 5
I had this all working on my PowerCenter Pro 210 (Mac clone), and with
the ETX Interface cable and my adapter I was able to update the AutoStar
handbox (running VirtualPC on the Mac), and also control the ETX
directly with the Info-Genie plug-in to Starry Night Pro.

Subject:	 New UPDATER at Meade's site...
Sent:	Tuesday, January 30, 2001 19:27:42
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
(don't shoot... i'm only the messenger)

It's NOT new firmware (it still has v21ek)

But the UPDATER has been updated to A2.4.  
Many of the errors which plagued A2.3 have been corrected, or at least
 can be ignored.

So: for sending Satellites, Asteroids and Comets to your Autostars,
this one stands a chance of actually doing it without turning your
Autostar into a too-thick bookmark.

I have -not- tested it myself, my Autostar is still somewhere in the
repair cycle... but Rick Emerson -has- been beating upon it, and so
far he's pleased.

(the "available space" display is still whacko... but behind the
screen it really does seem to know what it's doing)

It's available as the bottommost main-list item at
http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html
and the citation (and files) are dated 30-Jan-2001.
--dick

Subject:	 re: drag and dropping
Sent:	Tuesday, January 30, 2001 17:06:26
From:	Richard Seymour
To:	sherrodc@ipa.net
Clay,

Remember when you last successfully ran the Updater?

Remember the (main) screen which had the "Send new firmware to Autostar"
button?

In the middle of that screen was a row of buttons.
Satellite  Comets   Asteroids    User Objects

-----------
Clicking any of those will bring up that type-of-body's editing window.

STarting the Updater will -not- erase the bodies -from- your 
Autostar, unless you ask it to.

What it -may- (i haven't run it yet... no autostar) -not- do
is start off by sucking stuff -from- your Autostar... unless
you ask it to. (or permit it to... i think it'll ask).


The drag-and-drop is done directly on/to/with the Updater's main screen.

You have a regular Windows Explorer window open on your desktop, 
 opened to a folder with whatever TLE or Tour you wish to add 
to the Updater's libraries.  
Place the cursor over that file. Press-and-hold your main mouse
button.  Now move the mouse until the cursor is hovering directly
on the appropriate body button (or Tour).   Release the mouse key.

You have just performed a drag-and-drop.
Whatever you dropped went into the (invisible because you do not
need to have that body editing window open) database, and was
also "selected for Handbox"... so it'll go the the Autostar
if/when you click the main screen's "send ephemerides to handbox" button.

At least, in -earlier- versions it was automatically selected for handboxing.
This version specifically tweaked some bugs in that area, so checking
 might be advised.

> PLANETS are moving objects.
OK, ok, I should'a said "user objects", but that's a subset of what we're 
talking about.  I could'a said "user editable objects" which is dang
close to the truth..  but wordy.  And i HATE being wordy.

--dick 
And a conversation between Clay (>) and Dick:
>Hi Dick, and thanks for the info.  I was going through the ReadMe printout a
>minute ago and realizing that the new ReadMe keeps referring to "Version
>A2.3" starting with the Table of Contents and persisting all the way
>through.  Is there a reason for this that needs to be known, or did whoever
>typed it up simply cloned from an older version and forgot to change to
>"A2.4?"
rushed, and just added the new poop... the README file has historically
had wandering (out-of-date) internal version numbering.  Gotta keep with
tradition.

>Regarding the editing on the "main screen" I remember the screen well; I
>guess my question is:  do I have to edit THEN (while I downloading the new
>version to Autostar, or is there a provision where I can go BACK LATER and
>pull that screen up to edit at my leisure, once I have already got it on my
>Autostar.  

either/both ... i usually ONLY do a firmware update.
  No editing at that time. No body-twiddles.  
   Why tempt a crash during/after a half-hour procedure.
    Why introduce -more- variables to the new firmware, such that i might
    cause operational problems, and not be able to separate whether they're
    "new firmware" or "mangled ephemerides"?

Then LATER i start playing with the little stuff.
And even then i'll tend to only work with -one- class at a time.
 (Tours, or Satellites, or Comets)... although i might -check- Asteroids
  to see if the Sun is still in there.

> I think this is where I'm getting confused; if it can be done
> later - which I assume it can be - HOW do I pull up that dialog box to begin
> going into "asteroids, or comets....."  

As stated in cookbook: plug in cables.  
Turn on Autostar.  
Tell it time/date/daylight.
Start Updater on PC  (double-click on  "Autostar Update.exe" in
                       c:\Program Files\Meade\Autostar\AutostarUpdate )
Eventually it'll get around to displaying the "main screen" with the buttons.
 (you may have to answer a few questions before that, and watch while it
   locates the Autostar on your COM port,etc.)

  Click on "Asteroid" button (for example).

Where in the above list are you getting lost?
(mind-set to adopt: this is a computer game.  Nothing will be irretrievably
 damaged if a mistake is made.  Don't hyperventilate.)

>Also, am I to assume from your response (thanks again for it) that there
> IS a body of data for "generic" asteroids and comets and satellites that
> will AUTOMATICALLY download?
er, maybe... i *think* (untested, unverified) that there's a basic set
which arrives with the v12ek (and earlier) firmware.  But i'm not sure.

When you replaced v2.0h with v21ek, the operation -should- have left
 you with whatever bodies you had at the start of the procedure.
*You*, however, went thru 5 cycles of load/crash/flash-load/etc.
So in your -particular- case, i have no idea what remains.

You can ascertain that by normal Autostar operation, and scrolling
 thru the objects to check them.

I have downloaded my Autostar a number of times.  My user objects seem
to usually survive without me taking overly conscious action.

If you tell/let the Updater -read- from your Autostar into its databases,
that should preserve your current object list for editing and reloading.
If, after letting it read them to the PC, you [finish] the Updater,
they'll STILL be in the Autostar, and also be in the database on the PC.
(reading doesn't destroy)

>  I guess the way I'm reading it is that there will be the main "popular"
> listings and then if you want to add/delete to or from THAT you must add to
> the library?
I note that some of the LIBxxxx.rom files are not zero-length.  Therefore
they have data.  -what- data i don't know. (well, i see "Thor Athena" at 
the beginning of the Libsatellite.rom file).

>Have you had a chance to find out if this new version has addressed any of
>the "rubber band" effect in which Autostar re-slews back to its original
>finding position after the user has centered an object?  I think that is my
>only major complaint of Version 2.1ek.
No...  this is only an UPDATER revision (A2.3 is now A2.4).
 The for-the-Autostar FIRMWARE has not changed at all.
   You do NOT need (nor want) to push the "send FIRMWARE to handbox" key.

>If you can help me understand how to get to the main editing dialog box
>AFTER I have installed on my Autostar, I think I can run with it;  I am sure
>they don't intend for you to have to edit all your preferences DURING
>AUTOSTAR DOWNLOAD (it's difficult enough as it is!).

Start Updater (double-click on  "Autostar Update.exe" in
 c:\Program Files\Meade\Autostar\AutostarUpdate )
Exhibit patience.  It'll get there.  (Rick Emerson says so)

--dick
And from Clay:
Dick - I think you have helped on this;  really, I'm not too stupid,
just a little lost with a little tiny thing that resembles my TV remote,
but a little more inspiring. You probably hit on my problem when you
said two things:

1) you download first, the go back and edit at leisure, one topic at a
time;

2) the main dialog (editing) screen eventually WILL appear the way I
have been attempting to get into it, which is virtually the same
openings as I do for downloading  to Autostar when the screen comes up;
the only difference is that I must stop at that screen and edit, rather
than telling it to download new software and proceed....

I think, although I was going the right pathway (opening updater,
verifying com. port, etc.)  I was expecting something to pop up right
away to continue;  the few times I have explored with this, a long time
went by and I finally just exited out, for fear I would screw up some of
the data already contained.  That is my main concern, I suppose and you
have reassured me that - unless I tell it to do otherwise - the Autostar
will RETAIN all information it already has.

You suggested testing to see what parameters might exist by calling up
several options/objects.  I have done that, and my library of asteroids,
satellites, and all the typical objects are extensive and seem to be
all-inclusive.  You are saying that unless I command the editing screen
to delete or otherwise edit an object, it will remain just as it is??  I
merely can add to that list, or take away, but it HAS to be done on my
command, and merely downloading an UPDATE is not likely to erase
anything.....right??

Thanks - there is light at the end of this tunnel, but no supernova yet.

CLAY
And from Dick (quoting >Clay):
> You suggested testing to see what parameters might exist by calling up
> several options/objects.  I have done that, and my library of
> asteroids, satellites, and all the typical objects are extensive and
> seem to be all-inclusive. 
OK... in the Autostar, only the Comets, Satellites, Asteroids, User 
 Objects, Landmarks and Tours are available for your adjustments.
 (i am going to lump -all- of those under the name: User Objects)
Everything else (Stars, Deep Sky, Planets, Glossary) are (theoretically)
fixed in silicon by Meade, and (theoretically) not adjustable.

I say "theoretically" for exactness... -i- (with full guru gear 
activated) could change the spelling of "Mercury", but i'd have a heck
of a time changing the length of the word.

> You are saying that unless I command the editing screen to delete or
> otherwise edit an object, it will remain just as it is?? 
Hopefully.  If you never command the Updater to send something, or
erase stuff, then the Autostar should not be affected.
(exactness again: Updater A2.3 -could- mangle the fixed-stars database
 in its enthusiasm for munching upon the Tours and Bodies.)
A2.4 is theoretically much better behaved.  It can even undo some of
A2.3's damage (that's what the 494 paragraphs in the README file are
referring to).

> I merely can add to that list, or take away, but it HAS to be done on
> my command, and merely downloading an UPDATE is not
> likely to erase anything.....right??

Loose lips sink Autostars...
"downloading an UPDATE" ... 
  er, which button are you speaking of pushing?

IF you mean: "downloading today's posting from Meade, and installing
 it on my PC", then well, that action -will- overwrite the copy 
 *on the PC* of your last set of User Objects.  The new A2.4 has
 its own set of LIBxxxx.ROM files, and that's where Updater keeps 
 its on-PC copies of your objects.  If you copy the entire Ephemerides
 folder to somewhere else, then you can always repair/replace those 
 files.
However, the Updater will be quite happy to fetch -from the Autostar-
that data to rebuild those files.  I haven't run -this version-, but
when it does that fetch, you may end up with seemingly duplicate entries
of some objects.  They may in fact -be- duplicates.  
In Updater A2.3 and earlier, only Tours were checked (and talked about)
for duplicates.

IF, however, by "downloading an UPDATE", you mean: sending new FIRMWARE
(software by Updater button-naming) to the Autostar, then the answer is
"maybe"... it used to (and probably still does) ASK if you want to save
the User Data already in the Autostar.
If you say "yes", it'll fetch it, and (pre A2.4) restore it after the
Software download is complete.  IF you say "no", it won't, but it
used to (pre A2.4) push into the Autostar the contents of the LIBxxx.ROM
files.
I do not know from personal experience what A2.4 will do.
It may require that you separately click [send ephemerides to handbox].
I don't know.  Rick Emerson's report sounds like, at worst, it puts
up a new dialog box -telling you- what it's about to do, in relatively
clear English.
And from Clay:
Dick - Thanks for the detailed info...lots of help.  I may attempt a
"dummy" edit (probably referring to the user in this case) with my
already loaded 2.1ek, although I really hate to screw it up, it's been
so good since I put into the Autostar.  I will wait a couple of days to
see how people are reacting to the new A2.4 before downloading and
overwriting the 2.1ek.  That way, I guess(?) if I screw up the 2.1
playing around trying to add objects, the A2.4 will override that and
give me fresh data to start with IF I tell it NOT to hold onto existing
data. (???)   What I will do is go in with Autostar connect and get to
the main dialogue box and add a bunch of variable stars that I keep up
with and add them under "User Objects."  For now, I am content with the
"off the shelf" listing of asteroids and comets and satellites and have
no real desire to change any of that; I assume that those will remain in
my Autostar (if I chose to keep existing objects) or be added by 2.4 (If
I chose to NOT keep my existing files).

Thanks, it's becoming clearer.  You know, Meade has a really neat and
sophisticated tool here, one way ahead of its time.  Man, I wish they
could get somebody to write this stuff up in manuals that can be
understood by the HOBBIEST who is not a computer programmer by
profession; I would guess (my final answer) that 90% of users are
computer literate, but not "gurus" who can read the minds of those who
programmed the wonderful little Autostar versions!

Clay

Subject:	 More on A2.4
Sent:	Tuesday, January 30, 2001 16:37:18
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
So far so good.  I tinkered with the asteroids, comets, and satellites a
bit without getting a GPF, and triggered an amusing error message with
the tour editor: "Invlaid Right Ascension Value...".  A Freudian slip,
perhaps?

The In Handbox / Available / In Library display still needs help.  I'm
not clear about the rules for when it updates and the longints are still
rolling over.  OTOH, at least they put in a nice "what's about to go up"
display which is helpful for confirming what's going to happen (and
which may be a work-around for the "Count of Astronomical Bodies"
display, to use its right name, being out of date much of the time).

Cheers,
   Rick

Richard Seymour writes:
 > Rick,
 > 
 > The README file has a number of new paragraphs.  Many targeted 
 >  at model 494 Autostars, but some for general consumption.
 > 
 > ALL bugs are **not** fixed.  But the killers are.
 > And... unless i misread/misunderstood the README  (er, 40% chance?)
 > if you don't -ask- it to put them out, it will leave your 
 > Autostar without moving bodies (Comets, Asters, Sats).
 > 
 > The Updater (not necessarily the Autostar) now can handle 700
 > bodies in its in-PC database.  (altho they don't recommend filling
 >  it that full for speed reasons)
 > 
 > --dick

Subject:	 Random Az slew
Sent:	Tuesday, January 30, 2001 16:28:53
From:	gdavidson@davidsonelectronics.co.uk (Graeme Davidson)
First, I must say, what a wonderful site - keep up the good work!

I thought I'd share this - it might help someone out...

Having rekindled an interest in Astronomy after 20yrs, I just purchased
an ETX125 a few weeks back and whilst pleased with the optics, the mount
was rather disappointing with Dec clutch slip, binding RA axis (felt
like the clutch never released - even though it was fully off) and poor
old Autostar didn't stand much of a chance pointing in the right place.
Well, I'm not the type that likes to send things back so I followed the
various tips such as degreasing the clutches and adjusting the worm
drives to reduce backlash. This certainly helped improve things but
there was the occasional RA random slew that threw out the alignment.

After doing some recent tweaks to the tightness of the RA axis nut to
remove some slop, I soon discovered the RA motor would only move at full
speed no matter what speed was selected on Autostar. It became apparent
that the problem was due to grease being thrown off one of the RA drive
gears (the large one driven directly off the motor pulley) onto part of
the infrared motor encoder (marked D1 on the motor PCB). Cleaning the
grease off helped but random RA slew was happening, but, more often.

Then it dawned on me.... I ran the Calibrate Motor routine which cured
the problem for good!  I did wonder why there was a Calibrate Motor and
a Train Drive facility. It seems to me the Calibrate Motor facility sets
up the thresholds of light and dark for the motor encoder. If you've got
a lump of grease on the encoder, the thresholds could alter and
therefore you can get runaway slewing as the controller thinks the motor
is running too slow.

P.S. I see I'm not the only one suffering from "rubber banding" (object
returns to previous position) when trying to manually centre an object
with an Alt/Az mount (2.1EK firmware). It doesn't always happen and I've
yet to find a pattern to it's occurrence!

Cheers!

Graeme Davidson
Davidson Electronics
http://www.davidsonelectronics.co.uk/
Mike here: Thanks for the tip. I never even considered that some foreign object could be a culprit but it does make sense. Many have reported that anytime the Autostar goes weird, do a calibrate/train.

Subject:	 Help Editing Autostar if I need to add Comets, etc.
Sent:	Tuesday, January 30, 2001 14:58:10
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
Dick
I've downloaded to my PC and plan to read the "Read Me" file tonight;  I
guess from your comments, I will not get asteroids, comets, and
satellites - PLANETS ARE MOVING OBJECTS...WHAT ABOUT THEM? - if I merely
download to the Autostar from my PC in one lump sum.

Can you please tell me what to do if I WANT to load those things?  I
suppose my Autostar will need to be patched in (obviously) and I open up
the program file on my PC to Autostar 2.4 and then where do I go? 
Assuming everything is connected, how do you actually begin an edit to
add or delete information?  I have never opened up any of the data bases
to "drag and drop" as they say.  Do I go back to the original
Meade/Autotstar/Update.....and if so, then where do I go to even begin? 
In the Meade Autostar folder is a file that is a "? Autostar Update"
which shows very detailed what to press and what to enter for each
category, but it DOES NOT say how to get to those screens; I see them (I
think ONCE) as the Autostar download from my PC is taking place, but
during that, all I am asking it to do is to download new ephemerides/new
software (lower right buttons).

Once I have done all that - HOW do I get back to that window to edit my
data?  Once there, I can figure the rest out.

I think there are a LOT of others out there who also don't know how to
re-arrange the "guts" of data once the download is done;  Meade
certainly does not tell you how to get into it SAFELY (key word, there).

As you well know, computer messing is not my forte, and I have been
content simply (as in 2.1) downloading the whole mess and being done
with it.  I have never had to "add" an asteroid or comet, which I very
much want in my Autostar....

Appreciate it if you can help me out!

CLAY
-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Seymour
>complete autoload... (well, that depends upon how you have your PC
>set up).
>
>You (can) fetch the auto.exe file, double-click on it.
>It takes it from there... you -are- expected to occasionally
> answer questions.
>
>The README file has a number of new paragraphs.  Many targeted
> at model 494 Autostars, but some for general consumption.
>
>ALL bugs are **not** fixed.  But the killers are.
>And... unless i misread/misunderstood the README  (er, 40% chance?)
>if you don't -ask- it to put them out, it will leave your
>Autostar without moving bodies (Comets, Asters, Sats).
>
>The Updater (not necessarily the Autostar) now can handle 700
>bodies in its in-PC database.  (altho they don't recommend filling
> it that full for speed reasons)
>
>--dick
And more from Dick:
Clay,

Since you have 21ek in your Autostar now,
and since you want to add User Objects (an item i have never played
with using  the UPdater),
For safety's sake i can only recommend that you simply enter them
using the Autostar's keypad.  NOT the  Updater.

Discussion: The Updater will give you slightly more control over
the objects' names (you can use lowercase and punctuation).
Personally, i don't find the Updater's "database editor" all that 
 friendly after about ten objects. (but i haven't run A2.4, so it
 may be better in that respect).

If you simply use the Autostar keypad, and then -later- run the
Updater, it will be able to retrieve your Objects from the Autostar,
and thereby place them into its (the Updater's) database.

That way (keypad entry) you're guaranteed safe from any possible
accidental or intentional predations the Updater may wish to visit
 upon you.

I may be willing to play with Updater fire myself, or invite others
to do so, but i'm also perfectly willing to warn people who do not
appear to -need- the features to avoid the possible pitfalls.

I haven't heard of this version eating anyone's Autostar yet,
but i've only had one person (Rick Emerson) report so far.

That said, specific-answer time: 
> Once Autostar IS connected, will it eventually take me to the Main 
> Screen where I can edit as we have discussed? 
It should

> Once I edit and "Enter" or whatever shows up to finalize my 
> "transaction", 
From any sub-editing window, I believe the button is [apply changes].
IF that doesn't return you to the main screen, then [finished] will.

> does it go back to the Autostar Update opening page, exit or what?
Closing an Edit window returns you to the main window.
Data are not -sent- to the Autostar until YOU click the 
"send ephemerides to handbox" button (right side of main window).
I believe this new version then pops up a NEW dislog box which 
describes what is about to be transferred.

> How will I know if my changes have actually taken place without call
> them up on my Autostar?  (or is that what you actually do?)
Er, the transfer -to- the Autostar will take appreciable time (under
a minute, perhaps, but it won't be an "eyeblink")

But you won't know -for sure- until you test it... (that's called
"ground truth" in the aerial photo business)

--dick
And from Clay:
Dick - wonderful suggestion and a very smart alternative.  I will begin
trying that tonight, and merely keep my 2.1 ek;  I will report to you
the success (or lack of) in loading about 20 SS cyg. type variables and
locations.  If that is successful, I will attempt to complete my list
for the year-round offering.

Great suggestions....thanks again!
CLAY

Subject:	 2.1Ek punch list - cut #1
Sent:	Tuesday, January 30, 2001 14:38:23
From:	etx-90@pinefields.com (Autostar Software Review Project)
The following describes an initial description of problems seen with
Autostar firmware version 2.1Ek, dated 12 Dec. 1992 (sic), called
"2.1Ek" below.  The notes refer to an EXT-90EC using an Autostar #497
handbox.  The firmware was installed using Autostar Updater V2.1 and
no patches have been applied to the firmware save for two items.

First, a user defined asteroid was entered via the handbox.  This is
the entry used to allow the scope to track the Sun.  Second, three
third-party tours were added from the following site:

Astro & ETX http://www.carmine.demon.co.uk/astro/astro.htm

The tours are "Double Club", "Caldwell Cruise", and "Tonite's
Jewels".  The last tour has revealed at least two problems with
2.1Ek.  All three tours are interesting tours in their own right and
I appreciate the effort Mark Crossley put into writing them.  

The telescope was operated in AltAz mode and uses the following
location information:
Lat:  40-15 N
Long: 75-18 W
Time: UTC-5.0 hrs (EST)

Major Problems:

ITEM: Un-commanded two-axis slewing

This is an intermittent problem.  It is characterized by simultaneous
motion in altitude and azimuth and appears to be happen during
attempts to slew in azimuth alone (that is, either the <- or -> button
alone is pressed).  It seems to happen when the slew rate is a
multiple of the basic sidereal rate (that is, after pressing one of
the number buttons 1 through 5) as opposed a rate expressed in degrees
per minute (buttons 6 through 9).  The azimuth and altitude motors
appear to use the same rate, causing the scope to track at a 45 degree
angle to the desired motion.  In all instances observed to date, the
altitude motion is always upward and not downward.  

This un-commanded motion severely impairs observing.

At present, the only possible work-around is to slew the scope using
higher slew rates (6-9) to move away from and back to the desired
object.  The un-commanded two-axis motion may or may not happen when
re-centering the object.



ITEM: Snap-back slewing

This is an intermittent problem.  It is characterized by the telescope
slewing back to a prior position after slewing the telescope to a new
position.  The problem does not occure when slewing over relatively
long distances but only when adjusting the telescope's position to
adjust an object's place in the field of view (FOV).  The prior
position often appears to be the last place the telescope was aimed
after slewing to the object or, in some cases, after aiming has been
adjusted slightly.  The rate of motion may be proportional to the
distance from the prior postion; smaller distances mean the telescope
moves more slowly, longer distances mean the slew rate is somewhat
faster.  This may be a subjective judgement and not what is, in fact
happening.  There has been some suggestion that snap-back slewing
occurs more often when observing planets than other objects but,
again, this may be a subjective judgement.  

This un-commanded motion significantly impairs observing.

The same work-around suggested for un-commanded two-axis motion seems
to work for snap-back slewing.  In some cases, using slower slew
rates (1-5) and moving the telescope away from and back to the object
may allow the object to be successfully centered.  



ITEM: Invalid destination position

This problem has been, so far, observed in one specific case.  The
problem is characterized by motion that appears to direct the
telescope 180 degrees in altitude and azimuth from the actual location
of an object selected by the tour command "AUTO SELECT USER".  

WARNING: Keep all optics covered if doing this test outdoors!  There
is some risk of sweeping past the Sun as the telescope moves.  This
motion could cause either permanent blindness or equipment damage.  If
you are not comfortable following the steps described below: DO NOT DO
THEM!

Using the Tonite's Jewels tour, the location given above, and using
the following time: 12:00:00 30 Jan. 2001, allow the telescope to
point at the first two targets (the Moon and Venus).  The tour is
advanced by pressing the MODE button and telescope is moved by
pressing the GOTO button.

The handbox display will show the target's name on line 1 and the
object's location (RA and Dec.) on line 2.  It's also possible to use
the scroll buttons to move through other data for each object.  

WARNING: The following step can cause damage to your optical tube
assembly (OTA) and altitude drive train.  Be ready to stop the
telescope's motion by either turning the telescope off or pressing the
0 button!  If you are not comfortable with the following step: DO NOT
DO IT!

On pressing the MODE button, the next object is the open cluster M2,
at 21:33:00 -00d49m00s.  The telescope begins to move in the
approriate directions, stops, and begins to move away from the the
proper position.  Azimuth motion stops when the telescope is pointing
180 degrees from the proper azimuth.  The OTA elevation continues to
drop until the OTA strikes the telescope base.  Whether the telescope
would attempt to return to the correct position is unknown as all
motion has been stopped, by the user, to protect the telescope.

It is possible to correctly point the telescope at this positon by
using the menu itmes OBJECT \ DEEP SKY \ MESSIER to select M2.  The
tour sequence (Moon, Venus, M2) can be duplicated with manual entries
(that is, using the OBJECT \ SOLAR SYSTEM \ [Moon or Venus] menu items
followed by selecting M2 as described above).  The telescope will move
appropriately and does not try to point the back of the OTA towards
M2, as happens from using the tour Tonite's Jewels.  Using the
Meade-supplied tour Tonight's Best, it's also possible to duplicate
the three steps described above (although Tonight's Best steps through
several objects before offering M2 - I skipped over the intervening
objects and used only the Moon, Venus, and M2) without undesired
slewing.  

Tonight's Best uses the object type and name command (e.g. "MESSIER
02" for M2) to point to an object.  Tonite's Jewels uses AUTO SELECT
USER to display different comments about an object than those stored
in the basic 2.1Ek object database.

The problem seems to be caused by the use of AUTO SELECT USER.  See
the following problem section for a related problem.  The problem may
also be tied to the object's position and particularly its declination
in degrees (-00d) and the declination of Venus (+00d16m for 12:00:00
EST 30 Jan 2001).  Changing signs while holding the value of the
degrees (zero) constant might be uncovering an arithmetic error in
2.1Ek.

This problem presents a severe risk to the telescope's OTA and drive
trains.

There is no apparent work-around except to avoid tours making
extensive use ot AUTO SELECT USER commands.  



ITEM:  Line 2 text crawl doesn't reset

The Tonite's Jewels tour discussed above uncovered a second problem
which can effectively disable the telescope.  In the tour
circumstances described above, the first two objects' position,
description, etc. are taken from data included with the 2/1Ek
databases.  The scroll buttons roll through the position, distance,
etc. for the appropriate object as expected.  With M2, however, the
data is supplied as part of the tour's argument to the AUTO SELECT
USER command.  

When M2 (and subsequent objects) are selected by pressing the MODE
button, the text in this command crawls across line 2 of the handbox's
display as expected.  On pressing GOTO, however, the Slewing... prompt
shows briefly and then it replaced by the descriptive text seen before
pressing GOTO even though the telescope is still in motion.  More
importantly, if the MODE button pressed repeatedly to exit the tour or
to use the handbox's electronic focuser function, line 2 of the
display continues to display the descriptive text for the object
reached in the tour at the time the MODE button was pressed.  The
focuser, RA & Dec., etc. displays cannot be reached by holding the
MODE button down for two seconds or more.  In fact, 2.1Ek never
responds to an extended MODE button press.  2.1Ek does move up through
the level of menus until line 1 shows the Select: prompt but the
telescope doesn't respond to attempts to drill down in the various
menu options.  Attempts to access the telescope from PC telescope
control programs such as SkyMap Pro V7 fail with a message such as
"unable to communicate with telescope" even though, prior to
attempting to leave the tour, the telescope was communicating with the
program (as indicated by a moving "telescope position" cursor.  The
telescope is disabled once 2.1Ek reaches this state.  The only
recovery technique is to turn off the telescope, return it to the home
position manually, turn the telescope on and re-inialize it.  

This problem significantly impacts observing.  

There is no work-around except to allow the tour to run to
completion.  



Minor Problems:


ITEM:  Slow button detection

This problem is most often seen while initializing 2.1Ek.  For
example, when entering the date, pressing the proper digit may not
produce a change on the display.  If two buttons are pressed in quick
succession, the first button press may be ignored and the second
button press is displayed where the first digit was expected.  If the
handbox displays 23-Jan-2001 and the desired date is 31-Jan-2001,
pressing the "3" and "1" buttons may result in the date "13-Jan-2001"
or, sometimes "11-Jan-2001".  Although the problem is described during
setting the date, it can happen during any data entry process.  

Either the handbox's processor is too busy to detect the button
presses or mis-processes them.  

The work-around is to press one button at a time, verifying each
button press before attempting the next button press.  

This problem is very annoying.



ITEM:  Contrast values lost at start-up

When initially powered up, the handbox display contrast setting goes
to a value that make reading the display difficult; the contrast is
reduced to the point where segments of the display that should be dark
are not dark enough to properly form characters.  This problem ends
after the last set-up item (daylight savings yes / no) is entered.  

The work-around is to view the display from a shallow angle relative
to the display plane until the last bright start-up option (daylight
savings time yes/no) is made.  

This problem makes setting date and time difficult.  



ITEM:  Park utility changes

The Park utility accessed by \UTILITIES \ PARK presents a potential
problem for telescope users who do not leave their telescopes in a
permanent location.  Specifically, if Park is used to stow the
telescope at 0 degrees altitude and azimuth, the telescope is not
returned to the home position (that is, with the OTA approximately 120
degrees clockwise from the counterclock-wise azimuth motion stop).
The Autostar manual does say (and, in fact, italicizes) that "no
alignment is required" on a subsequent start up.  For those users who,
in fact, use a portable tripod and move their telescopes to an
observing position, it's possible to do an alignment without enough
room in the telescope's range of azimuth motion.  The problem will not
become apparent until the telescope attempts to slew clockwise and
reaches the end of travel while the positioning software (mistakenly)
assumes another 360 degrees of travel are available.

The work-around is use Park, release the azimuth clutch, rotate the
OTA to the home position, and re-lock the azimuth clutch.  One
possible solution is to give the Park command the option to slew to
the home position (alignment required at the next start-up) or slew to
the closest 0 degrees altitude and azimuth position (alignment not
required at the next start-up).

This problem is more of a matter of an enhanced feature than a
limitation to telescope function.

                                # 30 #
And from Dick Seymour:
I'm still chewing thru it, but one BIGGIE is to specify if
you have an Electric Focuser (attached to the Autostar) or not.

You don't say so at the beginning, but you mention it when referring
to the [mode] key when trying to escape the scroll-of-death.

Could you try another possible slew runaway?
(if you have a focuser).

Select a satellite that's due to pass...
Start tracking it.
After about at least 10 or 15 seconds of tracking,
 press the [0] key to activate the focus menu.

On -my- scope, that would start an immediate main-axes runaway.
It can be stopped by pressing [0] again, dropping out of focus control.

I don't have to press any slew key (as if focusing) for this symptom.
But i've never had confirmation from anyone else that they're seeing it.

------
Slow buttons: i'll peek at the code to see if they've lengthened their
de-bounce routine.
-------
Contrast: it's documented that they go to HIGH BRIGHTNESS during the
 date/time/daylight setting... perhaps your Contrast setting is combining
 with that to yield unreadability?  I had one incident (low batteries? i
 forget ...t'was last September) where the Contrast got kicked to 
unreadable... I had to RESET to bring it back to coherence.
(i think that fixed it... i may have just found the angle which -barely-
allowed reading... which allowed finally getting to the correct menu
and adjusting it.)
-----
Park: i can't test that now.  In OLDER versions, Park remembered which
turn of the cycle it was doing... so although it wasn't at true HOME,
it knew that, and took it into account re: not hitting the stops.
(i use my focus cable as a reminder to -me- which way it's at).
-----------

good list
--dick

Subject:	 Re: New Updater posted
Sent:	Tuesday, January 30, 2001 13:31:08
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Dick!
Great news!  I hope this solves many, many problems for all of us; I
will attempt to load tonight....tell me, does this version "autoload"
like the supposed A2.3 version did?  (without unzipping and transferring
the ROM files, - "database" and "ephemerides," - or is it like the older
version where those have to be incorporated in the folder AFTER
downloading to the PC?

Thanks for the information; I've been waiting....I hope for all of us
this is good news!
CLAY
-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Seymour 
>Clay,
>
>Meade has posted a new version of the Updater.  A2.4
>
>I've installed it, but haven't tested it (lack of Autostar).
>
>at least they're trying....    (sometimes very...)
>
>--dick

Subject:	 Request for Autostar 2.1Ek User Comments
Sent:	Tuesday, January 30, 2001 08:07:18
From:	ETX-90@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
In trying to run down problems with 2.1Ek, I'd like to request comments
from other 2.1Ek users.

Also, I'd like to know if anyone else is using their scope with a
program like SkyMap or any other program that shows the scope's position
on the program's planetarium display.  It would help me to calibrate my
experience.

Use the above email address for responses.  Thanks.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 Re: Time and alignment...
Sent:	Monday, January 29, 2001 22:43:12
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
There are still murky areas in that section of the code, 
 but i think i'm safe in saying that the Autostar does it right:

You slew to an alignment (or Sync or High Precision) star, 
center it (in your own sweet time), press [enter].

*That's* when the Autostar notes both the time and position 
 for use in its alignment calculations.

v2.0h and v21ek are very similar, v21ek does a little more belt-and-
 suspenders while setting up the initial move.

So pokiness does not exact a penalty.
--dick (pokey)
And from Clay:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Dick, that's really great news; and it is really good for everyone to
know so that a degree planning and double-checking, both in alignment
and High Prec. can be assured.  That really is an issue that should be
noted in the instruction manual (Autostar) by Meade in such a  way to
slow the user down (".....you may now confirm and enter your alternative
star;" and, "....your initial alignment is critical to your enjoyment
and success of the night's viewing.  Please take your darned time and do
it right!"

I'll bet it would reduce the amount of negativity toward the problems of
Autotstar GO TO accuracyf!  I still think that all LOT of those who are
complainting about their first GO TO being "five degrees off..." or so,
are experiencing very poor initial alignment and initialization from the
start!

Now, if we can get the word out that they can TAKE THEIR TIME...the is
no hurry to get "though" alignment each night.....the complaints would
probably (at least many of them) turn to praise.  From a personal
standpoint, I really can tell the difference if I am aligning for "the
night's duration" or merely "quick-aligning" for a brief look outside. 
The GO TO accuracy is altogether different and adversely affected by
hurried-up astronomy!

Thanks - go info.  We'll keep you around for a while!

Good skies....Clay Sherrod

Subject:	 Autostar: RS232 connector cable
Sent:	Monday, January 29, 2001 04:24:04
From:	John.Bothner@sds.no (John Bothner)
I have a question regarding attaching the Autostar to a PC using RS-232,
I hope someone can give me advice on. In the document 
www.meade.com/manuals/autostar/apb.html Meade gives a schematic on how
to create a cable to connect the Autostar to the RS-232 port of a PC.

I have made such a cable, but before using it, it occurred to me that
the schematic is ambigeous. How do you really interpret the left drawing
of the 4-pin modular plug? How should I hold the plug so I have the same
orientation as the drawing?

This question is related to the fact that I I last fall bought the
ETX-125-EC with the autostar. The latters software version is 1.3, so
sooner or later I will want to update the software.

My compliments to the www.weasner.com site and to Mr. Weasner, very use
full site! The quality of the information was such that it helped me
decide to buy the ETX125.

Sincerely, 
John Bothner,  Oslo
Mike here: Check the Autostar Information page; there is more cable info there which may be clearer.

Subject:	 2.1Ek comments
Sent:	Sunday, January 28, 2001 22:52:05
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
Firmware version 2.1Ek continues to be frustrating; specifically it's
unpredictable about trying to slew back to some prior point and
occasionally doing slews in both axis at the same time, despite
commanded motion in only azimuth.  The problem with "rubber-banding"
back to a prior point seems to be exacerbated by slow speed correction
using rates based on the sideral slew rate.  Corrections done with
degrees per minute rates seem to be less prone to this problem although
not immune.  The same seems to apply to the two-axis motion problem
although, with the current load of 2.1Ek this particular problem has
been a little less frequent.

Curiously, the worst bouts of problems came at the end of my observing
when I slewed back to Jupiter from somewhere in Leo and again when I
slewed around to Mizar.  In both cases, I used my ScopeTronix "red dot"
sight to control the initial slewing, refined pointing with the finder,
and tried to tune the final pointing from my 12mm EP.  The scope
persisted in trying to go back to some other point (possibly the
location in the Autostar's database???).

I read the reports which suggest operating in polar mode eliminates
these problems.  Any gueses as to why this is so?  Is the scope fumbling
conversions from RA/Dec to AltAz?

I didn't run the Tonight's Jewels tour while observing but did run it
indoors.  Curiously, it didn't fail (the problem is line 2 continues to
scroll the tour's last line 2 text regardless of Autostar mode) although
I did see the failure the other day.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 autostar & LX90 problems
Sent:	Sunday, January 28, 2001 17:13:34
From:	Dean@cwdi.com (Dean)
Clay had responded to someone (Steve) about alot of lx90 and autostar
problems with the object moving after slewing.  Several people have
reported this on the lx90 egroup, in all cases ( I believe), this was
operator error.  If any direction buttons are hit while the scope is
doing a goto, BEFORE it beeps, it will do exactly what you are talking
about.  I can duplicate this 'problem' any time by doing this.  I have
never had a problem with the autostar when operated correctly with my
LX90.  I also have not had any problems like this with either my 90 or
125.  I just had to stand up for the great LX90.

Thanks, Dean.
Mike here: I was always careful to wait for the beep as the importance of this had been mentioned previously. So, that's not it.

Subject:	 following
Sent:	Sunday, January 28, 2001 15:57:09
From:	gauthalb@euregio.net (Gauthier Halbardier)
Hello,
I' have etx90ec,
when you ask goto a planet, does the autostar follow it with the
sidereal speed or a speed linked with that planet?
tx
gauthier
Mike here: I suspect it tracks the sidereal rate, which doesn't vary that much from a planet's rate during the course of an evening's observation. Do you need higher accuracy? But then since the Autostar "knows" the planet's rate for calculations, it might indeed use that.

Subject:	 New 2.1EK Updater with "out of memory" problem
Sent:	Sunday, January 28, 2001 08:29:27
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com ('richard seymour')
Hi Dick,

Thanks for the information.  Amazing perseverance! I'm sure I'm not the
only one that has profited by your effort.

I downloaded the disassembler to try just out of curiosity.  I also have
a really old version of visual C++ that I vaguely remember having a
disassemble function that I might try to reload just for fun.

Anyway I decided to see how much trouble I could get into in "expert"
mode. First I started in the normal mode and loaded "too many" objects
and got the "error writing to.." error.  Now there is garbage in the
Tour area. Next I went into the registry and changed the 0 --> 1 in the
EXPERT Key and ran the updater software to see what would happen.  I've
attached some screen shots of each step for clarity.  Even though I made
them small and ugly, there is still about 110k of total attachments.
Sorry for the extra download time.

Just as in the "normal" mode the sequence is: 1) Check for Autostar on
com port

2) Pop-up window with version # (Fistscr.jpg).... All you can do at this
point is hit OK, no extra buttons yet.

3) Pop-up window comes up saying "Getting version info from your
Autostar..Pls wait" (secsr.jpg)... Gee, I thought I knew the version
from the last screen.  Maybe "expert" buttons will show up now.....NO!

4) Autostar immediately starts to download (thrdscr.jpg)... At this
point I try clicking on things in the pop-up like the Logo and the
exclamation point symbol all with no joy.  It just keeps sucking data.

5) When it gets to the point in the satellite download where the garbage
starts, there is a long pause.  Something times out after 30-40 sec & it
moves along to the Tours download.

6)Tour data (garbage)starts to download and again there is a long pause
(forscr.jpg).... Note the interesting Tour name in the progress pop-up
window.

7)Something times out after about a minute, more data is sucked and a
pop-up saying "out of memory" shows up (fivscr.jpg)....Again, at this
point all you can do is click OK.  I have not been able to do anything
to get the expert stuff to show up at this point.

8)This is the point where I originally thought that the program was hung
because the "Please Wait" dialog pop-up with it's big exclamation symbol
is still showing tour download (sixscr.jpg)... However, as I said
before, the program is still active.

9)I clicked on the Meade logo on the main updater control pop-up and the
expert window pops up (svnscr.jpg).... Great, NOW I can delete the data
in the Autostar, click [Finished] in the expert pop-up, [Finished] in
the main pop-up, and Autostar initializes with no Ephimeridies data so
when you run the updater again there is a very fast download with no
errors and you are ready to edit the stuff in the libraries.

But Wait....This is exactly the spot in the program where I was able to
clear out the garbage in normal mode. Check out the last screen shot
(eighscr.jpg).  Remember that I was said that program was still active. 
You can drag the hanging "Please Wait" window out of the way to get at
the main control window.  Note that the "Landmark" and "User" and SEND
TO: "Ephemeride" buttons are grayed out and that there are no buttons
for asteroids, comets, satellites or tours.  When you click on GET FROM
WEB: "New Ephemerides" and then click cancel (because you really don't
want to do that anyway) it will activate the SEND TO: "Ephemeride"
button.  At (or before) this point I delete the lib*.ROM files from the
ephemeridies folder, click the SEND TO: "Ephemeride" button, and then
click [Finished].  When you re-run the  updater you quickly get to the
point where you can reload the data into the empty Autostar.

I've found that dragging and dropping the various .txt files to their
appropriate buttons from an explorer window that can be viewed at the
same time as the main updater window works best for me and it's really
quick. By keeping these .txt files in separate folders for comets,
tours, sats... I don't have to worry about the data getting written over
in the ephimeridies folder.  You can also pick and choose which combos
you want quickly (just don't pick too many).

By the way, regarding your following comment:

> I can't remember the puzzle sequence necessary to trigger it,
> but there is (was?) the dialog box which asks "shall i save the
> user data from the handbox?" early in the game.
> I don't know if you have to delete all LIBxxx files before starting,
> or it's triggered by the first download after installing the Updater,
> or what.  But if you can get it to show up, you can avoid reloading
> undesirable orbits.

That dialog only shows up when you are getting ready to send a whole new
software version (SEND TO: "Software" button), which is what I was
trying to avoid.

Anyway, that's probably WAY more than you wanted to hear but that's what
I found.

Thanks again for all of your help Dick.

Cheers,
Mike

Autostar Updater screenshots Autostar Updater screenshots Autostar Updater screenshots Autostar Updater screenshots Autostar Updater screenshots Autostar Updater screenshots Autostar Updater screenshots Autostar Updater screenshots

And from Dick:

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

Thanks lots for the play-by-play.

Are you sending a version to engine@meade?

If not, my I?

> Anyway, that's probably WAY more than you wanted to hear but
> that's what I found.
I hung on every word... (unlike the Updater, which just hung)

I'd guess that the "timeouts" you saw (where a from-AS-to-PC
 eventually "gave up"... might be due to size of transfer limits.
I -think- the TOurs only moves 32kb or 64kb.  Ditto bodies.
(although, if they follow links, bad data WILL cause lots of sucking
sounds (thank you, Ross Perot)).

> drag and drop
...has always turned out to be my only truly successful way of 
"editing" body data. (didn't crash Updater, didn't crash Autostar)
(pre-A2.3 ... not tested with A2.3)

Thanks for running the tests!
--dick
And:
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
Dick,

I hadn't planned to send a copy to Meade myself so please feel free to.
Your credibility should be pretty high with them.  I'm not shy, but they
might listen to a familiar "voice" more readily.

Cheers,
Mike

Subject:	 Meade Autostar Update Page Still Misleading
Sent:	Sunday, January 28, 2001 05:55:14
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Just for your information I keep checking the Meade Autostar Update web
page to see if they have:  1) updated the A2.3 application download,
correcting (yeah, right) the many inherent problems that seem to exist
with this new release, particularly those noted by Rick; and 2) to see
if they AT LEAST have informed textually on the page that there is a
major problem when downloading to Autostar 494, as several have crashed
attempting to download this firmware.

Nope.  No change; still says the same stuff as before, and still implies
that you MUST use A2.3 to download the ROM 2.1ek files to the Autostar
which we know is not correct;  I am using 2.1ek downloaded from 2.1
firmware that was listed previously to the misdirected A2.3 release!

Anyway, thought you might want to know; it seems that they would want to
correct their mistake on the FRONT END since is causing grief to
EVERYONE using Autostar, no matter which type scope they are using.  Are
you listening, Meade Guys?
More later.....Clay Sherrod
Mike here: Unfortunately, as has been noted before, Meade's web support lags behind what we would all like to see. Maybe some of that is my fault and the fault of some others who have popular LX200 sites. We do the work for them. It does require a lot of work and a major commitment by companies to maintain an excellent web presence.

And a reply:

MIke, I know it is difficult for a major company to wear many hats
consecutively but in this case we have an instance that is NOT a mere
inconvenience or lack of a new product listing.  I am sure they have
heard of the problem(s) by now at Meade and - with the introduction of
the LX 90 and the problems with the 494 Autostar, not to mention the
frustrations that people like Rick have gone through, you would think
they would at least TAKE IT OFF COMPLETELY until it is operational.  It
is like corporate field testing.....rather than check it out before it
is released, send it out and let the complaints field test it for you. 
Just ain't right, and costly in both money and time for everyone
involved.  On OUR end, this is supposed to be a hobby; on theirs....it
is SUPPOSED to be a business.  Bread & butter.
Clay

Subject:	 Is meade software compatible with windows 2000?
Sent:	Saturday, January 27, 2001 18:13:14
From:	pnajar@langesales.com (Peter Najar)
Is the Meade software compatible with Win 2000 or NT? Must the Autostar
be connected to the computer to launch the software?

Peter Najar
pnajar@langesales.com
Cell: (303) 880-0456 (please use as primary Phone #)
Office: (303) 795-3600 ext, 227
Mike here: There have been problem reports on Windows2000. Don't recall any reports about NT. And yes, the computer has to be connected to the Autostar to download updates to the Autostar (unless you use Autostar-to-Autostar cloning). The computer does not have to be connected to actually use the Autostar.

Subject: Autostar timekeeping
Mike here: This was prompted by a comment from Dick Seymour: I have often wondered whether time runs continuously in the Autostar. Say I set the time accurately when first powered on but take 5 minutes to get an accurate alignment (due to obstacles, for example). Does the AS know that five minutes have passed?

And one response:

From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Mike - I have always assumed that the time clock begins running the
instant you press "Enter" on your handbox after intializing "Time." 
Therefore, any "wasted time" between that moment and the final alignment
- no matter how long it takes, as Dick as eluded - is accumulated
AGAINST accuracy; if it were a Polar alignment, this lost time would
show up in R.A., but in Alt-Az, the period would reflect in BOTH axes as
the scope attempts to slew and track sidereally.

I bet a dollar to a donut that the clock ticks immediately after you
enter your time; that seems the only way the system could accurately
work.

Along that line, I have always "added" a delay factor of about two
minutes to allow time to get set and align for the evening.  Sometimes
that is not enough.  Lately, I have been waiting to initialize until
right before alignment, making sure everything is set.  However, I have
a habit of always checking my motors to see if my clamps are engaged (if
not, the accuracy of alignment stars is affected); this slewing test,
and then re-establishing "home position" with the OTA takes about one
minute max., so I allow time for that as well, since YOU CAN'T SLEW the
motors until initialization - including TIME - is completed!

Anyway, I think you are right and that is a very good point to suggest
to all ETX users, particularly those who might procrastinate after
initialization and prior to final alignment.

Good point!   More later.....Clay Sherrod
And another (from Dick Seymour):
The Autostar -rarely- kills the Real Time Interrupt.
(set to trigger 4096 times per second).  Even if it is blocked
("sei" instruction in 6811-speak)), it'll get delivered when the
block is removed.

I've done overnight (8hr) indoor testing, and it remained within
 5 seconds of the initial accuracy (and the error seen was probably
 mine, not its).

They kill the sidereal drive during Align/Sync, but not the clock.

The "time passing" question revolves around when they -capture- the 
time for alignment... at the beginning of the slew, or at the moment
of [enter] to accept.
And for that i'll need to prowl my listings... 

which will take time...
--dick
And from Clay:
Dick - Will the "time passing" question also apply to the hesitation
factor when selecting the alternate stars, both for initial alignment as
well as for High Precision as I was experiencing?  Your 8-hour test was
time well spent, and answers a lot of questions.  Good for you!  I am
still curious about the elapsed time from initialization to final
alignment as well as the pause (sidereal tracking is interupted during
the process) when going from one High Prec. star to another as
alternates.  You mentioned the sidereal tracking stops but not the
clock, so I would assume that - once the clock is activated, i.e., after
alignment - it never actually stops internally. So.....during alignment,
there is a period after which you sign in the time and BEFORE which you
complete aligning that time is "lost."  ON THE OTHER HAND, during High
Precision - if searching for alternate stars and centering takes some
time - since the clock has ALREADY been activated after initialization,
it is still running, regardless of if the sidereal motor(s) is tracking
or not.  This makes sense, and if so, then precision during initial
alignment is crucial and delays can be costly to accuracy for the rest
of the night.....am I reading you right?  It sounds very logical, since
the entered time is always lost if the system is not totally initialized
and aligned (this is perhaps why the Autostar cannot keep a perpetual
clock like a computer (?)).  Oh well, if anybody can cipher the answer
to this one, it'll be Mr. Seymour.
Let us know!
Clay Sherrod
And more from Dick:
in v2.0h (and 2.0i) they take the time -after- you hit [enter].

I haven't checked v21ek yet.   (first i dig thru the one i -know-,
then i try to locate that section in the new kid...)
And more from Clay:
Dick - Aha!  So there may be a delay factor that results in a
disproportionate time recognition from initialization to actual
activation of the clock drives?  Do you think that this also applies to
the High Precision, since the sidereal clock stops during acquistion,
slewing and centering + location of object itself?  Since you indicate
that "Enter" may be the signal to initiate the time progression, perhaps
it does affect the H.P. as well, since "Enter" is the process through
which the sidereal drive re-initiates.
And more from Dick:
Clay,

I can't accurately answer most of that without digging.
But i can change one potential misimpression:

> So.....during alignment, there is a period after which you sign in
> the time and BEFORE which you complete aligning that time is "lost."
No...
When you press [enter] after changing the time-digits, the internal
clock starts.  Then.  Within a second or so.  The Manual states that
you should give it a schootch of offset (i use 5 seconds) to allow
for entry time (time to cycle the digits) and time between press-and
actuate.
I track satellites... 5 seconds of error would be *big* (and visible)
for some of my stuff.  I look at my watch, and key in the final 
seconds digit with that mental (add 5 to what i just saw) correction.
On fumbling nights i add 8.
[enter]

The clock is now running... before even telling it if it's Daylight.

> It sounds very logical, since the entered time is always lost if the
> system is not totally initialized and aligned
?? not on my Autostar... i frequently get past the time entry and
then [mode] away from Alignment.... directly into slew-and-view.
(especially when i'm a tad late getting outdoors for a satellite
pass due in 3 minutes..).
Computers can be tasked (and the Autostar is) to apparently do many
things at once... and clock-tick-accounting is one of them.

> (this is perhaps why the Autostar cannot keep a perpetual clock like
> a computer (?)).
??? -all- of my computers work like the autostar...
the only thing the Autostar doesn't have (compared to a PC, a VAX, etc)
is an internal battery to keep a "watch chip" running between "power
failures".  In Ye Olden Daze of PCs, the clock battery was a
9v-regtangular sized litium battery (if you had a Real IBM PC),
or a clip of 4 AA cells... and you were gently informed of the death 
of the battery by the PC (one morning) forgetting Time, Date and 
what kind of diskdrive it had.  Modern PCs have a little NiCad (or
silver) cell on the motherboard... peek inside a PC and it's frequently
fairly obvious.

--dick
And from Clay:
Hey Dick, thanks for the feedback.  So the clock does begin working once
the time is entered?  Okay, that settles that; I suppose then that the
clock keeps ticking even while I fumble around looking for alternative
stars in alignment and high precision?  If so, then I'll worry about
something else for a while.

Since I'm not into rapid transit (i.e., satellites) much the precision
time your are mentioning is not as important as it will be to you; I can
certainly see how 5 sec. can make or break a satellite observation!

To clarify....although I don't understand, nor want to, how computers
actually work, I did know they had a battery!  I plug and unplug mine
all the time and somehow it keeps time, so I assumed there must be a
battery somewhere!  I guess what I meant was to ask whether the
Autotstar had a clock LIKE a computer, not that - like a computer it DID
NOT have a clock. Does that make sense?

Anyway, the input is great and I appreciate your feedback;  I still
would like to know if time is lost when I hear the sidereal motors stop
during centering and selecting alignment/precision stars.  Maybe you
just answered. This is "stupid day" for me for some reason.  It's been
like this all morning.  Need some clear skies.

Thanks!        CLAY
And more from Clay:
Golly, I've been thinking about this time delay thing and here is my overall
deduction:

    ".....what's a few minutes in the life of an Autostar compared to the
millenia of the cosmos.  Every second that ticks hence from the bowels of
the ETX is but a grain of sand through the hourglass of time...these are the
nights of our lives."  (with apologies to Susan Lucci)

It don't get any better'n this, dad-gum it!    Clay
Mike here: Did you fall down a Time Tunnel????

And this from Clay:

You know, the more I think about it, the more this whole concept of
"time" is becomming an abstract human-derived entity, merely to drive
those of us with Autostars to the brink of insanity and then quickly
remember that - hey! - this is just a hobby!

Subject:	 Creep after slew
Sent:	Friday, January 26, 2001 04:26:54
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Boy, does THIS sound familiar?  I am hearing horror stories about the LX
90 problems in relation to the Autostar; it appears that what we have
experienced with the ETX scopes is magnified many times in the new LX90.
 My supplier out of Tennessee has just bought one (he's a Meade dealer)
and has yet to check it out thoroughly; I'll let you know what he finds
on his.

This "return-to-my-position-dammit" syndrome of the Autostar is
apparently very common.  What Steve (by the way, he was the Customer
Service Manager for CELESTRON for eight years) passes on is exactly the
symptoms we have been talking about!  Surely Meade will stand up and
take notice instead of simply putting out more firmware that perpetuates
the problem!

CLAY
-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Reed

Hi Clay - I noticed on Weasner's site that you found that using your ETX
in the polar alignment mode (vice alt-az) is another way to avoid the
problem of the AutoStar not allowing you to center an object.  I had
posted a note on the LX-90 group  when we first chatted about this
problem, and no one reported the problem (or didn't understand what I
was describing).   Tonight I found the following post on the LX-90
group:
 
	From: Sager Moritzky  
	Date: Wed Jan 24, 2001 10:23am
	Subject: Arm wrestling with Autostar

	I have finally assembled my daughters complete LX90 without any broken
	or damaged parts from Meade) tonight. We took it out for a quick
	shakedown. Went through the setup, training, and alignment, went to the
	first object, everything was ok. First star centered perfectly. Each
	time I "go-to" a second object it was off, which I imagine is an
	alignment error. The good part is that every object after that was
	placed exactly in the same position of the finder scope. The bad part
	was that when I tried to slew the star into the eyepiece Autostar would
	wait about 3 seconds and slew it back exactly where it had placed it
	originally. This happened consistently on multiple object with
	corrections made to both axis.

	Can anyone offer a suggestion? Is that backlash on both axis?

	Sager
 
So it looks to me like there is a common problem - bug - in the
Autostar.  Hopefully Meade will get around to fixing it some day.  Now
at least, I know of 2 ways to avoid it.

I have enjoyed my ETX in spite of this, largely due to the excellent
optics - as you noted.  I have been less than pleased with the
mechanical aspects, however.  Plastic is a poor choice for a mount -
virtually all of them I have used shake badly when focusing, and slight
breezes also cause them to shake excessively.  I've also noted motor
vibrations - which cause stars to look like little lines - whenever I
set it up on a hard surface (concrete walk).  The Meade tripod for the
ETX was completely inadequate, and after I tried my ETX on a JMI
megapod, I sold the Meade tripod and bought one.  Much better stability
and it soaks up the motor vibrations pretty well.  I can also use it in
polar mode, if desired.  While the megapod is good for the ETX 90, a
heavier scope - like my Nexstar 5 in polar mode - is a little too much
weight away from the center of the tripod.  I fear it wouldn't take much
of a bump to knock it over.  JMI made a bad design choice - had they
positioned a tripod leg under the wedge (toward North) I don't think it
would ever be a problem, since the tripod is steady in all other
respects.

My opinion is that the mount is 50% of the scope, and that a really
steady mount really multiplies the enjoyment of using a scope.  It's one
of the reasons I like the Nexstar 5 so much - very steady.  But I really
do love those tack sharp images of a Maksutov.  I would very much like a
ETX 125 on a Nexstar mount!  And the Autostar is really a great computer
and concept.  Very well done (except for the previously mentioned flaw).  
The Nexstar computer is good - it's accurate and reliable - but looks
pretty 'basic' when compared to the Autostar.

Hope you've got your scope issues worked out.
 
Best wishes, and clear skies!   -- Steve
And from Clay:
Steve - good to hear from you.  Can you find out which VERSION (i.e., v
2.0, v2.1ek or v2.3) that the LX user has?  They are reporting some
really bad effects from the newest download (A2.3), so do not download
to Autostar with it!  I have installed Version 2.1ek and am very happy
with it - although I really believe that it is responsible for
exaggerating the "return to original postion" problem that you are
reporting in Alt-Az mode.  I tell you what, I am convinced that Polar is
the way to go; just had a custom wedge designed at a tool shop to fit
atop a new portable pier that I completed (will be featured on the ETX
site soon) to use -125 in equatorial Polar mode.

The mode is more stable, tracks better, slews better and NO vibration
from motors at all.  I use the electric focuser which totally eliminates
vibration from that as well.

By the way, have you seen the new Nexstar 11?  It really looks like
quite a scope for the price (Astronomics has a great price).  Let me
know what you know about it.  Also, I am really close to buying a LX-7
because, like you, I like the Maksutov design.  My 5" is the best
optically and if the 7" is as good, it'll be like heaven.  I really wish
I could hear some feedback about that scope.....hardly ever hear
anything.  I guess for the money, people opt for the larger aperture of
the 10 and 12-inch Schmidts.

Keep in touch!        Clay Sherrod

Subject:	 Autostar 2.1ek
Sent:	Thursday, January 25, 2001 13:35:52
From:	Steve.Brightman@dalsemi.com (Steve Brightman)
BTW, was able to limp outside the other night for just long enough to do
an easy align. The combination of tightening the set screws and the new
v2.1ek (?) software seems to have improved things dramatically.
 
Steve

Subject:	 Autostar Updater 2.1 and 2.1ek ROMs
Sent:	Thursday, January 25, 2001 12:07:12
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
A couple of interim notes.  First, I asked the folks at Pocono Mtn
Optics about any user feedback on Autostar or Autostar Uploader.  I
mentioned the new items on the web site were shaky (I was being kind
[g]).  They haven't had anyone make enough noise to warrant any
recollections.

Mark Crossley (I'm copying Mark on this thread in case he has any
comments or corrections) commented that he was able to load 2.1Ek with
A2.1 and I gave it a try.  It's a little iffy in places with GPF's
showing up in a few places (mostly object editing) but I was able to a)
get the base software in place and b) actually get some ephemerides in
place.  My previous (A2.3) load of 2.1Ek had problems with a tour
(Tonight's Jewels), specifically not blanking the scroll on line 2 after
leaving the tour, but that doesn't seem to be happening with the A2.1
upload of 2.1Ek.

The only oddity I found was the mix of the two ROM files' data sets (I
dropped the 2.1Ek Dbase.ROM and Autostar.ROM files in A2.1's Ephemerides
folder over the 2.0h files) causes A2.1 to look in C:\ (root) for
everything!  Using the expert panel to try to aim A2.1 at the correct
directory tree consistently gives a GPF.

Now to re-train the scope and see if I can coerce it into tracking the
Sun (whose elements loaded by hand, something else that didn't happen
with the previous load of 2.1Ek)...

Cheers,
   Rick
And more from Rick:
I flushed out A2.1 from my machine and reloaded it from scratch, dropped
the 2.1Ek ROM's on top of the ROM's in A2.1's Ephemerides folder, and
successfully loaded 2.1Ek.

I suspect that tinkering with A2.1's expert panel reset the default path
in key EPHEM to "\" (at least that's what I found just before pulling
the old A2.1 files and keys).  Anyway, 2.1Ek went into the Autostar
without hunting for the right path.  This problem arose from tinkering
with A2.1's properties button.  Playing with this button is probably not
very smart; use RegEdit instead to tweak COM ports, etc.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 Autostar 2.1ek slew after correction
Sent:	Thursday, January 25, 2001 11:04:30
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
I just finished reading Mike's update after he got his "fixed" Autostar
back and thought I would echo your experiences.  When in Alt/Az mode I
also had the Alt drift to the original position after correction and had
to move the object completely out of the eyepiece to get it to drift
back.  I had a little more luck by going WAY past and approaching from
the other direction. I also noticed no problem in the Az axis.

Last night I put the scope in the Polar mode as you suggested and the
problem went away. No re-correction in the Dec. axis. Under high power I
noticed a very slow drift in the R.A. axis but did not take enough time
to see if this would stabilize.  I also didn't take a lot of time to
insure that the tripod head was level before changing to a polar
alignment.  That may cause some drift.  I take some more time with the
set-up next time I get a chance and let you know.  I didn't bother with
"High Precision" mode.

I may try changing my Alt% and Az% settings in the Alt/Az mode and see
if that has any effect on the amount of re-correction.  Have you already
tried this?

Mike Hadley
Mike here: I haven't adjusted the % settings yet. Clouded (and rained) out the last couple of nights.

And from Clay:

To:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk
Hello, Mike -
Thanks for the review on your ETX in polar mode; eventually I think
people will get around to using this more; even with the more difficult
initial set-up it is worth it in the end, particularly for tracking. 
Your description is a mirror image of my experiences.  I am perfectly
happy in POLAR mode.

I have not changed my original Alt and Az. percentages yet, but may do
so a bit in azimuth to correct the same drifting problem you are
experiencing; according to Dick Seymour, changing it to 20% or lower
might do the trick.

Right now I am tracking so well in RA (and no - NONE - creeping in
Declination) that I am not going to mess with it.  By the way, my Mt.
Nebo nights, I was not absolutely perfectly polar aligned as I had a
forest in front of me (Mt. Nebo peak is very small).  Nonetheless, with
Saturn  at about 300x, I tracked on it (a magnificent image I might add)
for better than 40 minutes before moving on.  There WAS an occassional
drift to the WEST, but only very slightly and nothing more than I have
experienced with professional scopes and certainly any commercially-made
ones.

I was using AC power, by the way.

Yes, I think that the combination of POLAR mode and installing the 2.1ek
version of Autostar has done the trick for me.  It does not seem to be
working well for Alt-Az. Mode, however and I have tried in this
configuration.  My results were EXACTLY like Mike Weasner's, with the
Autostar wanting to move back to its original determination and "...to
heck with Clay" after I would center it.  My solution was identical to
yours, but too frustrating to deal with over time.

Aligning on POLAR mode took care of it, and I am sticking with it,
except for satellites perhaps.  The operation is quieter, smooth and
certainly considerably more accurate for long-term high-power tracking. 
It has to be when one examines the correction curve for sidereal motion
in one axis versus a linear two-step process in which a momentary
hesitation is essential at every change between azimuth and alternately
altitude motion to sidereally correct.

Thanks again for writing and confirming that there is a solution to
"creeping" and a very simple one!

Clear skies....CLAY SHERROD
Mike W. here: I was also using AC power with the Meade adapter.

Subject:	 RE: Autostar lock-up
Sent:	Thursday, January 25, 2001 11:04:18
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com ('richard seymour')
Thanks Dick,

I need to fix a homemade tour and reload so I'll give expert mode a try
(I just love messing with the window's registry).  I've figured out that
the easiest way (for me anyway) is to keep separate folders with Tours,
Asteroids, Satellites, and Comets in their respective text formats (with
appropriate extensions of course) and drag an drop them on the buttons. 
I just delete the existing library files and start over.  It is a
relatively quick process except for the initial download from the
Autostar.  By the way, I forgot to mention that I put your "seconds"
patch back in as soon as I figured out that wasn't the problem (I'm a
frustrated hacker at heart and use Ultra Edit to put your patches in). 
I'm curious to know how to make the patches in the first place.  Do you
have a Microprocessor development system?

Thanks Again,
Mike

-----Original Message-----
From: richard seymour [mailto:rseymour@wolfenet.com]
I have now read the Updater's Help on the Expert Erase button, and it
does sound like it's the right thing... But i've been woefully misled by
Updater documentation and promises before.

--dick

Subject:	 Polar Alignment Sync
Sent:	Thursday, January 25, 2001 07:39:57
From:	peter.a.giordano@mail.sprint.com
Hopefully Someone Can Help!

When I set up my ETX 90 in ALT-AZ mode and do a 1 Star alignment it is
way off. So I line up the star and "Sync" it up with my Autostar by
holding the Enter button for 2 seconds. Once this is done I seem to be
pretty much on target for the rest of the night. NOW, when I set up in
Polar mode and try to align again I am off. So I do the same thing as if
in Alt-Az mode which is lien up the star and them "Sync" it. However
when I do this and go to another start I am off again. I mean even a
close star from where I synced up will still be out of the field of
view. Any idea? I use a Super Plossl 26mm to do my alignments...do I
need a wider field of view when doing Polar Alignment?

Thanks,
Pete Giordano ECCS\NCO Support
(913) 661-8132
Mike here: You shouldn't be doing the SYNC when trying to align. Just center the selected alignment star and press ENTER to confirm it is centered. Do not hold the ENTER key down to get into SYNC mode. You should see things improve, whether in Alt/Az or Polar mode.

Added later:

I think I found most of my problem, which was I was not pointed to true
north enough. Thanks for the fast reply.

Subject:	 creep after slew
Sent:	Thursday, January 25, 2001 05:08:51
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
I got clouded out but that dratted problem of the scope returning to a
prior location returned but not consistently.  I did an early look at
Jupiter and fought the scope something fierce.  I had the problem with
M42, also.  But oddly, after doing part of a tour and going back to
Jupiter, everything stayed in place as it should.  Go figure.

Cheers,
   Rick

Mike here: I finally have been able to use the repaired ETX-125EC and Autostar 2.1ek (loaded by Meade). This report was delayed by my trip earlier this month, then a cold that I caught, and then bad weather. But fortunately the skies cleared for a couple of nights and I was able to check things out. The repair was a fix for the random slew problem. And so far, during the few hours of usage, the random slew did not occur. Prior to returning the system to Meade in late December 2000, the problem was beginning to occur several times during a session. So, it seems they found the problem (in my case). If your system is experiencing the random slew problem, contact Meade per their announcement. As to Autostar 2.1ek, in its basic usage I found the accuracy of the GOTO at least as good as if not better than previous versions. In fact, the only real problem I have with 2.1ek is the "creep after slew". This was reported by some users in previous versions but I never saw it until 2.1ek. The symptom is: Following a GOTO, when the Autostar finishes slewing and you hear the beep, if the object is not centered you use the arrow keys to center it in the eyepiece. Many times, within a few seconds of the object being centered manually, the Autostar slews the object back to where it was in the eyepiece. Approaching the centering manual slew from the other direction doesn't seem to matter; the Autostar would still drive the object offcenter again back to almost its original location following the GOTO. This obviously makes it difficult to manually center an object that was positioned at the edge of the eyepiece by the Autostar. This problem occurred on stars and deep sky objects that I tried, and Jupiter and Saturn but not, surprisingly, on Venus. And there were times following a GOTO when it did not occur on these objects. Fortunately, the object was never driven outside the field of view of the 9.7mm eyepiece but it was still an annoyance when it occurred. I was using an Alt/Az mount with fresh drive calibration and training.

To which Dick commented (and my replies):

Dick Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com) said:

>(a) -over-correcting can get it to creep -into- position.
did that.  worked, sort of.

>(b) loosen clamps, recenter without Autostar noticing.
hadn't thought of that but at 195X could be a challenge.

>(c) wait 2 minutes (yes!) (altho tightness of drive may lower that
>  number) before correcting.
hum...

>(d) always arrive from the east.
I was arriving from the north or south....

>(e) suffer
wasn't too much of that.
And from Clay:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Mike - glad you got the ETX 125 back.  The creeping after a GO TO
centering is exactly what I have been experiencing, except mine is ONLY
in Azimuth (in Alt-AZ mode).  My creeps to the north every time,
attempting to "get back" where the autostar first "went to" my object. 
You are right, this is particularly bothersome at high magnifications; I
found that after about five (5) recentering and "overcorrecting" each
time, I could get mine to quit.  Oddly, once it stopped say, on Jupiter,
I could GO TO another object and not get the same creep.

Note that this DOES NOTE HAPPEN in Polar mode; that is why I selected to
go into that tracking orientation; by the way, I spent the last three
nights atop a 2,000 foot mesa overlooking the Arkansas river valley
using the scope in 7.0 (on a scale of "7" best) seeing.  I am working up
an optical and mechanical review that is quite favorable.  As a matter
of fact - optically - unbelievable for such a limited aperture.

I believe the 2.1ek is a much better version for our problems; I think
the reason you are NOT getting the creep on Venus is from the torque on
the system, since the OTA is front-heavy to begin with, thereby loading
the mechanics in favor of a postive decoder/motor recognition.  Perhaps
Dick can come up with a solution on the creep, as he has done in so many
instances.

You are right:  the problem is precisely that the electronics want to
take the scope RIGHT BACK to where it said the object should be, NOT to
where you center it.  Does that indicate so problem of residual memory
overriding the manual correction?

Anyway, glad the scope seems to be operating well; sounds like you have
a real optical gem too; I would not trade my OTA for the world, it is
the best....now my mounting (?).

My review of three nights atop Mount Nebo will follow tomorrow!

Clay Sherrod

Subject:	 Autostar and GPS
Sent:	Wednesday, January 24, 2001 10:42:42
From:	miwe@mbox300.swipnet.se (Mikael Wenngren)
Last year i tock my ETX 90 EC and Autostar to Thailand for two month, we
traveled around a lot and had to change the position in the Autostar all
the time. It was allmost impossible to get the position everywhere we
whent so i ended up slewing manually most of the time. Thats when i
thoght of conecting a GPS to the Autostar to get the position and time
that way. So does enybody out there have an idea how to make the
Autostar receve position and time from a GPS that is conected to its
RS-232 port? Graete site you have Mike, it helped me deside to buy the
ETX 90 EC back in may 99. Hope you have some clear skyes over there,
here in Stockholm Sweden its been more or less cloudy sinse May last
year.

                    Clear skyes    Mikael Wenngren    Stockholm Sweden
Mike here: Now that Celestron has announced a NexStar/GPS model, one might hope that this is a capability that will be added to the Autostar.

Subject:	 Fwd: Re: 9 pin connector to USB?
Sent:	Tuesday, January 23, 2001 22:27:06
From:	DonMcClelland@webtv.net (Donald McClelland)
Thought I would forward this response from Stan.  I think he's on the
right track and it might be helpful to others.

Thanks, Don

----------------
Hi, Don --

saw your note on Mike Weasner's website.

I'm not familiar at all with anything "Windows" -- so your Toshiba
Satellite is what -- one of those little round thingies the Russian's
sent up years ago? (Looks like Sputnik?)

Okay, just kidding -- I've got a Mac G4/450 DP which was my first
introduction to USB, and in that purchase I lost all of my regular
serial ports. I ended up needing a Keyspan USB-to-serial port adapter,
which gives me two 8-pin DIN ports exactly like my old Mac. (The Keyspan
software allows you to configure either port as a Printer Port or a
Modem Port over the USB line). Since Meade's #505 connector cable ends
in a 9-pin DB connector (made for IBM compatible machines), I also
needed a 9-pin DB to 8-pin DIN adapter. Luckily, though, I had already
made a couple of those years ago for various purposes -- you never know
when you you're going to need these things, right? (Of course, it also
turns out that Meade's connector ended in the wrong sex, also -- they
have a female connector on the end of the #505, so I needed to make a
male-male adapter to switch over to connect with my 9-pin female DB).
Luckily, again, I had made one of those a long time ago, also.

In any case (if you can still follow all this), I DO HAVE EVERYTHING
WORKING on my Mac running Meade's Autostar Updater under VirtualPC. I've
performed at least 5 updates to the Autostar so far [usually with
success !! :-)] (that's more of a joke on Meade's part than on the Mac
or VirtualPC -- Meade's Updater has a LOT to be desired).

The basic connection sequence is:

ETX-base -> Autostar -> Meade's #505 cable -> 9-pin DB male to 9-pin DB
male adapter -> 9-pin DB female to 8-pin DIN adapter -> Keyspan
USB-to-serial port adapter (port #2) -> Mac

I configure the Keyspan's port #2 to act as a Modem port, and configure
the COM2: port under VirtualPC to be a Modem port, and voila!!

In your case, though, I don't know if the Keyspan Adapter (for the Mac)
will provide what you need -- besides, the software is Mac only. And not
being familiar with what's out there for Window's machines, I'm not sure
if there is an adapter that will do what you need (yet?).

In any case, good luck in trying to find what you need...

If you've got any other questions which the above "dissertation" might
raise, please don't hesitate to ask.

Take care, and clear skies...

Stan Glaser
stantstk@pacbell.net

Subject:	 Re: Autostar lock-up
Sent:	Tuesday, January 23, 2001 20:54:28
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk
Mike,

I apologize profusely for not replying earlier...
I saw your note on Mike's site  and -was- easily able to replicate your
 symptoms.  I -also- tried Solar Eclipses, and they did -not- hang the
 Autostar (handy having one on 25th Dec)(and this coming June).
And the same Lunar eclipse did -not- hang it, if i wasn't in Tour mode.

So: you're not alone, it's not your imagination.
I sent a note to good ol' engineer@meade  the day after

My Autostar proceeded to fry about then, too, which kinda derailed me.
(it became Autotistic?)

> I had added your "seconds" patch and thought that might be the cause
(wail from hacker: they always blame meeee!)

> Anyway, I wanted to verify that this was not a problem for just my
> unit before I sent a bug report to Meade.
Send the report... they may require a critical mass of criticism before
reacting.  (i think i called mine: "once in a red moon...")

> ...and see if it hangs.
sure did.  Your initial note was quite clear enough for replication.

I DO apologize for not letting you know sooner...
--dick
And from Mike:
Hi Dick,

Thanks for the reply.  Since you already sent the defect report to Meade
I won't bother.  Reading about some of the other issues with the latest
software they may have bigger problems to worry about given that lunar
eclipses only happen once in a blue moon (more or less ;)

I spent several hours the other night after also loading too many
satellites and  trying to recover before I realized what the problem
was.  The biggest pain is that when the resulting "out of memory"
problem happened, garbage got loaded into the Tour area (I think).  As
you know, when you start over, the first thing that happens is a
download from the handbox. The UD program would hang (more or less) when
it would try to download the Tour garbage. All of the buttons are grayed
out with the pop-up  window (can't remember if it was an error message
or just download status) hanging there.  If you kill the program or turn
off the Autostar at this point you get to repeat the process
indefinitely.  Anyway I wasn't ready to do a safe load from scratch yet
so I happened to try clicking on the "new ephimeridies" button even
though the program seemed stuck.  This reactivated the rest of the
buttons.  I then canceled the "new ephimeridies" process and the buttons
stayed active.  I deleted the library files and hit the "send
ephimeridies" data to the Autostar.  Iterating this process let me
discover the satellite limit.  I got rid of a few faint asteroids and
old comets (MS Excel spreadsheet works well for this) and managed to
squeeze a few more satellites in.  Tour memory must be independent (I
think I read this in one of you posts as well).  I have seven small
tours working now.

Anyway I wish there were a way around having the initial download from
the handbox happen automatically when you just want to send new data and
overwrite the old.  Do you know if the "erase data" in the "expert mode"
can be used before there is an automatic download from the handbox?

Thanks again,
Mike
And from Dick:
I can't remember the puzzle sequence necessary to trigger it,
but there is (was?) the dialog box which asks "shall i save the
user data from the handbox?" early in the game.
I don't know if you have to delete all LIBxxx files before starting,
or it's triggered by the first download after installing the Updater,
or what.  But if you can get it to show up, you can avoid reloading
undesirable orbits.

My Autostar is back at the factory right now, so i can't test this
(and, not wishing to cycle through what i've helped other people
do, i'm not too sure i'd try it anyway)

I've never used the "Erase" function in Expert mode.
Have you tried looking in Updater's HELP?

Also, some of Ye Olde Versions of the Updater talked about Expert
Mode at length in their README file.  That's where i learned about
it.  I haven't -used- it since firmware v1.3, back in Oct/Nov 1999.

I'll send more if i can puzzle anything out...
good luck
--dick

Subject:	 A2.1 and 2.0h as of 2200 1/23
Sent:	Tuesday, January 23, 2001 19:21:13
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
As promised, I checked the guided tour "Tonight's Jewels" using a list
of objects assembled by Mark Crossly (the link is for a site called
Astro & ETX and it's on Mike's links page).  I reported it seemed to
have problems with 2.1Ek (line 2 continued to scroll the last text line
from the tour even when line 1 was MODE'ed back to level 0 in the menu).
The problem is not present with 2.0h.  Add one more item to the 2.1Ek
punch list.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 Hooked
Sent:	Tuesday, January 23, 2001 02:46:14
From:	wgrainger@earthlink.net (Garrett)
Love your page. Was a great help in convincing me to but a 125 (Waiting
right now)

Question is: will the 495 autostar from my ds 60 work with the 125?

Garrett Grainger
Mike here: According to the "Autostar Models" info on the Autostar Information page, the #495 will NOT work with the ETX models.

Subject:	 2.0i - Works for me!
Sent:	Monday, January 22, 2001 22:54:21
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
I just came back in from playing with the new load of 2.0i; the subject
says it all.  I re-trained the scope on Arcturus (probably should have
used Polaris but didn't) and still got very good results after I did an
alignment on Sirius and Pollux (using "Easy" mode) at around 0530 UTC. 
All of the gripes about 2.3Ek (e.g., the "bangs" or lurches) vanished. 
I ran through almost all of the main items on Tonight's Best without a
problem (aside from some objects being behind houses).  I haven't tried
re-loading the Sun as an asteroid; I'll do that one tomorrow (er, later
today).  Anyway, IMHO, 2.0i is the keeper for now.

Cheers,
   Rick
And:
The subject says it all.  The download I got from Meade uses firmware
2.0h, not 2.0i as marked (another small black mark on their record). As
reported, it accepted all of the commands I threw at it without obvious
complaint.  It accepted the asteroid "Sun" successfully from the
Autostar and did a good job of tracking the Sun today.  AU 2.1 is giving
me GPF's but I suspect it's my laptop who's misbehaving.

I'll write up the AU and firmware punchlists and fax them later tonight.
And from Dick Seymour:
The **only** difference between v2.0h and v2.0i is a corrected pointer
to the non-English textual portion of the dbase (a 3-byte offset).
That's IT.  Nothing else.  Zilch.
(but you're right, they're wrong)

Subject:	 2.1Ek... this is a joke, right?
Sent:	Monday, January 22, 2001 18:10:29
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
I cannot imagine that anyone seriously tested this code.  After
reasonably aligning my scope in the home position and the OTA pointed
true north, I let 2.1Ek pick two stars for alignment.  Its first guess
was Rigel which it missed by somewhere around 2-4 deg. in altitude and
azimuth.  The second star was Pollux which it missed by a like amount,
even after I sweated Rigel into place with a 15mm EP.  Attempts to spot
Jupiter and Saturn were embarrassing failures.  I re-aligned the scope a
second time, picking Sirus and Pollux by hand.  The scope aquired
Jupiter and Saturn a little more effectively but not as well as I did
using Polaris and Rigel or Betelgeuse.

Not only is creep after beep still present but slewing in azimuth
produced unacceptable motion in altitude, often taking the object out of
the FOV.  Even after getting an object in view and rising in altitude
slightly, the scope would then drop in altitude, often moving 1/3 of the
view with the 15mm on a 2X barlow.  This acton was repeated several
times on the same object.  It was so obvious I thought I was pushing
vertical and horizontal motion buttons at the same time with my gloves. 
Even without gloves I got the same effect.

During fine motion slewing, there's often a bang or sudden motor motion
at the end of the motion, causing the image to dance briefly. Worse,
during simple tracking motion the motors periodically bang away, causing
the image to dance again, even without any commanded slewing.

In general, instead of trying to spot the GRS, I spent most of my time
trying to nurse the scope into cooperation.  To be kind, I'd rate this
version as a step back despite some of the gee-whiz features added.
Right now, I'd rather call it nearly worthless.  I'll re-load 2.0i.

Cheers,
   Rick
And more:
Da nada.  What I took to be the cold and clumsy gloves Sunday night (we
hit about 15F Sunday night) has turned out to be software that, from
this end, seems to have been poorly tested.  I would like to talk to
some of the people involved because I simply can't figure out why this
version was released and not marked "beta - use at your own risk".  It
really is disappointing.  Have you heard anything, pro or con, from
anyone else using 2.1Ek?
Mike here: Results seem mixed right now.

And:

It's probably a little difficult to separate the effects from AU A2.3
and those from 2.1Ek.  I'm in the middle of re-installing 2.0i right
now.  Since the weather seems a little iffy as the week goes on, I'll
try to retrain the scope and use it again tonight.  I'll keep you
posted.
And more:
Subject:	 Re: 2.1Ek... this is a joke, right?
Sent:	Monday, January 22, 2001 21:10:14
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
richard seymour writes:
 > Rick,
 > 
 > The initial north-point is used for -both- alignment guesses...
 > your corrections to the first alignment star does not affect where
 > it'll point for the second.  If you'd been dead-on north, they'd
 > have been (az) very, very close.  The Alt error could be location,
 > time, level-base errors... or the sum of the three.
 > Or wonky software.

I'm sorely tempted to blame it on wonky s/w.  Until I used 2.1Ek, I
simply haven't seen anything this bad after my first attempts to use
1.3[whatever].

 > Using v21ek i've had the alignment stars arrive within 20 arcminutes
 > of centered (i.e. 1/2 way from center in an ETX90's 26mm eyepiece).
 > ..And that was with not-quite level base, slight location (5 longitude
 > and latitude minutes) error.  I've also had bang-on centered with 2.0i.

With 2.3Ek I only wish!  2.0i has been much better behaved.

 > Your use of Polaris meant that you were rigorous in your north pointing.
 > The 2-star alignment should totally override that, but, eyeball-truth
 > cannot be refuted.

I still carefully align the scope on Polaris before unlimbering it and
the platform is a level as ever.  The only variable has been the
firmware.

 > My experience has been that the more familiar you are with a technique,
 > the better it works.  So my polar setups are painful, my Alt/Az are
 > a breeze.  Hence i wouldn't doubt that your Polaris-based setups have
 > become -excellent-.  My only "dislike" of them is that, for general
 > users, they are removing some of the information the Autostar could
 > use.... but they're probably replacing that, and perhaps more than
 > replacing, by the quality you're achieving in pointing at Polaris.
 > Heck, i do "one star" Alt/Az setups all the time... so i'm -completely-
 > losing the second star's information.  The 1-star are quite critical
 > about their north-pointing initial homeness, and level tube and base.
 > But they frequently work for me, to the amount of accuracy i demand
 > (or am willing to live with) at that time.

Understood.  I kept in mind that I was doing things differently than my
past routine and tried hard to cut 2.3Ek some slack for that reason. 
Give it an arcsecond and it'll take a degree... [g]

 > Try approaching the target only from the east... so that as the sidereal
 > drive takes over from your slewing, it's not reversing the motors.

I tried that, too.  In fact, most of the initial errors were to the
east, making this easy.  I agree that there's a lot of ...ah...
hysteresis in the gear trains and try to dodge it as much as possible.

 > backlash kick due to reversal of motors.  Can be controlled (or
 > at least affected) by Setup>Telescope>Az Percent and Alt Percent.
 > Try values (of the worst axis) below 35%... such as 20% or less.

The bang (or maybe lurch is a better term) was introduced with 2.3Ek as
best I can tell (see below).  I'll double check that once I finish
loading 2.0i.

 > > Worse, during simple tracking motion the motors periodically bang
 > > away, causing the image to dance again, even without any commanded
 > > slewing.
 > That one i haven't met... 

There was a somewhat similar complaint in the initial review, in S&T, of
the ETX-125.  Meade did something (check the on-line review for the
details) to deal with the problem.  Again, I don't recall seeing this
with the 2.0i firmware.  While I didn't have the 15mm EP for much of the
time I used 2.0i, I did put the 26mm in a 2X Barlow which means I
overlapped the top end of the range of the 15mm EP.  If I didn't see the
problem then or at least notice it, I suspect it's not inherent in my
scope.

 > > Right now, I'd rather call it nearly worthless.  I'll re-load 2.0i.
 > Yup... and, if you implement my patch  497_20i.txt
 > (see  http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_patches.html  )
 > it'll remove the three double-calls to the backlash routines.

I'll give it a shot after I do the initial setup of 2.0i.

 > good luck
 > --dick

BTW, as best I can tell, the 9V battery currently in my focus paddle is
still intact.  Maybe the problem with the battery fading overnight was a
tired battery after all and not a relatively high idle current.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 re: ETX60, 506 cable and downloads
Sent:	Monday, January 22, 2001 09:07:03
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	kajones@hiwaay.net
Kevin,

I saw your note on Mike's site...

I assume you were trying to update orbital elements on your 494.

And were probably using the new A2.3 Updater.

(i don't believe there is a new firmware update available for the 494
yet)

If that is what you were doing... call Meade... from other people's
experiences, i think they will simply send you a new 494. Immediately.
And they'll warn you not to use the updater.

good luck
--dick
And from Kevin:
I did take Dick's advice and call them.  The tech told me the info on
the web site was wrong and that update would not work with the 494 so
they're sending me a new 494, said it should be in about one week. It's
a same, beautiful night here tonite!

Thanks for your help.

Subject:	 ETX60-AT ROM Lost
Sent:	Sunday, January 21, 2001 19:17:27
From:	kajones@hiwaay.net (Kevin Jones)
I've tried so many times to get the ETX-60AT I have to connect with the
cable kit #506.  I first got #505, then returned, then got the right
cable set, now this problem:  about half way through the "Updating ROM -
do not turn off telescope" (or similar message) I got a GPF on my
system.  Needless to say, I had no choice but to reboot. Now, my #494
does nothing. When I turn on the scope, sometimes the LCD just flashed
all chrs,then blanks, but usually just does nothing. It appears the s/w
wiped out the ROM of the handheld unit. I'd like to know if there is any
way I can directly connect to the serial port and try to get a copy of
the ROM downloaded to the scope, or am I just screwed?   I can't believe
Meade has no e-mail for their customer support!

By the way, when I run the update now, it goes through it's cycles, then
says it can't find an AutoStar connected!

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated,
Thanks,
Kevin
kajones@hiwaay.net
Mike here: I don't know if there is a SAFE LOAD mode for the #494 Autostar but you might try some combination keypresses. On the #497 it is: Press and hold the "ENTER" key and the Scroll Down Key. Then try downloading again from the Autostar Updater.

Subject:	 Sun as asteroid broken
Sent:	Sunday, January 21, 2001 15:03:33
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com
I'm still digging away.  FWIW, the gimmick for adding the Sun to the
list of objects (as an asteroid) seems to have problems.  I entered the
data directly into the Autostar and then told the Autostar to try to
find it (using the right date and time and with the Sun will above the
horizon).  It said "Computing" and just spun the little "wheel" on the
display.  After several minutes I gave up and dropped power to the
scope.  Meade will, of course, take deep exception to "cheating" the
Sun's position into the Autostar so I guess this doesn't make the punch
list.  At least directly.  Any ideas on how to slide this problem past
them?

Cheers, 
   Rick
Mike here: Well, add Mercury -- put it in a real tight orbit?

And from Dick:

i tried a zero-radius orbit way 'back when...
Autostar dutifully barfed.
Mike here: How about a 400,000 mile radius orbit?

And a reply from Dick:

Just as soon as i have an Autostar to pester...

I can just picture the poor thing working out the orbital
period for that...  at least accuracy won't matter...
And from Rick:
Shoot, I could live with a radius somewhere around that of the Sun or
close to it.  This is, after all, a smidge easier to find than some
objects.  [l] 

Hmmm... I wonder why the original person who wrote the tip didn't try that. I'll give it a try. Thanks!


Subject:	 AU 2.3  <ADD NEW> broken
Sent:	Sunday, January 21, 2001 14:20:48
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
Attempts to add new bodies to asteroids, comets, and satellites all fail
with a message saying "The [asteroid | comet | satellite] <ADD NEW>
can't be found.  Check the spelling and select another name." (Note the
form [A|B|C] indicates choose one item as appropriate). There is no ADD
NEW in tours, of course (although Drag&Drop does work).  There is <ADD
NEW> for landmarks and user objects.  In both cases <ADD NEW> it works
as expected.  With Landmarks, however, attempting to use <Send ALL to
Autostar> fails with "Cannot begin a Landmark name with an angle bracker
(<)".  I assume one or more of the headers (e.g., <ADD NEW>) triggers
this in the Landmark code.  The problem does not appear in User Objects.

Once again, what this says for whoever was supposed to review this
package is not very kind.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 Autostar as autoguider.....
Sent:	Saturday, January 20, 2001 17:46:30
From:	vergot@adelphia.net (Adrian Vergot)
I have an SBIG ST5-C CCD autoguider/imager.  It currently autoguides my 
LX-50.  Although there are many articles on controlling the ETX/Autostar 
via "goto" software, has anyone posted on the Autostar's capabilities of 
accepting autoguiding instructions?

Thanks for a great site!

- Adrian
Mike here: Search the site for "autoguider autoguiding" and you'll find some comments. I have not received any actual reports of it being done and in fact, most of us are dubious of it being possible with any good results. [UPDATE: see Adrian's CCD image of M13 using an ETX-70 on the Guest Astrophotography - Deep Sky page posted on 21 January 2001]

Subject:	 9 pin connector to USB?
Sent:	Saturday, January 20, 2001 13:41:14
From:	DonMcClelland@webtv.net (Donald McClelland)
I recently bought the #505 connector cable for hooking up my autostar
with my new laptop (Toshiba Satellite) and found out the computer
doesn't have a compatable serial port.  Will the USB connection work and
what kind of adapter will I need?
Thanks, Don 
Mike here: There have been reports that the USB-serial adapter for Macs works with VirtualPC for some applications. I hope to be doing some more testing with that as well as soon as I receive the adapter from the vendor. I presume a PC USB-serial adapter would work as well.

Added later:

Thanks for such a quick response.  I have to wait until such an adapter
is available at Fry's.  they're currently out of stock unless you know
someone that carries them.  Thanks again for such a great site.

Subject:	 sorry about the scope
Sent:	Saturday, January 20, 2001 06:48:47
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
Dick, sorry to read that your telescope and Autostar are dead.  It made
all the papers.  Is your Autostar gone, or can it be resurrected? 
Sounds bad..I am sure you can fix the chewed wiring but are you going to
have to replace the Autostar?

I am really glad I held up on Autostar installation of A2.3;  I have it
resting comfortably in my PC and tucked far away from my Autostar. 
Sounds like they are having a great problem with it.  As I understand
it, the LX90 comes standard (at least the latest issues) with it and the
scopes are having major problems, and even shutting down altogether.  I
am looking at adding and LX-7 this year and am now very cautious about
the transition, although most of the LX series has not experienced the
recurring problems of the ETX series.

Let me know about your scope!        Clay Sherrod

Subject:	 Re: A2.3 and 2.1Ek status
Sent:	Friday, January 19, 2001 22:38:16
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
Richard,
I realize you're assembling a punch list, and are therefore seeking
problems, versus trying to avoid them.  The v21ek installation kit 
already includes a bunch of more-current ephemerii data than some
of Meade's website links.  Deploying the v21ek kit into the Autostar
without further movable-body fiddling might actually provide a
mid-decent setup.

"Richard B. Emerson" wrote:
>...and dropped into EXPERT mode to query the version of firmware in
> the controller.  I got the ID back thus:
> "|A|21Ek Dec 12 1992 @ 10:32:38"  Note the odd date and the "|"
> characters.  Neither is damaging but sure makes you wonder who's
> paying attention to their job.
It's an mc68hc11 ... i suspect they're using a Motorola development
station which may even run OS-9 (no, not the Mac... the Unix-like
kernel which runs on 8-bit 6809's thru 68000's... and has since 1984).
And old OS-9 it ain't Y2K compliant.  Requires a final hand-tweak.
The careful observer would note that the ROM files on the PC bear
that creation date, too.  
The vertical bars are because the LCD display doesn't
-fully- match ascii as PCs know it.  You should see the arrows as 
used in the Training dialog.  The Autostar firmware does a few 
substitutions when running the display, too... (underscore becomes an
uncollapsible space)

I think you can get the same ID string by issuing the LX200 
command   :GVF#   (Get Version Full string)

> I then tried to retrieve a new set of ephemerides from Meade.  That
> went well enough save for a message about Autostar Update not being
> able to find a recognizable satellite SIG from the Registry (flakey
> installtion procedure problem - Meade didn't write the proper key
> value into Registry) but that was easy enough to handle - choose a SIG
> and hit OK.
Here you're hitting a Meade website problem, too.

> During the upload to the Autostar, the Available count on the status
> display counts back through zero bytes and then winds up with an eight
> or seven digit number. 
Sure sounds like starting with an Unsigned Long, preloaded with 64K.
Decrement as filled.  Don't test for overflow, since "only Tours do
that". (<- programmer mindset)
If the "rollover" value is a little over 4,000,000,000 ... bingo.

> The only fix I can find is to use the Expert mode to blank Autostar's
> databases for asteroids, comets, satellites, and tours and exit AU.

> I then deleted all of the .ROM and .BAK files associated with the four
> object types and restarted Autostar and Autostar Update.  I then
> collected the current new asteroid set, 42 satellites in the
> "Interesting" SIG for satellites and three tours (Tonight's Best,
> Messier Marathon, and How Far... tours), uploaded that epherides set
> and all is well.
If you feel like further endangering your Autostar, you might try
re-installing the A2.3 full kit.  That'll replace your LIB files
with the kits.
Then do a firmware update.  Tell it "no" to the "do you want to
save the data from the Autostar?" question.
After the update... stop AU.
Check out what's -in- the Autostar.  Not many Satellites, i grant you.
But some of the tours are there. The asteroids.
Enough for a good starter set for the large crowd who won't be 
stressing its operation.
Again: i'm not excusing it.  However the "default" load isn't -too-
bad.  And, as your test demonstrated (and i've seen, too), simply
dumping in an ephemeris set (say, the 42 interestings) does work.
It's the editing functions which i've found to be the real bringers
of disaster.

> Polaris is still not present on the list of alignment stars.
> 
> At this point, Autostar seems to be loaded properly but it's clear
> there is at least one ticking time bomb in trying to upload too many
> objects.  BTW, the tour editing tool does properly report when it's
> asked to load more tours than there is room for.  I put in four more
> "after market" tours and when I tried a fifth tour, got the error
> message.

The TOUR editor is the oldest of the new Bunch, and is/was the first
 one "converted" to the new style when they did the sea-change to
allow user-written tours.

> I haven't reviewed the on-line help past my earlier attempts to use
> it.  Given how appallingly bad it is, I don't plan to invest much more
> time on it.
Some pages work well... others are really really painful.

> On the alignment issue, while I understand Polaris effectively stands
> still, using it and (currently) Rigel have given me at least finder
> FOV accuracly if not main EP FOV accuracy over three hours span at
>  one sitting.
My only point is that you're falling quality-wise half-way between an
Alt/Az One-star align (an arrangement i use frequently) and a true
two-star.  In two-star the ETX doesn't really care how good your 
north-pointing is (other than locating the travel-limits).
I ran a test two weeks ago (reported on the LX90 Egroup page, since
it was answering a question posted there...) with my "home" 60 degrees
displaced CW.  Other than the "guess" slews arriving 60 degrees CW,
(-both- of them... that was a surprise), the alignment completed
happily and GoTos were within 15 arcminutes.
Starting off with the barrel tilted more than a very few degrees
did -not- make the ETX happy... the alignments were declared incorrect.

>  I carry the Sun as an asteroid and was able to place my
>tripod on the previous night's marks, align to Polaris (that is, let
>the scope slew up and hit ENTER), and then slew around to the Sun over
>twelve hours after the initial alignment.  In short, it's quick and
>dirty but it works.  
Yup... if you can start with the same physical placement as you 
stopped, you can use PARK... and avoid alignment altogether.

What are you using as the Sun's parameters?  I've noted varying
degrees of success at different times of the year.

keep at it...
--dick

Subject:	 A2.3 and 2.1Ek status
Sent:	Friday, January 19, 2001 20:43:31
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
It's good news, bad news time.  The good news is I've got Updater A2.3
to show some signs of coherency after putting in far more effort than
any consumer should ever have to do.  Further, I stand by my earlier
assessment that this software, in its present state, isn't release-level
software.

I took the Autostar handbox back to "bare metal" with a Flash Load as
described in the How-to sent with A2.3.  After that ran to completion, I
restored the display settings, etc. and dropped into EXPERT mode to
query the version of firmware in the controller.  I got the ID back
thus: "|A|21Ek Dec 12 1992 @ 10:32:38"  Note the odd date and the "|"
characters.  Neither is damaging but sure makes you wonder who's paying
attention to their job.

I then tried to retrieve a new set of ephemerides from Meade.  That went
well enough save for a message about Autostar Update not being able to
find a recognizable satellite SIG from the Registry (flakey installtion
procedure problem - Meade didn't write the proper key value into
Registry) but that was easy enough to handle - choose a SIG and hit OK.

During the upload to the Autostar, the Available count on the status
display counts back through zero bytes and then winds up with an eight
or seven digit number.  During the satellite upload, the dread "Failed
to write from file c:\LibSatellite.ROM @ record 49" message showed
up.  At that point, things resume and it appears everything has uploaded
as expected but, of course, they haven't.  Try to get Autostar to
display the collection of Guided Tours and Autostar freezes solid. 
Dropping power is the only way out.  (This is the problem I reported
earlier - note the line count, 49, is higher than before; my guess is
this is a "lack of resources" issue somewhere)

The only fix I can find is to use the Expert mode to blank Autostar's
databases for asteroids, comets, satellites, and tours and exit AU.  I
then deleted all of the .ROM and .BAK files associated with the four
object types and restarted Autostar and Autostar Update.  I then
collected the current new asteroid set, 42 satellites in the
"Interesting" SIG for satellites and three tours (Tonight's Best,
Messier Marathon, and How Far... tours), uploaded that epherides set and
all is well.

Polaris is still not present on the list of alignment stars.

At this point, Autostar seems to be loaded properly but it's clear there
is at least one ticking time bomb in trying to upload too many objects. 
BTW, the tour editing tool does properly report when it's asked to load
more tours than there is room for.  I put in four more "after market"
tours and when I tried a fifth tour, got the error message.

There are some awkward spots in how the EXPERT panel handles setting the
time of day from the host PC but since this panel is for pros, I guess I
can't whine too much.

I haven't reviewed the on-line help past my earlier attempts to use it. 
Given how appallingly bad it is, I don't plan to invest much more time
on it.

The weather here is awful.  It looks as though we'll get some form of
precipitation through Sunday morning with a chance for clearing late in
the day Sunday.  As soon as I can do some observing (assuming I can get
a useful alignment - sigh...), I'll report on 2.1Ek's behavior.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 A2.3 and 2.1Ek woes again
Sent:	Friday, January 19, 2001 14:57:47
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
I finally threw in the digital towel and called Meade about the problems
with Autostar 2.1Ek and Autostar Update A2.3.  After running through
voicemail hell, I finally got to a human being.  Does anyone know a
support type named Ryan?

I outlined the basic problems seen with the software and got a "let me
talk to the programmers and get back to you".  I got a call back that
amounted to "send us a fax with a list of all the items on your punch
list".  Ryan seems to have, by his own comments, little experience with
this software.  Not encouraging news...

So I'll pull some notes together and send them off.  Any contributions
to the collection are, of course, welcome.

Cheers,
   Rick
Mike here: I suggest sending your "punch list" to engineer@meade.com as well.

And a reply:

I specifically asked about doing just that and Ryan's answer was the
list would get lost or go to the wrong place.  I don't know if this is a
CYA approach or whether this is based on how things work at Meade.
And from Dick:
The folks answering the phones are NOT the limited number of programmers
Meade has availble. They're triage and hand-holders for the bulk of
calls which fall into the "let me read/translate the manual for you".
Consider that the folks on Mike's site are far less than one percent 
of ETX owners.. and invisible compared to the DS- and 4504 owners.
(and the phone help answers about binoculars and all other Meade
products).

They (Meade corporate) -are- trying... they DO call back. 
They ask you to FAX your list so that there will be NO miscommunication
between the phone bank and the programmers... any miscommunication will
be due to unclear writing on the FAX (first pass).

I've got friends who have been phone support for a number of companies.
Some of the companies -really- have their stuff together phone-wise.
Some don't.  Some don't have the upper management support.
Some have -amazing- resources at their beck and call.
Some have an appalling lack of resources.

I have no idea how Meade corporate views their phone support.
(Mike? You've visited, you evidently chat with 'em... any ideas?)
Do they think it a necessary, begrudgingly provided service?
Do they throw lots of resources at it?
I really don't quibble their you-pay-for-the-call approach for a free
service.  Every phone person they have is a negative impact on income.
Tales abound of fairly great effort and expense Meade goes through
to solve customers' problems (the went-thru-5 ETX125s people come to
mind...).  Meade's a hardware company... they may not have a handle
on what a commitment (and time-sink) software can be... especially
 embedded software...  I'm very, very happy they don't use Celestron's
approach (REAL firmware... no updates except for chip replacement).

Microsoft has their phone bank people perform assigned product testing
 in off moments... so they're being used as beta testers as well as 
hand-holders.

I send a steady stream of suggestions and crash details (with some
sidebar analysis) to engineer@meade.  I try to keep them short, and
unique.  I scan the various user Egroups and try to replicate
symptoms... if i can't replicate, i ask the original poster for more
info... if i can send to Meade a "it's broke -here-, and you can
replictate it on Win95 by doing -this-, or Win 98 by doing -that-",
i can't help but think that a quickly repeatable symptom will get
addressed.

Unfortunately, the Updater swamps that technique.

But we try...
--dick
Mike here: I commented on the site some weeks (or was it months?) back that visitors to this site were only some probably small percentage of the owners and users of ETX scopes worldwide. Meade does have a large area, not as large as Microsoft's, for Tech Support. Of course, as is the case with contributors to our ETX site, not everyone there is an expert in everything Meade sells. Same for Microsoft. When Meade gets as large as Microsoft maybe we'll have the luxury of calling tech support (not a free call), getting the call director system, selecting "ETX", being put on hold for 45 minutes, and then getting some tech who says "gee, it must be your system; doesn't happen here."

And more from Rick:

Summarizing some points about how AU works to be sure I have things
straight, AU essentially throws all of the objects (asteroids, comets,
and satellites) into one "hopper" and tosses all of the data up as one
memory image, right?  That explains the cross-connections that seem to
be happening and, assuming this process is somehow broken in A2.3,
explains the overall collapse of an upload.  In the experiments I did
earlier this evening, it still seems as though AU, at least, allocates
separate space for tours, even though they ultimately go up the wire as
one image or overlay.

On the alignment issue, while I understand Polaris effectively stands
still, using it and (currently) Rigel have given me at least finder FOV
accuracly if not main EP FOV accuracy over three hours span at one
sitting.  I carry the Sun as an asteroid and was able to place my tripod
on the previous night's marks, align to Polaris (that is, let the scope
slew up and hit ENTER), and then slew around to the Sun over twelve
hours after the initial alignment.  In short, it's quick and dirty but
it works.

I'll copy everyone on the punch list which I'll try to get to Sunday.

Cheers,
   Rick

Subject:	 2.3Ek woes mount
Sent:	Friday, January 19, 2001 09:50:22
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
Sigh... in writing up how I align my ETX, I thought I'd do something
that Meade seems to be skimping on.  I tried my own instructions and
found a new horror in the 2.3Ek code.  My basic setup procedure is to
set the OTA in the home position, aim the OTA at where Polaris stands
over the horizon (to get true north), and do a two star alignment using
Polaris as star #1 and something well to the east (my western sky is
blocked by trees), currently Rigel or Betelgeuse, as star #2.

It turns out the star list for alignments no longer includes Polaris!
What are these people thinking of??  My guess is, because Polars is a
2nd magnitude star, it didn't make the cutoff for aiming stars.  I tried
calling Meade but keep winding up in voicemail hell.

Anybody up for throwing a rock through their window to wake them up?

Cheers,
   Rick
And a response from Dick:
Anybody for reading their suggested "How to Align" documentation?
( http://www.meade.com/support/etxautofaq.html#a6 )
They specifically state that near Polaris is a bad idea.

You want two stars which are about 90 to 120 degrees apart, with
 differing Declinations.
I don't defend that their own automated choices frequently violate
this rule (i guess they toss in "must be 35 degrees up from horizon"
or something).
Pointing at Polaris removes ANY Right Ascension information from that
alignment star. All you get is Declination.

Pointing at two middle-sky, far apart stars gives both RA *and* Dec
information to the alignment algorithm.

Polaris is a bad idea... unless you are in Polar mode trying for
"one star"... then they -force- Polaris.
I hadn't noticed that Polaris was removed from the Alignment list.
I tend to use Vega (or Deneb) and something Orionish this time of year.

--dick

Subject:	 Autostar update, etc.
Sent:	Thursday, January 18, 2001 20:12:11
From:	seymour.j@gsm.com (Jon Seymour)
To:	etx@me.com, rseymour@wolfenet.com
CC:	mdr@HONet.com, niko.deleu@advalvas.be, spudtech@msn.com, boudreau@eng.umd.edu
Hi all,

Thanks so much for all your helpful feedback. (For the record, the last
3 gentlemen copied on this email all suggested that battery power would
solve the problems.) The mystery continues, but in a much nicer way. We
happen to have a crimping tool at work, and my technician knew exactly
what to do and we did it. I brought the cable home and hooked up the
Autostar using the AC power. To my delight, everything worked great for
about 45 minutes--by far the best result to date--but then...the dreaded
Motor Unit Failure, followed by the same set of slewing issues. Damn.
Then I unplugged the AC adapter, though, invoking the batteries, and all
the problems vanished again. Puzzled but happier.

The next night, I started from scratch with only battery power.
Unbelievable...a perfect night with the ETX. Then again tonight, I spent
over an hour with perfect alignment and tracking the whole time. Not a
random slew at all. The Trapezium inside the Orion Nebula, and the
Nebula itself...yeah!!! I never would have found it without the Guided
Tour. (Had trouble with Andromeda Galaxy, but the low sky suffers from
light pollution in my area, I think.)

Compounding the issue of identifying the culprit, though, the weather
has also warmed considerably, into the high 60s at night, and that might
also have helped. The frustrating nights were all significantly colder.

So, although I do not know exactly what caused my success, I do want to
thank all of you for your kind help and suggestions!

One final note: From a novice's perspective, I have experimented quite a
bit with Alt/Az vs. polar alignment, thinking that one might give better
results than the other, as several users on the site suggest. Here is
what I have found: without a doubt, the ETX's tracking of objects (at
the sidereal rate) is far superior in polar mode. This is in agreement
with the Meade manual, but in contrast to several users on the site. I
am quite convinced, though...in Alt/Az, the object is never "still", and
is often gone from the field entirely within 5-10 seconds. In polar
alignment, the ETX is rock solid, as in 30 minutes or more of never
having to hit the keypad.

Well, there you have it. I hope others can benefit from these
discussions. I will continue to use this great site!

Jon
Mike here: I suspect that most of the reported less positive experiences when in polar mode result from the slightly more difficult to achieve Polar HOME position. Alt/Az seems to be more forgiving of setup errors.

And from Dick Seymour:

I'm glad to hear it's working... BUT you might want to take the
bottom off (if it's an ETX90 or ETX125)... 
Last night my ETX90 died while slewing. (in Polar)

Tonight i opened the base... 
the wires heading up the center shaft (Alt drive) had been getting
hit by the RA gear teeth... and it had cheweed thru the insulation,
eventually shorting them (power, ground, signal) together via the
gear's metal.

They also slightly dislodged their connector from its internal spot.

Dead puppy.  Potentially dead Autostar, too.

IF you can get the object to -stay- in the eyepiece,
you'll find (at least, i do) that long-term (hour or more) tracking
works well in Alt/Az, too.
This does NOT apply to the Moon, since the Autostar doesn't
 correct for its north/south travel during the month, once you've
 [goto]d it.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	 another warning about the new Updater...
Sent:	Thursday, January 18, 2001 17:40:11
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
Things may not be so rosey if you have an LX90...

Here are two quotes from the lx90 egroups page
(and it may be 497 Autostars which they're talking about)
--dick

one:
      Message 1237 of 1258         [ Reply ]  [ Forward ]  [ View Source ]       
From: Bill Bauer  (bbauer@s...)
Date: Thu Jan 18, 2001 4:51pm
Subject: So much for Meade support

Their new 2.3 software hosed my Autostar when deleting & adding a 
Tour. Now it says "Use the ETX Autostar with this model" and won't do 
anything. The guy at support doesn't know anything, goes away three 
times, and keeps coming back with "Yeah, that's the right software". 
That's the answer no matter what question I ask. I ask to speak to 
someone else, he says "Just a minute", then comes back with "That's 
the right software". Duhhh.

===========
two:
From: Tom Talbott  (thomast@w...)
Date: Fri Jan 19, 2001 00:10am
Subject: Re: New Autostar software

Note: I have just tried it and have had a number of problems 
updating satellites. I would not recommend it. Further details to 
follow.
===============
And more:
Sent:	Thursday, January 18, 2001 18:04:06
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com
--- In lx90@egroups.com, "Tom Talbott" (thomast@w...) wrote:
I just sent the following to engineer@m... to outline the 
problems I am having with the new updater:

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Updater Version: A-2.3
OS: Win98
Version of OS: 4.10 (not SE)
System: Laptop
Processor: AMD K6 350
RAM: 96MB
Size of Harddrive: 4GB
Attached Serial Peripherals: (Autostar #495 for the LX90/ Modem)
Modem: Internal Lucent 56K V.90 PCI DF Modem on COM2
No modem software running.

Various issues with the new A-2.3 updater

1. The Available row in the Astronomical Bodies dialog does not give 
valid results.  Especially when uploading data.  Numbers will start 
decrementing from 400 or so and eventually wrap around to 8000000 or 
so.  Sometimes negative numbers are present.

2. After I've updated the Satellites from the "Get From Web" option 
or I drag a TLE file acquired from www.celestrak.com (I only used the 
100 visible list in both cases), I will recieve the following error 
message when sending the data to the autostar:

"Failed to write from [path]\LibSatellite.ROM at record 101"

Depending on what I've done, the record number may be different.  It 
was 36 once.  Once this has occured, the database in the autostar is 
pretty messed up.  I can now restore it from a backup of the original 
data set without having to completely reinstall the 21Ek system.

3. In order to get the updater to always send everything to the 
autostar, I have to go into each section (asteroids, comets, 
satellites, tours) and click "Send None" and then "Send All".  If I 
don't do this, many times the tours will not be sent to the 
autostar.  I was also not successful sending only one satellite to 
the autostar.

Currently, I only have one satellite in my autostar that I entered by 
hand by using the numbers displayed in the satelitte editor.

Thanks for looking into these issues,
-Tom Talbott

---------------------------------------------------------------------

I am using a homemade cable, but none of these issues appear to be 
cable related, since I can come up with workarounds in how I use the 
software.

If anyone plans on using this version, I highly recommend that you 
backup the Ephemerides directory before editing the items in any 
way.  This makes it fairly easy to restore the data set back to the 
original set.  Before I did that, I was forced to reinstall the 21Ek 
system and tell it to wipe the data on the autostar.  Then I would 
reinstall the updater software and let it download the default data 
set from the autostar to get started again.

Hope this saves some folks from a bunch of frustration.  Also curious 
if anyone else has run into this.  Especially the Available row.  
Does it seem to give reasonable results?

Thanks,
-Tom Talbott
--- End forwarded message ---

Subject:	 Autostar Update A2.3 Problems
Sent:	Thursday, January 18, 2001 10:00:30
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
I do not recommend that casual users attempt to use this version of
Autostar Updater (AU).  I've run into at least one major problem and
several lesser ones that make this version frustrating to use.  My
comments address only the #497 controller as connected to an ETX-90.

First, any attempt to upload over 35 satellites element sets fails with
a message saying AU is unable to write beyond line 35 in a scratch file
on the supporting PC (not, so far as I can tell, to the #497 itself -
using the earlier version of AU I was able to upload about 85 satellite
element sets although I never used them actively). After acknowledging
the message, the upload process resumes with indications the tours are
being uploaded.  On restarting Autostar and selecting Guided Tours,
there is no title on the display's second line (e.g., Tonight's Best). 
Attempts to return to the next higher menu level (by pressing MODE)
fail.  The only way to unfreeze the controller is drop the power to the
controller.  Restarting AU and reading the controller's contents shows
only garbled characters for a single tour title, no usable tours, and,
not surprisingly, only 35 satellites in the controller's memory.

The only work-around I can find is to zero out the satellite and tour
ROM files, install less than 35 satellites, and reinstall all desired
tour files.  Uploading this mix appears to work satisfactorily.  Since I
don't think most people are interested in tracking satellites or track
only a few (e.g., ISS, HST, and Mir - until March), this isn't too much
of a hardship.

The A2.3 help file system is in serious need of editing as are the
prompts throughout the program.  As a result, it's hard to tell whether
or not I'm just doing something wrong or the software is mis-behaving. 
In some cases, I was able to back into a loop where I'd get a warning
message that some data set was defective, hit the OK button, get the
same message, press OK to acknowledge that, and drop into the same
sequence over and over.  The only fix was to reboot the PC.  Attempts to
terminate AU alone failed.

I enabled the Expert mode in AU in hopes of trying to clean up the mess
AU had made of my controller.  I think the delete data button worked but
there's no feedback at all.  The cursor shifts to "busy" mode for a
while and then returns to the "idle" mode; there are no other clues as
to what happened.  Although a minor point, the attempt to upload my PC's
clock to the controller failed; the controller just did a reset and
dropped back to the last date seen and 20:00:00 even though the test was
done around 01:30 on the same date.

Because of the problem of the outright failure caused by too many
satellite data sets and the subsequent problems everything else
downstream (tours, user objects, and landmarks), the problems with the
help file, and the general roughness of this software, I strongly
recommend staying with the previous version of AU unless the upgrades in
A23Ek are an absolute must.

Cheers,
   Rick
Mike here: I wonder if the reduced satellite storage is due to the increase (and resulting compression) to 30,000 objects.

And:

Good question.  I had the same thought.  I think this issue, although,
in a sense minor, gives a good summary of the state of AU A2.3.  While
Meade may have dropped the satellite limit to 35 in order to make room
for other, presumably more attractive features, they really dropped the
ball in how the change was handled.  I don't see anything that says
there's a 35 satellite limit in the web page comments, the satellite
editor function doesn't indicate any sort of limit, the help file
doesn't list a limit, the error message only says there was a write
error to a file C:\Program Files\etc. at line 35, and AU continues to
issue displays that suggest the upload is continuing in a useful manner
when, as best I can tell, that's not the case.  There are some other
places where the program is equally rough; the looping error messages
mentioned earlier, for example.  If this was software put together by
some hobbyist of unknown ability, I'd be a little more lenient with the
errors but I expect more from Meade.

BTW, is the a better e-mail address for mail that can be posted to the
web site?  I don't want to clog your admin address with web site stuff
if there's a better choice.

Cheers,
   Rick
Mike here: Yep, this is the address to use (etx@me.com).

And continuing the discussion:

I followed up on Dick Seymour's link to the LX90 E-group list and, lo
and behold, someone else is reporting the same problem.  There is one
variant in the account, specifically the number of satellite data sets
that load before AU fails.  It appears that there may actually be a
total space available for asteroids, comets, and satellites.  Since I've
always loaded the same asteroid and comet data sets (from the Meade web
site), I get the failure at 35 (or 36?) satellites.  I'll try the upload
with no comets and see what happens.  My guess is the satellite limit
will increase.
And from Dick:
I'm about to run the new updater for the first time (my ETX
fried last night... this is with the Autostar hanging on a
set of 4504 motors)

... 2 hours later... many sessions with Visual C++'s debugger...
many crashes by Updater.   
I did -not- let it send anything to the Autostar...
(it never survived that long)
I also had someone familiar with MFC (Microsoft Foundation Class)
programming watching over my shoulder... so i was treated to an
hour's discussion of what they were (obviously) trying to do in 
the Satellite Edit Dialog session, and what they weren't doing,
and... well, you can guess....

> There is nothing in the meager .txt file collection or in the Help
> files about a limit on satellite data sets (or an interaction between
> asteroid, comet, and satellite data sets).  

actually... it's mentioned in Meade's advertising... they only claim
room for 50 satellites (i used to have 150 in there...)
That's the only place i've seen any number written.
(you DO read and believe their advertising, don't you?)

I (used to) believe that there are 64Kbytes available for user
data...  this is the first version of the Updater which has
"available" numbers even close to that. (the previous version would
report available values in the million, if i remember correctly)

My Autostar has 25 satellites in it.
The Updater only admitted to "6 (5)" in the handbox, 11 in the Library.
Two different Updater sessions (separated by crashes) showed
different lists of what was in the Handobx, and what was deleted.
No session ever showed all 25, nor listed the ones i had deleted
in the Autostar last week.

> There is no warning
> message in any of the editing screens associated with these objects.
> I'm not aware of any similar warning on the Meade update web pages.
> In short, there is no warning anywhere.

The Meade Logo and splash screen aren't enough?
Have you run the Updater before?
It sure beats "Danger! Quicksand!" in my book... 

> AU A2.3 strikes me as alpha or very shaky beta software at best and
>  certainly nothing that should have been released as a production
> program as appears to be the case on the Meade web site.

not to defend it, but they ARE still calling it "Beta"
(they've been doing that for how long, Mike? 2 years?)

> I'd appreciate your comments and any insights into the above.
Well, here's the problem... both the firmware and the Updater are
in continual states of development.
A2.1 of the Updater (if you read the README, the more detailed 
numbers of 2.0021 are seen) did the Firmware Transfer OK, bulk-moved
Satellites to the Autostar OK (i.e. didn't crash AUtostar.  The numbers
would arrive slightly frayed around the edges, but the bulk move
didn't trash the Autostar)(what a measure of Quality! "didn't trash")
Anyway... they -then- fixed the Comet elements in 2.0025
I grabbed that version from The NAture Store's website.
2.0026 i never saw, but Discovery Store people have it.
2.0028 performed the 2.0025 Comet fix to the other bodies.
2.0030 appeared on Meade's website for a while... i grabbed it.
It also managed to trash the Autostar's body database when any
edits were attempted upon the Satellites.  I got to experience
Emergency Flash Load for the first time...
I back-tracked to 2.0025.  At least Comets went OK.

A2.3 (2.0032 or 33, who knows?) appears.
Won't download firmware v2.0i to 495's.
Is replaced the next day (A2.3a) due to refusing to work with 495's.

Starts trashing LX90's, ETX's, etc.etc.

That's the story from here.....
over to you, Chet..
--dick
(my ETX chewed thru its Alt wires with the Az gear...
exposed and shorted together +, - and signals,
I fear the Autostar Alt I2C bus -and- ETX are toast.
Tomorrow they head off to Meade...)
(so i've been distracted)
And a reply from Rick:
Interesting... The only General Protection Fault (GPF) crash I hit was
using the "Properties" button in the expert panel.  Meade says this
button isn't functional so, in a sense, this is no surprise although it
sure would be nice to have a code stub that says "Why are you pushing
this button?" instead of a GPF.

As to the satellite upload segment, I don't think there's a coding
suprise in the sense that there's only so much free space and after that
there is no more.  The code shovels formatted data, processed by AU from
TLE's, into the controller and stops when the receiving "tank" fills up;
no big deal here. Where the code fails miserably is handling hitting the
limits and then acting as if it was running propely afterwards.

Whether the limit is 5, 50, or 150 is, in a sense, immaterial.  The
problem arises in that there is no clear statement of AU constraints in
the associated documentation (i.e., AU's help files), to say nothing of
AU itself.  It's not hard to think of software that, either by limiting
spaces in tables or with error messages, says "X amount of space is
available and no more."  It's the lack of taking care of the obvious
that's so bothersome.

I think the middle line of the display is useless as it stands now.
Dancing numbers are visually impressive but there's no indication of
what these numbers really mean.  Whether they show overall data loading,
space available, or something else is beyond me.  Moreover, the count
quickly rolls over into negative numbers which can mean anything from
space is past being used up or just that some coder couldn't do a
display properly.  Again, this underscores that A2.3 simply shouldn't be
allowed into general public distribution.

After I loaded the controller with the 2.01i code, I consistently had
80+ data sets showing on the bottom line.  Moving to 2.3Ek and after I
had to flush the controller's memory, this stopped appearing, of course;
nothing sinister here.

Um, A2.3 strikes me as the digital equivalent of quicksand or at least
very soggy sand.

I did a text search of the page offering A2.3 and 2.3Ek and the string
"beta" does not appear on the web page.  While there may well be
comments elsewhere, everything I read on the web site suggests this is
production software.  AU may be under "double secret probation"
(referring to a gag from Animal House) in Meade's corporate mind but
there is nothing in the path from the home site to Autostar Updater web
page that conveys this.

There's nothing wrong with that, per se.  In fact, I'd be more worried
if this weren't the case.

I, too, had problems with A2.1 and met emergency flash loading more than
once.  In fact, after getting over the initial shock, I was, and remain,
impressed that Autostar is resistant to (with apologies to Bill
Shakespeare) the slings and arrows of outrageous software.

Although I have never tried to track a satellite with a scope (I have
extensive experience with NOAA wxsats in another context so it's not
that I don't care about satellites), it appears that the basic satellite
capabilities work.  The issue is how many satellites can the controller
handle and how AU manages this constraint.

I guess the bottom line with AU and the Autostar software is to find
some way to determine just how aware of the problems Meade is and what
they're doing about it.  I'm not very confident that I'm going to be
able to call up Customer Support as Joe ETX-owner and get someone to
discuss this mess in detail.  If anyone has a point of contact that
might be useful, however, I'll give it a shot.  Meanwhile, I'll play
with shuffling around the comet, asteroid, and satellite resources to
see if there's an obvious interconnection.  More news as the fun
continues.  [G]

Cheers,
   Rick
And a reply from Dick:
I didn't get GPF's, since i have Visual C++ (Standard Edition) on my
PC, it adds a "debug" choice to the standard windows [close][details]
"your program died horribly" display.  That's what i invoked.
Not much help... it did agree that the Updater was trying to add
another 124(hex) to its stack allotment.

Given A2.3's collapse-star performance, that stub should be invoked
as a replacement for the splash screen...

Oh, it's far, far worse... the Updater does not send individual
satellites to the Autostar for it to put away... noooo.
It sucks the user-data from the Autostar as a block of memory.
The Updater then creates a NEW -entire- block of memory and shovels
it back as a lump.  So if anybody's overfilling the tank, it's the
Updater doing it in its own little sandbox, and then cramming whatever
it wishes back into the Autostar.
At least, that's how it looks from the firmware end... the only
transfer commands the Updater has to work with are "read block of
memory" and "write block of memory". (well, there's Erase block...
and it works in 32kb or 64kb increments...)

The note i sent to engineer@meade was titled:
   A2.3 -- you'd better pull it!
It's still there, i think. (at least at 5:55pm PST)

I was (probably mis-)remembering numerous mentions in the README.TXT
file of previous versions' beta-ness.  Indeed the lastest two don't
say "Beta" when referring to themselves.

..and what i neglected to say was: when a FIRMWARE update is ready to
ship, the Updater may well be, er, fragile.  But having a bunch of
newbies go through the "install Updater; replace Autostar.ROM and 
Dbase.rom files with new versions, NOW run Updater" is painful.
I (was i alone) sent notes pleading for a "full kit".
I wasn't expecting this trainwreck.  I'd be very content if they
kitted A2.1 with v21ek, included notes about what's broke in A2.1,
and left it at that.  But i'm used to working with buggy software...
so i'm more forgiving of such an approach than folks who have never
learned how to copy a file under Windows.  They get totally freaked
to think they're installing known-buggy (albeit free) software.

Yes, i think the Flash Loader is a spakling jewel in the Autostar's
heart... 'tis a pity we get to appreciate it this often...

>it appears that the basic satellite capabilities work.
that is correct.  basically.

The user memory space is shared amongst all bodies and tours.
The Updater sees all and knows all... and chews them when editing
happens (at least in v2.0025 and 2.0030... 2.0022 merely did 
nibble-swaps.)

They -do- listen... as exemplified by the one-day-later update of the
Updater... however they seem to have missed the full depth of the 
problem... and fixing that much of what's probably a VERY messy
program... and which poorly uses the MFC environment is NOT
going to be a quick fix.  And you wouldn't WANT the band-aid version.

Long ago i gave up on bulk loading, and manually enter what i wish.
The README does mention that the bodies broke in the A1xxx to A2xxxx
transition.  I wonder if the latest A1xxx would work with v21ek
firmware?

Me? I'm in the midst of trying to convince a friend to write a 
mini-updater.  We've got it working in the extract-Autostar-TO-pc
direction... but i want to be -very- careful before i reverse the flow.
(and he wants to bell/whistle and his-own-mindset pushbutton everything.
The very traits i *loathe* in the Updater.  The word "convince" can
be spoken with varying stresses...)

--dick (Still packing his ETX)

Subject:	 Autostar display & low temps
Sent:	Wednesday, January 17, 2001 19:54:54
From:	rick@pinefields.com (Richard B. Emerson)
As has been reported elsewhere (e.g., S&T reveiws) the Autostar display
doesn't handle low temperatures well.  Considering this is an LCD
display, it's no surprise.  Has anyone experimented with using heater
strips designed for dew removal to warm the display?  Obviously putting
the strips over the display somewhat limits viewing the display but
perhaps putting one on the back or around the top of the paddle might
work.

Cheers,
   Rick
Mike here: Interesting thought. No one has mentioned that before. Just putting into coat pocket has seemed to help some.

And:

And here I thought I was touching on something that just didn't make the
last edit of the FAQ.  [grin]

The thought of walking too far with the paddle in a coat pocket is a
rather scary one.  Time to look into warming the display, I guess.  If I
come up with something, I'll send along a note.

BTW, please add one more "attaboy" to your collection for keeping your
web site going.  It's been a big help.
And more:
With all the interest in wireless networks, maybe the problem of walking
around with the paddle in one's pocket will be moot this time next year.
[grin]
Mike here: Now that's a thought! When I use my laptop computer with the Sonfest SAC IV CCD on the ETX I am connected to my house ethernet via a wireless connection. Works great to move large (many megabytes) captured movie files from the iBook to our file server for backup.

And that prompted this response:

Way cool!  Now, maybe if we cross an Autostar paddle with a TV remote
control paddle...?  [grin]

Subject:	 Autostar Update problem
Sent:	Wednesday, January 17, 2001 17:57:51
From:	Resptrdr@aol.com
I have an ETX 125 with an Autostar #497.  When I connect the Autostar
and ETX to my Dell Inspiron 7000 laptop via the #505 cable kit (Meade)
and try to run either the Autostar Update program or the Starry Night
program neither program successfully connects to the Autostar.

However, when I connect the Autostar/ETX to my desktop computer the
programs work fine!  But, this doesn't help me for using it out in the
field.

Any ideas?
Mike here: What OS is on the laptop? There are some problems with Windows2000 and older Autostar updaters. See the Autostar Information page for more on this. Have you tried the new Autostar Updater that was posted on Meade's site this week?

Subject:	 New Autostar Updater (A2.3) Question
Sent:	Wednesday, January 17, 2001 13:13:52
From:	jhawley@ochsnerusa.com (Jamie Hawley)
After finally completing the download to 2.1ek I now see that there is a
new version of the "updater" (A2.3) on the Meade site.  The Meade site
says that if you use an older version of the updater it won't correctly
install comets, asteroids, satellites and tours.  Does this mean that I
must re-download 2.1ek with the new updater?

Thanks in advance,

Jamie
Mike here: The wording has caused some confusion. But if your 2.1ek Autostar has the asteroids, satellites and tours OK, then no new download to the Autostar is necessary. If they are not then you should redownload with the new updater. You'll still end up with 2.1ek in your Autostar however.

And from our Autostar expert:

Subject:	 Re: New Autostar Updater (A2.3) Question
Sent:	Wednesday, January 17, 2001 23:28:44
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
You do NOT need to redo a full download.

The OLD updaters (A2.1 for most folks) could move the -firmware- over
just fine.
What they mangle are the various bodies (Satellites, Comets, Asteroids)
 (SC+A) with changable parameters.  (Planets don't count).

If you have loaded v21ek with -any- updater, then your FIRMWARE is
correct.

What's possibly wrong are any S,C and A you might have
 dragged-and-dropped.
Either of the NEW updaters (A2.3) which appeared on Monday and
Tuesday afternoon, finally fix that. 
You -could- "simply" install the NEW Updater, and then use it to
give your Autostar a new set of S,C+A.
Since the old Updater mangled them, I've gotten into the habit of
just keypadding in the Satellites, and keypad-correcting any Comets
 i cared to try for.  I haven't gone for Asteroids yet.

So: you do NOT need to spend the 35 minutes sending down v21ek again.

You MAY want to drag-and-drop some orbital parameters via the 
Updater, but that's lots faster.
Just use the Updater's [new ephemerides] button instead of the
[new software] button.

Tours weren't mangled by the old updater.

If you're happy with your old firmware (v1.3c, v2.0whatever), but
would like correct S,C+A parameters, install the new Updater, but
again only use the [new ephemerides] button.

The new updater also has [all] and [none] buttons for massive 
inclusion/deletion of S,C+A's.
(so sayeth the README)
--dick

Subject:	 RE: Autostar Update Instructions!!
Sent:	Wednesday, January 17, 2001 11:06:20
From:	peterrossi@lucent.com (Rossi, Peter (Peter))
Thanks for your Super Quick response.  I am still unable to find the
update instructions that I remember being mentioned.  Maybe the author
is Mr. Seymour.  I will continue searching though!!

Thanks for your on going HELP.  You are the BEST!!

Pete
Mike here: Let me know when you locate what you were looking for. I should probably put it on the Autostar Info page if not already there.

Subject:	 Re: New version 2.3A Autostar software
Sent:	Tuesday, January 16, 2001 21:45:24
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
The "old" updater also loaded both flavors of Autostar.
The one-step install is new... it used to be two-step.
(and a poorly documented second step that was... obvious to us geeks,
but exceedingly opaque to the rest of the world...)

> This is a good thing!
yeah... but us'n geeks have to sneak around behind the automated
 system to, er, tidy up the area it's about to step into...

-dick (let's see... i've installed it 4 times today?)
(2 versions, 2 PCs)(and kibitzed someone who tried Monday's child
on a 495... first time i've heard a "Proc Trap F" reported...)
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Morning, Dick -
So my version that I loaded at about 11:45 PST (a.m.) is already
obsolete? Geeez, talk about technology.  I suppose the only reason I
downloaded it to the PC in the first place is because - of the Meade
page - it implies that this Upgrade version "Must" be in place for any
subsequent updates coming. Do you read it this way?  I think I will go
ahead and download again today and overwrite what I have just in case. 
By the way, the "Reademe" shows several categories of "bugs" in
version2.1k that have been fixed so I assume that would apply to the
current version that I now have in my Autotstar. (?)

Our rain and ice continue....up to 5" of snow by Saturday.  I have
programmed my Autostate under "user objects" to track frozen
precipitation, with specific ephemerides that differentiate between
sleet, snow and freezing rain.  You can find it under www.thisstinks-I
wannaseestars.clay (a joke folks - it doesn't exist).

Thanks again for your comments; I'll let you know if I load the
"new"-"new" version today.        CLAY SHERROD
And from Dick:
Clay,

> So my version that I loaded at about 11:45 PST (a.m.) is already
> obsolete?
only if you have a 495.
> Geeez, talk about technology.  
Damned if they do, damned if they don't... only last month folks
complained because there hadn't been an update in 9 months...
THEN (ahem) certain people complained about the multi-step procedure
required to load v21ek starting with a v2.0h/A2.1 Updater.
NOW they're complaining that Meade "rushed" out a full one-step
package (the easiest to use yet!)... and it had a bug, which they fixed
within 24 hours, for a model which the included firmware doesn't yet
support.
Jeeesh...some people...   ;-)

> I suppose the only reason I downloaded it to the PC in the first place
> is because - of the Meade page - it implies that this Upgrade version
> "Must" be in place for any subsequent updates coming.
> Do you read it this way?
(a) no (well, i didn't... now i've reread it, and that IS what they say)
   (hmmm... that text has changed within the last two days...)
(b) i sent along a note to them Tuesday morning that the wording was
 confusing about what happens to 494's and 495's.
(c) i read it as: This (A2.3) version of the Updater is the only one 
  which can correctly send Satellites, Comet and Asteroids to the
 Autostars.  IF you want to do that, you MUST use this version.
(d) You already have personal experience that the "YOU MUST" is 
  incorrect... YOU have already loaded v21ek with the A2.1 Updater.
(e) i wouldn't doubt that future firmwares might exceed some limit
 that the A2.1 Updater imposes.. but the README doesn't mention (that
 i remember) that kind of a fix.  V21ek is chopped into two 640k 
 chunks...and there is -program- in the dbase segment.  So i suspect
 that the updater has problems with a ROM file bigger than 640k.
   (Thank you, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft...)

>  I think I will go ahead and download again today and overwrite what
> I have just in case.  By the way, the "Reademe" shows
> several categories of "bugs" in version2.1k that have been fixed so
> I assume that would apply to the current version that I now have in
> my Autotstar. (?)
No... the FIRMWARE (v21ek) which ships with this updater is **exactly**
the same v21ek you loaded anywhen within the last month. Byte for byte.

>  Our rain and ice continue....up to 5" of snow by Saturday.  I have
> programmed my Autostate under "user objects" to track frozen 
> precipitation,with specific ephemerides that differentiate between
> sleet, snow and freezing rain.  
...caution...  sleet directly upon a corrector plate can damage 
multilayer coated optics.

(ahhh... i remember watching my first lunar eclipse... at 2am in
Boston... during a sleet storm... one could see the -shape- of the
shrinking moon through the clouds... fueled by much hot chocolate
passed out the door by understanding (and amused) parents.)
And a response from Clay:
Good afternoon Dick!
Your parent story sure sounds familiar....mine did the same thing and
told me I was wasting my time and I would not grow up and amount to
anything.  I showed them....I amounted to something and I NEVER grew up!

The language in the new Web page from Meade is definitely ambiguous.  By
the way, WHO IS that imputent "certain people" complaining about the
old, archaic, stuffed-away-in-a-lockbox procedure required to load old
(2.1ek) Meade programs?  Just point me to him, I'll take care of this!

Seriously, let me know about your inquiry to Meade; the way it reads
(I've read it back since your last message) still implies to me that you
must have this installation program (i.e. "A2.3) in order to access any
updates (after 1-16-01) that Meade may issue.  If you read it backwards,
the meaning still comes out the same.  Anyway, it is safely tucked away
in my PC, awaiting whatever surprises come out of Irvine.

Got a new battery pack today.  It appears very nice, complete with fused
operation, built-in recharger, 12-V (10A max output, which should cover
the mustard) cigarette lighter-type jack, indicator lights for battery
strength, a warning buzzer for low battery, 110V converter capability,
the works (still reading the instructions concerning foot massages).  It
is an "Everstart Smart Booster" (made by Eveready).  This unit has two
nice features for sensitive (to say the least) applications like the
Autostar:  1)  There is a built in spark and surge protector from any
outside extraneous sources; 2)  A special light on the front of the unit
indicates the integrity of your connection, which is one of the issues I
have always had with using DC power.  The light changes from green to
red if your connection is faulty or if the connection is becoming
increasingly loose.  This is a really nice feature.  The unit is very
portable, high impact plastic (sharp looking semi-flat black, like the
Meade plastic), has a tote handle and only ran about $70.

I intent to try it out, give it the works and compare it carefully with
my AC power since that is once again an issue.  When done, I'll write up
the documentation for Mike to use as a product or tech tip.

More later....CLAY

Subject:	 Warning about New Updater Kit!
Sent:	Tuesday, January 16, 2001 14:56:41
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
4pm Monday 16th Jan, Meade posted a new full Updater kit on their site.

However, the text on the webpage is poorly written.

The ROM files with that kit are still December's v21ek package... ONLY
for the 497 Autostar.

The UPDATER (the thing that runs on your PC) *is* for all models of
Autostar (494, 495, 497). But currently only for editing  orbital
elements. (when new ROM files come out for the 494 and 495, then it'll
Update them)

And it -does- (theoretically, i haven't played with it yet) have much
improved handling of  Satellite, Comet and Asteroid parameters. (easier
to edit, and the transfer to the Autostar doesn't mangle the data)

I've had one report of someone who couldn't get the new A2.3 Updater to
(re)send v2.0i (last March's) ROM files to a 495 Autostar. (well, it
-sent- them... the Autostar proceeded to say "Proc Trap F" thereafter,
until he reinstalled the A2.1 Updater and downloaded from it.)

So, if you don't have a 497 Autostar, and you don't need to send
Satellites, Comets and Asteroids to your 494 or 495 Autostar... don't
bother to rush to install this new Updater.

more as it develops...
--dick
And late breaking news:
Today (16th Jan 3pm PST) Meade updated the updater again to fix a
problem with dealing with 495's.

So now it may (untested by me) properly download v2.0i to 495's.

--dick
And from Clay:
It seems the only advantage is that both 495 and 497 Autostars can be
loaded through one program as well as making the installation of the
download a lot more "automatic" on your PC off the Web page.

It does an awful lot on its own that we had to key in before.  I put it
on my PC as apparently all subsequent updates will require this new
version (help me out here, Dick)  according the Meade's newest post.

Clay Sherrod

Subject:	 New version 2.3A Autostar software
Sent:	Tuesday, January 16, 2001 14:55:24
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
What do you know - or is it too soon - about the new Meade 2.3A software
that has just become available on their Web page?  I have downloaded to
my PC, but will wait until I hear something (either way) on it before
installing on the Autostar.  Lordy, the "ReadMe" file is about 30 pages
long.....by the way, they now have as part of the program detailed
"Flash Load" Instructions and very specific Q & A section in "ReadMe."

It's worth a long look.  I am going to read it tonight and see what is
new and what reported bugs are in it.  Comes complete on download with
2.1ek ephemerides.  It appears that it might just be a "self-loading"
program to assist in downloading (if it is, it's about time!  However,
there seems to be considerable "remedies" made to problems which I will
get into this pm.  (It's going to ice over again!)

Been testing the Polar mode alignment very carefully and will send a
full report with tips.  Boy....does it EVER track better.  No creep, no
returning to slewed position after centering, etc., etc.  I have an LX
tripod coming with wedge so that I can pretty well keep in Polar mode. 
There are definitely some tricks, which I will report to you, Mike, very
soon.  But, rest assured, it is a lot more than our users have led me to
believe; it is smooth as silk.  By the way...GO TO in Polar, at least on
my ETX 125 is almost perfect every time (with 26mm @ 73x).  It reallyis
amazing.  However - initial equatorial alignment MUST be done carefully
and precisely!

More later....let me know about 2.3A
Thanks!        CLAY SHERROD

Subject:	 Autostar Update Instructions!!
Sent:	Tuesday, January 16, 2001 14:28:51
From:	peterrossi@lucent.com (Peter Rossi)
Michael:

You are doing a fantastic job keeping beginners like myself informed. 
Please keep up the GREAT WORK.  Your Web Site is GOOD ENOUGH to charge
admittance to!!!

I own an ETX-125EC.  Is there an easy way to find the fantastic Autostar
Update Instructions that several people have mentioned recently??  I am
not having much luck with "search".  I had hoped I could find it under
"Tech Tips" or "Autostar Info" but I have not had much luck.  This would
be a very good place to make it available, by the way.  I think the
instructions are written by either Mr. Sherrod or Mr. Sherwood, although
I might be wrong.

I want to upgrade my Autostar to Version 2.01ek with the new 01/15/01
client software but do not want to make any mistakes and corrupt the
software.  (Good Luck!)  I have already downloaded the new software to
my Laptop.  I am ready freddie!!  Just point me in the right
direction!!!

I wish you CLEAR SKIES, my friend!!!!!

Peter Rossi
peterrossi@lucent.com
Mike here: I don't charge admission (although many like you said I should) although there is the Site Pledge page for those so inclined. As to the download tips, there is the "Autostar Software Information" on the Autostar Information page, as well as some ongoing discussions between Dick and Clay on this Autostar Feedback page.

Subject:	 Update Re ETX 125 Motor Drive Failure Problem
Sent:	Tuesday, January 16, 2001 12:53:34
From:	ajthurston@bryancave.com (Adam J. Thurston)
Just thought I would drop you a note to tell you how this problem was
fixed.  I previously reported that the Autostar 497 (version 2.0g) would
report a motor drive failure after tracking the moon or saturn for more
than about a minute.  Meade said it sounded like a software problem. 
Apparently they were right.  I took the Autostar back to the store where
I bought it and they gave me a new one.  The telescope now works very
well.  Alignment is easy; in "easy align" mode, both stars were within
the FOV of a 26 mm eyepiece with a 2x Barlow!  Only slight centering was
required.  Autostar placed all objects thereafter within the FOV of the
26mm eyepiece (sans Barlow).  Traking of Saturn was excellent.  No
adjustment required; Saturn hardly moved within the 26mm/2xBarlow FOV,
and no adjustment was required, even after at least 10-15 minutes of
viewing.  (I did maticulously train the drives, and was using
high-precision mode; also, I started by carefully levelling the
telescope base in both axes using a bubble level; then I found true
north by manually moving the OTA until Polaris was centered, locking the
RA clutch, and then leveling the OTA with a bubble level before locking
the Dec clutch)  This careful setup really paid off.  I was amazed at
how well the Autostar/ETX worked.  Thanks for your help and the great
website!

Subject:	 Meade has a new 
Sent:	Tuesday, January 16, 2001 09:41:38
From:	boudreau@eng.umd.edu (Paul J. Boudreaux)
Today I saw that Meade has posted a new Autostar Client Application
Update for Windows, 01/15/2001. It claims you should use this version
for V21EK, 3.4MBytes download.
P. Boudreaux

Subject:	 Autostar Updater
Sent:	Monday, January 15, 2001 18:10:35
From:	jwlk3@ix.netcom.com (Joe Walker)
Wanted to let you and others know that a new version of the Autostar
Updater was posted on the Meade site this evening. I discovered this
evening that the older version does not work with firmware upgrade
2.1ek. The following message is posted on the Meade website:

Older versions of the Autostar Update Utility will NOT correctly install
your Asteroids, Comets, Satellites and Tours into the Autostar. This
applies to the #497, #495, and #494 Autostar handboxes. Download and
double-click Auto.exe to install the software. Use this update tool for
the #497, #495 and the #494 Autostar models.

Joe Walker

Subject:	 Declination "creep" and polar alignment
Sent:	Monday, January 15, 2001 08:37:16
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
My move toward "being infatuated with" POLAR vs. ALT-AX mode for
mounting and using the ETX 125 is becoming is becoming more and more
like "...being in love with it.  I think that most users' reluctance or
resistance to polar alignment is two-fold:

1)  Based on the sketchy instructions (the manual tells you to refer to
the "tripod" instructions and the "tripod instructions" tell you to
refer to the manual, for gosh sakes), I believe that most are somewhat
confused by "home position" and rotating the azimuth compared to the
stop, etc.  It IS more difficult, even for someone with telescope
experience to understand. 2)  Users are afraid of Polar position,
because the telescope is "hanging out there," except when using the
Table Tripod.  Indeed, I will firmly recommend that the ETX 125 NOT be
used with teh #883 field tripod; it is unwieldly and tends to tip in a
northwest/northeast direction at the slightest bump.

If using in Polar position, I think it is absolutely necessary to use a
heavier tripod, such as the #887 Meade (configured for the ETX 125) or
any LX tripod with correct adaptation.

But in the long run, it is worth the effort and added expense I have
found.  I have a great deal of "creeping" in Altitude (DEC.) when
aligned in the Alt-AZ mode; every time I center an object northward
(up), the computer tells it to go back to the original position; after
five or more tries, you can get it to stay there (I think the computer
gets tired of you by then).

In Polar mode, it does not re-correct after you have made declination
adjustments.  The ultimate tracking is by far smoother and quieter than
with Alt-Az.

A word of caution, however, in using Polar mode.  1)  Make sure you
intialize properly; 2)  Your polar alignment MUST be very close;  3)  Do
your computerized "Align" at medium-high magnification;  4)  Set your
"Mount" (under telescope) to "High Precision" mode (must be reset
everytime you turn on power to the scope).

In the long run it is time well spent.  Try it!

P. Clay Sherrod, Conway, Arkansas

Subject:	 Autostar Problem
Sent:	Monday, January 15, 2001 07:24:05
From:	srigsby@icsi.net (Stephen Rigsby)
I attempted to upgrade the autostar from version 1.1j (I believe) to
current. The result seems to be a bad download from which I cannot
recover. The first line of the autostar display is gibberish; the second
line allows language selection, and upon completion of date, time, etc.
entry, displays an n with a bar on top.

Attempts to reload give the same result but I noticed a message from the
update program which, after detecting the autostar, states that it is
running a very old firmware set and I should get an update from Meade.

I also attempted to load v1.3 based on the archives on your site but the
software did not accept the flashload and I could not put the autostar
into download.

Any suggestions?
Steve 
Mike here: You needed to be at 1.1g for SAFE LOAD to work. You might try the "Bad Download Recovery (SAFE LOAD)" tip on the Autostar Information page; let me know if that helps.

Added later:

Thanks for the reply Mike. It turned out to be a bad download of the
Meade Update software. After a new installation of the software, the
update went without incident.

Subject:	 Autostar v.2.1ek
Sent:	Sunday, January 14, 2001 19:24:42
From:	billcollins3@juno.com (William D.  Collins)
This latest version seems to be a winner for my ETX 125. Have not
experienced "creep-after-beep"  and the backlash code works well. Since
I upgraded from v.2.0g, I appreciate the ability to bypass the Sun
warning and Getting Started screens, and I also like using the "0" key
to toggle the electric focuser mode; speaking of which, while IN that
mode the Autostar now tells you what focusing speed you're using -- in
plain English. The slowest speed ("fine") is still too fast, though.
Generally, pointing accuracy is about the same, but I may be judging
this prematurely. I've only used the 'scope twice since upgrading to
v.2.1ek.

I notice that High Precision mode now works for the planets as well as
deep sky objects. This is good news and bad news. The extra step is a
waste of time for Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, but very helpful for
finding Mercury, Uranus and Neptune. Well, it will be when those last
two are accessible again.

Bill Collins
Walnut Creek, California

Subject:	 Re:  Autostar frustration
Sent:	Sunday, January 14, 2001 17:23:42
From:	mdr@HONet.com (Michael Rathbun)
If the telescope suddenly starts slewing at some constant speed (or
fails to slew at all) with the Autostar, but behaves normally with the
original controller handbox, my opinion is that one or more RJ45
connectors on the Autostar cable has an inadequate crimp.  I have seen
this twice, so far.

In the case of my own ETX-60, I used a Radio Shack crimper tool to firm
up the connections and the motor runaways and going-dead phenomena
stopped happening instantly.
Mike here: It is certainly something to try. May not cure all "random slew" problems but could cure some.

And a success story:

From:	seymour.j@gsm.com (Jon Seymour)
CC:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Michael, thanks! After more experimentation I think (and of course hope)
you are right. I tried the batteries as Dick suggested, and that did not
help. Same problems. The problems persisted with the battery-loaded ETX
back on AC power. I tried jiggling the cable and it did seem to cause
random movements. I definitely noticed it is loose.

Would you be so kind as to describe exactly what you did to solve the
problem? Were you altering the wires or the plastic encasement? In my
case there is "play" when the connectors are in place.

Thank you! The view of Venus tonight was awesome (easy to find by
"hand") and I am looking forward to some deep-sky stuff!!!

Jon

PS: Dick, I don't know where my scope was made. Where would I look?
Thanks for your help!
And a response:
From:	mdr@HONet.com (Michael Rathbun)
The "play" isn't an issue so much as the likelihood of marginal
connections between the cable conductors and the RJ45 connector
contacts.

I happen to have on hand a Radio Shack 279-405 Modular Phone Plug
Crimping Tool, which I use to make my own Ethernet cables.  Ethernet
Ten-base-T cables use the same connector (RJ45) as the Autostar does,
and there are known problems with the reliability of some machine-made
Ethernet cables using this connector.

With this in mind, I put the RJ45 connector of the ETX-60's Autostar
into the crimper's "8P" connector cradle and carefully gave it the same
squeeze I would have given an RJ45 that I was affixing to the end of a
new ethernet cable.

Behold, voila, et mirablile dictu, after I did this all of the "Motor
Unit Fault" messages and infuriating weird behaviours stopped dead in
their tracks. Since that moment I haven't had a single Autostar failure
on my ETX-60.
And:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Somewhere (and it may have been Michael writing) i read some complaining
that the plug Meade uses on the coilcord is the -wrong one- for round
(not flat) cables... i could believe it.  On mine the strain-relief
section of the rj45 certainly seems to be attempting to increase the
strain upon the whittled outer sheath.

I've done the same [crimping], "just in case"

I could suggest veeeery careful pressing on each contact point with a
narrow flat-blade screwdriver blade against a solid anvil, but that
would be telling.  A crimping tool does a much better job.

--dick

Subject:	 re: random slewing on ETX90/ec
Sent:	Saturday, January 13, 2001 17:09:35
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	seymour.j@gsm.com
I saw your note on Mike's site, and have a few questions/comments.

(a) TRY it with batteries... since you state you're always using
  a power lump, give guaranteed-clean-DC a chance at it.  Spikey
  noise generated by a slightly faulty power lump could greatly
  confuse the Autostar.
(b) inspect the Autostar cable... reverse its ends.  Loose pins
  (or bad crimping) could cause this.  Tug the cable while holding
   the connector.
(c) is your ETX made in the USA, or in Mexico?  I've been hearing
  of Mexican-made ETX90's recently, and i'm wondering if we're seeing
   new-factory problems...

--dick (no relation, far as i know)

Subject:	 Overshooting AZ in AZ
Sent:	Saturday, January 13, 2001 16:09:32
From:	ahanin@home.com (Adam Hanin)
Great site.

I'm getting frustrated with my 125EC, and am hoping someone can help. 
My AZ drive consistently overshoots where it should be . . . I've
contacted Meade, who said it must be the Autostar, and they sent me a
new one . . . but that doesn't seem to fix it.  It seems that as I move
further away from an object, the drive overcompensates more when I try
to go back to it.  I've trained, retrained and trained the drive again. 
The thing still overshoots.  Is there anything I can do to fix this
(besides sending the whole thing back to Meade)?  Would the "AZ Ratio"
option help, and if so, do I increase or decrease it?

Also, AUTOSTAR QUESTION: I'm trying to create a custom location using
exact Lat and Long, but my Autostar will not accept new coordinates. 
When I enter the coords, and press Enter, it just beeps.  I'm currently
on version 2.0g (new Autostar I just received from Meade).  Anybody else
experience this, and is there a fix?

Thanks!

-Adam Hanin
Scottsdale, AZ
Mike here: Have you tried editing a site? I don't currently have an Autostar so can't give you the exact steps (although I seem to recall Dick Seymour responding to someone with them). As to the overshooting, have you checked the year entry in the Autostar date? Someone just sent in a tip about that!

Added later:

I tried - in fact, I upgraded the ROM to v.2.0ek (with no problem!), but
it STILL won't let me add or edit any sites.  As for the year, it's
definitely set for 2001.  I tried changing the location from Scottsdale
to Phoenix . . . the thing went about 20 degrees beyond Capella (first
Alignment star), and about 180 degrees beyond Rigel (before I stopped
it).

I'm going to try to bring the scope back to Discovery, and see if
there's any chance they'll swap it out (I've got a huge star party at my
house in a week, so I've GOT to get the darn thing working, or I'll be
forced to do things the old-fashioned way . . . I guess it was good
enough for years, but if the tools exist to make things easier, they
should probably be used!)

Thanks for your insight . . . and keep up the terrific site - I'm
visiting almost every day!
Mike here: 20 degrees is pretty close to 15 degrees, or one hour in RA. Is the Daylight Savings set properly? Since you are in Arizona, if your area doesn't change DST that could be it. True reversing the setting.

Subject:	 New Year (Autostar setup)
Sent:	Saturday, January 13, 2001 15:23:46
From:	ragdoll@nycap.rr.com (Janet L Miller)
Just thought I'd pass this on so if anyone else see's the problem,
they'll know what to do.

For the first time since December, we finally had clear skies here. I
took the ETX125 out and set it up for the kids. After doing the initial
setup, the "easy align" was nowhere near the stars it was supposed to
be. I rechecked the pod, everything seemed fine, tried again - same
problem.

After some head scratching, I realized it was 2001, not 2000. I had
gotten so used to just punching  in the date and not the year, that I
was setting it up for a full year's previous date.

I really didn't feel too bad, because I'd already written 5 checks that
I had to void for just the same reason.  Just thought I'd pass this on.
I know I'm not the only one that does this kind of thing every new year
:o)

|  Jan Miller
|  Albany, NY

Subject:	 Autostar frustration
Sent:	Thursday, January 11, 2001 21:12:01
From:	seymour.j@gsm.com (Jon Seymour)
I want to love my ETX-90EC. I do love the optics and have been thrilled
with Jupiter and Saturn, among other things, since I got the scope last
month (I did end up exchanging the original scope with the bad motor per
your suggestion on Christmas Eve). Unfortunately, I have had every
Autostar problem I've ever read about on your site, and I just can't get
it to work consistently. I need this feature to get beyond the planets
and moon!

To wit: I have random slewing, sometimes even past the vertical stops
(grind). I have slewing to different locations in the sky for the same
initial star in consecutive Easy aligns. I have slew-after-beep.
Occasionally the Autostar will refuse to move the scope in declination
or accept my speed parameter changes along that axis, while the RA is
fine. I have Motor Unit Faults.

I've tried resetting the unit and I've trained the drives 20 times. I
have verified with the standard controller that the motors do what
they're supposed to (standard controller works perfectly every time). I
am positive I have learned the correct procedures for both Alt/Az and
polar alignment.

I have version 2.0g of the software. I am using the AC adapter
exclusively for power. It has been cold but not frigid (30-45F) here in
Florida on most of the nights I've used the scope.

What can this be? Could the cable between ETX base and Autostar unit be
faulty? Is it the cold? I'm getting depressed.

Thanks,

Jon Seymour
Mike here: Since you report having the random slewing problem, contact Meade per their announcement linked from this ETX site home page. Whether that is the culprit for the other problems, I don't know but it might be related.

Subject:	 ETX-90EC/Autostar question
Sent:	Wednesday, January 10, 2001 15:07:10
From:	jww@netdoor.com (Whitehouse)
I was given an ETX-90EC and Autostar for Christmas.  So far, the system
has been quite a frustration:  when the telescope slews to the alignment
stars, it does not put them anywhere close to being in the finderscope's
field of view.  Since the scope moves so slowly with the Autostar's
direction controls, and since I have no idea as to which direction to
move the telescope,I am finding it nearly impossible to get the
alignment star in the finder FOV (and thus centered in the main
telescope's eyepiece). I've checked and rechecked drive training,
leveling, my placement of the ETX in the home position, and I've
verified that I have both Altitude and Azimuth axes locked securely, but
to no avail.  Any suggestions?

Thanks,
Matthew Whitehouse
Mike here: Sorry you're having problems. Check the date/time/DST/telescope type and mount settings in the Autostar. You should be able to change the slewing speed using the number keys. Obviously the Autostar can work since so many users have good results with it. Practice makes for more reliable usage.

Subject:	 Re: downloading (success I think!)
Sent:	Tuesday, January 9, 2001 22:15:24
From:	kjhawley@dellnet.com (Frederic Hawley Jr.)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Dick,

Believe it or not, I think I just successfully completed the download to
version 2.1ek.  Like I said in my communication with Mike, I really
consider myself computer illiterate.  I scoured Mike's site and found
the communication that you had with Clay Sherrod.  I printed out this
text at work and brought it home to my home computer.  I followed your
instructions step-by-step.  In the process I learned how to download
WinZip, create Folders, Copy Files, Move Files from one location to
another, Replace Files...  Your instructions were wonderful.  You can
take pride that you were able to walk a computer idiot (me) through this
process.  I have no problem loading a Barbie or Blues Clues CD ROM for
my daughter, but anything beyond that is a stretch!  As you said, the
download took just over 30 minutes and I followed your instructions
regarding answering the questions afterwards (date, time, location,
telescope..).  I turned the scope off and turned it back on and low and
behold the display showed "c'00 Meade [21E]". Honestly I was shocked
that I was able to move two ROM files from a folder I created to the
Ephemerides folder, replace the old ROM files...  I could not have done
this without your help, thank you very much.  I even did it without the
help from my computer guy!

Again, Dick - Thank You.

Best Regards,

Jamie
Mike here: Congrats and well done! We knew you could do it!!!!

Subject:	 Autostar
Sent:	Tuesday, January 9, 2001 20:16:11
From:	csdemko@phoenixdsl.com (Cullen Demko)
I appreciate your quick reply [about the GTO eyepieces]. I will check
those areas out.

I have two other questions that I came up with regarding the ETX90. Both
revolve around the AutoStar.

1) When aligning the scope using the AutoStar, which in your opinion is
the better way to go; polar or Alt/Az?

2) Trying the scope out for the first time using the AutoStar, I set it
for easy alignment in Alt/Az mode. I set it in the "home" position and
started. The scope slewed to the 1st star and after a little adjusting I
got it locked in. It slewed to the 2nd star and again after a little
adjusting got the 2nd one locked in. It said "alignment successful" and
I decided to check it out by having it go to the moon which it did
almost perfectly. Then I tried to have it find Jupiter. It slewed
slightly in the opposite direction that Jupiter was in. I then tried to
have it find Saturn and it did the same thing. I checked my starchart to
verify that I was correct. I manually slewed the scope to Jupiter and
asked AutoStar to identify the object. It came back with some object
number I didn't know. The same thing happened with Saturn. Was I doing
something wrong? Did I possibly have the Scope aligned improperly? I'm
at a loss with this one.

Thanks once again for your help.

Cullen Demko
Mike here: Most users find the ease of Alt/Az mounting more convenient. Certainly, at many latitudes, Alt/Az mounting is more stable unless you have a very sturdy tripod and wedge. And many users report better results with the Autostar in Alt/Az. As to the problem you reported, there are many variables in the Autostar that can affect pointing: proper HOME position, date/time/location/DST/mount settings as well as the version of the software installed. If you don't have the latest version (2.1ek) and can install it, you might want to consider doing that. As I recall, there were planet calculation errors in some particular previous release.

Subject:	 Autostar lock-up
Sent:	Tuesday, January 9, 2001 13:43:37
From:	mike@mike-hadley.demon.co.uk (Mike Hadey)
I was just out looking at the Lunar Eclipse here in Scotland.  Clouds
went away just long enough for totality.  Unfortunately they just came
back so I thought that I would document this interesting Autostar
problem I ran into. Hopefully it won't happen again until the next
Eclipse (unless the bug gets fixed before then of course).  I'm running
the latest 2.1ek software.  I initialized and aligned as normal (Alt AZ)
and went to the "Tonight's Best" tour.  First thing on the tour was the
Moon.  Great, just what I wanted to watch, and it went pointed right at
it with no problem.  It tracked great while I watched the moon get
darker and darker for the next half hour. After the moon got as red as
it was going to get, I thought I'd take a few minutes while it was dark
and look at the next few tour items. Jupiter...great, hits FOV just
fine, Saturn.....same thing.  Perfect.  Let's what's next on the tour. 
Hey, Lunar Eclipse, COOL!  Hit goto and......the Autostar says "Proc.
trap 2".  Whoops!  Completely locked up; pushing any and all buttons has
no effect.  Oh well, it's a little cold outside and maybe the batteries
are getting low.  Lets try again.  Turn off, turn on, initialize, align,
go to "Tonight's Best", skip the Moon and Jupiter and see if we hit
Saturn...great. Next up Lunar Eclipse; hit enter...Oh Oh "Proc. trap 2".
Did it again.   Well lets turn her off and start over again; third times
got to be a charm.  "Tonight's Best", first on the agenda is still the
Moon.....hits right on.  I watch the progress of the eclipse for a while
longer.  Looks like the Moon is starting to get brighter but it's hard
to tell because the clouds are back.  Lets try more tour items.  Skip
Jupiter, go to Saturn....fine.  Lunar Eclipse is next.  Let's hit mode
instead of enter to go to the next item.  "M32", enter.... would
probably be fine if I could see it though the clouds.  Well, it's about
time to go in because it is completely cloudy now.  Let's back up one
item to "Lunar Eclipse" and hit goto...... "Proc. trap 2"  Oh well ;~)

Cheers,
Mike
And more:
I don't think that the problem was temperature related because I brought
the scope in and let everything warm up, did a simulated align, and ran
the "Tonight's Best" tour.  The Autostar would consistently hang on the
"Lunar Eclipse" menu item when  but not on any other tour object before
or after that item.  I think it is probably a software bug and could be
verified on another Autostar by entering my Longitude (3deg 18min W) and
Latitude (55deg 18min N), yesterday's date (Jan 9, 2001) and a time of
around 8:00pm GMT. The Eclipse should then show up on the "Tonight's
Best" tour.  The Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn objects can be skipped by
pressing the "scroll down" key until the "Lunar Eclipse" menu item is
showing.  The Autostar hangs as soon as you push [Enter].

Other than taking a little extra time to reboot and re-align it wasn't
really a big deal because I was able to "goto" the Moon and watch the
Eclipse in the normal way.  Heck, I thought it was pretty neat that the
Autostar was smart enough to put the Eclipse in the "Tonight's Best"
tour in the first place.  When I get some time I'll look up the next
eclipse date, time, and location and simulate the event on the Autostar
to see if I get the same problem.  I really am enjoying the scope
(ETX-90). I have had an 8" Meade SCT since the early 80s and the ETX is
a lot easier to haul out for a quick look at the Moon or planets between
the clouds and mists here in Scotland.

Subject:	 Help!!!
Sent:	Tuesday, January 9, 2001 06:28:38
From:	2001as@bellsouth.net (Tony DeLuca)
I have had some problems with my scope and I need your advice. The scope
I received for Christmas has already been returned to the store for a
new one. When I entered the satellite tracking mode and pressed "Set
Alarm" the scope would go crazy and head below the horizon. Not an
especially good thing. The new scope I just received seems to work
great. I had called Meade about the defective scope which we'll refer to
as "Scope A", and they confirmed the problem and said they would send me
a new Autostar. I called them because at that time The Discovery Store
would not exchange the Scope for a new one. This all took place on
Friday. On Saturday the manager of The Discovery Store called and said
to come down and get your new scope. So I did and all seems to work
well. Now, here is where it gets a little complicated. the version
number under the "statistics Menu" of the first scope "scope a" was
1.0H. The new scope's version number is 10E1. Now in the mean time the
new Autostar controller arrived yesterday. So I figured lets hook it up
and see what version number it has. the new Autostars number is 1.0K.
Now here is the problem. I tried the satellite tracking on the new unit
and it too seems to be defective, but I'm not sure. According to the
instruction manual these are the steps to track a satellite........

1. Chose a satellite from the selection menu and press enter. Autostar
scans it's database to see if there will be a pass in the next 6 hours.

2.If one is expected you are instructed to use the scroll keys to access
information about it.

3. At the end of this information you find "set alarm". Press it and go
about observing other sites. The alarm will sound several minutes before
the scheduled appearance.

4. When the alarm goes off, you are to return to the Satellite menu and
press a scroll key until the desired satellite is on the top line of the
display. Non of my unit's worked that way. Once you scrolled down to the
satellite you must hit enter to get it on the top line.

5. Press goto and the scope will slew to where the satellite should
appear. The motors will stop and a countdown starts. Now on the new
Autostar unit Meade sent to me the scope seems to first go to the end of
the satellites path decelerates to and almost stop then slews over to
the correct start point, and starts counting down with a random negative
number. My new scope and Autostar seems to do it correctly heading first
to the satellites start point then stopping and counting down from a
positive 30 or 35 seconds.

6. Once the countdown reaches 20 you are to look into the scope till you
see the satellite, then press enter and the scope will track the
satellite.

This brings me to my real question here. Seeing how non of these
Autostars seem to work the same, which unit do I keep. I was told by
Meade that the 1.0K they sent to me is the latest version. Yet that
seems to work incorrectly as I pointed out in number 5. The original
scopes Autostar is back at the store, that one had a major problem
bringing the scope below the horizon until you turned it off. The unit I
received with my new scope seems to work correctly, but also has a much
older version number. I'm not to concerned about the satellite stuff,
but will the older version number mean the stars and planets won't be as
accurate. I'm on a Mac G4 so I can't download the current information
into the Autostar with the older version number.

When I called Meade I got a person who seemed more interested in getting
herself a cup of coffee than helping me with this problem which she did,
and kept me on the phone for nearly 10 minutes more just waiting. She
basically said that was my decision and gave me no real insight as to
what I should do. So typical of today's big business.

It seems that my interest in astronomy is becoming deluded by a computer
that won't cooperate with me. Funny this would happen to me in 2001. You
think your confused. So I guess what I'm asking here is what would you
do?

The Scope model is 60AT and the Autostar is 494.
-- 
All good wishes,
Tony De Luca    
Digital Canvas
http://www.digitalcanvas3d.com

Subject:	 Re: Question about ETX, per your posting...
Sent:	Tuesday, January 9, 2001 04:37:13
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	MFRiesco@directvla.com (Riesco, Michael F)
I just had a thought that you might want to do, regardless of the
outcome of your "trial run" on your ETX motors after running into the
hard stop in Azimuth.  Since 1) it labored for many seconds; and 2) it
did so twice;, it is possible that the motor backlash and built-in gear
flex (i.e., necessary looseness to keep gears from binding) might have
been adversely affected in that short duration.

To be on the safe side, and if the motors seem to be working wellf based
on the testing parameters we have discussed, If it were my scope I would
RE-CALIBRATE ("Testing Motors") and RE-TRAIN ("Train Motors") the
motors, just as you did the first time you initialized and used your
scope.  This will -re-adjust the azimuth motor for any changes that
might have resulted from the increased and prolonged torque of the stop.

1)  Be sure to scroll and Enter  to "Reset" under "Setup."  Then, you
will need to re-initialized your scope with date, time, location, scope
type, etc., just like it was new.  After you select "Language" (I
believe that is first after the first "Copyright" screen) the motors
will quickly move in both Alt & Az.  IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU HAVE BOTH
AXES CLAMPED so that the motors will engage the moving portions of the
mount at this point; therefore, a "dummy" initialization is recommended
first to see for sure that your locks are engaged (per our discussion
regarding your Azi. clamp). Once done, then do a "real" initialization
(1 above).

2)  Once done, then wait for the first clear NIGHT to train.  I  do not
use TERRESTRAIL OBJECTS to train on; you need to have a "load" on the
telescope, therefore the tube should be pointing at a good angle in the
sky. Therefore, I use POLARIS as my training object.  It is elevated (to
your latitude) and for training purposes, STATIONARY.  You can use very
high magnification since it is a point source and achieve far greater
accuracy than with terrestrial sources.

This may sound like trouble, but I think it will be to your advantage in
the long run.  Anytime you run into any kind of motor trouble, even if
the motors appear to be working well, a "Calibrate" and "Train" is well
worth the time and effort.

Let me know how things work....CLAY SHERROD
And a response:
From: Riesco, Michael F (MFRiesco@directvla.com)
>
>Clay --
>
> This sounds like a very good suggestion.  My motors do seem to be
>working OK, although one thing I notice is that the sound of the azimuth
>motor is slightly different in one direction vs the other -- both
directions
>slew equally well, but one direction's sound is somehow "cleaner-sounding"
>than the other -- and I don't know if it was this way before my
>hardstop-hitting event or not.  Is this normal, I wonder?
>
> At any rate, I was out with it last night and it seemed to work
>well.  I have noticed that the "easy align" sometimnes needs to done more
>than once to "get it right".  last night, for example, I did everything
very
>carefully, and yet when it slewed to find Sirius (the first star it looked
>for), it was pretty far off in azimuth.  I then re-trained the scope (on a
>terrestrial object -- I hadn't read your Polaris reecommendation at the
>time) and then things improved.  One thing I was wondering is this:  when
>you point the whole assembly "North" as part of the alignment procedure,
>does that mean True North, or Magnetic North?  I would think that it would
>matter, don't you?  I've been using Magnetic North (since I'm just using a
>compass).  But if it "expects" True North, and there is, say, a 6 degree
>deviation from True to Magnetic, then wouldn't it be off in azimuth by
those
>same 6 degrees when it slews to the first star (in my case, Sirius)?
>
> This only occured to me this morning, and I actually don't know what
>my magnetic deviation is here (I live in South Florida, Ft. Lauderdale
area)
>-- but I'm sure I can find out.  I wonder if by compensating for this
>offset, and pointing the scope to True North, if it would find the first
>star more accurately (at least in azimuth)?
>
> Anyway, thanks again for all your very welcome feedback!  I'll
>re-calibrate and re-train, as you suggest.
>
> Regards,
>
> Mike Riesco   (mfriesco@directvla.com)
And back to Clay:
It is common for the "workings" of one axis to sound differently than
the other; indeed, I have found that when pointing to different parts of
the sky, either motor might sound different than before.  Why?  Base on
which axis and where you are pointing, particularly with the Altitude
axis, the torque varies on the motors, thereby requiring varying loads
in such positions.

As to north, do not use Magnetic north.  Try this:  when it begins to
get dark enough to see stars, set your unit in home position, physically
aligning your base so that the tube assembly roughly is pointing north
(you will need to do this to align, anyway).  Make sure that the base of
your telescope (not just the tripod) is LEVEL.  Now, elevate the optical
tube assembly (OTA) until it is pointing approximately to Polaris;  move
the entire telescope, base and all, with tube assembly locked in place
until you can get Polaris in a low-power field with the 'scope.  You are
now aimed celestial north (or about as close as you can get optically.

Simply "de-elevate" the OTA again to 0 degrees on your declination
circle (BE SURE TO CHECK WITH A BUBBLE LEVEL LENGTHWISE ON YOUR OTA!! -
If it does not agree, adjust the CIRCLE, not the OTA).  Now you are in
perfect home position!

Good luck!  CLAY SHERROD

Subject:	 re: downloading
Sent:	Monday, January 8, 2001 08:35:34
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	kjhawley@dellnet.com
Here's what to tell your computer guy:

Quote:
"The new (v21ek files) need to be placed in the folder:
 ProgramFiles>Meade>Autostar>AutostarUpdate>Ephemerides.

They need to -replace- the Autostar.rom -and- dbase.rom
you'll find there.

The new ones are both dated 13-dec-2000, and are both 640K long.

After doing -that-, run (double-click upon) the Updater.exe itself,
which you will find in 
ProgramFiles>Meade>Autostar>AutostarUpdate

if it's not under the Start menu's "Program" list under "Meade."

End Quote.

Don't fret too much... Meade is forever making life difficult by
not creating a "full kit" (like the MArch 3rd one) each time they
create a version upgrade.

And, you may congratulate yourself:  you DID perform a successful
update procedure... the only fault was that you (re?)installed the
March 2000 version, not the Dec 2000 v21ek.

"WinZip" is a program which can unpack the compressed update files
which are contained in "ROMS21ek.zip" 
Web browsers tend to transport "zip" files with less damage than 
they do "rom" files.  
Your computer guy can get a free-trial copy of WinZip from
 www.winzip.com  to help unpack the files.  Once you have a copy
 on your PC, it'll activate automatically from then on...

Now, i don't know if you have read -all- the traffic 'twixt myself
and Clay, but here's the section which covers what the above
"tell your guru" sentences mean:
Feel free to reply with questions... you (and your Autostar) will 
 survive...
--dick
quote begins and continues to end
 
clay> You mentioned to "copy" the 2 ROM files to the Ephemides
clay> directory....does that happen automatically when I use the Start
clay> button, or do I need to do that BEFORE I initialize and install
clay> the Autostar Hand unit?
**you** need to manually do that.  The Updater -only- looks in its
 own Ephemerides folder (see the tree at end) for the ROM files
 it is going to be using.  People who have not copied the files
 into the folder ended up re-installing the same version they were
  already running.  I try to choose my words carefully when i write
 these notes, and "copy" is one of those words (notice that i didn't
 say "move"... i'm a fan of having duplicates available for recovery).

In fact, let's really go step-by-step: i -also- recommend copying
 the -old- autostar.rom and dbase.rom files -from- the existing
 folder into someplace safe and non-confusing.  And checking dates and
 sizes to verify that the correct files are in the correct place.
So, under folder "dick", make a New Folder called "previous"
Then chase down the Updater's tree (i find it hand to have two
 Explorer windows open, one to pull -from-, the other to paste -to-)
  to the Ephemerides folder.  Click once on the autostar.rom file,
  then hold down the control key, and click once on the dbase.rom
  file.  Then type a control-C ... 
 Now shuffle thru the Explorer windows to get into the \dick\previous
  folder.  Click in the empty folder's pane.  Now type a control-V
  With any luck at all, the two old files will appear there.
Now shuffle thru Explorer to your new autostar.rom and dbase.rom files
For verification: they should show dates of 12/13/2000 9:30am
Perform the same "click once on autostar.rom, hold control, click once
 on dbase.rom, type control-C, shuffle to the Ephemerides folder,
 click in the folder's pane, (that moves "focus" there), type
 control-V.  Windows should ask if you want to replace the files,
 tell it [yes].  After the operation has completed, tap the F5 key on
 your keyboard... that tells windows to refresh the folder view it's
 showing you.  If you're not in "details" view, change to that to
 verify size and dates.  There are a bunch of other ROM files in that
 folder, they should remain.

Ok... that covers the "copy"

Thinking about it overnight, i realized that i left off two  
instructions, one hint and one comment:
The instructions:

(n) the Autostar is now running the Solar Warning.. tap the "5" key
 to satisfy it... AND COMPLETE THE REST OF THE ANSWERS!!
  It'll ask for your Site (again) and Telescope Model (read and think).
If you turn off the power before completing the above, you will leave
 your autostar pretty confused (correctable by Setup>Reset )
(o) you may now unplug the rs232 connection

The hint: you can read the HELP file by simply double-clicking on it.
There'll be one or two mumble.HLP files in the UPdater's directory.
Clicking on them will fire up Window's normal Help program.
You may get a sequence (3 or 4) of error windows complaining about
 things (and you may not... version dependent).. but say [ok] to
 them and eventually it'll open up the Help system and you can read
  many many pages of Help (with pictures), some of which really overtax
 the word "obscure" ...

The comment: I, like many others, consider the Autostar Updater program
 to be one of the most counter-intuitive, user-hostile programs ever
 set upon the Windows public.  It violates many Windows paradigms, 
 it requires that you set your Autostar "at risk" to even -start- it.
 etc.etc. (now I have to pause to breathe... calm myself... steeady...)
It has LOTS of bugs... it doesn't do what it says it does (it mangles
 the orbital parameters of satellites, comets, asteroids), etc.etc.
BUT... if run via the cookbook of the previous message, it -will-
 quietly and safely transfer a new software package to the Autostar.
I do NOT recommend "exploring" the other buttons until you've completed
 the Update. (otherwise you'll be needing the "how to perform an 
 Emergency Flash Load" set of messages...)

Ahh... and, until you actually START the Update (i.e. Send new software
 to Autostar button)... you CAN safely turn off the Autostar.
So a crash, powerfail or panic attack before that final commitment
isn't fatal.  Just turn it off, wait 10 seconds, turn it on.

good luck... but save the stiff drink until -after- the operation.
--dick
Folder "tree":

  Program Files/
      Meade/
        Autostar/
          Autostar Update/
              Ephemerides

Subject:	 re: Eyepiece calculations
Sent:	Monday, January 8, 2001 08:35:03
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	DonMcClelland@webtv.net
Hi..

There's nothing wrong with your Autostar.  It's just not a very
friendly subsection.

Whenever you enter the "eyepiece" caluclations, it starts with
the 4.7 superwise.  It just does.  Then you've gotta scroll
to the eyepiece you -do- care about, and get the answers.

Why? I can't defend it.
I can -guess- that it's because the answers won't change for
any particular eyepiece for the given focal lenght of your
telescope. (so, once you've noted the 26mm numbers, why revisit?)

So, unlike areas such as "named star", where it remembers where
you left off, it's like "Constellations", where it always starts
at Andromeda.

sorry 'bout that...
--dick

Subject:	 Don't SYNC on Planets...
Sent:	Monday, January 8, 2001 08:33:52
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	sherrodc@ipa.net
Hi...
Clay asked:
>Anyway....if I "sync", say on Jupiter at high magnification, does the
>sync function correct me for the rest of the night, or simply for that
>region of the sky?  Likewise, if only for that part of the sky, does it
>make my GO TO accuracy LESS in other parts of the sky than if I had
>simply left alone from my original polar alignment?

The Planets' postions are calculated. Sometimes less than perfectly.
Therefore, if you SYNC on a Planet, you may be "locking in" an error
which the Autostar will trustingly use for all future pointing.

The stars and all deep-space objects are -fixed- with respect to the
sky's coordinate system.  Therefore when you SYNC on a star (and 
High Precision does this for every [GoTo]), you're referencing to
a -known- location, not an estimated/calculated one.

SYNC affects all [goto]s after yo've done it once.  It's designed
to improve pointing "locally", and may not do much useful after a
full-sky slew.  But it's still -affecting- the pointing, even after
that full-sky slew.  If you find the [goto]s arriving poorly,
simply SYNC again.

I haven't -rigorously- dug into it, but i suspect (15% confident) that
SYNC values don't survive a Park/power-down/power-up cycle.
I think i'm 99% confident in gueesing that they do NOT survive past
your next ALIGN operation.

> I am sometimes (not too rarely) getting TWO beeps; one BEFORE I
> re-center the object (the actual expected "beep") and another quite
> some time after the first, and after I have slewed to center the
> object. 
> Sometimes, the 2nd beep is as much as 1-1.5 minutes after I have
> completed center.  Sound familiar?
Two possiblities: are you describing SYNCing?  In taht case, two
"extra" beeps are correct: Scenario:
You [goto] something.  It says "Slewing...".
When the "Slewing..." disappears, it beeps, indicating (theoretical)
arrival at target.
You push [enter] for at least 2 seconds to engage Sync.
When you release [enter], it'll Beep to let you know (along with the
 displayed "press [enter] to SYNC...") that it's ready for Syncing.
Now you slew around, improving the aiming.  You're happy.
You press [enter] to indicate centerness.
It'll beep to indicate acceptance of that [enter].

So that's a total of 3 beeps: one upon arrival, and two due to Sync.
(i suspect the beeps accompany the Sync steps so as to allow you to
keep your eye glued to the eyepiece).

--dick (usually Out Of Sync)
And Clay's reply:
change....I am NOT going to get into editing my Autostar 21ek software. 
It sounds, based on you experience, that it does well without any
editing.  If I really want to delete something, I will simply do so with
the hand control as you describe.  Anyway, I might just decide to look
at all 30,000 objects simply to see if Meade in fact put them there. 
I'll let you know when I'm age 114 how many are missing.

Thanks for the "double beep" info.  However, this is not what is
occuring. Say I GO TO Jupiter after polar alignment.  It slews to the
planet (by the way, nearly dead-center in the eyepiece now), messes
around a bit and then "beeps."  As mentioned, it soon begins to creep
southward in Alt. (DEC) via the motors working (I can hear them slewing
slowly).  Almost as soon as I attempt to re-center the planet using
Autostar, I will hear that second "beep," but NOT always.

It takes about five times OVERCOMPENSATING the creep correction (what a
creep!) before the drifting stops, and it will, indeed, eventually stop
and track perfectly.

Anyway, I am not going to edit.  I am going to be content to look
through the scope and push ALT buttons until I am blue in the face.

You mentioned my list....actually what I think would help EVERYBODY,
instead of countless faint objects that we probably will never see, is
for Meade to initiate an alphabetic entry system (or numeric, say for
NGC or asteroids, to instantly access an object rather than use the
scroll keys.  They do this on the Messier objects, but nothing else. 
This would be particularly useful for STARS, as I use them to get my
bearing relative to new (i.e., comets) objects that may not be in the
Autostar.....just a thought.

Tonight I'll start logging the first of the 30,000 objects; keep in mind
it will take on the order of 113 years since I will have to compensate
for my ALT creeping after I find and attempt to center each object.

More Later, and thanks again....CLAY

Subject:	 Dick's patch for LX200-like performance valid for 2.1ek ROM versi on ? 
Sent:	Monday, January 8, 2001 08:14:10
From:	Peter.Marx@faidor.de (Marx, Peter)
I'd like to apply Dick's patch to the 2.1ek ROM for using Brent
Boshart's Satellite Tracker. Description only states v2.0i.
Is the patch also valid for 2.1ek ?

Peter
Mike here: Doubtful since Dick didn't indicate that it was. But I'll let him answer for himself.

And Dick's response:

No ... that patch is -only- for v2.0i.

v21ek has many fixes in the LX200 section... please try it
with Sat Track and see if it works.
If it doesn't work, tell me what happens and i'll look into
 patching v21ek to fix it.

Subject:	 Re: Editing the new 21ek software
Sent:	Monday, January 8, 2001 04:41:27
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
I knew when I saw "...oh dear," that the editing portion of the Autostar
was not about to be simple.  As to what I would like to ultimately end
up as my user and Meade list, I am going to carefully think that one
through today (it will be cold and cloudy tonight, so I will not waste
time fretting about observing, creeping and the such).

I actually like Meade...I love their products (in the long run).  I have
had Celestrons (all the way up to a 22"; my favorite Celestron by far
was a C-14 which was an optical and mechanical gem (an early one).  In
smaller telescopes I do not like a Schmidt-Cass.; it has been my
experience that the Maksutov without question will outperform larger
Schmidts.  A case in point - and the ONE REASON (pass this on to the
engineer @Meade as a worthy testimonial from a guy who really sticks
with them) I DIDNOT RETURN this little scope is the OPTICS.  As I have
mentioned many times before, they are absolutely beyond reproach.  This
is, without a doubt the BEST small optical system I have ever used, much
less owned.  I had a 7" Questar about 17 years ago and would never own
another.  My brother has a 10" Meade, and my 5" has already outperformed
on double stars, Jupiter, Saturn, Airy disk tests, etc.; of course I
understand the restrictions on larger apertures in fair- to poor-seeing
conditions, but this is not necessarily the case.

No, I am going to stick with my optics; plus I have heard horror stories
about how long Meade is with turnaround on warranty exchanges.  I DO
WISH, however, that Meade would contact me about my mounting; it
literally was falling apart when I got it, explained that to their
"customer service" to no gain (they had no idea what I was even talking
about), asked them to pass on my frustrations )as they said they would,
and of course have heard nothing.

And....Meade makes pretty darned good accessories for the money.  Plus I
love the idea of the GO TO function and the classic design of the Meade
scopes.

Boy, talking about playing both sides of the fence.....

By the way, I have had several nights now since the 21ek installation
and the scope computer function is working great.  The slewing is MUCH
improved, quieter and more accurate.  Everything is better except that
creeping in declination (about 7' arc mintues south n ALT) after each
slewing and centering).  I really appreciate all your input in getting
this thing working.  My user/Meade list is forthcoming, as is my
"Tripod" and "Carry Case" revolution to Mike's site.  You're going to
like the Case/Trunk. .....never though you could get so much stuff into
such a small space and still have room for a telescope!

Stay in touch!    CLAY SHERROD
essage-----
From: richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
To: Clay Sherrod (sherrodc@ipa.net)
Date: Sunday, January 07, 2001 11:30 PM
Subject: Re: Editing the new 21ek software

>Clay,
>
>I plumb forgot to ask what was rattling in my head all day:
>
>What would -you- like in the databases?
>Both Meade-provided and user (yourself) added?
>
>I'd be fascinated to learn, and a well-developed and argued list
>sent to engineer@meade.com might show up (incrementally? whole-hog?)
>in future releases...
>
>They actually -do- listen (sometimes), since things i sent in over
>the past year or so have occasionally popped up in releases.
>
>there is hope! (1)
>--dick
>
>(1) lots of hope... continual hope... little product.
>
>p.s. another question: (well, two)
> (a) other than the fact that it was a gift, why didn't you get into a
>  return/replace cycle with Meade until you had a functioning
>  to-your-criteria 125?  (many folks have)(some never got there after 5)
> (b) why didn't you pitch the entire thing and get a Celestron Nexstar5?
>
>--dick (ol' nosey)
Mike here: Dick's Autostar database editing info is located on the Autostar Information page.

Subject:	 Editing the new 21ek software
Sent:	Sunday, January 7, 2001 09:17:07
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
Hi Dick-
From a lot of user feedback on Mike's site (as well as some input
through Meade), I get the impression that there is an awful lot loaded
onto my new 21ek Autostar software that I might not want, and actually
may confuse and increase computational times; for example, I am not
interested in satellites other than perhaps Hubble, the Shuttle and the
Space Station; likewise, only the top 25 asteroids are of any use, as if
occasion arises (i.e., occulations, etc.) I can located them by
coordinates on any given night.

Consequently, I understand that -now that it is loaded correctly in my
Autostar - there is some way I can get into the program (as I was unable
before loading as you well know!) and edit out (delete?) files that I
likely will never use and therefore clean up considerably the content to
my personal needs.

Can you please advise on how this is undertaken?  I suppose it involves
reattaching the scope and Autostar to my PC (?) with the 505 cables,
somehow calling up the program that is in my Autostar on my PC (how?)
and then editing.  Then the question arises, is it necessary to
completely REINSTALL 21ek, or are the changes automatic within the
system (Autostar)?

Also, when "updates" are posted by Meade, do I download like I did the
21ek onto my PC and then have to reprogram the ENTIRE Autostar software,
or is the patch a direct replacement/addition to the system?  How is
THIS done?

Meade should address these issues for the thousands of customers in
limbo (hanging onto sanity.....not the dance) who have invested tons of
money in the belief that they will be completely supported in these
updates.  Any advice will greatly be appreciated.

Subject:	 Creep after beep and Sync.
Sent:	Sunday, January 7, 2001 06:06:33
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
Good morning, Richard.
I suppose I am ultimately looking for perfection with my ETX 125, which
I realize inherently that will never happen.  Nonetheless, the little
drifting in ALT (Dec.) seems to be fairly common and apparently you are
familiar with it.  It DOES NOT happen (at least much) in Azimuth.

By the way, I send all my "creep-after-beep" internet messages from my
Mother-inb Law's computer as well.  Something in the excitement....and,
yes, if I ever get a response to her mail, it gets thrown in the trash,
too.

Anyway....if I "sync", say on Jupiter at high magnification, does the
sync function correct me for the rest of the night, or simply for that
region of the sky?  Likewise, if only for that part of the sky, does it
make my GO TO accuracy LESS in other parts of the sky than if I had
simply left alone from my original polar alignment?

This may sound strange (quite a surprise coming from ol' Sherrod, huh?)
but I am sometimes (not too rarely) getting TWO beeps; one BEFORE I
re-center the object (the actual expected "beep") and another quite some
time after the first, and after I have slewed to center the object. 
Sometimes, the 2nd beep is as much as 1-1.5 minutes after I have
completed center.  Sound familiar?

With all else going so well now that the new software is installed, I
really should be content...but I'm not.  I think this is something I
should be able to get a grip on.

I have some great info on a quick, convenient and inexpensive (but
jazzy) carry-all case for the ETX 125, as well as a really handy
quick-fix on the #883 tripod and adapter plate that I will send; both
solve a LOT of problems with 'scope convenience and portability (which I
think is the "name of the game" with the ETX scopes).

Thanks again...and say "hi" to mum.  The best:  CLAY SHERROD

Subject:	which cable, which Autostar?
Sent:	Saturday, January 6, 2001 20:25:33
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com
I saw your note on Mike's site, and i can understand your confusion.

Since you have an Autostar with a numeric keypad, you -do- need the 505
(i.e. cheaper, build-it-yourself) cable set.  It goes in the 4-pin hole
at the base of your Autostar, next to the 8-wire socket.

If you had the "Starfinder" (no keypad), then you'd need the 506
cable/converter set... and it would go into the AUX port in the ETX60.

The numeric keypad Autostars do not know how to talk to a 506 cable set.
Bummer.

We also haven't nailed down your Autostar:  both the 495 and the 497
have numeric keypads. Only the 494 Starfinder doesn't.

And, i must admit, i don't know an easy way of telling which kind of
Autostar you have! (well.. the EASY way is to plug it into an ETX90 or
ETX125... the 495 will refuse to work.)

If you try to download a 497's firmware into a 495, the Updater will
refuse to do it.

But to talk to a PC, with a numeric-keypad Autostar, you do want a 505
cable set.

good luck
--dick seymour

Subject:	 Autostar 21ek and ETX 125
Sent:	Saturday, January 6, 2001 19:29:18
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	stargazer46@uswest.net
Hello Steve -
I gather from your message to Mike's site that your, too, were able to
eventually get the new 21ek version loaded into your Autostar; mine took
five tries and was finally successful; I have noted vast improvements in
slewing, quickness and better control in backlash.

However, I am experiencing the very same problem you are:  the
declination (Azimuth) continues to re-correct back to its starting point
after I perfectly center the object.  I carefully wait until the "beep"
prior to centering.  No matter how many times I try, it re-corrects back
to the edge of the FOV.  I can eventually correct for this "programmed
slew" by OVERCORRECTING opposite the dec (Alt) motor motion which takes
the image to the edge.  In other words, if you are hitting the south
(down) arrow to center, allow your image to just disappear in that
direction and the computer will bring it back to the center.  Once there
it tracks great!

For your information, my ETX 125 was doing this BEFORE I downloaded to
the new 2.1ek software.  I had the earlier 2.0 (programmed in Nov. '99)
version on my Autostar (even though I bought it new only last month!). 
So it appears to NOT be the new software; I believe that it is a problem
inherent in the motor's response to the computer, not the computer
itself.  You can try (before you re-load an earlier software) your
motors by attaching the standard hand unit that comes with the scope and
track in POLAR.  The DEC (ALT) motors are still in sidereal tracking if
you set your scope up in Polar alignment.  If you have no drift after
you slew with the Declination motors randomly, then your motor circuitry
is OK;  if you still have drift after slewing, even without the
computer, it could be you have a motor circuitry recognition problem.

Let me know how yours turns out; I am anxious to do the "Sync" idea that
you mentioned helped your problem....this is something I do not want to
live with.  When it tracks, it tracks perfectly, but when it drifts, boy
does it do it time after time after time.

Keep in touch - I'm interested if you run across any solutions; I have
not.

P. Clay Sherrod
794 Drake Drive, Conway, Arkansas 72032
And a response:
From: Steve Reed (stargazer46@qwest.net)
To: Clay Sherrod (sherrodc@ipa.net)
Date: Sunday, January 07, 2001 5:51 PM
Thanks for the info, Clay.  I had not thought of testing the scope with
the original hand controller, but that may be a good idea since my ETX
is one of the very early ones and newer ones may have been changed to
accommodate the later software changes being made in the Autostar.  I
suspect not though, since your ETX125 is much newer vintage than my
ETX90 and you are apparently having the same issues.  I, too, had the
same problem on the earlier 2.0h software version.

I left a message on an LX90 email group to see if Meade's new 8" LX90
had the same issues, but I've not had a clear response to the question
yet.  I've tried the overcorrecting in the opposite direction, too, but
it usually takes several tries before the object is truly centered the
way I want it.  It's quite an aggravation to say the least, and
obviously should be corrected by Meade.  But, version 2.1ek was over a
year in coming after 2.0i and it makes you wonder if it will be years
before Meade finally decides to fix it.

As I mentioned on the posts to Mike's site, the older (and less
sophisticated) versions (1.2) did not have this issue.  The pointing was
always pretty accurate on DSO's, but did miss the Moon and some planets
more often than current versions.  But it was always an easy matter to
center the object and continue observing.   I like the newer features in
the newer versions, but the aggravation is just too much.  Luckily, the
High Precision mode seems to work fine in that it will let you repoint
to where you want it to after the slewing stops.  The downside of that
is that it always  slews to a bright, nearby star first, so it's more
time consuming than the basic goto function, which nearly always placed
objects in the FOV of the standard eyepiece.

I don't understand why a company (both Celestron and Meade have
'issues') would ignore a basic flaw in the design of their products when
it would seem to be so easy (and inexpensive) to fix it.  I used to work
in the industry years ago, and that same attitude existed then.  It was
one of the reasons why I eventually left.  I guess unless they feel it's
good enough for most of their customers.

I assume you're the same Clay Sherrod who wrote 'The Complete Manual of
Amateur Astronomy' that's been in my library for about 20 years.  My
compliments - it has always been one of my more 'used' and valued books.

Best Wishes and Clear Skies, -Steve Reed
And:
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	stargazer46@qwest.net (Steve Reed)
Yes, and Hi again Steve!  I am the one who wrote "A Complete Manual of
Amateur Astronomy," and a couple of less circulated more technical books
on the subject (as well as 13 books in archeology and archeoastronomy). 
I remember you, I think from Celestron.  We used to talk many times.....

I agree, the industry is oblivious to our problems and always will be as
long as their production lines are busy and we keep buying scopes.  I
needed a small take-along scope for trips and to get away from the
bright city skies (I am retired now), and have really been impressed
with the ETX.  I have a ETX 90 RA which is one of the finest mechanical
and optical scopes I have ever used; it rivals much larger instruments. 
My -125 is an optical giant, perfect in every way.  But as I have
mentioned, I have virtually had to "rebuild" every bit of the mechanics,
from the tripod to the drive motors;  my unit came in broke (the OTA
support arms), the Declination would not clamp, and the Dec. drive was
non-functioning.  This kind of stuff should be quality-controlled. 
Imagine if you and I had not had the experience necessary to get in and
investigate for ourselves, or if we did not have a "HOT LINE" such as
Mike's site, or user groups.  I owe a great deal to Mike and to Dick
Seymour on the computer end....Meade's instructions (and software) are
pitiful!

Be in touch....let me know how yours works out; I am gradually whipping
mine into usable shape.  I think it is going to be a pleasure in years
to come, in spite of Meade and their "technical support."

Best wishes, and good to be back in touch!        CLAY SHERROD

Subject:	 Is this the Random Slewing Problem?
Sent:	Saturday, January 6, 2001 09:50:27
From:	questor7@va.prestige.net (questor7)
Read the manual, twice actually... The scope is in its default "Alt/AZ"
mode, manual tracking. Scope after the image is centered,will start with
a slight whine which will get louder. The right -left motors appear to
be moving the scope right (the object viewed, goes left). Disconnecting
the controller stops all movement. The reattachment of the controller
resets this,which may at times return it to the proper "Alt/AZ" mode
wished. Thinking the contacts for the Polar - Alt/AZ mode screw may have
a cold solder joint. Tried this on some pretty cold nights here in
Virginia, while holding or setting the controller down on a cold
surface. Hand warmth, after a reset will keep the controller in the
Alt/AZ mode. Question, are all manual controllers for the 60/70/90/125
models compatible? Trying a substitute test for further fault isolation.
Temps while viewing were in the Teens Fahrenheit. Checked mode screws
for tightness(not overtightened). Anyone else have this problem? I read
a note from a lady with a ETX 90 which this may be similar...I love this
scope for its portability and ease of use. It's a shame that Meade's QA
is not better, then it would have been rated more than a 2+ at a scope
rating sight( 1 = TASCO, 5 =Takahashi (the best) ).


Later

Ron Krenzel

ps, anyone know why I could find some schematics for the manual
controller? Also which Hard Case is better Meade's or JMI's???
-thanks...
Mike here: The random slew problem is usually manifested by a large (10-15 degrees) slew in one of the axis. A smaller slew (less than a degree) is likely the "creep after beep" or "creep after slew".

Subject:	 Autostar Update Problem
Sent:	Saturday, January 6, 2001 00:43:32
From:	kjhawley@dellnet.com (Frederic Hawley Jr.)
Ok, I'll preface this by saying that I know nothing about computers
(well almost nothing).  My computer guy at work helped me download the
2.1ek to my Autostar.  We followed Dick Seymour's outline step by step
guide.  Everything seemed fine, everything that Dick said would happen
did happen.  The download took about 1/2 hour.  I got home and powered
up the scope and the Autostar initialization screen flashed version 2.0.
What happened?  I take it that it did not download the new 2.1ek
update.

Again, I really know nothing about computers, I can access the web and
send e-mail, that's about the extent of my knowledge.  Tonight I tried
to follow the instructions from Meade.  I found my computer "control
panel" went to "modem", set the "com port" parameters that Meade
recommends: Baud Rate:9600, Data Bits:8, Parity:None, Stop bit:1, and
Flow Control:None.  How I managed that I have no clue :-).  I then
downloaded the update (I didn't "save it to disk", I selected "current
location" or something like that), but when it finished my computer
asked me to "assign a program to open the file".  What does that mean? 
Following Dick's instructions I went to my START menu taskbar and could
find nothing at all in terms of a Meade Program.  I eventually  found
something titled ROMS21ek in "temporary internet files".  I deleted that
and tried another download and this time I selected "save to disk".  Ok,
this time it put something on my "desk top", but again I couldn't seem
to do anything with it.  I clicked on it and it asked me to assign a
program to open it.  From Dick's step by step instructions it seems as
though something should be found on my START menu taskbar, but nothing
is there.  This is getting a little frustrating.  Can anyone lend a hand
to a totally computer illiterate ETX-90EC user who wants to do the
update?

Best Regards,

Jamie
Mike here: What version does the Statistics menu show? As to the Windows questions, I'll leave that to the Windows experts (when I have a choice, I prefer the simplicity and power of the Mac OS).

Added later:

Mike, thanks for the quick reply.  The Statistics menu shows version
2.0h.
Mike here: Sounds like the update didn't take. Confirm the ROM files were in the proper Ephemerides directory. And:
As I said, I'm computer illiterate, I don't know what a ROM file is let
alone an Ephemerides directory:-(.  I'm starting to wonder if there is
someplace I can just send it to be done or something.    I've been
messing around with this thing all morning, all I'm doing is getting
more and more frustrated. I can't even figure out what I need to
download from the Meade website (I thought all I needed to do was
download the latest 2.1ek stuff, but now I'm wondering if I need to
download the previous items on the list to make things work).  I take it
from reading Seymour's archives that I also need something called
"winzip" to open files???  Again, I'm lost, is this something that I buy
from a computer store?  I think I might have to just be content with my
telescope the way it is and forget about any "updates".
Mike here again: Well, first off you do need to know how to use a computer to upload new software into an Autostar using a computer. But failing that, you can contact your local Meade dealer and ask if they can clone an Autostar with the current software into yours.

And:

I stopped in to check with my dealer (Shutan) today to do just that,
however, they don't have any in stock with the current version to clone
off of.  I'll have my computer guy at work give it another shot - maybe
I'll even pick up a thing or two:-)  Thanks again for your responses
today.  I must say that I've been looking at Jupiter, Saturn and the
moon this evening and the views are awesome!  Thanks again for your
site, it is a wealth of info.

Subject:	 Autostar glitch
Sent:	Friday, January 5, 2001 22:29:13
From:	DonMcClelland@webtv.net (Donald McClelland)
I just had my autostar updated today (by Meade) and eveything seems to
work just fine except the "eyepiece calculations."  For example,
"suggested eyepiece" always comes up as 4.7 superwide regardless as to
what object I'm looking at.  Do you know if Meade plans on correcting
this in the near future or is this unique only to my autostar?
Thanks, Don
Mike here: You didn't say what version of the Autostar software was installed. Just a thought, have you rechecked the selected telescope model? If that is not it, report the bug to engineer@meade.com. If they don't get bug reports directly they can't fix 'em!

And:

Version installed was 2.1EK.  Telescope model selected is ETX 90EC. I've
noticed it on other versions too.  If this function is actually working
for you then maybe I'm using the wrong sequence of key punches.  Tried
engineer@meade.com in the past but have'nt had a response yet.  Maybe
I'll try one more time.
Mike here: Normally, Meade does not respond to email send to engineer@meade.com. This is noted in the Autostar README or on their web site; I forget which.

Added later:

Thanks for the info.  Hopefully there will be more information posted on
your site.

Subject:	 AUTOSTAR 497
Sent:	Friday, January 5, 2001 17:30:15
From:	elcuartodeangel@yahoo.com (J/K/N/A/P from above)
First let me thank you for such a wonderful informative site you have
for ETX owners.  I'm new to astronomy and over the holidays was just
given an ETX 125 for Christmas. Keep up the great work!

Does someone know when Meade will release an update for the Autostar 497
in Macintosh format. Or can someone please point me to a user group with
instruction that might work for Mac users.

Best regards,
elcuartodeangel@yahoo.com
Mike here: Have you checked the "Update Autostar using a Mac" on the Autostar Information page?

Subject:	 497Autostar Update
Sent:	Friday, January 5, 2001 17:15:47
From:	alec917@hotmail.com (Alec C)
Forgive me here but I'm a total novice PC user.  I recently
downloaded the software (2 folders) update for the Autostar 497 from
Meade.  One folder is ,.. AUTO.zip (with 19-files) and  the
other folder is called ROMS21ek.zip (with 3-files).

I read the Meade instructions on how to do the update, however I'm still
lost.  With all these files compressed and not knowing which file
to launch can you or someone please take me step by step as HOW-TO
do the software update to my Autostar 497?

Thak you in advance,
Alec, San Diego (alec917@hotmail.com)

p.s
here are the files contained in each folder,.....

AUTO.zip (1st compressed folder)
 ROMS21ek.zip (2nd compressed folder)
Autostar OrionNblaM42.bmp
 update.txt
Data.tag
 Dbase.rom
data1.cab
Autostar.rom
data1.hdr
Discovery.bmp
lang.dat
layout.bin
os.dat
Setup.exe
Setup.ini
setup.ins
setup.lid
_inst32i.ex_
_ISDel.exe
_Setup.dll
_sys1.cab
_sys1.hdr
_user1.cab
_user1.hdr
Mike here: Have you read the "Autostar Software Information" on the Autostar Information page? Is there something there that should be made clearer?

Subject:	 Tracking in ALT/AZ
Sent:	Friday, January 5, 2001 00:35:51
From:	wbrower@kmr.ll.mit.edu (Bill Brower)
Am I crazy or is it too much to ask that any two-motor driven scope
could track in ALT/AZ mode if it was "latitude-aware"? I could imagine a
situation where you slew to your object, press a button and the object
is tracked by driving both the ALT and AZ motors. The equations aren't
too difficult (the slew rate and direction are time dependent but so
what?) Are there other limitations I'm oblivious to? Clearly the
equations depend on latitude - that would be some parameter to be
entered (how?). Maybe someone has hacked this already? Are others
interested in this feature?

BTW: is anyone else using the ETX-90 at extremely low latitudes? I'm at
8 degrees N. Is the Low-Latitude balance weight supposed to work near
the equator or is it intended for our Hawaiian friends?

My ETX-90 Xmas gift is on the way...thanks for such an informative site!

Thanks!
Bill Brower
Mike here: Well, another parameter is the Earth's rotation axis. Hence, the need to let the Autostar know where the Earth's rotation is. And from the email I've received over the past 4+ years, there are many users near the Equator.

Subject:	 "easy" align
Sent:	Thursday, January 4, 2001 22:43:41
From:	rwestbrook@gci.net (Randy  Westbrook)
I'm having trouble with "easy" align on the Autostar with my ETX 90EC.
I'm hoping to find an easy solution. When the directions say to point
the scope north, does it matter if you use magnetic north vs true north?
I've used true north (23 degrees off mag. north!) I'm wondering if this
makes a difference. It may just be that I can't figure out which star in
my field of view is Capella! Thanks for the help, and the great site.
I've learned more here than anywhere else! Randy
Mike here: As you note, your magnetic variation is pretty large. And since the Earth rotates (and hence the sky) around an axis that goes through true north (and south), it will matter when the Autostar selects its first alignment star. So, if you align to magnetic north, the first star will be off by that same amount. Use true north.

Subject:	 More 2.1ek testing
Sent:	Thursday, January 4, 2001 22:29:39
From:	stargazer46@uswest.net (Steve Reed)
It was clear tonight so I did more testing with the 2.1ek firmware.  The
'normal' mode continues to be frustrating, but I tried the 'high
precision' mode, and that seems to work very well and does not exhibit
the wierd 'must stay where I originally slewed to' behavior.

In addition to very accurate pointing (almost everything was near
center) I was able to adjust the telescope pointing without it trying to
slew back to the original location.

Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon were the only objects that I really needed
to adjust the telescope pointing with, and it let me do that without a
problem.

It made tonight's observing much more enjoyable!

Thanks again.  --Steve

Subject:	 Autostar
Sent:	Thursday, January 4, 2001 10:58:57
From:	GSkoubis@ussco.com (Skoubis, George)
I have a general Autostar question. Will there always be a need to
upgrade the Autostar version.  If you are using the out-of-the-box
version for many months without any real problems (I think I have v1.3)
will out-of-the-box versions eventually lag behind or need upgrading?

Thanks in advance.
George
Mike here: Upgrading ANYTHING is a decision that is affected by many factors. Whether it is your computer operating system, your word processor, you car, your telescope, or the Autostar software. If you are happy and things work, why upgrade? If there are new capabilities in new versions then you have to decide whether they are capabilities you NEED.

Subject:	 ETX125/Autostar Motor Failure Problem
Sent:	Thursday, January 4, 2001 10:13:29
From:	ajthurston@bryancave.com (Adam J. Thurston)
Great website!!  You are truly a valuable resource for newbee ETX users
like me.  I'd like to report an interesting problem that has Meade
stumped.

I unpacked my new ETX-125EC, set up the Autostar, performed a two star
alignment, told it to "GOTO" Staurn (which it did with aplumb), then
told it to "GOTO" the moon.  After about a minute of lunar observation,
Autostar told me that it had detected a motor failure, and that I had to
start all over.  There were no obstructions to cause a motor stall or
overload (nothing was touching any moving part of the telescope), and
the batteries were brand spanking new.  I was able to repeat this
pattern three consecutive times.  I called Meade and they said it
sounded like a software glitch rather than a hardware problem,
particularly since the scope successfully alighned and then tracked
Saturn for 15 minutes without a hitch.  They suggested that I try a
different pointing routine tonight, or a guided tour.  If no motor
failure occurs, Meade says this will confirm a software problem
involving the moon, rather than a hardware problem such as bad gears. 
Since I've already packed the scope back up in the box, my intention is
to take it back to the store and ask for a replacement.  I was observing
from Pasadena, CA on 1/3/01 between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.  I aligned the
scope with the Alpha star in Cassiopia (sp?) and Betelegeux (sp?) in
Orion.  Can you shed any light on this?  (Meade sure couldn't!) 
Thanks!!
Mike here: You didn't indicate which version of the Autostar software was loaded. But I don't recall any similar repeatable reports. In any case, if an Autostar problem (hardware or software) you only need to exchange the Autostar, not the ETX.

Added later:

Thanks.  I'm not sure what version of the software I have (I'll check
when I get a chance).  My concern is that the detection of a motor drive
problem indicated a problem with the gears or something in the telescope
itself.  I went back to the store and they gave me a new one, so
hopefully I won't encounter the problem again.  If I do, then certainly
you are right--the problem is most likely in the Autostar.  Anyway,
thanks again for the reply and the great website.

Subject:	 changing languages in Autostar
Sent:	Wednesday, January 3, 2001 21:25:17
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	grrass_snake_man@ic24.net
ah, come on... Spanish isn't THAT hard...

Turn on the Autostar.
If you get the scrolling SUN WARNING message, press 5 (or "?" if 
   you've got a starfinder), then [enter] to get past "getting started"
It'll be asking a date... press [enter]
it'll ask time ... press [enter]
it'll ask daylight savings ... press [enter]
it'll ask "easy align" (or "align facil" or something.)

press [mode]
The top line is now "setup"
The second line is "align"
press scroll down (left lowermost key) until something that
looks a LOT like "RESET" appears on the second line.

press [enter] twice.

It will now perform a complete initialization, the first step
of which is asking which language you want... English is  1

(ohhh... i BET you pressed "5" to clear the SUN WARNING without
-reading- the message it was displaying....)
let's be careful out there...

--dick

Subject:	 Autostar vs. PC
Sent:	Wednesday, January 3, 2001 21:18:31
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	ScottRJacobson@cs.com
Scott,

I saw your note on the egroups site,
and the repeat of it on Mike's...

did you try the egroup suggestions of talking to it with 
Hyperterm?

Win98 works fine with the Updater.

The Autostar has to be on COM1  or COM2

For hyperterminal testing do NOT put the Autostar into 
Download mode... just fire it up, answer time/date/daylight,
 and then start hyperterming.
Try Hyperterm, direct connection, no flow,
and type a control-F at the Autostar.
It should reply  A (if you're set to Alt/Az mounting) or P (if Polar).

If it does that, then your hookups are correct, and the Updater
is the problem.

If it does **not** do that, something is fundamentally wrong
with your hookup.  Unplug the Autostar from the cable, and
try shorting the cable's signal lines together so that it becomes
a "loopback"... then whatever you type in Hyperterm should 
appear on the Hyperterminal screen.

--dick

Subject:	 re: Autostar on a Meade 114EQ-DH4 
Sent:	Wednesday, January 3, 2001 21:06:12
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	jblank@warwick.net
Hi...
I saw your note on Mike's site...

The 494 Autostar requires a #506 cable/converter to talk rs232.
It plugs into the AUX jack located at the top of the tripod
on some of the DS scopes.

I don't know if the Meade 114EQ-DH4 has one there.

The #506 is not a simple cable... it includes active electronics
to convert the rs232 serial data to the I2C bus data used by the
AUX port... you CANNOT simply feed an rs232 signal into the AUX port.

You -could- purchase a 495 or 497 Autostar... which does have the
rs232 port in the Autostar itself (right next to where the curly
HBX cable comes out).

A number of folks are thinking of making a cable adapter to give
themselves an AUX jack.  I've got theoretical plans for one,
but since i don't have a 494 (starfinder) nor DS (or 4504) scope,
i cannot test it beforehand.

IF you feel comfortable building such a thing, let me know by 
return Email, and i'll send the plans.  It requires a couple of
8-wire RJ45 jacks and plugs (the HBX type) and a RJ12 (telephone
handset) jack, and the wiring between.  Nothing fancy, but care
is required in the assembly.

Again: this is an UNTESTED kludge... but if it works....

good luck
--dick

P.S. ...and you'd still have to purchase a #506 cable/converter set
to use the homebuilt adapter.

Subject:	Autostar won't talk to PC
Sent:	Wednesday, January 3, 2001 17:11:17
From:	ScottRJacobson@cs.com
Wow, great site!!

I'm a new ETX user and am having trouble getting my autostar to talk to
my PC.  I have the 505 cable kit from meade.

Autostart update software can't find the autostar I have plugged into
com1. Says "windows read fail".  2 calls, so far, to meade have produced
zero.

Tried using the com1 port with other devices, worked great.  Tried to
talk to the scope with starry night software, no joy there either.

The readme file for update software says Meade has software tools to
diagnose this problem, but does not say where to obtain the tools. 
Nobody at Meade seemed to be aware of these tools.

Would be most appreciative of any advice!!

Thanks

Scott

Scott R. Jacobson
Mike here: You didn't indicate the ETX model not the version of Windows you use. Without those, answers are more difficult to come by.

Added later:

I'm using a etx125ec.  The PC runs win 98 second edition.

Subject:	 autoguiding an ETX
Sent:	Wednesday, January 3, 2001 15:45:07
From:	thebrills@zebra.net (The Brills)
Ok.... after a considerable amount of study, conversations, and e-mails,
the final conclusion is that the ETX / AutoStar cannot be autoguided by
a CCD autoguider without some serious modifications.  I firmly believed
that it would work, but unfortunately I was mistaken.   It seems that
while the ETX accepts the LX-200 commands as far as pointing and
tracking goes, it does not accept the LX-200 autoguider inputs.  This
sad news was relayed to me by Mike Barber of SBIG who is the MAN as far
as Autoguiding with SBIG units goes, and confirmed by studying the
various command sets.   Oh well!  My solution to the Guiding problem is
going to have to be a guidescope with an illuminated eyepiece.

DAVE BRILL

Subject:	 Messed up my Autostar!
Sent:	Wednesday, January 3, 2001 12:31:35
From:	grrass_snake_man@ic24.net (grrass_snake_man)
Firstly Congrats on a great website, it has helped me make many
desicions as to which accesories to buy for my 90EC as well as helping
me decide to buy it in the first place.

I currently have a stupid problem with my autostar controller, I have
managed to change the language to what appears to be Spanish!  The
instructions are buried somewhere at my parents house many miles away
and I want to my scope before my next visit to my parents.  Is there any
way you can help me navigate my autostar to reset it, I am having no
luck on my own!

I look forward to you response, if you can help could you please reply
to derenmehmet@hotmail.com as I can check that email address anywhere!

Yours Sincerely,

Deren Mehmet.
Mike here: Search the site for "language"; you will find the answer to navigating the Autostar on the pages that show up. (Amazing how well that Search feature that I spend a lot of time on works at times!)

Subject:	 Re: Patches: All or nothing at all...
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 20:17:35
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	pol@alaska.net (Paul Loughman)
Paul,

> I'm curious: do the updated ROM files Meade issues correct the
>  problems that your patches address,
some of them... some of what i (or other users) consider "problems"
Meade doesn't see fit to address (especially in the LX200 command area).
Meade's software doesn't encounter the problems, so they don't think its
worth changing the behaviour (it might also then differ from the 
real LX200's response to the commands).  That's a stance taken by many
software suppliers ("why should we make a competitor's program work
better?").  They -do- address (and fix) cases where the Autostar's
LX200 response directly contradicts their own manual.  Among the
examples of that in this release are SoftwareBisque's list of 4 bugs.

Some of Meade's updates far transcend my patches... the "comet 
eccentricity" patch was merely a fudge to allow "1.0" to be entered.
Meade had (reasonably) blocked it, since their orbital algorithm didn't
-work- above 1.0.  Now it does, and the blockage is gone.

> or does each new version patch you write contain the 'old patches' as
> well as what is new to the most current ROM files?
Usually i just patch for the Satellite AOS rise-time to show seconds.
v2.0h (and 2.0i) have been out since last March, so they had time to
accumulate more patches, mostly for LX200 operation with some satellite
tracking programs.  Any patch which i can locate to carry forward, i do.

Some become obsolete, or haven't been asked for.  If you read Mike's
site, the beep-frequency change patch has NOT been continued, and the
internal Debugger has been removed, so my patch to reach it is no 
longer applicable in v21ek.

Each version of the firmware has all of the internal parts thoroughly 
shuffled with regards to memory location, so each patch "kit" is
therefore customized for that particular subversion.
As it happens, some of the memory areas of v2.0h are the same as v2.0i,
so a number of the patch addresses haven't changed.

--dick

Subject:	 adjusting sites (without full Reset)
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 19:23:58
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To add (or change) a site in the Autostar:

Setup>Site[enter]>Add[enter]

That'll get the list of Countries/States/Cities 
and you can pick-and-choose as you wish.

--dick

Subject:	 re: editing Site Lat and Long
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 17:48:49
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	DonMcClelland@webtv.net
Yes, if you EDIT your site's data, it gets remembered by the Autostar.

But: the autostar has a "scratch pad" of 6 possible sites.
You can Edit one, but you still should check that that is the one
 that's actually SELECTed.
When you "add" a site, you're moving its data from the known-sites
 to the six-entry list.
When you "select" a site, you're selecting from the six-entry list.
When you "edit" a site, you're editing entries from that six.

If you "add" a seventh, well... i haven't tried that. It'll 
either overwrite one of the existing ones, or complain that the list
 is full and demand that you "delete" one.

If you "add" a known site (say, Seattle), then "edit" it, you've only
changed the coordinates for the "scratch" copy.  If you later "add"
Seattle again, it'll get the "known" (unchanged) coordinates, not
your edited ones.  Again untested, but i'll bet that you'll end up
with two "Seattle"s in the list of six it can choose from, differing
invisibly in whatever field you've edited.

I have done sequential evenings' editing of site coordinates ...
i was driving around Southern British Columbia with the ETX, and
made heavy use of the sites "LAKE" and "CAMP"
And each evening's edit of LAKE showed that it remembered the previous
Lake quite well, thank you.
I also now maintain "Anacortes", which is an Edit of Burlington to move
it 16 miles (about 15 minutes) west.

--dick

Subject:	 Dick Seymour's Patches
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 13:24:37
From:	pol@alaska.net (Paul Loughman)
I've looked over "All of Dick Seymour's Patches" in the Patches section
of the Autostar Information section.

My question: Can 'all' of the 497 patches be loaded into version 21ek,
or just the 21ek patch? My Autostar is running 2.0i at the moment. I've
downloaded the 21ek files (to a separate download directory), but have
not updated my Autostar yet. I have not updated my Autostar ROMs with
any of the patches.

Sorry if this question has already been asked, but Dick's message
doesn't make any mention about this.

Thank you.

--
Paul O. Loughman
And Dick's response:
Well, I tried to make it clear.

The web page reference and the file names themselves describe
which file does what to who.  
V21Ek has no need of most of the patches, the only thing it lacks is
 the AOS to-the-second (well, i'm finding other things, but most are
  exceedingly esoteric, and beyond my ability to fix).

So: the "20iPatch" file is -only- for v2.0i   ... NOT v2.0h, NOT v21ek.

The only patch file (currently) applicable to v21ek is the 
 497_21ek.txt  patch file.

Given the titles and descriptor lines (reproduced below),
 how could i make them clearer?  (i suppose i could add "but not
 for anything else" to each line, but it seemed redundant).
(that's not sarcasm, that's an honest request for alternate wording
 that you'd find more lucid)

--dick

    AStarPatch.zip ... the 36KB zip of everything 
    AStarPat.exe ... the 36KB executable (not zipped) 
    Readme.txt ... these instructions as text 
    patcher.html ... these instructions as a web page 

    497_21ek.txt ... Satellite AOS patch for 497 Autostar v2.1Ek 

    495_20g.txt ... creep-after-beep patch for 495 Autostar v2.0g 
    495_20i.txt ... creep-after-beep patch for 495 Autostar v2.0i 

    497_20g.txt ... creep-after-beep patch for 497 Autostar v2.0g 
    497_20h.txt ... creep-after-beep patch for 497 Autostar v2.0h 
    497_20i.txt ... creep-after-beep patch for 497 Autostar v2.0i 
    20iPatch.txt ... all Dick's patches for v2.0i firmware. 

    patcher.bat ... a batch file to run it for you...

Subject:	 Update 2.1Ek on ETX90
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 12:40:11
From:	stargazer46@uswest.net (Steve Reed)
Hi Mike:  just wanted to thank you and let you know that your (and
Dick's) comments were very helpful, and that by using the 2.1 updater I
was able to successfully load the new 2.1Ek ROMs.

Ephemeride data seemed to load OK, except for the Asteroid database.
Virtually everything newly added was 'hosed'.  I spent several hours
manually editing the orbit data and now seem to have 80 or so asteroids
in my handbox that have accurate and usuable information (before
manually editing them, they would lock up the autostar - i.e., calculate
forever).  It also seems that the downloaded satellite (ISS/MIR) tle's
are out of date, however.

Anyway, I spent a few hours last night evaluating the new software, and
this is what I've found:

On the positive side, the accuracy seems very good.  I nailed many deep
sky objects almost dead-on, the moon was near center in the 26mm (48x)
eyepiece, Jupiter was near the edge of the FOV, and Saturn was just out
of the FOV.  I'm satisfied with the basic pointing accuracy, but......

On the negative side, for those objects not quite in the center of the
FOV (planets especially), I've found it's a real pain to try to center
the object after the initial slewing stops.

The 'creep-after-beep' appears to be gone in this firmware version  but
it seems to 'insist' on staying with the original 'go-to' location. That
is, after Jupiter was initially placed near the edge of the FOV, I
manually tried to center the image, but the autostar keeps moving back
to the original location - keeping Jupiter at the edge of the FOV.

I found this to be the case whenever I tried to recenter the image after
it was initially located - regardless of whether it was a star, planet,
DSO, or whatever.  The only saving grace seems to be that the initial
pointing is pretty good most of the time.

I noted that syncing near the object seems to help make the initial
pointing accuracy better, and will perhaps reduce the number of
occasions where I want to recenter the object manually.

Is this 'software behavior' the same as what other users are
discovering?  If so, 2.1EK seems to be 'sort of' an improvement.....

After more testing, I just may revert back to an older version if 2.1Ek
turns out to be more of a pain than a help, as I don't remember these
quirks being a problem in the 1.2 versions.  Oh well!

Thanks for the help. --Steve Reed

Subject:	 Re Autostar Question
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 10:22:39
From:	jpswann54@netscapeonline.co.uk (jpswann54)
To:	jblank@warwick.net
The Starfinder is NOT an Autostar. I have an Autostar with my 125 and a
Starfinder with my 4504. The starfinder menus and functions are similar
to those of the Autostar. As for upgrading the firmware, I do not think
that this is possible at the moment. My dealer said that Meade would be
bringing out some kit to enable Starfinder to connect to a PC. Anyone
out there know anything about this?

Happy 2001.

John Swann

Subject:	 Re: Updating the Autostar (continued)
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 06:18:11
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Good morning, Dick!
Well, it looks like I am ready to download.  Get this....as I was about
to patch into my computer with the brand-new Meade-supplied #505
cord...you guessed it:  the port connector (computer interface end)
completely fell off.  FELL OFF!  The exposed wires show absolutely NO
bare metal, only insulated wire; there does, however appear to be shards
of metal wire imbedded in the connector itself.  It is almost like Meade
is challenging anyone and everyone to a "Downloading Duel" to see who
can understand the methodology behind updating Autostar.  I am going to
have to get a new cable, plain and simple. Just like I had to call and
get new OTA support arms, repair the declination lock, repair the
declination tracking and 3 degree play, repair the RA lock, the slipping
setting circle, blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, my supplier (in Crossville, TN) is out of cables (except for
kits which I do not want) so I am trying to find one.  I believe I am
ready to go.  I still have one remaining concern that is bugging me (as
if the scope hasn't done enough already!).

The dates of the newly loaded update, and their sizes, appear to be
correct. I still do not understand why they are displaying (just like
the program file icons under "Meade" (the Autostar Update Program) the
"Explorer" logos. When they first came up, they had a different logo,
probably the "ROM" logo you mentioned some time back; when the flyout
box came out and asked what program I wanted to open them under, I
merely cancelled it out (the little "X" in the upper right) and
immediately the icons changed to the "Explorer" logos (the blue "E"s I
was telling you about).

Is this okay?  When I double click on them now I DO NOT GET THE FLYOUT
asking what program format to open under; nothing at all happens, which
I assume is okay.  Please advise what you think.

P.S.  If you know anyone with a spare set of #505 cables, tell them to
rush to me and I will send a check!  I wish Meade would initiate a
Quality Control Program....sheeeesh!

Thanks again - I'll probably be back in touch as soon as I can locate
some cables and attempt my first download!

CLAY SHERROD
-----Original Message-----
From: richard seymour 
To: Clay Sherrod 
Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 8:30 PM
Subject: Re: Updating the Autostar (continued)

>Clay,
>>  I used your instructions (Highlight-Ctl. C on the ROM2.1ek
>> "Autostar" and "Database" then back to Autostar Update under
>> "Ephemerides"
>..we're great up to here...
>
>> and (HIghlight-Ctl. V in a newly-created folder in the Ephemeride
>> section.
>bzzzt.  What/why a new folder?
>The autostar.rom and dbase.rom files (not folder)
>go into the Ephemerides folder itself. [added later: ah, they did]
>
>> All this is done.  The folder will not open, however.
>> In addition to the new folder, there appears the icons as before,
>> with the Autostar showing 640k and the Database also now showing 640k.
>
>ahh... as i reread that sentence (for the 3rd time) i see that you
>-have- achieved success... You have successfully replaced the v2.0
>autostar.rom and dbase.rom with the new v21ek versions.
>The Icons will not have changed, but the data behind them has
>(hence the file sizes becoming 640k each, and the dates 12/13/2000).
>
>>  Am I there?
>Yes!  Thou mays't now commence Updating.
>
>> I first attempted to load each seperately in two different new
>> folders, but it dumped both into one, it appears.  Is this correct?
>yes... despite your best efforts, they apparently went where they
>should.
>
>>  Nothing opens under Ephemerides still, as before, but as you
>> mentioned it appears that I have to have the Autostar in place and
>< initialized, then to the "Start" mode of the Meade
>> program to open any of the files.
>...and you won't "see" the files open... the updater will just do it.
>You'll see a thermometer display as the data gets sent to the Autostar.
>
>> What is all this I have been hearing
>> about "drag and drop" on various object files?
>Once the Updater is running, it refers to click-and-holding on a
>file [NOT the autostar.rom or dbase.rom!!} from a Windows Explorer
>window, and dragging its icon onto the appropriate button in the
> Updater's main display.  It's for bulk-loading of satellites, comets,
>asteroids.  The v21ek already knows a bunch of these, so it's not
>necessary.  The Updater will also preserve (it'll ask) any
>objects you may already have added.
>
>>  Supposedly something to do with picking & chosing what I want to
>>  include and what to ignore.  Does this happen AFTER I connect with
>> Autostar, during the new downloading process?
>Read the cookbook and comments: don't play with drag-and-drop at this
>time.  All we're gonna do is download (by simply pushing the
> "send to handbox: [new software]" button.
>That's it! That's all.
>Then, the half-hour later, you'll click the Updater's [finished]
>button and your Autostar will be safe, happy, and updated.
>
>Fiddling with the drag-and-drop stuff --can-- mangle the Autostar's
>brains, so let's do one thing at a time.
>
>> Once again....thanks, and I owe you a night on the town!
>Which town?
Mike here: Scopetronix sells alternative Autostar cables.

Added later:

Thanks!  I'll give them a call...I have their e-mail # from your web
site. Eventually, I'll have everything in order and a great-working
ETX-125! Appreciate your help and the great web site; you're doing a
wonderful service; you and your ETX-followers should be on the Meade
payroll! 
Thanks again!  CLAY
And more from Dick:
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 10:37:56
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
To:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
G'Day, Clay,

Synopsis: everything's OK, you may ignore the icons.

Essay:
> Well, it looks like I am ready to download.  Get this....as I was
> about to patch into my computer with the brand-new Meade-supplied
> #505 cord...
Those whom the gods wish to humble they supply with Meade parts...

> the slipping setting circle, blah, blah, blah.
i, um, admire your product loyalty..

> I still have one remaining concern that is bugging me ...
(i'm CC'ing this to Mike, and at this point i'll advise him that the
remaining portion of this messages deals with MSWindows, and, as a Mac
owner, he may blissfully smile at what's going on...)
  (until he's asked to Email someone thru modifying file type/creator)
    (sorry, Clay... computer-geek speak snuck in)

> The dates of the newly loaded update, and their sizes, appear to be
> correct. I still do not understand why they are displaying (just like
> the program file icons under "Meade" (the Autostar Update Program) the
> "Explorer" logos.
> When they first came up, they had a different logo, probably the
> "ROM" logo you mentioned some time back; when the flyout box came out
> and asked what program I wanted to open them under, I merely cancelled
> it out (the little "X" in the upper right) and immediately the icons
> changed to the "Explorer" logos (the blue "E"s I was telling you
> about).
> 
> Is this okay?  When I double click on them now I DO NOT GET THE FLYOUT
> asking what program format to open under; nothing at all happens, 
>which I assume is okay.  Please advise what you think.
Ok...
First: yes, everything is OK.  All that's being confused/confusing is
the way Windows assigns what icons (and programs) to associate with
a file's type (the letters after the period).
You're seeing an "E" because Explorer has decided to declare a ".rom"
type as its own (or, perhaps that's become the default if it doesn't
know who else to blame, er, assign).

> the ROM logo you mentioned ...
well... if you carefully reread that previous message, i hope that what
i really said was that there is -no- assigned/registered/whatever logo
for the ROM file-type.  Since, on my system, i've manually associated
the ROM type with my bit-twiddling tool, i cannot simply look and see
what icon it had... but poking around, i see that my W95 system assigns
the "flying windows" icon to unrecognized tile types.

In many ways, what it's chosen to do for you (grab an unknown type
as "handled by Explorer", which means: "nothing") is the best course.
The contents of those files would totally confuse any program you
probably own.  There's a tiny case to be made for associating it with
the Updater itself, but Meade's Install system does not fully implement
the registration needed to get the Updater on Explorer's short-list
of programs willing to work with files (what you see in that "flyout
box").

If you want to, you CAN associate the Updater with the ROMs.
(since w98 can operate in two ways, "desktop as web page" or "classic",
and i know classic, there's a chance some of the following will  
closely, but not exactly, track what you'll see on the screen.)
How:
click once on a ROM file.  That'll highlight it.
Now hold down the shift key, and then click once -using the other mouse
button- on the rom file.
You should now be presented with a drop-down menu, one item near the
top becoming "Open with..."
Using the regular mouse-key, click on that "Open with..."
...and the "flyout box" should appear.
Using the elevator slider, run thru it and see if the Updater appears.
I sincerely doubt that it will.
Not a problem.
See the [Other...]  key in the lower right? click on it.
Now you've got a typical "open file" window tool.
Navigate up and around to arrive at 
ProgramFiles>Meade>Autostar>AutostarUpdate
and then click on the Autostar Update.exe (probably with a light blue
star-spangled icon) icon.
Click [ok] as many times as you need to get back out.
Press the F5 key (to force a refresh).
All of the ROM files should now be showing the Updater's icon,
and double-clicking any of them will fire up the Updater.

Whew.

Now -all- that that procedure has done is add an entry to a Windows
data structure which says: "ROM files are opened with Updater"
and another which says "ROM files get -this- icon".

It hasn't affected the contents or knowledge of the Updater or the ROM
files themselves.  If you start the Updater manually (from the start
menu), it won't help the Updater find wandering or misplaced ROM files.

But it will mean that double-clicking on -any- file whose name ends
in ".rom" will start the Meade Updater.  But the so-started Meade
 Updater will proceed to only use the files it finds in its own
Ephemerides directory as fodder for downloads.  Not neccesarily whatever
ROM file you double-clicked.
So the potentiality for undesired confusion still exists.

> P.S.  If you know anyone with a spare set of #505 cables, tell them to
> rush to me and I will send a check!  I wish Meade would initiate a
>  Quality Control Program....sheeeesh!
I'd send mine, but it's home-made, and requires a carefully-chewed
wedge of bubble gum to hold together..  it's an art.

> Thanks again - I'll probably be back in touch as soon as I can locate
> some cables and attempt my first download!

good luck
And more from Clay:
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 13:55:48
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Dick - Thanks again.  From your message I assume that - even though the
icons don't necessarily match what they should in an ideal world (that
would be a world outside of Meade confusion) - I am set to go, once I
get some new cables.  From what you say, the files will be read
regardless of how they are "iconed."  I doubled-checked to make sure
that they do, indeed, have the right size (640) and the right date
(12-13-00), and they do.  I am looking forward to trying the
download.....sure hope I don't end up with a totally crashed Autostar.

But, thanks to your help and patience, I feel confident that all is well
are ready.  I definitely is not a simply procedure as Meade would have
your believe from its promotional material.  There HAS to be a simpler
way to do a download, or perhaps they should have someone else at Meade
BESIDES ENGINEERS and the guys who design this stuff actually WRITE the
instruction manuals....somebody like YOU, perhaps?  Hey Meade....are you
listening?

Dick, thanks again....I will keep in touch.  Been a pleasure doing
business with you!  As soon as I get my cables replaced I will contact
you for moral support B.D. (Before Download).

See you....Clay Sherrod
And this is in response to a thanks to/from Clay about this site. I noted that many users contribute to its valuable content.
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 14:04:16
From:	sherrodc@ipa.net (Clay Sherrod)
Actually, Mike, the site is not only helpful, but I find that it adds
another dimension to our love of astronomy and the wonders that a small
scope can provide, even in today's world of monster scopes with CCD
technology.  In addition, it provides a challenging roadmap as we all
attempt to perfect the Meade ETX-EC telescopes, something that Meade
should be paying attention to carefully.  The little telescopes are
truly a wonder, and it is a shame that they are not more carefully
monitored prior to shipping.

Nonetheless, if they WERE perfected, we would not have the pleasure of
exploring all of our alternatives...our tuneups....our innovative
jury-rigged solutions to what could be major problems.  Don't you just
love Yankee ingenuity and the perserverance of the human mind to solve
such important tasks?

Perhaps the Meade ETX-EC scopes are in reality the wonderful "monolith"
in the movie "2001" which appears every time it is necessary to
jump-start the human intelligence to a new level.  Just think of the
creativity that has poured into your wonderful web site!  All because of
that little scope. Anyway, I very much enjoy the interaction and
creative input you receive (and provide) to all of us.  I will help you
any way I can.

By the way, I have a wonderful solution to the #883 tripod problems
(setting up in the dark with the plate, etc.) as well as a great
carry-all trunk alternative to expensive pre-formed cases for the -125. 
Step by step photos are at the printer and I will e-mail as soon as I
scan.

More later....and thanks again for everything, from all of us!

CLAY SHERROD
And from Dick:
>  From your message I assume that - ... - I am set to go,
As far as i can tell from here, yes!

> It definitely is not a simply procedure as Meade would have you
> believe from its promotional material.  There HAS to be a simpler
> way to do a download, or perhaps they should have someone else at
> Meade BESIDES  ENGINEERS and the guys who design this stuff actually
> WRITE the instruction manuals....somebody like YOU, perhaps?  Hey
> Meade....are you listening?
Taking that in reverse order:
(a) i've offered (even supplied corrected web and pages... which they
   haven't used)
(b) i are an ingineer, too.
(c) their first pick on the update page is how it should be:
   download, install, run.  Smooth as silk. (weeeellll...)
  Now, if they'd only create a complete kit for -each- firmware update,
  rather than "expecting" their customers to download, replace, tweak.

I actually think it's a management decision, not an engineering one.
Good engineers are inherently lazy.. so (i hope) they value the
creation of a minimalist solution with maximum ease-of-use
 (i.e. complete package).

However, they also have the problem that the Updater itself is under 
slow-but-constant upgrade... and (having played with them) some
of the intermediate versions of the Updater have been/are buggy.
So, if the Updater happens to be unstable at the moment the firmware
is ready, what should they do?  The "old" (A2.1 in this case) Updater
has known bugs, but is pretty good for Software Download.
It just doesn't do Comets, Satellite, Asteroids -quite- right.

Whichever one is "current" at Meade may have known (to them) bugs (or
not yet be tested)...  should they delay the firmware release until the
Updater's ready?  (if it ever will be)
Ya just can't win.

Last January and March they released firmware updates... on Fridays...
and had to immediately (the next Monday) release corrected versions.
So far (knock on plastic) i haven't heard of discovered (new) problems
with v21ek.  So at least the result of your download efforts should
be fruitful (but, with very sloppy mechanicals, you may still experience
creeping)

So the difficulty of downloading is (i hope) a management as well as
 an engineering decision.
It's one i frequently send emails to engineering@meade nattering about.
(kibitz, kibitz, kibitz...)

>... I will contact you for moral support B.D. (Before Download).
here's a verbal slap-on-the-back to get you rolling...
Good luck!
--dick
And Clay's response to Dick's last:
Hello, Dick....
Good points, and "sorry" about the engineer thing!  What I was eluding
to is that those who create the project/product should NEVER design the
descriptive literature which goes with it, much as an author should
never "edit" his or her books!  I agree with the management thing....if
it was entirely engineering or consulting staff, the problems would
undoubtedly be address (albeit, perhaps not fixed) long ago.  Management
always sees an arising problem area as an opportunity to schedule a
"meeting," during which varieties of graphics are presented by the host,
afterwhich small subcommittees are appointed to look into the attributes
of each graph, and report back at the next meeting.

In the meantime, my enjoyable and "relaxing" (now-)pasttime is spent
adjusting, clamping, re-clamping, more adjusting, taking apart, deleting
and copying, creeping and beeping until I think I might take up fishing.
 In hindsight, I really wish Meade can come up with a ETX-125 RA model. 
Then I would clamp with little stainless steel knurled knobs after I
point to an object.  My RA motor would hum quietely as the crickets
chirped, and I made minor microcentric adjustments to yet other
stainless steel slow motion controls to center the object.

I could hang relentlessly onto the back of my ETX-125 RA scope without
the declination clamp slipping (perhaps even add a camera!) and I could
take a long sip of my coffee, or other beverage, while I scan the sky
with my naked eye, pondering what object I might case down next.....and
minutes later peer into the eyepiece and my current object is still
there!

Ahhhh....the stuff dreams are made of.

Back to reality - I'm going to tuff it out and make my little scope a
tight, efficient and tough little hombre for years of wonderful
stargazing with my grandkids, regardless of all the user-intended
built-in ploys to drive me to my grave.  I am not ready to go, and
pretty handy with a screwdriver!

Thanks for all your help Dick.....it's been (and continues to be) FUN!

Subject:	 Satellite Tracking
Sent:	Monday, January 1, 2001 03:34:48
From:	christian-hanke@t-online.de (Christian Hanke)
Due to the reports on the successful tracking of the ISS, I got curious
to perform this challenging task too. So I did some training inside and
faced the following problem. After updating the ISS satellite data in
the autostar with the values I got from the heavens-above.com site I
performed some trials for different dates to compare the autostar
predictions with that of the site, which are really exact, as confirmed
by the visual observation of the satellite pass. I live in Munich
Germany and use the location data for Munich-Perlach (Lat: 4807N Long:
1135E). For all calculations with the Autostar I get a time difference
for the appearance of the satellite of 23 to 24 minutes in advance
compared the data from the web-site. I cannot imagine where this
difference comes from. Do you have an imagination? I hope I really go
the right data in the Autostar using version 2.1 ek.
Your help is greatly appreciated.

Regards and a happy new year!

Christian Hanke

christian-hanke@t-online.de
And a response from our expert, Dick:
Christian,

Well, it's only a couple of data points,
but i'm not able to reproduce the problem

I put in tonight's TLEs:
2001  2.87576 51.5758  205.3569  0.000801  302.0001 256.9949 15.67125
contacted Heavens-Above and told it i lived at 48.1 N  11.51 E  +1 GMT

H-A predicted  7:28am for an ISS rise, on 8th Jan
The Autostar says: 7:29 rise, 7:31 set, 
rise at: 174 deg az, 17 deg Alt
set at: 105 deg, 15 Alt
which is pretty close to H-A's prediction. (not 23 minutes off)

There -will- be some variation, because H-A takes into account DRAG,
(and probably precession) which the Autostar does not. 

I repeated it for 10th Jan, and again the Autostar is only 2 or 3 
minutes later than H-A's prediction.

sorry...
--dick
And an update:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
I don't know if Christian cc:'d you, but the reason for his 23-minute
error was that he incorrectly entered the epoch day... 
He didn't bother with the fractional component, so it was taken as
 (for example) Midnight Jan 2nd, rather than .43271 's of a day into
 Jan 2nd.

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