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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
Last updated: 14 October 2010

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


Subject:	 AutoStar Problem
Sent:	Wednesday, June 28, 2000 19:48:01
From:	plasmaknight@hotmail.com (Wei-Chieh Chen)
In all the photos of the ETX-90EC on a tripod (with the AutoStar or some
other controller), the AutoStar is somehow attached to a leg of the
tripod. How did they do it? I read the instructions manual over and over
again, and it's either that they're not telling you, or that I can't
find things in a book that well.

If you know how, please reply. Please tell me where to buy the thing
needed to attach the AutoStar onto the tripod leg if necessary.
(Example: Velcrow [or however you spell it] 'Where would you find the
velcrow with the sticky behind so you can stick it on?')

Thanks for your help.

                                 WCC
Mike here: I use Velcro. Works great. Check your local arts and crafts or sewing store.

Subject:	 ETX and Autostar in polar mode - still no success
Sent:	Wednesday, June 28, 2000 14:00:41
From:	Pierre.Henrotay@skynet.be (Pierre Henrotay)
Several times these last weeks I tried to get my ETX-90/EC with Autostar
to work in polar mode. I received numerous helpful tips on this list;
unfortunately, the deception remains: I have never been able to get GOTO
to work consistently. I am more and more convinced that the problem lies
in the Autostar firmware (I am running the latest one, 2.0i). I will
return from now on to AltAz mode (which works fine) and wait for the
next release to test... or maybe return to an earlier release (1.3 ?)
for a try. Thanks to all of you who helped me with their suggestions. I
would like anyway to hear of happy users of polar mode... if any; it
seems that most of us are just running AltAz.
Pierre

Sum:
GOTO misses the target by 3-5 degrees in RA when in polar mode, random
direction
drive is trained
mode is Polar
lat/lon/time/date/daylight are OK
alignment with Polaris is carefully done
batteries are fresh
no slop in RA or Dec
sync does not help
GOTO works fine when in AltAz
A response:
Subject:	 Re: ETX and Autostar in polar mode - still no success
Sent:	Wednesday, June 28, 2000 18:35:16
From:	tom0115@earthlink.net (Tom C)
Have you tried entering very exact latitude and longitude for your site.
Entering the exact information can be very helpful with minimizing the
error. It worked for me. The Autostar generic information for "Chicago"
can generate sufficient error, for a suburbanite, that the scope will
begin loosing accuracy after one or two GOTO attempts. If you have not
done so already follow the information below. It may help.

Try:   http://www.geocode.com  and select the test drive feature. Enter
the exact address of your viewing site. The latitude and longitude can
then be entered into the Autostar under sites.

Tom C

Subject:	How to download Autostar update?
Sent:	Saturday, June 24, 2000 19:19:21
From:	SKYLAB2MIR@cs.com
I havw the Meade DS-90 scope and Autostar controller and I bought the
cable to update the unit. My problem is that I am not very smart when it
comes to downloading. I don't seem to understand how to (open from
current location) or (save to disk). I have attempted to follow the
instructions on Mead's site but I have not had alot of luck and I don't
understand unzipping. Is there a site where you can download, unzip, and
install automatically?? Is there any site that offers step by step
instructions, somthing like Autostar downloading for dummies?

Thank You 

Michael Reeb
skylab2mir@cs.com
Mike here: Autostar for Dummies sounds like a good idea. But basically you have to unzip the file you download from Meade's web site. If you are using Windows, you should get a copy of Unzip (or some other unzipping utility). If you are on a Mac you'll need StuffIt Expander, and you'll need VirtualPC or SoftWindows since the Autostar download program is for Windows only. You you get the file unzipped you'll have an Autostar directory on your hard disk. Inside that is an installer. Run the installer; it installs everything you need (normally) to download the current Autostar software and files to your Autostar. Then run the downloader program. Hope this helps.

Subject:	 Autostar and Windows 2000
Sent:	Saturday, June 24, 2000 16:43:10
From:	panajar@uswest.net (Peter Najar)
Does the Autostar application 2.1 work with Windows 2000?

Are there any known problems if it does work?

Thanks

Peter Najar
Lange Sales, Inc.
pnajar@langesales.com
Cell: 303-880-0456
VM: 303-795-5462 ext. 227
Mike here: I believe I recall seeing a report that indicated it did not work with Windows 2000. Not being a Windows user (when I can help it) I don't have it so can't report directly on its compatibility.

Subject:	motor unit failure?
Sent:	Monday, June 19, 2000 12:42:13
From:	Astro1807@aol.com
for the third time, at the end of an observing night, i looked at the
autostar display and saw a strange message: motor unit failure.   The
autostar claims this can be caused by worn out batteries, an obstruction
of the tube, or switching the autostar between telescopes.  The first
time i thought my batteries were low, but this past problem occured
while using the AC adapter.  Also, with the AC adapter i keep getting
random slews(always straight up), something that never happens with
batteries.  Id be glad if you can give me any info about motor unit
failures, and in the meantime i will try to contact meade.

clear skies
chris
Mike here: Random slewing is a problem that has been reported with some scopes/Autostars. Doesn't occur to everyone or all the time. Search the site for "random" and you'll find some info. As to the motor unit failure error message, this can occur from the causes that you (and the Autostar) reported. I think (but don't absolutely for certain) that it will also report that if the Autostar senses a large drive encoder error. This could possibly occur if the drives need training. I had this happen once and retraining the drives cured it.

Subject:	 sent to engineer@meade
Sent:	Sunday, June 18, 2000 16:12:07
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
(Tracy: see what your question led to...)

Subject:    ETX Autostar 497 v2.0i firmware problems - Comets
   Date:      Sun, 18 Jun 2000 16:06:43 -0700
   From:     richard seymour 
     To:     engineer@meade.com

Abstract: two problems: bad comet location calculations, TLE "erosion"
by EDIT.

Evironment: ETX Autostar 497, v2.0i firmware, ETX90/ec telescope.

Problem one: Comet C/1999 S4 Linear is miscalculated.
Using  26-Jul-2000   Perihelion: 0.764978   Ecc: 0.999993   Arg Peri:
151.0681 
  Lon Asc Node: 83.1903   Incl: 149.3898    Mag: 7.0 
(today's values from the Harvard site Meade's Update page points to)
( http://www.minorplanetcenter.org/iau/Ephemerides/Comets/Soft16Cmt.txt )

The Autostar calculates the comet to be at:
   about  RA 21:37,  Dec +16 deg 46 min
The same Harvard site (and many others) actually places it at 
 about about  RA 02:18   Dec: 37 deg.

So the two disagree by almost 5 hours of RA, and 20 degrees of Dec.
Bad. Day and night, as it were.

But wait! there's more!

Problem Two:
On the Autostar, choose Comet> EDIT> C/1999 S4.
Cycle through all of the numbers.  Take careful note of the final digit
of each.
Simply hit [enter] to accept each value as displayed.
Now do exactly that -again-... all of the data will have decremented the
last digit by (about) 1
Do it -again-... and they decrement again.  Repeat until convinced.
 (so the Eccentricity goes: .999993, then .999992, then .999990 then...)
After two or three cycles of that, try another Comet>Select>c/1999 S4
Since the orbital parameters have been (what better word?) decayed by
the Edit cycles,
the predicited location will have drifted quite a bit... 
(mine just shifted 15 minues of RA, and 6 degrees in Declination..
 after two edit cycles)

So, that's it:
 (a) Bad locating (at least for this comet, more to be cross-checked
soon)
 (b) overly enthusiastic floating-point truncation of displayed values
       (how come i never noticed this with satellites? i sure cycle thru
them enough...)
You might work around (b) by simply noticing if any value was actually
-entered- during the edit,
 and -not- modifying the stored value if no digit was changed.
(i also note that editing a Comet moves it in the list-display sequence,
so i assume it is also moved in the linked-list database)

Sincerely
Richard Seymour
rseymour@wolfenet.com

Subject:	 autostar startup
Sent:	Sunday, June 18, 2000 14:31:42
From:	wombat@realns.com (wombat)
I'm a diorector of a small obs near Buffalo, NY and own a 497 from the
first run(software 1.1).  Last night I was helping a new owner to learn
his new autostar, when we went to "easy aligh" it always gave us a long
detailed lecture on setting up the home position, I didn't find a way to
cancel this.  Is there a way ?  This was version 1.3 software, I think. 
I haven't updated mine yet, waiting for Meade to get most of the bugs
out, if this is part of the update I don't think I want it.  It's a pain!

Tnx, wombat
Mike here: Hit the ENTER key to continue.

Subject:	 Autostar Reset
Sent:	Saturday, June 17, 2000 18:38:50
From:	ka8wtk@raex.com (Bill Ramsey)
Has anyone hit upon a way to "reset" an Autostar on power-up? Short of
that, is there a battery in the Autostar that can be removed for a
moment to "blank" the settings? I know I will need to upload new data to
the handset. My Autostar is speaking a language I don't, and I can't
find the correct menu item for changing back to English! I must have hit
a wrong key some where some how..........

Thanks for the help, 
Bill
Mike here: Yes there is a way to reset the language but I'm on travel without mine so can't tell you what it is. There is no battery to remove.

Added later:

Well, I did find one way to get the Autostar back to "ground zero".
Seeing that there was a newer version (2.0i) of software available than
the one I had (2.0h), I updated the handbox. Upon initialization, we
were back to English. This fixes the problem, but there must be a better
way to re-initialize the handbox without re-loading. Monday I am going
to call Meade and find out. Will let you know if they have anything to
say.....
And from our resident Autostar expert:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
There are (at least) three ways to set the language:

 (1) Turn on the telescope, hit "enter" to get past the date and time
questions,
     When you get to "Align:Easy", press MODE once.
     That will get you to "Setup:Align"
     Press the up-scroll key (the "^" to the left of the "?") once
     You will now be at "Setup:Reset".
     Press ENTER twice to perform the reset.
     The next question you will see will be the "which language?"
messages.
  (2) It comes up when you download the telescope with new firmware.
  (3) You can sometimes reach the Language question by holding the Mode
key down during the Initialization sequence.

The "reset" method does reset some other stuff (such as where your site
is), but it's a sure bet. I have managed to reach the Language question
via (3), but it doesn't always happen (and i don't know why... it's in
the code!)

good luck
--dick

Subject:	 before you escape...
Sent:	Friday, June 16, 2000 21:35:06
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
you might put a comment in the Autostar Feedback page (where the comet
problem is discussed) pointing folks to the Autostar Info page where
it's fixed (for those willing to patch)

--dick

here... lemme tell ya how to run your site...

Subject:	 help
Sent:	Thursday, June 15, 2000 21:19:29
From:	garyc@voicenet.com (gary)
Thanks alot for all the info. I think I will buy the etx90 instead of
the 70 I guess I will spend alittle more now instead of getting another
one later. I got on the jc penny site and found the #497 autostar
controller on sale from $179.00 to $99.00 so I bought it still need the
telescope to see anything. Can you tell me if this controller will also
work with the etx60 & etx70 and also the etx125 ?

thanks alot   gary copestake
Mike here: From the Autostar Models page (linked from the Autostar Information page):

The #497 works for the ETX & DS models
The #495 only works for DS models, NOT the ETX.

The ETX models referred to on the page are the -90EC and -125EC.

Don't yet know the compatibility modes of the #494 (which is standard on the ETX-0AT and -70AT models). Also, don't yet know whether the #495 or #497 will work on these new models.


Subject:	 Recent Autostar software releases
Sent:	Wednesday, June 14, 2000 23:41:04
From:	billcollins3@juno.com (William D.  Collins)
Has anyone else found the pointing accuracy of version 2.0h to be POORER
than that of 2.0g? I've switched back and forth a couple of times,
re-aligning several times with each version and using the same drive
training technique. There is no doubt in my mind that for my ETX-125, at
least, 2.0g is better. It's the difference between putting a GoTo object
near the center of the 26mm eyepiece field and having located it just
outside the field.

If this is indeed the case, perhaps the fault lies with the "revised
backlash compensation" code listed in the release notes for 2.0h.

Bill Collins
Mike here: There have been many varied reactions to each release. 2.0i is the latest.

Subject:	 sent to engineer at meade... Icky Comet Ecc's
Sent:	Tuesday, June 13, 2000 22:01:37
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Subject: repeated bug in Autostar firmware v2.0i

that is, it's in there twice.

Autostar 497 and 495, v2.0i (and v2.0h), ETX90/ec 

Abstract: in entering/editing Comet orbits, a test for Eccentricity .ge.
1.0 is performed.
   (a) it shouldn't be: a comet CAN have an orbit equal to (parabolic),
or greater (hyper) than 1.0
   (b) the test is performed twice in succession... for no obvious
reason.
   (c) when Selected for GoTo, the test is .gt. 1.0, so some comets get
Invalid Number then.

Discussion: some TLEs for the forthcoming (bright? please?) LINEAR comet
have the Ecc as "1.0"
  The Autostar won't accept that if entered manually on the keypad.
Looking at the code, you folks do
  Enter Eccentricity
    test that Zero is not greater than the Ecc  (that's ok)
    test that 1.000 is greater than the Ecc   (that's not ok) <- bug

..and then, you -immediately- follow that with the -exact same- test!

    test that Zero is not greater than the Ecc
    test that 1.000 is greater than the Ecc    (still not ok)   <-bug
(2nd copy)
  Enter Argument of Perigee

...
So, the repeated test is not really a "bug", per se', but it's
redundant.

The bug this note is about is the limiting of Eccentricities to -less
than- 1.000,
without even allowing -equal to- 1.000.  
Non-returning comets -will- have Ecc's equal to or greater than 1.0.
Even Comet Hale-Bopp is listed in some charts as having an Eccentricity
of 1.000

Comets loaded by the Uploader don't suffer -that- test,
but are checked to see if their Eccentricities are -greater- than 1.000
when an attempt is made to actually GoTo them.
Hence, comets like C/1997 J2 (Meunier-Dupouy)  with an Ecc of 1.000711,
get Invalid Number when Selected for viewing.

Sincerely,
--Richard Seymour 
rseymour@wolfenet.com

Subject:	Comet LINEAR (C/1999 S4) -- say wha?
Sent:	Friday, June 9, 2000 10:13:14
From:	Stantastic@aol.com
Comet LINEAR (C/1999 S4) has been in the astronomical news of late, and
someone on the Starry Night (software) discussion group had found some
TLE numbers and entered in the orbital parameters, but found that the
path did not match the predicted path he had seen in Sky & Telescope.
Someone a few hours later posted the following info, which he claimed
DID match the S&T graphic (I tried them, and they matched the graphic in
my July issue of Astronomy):

Ecc: 1.000000
Per Dist: 0.766182
Asc Node: 83.15
Arg Per 150.9998
Inclin: 149.3473
Time: 2451752.3979

My curiosity got the better of me, and I thought, "Hey, my handy-dandy
trusty Autostar just so happens to have just that information, so why
not switch the little fella on and take a look?"

So, scrolling to Solar System, then to Comets, I went into the Edit
mode, found C/1997 S4 LINEAR, and began doing ENTERs to read the values
and got the following:

Epoch of El: 26-Jul-2000
Perihelion Dist: +0.765082
Eccentricity: +1.000000
----> then oops!!!
On pressing ENTER I got Invalid Number and couldn't go any further!!

So, I found another comet whose Ecc was NOT +1.000000 and WAS able to
get all the information regarding that comet. Then I decided to find
other comets whose Ecc WAS +1.000000 to see if the problem persisted,
and sure enough it did. Comet T1 McNught-Hrtly, for example, had the
same trouble.

I tried going back into EDIT mode to see if I could enter an Ecc value
of +1.000000 and the Autostar refused to accept it. It would accept
+0.999999, though, but then "automagically" changed some of the other
values. I decided to leave it alone after that, with these new values
showing:

Epoch of El: 26-Jul-2000
Perihelion Dist: +0.765082
Eccentricity: +0.999999
Arg of Per: +151.05194
Lon Asc Node: +083.18336
Inclination: +149.38687
Absolute Mag: +07.00

But on repeated viewing of the new edited numbers, I kept getting
different readings on some of the parameters for each viewing
(Perihelion Dist and Eccentricity both changed from one minute to the
next!!!). I think I recall reading on Mike's sight that other people
have noticed the same type of thing happening. Okay, for the moment I'll
have to accept that (like I really want to?). But what about the
inability to enter an Ecc value of +1.000000? I suppose that's just part
of the problem?

It seems that an Ecc value of +1.000000 CAN be entered during an
Autostar Upload of Ephemerides datafiles, but can't be entered from the
handbox keypad. I did not mess around and experiment with this, since
every time I try to run the Autostar Updater under Virtual PC on my Mac,
I eventually run into a world of nightmares trying to get a successful
uploading session -- until Meade can make this software more "user AND
machine friendly" that will remain a last resort (but, I'm still waiting
impatiently for the next upgrade!!!! -- ironic, isn't it?)

Any insights, comments (or sympathy cards) would be appreciated   :-)

Stan Glaser
stantastic@aol.com

Subject:	 Autostar on on non Meade mount!
Sent:	Thursday, June 8, 2000 09:49:04
From:	andrewj@netvigator.com (Andrew Jackson)
I thought you might want to check this out:-
http://www.apm-telescopes.com/

Click the link to mounts or the photo of the refractor on the main page.
There will be then a description of the Giro mount and the following at
the end. Please take into account that this is not a native English
language site

From APM's page:-
"At this moment we are waiting from MEADE/USA the hardware of the
Autostar computer. This Autostar Computercontrolling will be installed
on the Giro 2 Deluxe mount for automatical tracking and object
searching. We hope to have it ready as a serial production this year
2000 summer time. Meade delayed us by providing the Autostar
hardsoftware."

andrewj@netvigator.com

Subject:	 Autostar tours
Sent:	Wednesday, June 7, 2000 19:40:27
From:	mark@carmine.demon.co.uk (Mark Crossley)
I've just posted a couple of Autostar Tours on the web.

The Caldwell Cruise, and the Double Club.

The Caldwell Cruise is self explanatory.

The Double Club is based on the Astronomical Leagues Double Club
observing list of 100 double/multiples you have to tick off and sketch
for membership.

Get them here:
http://www.carmine.demon.co.uk/astro/astro.htm

Let me know if you use them!

Cheers
Mark

Subject:	 RA/Dec Direct-entry hiccough (sent to meade)
Sent:	Monday, June 5, 2000 22:00:36
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Abstract: if you direct-enter an Alt/Az coordinate pair, and GoTo,
subsequent attempts to enter RA/Dec coordinate pairs encounter problems.

Workaround: GoTo a known astronomical object, then RA/Dec entry work.

Fix: clear the bit valued 4 in 69FD upon receipt of the GoTo.

(yep, just like the :MA# and :MS# interaction)

I haven't looked to see if this exists in the 495, but i suspect it
does.

Environment: 497 ETX Autostar, ETX90/ec, v2.0i. (and 2.0h and earlier)

Demonstration: 
start up the Autostar, 
when it's happy lean on the MODE key to get to RA/Dec display.  
Scroll down once to get to Alt/Az.
Hit GoTo.
You're presented with the Alt/Az entry "screen".
Simply hit ENTER twice and then GoTo 
(sometimes GoTo isn't needed... it takes off right after the second
ENTER...
is that a bug, or a feature?)
The above sequence shouldn't (appreciably) move the 'scope.
NOW: use up-scroll to get to the RA/Dec display.
Do the same thing: hit GoTo to get the "enter RA/Dec" screen,
hit ENTER twice to accept the values being shown....
hit GoTo if necessary...
zoom...  off goes to scope to parts (apparently) unpredictable.

What's happening? the usual: the RA/Dec are being interpreted as Alt/Az
(hence RA=12:00:00 is 180 degrees Az). And they'll continue to be so
until you select a known body from the database and GoTo it. That resets
(clears) the 04 (value) bit in 69FD. And RA's become RA's once again.

enjoy 
--richard seymour
rseymour@wolfenet.com

Subject:	 Serial ETX to Mac question
Sent:	Monday, June 5, 2000 18:41:33
From:	gavin@umich.edu (Gavin Eadie)
Mike ... Your ETX site is wonderful.

I found a couple of references there to the serial connection through 
the Autostar but not the detail I needed.  I use a Mac for my 
personal computing needs, luckily one with a serial port and not USB 
(I notice the Meade site is looking for a software guy with USB 
knowledge!) and want to be able to use it in any way I can with my 
ETX.

Do you know if Meade, or anyone, has published (a) the pinouts for 
the serial connector and (b) the serial protocol for data exchange 
between the Autostar and a computer.  I'm a competent software 
developer for the Mac and would consider writing software to drive 
the ETX if I could connect it.

PS: I blew myself away two nights ago imaging Mercury as a resolvable 
gibbous disk using an ancient QuickCam -- that ETX 
has very fine optics, though the QuickCam has a bit of "image 
bounce"!!

... Gav

________________________________________________________________________

Gavin Eadie // Ramsay Consulting, 507 Second Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
             // (734) 327-0396                ramsaycons@mac.com
Added later:
The Universal Law which states that "Sending E-Mail Makes You Smarter"
just struck again.  I found your Autostar page wherein all manner of
good things reside ...

Subject:	 Seeing with an Autostar
Sent:	Thursday, June 1, 2000 12:28:01
From:	mediacor@poboxes.com (mediacornucopia)
I also have found that the Autostar can assist in the viewing of faint
objects (as Stan Glaser states in his post).

At a recent viewing session with our ETX-90 ECs, my frend and I were
able to see some faint Messier galaxies.  Two factors helped us view
these faint objects:

1. The knowledge that something was there.  It seems people will search
longer and harder if they believe there is something to be seen.  The
scopes easily found globulars and other Messier objects (under fairly
dark exurban skies) so we knew that the object we sought was probably in
the ep field of view after a goto.

2. Moving the scope while viewing.  Often, the object was glimpsed after
moving the scope a bit and then hitting the goto button again.  This
causes the view to slowly slew back to the object.  The "moving" object
was easier to see.

I am not overly concerned about people using robot scopes but not
learning the sky.  Using a telescope, but not learning the sky is better
than not using a scope at all.  Also, I think becomming involved with a
scope will naturally lead people to learn more.  It is clear that some
knowledge about the sky will greatly enhance the use of the ETX, so
there is a an incentive to learn more.

I also own an Astroscan scope which has zero automation but is very easy
to use.  The use of this scope is very different than the ETX (for one
thing it is a "rich field" scope).  It does, however, take much longer
to find faint objects and you are never sure you are looking in the
right place.  (On the plus side, I can more easily find things with this
scope than the ETX without the Autostar.)  Both scopes are very good for
beginners.

R. Jorczak

Subject:	 Most portable computer interface with Autostar?
Sent:	Thursday, June 1, 2000 10:39:59
From:	jdatec@lightspeed.net (Jim D)
There is just a chance I'll be heading to Saudi soon and this question
relates to that and other portability situations. I have a notebook but
lugging it around can cause problems at customs ( duties ) and it's best
to minimize luggage anyway. I'm checking out the smaller portables from
palm Pilot to Libretto for use with Autostar and would like feedback
from anyone using the smaller computers.

Thanks in advance,

Jim Davidson
-- 
jdatec @ lightspeed dot net
http://www.geocities.com/icstars_us/astro
(updated 3/3/2000)

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