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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK - JUNE 1999
Last updated: 30 June 1999

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 upgrade
Sent:	Wednesday, June 30, 1999 20:17:58
From:	SMalin1@aol.com
I just got my Autostar back from Meade. I thought they would install the
newest software version, 1.1M, but mine says 1.1J which Meade installed
from my original 1.0. Have not had a chance to try it. They also
replaced the RA motor system which had a great deal of play. I was
pleased with their service especially so as there was no charge.
Selwyn Malin 
Mike here: You can see the differences in 1.1j and 1.1m on the Autostar Information page.

Subject:	 battery level indicator?
Sent:	Monday, June 28, 1999 16:17:36
From:	Dean@cwdi.com (Dean)
I have seen several people talk about low power levels affecting the
autostar performance.  They have said 50% or some % of charged state. 
Is the battery level availible on the autostar?  Have I missed it in the
utilities or is the battery alarm the only way to tell?  If it is not
included, it should be easy to program for the next version.
Thanks, Dean.
Enjoy your site as always!
Mike here: Hold down the MODE button for a couple of seconds and then release it. A display will appear. You can scroll through the display to see different parameters, including the battery level.

Subject:	 Your Experiences With ETX
Sent:	Thursday, June 24, 1999 23:03:26
From:	Etxowner@aol.com
I, m really looking forward to more of your impressions of your '90EC.
I'm sorry that you weren't able to test the V1.0C autostar in greater
depth before "upgrading" to V1.1. I don, t think V1.1 is any
improvement. Let us know.
Thank You for the time you spend on this great site!

ETX Owner
Mike here: Version 1.1m is much improved over 1.0c, as many users can attest. Stay tuned...

Added later:

Now, regarding V1.1m...I really don't see how you can comment on it when
you really never tested v1.0 and haven't had a chance to use the
"upgrade". I used 1.0c for several months and had no problems. I finally
gave in to the "upgrade bug" and did v1.1. I see absolutely no
improvement. Chris Merriott, the creator of "Sky Map Pro" says of
v1.1,"Avoid it like the plague. Meade has totally screwed up external
computer control, which worked fine with v1.0c". Jeff Nutkowitz, who has
observed more than most people, uses v1.0c and, apparently, has no
problems. For you to say that v1.1 is "much improved" is ridicules.
Until someone who really has some knowledge can tell us what 1.1 does,
I'll continue to believe that Meade put it out just to pacify those for
us who had given up on ever getting any bug fixes. There's a lot of room
for improvement in autostar...I hope Meade gets to it soon. Mike, I
really appreciate the time you give to this website. I mean no
disrespect to you...but I feel that if we don't put a little pressure on
Meade, they'll continue to promise everything and give us not much.
Meade won't even say what v1.1 is supposed to do. Just my opinion.
Mike here: I _did_ use 1.0c and had problems (as I reported on). I have tested 1.1m and have also had problems (not yet reported on in detail). So Meade is testing the ETX-90EC they sent me. Other users have reported that their problems went away once they upgraded. As to what is included in 1.1m, Meade has supplied some information (available on the Autostar Information page on my site).

Subject:	 The Sky Software
Sent:	Wednesday, June 23, 1999 16:37:31
From:	starstorm151@coastalnet.com (Allen Davis)
I am considering purchasing an ETX as a third scope actually.  I have a
homemade 15" Dob on EQ platform, a Genesis, and Binocs.  But I liket the
small size of the ETX and the chance for more portability.  I also have
a new laptop, and would like to ask you a question.  Does the Sky
version 5 interface through the Autostar port and provide full
functionality with with ETX?  Thanks for your time and a very
interesting site....Allen Davis    starstorm151@coastalnet.com

"MIllumino,      " I am enlightened by
 DImmenso."        the immensity."

     -Ungaretti                  -Ungaretti
Mike here: I believe that any software that uses the LX200 command set should be able to control the ETX-90EC and ETX-125EC via the Autostar.

Subject:	 Alt-Az vs Polar for ETX EC telescopes?
Sent:	Wednesday, June 23, 1999 10:29:18
From:	k5dtn@worldnet.att.net (Claude Head III)
I will be purchasing an ETX 'scope in the near future, probably the
125-EC. I have seen concerns about the Meade tripod for this scope. Some
users do not think it is stout enough even for the 90-ec, and the 125-ec
weighs some 18 to 20 pounds. I'm considering a Bogen/Manfrotto tripod
that is rated to carry 20 pounds or a little more. Since the photo
tripods are not set up for polar alignment, I'm wondering if the EC
model 'scopes with the Autostar controller will do a good job of
tracking stellar and planetary objects while in Alt-Az mode. If it will,
this would certaily simplify the job of mounting the 'scope on a Bogen
tripod. I think all I would have to do in this case is mount the 'scope
level and pointing north, then do the training in Alt-Az from there.
Anybody know if this would really work?

Clear skies!

Claude Head
K5DTN
budding astronomer!
Mike here: The Autostar does an excellent job of tracking in Alt/Az mode. If you get the ETX-125EC you would probably be happier with a more heavy-duty tripod than the existing Meade Deluxe Field Tripod.

Subject:	 autostar
Sent:	Wednesday, June 23, 1999 6:18:53
From:	tcostanzo@netway.com (tony costanzo)
I enjoy your website,glad it's back on line. A friend purchased a 90 etx
with autostar and ask me to figure it out for him as this was his first
telecope.The manual was not very helpful, we trained the scope etc, I
spent two solid nights trying to get the go to function to work, only to
realize that It was human error (mine) causing the problem,(I forgot to
press ENTER before pressing GO TO).Any way, I have been able to use the
autostar consistently for about a week, the object is in the field of
view every time.Here are some tips. Buy a two dollar small straight
bubble level, and level the base of the scope in two axis, use the
tripod legs to do this ,place the bubble level on the flat surface where
the R.A. lock is. Position the scope in home position directly above
Polaris,check your position with the polaris by tilting the tube up in
DEC toward Polaris and make sure it is in the field of view, return to
home position.(Level and Locked both axis). Star autostar,enter
date,time,etc.It should slew directly to Vega within a degree or so.
Make your corrections by centering Vega,press Enter, its should begin
calculating the next object and then slew over to it (Spica).Center
Spica using the left right or up down arrows as before press Enter. You
should now be able to punch in object.

Good Luck
Tony C .ATMOB.

Subject:	 Autostar mystery
Sent:	Wednesday, June 23, 1999 3:33:24
From:	dbjarnas@toronto.cbc.ca
First of all, really  glad you're back, Mike.

Secondly, I'm puzzled ...
I've been really careful about training and home positioning and
pointing north ....  but I just dont to be able to get the Autostar
zeroed in on target precisely.

After doing the 2 star alignment it always seems to still be off about
an inch in the eyepiece when  I go to an object. (This is okay if Im
after Mars or something I already know ... but it doesnt do me much good
if Im unsure what Im looking at  or looking for.) Then I fool around
with the sync function lining it up properly ... although the manual on
the web site (as opposed to the one that came with the scope) says not
to do this too much for some reason. I was sort of hoping the more
syncing I did, the more on target the setup would become. Or maybe the
whole setup needs to be broekn in somehow with repeated tries.

Anyway, its not a disaster by any means ... Autostar gets me in the
neighborhood, but not in the eyepiece (although the target does end up
in the viewer)

Maybe I'm expecting too much, but I gathered from other's comments,
their Autostars took them right to the target, bang on every time.

All suggestions, gratefully received.

Dan
Toronto
Mike here: This is similar to what I've seen. In particular, even after upgrading the Autostar to 1.1m, I can't get repeatable GO-TOs. Meade is going to check the ETX/Autostar over and let me know what they find. I'll report back here with the results.

Subject:	 Autostar
Sent:	Tuesday, June 22, 1999 20:00:58
From:	rwlange@PioneerPlanet.infi.net (Roger W. Lange)
I discovered that Ritz Cameras is selling the Autostar in their summer
catalog for $99.95. Thought it was a misprint. Not so. I bought one even
though I didn't have an ETX-EC (yet). It is version 1.1 . Meade wants
$75. to upgrade to 1.1m . The only freebie upgrade is for 1.0 . You can,
of course, upgrade from the web if you have the necessary hardware and
software. There is no way to know if anyone selling them for $150 has a
version that's any newer until you plug it in.
Roger

Subject:	AutoStar
Sent:	Tuesday, June 22, 1999 13:27:40
From:	Etxowner@aol.com
Good to have you back!!

FYI and that of other ETX'ers...Autostars now being shipped no longer
have that nifty little feature which, when autostar asks you to input
the time, the little map light at the bottom of the thing goes on
automatically to illuminate your watch. A small thing, but it did add a
touch of class to AutoStar. Oh well...life goes on.

ETX Owner

Subject:	 ETX/90 EC - Training the drive
Sent:	Tuesday, June 22, 1999 13:02:37
From:	Pierre.Henrotay@skynet.be (Pierre Henrotay)
When training the drive for Autostar use, what is best:
- does it matter to have the scope perfectly level ?
- should I select a reference object nearby or far away
- which ep is recommended: 26 SP or is higher magnification required
  (possibly with Barlow)
- do you know about ep with cross-hair (illuminated or not); is this
  helpful in this case ?

I now managed after several tries/trainings/calibrations to have
successful GOTOs (aligning on Vega and Arcturus, GOTO moon, Venus,
M13...all dead center) BUT tracking is poor: after less than 5 minutes,
the object is out of view with SP26. Can the battery be in trouble (it
now reports 57 %) ?

PS: glad your site is back; I now realized I was checking it almost
every day !
Pierre
Mike here: The ETX does not have to be perfectly level but should be close. And as long as you can focus the object (to ensure it is the same place before and after the drive movement) it shouldn't matter whether the object is close or distant. The higher the power the more precise you can be. Same for using a reticle eyepiece. And things can get a little flakey with the drive if the battery level is below about 80%. At 57% you should change the batteries for accurate GO-TO and tracking.

Subject:	 changing batteries affect
Sent:	Wednesday, June 16, 1999 6:25:57
From:	dbjarnas@toronto.cbc.ca
When you change the batteries on the Meade ETX 90 ... does this wipe
from memory all the initialization data done when the Autostar was first
used?

Thanks again

Dan

----------------------------------------------------------- Dan Bjarnason Canadian Broadcasting Corporation / National TV News Toronto / Canada
Ph: 416.205.7859 / email: dbjarnas@toronto.cbc.ca ------------------------------------------------------------
Mike here: Changing batteries or unplugging the Autostar from the ETX does not erase settings.

Subject:	 Autostar home postion question
Sent:	Wednesday, June 16, 1999 6:11:45
From:	dbjarnas@toronto.cbc.ca
I'm having trouble getting clear exactly where to position the forks.
The Meade manual on the web says:

 5. Rotate the telescope counterclockwise 180 until the Dec setting
         circle is directly above the computer control panel. The
         telescope should now look like position 2 in Fig. 7 and the
         photograph in Fig. 8. Tighten the horizontal lock to a firm
         feel only.

But it doesn't say what the starting point should be when you begin to
rotate it 180 degrees.

I hope you get your web site up and running soon ... it's a Bible.

Many thanks

Dan

----------------------------------------------------------- Dan Bjarnason Canadian Broadcasting Corporation / National TV News Toronto / Canada
Ph: 416.205.7859 / email: dbjarnas@toronto.cbc.ca ------------------------------------------------------------
Mike here: The HOME position is a somewhat nebulous (to use an astronomical term) position. The manual does state the starting point (step #4), which is to put the vertical (DEC) lock over the computer control panel. But I've determined there is a lot of leeway in exactly what this means. There are no markings to indicate a precise HOME position and it is possible to be several degrees off from whatever the ideal position is to be.

Subject:	 Autostar at Ritz for $99.00
Sent:	Monday, June 14, 1999 10:44:31
From:	tjdonovan@worldnet.att.net (Tim Donovan)
In my Sunday paper I rec'd an ad for Ritz Camera's Fathers Day sale. On
back page they had ETX-90EC for $599., and Autostar for $99.00. It did
not specify that they had to be purchased together or anything. The
stores for the ad I rec'd were all New England, but I'd think prices
would be the same in other regions.
Tim

Subject:	 Autostar / Home Position
Sent:	Monday, June 14, 1999 4:41:35
From:	samos@inforamp.net
Can someone please clear up a mystery for me ... when you put the Meade
ETX90 into the home position, what is supposed to be over the computer
panel: the right fork  (the one with the tightening knob) or the left
knob?
Many thanks

      ----------------------------------------
          Dan Bjarnason / Toronto, Canada
                 dbjarnas@toronto.cbc.ca
Mike here: The fork with the DEC setting circle should be over the panel. Meade clarified this in the current Autostar manual online: http://www.meade.com/manuals/autostar/index.html. See Appendix A.

Subject:	 AutoStar 1.1m Results
Sent:	Thursday, June 10, 1999 5:50:22
From:	stargazer46@earthlink.net (Steve Reed)
I really enjoy your site - lots of valuable information. Much more "tell
it like it is" than the sugar coated magazine reviews.

Anyway, I had many problems with the Autostar 1.0 (the worst were in
polar mode) and returned it to Meade to have the version 1.1 update.  I
had a chance to test it 3 nights ago in the alt-az mode, and it worked
great.  I had to do the setup stuff over again as expected.  Outside, I
did the 2 star alignment (Vega and Arcturus) and then proceeded to seek
out well over a dozen different objects (nebulae, galaxies, stars, and
Mars) and every one was in the field of the 26mm eyepiece - most were
close to center.  I'm a happy camper.

We've got rain in the Denver area now so I don't know how long it will
be before I can check out the polar aligned mode.  I don't know how much
I'll use it though, since the alt-az works so well.

I sent the Autostar to Meade since I haven't been able to find anyone
who had the #505 cable in stock so I could do it myself.  They took
about 2.5 weeks to get it done and returned to me.

I had a scare when I first powered up at night - the scope moved about
20 degrees then stopped, and the Autostar displayed a "motor failure"
message.  I started over and got the same result, then everything went
dark.  Since I had 25+ hours on the batteries, I installed a new set,
after which everything worked fine.  It just surprised me that it died
so suddenly and that the message said "motor failure" rather than "dead
batteries".

Thanks for your web site.   Steve Reed.

Subject:	bug: version 1.1m
Sent:	Wednesday, June 9, 1999 12:16:23
From:	LooneyRoo@aol.com
i found a bug in the autostar version 1.1m... for some weird reason,
when i told the scope to go to venus, it slewed exactly opposite to
where venus was in the sky... (venus was high up in the sky, and the
scope was pointing to the ground)

i tried a couple other objects and the same thing happened. i decided
not to turn off the unit and start over, but instead i "parked" the
scope and when the scope was parked i turned it off... i then turned it
back on and used the same alignment that had been programmed before i
turned it off (benefit of "park scope" function) and it worked fine. so
if this problem arises, all you need to do is park the scope and turn it
back on.... all alignment info should still be in the autostar.... you
will need to update the date and time, however. hope this helps some
people... it will certainly save you the time of realigning the scope!!

have you had the time and clear skies to try out the new version yet?

~noah
Mike here: Doesn't sound like a bug exactly. Cosmic Rays??? Still waiting for clear skies at a time when I can get out. We have settled into a nightly fog mode.

Subject:	 Terrestrial objects
Sent:	Wednesday, June 9, 1999 9:59:57
From:	DonMcClelland@webtv.net (Donald McClelland)
Thanks for a terrific site.  I noticed that you've been plagued with
cloudy skies and want to test out the new autostar programing.  Just for
fun you might want to test out the personally programed terrestrial
objects.  It will test the pointing accuracy to some extent and it's
kind of fun.  I have the new autostar programing (1.1) and mine has
worked very well.  Just something to do on a cloudy day.

Clear Skies,  Don

Subject:	flash ram?
Sent:	Friday, June 4, 1999 21:28:56
From:	LooneyRoo@aol.com
i had another quick question about the autostar update... (i know, i
know... it seems like my questions never end) i was wondering if now
that i updated my autostar, if i hit the reset button would the software
go back to v1.0? or would it stay with v1.1? does that first page (0)
that takes so long to load actually change the flash ram? i would simply
test my autostar myself, but after last nights observations i want not
to have to retrain my drive again. not that i'm asking you to reset your
autostar but, i was just wondering if you knew off hand, the answer to
this question. thanks for your help and i hope you get outside
tonight!!!

~noah
Mike here: I don't believe you'll go back to 1.0.

Subject:	AUTOSTAR UPDATE
Sent:	Friday, June 4, 1999 9:55:49
From:	LooneyRoo@aol.com
last time i wrote you, i had questions about how to update the autostar
software. but now i just needed to tell you about how my results were
last night. i spent over two and a half hours pressing GOTO and having
the object in the center of my 26mm... EVERY TIME. i've never had that
much accuracy. i'm usually lucky to have objects in my viewfinder after
a half hour, but last night i felt like i was piloting an LX200 with
smart drive. it was unbelievable. i don't know if this was coincidence
or not... because i know that the etx has sloppy gears (that is probably
not correctable by a software update) but i'm sure it helped.

plus, the new version has a feature that does not allow you to GOTO an
object if it is out of reach of the scope... let me explain, i live too
far south to slew to alpha centauri while in polar mode. i knew it, but
last night the scope new it too. i tried to slew to it to see what would
happen and i got a message that told me to be careful, because i had
just commanded the scope to hit a hardstop. it's virtually impossible to
hit a hardstop with this new version. it gives you the option to go
ahead with the command or to escape from it completely. plus, i guess
this is for bugs, it says that if you think that the scope will not be
hitting a hard stop you can press GOTO again and the scope will begin
slewing. it also tells you that if it is slewing and is on its way to
hit the hardstop that you can press any button to stop the scope. maybe
i'm just easy to impress, but i think that is a great improvement!

another great advance in version 1.1m is the tour mode. no longer does
the scope give you 6 or 7 tour objects... now it gives you like 25. i
didn't really count, but it seemed like the list went on and on. so the
scope is more "amateur friendly" than it used to be.

all in all, i think this is a great software update. although i'm sure
there are bugs, i certainly haven't encountered any yet. so for those
who have the old version, buy a cord or make one yourself, 'cause it is
certainly worth the extra pocket change!

~noah


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