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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
Last updated: 1 April 2000

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 Home Position Zero's
Sent:	Friday, March 31, 2000 11:54:25
From:	tom.craig@reichhold.com (Craig, Tom)
Been away from the site for a number of weeks so this point may exist in
archives but I wanted to pass it along for info.  I have had
periodically poor performance with Autostar pointing, particularly in
putting Jupiter & Saturn in the eyepiece of my 125 (I always use Alt-Az
mode).  By "MODE"-ing out before alignment, I discovered that the
Autostar doesn't always start out (i.e. power-up) with "00's" as it's
default location, which is where the OTA is pointing if you line-up the
Home position with care (most people, myself included, seem to put a lot
of effort into this accuracy).  I have only noticed the Azimuth being
off, usually ~ 25-35 minutes (+ or -). Cycling the power usually
restores all 00's, but it is somewhat random. This much error could be
enough to miss the FOV if everything else was within tolerances. I'm not
sure if this is a factor in accurate pointing for 2-star alignments or
if the alignment math accommodates it.  I would expect problems with
1-star alignments.  Or maybe it's just an interesting anomaly that has
no impact.  Haven't had a chance to see if assuring a 00 start position
helps, since I discovered this on my coffee table last week. I'd be
interested to hear from others if they see the same phenomenon or if I
have a squirrelly #497 (early hardware, current firmware).

Keep up the good work (I'll be pledging soon),
Tom Craig
Added later:
Subject:	 Re: [FW: Autostar Home Position Zeros]
Sent:	Friday, March 31, 2000 15:26:43
From:	ourbabe2usa@netscape.net (Larry Reidnour)
Craig,

Thanks for your response.  So much for the "really locking it down
theory". Just last night, I started off with 2 star alignment.  For the
first star (Spica), as soon as I hit enter, the motors started and the
telescpoe moved at exactly the same time!  That was unusual since there
is always seems to be a slight delay when I hear the motors and the
teloscope actually starts moving (this is I think a large part of the
problem).  Well, my home postion wasn't the best and Spica landed on the
very left edge of the viewfinder.  I centered Spica, then went to
Betelguesse.  Same scenario, then centered.  I figured with that much
adjustment I'd be real lucky to nail anything, especially with the
problems I had been having.  Wouldn't you know it, nailed my first 4
objects in the 26mm eyepiece!.  I decided to start over again, this time
with the telescope pointing exactly North.  Both stars arrived during
alignment actually to the left in the 26mm eyepiece resulting in very
little adjustment. This time however, I noticed that initial delay in
going to Spica, the first alignment star.  In going to Betelguesse, no
delay.  I centered both perfectly and thought I had the best of
alignments.  Goto Alphard.........lands just like previous times, just
outside fov of the 26mm eyepiece to the right.  In looking through the
viewfinder ( I have said this a million times before)  I have the cross
hairs running perfectly vertical/vertical and horizontal/horizontal. 
Alphard landed perfectly on the horizontal cross-hair just to the right
of dead center.  Again, the vertical axis positioning is perfect, but
everything is off to the right outside of fov.  I have been through this
night after night after night, and I just pack it up and take it inside
frustrated.  That one little fluke I had last night was truely
enjoyable.  There is something defenitely up with the horizontal
positioning and it is getting really frustrating.  Just wish I knew if
it is hardware or software.  I don't want to send back to Meade again
for another 6 weeks.  Let me know if you come with anything on this. 
Thanks!

"Craig, Tom" (tom.craig@reichhold.com) wrote:
> Larry,
> 
> I sent this to Mike today for posting, then noticed your recent messages.
> Your experiences with alignment sound similar to mine.  This (below) may
> figure in too.  I share your perspective on the horizontal lock- I am gonna
> try your trick.  I haven't been able to get the scope out in a few weeks,
> but I'll post any new improvements.
> 
> Tom Craig
> Raleigh, NC

Subject:	Autostar 2.0i update report (into the Lion's Den once again!)
Sent:	Thursday, March 30, 2000 09:49:11
From:	Stantastic@aol.com
Having already performed an "uneventful" (meaning: almost everything
worked as expected) update to 2.0h a number of weeks ago, when 2.0i was
introduced, I decided to hold off a while. What, a couple of fixes for
the Portugese language and the focuser (which I don't have yet), so why
bother? Then I thought I read somewhere on Mike's site that somebody
found even better backlash compensation and better tracking with the
2.0i version vs. 2.0h (my mistake?), so why the hell not.

And with Dick Seymour's "hh:mm" to "hh:mm:ss" patch, I could "kill two
birds..."

I performed the easy (-- danger, danger --) patch to the 2.0i
Autostar.ROM file on my Mac (thanks Dick!). Moved the new Autostar.ROM
and Dbase.ROM files to VirtualPC, and attempted the update.

All went well until page 28 (some "couldn't erase bank xx" error message
or something). Damn!! (I actually said "shit" but decided some
youngsters may be reading this website, so I decided to hold off on the
profanity). Was it Dick's patch? Nah!! I trust him with my Autostar's
life!! Clicked "OK" through the dialogs (Meade gives you no other
choices, of course!) Updater tried to "Initialize the Handbox" and then
everything froze. Okay -- curiosity said to check the handbox anyway.
Hey, it seemed to work, although characters seemed to be a little
"sluggish" to appear on the display. And sure enough, there was version
2.0i!! Did it really work? I did a real quick fakeout on the handbox and
tried to force a satellite tracking session. Dick's patch DID work!!
There was the rise time in hh:mm AND seconds!! Yes!! Then menued down to
a star, selected it, and then tried to get info on it (RA, Dec, mag,
etc.) -- uh, oh!! Instead of characters scrolling across the screen I
found large red rectangles  moving from right to left!!! OH, NO!!! It
didn't work. Dick's patch? Nah, couldn't be.

So, I tried to do the update all over again. This time, it stopped and
froze at page 14 with the same type of error ("couldn't erase bank xx").
Alright, screw this. So, I went into "SAFE LOAD" and ALSO went back to
the original 2.0i files (before Dick's patch) (don't try this at home:
this is not the logical way to solve a problem by messing with two
parameters at the same time!!) Well, the third attempt was successful --
the 2.0i version is installed, and I also was able to get all 5 guided
tours loaded.

On the third attempt, I SHOULD have tried to reload Dick's patched
version while doing a SAFE LOAD, thus affecting only one parameter. I
know Dick's patch works, because he said it does, and someone else tried
it and it worked, too. And it "seemed" to work on my controller; so, no
fault of Dick's!!

Could have been the updater, could have been VirtualPC, could have been
alignment of the stars, the weather, cooties -- who knows!!
"Consistency" is not something Meade's Updater software has a grasp on.

But what is beginning to irk me even more is this: Why does it take
almost 30 minutes to perform these updates???? There's a direct-connect
between the handbox and the computer serial port -- a "memory to memory"
transfer, as it were. Not even the disk drive has to get in the way,
here. And the amount of storage in the controller isn't that much -- so
why the incredibly long transfer sessions? Multiply that by 3 (the
number of attempts I needed to get it to work), and I used up 1.5 hours
of my time!!! I think I'll send Meade a bill.

Stan Glaser
stantastic@aol.com
Mike here: As to the speed of the update, partly due to communicating at 9600 Baud (if anyone remembers that term; if not, 9.6kbps). Slow. Maybe Meade will move to USB or perhaps even Firewire! ;-)

And a response from Dick:

From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
what?  my patch cause problems?
i resemble that remark...

When doing a download, the Updater first commands that the Autostar
erase its memory pages. Then it verifies that the erasure happened by
checking for the known data pattern.

If either the erase takes too long, or the verification fails, the
Updater cries for help and cowers in the corner. Multiple passes might
eventually have gotten a sticky bit wiped.

> takes too long If you -clone- a pair of Autostars, i think it
negotiates a 125 kbaud (really!) connection.  So thirty minutes becomes
about three.... (that's why i asked if anyone had ever -done- it)

I've oft wondered why the Updater doesn't try that... (could my UART do
125kbaud?)

--dick (300-baud fingers in a 100-megabit world...)
gee... maybe we can have a Seattle-area Clone fest...

Subject:	 Satellite TLE extraction
Sent:	Tuesday, March 28, 2000 09:21:48
From:	rmariotti@excite.com (Carrie and Ron Mariotti)
What process do you use to extract/update the TLE's for the visible
satellites off of the Heavens-above web site? I used to lookup each
satellites orbit data and manually enter into Autostar Updater. Then I
realized that the drag and drop feature might work better. So, I started
copying and pasting the orbit data into a blank text file that I could
drag and drop. I then realized that the new orbit data wasn't getting
replaced in the Autostar -- oh, you've got to delete the
LibSatellite.ROM file before running Autostar Update (thanks Dick!).
Still a very manual process, so I wrote a program that will scan through
the html code of the visible satellite page, compare the satellite
catalog numbers to a TLE file that contains many current TLE's (like
Alldat.tle from Mike McCants' Satellite Tracking web site), then creates
a TLE file of just the satellites for that night that I can load into
Autostar. You can use any base TLE file you want like the visual.tle
file from OIG, although it doesn't contain all of the TLE's that are on
the visual satellite page.

Have I wasted my time? Is there an easier method?

Thx,
Ron M.
Gainesville, VA

P.S. I can also provide program if you like.
Mike here: Does the "Drag and Drop using Autostar application" page not answer your question? Also, send program; I'll put it on the Autostar Information page.

Subject:	Re ETX125
Sent:	Monday, March 27, 2000 23:19:43
From:	Jowich@aol.com
I have been a regular reader of your site and have recently purchased a
ETX125. I live in the UK and obtained the scope in the UK.

I want to know two things if possible:
1. What is the polarity on the 12vDC connector on the base of the
telescope?I have a suitable power supply and all I need to know is which
way round the polarity is on the connector.
2. I need a lead to connect the autostar to a computer to do the
software downloads. I have all the parts I need for this but need a
wiring diagram. Do you have one or is there one on your site that I have
missed?

Thanks
John Chuter
Somerset UK
Mike here: According to reports, the center is positive. As to a cable, check the Autostar Information page on my site.

Subject:	 Satellite Order
Sent:	Monday, March 27, 2000 14:29:33
From:	rmariotti@excite.com (Carrie and Ron Mariotti)
Do you know what order the satellites are in the handbox? I see then
alphabetically in the Updater but not in the handbox. Anyway to sort on
upload?

Ron M.

Subject:	 Parking the Scope...
Sent:	Sunday, March 26, 2000 21:38:21
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
R.A. Gonzales of Albuquerque, New Mexico wrote complaining about Park's
operation.

Well, I saw this question about one of my  favorite Autostar functions,
and i just had to comment.

Yes... when you "Park" the scope, there's no way (other than power
off/on) to escape the message. But... when you turn it back on, AND if
it really was in Home position, and you haven't moved it,  you do NOT
have to realign it! It won't even -ask- to be aligned! That's the Beauty
and Purpose of "Park". and if you do move it...

I use it all the time (in my satellite testing, sometimes many times an
hour...). Even though my scope is just plopped on a railing for
observations. I -mark- the railing (pieces of masking tape with ink
marks) and the ETX's base (tape and ink marks.. which line up with the
railing's marks).

Then every night, i just put the base down among the tapes, spin the
base until the ink marks line up, and turn it on... it goes directly
from  Date and Time to Select Object...

I do not unclamp the Alt and Az knobs between sessions (well...
sometimes the Alt, but that can be re-set with the degree markings)

At some point during my observing session i GoTo a real star to verify
alignment. (sort of a backwards Single-Star Align)... I try to use
something about 40 degrees above my horizon (Sirius is easy). If i'm off
in Altitude, i unclamp the Alt  and fix it. If i'm off by Azimuth... i
rotate the base on the tabletop.

The Park program in the Autostar ends with a   "Here: goto Here" endless
loop.

Park... it's your friend, not your enemy. (and it's much friendlier than
some of the pre-v2.0h bugs which could cause the ETX to grind into the
stops)

It's not actually that easy to accidently reach, either... so why change
something that isn't broken?

--dick

Subject:	 Synopsis: to-the-second satellite rise times for 495 Autostars
Sent:	Sunday, March 26, 2000 15:29:30
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Well, it took almost a week of two-way messages and an unknown number of

download attempts on the part of Carrie and Ron Mariotti, but, as their
note said: we've succeeded.

What was a quick two-byte patch for the 497 Autostar (eventually) became
a quick 3-byte patch for the 495.

Unpack the 495's v2.0i Rom kit. (or, if you've already installed it, get
into ProgramFiles>Meade>Autostar>AutostarUpdate) copy the autostar.rom
file to somewhere safe (so you can restore the original if need be). Now
binary-edit the autostar.rom file. Change bytes  59510(hex) and
59524(hex)  from 84 to 6F Add a new byte at the very end of the file
with the value 2A Save the results as autostar.rom Fire up the Updater
and perform a "Send to Autostar [new software]"

That's it... when you ask it to Select a Satellite for tracking, the
display which used to say:  Sat Rise 8:10 PM will now say:  Rise 8:10:24
PM (the word "Sat" scrolled off the screen to the left).

The binary editor I use is "frhed", a freeware originally picked up
zdnet, and also available from its author at
www.tu-darmstadt.de/~rkibria

And, to recap for 497's:  change your autostar.rom file bytes 0594FC 
(hex) and 059510 (hex)  from  "4C"  to "37" (all hex) Those 497 patches
are valid for v2.0g/h/i

--dick

Subject:	 Re: Success!!!!!! Satellite Rise Time in hh:mm:ss for 495 Autostar
Sent:	Saturday, March 25, 2000 20:54:54
From:	rmariotti@excite.com (Carrie and Ron Mariotti)
To:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
The last paragraph of your last message was the key. We needed to alter
the file so that the checksum matched the original one to get by the
Autostar Update Validation. Here's what I did:

-Using the ORIGINAL Autostar.Rom file for the 495 ("wierd version"), I
changed the bytes 59510 and 59524 from 84 to 6F.
-I tried to add 2A to the byte you suggested (3320, I think), but you
get 129, not 29 and the checksum was not the same as the original. The
carried "1" needs to be included to get the checksum back in "check."
-So, I thought, why don't I add a byte (2A) to the end of the file. Yes,
it changes the file length slightly but I took the chance that the
Autostar would ignore the extra info.
-Started uploading.... passed validation, but immediately gave me an
error that it "could not validate the Dbase.Rom file."  Huh? I replaced
my Dbase.Rom file with the original one from Meade and began upload
again.
-Passed both test and asked me if I wanted to keep my ephemeride data
and I said "Yes." Upload proceeded to conclusion without any hiccups.


Preliminary test look good. Aligned o.k., seems to track well, and when
I attempted to track a satellite it gave me the Rise Time in hh:mm:ss
format! Looks like we kicked this one's butt! Good job Dick, I knew you
couldn't be beaten. Thanks for all the help!

Subject:	 Sat Track Bug... Satellites don't take 90 degree turns
Sent:	Saturday, March 25, 2000 20:09:10
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Ya know?
Just when you think things have settled down and are working more or
less as expected, the Autostar (or the sky, or something... i think it's
called "life") sticks its little foot out, and trips you silly.

I did two satellite tracks on the evening of the 24th... the first was a
medium-successful (my standards are rising) one of MIR... i didn't -see-
it until well into the pass (bright twilight), but then was able to keep
it within the eyepiece's field of view well enough to slap in the Barlow
for an effective 13mm (~90 power) view. Well, no details appeared.. i
was far too busy correcting the path (workload doubles).

Then, as the satellite arced to the southeast, the tracking -stopped-
(with a beep). I'd hit the predicted LOS altitude! I shiftetd hands and
put two fingers to work on the Autostar and managed to reacquire and
keep MIR in view until it passed behind a nearby building.

Wow!
(a note has been sent to Meade requesting:
"please track to zero altitude, or to no higher than 10 degrees")

So i set up for the next satellite, due in ten minutes... And, although
i never -saw- the satellite (naked eye, binoculars, ETX), the track the
ETX performed stopped me in my tracks. Clean startup and rise, neat
pirouette at zenith, (tube actually a bit -past- 90 degrees up) (hmm,
too high sez i, should only be 82 degrees up) and then the stop and
track downward... due North! (when it should have been ESE).

The next day, i duplicated conditions, and yep, it still happens (even
indoors!). The bug report has been submitted.

Always a million surprises, yep... you betcha...

It's such a cute lil' tyke...

clear skies
--dick
---------------------
...sent to engineer@meade.com:

Abstract: Satellite Track took 90 degree turn as it passed zenith.
(satellites don't do that!)

Environment: 497 Autostar, v2.0i firmware, ETX90/ec telescope.
Site: Seattle (using Autostar's City choice... Long: 122.3, Lat: 47.6)
Date/Time:  24-mar-2000   7:15pm PST
Alt/Az mounting.

What happened: set up to track a Delta 2 rocket.  (TLE below)
Pass was predicted for about 7:20pm PST.
Pass was predicted by heavens-above to go from rising in the
west-north-west,
 passing nearly overhead (82 degrees Alt) to the north, then into the
Earth's shadow to the ESE.
The Autostar prediction was for AOS in  the WNW, and LOS at Az 164.
I told it GoTo, it slewed to the correct location, and waited.
Since i didn't -see- the satellite, i hit Enter to start the track.
It performed properly, up until it as pointing straight up.
As expected, it then slewed the Az clockwise... but stopped pointing due
North,
at which point it started bringing the Alt down.
Mouth agape, i let it continue until it beeped for LOS.
I was afraid it'd stripped a gear or something, so
I leaned on the Mode key to see where it -thought- it was pointing.
More or less due north... Az 003 degrees., Alt 16 degrees. (the
predicted LOS alt).
I then asked it to GoTo Polaris... and it did.
I asked it to GoTo Sirius...and it did.
So it -knew- where it was, and hadn't lost alignment.

The next day i reset the time and date to match the above (7:15pm), and
tried it again.
After the Sat Track Calcs were finished, i checked the AOS and LOS to be
similar
to expected (AOS at roughly 330 degrees AZ, LOS at 164 degrees).
I hit Enter and it duplicated the 24th's performance... track OK to
zenith, then, while
slewing the Az angle, it stopped at due North and began tracking down.
This time i was able to note that the Az continued to slowly move
clockwise,
which is probably why it ended up at 3 degrees Az when it beeped for
LOS.
(ok, ok... it's a 160 degree turn)

So: it's repeatable.  Please look into. Please fix.

Delta 2's TLE:  Epoch: 2000  Day: 082.15514108  Incl: 052.8845
 RA Asc: 001.3750   Ecc: 0.0350984    Arg peri: 095.8026
  Anomaly: 268.3081   Mean Motion: 15.15982603

Heavens-above URL for track info:
http://www.heavens-above.com/PassDetails.asp?Size=600&SatID=25310&lat=47.67&lng=-122.33&alt=0&loc=seattle&TZ=PST&Date=36610.1404925498

Your faithful reporter,
--dick

Subject:	 Autostar "Park Scope" feature
Sent:	Friday, March 24, 2000 13:09:19
From:	guest@unm.edu (Law School)
I've had my ext 90 for about three months now, and am just getting
around to playing with some of the lesser-used features of the Autostar.
The deeper you go into the menus, the more you find. Unfortunately for
me, I found the "Park Scope" feature, which (I know, I know) is to be
used when the scope's permanently mounted and won't be moved).  But, I
figured, what the heck, let's see what it does.  So I hit "Enter" and
the readout tells me that the scope is indeed parked and instructs me to
turn off the computer.  Well, I hadn't really wanted to park my scope (I
was, after all, just foolin' around).  I assumed there must be some way
to undo the feature, like maybe punch the "mode" key. But no, nothing,
nada.  It was parked and seems to want to stay parked, which means that
it thinks (much as I hate to anthropomorphize a mere machine) it knows
where it is in the universe and won't let me align it.  I know that it
will tell me that the chicken coop across the way is Jupiter.

My query:  is there an easy way to "unpark" this puppy?  Or do I have to
reset the Autostar and start over?  I love this thing, but sometimes
it's got a mind of its own.

Thanks for your help,

R.A. Gonzales
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Mike here: According to the Autostar manual: "NOTE: When the Park Scope option is chosen and the display prompts to turn off the telescope power, Autostar is unable to be returned to operation without turning the power off and then back on." So, there doesn't appear to be a way to unpark without losing the alignment. Suggest writing to engineer@meade.com and suggest there be a cancel park method.

Subject:	 Patching the 495 code... difficult.
Sent:	Thursday, March 23, 2000 20:13:03
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Attempts to patch the v2.0i autostar.rom for the 495 (lesser) Autostar
have produced complaints from the Updater.
Specifically:
    "Autostar.Rom file could not be validated"

Apparently (and visibly, if you look at the ROM files) there's
additional checksum-like information in the 495's rom file which is
-not- in the 497's.

What a pain.

I don't have a 495 (still seeking donations... or loans... or cheap
purchase if you don't like yours anymore...),  so i cannot test things
-in hardware- myself.

But we're workin' on it...

The dbase.rom file may also have this quirk, but i haven't played much
in there.

--dick (grump)

Subject:	 Re: Sat-Rise Time Display for #495
Sent:	Wednesday, March 22, 2000 20:40:00
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Well.. that went faster than i thought (but weirder)

I downloaded the 495 "roms20i.zip" file and unpacked it.
And it's -different- than the 497's in strange ways
(among other things, the 495's has "2.0a" at the very beginning,
and a couple of subtle offsets within the file.
 It may have been a
 bad download on my part, but...hmmm...)
Anyway: the locations to change are the same: 594FC and 59510 (hex)
The -contents- are different.
They should now have  84 (hex) in them.
That should be changed to 6F (hex).

(to feel safer:
 the preceding bytes are       bd 1f 0a 04 b9 84
 when you're done, they'll be  bd 1f 0a 04 b9 6f )
                                       here---^^
Remember to make a backup copy of the original autostar.rom  file.
Good luck,
please report how it goes
--dick

oh: on the not off chance that you get the "weird" file, too,
The offsets  become:

Patch locations 59510 and 59524 (hex)
The numbers -found- (and to be put) there are as above.

It's sheer chance that the "59510" appears in both "normal" and "weird".
--dick
Added later:
Carrie and Ron Mariotti wrote:

> "Autostar.Rom file could not be validated"
>
> Thanks for the info! Made the changes to the file (had the wierd offset
> one). But I keep getting this message when installing "New Software." Tried
> saving in both Motorola and Intel formats, but still same error. Any ideas?
> I am assuming that the Autostar Update program is trying to validate using
> checksums or something.

It does sound like there's a checksum fighting you/us. I have patched
-my- 497, and it downloaded (and works) happily. Since i don't have a
495 to play with (offers gratefully accepted!), i can't test anything
directly.

(saves are done "normally" ... just pull in the binary, do the patch,
put it out.)

As the "affected customer" -you- might send a note to engineer@meade
describing what you're trying to do, and why.
Give them a variety of "acceptable" solutions.
 (such as: provide checksum algorithm so we can keep the uploader happy,
  provide (in Expert mode?) override for validation, or
  provide to-the-second Sat Rise predictions)
Certainly a major factor in keeping -me- happy with the ETX/Autostar
-are- the downloads, with the ability to minor-patch operations which
don't suit me.  If they removed that (unintended) feature, i'd rethink
ownership. (of course, they might -prefer- to get me out of their hair)

good luck
--dick

Subject:	 two simple questions
Sent:	Tuesday, March 21, 2000 21:30:16
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Has anyone out there ever used the Autostar's "Clone" feature?
(which lets you update/download -another- Autostar from yours).

If so, did it work -surprisingly- quickly?
 (like, about 3 minutes instead of 30)

(i guess an obvious middle question should be "did it work at all?")

(i have -not- managed to see two Autostars within the same room).

Just curious...
--dick
Mike here: I haven't cloned. Me nor the Autostar.

Subject:	 MIR spec in the eyepiece
Sent:	Tuesday, March 21, 2000 21:07:23
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
Egad... it worked! (within reason)

At 7:30 PST 21-Mar, the ETX90, Autostar, Seattle weather and i all
finally got it together to do a full track (well, almost) of MIR across
the sky. Corrections were needed throughout the pass, but i could
probably have dropped in my Barlow (excrutiatingly -just- out of reach)
and kept it within view. I lost it (couldn't swap my fingers' correction
inputs) as it got near the top of its NW-to-SE pass, but the tracking
kept it within the viewfinder, so it was easy to nail the crosshairs on
it and resume eyepiece following. I then easily kept it within the
eyepiece until it went into the Earth's shadow.

It was -far- larger than Mars, maybe the size of Saturn's planet in the
26mm. Details and/or shape could not be seen. It appeared a fairly
crisp, bright, round-but-not-circular object.  It was about mag -1.2 A
five minutes earlier similar-track pass of Cosmos 2367 was a complete
washout... I couldn't locate the satellite at all visually or
telescopicly during its entire mag 2 pass (as usual.. i was rushed and
didn't have the binoculars with me)

finally
--dick (exhausted)

Subject:	 2.0i download
Sent:	Tuesday, March 21, 2000 11:12:36
From:	jpswann54@netscapeonline.co.uk (jpswann54)
I had the same problem as Larry O. Stopped at page 27 and message said
"initialising Autostar handbox". Then nothing except one fried Autostar.
There was a message saying something about the ROM files not being the
correct size. Could this be because I downloaded the AUOT>ZIP file which
contains the Update version 2.1 and the ver 2.0h ROM files and then
substituted the ver 2.0i ROM files? I don't think this should cause a
problem.

--
John Swann, Rosemary Cottage, Mill Pond Lane,
West Ashling, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 8DY, UK
Tel/Fax: +44 1243 575611
Mobile:  +44 411 005364
Mike here: I don't think that's the problem unless you mixed up the Autostar.ROM and the dbase.ROM files. I think they have to be the same version.

Added later:

Thanks, but definitely did not mix up the files. Managed to retrieve
Autostar using Safe Load and uploaded ver 2.0h with no problem. Then
tried to upload with the ver 2.0i ROM files and again had the same
problem. There must be a bug with these files. At time of writing cannot
get Autostar back into Safe Load. Maybe it needs to cool down. Then I
shall stick with 2.0h.

Subject:	 Polar alignments and getting the RA drive driving...
Sent:	Monday, March 20, 2000 23:08:37
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
As far as i can tell, you can short-circuit the alignment procedure in
two ways:

(1) the previous time you use the scope, end the session by selecting
Utilities>Park Scope.

That'll run the scope to Home position, and then ask to be turned off.
It will also -remember- that you've done that, and will -not- ask for
alignment the next time you turn it on.

Then just select any Stellar object (or planet), and it'll go there and
kick on the RA drive.  Polaris will do.

(2) If it's sitting there asking for alignment, just try using the Mode
key to back out of that section, and then try to GoTo a star or planet.
You should have the scope in the "home" position before doing that.

If it refuses during method (2), you can take the third course: Tell it
to Park. It should go (or remain at) Home, and ask to be turned off. Do
so.  Count to ten, and turn it back on. You'll now be in situation (1),
above, and ready to go(to).

The above methods all work in Alt/Az.

Autostar versions before 2.0h would (among other things) not properly
switch between Asteroids/comets to Landmarks and back (they'd use the
"back" object's "RA and  Dec" as "Az and Alt"...  wham! into the stops).

good luck
--dick
(who doesn't run in Polar Mode)

Subject:	 ETX-90
Sent:	Monday, March 20, 2000 13:56:17
From:	rllewis@earthlink.net (Robert L. Lewis)
Will the autostar track objects in polar mount mode without aligning it
first?  The standard controller that comes with the ETX-90 will do that,
but I can't figure out how to make the autostar do it.

-- 
Robert Lloyd Lewis 
Mike here: Well, you have to run through the basics of the alignment and depending upon how well you do it, the better (or worse) the results will be.

Added later:

But how do you start the tracking motor running?
Mike here again: Once you complete the rough alignment and the Autostar says "Align Successful" the RA tracking will begin. Of course, your rough alignment has to be good enough that the Autostar thinks you centered the right alignment star(s).

Subject:	 Strange Happenings with the (i) upgrade
Sent:	Sunday, March 19, 2000 18:06:52
From:	larry.oconnor@home.com (LARRY O)
As I bang my head against the wall, I thought I should pass along my
"Strange Happenings" when attempting to upgrade from the (h)version,
(which worked well for me), to the NEW and IMPROVED (i).  Downloaded and
expanded the .rom files and started the "routine" upgrade procedure.
Everything is OK until update page 27 is reached, at which time the
message appears that the Autoatar is being "Reinitialized".  This
results in the Autoatar display blanking and the system locking-up.  No
keys respond, except the dreaded "ATL-Ctrl-Del".(System Reboot
necessary)  No problem, say I, I'll just revert to the "safe mode" and
start over.  Well it seems that the safe mode is now Titled "Flash Mode
Ready". Ehhhhhh.... No Autostar keys respond. Is this the "Safe
Mode"???? This would seem to be a good time start the "Autostar Update"
programe again, so away it goes.  This time when page 27 is reached it
gives the same message as before but nothing happens with the Autostar,
display still "Flash Mode Ready".  System is again locked-up.  By now
I'm thnking I must have missed something so go through entire exercise
again, with the same result.  Still cannot get Autostar back on
line.....  In frustration, I delete all the sownloaded files, and
re-acquire the (h) files with the 2.1 downloader from the Meade site.
The page 27 problem still occured, however, this time, the Autostar did
a re-initialization and asked for location etc. Indoor trials (It's
raining, that's why it seemed a good time to upgrade) appear to show
that the GO_TO's are at least where expected and alignment (although not
real)were as expected.  Strange occurences around the "Day of the
Wearing of the Green". Is this a common problem, or am I just "LUCKY"
because my name is "O'Connor"????

I obviosly hesitate to go through this again, unless I can determine
where I (or IT) went wrong.  Any input would be helpful.

Larry O'Connor
larry.oconnor@home.com
Mike here: I don't recall any reports like this with the 2.0i upgrade. Perhaps you have a corrupted download. Have you tried to get a fresh copy from Meade's site and install it?

Subject:	 Re: Philosophical backlash question
Sent:	Friday, March 17, 2000 19:16:18
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Paul Luckas asked about backlash.

>If I'm not mistaken the RA encoder 'wheel' is mounted directly onto the

>small motor shaft - and not at the end of the drive train (gear box) or

>even the telecope polar shaft. Therefore how does it know there is
>backlash in the gears / shaft ?

>Think about it.
I do... every night i use the blasted thing...

The answer is fairly simple: *You*, dear reader, -tell- it about its
system backlash  when you "Train" the drive.

You point at a distant, unmoving object. It slews left, then half-way
back .. then -you- (oh, biological optical sensor and pattern-recognizer
that you are) continue the motion until the target is (re)centered. The
cycle is repeated to the right. Then up, then down (or is it down, then
up?). With each pair of motions, it (hopefully) moves far enough to
overcome the backlash, and then can measure by -your- input how much
remains. (it'd be fun if it came back -all- the way if it assumed Zero
backlash. That would let us -see- how far off it really is.)

>I'm thinking the only backlash it compensates for is 'motor' backlash.
Nope... your eyeball brings the entire system into (free)play...

> Call me paranoid if you wish, but is 'backlash compensation' a
consiracy?    :-)))
yes... and it cunningly induces -us- into the plot...

--dick

Subject:	 Satellite Pass Timing: variations on a fugue...
Sent:	Thursday, March 16, 2000 22:09:39
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
(with a special treat if you read the whole thing...)

Well, this started out looking like a -really- bad bug in the Autostar
program. The first one to finally get me to say with anger: "come ON,
Meade!" But it turned out to just be a surprisingly weird quirk.

Namely: satellite pass predictions change with repeated calculation
requests.

On Tuesday evening, a glance at www.heavens-above.com showed that MIR
was going to pass over Seattle at about 8:08 pm. The skies were
clearing, so I turned on the ETX indoors, to see how far off Autostar
called the pass. It wasn't too bad, only two minutes late (8:10), quite
possibly due to the higher Altitude the Autostar seems to like to
"Acquire" satellites.

So i head outside and poke around, enjoying Jupiter and Saturn and just
general star-crusing. Clouds, of course, were masking the western lower
edge of the sky, where MIR would appear.

It was getting along towards 8:02, so i once more did
Select-Object-Satellite-Select-MIR-Enter. And, after the usual spinning
characters, it declared PASS L (blank) Huh? 10 minutes at 35f shouldn't
be -that- tough on it.

Anyway, the display cleared to "Sat Rises 8:11pm" WHAT?  A different
-time-?  I scroll thru the Sat Sets, AOS Az, AOS Alt etc. They're all
"reasonable", but different from the numbers i'd gotten indoors. (AOS is
"acquistion of satellite", if you haven't played here before).

I tell it GoTo, it slews west, and starts counting down the time. At the
web-predicted time MIR just breaks clear of the clouds, a few degrees
south of where the ETX is pointing. I hit Enter to start the track. Mad
flurries of panning and sweeping (ok, ok.. i -should- get a Daisy sight
for this stuff) fail to get it in the field of view, as we watch MIR
skip in and out of the clouds.

Then back indoors to have a "little chat" with the Autostar.

I start having it run and rerun the calculations for the pass. I had
-assumed- the cause of the difference was due to the time of day the
calculation was performed. It wasn't.  I could *not* get the Autostar to
produce the same results twice. (see table, below) I used both power-off
and Setup->Time to change the clock around to look for those effects. I
eventually found i could simply do Satellite->Select->Mir->Enter twice
(or thrice or four times...) in a row, and each time i'd get differing
AOS Alt/Az. Even the time would drift between 8:10 and 8:11. In the
Satellite prediction screen, they only show time to the next earliest
minute (yes, they truncate, not round).

I was stunned... where the predictions wrong? random? what??

I penned (ok, ok...keyed) a loonnng note to Meade... but refrained from
sending it until i could do more isolation of the problem. I had the
scope slew to the AOS points, then used the Mode key to get the RA and
Dec of where it was looking. I then plotted those numbers against the
detailed sky chart from heavens-above. I picked up a piece of polar
graph paper and plotted the Alt/Az numbers.

The Alt/Az numbers all fell along a straight line... I overlaid that
upon the heavens-above chart. It was a close (not exact) fit to the
predicted orbit!

Whoa!  The Autostar was -right-, but different for each calculation?
Computers ain't supposed to *DO* that!

Now, exactly -why- this happens i do not know (yet!).

But, then i realized this could be useful.... as the table below shows,
this gave me the choice of dismissing a "too high" AOS point, and
retrying for a calculation which might give me a nice lower (Alt) AOS
target....

I have rearranged the chart to show the results as MIR progresses along
its orbit. The first column of numbers are the order in which i actually
did the tests.

If interested, try this yourselves.  Simply find a satellite the
Autostar thinks will appear within the next 6 hours.  Hit Enter to run
the calculations,  then use the scroll up/down keys to see (write down)
the AOS values. Then simply use the Mode key to retreat up to
Satellite-Select, re-select the same satellite, and hit Enter again. The
-time- may report the same, but use the scroll keys again and i'll bet
that the AOS Alt/Az's have changed.

This evening (16th) i tried it for real... a MIR pass was predicted for
7:13. Autostar first predicted 7:22 and AOS Alt of 23 degrees. A second
cycle through the calculation got 7:19 and 16 degrees... -much- better.
Although the -time- was off, the positioning seemed good. Heaven Above's
chart shows time-ticks along the orbit, and my watch is set to WWV. As i
waited out the last five minutes i was, once more, impressed at how
-quickly- Seattle can go from Clear to Fully Overcast.

The entire NW sky disappeared behind clouds.

Oh, well, I hit "enter" at my predicted time (7:16:40) for MIR to be
where the scope was pointing. I watched the barrel swing slowly up, then
begin tracking eastward. Over 70% of the pass, the skies were socked
in... but there was one small hole towards the east. (yes, small...maybe
two moons tall and 5 moons wide) But the scope was swinging that way.
Also towards a nearby obstruction. Frequent readers will know i've got
four "stations" marked with tape marks to allow me to move the ETX
without having to realign it. I did a "moving move".. as the scope
continued to track, i picked up the base and relocated to a spot on the
east side of that obstruction. And... YES! MIR passed across the hole in
the clouds! The scope wasn't -dead- on it, (MIR wasn't in the eyepiece,
and the obstruction blocked me from using the viewfinder (gotta make
more marks)) But it was very, very close... sighting along the barrel
pointed within a couple of track-seconds just ahead of MIR.

Wow... not a clear victory, but worth a few points in horseshoes...

So: that's the news: if you don't like the fine details of a Satellite
pass, just try another cycle through the calculation. Now I'm really
getting frustrated by the prediction's lack of to-the-second displayed
accuracy, so i'm going to reload the firmware after patching its display
call. (how to do -that- is explained below after the table)

The weather forecast tells me i'm not going to see much in the next few
days, but i'll be able to do dry runs to see how the plots thicken.

Clear skies (they must be somewhere.. they sure blew away from here!)
--dick

Boring details:
Autostar #497, ETX90/ec, Firmware v2.0h  (updater 2.1a)
Location: Seattle from Autostar's City lookup. (lat 47 27, long -122 18)

Satellite TLEs used:
name:MIR  (ID:16609)   Epoch:2000     day:069.831428
incl:051.65319       RA Asc:048.67809
ecc:0.000413      arg peri:040.12279
mean anom:320.071136    mean motion:015.757441

Date/Time of test:  14-mar-2000    circa 08:00:00 pm PST

Test   Time      Sat     Sat     AOS      AOS     LOS    LOS
Order  of Day    Rise    Set     Az       Alt     Az     Alt
 9    07:00 p    8:10    8:14   304,27'  16,41'  62,55'  15,39'
 7    08:05 i    8:10    8:14   304,45'  16,53'  63,12'  15,27'
 13   08:05 i    8:10    8:14   304,58'  18,13'  63,54'  15,00'
 5    08:00 p    8:10    8:14   307,54'  18,46'  63,30'  15,16'
 1    08:00 p    8:10    8:14   308,51'  19,19'  63,05'  15,33'
 6    08:03 i    8:10    8:14   309,02'  19,26'  63,12'  15,27'
 11   08:00 s    8:10    8:14   309,39'  19,46'  63,38'  15,10'
 14   08:10 d    8:10    8:14   316,09'  23,05'  63,04'  15,33'
 4    07:30 p    8:10    8:14   316,26'  23,12'  63,13'  15,27'
 3    08:00 p    8:10    8:14   317,31'  23,43'  63,47'  15,05'
 2    07:56 s    8:10    8:14   318,39'  24,13'  63,13'  15,27'
 12   08:03 i    8:10    8:14   319,48'  24,43'  63,46'  15,05'
 10   07:02 i    8:11    8:14   323,57'  26,22'  63,20'  15,22'
 8    08:10 d    8:11    8:14   324,59'  26,45'  63,46'  15,05'
            ^--method
The letter after the time-of-day indicates how that time was reached:
 "p" means it was set after powering up after a Park.
 "s" means it was (re)set by Select>Setup>Time
 "i" means it was Immediately after the previous calculation.
 "d" means there was a Delay since the previous calculation (taking
notes)
(in "d" and "i", the time-of-day was read -after- the calculation by
using Mode to get to the status display and getting the Time) Remember
that i got the results in the order of the first column... so they
didn't look so neat when i was testing.

----Danger Danger --- great fun follows ---

Improving the Sat-Rise Time Display (Autostar v2.0g/h/i):
If you have a binary patch program, open the Autostar.rom file. I use
"frhed", a freeware from www.tu-darmstadt.de/~rkibria (all
numbers below are in Hexadecimal) bytes 0594FC  and 059510  should both
currently be "4C" change both of them to "37" Resend the autostar.rom to
the Autostar (Updater's Send: [new software]). That's it. Satellite rise
times now display hh:mm:ss (am/pm shown, too)

--dick (now consequently running v2.0i)

Subject:	 Philosophical backlash question ...
Sent:	Wednesday, March 15, 2000 23:28:31
From:	pluckas@carmen.murdoch.edu.au (Paul Luckas)
To all and sundry ...

I know the ETX has backlash compensation, but answer me this ...

If I'm not mistaken the RA encoder 'wheel' is mounted directly onto the
small motor shaft - and not at the end of the drive train (gear box) or
even the telecope polar shaft. Therefore how does it know there is
backlash in the gears / shaft ?

Think about it.

I'm thinking the only backlash it compensates for is 'motor' backlash.

Call me paranoid if you wish, but is 'backlash compensation' a
consiracy?    :-)))

Subject:	 Battery Level Alarm
Sent:	Wednesday, March 15, 2000 21:18:45
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Alberto.Marturini@netit.alcatel.it  sent a note to Meade (and Mike)
requesting an adjustable battery level alaarm.

It's actually quite easy to change, if you don't mind patching two bytes

in the autostar.rom file and re-downloading your Autostar.

For version 2.0i and 2.0h, the bytes are at 49311(hex) and 49361(hex)
into the file. They are both currently  1E(hex)  (30 decimal).

If you have a program for patching a binary file, just make those values
the percentage you wish the alarm to Beep at. He wanted 90%, so put a  
5A  (hex, 90. decimal) in both of those locations.

I'm not sure (today) why they have -two- places where they check/beep
for low level, but they do.

Be aware that the voltage-to-precentage conversion isn't -precise-, so
you may have to play around.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	 Comets & Asteroids, etc.
Sent:	Wednesday, March 15, 2000 20:55:45
From:	ik7565@erols.com
No problem loading 2.0i with updater 2.1 to my Autostar 497!  But there
are no asteroid, comets, satellites or tours.  What do I drag-n-drop
from where? Why is this interface so non-intuitive?!

Ian
Mike here: Have you seen the Autostar Information posting on Drag and Drop?

Subject:	 new AUTOSTAR
Sent:	Wednesday, March 15, 2000 12:43:47
From:	n5yyx@plateautel.net (James Lofton)
Hi Mike, Just a note to let you all know where I'm at with my ETX-125
and AUTOSTAR.

I had been having several problems with my AUTOSTAR, many of which I
could live with or work around, however the display refused to work in
temps of below 40F.(it went blank)

Meade sent me a new one after a couple of phone calls to them. It came
in last week and with V 2.0g(other one had V1.3b).

Last night was the first time I have had a chance to take it outside,
but if it keeps preforming like last night, well..., it's a keeper.
After doing a good level on the tripod, I did a easy align and proceeded
to tag DEAD CENTER 30 Messier objects. Most of the objects I didn't stay
on too long, but the ones we did pause on, stayed in the center. There
was zero sign of drift on any object. Even when my old unit was working
at its best, it never reached this level of presision.

All is not perfect tho. I had to re-train the motors yesterday. When I
first tried to align, it gave me a motor failure or blockage warning.
When I tried again, it then worked, but it would go to an object, then
proceed to slew upwards a half a degree or so. I could re-point to the
object and it would move back off, "every time". I just realigned and
trained and it worked fine.

The first night it came in, it was too windy and cloudy to take it
outdoors, so I did a "best of night tour" indoors. All went fine until
it was slewing between M79 and M38. It tried to bend over backwards and
in the process, hit the spotter scope on the upright arm. There was
atleast two LOUD popping "ouch" sounds, before I could turn it off.
Testing continues, but I am really happy with it so far.
James

Subject:	 FW: Proposal for improvements for AutoStar SW
Sent:	Monday, March 13, 2000 03:24:22
From:	Alberto.Marturini@netit.alcatel.it
To: 'engineer@meade.com'

I am an ETX-125EC/AutoStar (version 2.0i) user.

I'd like to ask you for some improvements for your AutoStar software.

1) Adjustable level for the battery warning. Now the battery warning is
setted to 30% (about 7.55 Volt). Good for disposable alcaline batteries.
But I'm using a 12 Volt Lead-Acid battery for powering the unit and the
warning need to be setted at 90% (about 10.45 Volt).

2) Permanent battery warning. When I turn on the AutoStar the battery
warning is always OFF. I'm not able to save my settings.

3) Permanent user informations. When I update the AutoStar software I
have to reenter all my data (location, name, address, and so on).

4) Possibility to add new eyepieces. I own two Vixen lantanium eyepieces
(yes, I know, not Meade!) because I wear glasses. I'd like to add their
characteristics (focal lenght and field of view) to those yet in the
AutoStar, otherwise the "magnification" and "field of view" facilities
are not useful.

Thank you in advance.

Alberto

--------------------------------------------------------
Nome:      Alberto Marturini
E-mail:    alberto.marturini@netit.alcatel.it
URL:       http://members.xoom.it/amarturini
--------------------------------------------------------

Subject:	 re: backlash
Sent:	Sunday, March 12, 2000 21:06:58
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
To:	paulrasm@execpc.com
Paul,

"backlash" has been a bane of the ETX scopes from day one. If you read
Mike's Archives (oh, Sept/Oct 99 for example), you'll see piles of
complaints.

It's a mechanical (or system) thing, not software.
It's inherent in -any- gear driven system.
It's merely the slop, or free-play, or looseness you get when you
-reverse- a gear-driven system.

Even a doorknob has it... turn a doorknob a little bit until you feel it
starting to move things in the mechanism.  Now sloooowy reverse the
turn... and note that there's quite a bit of knob motion before you
start to feel it engage the mechanism in the other direction. That's
backlash.

The ETX has backlash from/between every gear in its drive.  You can
directly feel the final gear's backlash by simply grabbing the front end
of the tube and lifting it. There's a (very) few degrees of slop
(movement) there before you hit the drive's resistance to your lifting.

Under the Autostar's  Select->Setup->Telescope->Train Drive  is a
four-step procedure which lets the telescope "learn" how much slop there
is between the motors and your field of view. Try following that
procedure (the Autostar will guide you through it) and see if things
improve.

good luck
--dick
Mike here: Even the Celestron NexStar5 experiences it.

Added later:

yes, but the ETX is truly excessive.
Mike here: Surprisingly I've not seen ANY backlash in the ETX-125EC that I have. It is running a beta of the Autostar software (but I don't know a beta of which version). I suspect it is older than 2.0i.

And more:

I sorta misspoke... i don't consider the ETX's backlash excessive... for
the price.

--dick ...and there does -not- appear to be any -code- difference
between 2.0h and 2.0i But there are lots of (little) database
differences.

and... i found a spot where they used  3.1416  instead of 3.141593 for
Pi (in both h and i) ...now, if i could only figure out what they're
-doing- with it...

Subject:	 re: repeatable inaccurate ETX pointing
Sent:	Sunday, March 12, 2000 20:56:24
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
To:	ourbabe2usa@netscape.net
Larry,

From your description, i wonder if the telescope's "calibrate motors" is
incorrect.

The Autostar has -two- sets of numbers it uses for figuring out "how far
it moves if i run the motors".

Both can be re-established from the Select->Setup->Telescope menu.

One is called "Calibrate" and the other is "Train".

Calibrate is easy: just select that item in the menu, hit [enter], and
the scope will make two quick moves.  That's it. (the same thing happens
if you use the non-autostar hand controller).

Training is a -bit- more work: you aim at a distant landmark
(stationary, not a star!) and go through a 4-direction move/recenter
sequence, following instructions on the Autostar..

The Training (theoretically) tells the telescope how much slop
(backlash) is in the entire system, from motor to eyepiece.

If the Training is off, the scope won't properly correct for looseness
in the gearing and clamps.

good luck
--dick

Subject:	 Hi Mike!!
Sent:	Sunday, March 12, 2000 18:58:45
From:	mdandrea@satx.rr.com (Michael D'Andrea)
I just wanted you to know that your site has been very informative for
me! I just have one question for you, well maybe two...
Can the Autostar #495 from an ETX70AT be used on an ETX90EC???
Why, if you know?
Can the #495 be connected to a computer and upgraded from its 1500+
database to near the capabilities of the #497 (14,000 database)???
Thank you for your responses to my, well actually 3 questions!!!
Also, thank you for having such a great site for ETX enthusiasts!!!!
Sincerely,
Mike
Added later:
I read your site responses on the autostar... crap...
Thank you anyhow...

Subject:	 Autostar Firmware: events still wrong
Sent:	Sunday, March 12, 2000 08:15:38
From:	Pierre.Henrotay@skynet.be (Pierre Henrotay)
To:	engineer@meade.com
Version 2.0I
Sunrise and Sunset are now OK
Moonrise and Moonset are still all wrong: for
Lat 50 deg 35 min N
Lon 5 deg 50 min E
TZ +1
no daylight saving

Mar 12, 2000
Autostar gives:
moonrise 10H09AM should be 10H21AM

Apr12, 2000
Autostar gives:
moonrise 11H50AM should be 11H59AM

(from WinEphem and Skymap Pro, +-1 min accuracy)

Moonset looks wrong by approximately 10 minutes as well (taking into
account for the two examples above that the fact that the set time is
one day off, that is "set" takes place before "rise").

Subject:	 problem with autostar 497
Sent:	Saturday, March 11, 2000 23:08:45
From:	frf@infonie.fr (frf)
i have a problem with my autostar
i have put manualy the orbital elements of the c1999 s4 comet which will
seen this summer. when i put the excentricity number, the autostar say
me "invalid number"

i have try whith the autostar update software (the latest downloaded the
03-12-2000 whith the latest roms).the software send to autostar normaly
but when i select the comet see her, he say me "invalid number" if in
the excentricity number i put a number less than 1, it's ok but he can't
go to it because it's not the good number.
the arguments are :
epoch date :26 07 2000
perihelion : 0.765052
eccentricity : 1.000096
argument of perihelion : 151.0535
acsending node : 83.1828
inclination : 149.3863

i hope you can help me because the comet will be beautiful this summer
your site is great
hello from france !
Didier GUILLEY
frf@infonie.fr
Mike here: Eccentricity only goes between 0 (circle) and 1 (parabola).

Subject:	 Autostar repair
Sent:	Saturday, March 11, 2000 15:46:30
From:	teb1013@hotmail.com (Thomas Brown)
During the coldest part of the winter I'd had some problem with the
Autostar blanking on me.  Ultimately I sent the thing back to Meade
expecting a long wait.  I was surprised to receive it [can't tell if its
the same unit or a replacement] back within 2 1/2 weeks.  I immediately
noted that the Autostar now has 2.0h [rather than 1.3].  So far I've had
this out about 5 times. Glad to report that there is no more blanking
problem [then again its been a lot warmer, here in PA than it was when I
was having the problem].  As for the new software, I've found it to work
excellently.  The scope slews quickly to a position near the object [but
usually not with the object within the field of view]. After a few
seconds pause, the thing drifts to the right and presto! the object
drifts into the field of view [some of the drift happens after the
"beep"].  So far, the "repaired" [or replaced?] Autostar has been
marvelous.  Incidently I decided to try this out without training the
drives, and clearly didn't need to do so, based on the accuracy.  Pretty
good seeing has resulted in some marvelous looks at star clusters
[including M35, M41, The Double Cluster and many more] and a number of
double stars [in poor seeing Castor looked a bit like s snow man, but in
better seeing the divison of the stars is clear].  Sadly Jupiter and
Saturn are pretty low in the sky, and set too early for my scheduling
[also almost every one in the neighborhood has their outside lights on
until very late]. Glad to say that the ETX 90 is finally giving me the
results I'd hoped for. Early on, I'd been afraid I'd made a mistake, but
the improvements, plus better seeing, have given me the performance I'd
been looking for [the Orion EZ finder, and the Kendrick Quik focus have
been great helps as well].

Continued thanks for the great web site.

Tom Brown
Mike here: I wonder if that last drift would go away if you trained the drives???

Added later:

Don't know, Mike, seems to me that the final drift is what centers the
scope.  So far I'm pleased with the performance, if the drifting causes
a problem I'll train the drives.

Subject:	 125 alignment problems
Sent:	Friday, March 10, 2000 20:40:13
From:	ourbabe2usa@netscape.net (Larry Reidnour)
I am still experiencing the same problems with alignment that I reported
on before.  This was after a full night of reseting and everything that
goes with that.  I even down loaded 2.0h again.  No matter what I do the
typical scenerio goes like this: Used Aldebaran and Alphard as target
stars.  During the first alignment star it seems that after I hit enter
(to make it go to the first alignment star) there always seems to be a
slight hesitation in the telescope moving horizontally when it first
starts. (I hear the motors first and a split second later, the telescope
moves.  On the second star, no hesitation either horizontally or
vertically.  Now whether this plays into the problem, I am not sure.  I
carefully center the object stars and it starts tracking.  1st goto star
is Sirus.  It ends up like I explained the other night, just out of FOV
to the right.  As I have my cross hairs in the view finder running
up/down, left/right, Sirus winds up exactly on the horizonal crosshair
just far enough right of center to put it out of FOV in the 26mm
eyepiece.  The vertical axis is perfect.  Without making any
corrections, I then goto Proycon.  Hits FOV.  I then goto Regel.  Same
position as Sirus. Alderbaron, FOV.  M42, Same position as Sirus and
Regel just out of FOV to the right but dead on the horizonal cross hair.
I have done everything over and over again and get the same CONSISTENT
results every time as explained above. This has got to be a software
problem I think, but have not heard this from anybody else.  Why does it
bullseye some objects and the others just out of FOV to the right in the
exact position in the view finder perfectly on the horizontal cross
hair???  This is driving me nuts.  I can take out it tomorrow night, the
next night, and every night thereafter and get the same thing. Never had
this problem before.  There has to be a solution.  Can anybody help!!!
Mike here: Well, first download 2.0i and see if that makes a difference. But I'm wondering if the horizontal lock or drive encoder has a problem. Also, does this occur in both equatorial and altaz mode? And finally, have you tried other combinations of alignment stars or done at different times of the night? Just some thoughts.

Added later:

Never tried equatorial mode, always use altaz mode.  I will try
downloading 2.0i and see what happens.  I make sure the horizontal lock
is secure, but I am not sure what the "drive encoder" is.  Is this
controled by Autostar?  I have done this at different times of the night
and with different alignment stars with the same results.  If it was
just all over the place, then I would say that I have to be doing
something wrong although I have done all this a hundred times before. 
However, when based on last nights results, it puts 60% of the goto
objects in the same precise incorrect spot as I described before, I feel
like I have a problem that can be solved rather simply.  Now you've got
me wondering about this drive encoder thing.  Do you think a call to
Meade would help.  I don't want to speak with just a customer service
rep that is going to give me an RGA# to send it in, but rather a
technican that may be able to give me a simple answer.  Once I get by
all this, I am good to go since they did take care of fixing all the
wierd stuff that was going on before.  What do you think Mike?
Mike here: The drive encoder is how the Autostar "knows" how many revolutions to turn the shaft to move the telescope to the proper location. It is part of the drive mechanism. But I don't know whether that is part of the problem or not. However, retraining the drives, especially once you install 2.0i, might help. You might also check your Autostar location and date/time settings.

And:

I did install 2.0i and went out for some very unscientific testing in
windy conditions that has the scope shaking.  Not a viewing night at
all, but just anxious to try out 2.0i.  It did seem to help.  I don't
know why, but I did notice a difference from last night.  On a calm
still night with 360 degree view, I will give it the real test.  I
thought that 2.0i differed from 2.0h only in the foreign language text. 
I think it did make a difference though.  Thanks for getting back and
helping out!

Subject:	 Backlash
Sent:	Friday, March 10, 2000 19:04:59
From:	paulrasm@execpc.com (Rasmussen)
I wrote to you several weeks ago about the problem of my etx90
"drifting" after upgrading to the 2.0g version.  After visiting your
site yesterday I noticed that a new term "backlash" is being tossed
around.  It seems to be the same phenomenon I have been experiencing
after my upgrade to 2.0g. Since this is not an uncommon problem with a
few users, it would seem appropriate for Meade to explain what causes
the backlash and how they plan to resolve it.  Does it occur with all
scopes, a certain production run, etc..?  Interestingly, I never
experienced it with V. 1.x that came with the Autostar.  Does the most
recent V2.0h correct the backlash problem?  I wrote this not so much for
you to answer but hoping people from Meade who monitor your site keep
getting the hint from users that customer satisfaction is their #1
marketing tool.  I suspect that other manufacturers have or will have
similar products as the Autostar.  If they don't have the backlash
problems and a better update program (wouldn't take much) Meade will be
caught sitting on their hands.  A simple annotation on their web site
identifying the problem and that they are working on it would seem to be
just good customer relations.

The site must take tremendous time and effort on your part.  Keep up the
good work.
Regards,
Paul Rasmussen

Subject:	 Finally! a fairly successful Satellite pass...
Sent:	Thursday, March 9, 2000 23:00:19
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
As devoted readers of Mike's site will know, i've been trying (without
success) to have the ETX90/ec track satellites since September. Through
firmware versions 1.1j, 1.3c, 2.0e/f/g/h, thick and thin (clouds), high
light pollution, low(ish) temperatures, hard-stops, soft thinking,
etc.etc.

Tonight i finally was rewarded (??? it might be like getting stock
options in failing companies ???) by having the 'scope -nearly- nail MIR
for a pass.  It was able to keep it in the 26mm's field of view with
frequent (1 per second) speed-6 hits of the Right-move key.

It's something to watch a -bright- object staying in view as the stars
stream by.

Ok... i check http://www.heavens-above.com  for Tonight's Bright Passes.

The morning's Seattle weather forecast wasn't too optimistic (rain,
possible holes in clouds near end of day).  But MIR was scheduled for a
7:50pm pass at magnitude -1.3 ... yes, Minus 1.3. So i download the
pass-map, and (for security's sake) the current (as per H-A's numbers)
TLEs for MIR. I come home, and turn on the Autostar to see what -it-
thinks of the pass. At first, it calculated a 6:54 pass.  Hmm, sez i,
either there's a bit of drift here, or one of us (H-A, me, Autostar)
forgot Daylight Savings.

So i check the TLE's in the Autostar.  They were dated 24th day of 2000.

The H-A numbers were 65th day (Mar 5th) of 2000. That's a bit old, given
the "active sun" and MIR's decaying orbit.

So i start keying in the new numbers.

One of the numbers is "how many orbits it makes in a day" (Mean Motion).

That number had changed from 15.86 to 15.767.  Since a pass prediction
is made by taking a known observation and simply spinning the numbers
forward, that much (1%) of a change every 90 minutes makes for quite an
error over 40 days between settings.

In previous attempts, i've used very fresh numbers, and the Autostar
would still make 2- to 20-minute errors in its calculations. It might
swing such that the pass would take it into its stops (in fact, when i
pre-tested the "old" pass, it did just that... but from Park, not from
clean-home-start). This time, with the new numbers it predicted a
Acquistion (AOS) time only one minute later than Heaven-Above's
number... and that's understandable since H-A uses 10 degrees above
horizon as AOS, and the Autostar ranges from 15 to 20 degrees.  In this
instance, 15.8 degrees.

So i head outside at 7:20. It's a partially cloudy night... Orion and
Sirius are next to a lower cloud bank, Saturn, the Moon and Jupiter are
also just above it. Straight up is clear. I perform two Easy Aligns
(Sirius and Aldebaran), the second one because i didn't consistently
lean on the scope to take out mechanical slop during the first.  Test
views of Juptier, Saturn, Moon, Rigel, Betelguese show a consistent
too-low in aiming, but Syncing on Rigel and Betelguese get Bellatrix to
dead-center.  Some after-beep creeping is experienced.

MIR is scheduled to rise in the southwest, pass between Orion and
Aldebaran (the Eye of the Bull), over Orion, and disappear into the
Earth's shadow just before hitting Castor and Pollux. Due to the cloud
bank, i won't be able to see it rise before the scope's due to catch it.

So i decide to -believe- the scope's time estimate, and kick it to
Satellite/Select/MIR/Enter. One of the subchoices is to Set Alarm, and i
do. Then i hit GoTo and it swings to the AOS point, with 220 seconds to
go. My wife appears, bundled for the chill, and i point out the expected
path. At 90 seconds the Alarm starts chirping.  I've never heard it do
-that- particular cadence and duration of beeping, but i'm sure not
gonna push a key and mess it up. At 50 seconds the alarm shuts up. At 10
seconds we -see- MIR in the hazy clouds... At zero seconds i push ENTER
to commit the scope... The scope is too far to the West! I hit 9 (for
speed) and slew it left... the altitude is about right. I have the
original Meade viewfinder, and i get MIR on the crosshairs...

MIR is swinging to the Right (compared to scope pointing), but a speed-6
burp keeps up with it. I switch to the eyepiece.... and there it is!
It's moving up and right, but burp-burp-burping the Right key keeps it
in view. Together we all sweep up as it rises towards its 68 degree
maximum altitude of this pass. At one point i try rotating the base a
little to see if the track will stay centered ... but it doesn't help.
As the scope gets pretty high the correction starts needing two-axis
input, and i lose it. I pull back and watch it by eye, and it soon fades
into the shadow overhead. The telescope is oblivious to that, and has
been merrily trying to follow the now invisible MIR... it does a
pirouette as it has to spin the Azimuth to be able to sweep Altitude
back down on the East end of the pass. When it gets to its predicted
Loss of Satellite (LOS) position, it stops tracking.  I gave it a
heartfelt pat on the tube.

I'm informed of the charred state of dinner in the oven, tell the scope
to Park itself, and head on in.

It worked! (i felt quite like Stan's description of scaring -his- wife
by shouting... i wonder what the neighbors thought?)

It could'a been better, it required constant (and eventually
overloading) attention and touch-up, but it's -really- a neat sight.  It
appears bigger than a star, far smaller than Mars, but larger than
Mercury. I was lucky in that this was an -exceptionally- bright pass
(the 2nd brightest i've ever seen).

Things i'd like:
 (1) down-to-the second AOS times, (although Meade may compensate for
rounding it to a minute by adjusting the altitude it's AOSing at).
 (2)  If i'm making constant consistent corrections, factor that into
the track the telescope is taking. (now -that's- a computational
challange).
 (3) more pre-pass info:
   (a) what does the -Autostar- think the maximum altitude will be?
   (b) Or a 10-, 30- or whatever-second prediction of RA/Dec or Alt/Az
of the pass.  That would let me compare with my other prediction
resources and plan ahead. (and you can't MODE to the RA/Dec display
during tracking or pre-pass simulated tracking)

Hey, it's a telescope!
Can't i ask for the Moon? (at least an artifical one?)

It's actually more impressive when you consider that the Autostar's
68hc11 only does -integer- arithmetic.. the floating point is all built
from that. And it's (in effective parlance) only a 2 (yes, two)
megahertz chip. (it's 8 megahertz, but uses 2 through 6 to 14 clock
cycles per instruction).

As a part of the weekend spent loading v2.0h i now have 140 satellites
in the beast... with ageing ephemerii even as i write...

clear skies (not forecast here for a while...)
--dick

Subject:	 er, not exactly progress...
Sent:	Thursday, March 9, 2000 11:05:39
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
So, after our dialog over the past two days,
i sent a note at 8:45am today to engineer@meade advising them that their
support page said the whole auto.zip was 2.0i, when, in truth, it was
still 2.0h. I hinted (i know, i know, never try for subtlety in Email)
that the best course of action was to update the auto.zip package.

Well, they "fixed" it... at 9:45am the support page changed [back] to
say it's 2.0h.

In a separate, earlier Email yesterday, i told them of a typo in the
HTML coding on the Autostar's FAQ page... they have -not- (as of this
writing at 11am) fixed that. (i even told 'em what character (a quote)
was missing where (answer 11)). But answer 11 has to be rewritten anyway
to reflect changes in v2.0h (although they could just cut/paste the text
from v2.0i's firmware README file).

--dick

Subject:	 Another night with 2.0h
Sent:	Thursday, March 9, 2000 05:26:51
From:	edutton@bouldernews.infi.net (Ellsworth G. Dutton)
Coming as no surprise to most users, another night with 2.0h wasn't
quite so successful but nonetheless very rewarding.  Surf's up!  Just
can't beat (overcome) the backlash that fails show up during the drive
training, as others have noted.  This happens when gravity does its
thing as the scope gets into various orientations, actually compounded
in the polar mode, as some will realize.

The 12.0 mag NGCs are very faint in the 125, of course, but with the
help of a well placed identifiable star in or near the FOV, it is
possible in my 5.4 mag vis limit skies.  Herald/Bobroff Astroatlas
really helps to determine which ones might work, there are a lot in the
9 to 12 range.  Luginbuhl/Skiff's Handbook helps too with some
additional info, e.g., 11.2 might be relatively easy but 11.8 will be
tough and Autostar and Herald/Bobroff don't have as much quantitative
info or description as L/S.   (Note however, I still have a hard time
conviencing myself that I am seeing M74.)

Sure wish someone at Meade would deal with that Updater.  I too use my
PC to update a $150 GPS and the software is a dream, hook up the cables,
highlight a database, and push a button; interesting concept.  Maybe a
Meade engineer should go out and buy a Megellean 315 and try it out.
Besides, most astro-buffs do want to know their lat/long...

Sure hope you get some clear skies.  What happened to sunny southern
Cal?

Ells
Mike here: "Sunny"? Nope. Well, it was part of today but clouds rolling in as sunset approaches.

Subject:	 More info on Version 2.0i
Sent:	Wednesday, March 8, 2000 11:09:33
From:	berg@ans.net (Kevin Berg)
Version history:
Note: This version changes only 1 thing from version 2.0h.  The
      non-English languages databases are now fixed.  The
      information below reflects changes encapsulated in 2.0h.

      o More accurate predictions on rise/set times.
      o Orbital eccentricities of >1 are flagged as improper.
      o Able to skip the SUN WARNING message.
      o Able to skip the GETTING STARTED message.
      o Revised backlash compensation.
      o Ability to switch from Landmarks to Comets.
      o You can now get to the focus mode from almost any
        point in the menu tree.  The zero key (and map
        light toggle) will get you to the focus mode as
        long as the the menu would not be allowing the
        zero key as input.  If you are in focus mode you
        will see a capital letter in the upper left corner
        of the display.  The letter has the following
        meaning:
            S == Slow speed focus
            M == Medium speed focus
            F == Fast speed focus
            X == xtra-Fast speed focus
        The Mode key will take you out of focus mode and
        it will not toggle the map light.  The zero key
        will take you out of focus mode and toggle the
        map light as well.

Subject:	 v2.0i at Meade (yawn)
Sent:	Tuesday, March 7, 2000 17:45:13
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
well, at 4:45pm today (3/7) Meade posted a new version of Autostar
Firmware. But to quote from the README:

 This version changes only 1 thing from version 2.0h.  The
      non-English languages databases are now fixed. 

However, they also provide clear instructions on the new Focus access:

      o You can now get to the focus mode from almost any
        point in the menu tree.  The zero key (and map
        light toggle) will get you to the focus mode as
        long as the the menu would not be allowing the
        zero key as input.  If you are in focus mode you
        will see a capital letter in the upper left corner
        of the display.  The letter has the following
        meaning:
            S == Slow speed focus
            M == Medium speed focus
            F == Fast speed focus
            X == xtra-Fast speed focus
        The Mode key will take you out of focus mode and
        it will not toggle the map light.  The zero key
        will take you out of focus mode and toggle the
        map light as well.

The full-package auto.zip was -not- updated. (they really should)

--dick

Subject:	 Some experiences with 2.0h, maybe this is it
Sent:	Tuesday, March 7, 2000 17:04:03
From:	edutton@bouldernews.infi.net (Ellsworth G. Dutton)
After resisting temptation to upgrade my Autostar since version 1.3c, I
went for 2.0h yesterday thanks to a couple positive comments on this
site.  The install was more-or-less successful, brought in the main
program and a bunch of asteroids, satellites and comets, but no tours
and the old tours were gone.  A little messing around with the updater
got the new "Tonight's Best" tour loaded at the expense of some
satellites and comets, but was good enough; wanted to observe!  Then,
something pretty amazing happened.  Retrained the ETX-125's drives,
doing maybe a little it better job than in the past, this time using a
2-mile distant light and 6.4mm e.p. with 2.5x Barlow defocused to fill
the fov.  Also trained the drives while in the polar mode so the stress
on gears would be similar to observing.  Then did a quick polar
alignment, easy AS align, and off to the sights.  Truly amazing, every
target I chose was in the 26mm fov.  And even more amazing (you might
have to re-read my previous reports, which were similar to many others
on alignment problems) after centering and syncing on two additional
targets, the objects started coming near to the CENTER of the fov over
and over again even slewing half way across the sky!  I hit a bunch of
Messiers and got deep into some NCGs at the 11 and 12th mag. range with
the identification verified using the trusty Herald Bobroff Astroatlas
and with mags. from Autostar.  Even distinguished M66 from M65 and M86
from M84 based on the GoTo alignment.  This all with the "High
Precision" feature off, the default.  I did not carefully check tracking
accuracy immediately after acquisition where some drifts due to backlash
had been noted in the past, but I did occasionally use the correctors to
better position the object after the "GoTo beep".  Close to 40 objects
without a miss.  Twelve hours later I'm still almost in shock, and this
is after 4 months of using, or otherwise getting intimate with, this
scope.  Maybe it was just a lucky set up, maybe it was the drive
training, or maybe, just maybe, it is version 2.0h.  If you read the
list of changes since 1.3c they are extensive.   I don't know, a couple
more nights of "astro-surfing" and more reports from others will tell.
Actually, guess I would have to untrain the drives to distinguish on my
own, but ain't going to do that, at least for a while.

Cheers,
Ells

Subject:	 Re: 2.0h quick test
Sent:	Tuesday, March 7, 2000 13:57:43
From:	berg@ans.net (Kevin Berg)
Ditto on my experience last night with 2.0h. Just about every object
came into the center of the FOV, then the beep, then backlash
compensation forcing the object to near the top of the FOV, or outside
of it. Funny, I thought any form of compensation was supposed to
CORRECT?! ;)

KMB

Subject:	 Alignment
Sent:	Tuesday, March 7, 2000 12:23:31
From:	marvin4bugs@hotmail.com (dbarbee)
To:	burns@ismi.net
Russ,
Quit using the compass!  Its not accurate enough.  Look at those charts
you bought and start using Polaris the North Star!   If you find Polaris
first (in the scope) then level the telescope you'll have much greater
success!

Don

Subject:	 Autostar comments
Sent:	Tuesday, March 7, 2000 12:10:21
From:	marvin4bugs@hotmail.com (dbarbee)
To:	djhodny@uswestmail.net
This sounds like something is reaching thermal equalibrium.  It could be
contacts in the/on the Autostar cable or the housing.  I would suggest
as a simple fix - take the scope out a couple of hours before using it. 
You should do this anyway as it allows the optics to stabilze for that
flawless Mak/Cass view.

Don

Subject:	 autostar update missing file
Sent:	Tuesday, March 7, 2000 09:04:40
From:	fdejoseph@peoplepc.com (fdejoseph)
Downloaded Meade's Autostar Update program a couple of days ago. Uzipped
it to both my desktop & laptop. Cannot establish a link to autostar on
either machine (using Win95). The error message that flashes by says it
can't find a file; I searched for the three DLL files that Meade's
Documentation says are needed AND included in the distribution but
cannot find MSC42.DLL. Trying to find a single file on Micrsoft's site
is a fruitless endeavor also. If you have this file, could you E-mail it
to me so that I could proceed to the second circle of Hell? Any other
advice would also be wecome. Thanks for a very informative site.

Fran

Subject:	 ext125 constant slewing
Sent:	Tuesday, March 7, 2000 08:01:54
From:	abehtawil@email.msn.com (abehtawil)
I'm a begginer & had no trouble training & aligning my ext 125 with the
26mm eyepiece. However after centering or using "goto" to get another
target, the scope continues to slew & the object moves out view. This is
especially frustrating while trying to change eyepieces. What am I doing
wrong & how do I keep the object centered?
Please help!!!
abe tawil
Mike here: Have you upgraded to the latest Autostar version? Is the slewing random or continuous? Are you waiting for the BEEP to occur after the Autostar centers the alignment stars or objects before doing any manual slewing? Are you sure you have the proper initial conditions entered into the Autostar (date, time, location)? These are things that others have noted.

A reply:

yup,  i have version 2.0
slewing is continuous
i get the beep
the scvope is initialized
is it the scope or the auto star thats the problem
thanks
Mike here: This is the first report of continuous slewing. There was a problem with random slewing with some ETX-125EC and Autostar combinations. Sounds like you need to call Meade. Let me know what you learn.

And:

spoke to meade today 
they said return the scope & the autostar for a new one
no problem
hope the new one will work
many thanks
love the site
abe

Subject:	 RE: Autostar Update
Sent:	Tuesday, March 7, 2000 06:37:26
From:	OptiquesJeff@worldnet.att.net (Jeffrey Nutkowitz)
Greetings

Well, a day ago (Sunday) I was expecting to be making my own report of
v2.0h right now. My misadventures, however, yielded somewhat different
results.

What follows is a three part report, one for the Autostar upgrade
experience, one for an equipment upgrade and review, and one for an
observation report (Mike...if you choose to use this post for your
site/feedback, etc., feel free to divide it as you see fit).

Kiddies, don't try this at home :>) Well, anyway, I FINALLY decided to
take the plunge, find some free time, and upgrade my Autostar from the
original version 1.0c, which I have been using for just about a full
year now. I was getting about 85% target acquisition in the fov of the
26mm ep, even better in High Precision mode, ran into a few of the
well-known bugs, none of which I could not easily work around, and was
generally quite happy with the results I was getting. Hence, I felt no
need to fix something that wasn't broken, especially with the assorted
reports of varying satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the numerous
upgrade versions that have come along.

With the advent of the v2.0x series, and the ability to work with tours,
I had some general feeling that, after a year, it was simply about time
to make some changes to my little scope, including some hardware
upgrades I had been putting off for a while. I even waited for the
latest vA2.1 Updater and v2.0h firmware, since the vA2.0 seemed to be
giving people problems, especially with the tours, which is what got me
going in the first place.

So, with computer cable (from Scopetronix) hooked up, fingers crossed,
readme doc open, ETX sitting on my desk, and breath held, I started the
Autostar and the Updater software...ETX found on com port 2, great. Now
I understand that A2.1 automatically puts the Autostar in Upload mode by
itself. NOT in my case. I suspected it was the first sign of trouble
when it instructed me to put the Autostar in Upload mode. OK, I'll bite.
Next it goes through a process of reading my assorted astronomical
bodies to write the assorted lib.rom files. So far, so good. It gets to
reading the tour (the original one in v1.0c), starts 'Writing' the tour,
and a progress bar appears. A few moments later I get an error message
that has something to do with not being able to read the tour. Ohhhh
kaaayyyyy. That was my next red flag. After that, nothing happens.

So next I hit the New Software (or whatever it is called) button on the
Updater, wait a few seconds, and get an error message saying the my rom
files can only be uploaded to a NON-ETX Autostar, another message saying
that the Updater is initializing my Autostar, and then deadness. Nada,
nothing. Use the Ctrl-alt-del to end the Updater software, pray that my
Autostar still functions, and shut it down, despite its being in Upload
mode with the 'Do not turn off' message still displayed. This is NOT
looking good, folks.

Fortunately, the Autostar still functioned. I tried the process two more
times with exactly the same results. Then I downloaded the zipped #497
rom files, JUST in case I really did have the wrong ones (I seriously
doubted that, but figured anything was worth a try now), and installed
them in the Ephemerides folder. Same results. Then I tried using the
vA2.0 updater with the 2.0h roms. Same results.

At this point I was getting REALLY aggravated, now empathizing with
every poor bastard who complained about this process while I just hummed
along painlessly with v1.0c. Suddenly I had a flash of insight. That or
I was just getting desperate and determined not to let this piece of
machinery get the best of me. I gave up entirely on the 2.0x series,
figuring that since there was an error (or errors) in the original tour
files, and that the vA2.0x series Updater seemed to require an
error-free opportunity to read the library files existing in the
Autostar, that maybe the source of my difficulties lay in the
possibility that v1.0c was just so alien to the V2.0x series Updater
that it simply would not work.

Viola! I went back to the vA1.4 Updater with v1.3c roms (I have EVERY
version that Meade made available), started everything up, hit the New
Software button, off it went, and 25 error-free minutes later, my
Autostar was initializing with v1.3c installed. At that point, I had run
out of time to do more experimenting, but if I am correct, maybe NOW I
can go from v1.3c to the v2.0x series, but that will have to wait.

It was just after sunset, and shaping up to be beautiful night, after a
very nice day, with a clear high pressure system hovering over the area.
I had not been out with the ETX since December, and out only once since
then at all...for the eclipse (sitting IN a nice heated auto, head out
the window)...and I wanted to get going, plus I had other obligations as
well. So, I went outside and did my drive training, aligned my newly
installed 8x25 Right Angle Finder, and tested my newly installed #1244
Focuser, bringing us to...

After a few misfires, I was off. Having used v1.0c for a year, any
changes, even subtle, in the new version 1.3c I was using became
apparent. Where the scope previously just pointed right to a target,
beeped, and started tracking, this was MUCH different. Now what was
happening, fairly often but not always, was that the scope actually
aimed slightly PAST a target, stopped and paused for a few seconds, then
slewed back to the target, beeped, and started tracking. This was a
noticeably lengthier process than before. I assume that what was
happening was that the newer version was handling the backlash in a much
different manner, sometimes slewing past an object and then back to it,
in an effort to make sure that the backlash was always taken up from a
direction that would ensure more accurate and immediate tracking of
objects.

Anyway, aside from a few initial misfires, throughout the session, both
with and without High Precision mode in use, the targeting was very
good. I'd say it was easily 85%, and often better. When I used the Synch
function, and stayed in one general area, it was placing about 95% of
the targets in the fov of the 26mm ep, and about 85% of them dead or
near center. Quite nice! The focuser worked well, as noted above, and so
did the right angle finder. All in all, it was a worthwhile one-year
'tune-up' of the scope. I guess v2.0h will just have to wait for now,
until I can get some time to experiment and see if my Autostar will now
take the upgrade.

Subject:	 Autostar Update
Sent:	Tuesday, March 7, 2000 00:26:50
From:	Christian.Hanke@infineon.com
To:	engineer@meade.com
Bug in Version 2.0h : German language

The language of the Autostar is German and with version 1.3 there are no
problems.Yesterday I upgraded the firmware from version 1.3 to 2.0h
(03/03/00). After the download and the initialisation the Autostar kept
German and was completely out of function. There was no relation between
the first line and the second line in the display. I could find my way
through he menues. The Scope moved arbitraryly on pushing the buttons. I
only could get rid of this problem, by forcing the download in the Flash
load mode. After initialization I chose English as language and
everything was o.k. Switching to German caused the same problems and I
had to reload in the Flash load mode. So I stay with English.

Regards

Christian Hanke

Version: A 2.1

Operating System you are using:Win 98
Type of System: ( Desktop)
Type of Processor: (Intel Pentium II.)
Amount of RAM: (128MB)
Size of Harddisk: (10GB)
Attached Serial Peripherals: (ETX Autostar/MODEM)
MODEMs: (external, COM1 )

Dr. Christian Hanke
Infineon Technologies CPR PH
Otto-Hahn-Ring 6
D-81730 Mnchen
Phone: ++ 49 89 234 49364
Fax:     ++ 49 89 234 717967 

e-mail: christian.hanke@infineon.com
private: christian-hanke@t-online.de

Subject:	2.0h quick test
Sent:	Monday, March 6, 2000 21:41:12
From:	Stantastic@aol.com
Howdy...

Sky was really clear this evening and I had a little time, so out came
the newly updated puppy to see how good the 2.0h ROM's are. All
observations were with the 26mm EP. Proceeded with the initial Easy
Align in Alt/Az mode as accurately as possible, did a GOTO on Jupiter --
nailed it, just a tad off center to the left. But then, wait -- oh, no
-- CREEP after the BEEP!!! Dick, you've infected me!!! Tried Saturn.
Again, slewed to it and almost nailed it, the beep, and more CREEP!!
Okay, darn it -- how about M42? Again, went right to it -- nailed it
right smack in the middle of the eyepiece, perfect, then the beep, then
the CREEP, then bye-bye up towards the top of the FOV.

Each time the GOTO object stayed within the FOV after the drifting
stopped, but I always got creep after the beep. Waxing poetic, isn't it?

I also did the Polaris test that Dick asked me try the other day.
Surprise!! Slewed to Polaris, DID NOT get it in the "exact" center, but
did get it sufficiently within the inner 1/2 of the FOV. Waited for the
CREEP after the BEEP -- there wasn't any!!! Silence for about 2 minutes,
then just a tiny 1/4 second whir of the motors.

During the above GOTOs I also tried manual slewing after the beep to try
to get the object back to the center of the FOV, and each time when I
let up off the buttons it would fight back and return to where IT
thought it should be.

Things are "sufficient" -- but I wouldn't say ideal, yet.

Just wanted to let you guys know about my first dealings with the new
software.

Waiting to hear about your adventures...

Stan Glaser
stantastic@aol.com
And a response from:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Well, the hint to the Answer (or at least The WorkAround) was in
jshy@widomaker.com (Jeff Shy)'s posting on Mike's site.

To wit:  Use GoTo...
 If it arrives and doesn't creep, smile.
 If it arrives and -then- creeps, give it about 30 seconds to mess up,
    ** then hit GoTo again **
It'll have crept in the direction it wants to kill backlash.
The second GoTo will think/know all backlash is compensated for, so it
  will/should/might  meekly return to the object and sit quietly.
You may now smile.


> Each time the GOTO object stayed within the FOV after the drifting stopped,
> but I always got creep after the beep. Waxing poetic, isn't it?

Second version of test:   GoTo Polaris.  After beep and 30 seconds, run
down a few degrees.  Enter and GoTo to Polaris... did it creep/beep?
If not, run down a few degrees -again-.   Did it creep after the beep?
Now run it -up- a few degrees.  GoTo Polaris.
Do that again (it feels so goood).

Try a few without moving the scope
i.e.  GoTo Polaris.  wait for beep. listen for creep.
 GoTo Polaris  again, -without moving the scope-
... repeat until bored.

My lil' friend is sitting on the floor beep'n and creep'n away as i do
the same.

--dick
(it may be cloudy out, but i can -hear- it hunting Polaris after the
beep...)

Subject:	Meade Download
Sent:	Monday, March 6, 2000 14:39:45
From:	MLesko0825@aol.com
I must be missing something as I find the Meade Autostar update only
changes the Version number on the controller everything else seems to
remain the same.  I still have no Tour data along with no satellites or
comets or asteroids.  My version No. is now 2.0e  I really don't know
why or what I am downloading, and I don't think that Meade does either!.

I have kind of thrown in the towel with Meade and the download idea. I
have never seen a more complicated and user unfriendly process.  You
never know what you might get or how to do the download. I have a Garmin
GPS that is updated thru Garmin downloads and it couldn't be easier. 
Meade should just drop the download concept until they hire someone that
understands computers!

Mike
Mike here: Some users have noted they have "lost" past information. However, several users seem to be getting better results with 2.0h and the 2.1 updater.

Subject:	 Autostar slewing and accuracy
Sent:	Monday, March 6, 2000 11:31:47
From:	djhodny@uswestmail.net
Well, weather has improved here in Minnesota to where I could get out
for extended times with my 125 & Autostar (clear steady skies and record
warmth). Had my Autostar in to Meade to correct slewing problem and got
it back weeks ago. First time out with it since. Here's a little recap
of my experience:
- The Autostar is a new one, not my old returned one. Has 2.0 loaded but
startup says 1.3 - Meade acknowledged the startup display error in 2.0.
- I'm in the middle of training the drives when it randomly slews!!!
(shock & anger - and blissful hope that it was a fluke). I start over
with the training and complete it.
- I do a polar easy two star alignment and begin searching the dark sky
for some favorite Messier objerts. Great fun and success! Every object
within FOV of 32mm wide angle eyepiece. Very satisfying. Then just as I
relax on my viewing chair and reflect on the satisfaction - there it
goes slewing again up about 4 degrees declination. Frustrated and
dismayed I slew the scope with the Autostar back to the object it was on
and do a sync. I proceed to "go to" several more objects and the syncing
seemed to have retargeted the scope and still finds objects well. So it
seems the resyncing can largely correct the error induced by the random
slewing - usefull backup knowledge. The scope slews one more time in
this first hour of viewing but never in the second hour. (?)
- Next night I set up the scope & Autostar again and for more than an
hour do quite a bit of Autostar go to's as well as just pushing the
direction keys, with various speeds. I then put scope in sleep mode for
three hours and come back to view some more (at 3:00 AM - scope woke up
easier than I did). Scope worked flawlessly both times - no random
slewing and accurate go to's. So I'm a little perplexed and hopefull at
the same time that the random slewing (maybe) is gone. I'm a longtime
astronomy hobbyist and know the night sky. But I really appreciate the
Autostar go to vs. trying to target with setting circles. I found
several objects with the ETX125 in my city lights - brightened night sky
that I never found with my C8 20 years ago in dark North Dakota farm
skies. I am looking forward to upgrading to the 2.0h software.
- About the scope: I do wish Meade would have made the mount more rigid.
It's sooo sensitive and shakes to just about anything. But after having
collimated the scope myself I find it so pleasing to view those perfect
airy disk star patterns. I remember from 20 years ago the best views I
got from my Celestron C8 were never near this exquisite. I enjoy getting
Castor at 300-400X and seeing the pair as if they're a set of headlights
with a perfect halo (defraction ring) around each one. And the double
double in Lyre was a snap - not even close to a challenge.

Hope you get some clear skies soon Mike.

Subject:	 Autostar Ver G  -  3 Com Web Cam
Sent:	Monday, March 6, 2000 08:19:15
From:	desertrat1@ctaz.com (Gerald)
I recently downloaded (with a home made cable) Ver G. I have VERY good
luck!  Everything works GREAT!  I have 4 tours loaded and all of them
work great also.  When I do a GOTO, I get the object's in the Eyepiece
at least 90% of the time.  I also ran a 100' cable from the Autostar to
my computer (in the house) and use SkyMap Pro 6  and ECU to slew the ETX
to an object displayed on the computer screen (while it tracks the
movement), this also has had great success. Object appear in the
Eyepiece (26mm) almost all the time, sometime ever centered better then
using the Autostar.

I also have a 3Com WebCam (digital camera), I am working on hooking this
up to the scope and running it into the house for astro photos.  The
software that comes with the 3com has a manual shutter control, but can
only go down to 1/4 sec.

Would appreciate any help on how to leave the shutter open longer, i.e.
Bulb mode.

Anyone had any experience in running a long (100 ft) USB cable???

Thanks, GREAT site.

Jerry

Subject:	 Continuing Testing of March Autostar Update 2.0h
Sent:	Monday, March 6, 2000 05:13:57
From:	jshy@widomaker.com (Jeff Shy)
I took out my ETX 90/EC again last night for further testing of the
March AutoStar Update and thought I would provide some additional
information to my earlier post.

The capability to turn off the Sun warning and startup are accessible
under the "Utilities" menu under "Display Options".

Yesterday I reported that I could not get access to the electronic
focuser when I was in a tour.  It turns out I was wrong.  I stumbled
quite accidentally upon the solution.  You will recall that in the
previous version, you had to hold down the "Mode" button two seconds to
get to the focuser.  Since mode also navigated through the menus, this
method was not very compatible with tours (or anything else for that
matter).  However, with this version, you can access focus control at
any time by pressing the "0" key.  If you do so, you will see an "X",
"F", "M", or "S" in the upper right hand corner of the AutoStar display
indicating the speed of focusing. This makes it easy to get in and out
of the focus function.  The only downside is that it turns the LED on. 
I'll at least give them credit for trying here.

As to the problem of the target leaving the field of view and fighting
backlash compensation, I have found that this is related to the
direction from which the object was approached.  On certain occasions,
the backlash compensation is not a problem at all.  At other times, it
makes the scope virtually uncontrollable.

I found a workaround to the problem that seems to work.  Once I have
found the error direction in the compensation for a particular object, I
simply force the scope to acquire the object from the opposite
direction. Remember, the scope finds the object quite efficiently but
then the backlash may take the object out of the field of view as it
moves the scope in an upward direction.  In this case the scope moves up
and the object drops out of the bottom of the FOV, then I move the scope
well below the object, let the backlash compensation do its thing, and
then manually move the scope up to reacquire the target.  Not a pretty
workaround, but it makes the thing usable and once acquired in this
method, the target tracks correctly.

The other thing I noticed last night is that once I get the target
settled in the FOV, the tracking is right on.  I studied a globular
cluster last night for almost 15 minutes and the thing stayed dead
center the whole time.
A thought:
From:	dcriner@ieee.org (Doug Criner)
After your workaround, does it go bonkers again if you fine-tune the
pointing to keep the object in the middle of the FOV?
And a reply:
It seems to work OK if I fine tune the pointing after applying the
workaround.  However, I haven't done a lot of testing on this since once
the tracking starts, it seems to work very efficiently and I have rarely
had to fine tune the pointing.

Subject:	 Bugcheck with Updater v2.1...
Sent:	Sunday, March 5, 2000 18:41:04
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
sent to engineer@meade...

Autostar Updater v2.1, from 3/3/00 auto.zip file for v2.0h for ETX
Autostar.
Win95 (4.950 B ), 96 megs ram, a gig of free disk
ETX90/ec with #497 Autostar running v2.0h

Action:  I read the HLP file to see how to update my satellites.
I removed LibSatellite.rom from the Ephemeride directory.
I started the Autostar and the Updater.
(despite the Help file's warning about not putting the Autostar in
Download,
   the Updater, of course, now -puts- it in Download)
It fetched the Asteroids, Satellites, Comets (none in my handset),
Tours.
I clicked the [Satellite] button to view what had arrived.
Yes, there were my five handbox-loaded Satellites.
So i clicked [Finished] to get back up to the main window.
Since the drop-down menu had been at , the Updater complained
about an invalid value in that "satellite's" data fields.
 Frump.
You've been complained at about this before.

So i [ok]'d that window, used the drop-down Satellite list to choose
another satellite (with valid values), clicked [finished] and...

wham!

A death-of-program message box stating:

AUTOSTAR UPDATE caused an invalid page fault in
module AUTOSTAR UPDATE.EXE at 0137:00455c4f.
Registers:
EAX=00000000 CS=0137 EIP=00455c4f EFLGS=00010212
EBX=00000001 SS=013f ESP=0070d420 EBP=0070d470
ECX=00000000 DS=013f ESI=5f49cf80 FS=0cb7
EDX=00000000 ES=013f EDI=00859fc4 GS=246f
Bytes at CS:EIP:
8b 40 04 5f 5e 5b 8b e5 5d c3 cc cc cc cc cc cc
Stack dump:
00859fc4 5f49cf80 00000001 00000000 0070d460 780a7f9e
 ffffffff 0070d46c 780a571d 009504c0 00000000 00859fc4
 5f49cf80 00000001 0070d610 00000001

I restarted Updater (and got worried message boxes warning me that the
scope was in Download... which is where the dead Updater left it, of
course).
This time i did what i came to do: drag-and-dropped the Visible.TLE file

on the [Satellite] button.
I then clicked on the Button to verify that, indeed, lots of satellites
were there.
They were all <handbox> pre-selected (nice!)
I then chose a valid satellite -before- clicking [apply changes] and
[finished]
This time the main screen arrived peacefully.
I clicked [send ephemerides to handbox] and it did...
I note it no longer provides Updater v2.0's tick-box of -what- to
send...
 it sent: Asteroids, Satellites (possibly comets), and Tours.
It cleanly Reset the handbox.
(as suspected, The [help] button still doesn't work...)
I clicked [finished] and the Updater cleanly exited.

Result: it successfully added the Visible list to my existing list of
Satellites.

It, however, *blew away* my added Asteroid (There Goes The Sun...),
 probably since i hadn't removed LibAsteroid.ROM from the Ephemerides
directory.

But this note is about the bugcheck....
have fun
--dick

Subject:	 sent to engineer at meade
Sent:	Sunday, March 5, 2000 17:04:56
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Yes, it works!  Thanks!

(ready? But...)

Autostar Updater v2.1 as delivered in 3/3/00's auto.zip file for the ETX

Autostar v2.0h.

Win95, Pentium, 32mb ram, 100mb free on the disk, previous familiarity
with Updater.

Under previous versions (such as v2.0a and 1.3g),  we used to be able to

click on the ASLDRDIALG.HLP file from Windows Explorer, and Windows'
Help.exe would handle it.

Now (v2.1 with v2.0h's auto.zip file) i get an Info box from Windows
Help saying:
  Cannot find or load the file RhMmplay.dll.  This file should be copied

to   C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM or a directory in your PATH.   [ok]

clicking [ok] gets a -second- Windows Help Info box saying:
  An error exists in this Help file.  Contact your application vendor
for an updated Help file. (1024)
    [ok]

clicking [ok] on that gets a -third- Windows Help Info box which says:
  Cannot find or load the file RoboEx32.dll.  This file should be copied

to C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM or a directory in your PATH.  [ok]

clicking [ok] on -that- gets Windows Help with Autostar Update Utility's

Index finally starting
 *and* a fourth WIndows Help Info box, with the now familiar message:
  An error exists in this Help file.  Contact your application vendor
for an updated Help file. (1024)
    [ok]

clicking [ok] there gets a sequence of three or four of the same message

boxes, and finally dismisses the last of the Info boxes.
After that, the Help can be read.

The files they mention don't appear in the unpacked or installed
directories.
(i remember earlier versions of Updater mentioning needing a 3rd party's

RoboHelp files for context-sensitive help to function.  Visiting that
company's website at that time did not yield (with moderate digging) the

necessary files (it looked like they'd undergone a corporate
reorganization).  Hence the big [HELP] button on the Updater hasn't
worked yet.  I'll try it on v2.1 after i reconnect my Autostar to my PC.

As an aside: i already have sucessfully installed and updated my
Autostar ETX to v2.0h.
Many things in Updater and Firmware have improved.  I appreciate the
treat-like-Ephermerides saving/restoring of User Objects, Landmarks,
etc.
Another user notes that you still blow away Custom Sites from the
Handbox.  He evidently had a few.  I haven't restored my one custom site

since v1.3g blew it from v1.1j.
So please add Custom Sites (and Owner Info?) to the things which survive

updates.


Last item (this time): Please state clearly in the README file whether
or not Drive Training has to be performed after an update.

As usual, thanks for the Update (And Updater)
--richard seymour
rseymour@wolfnet.com

Subject:	 Autostar Update Report
Sent:	Sunday, March 5, 2000 13:36:50
From:	jshy@widomaker.com (Jeff Shy)
I took the plunge and loaded AutoStar 2.0h yesterday and thought I might
share my experiences with you.

I had loaded the January version and had three problems.  First, the
thing occasionally seemed to make adjustments to tracking after it
finished centering an object which took the object out of the field of
view. Second, I had trouble getting tours compiled and deleted
(basically, even if the tour had an error, it was still in the list and
difficult to delete). And thirdly, the software was very buggy and
difficult to figure out.

The newest version goes a long way to fix some of this - but the most
important part (that of backlash compensation) is, in my opinion, more
messed up than ever.

The software itself works much better and is much less buggy than the
January version.  The status messages are better and it just feels more
solid.  The tour management is  better implemented, although some of the
buttons and labels are still kind of hard to figure out.  Unfortunately,
the tour is controlled for the most part via the Mode button.  And since
the mode button is used for other purposes, notably moving through menus
and the autofocuser, that spells trouble.

As long as you consider navigating through the tour equivalent to
navigating through a menu you can make some progress.  But basically you
must use the mode button to go from item to item in the tour and you can
hit "goto" without the customary "enter" to go to an object if it is put
into the tour as a "user" object (basically RA and Dec without a name
from the AutoStar catalogue).  It seems to me that this is a bad way of
navigation since its different in other places.  But I can live with
this once I figure it out.

What really causes a problem is that in order to use the computer
handbox and the focuser, you typically press and hold the mode key for 2
seconds. When you are in a tour, the mode key is interpreted as a tour
command, so it is impossible to get to the focuser.

But the biggest problem with version 2 (either the January or March
versions) which I have dealt with is the backlash compensation.  Simply
put, it doesn't work.  My January version would go to an object which
would typically be completely out of the field of view when the beep
sounded and then would slowly move into the center of the eyepiece. 
Usually it would end up fairly near the middle of the eyepiece. 
Sometimes it would end up going out of the field of view at the top of
the eyepiece.

The March version tends to put the object in the field of view when the
beep is sounded, but continue to move slowly (as though it were
compensating for backlash) until the object is frequently out of the
field of view to the top.  Sometimes it would be just fine, other times
out it went.  It appeared to me that the computer was trying to
compensate for backlash prior to tracking.  However, it did not seem to
be able to figure out when it should or shouldn't compensate (in other
words, depending upon the direction the scope took, sometimes no
compensation is necessary and sometimes it is, but it couldn't figure it
out correctly).

Even worse than this is that when I let it settle down and then moved
the scope up to get the object in the field of view, the scope would
work against me thinking that it knew where it ought to be aimed.  And
if I stopped moving the scope, the scope would again move to the
position it had before I started adjusting it and then settle right back
to where it was before it started.  This is just plain unacceptable.  As
long as the scope doesn't think it must compensate, I get good accuracy.
 But when it compensates, everything is off (and this happens perhaps
half the time).  I know I have excessive altitude backlash (in the
neighborhood of over 1 degree) and have resisted doing the tune-up since
I was getting acceptable results, but now I think I have to try and take
out some of the backlash to make my scope usable again.

All of this can be easily shown.  Just goto a star.  Let the scope
settle into tracking.  If this is one of the good times when things work
correctly and the start is in the field of view, hit goto again.  Since
you are on the star, very little should happen, but much of the time in
version 2, the scope tries to take up the backlash (even though the
backlash is already effectively gone since the computer is tracking the
star) and the star goes out of the field of view.

Among the things the instructions say were fixed are the following:
      o More accurate predictions on rise/set times.
      o Orbital eccentricities of >1 are flagged as improper.
      o Able to skip the SUN WARNING message.
      o Able to skip the GETTING STARTED message.
      o Revised backlash compensation.
      o Ability to switch from Landmarks to Comets.


The rise and set times are clearly more accurate.  They were useless
before, but appear now to be within about 2 to 3 minutes of the times
that SkyMap Pro reports.

I can't find where it says how to get rid of the warning messages.

I think the new "revised backlash compensation" is really bad news.  I
had a scope that consistently could score 85% to 95% hits before I
"upgraded" but now its just plain unpredictable and almost
uncontrollable and very frustrating to use.

Bottom line, in my opinion if you  haven't upgraded, don't......... but
I really like those tours.....

Subject:	 hmm... a Discovery of sorts...
Sent:	Sunday, March 5, 2000 12:09:43
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
At the Meade Website, they've now got a bunch of directories for holding
(for want of a better word) "co-branded" versions of the Autostar
Updater and Firmware.

The participating companies are:
DiscoveryChannel
NationalGeographic
NaturalWonders
RitsCameras
StoreOfKnowledge
WalMart
Wolf

The only one which actually -has- an Auto.Zip in it is the Discovery
Channel, and indeedy, that package includes a DiscoveryChannel bitmap. I
have -not- attempted to install/run that version (yet). I don't know if
it's the AutostarETX (#497) or plain Autostar (#495) version.

Opinion: This is probably a Good Thing...  those companies may well
start holding Meade's feet to the fire if those packages make their
customers unhappy.  And, since they're major sources of distribution for
Meade, Meade'll probably listen.

--dick (bemused)

p.s. The Discovery version was posted two hours -before- the general
release version.
p.p.s. no, i don't believe in conspiracy theories

Subject:	 Alignment Problems
Sent:	Sunday, March 5, 2000 04:03:20
From:	ourbabe2usa@netscape.net (Larry Reidnour)
I think I spoke to soon in my report that 2.0h seemed to take care of
the recent alignment problems I had been having.  I am still fighting
the same problem that I spoke about before I updated to 2.0h.  After
very careful alignment, the first few goto objects end up just outside
FOV of the 26mm eyepiece to the right.  In looking through the
viewfinder of which I have the crosshairs running horizonal and
vertical, the object star will be very close to the horizonal crosshair
about 1/4 of the FOV in the viewfinder to the right of center.  This
again just puts the object outside the FOV of the 26mm eyepiece to the
right.  From there it goes downhill.  One thing I can say, before I sent
it back to Meade for the "fix" of the sudden slewing and motor unit
failure problems where the scope would freeze up and a lot of us know
what sudden slewing is all about, I never had these alignment problems. 
It would consistantly put the object in the FOV of the 26mm eyepiece
until the sudden slew would occur or the scope froze up.  Before this
got real bad, I would get maybe 5-6 objects bullseyed before the scope
would "sudden slew" off the target requiring realignment.  Towards the
end though, I couldn't even get past the alignment phase without the
scope freezing up. I am not doing anything different now in calibrating,
training, leveling, homeposition, date, time, precise location, and very
careful alignment.  Nothing.  It doesn't sudden slew anymore, they fixed
that.  No more motor unit failures, they fixed that also.  I have no
clue as to what can be going on now, but it is consistantly inaccurate
in putting objects in the FOV of the 26mm eyepiece. Maybe the other
night when I uploaded 2.0h and it seemed to do a little better was a
fluke.  This is really frustrating and I actualy started thinking
"Nexstar" last night.  I have said it before though, I like this scope
and I think I have another problem that can be fixed.  Maybe one day I
will get there, I keep hoping. I expect to get an e-mail from one of my
friends out there saying "I told you so" and I am thinking he may be
right.  The thought of sending this back to Meade again turns my
stomach, but something is up with the horizonal axis positioning and I
do make sure the lock is tight ensuring the clutch is in gear.  Any
thoughts?

Subject:	Autostar Updater 2.1 and the 2.0h ROMs -- the truth is out there!
Sent:	Saturday, March 4, 2000 23:59:59
From:	Stantastic@aol.com
so here's the scoop:

I'm yelling, "Oh, my God, no!!" My wife comes running in -- "What? What
happened?"
-- "No, no, no!!" -- "What? What? Your hard drive crashed again, didn't
it?" -- "No, my God, IT WORKED!!!!"

And that pretty much sums it up.

I used the KISS principle and did just a simple update -- I don't have
any landmarks or user objects like you do; I just wanted to update the
software and NOT LOSE anything in the process. Everything seemed to work
in that regard (except see below).

Started up the software WITHOUT going into Download mode first, and sure
enough the updater automatically sent the Autostar into Download by
itself. It immediately did a read of all the objects and guided tours
currently in the handbox (and got it right!! -- without any Window's
error message). I then chose to do a software update, and it first asked
me if I wanted to save the current data, to which I replied "yes" --
here's where I started thinking (while the updater was doing its thing)
if I want to save my old data, how do I know that the "new" ROM files
(2.0h) don't contain updated versions of the asteroid, comet, and
satellite data that I currently have? And if I chose "no," (that I DID
NOT want to save my old files first in a backup) then the new files
would have loaded, but then what about the stuff that I might have added
on my own, or some guided tour that I entered earlier, before I
performed the update? I'd have to try loading those again using a
drag-and-drop on one of the buttons and do a turn-ON, turn-OFF on each
file -- no thanks!

So, without having tryed the "I don't want to save everything mode," I
don't know if it would have worked or not.

When the updater finished on the software (stopped somewhere in the
middle of page 27 I think it was), it did an auto-initialize on the
handbox. But then it left me sitting at the main dialog box, so now what
to do? Well, FINISH, of course. So I clicked on that, and it did another
auto-initialize. Okay -- that code is not written well, but no harm
done. And then the dialog closed as expected and I went for the handbox.

Set to read English -- my Portugese is pretty rusty -- date, time,
daylight savings off. No problem. Went to Utilities -- found the Turn
Off Sun Warning, Turn of Getting Started options and did that. Turned
off the handbox, turned it on -- voila, no startup messages. Went
directly to asking for the date. Wonderful!! Went to Site setup -- and
that's where I've been pissed off ever since the first updater appeared.
You may be able to keep your landmarks and user objects now, but you
always lose your custom sites!!!! Damn!! That needs to be fixed, too, in
my opinion. I know in the scheme of things (the universe and all that)
that the closest town to where I live should be sufficient (ANAHEIM in
the database, YORBA LINDA in reality), but I found way back that
tweaking the site info as best I can to where I actually live added just
a little bit more accuracy in doing GOTO's and maintaining tracking. So,
I found myself ADDing a "new" site (well, to me it's old since I've done
it on every software update) once again!!

I did a quick run through (in the house) on the Guided Tour "Tonight's
Best" to see about the star "problem" I mentioned before on the 2.0
updater with the 2.0g ROMs -- that is, once I got past the Planets and
Messiers and Galaxies and got to the star data I couldn't get any info
on the star by clicking on the down arrow as expected -- it just kept
doing a "Searching  ---- /|\-" and would just show me the star name
again. To my surprise, they fixed it!!!!! Huzzah!!! Everything seemed to
work as expected. I even pressed the MODE key and it took me back to the
latest found search element; it didn't exit out of the tour like the
previous version.

So, everything seems to be working as expected here. And on the first
attempt, too!!

Now, if the rain would just stop and the stars would come out and I
could find some time, I'll retrain the drive and put this puppy through
its paces to see if everything really does work as expected -- I'm
guessing it's still going to miss Jupiter and Saturn but still be in the
ballpark...

Off to Hawaii come next Saturday...

Hope you have clear skies up there in the north 40 -- it rains a lot in
Seattle, at least so I've heard?   ;-)

Stan Glaser
stantastic@aol.com

Subject:	 ETX 125
Sent:	Saturday, March 4, 2000 19:49:09
From:	burns@ismi.net (Russ Burns)
Just got an ETX 125 the other day. The first day, I had no luck getting
the Autostar to align. It did not help that I was totally clueless as to
where the stars I was trying to align on were. But the next night, after
reading your web site, and buying a couple of books, I attacked the
issue again. I dug out the GPS, a level, got my red flashlight, and my
glow in the dark dive compass. I set the to the home position, and let
it rip. The first star was Sirius, missed it by a mile, but at least I
had a chart to show me where the compass was supposed to be pointing. So
after getting it aligned, I did find Saturn and the rings. After looking
at Saturn, and a couple of other stars, I decided to attach the
Alignment problem again. Something just wasn't right. Went thru it all
again, and still the same problem, off by a mile. Now I start figuring
anything giving me this much grief must really be a "stupid" problem.
Check everything again, and come to realize that it is not longer
February, but March. I was only a month off. (I am one of those people
who don't run on a clock) Now I ran into another problem. Since Sirius
was due south of me, the telescope would start to slew counter clockwise
and hit the stop. Now I got to thinking about your comment of the tripod
instructions being wrong, and the fact I set up, per your instructions
with the telescope  computer port facing west. Something just was not
right. So after thinking about it some more, I came to realize the maybe
the instructions for Meade were correct, but instead of aligning the
first fork arm, which would point the telescope south, go to the second
fork arm. This points the telescope north and places it between the
stops, so no matter which way it turn it will not hit the stop. This
time at least I was getting the correct stars into the view finders.
Still am not real happy with the alignment yet, but I will have to
double check my to make sure my tripod head is level. But I am getting
closer.

Thanks for all the info on the web site, it has been most helpful.

Russ Burns
Mike here: I'm beginning to wonder if the Control Panel East or West really matters!

Subject:	 Etx Help
Sent:	Saturday, March 4, 2000 08:40:02
From:	duckmann13@excite.com (Tim Gartman)
Summer's Coming up pretty quickly and I'm getting to use my ETX more,
But I need some help. First off I can't figure out the proper way to
polar align the scope. The manual seems vague and imprecise. Second, I
can't figure out what to do with the RA setting circle. What do you need
it for and how do you set it? And, finally, How do you use the Two star
alignment for the Autostar correctly? How do you set the ETX to track
automatically through the Autostar? That's all I need for now.

                                       Tim Gartman
Mike here: See the "ETX and Autostar Alignment Tips" on the Autostar Information and the Buyer/New User Tips pages. As to the RA circle, you really don't need it with the Autostar. There is a tip about it on the Buyer/New User Tips page later today.

Subject:	 v2.0h ... here there be Dragons!
Sent:	Friday, March 3, 2000 22:04:50
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
well, i haven't really tested it yet, but there's a few interesting items in the
READMEs:

(1) [the biggie]  The Autostar does NOT need to be placed in DOWNLOAD
mode. evidently the Updater will do it to, er, for you. sic transit
safety switch.... (pardon my french)

(2) theoretically, the Sun Warning and Getting Started messages can be
surpressed.

(3) they've fixed a number of bugs and improved things...  47 by my
count across 21 "builds".

=======================
that's the theory...
here's what's happened so far:
   downloading and initial installation to the Win95 PC went well.
   The install process asks if you'd like the existing files saved in a backup
directory.
       ...all it saves is the AutostarUpdater.exe file itself.
   much amusement was had reading the Updater's bug list... they list -dozens- of
corrections.
     ... a veteran Visual C++ programmer was reading over my shoulder saying
               "yep, yep... knew that... yep..."
   Then i clicked the desktop icon i'd made for v2.0
    ... it didn't work!
   Guess what?  They've changed the name of the Updater!
   From AutostarUpdater.exe  to Autostar Updater.exe   (yes, with a space).
   So i fix my shortcut and start it...
   As reported in the bug-fix list, they now are better at keeping -some- window
on the screen during many stages of progress.  Nice touch (although they do
flicker on and off)
   My first start of the Updater was with the Autostar turned off.
   The program properly dismissed COM1 as inaccessible (that's my mouse!),
     and then sat trying to make sense out of COM2.  Eventually it timed out and
told me that it couldn't find the autostar.  After clicking [ok], the Updater
exited.
  So i turned on the Autostar, and just set it to Select: Object:
  And restarted the Updater.
  And, by jimminny, it -did- automagically switch itself to DOWNLOAD.
   And sucked the bodies and tours into the PC.
   And showed the "what's there" box...
    Glorioski! As reported in the update list, they've started capturing the User
Objects, Landmarks, etc, too...  and they show reasonable counts for me.(3
landmarks, 5 satellites)
   So, i pop open the Satellite Edit page... and my satellites are...NOT THERE?
     It's using the existing Lib files, which include some 
  Sigh... i click [cancel] to get out of the Satellite Edit page (quite possibly
a mistake)
  And push the [Get Ephemerides] (from Handbox).
  I see the "getting Tours and Astro data" box (again), but -this- time, the "how
many"
    display shows *1* satellite. (deja vu all over again... sigh)
Oh, well... so i push the [New Software] button and we're off on the usual
half-hour
   page-transfer sequence.  Which is what's happening while i write this.
(this Email is being done on a different PC)

At a couple of times in the above steps, i snap-shotted the entire AutostarUpdate
and/or Ephemerides directory, in a (probably) vain hope of avoiding total loss of
Satellites.

We'll see...

29 minutes later.. BEEP!  and we're off and running...
It wants to know Language, Site, Model..
New under Utilities is "Display Options:"  which allows turning on/off
   both Sun Warning  and Getting Started... Hooray! (faster startups...)
Hmm... some of the Scroll operations seem to take longer to notice i'm leaning on
the key.

Oh, joy!  it did **not** delete my Satellites and Landmarks!
(mind you, there are still only my hand-loaded 5 satellites and 3 landmarks (and
my favorite Asteroid added to their list), but they're there!

So i "Park Scope", turn it off, and back on...
YES!  (the initial display, by the way, just says v2.0)  But it goes directly to
Enter Date:
So the "cancel" of Sun Warning and Getting Started worked.
(i did use the Utilities->Statistics function to verify that it does identify
itself as v2.0h)

So, over the weekend (rain forecast here), i'll try downloading some recent
Satellite Ephemerii and give that a shot...
But so far, no obvious problems.

(he goes off to train the drive at distant lights in the rain...)

--dick

p.s.   whoops... spoke too soon... I had turned off the Autostar before closing
the Updater.
 (silly me...)... and the Updater's screen seemed to have stopped accepting
clicks.
  Then the little box asking if i'd like to replace the Messier Marathon that's
in my Library
    with the one from the Handbox appeared...
 Immediately overlaid by an error box:

    Failed to properly clean up Library file!
    Could not rename temp file
C:\Program....\Ephemerides\QQLibraryMaintence.ROM
    to C:\Program...\Ephemerides\LibTour.ROM
                                  [OK]

Well, i can -see- that QQ file in there... (two of them... QQLibFile.ROM, too).
  la dee dah...

So i click [no] to the "replace Messier" box, and [ok] on the error box,
  and another box pops up asking me to put the Autostar into Download mode.
   i click [ok] on that, and it disappears.....
      and reappears 30 seconds later
[incredible feeling of deja vu strikes again... i've been here, done this, and
torn many t-shirts]
I've learned... only ctl-alt-del  brings up the TaskManager so i can really kill
Updater...
 (and it takes two of -those- oprations to really kill it...)

I see that there are .BAK files of the LibSatellite... which is nice... the BAK
file is 5kb, and the LibSat.ROM itself is now only 1kb...

So they've saved (or at least kept tucked away ) my bacon... more brownie
points....
Mike here: Seems like a "lesson learned" here is do what the Autostar Updater expects (have the Autostar ON and let the software do its thing).

And from Stan Glaser (stantastic@aol.com):

well, after reading your saga, it sounds like things still sorta kinda
maybe worked a little better than before...

as soon as I get a chance to do the upgrade, I'll let you know how it
goes...

STILL WAITING FOR THE FRIGGIN' MACINTOSH VERSION OF SOMETHING (updater,
Java version -- at this point in time, I really don't give a #$%@, as
long as it's Mac compatible) -- so, back to booting up Virtual PC,
again!!

I'll see if I can find an old T-shirt to rip off, just in case   ;-)

Subject:	 A new "Home"(position) 
Sent:	Friday, March 3, 2000 19:42:30
From:	larry.oconnor@home.com (LARRY O)
Thanks for all the effort you put into this site so people like me can
find out all manner of info about our ETx's and Autostars.  It would be
a tough road without all the input.

I finally gave in and decided to let my ETXEC have a "New Home" (home
position, that is). I was forever fighting with it to stop it from
hitting the hard stop going clockwise, during alignment. It seems to
want to turn that way, but can never go more than about 100 degrees
before hitting the stop.  And from my position in Toronto, Canada, most
of its first picks for alignment are more southerly than that.  I
started changing the home position to one where the OTA is turned CCW to
the stop then CW until the "second" arm of the fork is over the control
panel.  In my case, thats the fork with the Dec. Lock. The control panel
now faces East when North aligned. Since doing this, I have not had any
problems with hitting stops, even when it decides to "go around the
world to get across the street" as it sometimes does. (This is probably
old news to most, but it was a "ray of light" for me) With version 2(e)
I am getting most "GO TOs" in the finder. Regarding the effect of cold
on the Autostar, I recently experienced strange looking characters on
the display, after leaving everything outside on a cold (-10C)night to
cool down before use.  A few minutes in my pocket, however, returned it
to normal.  There seems to be something to the "cold" issue. As a matter
of interest, I connected the Autostar/ETX to my PC and was able to slew
it about using Skymap Pro 5.  The software detected and controlled the
Autostar without any problem.

Thanks again for all you efforts. (My TELRAD is still on my ETX with
elastic bands and I still wonldn't change it)

Larry O'Connor
larry.oconnor@home.com

Subject:	 Alignment Problems
Sent:	Thursday, March 2, 2000 04:39:24
From:	ourbabe2usa@netscape.net (Larry Reidnour)
I am having some intersting alignment problems since I got my 125 back
from Meade.  First of all, the sudden slewing is gone, the motor unit
failures are gone, it works like it is supposed to.  That is good. 
However, it is not putting the goto's in the 26mm eyepiece like it used
to.  I have reset it, retrained, recalibrated, and still am getting the
same results.  What is interesting is during the 2 star alignment, it
places each alignment star in the same position in the viewfinder.  I am
basicially slewing the scope to center the same on both stars.  That
tells me that something is right.  On goto objects the vertical axis is
right on the money putting the target almost directly on the horizonal
crosshairs of the viewfinder (I have the crosshairs running verticially
and horizonally), but the target ends up just say a few degrees to the
left or the right along the horizonal axis in the viewfinder just out of
view of the 26mm eyepiece, consistantly.  I have made sure the horizonal
axis lock is secure, I use a GPS for precise location, my time and date
is correct, like I said, I have recalibrated and retrained, and even
reset, all with the same results.  Am I missing anything?  I have been
tempted to upload 2.0 from my current 1.3c but hesitant.  It was right
on the money before I sent it in to Meade, I just had the slewing and
motor unit failure problems which made it no fun to use.  Now those
problems are gone, but I am getting this consistant inaccuracy along the
horizonal axis.  Anybody have any ideas?
Mike here: The only thing you didn't mention is the leveling of the scope. Could that be slightly off?

Added later:

Yes. In fact, alignment was perfect on the vertical axis. Goto object
was situated perfectly on the horizonal crosshair either to the right on
some and to the left on others halfway from dead center.  This put the
object just outside the 26mm eyepiece dead center verticially, I would
simply rotate the horizonal axis to bring the object in the center of
the eyepiece.  Just funny that it would seem I am doing something wrong
because of the consistantly and location of the "misses", but I can't
figure it out.  I am doing nothing different that I haven't done for
over a hundred times now that I have owned the scope.  I am really
curious how your works once the weather clears off in your area.  I'd
like to see you review your own scope, but this is really strange on my
end.
Mike here: The sky was beautifully clear all day Thursday while at work but clouded up on the way home. Supposed to rain tomorrow. Grrrr...

And:

Thanks Mike.  I am so close to having a perfectly working scope.  I
really believe this is a minor problem that can be corrected by possibly
an Autostar update, or something I may be missing.  Hope you get a
chance to use yours soon!
Mike here: Thunderstorms (!) Friday night. A rare thing in Los Angeles. Lots of lightning. Didn't even turn on the computer. Had planned to update the site but had to wait until Saturday morning.

And the final good news:

2.0h has made all the difference in the world in reference to my
alignment problem.  I thought it might be a software problem!

Subject:	 Kudos and Boquets again...
Sent:	Tuesday, February 29, 2000 22:26:02
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Great (obvious in retrospect, just like Relativity*) Idea having the
past Autostar versions all on your site.

--dick
Mike here: I can't take the credit for the idea.

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