AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 31 December 2007

Welcome to the AutoStar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar #494, #495, #497, 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 alignment question
Sent:	Monday, December 31, 2007 14:40:49
From:	Mike Pilgrim (mpilgrim@bellsouth.net)
As I gradually become acquainted with my new ETX-125, I continue to come
back to possible cockpit error in my initial setup, as follows:

Thinking that I have mastered the "home position"  (computer panel on
the west side of the scope, rotate the tube CCW to it's stop, then CW
until the fork arm is centered over the computer panel; then picking up
entire assembly, I visually aim the tube at Polaris, put the tripod back
on solid, level patio surface, lock the horizontal lock, then move the
tube down to "zero" as verified with a carpenter's level to be "level
tube pointed to true north".  Next in the Easy Align menu, the scope
seeks the first alignment star, locates it, slews for a few seconds,
then beeps with the message to "center the star and press
Enter"........this is where my confusion arises.  The alignment star is
located very near my crosshair in the viewfinder, although slightly left
and high of the center of the viewfinder....... likewise, it is clearly
visible in my 26mm eyepiece, but not centered. As I use the Arrow keys
to center the alignment star, I am frustrated that for each correction I
give it via the Arrow keys, the scope immediately "skews" back to the
initial position in the eye piece.  I continue to "chase the star" back
to center of the eyepiece, only to be countered each time with the
"skew" action negating my correction.  Finally, out of frustration, I
tend to press Enter, in hopes that some stroke of luck will capture the
star as it skews past center position........This merry-go-round repeats
itself when I command Easy Align to go to the second alignment star.

Obviously, I must be doing something wrong, but as yet, I've not been
able to figure it out.

Could it be that my "home" setup is incorrect, thus the star alignment
is off by the same margin of home error?  Or, is this a normal behavior,
and perhaps I need somehow to disengage"skewing" while I fine-tune the
Easy Alignment?

What does the Doctor suggest?

It's actually surprising, that even after the above-described
frustrations with Easy Align, I was quite successful last evening in
locating M42 and able to keep it centered for quite a long time using
Autostar (it seems to have been centered for 10 minutes before I decided
to close up shop due to clouds moving in)

Do I need to worry about my Easy Align procedure, or is this normal?

Thanks,

Mike Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fl 
Mike here: What you are experienceing is known as "rubberbanding". The cure is simple (usually) -- just do a TRAIN DRIVES. If you have never done it you should also do a CALIBRATE MOTOR and then do the TRAIN DRIVES. Be certain you train in both axes from the AutoStar's menu.

And:

Thanks for the quick response, Mike.  Actually, I did go through the
Calibrate Motor and then Train Drives exercises, but admittedly, that
was during my first couple days of exposure to the scope.  Your advice
is well taken, and appreciated.  I'll attempt that procedure again
during daylight hours tomorrow.

Another thought occurred, that being that while aligning on the two
stars, I wonder if I could help myself by slowing the skew rate.  At
least that seems a way to accurately capture the star in the middle of
the eyepiece (rather than watching it travel at a fast pace).  Maybe the
whole problem will be resolved after your recommended Calibrate/Train
Drives suggestion.  Thanks again.

Mike Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fl
Mike here: Certainly a slower slew speed can help with manually centering the star. I typically use a speed setting of 4 or 5.

And:

Thanks to your "rubber banding" comment, I found an article by Dr Clay,
dated 24 Feb '01 which seems to encapsulate my whole concern.  I've
printed all three Chapters (looks like 50+ pages); ready to sit and
read, and plan my way to "tuning up the scope" before I try any more
viewings, or photog. Sessions.

Thanks again.

Mike Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fl
Mike here: Keep in mind that many of his mechanical tips are for older models of the ETX. Tips for the AutoStar can still be applicable however.
Subject:	ETX-125 error code
Sent:	Friday, December 21, 2007 10:21:52
From:	Thomas Rosbach (terosbach@sc.rr.com)
Greetings and Salutations
 
I am brand new to telescopes and amateur astronomy.

Hence the reason I am breaking everything.

Wife brought me a Meade ETX-125 telescope for our 29th Anniversary.

I set it out on my deck and run a 50ft phone line back into the house.

I can't seem to get the two to connect.

But I did once, and proceeded to do something bad to the 497 hand
controller.

Now its crashed. All I get is this error code (Prec. Step 2)

Any idea how to make this thing talk to my computer and how to reboot
the hand controller.
 
Thank you for your time
 
Thomas Rosbach
Dalzell, SC
Mike here: A "phone line" is the wrong type of cord. To make a proper cable for the AutoStar see the "Cable and Power Information" section on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. You may or may not have damaged your AutoStar. Can you get to the RESET menu item? If not AND if you have (or can make) a #505 serial cable (see the AutoStar Info page) then you can try a SAFE LOAD (see the "Q. The power went off while I was updating my AutoStar and now it doesn't work. Did I kill it?" on the FAQ page for more info on how to do this). If your computer has only a USB port you will need a USB-serial adapter but not all work reliably with the AutoStar; see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the AutoStar Info page. I use a Keyspan model with my Macintosh systems and it works fine. For the Windows AutoStar Update application see Meade's site (http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html); for a Mac OS X updater, use AutoStarX (link on the AutoStar Info page).
Subject:	re: Autostar handbox tours for the 497
Sent:	Thursday, December 20, 2007 20:40:43
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Many of us would be happy to help analyze the Tour,
but without -having- the Tour, it's impossible to
check it for you.   (i subscribe to Sky&Tele, not Astro).

What -might- have happened is that your method of downloading
the tour from AstroMag may have corrupted it (perhaps
invisibly).  If you have both Internet Explorer and Firefox,
try the other browser.
If you "opened" the tour, and then "saved the page",
that can confuse things.  It's better to right-click on
the link at the site, and choose "Save Target As..."

If you want to send along a copy of the Tour, i'd be happy
to look at it.

have fun
--dick

And more:

Well, that's an odd tour...  and it DOES have coding errors.

First, the -current- version of the Autostar Updater (4.6) does
upload the tour to my Autostar/ETX90 (firmware 43Eg).
That version of the updater is here:
http://www.meade.com/support/auto/Au2.exe

It's possible Steve is running an older version of the Updater
that was supplied with an LPI or DSI.

The Tour -does- have "coding errors" if you compare it to the
"how to write a tour" and other Meade tours, which can be seen/fetched
from here:
http://www.meade.com/support/autotours.html

For example, Meade's Messier Marathon tour has lines like:
MESSIER 110
MESSIER 032
MESSIER 031
MESSIER 103

The Astronomy Magazine tour has lines like:
AUTO SELECT MESSIER "13 (NGC 6205)"
AUTO SELECT MESSIER "15 (NGC 7078)"
AUTO SELECT MESSIER "2 (NGC 7089)"

The "errors" are those quotes (") and the additional text.

Even the NGC lines have quotes:
AUTO SELECT NGC "104"
AUTO SELECT NGC "2808"
AUTO SELECT NGC "3201"

...so that may explain the "coding error" issue.

In fact, when i -run- the tour in my Autostar, i'm offered
NGC 15  (at 8pm 21 Dec, Seattle).

Note that NGC 15 is -not- one of the members of the Tour file!
You're seeing the effect of the quotes... they "shield" the NGC
numbers from the Autostar's parser, and all the Autostar gets
is "NGC" (without a number).  So it picks the first one in its
NGC catalog that's "up" for me.

It's possible an LX200gps Autostar II would operate properly,
i have not tested that (yet).

But that's not the end of the oddities...
The Astronomy Mag tour -starts- with a PICK ONE command,
and ends with a PICK END.
That means that it will only offer -one- of the objects in the
entire tour.
So I start the tour, i'm offered NGC 15.
Whether or not i choose to GoTo it, the method of moving on
to the next item in a tour is to tap the [mode] key.

Which drops me right -out- of the Tour!.

I don't even see the "Thank you" message, since it's -included-
within the bounds of the PICK ONE/PICK END commands.

So Steve's example reveals a bug in ASU4.6, since it did not complain
about the syntax "errors".

Steve: i don't know who "Arthur" is, but his tour does have syntax
errors, when compared to the "how to write a tour" manual, and
when tested by running it in a 497 Autostar.

You can -correct- the tour by
(a) remove the quotes surrounding numbers (you'll need to remove
  the (NGC 6333) comments in the Messier lines, too)
(b) remove the PICK ONE and PICK END lines

have fun
--dick

And:

...wait a sec... that "Thank you" line says it was written -by- Steve.

So we -still- haven't seen the Astro Mag tour
(i think)

have fun
--dick

Subject:	Autostar handbox tours for the 497
Sent:	Wednesday, December 19, 2007 21:16:43
From:	STEVE HARRIS (NISISIN@msn.com)
My LXD55 5" refractor is a good scope. Astronomy Magazine's online
extras for October 2007 offered downloadable sky tour code for Autumn
Nebulas. I uploaded it to my Autostar Handbox, but it didn't upload due
to code errors. I wrote the Arthur and he replied that the code works
for EXT's. I PDFed the Meade 'How to Write Tours' manual and it helped
me to get my code uploaded to my Handbox, but it still did not work
properly. Do you know how to write codes?
 
Steve Harris
Mike here: I haven't written any tours but see the page "AutoStar Guided Tours and Info" and the "AutoStar Tour Simulator" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page.
Subject:	I think I corrupted the #497 firmware 
Sent:	Friday, December 14, 2007 06:01:40
From:	Mike Pilgrim (mpilgrim@bellsouth.net)
I just acquired a used ETX-125EC with Autostar #497 hand box.  While
attempting to connect and configure my laptop for computer control, I
decided initially to download the Autostar upgrade.  While performing
this upgrade, the LED readout on the hand box read "Downloading, do not
power off".  Unfortunately, about an hour into the download, mother
nature decided to knock off our electrical power (the telescope is
powered by the optional AC adapter).  Since that power interruption, the
telescope will not Initialize when powered on:  The only LED message is
the initial Trademark title line, and all of the hand box keys are
dead............ I'm guessing the power interruption has corrupted the
firmware on the #497.  My question is to learn how or what I must do to
recover from this failure.  Is there a simple answer, or does this
require total replacement or shipping to Meade for a fix?  I sure hope
someone has a simple, cheap, and quick resolution in hand.  Thanks.
 
Mike Pilgrim
Boca Raton, Fl
Mike here: The AutoStar firmware download to the AutoStar should take around 30 minutes. As to restoring the AutoStar see "Q. The power went off while I was updating my AutoStar and now it doesn't work. Did I kill it?" on the FAQ page.

And:

While attempting to update from my laptop to the Autostar #497 on my
ETX-125EC (which is powered using the optional AC power supply), we
encountered a brief commercial power outage.  When power was restored, I
was saddened to learn that my Autostar would not Initiate beyond the
Meade trademark screen when powered up.  A phone call to Meade Customer
Service resulted in a comment that the only fix is to replace the hand
box.

Recalling a comment here in these pages which indicated presence of a
"safe mode" (holding down the Enter Key and Scroll Down key while
turning on the power), I posed a question to the Techie regarding
whether or not there was some way to recover or replace the
obviously-corrupted firmware in the hand box using "safe mode".  After a
brief time on hold while the service rep consulted with others, he
confirmed that Yes, entering "safe mode" will enable reconnection to the
laptop, after which I could run the Autostar Update which would download
a replacement load of the firmware............. Following those
instructions, I am happy to report that after approximately 30 minutes
of downloading, the hand box sounded a reassuring "beep" and revealed to
me that it once again was alive and well.

Thanks to Mike for his efforts here in this web site.  While some of the
discussion was over my head and frightful to even comprehend how to
proceed once in "safe mode", at least I had gleaned enough knowledge to
pose a particular "buzz word" which resulted in a relatively painless
recovery from what could have been a costly fix.

Hope this little piece of information can be useful to others who are
turning here for some answers.

Regards,
 
Mike Pilgrim
Boca Raton, Fl
Mike here: That is such a common question and so it was added years ago to the FAQ page on my ETX Site!
Subject:	re: autostar glitch
Sent:	Thursday, December 6, 2007 22:28:17
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
99.5% of the time, errors such as you are reporting are due
to improper setting of the Time Zone for your area.

I strongly recommend using the "nearest City" method of
setting your site... that automatically sets the TZ.

In the US, the values in recent firmwares are negative
(i.e. Pacific Time is -8.0)

When you are setting the time on the Autostar,
look at the display.  If it does -not- show AM or PM
as part of that display, then it's operating in 24 hour time.
(you'd see 20:00 as its powerup display).

Check your Time Zone

have fun
--dick

And:

From:	Jim & Leesa (jimw7@verizon.net)
Thanks Dick, for the help. Time zone and location all ok, I have stored
this scope without batteries and have not trained it for years. So as
soon as the weather breaks I will retrain this thing and see how it
works.

And:

*Very* old versions of the firmware did not show "E" and "W"
in the longitude screen... for those (i vaguely remember (i.e.
could be wrong)) the "west" (i.e. USA) longitudes also required 
negative entries.  That's another reason for using the "nearest
city" (even if it's not very near) to set your site... it got
the coordinates -and- time zone correctly entered with the correct
signs.

Due to the "years", you might want to do a Setup/Reset[enter][enter]
to wipe out any flipped-by-age bits in the semi-permanent storage.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	autostar glitch
Sent:	Friday, November 30, 2007 15:43:04
From:	Jim & Leesa (jimw7@verizon.net)
I have an ETX90EC with autostar, has not been used much in the aligned
mode, but I set it up last night and did an alt/az align ok with
Cappella then Rigel in Orion.  When I did a Go to, it said Perseus was
below horizon, it was not. I did go to Orion and it said below horizon.
Time and date and location were correct. How could it use a star in
Orion to align, then say it is below horizon?? It found polaris ok,
tried pleides and it went about 90deg off to the NW. I have not yet
retrained or reset anything. Autostar has never been updated either, I
need to get or make a 505 cable.  Thanks for the good site, Jim
Mike here: Did you change (set) the Daylight Savings to the proper setting for your location? Have you entered your proper location? If you have never done (or not done in the last several months) a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES? I recommend doing those.

And:

Thanks Mike for the quick reply, The batteries were removed for a long
time and scope was never retrained. What do you think about training it
with a camera piggybacked on it? Would it make it more or less accurate
to have it be loaded the way it will be used sometimes? Also the
latitude and longitude settings in autostar are in decimal form and not
minutes I assume? Like 41deg 30' is 41deg.50 right?  thanks, jim
Mike here: Loading won't matter. And yes, 30' is .5 degree.
Subject:	Used ETX90 Autostar not working
Sent:	Thursday, November 29, 2007 21:40:37
From:	Philip Browne Jr. (asrrin16@yahoo.com)
Hi, my name is Philip Browne and I recently purchased a Meade ETX90 PE
used from a friend.  He told me that he had only used it once and never
figured out how to get the electronics on it working.  After reading the
manual provided by meade.com, I put in some fresh batteries into the
telescope and powered it on.  The power light turned on but that was it.
I pressed the help button on the Autostar controller, and everything
lit up red for a few seconds before giving me a loud beep and then
shutting off.  the LED on the very top of the controller continues to
stay on, but the rest of the controller does not respond to anything,
nor does the motor at the base of the telescope make any noise or
movement at all.

Any insight on this problem would be of immense help.  I am a beginner
in astronomy though am currently taking classes to learn more about it. 
I have good knowledge of electronics.  Your website is of tremendous
value for a beginner like me and I hope that after I get this problem
fixed I can use the resources you provide to further my interest in
astronomy.
Mike here: Check that the batteries are inserted correctly. Also, check that the AutoStar cable connectors and jacks are in good shape (the pins should not be dirty, too depressed, or bent sideways). Try reversing the coiled AutoStar cable (be certain you have it connected the HBX port). From what your friend said to you, it sounds like the AutoStar didn't work for him either. Do you know if he had connected an external power supply? (He might have fried the electronics if he connected something incorrectly). If the telescope never worked he should have contacted the dealer for an exchange/repair under warranty. But now you may be stuck replacing the AutoStar (if indeed that is the problem) or having Meade repair the telescope.
Subject:	RE: Easy align, when finding 2 alignment stars scope did not go up in altitude.
Sent:	Thursday, November 29, 2007 01:53:00
From:	Morris Clive Robert Edward ADN/CYLLID (Clivemorris@gwynedd.gov.uk)
I don't think I am going to be able to fix the problem with my Meade
ETX90EC in time for the opposition of Mars.

Would it be sensible,do you think,for me to attempt to view Mars with
the scope,with the scope not being able to go up in altitude?

Clive  
Mike here: Since the optics still work and the lock still works you can always just point the telescope at any object. To make life simpler you might want to polar mount the ETX and put the AutoStar into Polar Mode. That way once you point at an object the only movement the telescope has to do is in Right Ascension and the AutoStar can handle the tracking.

And:

Thank you very much for your help,Mike.
Your advice is much appreciated.
Clive 

And:

The first thing I would have to do is change Mount under telescope to
Polar.

As usual I would have to start with an easy alignment.Would this be
already chosen to polar for me after changing mount,or would I have to
change it myself? I'm answering this question myself I think,answer is
No.

There would be a problem there because the tube will not rise in
altitude. Should I then press ENTER for both alignment stars even though
the scope hasn't found the alignment stars because it won't have gone up
in altitude only around in right ascension.Answering myself,I think the
answer is YES.

Then,I presume what I would have to do is ask the scope to find Mars.

Enter,go to,except scope won't go to.

To find Mars,what I will have to do is to then release the RA and Dec
clamps,find Mars manually by moving the scope without battery power,then
once I find Mars,lock both the axes. Check Autostar has Mars on screen.

Presumably then the Autostar will then track Mars in RA only.

I have never used the ETX90EC in polar mode. I presume I would have to
train the gears in polar mode,except the OTA won't go up.
Mike here: You physically mount the telescope in polar mode and then tell the AutoStar that is how it is mounted. And yes, you can do the Easy Align, just assuming that it has centered the stars since it won't move up. Then you can do a GOTO to Mars; once the AutoStar thinks it is centered you would then manually position the OTA to point at Mars. However, you don't need to actually do an alignment (if you can point the polar axis towards Polaris) and don't need to use the GOTO. Just manually set the telescope mount for your latitude and align the polar axis to Polaris. Then select Astronomical tracking.

And:

Good luck with your move.
 Thanks very much for your advice with the ETX.
Clive

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Copyright ©2007 Michael L. Weasner / etx@me.com
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URL = http://www.weasner.com/etx/archive/dec07/autostar.html