Last updated: 31 January 2003
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 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
Sent:	Thursday, January 30, 2003 19:39:39
From: (The Bostons)
My son purchased an Autostar for me through E-bay. It was from a deleear
out of Las Vegas who seemed to have excellent gfeedback. However, the
instruction manual was not with the equipment.  I've tried to follow the
prompts of the Autostar itself but come up short on getting everything
to fall into place.  Do you know where I might acquire, get, purchase,
beg, or borrow a manual that tells all about the Autostar?

Mike here: See the FAQ page.
Subject:	Autostar Extension Cords
Sent:	Thursday, January 30, 2003 13:15:48
From:	Marv.Sumner@ONIZUKA.AF.MIL (Sumner Marv C Contr CWNO/SCNC)
Ok -
So I bought two telephone extension cords from Radio Shack - a 4-pin for
the Autostar-II (LX-200) and an 8-pin for the ETX Autostar.  Sounds
fine.  I also bought an 8-pin coupler, but they had no 4-pin coupler
(the size for handset cords).  The couplers are needed so that the
original cord with it's pin-swapping can stay in-line.  Now, where does
one find the needed 4-pin "handset" coupler?  Or must I make one...where
do I get the parts for that venture?
Regards to all,
Marv Sumner
Mike here: I would have thought that Radio Shack would have had them!

And an update:

Well, I tried the cables I bought today.  Half-n-half happy-sad.  I rang
out the continuity on both of the new cables and both original Meade
ones.  As others have said, the ETX Autostar to scope requires an 8-wire
cable that has the pins swapped (counting in reverse).  The 12 foot
Radio Shack #279-446 cable is one-to-one (not swapped), so with a 1:1
coupler keeping both cables in line, it should work - no joy.  We still
wind up with a reversal of what pin-outs the scope wants from the
Autostar - maybe I'm doing something wrong?  Time to try reworking the
connector.  I put it all back normal & hadn't smoked anything, then on
to the LX-200/GPS.

Now, big smiles.  The Radio Shack #279-286 25 foot coil cord (4 feet
long when not streached) has the pins reversed the same way as the Meade
cable - works fine.  The Autostar-II can rest on the card table next to
the scope when we are not actually eyeballing the optics.  Maybe someday
we'll see how far the electronics can drive (with CAT-3 or 5 media?) and
move observers into the nice warm RV nearer the coffee pot and the other
Clear skys (if you can find some)
Marv Sumner

Subject:	re:  Controlling without Autostar
Sent:	Wednesday, January 29, 2003 21:58:59
From: (Richard Seymour)
Not too many have tried, none have succeeded fully (that i've heard of).
One person managed to issue two open-loop commands ("slew" and "Stop").

I (and some of the folks who have tried) have analyzed the modified I2C 
bus protocol Meade uses (and, since it is modified, most commercial
I2C analyzers get upset).  I've looked at it with digital o'scopes.

By no means do we have the complete command protocol analyzed/understood.
(and i have the advantage of complete disassemblies of the Autostar firmware).

495 and 497 Autostars are commonly available for about $60.
For example, the December 11th posting by William Vorce at:
Then put together a 505-type cable per:
and you're off and rolling.

Although the intellectual challange is intriguing, the difficulty level
of non-Autostar control is high.  I would -think- that a properly 
programmed parallel port would allow the control.  The Autostar drives
three I2C busses: one for each axis, one for the AUX port.
There is even a PIC chip in the Autostar itself doing some of the I2C
driving, so it's not even a "simple parallel port" from the Autostar's
CPU, either.  

I'm happy to provide rough notes on Meade's I2C protocol offline,
but they're -very- rough.  (someday i should at least make a note
for Mike's site)

have fun

Subject:	re: German #494 Controller...
Sent:	Wednesday, January 29, 2003 21:26:39
From: (Richard Seymour)
> v10G

Well, i think that ices it... the "G" stands for German.

My recommendation is to purchase a 495 or 497 Autostar .
They're frequently available for about $50 (see one of the Dealer
Specials or For Sale notices on Mike's site... there was someone
selling a bunch purchased from a store going out of business.)

The 494 cannot be upgraded or uploaded.

A 495 can be converted to a 497 by updating it,
and you can build a 505-type cable (plans on Mike's site at: )
or buy one on eBay for less than $10.

Both an unpatchd 495 and the 497 are happy to operate the ETX70.

good luck
Mike & Dick,

Many thanks for your help. I found a #495 on eBay for $32 so have bought
it. Now I just have to wait until it's delivered from Las Vegas! Do you
know anyone who needs a German #494?!

I couldn't wait for the Autostar so I set up the scope last night,
balanced on a cardboard box, balanced on a stepladder. Dangerous I know
but I just couldn't stop myself...........

I found a good target (Jupiter) and homed in on it with the 9mm in no
time. I was amazed...... not only could I see Jupiter as a pale pinky
disk but I could also see 4 of her Moons. Within a couple of seconds of
booting up "starry nights" I could even identify them!

I am seriously impressed with this little scope and I owe it to you. As
a starter I was looking around at all sorts of scopes when I stumbled
upon your site. The enthusiasm that eminated from the ETX users
convinced me into getting the 70AT as my starter scope.

Many thanks again,


P.S. Ever thought of asking Meade to put a link on their home page to
your site to help people out, in return for a little, ahem,
'sponsorship'? (i.e. New scopes for review, Accessories, etc.). You must
be taking an awful lot of the strain that their Customer Support should
be taking.
Mike here: Meade is aware of the Site and sends many callers to Tech Support to it.
Subject:	Controlling without Autostar
Sent:	Tuesday, January 28, 2003 11:50:07
From: (Steve Hughes)
Love your site. Got a question:

Since the Meade Autostar is a controller that, uh, controls the network
of microcontrollers directing the ETX motors, why do we need to spend
$100 to $150 for an Autostar when we are going to control the Autostar
from a laptop?

Do you know if anyone has done work on decoding the signals that the
Autostar uses to control the scope with an eye to duplicating it's
function directly from a PC?

Thanks for your great resource!

Mike here: The ETX models do not include the brains in the telescope. They are in the Autostar. So communications have to go through the Autostar. If you want to develop (in software) a complete Autostar then you would have to reverse engineer the Autostar (likely violating something belonging to Meade).
Subject:	Satellite
Sent:	Monday, January 27, 2003 10:50:45
From: (Paolo Spinazze)
I would like to know what time is the best time to see the Satellites ?
I tried many times to see them but nothing very important i think
to put the right time and make a perfect alligne..
Mike here: See for predictions. See the Autostar Information page for the various satellite tracking articles.
Subject:	Weird Autostar #497 problem...
Sent:	Sunday, January 26, 2003 14:45:20
From: (Michael Conte)
Okay, what's going on is this, when I hook up one of my Autostars #497
(I have 3, w/two ETX telescopes) to either the ETX-125 or ETX-90, it
exhibits a strange behavior. For example, the other night I had the
ETX-125 set up and aligned in the polar mode, did an easy align and
after aligning on the two stars (not even close to the FOV) , proceeded
to issue a goto to Saturn (high in the sky). I've never gotten closer
then several degrees in any  goto operation but figure I'll work on that
when it gets a tad warmer out there.

So, with Saturn out of the FOV (telescope too far west) but visible in
the finder, I tell the scope to slew east till Saturn's in the field of
view. Then watch as the scope promptly slews back west several degrees.
Seems that whenever I tell the scope to slew east, it does followed by a
small slew back west regardless of where it's pointing in the sky.

Switching the Autostar to the ETX-90 (and yes, telling it that I've done
that and re-calibrate the motors) it does the same thing. The other two
Autostars behave normally. All were loaded with ver. 2.6ec. I tried
loading in a much earlier version (2.2et) to see if it made any
difference and it doesn't.

I search for a few hours around on your site but didn't come across
anything that seemed to resemble this problem. Any ideas other then
tossing it (patient wearing thin)?

Great site also. Thanks.


Michael Conte 
Located in Southern MD, USA
Mike here: I saw something similar when I cloned an Autostar from my ETX-125 for use on my LXD55-8"SC. I had to change the telescope model from ETX-125EC to LXD55 and then RESET, CALIBRATE, and TRAIN. After that all was well. The odd thing is that following the clone my initial use was OK but got worse over time. It was almost like the settings changed at some point.
Subject:	Careful about placing Autostar in pocket
Sent:	Saturday, January 25, 2003 10:46:33
From: (Ken Martin)
I see a lot of advice about placing Autostar in pocket to keep it warm
and functioning on cold observing nights. However, be careful that you
don't forget it's in your pocket and walk away from the scope. I did
that once with my EXT-70, tipping the scope over onto the driveway. Some
nasty damage, which cost me $75 to have Meade repair.

Especially since the ETX-70 and its tripod is so light, it doesn't take
much of a tug on the Autostar cord to tip it over.

Ken Martin

Subject:	Autostar Language...
Sent:	Saturday, January 25, 2003 2:25:03
From: (Paolo Spinazze)
I just update my autostar with the last software , but nothing
about the language ( italian) so i would like to know if i can put on my
autostar an old version of software that maybe has the choose for the
languages ?
Paolo ...Italy
Mike here: All the most recent versions from Meade's US Site are for English. You may found other languages on other international Meade websites. If you can't find what you are looking for you can always find an Autostar with the proper language (local dealer or astronomy club) and clone it. I don't have any specific non-English versions archived on my ETX Site.
Subject:	re: Goto query
Sent:	Thursday, January 23, 2003 22:18:08
From: (Richard Seymour)
> when I asked the scope to goto the Pleiades, the control panel
> said it was slewing, but it hardly moved.

Whenever you see that symptom (unless you have an LXD55 and 
not-current firmware), it's a sure sign that you didn't press
[enter] before pressing [goto].

If you were seeing:
Deep Sky
on your display, you had not really -selected- them.
So the scope Slewed to the object still in the "target identity",
which is/was where you already were.  So it didn't move.

Tap [enter] before [goto] and things will work better...

have fun
From: (Piers Palmer)
Mike, Thanks for the tip, I'll try to get a better power supply and see
if that works, next time we have a clear night here in the north of


Subject:	Goto query
Sent:	Thursday, January 23, 2003 13:00:39
From: (Piers Palmer)
I have had my ETX for a couple of weeks now, and all's been going great
until tonight.

I did the two-star align on Capella and Deneb and then asked the scope
to goto problem, right in the centre of the field of view.
However, when I asked the scope to goto the Pleiades, the control panel
said it was slewing, but it hardly moved. After realigning again, it
slewed perfectly to Alderbaran and Rigel, only to fail again on
Andromeda galaxy and Orion nebula.

The only thing I could think is the's been fairly
chilly here today (3 degrees Celsius) and the reported battery power was
about 65%. Also, full speed slewing sounded different to normal, but why
would it sometimes be perfect and other times not move? All the drives
were fully tightened on both occasions.

Anyone got any ideas?


Mike here: The Autostar really likes batteries to be above 75-80%. It also doesn't like cold temperatures.
Subject:	re: Hey remember me from " (lauren croft)"
Sent:	Tuesday, January 21, 2003 12:06:59
From: (Hank Blackwood)
Looks like someone is up to some tomfooltry - too many porn "spam like"
references in that email!!!

If I were you, unless you know this person, I would just take the post
off of the website.

Hank B.
From: (Mike Gray)
The latest message in the Autostar Feedback forum (Hey remember me? /
1-17-03) is a thinly veiled sexually explicit post.  It was generated by
an E-Mail virus on the sender's computer.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't
offended but it doesn't have anything to do with an Autostar.  You might
want to remove that post before somebody with no sense of humor gets

Thanks for your wonderful site!  I have gleaned many items of useful
information from over the past few months.  It is the top Meade specific
site I have ever found.  Keep up the great work!

Mike Gray

Mike Gray
40:02N - 82:53W
Mike here: Several people commented on this particular email. My first thought was that it was spam as there are a lot of "clues" such as the sender's name, email address, and the contents of the message, but that would be some fancy virus or spam software that gets some items in context and adds garbage. So I thought I would post it, if nothing more than for laughs. It also indicates some of the various types of email I get every day!
Sent:	Tuesday, January 21, 2003 7:12:07
From: (Banketbakkerij De Raedt)
I have got and 105ETX and a Autostar, when i use my autostar in cold
weather ( - 2 C -> - 10 C) the bottom line when it scrolls it appears to
dissepare.  There are just some points of the display the light up.

When I return to normal temperature it gets back to normal scrolling,
also when it stops scrolling all appears to be fine after 10 seconds.

Is this normal ?

then device is 1 month old.

Thanks for the info

Koen De Raedt

Mike here: The Autostar does not like really cold temps. You can keep it warmer by placing it is a pocket when not actually be used to select objects or view data. Some people have used a handwarmer and strapped that to the Autostar itself.


Thanks for the fast response :)

I just got your book in this evening from Amazone Gernamy, and it's
looking really good :) now i only need to wait for my set of lenses from
meade to arrive (the special box)

But i'm thinking of buying a barlow x 2 adaptor(who is in stock)  so
that a can use it now and later also when all is arrived.

Koen De Raedt

Subject:	Hey remember me?
Sent:	Friday, January 17, 2003 19:28:09
From: (lauren croft)
read the whole thing I just got my Autostar from Meade. Not only is it
fast and hard. But it's the one eyed snake monster machine. Mine says
12.0inch horse power which Meade installed from my original 1.0. Have
not had a chance to try it, but I'm sure looking forward to playing with
it. They also replaced the RA motor system which has a great deal of
play.I was so pleased with their services that I stuck that Autostar in
my taco. Thanks Autostar!
Mike here: Glad you are thrilled but I'm not certain what your message means.
Subject:	Autostar cable
Sent:	Thursday, January 16, 2003 5:58:58
i have a question to do: 
the cable of connection by the Autostar to the control panel, can are
lenghten? For example 5 meter without damage the Autostar?

Thanks and clear skies

Mike here: See the article "Long Autostar Cable" on the Autostar Information page.
Subject:	Combining the Autostar and a GPS
Sent:	Wednesday, January 15, 2003 18:15:19
From: (Patten, Scott D)
G'day Mike,
I hope you have been well. 

Not Much has changed here in Australia since you last left. The skies
are dark and unobstructed and the nights mild. It is good to dream

I was just thinking, with the various AUX ports on the ETX systems, if a
vendor or vendor of GPS systems like Garmin or Magellan could interface
to them so we could make out little systems work like their big brothers
the LX200 or similar.

I notice with Garmin having so many types for it's ETREX they could have
an ETREX ETX that could incorporate the Autostar features or Meade could
do a deal to upgrade the Autostar to have a GPS features. In that way
you can have your AUTOSTAR and know where you are at any time... It
could be good to have an autostar that is useful for other things as
well and could be used on other scopes with the suited AUX port.....I
suppose I should go back to dreaming... Glad to see the book is going so

Best regards to you both


Scott Patten
Mike here: GPS is probably overkill. Yes, it could help with the initial setup but the Autostar will still have to go through its alignment, just like on the LX200 models. Of course, the existing Autostar software would have to be modified. As to what Meade plans for the future, who knows. Maybe a wireless model (Bluetooth?).
Subject:	Autostar 387 Update Problem
Sent:	Wednesday, January 15, 2003 15:36:04
From: (Schulte, Geri)
I recently bought a 505 cable "clone" from a vendor. When I try to
update using the ASU program it comes back with an error message that it
can't find the COM port. I checked the cable pin out and it seems OK,
and although I have a Dell computer it does have a COM port (which
checks OK). Anyone have any ideas what's wrong?

Thanks  Ron
Mike here: A common problem is that the com port is in use by other software, typically fax software. Could that be the case?
Subject:	re: satellite elements
Sent:	Monday, January 13, 2003 23:15:59
From: (Richard Seymour)
> What does it mean elements expires when i look for satellite in
> autostar?

-Specifically-, it means that the elements are over one year old.

For accurate satellite chasing, you need to update them at least
once per month, and for some satellites (Space Station, for example)
more frequently... once per week is good.

You can update them from the keypad, or with the Meade Autostar Updater.

Follow the guides at:   <-- short
and   <---long

have fun

Subject:	re:  Need Autostar #497 manual
Sent:	Monday, January 13, 2003 23:05:17
From: (Richard Seymour)
The official Meade web-based Autostar manual is still available at their

(yes, they made it difficult to find... i had to refer to their Site Map
to locate it)

The LX90 manual also has additional documentation for a number of the
newer Autostar commands/capabilities...

have fun

p.s. Mike: you might add that URL to your FAQ answer
Mike here: Will do.
Subject:	re:   Autostar questions
Sent:	Monday, January 13, 2003 22:59:28
From: (Richard Seymour)
Training tells the Autostar how much looseness (backlash) is in the gears.
There's a backgrounder on it at:
You might train if you feel the autostar is consistently overshooting or
undershooting targets.

Alignment (One Star, Two Star and Easy) is how the telescope figures
out where the stars are at the moment you do it,  for your site.

> 4 sites...

The Autostar can carry 5 sites in a quick-lookup list, which you
can use Setup > Site > Select  to choose between.

*Every* night you go out with the scope, you need to align.
It's quick and easy, and merely involves GoToing one or two stars,
and correcting the "miss" which may occur.

You can choose "Easy Align" (which is a two-star alignment... the
"easy" part is that the Autostar chooses the stars for you.)

Mike mentioned PARKing.. if your telescope is not permanently mounted,
you can use PARK, but you still need to have some method of repositioning
it in -exactly- the same orientation as when you turned it off the 
previous session (i have marks on my viewing platform for this).
For most folks, simply doing an alignment is easier.

have fun... it's not really as difficult as the manual sounds...

Subject:	Re: Autostar questions
Sent:	Monday, January 13, 2003 20:14:14
From: (Schlatter)

Thanks for your help.  I purchased the ETX-70 this afternoon, assembled
it in the garage, and let it sit outside until well after dark at which
time I started to use it.

Initially the setup was quite frustrating.  I leveled the scope tube and
pointed it at celestial north. I went through initialization with no
problem -- date, time, city, etc.  When I tried to do a two-star
alignment, I selected BeetleJuice as the first star -- scope slewed
around but did not have B. in the field of view and when I tried to use
the arrows to move to the star, the motors tried to move but the scope
would not slew.  After turning it off, on, setup, try to align three or
four times I was ready to quit when I thought about training.

I selected Polaris as the fixed object and went through the training
routine.  When that was done, I went to the two-star alignment.  The
scope slewed to BeetleJuice but still did not have it in view, but, this
time I moved the arrows and got the star centered, hit Enter.  Selected
Castor as the second star, had to use the arrows to center it, and that
was that.

I played with it for an hour using the GOTO function on Jupiter, Saturn,
Procyon, Castor, Pollux, Cassiopeia, M31, Sirius and several other easy
ones -- for each object the scope slewed right to it and there it was,
in every case centered or close to center.  Tracking was just fine -- it
startled me a bit when the scope stopped at an object then the motors
kept running.

When I was finished, I PARKed the scope -- it returned to the alignment
position and told me to turn it off.  I drove a spike in the ground next
to each tripod leg so tomorrow night I can put it right back where it

As I understand the operation now, I must go through alignment every
time I turn it on, unless it was parked the last time I used it.

Some more questions:

1.  How do I RESET?  The owner's manual talks about RESET but I can't
find how to do RESET.
2.  A tiny Allen wrench came with the scope -- what's that for?
3.  Meade sells an accessory finder scope -- do you recommend it?  How
does it mount?
Joe S.
Mike here: Sounds like you got it right. One point: normally, alignment stars should be about 90 degrees apart for best results. But you got good results for the portion of the sky you were observing. Parking lets you avoid the alignment step. RESET is under the Setup menu. I don't recall what that Allen wrench was for. I remember getting one but I never checked to see what it would fit. There are some comments about the optional finderscope further down this "ETX-60AT, ETX-70AT" feedback page.
Subject:	Autostar questions
Sent:	Monday, January 13, 2003 10:17:49
I am purchasing an ETX 70 today.  I downloaded the instruction manual
and read it a couple of times and I have read a lot from your page.  I
still have a couple of questions if you would not mind helping me out.

1.  Training vs. two-star alignment.

From reading the instruction manual, it seems that when I first set up
the scope I need to:  let it cool down outside for a couple of hours;
install batteries, hook up everything; make certain the declination
circle is zeroed; level the scope; point it to celestial north; turn it
on; enter date and time; enter nearby city; select two-start alignment;
follow the instructions for two-star alignment.

Do I then need to train the scope before using it?

If not, how do I know when I need to train it?

How often do I train it?

What's the difference between one- or two-star alignment and training?

2.  Different viewing sites.

I plan to use this scope from (1) my backyard, (2) the local astronomy
club's meeting place (1 mile away), (3) very dark spot at a local dam
(10 airline miles away), (4) very dark spot in local mountains at 3,200
feet altitude (22 airline miles away; my backyard is 1,200 feet), (5) my
mother's home (90 airline miles away).

It seems that I can go to Setup>Site>Edit and enter the lat-long for
each site then name and save each site (I will get lat-long from my GPS

After I have entered each site, should I go to that site; set up the
scope; select the site; do a two-star alignment at the site; etc.? Then,
when I return to that site, just turn on the scope, select the site, and
it's ready to go -- is it that simple?

- OR -

Do I need to do a two-star alignment every time I move to a different

Thank you for maintaining your ETX information site and thanks for any
assistance you can offer.

Joe Schlatter
Bristol TN 
Mike here: Training is only done when needed or when updating the Autostar to a new version (none available yet for the #494). So, normally you just set up in the HOME position, enter the date/time and do the alignment. If the Autostar starts acting strange, then doing a TRAIN can fix the problem, depending upon what the problem is. However, under normal circumstances you might TRAIN a couple of times a year for the #494. Each Site is separate and so is each session with the Autostar. If you can put the ETX in a known position at each location then you could PARK the Autostar if you will be returning to that location on the next use. But if the position will change then you must do an alignment when setting up if you want the GOTO capabilities.
Subject:	Need Autostar #497 manual
Sent:	Sunday, January 12, 2003 19:09:45
From: (Michael Conte)
Anyone know where I can find an electronic version (.pdf?) of the Meade
#497 Autostar manual? The link up on the Meade site is a dead end and
I've been trying to figure out how to use my new (used) ETX-125/Autostar
without the Autostar manual.


Michael Conte 
Located in Southern MD, USA

Email  :
Home Page :
SMAS Officer :

"Very funny Scotty, now would you please beam down my clothes?"
Mike here: Check the FAQ page.


Got it Mike, thanks...

Subject:	#494 Autostar Scrolling Speed
Sent:	Saturday, January 11, 2003 0:33:31
From: (Armstrong, Neil)
Hello fellow Autostar Users,

How can I adjust the "scrolling" rate on the 494? I did it before but
forgot how to do it.

To say again; The text messages that scroll across the led, how can I
make those letters move across faster?

P.S. I tried the 494 Autostar with my DS-127. Meade says the two are
compatible. Well it's somewhat true but the 494 Autostar is not near
robust enough to swing the huge tube accurately. My ETX-70 is way more

In the ETX, I can swing over to Jupiter using the "Guided Tours" mode
and get it dead on in the center of the 9mm.

On the DS-127 it may be in the 3 o'clock position or it might be in the
9 o'clock position or it may not be in the field of view at all.

We have awesome views of Orion and the Orion Nebula in Edmonton. Very
clear skies indeed but the temperature is the pits, 0 deg. F.

Mike here: Use the UP/DOWN arrow keys at the bottom of the Autostar to change scrolling speed.


That doesn't work on the #494, it does on the #495 but not the #494.
Mike here: Works on my #494. The left key speeds it up and the right one slows it down. You have to hold the key down for several seconds.


You were right, I was wrong.

You can control the rate of the scrolling text by using the lower arrow

Thank so much for that tip.

Subject:	set up
Sent:	Friday, January 10, 2003 21:30:56
From: (Bernie Goldman)
Bernie calling. Recv'd you msg of the 9th. Followed your thoughts and
still unable to get beyond the setup position.

I know there is something I am missing, but just don't know what? Tell
me, is it necessary to be outdoors pointing north or can this be done

There was not very much in the way of instruction from the point of
purchase Whatever assistance you can provide will be most appreciated.

Bernie Goldman
Mike here: You can definitely practice indoors and this is HIGHLY recommended. See the Autostar Information page for tips on the setup and alignment process.
Subject:	Creating the autostar update cable
Sent:	Tuesday, January 7, 2003 17:32:47
From: (Spencer Petzold)
I downloaded your tutorial about the updating of the autostar which has
been very helpful. I am wondering if you could provide instruction on
how to make the cable used to connect to the computer. I would probably
just use the Ethernet and phone line cables to do it instead of the
serial port attachment. Thank you for your time.

Spencer Petzold
Mike here: Cable information is on the Autostar Information page.
Subject:	re: Bright LEDs (serial ports)
Sent:	Tuesday, January 7, 2003 9:19:03
From: (Richard Seymour)
>  but the program can't find the serial ports in the laptops.

> Do we have someone via your site, Mike, that can guess how I can
> activate a serial port?  CAN they be accidently turned off?  I have
> played with the MODE command, but no joy. I hesitate to think that the
> ports are busted in both machines.

A few things come to mind...

Does the Meade Autostar Updater (ASU) work on your laptop talking
to that Autostar?  That (and/or the procedures listed at ) will test
the -hardware- of the COM port.

If those work, then it's simple: you need to have your program tell
your PC to *not* use "hardware handshake".  
The stanadlone DOS MODE command cannot do that..
but you can do it inside programs (such as BASIC).

have fun
From: (Marvin C. Sumner)
Excelent idea Dick,
I got out the ZIP-Disk with ASU on it & tried it...oops wrong disk!  It
was the LX-200 ASU, upgrade disk but with no other files on it.  I ran
it and proved that the IBM-ThinkPad serial port really does work...the
ETX-125/EC beeped and said "Downloading Don't turn off".  But there is
nothing to download and neither the ASU program nor the ETX have figured
that out - its all just sitting there & saying "...wait...".

I have no alternative but to power down & take the consequences.  I
'spose I have blown the ETX Autostar program??  Will this call for a
reset? What then?  The Autostar version has been 24E...maybe time to
upgrade anyway.  Are there good things in ETX versions beyond 24E?

As for the serial port really working, whaddya 'spose is wrong with my
GWBasic code that works fine in my DeskTop machine (running under
Windows or directly under DOS, both routes work fine), but not under in
the ThinkPad?

Well, back to the drawing board.
Marv Sumner
Mike here: If the download has started then interrupting it corrupts it. I suppose that if the download never got started then it is possible that a RESET might revive it. Dick would know for sure. And yes, there are good reasons to get current with 2.6Ec.


From: (Richard Seymour)
> I got out the ZIP-Disk with ASU on it & tried it...oops wrong disk!  It
> was the LX-200 ASU, upgrade disk but with no other files on it.  I ran it
> and proved that the IBM-ThinkPad serial port really does work...the
> ETX-125/EC beeped and said "Downloading Don't turn off". 

Well, the button to have pushed would've been [Connect],
not [Update Now] ... but you're probably OK.  

> But there is nothing to download and neither the ASU program nor
> the ETX have figured that out - its all just sitting there & saying
> "...wait...".
> I have no alternative but to power down & take the consequences.

No, simply ticking the [exit] button (if offered) would also clear it.

> I 'spose I have blown the ETX Autostar program?? 

I -expect- that you can simply power down, count to 10 and power up.
It should restart happily.

> Will this call for a reset?

Nope... if it's happy, it's happy.

> What then?  

**ONLY** if it doesn't reboot itself, use the Safe Load procedure
listed in the Updater's HELP pages under "damaged handbox".
BUT DON'T DO THAT until you have the 26Ec file on your PC.

> The Autostar version has been 24E...maybe time to
> upgrade anyway.  Are there good things in ETX versions beyond 24E?

Some... mostly there are enhancements for the LXD55 series.
The "what we've fixed" lists are on Mike's site under Download Archive
on his Autostar Info page.

> As for the serial port really working, whaddya 'spose is wrong with my
> GWBasic code that works fine in my DeskTop machine (running under Windows
> or directly under DOS, both routes work fine), but not under in the
> ThinkPad?

Which flavor of Windows on the ThinkPad?
Not all DOS hardware operations are supported under WindowsNT/2k/XP.
(sez he after two days tweaking \windows\system32\config.nt and autoexec.nt)

good luck

Subject:	Re: Astrofinder Software With Microsoft XP Blues
Sent:	Monday, January 6, 2003 15:22:19
(1) Thanks.  I've tied into the DC-3 support group (today) in search of
ACP updates/patches.  No response yet.  Where do you suggest I go for
ACP fixes ?

(2) I've seen some message traffic re "Supercharged" ETX's.  can you
'splain ?

MIke here: The only place I know of for ACP updates is their web site: As to Supercharging, see the "ETX Tune-up Service" linked on the ETX site home page.
Subject:	re:  Mac OSX, Autostar and Starry Night Pro v.4
Sent:	Monday, January 6, 2003 9:28:53
From: (Edgar Blinn)
Just wanted to give you update on this.  After 14 hours of jacking with
ports and swapping OS's back and forth, I decided to take an old
Autostar I had in my bag, which I thought broken, and connect it to the
Keyspan Serial adapter instead.  Within 10 minutes, I was able to
connect to every program on every OS on my computer.  One thing though,
using VPC, it help to assign COM1 as the USA** (keyspan driver). Once i
got that configure, everything worked fine (except the old other
Autostar).  Apparently, the COM port was either out of date or not
working. Anyway, thought you might want to know. Thanks for all your


Subject:	Bright LEDs
Sent:	Sunday, January 5, 2003 18:47:15
From: (Marvin C. Sumner)
Thanxamillion for the guidance in seeing in the dark.  It seems that the
Autostar has its LEDs full bright until you answer the "daylight savings
time" question, then it switches to the brightness setting that's set in
the Utilities menu.  Viola, I can read it in the dark now without a

New problem:
I'm writing software to load time & date, locations, etc into both of my
telescopes.  Many of the functions work in the ETX-125/EC and I expect
all of them to work in the LX-200/GPS, (If I can ever get the
replacement Autostar II from Meade - the LEDs were quitting).  The
commanding problem is that the programs don't run in either of my laptop
computers.  All is well in the desktop computer in my den, but the
program can't find the serial ports in the laptops.  Its all the same
code, on floppys or hard drive, via Windows or directly from DOS-6.22.

Do we have someone via your site, Mike, that can guess how I can
activate a serial port?  CAN they be accidently turned off?  I have
played with the MODE command, but no joy. I hesitate to think that the
ports are busted in both machines.

Regards from Sunnyvale, CA
Marv Sumner
Mike here: There is programming info on the Autostar Information page. Dick Seymour is our resident Autostar expert. As to PC ports, I can't be much help since I use a Macintosh but check for some other application tying up the serial port; fax software can do this as it "listens" for an incoming phone call.
Subject:	programming the autuostar 497
Sent:	Sunday, January 5, 2003 18:34:41
From: (Gareth Jones)
Hello, I am trying to find out if you might know or where I might be
able to find info on programming(C ,C++) the autostar 497 manually. I am
working on a project for school and I would like to write some programs
to control an etx with the autotstar. Any information would be greatly


Mike here: There is a lot of info on the Autostar commands on the Autostar Information page.
Subject:	Re: Cables or software
Sent:	Saturday, January 4, 2003 13:03:47
From: (Richard Seymour)
Mike: The lead-off article in your LXD site answers far better (with
color pictures) the question on the ETX site which i answered with a
"bent paperclip" method.

If you add a cross-link to that LXD answer, it'd be more complete

have fun

Subject:	#497 cloning cord
Sent:	Saturday, January 4, 2003 5:21:31
From: (Bert Denovan)
G'day Mike,
I have used the wiring diagram supplied by Dick Seymour to get someone
to make it for me (I'm a pleb when it comes to this sort of stuff), and
it works well. I wonder if someone has a similar diagram for the cloning
Bert Denovan
Mike here: See the article "Homemade Cloning Kit" on the Autostar Information page.
Subject:	Autostar Version
Sent:	Saturday, January 4, 2003 3:37:09
How can I tell which version of autostar I have? I don't have the
                                              Yer' buddy,
                                                      George Dreitlein
Mike here: Setup-->Statistics. Then scroll until you see the full version number.


Thanks for the help. You are all aces.

Subject:	re: error codes
Sent:	Friday, January 3, 2003 23:23:23
From: (Richard Seymour)
From the symptoms, i'd say your rs232 cable is short-circuiting
the send and receive lines coming from the Autostar.
IF you do that, you invoke a self-test which eventually leads to
that precise PIC Failure message if you're not attached to Meade's 
 test equipment.  I.e. your Autostar is responding properly.

There's an old page on Mike's site which covers this:
..the final message has changed with version upgrades.

Also, i really think you have a 497 Autostar.. since a 494 would
refuse to operate the ETX90ec.  If you have a numeric keypad, it's a 497.

> I'm trying to run the LX200 with XEphem on linux, but that doesn't seem
> to work either. Can I just plug the rs232 into the comp port on the LX?

The serial cable for an Autostar will fit in the LX's socket, and will
bring -one- of the LX's serial ports to your PC.
XEphem should -also- be able to operate the Autostar/ETX90 (somewhat).
But i really think your cable is faulty.

You could try the tests listed under:

..but i think you'll find you -don't- need to tie the rj22 pins
together, since they're already cross-connected.
And a bad cable will block operation of the LX200, too.

have fun

Subject:	re: Polar alignment
Sent:	Friday, January 3, 2003 23:08:40
From: (Richard Seymour)
On Mike's site you asked:
> One of the nice things about the LX-200 is that it allows you to refine
> polar alignment by periodically slewing to polaris.  I've used this
> method often and it gives excellent polar alignment with very little 
> pain in 3-4 cycles.
>  Is there any way one could fake the mechanism with the autostar?  

..and i'm happy to report that the answer is "yes".

It's a technique called "iterative polar alignment", and is done almost
exactly like the LX200's method.

To wit:
(a) Polar Align as per normal.
(b) GoTo a star (Aldebaran?) neat the equator.
(c) SYNC on that star.
(d) GoTo Polaris
(e) *mechanically* adjust the mount to remove -half- of the error 
 seen in the eyepiece.
(f) return to step (b), above.  Repeat until the (e) error is acceptable.

What you're doing is mechanically improving your polar mounting (e),
and then the SYNC step (c) tells the Autostar that you've moved a bit.
The trick of only removing -half- (or 2/3rds) of the error is to avoid
overshooting... it allows the method to -converge- on the proper 
alignment, rather than hunting -around- the perfect point.

3 to 5 iterations is usually more than adequate.

"Mechanically" means adjust the mount's latitude-tilt and azimuth.
SYNC means the hold-enter-3-seconds, and then slew to center as prompted.

have fun

Subject:	Autostar hanging mechanism?
Sent:	Friday, January 3, 2003 17:06:01
From: (Mitchell D. Strauss)
It seems that all the Autostars in the catalogs and advertisements hang
onto the tripods when shown with the ETX's... I scanned you site for
info regarding what folks do with the Autostar when it's not in hand and
failed to find anything... what do folks do about hanging the Autostar?

Thanks, Mitch

PS... 105 and Autostar working splendidly...
Mike here: Velcro on the back of the Autostar and Velcro on each tripod leg. Works great.
Subject:	Polar Alignment
Sent:	Friday, January 3, 2003 10:26:25
From: (Britt Park)
This isn't a comment or a tip but a question.  I have an ETX-125 with
autostar.  I also have an older (pre-GPS) LX-200.  One of the nice
things about the LX-200 is that it allows you to refine polar alignment
by periodically slewing to polaris.  I've used this method often and it
gives excellent polar alignment with very little pain in 3-4 cycles.  Is
there any way one could fake the mechanism with the autostar?  I hate
the drift method.  I always get confused about which direction is north


Mike here: Besides redoing the alignment, the only refinement technique is to SYNC on an object. That improves the alignment for objects nearby. SYNCing on Polaris would be a bad idea.
Subject:	error codes
Sent:	Thursday, January 2, 2003 21:10:49
From: (kaitlyn muriel tikkun)
Hi! I love the site. I just inherited a 90ec with a 494 autostar and a
LX200. Oh, and a 216xt ccd.

Of course, I can't get anything to work.

I hope this is the right place to submit questions. Anyway;

I built a rs232 cable and crossed over pins 2 and 3. However, when I
power up the scope while it is attacted to the computer, it goes through
a self test, (press enter, mode, etc...) and then gives the error:

PIC Failure V12 C001

Could you tell me what this means?

Also, I'm trying to run the LX200 with XEphem on linux, but that doesn't
seem to work either. Can I just plug the rs232 into the comp port on the

Thanks muchly! I'm sure I'll really enjoy all this once all my hardware
talks to each other.

Mike here: I'm not certain what you are hooking up. Autostar #497 (not #494) cable information is available on the Autostar Information page. The #505 cable allows you to drive the Autostar #497 and ETX using a computer. This won't work with the #494 Autostar. As to your LX200 and CCD, you'll should try or one of the LX200 newsgroups.
Subject:	Autostar alignment
Sent:	Wednesday, January 1, 2003 13:43:30
From: (Colin Hislop)
I'd like some help/advice regarding alignment with autostar.

I,m a real novice and have a Meade DS114 with an upgrade including
Autostar. I've had very little success with the alignment so far.....I
set the tripod up with the Az scale zero and the telescope tube facing
North. Should this be aligned to true North or Magnetic? I then check
its at zero declination with a spirit level and run through the
alignment prompts.

So far the end-result hasn't been too successful - even when the
Autostar says alignment is successful the GoTo doesn't seem to take me
anywhere near the selected object.

Any thoughts/suggestions/tips on the alignment process welcome (I've
also run through the process using Polaris to align North with similar
results). Second question: I've heard that the GoTo for planets is not
all that accurate. Is that also the case?

Thanks Colin in CA
Mike here: There are many alignment tips articles on the Autostar Information page. Check those out. And use True North, not Magnetic North. If your Autostar ROM is current, planets should be OK.
Subject:	re:  Mac OSX, Autostar and Starry Night Pro v.4
Sent:	Tuesday, December 31, 2002 23:29:08
From: (Richard Seymour)
Another thing to try would be a totally different program.

May i suggest Paul Rodman's Astroplanner?

Written on a Mac, actively supported, inexpensive...
(free 30 days, $20 as a download, $30 on a CD with HUGE catalogs.)

Runs on PCs, too.

have fun
From: (Edgar Blinn)
Okay, let me make sure i am setting this up correctly. I downloaded the
Astroplanner and it's not recognizing the connection, but i can see that
the serial connector is trying to connect to the Autostar.

I connect the serial connection to the Autostar and then the Autostar to
the ETX. Is that the correct configuration or do i need to use one of
the 2 aux ports on my ETX.

Any suggestions would be great.

Mike here: Yep, the serial connection goes to the Autostar and then to the computer. Check the Keyspan driver settings and be certain AP is using that same port.


Do you use your network settings in OS X and configure your Keyspan, and
if so, what script do you use? I checked the prefs in AP and set it to
read the Keyspan for the port, not sure how to set that up.

Mike here: Check the Keyspan Settings application. Under OSX it doesn't really do much though, just confirms the port selections/names. Also, I had communications problems with AP as well as with VPC with older Keyspan drivers. Haven't tried AP with Keyspan 1.4 but VPC worked from a PowerBook G4/500 running 10.2.2.

And more:

From: (Edgar Blinn)

I am inclined to agree about the adapter, i must use an isolated comm
protocol or something specifically for PDA's and lacks the ability to
"switch" over.

I will purchase the other one and give an update.

Thanks for the feedback, I am glad to know it actaully works.


--- Stan Glaser wrote:

Hi, Ed --

My setup is ETX-90EC with Autostar, Keyspan USB-to-Serial port adapter,
iBook running OS X 10.1.5, and SNPro 4.0.4...

Although I HAVE NOT used the above hardware in a real-world test, I have
used it successfully "in the living room"   :-)

All the handshakes work correctly and I do have both SLEW and FOLLOW
functions that work. I do a 2-star easy align on the ETX using the
Autostar (just accepting it's GOTOs as correct from within the house),
center an object in SNPro and choose SLEW and the scope will move to
point to the object. I can also use the Autostar to perform a GOTO and
then hit the FOLLOW button from within SNPro and the object the scope is
pointing to will become centered in the SNPro window.

There IS a problem that I have discovered in SNPro 4.0.4 that I have
reported to the Starry Night software team -- when the Autostar is
placed in manual slewing mode (by holding down the MODE key for 3
seconds and having the RA/Dec values displayed in the handbox so that
you can slew manually to a RA/Dec coordinate using the
left/right/up/down key), and then FOLLOW is pressed from within SNPro,
the sky window in SNPro will "see-saw" back and forth, back and forth
from the RA/Dec coords shown in the Autostar to some other "random" set
of coords. This ONLY appears to happen when the Autostar is displaying
the RA/Dec values as described above. If the Autostar is simply used in
its regular GOTO mode to some object, the SNPro window will pan to the
selected object and keep it centered on screen without "see-sawing."

As Mike suggested, you should make sure you have the latest Keyspan
drivers for OS X...

BUT... guess is that the reason you might be having a problem is your
using the PDA adapter cable, rather than the Serial adapter cable. I
suggest you pay out a little more money and get the Serial cable --
that's probably the source of your problem  :-(

Good luck,

Stan Glaser

Subject:	re: Cables or software?
Sent:	Tuesday, December 31, 2002 23:28:37
From: (Richard Seymour)
I've heard rumor of a bunch of Autostars with weak connector pins in
their rs232 socket...

Try (power off) peering into the rs232 hole in the Autostar.
See the 4 gold wires?   Are they all sprung out away from the rear
of the socket? (compare with the handbox cable socket).

If not, try -gently- hooking them with a bent paperclip and pulling
them slightly towards you.  Don't yank them out, just get them to 
be a little further extended so that they make better contact
when the rs232 cable is inserted.

Also make very sure that your power supply is solid, and at least
at the full rated voltage... the rs232 system needs it to generate
the signals.

good luck

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