AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 31 January 2004
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: re: telescope with gps
Date: 1/30/04, 08:14
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
To: moazzam@ahmed.net
Just a word of caution: the GPS in  the LX200gps does not do
too much when it comes to helping align the telescope.
It will set the time and location correctly (as the StarGPS will
do for the 497 Autostar), and the LX200gps has an internal
magnetic compass which will -help- locate North, but after
that you still have to center the alignment stars the telescope
slews to. 
At that point the LX200gps and the ETX90EC (with Autostar)
operate almost exactly the same.

Have you told your ETX90's Autostar your nearest city?
That's under Setup > Site > Add, and you scroll to
a country or state, and then a nearby city.
If the city is within 30 miles (50 km) or so, that's close
enough for the Autostar's purposes.

>  I have tried to learn the sky

If you are in an area with dark skies, it is difficult because
there is so -much- to see.  Simple star charts are swamped by the
number of stars in the sky.
Or, if you are in a city (like i am), then there are too -few-
stars to allow you to recognize the patterns of many of the
constellations.  But start with "easy" ones, like Orion.
Above it (at the moment) is Saturn, above that are the
stars Castor and Pollux (the Gemini twins).

I recommend getting one of those spinning-disk star charts
(a planisphere) ... and use it to "walk the sky" without
the telescope.  If you have binoculars, putting them to your
eyes will reveal thousands more stars, but will also instantly
-lose- your recognition of what you're seeing ("too much data").

Read the Observation Guides on Mike Weasner's site.
"Learn" (or become more familar with) one or two constallations.

A GoTo telescope like the ETX90 can be a seductive crutch...
it can point at something, but will not -teach- you how to
locate that object yourself.

good luck, have fun
--dick

Subject: Help needed!
Date: 1/30/04, 02:46
From: mikewinterkaines (mikewinterkaines@onetel.net.uk)
can you possibly tell me the value of component C50 in the Autostar II
hand controller of the LX200 GPS. I'm not having much luck enquiring
thru' 'official' lines! This component I 'cooked' by using an extension
lead that had been incorrectly wired - I am hoping that it is the only
damage..... My local supplier (in UK) tells me that a replacement
controller will cost me 90  ( that's $150 in real money!) and I would
like to try a repair before taking out a further mortgage!
 
Best regards,
 
Mike.
Mike here: Please read the Email Etiquette page on my ETX Site; your message was originally deleted UNREAD as SPAM due to the ambiguous subject line.
I have no info on the Autostar II components.

Subject: hello mike
Date: 1/29/04, 21:35
From: Ralph Partipilo (rparts1@megsinet.net)
hope this helps  Moazzam Ahmed who wrote you on 1/2704 the ETX has a gps
you can find it at http://www.scopetronics.com/gps.htm this web site for
the Align-Mate Bubble-level and compass eyepiece is at
http://www.hfo.org.uk/ this should help him. i ordered the bubble level
few weeks ago soon as i can test them i will let you know how good it is.
i have a etx 125  ec i love it. im going to test the auto star lpi
imager soon  as it gets warmer here in chicago right now im just
ordering parts for it . i should be ready to go in a few weeks
.hopefully and can send you some good pics when i get everything up and
running. lotts of good stuff at those web sites for the etx hope they
help your readers  . and you have a the best site i have seen for the
etx i got some great info from it . thanks bud .     Ralph Partipilo
chicago ill 

Subject: Tech-TV segment--etx via pda
Date: 1/29/04, 11:09
From: Patrick McGeehan (patrick.mcgeehan@worldnet.att.net)
Hi Mike--

Saw this program late last night and thought it might be of interest to
you. If you don't accept attachments, (I don't--but I know that unlike
me you're a Macman) go to techtv.com, screen savers, show notes for
yesterday.

I have no intention of building one of these, but I expect to see
questions about it on your excellent site very soon.

Patrick

www.techtv.com/screensavers/modtips/story/0,24330,3598943,00.html
Mike here: Yep, I use a Mac (although the current Windows virus is creating some work for me deleting all the virus emails and bounced emails caused by infected Windows users who have my name in their Outlook address book). Thanks for the link.

Subject: telescope with gps
Date: 1/27/04, 19:40
From: Moazzam Ahmed (moazzam@ahmed.net)
I was wondering if you could help point me in the right direction:

I have a meade etx90ec and I havent been able to use it very
effectively. Mostly cause I cant figure out how to align it.

Do you know if there's a gps software/hardware that can be hooked into
the autostar 497 and help me align the telescope? like the stargps only
helps set time and location right? do you think my problem could be
setting lat/long correctly? cause then I can get the stargps and try it.

but if there isnt a gps software that can help align, whats the most
feasible telescope (meade or other) that has a built-in gps that is able
to align AUTOMATICALLY? and works well with deep sky objects etc.?

I just wanna get something that will help me view more than the moon and
planets! and I have tried to learn the sky and working the telescope but
its just not doing it for me.

whats your suggestion?

thanks a bunch.

moazzam
dallas, tx
Mike here: The LX200GPS system does help with the alignment but that is only for the Autostar II, not the #497. There is no add-on for the #497 that helps with the alignment; they only do the location stuff. So if you are having a problem doing the alignments, reading the various alignment tips on the Autostar Information page will be more helpful.

And:

Thanks Mike. I'll look into the LX200GPS.

Subject: Quiet Slew?
Date: 1/27/04, 14:27
From: Royyount@aol.com
I have a quick question.  I downloaded the latest update for the
Autostar for the ETX-90.  I retrained and calibrated.  In doing so, I
noticed a new feature called "Quiet Slew"  What is this and should it be
on or off.  Also, the Az Ratio and the Alt Ratio are both at 1%.  I did
not make a note of the old settings.  Is this correct for the ETX-90? 
Lastly, are there any other settings that I need to worry about after
the upgrade?

Thanks for all your help.  Even though I know you have heard this
before, YOU HAVE A GREAT SITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
Roy
Waddy, KY
Mike here: See the article "Setting Percentages For Better Tracking" on the Autostar Information page for everything you need to know about percentages. The quickest way to be certain you have the factory default values is to CALIBRATE and TRAIN DRIVES (which I always do following an Autostar Update). As to quiet slew, it slews the telescope at a slower speed when GOTOing.
Oops! I misread your question. See the article "Calibration, Training, Percentages" for ratios (but still do the CALIBRATE and TRAIN DRIVES).

And:

Thanks for the SUPER FAST REPLY!!!  I reviewed the information you
mentioned.  It looks like it will take a lot of review for a
newbie...LOL  Has it been your experience that after updating, the
settings are already correct.  Should I even worry about this.  I
downloaded the update (v31Ee), I then calibrated the motors, then
retrained the drive.  Should I be ready to go now on the next clear
night?
Mike here: The mantra used RESET, CALIBRATE, and TRAIN DRIVES following any Autostar update. I still do that; I've experienced "rubberbanding" and other errors following even the 3.1Ee update until I do that. So, yes, you should be ready to go.

And:

I did not RESET, so I guess I should do the 3 steps including the RESET
again...

Thanks
Roy
Mike here: Actually, more recent versions do the RESET automatically following the update. So unless it didn't happen automatically, you should be OK.

And:

GREAT  Thanks... You must live by the computer  LOL  you reply so quick
 
Have a great night  Thanks Again...

Roy

Subject: Autostar 497 software updating with Virtual PC and Mac G4
Date: 1/26/04, 11:48
From: Ron (ron_bernstein@mac.com)
I am running Virtual PC 6.1 on a G4 Mac running OS X10.3.2. i have a
Keyspan USB/Serial adapter with the most current Keyspan Driver in OS X.
Keysapn tech support has told me not to install their Windows software
on the Virtual PC.

The Autostar is currently erased but was running Version 2.0a. I am
trying to upgrade to Version 31Ee.

The ASU software sees the Autostar but, when I tell it to upgrade the
Autostar Software, I get a "Complete" box after about 15 seconds that
says "Data Successfully Sent to Autostar but nothing has changed in the
Autostar.

Given current software, is it possible to update the Autostar software
on a Mac using Virtual PC. Meade could offer no help other than to
suggest use of their USB/Serial bridge. However, based on information I
received at Mac World recently from the Starry Night folks, I don't
think using the Meade adapter would work.

Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. I've spent some time on your
site looking for answers but all references I could find dealt with
earlier software versions.

Thank you.

Ron Bernstein
Fairfax, CA
Mike here: Using the techniques and hardware/software I mention in the article "Update Autostar using a Mac" on the Autostar Information page, I am able to update my #497 Autostars from my PowerBook 17" with 10.3.2 and Virtual PC 6.1. I'm now using the 1.8 version of the Keyspan Mac driver. You might also want to look at the article "Autostar Suite on a Macintosh" on the Autostar Information page; I show some VPC setup screens.

And:

Thank you Mike. I had read the "Update  Autostar Article on a Mac" and
also looked at the Autostar Suite Article.

In between writing you and now, I've borrowed a friends PC and updated
my Autostar.

I'm running XP on my VPC and did configure COM1 to the Keyspan. I
couldn't make it work. Maybe XP is the difference.

Anyway, I'm good for now and really appreciate your help and your site.

Ron

And this:

Do you know of anyone who has had any success using XP; Keyspan 1.8 and
OS X10.3.2.

It would sure be nice to be able to update with my Mac. I also have a
Powerbook G4 which I use with Starry Night to control my scope. Until I
updated by Keyspan driver and the Autostar, Starry night would not slew
the scope. Now it will.

Thanks again.

Ron

Subject: RE: FIRST AUTOSTAR DOWNLOAD, DISASTER!!
Date: 1/26/04, 09:13
From: Cesar Brischetto (cbrischetto@argenhonda.com.ar)
I've tried to download the new version for 497 (31ee), and after
reaching 2% completed, ETX 12 v cable (with a bad contact) interrupted
download, leaving me crazy with a dead Autostar.

I've tried this, and nothing happens :
------
Bad Download Recovery (SAFE LOAD)

Subject:        AAAHHHHH Fried autostar!
Sent:   Thursday, January 4, 2001 11:10:41
From:   grrass_snake_man@ic24.net (grrass_snake_man)
I know, I know, I should have followed the warnings, but as my Auto star
got trapped in a download I could not end I turned autostar off, now
there is NO life in it!  I have looked through your brilliant site but
it would seem no one else has been dumb enough to do this !

ANy suggestions???

Thanks,

Deren.

Mike here: Search the site for "SAFE LOAD". That's the key! But what you'll find is this comment:

From the Autostar 2.0 README file: "SAFE LOADER MODE IN YOUR Autostar:
If the firmware in your Autostar crashes and you cannot access the
"DOWNLOAD" menu item on your handbox, you can use the "SAFE LOADER"
feature of your new Autostar software (version release 1.1G and above).
To get into the safe loader, follow these simple steps:
1. Make sure the Autostar and ETX are turned off.
2. Press and hold the "ENTER" key and the Scroll Down Key located to the
right of the help key on the Autostar handbox.
3. While depressing both keys, turn on your Autostar power switch. This
will require you using both hands.

You should see "FLASH LOAD READY" on your display. This indicates that
you can proceed to Update new software to your Autostar."
---------

But, at this point I cant load ANYTHING!!!

Please help me!!!!!

CESAR
Mike here: Does the Autostar display the SAFE LOAD message when you try to put it into that mode? If not, you probably corrupted that code and will have to send it to Meade.

And an update:

Last night after several frustrating tryings, I could get the beloved
message "flash load 30 ready".

Then, after such a blessing, It could be updated in a troublefree
manner! If somebody reads this, please get the instructions on how to
make a homemade # 505 cable (by Bob Pasken), it just works great!! Cost
is only peanuts.

Then, I begun to load tours, comets, satellites and asteroids data. It
is good to say that if process of load is interrupted, i.e., closing ASU
program, somebody as I did will try to load everything, and possibly
erase some tours and/or comets/asteroids/satellites.

Don't use UPGRADE AUTOSTAR SOFTWARE command to upload said data!!!!!
Just pass to the "handbox" side the objects you're interested on, then
mark them with shift key. Put Autostar in 'download", hit "send" in the
ASU, and "enter" in the Autostar. When finished, a message pops up
indicating a successful data transfer, and Austostar initializes by
itself. Thanks Mike for your unlimited cooperation one more time!!

PS: Now I know why Autostar displays "do not turn off" when downloading.
Please check 12 v cable and connections!!

Subject: Is there any way to silence the Bleep on Autostar please
Date: 1/26/04, 08:12
From: Clivemorris@gwynedd.gov.uk
I have a very nervous neighbour next door who is alert to any sound. His
partner's car's windows were smashed some while ago and this has made
him vigilent,which I understand. I don't particularly want him to see me
with the ETX  so I'd like to silence the bleep on Autostar. I have
looked through the instruction manual to see if it says anything but I
can't see anything on the subject. I've briefly looked through your
excellent website but couldn't see anything either. Do you happen how I
can silence the bleep please?

Many thanks,
Clive Morris
And:
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
If you have a resonably current version of the firmware loaded,
it is now a setting under the Utilities menu, labelled "Beep"

If you haven't got a reasonably current version (with that
feature) loaded, now you have a reason to do so...

have fun
--dick
And:
Thank you very much for your help.I have had an e-mail from Dick Seymour
with a suggestion.
Kind Regards,Clive

Subject: RE: ETX 90EC Problems
Date: 1/25/04, 20:47
From: Paul (pwp1964@sbcglobal.net)
Well you are not gonna believe this!...LOL

But I basically just let the scope sit there all day. I did not touch
it. But then tonight after dinner I decided to play around with it "one
last time." You know, before I really got into the process of becoming
irate and sending it back...LOL

Anyways, I turned the darned thing on and lo and behold the beast
actually stopped on its way to Capella! I was shocked! And then I got it
to slew to Procyon (the typical Easy align for this time of year). And
then I got it to Saturn and Orion and Andromeda and the moon (keep in
mind this is theoretical because I am still in my office....LOL).

But I have Starry Night and I checked it for the positions the scope was
in and they were not too bad so I was happy. Then I tried what every
good scientist would do. Yes, replicating the experiment. And this
yielded a mixed bag of results.

I got several motor failures, I got several continuous slews back to the
hard stop, I got some aligns with Capella in the northwest instead of
the northeast, and I got several more that were pretty close. Certainly
close enough for me to call it a victory from the confines of my office!

The key "seemed" to be calibrating the motors BEFORE each align. I can't
say for 100% certainty that was what did it because it did not always
work.

There were times when I would turn it off after a successful slew only
to have it revert back to its old ways on the very next power-up. I do
not think I ever had back-to-back successes. And there were times when I
would calibrate the motors and it still would not work right for several
tries.

It was very hit-and-miss for sure. This was a lot better than no hits at
all which is what I had for the previous two days. But still far from a
perfect score too.

So now what should I do? Does this seemingly random performance tonight
fall within the range of tolerances for a $570 scope (yeah I got a good
deal on it from B&H)? or are you getting your scope to work properly on
almost every power-up and these would be considered terrible stats?

I know these little wonders are far from perfect machines. If they were
perfect, you and Dick and Dr. Clay would not have had to right a book to
explain how to get them to work right in the first place!

So I am open to opinions now.

Should I fold, call, raise, or just get out of astronomy now while my
wallet is still intact (said with tongue firmly in cheek!)? LOL :-)

Anyways, I just wanted to tell you of my latest adventure with the Sybil
scope...LOL

Thanks for your time and for listening.

Paul
Mike here: It shouldn't be hit-or-miss. It should just work. But it does seem to indicate an intermittent condition. Contact Meade.

And:

But you can answer me these questions from your experience:

1) do you have to calibrate your drives before every alignment?

2) does your scope's Autostar work properly every time?

3) once working, does it slew to all targets accurately?

I ask this because I need a frame of reference when talking to Meade. 
Mike here: 1) NO 2) 99+% 3) 99+%

And an update:

Well under the you are not gonna believe it department, I solved my
problem...LOL

The problem turned out to be that I had my RA clutch too tight. And that
was what was causing the erratic RA drive problems. I backed off the
clutch somewhat and lo and behold I was having success after success in
aligns.

I even got so confident that I reinstalled Star GPS and that worked
flawlessly too.

I guess I ended up tightening my RA clutch too tight because I was used
to needing to clamp down on it from my ETX 90RA days. So in my mind I
thought I needed it tighter than it really needed to be.

Well, at least I solved the problem for now. And if anymore develop in
the future I will contact Meade to sort them out.

Sorry to trouble you.

Paul

Subject: it's just like an Autostar...
Date: 1/24/04, 22:04
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
At this moment, the problem with Spirit seems to be related
to its FlashRam memory.. and control can be regained by commanding
it to use its "regular" Ram instead of that Flash Ram.

Just like an Autostar!

The firmware and object data are kept in FlashRam in
the Autostar.. but if you invoke Safe Load, it copies
the program to regular RAM and executes it from there.

Just like Spirit!

(well, there are a few differences... Spirit has 256 MB
of FlashRam, the 497 Autostar has one megabyte (the LX200gps
has 3.5 MB).  I don't know how much RAM Spirit has, but
the two Autostars have 32 kilobytes each.
Spirit works in -much- colder conditions than the Autostar.
Spirit works in the daylight, Autostars tend to come out at night.
Meade will -not- pay for returning Spirit to their factory
for servicing.

have fun
--dick

Here's the press release on Spirit and FlashRam:

www.jpl.nasa.gov/releases/2004/34.cfm

Subject: Information on Training The ETX 90 Drive
Date: 1/24/04, 20:35
From: "jlafalce@qwest.net" (jlafalce@qwest.net)
I enjoyed reading the information on your site. It was very helpful and
informative.  I have had my 90 for over a year and still haven't been
able to find the information on how to train the drive motor.

I am using the same field tripod that you show in your pictures.

I have asked meade to send me the updated manual but haven't received
one yet.

Can you direct me to a site where I can find the information on how to
train the motor.

Thanks for all of the great information.

Regards,

John La Falce 
Mike here: See the article "Thoughts on Training" on the Autostar Information page.

Subject: ETX-125 in Polar Alignment...
Date: 1/24/04, 13:04
From: Elizabeth Rose (n2bikes@comcast.net)
Can you show me a picture of an ETX-125 on the Field Tripod that is in
the Polar Home Position?  I think I have this correct, but I want to be
sure.  Unlike using the Desktop Tripod, is the Telescope Tube set at 90
degrees?  I have enclosed two pictures so you can tell me if this is
correct.  Thanks again..Paul
ETX

Mike here: Rotate the OTA until it is parallel to the fork arms. In this position the eyepiece will be on the bottom side. Now rotate the fork arms 180 degrees to place the eyepiece on the top side. That's the Polar Home position.


Subject: Aligning
Date: 1/24/04, 13:11
From: shirley m feickert (sfeickert@earthlink.net)
I have two questions for you,

1. can polaris, moon ,Jupiter  or any planet be used to line up my auto
star?

2. what would you use in the cold Iowa night skys (line up) ?
       Jim
Mike here: If you are going to use the Autostar alignment process then you must use the Alignment Stars in the Autostar. If you are going to do a non-Autostar Polar Alignment you can use Polaris to indicate the location of the North Celestial Pole. Do not use moving objects like planets to try an alignment on nor use them to SYNC the Autostar.

Subject: ETX 90EC Autostar Alignment Problem
Date: 1/23/04, 22:37
From: Paul (pwp1964@sbcglobal.net)
i just purchased an ETX-90EC with the 497 Autostar. i also purchased the
StarGPS and have successfully attached it to the scope and upgraded the
Autostar to 31E.

my problem begins with alignment. the Autostar powers up and initializes
just fine and gets the GPS coordinates. i then set the scope in the
Polar home position (rotated back up right after reaching the
counterclockwise hard stop).

i try Easy Align and the scope begins slewing to Capella. it moves fine
in declination and begins rotating towards Capella.

the problem is that it keeps on rotating past Capella!!! it just keeps
on rotating in RA all the way to the other hard stop and then the motors
keep spinning!

i have tried using other stars to align to, but it keeps on rotating in
RA without stopping.

any ideas what might be causing this and how to correct it?
 
thanks,
 
Paul
Mike here: First off, remove the GPS to remove that as a problem source (it probably isn't though). Did you set the telescope model and mounting mode in the Autostar? Did you CALIBRATE and TRAIN DRIVES?

And:

Yes I did set the telescope model to ETX 90 and the mounting to Polar.
And I have tried calibrating drives as well. Maybe the problem lies in
Training the drives?

When you train drives in polar mode, is it best to have the scope
mounted in polar alignment (33 degrees latitude for me) and then try to
find a suitable target? The problem I had when I tried to train my
drives was that with my scope on the tripod and in that orientation I
could not easily locate anything to align with. There are no telephone
poles here and the houses are all one story so roof top vents are too
low. Can the scope be trained in polar motion while the scope is
oriented at an Alt-Az 90 degree position?
Mike here: I suggest training in the mode you intend to use. In Polar mode you can still rotate the tube to be horizonal and then train from there.

And:

Well I recalibrated the drives and also retrained them and I am still
having the same situation where the scope just keeps rotating all the
way to the clockwise hardstop without stopping.

Have you ever heard of this happening before? Can you tell me what I
should be seeing it do?

Right after the scope is turned on (and following the Sun warning,
getting started message, and GPS info), the scope defaults to Align:Easy
and the RA motors engage. Sometimes the motors engage at a fairly fast
rate and other times at what appears to be sidereal tracking rate. Which
is supposed to occur?

Since this is a brand new scope, I really have no first hand experience
of what to expect it to do. The strange thing is that everything else
seems to work just fine. I can move the scope in any direction with the
motors and I can calibrate the motors and I can train the motors.

But when I try aligning (either Easy or Two Star), the scope just goes
into a fast slewing RA and does not stop. I don't get it.

Paul
Mike here: Tracking should not occur until completion of the alignment steps. So I suspect something is corrupted. Re-install the Autostar 3.1Ee from Meade's site. This time don't do the GPS software. Set up in Alt/Az mode and see if everything works normally. If so, try Polar. Let me know.

And:

Well I did as you suggested and downloaded and installed 31E using the
Meade updating software. And I did not use the GPS either. I tried both
Polar and Alt/Az and still they just kept tracking till they reached the
hard stop on the clockwise side (the motor continues to run once
reaching the hard stop). :-(

I even tried the Reset and still had the same problems.

Is there some way to clear the Autostar completely before updating the
software? Maybe that would help me?

Paul
Mike here: Try a test: put the Autostar into Targets->Terrestrial. This turns off the drives. Then use the UP/DOWN/LEFT/RIGHT arrows; does it slew normally and stop when you release the buttons? Then turn tracking back on from Targets->Astronomical. Does the drive start tracking right away or does it run off madly to the hardstop? If all is OK to this point, try the alignment again. If it fails, reverse the cable and try again. As a last resort you could put the Autostar into SAFE LOAD mode (power off, hold the ENTER and SCROLLDOWN ARROW keys, and power on). Run the Autostar Update application. If all this fails, you likely have a bad Autostar. Let me know.

And:

I tried your test and came up with these results. In Terrestrial mode, I
was able to slew the scope in all directions and at all speeds. When I
engaged Astronomical mode, I did encounter some anomalies in RA
performance. The tracking drive engaged when in this mode and I suspect
that is normal behavior. But there were times when I would change speeds
on the controller and the motor kept operating at its highest speed.

So I went back through the tests again and this time left the scope
pointed in the polar home position to try the controls in both
Terrestrial and Astronomical modes. On this try, the RA motors seemed to
respond as they should and at the proper speeds.

I tried aligning again following these tests and still the scope
continued blindly to the hard stop where it was happy to whir away with
no signs of wanting to stop.

Before you had sent me this email, I did try loading in Safe Mode as you
suggested and that loading did not seem to change anything.

Obviously something is amiss, but I am not sure exactly what it is. It
could be a faulty Autostar. But I must say that it is able to accept all
downloads and it never locks up or has any faults other than the
alignment problem. It looks to me (although I have not had any chance to
try it yet) that I could probably take the scope out and use the arrow
buttons to orient the scope to Saturn (or whatever) and the scope would
probably track it. And if it can do that, is there really a motor
problem?

Maybe the problem is some sort of sensor (or lose wire?) on the motor
drive itself? The problem seems to be only in the RA drive and not in
the DEC drive because that drive does indeed stop moving once the
Autostar begins slewing to an alignment star.

Do you think I would have to send in both the scope and the Autostar or
just the Autostar itself back to Meade?
Mike here: Meade will probably want both but a phone call will tell.

And:

Thanks for all your time and assistance Mike!

It is just my luck to end up with a defective something or other...LOL
:-(

Paul
And some additional info:
I just checked one more thing. I got the scope into the mode where it
displays RA and DEC values. So I set the scope to Max speed and began
using the arrow buttons. The DEC values move promptly and appear to be
accurate as the slew the scope up and down. But when I slew in RA the
values are a bit "screwy."

When I press the RIGHT arrow button, the values seem to change in a
fairly accurate manner. But I am not sure it is quite as accurate as the
DEC values. But when I engage the LEFT arrow button, the values change
VERY SLOWLY. Way too slowly. So perhaps this is what is causing the
problem.

I'll admit it is a little counterintuitive because with the scope just
cruising all the way to the clockwise hard stop I would have expected
the RIGHT button to be showing the lack of change in value. But in this
case, it is the LEFT button that shows the problem.

Again, keep in mind that the motors are engaging and moving the scope
responsively.

Paul
And from our resident Autostar Expert:
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Your last test was a very good one (since it matches my pet theory).

I think you have a faulty encoder system on the RA motor card.
(this means the -scope- has to go back)

When you do a drive Calibrate, does the RA motor just spin for
about one of the major (hour) divisions on the circle scale?
(it should.. the Autostar simply runs the motor for 2 seconds)
(the DEC motor should run too, but separately)

But from all of your symptoms, it sounds like the Autostar
is not being fed the correct encoder data at all... but it was
fed -something-, since it is not declaring a "Motor Unit Fault"
condition.

The root cause -could- just be a blob of grease on the encoder
disk.  You could check this by removing the base plate and
looking (the motor and disk are there)... but since it's a
new scope i'd recommend first trying to swap it at the dealer's,
and (if that isn't possible), calling Meade and having them
fix/replace it (and since it was dead out-of-box, -you- should
NOT have to pay shipping).

Opening the base could lead to warranty-weakening problems
(breaking the battery wire is the usual first one, losing
one of the adhesive feet that hide the screws is another...)

> When I press the RIGHT arrow button, the values seem to change in a
> fairly accurate manner. But I am not sure it is quite as accurate as the
> DEC values.

If you tell the scope it is Polar Mounted, the RA values should
increase to match the printed scale wrapped around the base.
You can slide the scale to bring the "current" (displayed on
Autostar) RA vlaue lined up with the index mark on the base.
Then when you slew the scope, the pointer should match the
Autostar's displayed RA values.

I think your root problem (runaway in RA) is due to the encoder
system not delivering anywhere near the correct number of pulses
to the Autostar, so the Autostar keeps commanding motion until
it "gets there".  And the hard stops arrive first.

good luck
--dick

And:

Hi Dick,

And thanks so much for your time and your detailed response.

Yes, when I do a drive calibration, both motors spin for about 2 seconds
as you describe and the scope moves up/down, right/left as it should.

I am with you, I would expect to get a "motor unit failure" too. But I
guess because the motors are doing what they are supposed to do the
scope doesn't interpret it that way. The Autostar must be getting
inaccurate information on how the motors are performing and that is why
they are allowed to continue to spin in RA for virtually a limitless
time.

Since I bought the scope from B&H Photo Video in New York (and I live in
So Cal) as a complete package including the 884 tripod, I will probably
forego sending it back to them and just contact Meade directly to see if
I can just send in the scope with the Autostar. hopefully they can just
send me a replacement unit in short order.

Again, thanks to both you and Mike for your kind assistance! :-)

Paul
Mike here: Since you live in S.Cal, call Meade and then drive it to them in Irvine.

And:

Thanks for the idea Mike.

I will ask them about that when I give them a call on Monday.

Paul
And this:
> I am with you, I would expect to get a "motor unit failure" too. But I
> guess because the motors are doing what they are supposed to do the
> scope doesn't interpret it that way. The Autostar must be getting
> inaccurate information on how the motors are performing and that is why
> they are allowed to continue to spin in RA for virtually a limitless
> time.

ACtually, it's weirder.. the motor circuit cards are part of the
feedback loop, too... they are told how many encoder vanes to expect
per second (actually per 6 millisec) ... and the motor-control card
then handles all feedback to cause the motor to let the encoder
-see- so many pulses per six milliseconds.  If the encoder doesn't
deliver pulses, the motor spins faster to try and reach that assigned
goal (the goal is mathematically determined from the Gear Ratio).
It's a quadrature encoder (two detectors watching the same disk),
so one dirty (or dead) detector might cause this.

Hmm... *check* the Setup > Telescope > Ratio  settings.
They should both be the same, roughly 1.36 (or 1.38, i forget).
(so it could still be the autostar...)

> Since I bought the scope from B&H Photo Video in New York (and I live in
> So Cal) as a complete package including the 884 tripod, I will probably
> forego sending it back to them and just contact Meade directly to see if
> I can just send in the scope with the Autostar. hopefully they can just
> send me a replacement unit in short order.

Meade tends to "repair" rather than "replace"

good luck
--dick
And:
I checked the RA and DEC ratios in the Autostar and they are both
exactly 1.36 (with a few additional numbers).

On a side note, as I was moving the scope back out of the way and
unplugging 541 AC adapter, I checked the focusing knob and in the course
of about 2 seconds it failed and began to just freewheel!

So I will call Meade on Monday and arrange to either take it up to
Irvine or send it back to them.

Paul
Mike here: Was it just the knob that moved or the focusing shaft?

And:

The shaft did not move at all. It is still about 1/2 an inch out where
it was. But when I touched it, it felt like something slipped and now
all it does is spin freely.

I must say, I have not had anywhere near the troubles with my ETX 90RA
as I have had with this 3 day old ETX 90EC.

I think it will be a great unit, once I can get over these annoying
hurdles. I even ordered UHTC on this one and I am sure the optics will
be great. I also got the right angle finder like the ETX 125EC has and I
love that too. Plus, being able to use the 541 adapter in lieu of
batteries is tremendous!

Now if only I can get this motor/Autostar problem and now focus knob
problem corrected I will be in business!
Mike here: If the only the focus knob is loose, that is easily fixed by tightening the setscrew in the knob.

And:

It was a loose focus knob. I rechecked it again and sure enough it was
loose and I retightened it with the allen wrench.

I was probably going a bit batty after the problems last night and I did
not check it closely enough.
Mike here: Glad we got one problem solved!

And this:

I agree Mike! LOL

I checked Mapquest and Meade is only about 60 miles from my home. so you
think it is possible to just take the scope back up to them after first
calling them about it?

Paul
Mike here: Call them and get the RMA number. Tell them you'll bring it by. Shouldn't be a problem; several people have done that.

And on a different note:

I will be sure and do that.

Thanks again for all your time!

Paul

P.S. I am still enjoying my autographed copy of your book that you
signed for me at OPT back on Meade day. Am I right in thinking that many
of the mechanical tune-ups in that book no longer apply to current crop
of scopes?
Mike here: yes, some topics would require expansion on any future edition of the book.

Subject: ETX 125 Drive Training
Date: 1/23/04, 08:13
From: "George C. Stradley" (stradley@sbcglobal.net)
Are the ETX drives trainable in daylight?  If so, what kind of target
should be used?  Distance?  Altitude?  Iterations?

Or is it better to train on Polaris at a dark site?

George Stradley
Spring, TX
Mike here: I normally train on Polaris but that is because I have no clear view of a distant terrestrial object from my backyard. But the best object would be a small (visually) distinct object several miles away. Personally I think it should be somewhat elevated but it will probably be very difficult to find a terrestrial object miles away but yet an at elevation of 45 degrees. According to Meade, there is no need for the OTA to be elevated.

Subject: 506 cable
Date: 1/22/04, 10:11
From: Signal20FHP@aol.com
I got a look at that 506 cable at a dealers store
The term 506 is a misnomer for the cable
It is really two cables the 505 cable and a short cable that plugs into
the base of the scope,and the the 505 cable plugs into it. This short
cable has the chip inside and is about the size of a money clip with a
plug at both ends. I guess that the chip in the adaptor part is inside
on the better and more costley scopes.
I guess when you purchase a low end 70ex scope it is like buying a car
but the  seat to drive it is not included
George In Miami
Mike here: Actually, when you buy the ETX-60 or ETX-70, it is like buying a car without an upgradeable GPS option. To upgrade the GPS you have to replace the DVD drive. Well, that's not a perfect analogy but low end models of most everything don't include all the capabilities of higher models.

Subject: RE: Question
Date: 1/20/04, 05:07
From: "Bittner, Richard E" (richard.e.bittner@lmco.com)
In what mode can I adjust the scrolling speed? It does go pretty fast.
Do you just hit the up/down arrows while the text is scrolling? It took
me a little time last night going through all the menus until I got to
the Display options. I did adjust the brightness and contrast. I turned
off the Sun warning and Startup so I wouldn't have to look at the echoed
display. I think my version of firmware is 26e. I'm using a 5" and 3"
refractor on the mount (one at a time). Do you think I need to update
the software?

I've ordered a dovetail from Meade, the mount didn't have one with it.
Once I get it, I'll be able to test the goto stuff. Looks like I have a
lot of reading and practice to do first anyway.

Thanks for the help.
Richard
Mike here: While the text is scrolling you can change the speed. There is not setting for it. And keeping current can help but there is no change to the scrolling speed with any update newer than what you have.

And:

Thanks again Mike. I did try the arrows for the scrolling speed and it
slowed the text down and didn't echo. Another member of your forum also
emailed me with some tips to try.

Do you think for the LDX55 mount that I have, should I download and
install the latest Meade firmware? I think I told you before I have
version 26E.

Thanks,
Richard 
Mike here: The current version does add features, notably Quiet Slew, for the LXD55 and fixes some bugs. If you plan to get the Autostar Suite you will need the current version.

And:

Thanks, I'll either make or buy a cable then.
Richard

Subject: re: auto star??
Date: 1/19/04, 23:14
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
To: sfeickert@earthlink.net
If you don't have PowerPoint, you can download a free Powerpoint
Viewer from Microsoft, which at least will let you view (and
print) the slides.

If you have the open-source program OpenOffice or StarOffice,
they also have a good deal of powerpoint-reading capability.

have fun
--dick

And:

shirley m feickert wrote:
> we have a mac so what do you do????
> On Jan 20, 2004, at 1:14 AM, Richard Seymour wrote:

OK, Mike: what's the Macintosh answer for printing PowPnt?
(i think the viewer -is- available for Macs)

And doesn't Footnote (is that the name of the new Mac
presentation program? (or Podium)) accept Powerpoint?

However, as Mike suggested, just start the Web Version
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/etx90ec-talk.html

and print each page as you're seeing it on the screen.
(34 iterations of  [print],[print]...)

If you have a dial-up modem (as i do), the 5 megabyte powerpoint
download may actually take longer than doing it page-by-page
as web pages.

good luck
--dick 
Mike here: Microsoft used to have a viewer for PowerPoint files for the Mac but I don't know if they need a Mac OS X version. Anyway, check the Microsoft Mactopia web page: www.mactopia.com. Keynote ($99; Mac OS X) from Apple will read PowerPoint files.

And:

From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Microsoft does have a v7-v9 Macintosh PowerPoint viewer.

The download page is here:

www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=e25cb1e5-209c-4a58-b283-23e84b616477&displaylang=en

If that didn't survive the email process, go to
www.microsoft.com

and put
powerpoint viewer macintosh

in the SEARCH box in the upper right corner of the page.

The above viewer is aimed at PowerPoint 98,
but Microsoft is pretty good about having PowerPoint
accept files in -both- upgrade and downgrade directions.
(using PPT97 to look at a PPT 2003 file may merely miss
some of the fancier animations.. but the content should
still be visible)

The viewer is an HQX file slightly over 6 megabytes long.

have fun
--dick

And:

you have all been great in helping me with the problem of printing power
point on a mac & helping jim with his telescope by answering his
questions. i will remember you all if i have any more problems. thanks
have a great day.  shirley feickert

Subject: Question
Date: 1/19/04, 10:35
From: "Bittner, Richard E" (richard.e.bittner@lmco.com)
I just had a question about Autostar. I recently purchased a LXD55 mount
from a fellow astronomer and when I set the system up and applied power,
the 497 comes up and does an initialization. Once that it does and text
starts streaming across the bottom line, it appears to be echoing. I
mean I get double letters for each word and it's hard to read. Have you
seen or heard of this before? Maybe just a bad cable connection? I
didn't have time to try that. Also, the homemade 505 cable on your site,
does it work? And do I need to have any special software besides
downloading the latest update?

I guess that was more than one question, huh?
Thanks for any info you can give me.
Richard Bittner
Mike here: Have you tried changing the scrolling speed (by using the up/down arrows at the bottom of the handset)? As to #505 cable, yes, it is just that simple to make one and it works if made correctly. And once you have the cable, Windows, a serial port (not USB unless you get a serial-USB converter), then go to Meade's Autostar Update page and grab the Autostar Update application and you'll be good to go.

Subject: auto star??
Date: 1/18/04, 16:34
From: shirley m feickert (sfeickert@earthlink.net)
Mike in going thru your sites, on Auto Star I came across   AUTO STAR
and YOUR COMPUTER slides 1-34. I'd like to print it out, so I can follow
along on my computer for updates etc,  Is there way to do this ?
                    Jim
Mike here: You can print from PowerPoint if you get the PowerPoint version or print the web page frame if you are using the web page version.

Subject: Autostar Updates
Date: 1/18/04, 16:24
From: kevin keyes (fishonkevin@sbcglobal.net)
This is probably a dumb question and probably been answered before, but
does the 495 Autostar need to be connected to the telescope to do an
upgrade? Unlike the 494,the connection jack is in the hbx itself.

This will be my first time upgrading by myself so I want to get it
right.
  
Kevin Keyes
Mike here: Yep, you connect the computer to the Autostar, which gets it power from the telescope. You can make an external power source though; see the Autostar Information page. When you finish with the update to the current version you will end up with a #497 Autostar.

And:

Thanks Mike for the quick reply. After looking over the ideas on the
Autostar info page, I think I'll just use the power supply from the
telescope. I can sweat solder a copper pipe but when it comes to
electricity and following wiring diagrams its all Greek to me.
Kevin Keyes

Subject: Tip for StarGPS Users
Date: 1/15/04, 02:26
From: Schlatter (rosenjoe@charter.net)
Several weeks ago, I purchased the StarGPS software and now use the
application plus my Garmin GPS receiver with my ETX-90.  I am VERY
PLEASED WITH STARGPS and recommend it to anyone considering it.

There is one small matter that StarGPS users need to be aware of when
updating their Autostar software.

StarGPS is a patch to the Autostar software.

There are three ways (at least three, maybe more) ways of updating your
Autostar software:

1.  Use Meade's "Autostar Update" -- ASU -- available free on the Meade
website.
2.  Use the Autostar Update routine in Meade's Autostar Suite.
3.  Use the Autostar Update routine in the StarGPS software.
 
Here's the warning:  If you are running StarGPS, and if you update your
Autostar USING SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE STARGPS UPDATE ROUTINE, the
update will overwrite your StarGPS application and your scope will no
longer be GPS capable.  It's not a big problem because, if you do this,
you can go to the StarGPS application, run their update, and restore
your StarGPS function.

This is what happened to me.

I have been using StarGPS for several weeks.  Back when Autostar version
30Ee (or whatever it is) was released, I upgraded using the StarGPS
upgrade routine -- upgrade was smooth, fast, and seamless.

When I learned that Meade had released version 31Ea (or whatever it is),
I upgraded using the Autostar Suite update routine.  After upgrading, I
used my scope only to find that it did not search for the GPS -- the
StarGPS application was overwritten by the new Autostar software.  I
immediately started StarGPS application on my notebook computer and ran
their update routine -- the StarGPS update checked the Meade website for
the latest version, then it checked my scope to see if the software was
current, then, it downloaded from StarGPS the current StarGPS patch and
installed it -- and I was back in business with my StarGPS.

Lesson learned:   If you run StarGPS, use StarGPS to upgrade your
Autostar software.  It's faster and easier than any other method, plus,
it updates the StarGPS software at the same time.
 
----
Joe Schlatter

Subject: ETX home position
Date: 1/14/04, 09:20
From: Kelleher (markck01@12move.nl)
I'm still getting to know my ETX-105 but had some wonderful views of
Saturn a few nights ago, excellent!

I do have a question about the Alt/Az home position I hope you can
answer for me.

Setting the scope to the home position is straightforward enough.
However, when it comes to point it north I often end up "manhandling"
the tripod and scope an inch this way, then an inch the other until I
can see Polaris in the centre of the FOV (before re-setting the OTA to
horizontal).

It occurs to me that the instruction to "Rotate the telescope
counterclockwise 180 until the Dec setting circle is directly above the
computer control panel" is not so precise - it is not easy to line the
Dec setting circle up exactly over the control panel.

So, my question is: do I need to move the whole tripod and scope to
point north or can I just get the Dec circle roughly above the control
panel and then turn the OTA a little clockwise or anticlockwise to get
it pointing north please?

Many thanks for your great site and ongoing support...
Mike here: I usually just set up the tripod with the control panel approximately on the West side and the do the CCW/CW rotations to end up with the OTA pointed North. For most purposes that works for me. Of course, the more precise you make the HOME position the more accurate those initial slews to alignment stars. But once you have aligned it really won't matter.

And:

Thanks for the info. Next time the skies are clear I will do it the way
you do.

If I think about the way I was doing it I was probably losing accuracy -
levelling the tripod top, fitting the scope and then moving the tripod
around was probably negating the levelling!

Thanks again. 

Subject: autostar double stars
Date: 1/13/04, 11:54
From: Cox SMTP west (lbking94@cox.net)
Is there a way to scroll through the double star list in the autostar
faster? Say you want to go from A to G do you have to go through the
whole list or is there a way to go right to the G listed stars? When its
cold that list goes pretty slow. Thanks Brian
Mike here: Unfortunately, there is no way to scroll quicker through any of the lists.

Subject: ETX-90 with Autostar Tracking Problem
Date: 1/12/04, 23:09
From: Roy Yount (royyount@yahoo.com)
Hello,  First let me thank you for your GREAT site.  As a Newbie to the
stars and the ETX-90, your site is a wealth of information.  I got my
ETX-90 on Dec 30th and this is the 4th time using it.  I followed the
alignment to the letter.  I actually found the target stars for the Easy
alignment. After a successful alignment, I began to surf the skies.
Every thing seems to need final touches to bring them into view.  I
guess that may be viewfinder alignment problems, however, my real
problem is tracking. Everything seems to slowly drift to the 10 O'clock
position as looking through the eyepiece.  I can force things to stay in
view by using the manual arrow buttons.  I have tried resysnc. each
item, but this does not fix the problem.  Any suggestions?   Thanks for
your help..  One last thing, when focusing, it seems that there is a
VERY fine line between too little and too much when turning the focus
knob.  Will getting a flex knob that is a larger diameter help this, or
will the electronic focus help this?  Thanks again...

Roy
Waddy, Kentucky (Just outside of Louisville)
Mike here: Are you using Polar or Alt/Az mounting? Have you done the CALIBRATION and TRAIN DRIVES (on both axes)? Did you use a distant objects (at least a mile away) for training? The more precise the training and alignment star centering, the better the results, including compensating for the Earth's rotation. As to the focusing, yes, infocus is precisely that; there is only one infocus position. Using the FlexiFocus or electronic focuser reduces or eliminates hand-induced vibrations; they don't make precise focusing any easier (except by reducing image movement).

And:

I used Alt/Az mounting.  I trained using the viewfinder viewing a radio
tower aprox 7 miles away.  I thought I got is good, I guess I will try
it again.  I will also run through the calibration again also.  Thanks
for the SUPER FAST reply.  This was my first email on your site and I am
very impressed.  Keep up the great job.  You are helping a lot of
people.  I ordered your book and I am waiting for it to arrive.  Thanks
again and have a great night.

Roy
Mike here: The finderscope does not provide enough magnification to be precise when training. You can use the 26mm eyepiece although the more magnification you use the better the results.

And:

Thanks, I thought the use of the crosshairs would help to get it "just
right"  I will try the 26mm as soon as I can.  I assume that I could use
the edge of the field of view when using the 26mm to make sure that I am
lined up on the same spot when training.  I would think that if I just
tried to center the target in the eyepiece, there could be room for
error in what is really centered.  Thanks again...

Roy 
Mike here: Using the edge can work with some practice.

Subject: Tracking Question
Date: 1/12/04, 12:23
From: Daniel (darnoff@yahoo.com)
Let me say I'm a fan reader of all the terrific stuff you have in your
site for a long time.

I have to say that I'm using a very incorrect method for the Align
process: I select One Star option, select any star and in the middle of
the scope movement, I pulse the Mode key... the scope goes in some
tracking mode (motors are buzzing...the scope is moving) but all my pics
suffer from a tracking problem.

My questions here is: the interruption of the Align process drive the
scope into tracking mode? or the complete Aling process is mandatory for
a succefully tracking movement?

Thanks and best regards

daniel

English is not my natural language
Mike here: Interrupting the alignment process will result in a bad alignment. For best results you need to complete the alignment process. Two Star will give the best results, especially in Alt/Az mounting. You didn't say what alignment mode you are using but trailing can also occur due to field rotation when mounted Alt/Az.

And:

Thanks you very much for your fast response.

The whole story is that I'm trying to get some pictures with my new
Canon Digital Rebel, attached in the back of my old ETX 90EC scope using
the aproppiate T Rings I have. But all my pics are thin white lines
instead of stars or clusters...

I'm using a Alt/Az mount (the easy way, I know...) and my exposures are
about form 10  or 15 secs, so I'm trying to figure out what's wrong
here.

As I said in my last mail, when I interrupt the Aligment process, my EXT
goes in the tipical motors sound and slow movement so I tougth it was in
the tracking movement.

I appreciate your advise, I will complete the Align process and after
that I let you know my new pics, if I'm satisfied with the results.

Thanks again for all your kindly support, really I think you are a kind
of remarkable example of free nice and clean work using the Web, the Web
needs many, many guys like you, Mike.

Best regards

daniel

Subject: ETX Performance
Date: 1/11/04, 18:30
From: Charles Jagow (cajagow@visi.net)
Hate to bother you again...

I have a Meade ETX-125EC GOTO scope.  I have been getting a great deal
of practice aligning the darn thing.

First of all, thank you for having such a wealth of information on your
site.  I was able to construct my own RS232 cable so I can control my
scope from my PC.  I have also used instructions from your site to train
my scope.

I usually do a two star alignment to Vega and then Rigel or Capella. 
The scope came with a 26mm eyepiece but I also have a 5, 10 18 and a 2x
Barlow.

I had an idea that if I performed the two star alignment with a higher
power eyepiece setup I would get a better alignment, is this correct?

During the alignment if I use the 2x Barlow and the 18 I can usually get
a good alignment, but when I tell it to go to a new location the target
is NEVER even in the eyepiece.  Am I expecting too much for the
requested object to be in the eyepiece with the 18mm with 2x Barlow
setup?

Should I perhaps just use the 18mm for the alignment and then also when
I am targeting a new object and then once the object is found then step
up the magnification with the 2x Barlow?

Thanks in advance...

????????
Have a Nice Day ? Chuck...
Mike here: The better your HOME position the better the results. If you have ACCURATELY trained the drives (using a high power eyepiece, for example) and you use a high power eyepiece when centering the alignment stars then you should get pretty good GOTOs. The better your HOME position the better the results. However, other variables include backlash and dirty encoders (causing missing a pulse).

And:

I trained the scope using the Barlow 2x and the 18mm on a cell tower
about five miles away.  I followed the instructions I found on your
site, the one that suggests you to slew high and then come down to the
center...

The motors train the scope pretty smoothly in the vertical direction up
and down at all of the speeds I have tried (3-9).  However in the
horizontal direction especially at the 4 & 5 speed it seems odd.  I can
sometimes hold the direction button down for several seconds before
anything happens then I usually get a "jump" about a third to two thirds
across the field of view.

Tonight I tried a different thing when I was done with the scope.  I
zeroed in on Polaris and then lowered the scope down level.  I noticed
that when the scope came level and I put my compass (which is glued to a
35mm film canister which I can slip into the eyepiece) on it was
pointing to my magnetic North almost exactly.  I had gone to a web site
somewhere that told me that at my lat/lon true north is about 10.5
degrees from magnetic north. So I have been aligning to what I thought
was true north about 10.5 - 11 degrees from magnetic north.  Maybe that
is wrong.  Tomorrow night I will align the scope to dead on magnetic
north, at least the same as my compass pointed to tonight when I lowered
it after having Polaris centered.  Sound like a plan?
Mike here: If your compass pointed in the same direction as Polaris AND you know that the magnetic variation is more than a degree then I suspect you are getting some interference from the electromagnetic field of the electronics (or metal) in the ETX. One thing I would suggest trying is to redistribute the gear grease by rotating (by hand) the ETX in both axes from hardstop to hardstop, back and forth, several times.

Subject: re: Confused about Autostar. HELP!
Date: 1/9/04, 09:39
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
To: jgarcia@diversa.com
In order to provide any meaningful help, we need to know
what the telescope -does- do.  Merely "gives you a headache"
does not give us a clue to try and assist you.

Does it move at all?
What does the Autostar say?
Where does it move to?
Where does it say it was -trying- to move to?

good luck
--dick
And:
Thanks for your reply. My headache referred to the inability of my
Autostar to align the two stars under easy alignment. I stated that in
my original email. When I tried to align using the "easy align" option
under alt/az position, I would have to slew, I guessing about 40-50 degs
in both planes. I would line up the first star and then hit enter and
would then try to align the second star, again slewing great distance to
find it. After hitting "enter" the message I would get from Autostar was
"Alignment Failed." I purchased a compass to be sure I was facing the
telescope to true North and then purchased a bubble level to be sure
that the telescope, mounted on the deluxe field tripod was on a level
surface. I have tried resetting, calibrating and training the motors. I
talked with Meade and they suggested that I upgrade the version of
Autostar. I contacted OPT, where my lovely wife purchased the scope
from, and Craig Weatherwax loaned me a #505 cable which I used to update
my Autostar version last night. I then reset, calibrated, and trained
the motors. To my astonishment I was able to get the alignment to work
last night. I was able to dial in Saturn and the Orion Nebula but I did
have to slew a bit (10 deg). However, when I dialed in Mars the motors
started to act out on their own. After Autostar completed it's slewing
to Mars and displayed Mars' coordinates, I tried to slew the scope and
it kept on going for about 3 seconds after I released the direction
button. When I pressed the opposite direction button the scope continued
to move in the original direction and not opposite. I Parked the scope
then turned it off and on and dialed up Mars and this time when I slewed
around I didn't have any problems. The jury is still out on whether or
not the upgrade fixed the Autostar problems. My question is, when do I
know that the Autostar is defective or not in working order? I have
followed the tips and directions on Mike's site. Don't get me wrong I am
enjoying the scope, it's the Autostar that has me confused.

Thanks for your help,
Joe 
Mike here: From the amounts of the errors you are seeing in the location of the alignment stars I almost suspect a date, time, or location error. Check those and don't forget the proper setting for Daylight Savings (should be OFF now). Lets solve that problem first. Let us know. Also, a compass will be off by up to 20 degrees from True North. So be certain to correct for your location. If you are local to OPT then you will have a magnetic variation similar to mine, which is 13 (NCP will be left of magnetic north).

And:

You know what! I have set daylight savings to "on" thinking if it was
asking me whether or not I wanted to use daylight savings. So in Spring
I will set this to "on". I will try my scope out tonight and will
probably bet that this has fixed the problem. If you don't hear from me,
You guys rule!

Thanks,
Joe 
Mike here: That would create a 15 degree error.

Subject: re: Autostar 'slewing'
Date: 1/9/04, 09:33
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
To: dstockbridge@hotmail.com
I'm sorry to say that the symptom sounds like a damaged
encoder or data receiver component.
Your Autostar is telling it how far to go,
but is unable to read the location it arrived at.

You might try a Setup > Telescope > Calibrate
(it should move a short distance with each motor)
which "tunes" the encoders.

It -could- just be a broken wire or loose connector.
You can try wiggling the Autostar's cable, or swapping it
end-for-end (this shuffles which wires carry which signals).

This could be a problem in either the Autostar -or- the
telescope, so if you do a warranty return (or take it
to a dealer to test it by playing
"their autostar, your scope" (and vice-versa), bring both.

good luck
--dick

And an update:

Not only thanks for the immediate answer, but also thanks for sorting
out the problem.

Richard, as you suggested I turned the Autostar connecting cable around.
Now it works fine! Most strange but much appreciated.

Regards
And:
If you take the cable to a RAdioshack or computer parts store,
they can use a special tool to squeeze the cable connectors
to reseat the wires... or call Meade for a new cable.

have fun
-dick

Subject: re: Retro fit alignment
Date: 1/9/04, 09:30
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
To: john.press@tesco.net
Run, do not walk, to:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/roboscope

..a discussion group dedicated to the DS-ing of other mounts.

I -suspect- that you just need to change the Ratio values.
Setup > Telescope > RA Ratio  (and Dec Ratio)
The value you would use is calculated from the number of teeth
on the final drive gear (the one the worm pushes).
When using DS motors, multiply the number of teeth in the worm
wheel for each axis by 0.0228148.

have fun
--dick

Subject: Autostar 'slewing'
Date: 1/8/04, 16:27
From: dstockbridge (dstockbridge@hotmail.com)
I found your brilliant site just the other day and wondered if you could
help me.

Having set up, trained my motors and attempted to align my ETX/Autostar,
the Autostar moves to the first star for alignment (in Easy) and then
sits there with the message 'slewing' and stays that way. The Autostar
locks up.

Very frustrating. You have to experience English weather and the rarity
of clear skies to appreciate!

Any help would be appreciated.
 
Thanks
 
Dave
Mike here: Are you sure you are putting the ETX into the proper HOME position? Can you manually slew in Azimuth from hard stop to hard stop (not quite two full rotations)? (I'm assuming you have an ETX model with hardstops since you didn't specify the ETX model nor the Autostar model.)

Subject: Confused about Autostar. HELP!
Date: 1/8/04, 14:01
From: Joseph Garcia (jgarcia@diversa.com)
Love your website and it is responsible for my receiving an ETX 90 for
Christmas from my lovely wife.

Anyway, I have enjoyed the UHTC and scope but unfortunately the Autostar
is giving me a headache. I can not get it to align under Alt/Az with
"Easy Align". I have followed your advice on resetting, calibrating, and
training the drives several times. I called Meade and their tech help
person suggested updating the software. Luckily, my wife bought the
scope from Oceanside Photo and Telescope and Craig was kind enough to
loan me a 505 cable in order to do this. So my question is, if I do all
this and the scope still fails to align what can I do? Does Autostar
really work in tracking the stars or is this expected?

Thanks for a great site,

Joe
Mike here: The Autostar will work. Read the Alignment Tips on the Autostar Information page.

Subject: Retro fit alignment
Date: 1/8/04, 12:13
From: John Press (john.press@tesco.net)
I have just been surfing around and came upon your site and wondered if
you may be able to help.

I have recently purchased a year old 127mm Mak on a G5 mount (on e-bay,
would you belive!) that the previous owner had retro fit with an auto
star and what look like DS motors (a real bargin I must add). Now my
problem is that the alignment does not seem to want to happen. Autostar
turns on and initializes, allows me to set the date and time and goes to
Align (no problems so far), I choose easy align and off the scope goes
to the first star. This is where the problems start, the drives stop
roughly 45 degrees in azimuth short of the first target (it looks not
too far off in Dec but I don't know because I have never got past this
bit).

I have aligned north and trained the drives without problem, the
location is right, I have calibrated the motors, the drives are running
on new batteries (stangely on 10 of 1.5V batteries {obviously giving
15V} but that is what the man built it with and he swore it worked for
him!).

Have you any ideas, suggestions or maybe even a solution? I would be
most grateful as this is my first proper scope (and after 25 years
looking at the sky through binos and a, sorry to swear but, a tasco 4.5"
reflector (sorry again for that blasphemy!)) I would like to get the
thing to work properly.

Many thanks for your time and I hope you can help.

Good luck with the site.
 
Regards
 
John
in wet ol' England
Mike here: Have you selected the proper telescope model (which I presume would be some DS model) and done a TRAIN DRIVES?

Subject: RESET Command? Alignment failed?
Date: 1/8/04, 04:47
From: "Schlatter, Joe A Jr [LTD]" (joseph.a.schlatter@mail.sprint.com)
Two questions:

I have an ETX-90EC/UTHC with the latest update from Meade -- 31Ea or
whatever it is.  Also have the StarGPS mod with its latest update.

1.  What does the RESET command reset?

2.  What causes alignment failure?

Last night I did my usual two-star alignment using Capella and Sirius.
Observed for a half an hour or so, turned scope off -- forgot to Park
Scope -- and went inside.  Came back in an hour and turned on the scope
-- went through two-star alignment on Capella and Sirius -- after
aligning,  Autostar told me "Alignment failed" -- parked scope, turned
it off, turned it on, and repeated -- got another "alignment failed." 
Turned it off and put it away.

I go through a full alignment each time -- unlock azimuth lock, turn
scope west to stop, turn back to point north, lock the knob, turn it on,
etc., etc.

Could it have been low battery voltage caused by VERY COLD temperatures?

Thanks.

-----
Joe Schlatter
Bristol TN
Mike here: RESET restores factory default settings. And low battery power resulting from low temps can indeed cause failures.

And:

Thanks, Mike.  I figured the low temp may have been the problem -- I use
a Scopetronix battery supply and I forget to recharge it -- 10 degrees
with wind chill was probably too much for it.

On another topic -- can you accept money via PayPal?  I'd like to make a
contribution to support your site.
Mike here: Sorry, no PayPal; just too many scams and frauds with PayPal in the name... Kagi has been

Subject: Meade ETX Telescope with #497 AutoStar
Date: 1/7/04, 13:30
From: ron.plebuch@ngc.com
I asked this question to Oceanside Photo & Telescope (OPT) and they said
I should give you a try.

I am considering buying a Meade ETX telescope for a combination of
terrestrial / astronomical use.

I was wondering,

After "aligning" the telescope (in one of it's two methods, either Polar
or Alt/Az)

Can the Meade ETX Telescope with #497 AutoStar be set up and used to:

1) After manually pointing the telescope at a terrestrial object, Can
the AutoStar be used to give a terrestrial compass bearing to that
object. (so I could try to identify the object via a terrestrial map)

2) After locating an object on a terrestrial map and finding a
terrestrial compass bearing, Can I input the terrestrial bearing into
AutoStar and have it slew to that bearing.

3) It sounds like the AutoStar has 200 user definable points, can these
all be used on Landmarks (Terrestrial) or is there some lower limit.

Thanks in Advance for you Help,
Ron Plebuch
**************************************************************************
Hi Ron,
I do not believe this will work in this regard, as when using landmarks
for terrestrial viewing you are specifically not supposed to be
astronomically aligned. You may try looking or asking this question here
for more details www.weasner.com/etx.

Clear Skies,
Mike Fowler www.optcorp.com opt@optcorp.com
Manager 1-800-483-6287 1-760-722-3343
Oceanside Photo & Telescope 1-760-722-8133 
1024 Mission Ave., Oceanside CA. 92054 USA

And from our resident Autostar Expert:

From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
>> I am considering buying a Meade ETX telescope for a combination of
>> terrestrial / astronomical use.
>> I was wondering,
>>
>> After "aligning" the telescope (in one of it's two methods, either
>> Polar or Alt/Az)
>> Can the Meade ETX Telescope with #497 AutoStar be set up and used to:
>> 1) After manually pointing the telescope at a terrestrial object, Can
>> the AutoStar be used to give a terrestrial compass bearing to that
>> object.

Yes... on the Autostar by pressing [mode] for two seconds,
releasing, and scrolling to the Alt/Az readout.
If you wish to do it remotely (from a PC connected via a serial port),
you send it a :GZ# and it will reply with the Azimuth in degrees and minutes.

>  >
>  > (so I could try to identify the object via a terrestrial map)
>  > 2) After locating an object on a terrestrial map and finding a
>  > terrestrial compass bearing, Can I input the terrestrial bearing into
>  > AutoStar and have it slew to that bearing.

Yes... when staring at the Alt/Az display, tap [goto]
The display becomes an input screen... key in the numbers,
tap [enter], and it will slew to the target's coordinates.

>> 3) It sounds like the AutoStar has 200 user definable points, can
>> these all be used on Landmarks (Terrestrial) or is there some
>> lower limit.

You can have any number of Landmarks, from zero to however many
will fit in the Autostar's 63 KB User Object area.  Meade's "200"
is erroneous marketing data.  (a Landmark takes about 22 bytes,
so whatever 63 KB/22 is is the "limit")

The Autostar is actually quite excellent as a surveying instrument.
If you know where true north is, you don't even need to "align" it.
Just point due north before powering up, and it's "aligned".
Slewing to Az=180 will have it pointing due south.
Years ago i sent meade a note saying that they should provide
a "surveyor's pack" firmware load, allowing "range finder"
operations (point at objecct, note Azimuth, move scope known
distance laterally, point at object, note azimuth, compute range)
Or pan a known distance (such as stem-to-stern of a distant ship)
and compute range.... that kind'a thing.

The Autostar -does- offer a "Landmark Survey" function.
If you invoke that, the Autostar will slew to -all- of
the Landmarks in its memory (i forget if it waits at
each until you tap [enter], or if it moves on a few seconds later).

You didn't specify if you wanted to do this remotely or
hands-on-Autostar... but (except for the Landmark Survey),
all functions are accessible remotely.
If you are running current firmware in the Autostar, even
Landmark Survey can be reached (easily with Meade's Autostar Suite,
a little more difficultly by home-written programs... but it's
not much harder. 
The "Slew to Az=XXX" is easy:  ":SzDD*MM.M# :MA# " and it will do it.


Mike Fowler wrote:
> I do not believe this will work in this regard, as when using
> landmarks for terrestrial viewing you are specifically not supposed to
> be astronomically aligned.

Pessimist... the astronomical alignment -will- establish true
north to the limits of the telescope.  It's quite happy to
then switch to Terrestrial Mode (which is merely turning off
the sidereal drive, nothing else changes, it still knows where
the stars are, and how they're moving with the passage of time).

have fun
--dick

Subject: Autostar Update
Date: 1/4/04, 22:49
From: michael patrick (runovrm@earthlink.net)
Okay, now I did it too.

While updating my Autostar #497 for ETX, the battery in my laptop went
down and like many others I too lost the ability to communicate with
Autostar.

So, I put the Autostar in safe mode and the display to read: Flash load
3.0 Ready.

So, I opened ASU, clicked on Upgrade Autostar Software now.  That was 2
hours ago and the display continues to read:

Flash load 3.0 Ready.

Please help as this is a Xmas gift and I fear I destroyed it already...

Best regards,

Michael
Mike here: Which version of ASU do you have? The current one is 3.61. Does it recognize that the Autostar is connected?

And:

Thank you for your response.

Yes, I have downloaded ASU 3.61 and it appears to be recognizing the
497.

When I go to update the firmware in the 497, the program replies with
upload successful so it gives every indication that is communicating
with the Autostar.  Although, I've noticed that the entire upload
process seems to be taking only 5 ~ 10 seconds so maybe it's not, as
when the operation appears to be complete the Autostar is still in the
same mode as it was before I attempted the upload.

Please be kind and advise your thoughts or advice.

Many thanks & Best regards,

Michael Patrick
And:
Mr. Seymour,

I see that you have a lot of Autostar experience and since I buggered
mine up but good I was wondering if you have any advice on how to
breathe some life back into my 497 prior to biting the proverbial $150
bullet again...

Please be kind and advise your thoughts.  As you will read in the
thread, Mike Weasner has also been asked for his ideas on the matter so
if you have any recommendations, by all means, please be kind to include
him.

Many thanks & best regards,

Michael

And this:

From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
"downloading" in 10 seconds isn't possible (with Meade's Updater).

You might try using the StarPatch updater from
http://www.stargps.ca
specifically from: http://www.stargps.ca/pub/setupSP.exe
but please read the how-to-use StarPatch (the top few paragraphs) at:
http://www.stargps.ca/manual.htm

That StarPatch program is -much- more careful about dealing
with an Autostar than Meade's. (and the free version will
update the Autostar half-way in about a minute, and then
will slow down and take about 10 minutes to do the second half).

give that a shot...
good luck
--dick
And:
Many thanks for the email.  Does this program have the ability to
communicate with the 497 in Safe Mode?  Funny about all this, I am in
the Purchasing function @ Thales Navigation, aka Magellan.  Small
world...

Thanks!

Michael
And:
> Many thanks for the email.  Does this program have the ability to
> communicate with the 497 in Safe Mode?

I think it's willing to try... (but i don't know for sure...
it will tell you if it's unwilling)
Safe Mode is merely a secondary copy of the "Setup -> Download"
code that's accessible in normal operation. 
I'm told that "Flash Load 3.0" does not
flip to "Downloading... do not turn off",
so don't worry about -not- seeing that message.
The newest Flash Load i have is 2.0.

With Meade's Updater, a 497 firmware download takes 35 minutes.
If you see anything under 30 minutes, you must assume something
went wrong (the Updater is really poor about error handling).

>  Funny about all this, I am in
> the Purchasing function @ Thales Navigation, aka Magellan.  Small
> world...

Oh well, Chris Carson (aka StarGPS) uses a Rikaline GPS receiver... sorry.

good luck
--dick
And an update:
Yes, it works in Safe Mode.  It worked perfectly when the Meade software
failed.

Many thanks to both you and Mike for your time and assistance.

Best regards,

Michael Patrick

Subject: AutoStar Updates
Date: 1/3/04, 23:27
From: BOB MCLEOD (rwmc@optonline.net)
Hi!  Great Great Site!  Just have a question about the Autostar updates
listed on Meade's site and yours.  Latest on Meade's is V31Ee and on ETX
site V30Ee, both with the same dates.  Any help or explaination would be
helpful to keep my Autostar current.  Thx.  Bob
Mike here: Updates on the ETX Site are previous versions. Current version is always on Meade's site.

And:

Thanks for the speedy reply!  These updates get a little confusing
sometimes.  How did they ever jump from V30Ee to V31Ee?  You would think
the next update would have been V30Ef? or V31Aa.  Thanks again. 
Bob.....BTW How about that Mars Rover!  Was up till 3am est watching
NASA TV.  Just couldn't turn it off!
Mike here: Each company has its own logic (or non-logic) for software releases...

Subject: re: Autostar Version 3Ee -- RESET, TRAIN, CALIBRATE
Date: 1/1/04, 12:48
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
To: joseph.a.schlatter@mail.sprint.com
Order in the court!

You wrote:
-- Reset
-- Train
-- Calibrate

The CORRECT order is Reset, CALIBRATE, Train
(and then play with Percentages)

have fun
--dick

Subject: lunar goto program
Date: 1/1/04, 08:54
From: Paul Campbell (iamzoup@yahoo.com)
I have read the lunar goto instructions but I do not know if I am to
plug the comport cable into the aux computer control port at the base of
the telescope, or am I to plug it into the autostar.

Thanks       
yours in the way   
Paul F. Campbell 
Mike here: If you have the Autostar #497 (one with numbers on the keypad) the #505 serial cable connects to the base of the Autostar. If you have the #494 (no numbers on the handcontroller) then the #506 cable plugs into the AUX port on the telescope base. NOTE: these are two different cables.

And:

Thanks for the info. Untill next time.  Have a great new year 

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