AUTOSTAR SUITE USER FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 31 January 2004
This page is for user comments and information specific to the Meade Autostar Suite. If you have any comments, suggestions, questions or answers to questions posed here, e-mail them to me and I'll post them. Please use an appropriate Subject Line on your message. Thanks. (The Lunar Planetary Imager, LPI, is covered in the Helpful Information - Astrophotography area.)


Subject: autostar problems
Date: 1/31/04, 18:00
From: byron_meade@grandecom.net
I've been reading through your site for the past week, trying to find
information on getting austostar suite to see my austostar on the com
port. I've checked the wiring all the way through with an ohm meter and
it all seems to be fine. Nothing I've been able to do seems to let me
communicate with the austostar through the software except the hadnbox
option that lets me move the scope with the east, west, north and south
buttons.  Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. I've
tried this on my laptop and desk top and through two austostars and
still nothing.

Thanks
-Byron
Mike here: If the handbox window is working to control the telescope then the software and computer ARE communicating with the Autostar. But lets back up a step; if you run the Autostar Update application, does it "see" the Autostar? And have you upgraded to the current Autostar ROM version? I think that is required for the Autostar Suite to work with the Autostar.

Subject: Autostar Suite
Date: 1/31/04, 15:35
From: Petx90@aol.com
I "successfully" installed Autostar Suite on my PC today.  However I
can't open the manual from the CD drive.  When I click on Manuals the
program closes and goes back to the desk top.  I have Adobe Acrobat
Reader.  Any idea of what may be wrong or where I can download the
manual from the net?

FYI purchased program at Scope City in Sherman Oaks on 1/31/04 and got
version 3.05.

Thanks for your help, I love the T-shirt.

Would love to have you visit us at our Astronomy Day celebration 4/24/04
at the Valencia Library in Valencia, CA.
 
Best Wishes,
 
Steve Petzold
Mike here: The Autostar Suite manual is available on Meade's manuals page: http://www.meade.com/manuals/.
As to the Astronomy Day, sorry but the wife already has me booked for two (non-astronomy) events that day.

Subject: Autostar capability
Date: 1/31/04, 11:45
From: Allen Thomas GL Civ AFRL/VSIO (thomas.allen@kirtland.af.mil)
I have a celestron C6-RGT refractor, and I would like to do some
photography with it, but not spend an arm and a leg.  Is the autostar
suite capable with the c6-rgt.  It has a CG-5 German mount.  Appreciate
any information you can give me.  Thanks.

Tom Allen
Mike here: The Autostar functions of the Autostar Suite only works with the #497 Autostar and Autostar II, neither of which are compatible to a Celestron. However, the Lunar Planetary Imager hardware and software will work with any telescope to capture and edit images.

And:

Thanks.  Appreciate your response.

Subject: Meade Software Requirements
Date: 1/28/04, 18:27
From: Royyount@aol.com
Does anyone know what the minimum requirements are for the Meade
software CD for the Autostar.  I am looking to buy an old laptop to use
only for my ETX.  I would also like it to run Astro software...  Any
suggestions.
 
Roy
Mike here: Beyond that noted on Meade's site, I've used it on a 1HGz G4 Macintosh under Windows emulation. So, I would suspect that anything reasonably recent on a PC should be OK.

And:

Thanks... You must live by that computer to answer so fast all the time.
 
Roy

Subject: re: Autostar Suite
Date: 1/19/04, 23:20
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
To: tjwitman@msn.com
You wrote:
>  I have a 4 conductor cable that fits the db9
> adapter and plug into the Aux port of the scope.

Eek!  No!

It goes into the second hole on the bottom of the AUTOSTAR.

Squint carefully at the 505 cable instructions on Meade's site:
http://www.meade.com/manuals/TelescopeManuals/AutostarManuals/505CableSet.pdf

> Using that setup, I do not have any communications
> on Com1 when I test that port after setting it to 8n1 @9600.

Since it's in the wrong hole, i'm not surprised.
The AUX ain't rs232

have fun (eventually)
--Dick

And:

Now that I was able to download the instructions that SHOULD have come
with the Suite, I see that plugging into the Aux port was not the thing
to do. Also, a simple thing as 'making sure the computer and scope are
off' before plugging in the cables would also have been nice to know. 
Unfortunately, none of these directions were included with my hardware. 
Luckily, I checked the pin out and no harm seems to have been done.  I
can now control the scope over the serial port; however, one thing still
puzzles me.  If I try to control everything via the network, my computer
tries to log into MSN?????  What's with that?

Tom
Mike here: Glad you solved one problem. As to the network, (guessing now) check the IP address or Computer Name you are using.

And:

Thanks, Mike.

Great service from you and your following.  Right now I am using the
computer name as it's used on my existing network.  I haven't tried the
IP address yet.

Subject: Autostar Suite
Date: 1/17/04, 19:32
From: Thomas Witman (tjwitman@msn.com)
Thank heavens for guys like you!  Great site.

I have a brand new ETX125 that Meade graciously sent me when they lost
the 2 year old one that I sent in for repair.  You can't beat that for
customer service!

I purchased Autostar Suite and I am completely lost as to where to plug
in the cables.  The directions really stink for we novices.  Can you
give some guidance?  I have a 4 conductor cable that fits the db9
adapter and plug into the Aux port of the scope.  Using that setup, I do
not have any communications on Com1 when I test that port after setting
it to 8n1 @9600.

My LPI works fine and I have taken some pictures with it.  Controlling
the scope is the problem.  How is it done?????
 
Thanks,
 
Tom
Mike here: You might want to read my article on the Autostar Suite on the Autostar Information page. In that article I note the following:
"There is an update to the Autostar Suite available on Meade's Autostar Suite Troubleshooting page (http://www.meade.com/autostar/tsguide.html). There is also a new Quick Start Guide on this page, which adds serial cable instructions for the Autostar #497."
That might also help with your "controlling the scope" question, depending upon what type of controlling you meant.

And:

I'll check that out.  I hadn't found it, obviously.  I was starting out
trying to control just one function before I went the networking route.

Best regards,

Tom

And:

I wrote to Meade concerning their updated instructions for the serial
connection.  The second page causes an error in Adobe Acrobat Reader
saying 'too few operands'.  I guess I have to wait until they fix it to
see what I'm doing wrong...

Tom
Mike here: I downloaded it just fine on my Mac. Do you have an old version of Reader?

Subject: Lunar Planetary Imager
Date: 1/17/04, 11:59
From: "Kieran J. O'Hagan" (drko@optonline.net)
I'm just curious...have you had any experience with the new Meade
Autostar Suite with the LPI? I'm seriously thinking of getting it for my
ETX-125, along with a used laptop. I checked it out on their website,
and I was impressed, though I think the magnification might be a bit too
high. What are you thoughts?
 
Kieran O'Hagan
Mike here: Have you looked at the web site lately? Like on the Autostar Information page?

And:

You know, about twenty seconds after I hit the send button, I found the
new link about the LPI...am I a civil servant or what?
Thanks for the quick reply, Mike
 
Kieran

Subject: re: AutoStar Suite fried my handox...
Date: 1/15/04, 23:06
From: Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
To: wlwesq@mac.com
May  i politely suggest that you find and/or borrow
either an older Mac, or a Windows PC to complete the
download?

Your Autostar is in that grey zone 'twixt life and return-to-Meade
of a partial firmware load. 

Despite my usual tendency to poke/prod/test/play with the beasties,
when i'm reduced to Safe Load i tread -very- gently.

And in your case that means migrate to a more reliable
hardware/OS platform **for this application**  (i own 3 Macs
and 6 WinTels).  Just this once.

Or: you might try the downloader available from
http://www.stargps.ca  (follow the link to StarPAtch).
That program is -much- smarter about talking to the
serial link than Meade's ... it has rescued other
folks (with Windows PCs), and i wouldn't be surprised
if it worked for you, too.

hmmm.. so maybe i -do- suggest that you make one more
attempt at poking before reverting to a "real" PC.

good luck
--dick
And:
William Wilson wrote:

> I was able to get it resolved by downloading the update file and
> putting it in the Epheremides (sp?) folder. The first time through it
> didn't make it, but then the second time was smoooooooth sailing.

If you were still online when the failures happened,
you might (in the future) try dropping offline (disconnect
from the network, if you're on ethernet) during transfers.

And this leads me to think that the StarPatch downloader
would be even more immune to this kind of problem,
but it cannot currently handle user object library operations.

But we're all happy to hear that you've succeeded in updating...

have fun
--dick
Mike here: Glad it worked. I've been able to update via my wireless connection to the Internet using the download from Internet option. G4 @ 1HGz. 11Mbps network. 2Mbps cable modem.

And:

Putting the file in the Emphemerides folder did the trick. Now if I can
just get the LPI to be recognized...
Mike here: Super! Check the VPC config as I noted in the article.

Subject: AutoStar Suite fried my handox...
Date: 1/12/04, 18:30
From: William Wilson (wlwesq@mac.com)
Hi Mike --

I enjoyed reading your AutoStar Suite report. I wish my success was as
good as yours. Like you, I'm running on a 1GHz PowerBook (only 15"
display, though) with Mac OS X 10.3.2 and VirtualPC 6.1.

I still haven't been able to get the software to "find" the LPI, even
though it's plugged in, the red LED is illuminated, and I'm not running
on battery power. :-) But, figuring that the problem might resolve
itself another day, I decided to work with the AutoStar software
instead.

First project: update the AutoStar controller. I found my handbox had
version 3.1B, and the latest version was 3.1Ee (I think that's right).
So, I downloaded the new file and started the update. Then, when it was
about 25% done, I received a message telling me to cycle the power on
the AutoStar and try again--even though the handbox has a display
reading "do not turn the power off." That display didn't go away for a
while, so I figured we were stuck. Turn the handbox power off and back
on.

Then it got ugly.

The handbox wouldn't initialize, and the AutoStar Updater couldn't find
it. Panic mode began to set in.

A quick trip to Meade's web site got me some information about putting
the handbox in safe flash mode. So, while pressing the Enter and scroll
down keys, I turned the handbox on. Okay, so far so good--we appear to
be in safe flash mode. Fire up the Updater application, and wham--we
make it all the way to 46% before getting the message that tells me to
cycle the power and try again. It's getting later in the evening, and my
headache is worsening, so I think I'll end for the night.

If you have any suggestions for resurrecting the handbox, I'm all ears.

Many thanks in advance!

Bill Wilson
wlwesq@mac.com
...one nation, under surveillance...
Mike here: What USB-serial adapter are you using? Do you have a Panther-compatible driver? What Windows OS are you running in VPC? Are you updating with the ROM update from the internet or from a local copy? If the former, you might download the file, unzip, and place it in the Emphemerides folder. It sounds like a timing issue is cropping up.

And:

The adapter is a Keyspan with the 1.8 driver downloaded fresh from
Keyspan's site.

The Windows OS is Win 2000. I agree it sounds like a timing issue. I'll
give the Emphemerides folder idea a try and let you know how it works
out.

Subject: LPI/AutoStar Suite on OS X report
Date: 1/11/04, 16:46
From: William Wilson (wlwesq@mac.com)
I received the LPI and AutoStar Suite for Christmas. I run Virtual PC 6
in OS X 10.3, using Windows 2000.

The installation of the software went as smoothly as anything I've ever
installed in Windows under VirtualPC. The AutoStar Suite software looks
interesting but I haven't done much with it yet.

The challenge I found is getting the software to recognize the LPI. The
LPI is definitely getting power, and when I plugged it in for the first
time, Windows recognized it and automatically installed the software.
The problem is, the imaging software won't find the LPI. I've restarted,
unplugged and replugged the LPI in, but nothing.

Have you or any other readers had any luck getting the LPI to work in OS
X?

Bill Wilson
wlwesq@mac.com
...the more we are protected, the more we're trapped within...
Mike here: I posted a thorough report of my testing with the Autostar Suite on the Mac tonight. It includes some VPC configuration tips.

And:

Cool--I'll look forward to it.

Subject: Autostar Suite -- bad 505 cable
Date: 1/9/04, 10:23
From: Dave Wallace (d_wallace@ecrm.com)
I've just (as of 1/6) received my LPI/Autostar Suite.  It's been
sub-freezing here in Massachusetts all week (five below zero F this
AM!), so all my experimentation so far has been indoors. :)

The RS232 interface was dead on arrival.  Fortunately, I'd already
fabricated my own cable (thanks to you and Dick Seymour for the wiring
diagram, by the way) to be able to download firmware updates, so I was
able to get things up and running in terms of controlling the telescope
from my PC.  After playing with the software for a bit, I decided to
debug the problem.  It turned out that the RX Data and TX Data lines
were interchanged in the round black cable (the DB9-to-modular jack
adapter was wired okay).  Looks like Meade has a quality control
problem.  Since I had no way to repair the cable itself, I re-wired the
modular jack adapter connections to compensate.  (If I ever get that
LX200GPS7 I'm lusting over, I'll have to remember to restore the wiring,
but for now I've got a functioning 505 cable.)

My point is: if you can't seem to get a brand-new Autostar suite to talk
to your telescope, don't assume that the problem is always going to be a
software conflict -- it could also be a bad cable.  A few minutes with
an ohm meter or substituting a known good cable, if you have one, can
save endless hours of Windows detective work frustration.

Clear (and warm!) skies!
-- Dave Wallace

Subject: Macintosh and Meade LPI
Date: 1/7/04, 10:55
From: J Keith Smith MD PhD (jksmith@med.unc.edu)
I got a Meade lx200gps for Christmas, and my wife ordered it and got the
autostar suite and LPI with it. Problem is, I am a die hard macintosh
user.I have found and really like the Astro planner and scope driver
software, thanks to your web site. I see that you are a Mac user too, so
I am wondering if you know of a way to use the LPI on the mac?

-- 
J. Keith Smith, M.D.,Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Neuroradiology
Department of Radiology, CB 7510
The University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC
-- 
Mike here: I will be posting my indepth review of the Autostar Suite and LPI on the Macintosh within a few days.

Subject: dead key pad
Date: 1/2/04, 09:30
From: Chad Zalunardo (chadz@sonic.net)
I have installed the autostar suite and hooked comp to my lxd55.  The
remote handbox worked fine.  Then last night I took out the scope and
ran it with the hand box, not remote.  It began slewing by itself every
few seconds.  Then I hooked it to the comp and now none of the scroll
keys work but every once in a great great while.  Love your site!  Very
knowledgable and helpful!
 
Chad Zalunardo
Mike here: Some thoughts: Do a CALIBRATE and TRAIN DRIVES. If that doesn't clear it, do a RESET, CALIBRATE, and TRAIN DRIVES. If that doesn't work, redownload 3.1Ee into the Autostar (you may have to CALIBRATE and TRAIN DRIVES again; I did). If none of this helps, it could be that you need to clean the keypad contacts; see the Autostar Information page for the article.

And:

I'll let ya know, thanks for the advice, you are awesome!!! 

Subject: Autostar Suite
Date: 1/1/04, 22:34
From: Bob Pearse (bob@bobpearse.com)
Does anyone know if the autostar suite (with LPI imager) will work on
the older StarFinder / AutoStar 494??  They have not RS-232 port, so I
do not know how they would connect to a computer?!?

Bob
Mike here: The Autostar Suite only works with the #497 Autostar.

And:

Thanks!  Figured you might know the answer.  Great site you have, by the
way.
Mike here: You can use a #497 with all DS models, all DS-2000 models, all ETX models, the LX-90, and the LXD-55 models. You would need a #505 cable for the computer. The cable can be purchased or you can easily make one (see the Autostar Information page).

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