AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 31 May 2006

Welcome to the Autostar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar, cables, and the Autostar updater software. See the Autostar Info page for information from Meade and other users on the Autostar, cables, and software. Send your comments and tips to etx@me.com. Remember, tips described on this site may invalidate the warranties on your ETX and accessories. Neither the submitter nor myself are responsible for any damage caused by using any contributed tips.


Subject:	Autostar fault ETX 125
Sent:	Tuesday, May 30, 2006 20:11:34
From:	James M Cox (pete_cox2000@yahoo.com)
I just bought an ETX 125 and have taken it out several nights. Every
night I have had constant problems with "Motor Drive Fault" messages and
malfunctions. Each time I have realigned the scope, and successfully
gone to a couple planets or targets. It keeps happening again and again.
Very frustrating. Can you tell me if there is a common fault with the
auto unit that exhibits itself in this manner?

Thanks,

J.Cox
San Diego
Mike here: Have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES? Have you set up in the proper HOME position, including the correct rotation to the hardstop (and back to North if you have a non-PE model)?

And:

Thanks for the quick response, Mike. Here are some comments to your
points:

Calibrate Motor - I don't recall for sure if I did that initially, but
the AutoStar instruction book says that the unit does a "self
calibration" when it is first used (and displays a "testing motors"
message). Interesting note is that sometimes the unit will do the same
thing again while in use, ie display a "testing motors" message, then
move back and forth.

Train drive - Yes, I did.

Set up in home position and correct rotation - Yes, I rotated
counterclockwise all the way to stop, then moved clockwise a partial
turn, and set the unit level and approximately north. As an added note,
the unit was able to achieve a successful set up, and locate
successfully a couple planets, each time before malfunctioning.

The one thing that seems a little off, is the fact that it has several
times performed the automatic calibration by "testing motors" and moving
back and forth . . . . ????

Thanks again
Mike here: The fact that the unit does that "testing motors" on its own is odd. Try replacing the batteries with different ones. Also, do a RESET, CALIBRATE MOTOR, and TRAIN DRIVES. Lastly, recheck that the cable connections are fully inserted into their respective ports (actually, do this first).

And:

Mike, sorry to ask you this one, but what do you mean by "cable
connections"?
Mike here: Be certain that the cable connecting the Autostar to the telescope base is fully seated on both ends when you plug it into the Autostar and telescope. Sometimes it may seem like it is all the way in but it may not be. Also, check for depressed pins on the jacks and plugs.
Subject:	autostar firmware failure
Sent:	Monday, May 29, 2006 20:37:59
From:	Brent Arsenault (bwarsen1977@yahoo.com)
Was at a star party this weekend with my lx90 when my autostar #497
locked up. I reset it only to have the lcd go blank and intermittenly
show junk (*&,%) etc on the dislpay. I had my laptop with me so I tried
to do a firmware update in safe mode(enter key and down key). using the
meade autostar update program I went through the steps for safe mode.

Autostar update could retrieve o.k, but when it gives the message
restarting autostar contoller, the controller reboots but only shows a
blank display. If I hit the update autostar now tab, it cannot find the
port,or sometimes will display "write error". I have also tried
starpatch and I also get an error saying"error numblocks failed to clear
last dpage". I have also tried downloading at different baud rates 9600
etc but they all give the same errors. I heard this may be due to a
faulty parameter EPROM in the Autostar computer itself, or faulty RAM
where it keeps its 'scratch' storage during operation (vs. the Flash Ram
which holds the  firmware). Any ideas of what could be done, or has my
autostar seen its last days. If this is the case, is it as easy as
buying a new autostar controller only, as I heard that all data is kept
on it, so if this is true then the base of the lx90 is for power only?
Is this true?

Any ideas or help would be appreciated
Thanks
Brent Arsenault
Mike here: Assuming you have good batteries (or are using an external power source) then it does sound like the Autostar may have failed for some reason. Yes, you can buy just the Autostar from any Meade dealer ($99, I believe). The telescope only supplies power and communication with the Autostar; the Autostar is otherwise self-contained.
Subject:	READING THE AUTOSTAR TICKER
Sent:	Sunday, May 28, 2006 19:57:38
From:	THOMAS MCNAMARA (THOMASMCNAMARA@webtv.net)
my autostar i believe is running as its expected to. but just one
question. when it comes to reading the ticker, in otherwords, the lcd
display for the sun warning as well as glossary terms, i find it hard to
read, is this common? do i have to hold the autostar a certain way. do
you know what i mean. hope you can help.
Mike here: Do you mean it is scrolling too fast? If so, see the FAQ page on the ETX Site.
Subject:	re: Autostar 497 and MUF message problem
Sent:	Monday, May 22, 2006 23:06:27
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Since the hand controller works, that means that the
clock and data lines -to- both motors are OK.

However, the hand controller does not attempt to
-read- any data from the motor cards or the encoders.

Since the Autostar declares "MUF", that means that
it is either receiving a data byte back with a bit
declaring "error", or that the data lines are "floating"
or held "high" and it is interpreting that as being
the error bit.

The first place to look in the Autostar is near the
cable socket.  There are 6 or 8 small gray feed-through
inductors mounted very close to the socket.  Test
each one with an ohmmeter ... each should have zero resistance.
If one (or more) is an open circuit, you can bridge it
with a piece of wire.

good luck
--dick

And:

From:	koivs (koivs@yandex.ru)
Thanks for your prompt reply and suggestions.

I tested inductors (thanks Dick Seymour for suggestions:-) they were
fine. Regarding Autostar hardware I see nothing is burnt visually.

However, today both ETX motors passed the training test on a borrowed
Autostar. Definitely my Autostar has some internal failure since it
cannot initiate the second motor.

I will try to return Autostar back to original 2.2 firmware. This will
be my last call. Obviously, the simplest and probably best option is to
stop spending time on Autostar repair and order a new gadget :-)))

Kind regards, 
Vassily

Subject:	MEADE TELESCOPE SOLAR TRACKING PROGRAM
Sent:	Monday, May 22, 2006 11:54:32
From:	Surf Engineer (surf_engineer@yahoo.com)
We are looking to track the sun with a Pyrheliometer (measures W/m2)
with a Autostar system 12Ea hand conroller.

How can we determine if this be done with the enclosed S/W? Our CD is
ASJRV3.17

Thanks

Bill Musson
PYRON SOLAR INC
Mike here: The Sun is not an object in the Autostar menu although for most purposes you can just assume that the Sun's tracking rate is the same as Sidereal. Alternatively, you could manually adjust the tracking rate. So yes, the Autostar will track the Sun if the mount is one that the Autostar understands. You probably want to update the Autostar (assuming it is a model #497; has number keys on the keyboard) to the latest from Meade's site.
Subject:	Autostar 497 and MUF message problem
Sent:	Monday, May 22, 2006 07:04:13
From:	koivs (koivs@yandex.ru)
Thanks for your efforts at making your site helpful worldwide.
Any chance you could help me with advice, please.

First, while operating ETX-125 on Autostar I burnt a circuit on a small
circuit board that attaches to the connectors on the control panel. The
cause of this was some shorted wires of a loosed Dec cord in RA base. I
checked your fantastic Mighty website and went through major tune-up of
the gears, also restoring wires and the burnt connector on the circuit
board. I managed to take the circuit board out of the cradle and check
all contacts. They were fine after repair. I separately checked both
motors -- they were OK. The scope started taking batteries and external
12v. However, it works fully only with a standard Electronic controller.

When I pick up an Autostar I get a well-known "motor unit failure" 
message while Autostar tries to train motors. Dec motor works for a
while (approx. 1 sec) then appears MUF message. RA motor does not
initiate.

If I switch Dec and RA cables on the small circuit board, it is RA motor
that starts working for approx 1 sec then MUF message appears. In the
latter case Dec motor becomes dead. What's more, I found that Left-Right
arrows of Autostar does not work in both cases in manual control
operation. Up-Down arrows work OK.

Initially I had 2.0 firmware and yesterday I made an upgrade to 4.2, but
it makes no difference to Autostar since Left-Right arrows are still
dead. Also I tried a hard reset via Hyper terminal. I made it, but there
was no effect on Autostar operations. Autostar cable is OK. At this
point I am giving up and cannot imagine what else can be done to restore
the scope operations.

I suspect it is Autostar that malfunctioning, what do you think about
this. Look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you in advance,
Vassily Ivanov
PS. Sorry to bother you with my question, but I am located in Moscow,
Russia and Meade service is far away from here.
Mike here: I suspect something was also damaged on the Autostar circuit board.
Subject:	re:  your Etx site - Q? about 497 contoller
Sent:	Monday, May 15, 2006 22:29:24
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
(1) YES ... a 497 will work with an ETX70 ... i move mine back and
 forth between my ETX90 and my ETX70 without hassle.
 The 497 "knows" the ETX70, and will offer it as a model when it's
 plugged into it.

(2) SOME Classic LX200's ran on 18v, and SOME run on 12v.
  The folks who owned the 18v model may not realize that some
  are designed for the lower voltage.
  (and, to avoid accidents, let me state that ALL  LX200gps models
  use 12v, except perhaps the 16" model).

have fun
--dick

Subject:	Dick's Patch Kit for 42ed
Sent:	Sunday, May 14, 2006 22:31:59
From:	Joo Beng Koh (kohjb88@gmail.com)
Thanks so much for your patch kits. Want to let you know how much I
appreciate what you're doing.

Regarding the latest patch, I know it should have activated the 909 APM.
I have the APM, and LXD75 mount, a JMI focuser, and a Meade wired
reticle eyepiece. However, I can't for the world of me, figure out how
to activate the focuser and reticle brightness using the Autostar. The
autostar has been patched for 42DD, #909 is plugged in to the mount,
focuser and reticle connected, etc, but on holding the MODE button, I
can see the other items like RA/Dec coords, battery level, etc, but no
sign of the Focus or Reticle brightness options. Could it be that my
#909 is busted or is there some other (I'm hopeful) thing I'm missing ?
Any way to check that the #909 is operational ? I also have an ETX125 if
that's of any help.
 
Thanks so much !
 
Best regards,
Joo Beng Koh
(from Singapore)

Subject:	autostar speed problem
Sent:	Sunday, May 14, 2006 11:44:42
From:	steve harper (intmid8tr3@yahoo.com)
After i locate whatever i am looking for and i have to center the object
by using the speed buttons, the scope(etx125) continues to travel. Also
sometimes if i push the right arrow to center the object, the scope will
travel the other direction. It's like the hand box is not recieving the
right signals. Could it be a battery issue? Alignment said sucessfull.
thanks as always,
steve harper
Mike here: Have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES recently? Or even at any time?

And:

did both yesterday before i started looking at jupiter
Mike here: Since you did a CALIBRATE MOTOR, likely not a battery problem. It could be that the Autostar is "confused", which can usually be cured by doing a RESET, CALIBRATE MOTOR, and TRAIN DRIVES (don't forget to do both axes). Of course, by doing the RESET you will have to enter your location again and you will lose any objects you have entered. If this doesn't cure the problem you can always update to the current version from Meade's web site (assuming you have a #505 serial cable and a serial connection on your computer).

And:

thanks mike i will give it a try and let you know
steve

Subject:	RE: your Etx site - Q? about 497 contoller
Sent:	Saturday, May 13, 2006 10:16:03
From:	Chris Maher (chrisjmaher@comcast.net)
Here's a response I has received from one of my regulars on Ebay, George
sells very nice stuff and I have always considered him reliable. Please
respond to his comments as best you can. I do not want to pay ~ $100 for
it and then have the hassle of having to return it.

Thanks,
Chris Maher

Comment : Chris: Hello.  I have heard that it will work also but never
tried it, so I'm hesitant to make any pronouncements about it.   It
probably would work, but you might run into some complications.  For
instance,

1. I don't think the 497 autostar lists the ETX70 as one of its
supported telescope models.  So you would have to select some other
telescope model like the ETX90 and tell the autostar that is the
telescope you are using.

2. Autostar will assume that your are using an ETX90 telescope and may
plug in some parameters to its internal software that are not correct
for an ETX70.  You might be able to get those all adjusted properly by
training the drives and calibrating the motors, but I am not sure.  And
if then in the end the scope doesn't go-to selected objects accurately,
you are not going to know whether it is due to setup inaccuracies or the
fact that you are telling the Autostar that you are using a different
telescope than you are actually using.

So my suggestion would be to stick with the 494 Autostar unless you like
to experiment and tinker, in which case you could try the 497 and
probably get it to work correctly.

George
Mike here: See Meade's Autostar page: http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html. As I indicated previously, all ETX models are supported with the #497.

And:

Yes, I did see that but the light didn't come on at the time. Thanks for
your quick response. I wish I knew someone in the local area that I
could "borrow" one to try. If all, or most functions. My LX 200 is
finally working well with the Autostar Suite  - an interesting note
though - I had purchased the scope from a co-worker and amongst all the
accessories, was the AC adapter - it read 18 volts output. The control
panel on the scope reads 12V input. Nevertheless, I ASSUMED it would be
ok and plugged it all in. Everything seemed to work ok, but after about
ten minutes, I just happened to need to manually slew the scope, using
the handbox instead of the computer. AS I picked up the handbox, I felt
a very hot-spot on the back of it. I immediately unplugged everything
and opened it up. Either a transistor, or one of the resistors on the
circuitboard was very hot, transmitting the heat into the metal
backplate. After ten minutes, I replugged it into my small 12V batteries
I normally use and everything stayed cool and worked fine. Comments ?

Chris Maher
Mike here: What, you don't trust Meade when they say that the #497 works with all ETX models??? As to overvoltage on the LX200, yes, I would say 18VDC was too much. But I don't have one so I don't know whether the LX200 handcontroller gets warm/hot under normal use.
Subject:	UK CO-ORDINATES
Sent:	Friday, May 12, 2006 10:51:26
From:	Bob Johnson (bob@19pembroke.freeserve.co.uk)
I live in the South of England, UK and I've just purchased an ETX 105
Premier Edition 'scope.

Trying to control my urge to just "get the thing together and go" I've
studied the manual quite thoroughly but was hoping you might be able to
help me with a question that I cannot find in the manual.

I've read that you guys in The States can enter your zip codes but here
we just have to find the nearest city.

Having got my exact co-ordinates from the Heavens Above web site could
you tell me if it's possible to input that data and therefore hopefully
give me a more accurate "home position"?

Thanks for a great web site.
Regards,
Bob Johnson
Mike here: Yep, you can enter your location Lat/Long as a Site. The simplest way to do that is to go to SITE>EDIT and pick a nearby center and edit its Lat/Long.
Subject:	Autostar can't find Jupiter
Sent:	Monday, May 8, 2006 11:58:16
From:	Dick Kafka & Val Hildebrand (val-dick@wizard.net)
I think I know the answer (reload autostar), but just in case -

I have no idea why this has happened, but while Autostar can find
everything else, when I select Jupiter, it says "no rise today," even
though I can plainly see it before my eyes (and move the scope there
with my red-dot finder).  Any ideas?

Thanks 
Dick Kafka 
Mike here: Do you have a reasonably current version of the Autostar software installed in the Autostar? If not, then yes, do an update. If so, then doing a RESET may clear up the problem without needing to do the update.

And:

Thanks - that took care of it.  Of course, I need to re-enter
everything, and this time, I won't load as many constellation tours.  I
can only guess that I overwrote some memory location.
Dick 

Subject:	Calibrate vs. Train
Sent:	Monday, May 8, 2006 11:02:34
From:	Rori Baldari (astra59@verizon.net)
I'm not clear on the difference between these two procedures. Which
should I try first if my GO TO's are not accurate on my ETX-125?
Thanks-Rori
Mike here: CALIBRATE MOTOR allows the Autostar to determine the power output of the encoders. That parameter is important to its operation. Doing it BEFORE doing the TRAIN DRIVES ensures that the Autostar is reading the encoders correctly for the current battery/AC level.
Subject:	ETX90EC +Autostar497 problem?
Sent:	Monday, May 8, 2006 05:59:04
From:	HomeUser (hobbyist@pei.sympatico.ca)
Last night while doing the setups .. 1. Did the required setup for
Site/daylight/etc.2. Did the Calibrate 3. Did the Train Drives 4. Did
the Easy alignment of stars.

All ok ... Then after alignment of 2nd star ... align successful. The
selected named star in the Autostar497 Arcturus  ... ok in field of
view, now I slewed over to Polaris and slewed over but then the Autostar
went blank (no lcd display) , however the ETX90EC Computer is still on
under the power of Adapter to the Motormaster Eliminator power source
(all of this on an ok).At this time I thought it was a either a loose
plug going into the ETX Computer or a loose plug going into Autostar.
Recheck all cables etc, then tried again of all required steps.   Same
problem arise again. And recheck all cables etc and tried again, this
time I wanted to enjoy the stars/planrets and the the 73p -3 + M57 and
not bother slewing to Polaris as a named object. Polaris was not the
alignment star and I dont believe its listed as an alignment star. After
a successful night of viewing planets/moon/some M's and the M57+73p (4.5
to 5 hours worth). I did a slew of named star Polaris as my last stop
to shutting down  the ETX90EC. All was ok, it slewd over to and stop on
Polaris and in the field of view of a 26mm eyepiece.

I wonder what happened in this case.

There were no regular AA batteries installed just operated by the
Adapter to the power pack. This is first that this happened in the 4yrs
or so I had the ETX90/497.

Lance
Mike Here: Polaris is not a normal alignment star since it is so close the celestial pole and the lines of Right Ascension merge at the pole. Any errors in centering would great large errors in alignment math. As to why the display blanked, probably the loose cable since all was OK after you started over and checked the connections.

And:

Thank you for reply,  I hope that what the problem is.
I wish that Autostar cable was longer and not coiled.
Forgot to tell you that it went blank then back on again in within 3
secs. but went into the state where you see the  menu screen ' Welcome
to Autostar' ' Press 0 for Tour or press mode for setup'
Lance
Mike here: For a longer cable, see the article "Long Autostar Cable" on the Helpful Information: Autostar Info page. It does sound like communication was interrupted.
Subject:	Help me with my lxd75, please!
Sent:	Tuesday, May 2, 2006 03:18:30
From:	DANIEL DANIEL (descuder@msn.com)
The first, thanks a lot for your web...
 
My name is Daniel Escudero, from Madrid, Spain, and Ive got a "little"
problem with my new LXD75 8" SC. Sometimes it seems to be crazy because
it starts to move randomly.

Let me explain:

When I bought it the Autostar firmware version was 34Sa. Yesterday, Ive
updated it to the last oficial version, 42Ed, but it continues doing the
same:
 - When I power on the telescope, if I powered off it while it was
 moving, although I dont do the configuration process (time, date...),
 it makes a move and it is displaced from start position
 
- Sometimes, when I change of object, it goes crazy and begins to go in
circles, until it can no move more...

My provider told me that, probably, with the Autostar firmware version
it would be solved, but not.
 
Could you help me, please?
 
Thanks a lot in advance.
 
Best regards.
Daniel Escudero
Mike here: Have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES? You need to do that after updating the Autostar. Sometimes it is even necessary to RESET, CALIBRATE MOTOR, and then TRAIN DRIVES.

And:

Thanks a lot for your answer!
I will do that in the indicated order... Ill will keep you up to date.
Thanks again.
Kind regards.
Daniel Escudero

Subject:	Autostar
Sent:	Monday, May 1, 2006 15:02:10
From:	Michael Collins (smiley61@adelphia.net)
When trying to initialize my #494 Autostar with my ETX 60AT after
entering date, time,DST the next items on the list are supposed to be
Country, City etc, but mine goes directly to "align".  What am I doing
incorrectly?  Also, the manual refers to "performing a RESET".  How is
this operation done?
 
                                 Thanks
                               Mike Collins
Mike here: The country/city selection only occurs on first power on and after a RESET. You can select RESET from the Setup menu. It is an automatic operation and requires no user input (accept to press ENTER when selected). HOWEVER, once you RESET the Autostar you will have to re-enter your site location, CALIBRATE MOTOR, and TRAIN DRIVES. You will lose any user input data.

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