AUTOSTAR SUITE USER FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 27 November 2006

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, and Deep Sky Imager, DSI, are covered in the Helpful Information - Astrophotography area.)


Subject:	re: envisage (Autostar Suite User Feedback)
Sent:	Monday, November 27, 2006 12:42:04
From:	Dave Wallace (d_wallace@ecrm.com)
The error code doesn't make sense as a Windows error; it's probably
something from inside the software itself.  Error 207 from Windows would
be ERROR_RING2_STACK_IN_USE, which makes no sense in this context.

Subject:	Astrophotography
Sent:	Saturday, November 25, 2006 10:10:22
From:	Steve (bullfox@comcast.net)
Well, I finally got an astronomical image (the Orion nebula) with my DSI
II, but I find the imaging processing software that comes with it
difficult and frustrating to use.  Do you have a recommendation for
something better? I have the DSI II color camera.

I was taking the image in my backyard  where my view of Polaris is
blocked, so I had very poor polar alignment. Even though the tracking
software was keeping the image in the field of view, there was so much
drift that my exposure times were very limited.   This morning, It
occurred to me that with the live image from the DSI, I can adjust the
polar alignment on the fly, so to speak, so will try that next time in
the back yard.
Mike here: The software that comes with the DSI is very powerful and does take some effort to learn. But that is true of many image processing applications if you want to do as well as the AutoStar Suite software. On the other hand, if you just want to stack images, there are some good choices for both Mac OS X (Lynkeos and Keith's Image Stacker) and Windows (Astrostack and Registax). For more information, see the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page.
Subject:	envisage
Sent:	Thursday, November 23, 2006 03:16:36
From:	kim rasmussen (kimras@adr.dk)
I have this ?. When i try to save images with fits extention
i get the error :file save error status=207.
 
Do you know why.
 
thanks Kim rasmussen Denmark
Mike here: Is that a Windows error code? I don't know the Windows error codes since I haven't done any Windows programming, only Macintosh programming. If you search the Site for "save error status=207" you will see there was a similar question back in 2005 but no answer was ever received.
Subject:	Re: Unable to change format of AutoStar files
Sent:	Wednesday, November 15, 2006 15:31:33
From:	Meg Thacher (mthacher@email.smith.edu)
Just finished reading Niall Saunders's email about manipulating the
files spat out by AutoStar.  What an incredibly useful resource!  And
here's my extremely minor contribution.  I downloaded the (free!)
Sequentialize software from http://www.polybytes.com/download.htm and
started using it.  If you've got R, G, and B images, and you want to
resequence them as Niall suggests, it's important to first put all the R
images into their own subdirectory, because Sequentialize will re-number
*all* the files in your directory (e.g., m27-6-1B.fts, m27-6-1G.fts, and
m27-6-1R.fts now become m27-6-0001.fts, m27-6-0002.fts, m27-6-0003.fts),
which is definitely not what you want.  Putting all the *B.fts files in
one folder is a real pain if you use windows, so go to the DOS prompt
and do it from there.  First make the appropriate 'red', 'green', and
'blue' folders in windows, and then call up the DOS window  [start
menu-->programs-->accessories-->command prompt].  Change directory* to
the appropriate folder, and then use the 'move' command thusly:

move *R.fts red

This will move all the files with an R suffix to the folder named 'red'.
 It seems complicated, but it really isn't.  And it beats the heck out
of manually moving things one at a time with the mouse!

Then go into sequentialize and reorder everything in the 'red' folder. 
Note: make sure you choose 'Date' for your 'Presort Type'.

Clear skies!

Meg

*For those of you born after 1970, the DOS command you use to change
directory is 'cd'.  The current version of the command prompt allows
name completion using the tab key, so just type

cd my[tab]

and it will spell out "My Documents" for you.  Type '\ds[tab]', and it
will spell out "My Documents"\"DSI Imaging"... keep going until it gets
you to the right folder/directory.

Subject:	Re: Dave Lassiter & Autostar Suite
Sent:	Monday, November 6, 2006 06:32:17
From:	Stephen Bird (stephen.bird@btconnect.com)
As promised further to the work around which I developed pre Meade
Update No 4, I checked out getting two cameras working direct from
Autostar Suite and a single Envisage imaging window. Seems it works
fine, but you do need to install Autostar Suite Update No 4 which is a
free download from the Meade website, but,......you need to get the
update by joining the Meade 4M Community, (for free or $9.99 if you
don't want to join Meade 4M!), detail here,
http://www.meade.com/autostar/update/ without Update No 4 there is no
direct support for multiple cameras, so this may be your problem.

Once you have loaded the Update No 4, close Autostar Suite if open, then
connect each camera one at a time and ensure that its drivers are loaded
and recognised. If the laptop wants to load / reload the drivers, insert
the original CD that came with Autostar suite and let it find the
drivers. Once both cameras have drivers loaded (there are two drivers
for each camera LPI / DSI / DSI Pro / DSI Pro II, so don't worry if it
appears to load drivers twice, it is supposed to for the DSIs), connect
both cameras to the laptop, remember that powered hubs are a good idea
for two DSIs though I have managed without for one DSI and one LPI. Then
start up Autostar Suite, and click on the Image menu, then DSI imaging.
You should find after a short delay, you get the imaging window with
three tabs, one for each DSI (or LPI) and an image files tab.

If when loading the drivers you were not asked to give a unique name for
each DSI camera (to identify them on each tab), you can change the
default name using the "Cntrl" button at the top / middle of the
Autostar Envisage window. You can't do this for an LPI as the "Cntrl"
button changes to "Color" and the name option is not available. I'm not
quite sure what would happen therefore if you connected two LPIs.

Here is a screen capture showing both cameras connected, plus tracking
and derotation boxes for the drizzle process.

photo


Subject:	Re: Telescope control via Laptop
Sent:	Sunday, November 5, 2006 22:42:30
From:	Tom and Lori (lortom7@earthlink.net)
I just remembered I have a "Chill Mat" under the laptop and plugged into
the other USB port.  I'll not plug that in and try it again.  If it
doesn't work I'll move on to Dick's recommendation.

As always, thanks guys!

Subject:	Unable to change format of AutoStar files
Sent:	Sunday, November 5, 2006 15:24:34
From:	Niall J. Saunders (niall@njs101.com)
Assuming that you are running the latest version of Envisage (and you
should be if you're not !!), then you want to look for the button marked
[Save Proc ...] at the top right hand edge of the Envisage window. Make
sure that you can see ALL of the edges of the Envisage window,
especially if you are using a lower resolution screen (you really want
to be running at 1024 x 768, or higher, if at all possible).

Press the [Save Proc...] button, and a small window labelled <Save
Process> should open. On that window there is a drop-down selector next
to the "File Type" label. Click the selector, and choose how you want to
save your images. It is easiest if you use your Up/Down cursor keys to
do this, as you will be able to read a short description next to each
possible choice.

The choices available are BMP, Gif, Jpeg, Png, TIF, Fits, Fits3P and
FitsInt

The comments given by Envisage are (verbatim) :-

BMP - Uncompressed, 24 Bit Color compatable with paint, IP, Photoshop
Gif - Lo res, 8 bit int, compatible with: web
Jpeg - Compressed, 24 Bit Color , compatible with: Photoshop, web
Png - Compressed, 24 Bit Color , compatible with: Photoshop, web
TIF - Uncompressed, 24 Bit Color , compatible with: Photoshop
Fits - Uncompressed, 3 file RGB, 32 bit float, compatible with IP, MaxIm
DL
Fits3P - Uncompressed, Single color file, 32 bit Float, compatible with
MaxIm DL V3.x
FitsInt - Uncompressed, 3 file RGB, 16 bit int, compatible with RegiStax

There is little advantage in using either Jpeg or Png formats as both of
these use LOSSY compression - which means that you are immediately going
to lose some of the data that you have worked so hard to obtain in the
first place (there are exceptions to this - but you will know yourself
when you are willing to forsake captured data quality in favour of
easier data manipulation at the post-processing stage).

The Gif format is even worse when trying to preserve the data that you
are capturing. All the other formats try to capture at least 24-bit
colour information. The Gif format only stores 8-bit information. Each
image will be reduced to the best palette of 256 colours that will 'fit'
the original 281,474,976,710,656 (almost 300 BILLION) colours that could
have been in the original (DSI) image - even the LPI could provide
almost 17 MILLION colours. Gif is most likely NOT going to be a format
that you will be using that often !!

The two 24 bit formats, BMP and TIF, seem to be more or less identical
in both resultant file size and quality of image recorded. There is one
VERY IMPORTANT consideration that you must keep in mind when using
either of these two formats. Because they are only recording 24-bit data
(8 bits, each, for Red, Green and Blue - RGB) they are NOT recording the
maximum possible dynamic range available from the DSI range of imagers.
(They ARE capable of capturing the normal dynamic range of the LPI,
however, as it is only an 8-bit imager, whereas the DSI is a 16-bit
device).

More importantly, the BMP and TIF image files that are saved to disc are
saved AFTER the raw data has been manipulated as a result of how you,
the user, have set the Histogram Slider Controls. In other words, as you
move the sliders around during an imaging sequence, any changes will be
recorded in the saved images. It is especially important that you are
aware of this if you are running in "Save all Uncombined Images" mode.

You should also be aware that your computer monitor itself is a
fundamental limit when it comes to 'looking' at the image - your screen
(LCD or CRT) can only (at best) display 24-bit (3x8-bit) RGB data.
Normally you will be moving the Histogram Sliders around to get a
'nice-looking' image on the screen. What you do not really want is to
have your 'live' interpretation of what 'looks nice' to have affected
the data that you might be storing for later post-processing. And it
will nearly always be in the 'post-processing' stage that you will be
able to extract the 'best' image from your 'raw data'.

That just leaves the three FITS methods. All of these will try to
preserve the FULL dynamic range available from the likes of the 16-bit
DSI cameras. (I am going to exclude the DSI-Pro and the DSI-II-Pro
cameras from detailed discussion here, because although I have just
taken delivery of a DSI-II-Pro as a birthday gift from my darling wife,
unless there is some sort of major heavenly display between now and the
end of November, it really ought to be staying wrapped up for my actual
birthday !! - I'll post details thereafter, once I have learned to play
with that little beastie !)

The simplest is the FitsInt mode, where a file of 16-bit data is saved
for each of the three colour planes (Red, Green and Blue, or RGB). A
fourth file is also saved for each image frame that you capture and
store. This is the LUMINANCE image (L), and is a plane, representing
brightness, that is 'synthesised' from the captured RGB data. In fact,
the actual process is somewhat more complex when you are working with
the DSI-C and DSI-IIC cameras - this is because the CCD chips that are
used are actually a form of CMY (Cyan, Magenta and Yellow) sensor - and
the Envisage software has to process the incoming RAW (CMY) data in
order to create the RGB format that most users want to see on their RGB
computer monitor.

The Fits mode (32-bit, three-file mode) is something that I have not
experimented with - simply because I have not been able to get to grips
with the extremely convoluted user interface that is Meade's Autostar IP
program, and because I cannot justify the ridiculously high price of
MaxIM DL (in any of its variants). That said, the Fits mode saves four
data files per image frame captured. What makes this mode the 'best' is
that the 32-bit 'float' format allows the data to be manipulated by
sophisticated software with less likelihood of data being lost due to
'truncating errors' that would appear if the data was in a format such
as 16-bit Integer (FitsInt) mode. This is not a major advantage at the
time of image capture however, as there are many methods of converting
what is, after all, 16-bit integer data in the first place, into the
32-bit 'real' or 'float' data that is being looked for by the likes of
Autostar IP and MaxIm DL.

The last method, Fits 3P, is one where two files are stored for each
image captured. One contains all three sets of 16-bit data for the three
colour (RGB) planes, and the second contains the (extracted) Luminance
(L) data set. I have used this format for some of my Drizzle-Captured
images - but I only use it when I know that I am NOT going to re-stack
the collected data in the likes of Registax. In other words, I will
purely be trying to create my final image using the likes of
PixelInSight to tweak the Curves and Histograms to suit. (From this you
can infer that PixelInSight, a very well-written piece of software) is
completely un-phased by the many different formats used by the FITS
specification).

It is in the post-processing of these multi-file, 16-bit data sets that
the greatest complications arise, because you now have to consider that
your data lives in (up to) four different locations.

However, it is the FitsInt mode that I have used most - simply because I
worked out a method that allowed me to easily re-align and re-stack the
four data sets in Registax (v3). What I did was, after sorting all the
images into appropriate sub-directories, and renumbering them to give
PROPER numerical nomenclature (shame on you, MEADE, for not implementing
a counting scheme that INCLUDED 'leading zeroes' so that a computer
could properly 'sort' a named sequence of files), I then first processed
the LUMINANCE data - where Registax had the best chance of creating a
well aligned stack of 'good' images. I saved the Process File that was
created by Registax (simply a text file describing the steps that were
applied to the selected image files) and edited it three times, once for
each of the RED, GREEN and BLUE data sets. I then reloaded each of the
R, G and B Process Files into Registax, and all the data was processed
according to the Luminance file. The final three resulting images (with
or without Wavelet processing, but all without Histogram processing)
were then RGB aligned (because atmospheric disturbances can cause slight
pixel-level displacements in each of the colour planes) before, again,
being saved as 16-bit TIFF or FIT images. My final stage was to take
these three images into PixelInSight and work on stretching the data
using Histograms and Curves, before combining to a final three-layer RGB
image - saved once as a FITS image and once as a BMP image (only 8-bit,
but needed to allow me to view it on-screen using standard Windows
slideshow software).

Now that Registax v4 has been released (and although I have downloaded
it, and read the much more useful PDF support documentation) it seems
that it will be much easier to post process the FitsInt data - providing
that the individual file sequences are properly named. From memory (and
this may well have been the case for Registax v3 as well - only the lack
of documentation meant that I never managed to figure it out for myself
!!), you need to get all of your RED image files named, numerically (and
you can't rely on the default numbering scheme provided by Meade's
Envisage software - because image xxxxx1.tif will be grouped alongside
xxxxx10.TIF, instead of alongside xxxxx2.tif, etc.) and with a trailing
'-R' at the end of the name, before the '.TIF' file type suffix.

The same applies to your G, B and L files. So you need a program like
Polybytes 'Sequentialize' software, so that your files appear something
like M27_03-0008-R.FIT (representing my method of identifying files by
name of object [M27_], image session number [03-] and actual image
number in  the sequence (starting from [0000], running up to [9999] -
use FIVE digits if you have to, though highly unlikely). The use of [-R]
(and appropriate [-G], [-B] and [-L] suffixes) is how I will now be
naming collected data - in this case representing that these images are
part of the RED (or G, B or L) data set (which would, in any case, be
stored in a \R subdirectory of a \SESSION 03 (in this case) subdirectory
of the \20061105 M27 sub-folder (the date of the imaging session (Nov
05, 2006), and the name of the object being imaged- M27) - all of which
exists in a folder dedicated to MEADE IMAGES in My Documents.

Any of my imaging directories therefore look like :-

\My Documents
..\Meade Images               (where all of my DSI imaging data lives)
....\_archived darks          (where I keep sets of Dark Frames, named
by the temperatures recorded at the time of capture)
....\_not yet sorted          (where I copy data prior to renaming and
moving to structured directories)
....\20061105 M27             (this helps keep all of the sub-folders
named by date and object)
......\Session 01             (which will have the same structure as
Session 03, shown below)
......\Session 02             (as for Session 01)
......\Session 03             (shown here with a detailed breakdown of
its internal structure)
........\_Processed           (this is where all of my post-processing
data will end up)
........\B                    (contains all of the RAW Blue data)
..........M27_03-0001-B.FIT
..........M27_03-0002-B.FIT    (etc.)
........\G                    (contains all of the RAW Green data)
..........M27_03-0001-G.FIT
..........M27_03-0002-G.FIT    (etc.)
........\L                    (contains all of the RAW Luminance data)
..........M27_03-0001-L.FIT
..........M27_03-0002-L.FIT    (etc.)
........\R                    (contains all of the RAW Red data)
..........M27_03-0001-R.FIT
..........M27_03-0002-R.FIT    (etc.)

Well, a long ramble (as usual) - but it may help someone !!

Cheers,
Niall Saunders
Clinterty Observatories
Aberdeen, SCOTLAND
From:	J.A.Russo (jrusso@bellatlantic.net)
Thanks for your reply. Niall's comments did the trick and were very
informative. You're a great resource. Keep up the good work!
Joe

Subject:	Re: Dave Lassiter & Autostar Suite
Sent:	Friday, November 3, 2006 08:57:45
From:	Stephen Bird (stephen.bird@btconnect.com)
Autostar Suite is a great idea, but I find it a trifle unwieldy
preferring HNSKY with the ASCOM Meade scope driver instead. Given that
HNSKY doesn't give you a drop down option to switch on LPI or DSI
imaging, I get those applications started from the Start group on the
laptop, or the executable files in Windows Explorer.

Now, this is where I think the problem you are experiencing lies.
Autostar Suite only allows you to open one imaging window from within
Autostar Suite, but if you open the executable for the LPI or DSI
direct, avoiding Autostar Suite, it will allow you to open multiple
appearances.

So to open two windows one for guiding and one for imaging, just go to
Start, Programs, Meade, Autostar Envisage and click on it. Then do the
same again.

Works for me. Well I say works for me, I have played with it, but of
course using one camera for a guide requires a guide scope, and the
other camera then needs another scope for imaging, unless you have the
lens adaptor for the DSI and are doing wide angle shots such as M31. I
had trouble with the DSI Pro and the lens adaptor because they are
designed for the standard DSI without the filter slider mechanism.

A nice option would be to use the ETX piggy backed on a LX or RCX,
guiding with the ETX and imaging with the LX or RCX.
 
Regards
 
Stephen Bird
From:	dass717@aol.com (dass717@aol.com)
Thank You!!

Subject:	Unable to change format of AutoStar files
Sent:	Friday, November 3, 2006 08:29:59
From:	J.A.Russo (jrusso@bellatlantic.net)
My Envisage saves its files in fts format but my Adobe Elements 5.0
image processing software cannot open this type of file (nor can any of
my other image software!). How do I get Envisage to save in a format
other than .fts? There must be a way, but honestly I've tried and can't
do it. You have helped my in the past and I would greatly appreciate
your help again. Thanks
Joe Russo 
Mike here: See the article "Photoshop FITS Liberator" on the Helpful Information: Astrophotography page; perhaps that will work with Photoshop Elements (it does with Photoshop). As to Envisage itself, there used to be a JPEG format available (in the capture application, just not in the image processing app).
Subject:	Telescope control via Laptop
Sent:	Wednesday, November 1, 2006 22:14:18
From:	Tom Frazin (lortom7@earthlink.net)
I have the following setup:
 
          ETX 125 AT
          HP Pavillion 6040us laptop
          Meade USB to RS-232 Bridge Cable
          DSI II
          Autostar version 43e
 
I am trying to setup control of my telescope through my PC
(Autostarsuite).

I reviewed a lot of yours and Dicks memos about errors when setting up
the Remote Handbox, Autostar via Network, Com Port, etc . .  but I
cannot seem to find an answer to my problem.

My Device Manager says I am using COM port 4.   I open Autostar Suite,
click on Communications>Telescope>COM Port setup to make sure the port
selected is 4.  I then click on Telescope > Protocol >Autostar via Com
Port, and I get a "Read Timeout!, Communication Terminated!" message.  I
then click on the Remote Handbox selection and the system waits, then
nothing.

Please point me in the right direction to control my telescope via my
laptop.  I would also like to be able to have the Autostar sky chart up
where I can click and go.

Next I will be setting up my DSI II so I can begin astrophotography.

Yours and/or Dick's help would be appreciated.

Clear skies,
 
Tom

And:

And:  When I connect to the Remote Handbox, and click the box to connect
to Com Port 4, I see the Initializing word, but no periods.  It just
sits there.
Mike here: It could be that something else has the port tied up, typically fax software. But what happens when you try the Network protocol? You do need to use that if you want all the AutoStar Suite applications to talk to the AutoStar at the same time.

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
First place to start:
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_testing.html

And, as Mike said, check for -other- programs on the PC
fighting for control of the COM port (PalmPilot HotSync
kind'a things).

have fun
--dick

And:

I'll save you both the headaches I just went through, but the bottom
line is that I went into the Device Manager (in Windows XP) and
uninstalled the driver, plugged the cable back in, Windows recognized
the cable and now it works.  I am using COM Port 4 (as designated by
Windows) and I have other items plugged into the other two USB ports and
it still works.  Hooray!

Thanks both of you.

Mike, congrats on 10 years of loyal service to the many "Mighty ETX"
users on this planet!

I heard you may be down at OPT this month.  If I make it, I'll make sure
I meet up with you and give you my personal thanks for a wonderful,
resourceful site.

Clear skies, 

Tom 
Mike here: I will definitely be at OPT on 18 November for the 10th Anniversary Celebration and Mighty ETX Star Party.
Subject:	re:question about autostar software
Sent:	Tuesday, October 31, 2006 21:04:00
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
> click on an object and it says "no object found"

One of the difficult-to-live-with quirks of the Autostar Suite
StarMap program (and it helps if you say that entire description..
Mike originally thought you were talking about the Autostar controller
itself)  is that you have to be **precisely** on what the Suite
considers "the object".. and sometimes that's only 1 pixel big.
(they don't generalize to "the moon"... noooo... somewhere in
that white blob on your screen is a -very tiny- "hot spot".

What i do is use the Find dialog (type a ctrl-F to bring it up),
choose my object and click "center"

That gives me a =little= better luck at truly clicking on it.
What also might help is zooming -out-, so that the target object
gets smaller.. then it's easier to tell when it's centered under
your cursor (i also turn on the "finder" rings)

have fun
--dick

And:

From:	mhogansr@comcast.net (mhogansr@comcast.net)
The Autostar Suite software seems to have some bugs regarding the outer
planets Neptune and Pluto.  Both the name and the planet image appear
and disappear  at various zoom levels, sometimes not appearing at all. 
There are no fixes for this that I'm aware of.

As far as the "No Object Found" message , try zooming in a little more
before trying to select an object.  If you are zoomed out too far, the
crosshair position becomes extremely sensitive and may not be on the
object even though it looks like it is.  If all else fails, you can
always use the Starmap/Object Selection menu to get the description of
an object and center it on the display.

One final tip - don't ever select Earth from the Ephemeris menu.  It
will lock up the program.

Mike Hogan

And:

From:	Seinbest@aol.com (Seinbest@aol.com)
> One final tip - don't ever select Earth from the Ephemeris menu.  It will 
> lock up
> the program

I already did that and found out the hard way.  As for the other
problems, I'm glad that I'm not the only one that has noticed these
problems.  You would think that Meade would fix it, but guess not.

Thanks

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