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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 (email@example.com) 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 DenmarkMike 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 (email@example.com) 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
Subject: Re: Telescope control via Laptop Sent: Sunday, November 5, 2006 22:42:30 From: Tom and Lori (email@example.com) 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 , running up to  - 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 (email@example.com) 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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: email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) Thank You!!
Subject: Unable to change format of AutoStar files Sent: Friday, November 3, 2006 08:29:59 From: J.A.Russo (email@example.com) 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 RussoMike 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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: 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.
From: richard seymour (email@example.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
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, TomMike 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) > 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
From: email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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
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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