AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 31 October 2002
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:	ETX125EC
Sent:	Wednesday, October 30, 2002 11:32:42
From:	David@blairingone.freeserve.co.uk (David Campbell)
Great Site!

I purchased a new ETX125 in late summer and am really impressed with the
performance however, I am having great problems in getting my Autostar
scope alignment to work.

My latest attempt seemed to work fine and confirmed alignment, but to
check, I asked it to goto Polaris.  The scope traversed somewhere left
of Ursa Major and nowhere near Polaris.

I am obviously doing something wrong during set up.  I have gone through
the 'training' procedure etc, set the time and date, summer saving time
as appropriate.  The written instructions with autostar differ from the
instructions given on the handset to some extent.  I have outlined below
the procedure I have been using and hope you can point out where I am
going wrong.

Set up tripod (883) and scope using spirit level to ensure absolutely
horizontal and with scope bracket support over the computer, adjusting
the position of the lot to ensure the scope is pointing due north.

Loosen horizontal lock, turn scope anti clockwise until it hits the
stop, turn it back to north position and lock horizontal lock.

Follow easy align procedure from handset, centering any bright star that
appears in field of view.  Sometimes there is not one there!

I am reasonably computer literate, but this alignment procedure is
beating me.

Hope you can help

Dave Campbell
Stirling
Scotland
Mike here: There are several alignment articles on the Autostar Information page; you might want to look through them to see if something helps. In general it sounds like you have the proper steps. But lets simply things as a test. You say you have the proper initial parameters correct don't forget to check the telescope model (once). If it is wrong select the ETX-125 (put the ">" by it) and reTRAIN. Then go through the HOME position setup and Two-Star Easy Align. As long as your North pointing is reasonably close to actual True North (not Magnetic North) and the location and date/time (check that year) are correct, the first star should be in the finderscope. Center it in the finderscope and then in the 26mm eyepiece. Do the same with the second star. Now, ask it to go to Vega. What happens? Ask it to go to some other bright star (but don't use Polaris yet). What happens?
Subject:	re:Using the Meade ETX
Sent:	Wednesday, October 30, 2002 8:24:33
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
To:	steven.s.miller@worldnet.att.net
> List of satellites optimized for the ETX90?

What i do is refer to http://www.heavens-above.com and their
nightly list of "bright" satellites for my location.
The ASU lets you sort the satellites by name or ID numbers.
That helps locate them in the looonnnggg scroll.

But, like you, i find the 150 "bright" NORAD list too large,
so i will net-surf through a few days' worth of the heavens-above
displays and choose individuals and groups which look like easy
targets (or interesting ones).

But it's certainly not an automated procedure.
I'm fairly far north, so low inclination satellites (like the HST)
are not accessible to me.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	re  Connecting the autostar to the computer
Sent:	Saturday, October 26, 2002 20:18:36
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
To:	sashalevin0@hotmail.com
> I connect one end of the cable to the Aux port on the autostar, so far,
> so good.

Do you really mean the AUX port in the telescope, or the second
hole in the base of the Autostar?   The Autostar is the correct socket

> If i unplug it from the Com port it goes back to normal.

And by this you mean the display comes back alive. but the 
Autostar wasn't confused by the operation?  That's very puzzling.

You can try the steps outlined at:
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_testing.html 
and see if the Autostar is still listening.

Otherwise it's call Meade on the morning...

good luck
--dick
And an update:
Okay, this may sound rather silly.
When you buy the cable set you get 2 wires, 1 6->4  and one 4->4, I
dropped the 6->4 somewhere behind my desk and only thought that i got
the 4->4. Well... atleast it didn't destroy my autostar :)
All is working now, finaly.
Thank you for your help.

Sasha A. Levin
Mike here: Yeah, the clone cable won't work too well on the computer! Glad you solved the problem!
Subject:	Autostar pdf manual?
Sent:	Saturday, October 26, 2002 10:49:00
From:	quentin_astro@noos.fr (Gaetan QUENTIN)
Do you have the pdf manual file of Autostar (ETX 125EC) ? It simply
diseappeard from the Meade web site, and it looks like if there is no
way to contact the webmaster.. I have just downloaded the last version
of autostar manual, and it is not very practical to use the web version
of manual.

Thanks a lot,

Gaetan.
Mike here: Check the FAQ page.
Subject:	Connecting the autostar to the computer
Sent:	Friday, October 25, 2002 0:40:11
From:	sashalevin0@hotmail.com (Sasha Levin)
I got this weird problem when i try to connect my autostar to the
computer for updating.

I connect one end of the cable to the Aux port on the autostar, so far,
so good.

I connect the other half to one of my Com ports on the computer, and
then BAM, all the text on the autostar is gone. All i see is the usual
red light. If i unplug it from the Com port it goes back to normal.

Is there any way to fix this problem?

Thank You,
Sasha A. Levin
Mike here: Check your batteries. Also, are you using a homemade cable? Has it ever worked?

And:

My batteries are good, i used them for over 4 hours on autostar after i
tried to update. My cable is the standard Meade cable, not home made.
Since it's the first time i'm trying to update (just bought my ETX) I
can't say that it ever worked. I did check the connections and it seems
OK.

I just tried connecting it when the computer is off, same thing
happens... The chars disappear as soon as i plug it into the computer.
Mike here: It sounds like something is wired up wrong, either in the cable, the Autostar, or the computer. Can you do a "continuity test" on the cable?
Subject:	Autostar update question
Sent:	Wednesday, October 23, 2002 11:30:15
From:	cappydec@postoffice.swbell.net (Don Caldwell)
Love your web site, it has renewed my interest in my DS-114 EC
telescope.  I quit using it a year ago because it would not align with
anything. Since reading your site,I've updated my Autostar #495 with ASU
and now ASU reports my controller as being a #497.  Is this correct?
Thanks, Don C.
Mike here: Yes, the update makes a #495 into a #497.
Subject:	A Polar alignment question
Sent:	Wednesday, October 23, 2002 7:07:10
From:	mktscope@bellsouth.net (Jay Lewis)
Kudos for a great site.  I am a fan!

I will be taking delivery of an ETX-90 in a few weeks and have read
downloaded and devoured every manual, tech tip, etc.  Some of the Guest
photos are amazing.

In the ETX-90 manual it indicates that to train the motors for polar
alignment the target shold be a distant object at an elevation of at
least 20 degrees.  the problem is that in Florida, which is as flat as a
billiard table, there are no targets that qualify.  There are 25'
telephone poles, but even at  20 degrees, the 'scope would only be 50 or
60 feet away.  It that enough?

Thanks.
Mike here: Lacking another source (I have the same problem), use Polaris.
Subject:	re: Map Datum
Sent:	Tuesday, October 22, 2002 22:55:44
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
To:	Ednaneil@aol.com
You asked:

> Can you recommend the best map datum type to use for entering longitude
> and latitude into the Autostar(497). My GPS gives out WGS 84 map datum
> but I have seen some websites that offer a NAD27 coordinate set. I am
> trying to track down the source of poor alignment...Thanks a lot...Neil

WGS 84  is very, very close to NAD27... looking at 
http://www.colorado.edu/geography/gcraft/notes/datum/dlist.html

it would appear that NAD27 differs less than 200 meters in the
model of the earth they're using.

Perhaps a more direct statement of what you do,
and how your alignment ends up, would help us help you a little better?

have fun
--dick

Subject:	re: SYNC
Sent:	Tuesday, October 22, 2002 22:41:05
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
To:	rizzoli@dsi.unive.it
> I dont hunderstand  how to use the  HP (sync): looking at a faint object
> near Capella ( for exemple), after to  have centred Capella in the
> eyepiece I press Enter to sync.and after  I go to the object . Is it
> correct?

Probably.

For HP to be active, it should show ">ON"  in the Setup/Telescope display.

Then, when you GoTo a dim object, the telescope should stop at Capella
and tell you to center it.  You center it, and press [enter].
Then the telescope should -automatically- move to the dim object.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	re: HBX pinouts
Sent:	Tuesday, October 22, 2002 22:34:44
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
To:	rcheezem3@cox.net
Another good spot is:
http://members.aol.com/kewtasheck/pinouts.html

have fun
--dick

Subject:	HBX pin outs
Sent:	Tuesday, October 22, 2002 8:27:08
From:	rcheezem3@cox.net (Robert Cheezem)
I know you probably have heard this a million times... I have an idea
for a new accessory. To test out my idea I need to build a prototype to
see if reality matches the imaginary. To build the prototype I need to
get the pin outs of the HBX port. Would have or know where I can find
this information?

Thanks for any help,

Bob Cheezem
Mike here: See the cable information on the Autostar Information page on my ETX Site or the Autostar manual on Meade's site.
Subject:	SYNC
Sent:	Saturday, October 19, 2002 4:25:31
From:	rizzoli@dsi.unive.it (Francesco Rizzoli)
I dont hunderstand  how to use the  HP (sync): looking at a faint object
near Capella ( for exemple), after to  have centred Capella in the
eyepiece I press Enter to sync.and after  I go to the object . Is it
correct?

Thankyou,
Francesco Rizzoli
Mike here: You got it. Keep in mind that SYNCing on a local area is really only good for a small portion of the sky. If you GOTO another object 90 degrees away it will be slightly off.
Subject:	Map datum
Sent:	Thursday, October 17, 2002 21:49:29
From:	Ednaneil@aol.com
Can you recommend the best map datum type to use for entering longitude
and latitude into the Autostar(497). My GPS gives out WGS 84 map datum
but I have seen some websites that offer a NAD27 coordinate set. I am
trying to track down the source of poor alignment...Thanks a lot...Neil
Mike here: I'm not familiar with the various map datum types but I wouldn't think there would be that much difference. Certainly not enough to affect GOTO or tracking over a few hours.
Subject:	re:  "Clay's Kochab Clock"
Sent:	Tuesday, October 15, 2002 22:03:44
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
To:	phcalama@solstice.uwaterloo.ca
> Since Polaris is so convenient for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere
> why is it that Meade (or someone else) has not developed some Autostar
> code (not sure if this is the correct term) that would temporarily slew
> (based on the observers site, the date, etc) from Polaris to the North
> Celestial Pole (NCP) and then back to Polaris. 

It's called "Polar ALign/ One Star" (or close to it)...
the scope slews around and points at Polaris, and tells you to adjust
the -tripod- to center the star.  
Then it slews to the "One Star" and asks you to center it.

Given that the scope is pointed at Polaris (RA-compensated and
3/4 degree from NCP), there's no real need to go to the NCP itself.

For Alt/Az, you can certainly create a Landmark (or User Object)
for Polaris (POLE)... and for Az=00 Alt=00 (HOME).
GoTo POLE landmark (but a User Object would correct for Polaris'
motion), GoTo HOME, Align.

If you always Utilites/PARK before powering down, the scope will
wake up next time thinking it's still aligned, and won't quibble
about GoTo'ing Polaris  (quickly accessible as SAO 308, or by
selecting Constellations, scroll up 5 times to Ursa Minor,
[goto][enter][goto].

have fun
--dick
And:
Paul Calamai wrote:
> Let me see if I truly understand.
> 
> If I "Home Position" to Polaris (using only the wedge/tripod adjustments for
> fine tuning), select "Align/One Star", and then centre the "One star" by
> slewing(??) I will have, in effect, Polar aligned to NCP?

Almost (why not try it?)... 
You set up in as good a "home position" as you can (but don't spend 
forever on it)...

Then start Align/Polar/One Star

The first thing the scope will do is spin the RA to Polaris' RA,
and drop the barrel about a degree to Polaris' Declination.

*Now* (and the Autostar will prompt you) you do the final adjustment
of the wedge to truly center Polaris. (you don't slew, you adjust)

That accomplishes the Polar aligning of the RA axis to the NCP.

Then press [enter] ... and *now* the scope will offer a list of stars.
Choose one, and the telescope will GoTo it...

Center -that- star by slewing... tap [enter] and you will have fully
Polar Aligned the telescope.

have fun
--dick

And:

> OK....got it.  The weather here has been absolutely horrible (raining and/or
> windy) ever since I got the scope so I haven't been able to put it, or me,
> to the test.

No excuses...  try it indoors... learn the prompts, scroll up and down
through the menus, play, play, play..

It greatly (but not completely) demystifies the night-time usage.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	re: #497 & Polaris
Sent:	Tuesday, October 15, 2002 21:56:28
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
To:	steven.s.miller@worldnet.att.net
> BTW, any idea when (or if) Meade will be updating it's online Autostar manual. 
> There is a lot of stuff added that isn't mentioned in the online manual
> (or the printed manual that came with my Autostar) that I know nothing
>  about.  Some of it doesn't appear to apply to my ETX-90EC. 

the LX90 manual covers a lot of the added Autostar functions

(they're only $1600 a copy...)

have fun
---dick

Subject:	"Clay's Kochab Clock"
Sent:	Tuesday, October 15, 2002 12:40:18
From:	phcalama@solstice.uwaterloo.ca (Paul Calamai)
First of all let me say just how much I appreciate the work you've put
into your site....it rocks.

Now for my diatribe:

I've just recently taken possession of an ETX 90EC with Autostar but
have yet to have the pleasure of using it for observation (the weather
has conspired against me).  This has, however, allowed me to play with
the scope and the Autostar as well as read numerous articles on, among
other things, polar alignment techniques.  I was particularly taken by
the article on the Kochab Clock method explained by Clay Sherrod. 
However, I do have a question that I hope you might be able to answer.

Since Polaris is so convenient for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere
why is it that Meade (or someone else) has not developed some Autostar
code (not sure if this is the correct term) that would temporarily slew
(based on the observers site, the date, etc) from Polaris to the North
Celestial Pole (NCP) and then back to Polaris.  This would allow an
observer to note the position of the NCP in their finderscope.  Once the
scope returned to Polaris the observer could then use their wedge/tripod
adjustments to move to NCP based on their observation during the
temporary slew.

This would alleviate the need of trying to remember the direction of
Kochab from Polaris (the clock) and, more importantly, how far 55' is in
the direction of Kochab.

If I'm way off-base please let me know!

Thanks
 
-- 
Paul H Calamai, Professor   E: phcalama@solstice.uwaterloo.ca
Graduate Officer
Dept of Systems Design Eng  P: (519) 885-1211 x6493
University of Waterloo      F: (519) 746-4791
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1   W: http://solstice.uwaterloo.ca/~phcalama
Mike here: That's an interesting idea since Polaris is about a 1 degree from the NCP. You should send it to engineer@meade.com; they won't reply but they do read the email.
Subject:	how to send software from autostar to PC ?
Sent:	Monday, October 14, 2002 23:50:02
From:	vjv@infonie.fr (Vincent)
Thanks for your site which is a mine for informations !

I have a quite big problem :
In France, when you buy an Autostar, it is all in french. Cool !
Ourself, frenchies, are not familiars whith english, usually ! The
problem is that Meade send to the importer french autostars, plus one
master Autostar to clone english ones, but no .rom file to have it on a
PC (and change a few stuff in it !). Can you help me ? Do you have a tip
with the new ASU ? I use to be able to manage this with the old autostar
update software, but it seems to be not possible anymore....

Thanks !
Vincent (France)
Mike here: If you are asking about a French version of the latest ROM build file, I don't think Meade has released one. If you are asking if you could modify the English one, well, perhaps. You could grab it from Meade's site, using a hex or disk editor and change some text (maybe). You would have to be careful to keep things the same length.
Subject:	autostar
Sent:	Monday, October 14, 2002 11:20:47
From:	kingnol737@yahoo.com (Kevin Kingsley)
this is a really stupid question but i'll ask it anyways. i have an
etx-70at and i have the autostar for it, and i was wondering if i could
use that autostar control on an etx-125-ec if i buy one, or would i have
to buy a completely new autostar for the 125ec?

also, is the etx-105 being sold anymore, because i haven't been able to
find it anywhere?

thanks for all the help

very impressive site

-kevin
Mike here: As noted on Meade's Autostar Update page, the #494 Autostar that comes with the ETX-70AT only works on that model. However, you can use a #497 on all ETX models. And yes, the ETX-105EC continues to be sold. Probably in high demand.

And:

thanks for such a quick reply

Subject:	Re: Speed stuck
Sent:	Sunday, October 13, 2002 6:32:00
From:	arf@ntlworld.com (Tony on NTL)
Thanks for replying.

You are absolutely right: All of the speeds on Azimuth operate as if
they are speed 9 but all the speeds on Altitude operate correctly. Also
the same thing happens on the dumb handbox. All speeds are max on Az but
it works fine on Alt.

Just after I mailed you I tried the exact things you suggested and
amazingly it worked. It also worked on the dumb handbox.

But last night (being the first clear night for ages) I got the scope
out and started to align it.

Anyway the instant it was aligned (i.e I pressed Enter for the last
star) the scope went into a sudden uncontrolled full speed drive on
Azimuth for about ten seconds and then reported a motor fault.

So I switched the power off and on and tried again first checking that I
had a full range of speeds.

And the same thing happened again. After alignment the scope had a
random drive by itself and then a motor fault. Only this time when I
tried again I had no speed control on Azimuth and worse still trying the
Reset, Calibrate and Train options did not restore functionality.

So I gave up and powered up the Playstation for an evening of mindless
violence.

I should add that this is actually a borrowed ETX from a friend because
mine has gone back to the US for repairs to it's azimuth drive. Our
local distributor lent me an ETX90 for the next few months but that had
the same problem until it hit an end stop, made a loud clicking noise
and now does not drive anywhere on azimuth. This is all part of the tale
of woe that I still won't bore you with.

Right now I have completely lost faith in Meade's ability to make Az/RA
drives on it's ETX range of scopes.

I've been promised a new model ETX125 in the next shipment to the UK
(December perhaps) but apparently they have had problems with guess
what: The Azimuth Drive!

So bearing in mind I have similar type problems with three scopes what
is the common factor? My Autostar, the autostar cable, the mains power
supply perhaps?

I downloaded the latest Autostar software a week ago and the borrowed
scope worked fine for about 1/2 an hour in the house. As soon as I took
it outside it was back to it's motor faults and single speed problems
again. I cannot believe that the Autostar is faulty because the manual
handbox has the same problems.

I guess it could be the power supply. Most of my problems seemed to
start just after I acquired that but it delivers about 12.5 volts
without load so it sounds about right. I have tried Reset, Calibrate and
Train on batteries too to no avail.

It seems to me that something gets switched inside the scope and then it
refuses to cooperate. Occasionally it gets switched back and all is OK
for a while. The problem is I cannot work out how to switch it and the
good times are much shorter than the bad.

Of course it could be that these scopes are afraid of the dark!!

Any help at all would be much appreciated. I cannot believe that I'm the
only one with these problems.

Kind Regards

Tony
Mike here: Thanks for the additional info. I now suspect the power supply. Since a problem occurs with both the standard handcontroller and the Autostar and since you report a random slew in Altitude, either the power supply or the ETX itself has a problem. Have you tried running on batteries?
Subject:	Autostar won't connect!
Sent:	Saturday, October 12, 2002 18:06:03
From:	home@hawkinsphoto.com
I am trying to update my autostar.  I have the 505 connector attached
correctly.  I use Windows XP.  it keeps telling me that It can't find
the autostar on a com port...  What do I do?

kevin hawkins
Mike here: Do the obvious: check the connections, check for a port in use (fax software, normally). Try a different port. But there have been some reports of XP problems. Do you have the latest ASU from Meade's site? Do a search on the Site for "Windows XP"; maybe something there will help.
Subject:	Re: Motor Unit Faults
Sent:	Saturday, October 12, 2002 5:40:47
From:	thewall@nl.ibm.com (Frank Van Der Wal)
Dick, Mike,

Some 3 weeks ago we did have e-mail exchange about MUF's on my ETX125
and Autostar. You guys helped me, but in the end it seems all options
were executed and the MUF remains. Dick suggested that I should brought
it into MEADE. I've found a dealer in Holland who repaired the unit.

Now the $1000 question: What on earth was causing the MUF. It seems that
a light sensitive transistor on the recieving part of the decoders was
causing havoc. One of the three leads on this component has a triangle
shape to distinct base, collector and emmitor of the transistor. This
triangled lead was soldered on the topside of the print  and just near
enough to the other lead causing an intermittent short. Resolutions
always seems to be so more easier than problems.....

The dealer tested and the system for a long period of time, I did some
observation last night, all seems to work allright now.

I just want to thank you for your support and want to feed back this
information to you, just to make sure that if somebody else is bumping
into these errors we know what to say.

Frank van der Wal
And:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
> Now the $1000 question: What on earth was causing the MUF. It seems that a
> light sensitive transistor on the recieving part of the decoders was
> causing havoc.

You have a -very- good dealer who could locate and repair that fault!
(who, and where, are they?)
It was the encoder-sensor, which would cause extra/too-few light
changes to be seen by the Autostar (well, by the PIC chip on the motor
card, but it talks to the Autostar), and the Autostar decides that
a MUF is in progress.

> I just want to thank you for your support and want to feed back this
> information to you, just to make sure that if somebody else is bumping into
> these errors we know what to say.

Thank you... we do have to remember that cold, or (as in your case)
"over enthusiastic" solder joints can occur.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	Battery Check
Sent:	Saturday, October 12, 2002 3:10:49
From:	francimj@trinity-health.org (Michael Francis)
I noticed when I have my Meade electric focuser hooked up to my ETX
control panel that the Autostar will not allow me to check my battery
strength by holding down the mode key for 3 seconds. It just toggles
back and forth between focus and mode functions. Is there a way around
this? I tried to find something already on the site but came up with
nadda.
                                  Thanks,  Mike

P.S.- Just killing time until my newly Supercharged 125 comes back from
Doc Sherrod.
Mike here: I don't have the focuser but this could be a tradeoff of using it.
Subject:	re: #497 & Polaris
Sent:	Friday, October 11, 2002 22:20:32
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
To:	steven.s.miller@worldnet.att.net
It's still in there...

If you're aligning in Polar mode, merely ask for a one-star align.
It'll start off by GoTo'ing Polaris!
Then it'll go to the One Star".

In Alt/Az mode, as Mile said, they've stopped using Polaris because
it provides too little additional information... and enters the realm
where the Tangent of the Declination is beginning to approach infinity.

You can still use it as an Alt/Az north reference: Plop the scope on its
table or tripod.  Before powering up, lift the barrel to point at Polaris.
Center it. Or perhaps factor in the offset Polaris is from the pole at
the date and time you're aligning (See Clay's Kochab Clock article 
at Mike's site: http://www.weasner.com/etx/ref_guides/polar_align.html )

Now lower the barrel until it's dead level (i use a 6 inch
torpedo level).  Power up.  Ask for a one-star align.
The scope will trust you to have performed the north-pointing accurately,
and will slew to the "one star" you select.

So Polaris is still there for you... (and envyied by southern hemisphere
observers)

A final way to use it is to PARK the scope whenever you finish a session.
The next power up, it won't -ask- to be aligned.
GoTo Polaris... mechanically move the scope (instead of slewing) to center it.
GoTo another star (near the equator?) .. SYNC on it.
You've just done a variant of the Polar One Star, but it works in Alt/Az, too.

have fun
--dick
And:
From:	steven.s.miller@worldnet.att.net (Steven Miller)
I didn't realize that Polaris made a poor alignment star.  It always
seemed to work pretty well to me. Guess I was just being lazy.  Now I'll
actually have to learn where the other alignment stars are (G)!  Having
updated the software to 26Ec it's extemely unlikely I'd care to go
through the hassle of reverting to a previous version anyway.  BTW, any
idea when (or if) Meade will be updating it's online Autostar manual. 
There is a lot of stuff added that isn't mentioned in the online manual
(or the printed manual that came with my Autostar) that I know nothing
about.  Some of it doesn't appear to apply to my ETX-90EC.  I tried the
Quite Mode and my ETX-90 is just as noisy slewing to a new target with
it on as with it off.  I don't dare trying most of the new stuff for
fear of screwing up my ETX in the process!
Mike here: No details about any updated manual. Sorry.
Subject:	#497 & Polaris
Sent:	Friday, October 11, 2002 18:42:49
From:	steven.s.miller@worldnet.att.net (Steven Miller)
I just updated my #497 Autostar software from 2.0h to 26Ec and was agast
to discover that Polaris had been dropped from the alignment star list. 
I was rather fond of using Polaris as it is always easy to find (since
it never moves!).  Is there any way to add it back into the alignment
star list?  I have the 2.0i update and had been intending to update my
Autostar with it.  I decided, though, to check the Meade web site first
to see if there was a more recent update, found the 26Ec update and
decided to go with it.  If I had known I was going to lose Polaris as an
alignment star I might have thought twice before going with 26Ec.  Is is
possible to revert back to a previous version (install 2.0i over 26Ec)
or have I burned my bridge behind me?
Mike here: Polaris makes a lousy alignment star, which is why it is not in the list. Since all the lines of Right Ascension converge at the pole, any error can make a large difference. Was that 12 hours or 00 hours? You can revert to an older version but I don't recommend it unless absolutely necessary.
Subject:	Speed stuck
Sent:	Friday, October 11, 2002 11:37:59
From:	arf@ntlworld.com (Tony French)
I've been a user of an ETX 125 EC for most of this year so far and been
an avid reader of your site for a while. What you are doing is excellent
for the community of users. Keep up the good work.

I have a long story of woe with my ETX and two others but I won't bore
you with that now.

Basically I have one problem at the moment, My Autostar keeps forgetting
that it has multiple speeds on Az drive. All I get is max. Then I get
Motor Unit Faults and it's Game Over. Sometimes however it works OK.
I've downloaded the latest software V26 and it worked fine for 1/2 an
hour. Then I went outside and it all went horribly wrong again.

I haven't found anything on your site so far that exactly matches this
problem but then there is so much there.

If you have any advice I'd really appreciate it.

Many Thanks in advance 

Tony 
Mike here: Just to clarify, when you press the "1" key you get slow speed on the Altitude drive but no change on the Azimuth drive. And when you press "5" you get a medium speed on Altitude but again no change on Azimuth. And when you press "9" you get maximum on both. You may have already tried this but do a RESET, CALIBRATE, and TRAIN DRIVES. Let me know.
Subject:	Autostar home
Sent:	Thursday, October 10, 2002 20:26:57
From:	WB6MCW@aol.com
Is there a way to change the home/park position in the Autostar? I have
an LX90.

With the focuser and CCD camera installed I can't home to
Polaris/Celestial pole beacause the fork is in the way.

I would like to home/park to about Az 180, Alt +14.

I have a permanent pier that is polar aligned and I sync with a bright
star(s).

I really enjoy your web site and have followed many of your tips.

Thank you.
Carlos Lemmi
Mike here: I don't think those positions can be changed.

And:

From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
> Is there a way to change the home/park position in the Autostar? I have a
> LX90.

Short answer: i don't know.

Long answer: I'll dig through the code and see if the Polar Home
of the LX200gps (RA to due south, Dec to zero) can be patched
into the LX90.

Work-around: Create a -landmark- at your desired PARK position.
GoTo it. (this turns off the sidereal drive) 
Release the RA and DEC clamps.  
Tell the Autostar to PARK while holding the barrel so it cannot move.
When it beeps, turn it off.
The next time, power up, answer time/date/daylight.
Tell it to GoTo an easy target 
(the RA and DEC clamps are still loose).
After it beeps, manually move the telescope to center the target.  
Clamp the clamps.

I think the above will perform as you wish.
(but i'll still look to see if it's patchable)

have fun
--dick
And:
Second thoughts: you don't -really- need to PARK.
Simply power down anywhere.
Next time you power up,
 use the [mode] key to avoid/escape the Align operation.
Unclamp the RA and DEC.
(at this point, the scope -thinks- it is at Polar Home)
GoTo a bright star.  Wait for the beep.
Manually push the barrel to center that star.
Clamp the clamps.

Try a few GoTo's and see if it needs SYNCing.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	Using the Autostar as an Object library for any scope..
Sent:	Wednesday, October 9, 2002 10:13:43
From:	RLaieski@DCMDE.DCMA.MIL (Laieski, Ronald)
The 494 Autostar handbox can be used as an object library for any scope.
Al you need to do is cut the end connector off the power cable, strip of
all the wires ( 8 in all?). The red and grey wires go to the 9 volt
battery. The remaining g wires are shorted in groups which fools the
Autostar into thinking that the drive motors are there.

Once the proper wires are shorted together, the user can scroll down to
the object library and use that function sort of as a pocket star atlas.
The wires shorted are color coded as I think Orange Yellow and Black are
shorted. The reamining wires are also shorted but as a seperate group.
It takes an hour to set it up.  Shirtung the wrong wires the frist time
will not usually burn out the unit.
And from our Autostar expert:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
You shouldn't need (or want!) to "short" -any- of the HBX lines.
The 494 and 495/497 Autostars work perfectly happily by just
supplying power and ground, and leaving the other lines unconnected.

Mike's site  has MANY "power boxes" consisting of just a powered
 RJ45 socket.
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_power-box.html
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_power-box2.html
and
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_power.html
(which lists the pinouts on the connectors)

In the 494, the three data lines are already "shorted together"
inside the 494!   The clock lines are separate.
Shorting multiple clock lines to any of the data pins 
would overcome any benefit of "splitting the pairs", since
the data lines are all the same (check, unpowered, with an ohmmeter
if you don't believe me)
Tieing all of the data lines together really doesn't gain anything
either, since they're only talking out one at a time.

> The 494 Autostar handbox can be used as an object library for any scope.
> All you need to do is cut the end connector off the power cable,

??? rendering the 494 Autostar USELESS for telescope operation...

> strip of all the wires ( 8 in all?). 
> The red and grey wires go to the 9 volt battery.
> The remaining 6 wires are shorted in groups which fools the Autostar into
> thinking that the drive motors are there.


> Once the proper wires are shorted together, the user can scroll down to
> the object library and use that function sort of as a pocket star atlas.
> The wires shorted are color coded as I think Orange Yellow and Black are
> shorted.

That ties the data lines to the Azimuth clock.

> The reamining wires are also shorted but as a seperate group.

That shorts the data lines to the Alt -and- Aux clock.

So all data lines (a common wire) are tied to all clocks.

Inside the 494, black, green and orange are all tied together.
(again, you can test this with an ohmmeter... i'm looking at the
circuit board traces on my opened 494 (the source of the photo
at: http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_schematic.html )
So his proposed connections short all 6 data/clock lines together.

> It takes an hour to set it up.  Shirtung the wrong wires the
> frist time will not usually burn out the unit.

I like that: not USUALLY burn out the unit.

Bad... bad idea... 

(but i wonder what feeding the clocks back to the data does do?)

have fun
--dick
And:
thinking about it a bit more, since the I2C bus uses a bidirectional
data line, if the Autostar is trying to talk to the motors, shorting
the clock and data lines together means that some clock cycles
(trying to go high) will be fighting any data bits trying to go Low.
Since TTL (which I2C busses are) is current-sinking logic,
you'll have final stages on the driver chips fighting each other.
If the data lines were unidirectional (separate in and out wires),
it'd be less of a problem... the clock pulses would simply be seen as
data.  But TTL output gates fighting each other is not a good idea at all.

have fun
--dick
And:
> I have 2 of these modified Autostars working for 6 months with 2 scopes.

I certainly can't argue with success, i can only caution folks that
it's a bit dicey ... and you -did- say:  "will not usually burn out the unit." 
Does that mean that one did burn out?

> The only thing the user has to remember is that the motor slewing
> option would hang up if they pressed the go to button.

This is also true if the Autostar has no wires connected.

> Rich, the only reason I tied the wires together was to bypass the motor
> error default. If the wires are unconnected the Autostar will not see any
> motors and subsequently give out a motor error display.

OK... that's an item that may be firmware version related.

> The wires tied together simulates continuity to simulate
> a motor condition. 

As i noted in my early messages, you're feeding the clocking 
signals back into the data receivers (and transmitters).
The data drivers are bidirectional, so they don't mind...
it's the clock drivers which may have more trouble.

I do wonder what the Autostar thinks it's attached to.
(various models return specific identifiers: LX90s return an "11",
for example).

have fun
--dick
And:
From:	"Laieski, Ronald" (RLaieski@DCMDE.DCMA.MIL)
Dick,

Thanx for getting back. The burn out never happened. Only thing that
concerns me is that if someone applied 9 volts to any of the other
wires, it may effect the components on the board. I never had a burn out
condition. I just put that in as a possible concern.

AS far as the unit is concerned , the usual warning of the sun scrolls
on the screen during power up along with a beep. Scrolling down and
input of Messier objects also works. I am not suree if this modification
will work with other Autostars, I just used the modification on the 494.

As far as the Autostar, the unit is not attached to the scopes at all. I
do not know about the LX-90's or other scopes. I just take the Autostar
with me and I housed the cable end with the jumpers and battery in a
small metal box that use a slide power switch. THen if I need to use
with another scope I just velcro the box to the eyepiece tray and turn
it on. THe batteries last much longer too given the fact that there is
no slewing taking place. It's a nice handy tool. I like it cause I do
not need to use a star map though I should. l Ron

Subject:	re: autostar 495 crash
Sent:	Monday, October 7, 2002 19:51:30
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
To:	Iniparam2k@aol.com
From the symptoms it's hard to make firm guesses...

my first question would be: how fresh were the batteries?
I'm not familiar with "STARFINDER II ver2.1" as a program...
my etx90 came with StarryNight (the bundle edition)

When the PC is talking to the Autostar, any disruption in 
communications could lead to it telling the Autostar to do nasty things,
including "erase -part- of the firmware".. and weak batteries can
lead to that kind of miscommunication.

Mike's suggestion of the Safe Load procedure is a good one, but
be SURE to start with either an AC adpater or *new* batteries.
It's also a good idea to do -nothing else- with the PC during
the download procedure.

good luck
--dick
And:
From:	Iniparam2k@aol.com
Hello Mike and Dick, thanks for the troubleshoot guys. The batteries are
brand new, bought and opened them the same day this mess happened. I'm
thinking that it could have been the 505 cable I was using. I don't
think it was an authentic MEADE product. I got it off Ebay, and by
reading some of the posts from the ETX site, I may have gotten hold of a
bad homemade version of the 505. It does look a little cheap. I called
MEADE and they want to charge me $75 to fix my Autostar, I don't think
so.. when I can get a new one for around the same price. I'm also
considering giving up on having PC control over my scopes since any
communication problem can erase the Autostar. I can't afford to keep
getting them repaired or replaced. I've always wanted to get into home
astronomy, but this is making me doubt that it is worth my time and
money. I have 2 scopes now ds-60 EC and ds-114 EC, and once I figure out
how to really use them, I'm planning on getting an 8 or 10" scope with
CCD imagers, GPS, etc. Then maybe I'll have one like Mike is posing with
on his site (that would be SWEET)! I'd really hate to find myself in the
same position concerning equipment costing 1000s of dollars though. I
would like to stick with MEADE, but I haven't read anything saying that
MEADE is even attempting to correct these problems in their products.
Can you give me some advice? Should I quit? Or is this a problem with
MEADE's low-end products?
-Arthur
Mike here: If the problem was caused by a faulty third-party cable, how can you fault Meade? Sure they could build Autostars with all kinds of built-in protection but if positive voltage goes into where negative is supposed to be, well, even you car is not happy about that! Certainly computer control is fun but personally I don't think it is absolutely necessary (but then my most used telescope right now is the ETX-90RA). So, my recommendation is to learn what you have and upgrade when you are comfortable.

And:

From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
Iniparam2k@aol.com wrote:
> 
> I'm thinking that it could have been the 505 cable I was using.

Or a loose socket in a number of places: PC, Autostar cable (both ends),
busy PC interrupting communication at the wrong moment, etc.etc.

> I don't think it was an authentic MEADE product.

Meade 505 kits have the DB-9 to RJ11 adapter, and -two- cables.
One with a wide and a narrow end for the PC to Autostar,
and another with both ends narrow for autostar-to-autostar cloning.
The "third party" cable kits rarely include that second cable.

> I got it off Ebay, and by reading some of
> the posts from the ETX site, I may have gotten hold of a bad homemade
> version of the 505. It does look a little cheap.

> I called MEADE and they want to charge me $75 to fix my Autostar,

>From all reports i've had about Meade's service, they probably would've
done it for free if it was a real Meade cable in the middle. Donno.

> I don't think so.. when I can get a new one for around the same price.

I would -also- guess (unless Safe Mode isn't working for you... and
you can try it -without- hooking up to the PC) that you can completely
restore the Autostar to working mode by a safe-mode download.
But i'd quality-check (or replace) that cable first...
The Autostar (and its programming) is really fairly robust.

> I'm also considering giving up on having PC control over my scopes
> since any communication problem can erase the Autostar. 

Things happen... Meade's v2.3 Updater converted a number of LX90 autostars
to (functionally) toast due to a programming error.  Meade mailed out
LOTS of replacements (but, truth be told, the "toast" Autostars were 
perfectly functional and merely needed to be reloaded... v2.4 of the
Updater was able to repair them).

I have downloaded/uploaded/updated/downdated/sideswiped my Autostars 
dozens and dozens of times.... (including testing folks' scope-controlling
programs) and never had the results you did...i honestly believe it was
a one-shot fluke.  -Once- i had a download "go bad"... (operation would fail
if i tried to add an asteroid) but the Safe Load recovered it completely.

I would have been lying to have told you that erasure -couldn't- happen,
but it's rather difficult... it requires six characters in a precise order
to trigger it... and even then, it's only a partial erasure, and the 
Updater can correct it.  It takes a LOT more effort to get the Autostar
to erase its safe load programming.

> I can't afford to keep getting them repaired or replaced.

..nor to buy El Cheapo cables (i build my own)

> I've always wanted to get into home astronomy, but this is making me
> doubt that it is worth my time and money.

Success at Astronomy -does- entail investing a LOT of time. And maybe money.
If nothing else, staying out at night with the scope, watching the
stars go by... and for many people that IS more than they're willing
to expend... different strokes for different folks.
Money can be somewhat traded for time (the original Dobsonians rang
in well below $100, but they took about 20 to 40 hours to make)

> I have 2 scopes now ds-60 EC and ds-114 EC, and once I figure out
> how to really use them, I'm planning on getting an 8 or 10" scope
> with CCD imagers, GPS, etc. 

If you'd like to truly be frightened away from Meade products, read
the LXD55 Yahoo group:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LX55telescopes/
(but note there are some folks who have little to no trouble with theirs).

> Then maybe I'll have one like Mike is posing with on his site
> (that would be SWEET)!

Stare closely...it's an ETX90ra (no autostar capability) magnified
(oh, that Hollywood magic!) more than a bit.

> I'd really hate to find myself in the same position concerning 
> equipment costing 1000s of dollars though. I would like to stick
> with MEADE, but I haven't read anything saying that MEADE is even
> attempting to correct these problems in their products.

Which problems?  Meade has been continually updating and improving
the firmware in the Autostar, and has re-engineered the entire fork
assembly of the ETX125 (changing from plastic to metal, and from 
sleeve bearings to ball bearings).  
The LX200gps is receiving a number of invisible changes (so reports
Clay Sherrod, who digs into them).  
The LX90 may already be perfect. (well, the way the focus mechanism 
attaches to the mirro could be improved)
The DS line has had their motor boxes tinkered with by Meade, 
increasing and changing electronic components over the years.

> Can you give me some advice? Should I quit? 
> Or is this a problem with MEADE's low-end products?

Visit Steve Bedair's site for what the "low end" DS drives can achieve.

The Autostar 495 is the exact same chunk of hardware you'd get with 
an LX90 or LXD55... only the choice of hookup cable may have done you in.

Don't be too discouraged or entangled by the GoTo... the telescopes
 still collect lots of light and can present it to your eyeball... 
you can point them at the middle of Cygnus (almost directly overhead
in the early evening) and spend days just poking around in the 
starfields and deep sky objects up there... read through the 
columns in Sky & Telescope ("small telescope" and "deep sky") for
objects to seek and find (they're written as star-hops... start at
-this- bright star, now go that way so far, turn left, a little more...)
Telescopic astronomy has been around for 400 years... but consumer
GoTo for only 10.
I -do- play with my scopes as computer-toys quite a bit (i'm in Seattle...
it's cloudy and rainy most of the winter... which started last week)...

Be warned that CCD astronomy can be -very- frustrating... it takes
a great deal of setup and tweak to get the scopes to track objects
long enough and accurately enough to gain good images.  It's -not-
something i do... i'm a fan of eyeball-to-eyepiece instead of image
to screen... i realize there are thousands of things i won't see that
way, and i admire and applaud folks who -do- go to the imaging effort...
in part because i realize the effort it -does- require.

Amateur Astronomy has lots of facets ranging from simple lie out on
the grass looking up, through full-blown $20,000 imaging systems to
radio telescopes... each level yields its own set of rewards... the
"on the grass" folks will see auroras and meteors that the imagers
might never notice (they're inside where it's warm, watching galaxies
form on their screens, faint photon by faint photon).  Everybody wins.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	autostar 495 crash
Sent:	Sunday, October 6, 2002 11:03:14
From:	Iniparam2k@aol.com
Hello, I've just tried to use the PC control function with my DS-114 EC
and 495 Autostar, and it worked perfectly for about 10 min before the
Autostar went completely blank. The computer showed that 'communications
have been terminated.' Now it won't work at all. My Autostar will not
light up or show anything on the screen, and it makes a little ticking
sound now. None of the buttons function at all, but the scope will start
to slew on it's own every other minute or two. The computer says that it
cannot establish communications. Can you tell me what is wrong? Is my
Autostar dead? I used the software that came with the scope 'STARFINDER
II ver2.1,' and it is connected to the computer via 505 cable. What can
I do?
Mike here: What happens when you disconnect the computer from the Autostar? When you turn on the DS does the Autostar come on as well? Does it properly initialize? Can you slew normally with it? If it doesn't work with just the telescope then I suspect the Autostar has been damaged somehow. You could try a SAFE LOAD procedure; grab the current software from Meade's site and download it.
Subject:	Sun warning/Getting Started display
Sent:	Saturday, October 5, 2002 13:15:38
From:	dave@brookfield.softnet.co.uk (Dave Brock)
Your excellent book "Using The Mead ETX" makes the following references
on page 192, in the Autostar Initialization Checklist:

Item 2: Unless you have disabled it, the Sun warning appears;

Item 3:  The Getting Started introduction (unless disabled)

I can find no information either in your book OR in the Autostar
handbook on disabling these notifications, and I really would like to!

Could you please elaborate?  Is it posible?  If so, how?

Many thanks,

Dave Brock
Brookfield
Torrington
Devon
EX38 8JE
UK
Mike here: A search of the Site for "sun warning" would reveal the answer, however, the capability to turn off the Sun warning and startup are accessible under the "Utilities" menu under "Display Options".

Subject:	RA jumpiness
Sent:	Wednesday, October 2, 2002 10:36:28
From:	John.Matusiak@mpi.com (Matusiak, John)
I'm experiencing jumpiness in RA with my ETX-125.  In polar mode, Dec
works nice and smoothly but RA is jumpy.

I'm at Autostar 26e. Do you know of a problem with this firmware
version?

Now, the RA had worked fine before, but I can't say for sure if the
problem started when I upgraded to 26e, as I didn't pay close attention.

I also have not done what you suggest in the telescope tips mechanical
section.  If I do that, do you think that will clear up the problem?

Regards,
John Matusiak
Mike here: Do you mean slewing is jumpy or tracking is jumpy? I haven't heard any problems like this with any recent version. Did you reTRAIN following the update? Alternatively, could you be slightly overtightening the RA lock? Or has the telescope not been used for sometime? If the last, then you might just need to redistribute the grease by rotating the telescope around the polar axis, back and forth, hard stop to hard stop, several times. As to the tuneups, they do work but whether they are applicable here remains to be determined.

And:

Thanks for your quick response.   The jumpiness is in both slewing and
tracking.  I did retrain the drive after the firmware update.  However,
I did not inititally do it in the manner you prescribe.   I did that
after the fact.  Is it too late at that point?   Should I try reloading
the same firmware and retrain, etc in your presribed manner?

Hmmm...maybe I am overtightening the clamp.  How tight is tight enough??
Mike here: Following any Autostar update, you need to at least reTRAIN the drives. Sometimes it may be necessary to RESET, CALIBRATE, and TRAIN. Unless some error occurred during the download from Meade's site or during the download to the Autostar, normally it is not necessary to reload the ROM. Can't hurt though if you continue to have problems. As to locking either axis, it should be just tight enough so that you can not easily move the telescope by pushing on the fork or tube. Also, slewing should occur with no slippage nor stoppage.

Subject:	NGC menu
Sent:	Tuesday, October 1, 2002 23:08:44
From:	rizzoli@dsi.unive.it (Francesco Rizzoli)
last night after enter on the deep sp- ngc-1342-enter- go to , my ETX
dont sleeve to the ngc1342 ( Perseus); the same thing for other NGC
number . I was surprised because otherways the autostar was perfect,
with Messier ecc.The  two stars for the alig. where  Hamal an Mirfach .
What I ca do?. Thank'you and saluti,

Francesco Rizzoli, Venice-Italy
Mike here: Which Autostar and ROM version you do you have? You may need to update the ROM from Meade's web site.

And:

My Autostar is 497 an when I start the dispay show :c(01) 22I.If the NGC
object is also a Caldwell or Messier object then Autostar  go to
perfectly.
And:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Richard Seymour)
Hello Francesco,

I believe that Meade fixed that NGC bug in a later version.
I am trying to find which version should be correct.
(the current one (26) is good)
The complete version identification is under
   Setup > Statistics > (scroll up)

The "I" of 22I means "Italian".
The E (English) 22 had many versions:
22eD, 22eF, 22eG, 22eH, 22eR, 22eT

Then came 23eA, 23eB  (23eB had a complete replacement of the SAO stars),
24eA, 25eA, 26eA, 26eB and the current version: 26eC

I do not know the Italian version sequence.
I do not know where you can download newer Italian versions.
(i have located the German update site, but no other non-English sites)
I shall continue to investigate....

Ciao
--dick

Subject:	Shutting down Autostar
Sent:	Tuesday, October 1, 2002 17:57:39
From:	DENISEPETRUS@aol.com
A simple question. After using the 125 and autostar with very good
results, I shutoff the Autostar for several minutes. Is it normal for
the slewing to be off by a lot when restarting the Autostar. Do I have
to realign the scope each time I turn the Autostar back on? I left the
scope in the same position prior to restarting.
Mike here: If you shut off the ETX and Autostar then you have to go through the alignment steps again. If you Park or Sleep the Autostar then you won't.

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