Last updated: 23 September 2004
Subject: More AutoStar Suite info Sent: Sunday, September 19, 2004 19:51:00 From: Jay Lewis (email@example.com) I mentioned that I turned on the Task Manager. As you know it puts a "% CPU" "graph" in the lower right window. If I only invoke "scroll up" when the CPU usage is very low, I can get through many more stars than just pressing "scroll up" quickly. The best speed seems to be one every two seconds. So, it seems that as ASS is running CPU usage is growing and shrinking and if I press "scroll up" when usage is high it goes to 100% and hangs the system for about 20 to 25 seconds -- then it calms down. I have no idea what this means -- just reporting what I see. BTW, what happens when either of you use the remote HBX and try to move the cursor to change the date by using the East or West keys?? Final dumb question: What can't someone write a AutoStar emulation program that would make it possible to connect the computer directly to the 'scope without AutoStar? Best, Jay Lewis Coral Gables, FloridaAnd:
From: Richard Seymour (firstname.lastname@example.org) "ASS is running" covers a lot of possible activities... are you having the map follow the telescope? I haven't tried it (recently), but i remember from my testing that the Remote Handbox is -not- a click-for-click duplicate of the Autostar itself.. which can be a Good Thing. Examples of differences include: Scrolling messages just plain -appear-. No scrolling. (well, that's semi-good... if the message is -too- long, you lose the beginning). Instant access to -anywhere- in the menu tree (via the left window). ..that alone has me forgiving a -lot- of minor sins. Ease of entering negative numbers.. you -don't- have to "slew left" to reach the sign.. just type it in. I have answered that question many, many, times over the years. The Autostar speaks to the telescope base via three bidirectional, addressed-packet (modified) I2C bus systems. The hardware is easy to "duplicate" with CMOS chips on your PC's parallel port. But Meade does not document the protocol, and reverse-engineering by many I2C bus hobbiests has so far failed to yield a result beyond being able to say "Stop!" to the motors. (not "Go", not "what's the encoder saying?", only "Stop!" which is a one-byte command) Or, you could buy an LX200gps... that family has the Autostar buried in the telescope base itself... the handbox is merely a dumb peripheral. have fun --dickAnd:
>And thanks for putting my mind to rest about direct control. But I'll bet >that if Mead did offer a program for direct control there would be a market. >Just consider the installed base of laptops today versus when Meade >introduced the AutoStar. Au contraire... Meade uses the Autostar to create a process-independent system... if the PC -directly- controlled the telescope, it would have to be -much- more responsive to subtle timing effects, and as you're seeing, that can suddenly leap out of Meade's control. The Autostar accepts "LX200 serial" commands... so you can use programs written years ago to control a brand new scope. By the same token, Meade -has- published the serial protocol, and the crowds of third party scope-controlling programs can and do write new programs which therefore work with the oldest LX200 through the newest LXD75. Your "no autostar" proposal is similar to installing a Mel Bartels scope controller program into your POC... which may require limiting yourself to some older version of Windows (or DOS) to ensure its proper operation. Windows 2000 and XP both work to -totally- isolate the user programs from reaching the physical hardware (if you can't touch it, you can't break it)... so your telescope program is suddenly faced with having to beg to send and receive warped messages (your proposal would -also- require a hardware peripheral, since the standard parallel port does not operate in the way required for no-Autostar operation). Of course, maybe the hardware would be a USB device, leaving out the masses of pre-USB PCs (and a few laptops). USB (and parallel) have severely limited cable-length restrictions... the current rs232 serial control "system" can be run hundreds of feet by merely using thicker wire. But let's say Meade -did- make a "blind autostar" as an interconnecting peripheral device... When all is said and done, you'd probably find that it costs nearly as much as a "real" Autostar, and would be priced surprisingly high, due to the relatively limited market (Autostars sell in the hundreds of thousands... the "AutoLink" would most likely have a smaller-than-10,000 market. Especially when you figure that -only- Meade programs could talk to it (for a few years), and the programs which -could- talk to it would -not- be "lightweight". Whereas all you (as a PC) have to tell the Autostar is either: Set RA=xx:xx:xx Set Dec=yy:yy:yy Go! or Select Catalog SAO. Select object 308. Go! I think (and wish) that the Autostar has a long and happy future... have fun --dickAnd more:
Further to my recent posts about Autostar/Remote Handbox "hang-ups" -- I searched through the archives and found the commentary below in the following post. Subject: Mike: ScopeDriver 2.0.2 Released Sent: Tuesday, November 4, 2003 12:43:03 From: Support@ADPartnership.net (Technical Support) (Steven R. Hutson) ScopeDriver offers a great deal of telescope control, so it is sending lots of commands to -- and getting replies from -- the instrument every minute. Some Meade telescopes with certain firmware revisions could sometimes stop responding to serial control when commands were sent too rapidly or in a certain sequence at certain times. The problem was intermittent on some instruments, permanent on others, and the issue would only appear in a small percentage of a few Autostar models. Interestingly, the above issues *do not* appear in most other, seemingly identical, models, even with identical firmware revisions. I postulate that they may be related to electrical component values, environmental factors, design issues, or some other factor that can change over the course of a production run. Fortunately, thanks in great measure to your help and that of tester Howard Visser of Edmonton, the complex series of steps leading to these communications issues has been unraveled, and a workaround has been developed. Testing indicates that these connection issues have been resolved in ScopeDriver 2.0.2. So... a) someone else recognized the bug b) it seems Autostar is the culprit, but not all 497's have the problem and c) someone figured out what was going wrong and developed a fix Interesting. Jay LewisMike here: May or may not be related. Don't know.
From: Richard Seymour (email@example.com) It is correct that sending more than a couple of LX200 serial commands per second to the Autostar is asking for problems. The programs which have explored that realm quite deeply are the various Satellite-Chaser programs (such as SatelliteTracker). They have to drop back to about a once-per-3-second coordinate-pair update rate to avoid confusing the serial port channel. But AutostarSuite "knows" these limitations, and doesn't push them. (we hope, Meade frequently suprises me...) have fun --dick
Subject: AutoStar Suite Problems (networking) Sent: Sunday, September 19, 2004 12:16:04 From: Jay Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org) Believe it or not, there hasn't been a clear night in Miami since July! So I decided to do some dry runs to improve proficiency with Autostar Suite. I have searched the site (also called "The fount of all wisdom"), but can't/didn't find any answers to the issues described below. Same old problems surfaced: 1. When the remote HBX initializes (not smoothly at all -- sort of fits and starts), if the Starmap is on the screen it goes blank (white) and hangs. It eventually comes back after initialization finishes. 2. The EAST and WEST buttons on the remote HBX screen will slew the scope, but will NOT move the cursor in the date or time fields (have to use the keyboard) 3. After setting the scope to talk to ASS via network and initializing the remote HBX (per Dick's 07/29/04 posting) if I go to Objects>Star>Named and use the scroll up or scroll down buttons to get to the star I want to see after pressing scroll up (for example) four times -- a) the screen on the HBX starts to scroll thru all of the named stars b) the remote handbox screen just displays the last star name before the scrolling started c) the starmap is hung (I know this because I can see that it is not updating the local time) or goes white This happens with any of the lists on the Autostar database. The "fix" is to click scroll up once or twice to stop the scrolling. After a about 15 seconds, the starmap comes back into view with the correct time (!) and after another few seconds the remote HBX screen reports the star shown on the HBX. Other issues: 1. I only get one chance to use Protocol>remote handbox. If I disconnect, I cannot get to AutoStarCtrl via ASS (AutoStar Suite), I must launch directly from explorer 2. I have to reboot to get to AutoStarCtrl directly from ASS. Just for the record.... If I launch AutoStarCtrl and use the com port (instead of networking), there are no problems (except the EAST/WEST thing). Specs: HP Pavilion ze5220us, Athlon XP-M processor 3000+, 512 Mb memory, 60 Gb drive, Autostar updated to 32Ei, ASS updated to 3.61a. Any other specs needed or helpful -- just ask Any suggestions??? Jay Lewis Executive Director Passenger & Shipping Institute Coral Gables, Florida USAMike here: It almost sounds like a communication problem, either in hardware or in software. I didn't see which Windows version you have (any chance it is XP2????). But I'll leave the troubleshooting to Dick, who is way more familiar with Windows than I am (since I avoid using Windows as much as possible).
Thanks for the quick response... It's Windows XP (Home) with SP2. I started up the Windows Task Manager to see what was happening as the programs were working. Interestingly enough, AutoStarCtrl -stays- in the Task Manager even after I exit it. That's why I couldn't get ASS to relaunch AutoStarCtrl after an exit. The only way (other than a reboot) is to go to Task Manager, highlight AutoStarCtrl, and "End Task". Then, re-launching ASS will permit launching AutoStarCtrl from the Protocols menu. If it were a hardware problem, then wouldn't you think that the problem would occur when the Autostar is hooked up via the com port (no networking)? As it is, that doesn't happen -- AutoStarCtrl works fine as a standalone connected via the serial (com) port protocol. I think it's a networking issue too. Since this is a new computer and the only legacy hardware is the USB to Serial connector that -may- be an issue. But, then why would it work OK just as a com port??? Tiz a puzzlement! Jay LewisMike here: I wonder if XP2 could be the problem. There are so many apps that don't like XP2.
This also happened before I updated to SP2. Best, Jay And:
From: Richard Seymour (email@example.com) After having read Jay's two notes and Mike's comment, my own suggestion is: send it in to Meade as a bug report(s). (including your Task Manager analysis) I'd split the scroll issue off to a separate note (since it might be different programmers). I think you might be hitting (confusing) whatever mechanism they use to distinguish/signal "held down" versus "tapped". But the process-stays-live-but-hidden definitely sounds like a pending i/o not being properly cancelled, hence the process has to remain "active". This is a program-to-program signalling error/issue, not a hardware problem. In your email to Meade, put "Autostar Suite remote handbox error" in the subject, and watch the typos (ASS is v3.16a, not 3.61a) The address is firstname.lastname@example.org AS -workarounds-, i'd try things like disconnecting the network channel in RemHandbox itself before trying to dismiss it. And/or -not- dismissing it, but just minimize it. Also, you say "reboot". Do you truly mean "reboot windows" or just "restart ASS"? Clarity, even if it requires redundancy, in bug reports -really- helps. have fun --dickAnd:
... or OS X... Jay's issue was with a program (not) exiting gracefully -after- successfully working. 95% of the "XP SP2" issues are due to the firewall being more safety-minded than before. Even with Win98se, i notice that AutostarSuite is not too good about cleaning up after itself until AutostarSuite is totally killed. have fun --dickMike here: True. But it is a less a hassle than with M$...
Subject: 505 cable connection leads Sent: Saturday, September 11, 2004 15:29:00 From: WILLIAM CAMPBELL (email@example.com) just purchased meade lpi and autosuite,unfortunately my laptop does not have a serial port-only usb ports,is there any form of adapter that will convert?many thanks,bill...Mike here: Meade has a serial-USB converter for Windows only. Belkin and Keyspan make them for both Macs and PCs. For more on a Keyspan model see the article "Update Autostar using a Mac" on the Helpful Information: Autostar Info page.
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