AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 30 January 2008

Welcome to the AutoStar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar #494, #495, #497, 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:	asu and hanbox 494 + cable kit #506
Sent:	Saturday, January 26, 2008 09:47:34
From:	AndiP (andipr@t-online.de)
yesterday i got my new etx-70, meade changed the old one, duue to bad
image while startesting.
the new one is almost perfect.

i also got the cable kit 506 and i get connection with some astro
programms an i can stear my etx with this programms.

wonderin only, that the autostar software can not find the comport, even
when i set it up on my own.

whts that :) ... all programms are able to find the etx and are able to
control it, but the autostar-update dont finds the telescope :)

trying 2 hours now without any success, hope you have an idea.

greetings from germany
andi
Mike here: Does your computer have a real RS-232 serial port? If not, you might want to read the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page as not all USB-serial adapters work reliably with the AutoStar. You might also want to try StarGPS from www.stargps.ca; it can sometimes work better at seeing the AutoStar via a com port. However, keep in mind that there is no user-installable update for the AutoStar #494.

And:

no i use a serial/usb adapter, because my notebook dont has serial
ports.

with this adapter, mny lx200 works well, my nexstar gt works well and
also the etx works well with all programs, except the autostar update
program.

the hint with the stargps i dont understand what you mean.

i bought a stargps-nx for my lx-200, but what can i do with it at my
etx-70 ? insode the stargps-nx box ist the gps mouse an a adaptor fr the
lx-200 port .. thats all.

greetings
andi
Mike here: As I said, not all adapters work well with the AutoStar. This can be most evident with the AutoStar Update application, which is why I suggested trying out the StarGPS application. I use a Keyspan adapter with my Macs and it works well with the AutoStar. Don't know about the StarGPS-NX; I have the StarGPS-LX model that works with the #495 and #497 AutoStars but not the #494 AutoStar.
Subject:	Autostar 497 freeze
Sent:	Sunday, January 20, 2008 15:40:03
From:	Niall J. Saunders (niall@njs101.com)
Depending on the age of your AutoStar (i.e., how much use it has seen)
your problem sounds as if it may well be due to the keypad 'clogging up'
with accumulated moisture and dirt.

If you hunt around in Mike's site you will find previously posted hints
and tips about how to strip and clean the keyboard. It is not a tricky
or complicated process. Just be methodical, sensible, and careful. Take
plenty notes as you dismantle things, photos even, and never 'force'
anything.

Once you get down to the little 'black pads' on the back of the keypad
membrane, and the little gold pcb tracks that the pads land on - just
clean everything with a cotton-bud swab soaked in alcohol (if you can't
get a hold of Isopropyl Alcohol - IPA - or Methylated Spirits, then neat
Vodka is a pretty good alternative !!).

Make sure you let everything dry out for ten minutes or so, before
carefully reassembly.

Hope this helps (you might want to do the software upgrade anyway, but
it will be easier to achieve if you are not suffering from 'sticky
keys')

Regards,
Niall Saunders
Clinterty Observatories
Aberdeen, SCOTLAND
Mike here: The AutoStar keypad cleaning article is on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page.

And:

From:	Anthony Lunn (tbaum) (tbaum@verizon.net)
Thank you both very much for your most helpful information.
These keypads are "old" technology. I had an old Sony TV remote (from a
1980's TV) that had the same kind of rubber keypad with exactly the same
failure mode. On that I had myself used isopropanol to clean the
contacts. It worked well at first but eventually the black on the rubber
side failed too. I was able to buy a replacement rubber pad (as opposed
to the whole remote) from Sony.

I have now done the isopropanol thing on my Autostar at your suggestion.
It does help somewhat, but a firm push on the keys is still required,
which I suspect will lead to further damage to the rubber contacts. So
my next step will be to try to get "graphite contact spray" as is
suggested on your website, Mike, by Peter Wallner. Perhaps that will be
even better.

I was able to fix the "freeze" of my Autostar (it stuck on the date
entry every time I turned it on) by trial and error.  I pressed various
keys immediately I turned on the Autostar, before "initialization". That
freed it up, strangely enough.

Thanks so much--your generous help is much appreciated! Especially as
Meade seems really poor at writing manuals and at customer service.
What's up with them?

As for an Autostar upgrade, I think I'll wait on that. I don't seem to
have any problem with my current version, and don't need the latest
satellite information or whatever. (am I missing something?)

Best wishes,

Anthony Lunn
Mike here: The only thing you are missing would be bug fixes and ephemerides updates.

And:

I have to agree with you re the contact style used on the AutoStar - but,
remember, it does help keep the overall cost down.

You may well not see any benefit from a firmware upgrade of your
AutoStar - as always, "if it aint broke . . ."

However, it might be worthwhile keeping your eyes on the second-hand
market for a 'spare' AutoStar. I managed to acquire FOUR (yep !!) on a
single visit to eBay, and sold ONE to cover the cost I paid for the
other three !! I used one to repair the blown AutoStar I had on my LX90,
and still have 'spares', just in case. (I may well sell another one as I
now no longer have my trusty old ETX-105, so I really only need two
'spares' one each for the LX90 and LXD55 - although I did buy a 'base
and forks only' ETX70, which did not come with the full AutoStar - and
is a project in waiting, to finally become a Bino mount).

Anyhow, you are on the right track - so, glad to have been of help.

Cheers,
Niall Saunders

And:

Once again, thank you both.

Happy observing! Here in New Jersey we have had a couple of clear nights
recently, but at this time of year that correlates with very cold
temperatures. I'll go out when it's a bit warmer. They say the Autostar
doesn't like the cold either

Anthony Lunn

And:

Not true. The AutoStar may not 'like' the cold but, like us humans, it
will 'tolerate' the cold quite happily.

I have regularly used my scopes at temperatures at, or around -5C to
-10C (down towards -20F) and the only thing that seems to suffer (apart
from 'me', that is !!) was the ability to clearly read the display.

Just don't cover your scope up, or even 'seal' it if you are going to
bring it back indoors after that kind of viewing session. Best to let it
warm up gently, and to also allow it to 'breathe' out any condensed
moisture. (The same applies even in an observatory scope - I just park
the scope, and slide the roof closed, and put everything 'nicely to bed'
the following day, or evening).

Cheers,
Niall Saunders
Mike here: Also, keep in mind that battery life declines rapidly at low temperatures. Use an external power adapter, AC if possible, in really cold conditions.
Subject:	Autostar 497 freeze
Sent:	Thursday, January 17, 2008 11:37:19
From:	Anthony Lunn (tbaum) (tbaum@verizon.net)
My Autostar 497, with its original version 26 I.c (?--that's what it
looks like on the smudged label) was working very slowly even indoors (I
had to hold keys down for over 1 sec, and arrows often didn't work).
Then, when out observing at about 28 degrees F last night, having just
coaxed it into doing a successful alignment of my ETX 125AT, it froze.
When I turn it off and on again, the display reads "(c)02 Meade [26E]",
then "initialize", it freezes every time on the J of "22 Jan 2008".

Any ideas? How can I reset it when it is frozen?  Will I have to send it
to Meade?

I have a Mac computer, so don't know how or whether I can access the
Autostar updates, or whether they would help anyway.

Many thanks for your website.

Anthony Lunn
Princeton, NJ

And:

Before my Autostar froze, I had been able to navigate to its "battery"
display screen, which read "100%". I have now replaced the batteries to
see if that helped, but it doesn't fix the freeze I describe in my
recent e-mail.
Mike here: You can use AutoStarX (on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page) to update the AutoStar to the current version. Try it normally (just run the application with the AutoStar connected). If that doesn't work you will likely have to put the AutoStar into SAFE LOAD mode (hold down the ENTER and SCROLLDOWN keys and power-on the telescope). Then run the application. NOTE, if your Mac has only USB you will need a USB-serial adapter. Not all work reliably with the AutoStar (from Windows at least) so you might want to read the article "AutoStar and USB" on the AutoStar Info page. I use a Keyspan adapter on my Macs and it works fine.
Subject:	ETX-125EC with Autostar 494
Sent:	Sunday, January 13, 2008 18:55:14
From:	Jerry Hailey (jerry3672@lexcominc.net)
Will an Autostar 494 work with an ETX125-EC? I have a new ETX-80BB that
I am ready to upgrade to an ETX-125. I found one that does not have the
controller included.
 
Jerry
Mike here: As can be seen on Meade's AutoStar page (http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html), no.
Subject:	re: #497 safe load problems
Sent:	Saturday, January 12, 2008 19:23:01
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
You could also try the non-Meade StarPatch Updater.
It's much more robust about talking to Autostars than MEade's ASU.

Free from:
http://www.stargps.ca/starpatch.htm

good luck
--dick

And an update:

From:	ade.provis@tiscali.co.uk (ade.provis@tiscali.co.uk)
Thanks both of you for your excellent help. As it turns out my old PC's
motherboard had gone faulty. Was in the process of building a new one
anyway. The Autostar is now restored to Ver 43a. Phew!
Thanks again
                      Ade.

Subject:	#497 safe load problems
Sent:	Thursday, January 10, 2008 15:25:51
From:	ade.provis@tiscali.co.uk (ade.provis@tiscali.co.uk)
Had a power failure when downloading. The Autostar screen is dead. Put
into safe load and display shows Flash load version 3  ready. Updater
says that no autostar is connected. I've checked COM1 and the cable
using Hyperterminal as suggested on your website and they are both OK.
Any thoughts on how to proceed from here?

Thanks
            Ade P.
Mike here: Check for a COM port conflict (typically fax software). Also, are you using a real RS-232 serial port on your computer or a USB-serial adapter? If an adapter, be aware that not all work reliably with the AutoStar. See the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page for more information. I use a Keyspan model with my Mac OS X systems and it works fine with the AutoStar.
Subject:	ETX 70 AT Autostar 494 problem
Sent:	Friday, January 4, 2008 21:23:48
From:	Doug Pulver (dpulver2@tampabay.rr.com)
I'm having a problem when powering up the ETX 70 AT the display on the
494 handbox will power up, all buttons lightup and then the display and
buttons will go blank or off  the display reads,
 
(c) 01 Meade [11E]             Line 1
  A U T O S T A R              Line 2
 
Before it shuts off.  The power LED on the base of the ETX 70 AT remains
on.  I have tried new batteries and measured the voltage, it is 9.6
volts.

It was working fine, I tried to setup for auto.  I set the scope to
north and the elevation set to straight ahead level,  When I pushed the
button on the 494 the scope started to move.  It moved clockwise and
down.

Have you ever heard of this problem.  I think if I could get the display
to work I could figure out how to set it up properly.

Thank's, Doug
Mike here: The AutoStar has probably become corrupted and there is no user-installable update from Meade. But there are some things you can check: batteries inserted correctly, connector and jack pins clean, not bent sideways, nor too depressed, disconnect and reconnect the cable to ensure it is fully inserted.
Subject:	Autostar#497 Software
Sent:	Tuesday, January 1, 2008 16:06:59
From:	ade.provis@tiscali.co.uk (ade.provis@tiscali.co.uk)
This may be a silly question, but I have an Autostar #497 loaded with
version 26Ec can I update this to version 43Ea without performing any of
the previous upgrades?

Thanks 
Ade Provis 
Mike here: Yes. Following the update you should do a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES. Also, check to confirm that the telescope and mounting mode settings are correct.

And:

Thanks Mike, for your quick reply. I'll do the update this weekend. 
I'd lost faith in Autostar until I found your excellent website. 
May your skies be clear and dark for 2008!
Best Regards:
                       Ade

Subject:	[none]
Sent:	Tuesday, January 1, 2008 00:05:36
From:	buzz2255@aim.com (buzz2255@aim.com)
hi, i was wondering if you could help me with something. do you know how
to change the speed that the text scrolls across an autostar controller?
ive tried everything i can think of but the text moves so fast i cant
even read it. thanks!
Mike here: Just noticed that your email was "bounced" due to the BLANK subject line. Please read the Email Etiquette item on the ETX Site Home Page. Thanks for understanding. As to the scrolling speed, see the FAQ page for the "cure".
Subject:	re: Autostar alignment question
Sent:	Monday, December 31, 2007 22:12:27
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
To greatly condense the 50 pages, the setting which affects
rubberbanding is (are) the Percentage settings for both
Az and Alt axes.
Setup>Telescope>Alt/Dec Percent
Setup>Telescope>Az/RA Percent

Try setting them low (1 to 10) or high (40 to 50)
and see which seems to minimize the rubberbanding.
Then hone the rough setting to your taste.
(a low value will introduce a lag in response to
motor reversals, but i find a lag -far- less aggravating
than the walk-back.)

have fun
--dick
Mike here: Personally I have never needed to adjust the percentages on any of my AutoStar telescopes. TRAIN DRIVES has always resolved the rubberbanding.

And:

You may (or may not) remember that there was one firmware release
where Meade increased the "default" setting from 1% to 50%.
(it has now returned to 1%).

If you didn't adjust it during that release cycle, you must've
had interesting observing sessions!

Since Train Drives adjusts the basis from which the percentage is
taken, you were having some effect even then.
The "default" (factory, untrained) Train Drives value is about 2500.
Most scopes train to far smaller values, so simply Training would
indeed lower the run-back effect.

Usually the rubberbanding is triggered by trying to slew east,
and when you release the key the sidereal drive engages,
which reverses the motor, which activates the anti-backlash system.
The percentage setting tells the Autostar how much you would like
the motor to spin to overcome backlash, as a fraction of the measured
(by Training) backlash of the gear system.

What you would like to see in the eyepiece is the star coming to center,
and then remaining there when you release the slew key.

If the percentage is too low, you will see the star appear to -continue-
to move in the same direction as you were slewing, since the scope is
lagging in engaging the sidereal drive while the motor slowly takes up
the slack in the gears.  The earth is spinning eastward, and the telescope
just goes along for the ride, effectively continuing the eastward slew.
Once the gear slack is taken up, the sidereal drive counteracts the earth's
motion, and the image in the eyepiece stops moving.

If the percentage is too high, you will see the star -reverse- and
move quickly, apparently going back from where you just slewed.

You can also prevent that latter behavior by always finishing a slew
with a westward motion.  When you release the key, the gears will
already be "loaded" to drive the telescope westward, and the
sidereal drive will not need to overcome backlash on its own.

have fun
--dick
Mike here: There were some releases that I skipped (for various reasons). But I do always TRAIN DRIVES following every AutoStar update I install.
Yes, since the update can kick the Train Drive numbers back to
the 2500 value.   Choosing/setting a Telescope Model can force
a Training change (not all do, but many).

have fun
--dick

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