Last updated: 31 January 2009
Welcome to the AutoStar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar #494, #495, #497, AutoStar III (for ETX-LS) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for posting. Please use an appropriate Subject Line on your message per the Site Email Etiquette. Thanks. Remember, tips described on this site may invalidate the warranty on your telescope or accessories. Neither the submitter nor myself are responsible for any damage caused by using any contributed tips.
Subject: Autostar query for DS-2000 Reflecting Telescope Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2009 10:45:02 From: Jayne Topping (email@example.com) Like one of previous enquirers, my telescope was put aside after having a baby but that was in 2004 and I have only recently got it out again. The first query is - I don't remember it going through 9V batteries like it does now. After two attempts at alignments (which it said were successful) it seems to go wrong - continuing to say it is slewing but never finishing and not being able to slew upwards. The second query is - I don't think it is aligning properly. I just had a go at aligning as I wanted to see if it could find the moon. It aligned successfully (although I must admit I could not see the stars it had found but pressed enter all the same thinking that they must be in that rough direction). When I asked it to go to the moon it pointed at an area that was much lower and more eastwards. Have you any ideas? I would be grateful for any suggestions. Many thanks. JayneMike here: First, have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES? If not, do those. Second, if you did do those, try a RESET, CALIBRATE MOTOR, and then TRAIN DRIVES. It could be that something in the AutoStar's memory was corrupted. As to GOTO errors, that could result from something that the above would correct. Or it could result from bad inputs (date, time, Daylight Saving, location). Check those. Or it could result from a bad HOME position, especially if you did not actually center the stars.
Thanks for such a quick respone Mike - I will try those tonight and report back. Kind regards. Jayne
Subject: ETX-90 497 Firmware update failed Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 13:45:27 From: Jim Holland (firstname.lastname@example.org) I was attempted to do a firmware update of my 497 handbox. Things were preceding along normally and the upgrade was downloading. I was not sitting at my laptop but apparently there was a com port issue and the upgrade failed. At this point there appears to be nothing on the hand box and all attempts to communicate with it returns an error "no com port" and ASU will not see the handbox. I have an additional box and ASU will see that box and does not return and "no com port" error. The ASU was an older version and I've since upgrade to the latest from the meade site. Is there anyway to get factory defaults back into the failed 497? Or anyway to re-establish com with it? Any other ideas would also be helpful. Thanks Jim HollandMike here: See the item "Q. The power went off while I was updating my AutoStar and now it doesn't work. Did I kill it?" on the ETX FAQ page. The solution there should get you going again.
Thanks for the quick response. I've tried the suggestion and can't seem to get it to work. Is there some secret to holding down the buttons? On some of my attempts I seen gibberish displayed, other times one or more of the individual led's will blink. All attempts to connect have ended in failure. Any other last resorts (like attempting to clone?) JimMike here: Are you holding down the SCROLLDOWN arrow or the SLEWDOWN arrow? You need to hold down the ENTER and SCROLLDOWN keys together and then power on the ETX.
Reading the inst. on the FAQ page was confusing for me, what you wrote in the response made sense and it work, but now I'm having a problem with ASU. Once I attempt to send or restore, it wants to shut down and send an error report of Microsoft. I will do some further research and see what I can find before bothering you or Dick. Thanks again JimMike here: You can try the StarGPS program (www.stargps.ca).
Subject: ETX 90EC-Autostar Updating Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2009 14:48:54 From: Paul Haines (email@example.com) After years of using 4.0E I finally decided to upgrade to later version- 4.3 Eg. I downloaded ASU version V4.6. Linked PC to Autostar using my homebuilt 505 type cable connected to PC serial port and Autostar. For some reason my PC (Windows XP) will not communicate with Autostar. Keep getting COM port error. I am sure COM Port 1 is free and available. My serial port works fine with other devices. Interconnect cable used to work with the Autostar and with Starry Night software. The cable appears to be ok. Pin continuity checks out, no bent pins, etc. I tried the Autostar Test, Other Tips, 10/07/03. With pins 2 & 3 shorted, on start up, Autostar reads "press PRESS" rather than "press ENTER". Pressing any key gives "invalid key" message. Does this mean I have an rs232 problem within the Autostar handbox? I reset handbox- same error message. Autostar works fine when connected to telescope. Any suggestions? As it now stands I am not able to upgrade my Autostar. Regards, PaulMike here: Since the AutoStar is still functional, try StarPatch to update the ROM. It is available from http://www.stargps.ca.
Tried StarPatch. It appears I may have a COM Port problem. I am not able to establish communication PC - Autostar. I will investigate further as time permits and report on results. Thanks for your help. Paul
Subject: re: ETX 70-AT Autostart won't boot up Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2009 10:56:27 From: richard seymour (firstname.lastname@example.org) You wrote: > It freezes on "Daylight Savings Yes/No" ... and I can't get any further than that. Ahh... that's a definite symptom of the telescope's motor card(s) not replying with signals when the Autostar requests data. Since you can -slew- with the arrow keys, that indicates that the cabling is good. (but you might try swapping the handbox cable end-for-end). What is probably sick is either the "transmitter" at the motor card end, or the "receiver" in the Autostar. (The Autostar's transmitter and the motor's receiver -are- working, or it wouldn't move at all). The "Freeze point" you're seeing is where the Autostar asks the motor card "what are you?" as it decides which family model of scope you have. Since the problem could be at -either- end, it's a coin-toss as to whether replacing the Autostar will fix it. You could -try- menuing to Setup/Reset[enter][enter], there's a tiny chance that would help (and it's free to do...) good luck --dickMIke here: The HBX cable on the #494 AutoStar is not removable at the AutoStar end.
True ... i didn't see a model number (i should've just assumed 494) So modify that to: use a computer network connector tool to seat the pins (an RJ45 tool). good luck --dick
From: Brian Eckert (email@example.com) thanks to both of you....I'll give this a try and let you know
Subject: ETX 70-AT Autostart won't boot up Sent: Friday, January 23, 2009 06:40:34 From: Brian Eckert (firstname.lastname@example.org) I've been a follower of your web site for about 5 years now since I purchased my ETX 70-AT. Hopefully you'll have some advice on a problem I am having with my AutoStar. About 6 months ago when I tried to start up the telescope the autostar never gets going, no date entry, no alignment options nothing...all the buttons simply don't work. I can still move the scope using the arrow keys but I can't align it or use any of the menus. Any ideas? Thanks so much and I love the web site!! Keep up the great work! Brian Eckert Charlotte, NCMike here: When you say the AutoStar "never gets going", do you mean that the bootup message never appears and that nothing appears on the display? If so, it could be that the AutoStar is not getting sufficient power. Have you changed the batteries? Are they inserted correctly? Also, check the condition of the jack and AutoStar cable; look for dirt, bent pins, or pins that are too depressed. Removing and reinserting the cable a few times may help.
Thanks for the quick reply. I've tried with brand new batteries so I don't think power is the problem...here's the exact sequence It starts with "Initiatlizing" I get the Sun warning I get to Set Date I get to Set Time It freezes on "Daylight Savings Yes/No" ... and I can't get any further than that. Again, I can still use the arrow keys to move the scope but I never get to the alignment options or any other menus. I was hoping to even simply try and reset the whole thing and start from scratch but without the ability to get to any menus I can't even do that thanks again!Mike here: If you hold down the MODE for a few seconds, you MAY be able to get past that point. If not, it is likely the AutoStar has failed or its software is corrupted. You would have to return it to Meade or buy a replacement. If you elect to buy a new one, get an AutoStar #497 (or a #495, which you can easily upgrade to a #497 via software).
I tried holding the MODE button, no luck. I'll look into picking up a new one. Happy stargazing!!! and thanks for the help!
Subject: ETX 125EC Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 14:36:15 From: John Coff (email@example.com) Greetings from Cincinnati, I recently bought a used ETX 125EC scope from a friend of a friend. When I use the Autostar controller and try to align I get a message of Motor Unit Failure. I have perused your site for info about my problem. This scope was manufactured in 1999. I have done all I know to get it to align correctly, but to no avail. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, JCMike here: Have you tried an AutoStar RESET? Or can you not get to the AutoStar RESET menu item? If you have done a RESET, don't forget about doing a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES.
Subject: re: : Autostar 497 Faulty? Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2009 11:59:05 From: richard seymour (firstname.lastname@example.org) The pinouts for all of the sockets and connectors are shown here: http://jan.eaglecreekobservatory.org/pinouts.html Depending upon your interpretation of "3" and "6", it's either the AUX circuit (not needed for normal operation if you do NOT have a GPS or LNT unit) or the Azimuth circuit. From the above pinout page there is also a link to the LX90 "power panel" drawing: http://jan.eaglecreekobservatory.org/powerpanel.html which is functionally equivalent to the power panel on the ETX90/105/125 good luck --dick
From: Martin Roddam (email@example.com) Excellent! Thanks guys. I've determined that the pin I refer to is Aux data thanks to the diagram. Thanks for taking the time to reply to my many mails. Martin
Subject: RE: Autostar 497 Faulty? Sent: Friday, January 16, 2009 18:11:40 From: Martin Roddam (firstname.lastname@example.org) I've now determined that my Autostar 497 and HBX cable work perfectly well by testing on another identical ETX-90 scope. I've opened up the base unit and determined that the 12V across the black and red wires are definitely carrying voltage through to the female HBX socket, and furthermore, through the coiled HBX cable (so I know there isn't a power connection issue, but still my Autostar does not start up with my scope). I've checked all the other coloured wires through from the internal connector and through to the outside of the female HBX socket and there is now break. I guess I'm now asking for fault finding tips, or possibly some wiring diagrams to assit me with the multimeter. I had hoped that by ensuring the 12V from the battery pack were making it through to the Autostar the thing would power up, but it doesn't. Since it works with another scope, there must be some kind of fault in the circuitry of my scope, but I can't see any obvious burnt components or dry joints. Will there be any benefit to me checking out the PCB near the Dec drive, or will that be a waste of time? I'm getting desperate now :-( Thanks again MartinMike here: Have you tried the 9V battery power source I mentioned earlier? As to AutoStar schematics, check on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page.
I created the power box following information from your site. I could only find references to 12V feeds into the Autostar, not 9V. Anyway, with 12V going into the Autostar, it DOES power up. BUT, I tried the same thing with the scope and the Autostar - I placed a piece of tape covering all of the middle pins of the HBX RJ45 connector leaving the outer two (the 12V line) exposed. Once connected up to the scope, this too powered up the Autostar. SO, there is something about those middle six wires that prevents the Autostar from powering up. I now know the problem lies entirely with the scope and not the Autostar... Any ideas? Thanks again MartinMike here: Try reversing the HBX cable. Also, check for dirty or bent pins on the connectors and in the jacks.
Pins seem fine. Reversing the HBX didn't have any effect. I've now covered more of the PINS on the HBX cable with tape, so I have: Only Pins 1 and 8 on the RJ45 exposed -- Autostar powers up but there is a "MOTOR FAULT" Only Pins 1, 2, 3 and 8 on the RJ45 are exposed -- Autostar powers up and now there is no "MOTOR FAULT". I can setup the Autostar and control the telescope i.e. left and right on the Autostar move the Autostar left and right. I kept on with this method until the only pin covered by tape was pin number 3 (BLACK), or pin 6 on the other end of the HBX. If this pin is allowed to connect to the Autostar, it does not work at all. Do you know what that BLACK wire is for? Is it by any chance unused? I hope so, because the Autostar and scope does not with this connected. Many thanks in advance MartinMike here: Details on the HBX cable are available in the article "AutoStar #497 HBX cable" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page.
Subject: RE: Autostar 497 Faulty? Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2009 08:39:27 From: Martin Roddam (email@example.com) I've done a little more investigating to narrow down where my problem might lie. I found a friend who also owns an ETX-90 and connected my autostar handbox to his scope with my cable.... BINGO! it jumped into action. So, my problem must lie with the scope base unit. I've unscrewed it to look for any obviously loose connection, but I can't see anything right away. My thought is that it is probably a poor contact somewhere between the red and black cables from the battery pack through to the HBX connector socket. I assume that every red and black wires I see are for power. Since the red LED on the base unit lights up when I flick the switch, I guess I can assume that the wires from the battery pack to the PCB are in good contact so it must be a contact from the PCB to the socket? Just wanted you to give me the nod so I know I'm on the right track... If the power is being supplied to the handheld unit, it should start up right? Do you know if the hand unit should be receiving 12V or is it stepped down somewhere on the PCB? Thanks very much in advance and for the time you've given me so far. MartinMike here: You can easily make an external power source (9V battery) for the AutoStar to test the AutoStar. Instructions on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info.
I'm always amazed at just how helpful you are! Thanks again. I hope Meade are paying you a salary! :-)Mike here: Nope.
Subject: Autostar 497 Faulty? Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2009 05:45:48 From: Martin Roddam (firstname.lastname@example.org) I have a new ETX-90 and on starting up the telescope (with the autostar handset connected) I do not see anything coming up on the screen. I was going to buy a new one from eBay when someone suggested that I first try to upload the latest firmware, but having read more, I'm not sure this will work. I have tried to enter safe mode, but all that happens is the 8 and 9 keys light up whilst I'm holding down Enter and Scroll Down. I know the handset isn't completely dead now, but don't know how to proceed. My post on 4M forums is here and may contain some additional useful (or not) information: http://meade4m.com/forum/index.php/topic,2185.0.html Unfortunately (for me) my last year has involved getting married and having a baby, so by the time I really had some decent time to set the telescope up, just slightly more than 12 months had passed andmy warranty has expired, so no chance of getting a new scope or handset from Meade. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance Martin RoddamMike here: Entering SAFE LOAD mode would have required that you have a #505 serial cable and the AutoStar Update software (for Windows, or AutoStarX for Mac OS X). So, I hope you have you those. However, if you don't have the cable, you can easily make one using the cable information on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. You can try to reload the AutoStar ROM. That may clear the problem. If the SAFE LOAD mode wasn't entered, then you make just have a faulty connection to the ETX; check the HBX cable connectors and jacks. If the batteries are a year old, replace them. Check the battery compartment for any signs of corrosion of the batteries have been in place this long and the telescope has not been used. As additional info, when SAFE LOAD is entered, the AutoStar display should show FLASH LOAD READY. Also, if your computer has only USB ports and no real RS-232 serial port, you will need a USB-serial adapter to connect the #505 serial cable. However, not all adapters work reliably with the AutoStar; see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. I recommend Keyspan adapters.
Wow! Thanks for the quick reply. Does the fact that my handset does not show anything on the display when I attempt to enter SAFE mode mean that my handset is probably faulty? The cable is brand new and I've given it a "wiggle". The batteries are all new. Even though my ETX is just over a year old, I've only just gotten it out of the box i.e. effectively brand new. I've ordered the USB to serial adaptor so I'll see how that goes I guess. Thanks againMike here: It could be faulty or the power supply to it from the ETX could be at fault. Hard to say from the symptom you are reporting.
Subject: 497 controller blinking, cannot read Sent: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 09:44:03 From: David Lamont (email@example.com) Hope you had a nice Christmas. Happy new year to you. I have been in contact with Meade in Germany and they were very helpful. They asked me to post the controller to them which I did and a new one came back in 8 days, and that was just before Christmas! The problem is that the controller is a French version! Even though I sent emails in English they must have thought I am French because it looks it. Could you now give me advice on how to download from the Meade site? I have no idea about what version I have. "Build.rom" to download? They told me to go to the Meade site but all that information was in German. Oh! Lordy, Lordy! Sorry If I sound dim but I am no computer geek especially when two languages are involved. Kind regards, David LamontMike here: Go to the USA Meade download page (http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html) and grab the AutoStar Update 4.6 application (if you have Windows; if not get AutoStarX or Lin_AutoStar from the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page on my ETX Site). The Meade app will download the needed file for you (or you can download 4.3Eg yourself, which you will need to do with the non-Meade apps). You will also need a #505 serial cable (easily make using info on the AutoStar Info page). Also, if your computer does not have a RS-232 serial port you will need a USB-serial adapter. However, not all adapters work reliably with the AutoStar. See the article "AutoStar and USB" on the AutoStar Info page. I recommend Keyspan. If you need help using the Meade app, see the articles "Updating the Autostar" on the Helpful Information: Tutorials page and "How to use the 3.x Updater" on the AutoStar Info page. Even though the actual version is newer, these will get you started.
Subject: Auto star custom park Sent: Saturday, January 3, 2009 19:00:43 From: Jerry Hailey (firstname.lastname@example.org) My autostar 497 is on 43eg V17. Is there a way to have a custom park position? I would like to park at DEC= -30 RA=HA+6 I think this will park my LXD75 with the counterweight level and also the OTA level. This is where I have to point to close the roof. My current method is to park and then manually place the scope in this position to open and close the roof. Once the roof is open I manually move the scope back to park zero and power up. I have been keeping up with your new construction at Oracle. It is going much better than your LX90 did. How about a star party house warming? I could see the range of gifts now- Eyepieces, filters, and new pillows for the cats. Hope you are moving in soon Jerry HaileyMike here: I'll let our resident AutoStar expert, Dick Seymour, answer your park question. As to the house, thanks! Any party will wait until the SkyShed POD is set up. Hopefully we'll move in around March and the POD a couple of months after that.
Subject: AutoStar 497: Specifying COM port Sent: Friday, January 2, 2009 14:22:07 From: Keith Woodard (email@example.com) Is there a method, to manual specify the COM port number using the AutoStar 497, hand controller? Best Regards, KeithMike here: If you mean from within the AutoStar Update Application, yes. If you mean from some menu on the AutoStar itself, no.
Subject: Latest firmware update for AutoStar 497? Sent: Friday, January 2, 2009 09:04:57 From: Keith Woodard (firstname.lastname@example.org) I recently updated my AutoStar 497 to 43Eg but is this the same as the firmware release? Best Regards, KeithMike here: 4.3Eg is the latest firmware version that Meade has released to the public. There is a newer version shipping with newer LX90 telescopes (4.4Ea and perhaps even newer) but it is not yet on Meade's site.
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