ASTRONOMY SOFTWARE FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 27 January 2009

This page is for user comments on Astronomy software for the Windows (including the Meade AutoStar Suite), Macintosh, or Palm OS systems. Items that are more "review" oriented will be posted on the Astronomy Software Reviews page. If you have any comments, suggestions, questions or answers to questions posed here, e-mail them to me 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:	Autofinder vs. DSI software.
Sent:	Sunday, January 25, 2009 18:02:20
From:	Joel (earth-light@sbcglobal.net)
I was looking at the Autofinder software (w. #505 cord) which allows you
to point and slew from your pc, but intend to buy the DSI with its
software. I am unsure of the differences in features between the two,
and whether I need both.

If the DSI software allows one to slew from the pc + take a picture, is
there anything the Autofinder software does to make it worth getting in
addition to the DSI?
 
TIA for any help you can provide.
 
Richard Cohen
Mike here: I'm not familiar with "Autofinder" software. However, the AutoStar Suite software that comes with the DSI models will do pretty much everything you need.

And:

Mike, when you say the DSI software would "do everything I need" does
that mean I can point to a place in the sky on my pc screen and the ETX
will slew to that location (as the Astrofinder software provides). If
so, buying the Astrofinder software would only duplicate the DSI
software, so I wouldn't need it. That's what I was trying to determine.
 
Rich
Mike here: You can use the AutoStar Suite software to control the telescope once you have aligned the AutoStar at the telescope. You couldn't easily use a second problem to control the telescope as there would be a serial port conflict.

And:

That's the info I needed. Thanks for your help.
 
Rich

Subject:	LST Can you tell me how to set the LST to the correct time?
Sent:	Tuesday, January 20, 2009 15:53:27
From:	nigel garner (nigelgarner@hotmail.com)
I recently purchased a Meade Etx 125 PE telescope. When I compare the
Local Sidreal Time for my location (0 deg 16" West) on the #497 Etx
Autostar display and The LST on Autostar Suite Astronomers Edition for
the same location and time zone (with or without daylight saving), the
hand set is one hour ahead.

This means when I use Automatic alignment it looks for the stars one
hour west of the actual position.

Can you tell me how to set the LST to the correct time?

Nigel Garner
Mike here: It sounds like a Daylight Saving Time issue. Be certain you have computer and the AutoStar set correctly for Daylight Saving.
Subject:	Software Help
Sent:	Sunday, January 18, 2009 15:29:16
From:	D M (deepcdan99@yahoo.com)
I am unable to come heads or tales with Autostar. Can you suggest
another/better program to use with my etx-90? Are you familiar with
Microsoft Worldwide Telescope? I have it but was having problems with it
seeing my Scope. Thank you.
Mike here: MWT is limited to Windows so I haven't used it. What exactly don't you understand about using the AutoStar. It is pretty simple in its menus. As to software to control the ETX via the AutoStar, there are many applications available that can do that. See the Accessory Reviews: Software page for several, including Voyager, AstroPlanner, and ScopeDriver.
Subject:	Re: ETX-70AT and #506 Astrofinder software
Sent:	Sunday, January 18, 2009 15:02:49
From:	Jim Palmer (jimpalmer@eircom.net)
A final email. "Read Timeout" followed by "Communication Terminated" is
the message I get when I select Communications/Com1 and then
Protocol/AutoStar via ComPort. Any suggestion as to how the cable might
be checked?
Thanks for your assistance and patience.
Jim
Mike here: Due the electronics in the #506 cable, checking it will be difficult without the proper equipment. For details on the #506 cable see the articles "#494 AutoStar & #506 cable info" and "494 Aux bus (506 replacement) demystified" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page.

And:

Final email. I set the com port as 1, 9600 etc. Then I go to
Telescope/Protocol and click on AutoStar via ComPort and get the message
"Error-1 Can't Open Com1:GetLastError Returned 5".
Jim
Mike here: OK. I'm at a loss. But then I'm no Windows expert. I still suspect some port conflict, unless the RS-232 serial port on your computer is bad. If you have a USB port and a USB-serial adapter, you could try that.

And:

Tried USB port with RS232 adapter. System looked for a driver USB2-Ser!
which I could not lay hands on anywhere so went back to RS232 on back of
PC.
Jim
Mike here: Yes, USB-serial adapters need a driver to convert from RS-232 protocol to USB protocol. You could try the adapter vendor's web site. However, not all USB-serial adapters work reliably with the AutoStar; see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page.
Subject:	New Magic eye in envisage 7.05
Sent:	Sunday, January 18, 2009 11:23:09
From:	Jim Beston (james.beston@btinternet.com)
I am currently out doing my first observing for a long while. I recently
downloaded the new version of Autostar (7.05). I see that Meade have
changed the way the Magic Eye focus is displayed to a sort of grid.

In my haste, I haven't found how this works and can't find anything (so
far) at Meade's web site. Have you any info on this please?
 
Thanks
 
Jim
Mike here: I have not used it.

And:

A Google search led me to this thread:
http://meade4m.com/forum/index.php?topic=1421.0

Follow it down and the answer is there. Mind you, as someone says in the
thread, I don't think that you can beat a good Hartman Mask - I made an
excellent one for my LX 200 out of a flower pot tray!

Jim

Subject:	LPI Download
Sent:	Saturday, January 17, 2009 11:20:51
From:	terry3982@charter.net (terry3982@charter.net)
Hello Mike, I have an ETX-125 with the LPI camera from Meade. The
computer I was using was stolen along with the program disc for the
camera. Is there an site where I can get an download? I can buy another
for $99 but then I will have two cameras.  Thank you, have a brite day
with even darker nights.   Terry
terry3982@charter.net     Washington State :)
Mike here: Sorry to hear about the theft. I suggest contacting Meade and explain the situation. They may send you a replacement CD-ROM. You can download AutoStar Suite v5 from Meade's site but I doubt that it includes the LPI driver.
Subject:	ETX-70AT and #506 Astrofinder software
Sent:	Saturday, January 17, 2009 07:12:51
From:	Jim Palmer (jimpalmer@eircom.net)
I recently bought Meade #506 AstroFinder software for my ETX-70AT. It
clearly states on the front of the jewel case that the software is "FOR
USE WITH #494 AUTOSTAR CONTROLLED TELESCOPES". I have a #494 Autostar
Handbox.

I loaded the software, connected the RS232 connector to my pc and the
other end of the cable to the AUX port on my ETX. Absolutely nothing has
happened. I've tried changing com ports but no result. Some ports give
an error message. Other ports give a messag " Cannot send initialize
character". Any suggestions.
 
James
Mike here: Just to confirm, are you using a RS-232 serial port on your computer and not a modem port? Or are you using a USB-serial adapter, and if so, which one?

And:

I'm using the RS-232 serial port on the back of my pc.I get  "bad copm
port number" or "can't open com port" when I try various com port
numbers. Is this where the problem lies. What com port should I be
using?.
Jim
Mike here: Typically, some other software in Windows is tying up the serial port. Usually this is fax software. Check for that.

And:

I don't know if the following is of any help.
In Control Panel/Device Manager/Ports(COM and LPT1)
COM1 is being used by PDW Slicer Communications Port.
COMS 8 to 18 are listed as Bluetooth Serial Port.

I don't have any fax software and in Control Panel under Printers and
Fax only my printer is shown.

JIm
Mike here: I would suspect the PDW software is tying up the port.

And:

Further to my earlier reply, I have deleted the PDW Slicer from COM1.
Yet when I go to"Protocol" and click on "AutoStar via Com Port" I get a
message " Error-1 Can't Open Com Port 1". Maybe this additional info.
will help you in tackling my problem.
Regards
Jim
Mike here: As a test, what happens if you use some other software to "talk" to the AutoStar? You can try the Meade AutoStar Update application (it won't update the ROM but it should be able to see the AutoStar), or something else like ScopeDriver or AstroPlanner.

And:

Scopedriver made five attempts to set up a serial port but failed.
Jim
Mike here: Well, if there are no port conflicts, then perhaps the cable is defective.
Subject:	Autostar suite dome control
Sent:	Friday, January 16, 2009 13:44:46
From:	Mike Wood (m.wood@aggiemail.usu.edu)
We are a university team with a Mead X200R 14" telescope and have been
given the task of automating the dome.  We were hoping to be able to use
the AutoStar Suite's controls for the dome control.  After reading the
"AutoStar Suite Protocol Description" on your web site we would like to
know if you ever implemented the protocol and the replacement
executables? If so we would greatly appreciate a chance to pick your
brain on the topic.

Any info you have would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
The USU Observatory Team
Utah State University
Mike here: I haven't needed to do that (don't have an observatory yet). And any dome control I do on my new observatory won't be using AutoStar Suite (or any Windows software). However, perhaps others have done this and will respond.
Subject:	DS-2130
Sent:	Sunday, January 11, 2009 20:25:12
From:	Brent Harrold (bharroldjr_341@hotmail.com)
I am pulling my hair out here. I own a DS-2130, and have purchased the
autostar suit, plus the #506 cable to attach to my 494. But I can't get
the darn computer and the 494 to talk to each other. I have tried both
the COM port option and tried starting a network connection. NO joy,
I've tried changing com ports, tried with both straight serial and
usb-serial interface ... nothing. Keep getting time out errors.

Any advice?

Brent
Mike here: The AutoStar Suite software will not work with the #494. You will need an AutoStar #497 and a #505 serial cable.
Subject:	Show Image malfunction in AutoStar Suite 5.00?
Sent:	Thursday, January 8, 2009 13:14:17
From:	Sven-Ove Auno (so.m.auno@bredband.net)
I have downloaded Meade AutoStar Suite version 5.00 and installed it on
a laptop running Widows Vista Home Edition. The program seems to
function OK except that when using e.g. the Starmap Utilities dialog
box. No Show Image button appears in this dialog box (instead the button
reads Get DSS Image), although there are a large number of Messier
object images and planet images in the AstroImages folder in C:Program
Files\Meade\AutoStar Suite. I can make the images show on the screen by
manually using the File/Open function.

Can anyone give me a hint on how to make this image display function
work as intended (i.e. automatic display when clicking on the Show Image
button).

Best regards,
 
Sven-Ove Auno

Subject:	re: AutoStar PEC Tool:  Unable to read USB COM port
Sent:	Saturday, January 3, 2009 13:50:49
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
As that dialog box you sent to Mike said: the Meade PEC tool
does -not- 497 Autostar scopes.  Only the LX200gps and RCX400.
(for that matter, it -trashes- the PEC data in an LX200gps
due to bugs in the PEC editor).

If you wish to analyze your PEC data, i recommend Andrew
Johansen's PEC editor "MyScope"

Available from here:
http://members.optusnet.com.au/johansea

(scroll down and grab the "beta", it's much better)

If you install my firmware patch kit (and i'm about to send a new one
to Mike for posting), it provides -much- more access to Andrew's
editor.

(the not-posted-yet 43gg21 allows live updating of the PEC in a 497,
if you wish a back-channel copy, just ask)

have fun
--dick

And:

From:	Keith Woodard (kwits@comcast.net)
I installed the beta release for this new PEC utility and it indicates
that my AutoStar 497 at firmware version 43Eg is unpatched.  Can someone
explain this message?

photo

And this:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
As a first thing, i see i made the classic mind-ahead-of-fingers
typo.
I wrote:
----------
As that dialog box you sent to Mike said: the Meade PEC tool
does -do- 497 Autostar scopes.  Only the LX200gps and RCX400.
------------------

That -should- have said "does NOT do 497..."

(Mike? Please modify my original answer per the above).

Now to answer this message:
>  I installed the beta release for this new PEC utility and
> it indicates that my AutoStar 497 at firmware version 43Eg
> is unpatched.  Can someone explain this message?

Um... it means that you have not sent a modified (patched)
firmware out to your Autostar.
One of the "signatures" of my patch kits is that it changes
the version number from "43Eg" to "43gg" (so that the boot
screen shows "43g")

You have "virgin" Meade firmware in your Autostar, hence
the PEC editor's claim that it's unpatched.

The newest patch kit is attached to this message.

have fun
--dick

P.S. More: Even though your Autostar is unpatched, the PEC Editor can still -extract-
and display your PEC data... it just has to kick the Autostar into
"download" mode to do so.

Subject:	Node allocation failure
Sent:	Friday, January 2, 2009 17:04:02
From:	Jason Fordham (jasonfordham@bigpond.com)
I have some networking issues with my lx200gps telescope. I've upgraded
all the software and successfully started the network server from within
the Meade program folder. But when I open the remote handbox and check
the network connect box, "Intializing" pops up in the options screen but
then an error "Node Allocation Failure" appears and thats thats as they
say. I hope this is the right way to contact you. and thanks for your
time in advance
 
Regards Jason
Mike here: Are you connected to the AutoStar/telescope via a real RS-232 serial port or a USB-serial adapter? If an adapter, not that not all work reliably with the Meade applications (see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page.
Subject:	AutoStar PEC Tool:  Unable to read USB COM port
Sent:	Thursday, January 1, 2009 18:26:19
From:	Keith Woodard (kwits@comcast.net)
The AutoStar Suite reads my USB connection via COM10 that is emulated as
a virtual port through a driver that support a RS232 to USB adapter.
However, I am unable to use the PEC tool for COM10.  Do you know how to
resolve this issue?
Best Regards,
Keith
Proud USAF Veteran of Operation Desert Storm
AIM:  kwoodard65
Mike here: I haven't any PEC tools with my AutoStars so can't answer directly. But I do know that not all USB-serial adapters work with the AutoStar. Which adapter do you have? See the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page for more on adapters. I recommend the Keyspan models, which I have used with my Macs and others have used in Windows.

And:

I found another type of RS232 to USB converter cable and its driver
allows me to specify a COM port like #4 but the PEC utility under
AutoStar Suite cannot find my COM port.  I believe the reason why is, it
is looking for a physical serial port and not communicating with the
network protocol used. What are your thoughts?

Regards,
Keith
Mike here: Have you enabled the Network Protocol in AutoStar Suite? Also, what version of AutoStar Suite are you using? What USB adapters?

And:

I am using AutoStar Suite v5.00 with Network protocol enabled.

My USB driver is:  ATEN to Serial Bridge on COM4 (v2.0.0.18)

And more:

Strike part of what I just said; under COM4, I do not require the
network protocol.

And:

Here is my RS232 to USB EQDIR device:

http://www.aten-usa.com/?support_df&Item=UC232A#display
Mike here: In order for the multiple AutoStar Suite applications to communicate through the single serial port, the Network Protocol is required. Otherwise you will get a port conflict. Also, as I indicated, not all USB-serial adapters work reliably with the AutoStar. I suspect one or both of these is the source of your difficulty.

And:

Here is my latest error with the PEC utility:

photo
Mike here: What telescope and what mounting mode are you using?

And:

Orion SkyView Deluxe EQ GEM with Meade 492 DS drive retrofit, powered by
AutoStar 497.

Thanks,
Keith
Mike here: OK. I still think it could be a port conflict or a USB-adapter problem (or both).

And:

Thank you for your feedback and time.  Why would AutoStar Suite and the
ASU tool both work on my emulated, COM4 port and not the PEC utility?

Best Regards,
Keith
Mike here: I suspect some apps may be too "hardwired" to real hardware and not like the emulated port. I saw that back in the Mac OS 9 days with the Keyspan driver. Some serial apps just wouldn't work. Of course, today we have better written USB-serial drivers but sometimes they can't handle every device and application. Whether that is happening with the PEC tool or there is some other reason, hard to say since I don't use Windows and this app.

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