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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK

Last updated: 31 January 2013

Welcome to the AutoStar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar #494, #495, #497, #497EP, AudioStar, cables, and 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 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:	re: autostar display question.
Sent:	Sunday, January 27, 2013 14:26:48
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Your "goes blank" could simply be bad settings of the Contrast and
Brightness (C&B).

I forget if the 497 responds to this, but on the Autostar II (LX200gps
and RCX400), you can press-and-hold MODE during power up, and it takes
that as a request to set C&B to mid-range values... at which point it's
easy to reach their settings in the Utilities menu.

If you have a serial cable for the 497 (goes into 2nd smaller hole on
the 497 itself), you can use Meade's "Remote Handbox" (a part of
Autostar Suite) to riffle through the menu and remotely change the C&B
to see if that brings it back.  It will also allow you to see if the
rest of the system is working by reflecting the 497's display on the
PC's screen.
Autostar Suite can be downloaded from: http://meade.com/software-manuals

Another way to explore the situation is to download and run Andrew
Johansen's "MyScope" program (from
http://members.optusnet.com.au/johansea ).
One of the readouts on its "List Data" tab, under Misc Data, are the C&B
settings.
If they're very low or high (0, 1 or 15) that would be a big hint.

Have you tried looking at the display from above (instead of in front
of) the 497?
Sometimes extreme off-angle reveals what the display is trying to show.

The other possibility (on first glance at your note) is that the 497 is
unable to "see" your motor cards, and is getting "hung up" as it looks
for the DEC (Alt) card.
But i don't think that condition would allow the slew keys to operate.
(however, i have not tested that particular state... unplugging the DEC
motor may cause the Starfinder controller to do the same "freeze during
boot".)
If this is the cause of the freeze, it may indicate a blown feed-through
inductor in the 497 ... a bunch of little grey components immediately
adjacent to the 497's main connector, with "L" numbers on the circuit
card (L1, L2, etc)

good luck
--dick

And this:

You could test (half of) the sides of the "doesn't see DEC motor" by
swapping the motor units' cables in the (i assume you have) DS power
panel.

See if that changes the symptoms (beyond the fact that the two axes will
be responding to the other's commands)

good luck
--dick

And:

From:	Mike Morrison-Smith (mikems@live.co.uk)
Thank you for the replies. I will try the method to increase the C&B
when I get home, but I think the problem may be more problematical.

When it is switched on the version number and message to welcome you to
autostar is in normal brightness. Then there is a gap in time and when
the 'press 0 to align' message should appear it does for a fraction of a
second and very dim, then it fades to nothing.

I fear I have strained the RA motor and this has knocked out something,
although it is interesting to note the welcome message is different to
the working menus. I have wiggled and tried a different power supply but
to no avail.

I will report back.

Regards,

Mike.

And:

The "Welcome" message happens before the Autostar does *anything*
with/to the peripheral cards.  It's also done at full brightness,
without reference to the C&B settings.

Question: what happens to the back-of-keys illumination?
If memory serves, they're driven by a different transistor than the
back-of-display LEDs
Their state would be a hint of the B setting.

good luck
--dick

And:

Hello Dick.
 
Thank you for your continued assistance.
 
The menu key being on at power up made no difference.
 
The back key lights are on and do not change in brightness when the
display fades away, BUT the back key lights do dim when the motor keys
are pressed and the motors whirl around, the display background stays
the same brightness.

I am sure there is something there, but I have no idea what.

This must point towards a fault and not the brightness control??

Kind regards,

Mike.

PS On the good news front, I purchased a C8 orange tube OTA, and I have
fitted it into a Celestron Ultima 2000 fork mount and used the meade
motors and the worm and wheels from the starfinder GEM mount, and it all
works.
Mike here: Sounds like something is causing a power drain. Either bad power source or something creating too much draw on the motors.

And:

It does this when the motors are not connected to anything. But I do
think I damaged them when the RA bearing was too tight on the C14. But
the motors do work fine and are not stripped, and it all works with the
starfinder handset.
 
Kind regards,
 
Mike.
Mike here: You can easily check the AutoStar by using an external power source for it. See the "AutoStar Power Information" section on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Information. That might rule out whether or not the AutoStar is at fault.


Subject:	497 cable
Sent:	Friday, January 25, 2013 15:21:43
From:	mamonett@comcast.net (mamonett@comcast.net)
I think I saw somewhere that there is a much better (497 to HBX
connector on scope) cord available.
The info said it was much softer and heavier than the stock cord but I
can't find the article. Can you help?
Mike in Muncie
Mike here: Something in the cable section on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page?


Subject:	autostar display question.
Sent:	Friday, January 25, 2013 09:52:48
From:	Mike Morrison-Smith (mikems@live.co.uk)
Good afternoon Michael.
 
We have spoken before.
 
Please can I ask a question? First of all, this may interest you.

I purchased a GEM starfinder mount with two ds 114 motors. I purchased a
C8 orange tube OTA and went to Palm Springs to collect it, it is a long
way from Saudi Arabia. And last year, I purchased a LX90 fork mount to
stick in the Celestron OTA I had on loan from the local University here.

So, guess what I did, I tried putting the DS motors on a C14 (yes C14)
fork mount. It worked a bit, but not great. So I will return the C14 to
its original motors, but the transformer on that has been broken for
years.

Anyway, I have a Celetron Ultima 2000 mount, with burnt eletrics, a C8
OTA and the meade motors, so I am putting that together, I have both
Meade worm and wheels on the fork mount and the RA motor in place, just
the Dec motor to be attached.

I have also got a meade 427 handset, but it has developed a fault.

The question, the display works on start up, gives the first two
messages, then goes blank. The handset is still working, well the motors
move when requested. Do you know how to get the display back? I have
never tried to connect the handset via a PC, but I think this is the
only way.

The only thing I may have done is strained the RA motor when I adjusted
the worm on the C14 base unit.
 
Kind regards,
 
Mike.
Mike here: There are several possible causes. Low batteries, bad connections, corrupted software, bad display, bad components in the AutoStar. Start with the easy fixes to see if the problem goes away. If the software is corrupted, you can easily update it. Just need a #505 serial cable and the software to do the update. Lots of info on this on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page.

And:

Thank you for the rapid reply.
 
I am being naughty with the power supply as it is straight off a car
battery.

I will try as you say and get back to you.

I do have the meade starfinder handset which does work. I have also
ordered another pair of meade ds motors from the USA, onlu $36 to
purchase and post to the UK, it is free from there. I wonder if the
meade 427 handset did not like the ds motors.
 
Kind regards,
 
Mike.
Mike here: AutoStar #497 works fine with DS motors, assuming the software is contemporary with the DS models. If you have 4.3Eg you should be OK.


Subject:	re: ETX 125 to LX - 90 equipment swap?
Sent:	Sunday, January 20, 2013 19:59:36
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Yes, they are swappable.

Your "43E" actually has a 4th character in the version,
you can see it by menuing to  Setup/Statistics(enter)(scroll up).
Meade's current version for the 497 is 43Eg

The "Tonight's Best" is a "Tour".
There's the possibility that your 497EP has simply been "patched" to
skip that offering on boot-up.

The "IC M806" may have actually *been* part of the handbox's start-on-boot Tour
Pressing Mode for 6 seconds should have "elevated" you up out of the tour.
I don't have the time right now to root out the actual path, but i think
that the boot system just starts the first Tour it finds in the
Autostar's memory.
On your 497, that was Tonight's Best.
On the 497EP, it could be another tour, or a garbled tour (Meade's
previous ASU updater trashes 497EP and Audiostar tours)

The Autostars will ask for time/date if they get garbaged data back from the LNT,
it's possible that the connection between the LX90's base and the LNT
unit is loose or corroded, leading to odd behavior (in case it recurs).

Remember to do a Calibrate Drives when you swap the controllers
back-and-forth between telescopes.

good luck
--dick

And:

From:	Andy Lancour (andy@spe-wi.com)
Thanks alot, Mike

Andy


Subject:	Autostar zip code or lat/long?
Sent:	Sunday, January 20, 2013 16:14:02
From:	Andy & Leah Lancour (smanj440@sbcglobal.net)
is the zip code adequate for visual observing when entering location in
an Autostar, or is the actual latitude and longitude preferred? Using an
LX 90 if it matters. Thanks a lot.
 
Andy Lancour
Mike here: Zipcode is usually ok. As long as your location is less than about 60 miles from the Zipcode location. Or unless the Zipcode has an incorrect Lat/Long.


Subject:	ETX 125 to LX - 90 equipment swap?
Sent:	Tuesday, January 15, 2013 10:24:37
From:	Andy Lancour (andy@spe-wi.com)
I own an ETX 125PE which has Autostar Vers 43E from year 2007, which I
think is up to date.

Last night I bought a used 8" LX-90 LNT scope circa 2005. The Autostar
had been replaced on it and the firware the previous owner used does not
have the "Tonight's best" feature on it. Sorry, I don't recall the
Autostar version number on it.

As I don't have the adapter to connect the Meade RS 232 cable to my pc
USB port to update the LX's Autostar, can I just use the old Autostar
from my ETX 125?

Can I use the AC and DC power adapters I bought for the ETX on the LX -
90? I have one that I plug into a wall outlet, and one I use with a
Celestron Powertank. I don't want to use batteries.

Any thoughts on an alternative to Meade's $50 USB to RS232 adapter - has
anyone used a less pricey variety with success? I plan to sell the ETX
now and would like to update the firmware for the new owner.

I appreciate any help or suggestions. Thanks alot Mike!
  
Andy Lancour
Mike here: 4.3Eg is the latest, best, version for both telescopes. And you should be able to use the ETX AutoStar with the LX90. Just reminder to CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES when swapping the AutoStar from one telescope to the other one. The Powertank will work OK. I think the LX90 will be happiest with a 2.5A AC adapter (the ETX works fine with 1.5A or more). I recommend Keyspan USB-serial adapters; they work best with the AutoStar and support Mac and Windows.

And:

Thanks Mike!
I will check to see the amps on my AC wall adapter.

And an update:

Hello again Mike . I emailed you from work today regarding the LX 90 I
got last night.  I purchased a beautiful used 8" LX 90 LNT circa 2005 or
so yesterday and I have a couple questions. I also own an ETX 125PE. So
here goes....

The seller of the LX90 said he replaced the Autostar as it had been
dropped. I questioned it because upon power up I wondered why it asked
for the time and why there was no "Tonights Best" tour like I have on my
ETX. He said the software he downloaded didn't have that feature. The
Autostar for the LX is the newer 497EP variety with firmware 5CE2, the
ETX still has the original 497 with firmware 43E. I thought they were
both supposed to be 43E?

After I got home (5 hour drive) I went to try the LX out in the basement
to see why I would need to always enter the time. First thing I did was
change the LNT battery and fire it back up, and did a restart. Same
result. So I swapped the ETX Autostar on the LX and I had the same
results. It boots up, then asks me to align. Fine. So I press 0 for
Automatic. But then it asks for the date. It has the correct date, but
the first number is flashing if I want to change it. So I accept the
date and press enter and it asks for the time, but always lists the time
as 8:00 pm, even though I had changed it earlier. It then asks for
Daylight savings, etc.

So I am wondering why I need to keep entering the time and date? My ETX
goes right to telling me to put the scope in "Home" position after I
press the "0" to align. Do I need a different firmware? Isn't 497Eg
current for the LX 90? Either way, the ETX Autostar with that version
had the same results anyway. Maybe the replacement battery isn't good
after all? I assume the LX should be retaining the time and date info
from session to session, right? Please help!

Edit: I just went back into the basement to try it again and let it go
through the entire alignment process. After the 2nd star alignment the
screen just said "IC M806" - and I couldn't get it off the screen unless
I used the down arrow, which caused the scope to go into a looping
"searching" function that would not stop. Last night when I bought it it
worked well going to Jupiter, M42, etc. I have no idea what to do now.
Any help?
Mike here: The newer AutoStar #497EP does require the newer software version. That's why you see a different version. As to the AutoStar not seeing the LNT, there can be several reasons for that. There are some LNT/Smartfinder troubleshooting tips on the Helpful Information: Telescope Tech Tips page. Since the AutoStar is not seeing the LNT, the date will default to the last entered date and the time to 8PM (or 20:00:00). As to the error on startup now, you may have to reload the software (5CE2) if it has been corrupted. You can try to do a RESET, if you can get to that menu item.

And:

I tried a 3rd battery in the LNT and that worked. Imagine that.

I will be selling the ETX. Would I be able to swap the Autostars to run
the LX 90 with the old ASU, and would the 497EP from the LX work with
the ETX? Or is the EP a superior model, and I should stick with it?

It's just that downloading new firmware is something I haven't done, and
it makes me very nervous. Plus I don't have an adapter to go from the RS
232 to USB either. Thanks for your time and patience

Andy
Mike here: The AutoStars are swappable. Or should be. The EP is a newer model.


Subject:	ETX 80 Trouble slewing
Sent:	Sunday, January 13, 2013 17:04:39
From:	James Mitchell (jmitc063@odu.edu)
Not sure how this works but I was hoping I could get some help with my
new telescope.

I will do easy align setup with autostar and can begin controlling the
telescope myself and observing stars, however, I often run into two
problems. 1) the automatic slew (sidereel) that follows the movement of
the night sky either moves the wrong way or to fast. When I have a star
focused in, the telescope will slew out of view within a few seconds.

2) After observing a long time, the remote control will sometimes stop
working. I will try to move up or down but it won't move, but it will
move left and right. Other times I'll try and move left and right but
can't, but CAN move up and down.

Hope you can help, I'm going to call meade sometime soon to get more
help,

James

-- 
Cadet Mitchell, James R.
ODU AROTC
"Whatever an enemy may do to an enemy, a wrongly directed mind will do greater harm"
               -Buddha
Mike here: Have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES? If not, do them.

And:

I have calibrated the motors a few times but I have not tried the train
drives.

Thank you for the help, if I don't get back to you that means your
advice worked.

Thanks again,
James
Mike here: If TRAIN DRIVES (on both axes) does not help, do a RESET, then CALIBRATE MOTOR, followed by the TRAIN DRIVES.


Subject:	#494 Controller
Sent:	Saturday, January 12, 2013 17:11:04
From:	Admin (admin@countybride.co.uk)
Hi - Can anyone please tell me how you pause scrolling 'help text', or
the scope when slewing,(ETX80), with the 494 controller? I know you can
change speed of text on the display, but is there away to pause it?
Many thanks.

Kind Regards

Richard Jones
Mike here: Don't think there is a way from the keypad. Would be a nice feature. Unfortunately the #494 can not be (easily) patched.

And:

Thanks Mike for your quick reply! Is there an upgrade for this
controller?
Mike here: Yes. Buy a #497 AutoStar. Or get #495 AutoStar (if you can find one), which can be upgraded via software to a #497. There is no user installable update to the software in the #494.

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Yes, you can slow it way way down, but you can't stop it.

However, given an email name of "admin", i'm led to suggest that there
is a way to see them on your PC:
Since the 494 and 497 share common "help text", you could download one
of Mike's archived copies of a recent 497 ROM   from:
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_archive/downloads.html#rom4

Once you have that, you can extract the entire (well, since the 497 has
more, far more) body of available text.
The strings are separated by "null" characters (a zero byte).
Then, when the text starts scrolling on your screen, you can search for
that first few words in the PC's file.

This task might be a bit easier by starting with version 2.2Ed, since
the ZIP file contains two files, with the strings located in the
"Dbase.rom" section.

If you have a "hex editor", the job gets a lot simpler, but i just tried
putting the Dbase.rom (renamed to dbase.txt) into Microsoft's WordPad,
and it handled it.
Word is a bit better at tasks such as replacing null bytes with
return/linefeed pairs.

Been there, done that...

good luck
--dick


Subject:	Sensitivity problems
Sent:	Saturday, January 5, 2013 07:29:10
From:	Buz (bkolek@aol.com)
I have had my EXT125 EC since around the year 2000 and have had a
serious? problem since.

The buttons on my autostar controller are insensitive, hard to push for
a response so I haven't used the autostar since. I am a first time user
so I don't know if I'm doing something wrong.

I'm looking forward, I hope to using it. I probably should have
contacted you sooner.

Thanks

Buz

Sent from my iPad
Mike here: If the problem with the AutoStar was while still new in 2000, then it may not be due to dirty contacts or other debris in the handset. (Probably should have been exchanged under warranty.) But the article "Keypad Cleaning/Repair" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page might help you.

And:

Thanks for the quick response.
Will keep you posted.
Buz


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