AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 26 June 2007

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:	Re: Autostar up/down, left/right
Sent:	Monday, June 25, 2007 14:15:49
From:	Greg Haff (m19speeder@sbcglobal.net)
I have yet to get theis darn thing to work. With the darn red letters
flying pass and I'm trying to read them (i wear reading glasses). I just
want to turn the thing off and just be able to use the up/down,
left/right of the scope section.
Thanks
Greg Haff 
Mike here: See the FAQ page for how to change the text scrolling speed.
Subject:	Autostar Suite timezones
Sent:	Saturday, June 23, 2007 23:34:42
From:	Gabriel Pizani (gpizani@hotmail.com)
I live in Adelaide, Australia.  Timezone here is GMT +9.5hrs at the
moment (yes, there is a 1/2 hour difference behind Sydney time).  When I
try to set it up in Autostar Suite it is not shown as an option and it
automatically changes to +9, also Adelaide is not in the list of cities.
Is this a problem if I plan to move the telescope from the computer? 
In the Autostar handbox Adelaide does appear in the locations menu

Thanks

Gabriel Pizani
Mike here: Ah yes, I remember those half-hour time zones when I was visiting Australia back in 1999. Once you align the telescope with the AutoStar, the half-hour difference (7.5 degrees) will disappear for most objects. I suspect (but haven't tested) that moving objects like the Moon would be incorrect due to the 30 minutes of time "error" but that won't be significant for most objects.
Subject:	Proc.2 Error
Sent:	Thursday, June 21, 2007 10:22:51
From:	deandddd (deandddd@uol.com.br)
I got your name from Rod on the SCT site. I live in Brazil, and have a
non English speaking engineer friend who has an ETX Premier Edition with
Smart Finder. We got advice to download the program again because he was
getting the proc.2 error message. It worked, and he is up and running.
But there are a couple of bugs yet.

The program has to be set manually now, it doesn't do the automatic
alignment properly, it does the auto align, but it requests the date and
time, every time. Why is this? What can he do to make it like it was
before and get the Auto Alignment/Smart Finder to kick in?

Actually, the Auto Alignment did not quit working when he got the proc.2
message, he says that it had worked initially but that, about two months
ago, it quit and started requiring the date and time to be put in
manually.

Also, could you explain what was it that caused the proc.2 message in
the first place? Was it something that he did? Or was the problem in the
scope itself, or the scope's software?

We really appreciate the help and time, especially being down here,
there is little in the way of support from astronomy clubs and such.
 
Yours, Dean in Brazil
Mike here: See the article "Autostar Proc Traps" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. Basically, the "computer" in the AutoStar hiccuped. Could be due to a corrupt memory location, temperature, or other factors. As to why the AutoStar is not seeing the SmartFinder, could be a number of culprits (low battery, disconnected cable, bad LNT module). For more on troubleshooting the Smartfinder/LNT see the Helpful Information: Telescope Tech Tips page.

And:

My friend Ernesto has taken the time to read the Proc Trap article, and
still has a question. Why did the hand controller started asking for the
date and time even before tthe proctrap.2 message ever came on, two
months before. And this is even though it has the Smart Finder (Model
PE).

Thanks for the attention,

Dean
Mike here: As I mentioned previously, there could be a number of culprits (low battery, disconnected cable, bad LNT module). For more on troubleshooting the Smartfinder/LNT see the Helpful Information: Telescope Tech Tips page. Does the Smartfinder options appear in the MODE display menu?
Subject:	Autostar problem
Sent:	Sunday, June 17, 2007 17:58:25
From:	Chef919@aol.com (Chef919@aol.com)
I am having difficulty with Meade autostar and I saw you seem to be the
authority on such matters.  I am trying to connect to a Celestron
C8-SGT.  The deep sky imager is working just fine but I am unable to
control the scope with my laptop.  This may just be a thing between
Meade and Celestron I guess but I would be surprised if the two didn't
allow for cross-compatibility.  I am trying to connect using the
Autostar via Commport method using port 3 (and occasionally port 7) but
I keep getting a Invalid ACK response from LX200 error.

I apologize if this is not the way you wish to be contacted.  Please
help a newbie!!!
 
-Scott Mallett
Mike here: This is the perfect way to contact me for ETX, AutoStar, and related topics. Actually I don't believe the Meade AutoStar will work with Celestron telescopes. It only talks with Meade mounts.

And:

REALLY?!?!?!  Wow I find that surprising.  You would think they would
make it compatible just to boost sales on that software for other users.
Well I guess I can use the Celestron NexStar tracking system that came
with the scope and simply use RA/Dec goto command on the controller to
guide it.  The Deep Sky Imager is working just fine and that is my
primary concern.  How about another route.  Do you know if there is
software available from Celestron that is compatible with the Meade Deep
Sky Imager?  Or am I simply stuck guiding the scope with NexStar and
imaging with Autostar?  oh one more thing....I am using windows Vista. 
could that be an issue?
 
BTW...thanks SO MUCH for your help
Mike here: The telescope industry is too competitive right now for that level of openness. Yes, there are standards for some things (eyepieces, filters, and some accessory attachments) but not for Meade or Celestron software. Maybe some day Meade and Celestron will get along as well as Apple and Microsoft... And speaking of getting along, Windows Vista doesn't with many applications.

And:

Well I thank you very much for your wisdom.  I just got my first good
scope in March so I am completely ignorant when it comes to advanced
applications.   I was hoping the dealer I was working with would be
aware of such incompatibility but apparently not.  Thanks again for your
time and attention.
 
Scott Mallett

Subject:	LX 90
Sent:	Thursday, June 14, 2007 22:06:28
From:	Jan H Kolst (koja@tele2.no)
Yesterday evening when doing some observing with my new scope (Bought 16
May 2007) I experienced the following: The Auto alignment had finished
and I ordered the scope to go to a new object. The scope started to make
noice coming from the base and it seemed as if it had hit a "Hardstop"
The scope tried moving towards north, but couldn't due to a
"resistance". I turned the scope off  immediately. I know there is no
hardstop on LX.I then loosened the AZ and tried moving the scope towards
north manually. No problem ,it had no resistance and moved nicely.Could
this have something to do with CORD WRAP? It was turned on.Later I had
no problems controlling the scope by Autostar. Finally I also moved the
scope manually about 700 degrees with no problems.I was just curious to
know what it might have been.
Have a nice weekend!
 
Regards
Jan H Kolst
Norway

Subject:	re: ASU problem
Sent:	Thursday, May 31, 2007 22:55:51
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
The solution may be simple: change the COM number of the USB adapter.
Change it to any value -less- than 16.  (i use COM 6)

To change the USB adapter, (unfortunately, in english):
Plug in the USB adapter.
Open the Windows Control Panel
Open System
Click the "Hardware" tab
(in mine the row are: General, Computer Name, Hardware, Advanced)
Click the "Device Manager" button (probably the top button)
Click the [+] at the Com Ports line.
Click the USB adapter's line

Now what you will see will vary with each manufacturer's design,
but one of the tabs or buttons will let you -configure- your
 USB-to-serial adapter, and 0ne of those configure options
will be the ability to specify the COM port number it will use.
Change it to a number smaller than 16 ("16" is the boundary
between the easily-discovered COM ports and the "you can have
many, but not all programs can reach them" ports).

good luck
--dick
From:	Massimo Alessandria (m.alessandria@biz.tre.it)
Oh ...  magic!

I've looked for this option (change COM port) many time, but i have
never find that ... now i've find it.

I change it into COM2, because all other was busy ... tonight i try to
connect autostar.

I inform you tomorrow for result.
 
Thank you!
 
Massimo Alessandria

And an update:

Great!
I've changed COM port into "2" and now it works fine.
Also ASU, Autostar Suite and Cartes du Ciel works perfectly.
 
Thank you Mike and Dick ...
 
Bie
 
Massimo Alessandria

Subject:	Re: custom 494 autostar movement? is it possible?
Sent:	Thursday, May 31, 2007 21:56:39
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
> On May 31, 2007, at 13:10, Jay Burlage wrote:
> 
>> I see you know a ton about the meade autostar controllers and was 
>> wondering
>> if this is possible...  First let me give you a little background so that
>> you can understand my application.  I do timelapse work and have built a
>> custom camera head based on the DS motors and 494 controller.  I love the
>> ten slew speed options and dual axis control for my work.  Now I 
>> understand that the autostar controllers have 'open architecture'
>>  so I'm wondering if I can add even more speed settings and possibly
>>  even create 'motion  programs'
>> that would do slight acceleration and deceleration curves as well as 'pre
>> programmed' movements?  Is this possible or am I dreaming beyond the
>> 'flexibility' of this device?

Ohhh... those are difficult questions, if only due to the nature of the answers.

YES, the Autostar is certainly "flexible" enough to do all of that.
After all, it already does (Meade ramps the speed up and down during motions,
and the "ten speeds" can 'easily' be expanded to another ten (consider the
smooth speed variations it uses when it's satellite-chasing...).
For that matter, a satellite tracking operation -is- "merely" replaying
a (roughly) 200-entry "script" of changes of position across the full path
of the pass.  Each entry in that list dictates a positional (or velocity)
change of both axes during a short time interval (a few seconds).
QED.

That's the good news. The -bad- news is that it would be practically
impossible to do it with a 494, and extremely difficult to do it (at least
with my method of patching) to a 497.  I know -what- to do, and how/where
to do it (in terms of what values need to be changed where)((with one
exception, see "except:" below)).  But that's like knowing how to swim
the Atlantic.  The theory is simple (stroke, kick, breathe, stroke,
kick, breathe, repeat), but the execution gets extremely tedious.

I think it would take a day or two to create the "twenty speeds" patch,
and at least a full work week (40 hours) to create the "ramps" patch.

As it happens, the LX200gps Autostar II -already has- everything you
need, accessible as remote commands (the :RA and :RE  fractional slew
speed commands... floating point input (degrees per second)).
Brent Boshart uses them for his Satellite Tracker program to allow
smooth and very fine motion control during a pass.
http://www.heavenscape.com

Given that model (the AsII), the patching of the 497 Autostar could
be -almost- trivial (we're down to swimming Lake Ontario... lengthwise),
since much of the AsII code could be (cough) "adapted".
You'd perform the "ramping" externally in your PC.

Oh, yes:  Except:  Do you want keypad control?  Therefore -how- would
you select among the 20 speeds? (oh, you have a 494.. you're used to
just using the scroll keys to scroll the speed up and down... unfortunately
the 497 doesn't -look- at the scroll keys for that purpose, so it's harder
to tell it more than the 10 numeric-keys-selected speeds.)

So, in theory it's all feasible.  In practice Lake Ontario is a bit more
than i wish to attempt at this time (at least for one requestor, for free).

Of course, you could attempt to interest Meade in the project... they've
got the sources, and could "easily" (swim a backyard pool) increase the
number of speeds in a 494 to 20 or more.  Likewise adding the :RA and :RE
commands would be trivial (one more lap).

have fun
--dick

And:

Jay Burlage wrote:
> Wow, what a wealth of information! . I completely understand what your
> saying... the real work is in the level of detail in the script and the
> complexity of movement.  So, let me get this straight... with a 497 and a
> whole lotta command lines executed from a pc anything is possible given the
> time to conceptualize and enter all the 'micro movements'.

Whoops... we may have here a slight disconnect between an engineer's (me)
use of the word 'possible' and the reader's (you) interpretation thereof.

The LX200gps has the "micro movement" capability somewhat exposed as
documented serial commands. (the RA and RE commands).

The 497 Autostar does not.

(engineer voice:) IN THEORY one could wedge the LX200gps-like command
processing into the firmware of the 497 (you'd have to lose some existing
functions, simply to make space in the memory... and THEN figure out
how to properly implement the functions).

(from your 2nd reply:)
 > Also, is the LX200gps Autostar II 'plug and play' given my custom
 > head based on the DS motors?

Probably not.. (but i haven't tried it).  Physically, the Autostar II (AsII)
is a double-sided circuit card (components on both sides) about 8 cm X 20 cm.
It's built into the -base- of the LX200gps, and the handbox is merely a
separate "dumb" box with the keypad and the display.  However the AsII
uses the same communication protocol to talk to its own motor cards,
so there's a faint chance it would work with the DS motor units.
(in theory it's possible to put an 18-wheeler truck's engine into a
Ford Escort.. but the result would be pretty lumpy looking, and the
"adapter plate" to the transmission would be rather complex).

If you can -find- a loose AsII computer board (they're rare, but
do exist) it would be at least $200 ...

> I'd be happy to control the entire kit-n-kabootle from a pc (no need for
> keypad control)... Would you consider giving me a 'quote' on say two ramping
> scripts that I could study and reverse engineer into more?

It's not the "scripts" that are the issue.
They're trivial... but it would be easier for me to convert some -real-
example of what you want (either as a graph of degrees per second motor ("head")
slew rate as a function of elapsed time, or the same information as a table of
numbers or an algebraic expression).
That level of effort would be "free".  (the RA and RE arguments would
simply be the table).

The **problem** is getting the 497 Autostar to accept and process
those RA and RE commands.  That's where Lake Ontario starts flooding
the basement.

>  Or at least
> point me in the right direction so that I can educate myself on how to write
> and execute these custom scripts.  I just finished building my custom head
> so I'm at the tip of the iceberg here... I chose the 494 based on 10 slew
> speeds and simple in the field use... I had no idea this all was possible
> given a better controller! I'm inspired!

Hmmm... another approach (far simpler, if you're willing to have the PC
there) would be to provide some new (no need to match the AsII command
sets) serial commands which let you simply -specify- the raw numbers
that the scope will hand to the motors.  That would give you -complete-
control (i'm not quite sure how gracefully a "stop" would be handled),
with (hopefully) minimal fuss.  This may migrate it into the "reasonably
feasible to do in spare time" range.

Questions:  What *are* you doing?  What's the overall goal of the moving
head? (knowing the goal probably affects the methods employed).
((getting me "interested" doesn't hurt, either))
Form that goal i can get a handle on how -frequently- you're needing
to update the speeds.  (there's a limit of about 4 commands per second
when dealing with the autostar remotely).  Do you need feedback from
the Autostar?  (i don't foresee -blocking- the existing feedback,
but such commands would be competeing for  that "4 per second"
throughput limitation)

have fun
--dick

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