AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 31 May 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:	ETX-70 Autostar
Sent:	Thursday, May 31, 2007 13:46:36
From:	Greg (greg.robbins@sympatico.ca)
I just got a Meade ETX-70AT , when I turn it on the bottom line on the
hand set moves so fast I can't read it. It's a #494 handset.

I can move the scope left, right, up, down and change the speed of
movement. I am satified  that I can use the scope this way but I would
to be abl to use the Autostar functions.I know very little about
telescopes and stuff but I have a 3 year old girl and she already wants
to know about the night sky.

Is there anything that can be done or do I need a new handset?

Greg
Mike here: Simple solution to a common question. See the FAQ page for the answer.
Subject:	custom 494 autostar movement? is it possible?
Sent:	Thursday, May 31, 2007 13:10:29
From:	Jay Burlage (jburlage@lzarch.com)
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?

Thanks!
Jay Burlage

Subject:	Polar Alignment
Sent:	Wednesday, May 30, 2007 17:38:47
From:	Thom Tapp (ttapp@comcast.net)
My ETX-125 alignment works fine in ALT-AZ mode, but when I put the scope
in POLAR home position, and do an EASY align, it points down to the
North East instead of to the alignment star in almost the opposite
position in the sky! I have the mount in home position. I turned it to
hard stop (Counter Clockwise) and back so the arm is over the ports and
the eyepiece is pointed up as the scope is aimed Celestial North. As I
said, ALT-AZ works, but Polar does not. Could I have some setting wrong?
I have the TELESCOPE  MOUNT setting set to polar, time and date correct,
and zip code entered. Any ideas???
 
Thanks!
 
Thom Tapp
Mike here: Could the AutoStar time be 12 hours off (AM vs PM)? Do the other Polar Alignment modes work?
Subject:	lx50 help
Sent:	Thursday, May 24, 2007 09:40:06
From:	Gianni (erosenninz@hotmail.com)
sorry for disturb :)
i've a lx50 fork with a broken magellan II controller
I wanna ask you if you know to adapt to my fork LX50 the autostart
controller + drive kit like this:

http://cgi.ebay.it/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&sspagename=ADME%3AL%3ARTQ%3AIT%3A1&viewitem=&item=170115273769&rd=1

(a meade DS kit)

Sorry again for disturb

thanks in advice,

Gianni
Mike here: Suggest you try the Roboscopes Yahoo Group; they deal with these things a lot.
Subject:	ASU problem
Sent:	Thursday, May 24, 2007 05:09:48
From:	Massimo Alessandria (m.alessandria@biz.tre.it)
I'm italian, so escuse my english ... please! ;)

I've read many pages of you site, but i have not find the solution to my
problem.

I'm trying to update the firmware on my #497, i've the cable and a usb
to serial converter, so my COM port is COM16.

If i run Hyper Terminal, connect it to handbox and press ctrl+f,
autostar response correctly with a "P" ... fine.

But if i connect with ASU, it didn't find handbox!

I've tried with 4.3, 4.6 and 3.61 version o ASU, but the problem was
similar (only 3.61 remember my setting of COM16 port).

I've tried in safe mode, in normal mode or in the downloading page of
handbox ... nothing!
 
How can i do?
 
Thank you for you help and for your useful site!
 
Massimo Alessandria 
Mike here: What USB adapter are you using? Not all work reliably with the AutoStar, especially for updating. See the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page for more info (I use a Keyspan model and it works fine from Mac OS X). As Dick Seymour has suggested many times, you might try the StarPatch program from http://www.stargps.ca.

And:

Thank you for your fast response.

I'va just tried with StarPatch program, but it didn't find COM 16 (only
COM4). So i've tried to change the port into .INI file of starpatch,but
the program say that was unable to find this port.

Now i think that softwares dosn't find my port.

Adapter is a "Bandridge": http://tp-bandridge.bandridge.nl/TradePoint/Item_View?itemNo=CPL4211
 
Thank you ...
 
Massimo Alessandria 
Mike here: I suspect the driver for that adapter isn't going to work with the AutoStar then. You might want to check into the info in that article I mentioned.

And:

Thank you, i'll try again, or i'll change the adapter.
I inform you if something going well.

Subject:	re: 497 Handbox on ETX-105PE DIed
Sent:	Wednesday, May 23, 2007 21:11:39
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Another thing to try is StarPatch, a non-MEade updater program
(which is much more robust about dealing with Windows and
COM ports).

A free download from http://www.stargps.ca/starpatch.htm

You'll need to be in Flash Load for it to operate,
given the description of your symptoms.

good luck
--dick

And:

> I am using a good USB -to-Serial Port adapter. I just bought a new
> one and it had worked several times with the Autostar.

What brand is it?

A number work OK for guiding, but fail at downloading
(although mostly it's Belkins which have problems,
and they fail -long- before the 42% point).

good luck
--dick

And an update:

From:	Galen Flinn (Galen@macnet.com)
Out of the blue I received an email from Richard Seymour advising me of
StarPatch. He said I should give the Trial version a try to see if it
could reload my Autostar 497. I figured, "What the heck, why not?" I
downloaded his program and the appropriate 43EG patch and fired it up.
It worked the very first time using my USB-to-RS232 adapter and I am now
moving on to recalibrate and train the drives. He had redirected me back
to your site to get the right info on setting things up. You guys are
great in my book. Thanks a million for tolerating the newbies.

Galen...

Subject:	497 Handbox on ETX-105PE DIed
Sent:	Sunday, May 20, 2007 15:16:30
From:	Galen Flinn (Galen@macnet.com)
Another newbie here. I just purchased a new ETX-105PE about a month ago.
I used it a couple of times to try it out and it seemed to be OK. It
Autoaligned fine the first time but when I did a GoTo Saturn it found it
but wouldn't track it. I had to constantly keep pressing the arrow keys
to have the image stay in the eyepiece when using the 26MM. A couple if
nights ago I went out to a different location in my yard to set up on a
firm piece of asphalt with a great view. When I tried to Autoalign it
kept coming up with just black sky with no bright stars. It appeared to
be pointing way off to the right of what I thought should be the star of
choice. I went through 9 stars with similar results. I tried to
Autoalign several times but no luck. If I slewed the scope to what I
thought it was looking for I would get unsuccessful aligns.

My next step was to scrub any viewing and go to the Internet to see what
I could find. I found out about Training the Drive, so I used a yard
light about a mile away and that process seemed to go OK. I then tried
using AutoAlign again and had similar results in terms of pointing in
the wrong location. This second time I was back at the original viewspot
in the backyard. Again, no luck. I then went to the Internet and found
that there was new software to update so I downloaded 43eG and began
loading into the scope. After about 45 minutes I was still getting a
message to not disturb the unit until it was done. Then I fell asleep.
When I came back in the morning the batteries were dead in the scope. I
replaced them and restarted the scope. The display was blank or would
only give random characters. I tried the Safe Mode Flash procedure and
it would give me the Flash 3.0 Ready message. I tried downloading in
that mode and it would start showing an Initialization message and an
escalating percentage number. At around 42% I would get a message saying
Data Retrieval Done. When I acknowledged that message by clicking "OK"
it would say Initialization Complete... Handbox Restarted. The Handbox
display would again be blank. If I tried to communicate at this point
all I could get was a message saying the AutoStar software on the PC
could not find the scope on any comm port and that was as far as I could
go. I tried this procedure several times with the same results. I did
the comm port tests and I get back either a "D" or "?" as expected. I
tried downloading the Boot ROM Hard Reset I found on your site and I get
back the Version message as expected, but nothing happens when I input
"I".

By the way, I did check the LNT battery and it was sitting at 0.362
volts, so I have replaced that, now. That's not too good for a brand new
scope. Is a new Handbox in order, or is there something else I can try?
I talked to Meade Customer Support and they said I should go on line and
request an RMA. Strange they can't issue one over the phone.I made the
request on Friday morning and still haven't heard back from them
(Sunday).

Galen...
Mike here: Were you using a computer with a real serial port or a USB-serial adapter? If a USB adapter, which one? Not all work reliably with the AutoStar. For more on this see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. I have no problems with the AutoStar using a Keyspan model on my Mac.

And:

I am using a good USB -to-Serial Port adapter. I just bought a new one
and it had worked several times with the Autostar. The source for this
one says they have had good luck working with several Meade customers on
various telescopes. I also have a cheap adapter and it would never talk
to the Autostar. I can get it to recognize the handbox in the Safe Mode,
but after I start the Autostar update and it retrieves the data, I get a
crash the next time I try to talk to it.

Galen...
Mike here: OK. Are you updating from a file from Meade's site or using a local copy of the file? If trying to update over the Internet, I recommend downloading the file to your hard disk and updating the AutoStar using the local copy. Put the ROM file in the Ephemerides folder.
Subject:	Autostar II Conversion
Sent:	Tuesday, May 15, 2007 20:52:46
From:	Fishin (fishin@nbnet.nb.ca)
Hi, I am a Meade LX-90 user which can use either a 495 or 497 hand
controller, the same as an ETX.  I was wondering if you would know, if
it is possible to convert the Autostar II controller, to operate the ETX
models or the LX-90 models of Meade telescope.
Thanks
Mike Powell
Mike here: I haven't heard of anyone doing this. If anyone would have done this it would be Dick Seymour.
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Quick and easy answer: NO.

The Autostar II handbox does -not- contain the autostar itself.
The computer/controller is in the -base- of the LX200gps/RCX400 scopes.
The handbox is merely a display and keypad, and contains no "smarts"
for actually controlling a telescope.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	re: How to Test Autostar rs232 circuits!???
Sent:	Tuesday, May 15, 2007 20:50:07
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Well, i've dug into it...

The "Press Press" is a bug in the Autostar firmware
(and may have been in there, unreported, since v30Eb)

The Autostar is -attempting- to say
"Press ENTER", then "Press MODE", etc.
but it's displaying the word "ENTER" before writing
the word "Press", which proceeds to step on the "ENTER".

I've sent a bug report to Meade.

As an aside, it -is- actually changing the display
when you tap [enter] and [mode], it just looks the
same.

I must admit that i'm quite puzzled as to why it
-works- for N/W/E/W/Up/?/Down

have fun, thanks for reporting the quirk
--dick

Subject:	#494 lit up, flashed some crazy symbols and went blanksponding
Sent:	Monday, May 14, 2007 17:14:43
From:	Mike & Terrie (cooks76082@totalusa.net)
My son and I were using an old DS-90AT with an Autostar #494 hand
controller.  I was also using Autostar Suite (Ver 3.23) and while in AS
3.23 I was in the Telescope, Protocol tab, and then into handcontroller.
While in the on screen hand controller it began to initialize and then
I accidentally unplugged the power to the scope.  I plugged the power
cord back in and the hand controller lit up as usually at the beginning,
flashed some crazy symbols, and went blank.  When I unplug the HBX from
the scope, the motors go crazy until the power source is unplugged.  Is
there anyway that I can fix this in layman terms or is it shot and
messed up for life.  I'd like to fix it. The scope is fine.  My son
loves it.  We were practicing with the Autostar Suite (ver 3.23) with
controlling the scope when I decided to see what the on-screen hand
controller was.  Any & all help is appreciated.
 
They are hard to find on the internet!  Even at auctions.
 
Thanks so much.
 
Mike C. & son
Springtown TX
Mike here: You probably corrupted the memory on the AutoStar when power was removed and there is no user-installable update to reload the ROM for the AutoStar #494. You have three alternatives: buy a new (or used) #494, contact Meade for a repair, or buy a #497 (which is user updatable).

And:

Thanks Mike.  I greatly appreciate the info.  
Sincerely,

Mike Cook

Subject:	How to Test Autostar rs232 circuits!???
Sent:	Sunday, May 13, 2007 23:24:04
From:	Stephen A Boyd (sboy9869@bigpond.net.au)
G'day Michael,

I've had a bit of trouble trying to update my autostar and as it kept
saying it couldn't find the com port,  I tried using your "How to Test
Autostar rs232 circuits!"  I tried both of my 497s and two different
cables and both times with both my autostars they gave me the message
"Press Press". I waited and then tried pressing a couple of keys but
only got a "bad key"  answer.

I double checked the short with the paperclip in holes 2 and 3 in the
serial plug and still the same message appears. I've shut down  both
scopes till I hear back from you.  Hopefully nothing is too
serious....:(

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

From our AutoStar expert:

From:	Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Which version of firmware?  (Meade may have introduced a bug)

>> I waited and then tried pressing  
>> a couple of keys but only got a "bad key"  answer.

Ah... these people who -stop- after only a couple of keys...
Try -each- and -every- key, to see if one of them satisfies
it such that it moves on to the next key.

At least it -is- noticing your short-circuit, since that's 
the only way to elicit the "Press" message
(although "Press Press" bothers me...)

I'm not near my Autostar (for another hour or two) so
i cannot test it until later.

good luck
--dick
Mike here: That "Press Press" made me wonder too. Maybe a new AutoStar model with a "Press" key instead of "GOTO"; you know, like CapCom says "Press to MECO"...

And:

G'day Dick,
AH HA!!!!! got it done.......
It's Version 43Eg on both 497s.

I just read your answer and went out into the obs and tried again. It
came up with "PRESS PRESS" again so I tried pressing 'ENTER' then 'MODE'
then 'GOTO'. It wasn't till I hit GOTO that the message changed.

The message changed to 'PRESS N' ,  I did and then it went to 'PRESS S..
then E... then W.....  Then went back to "PRESS PRESS" again.

I then went through the numbers 1 to 0.  The message remained till I hit
0 and then changed to 'PRESS U then ?  then D.... then came up with the
failure notice you mentioned.  I tried both 497s and they both did the
same setup...... This is a good thing right?  heh heh... Looks like I'm
ok on that end,  so just have to check the laptop end.

I  bought a second hand ETX70 a few weeks ago and it's a great little
scope with surprisingly good optics. It's noisy as hell but tracks ok. 
I got the #506 cable set for the 494 handset and it really didn't like
it.  The handset died but the scope works well with the 497 so will keep
it that way. The 494 handset will be rebuilt and become a remote control
handset for some bits in the observatory.

Question?

The serial adapter that came with the #506 cable set.... will it work
with the 497 and 505 cable as per the original one?  I have two 497s and
only one serial plug.

Thanks for your help mate and clear skies
Stephen
> It's Version 43Eg on both 497s.
> I just read your answer and went out into the obs and tried again.
> It came up with "PRESS PRESS" again so I tried pressing 'ENTER' then 
> 'MODE' then 'GOTO'. It wasn't till I hit GOTO that the message changed.
> The message changed to 'PRESS N' ,  I did and then it went to 'PRESS S.. 
> then E... then W.....  Then went back to "PRESS PRESS" again.

Fascinating... i'll look into it

> I then went through the numbers 1 to 0.  The message remained till I hit 
> 0 and then changed to 'PRESS U then ?  then D.... then came up with the 
> failure notice you mentioned.  I tried both 497s and they both did the 
> same setup...... This is a good thing right?

Yes...

>  heh heh... Looks like I'm 
> ok on that end,  so just have to check the laptop end.
> I  bought a second hand ETX70 a few weeks ago and it's a great little 
> scope with surprisingly good optics. It's noisy as hell but tracks ok.  
> I got the #506 cable set for the 494 handset and it really didn't like 
> it.  The handset died but the scope works well with the 497 so will keep 
> it that way. The 494 handset will be rebuilt and become a remote control 
> handset for some bits in the observatory.
> Question?
> The serial adapter that came with the #506 cable set.... will it work 
> with the 497 and 505 cable as per the original one?  I have two 497s and 
> only one serial plug.

I just checked with my ohmmeter, and yes, they are the same.

By that i mean that the DB-9 to RJ-11  lump is the same.

The *entire* 506 is -not- recognized by the 497 Autostar,
if/when plugged into the AUX port (or anywhere else).
497's simply don't have the programming required to operate
the 506.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	re: Autostar
Sent:	Tuesday, May 8, 2007 02:04:49
From:	Henrik van Holthoon (Henrik.van.holthoon@wanadoo.fr)
I have LX90GPS as well My experience is as follows;

GPS does local time, date and sit coordinates for you, you can check
this after alignment by holding MODE about 3 seconds and scroll down to
all parameters like RA/decl ,alt/azm and also time ,date and site
coordinates.

I supose you get the site coordinates measured by the GPS module but I
am not sure as I have put in the site coordinates also manually you can
do the same by using a handheld GPS or if you own a car GPS or using
Google Earth looking up your location.

I must say I am disappointed about the goto accuracy in the order of
about 3 minutes in both directions. The specs however state 5 minutes
goto accuracy so I probably have to live with that. I have cleaned the
encoder wheel and sensors from the altitude drive but do not know yet if
this makes any difference still bad wheather S France.

Regards Henrik

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Meade has confirmed it's a bug, and shall be fixed in the next release.

(i'll see if i can patch it, but no guarantees...)

have fun
--dick

Subject:	Using Two Star Alignment
Sent:	Sunday, May 6, 2007 07:13:55
From:	DennyMarkov@comcast.net (DennyMarkov@comcast.net)
I'm wondering if there's a way for me to take advantage of the LNT's
auto level, tilt and north but choose my own alignment stars as
suggested by the Best Pairs program.  I know that I can use the scroll
keys to skip to the next alignment star, but this would make for a long,
long alignment process if I'm looking for two specific stars.

Is there a way to combine the "auto" of the auto-align with the pointing
accuracy of the two-star method?
 
Thanks,
 
Denny
Mike here: Not that I am aware of. Getting to the "manual" alignment process would entail cancelling out of the Auto Alignment after the Leveling-Northing process is completed. But then you would have to mess up both by putting the telesope into a different Home position. Perhaps Dick Seymour can develop a "patch" that would jump to the Two Star alignment code in the AutoStar.
Subject:	Autostar
Sent:	Saturday, May 5, 2007 10:36:37
From:	Jan H Kolst (jan.kolsto@online.no)
I've just bought an LX 90  8" GPS. When I start Autostar It says:
"Getting GPS fix" and after some time "New Site".I thought everything
was OK,but it wasn't because the Alignmentstar was rather far from the
finderscope though in the right direction.I checked Autostar and it gave
me the position of OSLO where the former owner lives and I was in
Haugesund which is about 350 miles (500 km) from Oslo. I did a RESET
-Calibrate Motors - Traine drives(both axes) -  Calibrated Sensors- and
manually set SITE Haugesund and the correct coordinates.The Autoalign
again.Same procedure as earlier and checked the scope.It told me OSLO
and the Oslo coordinates. Perhaps I need to redownload a new version of
Autostar? It already has the latest.Any suggestions?
 
Regards
 
Jan H Kolstoe
Norway
Mike here: I don't have a GPS LX90 so can't comment directly but it sounds like the AutoStar is not getting the current location (and perhaps date/time) from the GPS. I haven't checked a map but depending on the direction between the two sites, the difference may or may not matter. Have you checked the date/time after the GPS fix?

And:

Yes the time and date are both correct after the GPS fix.It is the same
date and time in Oslo and Haugesund.

Subject:	re: ETX-125AT set-up question
Sent:	Friday, May 4, 2007 19:56:00
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
First, i'd be highly interested to hear which Time Zone
is wrong in the Autostar's database... i feed such bugs
to Meade.

Second, the time actually doesn't matter much after
you've aligned... i'm actually more bothered that the
scope doesn't GoTo the original alignment stars very well.
(the time does matter for planets and the moon, but
for stars the alignment procedure overrules the clock).

As Mike alluded to, you can manually change the Time Zone.
If you created a Site by entering GPS coordinates,
just menu to  Setup/Site/Edit/[enter], then scroll up
to Setup/Site/Edit/TimeZone.  Tap [enter],
then change the number to -5.0 for Eastern Time.
Tap [enter] to lock it in, then tap [mode] a few
times to "come back up" the menu tree.
Turn the power off, (count to 5), then On, and
enter the time/date and daylight savings (Yes) state.
Then see if alignments and GoTos get any better.

There are other precursor steps that help alignments.
One of the more critical is Setup/Telescope/Train Drives.
There's a submenu of "RA" and "DEC", perform those
procedures (you can do this in the daytime on a "distant"
(100 yards or more) landmark).

After that, give the alignment and star-chasing another go...
if it still can't GoTo back to the alignment stars,
there may be something mechanically loose in the scope.
If it's a new scope, consider warranty service (or exchange
with the dealer).  IF it's a bit older then self-service
is certainly feasible... assess if the GoTo's are missing
in the Alt or Azimuth directions, and investigate the
suspect gear chain (if it's Alt at fault (scope arrives too
low), then perhaps there's simply too much grease on the
clutch, and opening the fork and cleaning off the excess
may cure it).

good luck
--dick

Subject:	ETX-125AT set-up question
Sent:	Monday, April 30, 2007 19:28:09
From:	Rhonda
We are having trouble setting up our "go-to" telescope.  Since we don't
know much about it, we don't know if our issues are operator error
(probable) or if we have defective equipment.  We bought a Meade ETX-125
AT.  When we try to align it, the control panel says we were successful,
yet it is unable to find any other stars correctly - it won't even go
back to the alignment stars correctly.

Our zip code puts us in a Central time zone, although we live in an
Eastern time zone. Since we are out in the "country" and not "close to
any cities in the database, we used GPS coordinates to set-up our
location. We think part of the problem is how we are entering the time. 
As mentioned. we live in an Eastern time zone, however we are a mile or
less from the Central time zone.  This issue gives us fits on many items
- our satellite receiver, cell phone, etc. - constantly changing from
one to another, etc. We have tried to set-up the time in the telescope
controller both ways and still can't get it to work.  We also were
wondering about the daylight savings time issue since it began on a
different week time this  year. . .Do you have any suggestions or
contacts  we could use to help us get this thing working?

As you can tell, we are getting frustrated!  My husband is very good
with electronics and all that, so I feel like he is doing everything
correctly.  It has to be something simple that we are just not thinking
of or seeing.

Thanks for your time.  Any help, suggestions and ideas are very much
appreciated!

HELP!

Rhonda
Mike here: I always recommend using the nearest City Name and not the ZIPCODE. Also, be certain you select the Daylight Saving setting properly for your location. That is a manual selection with the AutoStar so Congress can't be blamed for that problem! You can edit the time zone setting for your location when you edit a site location. If you have not done them, do a CALIBRATE MOTORS and TRAIN DRIVES from the AutoStar menus. As to tips, you might want to read through some of the articles on Alignment Tips on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. If nothing there helps, please describe the exact steps you are doing and what the results are.

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