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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK

Last updated: 31 May 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:	Mead serial Protocol query questions - LX80 Autostar
Sent:	Tuesday, May 28, 2013 17:26:40
From:	jeremy.k.bird@L-3com.com (jeremy.k.bird@L-3com.com)
I have a mead LX80 telescope.  I am attempting to write my own control
software using the mead Telescope serial command protocol (7 Oct 2010)
for a work project. I am not familiar with telescopes in general.  I am
trying to simply use the telescope in the Alt/AZ mode and point it
accordingly.  The largest problem I am having, is that I cannot get the
commands :GA or :GD and :GZ to return values consistently.  Sometimes it
does return those values, and other times it simply give me a 0 value
for both fields, although I know it should not be a 0 value.  I usually
turn on the telescope.  I see the X appear in response. I then command
:AA#.  then query :GA or :GD and :GZ.  I then move it, and query it
again with little luck. I use Deep Sky software which provides Alt/AZ
values, however, Deep Sky seems to often have a 0 value in its Alt/Az
fields.  Does not seem like Deep Sky can do any better  than I can.  Is
there some order or sequence or something I am overlooking that would
give me consistent non zero values for these fields?  In addition, what
is the best way to move this telescope to a given Alt/AZ?  would it be
to set a target object and slew to target, or just rotate the telescope 
and manually monitor its progress as it approaches my Alt/Az.

I have seen a few similar subject threads on this site, but nothing
quiet this specific.

Thank you kindly,

Jeremy
Mike here: I'll ask Dick Seymour to respond. He's the AutoStar expert.

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
I'm CCing Andrew Johansen on this one.

Jeremy?  are you running in Alt/Az or Polar mounting?
What controller are you using (Audiostar or Autostar)?
What firmware version is running in it?
(menu to Setup/Statistics (enter)(scroll up) )

There are a number of bugs in the Audiostar firmware that may be affecting you.
Andrew Johansen has written a free "patch kit" for it that fixes as many as we can.

The easiest way to get/install it is via StarPatch  from
http://www.stargps.ca/starpatch.htm
(the page discusses paying for a registration.
That is NOT required for simple updating and patching.
The paid version allows you to attach a GPS to your Audiostar )

Install StarPAtch, connect your Audiostar to your PC
(you may require a USB-to-serial adapter,  we recommend the Keyspan
USA-19HS or any adapter made by FTDI or using their chipset.  You will
also need a Meade 505 cable or a home-made equivalent.  Mike's "how to
build one" is here:
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_cable505.html )

Until Andrew chimes in, i will admit to being puzzled as to why the
problem is intermittent, unless it is simply the too-rapid-query issue.

Another factor is the *frequency* you request position reports...
The Audiostar (and Autostars) can give bad values if queried faster than
once or twice per second.  (the firmware is not 100% "thread safe", and
some variables get mangled if some of the processes are interrupted
mid-stream for a position report)

We await your "what i'm running" report...

good luck
--dick

And:

From:	Andrew Johansen (johansea@optusnet.com.au)
> What controller are you using (Audiostar or Autostar)?

It will have to be Audiostar as the others dont know
about LX80s.
That said, the firmware running is important,
as A3S4 has changed lots of things.

>> I am trying to simply use the telescope in the
>> Alt/AZ mode and point it accordingly.

Terrestrial use, or Astronomical ???

>> I cannot get the commands :GA or :GD and :GZ to return values
>> consistently.  Sometimes it does return those values, and othertimes it 
>> simply give me a 0 value for both fields,

There is a timer in there that prevents recalcs to about once per second.
I havent seen zero returned before, but i have seen weird data at times
esp if polar.

>> I usually turnon the telescope.  I see the X appear in response. I then 
>> command :AA#.  then query :GA or :GD and :GZ.

How do you set the time, or align the scope???
:AA# DOES NOT do an align ;-)
it just sets you AltAz.
That said, when you start the scope, it ASSUMES
you are pointing Nth and Level
ie Alt = Az = 0, so until it moves and recalcs data
thats what you will see.

>> fields?  In addition, what is the best way to move this telescope to a 
>> given Alt/AZ?

Depends on what you are doing.
Are you after terrestrial or Astro targets???
If Astro, you can use the :MA command, but you must reset the scope
to tracking after doing this, as MA slews to Alt/Az coords, then stops the 
motors.

Andrew

And this from Jeremy:

All I have to say is wow!  Thank you all so much for taking the time to
look into my little old problem!
I honestly didn't expect such a quick response.  Many thanks!
My firmware info:
Date:   Oct 5 2012
Number: A3S4
Name:   AutoStar

Is the A3S4 considered crappy/buggy?

Alt/AZ mode:
Not sure how to answer Terrestrial or Astronomical?  To be honest, I am
trying to use the telescope like a directional antenna for pointing at
other signals.  (don't hate me - company thought this would make a great
demo)

I am not querying the antenna significantly.  The deep Sky program
queries Alt/AZ about 3 times a second.  I am only querying about once
every few of seconds. (for now I haven't had to query any faster)

>How do you set the time, or align the scope???
>:AA# DOES NOT do an align ;-)
>it just sets you AltAz.
>That said, when you start the scope, it ASSUMES you are pointing Nth and
>Level ie Alt = Az = 0, so until it moves  >> and recalcs data thats what
>you will see.

I didn't know if setting the time or aligning the scope were important
factors for what I was doing, since I don't ever use UTC based time for
pointing. Only manual slews. The scope ASSUMES I am pointing north and
level upon boot up?  That is super helpful info.  Kinda feel dumb I
didn't notice that. ;)

How would I go about setting a Alt/AZ, and then slewing to it.  I have
tried setting Sr/Sz and Sas/Sds and then sending a :MS# command, but it
does nothing.

Thanks again guys! Remember, I am not trying to track, or look at an
Celestial objects, I merely want to be able to point it to any Alt/Az I
want manually and have it move. Lol  weather that is best achieved by
moving west and querying for my current Az till I reach my destination,
or setting a Alt/AZ position, and the antenna will move it for me and
stop.

And:

> My firmware info: A3S4

OK thats the latest Audiostar

> Is the A3S4 considered crappy/buggy?

They all have bugs of one sort or another.
I currently recommend A1F7 for all users
other than those with LX80s.
A1F7 still has its own bugs, but they are 
much more under control than the LX80 stuff .

> Not sure how to answer Terrestrial or Astronomical?  
> To be honest, I am trying to use the telescope 
> like a directional antenna for pointing at other signals.  
> (don't hate me - company thought this would make a great demo)

But where are the signals coming from :-)
Satellites or buildings????
Ie does the scope have to track once it gets to its target,
as that is critical to how you set it up,
and what commands you send.

> I didn't know if setting the time or aligning the scope
>  were important factors for what I was doing, 

Remeber,....   WE dont know what yr doing ;-)
hence its hard to advise.

> Thanks again guys! Remember, I am not trying to track, 
> or look at an Celestial objects, 
> I merely want to be able to point it to any Alt/Az 
> I want manually and have it move.

So what is this deep sky program you mention
( as that sorta implies were talking stuff in the sky )
If its purely point to a set AltAz and then sit there
till told otherwise, no alignment is required,
Just start the scope when its pointing Nth and Level.
Then just  use the :Sa/:Sz commands to set the target
followed by :MA# to goto 

Andrew

And:

> Then just  use the :Sa/:Sz commands to set the target
> followed by :MA# to goto

Let me echo Andrew on that:   :MA#  starts an Alt/Az motion
( :MS# starts an astronomical (S for Sidereal) motion)

If you need to test for arrival, send  :D#
You will get back a character (hexadecimal  DF ) followed by a # while
it's in motion.
When the Audiostar thinks the slew is completely complete, it will drop
the DF and only send the #

Sending a positional query 3 times a second is skating on thin ice
(that's 6 individual axis queries per  second), and during a GoTo doubly
risky.

You can fetch up an Alt/Az display on the handbox by pressing MODE for 3
seconds,
release, and then scroll down to the Alt/Az readout.
You can also command an Alt/Az GoTo from the handbox by now (when seeing
the alt/az readout) tapping GoTo.  The cursor will appear, and you can
key in the numbers you wish. End each line with the ENTER key.  Upon the
2nd ENTER, the motion will commence.

have fun
--dick

And:

Again, thank you for your many answers and feedback.

>But where are the signals coming from :-) Satellites or buildings????
>Ie does the scope have to track once it gets to its target, as that is
>critical to how you set >it up, and what commands you send.

The signals are coming from other buildings or generally object located
on the ground.  The scope does not have to track those signals, however
I am interested in having you elaborate further on the subject of how I
would set it up to do different things like creating a 'tracking'
algorithm if that was ever wanted. (non terrestrial/astronomical of
course)

>So what is this deep sky program you mention ( as that sorta implies
>were talking stuff in the >sky ) If its purely >> point to a set AltAz
>and then sit there till told otherwise, no >alignment is required, Just
>start the scope when its >> pointing Nth and Level.
>Then just  use the :Sa/:Sz commands to set the target followed by :MA# to goto

You are right, I did lead you down the wrong path.  My bad ;)  I was
just using the deep sky program to check my Alt/Az and how they were
querying it.

All of you have been a great help!  I am off to the races and things are
working well with the topics covered.
Would anyone have any savy on how to get :MgnDDDD# etc to work?  I have
never gotten these commands to work.  Is there a particular mode I need
to be in, or a follow up command I need to send?

And is :RADD.D#/:REDD.D# a movement command (it moves after receiving
this command), or only a speed set for when movement is requested at a
later time?

Jeremy

And more:

>>> But where are the signals coming from :-)

> The signals are coming from other buildings 
> or generally object located on the ground.  
> The scope does not have to track those signals,

Aha, 
In that case, there are several other options
The scope needs to be in Land mode for what you are doing
ie AltAz and Terrestrial.
In this mode, the scope has inbuilt functions for Landmarks
which could possibly be used for what you want to do
Not sure how they work in A3S4 tho.

> how I would set it up to do different things 
> like creating a 'tracking' algorithm if that was ever wanted.

There are several sites that deal with this,
esp setting up scripted panning etc for photography work.
Ref
http://openmoco.org/node/25
for one such mechanism

> Would anyone have any savy on how to get
> :MgnDDDD# etc to work?  
> I have never gotten these commands to work.
>  Is there a particular mode I need to be in,

Yep, you need to be tracking before they will work.
If you are altAz terrestrial, 
then you need to use the :Mx# commands.
 
> And is :RADD.D#/:REDD.D# a movement command
>  (it moves after receiving this command), or only a speed set
> for when movement is requested at a later time?

That sets a speed, it doesnt send it.
Ref the above project, as they use a variant of these commands
( with finer resolution ) as part of their scripting.

Andrew

And this:

> Would anyone have any savy on how to get :MgnDDDD# etc to work?
> I have never gotten these commands to work.
> Is there a particular mode I need to be in, or a follow up command I need to send?

The scope has to be mounted (or "think it's mounted") in Polar,
( Setup/Telescope/Telescope Mount/Polar (enter))
with the sidereal operating.  ...and (without patching) only certain Mount models allow it
(the LXD55 and LXD75 can, but Meade frequently forgets to add new models (like the LX80) 
to the list of "allowed to guide").  Our patch kit allows it for all models.
The "willing to do it" is controlled by an invisible response from the motor cards to a 
query by the Audiostar at boot-up... simply changing the Telescope Model on the handbox 
does NOT activate :MgdD.DDDDD#  allowance.

> And is :RADD.D#/:REDD.D# a movement command (it moves after receiving this command),
> or only a speed set for when movement is requested at a later time?

That's the puppy: it sets the speed for the *next* motion command
(unless overridden by any other speed-setting command, such as :MgnD.DDD# )
BUT:
If i recall correctly, the 497 and Audiostar do NOT process that command.
Our patch kit gave it to the 497, i do not remember if it's in the Audiostar kit.
(497 patch kits and ROM files are NOT compatible with the Audiostar)

have fun
--dick

And:

I just looked... our patch kit for A1F7 for the Audiostar
allows :MgnDDDD# in Alt/Az (as well as Polar).

If you do NOT patch A1F7, the :Mg commands all go to the Az motor.
The patch kit correct routes the n/s vectors to the Alt motor.

You could *try* simply setting the Audiostar to Polar,
then GoTo a Landmark (or set Setup/Targets/Terrestrial (enter) to stop the sidereal drive)
then see if it will process an :MgnTTTT# command
(guide motions are not very loud or fast.  I recommend 2000 as the TTTT value for testing.
(that's 2 seconds))

good luck
--dick

And:

Gday Dick

>> And is :RADD.D#/:REDD.D# a movement command

> If i recall correctly, the 497 and Audiostar do NOT process that command.
> Our patch kit gave it to the 497, i do not remember if it's in the 
> Audiostar kit.

The 497EP 5CE1 patch has the :Ea/:Ee and :RA/:RE
The Audiostar A1F7 patch has all four
but A3S4 only has the :Ea/:Ee

Andrew

And some more:

>>> And is :RADD.D#/:REDD.D# a movement command
>
>> If i recall correctly, the 497 and Audiostar do NOT process that command.
>> Our patch kit gave it to the 497, i do not remember if it's in the Audiostar kit.
>
> The 497EP 5CE1 patch has the :Ea/:Ee and :RA/:RE
> The Audiostar A1F7 patch has all four

Odd... i went through (what i thought was) the current kit as i wrote my answer.
I'm happy to be corrected/updated

> but A3S4 only has the :Ea/:Ee

..and i couldn't find a copy of the A3S4 kit
(i'll go look in StarPatch's cache...)

Note to onlookers:  the :Ea/:Ee  are a pair of commands similar to RA/RE,
but NOT calibrated in "degrees per second".  They're a bit more basic/dirty, and are 
calibrated in "encoders ticks per second" (if (obviously foggy) memory serves).

have fun
--dick

And this:

So... when I first turn on this LX80, I cannot get it to go to Alt and
Az. The hand controller device displays "Press 0 to align or mode for
menu."  I Set AZ/EL mode ":AA#" and Set Speed ":RS#"; (just to make
sure) and then Set Az = ":Sz045:00#" and Set Alt = ":Sa45:00#" then
command it to slew = ":MA#".  However it does not move.  
Only after I push the handset "mode" button (as if it stuck at some
welcome screen) will the above sequence work and actually move the
antenna.  Is acknowledging the welcome screen manually on the handset
always a prerequisite to get it to move to Alt/AZ?  Or is there some
other mode command I can send serially?

And:

You can use the :ED# command to request the handbox to return the screen
contents to you.
If it is on the menu in question, Send :EK9# ( this simulates pressing
the mode key )
The system must get past the login screens before you can start sending
it move commands, as until its setup, it doesnt know how its setup :-)

Andrew


Subject:	Repair of 494
Sent:	Saturday, May 18, 2013 14:24:27
From:	David Fortner (davidfortner@aim.com)
I read the article on repairing the #494 controller. I am not an
electrical engineer so the article, though informational, does not help
me. My question is this, Is there someone who could repair my #494 and
is it worth repairing. Prices on # 497 controllers though still
relatively low has climbed making them more out of my willing to spend
zone.

David Fortner
Mike here: I am not aware of anyone repairing a failed AutoStar #494. But the cost of any repair would likely not be worth it since you could replace it with a #497 and get more capabilities.


Subject:	Home Position ETX-125
Sent:	Monday, May 13, 2013 17:35:36
From:	Larry Kryske (larry@yourfinesthour.com)
Mike, there seems to be some confusion among the 125's instructional
manual, your website, and the autostar handheld controller concerning
the Alt/Az home position. Some say the OTA needs to be level with the
ground. The instruction manual and controller say the declination circle
should be set at 0 degrees. At least where I live (Dallas), if I set the
declination to 0 deg the OTA has about a 20-30 deg up angleclearly not
level. What is the real home position: OTA level or set at declination =
0 deg? 

Many thanks, Larry

Larry Kryske, Commander, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
www.YourFinestHour.com
Mike here: No confusion. OTA is level. If the scale is incorrect, you can easily adjust it. See the ETX FAQ page.

And:

Thanks, Mike.


Subject:	Entering star objects into Autostar
Sent:	Wednesday, May 1, 2013 13:04:09
From:	Leary Wong (Kinglear3@aol.com)
Star maps will designate an object by a Messier or NGC number. But, the
maps also designate others by its position in a constellation (i.e.
Cancer alpha, Cancer beta). Other objects by a greek letter and a number
( Sigma 1245, phi 2) and some times it includes additional designation
number (Sigma 1245 & 083307).

Can you tell me how to enter these stars into Autostar?

Thanks for providing a fantastic website for so many years.

Leary Wong
Mike here: If you select a Constellation from the Object menu, scroll till you see Bright Stars. You can then scroll through the named and Greek alphabet labelled stars in that constellation. If you want to GOTO any star (or object) not in the AutoStar database, hold down the MODE button until the MODE display appears. Then scroll up/down until you see the RA/Dec display. Press GOTO and then enter the RA and press ENTER. Then you can enter the DEC. when you press ENTER after having entered both the telescope will slew to those coordinates. If you need to change the Dec sign, arrow to the left and then use SCROLLUP/SCROLLDOWN.

And:

Thanks for the very fast response. 

Leary


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