AUTOSTAR SUITE USER FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 24 November 2008

This page is for user comments and information specific to the Meade AutoStar Suite. If you have any comments, suggestions, questions or answers to questions posed here, e-mail them to me and I'll post them. Please use an appropriate Subject Line on your message. Thanks. (The Lunar Planetary Imager, LPI, and Deep Sky Imager, DSI, are covered in the Helpful Information - Astrophotography area.)


Subject:	Autostar, Envisage, and Guiding
Sent:	Saturday, November 22, 2008 09:01:58
From:	Steve Hollar (sjhollar@dslextreme.com)
I've managed to thoroughly confuse myself. When I have an object
centered on my computer, ready for imaging, I understand about drawing a
box on it or a nearby bright star. I understand that is simply to align
and stack one image on another to produce a final image.

I remember reading something about being able to "guide" using Autostar
Suite and Envisage. I believe I remember that one quick image is taken
to send small corrections from the computer to the scope, then the
second image will be for actual imaging and stacking purposes.
Naturally, during whatever the time duration is set to, no guiding
commands will be sent. So, it is kind of a pseudo guiding.

Am I correct about this? Is this automatic once all the cables are
connected? I've only experimented indoors and what I'm seeing is the
on-screen handbox in Autostar Suite works perfectly. I can completely
control the scope. The Telescope tab in Envisage does nothing. It says
the scope is not connected. If I click connect, it says something about
an invalid IP address. That throws me. Why is it looking for an IP
address? I'm not trying to connect to the Internet.

As you can see, I'm rather baffled by this. Any ideas?

Steve Hollar 
Mike here: AutoStar Suite can guide during exposures. It sends tracking corrections to the AutoStar, which moves the telescope. As to the not-connected and IP error, have you enable Network Protocol in AutoStar Suite. Since the serial port allows only one application (or process) to be in control at one time, the various AutoStar Suite application can not all talk to the serial port at the same time. So Meade did the Network Protocol which solves the problem.

And:

Talk about a disaster. I just don't know why things like this don't work
for me. If I click Telescope - Protocol - AutoStar via Network, I get
"Network Connection Failed".

If I try running NetScope, I get - "No connection could be made because
the target machine actively refused it" after that is an IP address.

When I click Listen, I get - "Run-time error '10048', Address in use"

At one point I get a message saying - Connection is forcefully rejected.

I have no problem connecting through the Com port. It just doesn't want
to connect throught the network. I have no idea where to go with this.
Mike here: Sounds like a Windows problem. There are some articles on the Network stuff with AutoStar Suite, including some tips I mention in the article "AutoStar Suite on a Macintosh" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page.

And:

Mike, I'm jazzed. I spoke too soon. I found Dicks instructions on using
address 127.0.0.1. I plugged that in to all the different windows that
ask for an address and it appears to work. Unfortunately I can only test
it indoors tonight as the skies are cloudy.

Patience is a good thing, isn't it.

And more:

Oh this is such a learning process. Last night was a disaster. It
wouldn't guide for anything. It just bounced all over the screen. Now I
see it absolutely has to be in Polar Alignment. I was lazy and only did
an Alt/Az. I'll try the correct way as soon as I can.

In the mean time, for some that may have this problem, I can not start
Net Scope Server from within Autostar Suite. When I click:
Telescope/Communications/Start Net Scope Server, the window opens to
start the program. When I check "Listen" I get a Runtime Error 10048.
This happens on both computers I've used.

Here is the fix. If I go to the Meade folder and click NetScope.exe
directly before starting Autostar Suite, then check Listen, it works
just fine. I can then start Autostar Suite and use all the functions
without problems. So I've created a desktop shortcut for NetScope.exe to
simplify things. Again, if anyone else has been going nuts trying to
figure out why the Net Scope Server can not be started within Autostar
Suite, hopefully this will help.

Subject:	Re: ETX125AT Computer Control Problems
Sent:	Wednesday, November 19, 2008 13:47:18
From:	Chris (chrisnlucy@xs4all.nl)
This is a short follow up on my remote control problems with the ETX
125AT.  I eventually obtained the Keyspan USA-19HS,  USB-RS232 adapter
but this unfortunately did not fully resolve my difficulties.  Using the
same set-up i.e. DSI Pro III, LPI (as a wide angle viewfinder) and the
Autostar via the Keyspan connected to the Trust 4-port, line powered,
USB Hub with the output from the Hub connected to a 5 meter Aten
'amplifier' USB lead plus a 3 meter additional extension to the Dell
Inspiron 6400 notebook PC, I still encountered the following problems:

1. The encoder angle readouts often lagged behind the telescope rotation
and frequently just froze, as displayed by the new Version 5 Autostar
software handbox.

2. Occasionally, the telescope continued to slew when the software
button was released.

The slewing action of the telescope and the operation of Mode and focus
controls are all much better than I earlier experienced but these
improved to this degree with just the Autostar V5.0 upgrade.

I then read some articles on your website on using a long Cat 5 Ethernet
lead between the handbox and the computer and purchased one of these. 
This worked a treat enabling me to control the telescope fully from my
remote location while only the DSI and LPI shared the long USB lead!  I
could also connect the Handbox via the Keyspan and a short lead to
another USB port on the PC to obtain the other control features provided
by the Autostar suite though I have not yet had the time and opportunity
to exploit this fully.

I do plan to set up the ETX 125 in Polar configuration (recommended for
the longer exposures I hope to be trying with the DSI) and have
constructed a wooden wedge for the purpose.  Time will tell how well
this set-up will work for me but remote operations and computer use are
the best I've so far achieved. Can you tell me please, what the Autostar
angle encoder readouts should be with the telescope pointing to the CNP
on its wedge for my latitude?  Depending on how the Autostar control
electronics are programmed  I expect Azimuth would be  0 deg 0' 0" but
the Alt angle might have to be at to 0 deg or my latitude angle (easy to
do by judicious switching the telescope power on and off) but if it has
to be 90 deg to conform to the declination disc angle this may be more
of a problem.  I plan to try an alignment procedure which does not
involve using reference stars (other than Polaris itself) but I don't
know what the encoders need to read in what I understand is the "Home
Position" for a Polar alignment i.e. telescope pointing to the CNP on
it's correct latitude wedge and optical axis perpendicular to the base.
I would appreciate your help on this.
 
Kind regards,
 
Chris Connor (Netherlands)

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Chris wrote:
> This is a short follow up on my remote control problems with the ETX 
> 125AT.  I eventually obtained the Keyspan USA-19HS,  USB-RS232 adapter 
> but this unfortunately did not fully resolve my difficulties.  Using the 
> same set-up i.e. DSI Pro III, LPI (as a wide angle viewfinder) and the 
> Autostar via the Keyspan connected to the Trust 4-port, line powered, 
> USB Hub with the output from the Hub connected to a 5 meter Aten 
> 'amplifier' USB lead plus a 3 meter additional extension to the Dell 
> Inspiron 6400 notebook PC, I still encountered the following problems:
> 1. The encoder angle readouts often lagged behind the telescope rotation 
> and frequently just froze, as displayed by the new Version 5 Autostar 
> software handbox.
> 2. Occasionally, the telescope continued to slew when the software 
> button was released.
> The slewing action of the telescope and the operation of Mode and focus 
> controls are all much better than I earlier experienced but these 
> improved to this degree with just the Autostar V5.0 upgrade.

So i wonder if it is/was the cameras occupying the Hubbed" USB channel
such that serial signals were lost?   (cameras do that... they grab the
USB line and shift large amounts of data in a synchronous fashion).

>  
> I then read some articles on your website on using a long Cat 5 Ethernet 
> lead between the handbox and the computer and purchased one of these.  
> This worked a treat enabling me to control the telescope fully from my 
> remote location while only the DSI and LPI shared the long USB lead!  I 
> could also connect the Handbox via the Keyspan and a short lead to 
> another USB port on the PC to obtain the other control features provided 
> by the Autostar suite though I have not yet had the time and opportunity 
> to exploit this fully.
> I do plan to set up the ETX 125 in Polar configuration (recommended for 
> the longer exposures I hope to be trying with the DSI) and have 
> constructed a wooden wedge for the purpose.  Time will tell how well 
> this set-up will work for me but remote operations and computer use are 
> the best I've so far achieved.
> Can you tell me please, what the Autostar angle encoder readouts should 
> be with the telescope pointing to the CNP on its wedge for my latitude?  
> Depending on how the Autostar control electronics are programmed  I 
> expect Azimuth would be  0 deg 0' 0" but the Alt angle might have to 
> be at to 0 deg or my latitude angle (easy to do by judicious switching 
> the telescope power on and off) but if it has to be 90 deg to conform to 
> the declination disc angle this may be more of a problem.  I plan to 
> try an alignment procedure which does not involve using reference stars 
> (other than Polaris itself) but I don't know what the encoders need to 
> read in what I understand is the "Home Position" for a Polar alignment 
> i.e. telescope pointing to the CNP on it's correct latitude wedge and 
> optical axis perpendicular to the base. I would appreciate your help on 
> this.

Um... why not do what i'd have to do, namely hook up the scope and
-ask- it?   The answer may vary depending upon if you PARKed to end
the previous session, so you'll need to try both "starting" conditions.

(oh, heck.. how can i resist... i went and tried it)

Remember that the encoders are "incremental" encoders... so they don't
have a "physical" starting value... it's whatever the Autostar decides
to assign as the power-up value.

Even Polar mounted, the Alt/Az readout is "horizon" based... so at power
up in the northern hemisphere you'll get  AZ=00d 00m 00s  and
Alt=(your latitude).
The RA will be your local sidereal time less/plus 12 hours.
The DEC will be very close to 90 degrees.
That was -not- after a PARK, but it still thought it was pointed at
"Polar Home"  (the results are different on an LX200gps, since Polar
PowerUp position is different).

have fun
--dick

And:

You take my breath away with your impossibly rapid responses  -  thank
you and I don't have to add, they are much appreciated.

However, Dick, I didn't understand your explanation on the encoder
angles.  My scope (and I assume all similar with incremental encoders)
powers up from 'cold' with encoder readings at 0 deg 0' 0" on both
axes.  Thus it doesn't matter what the positions of the axes relative to
each other or the base are, the encoder readings will be zero at power
up from cold, so did I misunderstand your statement that the encoder
reading for Alt= my latitude i.e. 52 deg 8' 17" N 4 deg 23' 43" E  which
is NOT so at power up from cold.  I can understand that from park and
sleep which requires the axes to be in specific locations known to the
programme that readings may differ but I am referring to encoder
readings only at power up from cold.

Also, you state that even for Polar mount the readouts are "horizon"
based  -  does this mean that the "Home" position is with the optical
tube axis horizontal, the Az axis perpendicular to true north and the
base located on an accurate wedge for the latitude, in which case the
power up from cold encoder readings will be zero and if the Az axis is
THEN driven until the optical tube and scope axis is pointing to the CNP
the Az encoder will read the Latitude (assuming a perfect wedge and
alignments, of course!)?  I can see that this may be what you meant by
the Alt reading being the Latitude  -  but not if the scope is powered
up from cold with the optical axis pointing to the CNP.

If I am correct that the Polar mount "Home" position is indeed with the
scope axis HORIZONTAL then my question is answered as at power up from
cold the encoders will read zero and if I then assume accurate slewing
of the Az to read my latitude the scope axis will now point to the CNP. 
If so then I presume the software will perform the necessary go to
commands and track celestial objects correctly  -  always assuming
adequate setting up accuracy and telescope performance precision, the
latter perhaps leaving something to be desired with a long train of low
precision plastic gears and a less than perfect clutch between the
encoders and the axes!!

I would appreciate your clarification on what does seem a simple matter
but one which can lead to enormous confusion (just like plus and minus,
left and right, CW and CCW  - as they all depend on the starting point
and the way you view it!!).
 
Kind regards,
 
Chris.

And an update:

I have to apologise for a misunderstanding in my last E-mail!  I have
just 'discovered' that if the scope is set to "Polar Mount" the Az
reading on power up from cold does read the latitude (presumably it gets
this from the location data) and assumes the target will be
Astronomical.  I did not know this as up to the present I don't think I
ever powered up from cold with the mount set to Alt-Az and the target
was always terrestrial since most of the time I was "playing" with the
scope indoors, trying to resolve the communication and control problem
using the church spire as my target.  Any observations I made by eye
outside on celestial objects have so far always been in the Alt-Az mode.
That's my excuse for the misunderstanding!  I hadn't given enough
credit to the programmers for being so thoughtful!  Now all I have to do
is attach the scope to the wedge polar mount align to the CNP (not so
straightforward to achieve accurately I am aware) and when so aligned,
power down then up again and the encoder readings should be set for
accurate go to operations etc.  I'll let you know how successful my
alignment procedure is when I have tried it though I suspect it's not
original and I will not be surprised if I discover one or more reasons
why it's not a good approach but right now before trying it in practice
I can't see anything wrong in principle.

Thank you both again for your prompt responses, congratulations as ever
for a super site and may we all be successful with our various
activities.
 
Kind regards,
 
Chris.
Mike here: Just to confirm, the Polar Home Position is with the OTA and the ETX fork arms pointed at the Celestial Pole (north or south, depending on your location).

And:

> You take my breath away with your impossibly rapid responses 

A major factor of Speed of response is when the question arrives
(this reply is 7 hours after the question, for example).

> However, Dick, I didn't understand your explanation on the encoder 
> angles.  My scope (and I assume all similar with incremental encoders) 
> powers up from 'cold' with encoder readings at 0 deg 0' 0" on both 
> axes.  Thus it doesn't matter what the positions of the axes relative to 
> each other or the base are, the encoder readings will be zero at power 
> up from cold, so did I misunderstand your statement that the encoder 
> reading for Alt= my latitude i.e. 52 deg 8' 17" N 4 deg 23' 43" E  which 
> is NOT so at power up from cold.  I can understand that from park and 
> sleep which requires the axes to be in specific locations known to the 
> programme that readings may differ but I am referring to encoder 
> readings only at power up from cold.

You are correct that the "encoder readings" will be zero/zero at
power up, but those readings are held in the processors on the
motor cards, inaccessible to all unless you intercede on the I2C
bus between the Autostar and the motor cards (or know where to
peek in the volatile memory of the Autostar)

I turned on my scope in Polar (if the scope had been Alt/Az mounted
(Setup/Telescope/TelescopeMount=Alt-Az) the results would have been zero/zero)
  and brought up the Alt/Az readout on the screen.
I did -not- perform an alignment, and the time and date were pre-set by
the LNT module i had attached.  An ETX in Polar immediately starts doing
sidereal "tracking", so i could hear the RA motor grinding away.

The Autostar's screen showed Az=0, Alt=47d40m , and RA=LST-12h DEC=89d59m
My Seattle latitude is 47d40m

> Also, you state that even for Polar mount the readouts are "horizon" 
> based  -  does this mean that the "Home" position is with the optical 
> tube axis horizontal, the Az axis perpendicular to true north and the 
> base located on an accurate wedge for the latitude, in which case the 
> power up from cold encoder readings will be zero and if the Az axis is 
> THEN driven until the optical tube and scope axis is pointing to the CNP 
> the Az encoder will read the Latitude (assuming a perfect wedge and 
> alignments, of course!)?  I can see that this may be what you meant by 
> the Alt reading being the Latitude  -  but not if the scope is powered 
> up from cold with the optical axis pointing to the CNP.

Think about it... if the OTA is pointed at the CNP (as it expects to be),
it is pointing your latitude's angle above the northern horizon
(if you were at the Earth's north pole, it would be pointing straight up.
If you were at the Earth equator, it would be pointing at the horizon).

You use of the word "horizontal" is confusing.
"horizontal" (i.e. parallel/tangential) to the ground?
Or "horizontal" to the plane of the base (i.e. perpendicular to the
centerline of the RA axis)?
Polar Home for an ETX is OTA pointed at the CNP (or NCP) if sited in
  the northern hemisphere.   That's where it PARKs, too.
Polar Home is where the Autostar expects to be *at power up*.
If you slew (after powering up) to DEC=90 after power-up, the readouts
will think that you have moved -away- from Polar Home, **until you start
an alignment process**, at which point it will reset its ideas ("the
counters".. but only those in the Autostar) as dictated by the Alignment.

((footnote: the motor card encoders "roll over" ... they only have a
24-bit range which is not enough for the full motion of the telescope.
They do not have a "carry register", that function is performed by
the Autostar's programming))

> If I am correct that the Polar mount "Home" position is indeed with the 
> scope axis HORIZONTAL then my question is answered as at power up from 
> cold the encoders will read zero and if I then assume accurate slewing 
> of the Az to read my latitude the scope axis will now point to the CNP.  

The scope expects to already be pointed at the NCP ... *if* you are
operating in Polar mode.
If you are operating in Alt.Az, it expects to be pointed at the
true north horizon (wellll... that statement is incorrect if you
have an LNT module attached to the scope... then it expects to be
pointed "somewhere" west of north.)  I just tried that.... even with
an LNT module attached, the Alt/Az Autostar powers up thinking it is
at Az=00  Alt=00, RA = LST-12h, DEC=(90-latitude).

> If so then I presume the software will perform the necessary go to 
> commands and track celestial objects correctly  -  always assuming 
> adequate setting up accuracy and telescope performance precision, the 
> latter perhaps leaving something to be desired with a long train of low 
> precision plastic gears and a less than perfect clutch between the 
> encoders and the axes!!
>  
> I would appreciate your clarification on what does seem a simple matter 
> but one which can lead to enormous confusion (just like plus and minus, 
> left and right, CW and CCW  - as they all depend on the starting point 
> and the way you view it!!).

Trying to picture what "the encoders" are doing is looking too deeply
"under the hood"... you have to realize that the Autostar is going to
be converting/calculating/transposing their "ticks" before -you- ever
get to see the results.
Yes: all outputs are based upon "the encoders" starting at an assigned
value of zero at power-up.   But what RA/DEC or Alt/Az the Autostar
considers to be "zero" is severely affected by other conditions (such
as site).

Try this: set the scope to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
If powered up in Alt/Az, the initial Alt Az readings are zero/zero
If powered up in Polar, it says Az=180  Alt=(lat of BsAs).
*that's* what i mean by "horizon-based Alt/Az readings"

have fun
--dick

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