ETX PREMIER EDITION FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 30 November 2008

This page is for user comments and information specific to the ETX PE (Premier Edition). Feedback on the specific PE technologies (Automatic Alignment + SmartFinder, Level North Technology) will be covered here. Feedback on the Autostar Suite AE (Astronomer Edition) will be posted on the regular Autostar Suite feedback page. Items that are applicable to all ETX models (EC, AT, PE) will continue to be posted on the other appropriate feedback pages. 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.


Subject:	ETX125PE - Goto problems - Defective or Training Errors?
Sent:	Friday, November 28, 2008 19:58:56
From:	dan colesworthy (dancolesworthy@mac.com)
I am trying to decide whether or not I have a defective ETX125PE.  I
purchased it in March 2008, and have never had any real success finding
and viewing objects.  Every call to Meade customer service has resulted
in my being told that I have not trained the drive correctly. 
Frustrating.  I have performed Resets as they suggested, and trained the
drive on a flag pole a couple of miles away several times.   The scope
always points low  (10 or 15 degrees)  and left (east) of the
automatically selected alignment stars.  For past months the alignment
stars have been Vega and Altair.

Once i got through to a "technician" who suggested I train the drive on
Polaris.  I did so, and the scope now points high but still east of the
guide stars.  Also performed a calibrate sensors.  Further calls have
never been returned.

If I perform a manual two star alignment on the same two guide stars,
then goto accuracy is "reasonable" for objects relatively close to the
guide stars.  Reasonable means near but almost never in the field of
view of either the supplied 26mm eyepiece or the 32mm eyepiece a
purchased.  Long slews result in larger errors.

Tracking often results in the object suddenly moving straight up out of
the field of view.  Thus the scope is moving down right?  At a guess,
the motor direction change and gear backlash is the culprit.

A final test.  I carefully leveled the tripod, mounted the scope, and
did an autoalignment (accepting both guide star positions), followed by 
a goto Polaris.  I measured the tube altitude to be 40 degrees - correct
as I am just 2-3 miles from the 40th parallel.  Turned the scope off,
dropped the north tripod leg to give 5 degrees down tilt, and repeated
the experiment.  This time the scope altitude was about 44 degrees.

As a side note, I am a firmware engineer.  I have been writing medical
device firmware for more than 20 years for  a variety of
microcontrollers - including PICs!  So I am no stranger to motor
control, precise positioning etc.  You did want your IV  pump to deliver
the prescribed dosage or your ventilator to deliver the prescribed air
volume, at the prescribed rate right?  Firmware certainly has its share
of bugs, but generally, mechanical problems predominate, followed by
sensor issues once the firmware has been adaquately tested.

Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance.

Dan Colesworthy
Mike here: Have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR? Also, you may need to do a CALIBRATE SENSORS. When you say that the alignment stars are 10-15 degrees off, that 15 degree number sounds like a one hour time error. Have you checked the Daylight Saving setting? For most locations in the USA, it should be answered NO now.

And:

Thanks for the reply.  The last sequence was RESET (per Meade),
Calibrate Motors, Train Drives on Terrestrial Object, Train Drives on
Polaris, Calibrate Sensors.  Then the "blind" tests I told mentioned in
my first email.  I have checked the time, it is correct, as is the LST. 
Daylight savings is turned off.

The 10-15 degrees I mentioned, is estimated altitude error,  Azimuth
error  is more like 5-10 degrees.  After training the drives on Polaris
and calibrating sensors,   scope pointed high 5-10 degrees?  and a bit
East of the guide stars.   Training on a terrestrial object resulted in
the scope pointing "low" and "left" (east).

I guessing that the level portion of the LNT module has problems.  There
is 10 degrees of magnetic declination error here in Boulder, CO.  The
"time" portion of the LNT runs a bit fast, roughly 10 minutes in the
past 2 weeks.

I purchased a Meade 12mm eye piece with illuminated reticle from OPT,
but the sky is and has been socked in the since it arrived, so all I can
"test" is goto positioning/pointing with the scope sitting in the dining
room.

I'd dearly like to find out what - if anything -  I am doing wrong -
best  case, or make Meade  accept it for repair before the warranty runs
out.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

Dan
Mike here: Normally, avoid using Polaris as a training object. It can be done if you are quick but since Polaris is moving, it is not an ideal object and will introduce errors. It could be a bad LNT module however. What happens if you do an EASY ALIGN? Remember that the HOME position is different for EASY ALIGN vs AUTO ALIGN.
Subject:	Re: Time Update Followup
Sent:	Tuesday, November 25, 2008 14:24:27
From:	Steve Hollar (sjhollar@dslextreme.com)
Mike, it's even better. I saw the email on your site from the guy in the
Netherlands about his LNT. He mentioned the battery underneath with the
rubber stopper. I glanced over at my scope and sure enough, there was
the rubber stopper. I opened it up and there was the battery. It only
tested at less than 2 volts. I replaced it this morning and the clock
seems to update right to the second. Problem solved.

What bothers me is that I could have taken the Meade reps word for it
and sent in the handbox, which would have meant money out of my pocket
and no scope for several weeks.

I just got off the phone with Ty Robertson over at Meade to let him know
what happened and how I was given completely wrong information by the
rep. Of course he was very apologetic and would be doing some more
training. I think it is important when things like this happen, that a
manager is made aware of it. That can only help their customer service.

So, I'm back in business. Hopefully things will go smoothly for a while.

Subject:	Re: ETX-125PE - Memory - "Frozen" Clock
Sent:	Friday, November 21, 2008 03:37:47
From:	Ludwig Krijgshaftig (ludwig.krijgshaftig@xs4all.nl)
Hi Mike Hogan,

Thanks very much for your additional analysis and remarks.

One correction though: it is not only the time that is "frozen", it is
also the date. It therefore does appear that the LNT clock is not
running, but the really strange thing is that it also does not loose the
previous date and time. There is no reset to some default value.

I have restarted the ETX a number of times with hours and days interval,
each time entering the correct time and also date if the previous
shutdown was on a earlier date than today. Mike Weasner has experienced
something similar with a different model ETX where the problem was
automagically cured after the time had been entered repeatedly. So far I
have not been this lucky.

Looks like I will have to verify or replace the LNT battery. Given the
warnings on the Mighty ETX site on this subject (you would need two
persons or three hands to avoid that the red dot device slips out of
place) I am a bit hesitant though to attempt this. Nevertheless, will
probably do this in the next week or so.

Kind regards,
Ludwig

Subject:	Re:ETX-125PE - Memory - "Frozen" Clock
Sent:	Wednesday, November 19, 2008 22:47:34
From:	mhogansr@comcast.net (mhogansr@comcast.net)
The Autostar initializing with the time of the last shutdown is a very
strange problem. As you noted, if the LNT battery was dead, it would ask
for date, time and daylight saving. Since it doesn't, it indicates the
Autostar is getting some kind of data from the clock. Note that it will
perform an auto-align and all other LNT functions even if the battery is
dead and you enter date, time etc. manually. At least it will with my
old model of the LNT and version 43eg of the Autostar firmware.

Also note that the Autostar only reads the LNT time data once, during
initialization, and from then on updates it with its own internal timing
circuits. When it's powered down, it does not store the time but the LNT
keeps running. The fact that you get the correct date on start-up
indicates the LNT clock is running so I can't see how the Autostar could
get the previous shutdown time.

Two suggestions that might fix it would be to replace the LNT battery
and if that doesn't work, reload the Autostar firmware. I'd be really
interested to know the results.

Regards, 
Mike Hogan

Subject:	Time Update Followup
Sent:	Tuesday, November 18, 2008 11:45:31
From:	Steve Hollar (sjhollar@dslextreme.com)
This is a follow-up to my post regarding the time not updating correctly
on my 125PE. This just goes from bad to worse. I took the advice of one
of our readers and decided to replace the LNT battery. I carefully
opened the LNT only to be surprised to find it does not have a battery
in it.

I called Meade and they said I have one that gets it's power through the
base batteries or AC. There is no separate battery in the LNT. I asked,
if I don't use batteries in the base, only AC, won't the time go out
once I unplug the power? She said it is stored in a chip in the LNT. Ok,
without some kind of power going to the scope, I still don't see how
that can keep the time updated.

So, my only recourse is to send the scope back in, or, just the LNT and
have it replaced. Typically this will take 3 to 4 weeks. I don't like
that. She said if I just send the LNT, she can send me a new one and I
can install it. I'll have to check to see how difficult that might be
before I decide. Anyway, it looks like I would be without a scope for a
few weeks. Not sure whether I want to do that, but, since the scope is
under warranty, I probably should take advantage of it.

The other possibility I could try, if I decide to replace it myself, is
to see if I can buy the LNT, replace it, then get reimbursed when I send
the old one back. Of course this is only if Meade agrees to it. Oh
decisions, decisions.

Steve Hollar 
Mike here: You can operate the ETX without the LNT. It will act just like a pre-Premier Edition model.

And:

Oh, this just gets better, Mike. I called Meade again. This time it was
another rep. My thought was why couldn't I just bring the old LNT in and
get it replaced. I'll install it myself. Well, she said Meade does not
accept customer walk-ins.

Before we went any further, she stopped me and said the problem is more
than likely in the handbox. Yes, we are back to that again. She said
this LNT only controls the level and north sensors, along with the red
dot. It would not have an affect on the time. Now my hair is really
getting grayer.

So, I asked about the idea of buying one, checking it out and if that is
the problem, returning the old one for reimbursement. She said no go.
Meade does not do that.

Mike, I proceeded to tell her that Meade really has to get it's act
together. This is very poor customer service. She ended up saying she
would talk with a supervisor and see what can be done. Should I hold my
breath? Only if I'm welling to pass out.

Steve Hollar

And:

From:	Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Wanna trade?

I have a DS-model LNT unit (without the screen for the red-dot,
i bought this solely to test LNT effects upon my patches).

The one i have plugs into the AUX socket on the power panel,
and does, indeed, have a battery.  (it doesn't keep -great- time, 
but the hours do advance).

So i could -loan- it to you (i want it back) for testing.

Meade -used- to sell them through their "Factory Parts" store for $40.
I strap mine onto my ETX90 OTA with rubber bands... nowhere near accurate
enough for observing (plus, red-dots and i do -not- get together) but 
adequate to watch the scope go through an Automatic Alignment (if you
don't mind 20 degree errors).

Since your LNT -has- a battery compartment, i'd certainly experiment
by putting a battery into it.  (at worst, it'll operate in parallel
with the (hypothetical) "supplied" power.

How does it electrically attach to the scope?  Thru the AUX socket,
or by "hidden" wiring?  
If it is "powered by the scope" , i would expect hidden wiring,
since (in all previous models) the AUX socket dies when the power is off.

good luck
--dick

Subject:	ETX-125PE Smartfinder Parallax
Sent:	Monday, November 17, 2008 08:52:58
From:	Ludwig Krijgshaftig (ludwig.krijgshaftig@xs4all.nl)
Apologies for sending this many mails today. I will back off after this
one and also hope the other ones can serve as my small contribution to
your site.

Techtips of January 2006 contain an entry from Deborah Pickett in
Australia on Smartfinder Parallax. She refers to the old model
Smartfinder (self-assembly, lense on the side of the LNT module, no
frame) while I have the new model Smartfinder (factory assembled, lense
in frame on top of LNT module). Still, I also recognize the difficulty
in aligning your head in a standard way with the LNT module and the red
dot, especially when aligning with stars at higher altitudes (closer to
Zenit).

Deborah suggests to use a marker to draw a bulls-eye on the lense, but I
can not force myself to do this is, especially given all the protection
given to the lense and the advice not to touch and smudge it with your
fingers. Do you have a tip on how to better use the Smartfinder and
avoid paralax of different head positions?

Kind regards,
Ludwig
Mike here: Frankly, I haven't experienced that much as issue with parallax. If you stay a distance aways from the rear of the telescope, the problem seems to be reduced. Remember, this is a not a traditional finderscope where you want to put your eyeball up to the eyepiece. Stay well to the rear and just sight through the SmartFinder (or any red-dot finderscope).
Subject:	ETX-125PE - Memory - "Frozen" Clock
Sent:	Sunday, November 16, 2008 15:59:42
From:	Ludwig Krijgshaftig (ludwig.krijgshaftig@xs4all.nl)
I live in the Netherlands and have been very pleased in the last few
weeks with all the information on your Mighty ETX site. Thanks!

Last week I have purchased a new ETX-125PE (blue tube). Unfortunately I
have only had one night with clear sky since then, but that was at least
enough to get it up and running and verify that everything was working
fine.

I was wondering though where the ETX stores information like site and
user objects? I guess it does that in the Autostar handbox (#497), as
that has a function to show remaining available memory space.

How is it that the Autostar handbox does not loose that information?
Does it have a backup battery or is the information stored in
non-volatile (flash) memory?

I understand that the LNT module holds date and time and includes a
clock that is powered by a small battery (type CR2032).

Now I have chosen not to use any penlights in the base of the ETX,
instead I am only using external 12V power sources (jump start battery
or AC adapter). Is this a correct way of using the ETX, or should it
always have penlights present as well?

The thing is, the clock in the LNT module appears not to be working.
However, the time also does not reset to 8:00 PM as described when there
is an LNT battery failure. Instead, date and time are "frozen" when I
switch the ETX off. When switching on again, hours or days later, it
continues where it was at the last switch-off.

When I start the ETX up, it shows the welcome message, states that it is
getting the time and then shows 0 (for auto align) or Mode. Auto Align
works very well. When I use the park utility and later start the scope
again, it states that it is getting the time and then moves to select
object (i.e. alignment is correctly bypassed when waking up from park).

All in all it seems the LNT module is working fine, but the clock in the
LNT module is not. Have you ever seen or heard of anything like this?
Any other ideas then changing the LNT unit?

I would like to check and possibly change the LNT battery, but am scared
off by the 11-Nov-08 entry on your site where John Stanfield describes
that you would need two persons to complete this delicate operation.

Kind regards,
Ludwig
Mike here: The AutoStar uses non-volatile memory to store data when the power is removed. So that things like the last entered date, site, user objects, etc. are stored safely. I use my ETX-105 and -125 with external power only, no internal batteries. No problem doing that. I saw a LNT clock problem on my initial ETX-105PE use (years ago) but after several attempts at getting it to take the date/time, it finally accepted it. No problem since then. If the date/time is not correct, it could be a LNT battery problem. But just to check, is the AutoStar "seeing" the LNT? Does the SmartFinder show up in the MODE menu?

And:

Thanks for your swift reply.

Yes, the Autostar does "see" the LNT and shows the SmartFinder menu when
I hold down the MODE button for two seconds or so. RA/Dec comes up when
you release the MODE button.

Scrolling down shows Alt/Az, Finder Set, Site/Date, Latitude, Longitude,
Time Local/LST, Timer/Alarm and Batterylevel at 100%. Good to explore
this, as I did not get past Finder Set the first time I entered here.

I would also figure the ETX can not do an autoalign when it does not
have access to the LNT module, but perhaps that is not the same as the
Autostar seeing the LNT module?

Hope it is like the problem you had with your ETX-105PE and it will go
away by itself. Will monitor for a while and get back to you if there is
news.

I also have a few small contributions for your site re. AC power
adapter, battery pack and RS232c via USB. Will mail those separately
though, so you can easily publish (if you want).

Kind regards,
Ludwig

Subject:	re: Time Not Updating Correctly
Sent:	Friday, November 14, 2008 22:23:20
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
You wrote to Mike:
> The lady I talked to said she has seen my problem a couple of times.
> Apparently, it is not the LNT, it is the Autostar Handbox.

In my humble opinion (given a few more details): poppycock
(unless the LNT blew out the Autostar's AUX bus drivers)

You also wrote:
>  the date always updated automatically, so why not the time?

Did the date show the date of -now-, or the date of the -previous-
observing session?

The pre-LNT models all remembered (in the Autostar) the date that you
-set- the -previous- session, but defaulted to 8pm for the time.
That's the behaviour you'll see if the Autostar simply cannot "see"
the LNT on the AUX bus (one of three "busses" in that 8-wire cable).

And -that- can happen if the AUX traces are blown in the power panel.

Question: does the red-dot finder work?

If the red-dot works, then the Autostar has full communication with
the LNT module (and the AUX bus is working).
If the red-dot does not work (i.e. Autostar cannot control its
brightness or blink rate), then that's another vote for no AUX
communication.  That could be the Autostar, but it could also be
a connection on the power panel, or the cable between the scope
and the Autostar.  You can test the cable by simply swapping it
end-for-end.  If the LNT starts working (and one telescope axis stops)
then it's the cable.

If the LNT -is- supplying today's date but not the time, that really
means the Autostar is innocent... since if the Autostar can get that
far, it can get the time, too.  The Autostar might need a firmware
reload (i sincerely doubt it), but i'd highly suspect the LNT.
If the LNT cable is completely exposed (plugs into AUX jack), that's
one thing... but if it's buried inside the rear cell plastic, you can't
easily visually check that all of its connectors are truly seated.
(again: a functioning red dot would vote that they are)

good luck
--dick

And:

Subject:	Time Not Updating Correctly
Sent:	Saturday, November 15, 2008 15:30:53
From:	Larry Zunk (lzunk@yahoo.com)
Addressing the last feedback about the AutoStar hand-box being the
problem. I have two identical hand-boxes and two (1 year apart) ETX-125
Premier Edition's. I have switched the controls and re-entered all the
info and neither will keep time. One always shows 08:00:00 pm and the
other always shows 20:00:00. If the problem is in the hand-box, I have
the misfortune of having two of them.
Mike here: Those are the same times; one is in in 24 hour time. The AutoStar will default to the last date entered and 8pm or 2000 hours. But it would appear that the AutoStar is not getting the data from the LNT. See Dick's email above for more info.

And:

Man I feel like a DUMMY. Your suggestions made all the difference in my
diagnosis and repair. It turned out to be dead battery's on both LNT's.
I was "assuming" that the red dot got it's power from the LNT and could
not work if the battery was even low. I have seen these type of
battery's power clock circuits until they were so dead that they would
not power a single 1.5v LED, but they still kept the clock chip running.
Now I know and maby you should tell everyone that the red dot is powered
by the main power supply and not the LNT. Thanks so much for your help
and info and especially your time.
Larry Zunk
Amateur Dummy

And more:

Subject:	time not updating correctly - same problem
Sent:	Monday, November 17, 2008 18:29:44
From:	Peter Jamieson (pjamieson@frontier.net)
This is a reply to Steve Hollar's note about the time not updating
correctly.  I had the same problem and Meade told me to change the
battery in the LNT.  It took care of the problem and has worked well
ever sine.  The procedure is in the owner's manual.  Just remove both
screws from the LNT and take the top off.  Be careful however as there
are two springs, one under each screw that could very well shoot across
the room.  Just replace the battery with a new one and reassemble.  It
is a little tricky getting the springs back where they belong.  Of
course you will have to realign the red dot finder, again described in
the owner's manual.  Hope this helps.  Peter jamieson

Subject:	Time Not Updating Correctly
Sent:	Friday, November 14, 2008 11:18:16
From:	Steve Hollar (sjhollar@dslextreme.com)
Mike, here is something I've just found out. This is for the ETX-125PE.
I always thought that you absolutely had to enter the time whenever you
turned the power on. It never made sense, though, as the date always
updated automatically, so why not the time?

I called Meade and found out that, yes, the LNT should keep track of the
correct time after I initially set it. The lady I talked to said she has
seen my problem a couple of times. Apparently, it is not the LNT, it is
the Autostar Handbox.

Knowing it would take way too long to send it to Meade for repair or
replacement, I'm just going to live with it. I am used to entering the
time when I power up, so, it is not a big deal. As long as the power is
on, it is fine.

If you remember, I tried the Atomic Clock Module and found it just would
not work. I now suspect this is the reason why.

Maybe this will help others with this problem who are frustrated over
it, not knowing what the problem is.

Steve Hollar 

Subject:	Meade Telescope Question
Sent:	Monday, November 10, 2008 12:29:38
From:	Chuvalo Truesdell (truesdell.chuvalo@gmail.com)
I am thinking about purchasing a Meade ETX-90 PE Telescope with UHTC. I
know nothing about telescopes (complete novist). I am interesting in
buying for my 9 year old who loves science. I also have a six year old
who would benefit from having it. The seller is selling it with the
accessory kit and is asking $375.00. Do you think this is too complex of
telescope for a beginner??
Mike here: Certainly the ETX PE models are not overly complex but you will have to learn some things to use it. But if you use Microsoft Windows, you can master the ETX! On the ease of use scale (from easy to difficult), you would have Mac OS X, ETX PE/AutoStar, and then Windows... The ETX-90 makes a fine astronomical telescope but just keep in mind that it is not the Hubble Space Telescope. All those photographs that you and your children have seen, while extremely nice, will not be what you'll see through the ETX. You might want to read through the Helpful Information: User Observations page as well as taking a look at my "What You Can See With a Meade ETX" talk on the Helpful Information: Tutorials page. For more on learning to use the ETX, there are several tutorials listed on that page.

And:

Thank you kindly for your response. You have been a great deal of help!
 
Many Thanks!
 
Chuvalo

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Copyright © 2008 Michael L. Weasner / etx@me.com
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URL = http://www.weasner.com/etx/archive/nov08/etx-pe.html