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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
Last updated: 31 October 2010
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Welcome to the AutoStar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar #494, #495, #497, #497EP, 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:	Question from an ETX125 cm user from Argentina
Sent:	Sunday, October 31, 2010 07:29:29
From:	Roberto Feliba (abilef@yahoo.com.ar)
I have sent these questions also to Dr. Sherrod a few days ago, but
perhaps he have not received them. Thus why I bother you and beg you to
reply me, because it is important for me to know this information, the
sooner the better.  And this is because I like to add information to the
Autostar "User Object" memory compartment, in order to have  it ready
whenever I can observe, and thus avoiding to fumble with charts and
papers in the dark. I have added nearly 300 celestial  wonders like
carbon stars, LBV, new planetary systems, etc (of course,  mainly for my
location at 34 degrees south).

The 3 questions are the following:

1) How many items can be added into this "compartment"?  Can I add up to
500? Up to 1000?  Up to 10000?  This I ask in order to refine the
objects I'm presently including, and avoid doing work I will have to
undo later.

2) This information can be organized in order to access easily to the
object desired (e.g. for constellation, for object type, etc). e.g. if I
want to observe the object entered number 245, will I have to roll all
the previous 244 until I reach this object, or can I find it faster?

3) Dr. Sherrod has mentioned in a paper I read he has designed some very
portable charts with the names of the stars Autostar usually ask for
refining the search when using High Precision GOTO mode.  Where can I
get them?

Thank you for your answer, Mr. Weasner, and have a wonderful weekend.
Sincerely,

Roberto Feliba
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mike here: I'll let our resident AutoStar expert, Dick Seymour, answer the first two questions. As to the charts, see the article "Alignment/High Precision/Star Charts" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page on my ETX Site.

And:

From:	P. Clay Sherrod (drclay@tcworks.net)
Hello Roberto.....
I have not received any message from you, and I am sorry that it did not
make it.

The charts for alignment stars are found on Mike Weasner's ETX site as
is considerable helpful information.

On my Autostar 497, I can load as many as 18 tours, 160 comets and 100
asteroids....most of the good tours, including Carbon Stars for example,
are also posted on the ETX site.

Best of luck on this and thanks for writing.

Dr. Clay
_____
Arkansas Sky Observatories
MPC H45 - Petit Jean Mountain South
MPC H41 - Petit Jean Mountain
MPC H43 - Conway West
http://www.arksky.org/

And:

Thank you for your kindness in answering me so quickly.
Dr. Sherrod has also been extremely kind, and I have also thanked him
accordingly.
Have both of you a beautiful day.
Sincerely, 

Roberto Feliba
Buenos Aires, Argentina

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
The 497 Autostar has about 61 kilobytes of "user object" memory.

That is shared among the Comets, Asteroids, Tours, Satellites, Landmarks
and User Objects.

Therefore how much memory can be given to User Objects can be increased
by removing some (or all) of the Asteroids, Tours, Satellites, Landmarks
and Comets.

A User Object occupies 29 bytes.  (a Satellite is 51 bytes).
So, as a rough estimate, you could conceivably squeeze about (61000/29=)
2103 User Objects into that space.
You can see how much available space remains in your Autostar by menuing
to:
Setup/Statistics
The "Space Available" is the free space in the User Object  memory.

Fast(er) Access:
Because Meade "re-uses" their indexing variable, one sneaky way to
"leap" to the 1000th entry in that list is to use any
numerically-indexed list as a way to "pre-load" the Select pointer.
For example:  To reach the 1000th entry in your User Object list,
(a) menu to   Object/Deep Sky/IC  (enter)
(b) key in 999  (enter)   ((use a value one smaller than your desired User Object))
(c) now menu to  User Object/Select (enter)
(d) and you will now be offered that list's 1000th entry.

So if you have a (paper?) index of, for example, the 88 Index numbers
corresponding to Constellations (or twenty-four RA zones) in your long
User Object list,
at least you can avoid having to scroll 999 times.

have fun
--dick

And more:

On 10/31/2010 4:36 PM, Roberto Feliba wrote:
> If I am not interested in any tours, landmarks, and celestial objecs for ever
> invisible south of 30 degrees south, is there any way of removing these data, in
> order to provided extra room for things that I would like to enter?

To "release" the space in the User Library, you have to use ASU (the Autostar Updater).
If you only "delete" individual objects at the handbox, it does not give back the space.

The only things you can delete (to create room for more User Objects) are:
Tours, Satellites, Comets, Asteroids, Landmarks, User Objects.

ASU can "Retrieve" all of those, and then you can use the File/Save Handbox
function to save them on your PC.
Then you can delete all of them (and replace them later with ASU, if you wish).

The rest of the 30,000 objects in the Autostar cannot usefully be deleted for your quest.
The space they would release would not add to the 61,000 byte User Object allotment.

> I promise I won't bother you any further, and I am really very indebted and grateful to the
> three of you.
> Have a beautiful week.   Sincerely,

have fun
--dick

Subject:	LX-90 LNT GPS
Sent:	Tuesday, October 26, 2010 06:39:56
From:	Ed Monty (emonty@tampabay.rr.com)
Just found your website and noticed  the Star Patch adds GPS to your
Autostar 497. I have a Garmin Rino 530 hand held which has NMEA-0183
output. Can this be used with the proper software to provide GPS for my
LX-90 system ? I'm a beginner and am not to proficient wit the Autostar
features and use. Your reply would be appreciated. thanks  Ed
Mike here: Some GPS models can be used with the AutoStar but most can not. There are several articles on "GPS" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. Check there. Some of the articles reference StarGPS and StarPatch. They are the experts on GPS and AutoStar #497.
Subject:	Question Re: ETX-125 Autostar 497 and Garmin eMap
Sent:	Monday, October 25, 2010 16:23:42
From:	Adam J. (adamjow@gmail.com)
Hello Michael, thanks for all the ETX information you have provided on
your web site.  I was wondering if you would have any advice for me - -
I have an ETX-125PE with Autostar #497 and I also own an older Garmin
eMap GPS that came with a RS-232 cable for PC connection (I have
confirmed that PC software can receive GPS feed).  So, I was wondering
if I could connect this GPS to my Autostar?  Do you have to buy a cable
or can I build my own??  Any advice is much appreciated, thank you.
 
Regards,
Adam
Mike here: I have one of those eMap GPS devices too. In fact, it is still used (mounted on my bike). Some GPS models can be used with the AutoStar but most can not. There are several articles on "GPS" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. Check there. Some of the articles reference StarGPS and StarPatch. They are the experts on GPS and AutoStar #497.

And:

Hi, in fact I use mine on my bike too but I thought I might be able to
use it for astronomy as well.

Subject:	re: Problem with Autostar
Sent:	Friday, October 22, 2010 15:20:34
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
What actually -happened- when you tried to go to Deep Sky Objects?
(you told us what it didn't, but didn't tell us what it did)

Did it say "slewing..." but did not appear to actually -move-?

If so, you merely need to tap the ENTER key before tapping the GOTO key.

Merely having  Deep Sky/M31  on the display doesn't *select* the object.
The ENTER is what tells the Autostar to *now* look up the object and
pre-load the destination for the later GoTo to act upon.

have fun
--dick

And:

From:	Stewart Fisher (fisher@epitola.fsnet.co.uk)
Hi Mike

Thank you for your prompt reply.

It would locate stars and planets accurately, but when asked for say
Orion Nebula it would point nowhere near the object. I  am in UK at the
moment but will return to Zambia where the telescope is located and try
it again. Unfortunately web access is difficult there, so my account is
from memory when I was using the scope in April. The problem did seem to
apply to all deep sky objects which should have been visible at that
time.

And more:

Just reading your message when selecting  a deep sky object, Autostar
does not point when selecting the enter key folowed by the GOTO key.
However it does if  you are selecting a star or planet, provided they
are above the horizon. for example it would find alpha Crux or
Betelgeuse, but not Orion Nebula or one of the Magellanic clouds.
Mike here: You do need to press ENTER to select the object and then GOTO to command the AutoStar to start slewing.

And:

I think I did. I carried out thge actions as when looking for a star,
but the saqme routine did not produce the same results. At the moment I
conclude that it's a software problem and I had better bring the scope
back here in december and try it out in the Northern hemisphere, but I
will have another try out there, although being the rainy season, the
seeing conditions will be inferior.
Mike here: Have you tried doing a RESET on the AutoStar?

And:

Yes, I did but the problem remained, however I'll try it again once I'm
out there. I've got back to Dick but will have to check some things when
I'm back in Zambia. I thought I'd better ask the questions from here
(UK) where web access isno problem.

s

And this:

OK....

What version of Autostar (a 494 does not have a numeric keypad)?

What firmware version?  (setup/Statistics/[enter][scroll down]

And, please, what -does- it do when you select a DSO?
Beep?  Complain?  Quietly sit there as if you hadn't done anything?

Although i can duplicate a southern hemisphere setup with my 497,
the only firmware version i have in a 494 is v12Ea
..but i'll give that a shot to see how it handles southern DSO's.

good luck
--dick

And tests results from Dick:

Well,  I'm not seeing the symptoms.

I have told my ETX-60 (with version 11Ea firmware) and Autostar 494
that they were in both Buenos Aires (west of Greenwich) and Lusaka (East).

I set the time/date as 23-oct-2010  8pm (20:00), NO daylight savings time.
I let it do an "Easy Align"  (for Lusaka, it chose Achernar and Altair).
i then told it to GoTo Jupiter (which it did), and then both the
"Large Mag Cloud"  and "M22"
Which it did.
At the end of each of those GoTo's, i pressed MODE for 3 seconds,
then released, to bring up the RA/DEC display.
(which shows where it thinks it's pointing)
The values it showed  were correct for the objects.

I told it "Large Mag Cloud" by using
Object/Deep Sky/Named/ and scrolling to "Large Mag Cloud"
Press ENTER, and the display shows  Larege Mag Cloud/Irreg Galaxy
Press GoTo and it Went There.

I told it "M22" by starting at
Object/Deep Sky/(enter)/Named
Then i pressed Scroll UP once, to see:
Deep Sky/Messier Objects
Press Enter, and that becomes
Messier Objects/33     <-- the number displayed may differ
with the cursor blinking at the first digit.
Then use the up/down and left/right keys to change that to 22 (enter)
Since M22 does not have a "name", the display changes to     M22/M22
Now tap GOTO and it will GoThere (RA=18:36  DEC=-23d 54')

Why not try it yourself, indoors or out, and manually force the time (or
delay your tests until 8pm) and see what your results for those steps
are?

good luck
--dick

Subject:	Problem with Autostar
Sent:	Friday, October 22, 2010 07:19:18
From:	Stewart Fisher (fisher@epitola.fsnet.co.uk)
I haven been using a Meade ETX 80 AT -TC which was given me three years
ago. I took it out to Zambia, Central Africa where the skies are often
clear. The nearest city is Lusaka, 500 miles from the location from
which I was viewing.

We spent some time setting it up correctly using a two star lign-up
which was easy as both Sirius and Canopus were in suitable positions.
Having done this I found that the Autostar would find stars and planets
correctly, but would not find deep sky objects, or even easy objects
such as the Orion Nebula, although it would find named stars in the
constellation. I am puzzled by this. Looking closely at the telescope I
noticed that thhere appeared to be a disc shaped battery in th mount,
like a calculator battery. I could find no reference to this in the
manual, and wondered, if it were low, could it cause a software
malfunction.
 
I should be most grateful of your advice.
 
Stewart
Mike here: That battery maintains the clock ("TC") setting. As long as the date/time/Daylight Saving settings are correct, the AutoStar should be able to locate all objects. Since the AutoStar is GOTOing stars correctly, it should GOTO DSOs correctly. When you say the AutoStar could not "find" objects, do you mean they don't show in the menu or that the AutoStar doesn't point to the selected object after selecting it with the ENTER key and then pressing the GOTO key? If it is not GOTOing, how far off is the pointing?
Subject:	RE: 'Adding' ephemerides for e.g. Hartley 2 to Autostar #497
Sent:	Friday, October 22, 2010 04:54:58
From:	Brian (msa.co@freeuk.com)
Well, despite my best efforts I still haven't found the damn thing with
either the ETX125 or the 12"LX200 GPS. I can find it with binoculars and
star hop to it but the surface brightness from downtown murky England is
so low that it is almost impossible visually, even though it is easy
peasy in binoculars, even big 30x80's.

On a slightly lighter note, so to speak, I found the elements at the
minor planet centre at

http://www.minorplanetcenter.org/iau/MPEph/MPEph.html 

and lo and behold, they have an option to download the elements in the
correct format for Meade Autostar (bottom of left hand column in table)
which means I don't have to 'understand' elements or what Autostar is
asking for in each field. I just opened the contents of the handbox in
'Notepad' and added the line of elements to it, saved it and uploaded it
again. It works wonderfully (apart from the fact I can't find it with
the scope!!!!). It does point to the 'correct' place in the sky which is
more than it does in the Autostar Suite on the PC; that is just pants.

Many thanks again for the help and hope that others may benefit from
getting the elements in the correct format from the above link.

Best regards,

Brian Martindale

Subject:	497 Autostar Repair
Sent:	Thursday, October 21, 2010 10:35:12
From:	WTHOMAS195@aol.com (WTHOMAS195@aol.com)
Does anyone repair 497 Autostar controller handpads?
 
Web Thomas
Mike here: Meade. What's wrong with it?

And:

One has light but no text or numerals on display. Other is non
responsive. I have cleaned contacts and recovered the contacts with the
kit material. I just wondered if there was anyone other than Meade. Who
do you recommend?
Web
Mike here: If you want to try a replacement LCD, there are a couple of articles on that on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page on the ETX Site. There is also a display troubleshooting tip article which might help. Again, Meade is the only source I know that might repair the AutoStar.

And:

OK, Thanks
Web

Subject:	Meade Autostar Problems
Sent:	Wednesday, October 20, 2010 17:33:07
From:	And Matt (cadetmajorabm@yahoo.com)
To Mr. Dick Seymour,

I'm a student at Craven Community College in New Bern, N.C. I am trying
to get my Astronomy and Physics lab back together after what appears to
be years of neglect. I have been interested in Astronomy all my life and
was excited when I received my first telescope years ago. Despite the
size of the telescope I have always taken good care of it. That's why I
was shocked to find the two large 8 inch Meade LXD-55 telescopes in such
disarray. After many hours in the lab the telescopes are now almost
ready to go. I have never had the opportunity to use the Meade Autostar
system and was excited to plug it up and use it. I read the manual to
familiarize myself with the functions but sadly I have come to the
conclusion that there is some sort of a malfunction in our Autostar. I
understand that I can buy a new one for only $150.00 but my professors
are the ones in control of the cash and I need to show them exactly what
is wrong with our Autostar in order to convince them to buy another one.

When I plug the Autostar up with fresh batteries it sends the test
motors command to the motors but it doesn't seem to send it once but
several times and at random intervals. The Autostar also asks me the
date and the time several times in a single session. I have called Meade
tec-support and all they say is that it is likely malfunctioned and they
instruct me to buy a new one. I called Motorola but they act like
they've never hear of the Autostar.

Craven purchased the system probably close to 10 years ago and one of my
questions pertains to how long do Autostars usually last?

What are some of the problems you have encountered using the Autostar?

Have you ever had to replace an Autostar due to a malfunction and if so
what went wrong?

I have taken the Autostar apart and have learned about some of the
components on the circuit board thanks to your vary detailed website. I
want to test the board with a regular pocket volt meter but not sure
how.Electronics, computers, and circuit boards are not one of my strong
points.

Any way you can give me some help I will appreciate it.

Please help me Mr. Seymour, you are my only hope!

-Andrew

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
On 10/20/2010 6:38 AM, And Matt wrote:
> ... I need to show them exactly what is wrong with our Autostar in
> order to convince them to buy another one.

Fast answer: i'd first suspect the handbox cable.

> When I plug the Autostar up with fresh batteries it sends the test motors command to the
> motors but it doesnt seem to send it once but several times and at random intervals.

The random motion is a hallmark of the base being powered up without connection of the 
data lines in the handbox cable.  Try powering up -without- the Autostar attached, and you 
may see the same motions.

Since the scope(s) were idle for a long time, *carefully* inspect the cable sockets at 
both ends... a small trace of insect cocoon or lint can block connections.
Then check the cable with an ohmmeter for solid end-to-end connections.
The end-to-end connection are pins 1 to 8, 2 to 7, 3 to 6, 4 to 5, and so forth.
Also verify that adjacent pins are not shorted together.

> The Autostar also asks me the date and the time several times in a single session.

A symptom of the cable breaking and re-making the power connection.

I've been saying "cable", but another source of failure is the cable's socket having "cold 
solder joints" where it's attached to the circuit card.
Again, an ohmmeter can help, or simply wiggling the socket while holding the circuit card.
If the socket moves, you want to carefully reflow the solder on its pins.  Having any 
solder-competent electronics person (try any department's electronics shop) help would be 
safest for the equipment.

> I have called Meade tec-support and all they say is that it is likely malfunctioned and they
> instruct me to buy a new one. I called Motorola but they act like theyve never hear of
> the Autostar.

Motorola?  They certainly haven't heard of the Autostar... they only supplied one tiny 
(but critical) part to Meade, and Meade added it to the device you've got in your hand.
For that matter, Motorola spun off their semiconductor division years ago, creating 
"Freescale", who are current suppliers of the M68HC11 computer chip.

> Craven purchased the system probably close to 10 years ago and one of my questions
> pertains to how long do Autostars usually last?

"Usually"?  With any care (or luck) the circuitry and most components should be good for 
decades.  The only parts that are affected by age are the contacts under the keypad (which 
can be cleaned) and the contacts in the cable socket (which, being gold-flashed, 
-usually- last a long long time).  Accidental incidents (like inserting the batteries 
backwards) can kill an Autostar in a few milliseconds.

> What are some of the problems you have encountered using the Autostar?

Of the two i've had for about a decade, occasional (once per 3 years?) cleaning of the key 
contacts have kept them happy.

> Have you ever had to replace an Autostar due to a malfunction and if so what went wrong?

I did have one die in 2001 when internal wires in the telescope base were cut by a moving 
sharp edge, and that blew out one of the signal drivers (causing the "random motion" 
symptom in one axis).

> I have taken the Autostar apart and have learned about some of the components on the
> circuit board thanks to your vary detailed website. I want to test the board with a
> regular pocket volt meter but not sure how. Electronics, computers, and circuit boards are
> not one of my strong points.

Since the circuitry can be instantly damaged even by the feeble voltages of an ohmmeter, i 
strongly recommend that you try to get help in one of your college's electronic shops. 
(the physics department usually knows who can repair their particle detectors)

> Please help me Mr. Seymour, you are my only hope!

Not so (after all, you're asking Mike, too)
A local astronomy club would probably be happy to help... including loaning an Autostar 
(and trying one of their Autostar on your telescopes).
Here's the list i found (with 4 seconds of Googling for "astronomy clubs") for North Carolina:
http://www.astronomyclubs.com/1/190/35/0/club.aspx

good luck
--dick

Subject:	Re: Problem after Autostar update
Sent:	Monday, October 18, 2010 08:49:46
From:	John Ambrose (jea@schaak.plus.com)
Thanks for the advice!

I thought I would just bring you up to date.  The only thing I could
think of was to change whatever was changeable and see if I could get
lucky. There were a couple of false dawns, but I'm still in the
situation of having a non-operable handbox.

Firstly, I changed the PC being used - from one running Win7 to one
running WinXP.  No effect.

Secondly, I made a new serial cable.  At first, I thought I had solved
the problem.  StarPatch completed an update of the 43Eg ROM (which it
had done before), but this time it reported a successful completion
(which had never happened before).  However, my hopes were soon dashed,
because on restarting the handbox it froze as before, displaying the
"Welcome to AUTOSTAR" message.  After that, all attempts to carry out an
update failed as before.

My final attempt was to doubt my mains adapter.  I installed a brand-new
set of batteries, and again there was an initial success.  When I
started the handbox (normally) it displayed the copyright message for
version 43E, beeped, displayed the "Welcome to AUTOSTAR" message for a
few seconds, and then continued with the start-up process, asking for
the date, time etc.  I let it get to the alignment phase and then
restarted the handbox; needless to say, it reverted back to freezing on
the "Welcome to AUTOSTAR" message.

And that is the current situation; everything still fails in the way I
described before.

I'm beginning to assume than that there is a component (voltage
regulator, capacitor or something) in the handset which is marginal. 
I'm assuming that the handbox is now essentially unusable, but I thought
I would ask if you have any final suggestion before I start poking
around inside.

However, I'm guessing that everything is surface mounted so I don't
suppose I will be able to do anything.  I did do some hardware and
software design work with the 6811 before I retired and I understand
that this is the micro-controller used in this old version of the
handbox, so it might be interesting if nothing else.

Never was the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" more true!

John Ambrose
Mike here: Just for grins, you might try loading an older version of the AutoStar ROM; they are aavailable on the AutoStar Software Archive on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. There are a couple of articles on the AutoStar Info page with schematics info. Oh yeah, you might try the tip on the article "AutoStar RESET from Software" on the AutoStar Info page.

And:

Wow!  You win the magician of the year award!

Installing an old (ancient) version of the AutoStar software seems to
have done the trick.  I don't want to tempt fate, but so far it has
worked every time following a power-on; it also 'remembers' my previous
settings - but that is not so surprising.

Now - what's going on?

The delivered ROM was 22Es (I told you it was ancient!).  For some
reason I couldn't find that version in the archive, so I used 22Et.

Did I try to 'jump' too many versions?  If so is there an 'accepted
sequence' of versions that would get me up to date?  Or is there another
possible explanation?

I know I said "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", but the wretched thing
has got me intrigued now!

I really can't thank you enough, and the information you pointed me to
on your site is truly impressive.  Many, many thanks.

John Ambrose
Mike here: You "should" have been able to jump to 4.3 but glad the older version got you going again. You might try one of the 3.x versions if you have some time. If that works, try one of the 4.x versions, or just jump right to one of the 4.x versions (but not 4.3).

And:

Once again, many thanks for all your help.  Hopefully I will now be able
to leave you in peace.

John Ambrose
Mike here: Well, now you can sleep knowing that your AutoStar is working again. Of course, now you can lose sleep by observing all night long! Enjoy!
Subject:	ETX-105 & Autostar 497 not working after I shorted something
Sent:	Sunday, October 17, 2010 15:28:49
From:	Randy (rlsbf@comcast.net)
I had some broken Dec gears and replaced them in my ETX-105EC.  I was
able to find some gears that were a close match and had to re-build a
gear by glueing a couple together.  The good news is I have the Dec
gears working perfectly.  The bad news is I accidentally touched the
circuit board in the fork arm while I was testing the gears and it
sparked.  After that, my Autostar 497 will not work.

Right after the spark, the Autostar could not control the ETX RA and Dec
motors.  I was able to still move around in the Autostar menus so I did
a reset of the Autostar.  After that,  I could not even get to the first
menu.  It turns on, says Welcome to Autostar, and then the screen is
blank.  None of the controls work.  I can't get to any menu.  I tried to
re-load the latest version - 43ef - by using the safe mode.  It went
through the whole process of downloading the version to the Autostar,
but when finished and it tried to restart I had the same thing:  Welcome
to Autostar (it shows build 40ef) and then it went blank and controls
did not work.

When I use the original "simple" controller with the ETX, it works fine
for operating the RA and Dec motors.  The big question is... did I fry
the electronics in the ETX circuit boards or did I fry the Autostar
electronics?  I am hoping since the "simple" controller still operates
the ETX, it is only the Autostar that would need to be replaced.  Would
this make sense or would the "simple" controller work even if the ETX
circuit board was fried?  I'm hesitant to spend $100+ on an Autostar
only to find out it still doesn't work.

Thank you for your help,
Randy
Mike here: Using one of the external battery tips on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page, make an external power source for the AutoStar. Then reload its software. See how it operates after that. Since the EC handcontroller works, it is likely that on the AutoStar was damaged. But using the external battery for it can help you determine that. You could also open up the AutoStar case and look for a blown component or circuit trace.

And:

Thanks - It had been a long time since I used the EC controller.  I
wasn't sure what the Mode button did, so I pulled out the ETX manual.  I
tried holding the Mode button down so I could try switching to Polar
mode.  Nothing happens when I hold the Mode button.  The EC controller
works for moving the scope and for changing speeds only.  I'm thinking
this means there is a problem on one or more of the ETX circuit boards. 
If this is true, do you know where I can find replacement circuit
boards?  The one in the base of the ETX-105 actually has ETX-125 stamped
on it.  I don't know if the board in the fork arm for the Dec motor is
specific for the ETX-105 or not.

Thank you,

Randy
Mike here: You can try Telescope Warehouse (link on the Astronomy Links page).
Subject:	Problem after Autostar update
Sent:	Saturday, October 16, 2010 08:04:53
From:	John Ambrose (jea@schaak.plus.com)
The excellent information on your web-site persuaded me that I could
risk updating my #497 Autostar Handbox used with an ETX-90EC.

It seemed as if  43Eg was a stable version to cut my teeth on.  I
downloaded all the files I needed (Updater and 43Eg), built a serial
cable, installed Updater (V 5.9.2) on my PC, connected it all together
and crossed my fingers.  It all worked just as described, and 20 minutes
later the handbox gave a beep and restarted, and Updater confirmed that
the update had been carried out successfully.  That's the end of the
good news.

When I power on the handbox now, it displays the copyright message
(referencing 43E) for a moment, beeps, and then displays "Welcome to" on
the top line, and "A U T O S T A R" and the bottom line.  And that's it
- all the key presses I've tried cannot get it to change.

I reconnected it to my PC, restarted the handbox (using 'Enter' and
'Scroll down' which still displays "FLASH LOAD 3.0  READY"), and
launched Updater.  Updater connects to the handbox OK, recognises the
model number (#497), but displays a version number of '2.0a'; however,
during the connection activity, the handbox beeps, displays the
copyright message, and then displays the "Welcome to AUTOSTAR" message
described above.

If I now click the "Upgrade Autostar Software Now" button, it claims
that there is no handbox connected, and, on cancelling the dialog box,
Updater now reports that the "Connection attempt failed" and that the
'Model' and 'Handbox ver' are both "Unknown".

I apologize if this problem has already been covered on your site, but I
haven't been able to find anything.

I seem to have messed things up big time, so any help would be much
appreciated.
 
Regards,
John Ambrose
Mike here: Try using StarPatch (from http://www.stargps.ca). Go back into SAFE LOAD mode and try again to reload the ROM.

And:

Thanks for your speedy reply - it took me by surprise!

As you suggested, I downloaded, installed and ran the trial version of
StarGPS.  It already had a copy of Patch43GF.spf and downloaded a copy
of Build43Eg.rom.  Updating proceeded OK (half at high-speed and half at
9,600 bps); however, on completion, the handset beeped and went into the
"Welcome to AUTOSTAR" state.  After counting down from 9 to 0, StarGPS
displayed an error message saying that the handset had failed to
respond, and suggested that I repeat the process.  The handset behaved,
and is behaving, the same as I described in my original email.

The Meade Updater software is also still behaving as I described
previously.

John Ambrose
Mike here: With the AutoStar in SAFE LOAD mode, does either ASU or StarPatch recognize that the AutoStar is in SAFE LOAD?

And:

I am forced to start the handbox with 'Enter' and 'Scroll down' pressed;
this produces the display "FLASH LOAD 3.0   READY".  I am assuming that
this is what you mean by "SAFE LOAD".

Using StarPatch, when I click "Update Autostar", it reports "Found
Autostar (in safe mode)".

Using Updater, I see no reference to safe mode.  As the program is
loading, the handset beeps and drops out of the load mode; once loaded,
Updater displays "Ready", "Model:497" and "Handbox ver.:2.0a" along the
bottom of the window.  If I try to start an update, it reports that no
handbox is detected.

John Ambrose
Mike here: OK, so StarPatch correctly sees the AutoStar in SAFE LOAD mode (which is what the FLASH LOAD display means), but the AutoStar Update application does not (odd). Try using StarPatch to do the update to 4.3eg. If that fails, try using ASU 4.6. If you don't have that version, it is available on the AutoStar Software Archive page (linked from the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page on the ETX Site).

And:

No difference in either case.

Using StarPatch to use the 43Eg rom made no difference.  The update
seems to take place, but on reaching 100%, when it displays "Restart in
progress 9 8 .. 0", the handbox beeps and the displays "Welcome to
AUTOSTAR".  StarPatch displays "Update failed (no response from
Autostar)".

Using Updater V4.6 behaves in the same way as V5.9.2.

John Ambrose
Mike here: Several possibilities: Bad download of the 4.3eg ROM file (try downloading it again), wrong ROM inadvertantly installed (see the article "Recovering from a Bad AutoStar Download" on the AutoStar Info page), bad cable (check it), port conflict occurring at some point during the ROM upload to the AutoStar (got fax software installed?), weak batteries in the ETX, or a severely corrupted AutoStar. One other thought: are using a real RS-232 port on your computer or a USB-Serial adapter? If an adapter, which one? Not all work reliably with the AutoStar. See the article "AutoStar and USB" on the AutoStar Info page. I recommend using a Keyspan adapter.

And:

A number of suggestions, and here are my answers.

I'm using a 'real' COM port - no USB adapter involved.

There are two copies of the 43Eg ROM file being used - one was
downloaded by me, and one by StarPatch; it's hard to believe they are
both 'bad'.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'wrong ROM inadvertently installed'; 43Eg
is the only ROM I've tried.

No other software is attempting to use the COM port.

The cable only has three wires in it, so other than a 'short' (none
detected) I'm not sure how it can be 'bad'.

The power is from a mains adapter, not batteries.

And finally, what is 'a severely corrupted AutoStar', and how do I
determine if that is the case?!?

I'm beginning to dread the consequences!

John Ambrose
Mike here: Check both the HBX and #505 cable connectors and jacks for dirty or bent pins. There was a report a long time ago about ASU 5 attempting to download the wrong ROM file to the #497. That was supposedly fixed in a later version. But if you are using a local file, that problem should not have occurred. A corrupted AutoStar can result from bad memory in the AutoStar or other problems with the AutoStar. If SAFE LOAD isn't working properly, it is possible that its memory location was somehow corrupted.

And:

Many thanks for all your comments, observations and suggestions - it
really is much appreciated.

It is now just past midnight here - and not a star to be seen!  It
sounds like a pretty serious problem, so I think I'll get some sleep and
see if a refreshed brain can come up with anything.  I'll let you know.

John Ambrose
Mike here: Before you go to bed, disconnect the AutoStar from the telescope.
Subject:	Meade updated their asteroid and comet links today...
Sent:	Thursday, October 14, 2010 18:00:24
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
The Comet and Asteroid links on the Autostar Support page:
http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html

have been updated to point to up-to-date data sources.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	Comet and Asteroid data website changed.
Sent:	Thursday, October 14, 2010 08:24:29
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Meade's  ASU currently (Oct 2010) does not load/find/download Comet 103P Hartley.
The reason for that is that the Smithsonian observatory that Meade uses
for their data recently (Sept 2010) changed their web address.
ASU has not been modified (yet) to reflect that change.

Meade uses:
http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/Ephemerides/Comets/Soft16Cmt.txt

The CORRECT address is now:
http://www.minorplanetcenter.org/iau/Ephemerides/Comets/Soft16Cmt.txt

Likewise, the Asteroid link was:
http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/Ephemerides/Bright/2001/Soft16Bright.txt

and should now be:
http://www.minorplanetcenter.org/iau/Ephemerides/BrightMP.html

have fun
--dick

Subject:	ETX125 and KEYSPAN USB to serial adaptor
Sent:	Saturday, October 9, 2010 19:35:06
From:	Dave DiJulio (dkd998@yahoo.com)
I have a Meade ETX125 and a Keyspan US-19H USB to serial adaptor.  I am
trying to talk to the scope with this adaptor and have not been able to
do so.  I am also using Astroplanner software.  The software is using
the correct port (COM3) but I can not ' connect' to the scope.  ANy
ideas would be helpfull.
 
Thanks
 
Dave DiJulio
Mike here: Did you make your own #505 serial cable? Is it OK? Have you installed the Keyspan driver? Are you using Mac OS X or Windows? Have you tried connecting with the AutoStar Update application (Windows only)?

And:

I have the Meade 505.  All the drivers are installed for the Keyspan.  I
have  Windows 7.  I have not tried to connect with the Autostar update
application.  I'll try that & let you know the results.

And an update:

I just updated my Autostar software to 43E so yes the serial
cable/computer hook up appears to work.
I must have something wrong on the Astroplanner settings I guess.
Dave DiJulio
Mike here: Glad that worked. So, yes, check Astroplanner.
Subject:	dead etx 497 hand controller
Sent:	Saturday, October 9, 2010 13:39:10
From:	Bill Browning (bbrowning_01@yahoo.com)
I have an old etx90 and as I was trying to update the hand controller i
think I just crashed it. Is there a way to reinnstall the software onto
the handcontroller?(497 I think)..

I am using a serial to usb port to connect to the computer.

Worse case can I send it to someone to get the handcontroller up and
rollling again. Thanks for your help and great site btw.

Bill Browning
Mike here: See the item "Q. The power went off while I was updating my AutoStar and now it doesn't work. Did I kill it?" on the ETX FAQ page. As to your USB-serial adapter, be aware that not all work reliably with the AutoStar. See the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. I recommend Keyspan adapters.

And:

Right now I'm using a Belkin but the autostar still isn't finding the
autostar. Is there another issue or should I just go out and get the
Keyspan.?
Thanks again for your help
Mike here: Did the AutoStar say FLASH LOAD READY when you did the magic keystroke?

And:

I was able to get the flash load ready up on the handcontroller but for
some reason the autostar program cannot find the handcontroller. I think
I am just missing a step or something. I'm jealous you are out
observing!!! I live in Brooklyn NY and observing is far and few between.
Even sold my 16" dob last year from lack of use.
Enjoy the night and don't forget about the comet in Perseus.
BTW If you use a computer when observing I make SightSaver red laptop/PC
screen shields.
I can send you one free of charge for all the help. They work alot
better then the redscreen modes on programs and rubylith
Thanks for all your help.
Clear Skies
Bill
Mike here: The AutoStar Update application should detect that the AutoStar is in SAFE MODE and let you download a fresh copy of the software to the AutoStar. But if the computer is not seeing the AutoStar, then nothing will happen. Time to check all the obvious things: port conflict, bad cable, loose connections, etc. And yeah, it could be the USB-serial adapter. I rarely use a computer in the observatory, although I do use my iPhone there. So, thanks but no need for a computer shield. I have been observing and photographing the comet over the past few nights. Reports on my Cassiopeia Observatory web site (http://www.weasner.com/co).
Subject:	'Adding' ephemerides for e.g. Hartley 2 to Autostar #497
Sent:	Saturday, October 9, 2010 13:25:51
From:	Brian (msa.co@freeuk.com)
Like a lot of folk, I am struggling to find Hartley 2 through the
English late summer cloud. Never fear, I have two scopes (12" LX200GPS
but we won't mention that in here! and an ETX125PE) which are capable of
finding it for me. Of course, neither can as the autostar doesn't have
Hartley 2 in its database. (The 125 did me a great first ever view of
Uranus having failed to find Hartley the other evening. See, it isn't
difficult when the scope knows what it is looking for.

So, the question is, what are the steps required to 'Add' the comet to
the database. I have found some ephemeride data but can't make head nor
tail of it compared to what the Autostar asks me to put in.

Does your site have this step by step info? I have looked but can't find
it if it it's there.

If your site does not have it, how easy is it to do? Like, before
Hartley 2 comes back in six and a half years but preferably before it
disappears this time.

I guess that I need a tutorial on ephemeredes as I am not clued up on
what it all means and various sites have differing data, or maybe it is
just presented differently.

Great to see the site updated. Keep it up.

Best regards,

Brian Martindale
Mike here: See the article "Adding Comets" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. For current TLE info for Comet Hartley 2, see the Heavens-Above page "http://www.heavens-above.com/comet.aspx?cid=103P".

And:

As always, what a service! Great response and too quick to be real. It
is like having your own guru in the observatory; OK, in the shed at the
bottom of the garden.

Again, many thanks and I am on it as soon as I send this note of thanks.

Best regards,

Brian Martindale

Subject:	autostar 497
Sent:	Saturday, October 9, 2010 09:40:11
From:	Ronald Brown (rwbrown@embarqmail.com)
My autostar hbx ha firmware rev. 5CE2.  My hbx is a 497EP.
 
Do any of your patches work on this for my LXD75?
 
Thanks,
Ron Brown
Mike here: I'll let Dick Seymour, developer of the patches, respond.

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Andrew Johansen has developed a patch kit for the 497EP Autostar
(which is what Ronald has:  the plain old "497" version numbers stop at 43Eg)

We have chosen to patch v5CE1 (not 5CE2), since 5CE1 is what Meade's
updater serves/fetches. The only difference between the two sub-versions
is in Meade's "factory test" routines, so the older version is not
losing any user features.

I've included a copy of the "kit" attached to this message, however the
"ReadMe" was written for the 6th edition of the kit... it's lagging a
bit behind this 9th edition.

This kit is suitable only for the 497EP Autostar, firmware version 5CE1.
You can manually fetch 5CE1 from Meade at:
http://www.meade.com/support/auto/BuildEP5CE1.rom

Since the internal computer in the 497EP is completely different than
the one in the original 497's, the bug list has changed, too.  This kit
fixes many of them.
We still haven't found all of the bugs in 5CE1/5CE2, so there probably
will be future updates to this kit.
This kit is applicable to any model of Meade scope that has a 497EP attached,
although we have not physically -tried- it with a GEM mount, such as the LXD75.
Please report any weirdness of behaviour.

Andrew Johansen's "MyScope" program can perform patching operations to a 497EP.
As of this writing, StarPatch cannot directly patch a 497EP, but StarMod
(part of the kit) can deal with the in-PC ROM files.
MyScope can be fetched from:
http://members.optusnet.com.au/johansea

have fun
--dick

Subject:	telescope question
Sent:	Monday, October 4, 2010 13:55:57
From:	Jeremy Parsons (sheremy01@yahoo.com)
I stumbled upon your website and I have a question for you. I have a
Meade #494 autostar controller and I broke the end of the cord. Could I
cut the end off of the autostar and splice the end of a ethernet cord on
it and it work?
Mike here: See the Cable section on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page on my ETX Site. Lots of articles there; you'll likely find what you need.

And:

Thanks I found exactly what I needed

Subject:	autuostar data
Sent:	Saturday, October 2, 2010 05:46:28
From:	doug skillman (dskillma@columbus.rr.com)
I need to know if there is a way to upload all satellite data to my
autostar 497 and where can I find the data. It's a pain to try and put
them in manually.  Thanks  Doug Skillman
Mike here: I've never tried updating the entire Satellite database in the AutoStar, but if it is possible it would be via the AutoStar Update application (Windows only and requires a RS-232 serial connection to your computer). You can get satellite data from the links at the bottom of the Meade AutoStar downloads page (linked from the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page on my ETX Site. Of course, the best place for individual TLEs is Heavens-Above.com.
Subject:	Question about aligning etx-80
Sent:	Friday, October 1, 2010 12:38:43
From:	n2xwv (n2xwv@verizon.net)
Hello and thank you for the great site,I am a newbie and have had
trouble aligning the autostar.

I have read the instruction book and looked all over the web to find out
if I can pick the stars i want to use for alignment?? A lot of the ones
picked by the auto star are in the west, i am blacked out in the west .
Thank you ahead of time for your work to help people interested in
astronomy.

Sincerly john yezek.

Meade ETX-80
Mike here: You can skip a star if it is obscured. Press the down arrow key to have the AutoStar pick another star.

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