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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
Last updated: 30 September 2011
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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:	RE Autostar 594 with corruption
Sent:	Thursday, September 29, 2011 20:50:45
From:	Richard Small (drumsk8@hotmail.com)
Hi I hope you might be able to shed some light on this issue for me.

I have an autostar 495 and I updated it when I got it to a 497 which was
successful, and proceeded to flash the unit with some custom rom
firmware and all was good for a few months.

However I recently today attached a direct 15v power supply from my
electronics kit to the meade 4504 telescope and noticed i was getting
lots of corruption on the screen, I would usually get the beep, but more
corruption. Sometimes I don't get a beep and sometimes i can't even use
the keys to move the scope. I tried plugging in the original 454 handset
and found there to be no issues at all, so i am faced with a doggy
autostar 454 (497 wannabe) with this i continued to connect and
disconnect the power until I was able to see some text on screen that
was corrupted, I instantly connected the FTDI cable and updated the
firmware with the Meade ASU think the version at the moment is 5.9 It
proceeded to download and then update the handset with the latest
firmware, this completed sucessfully. However I am still getting
corruption on the screen i notice the the initialisation screen
sometimes appears ok and not corrupted, but then it will either blank
out or corrupt.

I am capable of replacing parts on the handset should this be required,
but I am not sure where to start testing with my multimeter or o-scope,
do you have any pointers or guides that can assist in this hardware
troubleshooting? Also do you know what componates might be responsible
for this corruption happening. I really would love to fix the handset
and get back to controlling the telescope via software.

Also to note, that sometimes the RA would get stuck with the doggy RA
when i was testing it's functionality each time, and since it's got a
constant 14.9V it's not a battery issue. And i've not seen this happen
with the 494 with this direct power feed.

Should you require any further information please ask, I look forward to
your response and hope that you can help in someway.

Much thanks in advance.

Richard.
Mike here: I'll let our resident AutoStar expert, Dick Seymour, respond.
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
It certainly sounds like a hardware problem.
It could be as simple as a dirty keysheet (some contamination "pushing" keys for you).
Or conductive dirt bridging between adjacent copper traces on the circuit card.

If could be as (almost) simple as a loose LCD display module cable/connector.

It could be as (less) simple as a failing filter capacitor or voltage regulator inside the 497.

or it could be as complex as a failing chip (be it memory, "glue", or the CPU itself.

Obviously the first step is "open it up and look, and clean the
keysheet, contacts and traces.  Look *very* carefully for things caught
between the chips' pins.

15v is really pushing the Autostar's voltage regulator's (non-existent) heat-sinking.
It's far safer to run them at 12v, or 13.8v max.
(yes, i know the 4504 has a ten-cell battery pack, but Meade didn't intend for it to use a 497).

good luck
--dick

Subject:	Re: ETX-125 AT goto error become significant when turned a complete 360 degree
Sent:	Tuesday, September 27, 2011 06:51:50
From:	TSE Ming-wai (mwtse@netvigator.com)
Many thanks for both of you, the FTDI chipset USB adaptor works like
wonder, and the StarPatch and MyScore is like a God send.

I have taken all the parts out and assembling them once again. With
renewed understanding about the arrangement of each part, now i finally
understand what happen to my scope last time. It was being poorly fitted
by me. The wire connected to the Alt drive has jammed the rotation, as a
result,  the scope have problem to turn.

I also included a mod suggested by Andrew Johansen, i.e. replace the
plastic RA bearing with a roller-type thrust bearing AXK3552. The
rotation of my scope is now very smooth.

Testing with terrestrial objects has yielded a very good result. I
repeat many times the 360 degree test, the target was always spot on.
I'm waiting for a clear sky to do the ultimate test.

Anyway the values I am using now are RA 335 50% Alt 500 50%. I have not
pay too much attention on the Alt this time but the values seems to work
fine. Is the 50% too much?

Subject:	re: 494 hand controllers
Sent:	Wednesday, September 21, 2011 18:13:21
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
For the unit that dims after the initial screen, do the slew keys work?
(this is testing "display" versus "overall function")

If it functions, then you stand a chance that the screen brightness (or
contrast) has merely been set very low.  The boot-up screen runs at full
brightness, then dims to the user's setting.

One approach is to try squinting at the screen with light coming from
various directions (top or bottom is best in my experience).
You may be able to (dimly) see what it's trying to tell you.
Then you can menu to Utilities/Brightness  and/or  Utilities/Contrast
At those prompts, the Scroll UP key will raise the brightness and increase the contrast.
(scroll down lowers them).

At this point (before starting the next), i have to say that your
symptom on that 494 sounds a bit like its internal power-filtering
capacitor may be shorting out (crow-barring the 5v regulator).

But let's be hopeful, and try:
If you can't see enough to do the above Bright/Contrast, then you can
try blindly tapping towards a Reset.
After the initial dim-out, try pressing ENTER three times... that gets
past the time-setting questions.  Then press MODE  4 times.
(that should guarantee that you're at  "Select/Object")
Then press Scroll UP once, then ENTER, then Scroll UP.
This should bring you to "Setup/Reset"
Press Enter twice.
That should trigger a reboot, and will set the Brightness and Contrast
to middle-of-the-road values.

If the electronics of this 494 are truly unhappy, you could open it up
and move the display module to the other 494 with the dotty display
(although *that* one may just be a loose cable where the display module
plugs onto the main card).

There may be other ways to diagnose this, feel free to email me.
good luck
--dick seymour

And:

From:	Muhs, Eric (ecmuhs@seattleschools.org)
Well! At your advice, I took the naughty controllers both apart. 
By exchanging parts, I now have one working 494, 
and one with a display screen that appears to have a crack in the glass
across the corner, and doesn't show characters and also a  damaged
rubber button mat. We'll call that one DEAD.

So I've ordered a 497 to replace it. 

I also have the cables coming for both the 494 & 497, if you ever need,
Mr. Seymour - it sounds like we're pretty close.

Thanks so much for your help. 

Eric Muhs

Subject:	494 hand controllers
Sent:	Monday, September 19, 2011 14:56:38
From:	Muhs, Eric (ecmuhs@seattleschools.org)
So, in using my class set of ext's (mostly 60's and 70's)
 
I have a handpaddle that lights up for a few seconds, and I can read the
initialization screen, then I can see nothing (there is a faint
flickering which suggests maybe the contrast is turned all the way down,
but I dunno)
 
A second handpadddle annoys by only have the second line readable  the
top line is just dots.

Both these handpaddles display the same symptoms on multiple scopes.

Any ideas?
 
Thanks so much
 
Eric Muhs
Physics & Astronomy teacher
 
Chess club advisor
Astrobiology Club advisor
Solar Car club advisor
 
Ballard High School
Seattle, Wa 98117
 
Imagination inspires, standardization expires.
Mike here: Have you tried fresh batteries?

And:

very 1st thing.
Mike here: Ok. Since multiple controllers are having the same problem, check the HBX jack on the telescope base. Look for bent, dirty, or too depressed pins.

And:

I've tried each of the controllers on multiple telescopes. Same issue,
and I don't see any problems with the male connectors from the
handpaddles.

I finally ordered the cable from Meade, and I'm going to try updating
their sw. Some of these are really old and never used, so maybe sw got
corrupted.

Thanks
Mike here: There is no user-installable update for the AutoStar #494. So having the #506 serial cable won't do you much good for solving the problem if the ROM has become corrupted. If the ROM is corrupted, your best solution would be to get a #497 AutoStar, which is user-updateable using the #505 serial cable.
Subject:	Re: Compass vs. true north
Sent:	Thursday, September 15, 2011 16:10:28
From:	mamonett@comcast.net (mamonett@comcast.net)
See if this sounds correct:

This of course IF I use a compass to align the tube to magnetic north;

When I align my 125 I can use "compass" north instead of "true" north
and I won't need to allow for magnetic declination , (in my case 5
degrees West). As long as I have entered the coordinates (LON & LAT),
for my viewing location correctly the software will adjust for correct
magnetic declination

Mike Amonett
Mike here: Assuming the location set has the correct Magnetic Variation and assuming the AutoStar really uses the it. Dick?

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
That *should* be correct... except for the usual bunch of Meade flies in the ointment.

For some portions of the planet (at least in the LNT portion of the
code) they miscalculate the interpolation for the local magnetic
declination.
So they're *close* (they use the corner of a 5 degrees of Lat/Long
square), but they're not *exact*.
I see this as about a 5 degree error at my house in Seattle.
The scope applies too little offset, so it thinks Polaris is 5 degrees
east of where it's really at (i have an LNT mounted on my ETX90).

And *your* local conditions may/will vary, too... if you're near a car,
or over an underground oil tank, your magnetic compass may be incorrect.
The town of Black Diamond, Washington, has up to 16 degree shifts in
deviation (due to underground ore deposits).  These are highlighted on
aircraft VFR charts (since pilots depend upon their mag compasses).

have fun
--dick

Subject:	Compass vs. true north
Sent:	Wednesday, September 14, 2011 16:24:08
From:	mamonett@comcast.net (mamonett@comcast.net)
When I align my ETX125, after "easy align" I am prompted for "true north" or
"compass north". When would I use "compass north"?  I know where North is at my
viewing location.  I see no mention of this option in my autostar manual.

Mike Amonett
Mike here: Since the Earth's axis is pointed at True North, you should use True North, not Magnetic North.

And:

Yes I understand what true north is and the Earth's rotation around this point.
My question is; why is the "compass" option there and when would  it be used?
Mike here: Guess I never really noticed that being there! Perhaps our resident AutoStar expert, Dick Seymour, knows.

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
First, the addition of the "magnetic north" was done after the manuals
were printed (or they simply forgot to update that section... it was
introduced in a recent firmware update).  Whoops.. i just found it on
page 9 of the LT manual.  And it looks like they may even supply a
compass....
http://www.meade.com/manuals/TelescopeManuals/LS-LT/LT_Users_Manual.pdf

But we'll continue...

The Autostar has the programming for LNT-assisted "Automatic Alignment"
Thus it has the "magnetic deviation" table for the planet, telling it
the (theoretical) local offsets between True North and Magnetic North.

Many people set up with only a magnetic compass, since (a) they can't
see Polaris or (b) it's daytime or (c) for whatever reason, they don't
have a solid idea of where True North is.  Many other people simply
don't realize/know that there's a difference between Magnetic and True.

Anyway, since the Autostar already *has* the local offset data, Meade
helpfully made that knowledge (functionally) available to the users by
offering it as an alternate to pointing the scope accurately at True
North.

I wouldn't doubt that it was partially influenced by calls to Customer
Service asking why the scope was "missing" the alignment stars by (what
turned out to be) the local magnetic offset ("deviation" is the correct
term).
For example, here in Seattle, Magnetic North is 19.5 degrees east of
True North.

have fun
--dick
p.s. LNT= Level North Technology ... a feature on some Meade scopes that
includes a magnetic-north detector (not a true compass, but a
magnetometer that accurately notices when scope slews past "mag north")

Subject:	Autostar Tour Upload Question
Sent:	Saturday, September 10, 2011 21:16:27
From:	Rammit (turbofan@comcast.net)
I used one of Dr. Clay's posted tours as a template, and wrote my own
for an upcoming evening.  When trying to upload it, I get the prompt "Do
you want to replace all objects in the handbox?"  If you select no, it
won't proceed.  I was under the impression that one could load custom
tours without wiping everything out.
 
Can you offer some insight?
 
Thanks for your time,
 
Jack Smarto

Subject:	Myscope and AudioStar
Sent:	Monday, September 5, 2011 19:08:11
From:	Yannick Dutertre (yannickd@gmail.com)
Hi Andrew,

I saw your reply to my 497EP/AudioStar issue on Mike's website, thank
you very much for noticing and providing the information so kindly.

I would be very happy if you could provide the MyScope version that
works with the AudioStar. Even if some features are missing in this beta
version, it would be a huge help if I could add new tours/fix the old
ones in the handsets.

It is interesting Meade can't get their ASU software right, even though
the handboxes when taken out of the box are probably correctly
programmed/indexed (I wonder how they do that!)

Thank you very much and best regards,

Yannick

Subject:	re: 494 controller
Sent:	Monday, September 5, 2011 11:40:10
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
A 494 Autostar will only work on ETX-60, ETX-70 and ETX-80 models.

If you have been given an ETX-90, ETX-105 or ETX-125, it will require a 497
(or 497EP or Audiostar).

As Mike wrote, a 495 Autostar can be upgraded (a simple, free, firmware
update) to become a 497.

One specific spot to look for a 494 would be to contact "Mr Telescope Warehouse".
Give Bill Vorce at Telescopes Warehouse a call at 877-391-7755
or email him at scopehed@earthlink.net and/or  scopehed@frontiernet.com
http://www.telescope-warehouse.com

good luck
--dick (in Seattle, willing to do the firmware update if you find a 495)

Subject:	Re: ETX-125 AT goto error become significant when turned a complete 360 degree
Sent:	Sunday, September 4, 2011 21:50:18
From:	TSE Ming-wai (mwtse@netvigator.com)
I will need to purchase an USB-to-RS232 interface cable before proceeding.

However, the current firmware version on Meade's website has been
upgraded to 5CE2, which is the version I had on my AutoStar. I
remembered that the version on website was 5CE1 back in June when I
purchased my ETX-125AT. Will there be any problem if I use StarPatch? Or
I need to wait for an update? I've opened up the hand-controller and
found a toshiba chip inside, so mine is an 497EP.

For the scope itself, what I've found is that, the error is more
symmetric if I do not train the drive, the error seems to be biased to
one side if I do the training, but the sum of error for both sides
remains more or less the same. From the results I obtained, I estimated
the backlash is 26 arcmin , so the correct value should be 26 x 60 =
1560, which is larger than 1000, from what you said, the bug should have
bit me.

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
> I will need to purchase an USB-to-RS232 interface cable before proceeding.

I recommend the Keyspan USA-19HS, or any adapter made by or containing
an FTDI chipset.
Avoid Belkin.

> However, the current firmware version on Meade's website has been upgraded to 5CE2,
 > which is the version I had on my AutoStar. I remembered that the version on website
 > was 5CE1 back in June when I purchased my ETX-125AT.
 > Will there be any problem if I use StarPatch?

No.

 > Or I need to wait for an update?

No.   The *only* functional difference between 5CE1 and 5CE2 is that "2"
has an additional telescope model listed in the factory test routines.
There is *no* difference in the normal operation portions of the programming.
Due to that equivalence, Andrew and I are not devoting any effort to create a 
5CE2-specific patch kit. (it takes about a week of effort). We're
spending the time debugging the AudioStar and deep issues in the
LX200gps.

 > I've opened up the hand-controller and found a toshiba chip inside, so mine is an 497EP.

Simply the "5" as the leading digit of the firmware revealed that (but
exploration is always fun).

> For the scope itself, what I've found is that, the error is more symmetric
 > if I do not train the drive, the error seems to be biased to one side
 > if I do the training, but the sum of error for both sides remains more or less the same.
 > From the results I obtained, I estimated the backlash is 26 arcmin , so the correct
 > value should be 26 x 60 = 1560, which is larger than 1000,
 > from what you said, the bug should have bit me.

My (ancient) ETX90 trains out to 1100 in Az, 3300 in Alt. (worn plastic
Alt bearings allows the OTA to shift depending upon direction of
motor/gear loading)

Once you have the USB-serial adapter, you can use Andrew Johansen's
"MyScope" utility to look at various operational parameters in your
Autostar, including the training results.
You can run it before and after doing the installation of the patched
5CE2.
http://members.optusnet.com.au/johansea

have fun
--dick

Subject:	494 controller
Sent:	Friday, September 2, 2011 12:11:52
From:	Muhs, Eric (ecmuhs@seattleschools.org)
Hi! I love your site. I got an ETX donated in June, and realized there
were a lot on sale on craigslist. I now have a class set for my
astronomy class!

But I just discovered that one of them had a focuser paddle instead of
the autostar paddle.

Meade customer service told me a 497 paddle would work, but I am
skeptical. Very.

a)      What do you think?
b)      Know of any place to pick up a 494 paddle? I've been looking all over on-line.
 
Thanks for your time.
 
Eric Muhs
Physics & Astronomy teacher
 
Chess club advisor
Astrobiology Club advisor
Solar Car club advisor
 
Ballard High School
Seattle, Wa 98117
 
Imagination inspires, standardization expires.
Mike here: An AutoStar #497 will work with any ETX model. The only caveat is that it will need a software version that contains the ETX model. Best bet is to use 4.3Eg. If you get a #497 (or an old #495) you can easily update it to 4.3Eg using a #505 serial cable (easily made) and a RS-232 serial port on your computer (Mac or PC).
Subject:	497EP, AudioStar, and Tours
Sent:	Wednesday, August 31, 2011 20:53:43
From:	Andrew Johansen (johansea@optusnet.com.au)
Just saw the following post
a) The "released" Myscope will only do 497EPs at present
  but i have a beta version working with Audiostars.
  ( Thats why the Load scope button was greyed out for the Audiostar )

b) Both the 497EP and Audiostars have the same tour loading bug
  ( plus some other potentially nasty bugs ) when using ASU.
 Myscope will correctly load the tours, but you do have to validate them.
  Pressing the validate button in the tours tab of my app
  will warn of the error and it just requires iterative fixing of problems
  till the tour is OK. Most errors in the Meade supplied tours
 are due to wrong RA/DEC where they exceed 60 arcmins or 60 arcsecs.
 Just fix as you go and all works.

c) You can load Satellites/Asteroids/Comets using ASU, however, it does
  corrupt the entry headers ( for both 497EP and Audiostar ).
 Thus as long as you dont add/edit or delete
 any data in them via the Hbx, they will work.
 If you do add/edit etc manually, horrible stuff may happen up to and
 including the handbox locking up or all the user data being arbitrarily
 erased. MyScope loads these entries correctly.

d) Loading the "user data" incorrectly wont "brick" the handbox
  only screwing up part 3 of the firmware load will do that,
  as the 497EP and Audiostars dont have any "protected" safeload code.

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia

And more:

I may just put the beta up on my website as is,
as there are still few bits in it that dont work
but it wont affect general usage.
At least people will be able to update their Audiostars.

Andrew

Subject:	Re: ETX-125 AT goto error become significant when turned a complete 360 degree
Sent:	Wednesday, August 31, 2011 20:37:26
From:	TSE Ming-wai (mwtse@netvigator.com)
I just found that the RA reading is running like a clock, so I need to
do the test again and adjust the reading using a stop watch.

And:

Right slew:
RA 02:21.0 changed to 02:17.3 (after adj.), i.e 3.3 less or 0.83 degree.

Left slew:
RA 02:27.0 changed to 02:28.5 (after adj.), i.e. 1.5 more or 0.38 degree.

The FOV of the stock 26 mm EP is about 0.75 degree, half of it is 0.38
degree, as a result, the object is marginally visible using left slew,
but not so for right slew.

After reseting the scope then do the test again without training drive.

Right slew:
RA 00:42.0 changed to 00:40.75 (after adj.), i.e. 1.25 less

Left slew:
RA 00:51.0 changed to 00:52.25 (after adj.), i.e. 1.25 more.

The result is better before training the drive. 

Obviously, I'll train the drive again to see if there is any further improvement.

After training,

Right slew:
RA 01:32.0 changed to 01:30.5 (after adj.), i.e. 1.5 less

Left slew:
RA 01:39.0 changed to 01:40.1 (after adj.), i.e. 1.1 more.

Still very confused.

And:

I have been too dumb to discover how to display the Az reading (which
does not change for terrestrial objects). Now I have redo the test and
the following is some, I believed, meaningful findings.

I reseted the ETX-125 AT. The telescope calibrate the motor
automatically.

I skipped all the time/date entry, which should be irrelevant.

I do not trained the drive. The Autostar was in terrestrial mode, AZ
mount mode.

I slewed the telescope for 360 degree and stopped at a terrestrial
object (believe me, I became an expert after all those training),
without reversing the slew direction. I wrote down the Az reading.
Slewed to the opposite direction for 360 degree and stopped at the same
object (again without any reversing). Slewed the other way round, and
repeated the whole cycle.

The difference in each successive reading were due to Random error +
Encoder systematic error + Backlash. I took the average to reduce the
effect of Random error, so the result I obtained is:

Encoder systematic error + Backlash = 46'47"

Now I redo the test again, this time trying to take up the backlash by
slewing in the correct direction and stop at the object each time before
turning the 360 degree. Repeat a number of times and take the average.

Encoder systematic error = 20'05"

The random error was estimated to be about 2' in both test.

If my theory is correct, the backlash of my scope is 26'. What I could
not understand is, if the scope is slewed right for a complete turn, the
encoder records 20' less, if it is slewed left, it records 20' MORE!

The encoder error is around 1/1075, too small to be accounted by dirty
encoder. Also, if it is caused by missing encoder count, it should aways
record less, never being able to record more.

Do you think there is some thing fundamentally wrong with the way I
test?

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
No, in fact your reports point to the probable underlying problem.

You noted that it seemed better if you did NOT Train Drives.

That's because there's a bug in Meade's Train Drives routine in the
497EP. (when you do a Reset, it loads a medium-high value (1000). BUT:
when you actually Train, the bug truncates any result greater than 400
down to 100. If your backlash exceeds 400 (arcseconds of mechanical
slop) then you end up vastly UNDERtrained.

If you use StarPAtch to load our patched version of 5CE1 into your
497EP, we fix that bug. Then the Training will produce (and save/use)
better values matching *your* telescope.

Given the (relatively) small error you're seeing in your 360 degree
test, i suspect this is a major factor.  4 arcminutes is only 240
arcsec.

The patch's "Edit Training" will also allow you to *see* the results you
get from doing a Train Drives procedure.

You can download StarPAtch from http://www.stargps.ca/pub/setupSP.exe

good luck
--dick

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