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Does Firmware "Spoil" from Lack of Use?

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#1 AlBoning

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 04:57 AM

It's been about ten months since I last fired up the Atlas that I got the previous December.

At first I didn't even notice there was a problem. The controller asked if I wanted to start from park and that was the last prompt for information I saw. As I was intent on slewing to Mirach and aligning the RACI and Telrad I just slewed off and did so without noticing that it didn't ask me if I wanted to do an alignment. It was when I went to PARK the scope in preparation to doing an alignment and couldn't call up the Utility Menu to access the PARK Command that I became aware that the only controller functions that were working were slewing and changing the slew rate.

I tried and checked everything I could think of, on/off, unplug/plug in, battery voltage, stand alone mode of the controller, without avail ... the only thing I can think of is that after ten months idle the firmware could stand to be refreshed.

Since I got the Atlas Orion has added a controller manual to their list of downloads. This manual mentions that the controller has a self diagnostic routine. However, it is meant to done in stand alone mode with a couple of shorted plugs inserted. Without such plugs it is unable to test the COM ports. Nonetheless I tried the self diagnostic and as to be expected it did report a failure in both COM ports, but did not report an EEPROM Failure, or a Flash Failure, additionally it tests all keys for function (they all work) and displays the voltage and temperature (it does).

I'll be heading off to the Shack in the morning for a RS232/USB cable so I can download/refresh the firmware from my computer to the controller. Currently I have V3.27 and I've already downloaded the new version firmware to my computer.

Course I've already written to Orion but surely this problem has come up before and someone here knows what to do about it. If so I'd like to hear about. Besides the answer here is likely to come quicker.

#2 rimcrazy

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 06:55 AM

Having manufactured EEPROM's for a number of years, I believe I can safely say that I would be very surprised if your problem is the EEPROM's. More than likely you have a cable or connector which has failed. If there is an open connector it could have become corroded, covered with bug dung, spider webs, dust, etc. A dirty connector would cause a communication failure. EEPROM's, especially the serial kind used in this kind of application, require million's of R/W cycles before you even approach a failure point.

That being said, not knowing your setup or location, if you have a fixed observatory could you have had a lightning strike close by? How about a power surge from your power company? My observatory is located in a rural community. Until I put everything computer/network related on UPS's I was losing about 2 routers and/or switches a year. I never tracked it down but I suspect a combination of surges from my power company and possibly close lightning strikes as we get a lot of T-storms in July/Aug (Arizona).

#3 rmollise

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 08:22 AM

No...it is not like day old fish. :p

#4 Stew57

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 08:43 AM

I guess random gamma rays could affect the ROM but that is highly unlikely.

#5 JimMo

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 04:44 PM

No...it is not like day old fish. :p


That comment still has me laughing Rod. :lol: :roflmao:

I glad I wasn't drinking milk.

#6 mich_al

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 05:32 PM

Most failures with electronic gear, especially that that has been sitting unused, is connector related. Reseat everything possible, including plug in EPROMS. Don't bend amy pins.

#7 AlBoning

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 08:23 PM

That the hand controller exhibits the same dysfunctionality (the only commands working are slewing and changing the slew rate, which seems to rule out the motor controller board as the source of the problem) whether connected to the mount or in stand alone mode rules out a cable connection as the problem.

I was able to refresh the V3.27 firmware (to no effect) and load the V3.35 firmware (also to no effect) rules out the EEPROM as the problem.

Orion's recommendation to check the R232/USB adapter (a connector I don't even have so that couldn't be the problem) seems to rule out any solution other than replacing the controller.

At this point it seems there is no alternative to the purchase of another controller.

I'm no fan of GoTo and since the controller is still slewing the mount and I can change the slew rate the mount remains useful and I could live with that, provided it is tracking. Something I'm checking right now. But it would irritate me every time I thought about the Atlas or used it that it wasn't fully functional, and the 400 bux for a new controller would be worth it to me to just get it off my mind.

Thank you to each of you for considering and writing a response.

#8 Ravenous

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 07:44 AM

A piece of electronics left alone for ten months could develop any number of faults.

You've ruled out the connecting cable, but on the circuit board I guess there will be any number of connectors, mini board mounted switches, etc that could have got a bit dirty. (I don't know anything about your controller but I'm guessing there could be any number of possible conmponents that could go dodgy.)

If it's still under warranty, speak to the dealer. If it's out of warranty, you could try opening it up yourself (if this is even possible) and checking every connector on there for cleanliness, cycling every switch (if any) twice, etc to see if it clears the problem... you never know...

Look again at mich_al's post, going over the board looking for something that might not be properly in its socket is the first thing to try.

#9 AlBoning

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 07:15 PM

Call me an idiot. Thank you I have earned it. The problem was never with the controller it was with me. I was hitting ESC instead of ENTER to bypass the Solar Viewing Warning. Doing so to abort the Solar Viewing Warning, or at any point during entry of all the setup parameters disables all key functions other than slewing and changing the slewing rate until one hits ENTER once again launching the warning, and hits ENTER again to begin the string of prompts for setup parameters.

Fortunately I discovered this within 30 min of placing the order for a replacement so I was able to cancel the order. Go ahead laugh. I am suitably chagrined.

#10 rimcrazy

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 07:42 PM

Don't feel bad. I sent my first CCD camera, an ST7 XME camera all the way back to SBIG for repair simply because I did not know that that model won't turn on unless BOTH the power is applied and the USB port is plugged into a live socket. They did a nice job refurbishing it but it worked fine. Nothing broken. I would imagine CN is full of similar such stories.

#11 JimMo

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 09:09 PM

Call me an idiot. Thank you I have earned it. The problem was never with the controller it was with me. I was hitting ESC instead of ENTER to bypass the Solar Viewing Warning. Doing so to abort the Solar Viewing Warning, or at any point during entry of all the setup parameters disables all key functions other than slewing and changing the slewing rate until one hits ENTER once again launching the warning, and hits ENTER again to begin the string of prompts for setup parameters.

Fortunately I discovered this within 30 min of placing the order for a replacement so I was able to cancel the order. Go ahead laugh. I am suitably chagrined.


D'oh. I hate when that happens to me. Operator error was always one of my worst problems. Manuals? We don't need no stinking manuals. :stooges:

I'm mostly better now. :grin:

#12 cn register 5

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 02:19 AM

It may be worth posting a message to the support people telling them what you did and suggesting that they ask the developers if there's some way to make the control more intuitive. This sort of UI design isn't easy and the software tends to teach people how to work round things, without even realising they are doing it.

Chris

#13 SkipW

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 11:07 PM

Does Firmware "Spoil" from Lack of Use?


Another example of bit rot. Happens all the time (especially with software I write). :)

Thanks for reporting back the real problem, as hard as that might be. Another advantage of reporting this to the developers is it can be added to the troubleshooting tree for their support group ("can", not necessarily "will").






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