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Charlie HeinAdministrator
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Comparative review - observatory planning software
      #6069198 - 09/08/13 10:14 AM

Comparative review of observation planning software

UPDATED 10/12/2013

By Thomas B. Fowler

Edited by Charlie Hein (10/12/13 09:18 AM)


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Charlie Hein]
      #6069495 - 09/08/13 01:17 PM

Hi,

I wanted to ask the author of this review how much time he spent using the software reviewed - I find the SkyTools review extremely shallow and completely lacking some basic and important features - would be interested in anyone else's opinion on that.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #6069994 - 09/08/13 05:47 PM

I'd like to point out that the author of this article mistook the outline of the cluster on the SkyTools chart for the eyepiece field of view. Of course SkyTools shows the proper field of view! It would be an enormous error if it didn't. The reviewer should have double checked something so basic, resulting an an extraordinarily misleading review. While I am here, I would like to point out that SkyTools has a much larger and much more accurate/corrected set of databases than the other software.

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Kyphoron
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6070282 - 09/08/13 09:23 PM

I agree, I found the Skytools review very shallow and missed some key points. I also think the lack of object info was very unfair as well. All the important aspects of the object are there. Just under different tabs within the object info. Not to mention it will tell you based on the fields you entered (scope, mag skies, date, etc.) if this is an object that you can hope to see on any given night. Skytools also tells you when will be your best window of opportunity to see the object that a person wishes to observer.

I just felt after reading the review there was an unfair bias to astroplanner and that Skytools was left hanging in the wind with a lot of its key features not listed at all.

----------
Paul

Edited by Kyphoron (09/08/13 09:25 PM)


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JimK
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Charlie Hein]
      #6070314 - 09/08/13 09:45 PM

Quote:

Comparative review of observation planning software

By Thomas B. Fowler



I am a registered user of both AstroPlanner2 and SkyTools3 Standard -- I now only use SkyTools 3 because it has the planning and logging features that I need/use. And I don't use any telescope control features, only starhopping. AstroPlanner is nice, but as Greg mentioned, the single database is fantastic for tracking down those obscure faint fuzzies to view, and without getting multiple databases "hits" to make confusion. This is also the Achilles' Heel of SkyTools, such that errors or missing items are difficult to correct, but a workaround was provided -- the Supplemental Database. I also do not think that the strengths were comprehensive, and weaknesses were not accurate, for SkyTools.

Everyone has their own preferences, and the reviewer showed his bias. *My* bias is for SkyTools3.


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: JimK]
      #6070549 - 09/09/13 12:51 AM

Greg,

I'm also amazed at the lack of mention on right clicking on objects in the interactive atlas sky chart, the object details and other features that can be right clicked on the object lists, the list is LARGE and why I have to ask if the author actually used the software for any time and took the time to learn what is 'low hanging fruit', let alone the power under hood on doubles and all the DB power search capabilities along with being able to select specifically from some or all the catalogs to create custom lists... planetary solar system almost entirely neglected...

Bias is one thing but error of omission another issue IMO that shows this doesn't pass muster, by that I mean that if there is a basic feature and they didn't like it that is one thing but to omit basic features is at best poor research.


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Eagle923
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #6070858 - 09/09/13 08:58 AM

Just a quick note other than what comments are already here.

ST3 will export the ".skylist" format as well for Sky Safari.

I've used both and prefer ST3 by a wide margin.


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Cames
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Eagle923]
      #6071370 - 09/09/13 01:55 PM

Please add me to the list of readers that find the description of the functions of Skytools 3 to be incomplete and misleading to the extent that a retraction is in order.

I don't even know where to start with my objections to the author's assertions. IMO a disservice to readers of the forum.


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Natty Bumppo
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Cames]
      #6071821 - 09/09/13 06:08 PM

Add me to the list also, of users who now use SkyTools exclusively on the desktop. SkyTools is just what I was looking for some years back. Moved to it due to being disappointed with the planner modules (and false hits) of both AstroPlanner and Starry Nights. SkyTools (Win8) & SkySafari (Android) work well together and are all I use now.

And add me to the list of those who thought the "review" was unnecessarily biased, and contained many errors and downright false and misleading statements.


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Kyphoron
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Natty Bumppo]
      #6072552 - 09/10/13 02:45 AM

I don't think that the article should be retracted but I think the author would have been better served to just review astroplanner rather than omitting items to make Skytools look worse than astroplanner.

At least make a fair side by side comparison rather than picking out certain things.

Like astroplanner requires an outside program for an atlas. Skytools has an interactive atlas built into it.

Astroplanner has limited database and if you want complete star list you have to pay. Skytools has a very large database and you do not have to buy add on list.

Astroplanner has a single field chart. Skytools has a 3 panel chart which can all be customized.

A side by side like I just did would be a fair comparison of both programs.


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Fox1971
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Charlie Hein]
      #6073014 - 09/10/13 11:14 AM

Has anyone tried Deep Sky Planner?

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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Fox1971]
      #6073584 - 09/10/13 05:10 PM

Frankly I don't know why the supposed review, IMO it does not qualify as one by any measure, was ever posted on the site. I don't understand why because no-one fact checked it and etc it should lower the bar so far just because it is a 'software review'. Does a huge disservice to the CN site AS WELL AS the fantastic work done by Rod Mollise on the same topic here on CN. That is what really hurt, there are some great reviews and reviewers here - to add this to the mix isn't just unfair to the readers -it's far more unfair to those who take the time and effort to get things right.

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gdd
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #6074729 - 09/11/13 10:08 AM

Quote:

I wanted to ask the author of this review how much time he spent using the software reviewed - I find the SkyTools review extremely shallow and completely lacking some basic and important features - would be interested in anyone else's opinion on that.





I have not used either software, so I don't know what he missed or whether he focused on the most important features. However his review was more detailed than several other software reviews I found on this forum (there were only 3 or 4 since about 2009). Some were not even a full screenful, some had no pictures, but no one complained.

I think the OP has more experience with AstroPlanner so he his comparing SkyTools to it rather than the other way around. Also, a lot of people in my opinion form their opinions on how a genre of software should work based on what they successfully used first. Perhaps he should have given the review a narrower title so the reader would not expect an exhaustive feature-by-feature comparison. The features he chose to discuss seem to be based on what he personally needs the tool to do.

From what he wrote, I think I would prefer SkyTools because he says it is easier to learn and he said the integrated DB avoided confusing duplicate information.

Some readers said some features the OP said were missing were actually there if you looked hard enough. I did not see interfaces to other planetarium software listed in on their site (unless ASCOM compliancy handles that). Are these features available only in the Pro version? (The OP reviewed the standard version).

Gale


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: gdd]
      #6074900 - 09/11/13 11:25 AM

Does anyone know if there is a mechanism here at CloudyNights to complain about factual errors in a review, and perhaps have them addressed? Opinion is one thing, factual errors, even errors by omission, are quite another.

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Kyphoron
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6074961 - 09/11/13 12:08 PM

Greg,

TOS are through Astronomics and if its not them maybe one of the postmasters can give you an answer. Ultimately I bet you they just balk at it and say its the editors opinion.


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Charlie HeinAdministrator
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Kyphoron]
      #6075560 - 09/11/13 05:22 PM

Folks, I just now responded to an angry PM form one of the folks posting to this thread. It prompted me to read through this thread to see what all the fuss was about. I think that rather than rehashing my thoughts about this, I'll just copy the text of my reply to this thread, and caution the angry pitchfork wielding crowd to apply some perspective to this situation. This is an amateur review. This is not Sky and Telescope or Astronomy magazine. I believe you folks have squandered a good opportunity to discuss the review with the writer and work politely to change any factual errors that may exist by presuming that there is some deliberate malice at work here. If I were the author the last thing I'd want to do is try to work with this crowd.

Quote:

Subject: Re: SkyTools Review

Sir, I think you're operating under a misunderstanding or two. First, I did not write the review you're referring to. I am merely the editor.

Most reviews should be read as being the reviewer's experience while performing the review and regarded as personal commentary. For the most part we are not talking about professional writers or editors here.

For example, I certainly do not have the resources or time to fully vett every statement made in an article or review, and your garden variety reviewer won't be in a position to do a rigorous peer reviewed and professionally edited piece either.

That said, we do provide the opportunity for polite discussion and fact correction of every article and review. I've checked that forum and see that the general tone being used in this area is anything but polite, and as of my last reading there has been mostly angry and strident grousing about the review rather than reasoned attempts to correct the writer's errors or misunderstandings about the software. That is unfortunate.

If I were the writer, the last thing I'd be likely to do is enter into a discussion with the group that is posting in there right now. Put yourself if the writers shoes for a second and ask yourself if you don't agree. I think that the tone in that thread has made it very difficult for a reasonable outcome... That said, I'm not in favor of pulling the review unless the author decides he wants it pulled and he does not appear to have been badgered or otherwise coerced into doing so. He may have made some factual errors and his personal preference may be for AstroPlanner, but you people are treating this as if it is some form of malicious act, and frankly in my opinion that is shameful. Please step back and apply a small bit of perspective to this.

Charlie




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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Charlie Hein]
      #6075623 - 09/11/13 06:05 PM

Charlie, with respect, after reading the comments above I see only strong disagreement with the article over largely factual issues.

Beyond the factual misrepresentations, such as the claim that SkyTools does not compute an accurate field of view, there is a larger issue here that people are responding to. SkyTools is a much more capable product with many more features. Any comparison must take this into account. The review glosses over the many features in SkyTools that are not available in the other product. That is an unfair comparison.

Please, at the very least fix the obvious factual errors:

1. "AstroPlanner has more capabilities and flexibility with respect to observing lists." It is easily demonstrable that the reverse is true.

2. "No way to export observing lists to other formats than text." Sky Safari export is supported by SkyTools.

3. "Views shown in (SkyTools) charts are not actual eyepiece fields of view."

This last is a very strong assertion. It is a claim that a basic feature simply does not work, much like claiming that a finder scope cannot be aligned with the main telescope in telescope review. If someone is going to state something this significant, they need to look at the circumstances very carefully and be certain they are right. This was not done.


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gdd
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6075643 - 09/11/13 06:23 PM

Hi Greg,

The article puts a quite a bit of emphasis on eyepiece fields of view. A problem I have when looking at star fields is even when I think I have the FOV referred to on a chart, the eyepiece view may show many more or many fewer stars making it difficult to match star patterns. I saw a sample AstroPlanner screen shot on their site showing that they can filter the stars by magnitude to solve that problem. I assume SkyTools can do the same?

Thanks,

Gale

Edited by gdd (09/11/13 06:24 PM)


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rboeAdministrator

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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: gdd]
      #6075668 - 09/11/13 06:44 PM

You know, any one of you folks are more than welcome to write up your review and submit it. Having reviews from multiple sources with differing strong points when it comes to reviewing would be a big asset to our community.

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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: gdd]
      #6075695 - 09/11/13 07:01 PM

Quote:

Hi Greg,

The article puts a quite a bit of emphasis on eyepiece fields of view. A problem I have when looking at star fields is even when I think I have the FOV referred to on a chart, the eyepiece view may show many more or many fewer stars making it difficult to match star patterns. I saw a sample AstroPlanner screen shot on their site showing that they can filter the stars by magnitude to solve that problem. I assume SkyTools can do the same?





SkyTools uses a different approach. You enter your telescope data, eyepieces, how much light pollution you have, etc. The program computes the limiting magnitude based on a scientific model. It also displays only the extended objects (galaxies, nebulae, etc.) that can be seen in the telescope at that time under the expected conditions.

The same capability is applied to your finding device and what can be seen with the unaided eye. The resulting three-view finder chart makes it quite easy to find things in the sky, because the magnitude limits, scale, and orientation all match what you see in the field.

Clear skies,
Greg


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Kyphoron
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6075902 - 09/11/13 09:20 PM

Charlie,

I don't think that this is an angry topic at all. I can understand why Greg is upset, his product has been misrepresented and that should be clear by all the responses and comparisons on the forum.

I think that its clear by what has been posted in the forum that there are some major flaws in the article and they are being discussed here. I also notice that No one here said that Skytools is "better" than Astroplanner but have pointed out that Skytools got poorly represented in the comparison.

Your right, this is not an S&T article but personally I am more likely to listen to the advice of a fellow astronomer over a publication that may be getting compensated for their review per advertising. So to me word of mouth goes a long way.

Again, you say that anyone can write an article but if Greg wrote it then it would obviously look like he is pushing his product. If I wrote it I would easily miss some key features simply because the program is so extensive that I would not even know where to begin.

I personally have used both programs in the past and Skytools fit my needs. I can honestly say that I could not write a comparative review simply because there are options in both programs that I am unaware of.

I will close by saying that this would not have been an issue here if the review were more of a true comparison and not an article lacking many facts. As Greg pointed out, if the user inputs all the fields correctly when starting out with Skytools the program will do the rest. It will tell you when an object is viewable, it will calculate what you should see in a certain eyepiece, finder scope, Binos or naked eye. Let me tell you based on what I have seen Skytools when set up by the user correctly is spot on.

Thank You.

Edited by Kyphoron (09/11/13 09:24 PM)


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gdd
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6075956 - 09/11/13 09:59 PM

Quote:

SkyTools uses a different approach. You enter your telescope data, eyepieces, how much light pollution you have, etc. The program computes the limiting magnitude based on a scientific model. It also displays only the extended objects (galaxies, nebulae, etc.) that can be seen in the telescope at that time under the expected conditions.





If the extended object is just barely visible or your observing skills are not the greatest you could use the easier to see star patterns to confirm you are looking where the object is? A similar situation would be framing an invisible object using nearby star patterns so you can image it. Sounds like you have it covered.

Gale


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Tom TAdministrator

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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: gdd]
      #6077170 - 09/12/13 02:32 PM

FWIW, I've used both and while I've found them both very capable, the only one I continue to use is SkyTools. Frankly, if I was limited to one piece of astro software SkyTools would be it.

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equuleus
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6077317 - 09/12/13 03:51 PM

If these reviews are done by amateurs then the forum moderator should insist they be submitted to the program author or software company for comment before posting. Short of that, the review should include a caveat that the review has not been checked for factual errors.

Don't confuse this with freedom of the press or free speech. Professionals have controls in place which includes fact checking. And if these forums were to support free speech....well you can imagine.

In this case the reviewers credibility is pretty much shot for the future.


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Mark Martin
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Charlie Hein]
      #6077332 - 09/12/13 03:57 PM

Dear Tom,

As someone who has used SkyTools 3 extensively and even taught several classes on its use (though I do not benefit in any way from its sales), I was very surprised to see the many omissions and mischaracterizations of SkyTools 3 in your comparison of it to AstroPlanner here on Cloudy Nights. One thing that was striking was your suggestion that SkyTools only contains a "Help file" to instruct people in how to use it. Aside from the help facility that you are aware of, there is a handbook for the starter edition and are user guides available for the standard and professional editions that are available as free downloads from the Skyhound web site at http://skyhound.com/downloads.html. The handbook for the starter edition is 123 pages, the standard edition user guide is 566 pages, and the user guide for the professional edition is 623 pages. These documents describe every feature of the program in detail. In addition, there is an extensive library of video tutorials that demonstrate how to use many features or how to accomplish specific tasks available at http://skyhound.com/skytools_tutorials.html. There is also a SkyTools Yahoo group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/skytools where the author of the software and people like me answer questions and provide help.

The help facility that you referred to is also much richer than you indicated. When you first start the program, a small dialog box offers you the options of reading through the "Getting Started" or "Tutorial" portions of the help facility, provides a link to the video tutorials, and gives the URL of the Skyhound web site. Several parts of the help facility are accessible using buttons on the toolbar at the top of each major window within the program. Aside from the parts that I mentioned above, there are buttons for context-specific help, an extensive set of How-To's, and the general help facility index.

Another aspect of your review that struck me was what seemed to be a misunderstanding of the many ways that you can create an observing list. It seemed that you thought that the Nightly Observing List Generator is the only way to create observing lists in the program. This is only one of the ways available to a user. To create your own observing list, you typically create an empty list in whatever observing list group you like via the observing list menu, which is accessible using the blue down-arrow next to the title "Observing List". Then you add whatever objects you like to the list. You can copy objects from other lists, find them individually by name or location using the Designation Search tool, find multiple objects at a time based on almost any criteria you can think of using the Database Power Search tool, or read them from a simple text file you created. Furthermore, you can download pre-made observing lists, such as the lists of objects for Astronomical League observing programs, from the Skyhound web site. These lists are usually created by people like me and then uploaded to the site and vetted before being released for general download. Objects can be copied between observing lists one or more at a time (contrary to what you said) and the objects displayed in a list can be filtered to exclude objects based on a number of criteria. As you mentioned in your review, SkyTools also provides access to regularly updated and corrected lists of transient phenomena such as comets, novae, supernovae, and minor planets. The author of the program maintains these lists himself so that SkyTools has the latest and most accurate information possible for finding short-term astronomical events.

The Nightly Observing List Generator is also a much more flexible and useful tool than you seemed to indicate. The lists are tailored to your experience level and capabilities for your equipment at the location that you will be observing and for the night you're planning to observe. It can be helpful for beginners and advanced observers alike. Even for someone with as much experience as you have, it can be helpful to look through the list that this tool generates since it might contain objects that you wouldn't have otherwise thought to add to your list.

Another aspect of SkyTools that you didn't seem to understand was the nature of the SkyTools database. The author of SkyTools is a professional astronomer and he has exerted enormous effort to create a unified database as free of duplicates and errors as he could muster. The standard astronomical databases are rife with errors and inconsistencies, partially due to historical factors. These have been corrected and resolved as much as possible in the SkyTools database. I do not mean to say that the SkyTools database is perfect. It is still a work in progress and the author continues to make corrections as errors are found or as new information arises. But it is the result of many years of effort by a professional astronomer and it is much more accurate than simply downloading the plethora of standard databases and munging them all together, which is what most software does. If an object truly isn't in the SkyTools database, you can add it to your copy of SkyTools via the Supplemental Database. But this feature should be used very sparingly after very carefully verifying that the object is truly absent, often in consultation with the SkyTools Yahoo Group, and that your information about it accurate.

In contrast to what you said, there is extensive information available for each object in the SkyTools database. Simply right-clicking on an object in an observing list or typing "i" when the object is selected will bring up the "Object Information" dialog box, which provides the information about the object from the database, access to images of the object, information about the altitude of the object from your location during the specified night or throughout the year, pages where the object is located in various references, likelihood of observing the object in your different instruments, recommendations about when to best observe the object, and any information that you might have entered about the object yourself. This information is also available within all of the SkyTools search tools.

In your extensive discussion about eyepiece views, you seem to have misunderstood the nature of the finder charts that SkyTools generates and neglected to consider the many other kinds of charts that SkyTools provides. SkyTools creates charts that are overall views of the sky (like you see in the middle of your favorite astronomy magazine every month), naked eye views, interactive "planetarium" charts for general use, and finder charts for use in finding objects at the telescope. The finder charts that you mentioned in your review are actual simulations of the star field that you will see using your equipment at your observing location on the specified night. The star fields in each of the 3 panes are calculated to match what you will see with your naked eyes, through your finder scope, and through the eyepiece that you have specified. If you have set all of the parameters in the program appropriately, the views shown in the charts should very closely match what you see at the telescope, without any tweaking on your part. SkyTools intentionally only simulates the star fields and doesn't attempt to simulate the views you will have of most deep sky objects. This allows you to appreciate the objects yourself directly when you see them through the eyepiece. SkyTools does, however, provide the means to download many different images of deep sky objects from a large variety of sources and will display them on the interactive, planetarium charts.

Any of the charts that you create within SkyTools (on-screen or printed) can be customized in an unbelievable number of ways. In fact, a common complaint is that the user has too much control, which can lead to unnecessary complication. Charts can be made using many different projection schemes, including some similar to the Sky Coverage chart you showed from AstroPlanner, and can include as many objects as you like.

Just as the author of SkyTools thought that you would want to view objects yourself rather than seeing simulations of them on the finder charts, SkyTools doesn't provide any predefined ratings (beyond what you can infer from the lists that the Nightly Observing List Generator creates), as you noted. Instead, SkyTools provides the means for you to rate objects yourself. It also provides the means for you to prioritize the objects in a list and to specify whether or not you have observed an object or whether you want to re-observe it. In addition, SkyTools has extensive and convenient logging facilities for recording your own observations.

As others have pointed out, it is possible to transfer lists from SkyTools to other programs and specifically possible to transfer lists to Sky Safari in it's native skylist format via the "Export Observing List" option on the observing lists menu in the Nightly Planner. You stated that SkyTools was unable to do this.

Lastly, SkyTools provides telescope control facilities that are probably at least as flexible than those in AstroPlanner. You can order your slews in any of the ways that you can order objects in an observing list and you can even manually slew using your mouse from within a star chart.

This covers the inaccuracies in your article that disappointed me the most. But, in what I have written, I have only scratched the surface with respect to the facilities available in SkyTools. It would be great if you could correct some of the mistakes in your article. But, at the very least, I encourage you to give SkyTools a closer look yourself. Watch some of the video tutorials and maybe read about features you're interested in in one of the users guides. It's a much better and more extensive program than you have given it credit for and you might even find it to be extremely helpful in your own observations.

Mark
--
Mark A. Martin, Ph.D.
V.P. Programming
Rose City Astronomers
Portland, Oregon, USA
http://rosecityastronomers.org


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tomdean
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Mark Martin]
      #6078029 - 09/12/13 11:52 PM

Mark,

Thank you for providing a better answer than I can. I agree completely with all of your answer.

I was very disappointed by the casual neglect Thomas Fowler gave in his review. (bite my tongue!)

Tom Dean


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gdd
Pooh-Bah


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Mark Martin]
      #6078149 - 09/13/13 02:02 AM

Hi Mark,

The OP said SkyTools was "easier to learn" and "more intuitive". Would you say the SkyTools UI is designed to hide functionality unless you know how to activate it (such as right clicking or special tricks such as typing the letter "i")? While this would present a less cluttered view and would make beginners tasks simpler, some may conclude certain advanced functionality does not exist if they do not dig deep enough or look in the wrong places. Like others have pointed out, it is a good idea to ask for help.

Gale


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Mark Martin
newbie


Reged: 08/21/10

Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: gdd]
      #6078490 - 09/13/13 10:32 AM

Hi, Gale.

As I indicated at the beginning of my letter, there is an avalanche of documentation associated with SkyTools that the author of the review seemed to be completely unaware of. And this documentation is not hidden. There is a small dialog box that opens the first time that you start SkyTools, and every time thereafter if you don't permanently dismiss it, that points you toward the "Getting Started" and "Tutorial" documents as well as the video tutorials and the Skyhound web site that contains all of the other related documentation. Also, an entire quarter of the buttons on the toolbar (4 out of 16) in the major portions of the program provide access to the help facility. These resources very prominently describe important ways of working with the program, including right-clicking, which is one of the main actions required for operating the software. The keyboard shortcuts, such as typing "i", are also displayed prominently on all of the menus. This is not at all hidden or seldom-used functionality. There is also context-specific help available at every point within the program. SkyTools is a sophisticated piece of software and it requires at least a little time and effort to learn. The confusion expressed in the review makes it seem like the author never even read through the most basic documentation, which would be the "Getting Started" and "Tutorial" documents I mentioned above.

Beyond the documentation, I wouldn't characterize the advanced functionality within SkyTools as hidden. It is often accessible by just pressing a prominently displayed button on a tool bar. It seems like there are a lot of buttons that the author of the review just never tried pushing. Or maybe he didn't understand what he was seeing when he pushed them. Or maybe he satisfied himself that he understood how to operate the program after attempting only the most basic tasks. Although "easier to learn" and "more intuitive" are generally thought to be complementary descriptions, they might be mischaracterizations of SkyTools in this context and really only reflect the author's surprisingly superficial experience with the software. In any case, right-clicking, in particular, is one of the primary ways you interact with the program and is absolutely not hidden or advanced functionality.

Mark


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Kyphoron
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Mark Martin]
      #6078652 - 09/13/13 12:27 PM

I would also like to add that the program is very user friendly but the author of the article as mentioned did not take the time to "play" with the program to learn what its capabilities are. I will not hide the fact that this program is BIG. Its extensive and has everything that any astronomer be it amateur or pro could ever want or need.

I have been using this program for years and I am still learning new things about it and how it seems to adapt to my needs. This is not to make it sound like the documentation is inaccurate but to say you grow with the program

One thing that I will say is that Greg is open to new ideas and if you do have a question about a feature of the program that you don't understand you can simply ask him in the yahoo group and under normal circumstances you will get an answer within a few minutes to a couple of hours at most. Also customer support is A+ in my book. The two times I had to contact Greg by filling out customer support it was not anything wrong with the program but what I had entered in the fields that I forgot to reset after an observing session. In other words I still had the day before date imputed into the program while looking for a comet and didn't realize it so the comet was in the wrong position for the night I was observing.

So can anyone take Skytools and open it for the first time and use it right away? YES!!!! Will it benefit you to watch the tutorials and read through the documentation? YES!!! But this is true of any new item you get even an astronomy program. Will you continue to learn and grow with the program? YES!!! If you go to the Skyhound website and click the Skytools 3 tab at the top there are some tutorials that you can look at and I think there still is a demo of the program that you can try before you buy. So I urge people to check it out for themselves and you be the judge.

Finally I will say this program is made for functionality for use by Star-Hoppers and Goto astronomers alike. Don't expect to see pretty screens like Starry Nights. Its not that kind of program.


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will w
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Kyphoron]
      #6078809 - 09/13/13 02:00 PM

I for one. anyone who is going to write a review on any product should do a little research on the product. if possible use the product for a while. get to know how it works inside and out before writing a review.all so as Ron said someone else can write another review. will w

Edited by will w (09/13/13 02:17 PM)


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Cames
sage


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Charlie Hein]
      #6079066 - 09/13/13 04:47 PM

My original post in this thread may have been misinterpreted and I am attempting to clarify. My concern is that the integrity of the CloudyNights library of articles and product reviews is at stake here. The proceedings that I have read so far cast a cloud over what I might be exposed to when researching within the CN library.

I do not in any way object to the author’s opinion of the superiority of one product over the other. His preferences and his right to express them here without coercion are unchallenged. Nor am I implying that the author acted deliberately to malign a product.

What I object to is that the false statements about the features of SkyTools 3 that have now been published (as if written in stone) are allowed to stand without warning the unaware reader or novice.

The fact that there are misstatements has been clearly demonstrated in this thread. Almost anyone who has had hands-on experience with SkyTools 3 knows immediately that multiple assertions that the author has made are clearly and demonstrably not true! The published misinterpretations and untruths of how SkyTools works are egregious. They rise to the level of being deal-breakers for almost any unsuspecting customer trying to make an informed choice. However detailed the rebuttal in this current thread, that unsuspecting customer Googling his/her way to the review article in question won’t have the benefit of these discussions to point out the misstatements of fact. He/she will have been deceived. That deception will eventually come to light for that reader and; when it does, the stature of the CN library is irreparably diminished.

I would like to see the author, Fowler, and experts on the two software packages reviewed here to collaborate in order to correct the misinformation that has been put forth. Then, preface or annotate the article in such a way that makes it clear to the unsuspecting reader where the errors lie.

Respectfully
-------
C


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Natty Bumppo
member


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: will w]
      #6079428 - 09/13/13 09:07 PM

Will, I have to disagree with you and Ron (rboe) on this one. As a newbie to this site, but not a newbie to this hobby or the scientific community, I expected when I joined CN that the articles and reviews here would at least be factual to the best of the reviewer's ability. In addition, as a "newbie" I expected at least somewhat of a peer reviewed before publishing. If for no other reason to CN than to relieve them of liability of bad and inaccurate reviews such as this. But even more so, that those who are new to the hobby aren't misled by bad or misleading reviews, whether unintentional or otherwise. As Cames says above, the very integrity and reputation of CN and their published articles are at risk; but how is a brand new user to know if they aren't credible?

Unfortunately I didn't encounter that on this article. If I'd not already been a longtime user of SkyTools I would've thought it was an entry level product by the writeup, bought the wrong product, and likely become very unhappy with my choice. I've also been an AstroPlanner user since v1.x on Mac and now 2.1 on Windows. So I'm very familiar with both products.

But, to do as you and Ron suggest, a bad/biased review doesn't mean to me we should clog up cyberspace and this site with more and more repetitive reviews of the same product. Nobody would want to weed through the "noise" to find the good ones then.

The best suggestions I heard above and agree with are those who ask the OP to spend more time familiarizing himself with the products and do an honest evaluation, setting his own bias and preference aside first. That last part I understand is hard to do. Lastly, my own wish, if possible would be for some sort of mini "peer review" or fact check when someone submits an article/review, before it's posted.

Forgive my post here and thanks for letting me vent. I know my first couple posts here weren't as positive as I'd like. My first one actually went unanswered, not unusual in and of itself. But within a day of that, I saw another post making fun of an entire group of people here because of one person's misguided acts (almost bordering on hate - here), just to make the OP of that thread feel superior. These were quickly followed by seeing this comparison article, and the anticipation of looking forward to reading it, only to be absolutely shocked by how wrong everything was about it. Sorry, but I've not exactly had a best entry or welcome of any kind into CN.


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Richard McC
Carpal Tunnel
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Natty Bumppo]
      #6079752 - 09/14/13 02:37 AM

This post is my reply to some of the discussion above but not to the original article (I have never used either piece of software so I'm in no position to sensibly talk about them or the comparisons made in the article). Reading the preceding posts I think that some of you misjudge (in a perhaps flattering way) what CloudyNights is or the resources we have at our disposal. This is a (privately owned) public forum and the reviews and posts displayed here are the opinions of the authors of those reviews and posts, no more and no less. Some of those opinions are very useful and illuminating (see any of Ed Zarenski's articles on binoculars to give just one example) while others are less so or even plain wrong (despite my best efforts the last class almost certainly includes some of my posts over the years!). CloudyNights relies on a relatively small group of unpaid volunteers to keep things ticking over and even if we wanted to "fact check" or "peer review" every submission that we received we don't have the resources to do it. I'm afraid people will have to "weed through the "noise" to find the good" stuff and I hope you find the signal to noise ratio high enough to make that endeavor worthwhile. One advantage we do have over a company like Elsevier (whose peer reviewed journals still require some weeding through despite their astronomically high prices) is that we can allow alternative opinions to be presented promptly for the reader's attention. That is where threads like this and Ron Boe's suggestion above come in.

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Kyphoron
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Richard McC]
      #6079970 - 09/14/13 08:35 AM

I think weeding through post is a good idea but I also think that this post in the forum should be directly attached to the article. In other words instead of it being in the forum it should be attached comments like Youtube has. So after reading the article a person is able to scroll down and look to see comments posted. In doing so a person can make an informed judgment based on other user comments.

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ScottAz
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Kyphoron]
      #6080130 - 09/14/13 10:30 AM

I have used very nearly every software package that is out there for observing and logging and I have been observing for over 40 years. While I currently use SkySafari Pro and AstroPlanner on my iPad and sometimes use them in the classroom as a physics teacher, I always use SkyTools in my observatory. I can't imagine getting by without it. It is frequently updated and I have never had an issue running any of my goto telescopes or using it in the field alongside the 18" Obsession. The program does take some time to master as does a LOT of very cool things -- amazing things really -- and the author of this review should probably take more time to get to know the program. I don't see any need to get aggravated over this but SkyTools really is the best and I look forward to an updated and fair review.

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Astrosetz
professor emeritus


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: ScottAz]
      #6081819 - 09/15/13 10:37 AM

I just read the review, and I'm very surprised at how factually incorrect the author is about Skytools; the author couldn't have been more than casually familiar with the software. I'm very disappointed that this was posted as a "review" on CN -- the implication of a published review is that the writer is knowledgeable on the subject, which is clearly not the case here.

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CounterWeight
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astrosetz]
      #6087946 - 09/18/13 12:40 PM

I suppose this at the heart of my objection to the article. If someone reviewed two telescopes and for whatever reason concluded that one could not focus because the were clueless about collimation - would CN allow it to stand? Confuse alt/az with GEM? Obvious errors and showing a total unfamiliarity with the subject.

The errors in this review are on that level but what I am at this point curious about and I sincerely do not mean to violate any TOS, but seriously, how wrong, how misguided, how bad does something have to be here.... how many objections from solid members of the forums here... before anything is done to remedy?

I get the impression that whoever decided to put it up, it's now somehow etched in stone and beyond remedy.

I for one would have no problem if I'd authored something that upon casual review was found to be missing fundamentals to the point of being misleading, was at least taken down for correction by me with some note to that effect.

If I insisted it be published as is with the errors, then it should be up to someone somewhere to make the call "does it serve our community well". If the community does not think so then why the odd deferment to not taking responsibility about leaving it up?

Again please I mean no disrespect to the powers that be with regards to forum article content and what is allowable and what is not.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software *DELETED* new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #6089296 - 09/19/13 01:14 AM

Post deleted by theskyhound

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7331Peg
Sirius Observer
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Reged: 09/01/08

Loc: North coast of Oregon
Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6090106 - 09/19/13 02:48 PM

For what it's worth, I had been debating whether to buy SkyTools 3 for some time and was on the verge of it when the review was published. After reading it, I was puzzled by several things that didn't match with what I knew of the software, so I held off until reading through the discussion in this thread. I've since bought it and couldn't be more thrilled with it. If it wasn't for the fact that I was already somewhat familiar with SkyTools, I would not have been inclined in the least to purchase it based on the information in the review.

Greg makes a good point, and I've mentioned it before. There's a lot of information in the CN threads that is just plain wrong, and to a lesser extent, that happens in some of the reviews. Incorrect information that paints an erroneous impression of a product can, and I'm sure often does, lead to a loss of sales for the people or small companies that make these products. And keep in mind, these are small companies, not large corporations that can absorb a short term loss with less disruption.

I'm in agreement with Greg. I've read the explanations of why it's not possible for the moderators or administrators to check every review for accuracy, and I totally understand. But in this case, it's clear the review has painted a very misleading picture of SkyTools 3. If ever there was a case where a review should be retracted or re-written, this is it.


John


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6090159 - 09/19/13 03:23 PM Attachment (14 downloads)

From the review: "SkyTools will only generate lists of a certain type (solar system objects, showpieces, NGC objects, etc.). Only one type at a time can be selected, so you may have to append several lists to get what you want."

I have attached a screen capture showing the Database Power Search in SkyTools. Note that more than one type of object is selected, and this tool hardly seems limited.

Edited by theskyhound (09/19/13 03:24 PM)


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gdd
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 11/23/05

Loc: N Seattle suburb, WA
Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6090176 - 09/19/13 03:35 PM

Hi Greg,

I assume in the screen example above you can use the control key to select non-consecutive items from the lists.

Gale


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6090180 - 09/19/13 03:40 PM Attachment (12 downloads)

From the review: "These two charts look significantly different because SkyCharts doesn’t actually give an eyepiece chart, but rather just shows the object itself at close to the size of the chart..."

I have attached a screen capture showing a proper SkyTools finder chart. The eyepiece view is on the right. Note the circle that displays the field of view for the eyepiece selected (at the top). This is the default setting. The reviewer had to manually zoom the view close such that the eyepiece FOV was outside of the window. The arrow points to the west (the direction of drift) and the user can grab it and rotate the view if necessary. Note also that the view is displayed with the proper orientation for a telescope. Again, this is the default setting; the reviewer would have had to have inexplicitly changed it, perhaps in an attempt to match the view of the other software. These charts work great for finding objects, which is their purpose. A telescope with a magnifying finder would have three views; you go from the naked eye, to the finder, and if necessary, to the eyepiece view to locate a difficult target. Unlike other software the sky brightness is modeled as well as the extinction near the horizon. For example, if the moon were up, the field would be washed-out and fewer stars/objects would appear.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: gdd]
      #6090185 - 09/19/13 03:44 PM

Quote:

Hi Greg,

I assume in the screen example above you can use the control key to select non-consecutive items from the lists.

Gale




I Gale. That's not necessary. A simple left-click will suffice to select each object class. The reviewer wrote about another tool called the Nightly Observing List Generator. Even though the Database Power Search is right next to it on the tool bar, the reviewer apparently was unaware of it.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6090200 - 09/19/13 03:51 PM Attachment (15 downloads)

From the review: "(SkyTools has) no way to export observing lists to other formats than text."

The attached screen capture speaks for itself.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6090204 - 09/19/13 03:56 PM Attachment (13 downloads)

From the review: "(SkyTools has) less flexibility in data to show in observing list columns."

The attached screen capture shows the columns available for the Planner. You can sort by any column, resize them the way you want, and drag them to be displayed in any order.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6090224 - 09/19/13 04:08 PM Attachment (18 downloads)

From the review: "(SkyTools has) less information about objects."

I have attached a screen capture of the Object Information dialog, which is available for any object in the database via a double-click on the object in the observing list (and elsewhere). Note the many tabs at the bottom. Apparent Data includes alt/az, airmass, apparent coordinates, extincted magnitude, etc. Visual Difficulty tells you how easily the object is seen in each of your telescope/binoculars. The NightBar tab is a graphic that displays the visibility of the object on any night. The YearBar tab displays the visibility of the object during the year. The Chart Numbers tab lists the page numbers for the object on various printed charts. There are additional data tabs for other types of objects. You can attach your own notes, images, and web links to any object, and export these in an observing list to be shared with other users. Finally, the Synopsis tab tells you about the current and projected visibility of the object. This is automatically generated. Note that it even suggests that ISON may not survive perihelion. This is based on the Bortle limit. This sort of attention to detail somehow got lost in this review.


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CounterWeight
Postmaster
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6091211 - 09/20/13 08:11 AM

It was suggested / recommended that us 'angry pitch fork welding folks' should reason with the author. Try as I may I cannot locate this person on the site with any certainty. Is this person even a member here? I cannot locate anyone by that name in the user list. As I asked in my first post - who is it? Is that name a pen name?

I am someone who would like to reach the person with reasoned corrections, as I am sure would Greg.

Asking the only way I know, here, in print for someone who can to answer. I don't think that angry pitch fork welding. It was my first question and remains unanswered.


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Natty Bumppo
member


Reged: 08/30/13

Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #6091387 - 09/20/13 09:49 AM

Really? "Angry pitch fork wielders"? Really that's the moderators' opinion? Sounds a bit like being called a "bitter clinger". Guess I'll wield my fork by doing as Greg, NEVER buying from Astronomics.

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Kyphoron
member
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Natty Bumppo]
      #6091512 - 09/20/13 10:55 AM

I don't expect moderators to know everything about this hobby or the products that this hobby creates. But I think when glaring errors are pointed out and a large number of forum members start to speak out about errors that they need to step in and either have those errors corrected or retract the article completely. I think its unfair that Greg should suffer because of one misrepresented article that has the facts all wrong. I tend to wonder if an article was written about how inaccurate articles are posted on this site and not opinions if it would ever get posted.

If the author had based his article on a fair comparison followed by the authors opinion I don't think even Greg would have had a problem with it. but when it clearly seems the author is not knowledgeable about one of his comparisons it clearly looks like playing favorites. Something I would have thought would have been discouraged.

That article is not a review, it is a butchering of a very fine program. Perhaps the best astro program out there. It really does it all and because of that there is a learning curve but it is an easy curve to learn.

I know in the past I have written authors to express a good review or even to ask a question about something they may have said. But if the author is not listed and has made no rebuttal on the forum if this wasn't just an advertisement for Astroplanner. My question is shouldn't someone be checking to see if the person is legit before posting their review?

Where is my pitch fork if that's what the moderators think is happening.


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C_Moon
Pooh-Bah
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Natty Bumppo]
      #6092026 - 09/20/13 03:47 PM

Quote:

Really? "Angry pitch fork wielders"? Really that's the moderators' opinion? Sounds a bit like being called a "bitter clinger". Guess I'll wield my fork by doing as Greg, NEVER buying from Astronomics.




Well that sounds like cutting off your nose to spite your face. I am thankful that Astronomics provides the resources to run Cloudynights.

I'll keep supporting Astronomics and Skytools.


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Natty Bumppo
member


Reged: 08/30/13

Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: C_Moon]
      #6092456 - 09/20/13 08:37 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Really? "Angry pitch fork wielders"? Really that's the moderators' opinion? Sounds a bit like being called a "bitter clinger". Guess I'll wield my fork by doing as Greg, NEVER buying from Astronomics.




Well that sounds like cutting off your nose to spite your face. I am thankful that Astronomics provides the resources to run Cloudynights.

I'll keep supporting Astronomics and Skytools.




LOL! Not necessarily. Even if I figure in the member discount, after shipping (I live about 2 hrs from Astronomics) cost is still the same and often more than from OPT, or others who frequently offer free shipping. And some of those other stores have membership discounts themselves. So this in no way hurts me, but can be a reminder to Astronomics that they're not the only game in town.

edit - remaining paragraphs removed due to Greg's reply below.

Edited by Natty Bumppo (09/20/13 10:25 PM)


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Natty Bumppo]
      #6092520 - 09/20/13 09:28 PM

I have been contacted by a moderator and they are going to add something to the effect that the article may have errors in it along with a link to this thread. This will satisfy me. Thanks everyone for your support!

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7331Peg
Sirius Observer
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Reged: 09/01/08

Loc: North coast of Oregon
Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6092738 - 09/21/13 12:57 AM

Glad to see that! I think that's a reasonable resolution of the issue.


John


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AstronomicsAdministrator
Vendor if you must, AKA The Mighty Kong.
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: 7331Peg]
      #6092966 - 09/21/13 08:30 AM

People have been cranky at us for this review so here is my two cents.

1. The TOS was in place long before we ever bought CN. While it has changed a little over time, it has has been less then 5% and those changes were brought on by moderators and not us.

2. We literally had zero to do with the review. I don't understand the thought process behind wanting to punish someone that A. Didn't write it, B. Didn't pay to have it written, and C. Doesn't benefit from the review, good or bad, in any way shape or form. So if the same person that wrote this review posted it in other areas like a private blog, or astromart, or astronomers lounge, or astronomy.com would you all threaten/promise to not purchase from the company that simply provides the space for everyone to use free of charge?

3. For Natty Bumpo, we do have free shipping on just about everything so we generally end up being a better value then most astronomy stores. Tack on the c.n. Discount and the fact we spend 6 figures keeping CN up and running every year I believe we currently offer the best overall value in astronomy today.

Personally I can't tell you why the person wrote what they wrote, but they seem to feel it to be the truth. I can't tell them that their opinion is wrong, but we can post the disclaimer and I can suggest that some of the people here that wrote very nice explanations to the potential flaws in the review should write their own review to be posted that addresses what you all believe to be wrong. This would not replace the review but it would post and show what you all have found to be the best parts of the software and how it works.


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CounterWeight
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6093135 - 09/21/13 10:29 AM

Michael,

If a newspaper or another publication posts incorrect information - no matter who penned it (unless perhaps an op-ed with appropriate disclaimer) - if they PUBLISHED it as factual - they print a retraction.

Not like there is no precedent here. Of course the people at top can't know everything so they leave it to those that write for them to get it right. If clearly wrong they do something about it. That is called taking responsibility for what is on their banner.

You didn't write it but you have absolutely every responsibility for putting it up - period.

In all fairness to the other sites out there we are not talking about generalities or other sites, it is specific this particular piece of work on this particular site.


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AstronomicsAdministrator
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #6093193 - 09/21/13 11:03 AM

I understand about a newspaper who is "paying" a person to write an article for them. This however is done for free by a user that has been unsolicited by us. If we had paid someone to write an article and it was proven to be mistake filled then obviously we would retract it, however the best we can do is post a disclaimer about it as we didn't pay for it, didn't ask for it, and I didn't put it up. I believe our unpaid volunteer workers did everything they were supposed to do. They took a user experience that was not bashing a product or saying it didn't do something it wasn't supposed to do, for example getting mad when a screwdriver didn't do a good job acting as a hammer, but from what I can understand didn't do everything they thought it should. There have been multiple new users pointing out the potential errors in the review. Again, my best solution is write a review that points out these issues.

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C_Moon
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6093280 - 09/21/13 11:56 AM

Quote:

I understand about a newspaper who is "paying" a person to write an article for them. This however is done for free by a user that has been unsolicited by us. If we had paid someone to write an article and it was proven to be mistake filled then obviously we would retract it, however the best we can do is post a disclaimer about it as we didn't pay for it, didn't ask for it, and I didn't put it up. I believe our unpaid volunteer workers did everything they were supposed to do. They took a user experience that was not bashing a product or saying it didn't do something it wasn't supposed to do, for example getting mad when a screwdriver didn't do a good job acting as a hammer, but from what I can understand didn't do everything they thought it should. There have been multiple new users pointing out the potential errors in the review. Again, my best solution is write a review that points out these issues.




And I might add that people pay a newspaper to get it right, no one is paying anything for Cloudynights. But then again, that's the way it is, especially with the internet, people want everything for free.

In any event, I think everyone is giving way too much power to one review. The reason I bought Skytools was because of many, many comments on the forums by people using it. I certainly would not have let one review affect my decision to purchase it.

I regularly post about unique things that Skytools can do. Just this week I pointed out to someone that it is an excellent tool for getting up-to-date separations and position angles of fast moving binaries as well as being a great resource for predicting minima of eclipsing binaries (or any variable star, for that matter).

In the end, Astronomics has gone above and beyond what is called for in this situation and I thank them.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6093317 - 09/21/13 12:17 PM

Quote:

I understand about a newspaper who is "paying" a person to write an article for them. This however is done for free by a user that has been unsolicited by us. If we had paid someone to write an article and it was proven to be mistake filled then obviously we would retract it, however the best we can do is post a disclaimer about it as we didn't pay for it, didn't ask for it, and I didn't put it up. I believe our unpaid volunteer workers did everything they were supposed to do. They took a user experience that was not bashing a product or saying it didn't do something it wasn't supposed to do, for example getting mad when a screwdriver didn't do a good job acting as a hammer, but from what I can understand didn't do everything they thought it should. There have been multiple new users pointing out the potential errors in the review. Again, my best solution is write a review that points out these issues.




Michael,

It doesn't matter if you paid them or not. If factually misleading information was posted that hurts someone's business then you are both morally and legally liable to offer a remedy. Your comments indicate that you don't see just how blatantly false many of the claims in this review are. If it were merely a matter of opinion, I would never have bothered posting a response. But when the writer claims my program does not do several things that it in fact excels at, that costs me customers, and it poorly serves the community. Since I can easily prove the assertions to be wrong, you must offer a remedy. Otherwise, by not offering a remedy you leave yourself wide open to a lawsuit. I am not a large corporation with lawyers on retainer, and likely wouldn't not be able to sue. But should this sort of thing occur with Meade or Celestron, you should understand how precarious your legal situation is.

It boils down to this: you are not responsible for the original content, and certainly not responsible for the opinions expressed. But if factual errors are published that do harm to the reputation of another party, once those errors are pointed out, you are responsible for remedying them.

You have now provided a remedy, although I must say I am rather unhappy with the wording. It makes it sound like I came along and whined about the review, which is somewhat unkind. Many people other than myself reported the errors and your policy was to simply let it be. I was forced to take some sort of action in order to protect my business. I work very hard to develop a superior product. In order to make it appear that the two products reviewed were even close to being at the same level, the reviewer had to ignore many of the features in my product that are not available in the other, and then make outright false claims about the available features in SkyTools. As I have shown in my recent postings here, every item listed under "weaknesses" for SkyTools is an outright falsehood!


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davidpitre
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6093467 - 09/21/13 01:41 PM

Quote:


It doesn't matter if you paid them or not. If factually misleading information was posted that hurts someone's business then you are both morally and legally liable to offer a remedy.



I think you are wrong. Every week some organization posts full page adds in the New York Times claiming this or that.
The paper has simply provided a space and a forum for the expression. (Yes. In the case I mentioned the expression was paid for, but it makes no difference). Cloudy Nights is simply providing a forum for opinions. It makes no claim that the opinions are correct or representative of Astronomics. Similar to the regular forums, opinions of equipment are often stated and then shown to be untrue. There is no obligation for Astronomics to go picking through statements editing them for truth. This is not unique to Cloudy Nights, the web is full of forums and review sites that state information and opinions that the host distances itself from. If you check into it even a little bit, you will find Astronomics has no legal obligation to intervene here.
That said, I'd agree that the review was very very bad, actually negligent.


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: davidpitre]
      #6093519 - 09/21/13 02:15 PM

Greg,

Here is my stance again, for the final time, as more bandwidth is being used on back and forth repeat explanations then the original content took up.

The opinions expressed in the “review” is that solely of the author and not the opinions of Cloudy Nights, LLC, their volunteer staff, or anyone associated with Cloudy Nights directly or indirectly.

Some of those opinions are as follows: “Both of these programs are sophisticated, highly-capable observation planning programs, designed to help an observer plan observation sessions. The prospective user can hardly go wrong with either one. The choice between them comes down to personal preferences and individual needs. SkyTools is pretty much self-contained, with integrated data bases and a very capable charting capability. It also is easier to learn, is directed toward amateurs who need help planning for an efficient night’s observation session, and its Pro edition has advanced imaging session planning options (not tested),” and “SkyTools 3 is a more expensive but more user-friendly program, which can be learned fairly quickly . . . If you just want something for quick planning of a night’s observing session, and you don’t mind spending the extra money, SkyTools may be the best choice . . . In any case, the prospective user of these packages should download the trial versions and take them for a spin.“

That sounds like a fairly even-handed opinion, concluding that readers should try both programs and decide for themselves. The reviewer did not say don’t buy a specific product. According to some of the comments that almost immediately appeared after the review was posted, he appears to have missed or been confused about some of its capabilities. However, this has repeatedly been pointed out by the manufacturer and several users who have shown how the author was apparently confused.

I have suggested now three times to have one of the people who wrote some very nice rebuttal information on these issues to write a review of their own, which Cloudy Nights will be happy to publish. I can only assume that an intelligent person would be able to read both reviews and make an informed judgment as to which review was more informative. Or better yet, would follow the original review author’s advice and try both programs and make their own personal choice, based on their own personal needs.

I feel that Cloudy Nights has done their best for over a decade to provide a free and fair environment for people to express their opinions. This is a forum for opinions, not a peer-reviewed scientific journal (and even peer-reviewed journals are sometimes wrong). As a free forum, people are also allowed the chance to rebut and provide their own counter opinions. This forum is only as good as the people who use it. People are entitled to be incorrect in their opinions and other are entitled to correct those possible errors. We have provided you and your users multiple opportunities in this thread to correct what you have perceived as errors.

We have nothing to gain from this review, as we sell neither program, only apparently the ability to lose customers when we literally did nothing but provide a free forum for all members to express their opinions. For over a decade we have had no problem in staying hands off in virtually all affairs of Cloudy Nights, outside of paying the bills. We have watched the body collective grow and grow because we have been hands off and have not pushed our own agenda or products. We have watched posters extol the virtues of other dealers of their choice – in our house – never once editing a comment or jumping in to say buy from us because we are better for a multitude of reasons.

As stated at the beginning of my long winded response, this is truly my final say in this matter. I believe it was handled correctly and the parties that felt they were wronged have had adequate space to voice the opinions, corrections, and concerns. I also feel in placing a footnote, which is a first for Cloudy Nights, as well as suggesting to write another review has gone above and beyond what just about anyone else would do in this situation. This is my opinion and I am going to stand pat.

Thank you all for being passionate enough about astronomy and Cloudy Nights to care enough to express your opinions with such vigor and resolve.


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6093715 - 09/21/13 03:58 PM

Just an observation here. If a relatively inexperienced user checks out two pieces of software and in his initial estimation makes some erroneous judgement calls then just maybe the fault lies not with him but with the software and the difficulty in learning how to use it properly.

I submit that a vendor that is truly concerned with his customer base would take this opportunity to ask themselves where they could have done a better job with the software to prevent such misunderstandings in the future.

Now the answer may indeed be that the software demands a minimum level of sophistication on the users part. But maybe they are missing a vital customer base, the newbie, that could start out with an easy to use and learn software package that could be upgraded over time as their tastes, equipment and experience grew.

I can only imagine the experience a fellow new to photography and looking at photo software and tried to compare Paint to Photoshop. There are terms in Photoshop the newbie will have no idea what they mean much less what they are to do and we're to fault him for thinking Paint is a much friendlier package?

For all you experts out there that were so quick to point out errors and faults in the article; I don't see you writing up articles describing and reviewing your favorite software. You'll find that it is much easier to critique work than to actually write up something from scratch.

I double dog dare each and everyone of you to write an article.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6093768 - 09/21/13 04:35 PM

Quote:

Greg,

Here is my stance again, for the final time, as more bandwidth is being used on back and forth repeat explanations then the original content took up.

The opinions expressed in the “review” is that solely of the author and not the opinions of Cloudy Nights, LLC, their volunteer staff, or anyone associated with Cloudy Nights directly or indirectly. ...





I looked this up.

The legal precedent is quite clear. As the host of the site, unless you take action to correct harmful factual errors then you can be sued for defamation. If you don't believe me, ask a lawyer.

There is a legal difference between an opinion, which is free expression, and defamation, which is the intentional spreading of misleading information that harms someone's reputation. It becomes intentional on your part if you refuse to offer a remedy.

This whole thing should have been avoided. The moment I contacted you and pointed out the errors you should have acted.

Every negative remark about my software was a factual error. For example, it was said that SkyTools couldn't export lists for SkySafari. Except that it most certainly can. And for the poster here who snarkily suggested this was somehow my fault for the software design, please see the screen capture I posted. There is no possible way to miss this feature.

To put this in terms that you can understand, imagine if someone wrote a comparative review of Astronomics and OPT. In that review they stated that OPT sponsors an online forum, but Astronomics does not. And that OPT accepts product returns, but Astronomics does not. And that OPT sells telescopes over 10 inches in aperture, but that Astronomics does not. Ask yourself, how you would react to that. Would it matter if the reviewer also claimed that Astronomics had a slightly better telescope selection?

I think not. You would respond just as I have. Even the slightest suggestion that I have somehow made a stink just because I didn't like the conclusions of the review, or the opinions of the reviewer is off the mark, and personally insulting to me.


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6093794 - 09/21/13 04:54 PM

We actually have an attorney on staff and my wife in an attorney. I can kindly ask you to please stop the badgering about a review that is purely the opinion of another member of the site. My stance has been above board and honest in its approach. If you would like to further discuss the matter feel free to contact me. It would be the first contact in this matter directly to me through phone, e-mail, or private message. Again, I don't have a dog in this fight and this is really starting to drag on when the reviewer said the product was good. I don't really get it. Any error of fact has been corrected by you or by other users. This is starting to become a squabble fest and is not productive for anybody. I will simply say again, this is the last I have to say on the matter. We can lock the thread and prevent it from going any farther. We don't want to delete the thread to take away your rebuttal in the matter.

I will kindly ask for a fourth time, that someone who is familiar with your product to write a review.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6093811 - 09/21/13 05:06 PM

Quote:

We actually have an attorney on staff and my wife in an attorney. I can kindly ask you to please stop the badgering about a review that is purely the opinion of another member of the site. My stance has been above board and honest in its approach. If you would like to further discuss the matter feel free to contact me. It would be the first contact in this matter directly to me through phone, e-mail, or private message. Again, I don't have a dog in this fight and this is really starting to drag on when the reviewer said the product was good. I don't really get it. Any error of fact has been corrected by you or by other users. This is starting to become a squabble fest and is not productive for anybody. I will simply say again, this is the last I have to say on the matter. We can lock the thread and prevent it from going any farther. We don't want to delete the thread to take away your rebuttal in the matter.

I will kindly ask for a fourth time, that someone who is familiar with your product to write a review.




Not much I can say is there? I will say this and take my leave. I have always had the utmost respect for both Astronomics and Cloudy Nights. And although this was shaken when this shoddy hatchet job of a review appeared, my faith was somewhat restored when a remedy was finally offered, even if somewhat imperfect. But your comments here...


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AstronomicsAdministrator
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6093821 - 09/21/13 05:16 PM

Feel free to take your leave sir. My comments were simply a response to the manner you felt you were slighted. I thought a fair and honest solution was offered. I didn't really see an issue with it, but somehow I have offended your sensibilities and that was not my intention. This actually all started for me, when you called for a personal boycott of Astronomics which it seems others may have followed causing me direct damage when I did literally nothing to you. So before you cast stones against a person that did nothing directly to you, please look back at your posts and how it started to unravel against us.

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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6093837 - 09/21/13 05:26 PM

For the record, I did not call for a boycott of Astronomics. I simply said that if my concerns were not going to be addressed then I'd personally shop elsewhere. Please keep in mind that this was out of frustration over the fact than 5 days had passed since I had contacted the editor and admin without any reply at all.

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AstronomicsAdministrator
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6093852 - 09/21/13 05:38 PM

As volunteers they don't have the chance to get to things right away, so you need to give them a chance. Also, the post in question had said something along the lines that you had spent money with us in the past, but after this you would spend no more money with us. That to my brain says boycott. I think I have just as much right to respond to that statement as you had to respond to the "confusion" in the comparison.

The entire thing can be addressed by writing a review. I don't understand why that keeps getting glossed over.


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AstronomicsAdministrator
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6093858 - 09/21/13 05:41 PM

This discussion for me is closed. I have to get to Mike Loffland's, the IT/Web Guru here, wedding. If nobody wants to write another review, so be it. Just let the back and forth die. The points have been addressed ad nauseum and the "confusion" has been cleaned up with screen shots and vows of support from members of the community.

I have a grand idea, why not contact the guy that wrote the article, point out the fixes he couldn't find and ask him to edit his review. Solves everything.


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Natty Bumppo
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6093894 - 09/21/13 06:07 PM

Quote:

I have a grand idea, why not contact the guy that wrote the article, point out the fixes he couldn't find and ask him to edit his review. Solves everything.




Hi Mike and Moderators.
That's been one of the problems initially mentioned but with no reply on. The author appears to have another CN username than what was used to publish the article. I found one Tom Fowler but no posts or activity so no way of knowing if it's the right one; and apparently they don't want to respond or come by this thread to discuss their article or represent themselves. We can't get in touch and moderators haven't helped do so yet.

And yes you are right I did misrepresent your business and your shipping policy. Much like this article but at least you can contact and get reply from us to correct it; we so far haven't.

Anyway I also feel like I'm done here. Have a good time at the wedding.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6093950 - 09/21/13 06:50 PM

Michael, You asked (and implied) some questions; here are my answers. I'm just clearing the air some more. No need to respond.

Quote:


As volunteers they don't have the chance to get to things right away, so you need to give them a chance.





All they had to do was tell me that they were talking it over. It appeared that I was being blown off, particularly after the editor stopped responding to me.

You underestimate the power of a review here. Each day that went buy was costing me money in sales and harming my reputation. I don't understand why you don't recognize that, and I must admit this is a considerable source of personal frustration.

Quote:


I have a grand idea, why not contact the guy that wrote the article, point out the fixes he couldn't find and ask him to edit his review. Solves everything.





Right. That was my initial thought. I tried to contact the author, but got the editor instead. I asked the editor to pass my message on. For reasons I don't understand, none of us have been successful in finding contact info for the author here on Cloudy Nights. His link only shows his other reviews. He does not appear in the listings. I don't understand why the errors weren't fixed ten days ago. Again, this is not a matter of minor details or simple opinion. These were major, harmful, glaring errors. I simply asked that the errors be fixed, privately, and I agree that would have solved everything.

Quote:


The entire thing can be addressed by writing a review. I don't understand why that keeps getting glossed over.





As a vendor I can't write a review here. All I can do is ask for any obvious errors to be addressed, something for which I have never previously had the need; I might have disagreed with a statement here or there in other reviews, but none had so many harmful errors. I get the feeling that you believe I and others have overreacted and are exaggerating. Believe me, the errors in this review are the real issue. If you want to be angry with someone, please be angry at the reviewer, if not for the poor review, then for not simply fixing the errors.


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Tom TAdministrator

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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6093982 - 09/21/13 07:11 PM

Greg I was not aware you were not contacted. We dropped the ball on that one.

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Kyphoron
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6094185 - 09/21/13 10:19 PM

Just thinking out loud here, but I am left to wonder if an article that was titled "Buying from online Astro sites" was written in which Astronomics was giving an unfair review if that would ever get posted or if when facts were found to be wrong if the article would be retracted.

Again as Astronomics has pointed out it would be just the authors opinion and they didn't get paid for it so I guess it would get posted but I have to wonder would it?

You say the author is entitled to an opinion and you are correct, they are entitle to their opinion. That is why in a newspaper you will see it called an editorial and not a review. An Editorial is based on someone's opinion and when I read it I am well aware that its an opinion. BUT when I read a review that is not an opinion it should be based on a fair side by side comparison. That is why it is called a review.

Now I think a better disclaimer at the bottom of the article by CN should read. "After many user comments on the forum, many factual errors were found and the article should be looked at as an editorial and based solely on the authors opinions." Please go to the forums correction of these errors.


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Kyphoron]
      #6094215 - 09/21/13 10:45 PM

I have stated my stance now multiple times.

Greg: I am not and have not asked you to write the review as a review from a vendor for their own product is not a review but an ad. I did ask for one of the nice people that responded in this thread to write a review. They have already fleshed out a great idea that could be wrapped up in a great review if thought out properly.

There have been plenty of things said about us over the years on s.s.a. We either let them slide as I didn't want to put out the energy or we did as you all did here and list what we believed as wrong.

Look, I am not the bad guy. I didn't write the darn thing. Heck, I didn't post the darn thing. The review says that both products are great. The review says to try them both out and decided. The review doesn't say don't buy X or that X is terrible. So the guy couldn't find something, or couldn't get it to work as HE thought it should. You all have pointed out his errors even using screenshots. We are going out of our way to contact him. Maybe you all should give someone a chance to get something figured out rather then 8 hours on a Saturday before you circle the wagons and tell them what an unfair piece of pooh the company I have given my life to build over the past 34 years. And no I am not being dramatic as I have been here since I was 6 working doing manual inventory in the beginning to purchasing this site and pouring buckets of money into so you all have a place to tell me how I wronged someone, when I had nothing to do with it.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Astronomics]
      #6094413 - 09/22/13 01:42 AM

Michael, for goodness sakes, chill. I don't have any issue with you except one: you seem to be going out of your way to ignore/deny that any harm has been done. I'm not suing you or boycotting you. So cut me a little slack.

Please, all I want is to be treated fairly. This review has been up for 13 days now. Please, just listen for a moment. In my business people make purchase decisions based on features. The review claimed that many features were missing in my product--features that can make or break a sale. That has hurt my business. Hopefully that is over now. I would prefer to see the review corrected, but I do accept the link at the bottom of the review. So why are we not done here?

Like I said, I have no issue with you. But a lot of people loyal to my product are rather upset right now, and to be frank, your posts appear to be goading them on. I will be happy to ask them to back off. All I ask in return is that you stop telling me that this is much ado about nothing, and for us to work together in a friendly, respectful manner.

Deal?


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Gert K A
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6094653 - 09/22/13 08:44 AM

Where I moderator I would lock this tread in a heartbeat.

I was seriously considering buying Sky Tools.
After reading these treads and all this whining. Now not so much. Not because of the review
But because of what seems to be the community that supports this tool.
I’m sure the product is fine but the people not so much.

Atstronomics are doing a wonderful thing here keeping up a forum for us to share our hobby please do not waste their time.. really!

This is the Internet get over it!


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Gert K A]
      #6094740 - 09/22/13 09:59 AM

Quote:

Where I moderator I would lock this tread in a heartbeat.

I was seriously considering buying Sky Tools.
After reading these treads and all this whining. Now not so much. Not because of the review
But because of what seems to be the community that supports this tool.
I’m sure the product is fine but the people not so much.

Atstronomics are doing a wonderful thing here keeping up a forum for us to share our hobby please do not waste their time.. really!

This is the Internet get over it!




There's always one on every forum isn't there? You, sir, are why I gave up on USENET a long time ago.


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Gert K A
sage


Reged: 07/16/12

Loc: Copenhagen, Denmark
Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6094814 - 09/22/13 10:46 AM

You really don’t get how destructive you are, do you?
You got a huge user base her on CN, you get free advertising every day by your users here
I would not complain at all if I were you, but rather eat the good with the bad so to speak,
and maybe realise that there still are improvements to be done with your product:
Reading the review, clearly not all newcomers understand all of your cool features.


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Tom TAdministrator

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Reged: 02/26/02

Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Gert K A]
      #6095005 - 09/22/13 12:38 PM

Ok folks we are going to lock this thread for a while so everyone can take a step back. When (and if) we unlock it we will also consider some judicious editing to allow corrections to the software's abilities to remain, but remove a lot of the unpleasantness.

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