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Equipment Discussions >> Mounts

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orlyandico
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Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: Spacetravelerx]
      #5941313 - 06/26/13 11:46 AM

I have to agree with Rich here.

While we are all free to speculate, Andrew hints that there are ongoing product improvements, etc. That is unhelpful, and potentially misleading, and implies a silver lining to Meade's tale which may not exist (and in the meantime some people might buy Meade products based on this positive speculation and end up disappointed). At worst it looks like an attempt to condition the community's perception of Meade.

An alternative explanation as to why LX850's are slightly different is that - Meade is doing field remediation on units that are going out there.


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Starhawk
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Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: Spacetravelerx]
      #5941467 - 06/26/13 01:51 PM

Andrew,

Suggesting a company be allowed to speak for itself doesn't require insider knowledge.

The fact the LX850s vary in appearance and functionality is a symptom of something else familiar to anyone who knows the Optical Techniques Quantum story.

Inventing rumors on the fly can't possibly help this situation. Someone who runs a business, such as yourself, should immediately be able to see it wouldn't help if people were spreading the story your products were developing in directions they weren't, or were being held for a new version when they weren't, or you were issuing many uncontrolled versions of a product when you weren't. As obvious as that is, I have to wonder if you are, in fact, completely aware of the problems this causes and are happy to instigate them.

Then again, you seem to be oblivious to other realities, so maybe this is all new to you as well.

These stories you're inventing are seriously uncool. The disengenuous reports on other products and their performance are equally uncool.

-Rich


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OzAndrewJ
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 11/30/10

Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: freestar8n]
      #5941990 - 06/26/13 07:06 PM

Gday Frank

Quote:

I can see starlock letting a pulseguide command come in - but normally it would just be telling one of the motors to pulse for a certain duration at the guide rate.




Just for info, there are 2 possible modes that can get used for "guiding"
1) Move at guide rate for a set time
2) Convert the guide/move request to an equivalent encoder count and adjust by that amount very "rapidly"
Method 2 is mainly used in the 497 firmwares, ( where an :Mgs2000# actually takes about 100ms to complete ) but it is still in the LX200/600/850 code so could probably be used for this purpose

Quote:

When it is over, starlock would get back to the job at hand, which is placing the centroid of the star at the original x,y location at which it was told to "guide."




This is where i think we differ, there doesnt appear to be an "original x,y" location.
If any "slew" or "guide" command comes in, ( ie via handbox, ST4, :Mx#, :Mgxddd# )
the system first calls a very specific routine to handle doing a "move".
The very first part of this process checks if the move is an :Mg command from Starlock.
If not, the scope tells Starlock to go idle, ( ie stop guiding ).
The move request, be it a guide or slew is then done.
The system then tells starlock to start guiding on the "new" starfield it can "now" see.
There are NO coords sent to Starlock to "guide" on, it just appears to pick a star and keep it in place.

It would be a simple test for someone to confirm the mechanism.
( Reality always trumps theory )


Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia


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Spacetravelerx
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Reged: 12/23/12

Loc: New Mexico
Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: Starhawk]
      #5942182 - 06/26/13 09:36 PM

...

Edited by bilgebay (06/27/13 08:45 AM)


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Mike7Mak
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Reged: 12/07/11

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Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? *DELETED* new [Re: Spacetravelerx]
      #5942242 - 06/26/13 10:26 PM

Post deleted by Mike7Mak

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galaxy_jason
Vendor


Reged: 05/22/07

Loc: Texas
Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: Mike7Mak]
      #5942288 - 06/26/13 10:58 PM

Andrew is correct. Any move command via hand box or ASCOM causes starlock to search for a new star, draw a new guide box and begin guiding from that point.

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orlyandico
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Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: galaxy_jason]
      #5942298 - 06/26/13 11:04 PM

Jason, by "move" does that also apply to pulse guide commands? or only to slew commands? and for this scheme to work with dithering, what's the acquire/guide/settle time for Starlock whenever it has to reacquire a guide star?

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OzAndrewJ
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Reged: 11/30/10

Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5942343 - 06/26/13 11:48 PM

Gday Andy

Quote:

by "move" does that also apply to pulse guide commands? or only to slew commands?




It is ANY command that invokes a non tracking motor adjust.
( That is absolutely crystal clear in the code )
As per before, ANY motor rate adjust command coming in
that isnt an :Mg pulseguide command direct from Starlock
seems to disable StarLock.
I cant speak to the settle time afterwards, but there are new serial commands that can be used to tell what the Starlock status is, so in theory, if manual dithering is being done using pulseguide commands, the script doing it could possibly poll the scope to wait until the reacquire has happened, then start the sub.
Again, you cannot get a pixel precise dither pattern with this setup, but you do appear to be able to do random small moves to simulate basic dithering, without Starlock dragging you back to an arbitrary spot.

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia


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freestar8n
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Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: OzAndrewJ]
      #5942525 - 06/27/13 04:51 AM

Hi Andrew (Johansen)-

That sounds fine - I wasn't disagreeing with you - I was just guessing that pulseguides won't change the "home" position of the guiding - but if they do there may be good reason for it. And if you see that in the code - that's good enough for me.

I think no matter how they do it they can expose things to make dithering possible - but it still has to be controlled by the imaging software, between exposures.

As an aside - the basic functionality here is designed into MetaGuide when used with a guidescope. As long as you can expect a guidestar to land in the view of the guidescope, which should happen with a decent video camera and a shortish guidescope, you can just point the scope anywhere, say "guide", and it will find the best guidestar in view and begin guiding on it without externally specifying which star or what x,y. If you want to move, the app can just stop guiding, move the scope, and resume guiding using a new star and its new x,y location. If you want to dither between exposures, you just issue the dither command and MG will maintain the home location and randomly move about that point.

The stopping of guiding on a slew command isn't automatic, but whatever app initiated the slew can itself tell MG to stop guiding, then resume guiding - and the finding of a guidestar is all automatic.

Frank


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cn register 5
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 12/26/12

Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: freestar8n]
      #5942536 - 06/27/13 05:09 AM

Is there any external control software for the LX850? Something that can help applications manage it's more sophisticated behaviour? Or at least a published protocol?

AIUI the ASCOM drivers do not handle any of this and have not been upgraded for some years so only support the basic scope control, maybe not much more than reading and setting the position.

My impression is that nothing exists and Meade have not published the protocol. Andrew J has done a wonderful job in decoding the Meade binaries, extracting information and patching the drivers but that's not really the same.

Serious astronomers with observatories will need this sort of information, so will the high end observatory control application developers.

Chris


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OzAndrewJ
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Reged: 11/30/10

Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: cn register 5]
      #5942600 - 06/27/13 07:28 AM

Gday Chris

Quote:

Is there any external control software for the LX850? Something that can help applications manage it's more sophisticated behaviour? Or at least a published protocol?




Not that i know of, as the new protocols havent been published by Meade.
There are a whole new set of serial commands that are specific to Starlock,
but there are also a whole lot of new ones that should be published for users to allow them to use the new functions like dome slaving delays, and starlock status etc. Not sure what Meade will do there.

Quote:

AIUI the ASCOM drivers do not handle any of this and have not been upgraded for some years so only support the basic scope control, maybe not much more than reading and setting the position.




The current ASCOM drivers dont handle many of the recent firmwares

Some people have noted that they have heard that ASCOM drivers are being written for the new firmwares,
( i have my doubts there based on history )
but the std ASCOM interface is severely limited in what it deems "standard" and hence wouldnt allow a lot of the new functions to be handled in a std manner.
Any driver written would need a lot of specific bypass code to handle the new functionality.
Ie you would probably be better off leaving the complications of ASCOM out of the mix and just writing your own commands.

Quote:

maybe not much more than reading and setting the position.




You dont want to go there

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia


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Spacetravelerx
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 12/23/12

Loc: New Mexico
Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: Mike7Mak]
      #5942626 - 06/27/13 08:12 AM




Mike,

I understand and it is a two edge sword regarding buying products under the current conditions at Meade. And in this modern age, things are more exacerbated - word on the internet gets around VERY fast regarding good or bad news. If this was happening in the 70s, not as many folks would likely have been aware of company "X's" issues and would merrily purchase away.

If all purchasing stops, then clearly Meade has no cash flow and then Meade is finished. On the flip side of course, if one purchases an expensive system and it goes kaput and Meade closes down, then you are stuck with something you would have to fix on your own, though on older telescopes this seems common.

I guess for those who want to see Meade continue in operations or if you are just comfortable purchasing Meade products or want a Meade Product, then I would say purchase away, but I would agree there are risks, depending on the product. And the buyer would need to understand those risks.

I am curious, when Celestron went through the drama of bankruptcy what happened on the buying front. Did folks stay away during the process? I have to believe the message boards were lit up (internet was around then last I knew).

Edited by bilgebay (06/27/13 04:33 PM)


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Spacetravelerx
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Reged: 12/23/12

Loc: New Mexico
Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: cn register 5]
      #5942650 - 06/27/13 08:30 AM

Quote:

Is there any external control software for the LX850? Something that can help applications manage it's more sophisticated behaviour? Or at least a published protocol?

AIUI the ASCOM drivers do not handle any of this and have not been upgraded for some years so only support the basic scope control, maybe not much more than reading and setting the position.

My impression is that nothing exists and Meade have not published the protocol. Andrew J has done a wonderful job in decoding the Meade binaries, extracting information and patching the drivers but that's not really the same.

Serious astronomers with observatories will need this sort of information, so will the high end observatory control application developers.

Chris





Chris,

I cannot speak for all software of course, however SkySafari/SkyFi can in fact control the LX850. So I can in fact verify at least one application can externally control the LX850. My guess (and I am not an expert on this), is the LX200 command set works with the LX850.

In the "settings" for SkySafari you tell it you have a "Meade LX-200 Classic" and the Mount Type "Equitorial GoTo (German)".

Basically you pick your object, HPP/Starlock does its thing, and you taken right to where you want to go.

So my guess is, if Southern Stars can do it, there is some flexibility communicating with the LX850.

I will be researching the observatory control end fairly soon since I am putting one up. I will let you know what I find out on that front.


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cn register 5
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 12/26/12

Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: Spacetravelerx]
      #5942685 - 06/27/13 08:51 AM

Quote:

I am curious, when Celestron went through the drama of bankruptcy what happened on the buying front. Did folks stay away during the process? I have to believe the message boards were lit up (internet was around then last I knew).



I'm not an expert but I suspect that Celestron never formally went bankrupt.

Their parent company, Tasco, went bankrupt; that was before my time but I get the impression there was none of this drama. This may be because Celestron was a private company and it was it's parent that went under. I think the administrators sold it as a going concern and that was it.

The takeover by Synta also seems to have been a private sale and happened with no bankruptcy and no drama.

Chris


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rmollise
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Reged: 07/06/07

Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: cn register 5]
      #5942777 - 06/27/13 09:49 AM

Celestron was owned by Tasco, who most assuredly did declare bankruptcy.

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jrcrillyAdministrator
Refractor wienie no more
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Reged: 04/30/03

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Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5942823 - 06/27/13 10:15 AM

Quote:

While we are all free to speculate, Andrew hints that there are ongoing product improvements, etc. That is unhelpful, and potentially misleading,




Why the accusations of bad faith? He didn't "hint" or "speculate"; he mentioned a previously-discussed production change that certainly happened. I spotted it right away in the photos he published of his mount. Those less familiar with the mount might not have noticed, but once he pointed it out it would have been obvious to anyone interested. Nothing misleading about it; it happened. There's no use pretending it didn't and attempting to suppress that information.

p.s. I am informed that Meade will be offering the updated elevation fork parts being used in current production as an optional upgrade kit for those with earlier production units.


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Starhawk
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Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? [Re: rmollise]
      #5942926 - 06/27/13 11:13 AM

I see what I have written comes across more strongly than I meant it to. I apologize for any hurt feelings that caused. I should explain myself better since my opinion is formed by other information and it's impossible for someone else to know that background, and it's unfair to hold that against anyone.

In the case of Celestron, they were bought by people at the company, first. One major difference is everything involved was privately held, so the interminable gotchas of being public never showed up. They didn't have years of quarterly reports filed for people to look up and see a slow slide turning into going off a cliff. They were also free of the mindless pressure the open market applies to just grow a business, no matter what it takes, and the hamstringing by shareholder second guessing or bid acceptance just weren't a problem. They could pick an optimum size for the operation and stay there without having their stockholders revolt. In fact, they could decide whatever they wanted and do it in an afternoon.

At the same time, the freedom to engage the market any way they saw fit is an enormous advantage. Amateurs tend to assume the battles are won and lost at the high-end of the product line. But the area under the sales volume vs cost curve belongs to the 60mm department store scopes. My understanding now is Meade never had a drop in high-end sales; it was gearing up for mass sales which could not be executed in sufficient volume which swamped them. So, the Celestron NexStar 102GT showing up at Costco for $200 the past two Octobers comes across very differently knowing that, doesn't it? I even asked a Celestron rep at ASAE how the heck they were selling them for that when the little GOTO mount alone sold for $279. I just got a smile in reply.

When I looked at becoming a dealer a couple years ago, I got the price lists from several major primes and was working out what to sell. I had gone into this thinking I could have a little home business where I only dealt in the high end scopes (the stuff I like, and the sort of people I'd rather be talking to on the phone) and on the order of a few evenings a week looking after shipping, I could have a little sideline.

But when I got the data into a spreadsheet, it told me this would be impossible because the margins on the big scopes, nice mounts, and APOs are 10% or less. So, the approximate 40% margin needed to make this profitable was running smack into a reality where the overhead costs could maybe break even, but if basically every nickel earned would go to UPS.

What did have healthy margins were things like 60mm refractors and eyepieces, which did get to the 40% needed to make them possibly profitable. However, the problem here was the prices were so low, I'd have to be processing thousands of orders a week and shipping trainloads of them for this to make any money. And if there was any rate of customer dissatisfaction, this was going to be a trip through hell. That was precisely what I was not prepared to or interested in doing.

But what I hope my explanation is good enough to show is the conventional dealer network is supported by large volumes of sales in areas the CN user base isn't strongly interested in. Success or failure of the high end gear isn't the business.

Alternatively, this explains why a high end-only prime like Astro Physics is so extremely different; they're basically unprepared to support a conventional dealer network. They have to do space flight hardware levels of equipment checkout before shipping because any measurable failure rate would overwhelm them immediately. It is no accident high end gear of this type from firms like RC optical has literally been able to be directly adapted for space flight without the horrible trail of QA discovery a commercial product maker faces in that transition. Ultimately, this is because the margins in the high end stuff are thin.

This is why it really doesn't matter for Meade to have a couple more LX80s or LX850s out there to consume support efforts. They're the lowest margin products the company has. What they needed was to sell $20 million/ quarter worth of little "Department store" scopes.

And if no outrageously inexpensive beginner's dream scope shows up at Costco from Celestron this fall, we'll know what has really happened, here.

The bigger problem I have is turning learning something like this into a business is, itself, hard to do. One might imagine the thing to do is try to become Roland's or Yuri's protégé, but the reality is quite different- what you really have to do is everything. And you have only one choice: go commercial (whose constraints are daunting), or decide to be small and do something you really love because you'll have to master it.

-Rich


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Calypte
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Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? [Re: Starhawk]
      #5943082 - 06/27/13 01:04 PM

Great post, Rich. What you say is in line with what I've heard elsewhere for many years. Did you run into a reality check on the number of pieces you'd have to buy upfront to get going? Or, as you envisioned it, was it all going to be drop-shipped? A few years ago I got a whim that I'd like to be the N.A. representative of a line of eyepieces that I liked but that had recently been discontinued. I'd start them up again and have fun selling eyepieces and going to NEAF, WSP, etc., and going to fancy restaurants with Al Nagler & Roland Christen. Reality check: it was going to require a big chunk of my own net worth to get it going. Maybe if I were 30, I'd have the energy and fearlessness to take the leap, but not in my 60s.

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Starhawk
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Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? [Re: Calypte]
      #5943156 - 06/27/13 01:55 PM

I had several reality checks:

There was a minimum sales/ year which seemed like a fairly low number. But if you went to anything higher, you were then required to sell the low margin expensive stuff. So, quite literally the total value of inventory I'd have to process would go way up, while the marginal value of sales would dive.

So, even if I notionally was making a go of it with the small stuff, the moment it became enough money to care about, I'd be hit with having to sell the big ones as well.

Or to put it in numbers, buying $200k worth of stuff/ year would earn maybe $50K, and I'd see at least half of that go to overhead and shipping unless I could get the prime to agree to drop ship heavy stuff in the first place. Of course, to do that would mean I had to leave my regular job and this was all I was doing. But as you can see, it wouldn't be like I was making a living where I could support my little kids at that point. So, it's just impossible to see how I'd do it.

That's why I have a lot of respect for the good dealers- they're obviously doing it as a labor of love.

-Rich


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orlyandico
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Re: What's the deal with Meade and GEMs? [Re: Starhawk]
      #5943175 - 06/27/13 02:02 PM

or.... their firearms business subsidizes the telescope side of things

On a similar topic, I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations on what it would take to rival AP.

It's not possible. as various challengers such as William Optics (GT-1) and Morningcalm have discovered.

Hard as it might seem to believe, AP and SB prices are already as low as they can be and still keep AP and SB in business. I think anyone who wants to get into the mount business would need several hundred K (or millions) worth of CNC equipment, and then refine their design for manufacturability. It also helps to have decades of experience building mounts, because you know the best way to do things and not waste time re-inventing the wheel.

This is why AP and SB have such long product lifespans - there's a huge up-front cost to build the tooling and jigs.

And us random amateurs have absolutely no hope of matching AP or SB in terms of mount quality. If you have a lathe and mill, you can give it a try - but in terms of time & materials your mount will end up vastly more expensive than the commercial offerings.

This is also why we should have a lot of respect for the Chinese who have brought the prices down. Sure their mounts have numerous flaws - but who can deliver at these prices? the Japanese sure can't..


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