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Nexdome...should have gone with something else

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#1 Mcaustin2004

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Posted 25 March 2017 - 11:55 AM

I have had nothing but frustrations with Nexdome.  First it took about 6 months for the kit to come in(I was told 3 months).  Then another 3 months for the rotation kit to arrive.  

Here is my story:

 

After looking at the POD and Nexdome, comparing the 2 in reviews(not too many for Nexdome as it is a new product) I decided on the Nexdome because it had a rotation kit available(so I thought).  I bit the bullet and ordered the dome+rk.  I ordered it through telescopes.net and before placing the order called Nexdome and inquired about time to ship.  I was told 3 months.  Great! 3 months come and go...I figure I'll wait another 2-3weeks before I inquire.

End of Sept.:  3 weeks later I called and I was told at the end of Sept.  Great!

1st week of October: I inquire again.  I was told in about a week.  

End of October: I inquire again.  I was told soon. Now I'm beginning to second guess my purchase.  Mid November:  Boxes arrive!!! I'm soon happy....but, UPS wants $218 cod.  ****? It was advertised with free shipping.  I give them a check and then promptly stop payment to figure out what it is.  Called customs and it was a broker fee, however, customs told me it was $39 for the entire shipment.  Where did $218 come from??? glad I stopped payment.  In time, UPS would send a bill for $39(paid it).

So now I start putting it together as I had already had a deck put in(another $600) and as I am removing the panels from the boxes I notice that all the left corners are cutoff and one panel has a crack and one of the dome panels has a hole(like something melted through).  I call the seller and they contact Nexdome.  Nexdome sends the replacement panels(1 wall, 1 dome panel) and in lieu of the damaged corners, sent me a dome cover. All good but there are missing screws, nuts, and washers so I had to go to home depot and spend about another $50 in hardware.  The dome is now assembled and I am liking it.  However, the shutter is very, extremely difficult to open.  I was given the advice of another Nexdome owner to use some dry lubricant which made it a bit better and easier to open.  Still no rotation kit.

Early February:  Rotation kit arrives(after threatening to have my credit card company do a chargeback).  Install it, follow the instructions on connecting it using ASCOM aaaaaaand nothing.  It won't move unless I manually toggle the switch.  I contact the manufacturer and he directs me to the person writing the code.  I was given some more instructions aaaaaaand nothing.  

 

I left a few of the boring details out but basically I paid close to $4K for what has amounted to be a plastic shed keeping my CGE-Pro mount outside and dry.  I haven't used the mount since Nov'2016 in hopes to get the rotation kit installed and working.  This has turned into almost a year long frustration. I wanted it to work, I wanted to be happy, but this experience has left me close to quitting this hobby.  I now wish I would have bought a POD, at least I would have been using my gear and enjoying the clear nights instead of gazing out, seeing the Nexdome and just feeling so frustrated that I didn't even want to go outside and look up at the sky.

 

Take my advice.  Buy something, anything other than a Nexdome.


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#2 Bizzidy

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Posted 25 March 2017 - 02:42 PM

What a nightmare. I feel sorry for you M. Your story sounds like a great reason to steer clear if nexdome. That is an aweful long time to wait for product to arrive. 

 

I hope you can get it working. I hope you are able to get something for your money. :(


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#3 rpineau

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Posted 25 March 2017 - 04:04 PM

This is really bad indeed.

I might be able to help troubleshooting your rotation kit as I wrote the X2 Dome plugin for TheSkyX for the Nexdome controller.

I used the open-source firmware and build a "desk" observatory to write my code (see the picture here : http://www.rti-zone....ome_plugins.php ).

You can test he controller using a simple serial terminal.

I assume you have installed the "ASCOM" drivers for the dome so it should show as a new serial port on the system. If not, you might want to install the Arduino tools as the core or the controller is an Arduino Leonardo and requires the proper usb driver (which is supposed to be in the ASCOM drivers) INF file.

Once that is done you can run a few commands by hand by connecting to it via HyperTerm (or a similar serial terminal).

Here are a few simple command to test :

'h' followed by a line feed (aka LF or \n), this should home the dome.

'c'followed by a line feed (aka LF or \n), this should calibrate the dome.

If these 2 works and the ASCOM driver doesn't, it's probably an ASCOM version issue or something like that (I'm no ASCOm expert as I use TheSkyX Pro on Mac OS X).

 

Let me know if this work for you. If you need more help you can PM me directly.

 

I have the feeling that NexDome is not going to be around for long with this kind of business behavior.

When I wrote the X2 plugin and sent it to them once I had tested it , they never put it on their web site and asked me to write a doc.. it's a X2 plugin.. the manual from TheSkyX Pro is the doc !!! 

 

Hopefully we can get you going despite NexDome failure to provide proper support.

Regards, Rodolphe


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#4 Mcaustin2004

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 10:48 AM

Thank you!  Yes I downloaded the ASCOM drivers and the arduino environment.

I will try this out today and report back.


Edited by Mcaustin2004, 26 March 2017 - 10:50 AM.


#5 Mcaustin2004

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 11:55 AM

Ok so I connected to it using PuTTY and it replied back 'Nexdome v 1.X' (can't remember the exact version it replied back with but I think it was 1.0).  I hit H and enter and it took like 2 steps and that's it.  Hit C and enter and nothing(displayed an 'E' on the screen.  Tried H again and nothing.  After that repowered up, reconnected and nothing.  I could connect but nothing else would work to move the motor except the physical toggle.



#6 rpineau

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 01:41 PM

I replied to your PM. Let's see how far we can get but for the other people following this thread : using the button to move the dome means the Arduino and motor are working.

So this could be a firmware issue as the version from the git repo is 0.10

If yours display 1.0 this means Nexdome probably "updated" the version to "look good with 1.0" and we don't know if other changes have been done.

I know the open source version is working fine so re-flashing it with this one might help.

the 'E' you got means error an is normal as you can't calibrate ('c') until you first hoe the dome ('h')

Getting E means the firmware works as expected :) , this doesn't mean other part of it are ok though.

 

Regards, Rodolphe


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#7 James_826

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 02:57 PM

I shall watch this thread closely. I just physically installed my Nexdome controller and motor this weekend on my Explora-Dome. I have had no issue getting it to talk via ASCOM. The dome rotates around from the buttons on the top or from the ASCOM Dome Control Panel. My issue I am having is the movement does not sync with where the telescope is pointing. I can't find any formal setup procedure from Nexdome. If anyone has one please share it. I can share pictures and videos if anyone wants it.


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#8 rpineau

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 06:26 PM

I don't use ASCOM (I use TheSkyX on Mac OS X).

In ThekSky X you have to "sync" the dome to a know position.

So I would assume you need something similar in ASCOM.

I would say that the best way is to home the dome and then sync on the home position as you know the azimut of it.

 

Then , in TheSkyX there is  check box to "slave" the dome to the telescope (both for slew and tracking). Is there something similar in ASCOM ?

 

As for the issue with Mcaustin2004 rotation kit, we discovered that there is some bad wiring issue inside (at least one connection is to the wrong pin of the Arduino at the core of the Rotation Kit).

Not simple to fix as it's been drowned in hot glue ...

 

Rodolphe


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#9 Bigdan

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 07:00 PM

I was considering purchasing a NexDome, but purchased a POD instead.  Most people are aware of, and my experience was the same, that delivery takes a long, long time.  I primarily decided against NexDome because I knew of someone who went to see them at NEAF, and he wasn't impressed.  Taking that into account, and the fact that I do not need remote operation.  My dome is about 30 ft. behind my house, and I enjoy being there when imaging.  I also knew that the NexDome would be useless unless a rotation kit was operational.

 

Tolga could shed some light on this rotation kit issue.


Edited by Bigdan, 27 March 2017 - 07:39 PM.

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#10 Mcaustin2004

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 09:26 PM

In retrospect I purchased in haste but I had high hopes and expectations.

rpineau, we think has found the issue, a wire glued(literally) into the wrong pin.  When I get home this weekend I will attempt to correct the issue.



#11 James_826

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Posted 28 March 2017 - 10:32 AM

In retrospect I purchased in haste but I had high hopes and expectations.

rpineau, we think has found the issue, a wire glued(literally) into the wrong pin.  When I get home this weekend I will attempt to correct the issue.

Did they provide you with any setup procedures for the calibration? I have yet to find anything on their website. I can't get my shutter and telescope pointing in the same direction.



#12 Mcaustin2004

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 06:59 AM

 

In retrospect I purchased in haste but I had high hopes and expectations.

rpineau, we think has found the issue, a wire glued(literally) into the wrong pin.  When I get home this weekend I will attempt to correct the issue.

Did they provide you with any setup procedures for the calibration? I have yet to find anything on their website. I can't get my shutter and telescope pointing in the same direction.

 

 

None.  Nexdome directed me to a guy writing the code and he gave me some instructions but since my board is wired incorrectly I haven't gotten it to work.  On the github page I thought I saw something regarding the wiring and wrong direction.

 

Here is the procedure I received(assuming yours is wired correctly):

 

Installing the arduino environment is the easy way to get windows drivers for the serial port.  There is a changed windows inf file in the files at github which addresses a case on _some_ installations of 64 bit windows that fail to recognize the arduino properly and set up the com port.  That's only needed if your system is not recognizing the com port with the stock drivers.

If the software is communicating with the device now, the driver issue for the com port should be good.

The dip switches on the motor controller should be set as labelled in the software documentation at github.  That sets up the motor controller to provide correct current for the motor in use and use the stepping functions expected by the arduino software.  Switches 1,2 and 3 should be ON, OFF, OFF, which sets up the correct microstepping functions.  Switches 4, 5 and 6 shoulde OFF, ON, ON, which sets up 2.5 amps run current with a peak of 2.7 amps during ramp up.  This is detailed in the Wiring.txt file on github.

For dome rotation, the first question, which of the many ascom dome utilities are you using.  To test the rotation, the first place to test, is using the manual toggle on the controller itself.  It should turn one way with the toggle pushed to one side, and the other way with it pushed to the other side.  If the dome is turning when activated manually, and turns in two different directions, that validates the wiriing.

To validate the ascom installation, use POTH, the separate 'ascom dome control' program does have some issues that are not yet addressed (hoping to have my dome set up real soon now so I can deal with that).  Start POTH and configure it for the NexDome.  Once it is connected and talking to the dome controller, the pop up settings dialog has a 'calibrate' function.  When the calibrate function is run, it will turn the dome till it detects the magnetic home sensor, then turn it for a full revolution till it detects again.  At that point it will store away the actual number of steps for a full dome rotation.

The final step then is to get the dome position related to the 'real world' position.  If you have a polar aligned telescope already in the dome, this is fairly easy to do.  With the telescope parked and pointed at the pole, manually turn the dome until the slit is directly in front of the telescope.  Using the POTH dialogs, now sync it on North.

Once the dome has been calibrated and synced, those values are stored away inside the controller and it will remember the relationships going forward.


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#13 GJJim

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:22 AM

Another reality-meets-hype love story set in the land of amateur astronomy. Will it have a happy ending? Can starry-eyed gadget buyers ever catch a break? Tune in next week for another gripping episode of As the Dome Turns... grin.gif

 

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast;: Man never is, but always to be blessed: The soul, uneasy and confined from home,: Rests and expatiates in a life to come."

– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man.


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#14 contedracula

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 12:22 PM

 

 

I left a few of the boring details out but basically I paid close to $4K for what has amounted to be a plastic shed keeping my CGE-Pro mount outside and dry.  I haven't used the mount since Nov'2016 in hopes to get the rotation kit installed and working.  .

I've sold in Italy my old Scopedome 3m and after seen a NexDome at last NEAF I've made with hurry the order of the NEW Scopedome 3m Version 3

 

Sorry but the SkyShedPod is still better than Nexdome, this too expensive in EU too light and very weak

 

CIAO!


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#15 jf8117

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Posted 30 March 2017 - 04:15 PM

James - With regards to the NexDome controllers, there's a good possibility that the motors & software are only calibrated to the exact diameter of the NexDome, and thus by using them on a different sized ExploraDome the sync is off?  Just a thought.



#16 rpineau

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Posted 30 March 2017 - 06:21 PM

You can recalibrate for any dome size.

You can even do it with a simple serial terminal (PuTTy, HyperTerm and the like) by first issuing a home command (type h and enter) then calibrate ( type c and enter).

The controller will do a full turn until it finds home again and save the new step per revolution value in the eeprom.

 

It's too bad NexDome seems to be dropping the ball on a lot of people with such bad support.

Regards, 

Rodolphe



#17 James_826

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Posted 14 April 2017 - 10:34 PM

You can recalibrate for any dome size.

You can even do it with a simple serial terminal (PuTTy, HyperTerm and the like) by first issuing a home command (type h and enter) then calibrate ( type c and enter).

The controller will do a full turn until it finds home again and save the new step per revolution value in the eeprom.

 

It's too bad NexDome seems to be dropping the ball on a lot of people with such bad support.

Regards, 

Rodolphe

Thanks for the heads up. Since running the calibration routine and switching from ASCOM Dome Control to POTH everything is working great. I am having no issues now using the Nexdome motor/control with my Explora-Dome. I am happy and it cost about $1500 less that the explora-dome solution with a Fosters controller.


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#18 Ron in Michigan

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 01:35 PM

This was a very new product and I think Babak makes the mistake of leaking things out and selling to soon to generate interest and cash flow. 

I ordered mine last March and it arrived in July.  A recent order in 2018 I talked to the guy and he got his in 4 weeks. 

 

I ordered the rotator last fall and it came in 3 weeks.  I ordered the shutter door opener and that also in about 2 weeks.

At the time I received each item there were no instructions. Their website now has very good instruction file online.  As of late winter 2018.

 

I almost ordered the pod and am SO GLAD I ordered the nexdome instead. I love it. It looks professional and not like a LIL TIKES plasic playset.

 

YES there was a learning curve... patience is needed if you are a early adopter.  Rotator didn't work at first, but some ascom driver updates fixed that.

it's worked flawlessly.   I recently received (one of the first again) shutter doors and I'm having some issues.  Works alone, but conflicts with rotator.

 

Again being one of the first - I get the problems. Wait a couple months to get the bugs worked out.  Babak the owner of nexdome is a single small operation.

He might not respond right away or first time.  But he does make things right.  I had some dome rotator issues and he paid my shipping to send in the heavy

box and a week later I had a replacement shipped to me.  He's also replaced the ardunio board (the makers don't mount the usb port on it properly) 

so I've broken two of them and he sends me a new board free (twice now).  I found the solution is to GLUE the usb port on the card when it arrives.

I recommended he so that at the factory to units he ships and sells. (but it is a Arduino board flaw - not really nexdome) though the nexdome does leave

the cord unsupported which does allow it to break.  If they start gluing (cheap and takes seconds) they should be fine.

 

Also for those interested we have a VERY ACTIVE  facebook group   "nexdome users group".  Search for it and join us.  lots of help there and we post our

issues.  Again we are still on the cutting edge of these new products and Babak of Nexdome is often present to respond there. 

 

YES I have had a lot of frustrations - but it's worth it in the long run.  SGP totally controls my dome and the slit travels with my mount.  It might be a few weeks before

I work out the shutter bugs... but I will be completely remote controlled with no need to touch anything outside. 

 

Don't give up on them - just be aware that they are growing fast and we're essentually the beta testers for the first year. 

STILL beats the pod - where you can't shoot the zenith and you can't flip the dome open or closed remotely. 



#19 profjon

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 01:29 PM

I'm happy to hear you have had good luck with Nexdome.  Unfortunately though I would still recommend everyone entirely avoid this product and this company.

 

I had ordered a Nexdome with both rotation kits when the owner was still operating Canadian Telescopes.  After a year we were still waiting for the shutter kit.  We had a great deal of trouble getting him to even respond to us and the entire project was waiting on it. 

 

When he finally did answer he assured it would be "soon."  Since then he has completely ignored us for about 9 months.  He will not respond to any of our attempts to contact him.  We paid in advance and right now are at least out the money we paid for the shutter motor kit.  But the entire Nexdome is worthless without a mechanism to remotely open the shutter, so we are really out several thousand dollars at this stage.

 

It is interesting that he is shipping them but will not honor our original order.  This is not the kind of company I can recommend.


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#20 Ron in Michigan

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 02:04 PM

Pat D. Meloy just rewrote all the firmware for the shutter and rotator.  I was his test bed.  It took 2-3 months but is really solid now.  I don't understand how one can be scammed - as my credit card will charge back (credit) me anything that doesn't arrive. 
I had heard some of these rumors (mainly from the owner of the Pod company) so I was leery.  I ordered originally through Telescopes.net  and explained my concern and they assured me that they are responsible for my money and if I didn't receive it they would be responsible for my refund. (and my CC is surely a backup). 

The trade offs between the two products  (for me) were WELL WORTH THE possible risk and delays. ODDLY I received about double the hardware I should have had. (not sure why - maybe I got someone elses?)  The shutter is sticky - but the shutter motor has no problem.  I also have added teflon tape to the panels and occationally shoot it with some dry slide.  

Babak has made the design changes to the arduino board where the USB was breaking.  (Again new product). Only option to do it right is to have beta testers for a year and delay sales. Most single person upstarts that afford that. 

 

I love it so much now.  Looking at the pod in photos makes me cringe. I operate my setup full remote from 300 ft away in the house and it's fully automated.  I also like to be inclosed when I'm inside. Part of my reason for is was bugs and dew. I also have lots of wildlife here and often fear being hit by a deer again or a coon plopping inside over the wall.  I like to be covered from the dew.  I've slept in mind during imaging. With just a fan to move air I have totally eliminated mosquitos. (when I'm out there which is rare).   Pod requies you open 1/2 the dome.  It doesn't rotate without you pushing it and it won't close unless you're out there.  (clouds roll in, mine closes!  I'm sleeping sound).  Not with a pod.  1/2 open roof - you have dew and bugs.  Need to shoot the zenith during your imaging session - Pod requires you buy an external shelf and remove the dome and place it on teh shelf.   SORRY DUDE - I'm remote.  I'm not going out there in the early morning hours to re install the dome or to close it in a rain storm that hit out of the blue. 

In over a year now all the above problems have been solved from what I'm hearing from new owners. Not sure of the payment deal - (you should be able to have your credit card credit you back) but today - Nexdome will take your order and states that they will not charge your CC until they are shipping it.  (my money was in limbo for 4 months a year ago).  Now - they'll charge your card - if you don't see a tracking number in a couple days "stop pay" sounds quite safe.

 

YES THERE IS A ISSUE WITH FREE SHIPPING - it is - but customs broker fee? something to do with items costing over 1000. or 2000. or something like that.  This isn't a nexdome thing - it's a UPS thing.  I also was grossly over charged by UPS (some kind of scam someone at UPS is pulling).  I told Babak at nexdome and he looked into it and though I had paid over 200 in the fee, UPS refunded most of that and kept the small broker fee.   On another order UPS hosed me again the fee if you call them is quite small, the  COD  is high... I don't know what UPS is doing there, but  stop COD payment on the check and get the proper amount from UPS.  I think there might be away around this... maybe if Nexdome took two payments or split the dome in 1/2 and you pay for one side then the other side or walls and then dome - to keep the items less than the "broker fee" limit?  I think another way around that is to order from Telescopes.net.  They are in U.S. and I figured I ordered from US - they pay the fee to get it into the US.  I didn't have a fee on the dome, but I did on an accessory that was over 1200.  (I think the shutter). and had that UPS issue.  UPS COD's a high amount, if you complain it goes way down. If you don't  THEY KEEP THE MONEY.  I hate UPS anyway.   POD comes from Canada too - I would think they'd have the same broker customs fee since the product is over the price point. 

The cons far out way the limitations of the Pod... and if you're aware of them (from this thread) you should be able to deal with it by ordering early, having some patience knowing that in the end you'll have a superior product that you won't out grow.

My timer got screwed up on my splrinkler system and it went off in the middle of the night. My sensor picked up the mist and closed the dome and shut down the system before any damage could occur.


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#21 Ron in Michigan

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Posted 10 July 2018 - 02:11 PM

 profjon   -  If I were you I'd check with your CC CARD or payment method.  I would also get on the nexdome forum. (new) and ask for help there. (the public can see that and it might get you some action).  In addition I would post in the nexdome fb group. It's not run by nexdome so they can't delete any sort of post and that may force them to address it. 

 

At least to bring it into the open and have Babak - tell his side.   If you're owed the unit or refund - then you SURELY should get it and the group would help you achieve that if you have a refund coming.

The power of social media is on your side. Nexdome is loosing more in sales from your negative story than the amount of the refund to you. But there may be more to the story than we know without hearing from Nexdome. 


Edited by Ron in Michigan, 10 July 2018 - 02:17 PM.


#22 lov2krz

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Posted 16 September 2018 - 05:23 PM

I purchased a NexDome with two bays in early August and it arrived 3 weeks later via ground shipper.  I discovered two broken panels and the door lock, within the 3 days to inspect for shipping damage, and Babak sent the replacements out in one business day by UPS after I wrote him.  I also ordered the dome rotation kit and he sent that out by UPS within a week. 

 

My wife and I spent several partial days pre-assemblying the components, wheels on walls, door seal, hinges and lock and the two half domes and shutter.  I'm now in the assembly portion of the project and expect it to up within the next day.  I did discover that the bay shelves are to deep, they stick out past the front of the bay, and interfere with the wall assembly.  I removed them, notified Babak, and hopefully he'll send the correct shelves out soon.

 

However, there have been a few frustrating issues, not mentioned above, that I've had to content with which include: incorrect weather washers not the correct size for bolts in the kitted parts bags.  I either had to purchase them (5/16" ones) from home depot or drill out the 1/4" units sized for #8 bolts.  Also had to purchase extra 5/16" stainless steel flat washers, not enough in the kit, to completed the wheels assembly or wall assembly.  The dome hardware kit didn't have enough 5/6" washers either.  There where lots of extra 1/4" x 2.5" bolts, 1/4" washers and several weather washers left over.  I would only hope that in the future who ever kits the hardware gets the count correct and maybe throws in an extra piece for the few times you drop a washer or nut and can't find it.

 

I know I'm going to like the NexDome once it's up and running.  It was good hear from Ron in Michigan that the software for the rotation kit is working well.  Since I'm not software trained the challenge without very specific step by step instructions really scares me.  At some point I'm hopeful I be able to automate my backyard NexDome.




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