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Early LX90 Out of Retirement

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#1 BPoletti

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Posted 17 July 2021 - 08:43 PM

Greetings,

 

An estate sale LX90, not used for years, has found its way to me.  A deal I just couldn't pass.  The optics look very good, focus is smooth.  Alt drive makes a "wow"ing noise but moves smoothly enough.

 

But some functions in the AutoStar  #497 controller do not get past the top menu.  Just a barely visible vertical bar that scrolls horizontally when scroll buttons are pushed.  I can't get to the "train drive" function, the first on my list of to-do's.

 

1.  Am I under the correct assumption that [re]loading the latest release of Autostar would cure the bad behavior?  

 

2.  Must the handset be connected to the computer (vis RS-232 or USB) for ASU to connect to the internet to download the latest software, object data, satellite data?   

 

3.  If I have an up-to-date AudioStar controller, can I close that to the older Autostar as a last resort?  (I don't expect a magical audio function to appear.)

 

Thanks in advance for your comments, opinions and help.

 

Bill



#2 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 17 July 2021 - 08:53 PM

Gday Bill

 

Am I under the correct assumption that [re]loading the latest release of Autostar would cure the bad behavior?

Dont know, as it might be partly the LCD as well.

That said, you say you cant get past certain menus and that is not LCD related.

What Firmware is currently loaded ( under the setup>statistics menu )

 

Must the handset be connected to the computer (vis RS-232 or USB)

for ASU to connect to the internet to download the latest software,

object data, satellite data?

Nope, you can connect and manually download the files with no need for the handset,

but if doing firmware, i strongly suggest using the latest patched

firmware via the StarPatch loader. ( It has the patch and firmware files on its site )

http://www.stargps.ca/downloads.htm

It is free for personal use and is far more robust than Meades ASU for loading firmware.

 

If I have an up-to-date AudioStar controller, can I close that to the older Autostar

I assume you mean "clone", in which case the answer is NO

They use totally different codesets.

 

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia



#3 BPoletti

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Posted 17 July 2021 - 10:15 PM

Thanks, Andrew.

 

 

Gday Bill

 

Dont know, as it might be partly the LCD as well.

That said, you say you cant get past certain menus and that is not LCD related.

What Firmware is currently loaded ( under the setup>statistics menu )

 

 

I get both lines when I power up the system.  I will report what I see at power on in a later post.

 

 

Nope, you can connect and manually download the files with no need for the handset,

but if doing firmware, i strongly suggest using the latest patched

firmware via the StarPatch loader. ( It has the patch and firmware files on its site )

http://www.stargps.ca/downloads.htm

It is free for personal use and is far more robust than Meades ASU for loading firmware.

 

 

 

I seem to get server errors when trying to connect ASU and get "Could not get version information." error message.   

 

I'm looking at StarPatch loader.  Is this an alternative to AutoStar Update Suite?  

 

Does the USB-ASTAR cable listed on StarGPS site completely replace the Meade #505 cable?  Does it eliminate the need to challenge the flexibility of an olympic gymnist to connect the connect to an RS-232 port on the back of a computer (in favor of a front-panel USB port)?

 

Thanks,

 

Bill



#4 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 17 July 2021 - 10:29 PM

Gday Bill

I seem to get server errors when trying to connect ASU and get "Could not get version information." error message.

Yep, so just hit OK and you get the download dialog box, but with an empty model selection box.

Just click in that selection edit and manually select your handbox type

and it should list the available ROM file for download.

 

I'm looking at StarPatch loader.  Is this an alternative to AutoStar Update Suite?

It is a replacement for the Firmware loader. It is much more robust than ASU ( incl error checking )

and it also allows interactive integration of our patches.

 

Does the USB-ASTAR cable listed on StarGPS site completely replace the Meade #505 cable?

Yep

 

Does it eliminate the need to challenge the flexibility of an olympic gymnist to connect the connect to an RS-232 port on the back of a computer (in favor of a front-panel USB port)?

Yep, its just a custom made ( ie neat ) cable that eliminates the need for DB9 connectors )

and as such, it is specific for the Meade cable order.

If you already have a 505 cable with a std DB9 connector on it,

you can also use that with any std USB2rs232 cable that has a DB9 connector on its end,

and hence use the USB port to connect to the PC.

That said, if you have a real LPT port on your PC, that is the gold standard to prevent possible

USB driver problems.

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia



#5 BPoletti

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 06:50 PM

Software / firmware version displayed on the #497EP handbox at power-up looks like 59ec (can't see the last column of LEDs on the right side of the display line).  Does that make sense?  

 

I have acquired a #505 cable set from our local astromony society.  It contains a CD with an earlier version of AutoStar Updater (6.0).  I also have version 6.1 that I downloaded a little while back.  I also have a USB to RS-232 adapter cable.  

 

Computer is a Windows 10 Pro (ver. 21H1).  I installed ASU 6.1 and installed the USB driver from the Meade CD.  

 

The ASU program cannot find the internet, cannot find the controller, cannot download anything.  I'm going to give StarGPS StarPatch a try.

 

BTW, I cannot get any display on the second LED display line on the #497EP.  Does that indicate that it's a goner?  

 

I have acquired a second #497 controller from a different scope and set it up for an LX90 8 scope.  I will try to get that handbox working and setup for drive training if a clear evening suddenly materializes.  I still want to exercise all the options for getting the first 497EP working.

 

 

On a related topic....

 

I have read through the Star GPS site.  I intend to order the USB-ASTAR cable, and download and the StarPatch software.  I have the cable in my cart ready for purchase, but I can't seem to find a working link to download the software.  Any help would be appreciated.

 

Bill



#6 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 07:37 PM

Gday Bill

#497EP handbox at power-up looks like 59ec

That might be 59Ef ( as i have no details of any firmware earlier than that )

That said 59Ef was so full of bugs, it wasnt funny. You will need to update it.

IIRC, you cannot use the normal keypress sequence to get into safeload mode.

I will dig up the alternate keys so you can at least test if it will boot in that mode.

 

I have read through the Star GPS site.  I intend to order the USB-ASTAR cable, and download and the StarPatch software.  I have the cable in my cart ready for purchase, but I can't seem to find a working link to download the software.

Assuming you have a true 497EP, the best firmware to use is patched 5CE1

StarPatch related data is all at

ie  https://www.stargps.ca/downloads.htm

The actual StarPatch app can be downloaded from this page "SetupSP.exe"

You can manually download the rom and patch from this page

or you can install StarPatch first, then use it to download the rom and patch.

When loading the patch, deselect the first 3 options, as they only relate to the StarGPS lump

and are not needed for normal loads.

 

As to the cable, the USB-ASTAR wil work, but if you already have a USBtoRs232 adapter

and a 505 cable, you should be able to use it.

The drivers on the Meade CD will be so out of date its not funny.

Use device manager to see what manufactured is tied to the chip

and then download the latest drivers.

( If it is an old Prolific chipset, you may need to load an older driver as some new drivers dont work in W10 )

Once the converter is detected properly by Device manager, you can try connecting

 

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia



#7 BPoletti

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 08:08 PM

W10 can't find any drivers for the rs-232 to USB converter.  Will try to pick up a new version tomorrow.  

 

I might have another connectivity option.



#8 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 08:28 PM

Gday Bill

What brand of chipset does it have????

ie when you plug it in, it should appear dynamically in Device manager,

Even it it doesnt load properly, you can interrogate it for its chip brand

and then manually load the drivers from the manufacturers site.

If it is FTDI or Prolific, both manufacturers have diagnostic apps

that can tell you what it is and if it is supported.

 

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia



#9 BPoletti

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 09:22 PM

I'm not getting any connectivity at all between either USB or the RS-232 port on the back of the computer (difficult to get to) and either of the handsets.  The common point(s) of failure seem to be the Meade #505 cable / RS-232 serial connector.  Neither the ASU or StarPatch applications can connect.  I confirmed the com port settings.  

 

I'm going to set the update process aside for the time being until the USB-ASTAR cable arrives.  I have a potential controller.  This is not my primary scope. 

 

I will post again with the update status when I can try the USB-ASTAR cable.

 

Thanks,

 

Bill



#10 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 09:34 PM

Gday Bill

Do you have a multimeter that can do continuity testing???

If so, it is easy to check the 505 cable.

 

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia



#11 BPoletti

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 10:36 PM

I do have a multitester, but I also have a USB-ASTAR paid for that hopefully will ship tomorrow.  I'm not in a hurry.  Even if I found an open circuit on one of the connectors, I'm not sure I want to deal with putting on a new connector.  Too much like work.



#12 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 10:57 PM

Gday Bill

I also have a USB-ASTAR paid for that hopefully will ship tomorrow

OK, thats at least known to work properly with W10

 

Too much like work.

bow.gif

 

 

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia



#13 BPoletti

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Posted 04 August 2021 - 10:25 PM

Have been unsuccessful getting either serial port on my computer working with the #505.  Tried uninstalling and reinstalling drivers.  Deactivating then activating the ports in BIOS.  Trying other RS-232 devces.  No luck on this motherboard.  

 

I just received a StarGPS USB-ASTAR ordered a couple of weeks ago.  That should make it a little easier to install the software/firmware upgrades.  My computer doesn't like the serial ports, but the USB drivers installed easily and the USB converter was set up and ready to go.   

 

I would test it tonight, but don't mess around with sensitive electronics with a half-full bottle of nice wine on my desk.  Something about an inverse relationship between quality of judgement and blood alcohol content.



#14 BPoletti

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Posted 05 August 2021 - 03:33 PM

Using StarPatch, I was able to update  a #497 handset. ASU would not connect to the internet to get the latest patches.  StarPatch would not save the GPS updates without registration.  Now, the #497 handset does not recognize the LX90 GPS feature.  I setup the handset for a LX90 8 scope, but the handset went through the alignment process for an ETX.  Not sure what happened there.  

 

The #497EP was unresponsive.  It would not connect to the computer, software could not detect it.  I attempted to boot the handset while holding down the Enter key and the down scroll key, but got no Software Download display on the LED display.  Are there any diagnostics available that might isolate the problem and help identify how to fix the communication?  


Edited by BPoletti, 05 August 2021 - 03:34 PM.


#15 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 05 August 2021 - 04:47 PM

Gday BPoletti

StarPatch would not save the GPS updates without registration.

If you do not have a StarGPS lump, you need to disable the first 3 patch options,

as they are tied to integrating the StarGPS lump into the firmware.

ie all you really need to leave selected if you have a real GPS is the rollover patch.

Reload the patch with these "StarGPS" options disabled and the old GPS should come back .

 

I attempted to boot the handset while holding down the Enter key and the down scroll key, but got no Software Download display on the LED display.

Assuming this is the 497EP with 59Ef,  as i mentioned earlier,

its safeload mechanism used a wrong key set initially.

You will need to hold "?" and <enter> to get safeload in this firmware.

That said, it should be able to be loaded using the normal mode unless something is corrupted??

 

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia



#16 BPoletti

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Posted 05 August 2021 - 06:26 PM

It appears that the 497EP communications ports is not operating.  Is there a way to reset the handset back to factory settings to try to get the com port working?

 

I'm in the middle of reloading the 497 to try to restore LX90 GPS functions.



#17 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 05 August 2021 - 06:39 PM

Gday BPoletti

You can normally trigger a reset via the handbox menus,

but there is nothing in the reset procedure that would affect the comms ( to my knowledge )

Also, there is a comms section of code in the working firmware

and there is a different code block in the safeload region to handle comms.

If you cannot connect in either normal or safeload mode, but can connect to the old 497,

then it sounds like the cable is OK and there is a problem with the 497EP Hbx.

It could be corroded pins, but if not, you need a CRO to follow the traces inside the Hbx.

I have a rough schematic for this, but you need a microscope to actually see the traces and chips used.

 

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia



#18 BPoletti

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Posted 05 August 2021 - 07:09 PM

The 497 reloaded as per your direction.  I need to get some time to test the hbx with the scope outdoors.  That way it can access the GPS, train the drive and attempt to locate and track objects.  

 

Th 97EP is a different animal.  It's living inside itself and just doesn't want to communicate.  The four COM contacts are present and clean, good spring action in the contacts. 

 

The bottom line is that I can find no advantage with the 497EP over the 497.  I'll just use the 497, assuming it has the functions I need, and eventually send the EP to Meade.  Maybe.     



#19 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 05 August 2021 - 08:43 PM

Gday BPoletti

 

I'll just use the 497, assuming it has the functions I need,

For an LX90, a 497 with patched 43Eg firmware has everything you need.

 

and eventually send the EP to Meade.

Unless its under warranty, ( and based on the firmware loaded, i suspect not )

you are throwing your money away, and they will just bin it.

Very few companies would do any board level fixing.

That said, if you have someone nearby who likes a challenge and works for beer

you might be able to do some tests.

Have attached a piccy of the section on the board that deals with the comms.

Maybe look to see if anything is burned ?????

( esp L2, L3 or L4 at the bottom )

 

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia

497EP HBxComms.jpg

 

 

 

 



#20 BPoletti

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Posted 06 August 2021 - 12:44 AM

Thanks, Andrew.  Though I have the capability, I don't feel like chasing down a bad inductor.  And even if I did, I'm not sure what I'd do considering my medieval soldering ability.  I'm too old.  wink.gif    

 

Bill



#21 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 06 August 2021 - 01:30 AM

Gday Bill

Though I have the capability, I don't feel like chasing down a bad inductor.

Its easy to see if its blown. There will be a black crater there :-)

If that is the case, many people just remove it and solder in a bridge

 

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia



#22 BPoletti

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Posted 06 August 2021 - 12:32 PM

I'll take a look.  Maybe those inductors aren't needed with quieter communication equipment.




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