Last updated: 10 August 1999

Autostar Software Information

Subject:	 1.2g Uploads
Sent:	Monday, August 9, 1999 18:30:02
From:	Meade Instruments Corporation
Mighty Weasner's Site Readers::

Some readers have had difficulty downloading 1.2g.  The problem is that
the downloaded file is not the right size.  It has been padded by their
browser. One of your readers mentioned all the particulars (I think it
was Tom Stremlau, forgive me Tom if I am throwing your name out
incorrectly), but several readers just seemed to pass over the note,
like the README files, without taking notice.

First off there are two different parts which you must have to update
your Autostar.

1.	The Autostar firmware set
	*	This consists of two files
	1.	Autostar.ROM
	2.	dbase.ROM
2.	A way to upload the data into the Autostar
	*	This consists of one file
	1.	auto.zip
	*	auto.zip consists of several components.  Auto.zip is the
program which contains the program that does the installation of the
program called Autostar Update.  You start the installation of Autostar
Update by double clicking on the Setup.exe icon, which you will see when
you dearchive (unzip) the auto.zip file.

Once you have downloaded the 2nd component (auto.zip) you only need to
download auto.zip again, if you are getting a new version of Autostar
Update.  But there may be several updates to the 1st component
(Autostar.ROM & dbase.ROM) before you need a new Autostar Update
program.  The 1st and 2nd components are separate files with different
purposes.  Additionally the setup program (auto.zip) is always packaged
with the latest and greatest Autostar.ROM and dbase.ROM files available
when it was created.  Since there could be several updates to the *.ROM
files between the last posting of the auto.zip file and the time you
first download it, you may need to download the auto.zip file and then
download the Autostar.ROM and dbase.ROM files too in order to get the
latest *.ROM files and the latest Autostar Update program.

When do you need which?  It is simple: when a newer version shows up on
the WEB site.  When you see a new Autostar.ROM version, download both
the Autostar.ROM and dbase.ROM files.

When you have downloaded the files, check the file sizes to be certain
that they are correct!  You should have the following file sizes:

The file size of 1.2g Autostar.ROM should be 655,360 bytes
The file size of 1.2g Dbase.ROM should be 560,624 bytes

If either of these files are of different size, then you will need to
download the file again.

Now comes the problem that some of you are having.  If you are using
Netscape it is possible that the file will be padded.  This changes the
file size and ruins the download.  You probably will have a file size of
656,460 (1100 bytes too big) for Autostar.ROM and something larger than
560,624 for dbase.ROM.  Some of you will be able to get around this by
holding down the shift key BEFORE you click on the Autostar.ROM or
Dbase.ROM links on the Meade WEB page.  Others of you won't.

Check the file sizes after you have downloaded. For those of you who
still can't get the file sizes correct, you will have to download
auto.zip and use the Autostar.ROM and dbase.ROM files which are in that
release (which should be 1.2g anyway).

Why can't you get the file with the proper size? Zip files are encoded
to always be binary files.  Binary files are always transferred in
exactly the right format. ROM files are not a "known" binary type and
the browser grabs it as text.  It then pads it with nulls, because nulls
don't make any difference to a text file.

So what can be done?  Netscape's solution is for Meade to UUENCODE
(Unix-to-Unix Copy Encode) the ROM files.  But then we would have to go
through the UUDECODE explanation.  And since 10% of the readers don't
read the README file as is, (witness how many times Michael has had to
cut and paste the words "Move them into your Ephemerides directory"), we
would be in even DEEPER trouble with those readers.

The programmatic way to solve this problem would be to zip the ROM
files. "WHY DOESN'T MEAD JUST DO THAT", I hear some readers scream! 
Because the whole purpose of setting the files up this way is so that
you don't have to unzip, UUDECODE or move any files at all!  Instead you
would simply click on a button on the dialog which is labeled: "New
Versions", under a group box called "Get From WEB".

Here is how it will work:  You start Autostar Update and click on the
"New Versions" button.  Autostar Update will do two things.  First it
will log into the Meade WEB site and check to see what version of
Autostar Update is available.  It will then compare that version to its
own.  If a newer version is available, it will download the version
(called auto.zip) and stash it (no...no...you guess where it goes
first.............YES!)  in the Ephemerides directory!  It is called
auto.zip so that it won't overwrite anything else accidently, except the
old auto.zip (which you don't need anymore anyway).  Autostar Update
will then check to see if a newer version of Autostar.ROM and dbase.ROM
are needed.  If so, they too will be retrieved, overwritting the old
ones because you don't want to keep multiple copies of the ROM files
around.  The reason is that any two ROM files are normally paired
together.  Only one dbase.ROM goes with only one version of Autostar.ROM

The Autostar was released in January.  Meade posted to the WEB a
PRE-RELEASE version of Autostar Update.  (The interface in the new one
is completely different.)  The reason we posted a PRE-RELEASE was
simple.  The customer needed a way to update their Autostar.  The
program was not ready for prime time and we didn't want to subject the
customers to the problems of an alpha-release.  So we posted the
PRE-RELEASE instead.  Something which would do the upload job, but was
indicated as PRE-RELEASE software in the README file.

Many people thought that this was released software, even though the
readme file indicated that this was PRE-RELEASE software.  Some readers
mentioned that the software was worthless because there was no context
sensitive help. Context sensitive help would not have done much good for
two reasons.  One because there was only one useful button on the
dialog.  And the second one was that it wasn't going to be released.
Some readers were disappointed because there wasn't enough version
history information (it wasn't going to be the released version, so its
version history was not intact).  I added a version history list and
others told us that they were angry that they had to download all that
information only to read the worthless version information.  Have you
got the picture? Bottom line?  When you are using Beta software or
PRE-RELEASE software, you have to read the README file.  Or the release
notes, or the "this is new software, which you are not used to" page, or
something.  You have to read the README.  There is a lot of information
in there and we put it there for a reason.  Some have argued that it is
not organized as well as they would like.  I don't take exception to
that.  Most Readme files sort of grow with time and seem unorganized
until they are cleaned up for release.

The BETA-RELEASE version of Autostar Update is going to be released for
public beta in a day or two.  It will be beta software.  PLEASE treat it
like Beta software.  Consider that it could crash and burn.  Every
effort has been made not to allow it to drop your astronomical bodies,
etecteras; but this is Beta software.  PLEASE READ THE README FILE! 
Send BUG reports to engineer@meade.com, so that we can fix the data.

Speaking of engineer@meade.com, many of your readers are vehement on
Michael's "Autostar FEEDBACK" WEB page, but have not sent a single BUG
report to engineer@meade.com. There is really and truly NO WAY for
anyone to respond back to a reader directly from that email address, but
each and every one of the notes is read.  Data is collected and changes
do happen. Every once-in-a-while we sneak a letter back to the reader.
If you include your name and a telephone number, we can actually call
some of you back, if the problem is a serious one.

Many of the reader requests here and at engineer@meade.com have been
already been incorporated into Autostar Update.  Here are several
*	Several readers didn't like the way Autostar Update searched for
ports.  They thought it was not verbose enough and that they didn't get
enough information back.  We changed the connection routines to let you
know what Autostar Update was doing with the port as it tried to find an
*	Many readers said they needed a tool to tell them why they couldn't
use a certain port with their Autostar.  You can get a program from
Customer Service which will test your port and tell you if it found an
Autostar or an LX200 or nothing or there was an error, or that some
other program has the COM port you want to use.
*	The interface was completely changed at the request of alpha
*	The internal Autostar firmware has been updated and tightened and
corrected via suggestions from users from engineer@meade.com.
*	And a very special thanks to those of you who have sent in replies
knowing that we cannot respond directly.  Your suggestions have been
outstanding and beneficial to everyone.

Okay, now some notes:
*	If after you have completed the upload, the Autostar does not beep
and Autostar Update program clear its screen after 1 minute then you
very likely have the wrong file size for your Autostar.ROM and dbase.ROM
files. Check them and start over.  You will have to use the SAFE LOADER
to continue.  Waiting 5-40 minutes is unnecessary.  I'll put a timer to
catch failed uploads in the next version.
*	A screwed up download cannot fry your Autostar.  Something else
went wrong.  Send it in, with your cable so that we can take a look at
it (and we'll upload it with the latest and greatest software as well).
*	I've tried to emulate the problem the reader had with
Autostar.ROM..ROM in every way I know how and I am just at a loss.  I've
tried, and my friends have tried , but we just cannot do it.  Of the 15
people I've asked to try to duplicate this problem, not one of us could
do it.  I'm NOT trying to say it didn't happen, but I just cannot
duplicate the problem.  Sorry.  You'll have to come up with something
which is repeatable on several machines so I can see it happen.
*	Some have noticed that the TLE files are up for Satellites.
Satellites, takes you to the NASA WEB page to grab what you want from
their list.  ISS and HST should be self-expanitory.  These have been
added to the WEB page because the Beta-testers needed them to test the
WEB capabilities of Autostar Update.
*	Those of you curious about STARSHINE, check out
*	For those of you who want an explanation of the TLE file format,
there are numerous WEB sites which carry the format examples.  Or you
can wait for the HELP file in the Beta release which will contain an
example for each of the astronomical bodies.
*	The Autostar Update Beta release will grab selected ephemerides for
each of the astronomical bodies automagically.  You just selected the
ones you want from a dialog list for each of the astronomical bodies.

For the WEB services to work you will have to have a connection to the
WWW and you will have to be connected before you run the Autostar Update

Subject:	 Autostar handbox versions
Sent:	Wednesday, July 14, 1999 09:14:40
From:	Meade Instruments Corporation
In general the web site will always be a more advanced revision than
what is purchased by the customer.  The factory makes large runs of
Autostars and ships them.   From the time the flash memory is first
programmed, assembled into the handbox and then shipped, many weeks can
pass (perhaps as much as 12 weeks or longer).  Then there is time on the
retail shelf before purchase.  Units returned to Meade should receive
the latest firmware but posting of new website firmware can happen from
one day to the next.

The latest firmware will be posted on the net as soon as it has been
tested, even if the improvements are small in nature.  There are likely
to be more revisions put onto the net than get produced by the factory.
Ultimately Meade will correct all of the reported bugs (large and small)
and the firmware revision level will stabilize.  Changes after that will
then be made to add new features or expand functions.

Subject:	 COM port bug.
Sent:	Saturday, July 10, 1999 12:31:39
From:	jhorsley@wtp.net (John horsley)
Thank you for the posting the info on the autostar com port bug that
Sean left at your ETX site. I followed you instructions but found that I
still couldn't find the autostar on either com port. What the problem
was is this... in the instructions that he gave, said to inter com 2 in
the registery. I did this... but the way this line looked to me is to
put in the field... com (space) 2. With the space in between the com and
the 2 you still would get the error and could not find the autostar. I
went back into the registery and edited the line to read com2 without
the space and it worked perfectly. Just thought you'd like to know.

Also I am getting the same errors in the eyepiece calculation, Mag. and
field of view areas that A.J.M. Weijenberg is experiencing. It doesn't
allow you to enter or scroll threw anything. I have upgraded to 1.1m and
gone through resets and still this menu utility doesn't funtion

Thanks again, John

Date: Friday, 9 July 1999
Subject: More on versions
Mike here: I hear that 1.2a will be coming out very soon. Stay tuned...

Subject:	 Autostar Tip
Sent:	Thursday, June 24, 1999 18:16:39
From:	sbaxter@gte.net (Sean Baxter)
For those thinking about upgrading their Autostar via the upgrade
software from Meade.  It has a com port bug.  I could not get the
software to see the Autostar.  Luckily I did not waist too much time on
the issue and called Meada.  Sure enough the software has a com port
search bug.  If there is a device on com 1 that is in use (like a fax
modem) if will fault on com 1 and fault on com 2 even though com 2 is
open and the Autostar is connected to it.

If you have the Autostar connected to com 1 you do not have to worry
about this problem.

To fix the com 2 problem, here is the Windows 95/98 registry hack:

                Edit value COMPORT and add COM 2  to the Value line.

Close Regedit, start Autotar Update program, should find Autostar on Com
2 and upload version 1.1m into Autostar.

I also found out today that the Comet and Minor planet download will not
be ready for another 2 months or so.  On the web site it looks like you
could download the data but nothing happens when you click on these


Subject:	 Comment on the FLASH RAM question
Sent:	Tuesday, June 8, 1999 22:39:06
From:	Meade Instruments Corp
Nice move to the new home.  I like weasner.com -- has a nice ring to it!

Here is a response to ~noah who asked about the RESET button and changes
in versions.

When you run the Autostar Update Utility to update your Autostar, you
are completely replacing the FLASH contents with new firmware.  So a
RESET will not return you to an earlier version.  Rather, a RESET  gives
you a way to "start over"!  If you get lost in the menus or accidentally
have kicked the power off, etc.

About the page 0 time to upload.
Once you have changed from 1.0c to 1.1m you have installed the "SAFE
LOADER" option.  The SAFE LOADER goes into an early page in the Autostar
FLASH memory, so that on power-on with the proper two buttons held down,
you will be in the "SAFE LOAD" mode.  Communicating serially with a host
of different computers and motherboards and COM cards and other things,
can be tedious to say the least.  The SAFE LOADER -- HAS TO BE WRITTEN
EARLY AND WITHOUT FAILING.  This is so that you will not have to send in
your Autostar if something goes wrong on future downloads.  Picture, as
an example, someone having a power failure (or hitting the power switch
accidentally while grabbing the scope base) during a download that has
only sent half of the firmware to the Autostar.  To recover from this,
you go to the SAFE LOAD mode and restart the download.  Of course you do
this when you are sure that the power is more stable and you are more
careful about placing your hand near the power switch. :^))  To be
certain that the SAFE LOAD firmware loads, the program uses a longer
delay between buffer transfers.  The program also uses a technique
called "polling" during this time to make sure that the data was
transferred correctly.  It takes about 6 minutes to complete this
upload.  Then the Autostar Update program will run at the delay rate
which is set in the registry.  Normally this is about 60 milliseconds.
This represents the time the program expects a full buffer transfer to
take.  At this rate the Autostar Update Utility is writing full pages of
data to the Autostar at a little under a page per minute.  Which means
that it takes about 15-18 minutes to load your Autostar.  After the SAFE
LOADER is installed you will not see the SAFE LOADER reloaded into
memory.  Since it is already there, only the Autostar.ROM, DBASE.ROM and
possibly the User.ROM file will be loaded.  This will take the 15-18

The 15-18 minutes of time may increase as new versions are released.
This is because the firmware does not use the entire memory of the
Autostar (we left room for expansion of the program/data).  As fixes and
enhancements come out it may take a longer time to upload the Autostar.
So the bad news is: it takes several minutes to load.  The good news is:
you only do it when there is a new version.

I hope this make things a little more clear.

Subject:	 AutoStar Version Question
Sent:	Thursday, June 3, 1999 9:32:37
From:	lpthomas@krell.com (Larry P. Thomas wa0gwa)
A friend of mine who works at a store that carries the AutoStar
indicated he just got a shipment of new AutoStar controllers with
software version 1.1j.  I indicated the only versions I knew of were
1.0c and the first publicly released upgrade of 1.1m.  Have you heard of
anything about other versions such 1.1j.

Thanks for great site.


 Larry P. Thomas    wa0gwa  voice : 1 913 888-0282
 Krell Technologies           fax : 1 913 782-9359
 8960 Bond                  pager : 1 816 989-HELP
 Overland Park, KS              www.krell.com 
 66214-1722    USA            lpthomas@krell.com

Sent: Friday, June 4, 1999 9:39:12
From: Meade Instruments Corporation
All version numbers march upward. The higher the number the later the release. The higher the letter in the alphabet the later the release. So 1.1j (which was out for about 1 week before 1.1m was released, if I remember correctly) is an earlier release than 1.1m. Some people had indicated on their WEB sites that there was no difference between 1.1j and 1.1m, but there were small differences, which do matter. They were similar releases, but 1.1m is the most current and the most correct.

There are two views in the world of software. One view says that you only release when you make major changes. The other says that you release when you have improved the product in anyway which will benefit a reasonable set of customers. Meade has traditionally taken the second point of view. If the change is beneficial to the some customers, even while seeming trivial to others, Meade will tend to release the updated software. This does mean that you will have more versions out there in the world. It also means that you will have access to the latest fixes as soon as practicable. Each view has its proponents and detractors. Each view has positives and negatives.

The release versions were/are:

1.0c == Original Autostar.ROM and DBASE.ROM sets which only included (I believe) the English version of the database. Anyway the translated Italian and Kanji hadn't been added. This version was also was the first version which did have several bugs, including bugs in motor tracking, bugs in the LX200 command emulation, etceteras. If you are running this version, PLEASE UPGRADE. You'll be much happier.

1.1j == First REAL update release of Autostar.ROM and DBASE.ROM. Included the SAFE LOAD mode, but did not contain some updates for the LX200 command emulation. Also had some minor fixes on some Autostar astronomical calculations and tables and data base information. I believe it included the Italian language modifications, but I could be wrong .

1.1m == Current release which contains better tracking, better LX200 command emulation, and a myriad of other fixes from 1.0c and 1.1j.

The next release will probably be 1.2a. As we say in the software world, "this will be released RSN" (Real Soon Now) and will also be incorporated into the newest production runs of the Autostar. The readme file accompanying the release on the Meade WEB site will contain the Autostar Update Tool. The Autostar Update Tool will also have a first complete release RSN. What is posted currently (as indicated in the readme file) is the pre-release tool to just do an upload. What is coming will allow you to obtain, edit and manipulate the Asteroid and Comet ephemerides as well as the Satellite Two-Line-Element (TLE) files. A subsequent release will also allow you to obtain, edit and manipulate TOURs of the evening sky. Neat stuff is on the way.

There has been some confusion about the 125 scope vs the 90 scope as well, and whether the Autostar will be different for the two telescopes. The 125 will use the same Autostar handbox. If you saw the 125 at RTMC, you saw it working with an Autostar running 1.1m. If you used the 90 at RTMC you were actually using 1.1o beta code. More changes are coming!

A special note to Mike's readers: Mike, of course, is on the preview and beta tester list of people. As soon as the beta is available, Mike will have a copy to review and comment on. He is also under the constraint that he not distribute the code, so don't bother asking him for it. Mike will be able to let you know more about what you will see in the near future. Stay tuned for exciting previews. - same bat time - same bat channel!

More information from Meade:
Users don't have to reload 1.1m unless they want the factory installed USER.ROM data. If you want to reset your site data and your Autostar, just do a RESET from the menu. This will force you to enter a site zero and the box should then know where it is again. It should also force the box to do a motor test.

Return to the top of this page.

Go back to the Autostar Information page.

Go back to the ETX Home Page.

Copyright ©1999 Michael L. Weasner / etx@me.com
Submittals are Copyright © 1999 by the Submitter
URL = http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_sw.html