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Topics - TCWORLD

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Hi All,

Just a heads up on another false positive detection of the AstroEQ configuration utility. A few days ago Norton Internet Security started detecting the configuration utility and classifying it under a generic Trojan category (Trojan.Gen.6).

I've reported this to Symantec, and they have confirmed that it is a false positive. The detection should be removed in the next round of live update definitions.

Kind Regards,

Hi All,

There were some changes in the way EQMOD talks to mounts starting in EQMOD V2.00, specifically in that some new commands were added.

As a result of these changes, there are times when EQMOD may unintentionally put AstroEQ into programming mode, causing either connection issues, or corruption to the EEPROM.

I am working on a new firmware release to rectify the issue (should be done in a couple of days). For updates, see here: https://github.com/TCWORLD/AstroEQ/issues/24

Until then, I would advise sticking to EQMOD V1.29.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused by this.

Kind Regards,

General Discussion / AstroEQ 8.11 Released
« on: February 03, 2018, 12:26:40 »
Hi All,

I've now released V8.11 of the AstroEQ firmware and V3.8.2 of the configuration utility.

You can download the release from the downloads page. You can also click the check for new firmware button in the configuration utility, though that will prompt you to download from the link above as the new version of the configuration utility is required.

The configuration utility will no longer request elevated (admin) rights to run so you will no longer be prompted by UAC. I finally tracked down what was causing windows to think that admin rights were required - stupidly it was because the work "Update" appears in the EXE manifest! I've modified the manifest to tell Windows that admin rights are not required.

Thanks also to all those that participated in the beta testing, it's been very helpful getting your feedback :).

Kind Regards,

Beta Firmware Releases / [Completed] AstroEQ 8.11(beta) Release
« on: October 16, 2017, 22:53:15 »
This has now been released. Available from the downloads page.


I'm preparing a new release of the AstroEQ firmware. Changes as follows:

  • Fix major mistake in :f command handling - this should fix most INDIlib issues.
  • Add support for TMC2100 (untested)
  • Correct one of the DRV8825 microstep modes - this is probably why some were facing issues with the 8.03 release.
  • Change configuration structure to include version number and CRC - this should help with future changes

Config Utility:
  • Better handling of old or broken EEPROM data - Fixes an issue with upgrading from pre V8 firmwares (https://www.astroeq.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,226.0.html)
  • Handling of new config structure - will automatically update V8.x to new structure (reversible if downgrading from beta)
  • Include options for TMC2100 Driver

The beta version is attached to this post - both for Windows (AstroEQUploader3.8(beta).zip) and for Debian Linux (astroequploader-3.8.0.zip).

If you are not in the middle of Astronomy stuff and could spare a moment to test that the new firmware works correctly with your mount, that would be great. If all goes according to plan you shouldn't notice any difference with your AstroEQ.

Update (19/10/2017)

I've uploaded a new version (attached). Found a major mistake when tracking down issues with INDILib.

Note for downgrading

The V8.10 firmware uses a slightly modified EEPROM structure. The changes have been designed to be as minimal as possible (only to header). As such downgrading is possible.
When you downgrade with the current release version of the config utility (3.7.3), upload the firmware and then it will detect the EEPROM as corrupt. Continue to the next step which will attempt to repair it. Once this step is complete and you get to the configuration screen, close the configuration utility. The EEPROM structure will now be back to how it was as functional.

General Discussion / AstroEQ Firmware V8.0 Released
« on: April 21, 2017, 14:51:28 »
Hi All,

It's taken a while, and it's a year later than I had planned, but I've now released V8.0 of the AstroEQ firmware.

You can download the release from the downloads page. You can also click the check for new firmware button in the configuration utility, though that will prompt you to download from the link above as the new version of the configuration utility is required.

I have also updated the tutorial on using the configuration utility to include more information about the various new settings in the utility. If you are unsure of what anything does, hopefully that tutorial should answer some of your questions.

Thanks also to all those that participated in the beta testing, it's been very helpful getting your feedback :).

Kind Regards,

Hardware Development / AstroEQ Basic Hand Controllers
« on: April 10, 2017, 01:13:55 »

So many of you by now have seen me mentioning hand controllers for the AstroEQ. Supported with the release of the V8.0 Beta firmware, and using the hardware added in the V4.6 AstroEQs, I am in the process of developing two different hand controllers to allow the AstroEQ to be used without a PC connection.

The first of these, and the only one currently developed, is the Basic hand controller. The idea behind this design is to allow very simply control over the AstroEQ when you don't need the full go-to capabilities. This will allow you to drive the mount in a completely standalone fashion with no PC connection needed at all. It consists of four push buttons for NESW, and a fifth button to select between one of three different speeds (ST-4 speed, 2x speed, and GoTo speed).

I have just finished building the first prototype, a photo of which is below. I am making use of a 5-button key fob style case as they are very cheap (2 each) and already have five nice conductive rubber push buttons. To facilitate the three speed selections, inside the fob there is actually a small 6-pin microcontroller (ATTiny10) which is powered entirely from the pull-up resistors on the ST-4 lines meaning that no external power supply is needed.

The MCU (the software for which is with a whopping 82 bytes!) is required to allow the fifth push button to select between three different speed states by driving the control pin in a specific way - shorting to GND is one speed, connecting to GND via a 2k resistor is a second, and floating the control line a third. A low voltage LED in series with the control line allows for an indication of speed based on how bright the LED is.

It is also possible to build your own version, however I would not recommend the fob case as the circuitry requires quite a few very tiny SMD parts.

Instead I would recommend using simple tactile switches and a slide switch for speed. Below is a schematic of the simpler version of the hand controller. The only parts required are 4x tactile switches (push buttons) of your choice, 4x 10nF capacitors for debouncing, 1x 3.9kOhm resistor, and 1x SP3T slide switch (or similar).

The speed selection switch selects (from left to right in the diagram): ST-4 speed, 2x speed, and Go-To speed.

In terms of functionality, the four push buttons are used to select the direction (you can press an RA and DEC button at the same time) and the slide switch selects the speed. When the switch selects ST-4 speed or 2x speed, the mount will also be set to do Sidereal Tracking. When you select the Go-To speed, the mount will not perform any sidereal tracking.

The speed modes were chosen so that if you unplug the hand controller, the mount will stop moving because the speed pin will float.

Additionally, when doing Sidereal Tracking, the speeds are relative to the sidereal rate. For example at 2x speed, the mount will move 2x speed in DEC+ and DEC- directions, 1x speed in the RA- direction, and 3x speed in the RA+ direction. In other words, the speeds are the rate at which the stars move, not the mount.

When the hand controller is first plugged in, you must select ST-4 speed in order for it to be detected - selecting any other speed will not force the AstroEQ into standalone mode.

The basic hand controller requires the V8.0 beta firmware, and also an AstroEQ with a V4.6 hardware revision. If you have a V4.5 or V4.4 mount, it will be possible to add support however it will require a simple hardware modification. I will write up details on the required hardware modification in a tutorial.

I will publish a tutorial at a later date on the basic hand controller design and operation. In the mean time, if you need any clarification, please post in this thread.

I hope this will be a welcome addition to the AstroEQ controller - I know a few of you have been missing this most basic of functionality.

Kind Regards,

AstroEQ Availability / ICs/PCB Availability [Currently Available]
« on: March 25, 2017, 14:34:22 »

The next batch of PCBs have finally arrived.

I am currently waiting on delivery of the ICs. Microchip recons an ETA of 1st April for delivery. Once those turn up I will be accepting IC/PCB orders again.

Due however to the weakness of the pound thanks to Brexit, and despite the fact that I purchase the ICs in bulk, I am going to have the increase the price slightly from 6 to 6.50 for the ICs. In QTY 100 and ordered direct from Microchip, the two ICs alone cost ~6.38. I never like putting the cost up, but I hope you understand the necessity.

I am working on improving the AstroEQ purchase page at the moment, so please bear with me.

Kind Regards,

General Discussion / AstroEQ Birthday
« on: February 01, 2016, 05:58:15 »
Hi all,

Towards the end of last year the 100th AstroEQ was sold (since then another 15 have been sold). I had intended to make this post then, but was so busy I didn't get a chance. But I will make the post today as AstroEQ has reached its 4th birthday.

Looking back I wasn't actually sure of the exact date that AstroEQ came into being. The earliest forum post I can find on the matter was to the EQMOD Yahoo! group on 19th Jan when I was just starting to play with building the synta protocol decoder. It was over the next couple of weeks that I built the very first firmware version - still have a copy of it, and I can say for certain it's come along way since then.

The first trial of the early AstroEQ - which was nothing more than a bodged together home-made PCB at that point - was February 1st 2012. I was out in the garden that afternoon trying to set up the mount with EQMOD and see if I could track the moon. I seem to recall having no success at all with the tracking - in fact I'm pretty sure nothing in the motor department was working correctly! Anyway, took a photo of the moon regardless which is on AstroBin. Not a great photo, but that wasn't why I was out there.

It wasn't until about November 1st 2012 that the controller started to take shape - there were many prototypes and firmware revisions in the mean time, but I'll skip over all those to try and keep this post short. That was when I design the first board to fit in an enclosure (the same one still used today). I have Alex (@ASJ) over on AstronomyShed to thank for choosing the case - in fact I seem to recall he also found the Pololu driver boards that I use (the first few prototypes were hand soldered SMDs!). But anyway.

Just thought I would give a quick history to celebrate AstroEQs 4th birthday.

Also, given how many have sold, I was curious to look back at where in the world they have all gone, so I produced a rough map.

There are still 18 missing from that map as I can't find the locations (they predate the AstroEQ website). But as a rough map it is quite interesting. Lots to the UK as you would expect, but also quite a few to Canada, Germany, Australia, and more recently a fair few to the US. One even made it as far as Ascension Island! Currently there are AstroEQs on 5 continents, although it can be claimed 6 continents as Ascension Island is considered part of the African continent. Only and Antarctica to go :).

Anyway, that concludes my ramblings :)

Kind Regards,

Beta Firmware Releases / [Completed] AstroEQ 8.0.3(beta)
« on: January 09, 2016, 16:54:30 »
Version 8.0 of the AstroEQ firmware has now been released. Thanks to those that took part in the beta testing, you've been a great help.

Hi All,

I am currently working on a new AstroEQ Firmware release.

The following features have been changed/added to the firmware:
  • Added support for DRV8834 Low Voltage Driver boards
  • Rewrite of ST4 code for better performance (V8.0)
  • Added standalone mode for using the ST4 port without EQMOD (complete in V8.0)
  • Optimisations to motor routines to better support higher resolution mounts
  • General tidy up of source code for better readability
  • Major rewrite of motor routines - now in C rather than assembly
  • New Acceleration/Deceleration Routines - provides a much smoother, linear ramp
  • Option to disable "Gear Change" when performing high speed movements

The following changes have been made to the configuration utility
  • Reduced the window size of the Config Utility to now work with a minimum screen size of 800x600
  • Add ability to tab between fields on the config screen
  • Add ability to paste from clipboard into config fields, and copy contents of fields to clipboard
  • Fixed bug preventing Config Utility loading on some PCs

The new firmware and configuration utility is attached to this post.

The configuration utility and AstroEQ firmware are not backward compatible with the previous firmware and utility. Make sure you save your current configuration using the old config utility before upgrading to the beta firmware. After the beta firmware is uploaded the EEPROM structure is different which will result in older versions of the config utility reporting that the EEPROM is blank or corrupt. You will be able to downgrade to an earlier version, however you will need to re-enter your mount configuration.

It would be very useful if I can get some folks here to test out the firmware with their mount configurations to make sure the firmware works correctly before I officially release it.

Also if there are any more bugs fixes/features you want to request, I'll see if there is time to include them here.

General Discussion / Case Stickers
« on: December 13, 2015, 00:13:25 »
It's become apparent that the stickers on the AstroEQ case are not holding up very well. The most recent few (one's sent since September-ish) seem to be particularly bad, curling up at the edges. This didn't seem to happen originally (or not that I have seen), and so I think the people who supply them must have changed their process or something.

Anyway, given that the sticker on the test controller I have been playing around with looks pretty terrible now, I am looking at changing the type of labels used. The metallic version number stickers seem to be holding up much better than the vinyl stickers, so based on that I have ordered a new batch of stickers that use the metallic material as the base.

Once these stickers have arrived, and if they perform a much better job than the original vinyl ones, I am planning to make them available as replacements free of charge to people who have purchased an AstroEQ from me, and for whom the sticker on the case has become a complete mess - especially likely for those who have placed an order recently. Please note that the stickers I am getting printed are for Version 4.5 controllers, but if necessary I can order some for Version 4.4 as well. Unfortunately, because the position of the holes and labels has changed as I have refined the case design, the artwork doesn't suit the older controller versions (4.3 and lower). I have made regular file backups over the years, so it is possible that I can find an older version of the artwork in a backup somewhere, but no promises there.

I feel I should apologise for the look of the stickers, originally they seemed to be of quite high quality, but that turns out not to be the case.

General Discussion / Forum Update
« on: November 22, 2015, 15:50:57 »
Hi all,

I've updated the forum to the latest version of SMF. If you find any issues, let me know. Everything went smoothly so I don't think there should be any issues.

I've also manually fixed something in one of the script files that was causing weird script errors in IE when trying to write posts.


General Discussion / Mark Topic as Solved
« on: May 12, 2015, 16:26:05 »
Hi All,

I've added a new feature to the AstroEQ forum, the ability to mark a topic as solved.

There are lots of threads discussing problems that have been faced (e.g. overheating, etc.). This is fine, in fact it is what the forum is here for. But for those coming to the forum for help, I feel it would be helpful if those topics where a specific problem has been resolved, it would be useful for reference if they were marked as such.

If those who have posted threads in which the question has been solved could visit their threads and mark them as solved, that would be great. This is done using the 'Topic Solved' button in your thread:

This will mark the topic with a friendly Tick mark in the thread list:

Forum Admin.

General Discussion / MOVED: Overheating.
« on: May 12, 2015, 16:22:49 »

General Discussion / Forum Down Time
« on: March 24, 2015, 02:52:40 »
Hi All,

I have noticed that from time to time the forum becomes inaccessible - giving a 500 Server Error. I am not entirely sure what is causing this. Hopefully I can find the cause and solution.
Until then, if you find you cannot access the forum, don't worry it's still here. Just give it 20 minutes or so and try again. It seems to come back by itself after a while.


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