Saturday, December 17, 2011

Problem connecting Meade LX200 to a computer

I spent a lot of time over the past two weeks trying to connect my HP Windows 7 netbook computer to my Meade LX200 telescope. Nothing I tried worked.

Then I posted a desperate cry for help on two forums (Stargazers Lounge and Cloudy Nights), emailed Tim Crawford (he's a mentor for the AAVSO), and emailed Paul Rodman, the creator of the AstroPlanner software I wanted to use.

Tim didn't have the answer, but he contacted other AAVSO members to ask if they had a solution. Similarly, Paul did not have the answer, but he posted my problem on the AstroPlanner Yahoo Group site.

The response from all of these sources was overwhelming. It's hard to diagnose this type of problem over the internet, but I got dozens of ideas from a lot of people.

As an aside, it is exciting to find how "connected" we are as amateur astronomers. I don't know anyone locally involved in astronomy, but I suddenly had lots of smart people helping me solve my problem, from around the world.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand. It was suggested that either Windows 7 was the problem, or my Meade USB/Serial adapter was the problem, or both. (Note: If the Meade adapter is the problem, I also had a problem with a Gigaware adapter previously. Some people told me Meade has sent out some bad adapters in the past year or so. Some of the testing I have planned next will help me figure out if I got a bad one.)

One person suggested I try using a computer with a serial port, to eliminate any complication or problem caused by the USB/Serial adapter. My netbook does not have a serial port, but I have an older computer that runs Windows XP and does have a serial port. Using that computer lets me bypass two potential problems, the USB adapter and Windows 7. So I set up AstroPlanner on it and hooked it up to my telescope and it works perfectly. Sometimes you can’t see the stars for the sun.

I don’t want to use that old computer for astronomy, but will if it is all I’ve got that works. So I am following up on other tips people offered to try and get my newer netbook with Windows 7 & USB working.

This includes getting a different adapter. Before reaching a solution this morning, I ordered the Keyspan USB/Serial adapter some recommended. It also means checking the cable wiring. In addition to needing a USB/Serial adapter if your computer doesn't have a serial port, you need another type of adapter, one that converts an RS232 port to a serial port. I got mine from SoftwareBisque, and it works properly.

Now instead of having a bunch of variable stars programmed in my hand controller, I can use the computer to more easily pick out and move to appropriate variables any time.

I will report back in a week or two to let you know how (or if) I got the Windows 7 computer with USB working. My next set of tests should also let me know if the problem I was having is the result of a faulty Meade adapter or a Windows 7 problem.

1 comment:

Please comment - there's lots of room - after all, "The universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest." (Kilgore Trout)