SynGuider is a device mounted to your guide telescope/secondary telescope when your primary telescope is occupied by a camera taking long exposures. In the old days, astrophotographers did manual corrections through their alt-az knobs to correct drift-away issues by keeping a star centered in the cross-hair of their guiding telescope. Today, the appearance of autoguide devices is more and more common. You spend more time trying to perfect your exposures and camera techniques rather than thinking your mount will drift away causing blurry and egg-formed stars (star trails). The SynGuider does that job for you and does it also really good.
With software platforms constantly improving bugs (aka errors in the code) or by adding new features (aka functionalities) there’s the constant need to keep your equipment up-to-date to avoid falling behind with future updates as they come along, finding yourself perhaps in a situation where you can’t update anymore, either because the new update doesn’t support your current equipment, or because the software vendor is no longer making any backwards compatible software updates to cover the huge gap between versions. Software vendors are doing that primarily because of cost efficiency or the complexity in the software is too big to support big changes between the updates.
Sky-Watcher is adding from time to time some good features for their customers such as changes in their algorithms for backlash and drifting or when they want to support new peripherals such as WiFi devices for your mounts. These features are really good or must-have.
To update the firmware of your Sky-Watcher SynScan you’ll need the following components (see photo below)
- RJ-45 plug (included in the SynGuider package)
- Sky-Watcher’s SynGuider
- USB to Serial adapter (in case your computer/laptop doesn’t have a COM-port)
- Serial cable (included in the SynGuider package)
- Power cable
In case you lost your RJ-45 plug (item #1 in the photo above) there’s a chance you can create one yourself by looking for an electronics components vendor in your area. It’s nothing else but an 8-pin plug that connects the 1st with the 8th pin together to set SynGuider in programming mode for firmware updates.
For a USB to Serial adapter (item #3 in the photo above) can be found from any vendor online by googling around. The price ranges from a few bucks up to 25 USD.
If you don’t want to use your telescope power supply but rather a secondary power supply according to SynGuider specification it needs a DC 4.5V~14V, 150mA; a +5V power supply.
Now, the way to connect all that together is shown in the photo below.
- RJ-45 plug
- Serial cable that connects to your PC
- Power supply
Of course you’ll also need to download software to upload the new firmware version into your SynGuider. Sky-Watcher has a download session right here:
Within the SynGuider zip folder you’ll find a software called Phillips LPC2000 Flash Utility v2.2.3. That software is supported by Windows 10. I would assume of course that older operating systems (pre-Windows 10) would run it just fine. Before you start that software application make sure your USB to serial adapter is mapped in your Windows and which com # it was assigned. You can open up your device manager through, Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management (see photo below)
The Device Manager screen should tell you which com-port this adapter is mapped as. In my case it displays (COM1). You can of course assign another com port by double clicking and opening up the following screen
This screen is interesting because it tells which initial speed is supported by that device. In my case it’s 19,200 bits per second. That value is important when you check the settings in the Phillips LPC2000 software. If you want to change the COM port number just click the advanced button and the following screen shows up,
COM port # is the first option and can be changed. Now make sure you save your changes and open up your LPC2000 software.
The reason I’ve labeled the interface above is following,
- Make sure your firmware update file path (it has a “.hex” at the end of the file name) is browsed.
- This is the COM # you assigned at the previous stage.
- Make sure to uncheck the DTR/RTS option for reset.
- Bits per second speed would be the value we saw earlier from the device manager screens of your COM-ports.
- It is now time to initiate contact with SynGuider. Press the “Read Device ID”. When pressing that button a contact will be established between the software in your PC and your SynGuider. The values in the boxes around that button will be filled with information. The following message will popup,
- Make sure that option has been checked.
- Once read device ID is done, press “Upload to Flash” button
In the image above you’ll notice the progress bar starts moving displaying messages such as (Sending Data to RAM). If you receive an error message during the upload process, just press the “upload to flash” button again.
If that doesn’t help make sure to lower your “bits per second” option in the flash utility. High speeds in the data transfer can cause your SynGuider not being able to catch up with the transfer rate.
Finally when the upload is complete you’ll see the following message on the bottom left at the status bar,
Now, unplug the power from your SynGuider, the RJ-45 plug and the serial cable that connects to your PC. Connect your SynGuider hand control and the power supply again. Once your SynGuider has started browse in the menu for the option “RESET” and reset your SynGuider device. That will restart your SynGuider will the new firmware software.