Astrometric's smart-SkyWalker functional status

This site provides and introduction to, and status on, the present functionality of Astrometric Instrument's smart-SkyWalker products.

Last update: 21-June-2006

Contents of this web page:


Introduction to "smart-SkyWalker"

Smart-SkyWalker is the term used to describe the new line of SkyWalker telescope control systems that Astrometric Instruments is releasing. Smart-SkyWalker provides Windows XP and 2000 functionality, full "stand-alone" capability (i.e. no PC) with our up-coming HP2 handpaddle, and other advanced features over the old SkyWalker/SkyGuide combination.

The S-Box

The S-Box is an electronic accessory that that converts an existing SkyWalker-Servo, SkyWallker1 or SkyWalker2 into a smart-SkyWalker. The S-Box is a small unobtrusive "black box" that attaches in-line with SkyWalker's HP1 handpaddle. The S-Box has no displays, buttons or switches: only connectors.

Here is a picture of an S-Box connected to an old (non-smart) SkyWalker2.

Please see the Smart-SkyWalker in more detail section below for further information on what smart-SkyWalker is and how it functions.


Smart-SkyWalker products and shipping status

We have achieved a major milestone in that we are now shipping S-Box units in volume. This represents a big step forward for our product line as we move away from reliance upon a PC, running older versions of Microsoft Windows, to full stand-alone operation and/or support from all versions of Microsoft Windows.

The S-Box price is $325 + shipping as of 16-Feb-2011.

To order an S-Box, please send email to info@astrometric.com. We will contact you for payment information.

Note: the S-Box is being sold at cost. Why? Because S-Box customers have already invested in a SkyWalker system and largely need the S-Box to enable operation under WindowsXP. Of course, the S-Box enables much additional functionality as described below.


Smart-SkyWalker product support

We have updated our support web pages to include support for the S-Box (free firmware download) and our PC-based smart-SkyWalker Client software Maestro (free upgrade download) in addition to the preexisting support material for all SkyWalker models and our older SkyGuide software. These new support web pages include:

Of course, we will continue to support SkyGuide-based SkyWalker systems for those who choose to not upgrade with the S-Box.


Smart-SkyWalker in more detail

Smart-SkyWalkers are modularly designed where each SkyWalker has a "brain" that takes the smarts from the PC software (i.e. SkyGuide in previous generation SkyWalker systems) and puts it in hardware; specifically, in a hardware module called a UTC (Universal Telescope Control module). The UTC has a 32-bit RISC microprocessor along with ample up-gradable/up-dateable Flash memory (for code and database). There are various options including free PC control software (named Maestro), our standard HP1 handpaddle, our new HP2 handpaddle for stand-alone use, and the S-Box accessory that converts older SkyWalker/SkyGuide systems into smart-SkyWalker systems.

Here is a close-up of a UTC module.

The first smart-SkyWalker product, the S-Box, very straightforwardly graffs into an exsisting (older) SkyWalker. The S-Box has not switches or buttons: only connectors and status LEDs.

Here is a close-up of an S-Box.

The S-Box connections are as follows:

AutoGuider, HighDrive, Encoder and Motor connections are provided from the old SkyWalker identical to the way they are without an S-Box.

Other smart-SkyWalker options:

PC Control Software: Our SkyGuide Telescope Control System Software is replaced with a new program called Maestro. Maestro has many similarities to SkyGuide but many enhancements as well. As is the case with SkyGuide, Maestro is freeware with updates available for download from our support web page.

Here is a picture of Maestro and its Virtual Telescope display.

HP2: We will be offering a new handpaddle which we are calling HP2. It has an 8-line by 22-character display with numeric keypad and provides a PC-less interface (i.e. full stand-alone) to the new smart-SkyWalkers (or to old SkyWalkers with an S-Box). HP2 is optional for smart-SkyWalker system operation. One can instead use our existing (lower cost) HP1 handpaddle and a PC (running Maestro or other SkyWalker client software) to interface to smart-SkyWalker.

HP1: We will continue to offer our standard HP1 handpaddle as a lower cost alternative to the new HP2. With an HP1 and Maestro running on a Windows-base PC, a smart-SkyWalker system will be functionally similar to older SkyWalkers running with SkyGuide under Windows 95/98/ME.

If you own an old SkyWalker and want to make your system PC-less you will need an S-Box and a HP2.

If you own an old SkyWalker, and want your system to work with Windows 2000 or XP, you will need an S-Box and can continue to use your HP1 handpaddle. The HP2 handpaddle is only necessary for stand-alone operation.

If you purchase a new smart-SkyWalker (when they become available) and want to make your system PC-less you will need to substitute an HP2 for the standard HP1 that will continue to be, by default, shipped with smart-SkyWalkers. No S-Box is necessary with new smart-SkyWalker systems (as the UTC functionality is built-into them).


Functional enhancements in smart-SkyWalker (as compared to old SkyWalker/SkyGuide)


Smart-SkyWalker products beyond the S-Box

In the near term we will be refreshing the SkyWalker-Servo and SkyWalker1 models to include smart-SkyWalker functionality built-in. This is a high- priority item for us since all present SkyWalker models require an S-Box (added expense) to support smart-SkyWalker features.

After release of new (smart) SkyWalker models we will release our HP2 handpaddle.


Present list of SkyGuide features missing in latest (version 0.20.000) S-Box firmware or Maestro release (more/less in order they will be ported)

Note: pre-release versions of S-Box firmware and Maestro software are occasionally available from our firmware and software pre-release page.


Known problems with latest S-Box firmware (v.0.20.000)

Additional (minor) issues are listed in the SkyWalker firmware release notes on the Software Upgrades web page.


Known problems with latest Maestro (v.0.20.000)

Additional (minor) issues are listed in the Maestro release notes on the Software Upgrades web page.


Copyright 2004-2006 Astrometric Instruments, Inc.