Last updated 2012 Jan 6
Ordering information: Guide 9.0 costs $40, both for new orders and upgrades. There will be no charge for shipping/handling within the US and Canada, and a $5 charge outside those countries. You will receive a replicated Guide 9.0 DVD and a wire-bound user manual, and will be able to receive technical support for 90 days.
Note that the credit card order form says that Guide 9.0 costs $39, plus $1 shipping in the US/Canada and $6 for the rest of the world. It comes down to the same pricing, but I can't persuade the system to accept the idea of $0 shipping.
Click here for the order form for payment via cash, check, or money order.
What's new (relative to Guide 8.0): The biggest improvement came from the fact that the program and data are now distributed on DVD, instead of on the two CD-ROMs used for Guide 8.0. This provided about four GBytes of room; things were very packed with only 1.3 GBytes on two CDs. Of course, producing new DVDs also meant I could update all the datasets, many of which were showing signs of obsolescence. This meant:
• Much better star charts, more and better data about stars. In Guide 9.0, stars are drawn using the UCAC-3 catalog. Previously, all versions of Guide used the Hubble Guide Star Catalog (GSC). The GSC revolutionized astronomy when it was released in 1991, but it's showing its age. UCAC-3 has five times as many stars (about 100 million), with much more accurate positions and magnitudes.
For star charts, this means the charts actually match the sky much better than before. There are almost no spurious stars, and far fewer stars erroneously omitted from charts.
It also means that when you click on a star and ask for information about it, you get some color and proper motion data and cross-reference information that was simply unavailable from the GSC.
• Updated asteroid, comet, variable star, and DSO data: As mentioned above, star catalogs have improved greatly since Guide 8.0 was released. But also, tens of thousands of asteroids have been found, numbered, and/or named since the last Guide 8.0 CDs were pressed. Hundreds of comets have been found and variable stars added to catalogs. DSOs have not been as active, but Guide 9.0 uses the current versions of Wolfgang Steinicke's excellent NGC and IC datasets, which have become "perfect" enough over the years that corrections have become quite rare. The production of new disks has also given me the opportunity to update dozens of other lesser datasets.
• Greater ease of use: One drawback of the two-CD solution was that people tended to install the first disk, then completely ignore the second disk. The second disk had a lot of very useful things on it (a high-resolution lunar map, better planetary and asteroid ephemerides, etc.), but most people never saw them because dealing with two disks was a pain. Putting everything on one disk definitely makes things easier.
The software itself is not very different from the current Guide 8.0 software update. If you look at the link, though, you'll see that this means a long list of improvements relative to the originally-released Guide 8.0 software, with much better telescope control; access to many on-line databases released in recent years; a lot of improvements in accuracy; and a very long list of user interface improvements.
It must be admitted that you can get almost all of the software improvements just by downloading the updated Guide 8.0 (which I suggest you do, just to get a feel for some of what is in Guide 9.0). However, the only way to update all the datasets is with the new DVD.
System Requirements: Guide remains quite undemanding in its requirements. All Windows OSes from Windows 95 to Windows 7 are supported. If you install the entire program to your hard drive, it will consume about 4 GBytes. I am mindful that many people run Guide on elderly computers, and have striven to keep it fast and able to run with limited resources when needed.
The program can be run on Linux using the freely available Wine software; in fact, I did a lot of testing of Guide 9 this way, and several people have been running Guide 8 in Wine. I've heard from one user who is using Wine to run Guide 9 on Mac OS/X. There is some documentation on how to install Wine on OS/X (it's not a simple "click here to install" process, the way it is in Linux.) Of course, OS/X users have a variety of other (non-free) ways of running Windows applications under OS/X, such as Boot Camp and Parallels.
Licensing change: Previous versions of Guide had a "traditional" proprietary license. Guide 9.0 will be released under the GPL (General Public License). This means that you can copy the DVD freely (buy one copy, install everywhere, give it to friends, schools, etc.)
As is required under the GPL, all source code will be made available, though this will take a while. (Some of the source is available here. I have quite high standards for source code that is released to the public; I want it to give the impression that I'm a really good programmer. Much of the source needs to be better documented before it could give that impression to the world.)
Return policy: The Guide 9.0 DVD and manual can be returned for a full refund within 30 days.
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