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Interfacing hardware - n00b question
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Fabio Miguez



Joined: 06 Dec 2005
Posts: 73
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 8:24 am    Post subject: Interfacing hardware - n00b question Reply with quote

Gents,

Nice to meet you all. My first post here (minus a couple of answer posts on my first day in).

The name is Fabio Miguez. I am an instructor at FlightSafety Teterboro (Dassault Falconjet line-up), and also a Program Manager for the Falcon 900B, 900EX, and 900EX EASy. You would think that after an entire day at the office, the last thing I'd want to do when I get home is to think about, let alone use, another sim.

Well, you thought wrong.

For quite some time now I have been considering building a home cockpit. I have been browsing the net, ever increasingly, through places that involve hardware necessary for such an endeavour. I spent some time budgeting what I want to accomplish, and comparing vendors for all aspects of this hobby.

I am pretty much decided on a 737NG. This seems to be one of the aircraft that has the most parts available out there, be it the real ones (yokes, throttle quadrants, etc.), be it home-cockpit-purposed ones, a la FDS. Plus, I think the NG has a wicked combination of new technology, like the PFD and MFD, and old school, yokes and no fly-by-wire.

The reason for this post is two-fold. One is to formally introduce myself, as I believe I'll be frequenting this forum quite a bit. The other is to get some help (bad manners, really, already asking for help in my first message) in the subject I feel the least knowledgeable on: interfacing.

I see there are several options on interfacing the hardware you buy/build to a PC. I hear about Phidgets, OpenCockpits, EPIC, and FDS-G1. I absolutely understand the need for an interface card, to transmit the information from switches, potentiometers, etc., to the PC. What I don't quite understand is what happens when the information gets there.

I do know most of these cards seem to be connected via USB. That seems easy enough. But is there a software, then, that will capture this signal and translate it into either an FS command (i.e. turn the landing lights on) or to ProjectMagenta's pmSystems (i.e air conditioning packs are on)? I understand FSUIPC is part of this, but I am not sure exactly how the puzzle pieces match.

And what if I have, say, some in-house software to control whatever. Is there a software API for any of these interface cards so that I can integrate the signal into my software?

I know this is absolutely clear to most of you, but to me it is pretty misty still. I would most certainly appreciate any responses to this.

Since nothing is free in the world, I will reward anyone who responds to this thread with a sim ride any time they happen to be in or around New York City.

Well, thinking about it, it's not a very fair system, is it, as the rule is too generic. By what I wrote above, anyone who writes any response would get a sim ride. That's not fair to the people not responding. OK, time to make it fair for all.

For anyone that reads this, is interested in a sim ride, and happens to be around New York City, just get in touch with me and you will be flying a Falcon sim in no time. I have the privilege of controlling the schedule on three sims, and I like to share the joy. Keep in mind the sim is less used in the slots between 0hDarkHundred and OhDarkerHundred, so bring your coffee mug.

You can contact me at fabiomiguez AT gmail DOT com.

Best regards, nice to meet you, happy holidays, happy hanukkah, gesundheit, baba booey,
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Fabio Miguez
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VeeOne



Joined: 25 Jan 2004
Posts: 50
Location: Long Island, New York

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fabio,
Hey its Mike Leavy from LongIsland NY Wink Just stop by my house and take a look at my setup. Make more sense when you can actually see the stuff setup and working as opposed to reading about it. Besides i always wanted to turn the tables and see how you instructors can fly. your good at dishing out failures, lets see if you can take them Laughing

Mike Leavy
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Fabio Miguez



Joined: 06 Dec 2005
Posts: 73
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Mike Very Happy ,

Nice to see you here. So what are we looking at, double gen failure, baggage compartment fire, hydraulic #2 failure, topped off with an attitude-laden NY Area controller? No sweat, just another day at the office Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy .

What are you doing tomorrow?

Best regards,
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Fabio Miguez
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VeeOne



Joined: 25 Jan 2004
Posts: 50
Location: Long Island, New York

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hehe, Check and reduce the loads, tie the bus, put out that fire, turn on the standby pump and you got your airplane back Wink Ohh and im based and fly out of NY.. cant scare me with attitude Mad lol
Im actually flying back from California. Been here a few days and got together with Matt Ford of www.737sim.com and did some flying in his sim. Had lots of fun and he was kind enough to have us over pretty late. Funny, i never knew one of our flight attendants could fly that good. Should be around for a bunch of days starting tomorrow. Email me and we'll discuss.

Mike Leavy
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bwr014



Joined: 10 Mar 2004
Posts: 1064
Location: Netherlands

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Fabio,

Welcome, to answer your question about the interface i would suggest that you have a close look to the G1 for your MCP and for the rest maybe the systemboards of FDS. (as Peter mention as well in one of the topics in this Forum they are almost ready to bring out) They are also plug and play and seems like a very good solution for you as well.

gr.

Frans M
frans@flightdecksolutions.com
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RocketRod



Joined: 02 Jun 2005
Posts: 293
Location: Colorado Springs, CO

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fabio,
Welcome to the addiction!

Not to sound callous, but there are many, many posts here to just what you are talking about. I once read a thread that stated that if one read everything here, then there would possibly never be a need to ask a question. But given that, questions are good, very good. I am glad one of the first things you did was decide on a budget. I think that is as equally important as to what you want to build. So it does look as though you have read many threads on interfacing, and you are on the right track. Don't worry that you don't have everything crystal clear today, as the longer you hang out and interface with the great bunch here, you will pick it up. Good luck on your build. There are many excellent builders here, just waiting to help.
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Rodney

737NG Pit Builder
Some Assembly Required
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Fred



Joined: 15 Mar 2005
Posts: 150

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Fabio -

I'm located near Morristown NJ (Morris Plains). See the separate e-mail that I sent to you with some details and pix of my 737NG project. You are more than welcome to visit.

Fred
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Fabio Miguez



Joined: 06 Dec 2005
Posts: 73
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@ Rodney: Thanks for the encouraging reply, I can just start to see the foot of the mountain I am about to start climbing. But hey, getting there is half the fun, right? I did read several threads in here, spent this last week looking at posts. But my question was never clearly answered by any, since they were usualyl ina bit higher level.

I am not claiming I looked at even a 10th of the posts in here, once in a while I do have to show up at work SmileSmileSmile. But I did read a lot on it, I was mainly just looking for that missing piece of info, the "Where does the data go once it reaches the computer?" bit. Is there a vendor software that interprets that and then send it to FSUIPC or custom software? Meaning, FSUIPC itself is not looking for these external signals, so I am assuming there is a middleware there between the USB port and FSUIPC, right? And if so, is this a general software, or specific to the board you use?

@Fred: Thanks Fred, I did reply to your e-mail, let's set something up!

Thanks all for the warm welcome!

Best regards,
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mauriceb



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 1051
Location: Gravenhurst, Ontario - Canada

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 3:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Interfacing hardware - n00b question Reply with quote

Fabio Miguez wrote:
Gents,

I see there are several options on interfacing the hardware you buy/build to a PC. I hear about Phidgets, OpenCockpits, EPIC, and FDS-G1. I absolutely understand the need for an interface card, to transmit the information from switches, potentiometers, etc., to the PC. What I don't quite understand is what happens when the information gets there.

I do know most of these cards seem to be connected via USB. That seems easy enough. But is there a software, then, that will capture this signal and translate it into either an FS command (i.e. turn the landing lights on) or to ProjectMagenta's pmSystems (i.e air conditioning packs are on)? I understand FSUIPC is part of this, but I am not sure exactly how the puzzle pieces match.

And what if I have, say, some in-house software to control whatever. Is there a software API for any of these interface cards so that I can integrate the signal into my software?

I know this is absolutely clear to most of you, but to me it is pretty misty still. I would most certainly appreciate any responses to this.


Hi Fabio,

I feel your pain. I too am relatively new to flight deck construction & I too hope to end up with a 737 flight deck, although Iím not yet as purist as some builders who insist on absolute likeness to a real cockpit. I would be happy (for now anyway) with a reasonable facsimile, although I too am becoming more picky as time goes on J

Anyway, I also was totally puzzled by the interfacing part of things when I started, especially when I was reading about EPIC, FSBUS and the like. And what the heck was a FSUIPC offset anyway. I read many explanations, but until I actually saw a demonstration, nothing made much sense to me, and I have a previous electronic background.
Now for the good news. There a few things you can do which will let you have a quantum leap in understanding what this all means. The key is to understand more about FSUIPC offsets and how you use them to make things happen. But first, a really simple explanation about FSUIPC offsets. Further down, I will explain how you can do a simple (& cheap) experiment which will demonstrate that to you. Please note that my explanation may be over simplified, but it really helped me understand the whole process and it may help you too.

When anything happens in Microsoft FS9, it is usually the result of some change in the digital value (zeroís and oneís) of a particular memory location. For instance, to lower the gear, the FS9 program may need to change one bit inside a memory location, i.e. it might change the value from 01000101 to 01000100 for instance. The program then interprets that change & lowers the gear. The reason it is called a memory offset as opposed to a simple memory location is that the starting point of the memory range where the program is located is not fixed and depends on several things. The good news is, you donít have to worry about it. FSUIPC takes care of that and translates a particular offset into a real memory location where that variable value is located.

Now for the fun part. You can download a free program from Peter Dowsonís home page which will let you experiment and change memory offsets and see the results on the screen. It may sound very lame, but I got really excited when I changed a value from 0 to 1 and saw a switch move on the FS9 screen without touching the keyboard. This was a Ďeurekaí moment for me. The program in question is FSInterrogate which is part of the FSUIPC Software Development Kit (FSUIPC SDK 26th ) & is available at the following location: http://www.schiratti.com/dowson.html . With this program, you can examine memory offsets & change some to see the effect it has on FS9. The SDK is free but you will of course also need the registered version of FSUIPC.

This is all very good, but how do you interface real switches to FS9. One way is to use keyboard encoders which basically let switches send the same combination of bits to FS9 than the real keyboard does. But it gets more complicated when you want to integrate lights, instruments, controls etc to FS9. Luckily, things have gotten much more simple lately with the introduction of easy interface solutions such as those from FDS, Phidgets and others which simply plug in to your computer with a USB interface cable

I would highly recommend to you that you buy a fairly cheap interface board from Phidgets, a few switches & Ledís and see how easily the Phidgets software which is free to download from their website lets you interface lights, switches etc and see the results either on the FS9 screen or on the hardware such as lights that you have connected to the interface board. There is lots of good info in their website: http://www.phidgetsusa.com/fs/cockpit_simulators.asp

Anyway, I have rambled long enough & Iím sure others have found their own way to understand all this. I just thought I could save you some time & grief by telling you what I found to be very useful to me. Hope it does the same for you if you try it.

Regards & good luck,
Maurice
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Fabio Miguez



Joined: 06 Dec 2005
Posts: 73
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Maurice,

Thanks for the needed info. I now have a much better idea of how FSUIPC works, as well as Phidgets. So there is a host, vendor-made program that receives the signal from the hardware (FS2Phidgets, in that case), and uses FSUIPC to change/move that parameter in FS, right? Think I'm getting the hang of this.

This means each of these IO cards that are mentioned here would have their own host software that interfaces with FS via FSUIPC, right?

Thanks again, very nicely written.
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warvet



Joined: 15 May 2004
Posts: 1298

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fabio,
Welcome to the forum and the cockpit building insanity, if you need a deeper understanding of FSUIPC and offsets etc you can go to Peter Dowson's page http://forums.simflight.com/viewforum.php?f=54 and ask all kinds of questions with a very clear response. Additionally you can contact Dan at Phidgets www.phidgets.com and inquire as to their I/O boards and last definitely not least you can speak to Peter Cos who is a wealth of knowledge or any of the computer brainiacs in here Frans, Stef, Chris just to name a few. Good luck.
By the way don't ask me nothing lol cause all I know how to do is overspend and I only come here for the free coffee and titilating converstation Very Happy Wink

Tim
A340
Canada
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Fabio Miguez



Joined: 06 Dec 2005
Posts: 73
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Tim, nice to meet you, and roger that, will use that info and check out the FSUIPC forum.

Hmmmmmm, coffee, good idea Smile.

Best regards,
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mauriceb



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 1051
Location: Gravenhurst, Ontario - Canada

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WARVET wrote:
Fabio,

By the way don't ask me nothing lol cause all I know how to do is overspend and I only come here for the free coffee and titilating converstation Very Happy Wink
Tim
A340
Canada


Not to mention the free insults & put-downs (to Boeing drivers) which you so freely dole out Laughing Laughing

Maurice
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mauriceb



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 1051
Location: Gravenhurst, Ontario - Canada

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fabio Miguez wrote:
Hey Maurice,

Thanks for the needed info. I now have a much better idea of how FSUIPC works, as well as Phidgets. So there is a host, vendor-made program that receives the signal from the hardware (FS2Phidgets, in that case), and uses FSUIPC to change/move that parameter in FS, right? Think I'm getting the hang of this.

This means each of these IO cards that are mentioned here would have their own host software that interfaces with FS via FSUIPC, right?

Thanks again, very nicely written.


You pretty much got it. However, not all IO cards makers supply the software. I know that Phidgets does and in some cases, all you need is a USB interface like in the case of the FDS CDU for instance. You just plug it in the USB port and it is recognized by the PC & the Project Magenta software. After that, the PM software is able to send & receive to the CDU and it works great. Could not be any simpler.

However, if you went the EPIC way, then you'd better be good at programming in VB or other language if I'm not mistaken..

Maurice
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warvet



Joined: 15 May 2004
Posts: 1298

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Not to mention the free insults & put-downs (to Boeing drivers) which you so freely dole out

NOOOOOOOOOO not me Maurice Embarassed lol Very Happy Very Happy I love you guys you know that Twisted Evil hehe

Tim
A340
Canada
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