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  1. #1
    150+ Forum Groupie Drewsta's Avatar
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    Thumbs up New to IO cards etc

    Hey guys, I'm looking at building my sim soon and have been researching for months now on different areas. The part I'm not real clear on yet is adding switched and perhaps rotary knobs to the cockpit. What is the easiest way to connect switches etc to the cockpit? Epic cards, Hagstrom electronics cards and keyboard emulators are all mentioned but I'm not sure what would be the easiest and maybe cheapest way to go? All I am after is a few momentary switches, toggle switches and some knobs to activate ALT select,VS select, Radios, Gps, Lights etc. Rather than buy expensive all in one go flight modules (which are great), I was thinking of displaying radios on a screen and have them operated by rotary knobs etc. I have seen countless different cockpits where this has been used and is probably common knowledge to alot of you these days. Thanks in advance for any advice.

  2. #2
    Boeing 777 Builder


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    Drewsta,

    Research, research, research! Then when you've got it all sorted hold your hand over your eyes and point your finger. Where it lands on your choices is the one you should use

    But seriously, my opening line is true, you can't do enough research. In the end it will come down to what suits your situation and capabilities. If you're only needing momentary contact switches (i.e. not permanent ON switches) then a joystick controller will do fine. But if you want to get serious (and it sounds like you do) then you'll need some sort of custom interface board. For a no fuss buy and install some here swear by Simboards. I went Open Cockpit as they are very cheap but powerful and offered a kit form to build yourself. This saved more money but does depend on your electronics skills. Others use Phidgets which are a bit like Opencockpit hardware I believe. Then there are Hagstrom, BetaInnovations, Epic (not sure whether they've folded now though).

    I would start by looking at all the cockpits you can and see what they've used and how they used them, then assess your own electronics capabilities and finally your budget and see what you come up with. That's what everyone else here has done (is still doing!).

    Good luck,

    Ken.
    Opencockpits | Aerosim Solutions | Sim-Avionics | P3D | FDS | FTX | AS16 | PPL | Kennair


  3. #3
    300+ Forum Addict jmig's Avatar
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    Hi Drewsta! As Ken said you have a lot of choices. You may want to consider on of the inexpensive A/D boards. These board give you anywhere from four to eight analog connections for pots (read joysticks, throttles, etc.) and a series of switch inputs.

    Most of them work on a matrices so you will need to solder a diode to each wire coming from the positive side of the switch to stop ghosting, or getting contact from more than one switch at a time.

    BetaInnovations' Plasma series are good cards. http://www.betainnovations.com/

    Just be aware that Leo doesn't support FSX or FSUIPC.


    Leo Bodnar makes several cards that have gotten praise. In fact I just ordered on of his controllor cards to test. He said his cards are supported by FSUIPC. He offers 32 switches and 8 axes.

    http://www.leobodnar.com/products/BU0836/

    Another easy card to use for hocking up buttons and switches is the USB Axes card by Opencockpits. It offer about 24 switches and 5 axes.

    http://www.opencockpits.com

    There are keyboard emmenators (sp?) which allow you to hook up switches like on a keyboard. However, I find the axes cards with the A/Ds to be a better deal. You can never have too many axes available.

    BTW - Opencockpits does have a USB keyboard card. I have one for an Up Front Control Panel (UFCP) I plan on building someday. I haven't used it yet, however.

    I hope this helps.

    John
    John

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  4. #4
    10+ Posting Member xCav8r's Avatar
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    I'm new to cockpit building too, and my head is spinning with all the options for I/O cards out there. I've been researching for a while, but the more I read, the more questions I have. I've been leaning toward the cards from Open Cockpits, but I've also thought of ordering something simpler just to get me started. The cards from Beta Innovations and Leo Bodnar look like they fit that bill. Only, I don't want to regret that I didn't go with something that was going to meet my long term wants better. Perhaps you can offer me some advice?

    My ultimate goal is a multi-functional cockpit: multiple planes, multiple games, multiple game-genres. Some of these games have limited support for game controllers, so I'm looking for advice on cards that will give me the flexibility to use any analog input for any game.

    Let me give you an example. MechWarrior 3 is a game that only supports a single game controller, and you can't choose the game controller that it uses. When multiple controllers are plugged into the computer, they seem to be ordered in windows by some immutable (vendor) ID, and MechWarrior 3 always uses whatever is at the top of the list. If I end up with a bunch of controller cards managing my analog axes for things like my throttles, pedals, control stick, etc., I won't be able to use all of my stuff for this game.

    I've read about different cards (or systems of interlinked cards) supporting more than eight axes, but I always heard that there was a limit imposed by Windows of eight axes per game controller and 16 game controllers total. I assume there is some truth to that, but I don't know if it's dependent on the operating system or that some I/O cards have figured out a work around. FSBus, for example, seems to support 32 analog inputs. This just confuses me.

    I guess my ideal situation would be to take all of my controls and present them to the computer as a single controller. This would give me the most flexibility when it comes to supporting different games. Is there something that can do this?

  5. #5
    300+ Forum Addict jmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xCav8r View Post
    I'm new to cockpit building too, and my head is spinning with all the options for I/O cards out there. I've been researching for a while, but the more I read, the more questions I have. I've been leaning toward the cards from Open Cockpits, but I've also thought of ordering something simpler just to get me started. The cards from Beta Innovations and Leo Bodnar look like they fit that bill. Only, I don't want to regret that I didn't go with something that was going to meet my long term wants better. Perhaps you can offer me some advice?

    My ultimate goal is a multi-functional cockpit: multiple planes, multiple games, multiple game-genres. Some of these games have limited support for game controllers, so I'm looking for advice on cards that will give me the flexibility to use any analog input for any game.

    Let me give you an example. MechWarrior 3 is a game that only supports a single game controller, and you can't choose the game controller that it uses. When multiple controllers are plugged into the computer, they seem to be ordered in windows by some immutable (vendor) ID, and MechWarrior 3 always uses whatever is at the top of the list. If I end up with a bunch of controller cards managing my analog axes for things like my throttles, pedals, control stick, etc., I won't be able to use all of my stuff for this game.

    I've read about different cards (or systems of interlinked cards) supporting more than eight axes, but I always heard that there was a limit imposed by Windows of eight axes per game controller and 16 game controllers total. I assume there is some truth to that, but I don't know if it's dependent on the operating system or that some I/O cards have figured out a work around. FSBus, for example, seems to support 32 analog inputs. This just confuses me.

    I guess my ideal situation would be to take all of my controls and present them to the computer as a single controller. This would give me the most flexibility when it comes to supporting different games. Is there something that can do this?
    Any of the USA analog cards you mentioned above will work with Windows. If your game recognizes windows game controllers, it will allow these cards to work with analog inputs.

    Where you will run into problems is the buttons that control, say the flaps. Different games may use different keyboard combination for flap control. Any I/O card can only use one set of keyboard combinations at a time. A work around is to have a series of config/ini files. You would make and use one config file for each game.

    Most I/O cards made for flight sims are optimized for either MSFS and/or X-Plane. Beta Innovations works with Falcon 4 and race car games. This means that some more advanced function of say, MechWarrior may not work through the card, unless MechWarrior provides a program to utialize the card.

    If I wanted to make a set up that would cover many games I would use an analog I/O card for my controls (this isn't needed if you use a commercial joystick/throttle/rudders) and a USB keyboard card. This card will allow you to reprogram your non-joystick buttons to imitate keystroke combinations. This is the card where you may want to have several config files.

    I hope this helps and doesn't add to the confusion.
    John

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    Intel Q9550 O/C to 3.4 GHz
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  6. #6
    Boeing 777 Builder


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    Hi xCav8r,

    Trying to build a system to run many games will always present challenges. It's hard enough just to cater for FS let alone other non-FS games. FSUIPC caters for FS by giving you the ability to setup different controllers for different aircraft. As for catering for games such as MechWarrior, the only controller I know that can present many controls as one is CH. By using their joysticks and throttles combined with their Control Manager the game sees them all as one controller. However this would require that you purchased all CH controls exclusively. Otherwise press MechWarrior developers to provide for more than one joystick.

    Ken.
    Opencockpits | Aerosim Solutions | Sim-Avionics | P3D | FDS | FTX | AS16 | PPL | Kennair


  7. #7
    10+ Posting Member xCav8r's Avatar
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    jmig,

    Thank you for the reply. I'm a little slow on the uptake here, so please bear with me. I have new questions now.

    When you say that a card is optimized for a particular type of game, what does that mean? Does it offer more control options than the game itself? Do they not work with games for which they are not optimized?

    When you say I/O card, does that include cards that are not recognized as game controllers? Like the USB keyboard card you mentioned...I get the impression that's not a game controller but maybe something like a keyboard. In other words, I can't program it using a generic game profiling program. Is that right?

    For maximum flexibility, you recommended an analog card + USB keyboard card. Do you have any idea if there are analog cards that support more than 8 axes? Is something like that even possible in Windows?

    Ken,

    Thanks for the clarification--especially for the example of FSUIPC.

    I'm bummed to hear that only CH Products stuff can do the combining controllers into one. It's actually from my Ch gear where I got that idea.

    The example of Mechwarrior was perhaps extreme; it was released in '98, and the original developers (MicroProse) of the particular title I had in mind (Mechwarrior 3) have been sold and bought several times over. They don't exist anymore.

    Do you know anything about the 8-axis limitation per controller in Windows?

  8. #8
    300+ Forum Addict jmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xCav8r View Post
    jmig,

    Thank you for the reply. I'm a little slow on the uptake here, so please bear with me. I have new questions now.

    When you say that a card is optimized for a particular type of game, what does that mean? Does it offer more control options than the game itself? Do they not work with games for which they are not optimized?

    When you say I/O card, does that include cards that are not recognized as game controllers? Like the USB keyboard card you mentioned...I get the impression that's not a game controller but maybe something like a keyboard. In other words, I can't program it using a generic game profiling program. Is that right?

    For maximum flexibility, you recommended an analog card + USB keyboard card. Do you have any idea if there are analog cards that support more than 8 axes? Is something like that even possible in Windows?

    Ken,

    Thanks for the clarification--especially for the example of FSUIPC.

    I'm bummed to hear that only CH Products stuff can do the combining controllers into one. It's actually from my Ch gear where I got that idea.

    The example of Mechwarrior was perhaps extreme; it was released in '98, and the original developers (MicroProse) of the particular title I had in mind (Mechwarrior 3) have been sold and bought several times over. They don't exist anymore.

    Do you know anything about the 8-axis limitation per controller in Windows?
    The optimization of the card comes from the software. A PIC is a PIC. (Well sort of. LOL ) For instance the Beta Innovations Plasma cards have software that allows them to be easily set to the Falcon 4 key commands. But, they don't support FSX. The Opencockpits cards will support FS9/FSX directly. With FSUIPC you can address directly the FSX offsets thus bypassing FSX.

    Bypassing FSX windows control is a good thing. It allows you to have more than 8 axes. FSUIPC allows 16 controllers to be used at once. FSX also have memory lapses. By that I mean FS9/FSX will sometimes rewrite the cfg file erassing all of your key assignments with default. By using the IO card software you can skip FS9/FSX.

    I have run more than one gamecontroller in the windows applet. Never tried to use more than 8 axes at once. Maybe one of the other guys knows?
    John

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    Intel Q9550 O/C to 3.4 GHz
    4 GB 1066 DDR2 RAM
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  9. #9
    2000+ Poster - Never Leaves the Sim Michael Carter's Avatar
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    The USB card from Hagstrom looks very promising. I think it has 108 inputs with no ghosting and treats toggle switches as a momentary so it's no continuously sending a keystroke command.

    That's gonna be my next card and I'm rewiring my overhead with it.
    Boeing Skunk Works
    Remember...140, 250, and REALLY FAST!

    We don't need no stinkin' ETOPS!



    Powered by FS9 & BOEING

  10. #10
    10+ Posting Member xCav8r's Avatar
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    I don't mean to be obtuse. I appreciate you helping me out and hope that I haven't tried your patience. Two more questions, if that's okay.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmig View Post
    The optimization of the card comes from the software.
    So any card will work with any game? It's just that the software won't. Did I get that right?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmig View Post
    A PIC is a PIC.
    What does PIC stand for?


    -------------



    Quote Originally Posted by Boeing Skunk Works View Post
    The USB card from Hagstrom looks very promising. I think it has 108 inputs with no ghosting and treats toggle switches as a momentary so it's no continuously sending a keystroke command.
    What's the advantage of this card over one from Beta Innovations or Leo Bodnar? It seems like a lot more money for the same stuff.
    --

    Marco

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