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  1. #1
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    Interfacing Mike's Flight Deck Instruments

    Hello,
    Has anyone written the interface code to connect Microsoft FSX to a system of Mike's Flight Deck instruments. I have several instruments operating throught the serial port buss connection scheme from Mike's first book. I have a VB test program but now need to make the final connection between FSX and the instruments.
    The software has to be extensible as you add instruments to the system. Also the software need to extract the data from FSX and then do some conversion into data acceprable to each individual instrument.

    Tripacer Sim Builder

  2. #2
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    Re: Interfacing Mike's Flight Deck Instruments

    Hello
    I have the same question, and would be very interested in some online collaboration with others who are trying to interface his Instruments. The interfacing issues are what is holding me back from building his projects which I think are excellent otherwise. However, his cursory treatment of interfacing in his book is discouraging. I am comfortable with doing some programming even though I am strictly a hobbyist, but I don't know where to start. I began using SimConnect and started writing my own code in C++, but then I came across this (excellent, and free) software http://www.jimspage.co.nz/Link2fs_Multi.htm . It seems like what I need and I think I could simply use an Arduino (easy to program) to distribute the data to the Instruments. However, my knowledge of Assembly Language is limited, so I am at the point of trying to figure out basic things like how to set/determine the Unique Instrument ID so that the Arduino can distribute the signal to the correct Instrument. I am also looking at using USB rather than Serial connections with the Instruments themselves, but this may be more involved than it is worth. It would be really helpful if Mike would update the interfacing section of his book, and provide clearer guidance for amateurs like me! If you have made any progress on your Sim, I would love to hear from you!

  3. #3
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    Re: Interfacing Mike's Flight Deck Instruments

    Speake,
    Glad to hear from you. I do not know many people building analog type instruments for flight simulators. I know a guy in England that is about where I am. Another fellow in St. Louis seems to have gone dormant, finally a guy in New Zealand (not Jimspage) who put together some of the connecting code, but he too has gone dormant.
    Are you building any instruments using Mike's plans and ideas? I have built a directional gyro compass, an altimeter, an airspeed gauge and a tachometer. I have also built several 2.25" gauges using servos for fuel quantity, oil pressure and oil temp.
    The instrument id according to Mike's plan is the name of each instrument that you set in the firmware that resides on that instrument. When the host computer (usually the one running your flight sim software) needs to send data to a paticular instrument, it addresses the instrument with it id and the data it needs to have displayed on the instrument. All of the instrument will recieve that data but will only react if instrument id matches. For smoothe instrument motion we are going to need to send out the data almost continously for some instrument like the compass and attitude gyros, less often for the slow moving guages like the fuel quantity. All of that is the responsibility of the connection program (getting the data from the flight sim software and sending it out).
    I have fiddled with the Arduino and it is pretty easy to program, but I have experienced problems connecting it to the connection program because they use a "virtual" serial port and Windows assigns that at startup and it is not always the same.
    You can look at my sim at: https://sites.google.com/site/tripacersimpit/
    I have not updated it in a while and should get that done soon.
    I also would be glad to collaborate if I can.
    Tripacer Sim Builder

  4. #4
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    Re: Interfacing Mike's Flight Deck Instruments

    Thanks for the reply Tripacer. I took a look at your sim--great job!

    I have not actually started building any of Mike's instruments yet, but I really want to. I just want to be sure I am going to be able to interface the controls/gauges before I invest a lot of time (and money) into building them. At this point, I am doing some reading to try and write my own interface code. I think I have his firmware figured out, so now it is a matter of working out how I am going to set up the communication between FSX and his firmware. Mike's second book makes some good changes to the hardware interfacing (and his website support for his second book makes more). Are you aware of any publicly available and working C++ interface code? The learning curve is definitely reduced when one can see how others have approached making this work. At this point, I have the books cracked open and I'm teaching myself as best I can--I will figure it all out, it will just take time

    As an aside, I haven't looked into this at all, but do you know if it is possible to have windows assign a fixed serial port number at each boot up (like a router that can fix an IP address for each MAC address on the LAN)? This might get around the Arduino issues, and make that approach more appealing.

    Look forward to seeing recent photos of your sim when you get your website updated

  5. #5
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    Re: Interfacing Mike's Flight Deck Instruments

    Hi Guys
    Can I jump in?

    I Have made all my own 737 gauges (apart from the wet compass and the chrono they are work in progress).
    I interface mine with FSBUS and Atmegas and Attiny micros( with help from a great guy in Italy).
    If any of you want a custom or standard gauge made I can knock something out for you VERY cheaply!
    I am not running a business ( I am a plumber by trade) just putting some skills to give us poor people a chance at building a sim.
    Apparently they connect straight up to the open cockpits cards also..I cant offer software support for them as I can only just do FSBUS
    If anyone is interested in the stuff I have made just say and I will drop a vid or two.
    I am in the uk but will ship I have made a few airbus panels too for the Italian friend.

    John
    Old, tired & broke (shouldn't be allowed out really)

  6. #6
    500+ This must be a daytime job Jim NZ's Avatar
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    Re: Interfacing Mike's Flight Deck Instruments

    Tripacer ,,, I just caught up with this ,,, This thing about windows assigning different serial ports at start-up is not a "Program" problem ,, it's caused by plugging in the USB card into different USB physical ports on your computer or USB hub.

    Always use the same physical port on your computer for the same card.

    For instance on my main flight-sim computer I run 3 different programs feeding 4 cards in total. I can't say I have ever had to change the assigned port within the software due to windows changing it. (although to do so is only 2 mouse clicks)

    However ,, if I unplug everything and reconnect them all "willy nilly" ,,, chances are I would have to re-assign ,, but there again ,, my main sim is not altered that much with all my "playing around" being done on another computer.

    I like what your doing with your sim and it's going to be a nice setup.

    Cheers ,, Jim
    www.jimspage.co.nz/intro.htm
    All this and Liz still loves me ! !

  7. #7
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    Re: Interfacing Mike's Flight Deck Instruments

    Thanks Jim. Now that you mention it. I have not moved my Arduino is some time and my test software hums along on the same port. Following the MikesFlightDeck method, we use one microcontroller per instrument. Using Arduinos would work if the interface could handle sending data out to many USB serial ports. Any thoughts on this aspect? A design of the interface software using Mike's model, pushes all the data out a single serial port to a conversion card that converts it the an RS422 network physical interface and on to all of the cards. Most of the data is converted in the FSX interface program then dispatched in a repeating loop.
    I have downloaded your software, THANKS for sharing your knowledge and effort. I guess I will have to experiment with it some more.
    Tripacer

  8. #8
    500+ This must be a daytime job Jim NZ's Avatar
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    Re: Interfacing Mike's Flight Deck Instruments

    Fine stuff Tripacer ,, Yes that will be why Mikes system use's RS422 as it can "multi-drop" to a series of gauges with the one wiring loom.

    I don't know a thing about his system other than what you Guys have talked about, but I suppose once you have built "one end" then you need to carry on and build the other matching end ,, I just dived in to clean up about that serial port assignment thing and not to talk you Guys into using the Arduino.

    I think a lot of Guys use his system so hopefully some-one will pop in and help you Guys get rolling.

    Cheers ,,, Jim
    www.jimspage.co.nz/intro.htm
    All this and Liz still loves me ! !

  9. #9
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    Re: Interfacing Mike's Flight Deck Instruments

    I have added a couple of pages with analog instruments to my website.

    URL: https://sites.google.com/site/tripacersimpit/

    I am slowly making progress. Still have to design and tackle the artificial horizon.

    Tripacer