Jeeez....FSUIC...Pokey...Prosim...have no clue, need help!
I want to build a replica 737 cockpit simulator, I said. It will be great..hard work...but great...I said. What in the world are all these programs, abbreviations?
I understand that 1) Im a newbie at this, 2)Time will teach me all these abbreviations and what programs to use. But right now, it's a little bit crazy.
It looks to me that I need two or three programs to run my home sim? I want to make sure I understand so bare with me. There are programs that your sim's scenery, objects, displays, sounds, realism, etc is based around and then there are programs that "help" or give more functionality to your sim? (i.e. lets say I have FSX as my main program and I also have ProSim737 to "help" or does whatever it needs to do to make stuff better (more real, more authentic for the experience).
I see P3D, X Plane, the Microsoft FS series, and Im sure Im missing a few others as like the main component
ProSim737, Project Magenta(?)...I'm drawing a blank on others are the "helper" programs
Are there any two programs that are "the best" to be coupled with?
I see ProSim is a very popular product...I looked on their webpage and 1) Damn expensive, 2)There are 5 or 6 different programs to choose from? It looks to me that ProSim's programs are specific to what it enhances or performs for. Is there a "I want the whole kit n kaboodle" package? Or do i need to buy every single one separately?
And I see stuff about Pokey, FSUIC, SIOC, Arduino...What are those?
Is there somewhere I can see what Interface cards are the best for MIP, Overheads, CDU, Gauges, Displays, etc?
Last question...for now lol (2 part question) Will any LCD suffice for the MIP and Lower EICAS displays? i.e. USB port, HDMI...or does it matter? When I'm ready to hook up my LCD's for the MIP and lower EICAS, how do I configure it to just display the "glass cockpit" look?
And last....but undoubtedly not least...Where (if any) are there American distributors of all this simulation stuff??? Ive heard and seen problems with guys on youtube that have issues with customs. I live in BFE and I'm 2-3 hours away from a major airport. If there's something wrong at customs I have to drive all that way to pick up some switches and gauges from overseas? I'm all about livin' the virtual dream, just seeing what all I have to look forward to Looks like its enough already lol Im all about getting the best stuff regardless of where it comes from, just curious that most of the sims people are building are from American based airlines and I would think that the states would have just as many sim part distributors as lets say Norway or Spain or France.
Lord, I'm sorry for the people that will attempt and try to help me lol And I will be forever grateful! It's just I've been researching and even developed a spreadsheet of everything I need to get, how much, where its coming from, what it has/dont have, and trying to weigh everything out when it comes time to purchase. But what good is all this nice, sexy lookin, great shell of a 1:1 scale 737 simulator cockpit with all the bells and whistles, if I dont have the first clue how to make it all work and virtually be a real deal sim?
At any rate, glad to be on here, glad to finally get all these questions out in the open. By the way, I searched most for most of these questions and never got the "I got it!" lightbulb in my head. So again, whoever helps me out, points me in the right direction, or just gives me $1 million dollars, I'll be forever grateful and hopefully one day we'll be online trying not to run into each other at FL30.
Take care, God Bless.
P.S. I hope you understand my questions. If not, you'll let me know lol
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Re: Jeeez....FSUIC...Pokey...Prosim...have no clue, need help!
Hi Clint, welcome to the insanity.
I would advise you to not get too wrapped up in attempting to plan out the entire project from top to bottom right away (I know, it goes against conventional wisdom). What happens is this: as you learn the various products and technologies, figure out which ones you like or don't like, discover the pitfalls as well as capabilities of different solutions, you're going to come up with your own preferences....and you'll probably change course more than a few times. Plus it gets overwhelming.
Getting a basic idea of what you're going to do is important, but focus on what you WANT, not how you're going to get there. It will come in time. It's fun to dream, and it helps you set goals for your project.
For instance, the most basic thing you need is switchology. Perhaps you could start by looking into various digital input solutions, learn a couple, and go with the one you're most comfortable with.
Don't even worry about all the third-party solutions until you actually identify a specific need that some piece of hardware or software would fill properly. Actually, my advice is to rely on third-party stuff as little as possible. The problem is that you get locked into a certain person/company's way of doing things, and when you eventually discover down the road (as you certainly will at some point) that there is some specific stability issue, a project-killing limitation, persistent annoying bug, or general difficulty, you more or less have to live with it, because major components of your sim are relying on that hardware or software. In my case, I use Arduino almost exclusively for my hardware interfaces. The reason for this is that Arduino is an open-source platform (both hardware and software), the suppport community is huge, add-ons and compatible parts to do all sorts of things are cheap and plentiful, and considerable (almost total) control of the device is available to users. A great example is how I used to rely on serial communications over USB to talk to my Arduinos. When I eventually realized what an awful interface USB is, I was free to switch to UDP over ethernet (in my case) with NO change to the actual logic that drove my instruments. I could also have switched to TCP over ethernet, CANBUS, I2C, MODBUS, RS-482/485, etc. And for my software, I mostly write in Python (again: free, open source, mature, has a huge community and lots of extra modules for added functionality).
Of course, there are plenty of options besides Arduino, that's just the route I've chosen. Try to focus on versatile, general-purpose solutions, rather than very specific, flight simulator centric products.
As to sim software, here's my completely biased and worth-what-you-paid-for-it opinion:
1. Microsoft Flight Simulator. It's been around since Carter was president. Tons of community support and add-ons. Microsoft has killed this series, so MSFS is technically dead. Stick a fork in it. Anyways, it's considered a very "polished" sim, and has lots of bells and whistles, if that's what you're into (such as lots of automated ATC interaction, "scenarios" you can set up, pretty menus, helpful on-screen messages, good built-in radios and GPS software, that sort of thing). Unfortunately, much of this stuff is largely irrelevant to cockpit builders. The flight model continues to be laughable....it can be whipped into matching the "numbers" of a specific aircraft, but the aircraft movement and control response leave much to be desired. And don't even think of poking around the extremes of flight. But, if you're just going to be flying straight-and-level on autopilot in a Boeing-something, it's not such a drawback. Interfacing into the sim was never intended by the designers, but Pete Dawson has done an admirable job hacking it up with his FSUIPC product. You're going to want FSUIPC if you go the MSFS or Prepar3d route, just be ready for some primitive limitations and random instability (this is not really Pete's fault). Fortunately, FSUIPC is very reasonably priced.
2. Prepar3d: https://www.prepar3d.com/ Think of this as the continuation of Microsoft Flight Simulator. Lockheed Martin has taken the MSFS code and revamped it to more modern standards (they don't seem to have overhauled the flight model, unfortunately). At least now it scales up better to modern hardware. If you want to go the MSFS route, I'd recommend getting Prepar3d instead of Flight Simulator. There are vast improvements.
3. X-Plane: http://x-plane.com My weapon of choice. I was a long-time Flight Simulator guy until I found X-Plane. X-Plane used to be at a disadvantage for visuals, scenery, and systems/procedural simulation, but this is largely a problem of the past. Recent versions of X-Plane have some of the best graphics you'll find in ANY flight simulation software, and the API has allowed developers to conjure up some very sophisticated systems for individual aircraft. The flight model is incredible, along with the ground-interaction model (you can literally scrape your wingtip on a mountain and deal with the ensuing yaw). Extreme edges of the flight envelope are a mixed bag, and vary with the particular aircraft, but generally X-Plane at least behaves itself when you start pushing the envelope (it still does better than any other flight sim I've flown, with the possible exception of the old Flight Unlimited sim back in the 1990s). Hooking into X-Plane is a dream: several years ago, the developers came out with an extensive, powerful API. Interfacing with the flight model, graphics model, weather, systems, flight and engine controls, switches/buttons, menus, is done in a very orderly and controlled way. It's just the ticket for us cockpit builders. Stability is excellent...on decent hardware, under Linux or Mac, you'll almost never see a crash.
4. FlightGear: http://www.flightgear.org/ This is the ultimate for cockpit builders, as it's open-source. If you're up for writing your own code, you can get it to do just about anything you want. Unfortunately the graphics and scenery model is still not up to par with the aforementioned sims, but the team is making progress all the time. This one is worth keeping an eye on, and at this price (free), you should at least download it and check it out.
You might be surprised how much "R&D" of your own must go into every step of the project. Imagine your dream sim, then start with some small task to get you there (like the switching/digital input suggestion). Then maybe look into analog inputs (for flight and engine controls). Then you can actually "fly" your sim from there on out as you work on it.
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