Tuesday, October 9, 2012

They say it's the journey not the destination...

Gentle Readers,

I have been derailed a bit in my project.  My wife has started a business in our home teaching piano lessons. So my sim is dismantled until summer 2013. It is not that big a problem, as my 2004 era computer no longer has the chops to run fsx at anything resembling reasonable frame rates.

The whole thing is in our storage unit right now awaiting better days. Meanwhile I have made a little progress on sub systems but wanted to give a shout out to an excellent new GA sim part manufacturer. Louie at http://diyrealism.webs.com/ has been a wiz at making all kinds of parts that offer incredible realism, are not made by anyone else and are very reasonably priced.

I got one of his electrical/circuit breaker panel sets. They are amazing. He has built them out of acrylic which is painted black and engraved with legends. They look beautiful and are ready to backlight if you want.

The fit and finish are very professional and well worth the money.

The experience of purchasing was great too. He had fast shipping and the panels were very well packed.

Not sure what else I can say, except that. I will be buying many more parts from Louie, as I put N58243 back together again ( and it will be much better with diyrealism parts!)

Wishing all your flights be CAVU.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Arduino gauges in sight!

The good folks at mycockpit have an outstanding forum going about arduino driven servo gauges.  Jim has set up a great program called Link2fs_inOut (freeware available here ) that sends plain language values to arduino sketches which use them to drive servos.  There are currently sketches available for driving a Vertical Speed Indicator and an Attitude Indicator.  This stuff is pretty close to plug and play!

I have figured out how to upload sketches, and am trying to get a handle on how to modify the sketches that are available to build more instruments!  Just need to figure out how to get the pins connected between the servo and arduino.  I am thinking about a breakout board that will allow a common ground and +5v.  Unfortunately there is no place in my town to purchase the header pins.  Sigh, will have to go to mail order again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Learning another new interface system

Dear Reader..(if anyone ever reads this thing),

It has been a while since I posted anything about the sim.  Progress has been normal, which is to say very slow.

Since my last post I have successfully created a 172 style warning panel out of hacked real parts, lots of wires, many sticks of hot glue, and more than a few burned fingers from clumsy soldering iron use.

It is interfaced with a phidgets led64 card and fs2phidget 5.0.21 (freeware available at mycockpit.org )

I have now jumped into trying and making my first servo run real instrument.  This is going to be interfaced with am arduino uno card.  This card which is about $20 US will apparently run up to 12 servos which should be enough to get me in big trouble!

So far I have made these leaps:
1. Acquired an Arduino Uno card

2. Learned that you need to download some arduino software from the official arduino website.  This software allows you to create something called a sketch or (pde).  The pde is basically firmware that you can create and upload into the arduino card that tells it what to do.  These are created by people who could probably solve a Rubik's cube in the dark...who then say it is "easy".

3. Downloaded a piece of software from a really cool guy named Jim in New Zealand.  It takes data from Simconnect (think the internal language of FSX), and sends it through some thingamajiggie that transmogrifies these variables into an alphanumeric string that you can send through some usb serial port emulator voodoo into  a form that arduino can read and send to servos.  If you did the sketch correctly or something...  Thanks Jim!

My first instrument is a vertical speed indicator.  Should be pretty simple.  One needle. it will have about a 315 degree arc, so I will get some gearing happening, as most servos are 180 degrees.

I am stuck right now on how to draw up the sketch to read the alphanumeric value that Jim's program is sending, and set a servo to a value that calibrates the needle with the  proper marking on the instrument face.  I am sure it would be easy, if I only knew what I was doing. But I am VERY excited to see how this goes!

Cross your fingers!


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone. I hope that 2012 finds you all safe, secure and walking the right path with your lives.

God Bless,


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why oh why?

...Did I ever decide to build a pit with steam gauges? It would be so much easier to shove a glass cockpit in my panel...

Steam are either:
1. complicated to build or
b. way too expensive and all made in Europe so the exchange rate and shipping are killers!

Got roughed up today on some instruments I had hoped to aquire. Sniped. Headshot. Boom!

Any of you out there thinking of building a pit, please choose glass, and learn from others frustrations!

Mongo signing out (for the night, I will wake up tomorrow just as obsessed with this thing)

Onward Rocinante! Yon Giant tests us mightily! Hand me my lance, good squire Sancho!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"That's Franken-steen"!

Amazing things are happening in here in DIY Pitland! I have acquired something I never thought I would own...

An actual, genuine, bona-fide, Dutch crafted, single or double servo, abs injected, Simkits USB generic gauge kit!

While my pit will definitely not be all simkits as I will have to craft a lot of gauges from home, now I have an idea of how to build the bad mama-jamas! I have the right faceplates...servo and gear measurements...pointer sizes...

Now to just convince my wife that I need to order some few other things. She has already told me that when the wings arrive she is leaving. Hmmm......how much is my paypal balance again?

Oh, yeah almost forgot. Pete Dowson and Tom_G have created a lua script that will allow the Bodnar BUO836X to have encoder acceleration for gauge use! It is like freaking Christmas around here! Gotta get off my butt and start building again!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Yoke is on me....

Beloved Reader(s?),

Next step in my pit building is to extend my ch yoke. The way my yoke was setup, I constantly banged my knuckles on the MIP in a dive. Additionally, the case took up a lot of valuable real estate on the back of the MIP. I needed to access that are for instruments eventually. I had no choice but to trash my warranty, open it up, put it back together with duct tape and bailing wire.

I have been holding off doing this for months because I was scared of 2 things:
  1. How to integrate the mechanics of the old yoke with an extension.
  2. I did not want to mess around with all of the hair thin wires inside the yoke handle that needed to run through the shaft to the PCB usb controller.
I discovered an important lesson. With apologies to Master Yoda, I discovered that "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to long time abandoning of simpit projects to play Plants Vs. Zombies.

So I busted it open, and came up with some stuff to share....

1. The CH existing yoke shaft fits perfectly with 2 very common sizes of plumbing pipe! I was able to take the handle apart and very easily remove the existing yoke shaft. I then screwed in a length of 3/4" black iron plumbing pipe. This size not only feels and looks bulky, but threads in tight enough that normal control inputs will never cause it to loosen. I was able to use the stock shaft to still control the electronics and it was just as easy! A piece of 1/2" pipe nipple threaded right into the shaft! To complete the whole thing only needed a 3/4 to 1/2 reducer to mate them together. The whole assembly looks like this:

Winnner Winner Chicken Dinner!

2. I solved my soldering problem too! I discovered after tracing the 11 wires, that they all connected to 7 pins on the pcb board. I decided to splice them into an 8 terminal cat 5 jack at the handle end. Then I ran a peice of cat 5 cable through the shaft, and plugged it into another cat 5 jack which was wired to the yoke pcb. Now I have a system that is mechanically easy to take apart for repairs, or to get out of the way of other installations, that works great! Here is a picture of the yoke handle wiring.

That is all for now, Gentle readers. Keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Start Your Engines....

In the ongoing process of making way too much work for myself reinventing my unfinished pit, I decided that my previous magneto switch was not acceptable. I bid and won a cheap bendix switch on ebay. I thought to myself "Hey Self! You are getting good at figuring out how to interface stuff! This will be easy to add! Probably plug it right in and it will work"!


The real magneto switch has some problems wit interfacing directly to my Bodnar card, because each switch position does not necessarily ground just one contact. It has a jumble of 8 contacts that have cryptic markings, and caused me a big headache with the multimeter to figure out the matrix. Once I did, I spent a lot of time scratching my head trying to figure out how to translate them into the 5 discrete switch outputs I needed. Decided to start from scratch, and just figured out how to do it!

Here is a picture of the switch back that has all of the contacts. Note that my thumb is covering up the contacts I did not need to use.
These contacts are labelled cw from center as follows:

10 oclock-S
11 oclock-Bat
12 o'clock-New contact
1 o'clock-grd*
2 oclock-R*

*1 and 2 o'clock are connected by a small plate, screwed onto both contacts. Remove this plate to break the contact into 2.

Here is a view of the other side of the contact plate. It shows 2 modifications. The first is drilling a hole at the 12 o'clock position, and countersinking it to accept a 6-32 x 3/4 SS machine screw. This is screwed through the contact plate from the inside and secured with a nut on the other side of the plate. The second is the washer that is affixed to the center. This washer makes the center ground run all the way around the contact plate, instead of the eccentric shaped ground the original came with.

The final step is to modify the wiper for the switch. The wiper is a plastic wheel cut to fit three wedge shaped metal contacts. The meatal wedges are spring loaded to press up against the contact plate, and short the contacts to ground. The wedge has three dimples that are raised above the wedge at each corner. I removed one of the dimples by drilling it out, and dremelling it flat, so that the wiper only grounds one of the contacts, and not two. Then I placed a piece of electrical tape over the removed section of the wedge, so that it would not accidentally ground the contacts:

The above picture shows a combination of the original setup and the modified wedge. Remove the wedge contacts that are at the one o'clock and 6 o'clock positions. They are not needed. This picture shows the three dimples, how I removed the upper right one, and insulated the unneeded portion. The final wiper looks like this:

Reassemble the switch with the 2 screws, hook the outside contacts up to your favorite i/o card input and the center contact to ground on the card. Assign the button presses in FSUIPC and you are done!

Took me a lot longer to type this up than to actually do the mod. Hope it helps someone else.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Give me a brake!

Progress Report: 04/14/2011 2147 ADT

After several days of tinkering I finally have a working parking brake that is a good facsimile of a real one. It is a used Cessna from an unknown model that was procured on Ebay, After much trial and error, I have one that functions like the real thing and even talks to the computer!

Video of the operating unit can be found on youtube here.

Tomorrow I start work on the center console! The console is going to consist of a fuel cutoff valve, stabilizer and rubber trim wheels and indicators, and a cowl flap handle.

Found some people who have extended the shaft on their ch yokes, so have added that to the to do list. In a drastic dive now, my knuckles are hitting the instrument panel, so I am glad to have found a solution that may work! If I have not mentioned it before, if you have not found this site through mycockpit.org and you are interested in a simpit, you are missing out. Go check them out, I guarantee that you will learn a thing or two, and get a warm welcome.

N58243(virtual) signing out...

Monday, April 11, 2011

It'll never fly Wilbur!

Just got back to pit building after a several month hiatus. I ran into a point where I was so overwhelmed by all the parts I had that were not added, that I did nothing. Sigh...

I have finally figured out how to attach the glareshield to my mdf panel. It looks much better now. Also have added some super cool instrument bezels to the front of my panel.(Thanks Mondo50M!) Added the first encoder to the panel to control the altimeter adjustment. Hopefully the wiring and interface card will work the first time. Hacked an alt air switch to actuate an electrical switch so I can simulate vacuum failures.

Have the framework cut for the console interior so I can start to design the mechanics for the elevator trim and indicator. I definitely need to focus on the progress and not the to-do list. I guess that is why I am writing this post. So that I can have a sense of accomplishment and not frustration at lack of progress. Baby Steps....

Thanks for your indulgence while I puked on you dear reader.