What I wanted
My last panel was driven by leo bodnar BB32 input cards. They are plug and play and you just need to clamp the wires to the board and find them immediately as joystick buttons. In the beginning I liked that.
However it was not the best choice since it just carries way to few input options making it necessary to hook on several of them. Further more it does not read the status of the switch. It would never recognise that the sim expects a button to be off when loading (eg cold and dark) and it is actually on because I forgot to turn it off the flight before. Further more it does not natively interface with the sim – so it does not talk directly to the sim but pretends to just be a joystick. A rather dumb situation and all the logic needs to be assigned through FSUIPC.
For example I did not manage to adress the heading-rotary-encoder to perform action in various speeds – when turning fast it should move rapidly and when adjusting an exact heading-course it should be ultra precise. Not possible out of the box. Further more I want to add macros that may talk to SIMCONNECT/FSUIPC offsets, send pure keyboard commands – or a combination of those. Not possible out of the box.
Another example is that I currently can not get the virtual cockpit to save my desired view-position. Since using 3 separate camera windows as multiviews things became rather complicated with Fly-Elise – there is no menu bar to be seen any more and it always (even when saved before) jumps to an unwanted view position in the center of the VC. With a macro on a button the i/o card shall send a series of pre-defind shortcuts to bring me where I want to be – with one click on a button in one second. And finally of course I wand outputs for leds and sounds, preferrable configureable through the same interface to have all actions that control your connected inputs through one card and one interface.
What I found
I came across a website of a guy who built a complete solution – interface card plus software. Actually it was not (and wasn’t since then) released commercially, since the guy was from the same city I live in we met and I got the rather exclusive chance to use this software. The solution is called Sim-Modules and you can find out more about it at www.sim-modules.at.
All I mentioned above of course is now possible with this solution. I am sure this is not the only way to solve it but I am rather sure that there are not that much options out there that can control that many inputs/outputs and cope with so many custom situations (that do occure when the sim gets complex). Of course it is also really handy to have an expert as sim-buddy to adress issues directly instead of needing to get into ticket systems and forums (actually he has a ticket system implemented and I am sure he would prefer me using it however).
Features that are important to me:
- Just one card necessary for 64 digital inputs and 64 digital outputs
- One central software dealing with all configurations
- One power supply serving all leds without needing to implement resistors
- Stable and rapid communication without lagging
- Unlimited possibilites to get most custom scenarios fixed through macros
- Implementing sound-files in almost every situation you might think of
As said before there are for sure other ways to solve all those needs, but when the complexity of the simulator grows you need to reduce the number of i/o-cards, software protocols running, USB-ports as all of those can produce interferences and instabilities that are hard to track down and even harder to solve. Being among a very small group of beta testers gives me direct and personal access to an electronic and coding genius who enhances the software more and more and listens to user requirements.
Actually I want to express my gratitude to him- not just for his solution that is a core element of my sim – but also for helping me so much out getting through the electronics stuff. Wouldn’t be where I am today without your help mate!