Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bill of Materials

I decided to move this to its own post since it was getting difficult to manage

FSX and external visuals


 Project Magenta

Software 

Hardware

Revolution Simproducts - the sequel (part 4)

Did my homework over the weekend. What Oral from RS was hoping I'd report, is that the spoiler would deploy on landing. It didn't. Nor do the reverse thrusters work.

We scheduled another Skype session for Monday night my time... then again for Tuesday night my time. No progress to report. Seems that the new card in my TQ is functioning ok since we can calibrate the spoilers and see the other key depressions in the RS calibration software. Something is not getting through to Project Magenta and/or FSX. It could be the RS software that also needs to be running, alongside SIOC and FSX.

Oral is baffled and is going to regroup with the team in Paris before we try again. Just as well since the late nights and early mornings are killing me.

Oh and the rudder pedal panel replacements? They were supposed to ship on Monday. Received an email from RS, due to the snow they were having difficulty getting to work and the courier wasn't shipping anyway. Also saw a broader message go out to all customers awaiting shipments - a positive move. Much better to keep customers up to date with status rather than expecting the customer to enquire repeatedly. I look forward to an early thaw in Paris and a resumption of normal service.

Another sign that my feedback is being taken seriously is that RS would like to start using the "Remove Before Flight" sheet on future TQ shipments (see my post of December 13th). I also offered to rewrite parts of the TQ installation manual - must get that finished and back to the guys soon.

Now did I happen to mention my banging new computer? What a beauty! Got the memory cards installed last week and the beast started up first time without a hitch. First time I've built my own system and I'm surprised at how easy it was.

I've installed FSX on its own "solid state" disk drive. Software start up time is dramatically reduced and the scenery loading in flight is seamless. Would recommend this option for anyone who wants a quick performance increase with FSX without investing in a new computer.

As for the faster processor speed, I'm now enjoying almost 30 frames per second with all of the graphic sliders turned to high. Have yet to fine tune the settings (do I really need to see boats on the water? Nah!) or try my hand at over clocking the CPU. More on this later.

This will probably be my last post of the year (unless Oral gets back to me today). We've passed the 1 year mark on this blog - expect accelerated progress in 2011!

Thanks for following.

FlyWJP

Friday, December 17, 2010

Revolution Simproducts part trois - we have lift off! (almost)

Spent an hour or so via Skype with Oral today from RS. What a nice chap! Together we worked through the process of getting the TQ up and running. Here's a summary for you - could help alleviate some frustration that you may encounter:
  • To enable Oral to see what was going on (and to take control of my computer when needed) I installed a copy of CrossLoop
  • To get my headset working with Skype, I had to plug in a USB hub since I was out of open ports. This meant that the TQ had to be plugged in there too. When I opened up SIOC, I could see that it had lost sight of the IDX settings for the 2 motor cards. I quickly fixed that and corrected the .ini file
  • Oral checked the SIOC settings. All looked good. He was able to control the throttle levers and get them moving (first time I've seen them do that)
  • Moving the spoiler and flap levers, we couldn't see any action in SIOC. Oral guessed that my TQ had been fitted with a newer card and sure enough, this was the case
  • This required some additional software to be downloaded from RS. The good news is that the calibration setting for flaps and the spoiler are much easier in this new utility. The bad news is that the SIOC script had been written assuming that the old card was in my TQ
  • Oral made some on the fly script changes and we got the thing working
At last! The throttles move on their own, as controlled by the auto pilot! Trim wheels too!

Some other observations for you, now that I have a better idea of what is going on:
  • Oral pointed out that the reason I couldn't see the device appear as a "joystick" is that the port labeled such is to trap the button pushes only, not the axis of the throttle levers
  • The TQ needs to be plugged into the main computer in your set up
  • In my case, it talks to the Project Magenta MCP via FSUIPC. Since I didn't have it up and running in my previous tests, even with the correct RS software, nothing would have happened
  • Also in my case, the computer running the MCP is separate to my main computer. It talks to FSX via FSUIPC, passing the inputs from all the devices I've got hooked up to it. A bit like this:
  • In a previous posting I complained about Project Magenta "deleting itself" on install. When I tried to fire it up today, the executable was missing again! On a hunch I got from watching Norton bitch about the CrossLoop install, I checked the quarantine section. Lo and behold, my glass cockpit and MCP software was sitting there. PM isn't deleting itself, Norton is! I made the settings for Norton to ignore the executables, I'll keep an eye on it though
  • Startup procedure will  now be: FSX, Project Magenta, RS software, SIOC
  • Close down procedure (otherwise as Oral points out, your TQ motors may keep running): SIOC, RS software, Project Magenta, FSX
Since it was getting late (there is a 10 hours time difference between Oral and myself), I was assigned some homework: 1 landing with the speed break armed, another with the speed brake down and locked and the thrust reversers engaged. I'll get to it over the weekend. In a way it was a relief, I didn't want Oral looking over my shoulder, sniggering at my attempts to land.... not only once but twice!

Still to sort out, even though we could see the flap and spoiler levers move in SIOC (and calibrate in the RS software), it's not communicating with FSX. Nor the engine cutoff switches. Backlighting packed up too for some reason.

Parking brake works real good! I have the motorized one, meaning when you push on the brake pedals, the parking brake clicks off, just like in the real deal. It's the simple stuff that floats my boat.

What else? Check out my banging new computer!:
Those of you with eagle eyes will notice the memory cards are missing. Amazon reliably informs me that they're on the back of a UPS truck out for delivery. If so I'll get them in tonight and will fire some life into this bad boy. Eagle eyes will also notice I need to tidy up the wiring...

The plan is to reserve this system purely for FSX and for external visuals. Nothing else is going on it. Here's the spec sheet (most of which I cribbed from Ivar Hestnes) - all ordered from Amazon (at very good prices I might add):
That should do nicely.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Follow up to Revolution Simproducts

A brief post to bring you up to speed with weekend activities. A flurry of emails between myself and RS - I appreciate the guys being so responsive over the weekend. In a nutshell:
  • The rudder pedal kit design did change around the end of October. Ian wasn't aware (he is now!) and will be working on a new video
  • The shipper at RS sent me the wrong panels - they will be replaced. The new design does not include the inner panels, just the outer ones
  • The side pieces you connect the panels too have changed and are now a single piece that attaches to the base
  • The cover doesn't go all the way to the back of the pedal base. This is to allow the interlink mechanism for 2 pedal sets to connect up and not bind
  • Eren will send a photo on how to connect up the potentiometer cables to the control board
On the TQ side:
  • Oral generally works with each client to set up a SIOC script. He asked me for some key information (serial # of my TQ, version of FS, PM or PMDG) and will get back to me
  • He also offered "a sleepless night" session via Skype,  to work with me on the set up. I thought this was very kind (he is after all 10 hours ahead of me)
My suggestion to RS is this: why not print on a single piece of paper which you tape to the TQ that covers:
  • What you shouldn't do once you have unpacked the TQ (eg. Pull the reverse levers back unless the engine cut out switches are set to idle)
  • Procedure for capturing key information that RS will need to set up your SIOC script
  • A pointer back to the RS website for the SIOC install download
Maybe something like this (feel free to use it guys):

A little customer service goes a long way.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Revolution Simproducts rudder pedal "kit"

Oh oh, you know it's not going to be a good post....

Started in on the pedal kit today. Since the package arrived with no instructions whatsoever, I watched Ian Sisson's excellent instructional videos on how to put the thing together. Now let me qualify my observations here, it's possible that the RS team changed the design of the kit after Ian produced the videos (I have an email into Eren to give him the benefit of the doubt). Here's what I noted where the video differed from what I tried to put together today:
  • Footrests were not pre-assembled (no big deal, the screws were in the box and it was easy to do it myself)
  • Parts were not numbered
  • Inside side panels were missing or have been redesigned. A couple of white plastic pieces were in the box that look like they are designed to connect the top and bottom side panels together:
  • 
  • However, there is nothing to connect the rear of the panels together
  • The locking nuts for the rudder pedal brake spring bolt are missing

  • The base side pieces that Ian mentions look like they have been replaced with a single plastic piece as shown below:

  • Also the brake pedal gears were not indexed – I put that mark in there myself. I presume the potentiometer should be midway between stops when the pedal is in a neutral position
  • The top side panels already have a plastic lip screwed to them. In Ian's video there is a single piece of plastic that joins the 2 sides together
  • In my “dry fit” I can see that the side panels don’t go all the way to the rear of the unit. Have asked if this is "as designed"
  • There are no instructions on how to wire up the pedals to the tiny control board - guess you're on your own there bub (although there is an online guide on how to calibrate it in FSUIPC)
  • As previously reported, the paint work on the side panels is in a shocking state:
Anything I do like for my 999 Euro? The mechanics of the pedals are sound, move smoothly and have a real heft to them. The foot rests look cool too. Was it worth it? No, I don't think so

Friday, December 10, 2010

Le TQ est Arrivé

Finally, here it is! Arrived Monday. And what a beauty. The build quality is superb, the thing looks stunning and feels solid - no photo can do the experience justice:
Some comments:
  • The packaging was adequate to get the thing here without any breakage - well done there (although it came in a cardboard box, not the wooden crate they talk about on the website...)
  • Have a shop vac handy though - they used a low cost expanded polystyrene material that disintegrates as soon as you touch it. The bits go everywhere. Fortunately the TQ was packed in a bin bag (trash can liner for you Americans) and kept the debris away from the moving parts. I vacuumed it down before opening it up
  • The TQ doesn't fit the center console. I'll need to either build a new one or put some new sides on the TQ. Either I got the angle wrong on the console or RS did...
  • With time free Friday night, I started to set it up. Downloaded the SIOC software and followed these instructions. Seems like I need a personalized script which did not ship with the TQ. Read elsewhere on the RS website that I should have a Skype session with the RS team to fine tune the settings. I know they don't work weekends, will need to get it going next week
  • The SIOC software reported one of the device IDs as being "*". Tried putting this in the .ini file, SIOC then tells me it's not an integer and just clams up
  • There are 2 install guides on the RS website. One is for Project Magenta, the other is for PMDG. Best I can tell, they are identical and both refer to PMDG. No use to me since I'm running Project Magenta...
That's a bother - no chance of getting it going this weekend. Rats.

Also in my shipment, the rudder pedal kit. Looks good except for the painted panels. I think they were put in the aforementioned bin bags while the paint was still wet:
In the second photo you can see where the ink from the bin bag transferred itself over to the wet paint. You can also see where some of the paint simply flaked off. An email to Eren and he informs that a fresh set of panels is on the way. Doubt I'll have it by Christmas...


My tale of shipping delays hit a chord with one of my readers - received an email from Raik saying that his experience is very similar. Still no sign of his TQ and his emails to RS are going unanswered. Was supposed to ship in November...


Over the weekend I'll get the pedals hooked up. Will let you know how that goes.


But hey! There's more! Amazon has started shipping the parts for my new sim computer. The chassis, power supply, disk drives, CPU and display card have arrived. Motherboard is on route - just waiting on the memory to get the whole thing rocking and rolling.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Revolution Simproducts part deux

They shipped my order today...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Revolution Simproducts

Today a post almost exclusively dedicated to our friends in Paris, Revolution Simproducts.

In my last scribble you will recall that they were about to ship my TQ. They sent me a tracking number and of course I started checking the FedEx site daily. Here is the sequence of events to date:

Thursday, November 18th
  • Email from RS (Revolution Simproducts) saying they will ship the TQ on Monday, November 22nd
  • Further email from RS where we came to an agreement on what to do with the rudder pedal order I wanted to cancel (remember? I took them up on their Lelystad show special offer. Pay half for the kit with the order, pay the rest when you pick it up at the show. They didn't have a kit ready for me)
  • Another email from RS asking for the balance on pedals to be in their PayPal account before they ship anything. Due to PayPal delays, clearing date is set for November 25th
Monday, November 22nd
  • TQ didn't ship. Ok, will wait for it and the pedals to ship at the same time
Thursday, November25th
  • I email RS to inform them that the PayPal transfer is complete - please ship order
Friday, November 26th
  • No update on the FedEx tracker. I email RS asking for update
Saturday, November 27th
  • Email from RS - at the sim show in Le Bourget. Will ship your order on Monday, November 29th
Monday, November 29th
  • No update on the FedEx tracker. I email RS asking for update. No response
Wednesday, December 1st
  • I email RS again asking for an update.
  • RS responds without an apology. Out of office, will ship Thursday, December 2nd...
See where this going? Keep in mind I ordered the TQ at the end of June, when they were advertising a 10 week lead time.

While in Lelystad I was speaking to RS and was told they don't care what people might write about them on line and that if their customers don't like it, too bad. Rather a cavalier approach to customer service if you are a fledgling company but then again, what do I know? I'm just a dumb customer with a 3,969 Euro unfulfilled order and a bogus FedEx tracking number.

To be continued.

Now let me recount a much different experience with CP Flight. As reported in the last post, the MIP board went on the blink after plugging in the new radio units. Received immediate assistance via email with ideas on how to remedy the problem. Sadly none worked out so the board had to be disconnected from the MIP for a final test. Still nothing, so CPFlight issued an RMA (Return Material Authorization) right away and the board is now on route to Italy for a check up.

Wonder if I get the replacement/repair back before I get the TQ/Pedals?

End of rant.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good News and Bad

Awoke this morning to an email from Revolution Simproducts that my TQ will ship on Monday. Hurrah! Doubt I'll see it by Thanksgiving but at least I now have a FedEx tracking number. Eren also offered up a suggestion on the pedals, so we're back on plan with those.

Other good news is that I got my Project Magenta issues sorted out. The latest build I tried installing a few weeks back, was remarkable in that as soon as you started up the software (sorry, can't remember which module it was, I'm guessing the MCP) it deleted itself... Yesterday I downloaded build 482 and the problem went away.

That's the good. Now the bad.

Last night I followed the instructions on my new CP Flight units, upgraded the firmware in the MCP and plugged everything in. All worked well - the units are happily communicating with Project Magenta and FSX. The bad news though is that my CP Flight MIP board has stopped working. Tried swapping around the power supply (you have the option of plugging it into the MCP or the board) and the jumper, still no joy. I sent an email off to CP Flight support last night and this morning they had replied with some troubleshooting ideas. Now that's what I call customer support, something CP Flight are well known for. I'll let you know how it goes.

Finally, received a couple of emails from Ian Sissons today. Not only was he instrumental in sorting out my order issues, he provided positive feedback on this blog, having just read "all of it :o))". Good to know. I would like more feedback from anyone else that is reading my blether, so please drop me a line or a comment with you impressions and ideas for improvement.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lelystad photo wrap up

As promised, more photos from the show.

The new fire panel from CP flight. Very nice!:
Ian Sissons in full demo mode at the Revolution Simproducts stand:
From the left, Jean, Eren and Oral (seated) setting up the Revolution Simproducts yoke column, pedal and TQ demo:

Close up of the pedals and yoke column:
And a pilot's eye view of the TQ (assuming the pilot has slipped out of the jump seat and is on his/her knees):

Here we see the craftsmanship that goes into a Revolution Simproducts TQ:


Meanwhile over in the GA section, Mark Verschaeren of Flight Illusion puts his rig and new force feedback yoke through its paces:

Center console from Opencockpits (my winter project will be to make one for the CP Flight modules I purchased at the show):

Overhead from Opencockpits:
Vs the one from Engravity:

The FS Holland screen gazers (what are they doing? Sorry, no idea. There was a guy with a microphone that was explaining what was happening but it was all in Dutch):
And finally a short video of a home built 3 axis of movement platform (sorry about the poor light and shaking camera):

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lelystad wrap up

End of day one I met up with Ian and others for dinner at the Flantuas. The vibe was convivial and for me, meeting other cockpit builders was the highlight of the trip. To my left was Gert from Flyware. Across from me was John Perrin and Ian, on the end of the table Peter Wilshire (what a gentleman!) and Steve Mitchell. To my right Oral from Simproducts. Back to the hotel for beers and tall stories, then to bed.

Sunday morning had breakfast with Georg and Philip from flightpanels.com (except Philip wasn't eating much - he looked a bit green...). They have a number of products, the most interesting is an interface concept of connecting real aircraft instruments up to your sim. I got an invite to stop by on my next trip to Germany - will take Georg up on his offer.

The rest of the day came and went with no sign of my Revolution Simproducts rudder pedals. The only ones I saw being delivered were to Peter Wilshire, and I helped load them into the boot of my car! I was thinking of jumping in and absconding with the kit before he could climb in but no, as mentioned previously Peter is a gent. I couldn't do it to him...

I'm going to cancel the order. Let's see how that goes down.

Monday morning I headed off to the Luchtvaart Hobby Shop near Schipol:
What a joy! You should not come to Amsterdam without taking a look around here. What a concept - they actually have sim parts on the shelf that you can put in a basket, pay for and use the same day... Why they didn't have a stand at the Lelystad show is a bit puzzling but hey, what the heck. Was able to pick up a CP Flight trim panel (last one they had), some DZUS fasteners, toggle caps and knobs from Engravity.

No tiller handles though - sorry Gianluca...

They have an outstanding collection of books and guides and a limited selection of real pilot supplies. The visit made my trip complete.

Next up - a week of business then get home ASAP to plug all of these CP Flight panels in.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lelystad day 1

Rain in November in the Netherlands? Who would have thought it. It didn't seem to impact the crowds however

 
Pleased I beat the rush and was able to wait inside the building. Still took 20 minutes to get through the cashier's desk. I guess they're not used to handling such crowds. I'm also guessing there's not a lot to do in Lelystad! The turnout was quite impressive. Listening to the voices in the line, not only were the Dutch there in force, I heard French, English, German and Italian.

As for the show floor itself, mostly enthusiasts or local sim clubs showing their chops, albeit in an odd, non self conscious, staring into their screens while others look on way. A public exhibition of their gaming fetish before paying voyeurs. 

The vendors on the floor were the usual suspects. Revolultion Simproducts, simparts.de, Engravity, Flight Illusion and (be still my beating heart) CP Flight. I made a bee line to the CP flight desk to see what they had to sell that day (sadly, most of the guys were just taking orders). Angel rummaged through the "for sale" box and offered up 2 nav radios, 2 comm radios, an ADF and ATC. Only thing he didn't have that was on my shopping list was the trim unit.

What he did have (will post photo when I get home) was a new fire control panel. It looks stunning. Angel ran through the features and lit up all the lights in an ad hoc demo for me. Pricing sounded reasonable (I won't post anything before he does) and as with all of his gear the quality is top notch.

Back at the Revolution Simproducts area, Eren informed me that the pedal kit I had pre-ordered for "pick up at the show" wasn't available... He'll strip down  a demo unit for me tomorrow for me to take home. Hmm, not impressed.

I must admit, after about 90 minutes I'd seen everything I wanted to see and was done. For any of you who are considering traveling from afar to visit this show, I recommend you have other things to see and do while you're here. In other words, don't plan a whole weekend around the show.

Tonight we're off for the dinner at the rather unfortunately named Flantuas (Flatus?) restaurant.

Lelystad - first report

At the sim builders show in Lelystad, the Netherlands this weekend. Spent yesterday evening with Ian Sissons and Eren and Oral from Revolution Simproducts. All splendid chaps. Helped unload the van and got a sneak preview of their new yoke set up and of course the rudder pedals and TQ. There wasn't any time to set anything up but I did get to see (and inspect) some of the components from the TQ and the build quality is superb. You can tell that Eren puts his heart and soul into his work.

Eren committed (over a beer) to getting my TQ shipped between November 10th and 25th. Looks like my December will be busy!

While propping up the bar in the Lelystad Airport hotel, Mark Verschaeren from Flight Illusion came over. Mark is friendly and approachable - I enjoyed the conversation. Even got my digs in about why the holes in his gauges don't line up with the ones in Engravity's MIP! (see prior post). I'll be tweaking Robert about it too if I get the chance. Sadly though, I let the side down - jet lag kicked in around 11:00pm and I just had to turn in.

Show opens in about an hour. I'll head over there, pick up my pedals from Eren and check out the other vendors. I'll take photos but don't expect to see anything hi-res until my return home next week - I left the camera cable behind...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Home again - briefly

While in Europe I passed through Paris for a couple of days. Finally got through to Revolution Simproducts - my TQ is finished. Hurrah! I would have driven over to pick it up in person, except it needs to go through a couple of days of tests - boo! I decided to leave the guys alone to do what they need to. A pity really, it would have been nice to see their operation but I couldn't justify the ride out to Roissy. I'll see the team in Lelystad next month anyway.

Now I'm counting down to when the unit will ship. Good chance I'll be back in Europe when it does (I leave on Saturday).

My timing was perfect though for getting in and out of France. As you may be aware, there are strikes and demonstrations going on right now. Fortunately I dropped the rental car off just as the lines at the gas stations were starting. Also lucky to fly out while CDG had jet fuel (although our pilot did sneak up to a Lufthansa jet at 36,000 ft to siphon off enough juice to get us stateside). Air traffic controllers are about to strike too, again, lucky me.

In the unlikely event I get to work on any construction this week, I'll post again before departure.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Octoberfirst (post)

First trip to Europe looms on Saturday. No build to report and no update on where my throttle quadrant is. Repeated emails to Revolution Simproducts have gone unanswered - I hope this isn't a bad sign... Maybe they are just busy preparing for the FS weekend in Lelystad...

What I have been doing though is trying to land at Innsbruck, RW08, via the BRENO 2B approach and a circling final from ABSAM. The gauntlet was thrown down by Bernd and he has been more successful than I. Although I did note on the playback that he came within 260 feet of auguring in before turning onto the base leg...

In an attempt to improve my performance, I downloaded and installed the latest versions of Project Magenta, including the LOWI terrain add on. Curses! I should of backed up the old files first - the darned thing stopped working! In particular the PFD and ND software disappears from the computer whenever I run it (either that or it's moving itself to a different folder I've yet to find). There's always something to figure out.

Also, my sister was in town and surprisingly wanted to see the sim in action. Naturally I bludgeoned the landing while she was watching... What was touching was that she was really getting into it and was trying to figure out what the hell I was doing. Sis did an excellent job of lowering the gear when requested, while her hubby worked the flaps. If only their flight back home next day went as smoothly - they were delayed by 17 hours... Sometimes the sim world works better than the real thing.

Final note, Lulu fixed the boo boo on the Boeing 737 technical guide, as reported in the last post. Captain Bernd awaits the goofed one.

A bientot.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Success!

Finally got the control column set up so it will stay in any position - no more yoke flopping around. It ain't pretty but it works. I figured the problem was that the lever points were too close to the fulcrum. To gain more leverage I needed to turn the strut supports at 90 degrees to the way I had them. Affixing to a round column was going to be a challenge so I cut down a couple of bits of plastic I had in the shop, temporarily screwed them together and drilled my mounting holes through both in one go (this ensured that they were equal on both sides). I then mounted the whole assembly and tested with just the 150n struts attached. It was almost enough to keep the column steady although I noted some slop. Once the other 100n struts were added, the thing is rock solid in any position.

At some point I may replace the plastic pieces with aluminum plates of the same size. For now though they will suffice. I know that the top struts are now proud of the frame but once the decking board goes down on top and I fashion a dome to slide down the column, you won't be able to see it.

Next for the yoke, I'll be putting in more substantial travel limiters (the little wooden blocks you see weren't up to the job), hooking up the potentiometers, will wire it all up and cross my fingers.

At Gianluca's suggestion, I purchased the excellent Boeing 737 Technical Guide from Lulu publishing. Interesting concept - you order the book and Lulu prints it for you. What wasn't so interesting is that their binding guy goofed:
All well until page 172, then it jumps to page 354 and counts down to page 171... whoops! So if you're reading this Bernd, assuming Lulu doesn't want this copy back and they send me a new one, this one's for you!

What else? Well, looks like I'll be heading back to Europe 3 more times between now and Thanksgiving (2 for work, 1 for pleasure) so the current slow progress will continue. Sorry.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Middle of August eh?

Ok, in my last post I said I would have an update by mid August. It's the end of the month - it just snuck up on me. So where are we? Well the drywall is in and the tile guy is there today working on the bathroom. The landscaping crew is in full swing and the carpenter is putting some doors and trim in. I've been painting. None of this is related to the sim of course...

No progress to report. I did try the 150n struts in the yoke and found that it still wasn't offering up enough resistance to stop the whole column from flapping around. Back to the drawing board there - will try changing the fulcrum point to see if that does the trick. I'm taking some time off work next week and we're heading out of town - will take the yoke assembly with me to experiment. Or maybe I'll set it up on the passenger side of the car and will amaze people with my right hand seat driving skills, while the wife crouches down in the left hand slot, working the pedals.

September is the month I should see my throttle quadrant from Revolution Simproducts. Waiting to hear back from them in terms of a delivery date.

My mind though has been pre-occupied with the external visuals. I'm thinking of going for a set up very similar to the one Ivar Hestnes built. You really should check out the link, it looks awesome! Best I can tell from the information gleaned here, I'll need to upgrade the main computer I'm using. Thinking of building my own, rather than buying a pre-built. This should be interesting...

All for now.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Treading water while waiting for new pedals...

Since I'm planning on attending the geek fest in Lelystad later this year, I decided to take Revolution Simproducts up on their offer for a pedal kit (sorry, none left). While doing my usual poke around of what other people are up to, I noticed these excellent video guides from Ian on how to put the pedals together. Now the good news for my friend Bernd in Germany is that I have a spare set of CH products pedals for him, and possible a yoke too, if I ever get my home brew one finished.

Speaking of which, I ordered up some heftier gas springs for the yoke. The 100 Newton ones in there now aren't strong enough to keep the top heavy yoke from flopping forward or back. Let's see if the 150 ones work, if not I'll double them up with the ones already installed.

The wiring on the house remodel I'm working on is all but done, meaning I can spend time on the sim again in the very near future. Next weekend we're out of town (finally a break) so expect another update mid August.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ok, made my mind up...

...I ordered the motorized throttle today from Revolution Simproducts. Oh boy. Next 10 to 12 weeks will seem like forever.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Still here (sort of)

Sorry folks, not much action to report. Got back from a trip to Europe a week or so back and today I'm getting on the plane back there... This and the house remodel (I can hear the contractor banging away as I write this) has resulted in very little time for the sim.

What I did do though was more work on the yoke (mind you, that Ace yoke is starting to look tempting....). Managed to break one of the CH products potentiometers in the process, since I wasn't paying attention to the strain I was putting on the thing while coupling it up to the yoke handle. Snapped the PCB in two in the process. Happily, CH products sells and ships parts. I ordered 2 more (hey I might break it again!) and they arrived today. On my return from Europe I'll take another crack at it.

On my last trip I contacted Revolution Simproducts to see if I could stop by to see the motorized throttle (I had Euros burning a hole in my pocket...). Eren got right back to me and said it wouldn't be a problem. Sadly, even though I was in France, he was too far away for me to get there and still catch my flight home. Maybe next time. I need to make my mind up - keep going with my home made yoke and buy the throttle, or buy the yoke now and the throttle later?

Also while away, Gianluca got in touch. It was really pleasant to get some direct feedback on the blog, my progress and also to note the similarities in our builds.

All for now - my real plane beckons.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A quick word

Dear Anoraks,

I picked up a comment from Mike this weekend, apparently he is building a captain only rig too. Problem was, I couldn't figure out his email address to reply to. Which got me thinking, how can you reach out to me? I checked out Gmail to find that some wag has already stolen my FlyWJP handle, so here's the address you can use going forward (it's also in my updated profile): wjpairmail@gmail.com

What else? Slow to no progress on the sim due to other commitments. Trying to focus on the yoke rebuild, will post an update when I've figured out the mechanism for controlling roll and pitch.

Also picked up a new follower from New Zealand, Ruscool. Not only can they repair your Mitsubishi refrigerated container controllers (eh?), they also knock out parts for flight simulators. Those rotary encoder knobs look cool and I'm sure a set has my name on them...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Much better, less grumpy

After a spot of RTFM with the Flight Illusion manual, I learned that the chrono, attitude indicator and altimeter come with a preset device ID. The others are generic gauges and have the same ID until you change it (but of course! How did I miss that?). Since the flap, yaw and airspeed indicators are generic, you need to hook them up one at a time and let the config program find them. From there you can reset the device ID to ensure that they are all unique.

Bottom line, all of the gauges now function. And they do so flawlessly. Without any further set up or calibration, first tests are showing very promising. And here's how it all looks:
..with the exception of the engine screen which I don't have hooked up to a computer at the moment. What a delight to see at a glance the current flap settings and to see the indicator move at the speed of flap extension! Outstanding! Ah it's the little things that bring such joy to Anoroks such as your truly.

Alrighty then, must press on with the yoke and platform, this weekend's work has added fresh vigor.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I can see clearly now the ash clouds are gone

What a difference a couple of days makes? Sister and kids got home, Flight Illusions gauges arrived!

First check out of gauges was very positive. With everything plugged into the interface board, it all powered up and each unit went through its reset mode. The chronometer looks fantastic and functions well. The build quality of each unit is... fair to good. Sorry, but it's short of excellent. Here are my detailed observations (and it's not all down to Flight Illusions):
  • When you look at the dimension specs on Flight Illusions web site, most of the depths are incorrectly stated. Not that it really matters if you're mounting things in an open backed frame but all the same.. If you can't publish the correct specs, how accurate will you be with the manufacture of the product. Case in point, the attitude indicator has a true depth of 50mm (not including the bezel) but a reported depth of 27mm
  • The mounting holes are set 63mm apart on the big gauges. On the Engravity MIP, they're set at 79mm. No problem you think, I'll drill and tap new holes on the gauge. Not so fast, the gauge itself is about 83mm wide, leaving very little material to drill and tap into. Looking at forums, Engravity claims their hole spacing is per a real cockpit spec. In Flight Illusion's defense, they can't make a product that will fit any panel but you think there would be a bit more cooperation between the 2 biggest suppliers of Boeing simulator parts. As it turns out, the only 2 gauges that fit the predrilled holes in the MIP are the flap and yaw indicators
  • The gauges arrived with no mounting screws. A review of forums indicates that Flight Illusions suggest you use "Parker" or self tapping screws. Into plastic? Scary prospect when you run the risk of ruining a gauge that can cost up to €278,30. Saying that, drilling and tapping isn't exactly worry free:
  • For the gauges where the holes don't line up, I'll be using a strong double sided tape from 3M and will hope it's enough to keep the gear in place
  • The yaw gauge was misdrilled in one corner. They cut it too close to the edge of the plastic case and the bolt is hanging out the side. Fortunately the other three bolts are holding it together
  • Most of the plexi glass covers on the gauges were either dusty or needed cleaning. I used a can of compressed air to blow the dust out
  • The attitude indicator is the most impressive piece of engineering. It has its flaws though. Instead of a slice off a sphere, they've used a piece of card bent over and stuck into a plastic holder, which you can see top and bottom (white plastic):

  • It might be a visual distraction or maybe I'm just being super picky

  • There were smudge marks on the printed card (ok, I am being picky, but try using latex gloves when you put these things together guys!):

  • Tried to mount the attitude indicator (tricky when you have to reach around over the top of the glareshield) and it wouldn't fit! Cause? Faulty cut out in the Engravity MIP panel. See the ridge in the bottom left at about 7 o'clock? We need to grind that out:

  • Gee what's with all the masking? Well, I don't want aluminum dust flying off all over the place gumming up the works and potentially shorting out expensive electronics:

  • Take note Anoraks, make sure all of the holes are ready to go before you assemble the MIP. You'll save yourself a lot of monkeying around later. With the hole smoothed out, I took a final look at the gauge before mounting it and decided that light will leak in from outside, ruining the effect. So a bit of gaffer tape applied carefully around the outside should make it light tight. Note the red double sided adhesive tape in the corners:
Now all of the gauges are installed (well where's the picture? Later my friends, I'll have another post for you this weekend), how does it look? It looks fantastic! Instead of the gaping holes in the MIP, it's looking very complete. However, all is not well.

Installed the Flight Illusions software and it recognizes the altimeter, chrono and attitude indicator. The test program ran them through their paces and they look stunning. It can't find the flaps, yaw or airspeed indicators. More analysis required and right now, the dog wants to go for a walk.

More later.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Volcanic Ash Cloud Grounds Sim...

Grrr! Flight Illusions "mailed" the gauges - only problem is, DHL isn't flying..

On the bright side, my business trip got cancelled! Whey hey! Bad news, my sister is stuck in Boston with 3 kids trying to get back to England. Boo!

Have made some slow progress on the yoke. First step was to secure the control wheel to the yoke head housing. I did this with the afore documented wooden bung, added a PVC spacer made out of irrigation pipe (that's the white bit in the photo), added the arm previously drilled for the tensioning springs, drilled a new hole in the top of the tube for the fixing plug (it secures the arm to the rod) and a one in the bottom to pass through the wire from the control handle. End result is this:
Forgot to mention, before I put it all together I applied a liberal amount of grease between the control wheel and the wooden bung... Inserted the assembly into the control head and slotted a pulley onto the rod. It's a good friction fit but note the notch I cut into the pulley so that it fits over the fixing plug. This way the pulley can't slip when the rod rotates:

So the plan is to fix the roll potentiometer to the housing and run the belt around it and the big pulley. Will work on that later this week and will report on results. In the base of the yoke, I have the elevator potentiometer in a test set up, will affix it later and let you know how it works.

And can you believe it's raining again in San Francisco?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Yahoo! Flight Illusion gauges will be sent "this weekend"...

Well, just got an update from Flight Illusions today. They plan to get my gauges in the mail by the weekend. Rocking good news. I'll finally be able to plug up most of the holes in the MIP. Sadly though, more business travel ahoy. So expect further delays to the blog updates. I really feel like I'm letting you all down, whereas in reality, I know you probably couldn't give a stuff.

Will really, really try to get my head down and make some progress on the build this weekend.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Non sim building thoughts and reports

Dear reader,
As you know, I've been out of pocket for a couple of weeks, resulting in zero activity on the build. I did get to fly in real life though and thought I'd share my thoughts on it, in the absence of anything build related. If you're not interested, feel free to tune in later in the week when I should have something on topic to share...

My trip was to Europe, partly business and partly to see family and friends. The direct routes from San Francisco invariably take you over northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland then down over England to the mainland. My option is always for a window seat on the left hand side of the plane. Three reasons:
  1. I don't want some jackass pushing past me every hour or so wanting to go to the bathroom
  2. I am that jackass that will push past you in the middle and aisle seat....
  3. At this time of year you stand an excellent chance of seeing the northern lights
On point 3, I wasn't disappointed. While the other dullards were watching an edited version of a movie on a tiny screen, with lousy sound quality (the same video you can rent or buy in the next 6 weeks), I had my head glued to the window after sunset, waiting for the light show. Sorry, no photos. Even if I had tried it wouldn't have done it justice - it's something you need to experience yourself. To get an idea of what I'm talking about though, here's a ground based photo from Senior Airman Joshua Strang:


Of course it's not a moving picture. When you see the northern lights they are constantly "moving" and changing. To see something of this scale appear to ripple across the viewable horizon is breath taking. On this occasion it was very bright and at times had more color to it than I've seen before. Have yet to see it from the ground but can fully recommend watching it from the comfort of your window seat.

Flying back from Europe, I always try to get a seat on the right hand side of the plane. You will miss the views of the Golden Gate bridge (assuming a Golden Gate 5 arrival) but what you will stand a better chance of seeing are spectacular views of Iceland and Greenland. Like these:



A pet peeve is having to fly economy. Not so much because I have to disturb and trip over my fellow passengers every hour on the hour, more because I often get stuck in front of someone who is determined to massage my kidneys with their knees. No better example than on the flight home this weekend. A "gentleman" sporting a Fresno State polo short (yes, you know who you are..) spent most of the 11 hours banging into the back of my chair then apologizing repeatedly and profusely every time I gave him the hairy eyeball. Now I'm a good person to be sitting behind since I rarely recline my seat. Mr. Knees behind me didn't take that into account.

So here's my other flying tip for when the knees get to be too much: go stand near the galley and scrounge whatever you can from the attendants. Don't return to your seat until you are sure the people in the aisle and middle seat have finally fallen asleep.

Also of note, while in Germany I visited the Speyer Technik Museum. They have a 747 up on 40 feet high stilts. Check out the web page and you'll see that the thing is banked over to give the impression of flight. You access it by an external staircase. 2 things struck me: when you step into the 'plane you are immediately disoriented because the thing isn't level. A bit like being seasick. The second was just how "dangerous" the thing is in places!

You can access the cargo hold via a steep ladder. Once you're down there, you need to step over the 3 foot high bulwarks, all apparently designed to snap your legs off at the knees! Now of course to we anoraks this is no problem but in the US it would represent a liability issue that the lawyers would cry verboten and that would be the end of it. So hats of to the Germans for not appearing to give a hoot about your safety. Oh the other thing you can do is walk out onto the wing at look back at the fuselage (don't worry, there are handrails). Excellent viewpoint to give you a different appreciation for the size of the sucker.

The other highlight at the museum is the Russian Buran shuttle. The thing even had jet engines...

Many thanks to all the friends and family that put me up last week. Special thanks to my big sis and bro in law. They are spreading the word of this blog to anyone with a passing interest in others with obsessive/compulsive disorders, such as mine. Couldn't help but notice the scrap of paper on the dining room table with this URL scribbled on it...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Expect further delay to next posting...

Dear fellow anoraks. Work and travel demands I be on the road for the next 10 days, so don't expect an update until the first week of April. May be just as well, since there is still no sign of those Flight Illusion gauges...

Later!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Last post for 10 days...

Will be heading out of town for a little over a week, so don't expect an update until 10 days hence. Not a lot to report today. One pleasant surprise in the mail box yesterday was this speed break lever from Dan:

Very nice! Have yet to thank Dan in person (will get to that next week) and to be fair this snap shot doesn't do it justice. A testament to Dan's craftsmanship, the speed brake handle he shipped me earlier fits beautifully on the lever. All that's required is a bit of sanding and buffing. Will also get to that in due course.

Only other work worth mentioning is that I got the tension springs in the yoke:



They are repurposed from the CH Products yoke. You'll also notice I cut the wings off the stub connected to the rod. I had to do this to get everything connected to the wooden bung and then slip the assembly through the hole on the facing side. To save as much of the wing as possible, I ground down the lip on the inside of the conduit housing, leaving a piece on the top and bottom to ensure that the bung doesn't pull all the way though (those with excellent vision should just be able to pick out what I'm talking about from the photo).

Where I didn't get lucky was on the length of the wing tips on the top. I was hoping to keep them long enough so they would bind with the post on the top of the conduit housing. Note quite. So I'll need to rig something up in there to prevent the yoke from turning more than 45 degrees in each direction of roll.

The tensioning is fine. The yoke doesn't snap back to center when you release it but then again, I don't imagine it does in a real 737. It does give adequate resistance and at least gives the impression that you are turning something with some push back on it. Now all I got to do is figure out a way to get the potentiometer connected up and working.

That's all folks - tune in again around March 23rd for more, unless I run into something in my travels that's worth writing about...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mid week mini update

One of the things that ticks me off about the Engravity website is that the photo for the desktop MIP shows the dust shield and trigger guard on the gear lever. You can see what I'm talking about here. The photo may be from the performance panel line because it doesn't come with the desktop version. So we must make our own. Here's the (whoops - mainly out of focus) before shot from my build:

What a mess - you can see all of the gubbins in there - this won't do. So what to put in there? I've been looking for a material that won't scratch the powder coat off the gear lever. Settled on this, a thin fabric backed rubber mouse pad:


Just the right size (as you can see) and protects me with Microban! (whatever that is). A couple of cuts with a craft knife later and I sandwiched the mouse pad between the panel and the landing gear cover. Result? Acceptable if not perfect:



A couple of panels from Opencockpits arrived this week. They are for the light dimmers. Not bad quality, although thinner than the ones from Engravity. Also require their own, custom made backlighting. Knobs shown are from Opencockpits too. A little smaller than the Engravity ones but do have the locking screws on them - have yet to determine if they're functional:

I'll be back at it with the yoke and base this weekend - more later.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Progress on yoke and base

Played tourist in our own fair city with 2 colleagues from out of town. So there goes Saturday! It was good to get out though, especially since the sun finally shone on San Francisco, during what seems to be the longest rainy season on record. Sunday made some progress, despite dog walking, bike riding and tree stump chopping (ala Shane) diversions of the day. It was though, one of those days in the workshop when nothing went smoothly. I've learned under these circumstances that when the force isn't with me, I should knock it off and do something else.

There are some photos to describe however. The first shows the 2 adjustable stops I mounted in the yoke base. They allow fine tuning of the forward and back limits on the column:
Next we have more destruction on the CH products yoke. The plan was to shorten the rod that connects the handle to the gubbins inside. Before doing that, I needed to snip the wires that feed through the small hole on the rod and go to a connector. Since there are some wires which are the same color (they may be common connected and seem to go to the same lug on the connector, will figure that out later), I marked them with a Sharpie before cutting:

The rod is 1 inch in diameter. So the trick now is to bit a bung into the electrical conduit housing that reduces from 2 inch to 1 inch. As mentioned previously, my shop is more geared up for woodworking. I dug out a scrap of oak which I loosley fashioned with a jig saw to get a size that works (although I'll admit isn't a better example of my craftsmanship...). It will be hidden by the yoke so I'm not that upset by it. From here I marked the center and dropped in a 1 inch hole with my drill press:


You can see one of the screw holes in the side. Once I get the rod mounted tight to the back of the wooden bung, I'll push it back it place, align the witness marks and screw it in place so it doesn't rotate or pull out - unlikely since it's a snug fit...not that the visible gap there is any indication. Again, I can hear my shop teacher Mr. Clack yelling at me, "Son! There's enough room for a family of rats to move into that gap!". Except back in the day, what he said was a lot less politically correct...

While I had the bit in the drill press, I drilled a matching hole in the rear removable cover and cut the rod down to size so it just fits through. Why? Well the plan is to put the yoke under tension so that it returns to a neutral position in the roll axis (I'll probably use the original springs from the CH Products yoke). The rear support will provide the needed stability:

With the cover off you can see the new hole I drilled in the rod to feed the cable from the switches etc:


Can you believe that I woke up at 1:30 on Friday morning obsessing how I was going to figure out this part of the build? I ended up getting out of bed and working on some of the components - just couldn't sleep. I hope it works - I need my rest.

Also bolted onto the handle a real Boeing yoke clipboard (thanks Nick!), so far the only real aircraft component in the build (if you discount the seat which is still sitting in my basement). The result so far looks like this:

One thing I noticed - the heft previously reported is greatly diminshed with the extra weight at the top of the column - the 100n gas struts feel a bit weak. I'll give it a try but may up the ante and put in something stronger down the line. The more observant of you will notice some framing in the background there. It's the start of the base:

It's upside down if you were wondering. The narrow end is where the MIP (Main Instrument Panel) will be mounted. I'll cut a hole out in the plywood for the yoke unit (once I figure out exactly where...) and will then frame around it.

So that's it for the week that was. Except to say that recently I got more active in the Mycockpit forum so if you're reading this from a link I dropped over there, welcome to my folly!