The poor mans sim pit

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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby OldAirmail » Sun Feb 02, 2014 7:51 pm

Extra monitors

. . . AGAIN

What seems like a long time ago, I bought an Asus Sabertooth P67 motherboard. This board was capable of running two video cards tied together to act as a much more powerful card.

It, apparently, can also run two video cards as separate video cards.

Image


AMD/Radeon calls the running of two cards as one, CrossFireX.

The NVIDIA version is called SLI - Scalable Link Interface.

For any of the MS flight simulators, it doesn't matter which one is faster. This would only be beneficial if you played highly demanding games.


There are people to whom it does matter. They can easily spend over $10,000 on a system just to have bragging rights. :doh:

Whatever floats your boat.


But the video card that I bought worked more than well enough for FSX, so I never bought a second card to use in CrossFireX.

BUT, I do have a slightly older Radeon HD card, so.... :think:


So today I stuck it into that vacant slot and became 30 years younger, ALMOST as handsome as I ever was, and much richer.
.
.
.
.

Sorry there, I nodded off. :liar:



The results, while not fantastic, were noticeable, and a little surprising.

First off, it worked. I had plugged the Desktop Aviator GPS directly into the old card, and it came alive.

Now, I have the ability to use six monitors directly. The two 9 inch USB monitors are still USB monitors. That's how they were built.

But even there, I noticed something VERY surprising.

Aside from the GPS that was plugged directly into the second video card, BOTH USB monitors are now being driven by the second card!


I could not have asked for more from that card.

The USB monitors are only used for flight instruments. Great speed isn't needed there. The same is true for the GPS screen.

Image

Image


That leaves the three primary monitors to the fastest video card, the HD 6850. :D

Image


The end result is an extra 4 or 5 FPS in FSX, and an extra 5 to 6 FPS in Prepar3d V2!


While many have better cards, and systems than mine, this might be a good time to re-asses your system.

For me, I took a small amount of load off the primary video card, slightly sped up FSX/Prepar3d V2, AND gained room for more monitors
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby Hestntonpms » Mon Feb 03, 2014 7:28 pm

that is friggin awesome !
When I get a little bit of free time, I am going to try to do that, I have a few video cards layin around that are damn near new, well they're old but barely used at all , let me ask you a question are both cards the same speed ?
Gigabyte X79 Chip set Mobo
Intel-i7 4820K CPU/Liquid cooled
Single GTX Titan 6gig GPU/ extreme air cooled
16 gig/1600 MHz quad channel DDR3
1 T/B -Raid-0 array,Risking it all for every ounce of performance until I go with SSD's
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby OldAirmail » Mon Feb 03, 2014 10:13 pm

Both cards are part of the AMD HD Radeon series. Both have 1 GB of DDR5 ram.

They're not the fastest in the world, but they have two things going for them;
1) Either one can run FSX more than fast enough. Everything that I want to see in FSX is at, or near, the max settings.
2) They're relatively cheap. :D

The people over at Lockheed Martin keep saying that most people will have to move the settings down from "default". When I used the HD 6850 by it's self I had absolutely no problems visually. I even moved a few settings upward with no visual problems.


The "old" one is a XFX ATI Radeon HD 5670 (This one was $90 two year and a half years ago)
◾Engine clock speed: 775 MHz
◾Processing power (single precision): 620 GigaFLOPS
◾Polygon throughput: 775M polygons/sec
◾Data fetch rate (32-bit): 62 billion fetches/sec
◾Texel fill rate (bilinear filtered): 15.5 Gigatexels/sec
◾Pixel fill rate: 6.2 Gigapixels/sec
◾Anti-aliased pixel fill rate: 24.8 Gigasamples/sec
◾Memory clock speed: 1.0 GHz
◾Memory data rate: 4.0 Gbps
◾Memory bandwidth: 64 GB/sec
◾Maximum board power: 64 Watts (This is GREAT if you have an older computer with a marginal power supply)


The other is an AMD Radeon HD 6850 (This one cost $150 one and a half years ago)

◾775MHz Engine Clock
◾1GB GDDR5 Memory
◾1000MHz Memory Clock (GDDR5)
◾128 Gbps memory bandwidth (maximum)
◾1.5 TFLOPS compute power


So long as your two cards are in the same series, there probably won't be a problem. You may even get away with different cards so long as they're the same brand: AMD, or NVidia.



Having said that, I removed my old/current video drivers, and installed the latest driver BEFORE I put the second card in. Much to my surprise, the little GPS monitor lit up without me doing ANYTHING! :D


And then there was the bad side. :shock:

This morning my computer started acting odd. I checked the usual suspects. No problem. The Hardware Manager showed no problems.

So I did a System Restore to before I put the second card in. No luck.

I even went back a week to a previous S.R. point in case it had nothing to do with the video card, but that didn't fix it.

Restoring it to the start of today cured the problem, but I had to re-install the video card driver.

BIG MISTAKE!


Long story short, installing the drivers with the second card in the computer TOTALLY locked up the system to the point where I had to throw the power switch in back.

After pulling the "old" card I was able to get things back to normal without any problems.

I then put the old card back in, and have had no problems all day.



The point of all this is that you may or may not have trouble, and with each system being different you'll be going it alone.

Or, if you have lots of money buy two new identical cards. :D

I mean, if I can have a visual difference with two middling, mis-matched, video cards, then a matched pair might be well worth it.
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby OldAirmail » Fri Feb 28, 2014 11:14 am

An update on the video card setup.

An extra 10 FPS for Prepar3d V2.1, and an extra 2 or 3 for FSX.



Everything has been running fine, no problems.

But since when do I let that stop me. :D


I've been having fun with hardware for the past week.

Among other things I rearranged the monitor connections between the two video cards.


As mentioned before, I more frequently use just the center & right hand monitors for quick flights.

Oh, the triple monitor setup still works, but I think that it would be better for a dedicated sim pit. Not a general purpose setup.

The other problem is that using all three large monitors for Prepar3d REALLY kills the frame rate.

The two 9 inch USB monitors, and the GPS panel, when used with only two of the large monitors work MUCH better, frame rate wise.


But in using the two large monitors, only the main monitor will be used to display the flight screen. The right hand screen is used to display Plan-G.

Both of those monitors were plugged into the faster video card.



Why????

Why the heck should I continue to do it that way?

The extra speed of the newer card really isn't needed for the second monitor that's running Plan-G

So, now, after plugging in the right hand monitor into the slightly older/slower card, I find Prepar3d running much better, and FSX slightly better.

That's because Prepar3d V2 is designed to offload a bunch of stuff (sorry to get so technical) onto the GPU of the graphics card.



SLOW CHILD IN THE NEIBORHOOD!

Sometimes it just takes me a little longer to see the obvious. :oops:
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby OldAirmail » Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:18 pm

A story in three parts.

Part one - The useless Saitek BIP.

Image

What it does, is notify you if there is some event like "Low Fuel", "Stall Warning", etc.


Why is it useless?

Because my computer desk is all that I have for space. It'd be great if I could set up another computer for a home slight sim, but to do so means something would have to go.

So my BIP was placed off to the left, under one of the monitors.

It fit fine, but being out of the way I rarely noticed it. And if you can't notice a warning light popping up, what good is it?

This is where it had been. Unfortunately, in this picture the BIP is sitting right where the yoke has to go.
Image


So no matter where I put it, it was going to be out of the way, and therefore useless.

If I wanted to, I could buy a Saitek yoke. They're designed for mounting the Saitek panels on top.
Image


The only problems with that, is that I like the CH yoke better.

And while I'll admit that the Saitek yoke looks better, I bought the CH yoke at a better price on sale.

The fact that it had more switches, built-in rudder peddles, and TPM levers also helped in the selection.

Image


But there's just not to much you can do with the top of that. The 3 levers are no longer used, though.... :think:

Got it! Remove the levers and flatten out the hump where they pass thru.

Image


A little cutting with a Dremel, and a little smoothing with a file.
Image

I put a short strip of 1 1/2 inch electrical tape over the hole. Most of the hole would be hidden anyway, but it's barely noticeable with the black plastic tape.



What now?

Mounting the Saitek bracket, of course.

The far left side has a hard black wedge underneath it. As the bracket is bolted thru the top of the yoke body, this keeps it from being bent down.

Image


And now I have a Frankenstein CH-Saitek yoke. :lol:
Image
BTW - When you're sitting in a chair the BIP does not block the Switch Panel. Everything is easy to see, and within easy reach.


Two things to note - The screws can't be very long. I used the Dremel to cut them short, and put some clear Silicone sealer over the inside nuts to keep them from loosening.

After all, you can't tighten them down very tight. None the less, the bracket is secure enough to pick up the whole assembly without worry.


Those notches encircled in red on the second from last picture? I had intended to wrap the cable behind the BIP and feed it thru the body.

But the plan changed, and that's part 2 of the story.
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby OldAirmail » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:03 pm

This part was inspired by Sprockets' post - How I salvaged my Saitek yoke.
Unfortunately, I reacted badly in a post, and drove him off. Thanks, and good luck, Sprocket, wherever you went.


Before you begin reading, look at the pictures. And then decide if you want to do this mod.

Part two - All I wanted was ONE switch with a light that would turn on & off.

I like buttons and switches.

No shi* foolin'. :D

There are USB based controller boards that can be detected by just about any flight sim. They're called a HID (Human Interface Device) device.

Push a button and most computers will detect it.

When you use a HID controller the computer will see something like this when you push a button:
Device(0) Event: Button1 Down
Device(0) Event: Button1 Up

Device(0) Event: Button2 Down
Device(0) Event: Button2 Up

And so on. Different software may list the device & events in a slightly different way.

Sometimes instead of Device(x), it'll list the device by a name like this;
Gamepad(0) Event: Button1 Down
Gamepad(0) Event: Button1 Up

If you're using two of these you'll see this;
Gamepad(0) Event: Button1 Down
Gamepad(0) Event: Button1 Up

Gamepad(1) Event: Button1 Down
Gamepad(1) Event: Button1 Up

These are the signals that your game needs to see and respond to.

Image

And just about anyone, who's using more than a mouse & keyboard, has probably programed their own equipment, so there should be no need to go into basics here.

There is a way to save a significant amount of money if you're willing to do a little bit of work.




So how do you go about making a lighted switch turn on & off, AND do something in FS9, FSX, Prepar3d, or in xxx?

This depends on your abilities and just what you have at hand.


POWER!

I happen to have a 12VDC 1amp plugin transformer. And that saved me both money & effort.

Why?

That has to do with voltage, LEDs, and resistors.

LEDs need a certain amount & type (DC as opposed to AC) of power.

I'm not going to get into the fine details about that stuff, but here are a couple of places to get you started (in no particular order);
Choosing The Resistor To Use With LEDs
Forward Voltage and KVL
LED Resistor Calculator
LED Series Resistor Calculator

I know. Nothing's simple, is it. But the more you learn, the better off you'll become.

But a lot of people may just want to go the way that I went.

You WILL probably have to buy the 12VDC transformer, but it doesn't need a 1 amp (1,000ma) output though.

And if you don't have spare transformers laying about your home, you'll need one anyway, so....

For just a few LEDs, 250 to 500 milliamps should be more than enough. But I'm just guessing on the 250ma.



THE SWITCHES!

Image

New 10PC Car Truck Rocker Toggle LED Switch Red Light On-Off Control

These are;
Cheap - $10 for a bag of 10! ONE DOLAR EACH!
12VDC - They're already setup for 12VDC so they match my transformer. NO RESISTER NEEDED - They're made to work off a 12 volt auto system, so you don't have to do anything else.



THE CONTROLLER BOARD!

Image

This is similar to what Sprocket used. I never had controllers like this, so I never thought of using them with FSX. But sometimes the simplest of ideas are pure genius.

I went to a couple of stores to get something like this, and discovered what most of you already know - They ain't all USB devices!

I also learned that they cost more than I wanted to spend at the moment, so off to Amazon.

Gtron USB SNES Classic Famicom Controller 9FT Cord for PC/MAC - PC Mac Linux

Price - $8. THAT, I can afford.



But what I wanted was the board, to use as a controller. So....

This is the board with the wires soldered on to the printed circuit.

If you aren't used to soldering you might want to have someone else do that part.
Image
The wire with the white electrical tape on it is the "common" connection. If ANY of the other four wires make contact the board/computer will register a connection (button press down, button up).


After testing all four of the wire/connections, I wrapped the board up in electrical tape to prevent the wires from pulling the circuit board trace off the board.

If you buy a USB/HID controller this'll be less likely.


NOTE - I only needed ONE button. But I could see a use for a total of 3 buttons. And if you could use 3, why not 4????

Four turned out to be the best option for the face of CH yoke. So four it was.

Using this board you could use up to eight buttons.



HOLES!

The switches are intended to be press fit into holes. There is a "key" (rib) on one side so that they don't start to rotate once in place. The best way that I found to make the holes was to use what's called a "stepper" or Unibit.

Neiko 3-Piece Titanium Step Drill Bits

Image


Mark everything off as best you can, drill a starter hole, and then progress the stepper bit, one step at a time, until the base of the button fits smoothly in. If you make the hole to big...... Good luck to you.

Image
If you make the hole too small the switch will bind and be hard to work.

Getting there.
Image


When the base of the button goes in you'll then have to file a cutout for the "key".

The switches will need to have the wires soldered on before inserting the switch.

TEST YOUR WIRING BEFORE YOU PUT THEM IN.

Hopefully this'll help for wiring the switch.

Image


To get the 12 volts DC into the case for the LEDs, I installed a power connector/jack in the back of the case.

Image
SIDE NOTE: The one thing that irritates me is the sound of the springs moving inside the case when you pull/push the yoke. A small stream of Silicone sealant across the springs (leave it over night) will keep them nice and quiet.

While I'm at it, another SIDE NOTE 2: You don't have to do this while the top of the yoke is off, but put some white lithium grease on the shaft. It keeps it from binding.
Image


The USB Pass through was made by drilling a hole JUST below the original USB cable pass through.

Image

When the top part of the case is secured to the bottom, the grommet presses against the new cable hard enough to keep it from moving.

Everything is in place now.
Image

Image



Well. How did it look when done?

Not to bad, if I have to say so myself.

The pictures on the other hand...... Not so good.

Image


Image


Image


There's more than enough room to reach in and flip any switch.

Actually, I just measured it - 9 inches (about 23 cm) between the switches and the back of the yoke.


This shot is AT EYE LEVEL looking down.
Image



A word of warning before you decide to do this - WAIT FOR THE LAST INSTALLMENT!
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby Sprocket » Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:49 am

OldAirmail wrote:This part was inspired by Sprockets' post - How I salvaged my Saitek yoke.Unfortunately, I reacted badly in a post, and drove him off. Thanks, and good luck, Sprocket, wherever you went.



Hi everybody...to put the record straight here, NO, it was ME who was the idiot here...ME FOR OVERREACTING. :oops:

But, with the grace of OAM and a couple of PM'S, my guilt has sufficiently subsided, so I feel happy, and glad to be back...and glad to put it all behind now :clap:

Now... What are we hacking next? :dance: Keyboards, anyone?
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby boromir125 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:28 am

God bless you Fozzer, I believe you do have it right.
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby logjam » Tue Mar 04, 2014 12:15 pm

One day I'll hire a 9 year old boy to do all this for me. It looks like a great experience, but it's wayyyyy beyond me. :ugeek:
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby OldAirmail » Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:16 pm

And NOW


The rest of the story.

:cry:



So here I am. All done.

Image


EVERYTHING works as it should.

Image


I flip a switch. The wingtip floats move down on the Grumman Goose. And the light on the switch lights up.

I flip the switch off. And he wingtip floats move back up. And the light on the switch goes out. EXACTLY what I wanted.


Perfect!

I now have a dedicated switch with a visual indicator to remind me to move the wingtip floats back up. :dance:

AND it looks pretty good.



THE PROBLEM :cry:

The problem is that the switches stick too far into the case, and interfere with the yoke.


The switch measurements, from the face of the yoke panel to the end of the terminals, is only 7/8ths of an inch (2.5cm).

I hadn't thought that it would interfere, but it does.


My first thought was to restrict the distance that the yoke could be pulled back, and then recalibrate it.

So I took a plastic tape spool, cut it and put it over the shaft.

Image

Image

This did work, but I disliked the limited backward travel of the yoke.


An alternative would be to cut off the two "arms". But I'm not all that sure that it would have the clearance that it needs.

Image



Instead, I'll probably cut the three switch terminals close to the base and solder the wire leads at a 90 degree angle.

But, that too, may not be enough. the terminals are only 5/8ths (7mm) long. And of that you have to leave about 1/8th (1 - 2 mm) to attach the wires.

So, in addition to that, I may have to find some grommets to space the buttons outwards.

Image . . Image

But I do like the way the look sitting flush to the yoke panel, so I'm reluctant to go down that path.




So for the moment, I've removed them.

Deedless to say this makes the yoke look a little less pleasant than Quasimodo.

Image
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby OldAirmail » Fri Mar 07, 2014 7:43 pm

Were in the Money

:dance:

Image




I've been working on a few other things, so it took a while before I could get back to this problem.


Problem solved - CUT IT OFF AT THE LEGS!

Image

It's all back together now and working fine.



Compared to the job that Sprocket did, this is VERY simple.

I'd say that this is within the abilities of anyone who wants a first time tinker mod.


> The power jack that I used on the back would not be the best one for most people to use.


> There are internal supports inside that have to be avoided. But CAREFUL measurement, and pre-drilling starter holes for the stepper bit, will get you through that.


> Soldering may or may not be your thing. If not, any electronic nerd or electronics repair shop should be able to do it for you.



Material needed

Gtron USB SNES Classic Famicom Controller 9FT Cord for PC/MAC - PC Mac Linux $8


New 10PC Car Truck Rocker Toggle LED Switch Red Light On-Off Control $9 for 10


Sunkee 10x DC Power Jack Socket $10.45 for 10 *


Wall Adapter Power Supply - 12VDC 1A $5 *


* Needless to say, but over on the other side of the pond you'll have to look up your own parts. Just make sure that the power jack & transformer tip match up.


PS - The main thing to be careful of, is putting the case back together. You don't want to pinch any wires.

AND WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT FORCE ANYTHING.

There are a lot of parts that stay in position ONLY while the top is on. Take it off carefully. Look where all the parts are. And move as little as you can.

And don't be surprised or upset if you have to reset things a time or two. Just don't force the cover back on.
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby Sprocket » Sat Mar 08, 2014 4:44 am

OldAirmail wrote:Problem solved - CUT IT OFF AT THE LEGS!


Brilliant Glad you got that sorted... :D

If the truth be known, I myself was chewing on this, trying to think of a solution here..

Right..on to the next..
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby OldAirmail » Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:41 am

Thanks for the nice words, Sprocket.


Right..on to the next..

That'll be done after walking the dogs, a couple of cups of coffee, & breakfast.

I'm afraid that this one may push me over the edge and into trailer park sim pit status.
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby OldAirmail » Sat Mar 08, 2014 11:54 am

A trailer park sim pit

Part 1


Although my desktop is a convertible for the most part, it just took a step closer to being a dedicated sim pit.

You've see pictures looking forward. Now here is how it works as a convertible.


The keyboard and mouse slide under the switch panel to give me plenty of room for doing the bills. :puke-right:

Image


One monitor removed from the drop in track.

Image


Both monitors removed.

Image


And now it's just another computer desk.

Image



The whole point here is that in a few minutes I can switch from flight sim to work desk.

For me, this works out great.


But I'm running out of room to add anything more. :(
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Re: The poor mans sim pit

Postby OldAirmail » Sat Mar 08, 2014 12:53 pm

A trailer park sim pit

Part 2



Adding another flight sim panel became an unplanned opportunity when my old Saitek Switch Panel stopped responding.

I tried the usual routines - restart the computer, unplug/re-plug the panel, move it to another USB outlet, reload the SPAD program, and only when nothing else would work - install the Saitek driver.

DEAD


Because I start from a cold aircraft I need my switches. Yes, I could use the keyboard. But what fun is that?

So I ordered an new switch panel.

And that's where it got strange.

After replacing the old one and testing the new one, I thought that I'd give it one last try. Who knows? Maybe I could salvage something??


It worked ??? .Why? I don't know. But suddenly it worked.


A year or so ago I had looked into getting something like X-keys but I couldn't see spending $100 + for a strip of keys.

But NOW I have an extra switch panel! WITH A LEVER!



So the problem became one of "Where to put it?"

I don't want it just laying on top of the desk! I want an open desktop from time to time.

And I don't want to mount it on the right to the other panel, I wouldn't be able to slide the mouse out of my way.



That's the story, now here is my solution.

I was going to bend a steel plate and mount the Saitek panel frame to the steel. Then I would mount that to the underside of the desktop.

But I didn't have sheet metal, AND I did have some wood, so....

Mount the panel to a strip of wood.
Image


Another minor problem was caused by mounting it down low. The Saitek brackets have a slight angle to them, but not enough to enjoy the view.

So, whatever I do, I want to increase the angle of the switch panel. Back to the sheet metal idea? Nope.


A small strip of wood was added to the back....
Image

Will cause the face to tip upwards when attaches to the table top.
Image

The new position keeps the surface clear & uncluttered.
Image

The "old" switch panel can now be re-purposed.
Image


I already have the "old" gear lever programmed to lock/unlock the breaks. At the moment I'm trying to think of a way to make the landing gear LIGHT, on that panel only, turn red when the break in locked.

Once I've decided what each switch will do, I'll create an overlay naming each new switch.
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Get the most out of your controls - SPAD.neXt

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. . . . . .Any time, any plane, any weather.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . Prepar3d V4
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