RIO streaming I

A quick collection of some of my recent streams, from the most recent.
I had no experience with fixed-wing modules before but I find the RIO role quite amazing. The following are almost uncut streaming so there are some mistakes and of course many things I still have to learn. They are from Hoggit – Georgia At War, a sort of entry-level PvE server but nevertheless there are always quite a number of people cooperating, making the experience quite enjoyable.

My biggest problem so far is understanding where the antenna is and where to point it, especially when dealing with very close and very low targets. Unfortunately the current visual bug and the lack of TWS Auto don’t help. But I’m working on it – aye, expect a big spreadsheet about the AWG-9 antenna!

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The RIO seat – Part II

As mentioned in the Part I, this is not a real guide whereas a quick dive into my last project.

Wiring

Quite straightforward here. The wiring diagram is basically the same I used since I built my Auxiliary Box. I don’t even draw it anymore.

As you can imagine, the table starts immaculate.. then becomes a mess. Amen.

The wiring is very simple: momentary inputs on a series of resistors, encoders on two pins each (their pushbuttons is wired with the other momentary buttons). The Radar box hosts a single 2-way latched switch I use as Master. The Toolbox instead has no such feature. The reason is the maximum amount of inputs that HID can sustain: 128. The Radar box provides in fact 121 buttons counting everything (the Master Switch doubles the inputs and selects if some 3-way momentary behaves normally or as toggle for 3-ways) whereas the Toolbox sports approx 70 buttons. A Master Switch not only will hardly fit due to the small size of the box, but will also skyrocket the number of inputs provided to 140. Yes, some can be “workarounded” by disguising them as POV but the problem remains.

This is the result after the first round of wiring:
rio-3-partial

I did some tests with some fellow 132nd pilots on a Czech server and I was quite happy.

I played later on Georgia At War with a pilot I met on discord and I was quite satisfied by my setup.

Unfortunately I had some issues with the mic so my voice is very, very low. I fixed later and my latest streaming is much better.

The lack of encoders makes operating the radar in a more complex environment a bit more challenging. Nothing compare to the visual bug of the TID of the lack of bindings though. Hopefully Heatblur will provide them asap.

CH Pro Pedals: UniversRadio PTT for the RIO

UniversRadio at the moment does not support in-game PTT binding for the F-14 RIO seat whereas SRS does. SRS, in fact, allows the RIO to assign his pedals as radio PTT directly in DCS and they will immediately work.

I asked Tacno about having a similar feature and he is still work in progress. Meanwhile, if you have a CH Pro Pedals and want to do the same thing, here is the script:
ch-rio-script

I haven’t coded a CH script in the last 4 or 5 years so there might be a better way to implement it but hey, it works so I’m happy about it.
This script simply monitors the reading on the Left Pedal (by default, it can be changed) and if the reading is greater than 150 (keep in mind that the range on older devices is usually 0→0xFF) it turns on a button in the CMS. When the pedal is released, the CMS button is turned off. That button is the Teamspeak PTT key.
Using the same principle, multiple PTTs can be created.

A new Arduino project: the RIO seat – Part I

Heatblur released their sublime F-14 a few weeks ago and I’m totally amazed by the RIO role. Coming from rotary-wings, I learnt a great deal of things about how fixed-wing are operated and about a (fairly recent?) radar works. Obviously, I couldn’t just rely on my mouse and current setup to handle the amount of new controls therefore I ended up planning a new ad hoc control box (actually, I planned two). This is a good chance to write another step-by-step tutorial about how to plan and build a control box. For this purpose I will use the same structure I have used for my step-by-step guide; I will not go into the detail as much though.

Step I: Planning

This step took me a few weeks. For real. Since the release of the manual, I thought about how new boxes would fit into my tetris-like setup.
In primis I identified which functions are used more often: the DDD panel, alt/elev knobs plus bars and azimuth, TID, HCU and countermeasures are definitely the one that are used more often (I did not consider Radio and Tacan because I use my usual boxes for those). If you are not sure about which functions are more used in a particular airframe the answer is always the same: fly it! After a while you will have an idea decent enough to start planning.

Once I had a good understanding of which functions I wanted, I drew a 1:1 scale of the boxes with LibreOffice Draw.

Eventually I added the sketches to diagram of my setup.
rio-1-planning-libreoffice-full-setup

None of the boxes were set in stone yet but having a full picture is very important before ordering buttons, switches, resistors and whatever else is needed in order to avoid wasting money.

Step II: Drilling

I find this step the most boring sans the soldering.. Anyway, thanks to the 1:1-scaled diagrams, this part is quite easy. A quick tip: place your switches on the box itself before drilling. Having real items in your hands is different than planning on a monitor. Pay also attention to factors such as the thickness of the box or the size of the blog where the screw rests.

..and, a couple hours later, the first glimpse at how the final panel will look like.
rio-2-drillingsmall_fullset

F-14 Released!

f-14-released-pic1

The f-14 is finally here and, simply put, it’s definitely the best DCS module so far in terms of quality and attention to the details.
I’m in love with the FM: the constant use of rudder during high-AoA manoeuvres is something I really missed and feels so natural if your are used to non-FBW or propeller aircraft and it’s main reason why I don’t really like the F/A-18 in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, the FBW totally makes sense in reality, same as the increased use of computers since the digital revolution but DCS is still a game, at the end of the day.

f-14-released-pic2-donkey
132nd.Donkey, my “chauffeur” yesterday

The RIO seat is amazing. I have already assigned most of the controls and I had to plug my ancient CH MultiFunction Panel back and use its 35 additional buttons ..and here comes the first issue: many functions, knobs especially, can’t be assigned to my encoders because an option such as “next/previous” is not available. The sub-functions of every knob are instead directly assignable That’s the case for the CAP category knob, the TID mode knob and the TID range knob. I can work around these limitations by using Arduino but I don’t want to write a custom version of the firmware for my UFC/PVI-800 box. It’s no big deal at the moment (I’m using one of my 3 TM MFDs for those) and I am use they will be implemented later.

The second issues is about exporting avionics to my 7″ LCD screen. I just need to find how the screens are called (I tried default values but no luck so far).
These two are my biggest complains so far. What? Do they look very marginal? Well, they are. And that’s because HB has done a flipping amazing job with the F-14. If you don’t have it. GET IT (and use HB’s store! I used it twice, no issues at all).

Getting ready for the F-14: Preliminary controls arrangement

The Tomcat is coming in three days. This is my preliminary assignment of the most common buttons in the Pilot cockpit.
Everything is still very much WIP since I won’t know how buttons will be used and which methods of binding will be available until the release day. For instance 3-way switches can be assigned to two buttons (up/down – RAZBAM does that usually) or/and real 3-way switches (pos Up, pos Down, pos Mid – ED/Belsimtek way).
Moreover, functions such as the Target Designator use are still a bit obscure to me so I might move them later to more easily accessible positions.
Another example is the Weapon Selector on the stick: will each weapon be assignable directly to a position of a hat or it will require an up/down pair of buttons?

F-14-first-setup

There are a number of unassigned buttons, I left them in order to have a flexibility until I finalize the setup.
Other temporary controls are the TACAN (Jester / Human RIO can handle it) and the AN/ARC-159.

The real challaenge is the RIO seat. I might end up using my CH MFP again!

Arduino pills: Sending Keystrokes

Arduino has a very simple and effective way to send a keystrokes to the PC. It just takes a single instruction, Keyboard.write and the parameter is the key that we want our board to simulate. As usual, details and more info are available in the official documentation.

I use this instruction to send the F12 key and reset my Track IR.

Keyboard.write(KEY_F12);

I have assigned the big round button of my Radio Box to it since I have the habit of recentering my ancient Track IR v4 quite often.