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Control Interface Software

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1. HCSCI Plugin

The main part of this interface is the HCSCI plugin, which does the following:

  • Provides communication protocol with HCSCI firmware on the master board (Mega2560) and HCSCI Panel software.
  • Receives input control data from the master board, using it to trigger HCSCI functions to simulate specific device logic or call various X-Plane functions.
  • Processes simulator data and sends the results to output devices via HCSCI firmware in a specific format, taking into account the output type, predefined device type and a set of conditions.

Plugin Installation: add the HCSCI plugin to your X-Plane as any other plugin. Just extract the HCSCI zip file as-is to X-Plane's "Resources/plugins" folder. The new menu item “HCSCI” will appear in X-Plane's Plugins menu. Supported systems: Linux, Windows, OSX.

Plugin Update: Extract the new HCSCI zip file as-is to the X-Plane plugins folder and confirm the files replacement. Don't delete anything from the HCSCI plugins folder before update, as it contains your created data.cfg file and the devices.prf file that keep all configuration and settings! Note: if you have the older vesrion in the "SimVim" folder, delete that folder (or you can extract the new HCSCI version to that folder and then rename it to "HCSCI")

Download HCSCI on the Configurator page. The newest beta versions can be appeared in the Patreon blog first for testing.

2. Firmware

The second piece of software is the firmware code loaded onto the "master board" (any Atmega2560 board as Arduino Mega and similar - See details here). The firmware is a program written from scratch (without using third-party Arduino libraries) to handle a large number of inputs, control multiple output devices, and exchange data between plugin and “slave” boards.

The HCSCI firmware is included in the plugin and needs to be uploaded to the master board from the plugin menu by the user just once. Don’t re-upload it on configuration change or plugin update! You don't need to know Arduino coding or install Arduino IDE.

First Firmware Upload

(If you have no previously uploaded HCSCI firmware)
  1. Open the "STATUS" window from HCSCI plugin menu (see the screenshot above).
  2. Make sure the master board (Mega2560) is not connected to USB!
  3. Click the button >> "Master" in the Firmware Upload section on the left. The [Detect Port] button will appear in the right section.
  4. Plug the master board (Mega2560) USB cable into X-Plane computer USB port.
  5. Note: in some systems you may need to wait until the onboard Rx LED stops blinking before proceeding to the next step #5, this may take a few seconds with certain serial port drivers.

  6. Click the Detect Port" button (plugin detects the newly connected device).
  7. When you see "Controller Board Connected" click "UPLOAD" . Wait until firmware upload is complete (about 5 s).
  8. If you need to upload the Ethernet firmware version set the "Ethernet" checkbox before pressing "Upload".

  9. After upload the plugin will connect to this controller automatically.

On successful connection you will see the messages "Master Board: Connected (USB/LAN)" and "Configured: 1 Input, 1 Output"
This means your board is working correctly, and you can start wiring all input controls and output devices to the controller and use the Configuration tool to assign all of them, but before you can run a simple test to make sure:

  • Load some standard X-Plane aircraft (Cessna or Baron 58). Connect a toggle switch to pin #5 / GND and flip it on/off.
  • The on-screen Pitot switch will change its position accordingly with your real switch. The on-board LED on the master board will change its state (Pitot Heat is on/off).

HCSCI Connection, notes

  • You need to upload the firmware only once, and never need to upload the firmware to change I/O configuration. All you need to do for that is change your configuration file.
  • If you have changed the configuration "data.cfg" file while X-Plane is running, just click the "Reload Config" button in the Status window.
  • With firmware uploaded you no longer need to unplug your controller board USB cable before X-Plane launch.
  • The plugin should always establish connection automatically every time X-Plane is started, no matter how many times you have done it.
  • If you use Ethernet firmware instead of USB you don't need USB cable to be connected until you will need to upload a new firmware version.
  • You'll need an Ethernet module for communication if you use Ethernet firmware.
  • Note for Linux users: Some Linux distributions do not grant the user access to serial ports by default. In this case you need to add your user name to the "dialout" group (in Linux Mint, for example, this can be done via the Administration -> "Users and Groups" menu).
    • Reload Config button reloads all HCSCI configuration, it should be used when you have saved a new or edited data configuration file.

      Firmware Auto-Update

      The plugin checks the currently used firmware version on connection, and if it needs updating, the program uploads the new firmware to the board and then establishes connection. There's nothing more for you to do for the serial USB version.

      • Note: For Ethernet version you need to connect your master board to USB (or reconnect it) and click "Upload" - just like during the first upload.

      The HCSCI firmware is a heavily optimized program code that synchronizes control of a large number of different input/output devices. HCSCI interface doesn't allow to use the controller board as a "usual" Arduino and users can't add any custom code, as there is no Arduino sketch, and the plugin uploads firmware directly to the board. At this moment we are using Atmega2560 as a convenient and easily available controller platform for HCSCI firmware.

      3. HCSCI Panel program

      HCSCI Panel is an additional, standalone program providing a set of realistic, fully-functional aircraft instrument panels to be displayed on a computer that is connected by network to the main computer with X-Plane. The program doesn't require a powerful system - any old PC with processor frequency of about 1000 Mhz can be used, or any mini-PC with a compatible OS currently available on market. Rasbberry Pi is fully supported and can be used for any HCSCI panel.

SimVimCockpit 2012 - 202X