Week 23, 2015 – We Are Now In Control (Part II)

In the previous post I talked about the mod I made to turn the practically useless rotary dials on the X36’s throttle into a pair of On-Off-On momentary switches.  Well, Elite: Dangerous is a very demanding game when it comes to controls…  It’s not quite up there with Steel Battalion… Nonetheless, there’s a lot of ship functions you might want to have at-hand… Landing gear, cargo scoop, exterior lights, chaff, shield cell (consumable power cells to dump power into shields), silent running… All sorts of stuff.

First I needed a controller board… I had an old USB arcade controller board sitting around, so I reused that. (Just takes a bunch of simple on/off inputs and turns it into a game controller.)  The second hurdle was designing the switches… The toggle switches I have are relatively small, and besides being hard to hit in the heat of the moment, they’d also kinda hurt. So I decided to design and 3D print caps for them like I did in the previous article.  I also wanted guards to separate the different switches in the bank.  Well, I found both solutions in the same place; the design of the switches and switch guards in the Space Shuttle cockpit.

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Drawings of the parts.

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Prototype parts.

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Test assembly.

The next problem was figuring out how to attach it to my flight controls… I ended up settling on designing and 3D printing a little housing that hook into the keyed holes in the throttle’s underside for the optional suction cups that let you secure it to a surface, and at the top I simply added tabs that went under the pre-existing case screws.

It ended up being a very elegant little solution, though I’d certainly like to revisit it at some point to make it even better.

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The assembled switch panel, showing the mounting points.

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The assembled switch panel.

I’d like to to try this again, with laser cut/etched acrylic for the panel… Because then I could add backlit markings and the whole deal.  I’d also, of course, like to try making the switch parts out of actual aluminium.

First though, I need to come up with a better method of attaching the parts to the switches– such as threading the shafts of the switches –as well as a method to shorten the shaft to better accommodate switches the way I want them. (Example: The thumb switches on the throttle have an additional like 4-6mm of height because of how far up into it that shaft of the switch has to be concealed.) And of course, having them threaded, with threaded inserts in the caps, would prevent them from rotating.

Anyway… Those are conversations for another day!  Here’s what it looks like assembled:

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Week 22, 2015 – We Are Now In Control (Part I)

Ever since I saw a magazine ad for one over a decade and a half ago (Yes, a magazine, like the printed-on-paper kind!) I desperately wanted a Saitek X36 HOTAS, but they cost like $200 and that was the gameport version! They later released a version that also had USB, but by then I had too much other stuff on my mind and years passed (As they tend to do.) until finally, a few years ago, I snagged one on eBay for $12 shipped (!?) and then a few months later another for like $30, because why wouldn’t I have spares?  This was of course just in time for the Elite: Dangerous hype.

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A little worse for wear, but not bad for being over a decade old, and certainly not bad for $11.95 including shipping!

But, because this is me we’re talking about, things cannot possibly be that easy, can they? Read more…

Week 07, 2015 – Keeping Track of One’s Head

So, for my birthday, and to keep from losing my mind while waiting for my 3D printer to arrive, I bought Elite: Dangerous.  Even with my Saitek X36 HOTAS it quickly became clear that there was an element of immersion drastically lacking.  The game was developed with the Oculus Rift in mind, but that’s a little out of my reach at the moment…surely there’s an intermediate step, I thought.  Head tracking!

Read more…

Week 04, 2015 – SPAAAAAAAACE!

So, two days until my birthday! (Who am I kidding? We all know I’m posting this way after my birthday because ‘procrastination’ is my default mode of operation.) Something big is in the works!  Of course, to keep me from literally climbing the damned walls in anticipation– waiting ironically not going hand-in-hand with procrastination –I bought a game to pacify myself; Elite: Dangerous… It is, to say the least, pretty freakin’ awesome.  And I just had to bust out the Saitek X36 stick and throttle…even though the bloody thing doesn’t work under Windows 7 64-bit, and I’m literally using a Saitek X45 driver that I edited the USB VID/PID for to match the X36’s…

And I needed it, because this is a hardcore space sim. You’ve got control over everything.  I’ve seen video of a guy slipping contraband past station customs by making a docking request 7km out from the docking perimeter, accelerating straight at the station’s dock, and then cutting power to all his ship’s systems to reduce his heat signature below the customs ships’ detection threshold, and taking it into the dock on inertia with near-zero visibility– because his cockpit iced up from the cold –bringing everything back online, and throwing it into reverse inside the station. This is basically porn for anyone who’s ever wanted to be a space pirate or something.

Anyway, it got me thinking that, given the new awesomeness I’ve got arriving soon, maybe I should start thinking about making my own stick and throttle? Maybe even some control panels.  And I’m not the only one interested; I’ve already got somebody willing to throw in for one.

ヽ(。∀゚)ノ彡 SPAAAAAAAACE!!!

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