We have lift-off

WP_20150819_21_29_08_RawSo I’ve continued to work on my desktop instrument panel project, and today I finally got it all connected up and working. Not without further problems, though. First off, I didn’t like the way the lighting strips were easily visible under the glareshield. So I cut some wooden edging strip and created a front edge which is deeper than the wood the shield is made out of, creating a lip under which the LEDs vanish – until you turn the lights on. Quite proud of that effect, actually.

Then – and this was the biggie – the seating height of my gaming pod was wrong. I cut down the chair from its original height when I assembled this solution to play Elite with, and it was all sized to go with a screen mounted at desk height. However, to make the screen visible over the instrument panel I had to mount it a fair bit higher than that, and once the panel was in place on top of the pod’s table, and I sat in the chair, it was obvious that I was far too low. I was lookup up at the main screen, and barely over the top of the panel. Not ideal.

So, not one to be deterred, I set about raising the seat height by creating a simple plinth out of 44mm x 44mm batons screwed together very firmly with concrete screws (which are 7mm thick and 80mm long). It’s a bit makeshift, and I’m looking to replace the seat altogether before too long, when I will build a proper mechanism hopefully with height and distance adjustment, but for now it does and it raises my seating position by about 150mm which is just about right.

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The panel mounted on my gaming pod, with the chair raised with a makeshift plinth.

It has changed my relationship with my pedals a little bit, though, since they are 150mm lower to me than they were before. So I moved them and actually, it’s not a bad position. Not substantially different to a real aircraft.

All this done, and everything screwed firmly to everything else, I was able to finally wire up all the USB peripherals to a powered hub, plug in the PC, wire up the displays, and boot up.

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It’s alive! Booted the PC and ran the Saitek tester software.

Everything worked first time, which was very nice and gratifying. A slightly different story when it came to running Prepar3d, however – the Saitek panels were not recognised, or at least not being used. A quick install of SPAD (the alternative Saitek panel config software) sorted that. The┬áthing that doesn’t seem to work at the moment is the Saitek instrument panel, of which I have two. They light up, so they’re getting power, but no actual display. I think this is a driver issue. I’ll have to look into it further.

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Now with lighting! The lights can be dimmed and the colour changed across the RGB spectrum.

Otherwise, I’m ready to declare this a success. It’s not fantastically more ‘real’ than having all the panels mounted on a desktop, but it keeps everything in one place, looks good, and lays the foundation for more good stuff to come.

For now, at least, I’ll stop with the DIY and start doing some flying!