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e4mafia

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Posts: 230
Reply with quote  #1 
Its my intention to begin documenting the work I've done and continue to do for my ship. So far its been a solo effort on the physical building of hardware, with assistance from various online people and resources. But my local crew hasn't lifted a finger the malingerers! My engineer however has given a lot of assistance on the coding of the ships lighting controller (an Arduino Mega). My special thanks go to:

AngelofRust for his very generous and extensive help in building the in-progress control panels. I'm using his ACP-3 control boards as the foundation, and therefore his teensy code for operations. He's also been a huge help in me figuring out some of the circuitry for the lighting transmitters and receivers.

Armbushii (not sure if he's on the forums, but thats his usual handle on the inter webs. He's the aforementioned engineer.

Teknynja (https://www.teknynja.com) for his extensive help and examples on how to extend the relatively weak 5v control signal for the WS2812B lights over a long distance. This enabled me to use cat5 cable as a transmit and power delivery media from the controller to the light strips.

everyone else on the forums who I've forgotten to mention who've given me encouragement and ideas along the way. You all rock. This is the best community I am apart of on the internet by far.

OK. Enough gushing and touchy-feely. On to the build log. I'll be posting it over the next few days. Too much crap to do on a nice relaxing Saturday.
Angel of Rust

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Reply with quote  #2 
Quote:
Originally Posted by e4mafia
Its my intention to begin documenting the work I've done and continue to do for my ship. So far its been a solo effort on the physical building of hardware, with assistance from various online people and resources. But my local crew hasn't lifted a finger the malingerers! My engineer however has given a lot of assistance on the coding of the ships lighting controller (an Arduino Mega). My special thanks go to:

AngelofRust for his very generous and extensive help in building the in-progress control panels. I'm using his ACP-3 control boards as the foundation, and therefore his teensy code for operations. He's also been a huge help in me figuring out some of the circuitry for the lighting transmitters and receivers.



Yay! Build log!

Thanks for the shout-out!

e4mafia

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Posts: 230
Reply with quote  #3 
In taking on this project I have looked at it as a multi-phased project. I do have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. After all, if it's worth doing, its worth overdoing right? I see it working out as follows

  • Bridge compute build out
  • Lighting effects
  • Control panels
  • Greeble & miscellaneous

Since I've planned on taking this thing on the go and try to make it into some kind of self sustaining side-hustle. In the initial maiden voyage of my ship in progress, at the Extra Life gaming marathon, I scavenged and borrow several computers - from laptops, desktops, iMacs and MacBooks. Quite the motley collection. Since then I've acquired a bunch of cast offs, old computers from various family members. And along the way, I've purchased several Dell e6420s from a refurb outfit online. The current line up is:
  • 4 x Dell e6420
  • 1 x HP Elitebook
  • 1 x Lenovo Ideabook 
  • 1 x Acer (Unknown model. older i5 processor)
The Lenovo is an i7 and sometimes pulls duty as the server. Other times I'll run a Windows 7 VM on my 2018 MacBook Pro and use that as the server. I would like to add a few more of the Dell laptops for smoother operations and uniformity. Its much easier to reimage a bunch of machines that are all identical. Another 5 of them, I'll have 2 full bridges. That would be nice for conventions, but I'm most likely getting way ahead of myself. Another 3 would give me a second ship, though a smaller scout - that could still be cool I think.

I've also managed to get a hold of 5 x 19" monitors, which are a nice add on when I have the space and the time for setting them up. I have both a 24 port gigabit switch and an 8 port switch, which I can use as needed for scale to connect all the machines together.

Next post will get into the design and build of the lighting effects. (Which unfortunately during last night's outing have experienced some technical glitches. Unknown at this time what the cause is. Could be the new received boards I built, or some kind of failure in the old control board. Time and a multimeter will tell.
e4mafia

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Posts: 230
Reply with quote  #4 
Its time for part 2, yay!

In the intervening time since the last post, I've acquired 3 more Dell e6420s. Starting to think I have a spending problem 😉 That brings the total to 7, which gives me enough for all stations, plus 2 fighters. The Lenovo seems to be doing better as a main screen server now that I've implemented Lawson Thompson's wndDX fix for Windows 10. Went from 50-ish FPS under lots terrain and lethal terrain so far to 500 FPS. Haven't really evaluated with a ton of enemies on screen yet either. All of the other systems are Win7, so I'm less concerned with the station computers. 

I designed some new receiver boards for the light rig, reducing their size, adding in a couple of resistors that should theoretically add some protection for the SN75176 transceivers on the receiving end - protecting the data line, and a bigger cap to add stability under bursty activation of all LEDs on the strip simultaneously. However I seem to have introduced a stability problem with them. How's that for irony! Havent root caused it yet. I'm also noticing a drop in power on the warp engine strips. I dont think I've seen it before. This even persists when I go back to the old receivers. Have more testing to do to figure it out. I'm going to review some old video to see if the color shift is present before. It just seems different now. Those two strips are controlled by the same SN75176, basically split into 2 data lines. The power lines are shared - BUT its a big power supply. So who the hell knows. 

I've also acquired a USB to DMX (Entec Open) controller and a PAR can DMX light to add even more cowbell. It could also potentially solve my lighting stability problem by shifting red alert lighting and environmental effect to that kind of lighting, and reduce the load of full LED strips activating all at once. Red alert is a full, pulsing bar (60 LEDs) while enviro includes shield and hull hits which are rapid flashing of all 60s. Thats where the stability seems to really get flaky. I'll buy some more cans so I have 2x for red alert, and 2x for environmental. Gonna need some more XLR cables 😉 Dave Thaler's DMX editor flawlessly combines the ArtNet signaling I use for the LED strips controlled by Arduino and the standard DMX through the Entec USB. Loving it. Fantastic tool, I can't say enough good things about it.
e4mafia

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Posts: 230
Reply with quote  #5 
Progress has really slowed up on the control panels for the stations. Weapons was first up, and I've found that the buttons I'm using really create a nightmare of wiring the matrix. 30 buttons is a lot for a 4X8 matrix, using one of Angel of Rust's shift register boards. So I designed a circuit board that created a matrix on the PCB to both eliminate the wiring mess and allow each button to connect via a 4pin JST connector. Which will greatly enhance maintainability. also planning to split the big mega panel into (from a wiring/logical point of view) 3 separate panels, so I don't overrun the 3x8 limit of the shift register design for buttons. The vision in my head makes a lot of sense. But I had a brain fart and forgot to lay in the traces in my CAD design before sending it off for production. That was a bug DOH! when I had no continuity between any of the through holes, and realized there was no copper in there anywhere. So I'm kind of being lazy in fixing the design and sending more out for fabrication.

I also modified the design to incorporate AoR's shift register design into the Matrix board itself as an integrated unit. Should simplify things a lot. Oh and I also ordered the wrong pitch on the JST headers. So I got that going for me (NOT!). Rationale behind all of this is wiring simplicity and reducing the amount of code I need to change in AoRs files to make everything work. 

I would LOVE to have most of the station control panels done in time for the convention we're attending in February. Its a big goal, so I'll try to get as far as I can and not be too hard on myself. I could also buy a kit from AoR, but I might be too stubborn to not do the work myself as much as I can.

We are doing the Extra Life 24 hour gaming charity marathon at our FLGS, Battleground Games & Hobbies in Abington MA, on November 2-3. Got to keep the goals modest because of how quickly thats coming up. Main focus will be on lighting, polish of the layout, and maybe a custom mission for the event. Running a raffle for a free Artemis Party (via Red_Alert! events, my seriously fledgeling Spaceship simulator party business) to raise money for the charity, and will probably order some station patches to give as a prize to the crew that gets the highest score or otherwise best results through the event. A ship Plaque showing the name (TSN Confrontation) and put somewhere on the bridge would be pretty bad ass too for atmosphere. If only I had infinite moneys, right?
e4mafia

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Posts: 230
Reply with quote  #6 
Started some more work in earnest on the weapons control panel. Had a bit of a scare in that the keyboard/mouse/joystick function of AoR's boards wasn't working, turned out to be a bad cable. So that gave me a hopeful smile when I figured it out. Still going to make some of these:  Screen Shot 2019-10-12 at 5.57.47 PM.png
which combine AoR's development shift register board design  with a PCB based switch/light matrix, using JST connectors for the light up buttons. It is a universal board, and not tied to any particular station. Also this version will not support analog connections. Maybe future ones will. This will mostly eliminate the wiring mess that is the result of a switch matrix, which with only 16 buttons would look something like this, even on a good day:
FLNHNDAJKVCRYJM.LARGE.jpg 

My weapons panel has 32 switch/lights, I think so that would be 64 matrix lines, which would be a complete nightmare. This way there will still be lots of wires, but the wires themselves won't be matrixes, and instead will be in nice 4 wire bundles, disconnect able from the board and easy to maintain, (at least in theory) yay!
61cWRw2c0zL._AC_SX679_.jpg 

Going to order the boards on Monday I think. If anyone is interested in some, let me know and I'll up the quantity of the order. They will be fully compatible with AoR's control boards, connecting to either panel0 or panel2 connectors

20190202_185422 - Copy (2).jpg  .But I advise checking with AoR to find out if he's still building/selling these first!.



e4mafia

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Posts: 230
Reply with quote  #7 
I'm excited today having made what feels like a breakthrough. I had been doing some super simple testing of my buttons with AoR's code for his control boards, and coming up with nothing. I was using my new matrix/shift register boards, and so I kind of made the assumption that I may have some flaw in the PCB design. Was very demoralizing. Anyways, I started using my old Army Aviation Electronics Skills (TM) and replaced one piece at a time, not including said board. I used one of AoR's shift register boards, and hard wired a couple of lines on and just touched wires together to simulate buttons presses. Again, nothing!

OK, I'm starting to feel better about my hardware, since this wasn't working. I knew the buttons were good, those were easy to verify with a multimeter, and its pretty simple to just troubleshoot a piece of wire 😉

I started going line by line through the code and caught something. The read function for the button register was dependent (at least it seemed that way) on a different pin being used than I was. Edited the line and voila! We're in business. So I wired up a couple of buttons to share with you all. It'll be a while for me to solder up the connectors on all the buttons, but the vision is coming together. Best part about it is that its completely modular. Buttons can be added/removed/moved as you wish. The board as is supports 24 buttons. If I change it up a bit I can use the 20 pin connector and really go hog wild and support up to 64 buttons and 64 LEDs. The real estate on that board would need to be monstrous though. As it stands right now its about 5.5" x 5.5".

Here's what we've got now

IMG_3028.jpg 

Front of the board looks like complete crap at this point, but again. I can remove all of the buttons just by disconnecting their JST connectors, and move to a new front plate anytime I want. YAY!
IMG_3029.jpg 



Angel of Rust

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Posts: 323
Reply with quote  #8 
Looking good! Glad to hear the button scheme is working out!
NoseyNick

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Posts: 90
Reply with quote  #9 
Love the cool logo!   [love] [rofl]
Southernskies

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Posts: 15
Reply with quote  #10 
I see 28 holes on that test weapons board...  [wink]
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