This tutorial series is meant to teach some basics and more advanced features of using ArdsimX. I won’t waste your time going through setup and installation, as it’s all located on the SimVim site. It’s very simple and the SimVim site is full of great info. After many emails back and forth with Vlad and Roman, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned while building my home sim.
For more info on the Configurator and data.cfg files, please see the SimVim config info here.
General ArdsimX Tips/Notes
- No matter the level or complexity of your sim, you may want to start with the Arduino Mega, as it offers much more input/output expandability over time. I began with a single Arduino Uno, and now I have 4 Megas connected to my sim. Megas are cheap on Ebay or Amazon. I haven’t had any issue with using cheap Chinese Arduinos.
- I recommend using a screw shield with your Arduino for easy connections. This way you won’t need to worry about your pin-connections popping out. I learned this the hard way.
- When I start my sim (with many 3rd party plugins) I usually have to open the ArdsimX plugin panel and ‘reconnect’. I believe this is because of the plugin load order, but can’t be sure. Either way, it works, so I stick with that process.
Using the Configurator (or not)
I began using ArdsimX with the online Configurator tool, but over time, I found it more useful to edit the data.cfg file directly. The process is faster when experimenting with various datarefs and values. The current version of the Configurator doesn’t offer all of the datarefs out there for doing cool things like controlling time of day, weather, or various 3rd party aircraft controls. Is any of this necessary for flight training? Not really, but it is quite fun to dive deep into the inner workings of X-Plane 11.
I find it’s much easier to use the ArdsimX Configurator for basic programming, then I use Notepad++ (any text editor is fine) to edit the data.cfg file directly and save back out as the same name, while X-Plane is running. Using this method, I can very quickly test many datarefs for my needs.
To do this properly, while X-Plane is running, open the data file, make your edits, then save. In X-Plane, keep your ArdSimX plugin panel open. Hit the ‘Reconnect’ button. This will re-load the data.cfg file, with immediate results.
There are two easy ways to view datarefs.
Option 1 – The offline method (X-Plane need not be running). Helpful if you’re just browsing for fun things to play with in X-Plane. This method does not need X-Plane to be running. View all Datarefs available via the X-Plane Dataref comprehensive list from xsquawkbox.net. I have found many great resources here that I cannot find anywhere else.
Option 2 – The easier method: While running X-Plane, use the datarefeditor plugin, available here. Access it within X-Plane by choosing Plugins>Data Ref Editor > Show Datarefs. Now brace yourself for a live stream of amazing data. Every aspect of the X-Plane physics and rendering engine is displayed. This is like viewing The Matrix for X-Plane developers and sim builders! Not only can you view it, but you can send Dataref commands to affect your aircraft or X-Plane paramaters in real time. This is very helpful in testing what works for your sim/aircraft.
The live data feed can get overwhelming as it’s not easy to read, there’s just so much info there. The simplest way to view the data is to filter only what you’re searching for. It’s not that easy to see, but in the lower left of the window is a search bar. For example, if you want to add a ‘Door Open’ annunciator light to your sim, do the following.
- Limit your search to basic words first, as there are so many datarefs in X-Plane. You don’t want to miss the one you’re looking for by limiting the search to a specific phrase. Many datarefs are not named consistently. Try ‘door’ or ‘canopy’. You’ll get different results for each. Use lower case, as searches are case-sensitive!
- I started with ‘door’ & ‘canopy’ as I tried to make a more global setting for various aircraft I fly in my sim. This is a bit of a tricky one, as various 3rd party aircraft use similar, but different annunciators for the same thing, to basically tell when your door or canopy is open.
- Generally, try to stick with anything labeled sim/cockpit2, as they are newer and a bit easier to work with There may be more than one way to use a dataref. Read this article on the X-Plane blog for more info.
- For a Cessna 172, I chose ‘sim/cockpit2/annunciators/cabin_door_open’ although you could also use ‘sim/cockpit2/switches/door_open’ as it has annunciator in the title. So that was an easy one.
- For a glider or other aircraft with a canopy, I found four choices for datarefs that reference ‘canopy’. I chose ‘sim/cockpit2/switches/canopy_open’. There was no option for a canopy open annunciator.
Keep an eye out for upcoming chapters in this series:
- Tutorial 1: Build a Time Machine in X-Plane using a potentiometer
- Tutorial 2: Elevator Trim Tab using and LED bar graph display
- Tutorial 3: Stepper Motors for analog type gauges, using X27 steppers and driver
- Tutorial 4: LCD display output