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  UPDATED Monday 1st September 2008
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23rd August 2006.pdf file 'How to Setup and Configure the USBKeys Card in words of One Syllable' amended at bottom of column 1.  31st Jan 2008 .pdf update file added to allow the use of permanently on switches.

OpenCockpits is a group of Spanish Cockpit Builders and Flight Sim enthusiasts with some very clever ideas. They have developed a range of Control Boards and their own cockpit control system.   From their range, these have got to be 2 of the most useful circuit boards I have come across.
Ordering is easy and delivery was very quick.  Communication is also excellent with a mail telling you how your order is progressing at each stage.

THE Positive Side.  First thing is the cost/performance formula. At 24 euros (plus shipping), this is an amazing cost effective way of getting commands into the sim using hardware switches. The USBKeys card (right) is just simply a Keyboard Emulator which does exactly what it is supposed to do. Connects to any free USB Port either directly or thru a hub.   By using a Matrix connection system of 11 x 8 contacts, it allows you to emulate 88 either single or combined keystrokes (inc. ALT +, SHIFT + and 
CTRL +). Connection to the Card is via a 40 wire standard data ribbon cable.   You do need to pay special attention to the manual to ensure you correctly identify each connection, because they are in 2 groups (letters and 24 Line Project Board-Coppered One Side for Solderingnumbers - THEY ARE NOT CONSECUTIVE).  This amazing little card uses a small configuration program which can be auto run by FSUIPC or WideFS when you start your Flight Sim.   Assigning keystrokes to each matrix combinations is very easy (once you get your head around the manual) and can be done quickly using Notepad.    And the use of several cards is possible because each card is assigned a recognition number, so bridging A & 4 on one card will give you a different keysend than by bridging the same combination on another card.....all clever stuff :o).  But the USBKeys card can only be used for single keysends.  It does not repeat the keysend when the contact is held on, neither by itself or thru FSUIPC.   So using this card is only advisable for single functions such as Light Switches, Starters or Pushbuttons on your Auto Pilot.
Click on the link to find out more about the USBKeys Card or click HERE to download the manual.

The Down Side.     Well for 24 euros, what do you expect?  But the down side is so insignificant that it does not really matter if you think about how you are going to connect up to the card.
1.  The Opencockpits USBKeys card will send the key or key combination only once.  It does not repeat while the contact switch is held on.  This makes it ideal for most commands within the sim, but you cannot assign it to functions which need a repeat key command like trim etc.
2.  If you want to use permanently on switches, you have to use a diode in the line to prevent continuity loopback.  That is for example if you have several switches on, when you throw another one, it is possible for the circuit continuity to find a different route back to the card which causes erroneous switching.   Below and to the left is plenty of information which is going to help you get this gem working

This card is amazing. Remember that all controls within the sim are actioned by either a keystroke or a mouse click. How this card works is like this.  You have a matrix of 11 Letters and 8 Numbers, so by connecting a number and a letter combination, a particular keysend can be generated. These keysends can be configured to suit your own requirements by simply editing the .ini file.  So it follows that you will have 88 separately configurable keysends at your disposal. So i used a strip board to build the Matrix Break-Out board. 

opencockpits usbkeys connection matrix boardUsing toggle and rotary switches it then became possible to action a keysend by the use of a hardware switch.  I have used the USBKeys Card to give me accurate switching on several circuits within the 'PIT' by sending these keystrokes either direct to the Simulator itself or by assigning them an action thru Pete Dowsons FSUIPC.  Pete allows you to 'Map' keystrokes to actions within MSFS. So by utilizing unused keys, you can assign these to perform exact actions within your simulator.

First decide what keys you want to map. I started by choosing the free key commands I wanted to assign. Go into your FSUIPC Keys Menu and assign them to functions that you need.   Restart your FS and test the keystrokes.  With the PMDG, I found that these worked (they will also work with stock FS Aircraft and Other Add-Ons)
 Engine 1 Autostart (wired to Overhead No 1 Start Switch)
 Engine 2 Autostart (wired to Overhead No 2 Start Switch)
Strobe Off
Strobe On (Wired to DP On/Off Switch to give on & off)
Landing Lights Off
 Landing Lights On (Wired to DP Switch to give on/off)
There are other functions you can use as well.  Nobody's setup is exactly the same as anybody else's. How good is your imagination.

click here for How To Use Your USBKeys CardClick on the Image for a more 'IN DEPTH' look at using the USBKeys Card and assigning keys and key combinations.

Also ideas on how to direct those Keysends thru third party modules like FSUIPC.

Any new ideas welcome

The Second card I have used in the past is the JOYSTICK Axes Card shown here on the left. This card lets me add upto 5 analogue axes and 24 extra buttons, but these have now been replaced with Leo Bodnar's BU0836X cards which give me greater connectivity. 

The system recognizes the card as a Joystick which of course allows me to assign these axes to for example Flaps Setting, Spoiler, Reverse Thrust or Throttles.  
Because the system recognizes the card as a joystick, using the Game Conrollers Calibration Utility in XP, it is easy to set up and identify the Axes/Buttons.  Function assignment is then pretty straightforward using either FS or FSUIPC as you would with a normal joystick.
 Click HERE for more information on the JOYSTICK Axes Card or here for the Manual

USING THE USBAxes Card on The TQ.


CLICK HERE for a .pdf file of how to set up and control your TQ using the Opencockpits USBAxes card 

To Visit OpenCockpits Click HERE

Controlling PMDG Overhead With Hardware
*** 01/09/2008 Everything has changed with the introduction of Pete Dowson's Mouse Macro Technique and this method is no longer used.  However i have left it in because several colleagues are still using this method ***.

And as a further benefit, some Panels and Aircraft within FS only allow the use of mouse-clicks to action a command or 'toggle' a switch.  I was faced with the problem of How To Make My Hardware Overhead Panel integrate and Control the PMDG Overhead. For example....when i turn on my engine generator switches, how do i get the PMDG switches to turn on.   Well the answer was staring me in the face.   

How I did it was to use Luciano Napolitano's Utility Key2Mouse which you can get from www.wideview.it .   This utility allows you to map mouse-click hotspots and translate them into a keystroke.

Now we are cookin'.  Every switch on the PMDG Overhead (or any other of the PMDG Panels like Radio, FMC etc for that matter) is now accessible and can be controlled with a hardware switch or push button.
The switch is connected to the USBKeys card Matrix at a given address and the keysend assigned in Key2Mouse is allocated to that address.  Now every switch on my Overhead that i need for control within my PMoverhead panel switch diagramDG does exactly what it does within the PMDG. At present I have 14 switches configured and assigned. These are the main functions i require.  I am now looking for free keysends within FS, FSUIPC and the PMDG to expand the range of control.  And with 'Artistic' Switching of the Power to LED's, all the right lights come on at the right time.
And it doesn't end there either. Control of the CDU/FMC is PMDG CDU Keypad Mapnow also possible using the same technique.  Today (March 12th 2006) i am working on the Prototypes with great success.
Click on one of the images to see a full scale representation of what i have working right now. Red arrows have been connected and function. Yellow arrows will be connected this week (in fact at time of writing, I have the numeric keys on the CDU working). Purple arrows are 'animations' only as far as i can see and I will leave them until last to save wasting key commands. Green arrows again will be left until last because of reduced functionality within the PMDG.