In addition to the stunning 18 FIP cockpit photos Andrew Crowhurst shared with us earlier, he also summarized his experience about setting up multiple FIPs as follows. (BTW: some of you may have not noticed that the cockpit photos from Andrew posted yesterday have just been replaced by newer, higher resolution updates.)
Despite one of his recommended suggestions on how to link multiple hubs for FIPs which requires a little DIY technical knowledge and skill, Andrew’s tips are pretty straightforward and should answer many questions FIP users generally have in mind.
I found that apart from not being able to control the order the FIPs load up when FSX starts, the more FIPs connected directly to the main PC can slow down Windows boot time and also can stop the PC from starting if the power load on the PCs USB ports is too great.
I use a 1,200W supply and found that my PC stopped booting properly at 10 plus FIPs connected directly to the PC.
I found that connecting FIPS to USB 3.0 ports would load up ok when FSX starts but would randomly disconnect and reconnect while in flight. This would reset the FIP or FIPs that disconnected back to the starting gauges in your XML list.
Connecting FIPs to a USB 2.0 hub and then to a USB 3.0 port on the PC did the same. Likewise, connecting a USB 3.0 Hub to a USB 2.0 port on the PC also resulted in random disconnects.
The ideal state is USB 2.0 Hub to USB 2.0 port on the PC
I found the answer is NO.
I have tried a number of 10-port USB 2.0 hubs and found that most, even with a 3.0A power supply, will have random disconnects of the FIPs when 10 FIPs are connected to the hub. Ten active ports would draw 300mA each and this isn’t enough for each FIP.
7-port hubs with a 3.0A power supply work fine — 4-ports hub with 3.0A power supplies are even better.
My experience is once you go to multiple hubs you need to be able to turn each hub on separately to maintain the gauge load order. You can do this a couple of ways:
Obtain a 4-port USB 2.0 Hub that has on/off switches for each port. Connect your hubs that have the FIPs connected to them to the 4-port hub.
Load FSX with the 4-port hub switches in the off position. Once FSX main screen appears, turn each hub on one at a time. Allow the first hub to activate all gauges before switching on the second hub and so on.
The downfall of this option is some USB hubs will maintain a connection to the PC with the switching HUB either on or off. This is brand of hub dependent, so it is trial and error to find hubs that will switch off the connection to the PC when the 4-port switch hub switches are toggled on or off.
The better option I found is Option 2
Obtain longer USB cables that fit the Hubs upload/download USB socket. I went for 2m long cables.
Cut the cable in half and strip the coating back (6 cm) to first expose the braided wire that covers the 4 inner Red, Black, White and Green wires. Pull the braided wire away from the other wires (it generally is separated by silver paper) and wind all the braids together to form a new single wire. Then cut away and discard the sliver paper that covers the four inner wires.
Do the same for the other half of the cable. Use heat shrink cover or something similar to cover the new single braided wire, leaving 1cm of wire exposed at the end (do the same for both halves of the cable).
Now join the two braided wires together (one from each end of the cut cable) using a two wire cable joiner or solder them (If soldering then make sure the soldered ends are insulated afterwards).
Now join the RED wires together, the BLACK wires together and the WHITE wires together – again make sure all are insulated post soldering if you use that approach.
This will leave the green wires not joined. Place a simple on/off switch between the two green wires and mount the switch somewhere that is easy to access (I have this as part of my instrument panel).
Now you can turn the hubs on and off in order and your PC will see or not see the hubs depending on the switch position. I use five hubs and five on/off switches in this configuration and it works like a dream.
In my experience with 18 FIPs I haven’t noticed any significant degradation. More came from using photo real scenery, like Orbx, which I use, versus lots of FIPs. It comes down to your PC specification and its ability to handle FSX processing.
Plus, I have found that a lot of complex XML code per gauge can slow the update response of that gauge compared to the others.