223: Useful Tips on Multiple FIP Usage

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   (BTW: some of you may have not noticed that the cockpit photos from Andrew posted yesterday have just been replaced by newer, higher resolution updates.)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.

1. Should I connect all my FIPs directly to my PC?

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.

2. Can I connect FIPs to USB 3.0 ports without issues?

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

3. Are All USB 2.0 Hubs compatible with multiple FIPs connected?

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.

4. If I use multiple hubs can I configure the FIPs to load in sequence across both Hubs?

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:

Option 1
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

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.

5. Does multiple FIPs slow FSX down

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.

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9 thoughts on “223: Useful Tips on Multiple FIP Usage

  1. Hi All,
    I’ve read lots of posts on lots of boards about the FIP devices, and I’ve tried FSUIPC, and SPAD for my i7 64bit Win Vista PC with 16 GB RAM and a ton of HD space. I have two Anker 9 port hubs that were recommended by several users on another web site or two. They each have a separate power supplies (12V 5 Amp DC) so I’m hoping that’s adequate. I’m running this with a high-end GEForce GTX 295 graphics card driving a 70″ Sharp TV via the HDMI port.

    My FSX setup is all Saitek: Multi, Switch, Radio, BIP, Yoke/Throttle/Rudder, a second throttle quadrant, Cessna Trim wheel, 6 FIP displays, and a USB headphone interface. My PC routinely doesn’t recognize the yoke and a simple unplug and plugin of the small power supply that came with the yoke seems to fix that, but Devices still says “Unrecognized Device” while is recognizes all other devices as Saitek xxx.

    It seems like I’m going in circles… the FSUIPC4 drivers I downloaded and purchased/registered seemed to get the Yoke, etc, working “ok” (some things reversed, one annoying “Differential Brake” I can’t seem to find but keeps happening), and SPAD made the Multi, Switch, Radio, and BIP devices work OK, but the FIP devices don’t all load correctly after repeated attempts.

    I had this simulator working fairly well a year or so ago and then the wife made me mothball it for quite some time. Well, got rid of the wife (!) and hauled this rig out only to find it struggling to find its way! I had a 16 port USB hub (2 x 8 ports in one box) with an AC cord but it got very warm and things just didn’t work well with it anymore. So I bought the Anker hubs. I also just added the BIP, and the Trim Wheel. All other gear was on the system from day 1.

    How many USB ports is too many ports on one PC? I wonder if I’m hitting a limit on the number of USB interrupts or resources? When I boot the system I try and do what the switches described in this post do – I keep the power plugged into the hubs, but I pull the main USB cord out of both hubs, and then – after a full boot into Vista – I plug the hubs back in to the PC in the same exact order each time. In all cases I can not get the FIPs to work any more at all. Even when FSX is loaded, no product photo images on ALL FIPs – usually just on 2-4 of them. When FSX loads all displays go blank and never return.

    Lastly, I’m disappointed that Saitek drivers (now MadCatz) just don’t seem to play nice together. I’ve downloaded the FIP and since the BIP device didn’t come with a CD of drivers (despite the instructions within the factory packed and sealed box) I just downloaded the BIP drivers from MadCatz’s site. It seems like loading one driver screws up another one.

    One would think that Saitek would simply have a single driver package that supported every device they have come out with for FSX! But no… instead there are drivers with different version numbers – causing one to wonder if they are compatible with each other.

    I’ve repeated the instructions that come zipped with the FIP drivers (Ver. 7.0.11.1 64bit Full). Unplugging the USB cables of all the FIPs – reinstalling the drivers – then plugging them back in. The Devices page in Windows sees each device as they are plugged in, and for a few of the FIPs they start showing the product photos, but for a few others, Windows reports that a reboot is necessary (groan).

    Anyway… I think you get the picture. Any suggestions? I just read that I should have installed FSX in a root directory instead of a Program Files (x86) directory so that Vista doesn’t interfere with permissions and rights. The Saitek programs are also loaded into the x86 directory.

    Frankly I’m ready to PAY someone to get me squared away. I’ve wasted 10-15+ hours on this and I’m about ready to nose over and plant this plane!

    Would the Wide add on to FSUIPC7 work on a second PC? Do they offer that to handle too many USB devices?

    Well – enough. Any suggestions, recommendations, or persons wanting to make some dough $ to get me going would be greatly appreciated!

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    1. Hi Paul

      Have you done any updates to the SaiFlightSimX.xml file that loads the FIP screens?. If there is an error in the code (like a missing “>” at the end of a code line during a cut and paste) then that can stop gauges loading past that point or not at all. I have experienced blank FIPs and missing command line start or end characters was the cause.

      A second cause can be that the first line for each gauge in the SaiFlightSimX.xml, the one that defines the location of the gauge, is not pointing to the right folder in C:\Program Files (x86)\Saitek\DirectOutput\ … this is only if you have reordered your gauges into folders as Tom has suggested in another post and you have not completed this step in updating the SaiFlightSimX.xml file.

      I have over 40 USB devices connected via hubs or directly to the PC so I wouldn’t say you have reached the limit. I think that is 192 devices for USB2.0 … someone else probably knows the exact number.

      Early on I have also experienced FIPs going blank. Some of the causes in most common order were:
      1) Power management for the HUB/port is turned on. This can be turned off via Device Manager, going to the USB section and then going to properties for each FIP/Hub/root hub to see if power management option is there … if so uncheck (unchecking hubs also stopped my yoke from disconnecting as it has a hub built into it). I know you don’t have Win8.1, but for those reading this reply that have made the move to 8.1 and have random disconnects of Saitek devices then the info in this link fixed it for me (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/usbcoreblog/archive/2013/11/08/help-after-installing-windows-8-1-my-usb-device-doesn-t-charge-or-it-disconnects-and-reconnects-frequently.aspx)
      2) Overload on USB ports at the PC … I found that one of my hubs looked like it was getting power from its own power supply but in fact the supply wasn’t working properly and the hub was drawing all power from the PC USB port and overloading it. I now use a cheap plug-in USB light to test the hubs have independent power when disconnected from the PC.

      I have given up using USB hubs with more than 4 ports, although in one of my post here on Tom’s forum I mentioned I was using 7 port hubs. I have found basic 4 port hubs have only one controller chip in them and I don’t get conflicts within the hub with power going to multiple chips and for some hubs its own port allocation power management causing issues.

      3) The Saitek driver not unloading and multiple copies of the driver are active, with one stuck and casing the driver not to work. This can be checked in Task Manager to see if SaiFlight32.exe is there multiple times after FSX closes. I use a shortcut the uses the TASKKILL command to force Saitek & Spad drivers to unload (goggle how to set up a task kill shortcut if this experienced) or you can add command lines to SPAD to load the driver when FSX loads and kill it when FSX stops. Google how to do this and you must also remove the reference exe.xml file in the same directory as your FSX.cfg file or you will get multiple loads.

      I use SPAD and FSUIPC to control virtually everything. I have noticed that even though you go into the Controller screens for FSX and remove all of the allocated commands there for each controller, if you unplug and replug in a controller while FSX is running then FSX can add 3-4 commands back in for that contoller and this causes issues when you press a button thinking FSUIPC will get it to one thing and it actually does another command or two commands at once e.g. you press a button to control flaps (FSUIPC) and brakes activate (FSX Controller setting)

      Cheers … Andy

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      1. Note. In my last paragraph above it was meant to say that you remove the SaiFlight32.exe reference from within the EXE.xml file, not delete the whole EXE.xml file.

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      2. Thanks Andy,

        I have never edited any xml files or any other setup files as yet… but I will check none the less to confirm your recommendations. I did pick USB 2.0 Hubs and they are plugged into 2.0 ports on my EVGA 58 motherboard (a computer I built many years ago).

        As a side note, I just ordered the “PISTON” computer from Xi3.com and this looks to be a way to cleanly build a new system. My existing computer was a migration to Windows Vista Ultra from a previous system and may have latent migration issues. I’m really hoping a clean install on a nice (and small!) gaming computer will solve the problem.

        Thanks again!

        Paul

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    2. Hi Paul,
      Are your USB hubs 2.0 or 3.0 ? The situation you described sounds like something wrong with the USB to me. Try connect and run all your USB and FSX gears under 2.0 ports.
      Because there’s a chance that you are encountering “insufficient USB resources” when a lot of USB devices are connected via 3.0 ports. This problem happens on some motherboards and as far as I know that there isn’t a fix yet.
      You could also try disconnecting all other Saitek switches and just connect FIPs to the FSX. If the FIPs work ok, then you could add the BIP, Switch, etc one by one to the system while FSX is running.
      Tom

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      1. Hi Tom,

        See my reply to Andy above. Thanks too for yours! I used to have the FIPs all work with no issues but then got the Cessna Trim Wheel and the BIP and those drivers were “newer” and “better” than the ones I had… now all the problems occur.

        I think Saitek should release a single driver “package” for all their devices and eliminate the several they’ve released… this would give greater control of the devices by the software. Dream on I guess…

        Got some work to do… thanks again!

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  2. I should have mentioned that the 20 port hub does not have individual switches for each port which would make start up order possible. So even with this one you still have the FIP startup order problem. The 20 port hub is switchable on each bank of 10 ports, i.e., one switch turns on/off 10 ports.

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    1. Geez, I still did not explain this correctly!!! The 20 port hub has two USB connectors and each one controls 10 ports. There is one power switch. Hopefully I got it right this time!!!

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  3. I have 10 FIP’s. I have experimented with many hubs and found almost all of them very much lacking. I did run across this one and tried it out:

    http://www.aliexpress.com/snapshot/276778605.html

    Which has worked out pretty well. It seems to handle the 10 FIP’s power draw quite well. I have my Saitek yoke, throttle, 4 Saitek panels, Cessna TPM all hooked up to it and it seems to perform fine. It has a 90 Watt (4.5 amps) power supply which runs slightly warm but not hot with all the devices. I previously had a 16 port hub which worked but got very, very hot with a underated power supply.

    In an effort to reduce the burden on my simulator to handle the FIP’s I tried setting up the FIP’s across my network from a client PC but I have not had much luck in doing that. Saitek has made that pretty complicated although I have a number of other programs working just fine across the network using Simconnect. I was able to get the FIP’s to work on the network once and that was it no matter how I tried I could not get them to work again.

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