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PanelMania: P-51 & multi-monitor 2D panels + W key fix

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#1 DickDastardly



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Posted 04 September 2008 - 07:16 PM

Hi all,
As a home cockpit builder I became frustrated with the available options for displaying instruments on a 2nd monitor. It's possible to drag all the various panels for your aircraft to a second screen, but the end result looks more like a bunch of windows on a PC desktop than a cockpit. There are also various stand alone applications available which can display gauges but these range from fairly pricey to eye-wateringly expensive, and give all your flights a somewhat similar feel as they only offer generic instruments or a very small selection of aircraft. Consequently I set about creating a set of high resolution fullscreen panels with large clear gauges, indicators for analogue controls, all warning/status lights, and a complete avionics stack with an autopilot and race display. The resulting package has been uploaded to the AVSIM file library with the filename panelmania_v01.zip and features the following:

1. Panels for all default FSX aircraft with fewer than 2 engines, namely: AirCreation Trike Ultralight, Bell 206B Jetranger, Cessna C172SP Skyhawk, Cessna C208B Grand Caravan, de Havilland Beaver DHC2, DG Flugzeugbau DG-808S, Extra 300S, Maule Orion, Maule Orion on skis, Mooney Bravo, North American P-51D, Piper J-3 Cub, and Robinson R22 Beta II. (N.B. To use the Maule panels you'll need the Deluxe version of FSX and for the P-51 panels you'll need to have Acceleration installed).

2. A total of 24 new fullscreen panels (48 including night versions), ideal for use on a 2nd monitor or PC. The fullscreen panels include versions for 5:4 and 4:3 ratio screens and all use the same basic layout, allowing cockpit builders to use a single metal cover in front of a monitor with holes cut out for the gauges, with all of the listed aircraft.

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3. Three additional standard 2D panels plus a minipanel for the P-51D Racer, which were missing from Acceleration. These feature working versions of every switch, button, gauge and light which works in the VC (and several which don't), a fully functioning radio panel, "2.5D" throttle, mixture and prop pitch controls, a race display screen with current lap time/total race time, full night lighting, a canopy which can be opened and closed, and a nose-cone which automatically matches the colour of whichever of the default P-51 skins you fly with.

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4. Fix for the "W" key issue (whereby, since SP1, unwanted bits of the VC appear when panning in the "no cockpit" view).

5. Total of 300 new or modified gauges.

6. Over 70 bug-fixes and improvements to the default gauges (see the PanelManiaReadMe for more details).

7. Modified version of the GPS which displays the screen only (ideal for use on a small TFT).

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8. Very simple installation process: Just unzip and drag all the contents to your main FSX folder (having first backed up your SimObjects folder). The only files which will be overwritten are the panel.cfg for each aircraft.

9. All default panels remain accessible after PanelMania is installed.

10. Once installed, the PanelMania fullscreen 5:4 panel for each aircraft can be displayed by pressing SHIFT+8, or SHIFT+9 for the 4:3 version. They can then be repositioned to any monitor you like.

Making all of this was, frankly, an extremely tedious slog, involving many late nights over several months, and an awful lot of head scratching (particularly as I'd never so much as written a single line of code in XML before starting the project and this was also my very first encounter with the FSX SDK). If you'd like to support the effort then a Paypal donation of $20 (or whatever you feel the panels are worth to you) would be enormously appreciated. If a reasonable number of people chip in towards this package then I'll also produce another set of panels for the sim's multi-engine aircraft. The ReadMe gives details of how to make a secure payment with either a PayPal account or a credit/debit card.

In addition to priority support, all contributors will receive a version of the panels with black backgrounds along with a set of plans in various formats which can be used to construct a metal coverplate in front of your monitor with holes cut out for the gauges. (I used an online service from Schaeffer-AG who'll cut and etch the panel for you using the supplied plans). As you can see from the photograph below, this can inexpensively transform the appearance of your setup into something which rivals simulators costing many thousands of dollars:

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Finally, I'd like to thank several people:

-The guys in the AVSIM MSFS Aircraft and Panel Design forum for advice and tips as I struggled to get to grips with XML and the SDK, particularly Bill "n4gix" Leaming of Eaglesoft.
-Ed Struszynski for his excellent FS Panel Designer application.
-Robbie "rpmcel" Mcelrath for his extremely useful BlackBox XML gauge debugging utility.
-"TheSidewinder" who discovered the sequence of keypresses required to fix the "W" key issue. I merely automated this process so no user action is required.
-All the talented artists at Microsoft (and Sibwings) who made the huge quantity of wonderful gauge artwork in FSX.

Other software used in the creation of this package included Autodesk 3D Studio Max and Adobe Photoshop, both of which I recommend.


P.S. Please be sure to have a look at the enclosed file "PanelManiaReadMe.htm" which gives much more detailed information on installing and using the panels.
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