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Michael Copp

GPSout/FSUIPC4 and the iPad

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Hello,

I was wondering if anyone has had any luck using FSUIPC4 to create a virtual COM port/GPS connection to allow NMEA formatted co-ordinate data to be sent from FSX to the iPad to be used by real world flight apps (such as Air Navigation Pro and ForeFlight). I fly my flight plans on FSX shortly before flying real world flights, and it would be fantastic if I could use the same iPad app on the practice flight that I'll be using on the real flight.

Thanks for your help,

Michael Copp

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You posted a support question into the User Contributions subforum, which is a repository for user contributions so they don't scroll down and get lost amidst normal support requests. You are lucky I noticed it. I've moved it here to the proper Support Forum.

I was wondering if anyone has had any luck using FSUIPC4 to create a virtual COM port/GPS connection to allow NMEA formatted co-ordinate data to be sent from FSX to the iPad to be used by real world flight apps (such as Air Navigation Pro and ForeFlight). I fly my flight plans on FSX shortly before flying real world flights, and it would be fantastic if I could use the same iPad app on the practice flight that I'll be using on the real flight.

How does your real GPS in your aircraft connect ot the iPAD? Or are you, for that use, using the iPAD's own GPS? If the latter, then are you sure the iPAD application even accepts NMEA positional data to override the internal GPS readings?

In any case I suspect you'd need a specific USB driver written to do the PC end, as at present when you connect an iPAD to a PC it is registered to it as an external disk drive. The iTunes driver obviously exploits other parts of its interface, and it is those you would need to tap into. If it could be treated as a normal serial port then the standard GPSout facilities in FSUIPC4 might work once you find the right port name and sentences.

Or, you could experiment with a Lua plug-in to FSUIPC. The latest Lua com library includes facilities for handling USB devices. Are there any PC applications which do talk "NMEA" with your iPAD apps? If so then you could probably discover how to do this with a USB Port Monitor program, such as that from Aggsoft. (http://www.aggsoft.com/). That's what i use.

Regards

Pete

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> You posted a support question into the User Contributions subforum.

> I've moved it here to the proper Support Forum.

Sorry about that Peter. It was my first post to the forums, and it looks like I treated the subforum categories as the main forum choices, not noticing that I was actually in the main forum folder - I'll know for next time!

> How does your real GPS in your aircraft connect to the iPAD?

I have an external GNS 5870 MFI GPS that connects via Bluetooth (I don't have the 3G version of the iPad, so I do not have the built-in A-GPS component).

> Are you sure the iPAD application even accepts NMEA positional data to override the internal GPS readings?

> Are there any PC applications which do talk "NMEA" with your iPAD apps?

There actually is a marine navigation app that uses NMEA information sent from a PC via Wifi to the iPad, and they do provide instructions of how to set up the linkage:

http://brookhouseonline.com/pdf%20files/pc_ipad_comms.pdf

I have not taken a detailed look at the GPSout function within FSUIPC - does it use an IP/port combination to allow access to it's NMEA data? If so, I may be able to access some type of virtual COM port/network device from the iPad end of things, but that's where it kind of falls apart for me solution-wise - There doesn't appear to be any easy way to access that type of IP driven networked content from within either the ForeFlight or Air Navigation Pro apps (in the instructions for the marine navigation program referenced above, their iPad app contains a feature specific for grabbing IP-based NMEA information from a wireless network PC, which completes their link nicely).

An FSX-related variation of the above example is FSWidgets' iGMapHD app for the iPad:

http://fswidgets.com/shop/product_info.php?cPath=23&products_id=52

It provides a "Network Pack" server that sends co-ordinate and traffic information from FSX to the iPad via an IP/port combination which can be "read" by their iGMapHD client. However, I suspect their information stream is probably proprietary (i.e. does not adhere to NMEA standards), and to try and get one of the real-world iPad flight apps to intercept the feed runs into the same problems as I mentioned previously (i.e. how do I "trick" the apps into thinking the IP/port combo is a GPS?).

> I suspect you'd need a specific USB driver written to do the PC end

The XMapsy client-server solution (http://www.xmapsy.com) has an excellent setup for sending NMEA formatted data to the iPaq via IP, wherein the client component converts the NMEA data stream to a virtual COM port that many different navigational programs on the iPaq can link to. It seems that it may be the "client" portion that's missing from the iPad equation (perhaps instead of creating a virtual COM port, it would need to convert the data to a virtual Bluetooth GPS or something, although iPad jailbreaking issues may enter into the picture at that point).

> The latest Lua com library includes facilities for handling USB devices.

> A USB Port Monitor program, such as that from Aggsoft. (http://www.aggsoft.com).

Thanks Peter, I'll explore some of these options.

Michael

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I have an external GNS 5870 MFI GPS that connects via Bluetooth (I don't have the 3G version of the iPad, so I do not have the built-in A-GPS component).

Perhaps Bluetooth might work from the PC, if the bluetooth driver running there looked like an openable serial port, like USB connections often do?

There actually is a marine navigation app that uses NMEA information sent from a PC via Wifi to the iPad, and they do provide instructions of how to set up the linkage:

Sorry, that link doesn't appear to work. Does it tell you how to set the PC end up?

I have not taken a detailed look at the GPSout function within FSUIPC - does it use an IP/port combination to allow access to it's NMEA data?

Just a port name, like COMn or one of the more complex USB port names.

If you wanted to send the data to an IP address that would best be done by using a Lua plug-in. There's a Server/Client example pair of Lua plug-ins provided in the FSUIPC installed package which drive a slave copy of FS from a master. You could probably adapt that. You'd need to change the data format being sent to NMEA sentences, of course, and reduce the frequency from its 20 fps to more like 1.

An FSX-related variation of the above example is FSWidgets' iGMapHD app for the iPad:

Yes, I know about that one. I did actually try it, but its mapping is too bad outside the US. Their solution at the FS end is similar the one you'd get with a Lua plug-in. If sending it via WiFi instead of USB is easier to set up in the iPAD, i'd advise looking at doing it that way as it might be easier in the PC end too.

Regards

Pete

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>> There actually is a marine navigation app that uses NMEA information

>> sent from a PC via Wifi to the iPad, and they do provide instructions of

>> how to set up the linkage

>

> Sorry, that link doesn't appear to work. Does it tell you how to set the PC end up?

The document is fairly detailed in it's description of the set up at the PC end. I'd add the PDF as an attachment to this reply, but the file size is too large for this forum (~2MB). However, if you cut and paste the following line into Google:

"How to set up the iPAD for sharing data via Wifi with a navigation program running on a computer"

The first link in the search results should take you to the PDF document.

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The document is fairly detailed in it's description of the set up at the PC end.

Okay. I've looked at the document and it seems all you need is VSPE -- a program I use for a different purpose. Why not try it? The instructions seem very clear and very detailed.

Regards

Pete

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> it seems all you need is VSPE -- a program

> I use for a different purpose. Why not try it?

Yes - I think I'll contact the developers at Foreflight and Air Navigation Pro to see if they can help me with that last step in the link.

Thanks for all your help!

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Yes - I think I'll contact the developers at Foreflight and Air Navigation Pro to see if they can help me with that last step in the link.

Hmmm. I didn't see a step which wasn't pretty clear. It even ends with a pic on the iPad showing the sentences it likes -- RMC and GGA. which step is confusing you?

Pete

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> I didn't see a step which wasn't pretty clear.

> It even ends with a pic on the iPad showing

> the sentences it likes -- RMC and GGA. which

> step is confusing you?

Unless I'm missing something, neither of the realworld flight apps I have on my iPad contain a built-in ability to pull a TCP/IP stream directly into themselves (such as the iNavx app has in it). From what I can tell, the only option that my two flight apps seem to have for retrieving NMEA data is from:

1) some sort of Bluetooth GPS device,

2) a GPS device attached to the iPad interface port, or

3) the internal A-GPS device (which is not included with my iPad version)

From my initial look at the solution (which, admittedly, is not very detailed at this point) it appears that I need to "trick" the apps into thinking that the incoming wifi TCP/IP stream is coming from a Bluetooth device (or similar). That's the "last step" I was mentioning in my previous response - in your opinion, am I missing an obvious linking solution here? Trust me, I'm quite certain you'll have a much more qualified eye for this then I do!

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Unless I'm missing something, neither of the realworld flight apps I have on my iPad contain a built-in ability to pull a TCP/IP stream directly into themselves

Oh, sorry, I obviously misunderstood something. I thought you said you could make it work by WiFi, which obviously would be using TCP/IP.

1) some sort of Bluetooth GPS device

So, have you tried a bluetooth adapter on the PC?

2) a GPS device attached to the iPad interface port

Wow! How is that done? The iPad interface is non-standard (except to iXXX devices). Is someone making GPS connection cables for it? If so then such a cable connecting from your PC should do the job?

From my initial look at the solution (which, admittedly, is not very detailed at this point) it appears that I need to "trick" the apps into thinking that the incoming wifi TCP/IP stream is coming from a Bluetooth device (or similar).

Doesn't sound a likely proposition unless someone has written such an app. Would seem easier to use Bluetooth in the first place, don't you think?

Regards

Pete

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I was able to connect FSX to Air Nav Pro on my iPad. Definitely wanted to be comfortable with the software prior to using it in real life, so practicing with FSX has been a real help.

First, you'll need a jailbroken iPad. If that's makes you squirm, you can stop here.

Shopping list:

1) FSX

2) FSUIPC

3) Franson GPSGate (make sure it's a recent version, as some older versions have trouble creating a virtual port in Windows 7)

4) Bluetooth (I run FSX off a laptop with built-in bluetooth, I imagine a dongle would work fine)

5) Jailbroken iPad

6) RoqyBT app for iPad (this is why it needs to be jailbroken; this app allows iPhones/iPads to connect to a bluetooth GPS receiver. Love this app, also use it for better accuracy in real life on the iPhone/iPad paired with a Holux GPSlim 236)

7) Air Nav Pro

I created a Virtual Com Port in GPSGate for the 'Input', and selected Bluetooth Server in the 'Output'. In FSX, with GPSGate running, activate GPSOut in FSUIPC, select the Virtual Com Port, and you're in business on the PC side.

Create a Bluetooth relationship between the PC and iPad. Find each other, connect...can't remember exactly what I did, but it's typical stuff if you've connected bluetooth devices before. With the PC/FSX/GPSGate up and running, use RoqyBT on the iPad to connect to the PC, as the PC will now look like a big ol' Bluetooth GPS receiver. Run Air Nav Pro, and it's now taking data from FSX.

I may have glossed over something, but these are the basic steps.

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If you are thinking of doing this sometime in the near future do not update your iPad to software version 5.1 when its released in the next couple of weeks, if you do update beyond 5.01 you will not be able to jailbreak your iPad 1 or 2 anymore, until another jailbreak is released and these are never guaranteed, so hold onto them they are precious. You cannot normally downgrade to a jailbreakable software version either with Apple devices unless that device had previously been jailbroken and had some special authentication keys saved at the time.

You really shouldn't worry about jailbreaking Apple devices it is rather simple to return them to an unjailbroken state without Apple ever knowing you have done so in the first place.

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