MCDU Project Progress

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747-400 MCDU

Project Progress

V2.32: first release for Linux. A tar.gz ball with README inside. Only for the not-so-faint-of-heart. here.

V2.31: a micro change. For human factor research, the MCDU has had a key stroke logging option since V2.16. This logging was supposed to be in millisecond granularity. However, it wasn't -- it was in system-dependent clock ticks. This has now been corrected.

V2.30: plenty of configuration file options to allow the MCDU to be embedded in non-desktop installations. See the docs for more info.

V2.20: added a /portnr option to the Broker IP entry field, so that both Brokers and Servers can work on non-standard ports. Like, server/80 if you want to start the MCDU socket server on port 80 instead of 1863. I am also happy to report that the MCDU now runs on Linux as well. If you want this, drop me a mail. It is not yet ready for distribution as there are a few snags, but these will be removed soon.

V2.16: researchers at George Mason University keep using the combination of Aerowinx PS1 and my ACARS and MCDU to perform usability and human factor research on pilots. To facilitate their work, I added a simple key logger function. See the Operation manual for further info.

V2.14: the new key command allows external hardware to send keystrokes to a MCDU on the Broker. This requires to give your MCDU unique identifiers (left, center, right is a good idea), for which a new option has been added on the MCDU CONFIGURATION page. For the codes you can send to the MCDU, please see the MCDU Programming page.

V2.13 adds the current ACARS mode in the title bar (if present), an explicit config option in the .cfg files to add or remove the title bar and resize borders (see 0640area.cfg for example), and a better (clearer) packaging of a demo mode with explicit \images folder.

V2.12 comes with realistic power down behaviour on the PS1 simulator, configurable layout of the MCDU MENU page, and small improvements here and there.

V2.11 has an additional keyboard mode to accomodate a custom rewired keyboard for the Coventry simulator.

V2.10 has a very small fix for bad Engravity presence detection the very first time you run the MCDU. The biggest change is that the font names are now different and there is a pretty Windows installer.

V2.9 fixes a long-standing anomaly with the annunciators. They now only light when in the correct/relevant mode, which usually is FMC. I might need some reports to decide whether this is sufficient, or additional logic is required.

Fixed what was supposed to be a feature but turned out to be a bug. I changed the keysymbol for the PrevPage and NextPage keys from "prev" to "prevpage" etc. but left the old key in as well. This has been removed, and only "prevpage" and "nextpage" are sent now. This will probably break a few modules, which have to be repaired and updated to the new standard. Heads up!

Full support for the Engravity 747-400 MCDU, new FANS-1 compatible fonts thanks to Martin Erdelen, and some internal updates to better cope with modules which use the function keys (typically only FMC and ATC/FMC COMM). Plugins got abandoned for now, not enough demand yet.

Initial skirmishes about the plugin system. A plugin is a small (Tcl) program which is placed in the plugins directory. It is started together with the MCDU and runs inside the MCDU. A plugin can do everything an external program with a TCP connection to the MCDU can, but it is wrapped into the MCDU. This has certain advantages if you want to deploy the whole setup as one single application, instead of as several applications where many of them have no 'face'. However, plugins are not necessarily better for all applications.

Full meta block added for on-display basic MCDU keys, plus a popup virtual keyboard and some finetuning. Release 2.5.

Some tiny things: default Broker IP is now 'Off', and the PS1 keyboard mode does not change the LEDs of the keyboard (and thereby the keyboard mode, such as CAPS LOCK) any more. Magenta keyboard mode still does, for compatibility reasons. Cursor can be made to autohide, typically good for touch screens. Version 2.4 out now.

After a lot of internal work (and even more delays due to real-life commitments), the MCDU now has a few major infrastructural changes. Support for full-screen touch screens is added, so you now can define hot spots inside the character display as well. For portrait operation, more lines than 12 (six LSKs each side) are supported. And last but not least, a full colour API has been added. Version 2.3.

I tried to implement the Project Magenta key map, only to discover that this is equal to the existing PFC key map. All the better. Added the DSPY annunciator when a MOD RTE page is displayed. Released the full source code under GPL. V2.2.1.

Everything for science! It turned out to be handy to be able to switch the MCDU keyboard (not the mouse) on and off via the Broker. I added a keyboard mode "off", and also changed the layout of the CONFIG page a bit. V2.11.

On request by a Danish company that manufactures sattelite communication systems, I have added the asterisk and hash mark characters to the MCDU so that it better complies with ARINC 739A. You need to re-install the font files to get the new characters. Obviously the keyboard did not change at all, so you can't type these characters, they are just for display. V2.10.

Finally fixed the long-time Space Bug, which crashed the MCDU key input routine when somebody pushed the SP key in FMC mode. V2.9.

Replaced the hacked annunciators with the original bitmaps of a fully lit MCDU ("bulb test" mode). The alignments are nearly perfect but if you really want to see a shift, you can. We are talking subpixel here. Release 2.8.

Slightly increased the horizontal offset in Full Screen modes, to avoid the leftmost column of characters being/appearing truncated. This is patch release 2.6.2.

Finally, after loads of unofficial intermediate releases, I could get my hands free to do a complete revamp of the MCDU and make a neat release. Version 2.6 patch 1 is on the site, with a full photorealistic GUI front end instead of the quite ugly manually drawn row of buttons. The display itself is unchanged, so the people with dedicated hardware won't need to worry.

Release of V2.4: new local socket server for people who are PS1-challenged and do not run a Broker. Also supports a double push on the MENU key now, which drops you through into the menu mode of PS1's CDU if you happen to be in FMC mode.

Release of version 2.3 to the general public for gamma testing. Doc will follow, but the program should actually work. You need to have a working 747IPC, VidTSR, VidServ, and VMD in order to see anything!

All hardware support for the PFC MCDUs is completed. On top, full support of the PS1 native FMC CDU is completed. You can now operate your FMC fully from the MCDU console! I still need to tidy up some loose ends and ugly hacks, but this won't take much time.

After a few weeks of tinkering, full hardware support for the PFC MCDU line is nearly completed. The CFW MCDUs are not yet done, but might follow.
As the target is full PS1 CDU support, many more function keys will be added soon. Also fixed some bugs and small anomalies. The config menu got extended and can now also quit the program and shut down the computer.

The SB747 program now uses the external MCDU for all ACARS functionality. V1.4 of the MCDU is required and released.

V1.4 has all multi-MCDU features and should be ready for prime time.

After a couple of days thinking and experimenting, the new parallel MCDU setup is finished. MCDUs can now be stacked up as many as you like, and they can all control whatever you want. If two or more MCDUs find themselves controlling the same module, they will sync up. All this still is significantly less complex than a total parallel setup, especially from the side of the applications that you need to program!

V1.3 with limited keyboard display. The MCDU can now be switched from display-only to display-with-keys. The keyboard layout is not final, as I want to touch up the ugly graphics with nice button bitmaps. Anybody good with bitmap design tools? :-)

V1.2. The dedicated features are finished; the MCDU now is optimized to run by itself full-screen on a (small-screen) computer with some form of nice keyboard attached. There is no mouse interaction at all. Via the CONFIG menu on the MENU page, you can access all configurable items such as Broker host address, display width, window border yes/no, and display colour/brightness.

V1.1. Cosmetical changes. The MCDU now has "self test" features, can display character patterns and reset itself etc. On top I received the first release of the Aerowinx FMC font, which will be included with the next release.

Done! First release 1.0. Everything is in there to start developing external applications that use the MCDU. The final design of the GUI layout is not there yet, but that is unimportant for developers anyway :-).

© 2021 Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers For more information, mail to