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Block detection and automation test/practice layout


gavino200

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gavino200
  • I did a little bit of work with iTrain tonight. I finally had success with a small but important step. I was able to get my reaction delay shuttle to work and make adjustments in stopping time. I'm now able to get my trains to stop exactly where they're supposed to stop!!! It's really not much, but it's a big step for me. I'm looking forward to getting back to it after vacation.
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Martijn Meerts

Nice! Always good to get something to work like you want it to ūüôā

 

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gavino200
Posted (edited)

While recovering from walking all around Niagara Falls in the heat and humidity, I'm reading a bit about iTrain and Raspberry Pi's. It seems that I could run iTrain on a RasPi. That would be a little bit cool as I'm currently infatuated with  my RasPi and am looking for things to do with it. But I'm not sure there'd be any real advantage. I have no intention of running iTrain "headless". The graphical interface is one of the things I like most about iTrain. Currently i have an extra (but not old) Lenova Notebook, that I got free from a previous job, pretty much dedicated to iTrain and my Digikeijs system. It may be nice to instead build a lighter "Pi book" but that seem like the only advantage I could achieve. 

 

What does bother me however is having to use a wired USB connection to the Digikeijs DR5000. I need to find a way to make a high quality data link between the laptop and the DR5000 so that I can lounge anywhere in the room while working on iTrain. 

 

The DR5000 does have wireless capability, but it seems that it can only link to one device wirelessly at a time. Currently it's linked with my Z21  multmaus. Since I've been working with iTrain I haven't really used the Multmaus. I've probably forgotten how to use it anyway. I have to wonder if I'll ever use it in the future, as I'm finding that I really love iTrain. 

 

So there are a few options.

 

1. I could just sacrifice the Z21 and link iTrain wirelessly with the DR5000, I may regret this especially as I get my real layout started. Manually running trains can be fun.

2. I could try to toggle between the two, but I bet that would be cumbersome and annoying.

3. Keep the Z21 linked to the DR5000. Then see if I can use some kind of dongle connected by USB to the DR5000 that communicates wirelessly to the laptop running iTrain. 

 

The following is from the "Iron Planet" website. 

 

Best Results¬†‚Äď Use a USB cable to the DR5000 for the PC App and set the WiFi to Z21. This gives you wireless access to WiFi throttles & the Z21 app. If you need more range, a simple WiFi extender plugged into the LAN port will work. Point your WiFi devices to the extender and use the same

password.

 

This may be saying the same thing as my option 3, but I'm not sure. This language is foreign to me. I think I'll ask on the Digikeijs forum. Any idea about this @chadbag?

Edited by gavino200
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chadbag

Uhm, you can hook more than one device wirelessly to the DR5000.  I use 2x WLANmaus at once, plus my own Z21 based app I am developing.   I've not hooked anything else up wirelessly but I would expect that any of the software that can work with the DR5000 should be able to be hooked up wirelessly.  You just need to make sure your protocols match.  If iTrain requires a different protocol than the WLANmaus you may need to figure something else out.

 

I bought a simple S88 based (I think that is what it is) wireless access point to plug in to the DR5000 but have not tried it yet.  I also use the Digitrax LNWI over Loconet fo WiThrottle access at the same time.  So there are different things you can do to get different protocols exposed.

 

Also, if iTrain is running on the Pi, I would expect that the GUI is eitehr X-windows based or web based -- both of which you should be able to use remotely from your laptop.  I've not used iTrain so don't know how its GUI works.

 

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gavino200
2 hours ago, chadbag said:

Uhm, you can hook more than one device wirelessly to the DR5000.  I use 2x WLANmaus at once, plus my own Z21 based app I am developing.   I've not hooked anything else up wirelessly but I would expect that any of the software that can work with the DR5000 should be able to be hooked up wirelessly.

 

Thanks Chad, good to know. I'll try it when I get home next week. 

 

2 hours ago, chadbag said:

 

You just need to make sure your protocols match.  If iTrain requires a different protocol than the WLANmaus you may need to figure something else out.

 

I don't really know what that means. But that's nothing a few google searches can't cure.

 

 

2 hours ago, chadbag said:

 

I bought a simple S88 based (I think that is what it is) wireless access point to plug in to the DR5000 but have not tried it yet.

 

What's that? Is that a wireless extender? A kind of "dongle" to allow you to have more devices connect to the DR5000 by wifi?

 

 

2 hours ago, chadbag said:

 

Also, if iTrain is running on the Pi, I would expect that the GUI is eitehr X-windows based or web based -- both of which you should be able to use remotely from your laptop.  I've not used iTrain so don't know how its GUI works.

 

 

Based on this description of what x windows is, I think that's what it is. I don't think it's web based. Are those the only possibilities? I guess I could find out by seeing if it works with the internet turned off.

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chadbag
9 minutes ago, gavino200 said:

 

I don't really know what that means. But that's nothing a few google searches can't cure.

 

The "language" the DR5000 speaks.    Over USB it supports LocoNet, XpressNet, and its own DR5000 config language (DR Command).

 

You can set the LAN / WLAN  to respond to, per section 4.2 

 

XpressNet LAN

 

LocoNet over TCP/IP LB Server (for example for JMRI)

 

LocoNet Binary (iTrain, Windigipet, etc)

 

Dr. Command   (used by Digikeijs Apps)

 

Z21/WLANMaus ¬† (It DOES ūüė쬆have this disclaimer: ¬†Protocol to connect one or more Roco¬ģ WLAN Mice¬ģ or App's to the DR5000.¬†This protocol¬†cannot be used¬†to connect to control software when using Z21App¬ģ and/or Roco¬ģ WLAN mice at¬†the same time.)

 

 

I wonder if in XpressNet mode (what the DR5000 manual says you need for iTrain), if you can also somehow connect the WLANmaus as it uses a form of the XpressNet protocol, though it may be a special formatted version...   This I have to experiment with.  It may need the control software to act as a bridge for the WLANmaus.   Ignore this last bit for now -- it just got me thinking.

 

9 minutes ago, gavino200 said:

 

 

What's that? Is that a wireless extender? A kind of "dongle" to allow you to have more devices connect to the DR5000 by wifi?

 

 

So you have a port on the DR5000 called "ext88N) which is compatble with S88.  The thing I bought is an S88 module that has a WiFi chip in it that broadcasts out over Z21.  This may actually be the key to running the WLANmaus and command software at the same time.  Another thing I'll have to try.  I bought it but have never used it as the DR5000 has its own native WiFi for Z21...  More things that make me wonder.

 

 

The LNWI from Digitrax is similar but is set up for Loconet to be used by WiThrottle compatible WiFi throttles (instead of Z21).  With this hooked to the DR5000 I can use both sorts of WiFi based throttles.  (The WiThrottle ones I use are just phone apps).

 

9 minutes ago, gavino200 said:

 

Based on this description of what x windows is, I think that's what it is. I don't think it's web based. Are those the only possibilities? I guess I could find out by seeing if it works with the internet turned off.

 

 

Xwindows is a system for unix/linux computers to have a GUI interface.  You put what is called a "Window Manager" on top of it, which gives it is specific look and feel.  It is like the "Windows" part of Windows (vs the underlying OS).  One nice thing about it is that it can be used to display the GUI of an app over the network.  If you have an Xwindows server on your PC, you can start the app on your Linux/unix computer and point it to the Windows (or Mac) running an Xwindows server and have the app display there.

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Madsing
Posted (edited)

Two comments based on my experience:

- I use VNC (https://www.realvnc.com/en/) to remotely control my Raspberry Pi’s (all of them). VNC is free for personal use with Raspberry Pi OS and comes preinstalled on Raspberry Pi OS. You just have to enable it. Also enable SSH while you are there. Details here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/remote-access/vnc/

- I prefer wired connections (= wired Ethernet instead of WiFi) for time-sensitive communication. This includes communication between the Z21 and Rocrail. DR5000 and iTrain in your case.¬†It is more reliable. WiFi tends to be less stable, with devices that disconnect then reconnect, or with short delays that go unnoticed when you just browse the web but are ¬ę critical ¬Ľ when a sensor detecting the train reports feedback to iTrain.

So my choice setup is:

- Raspberry Pi running the Tomytec buses and LED control application + Raspberry Pi running Rocrail + Z21 on a wired LAN, along with a WiFi access point. So Rocrail talking to the Z21 does NOT have to go through WiFi.

- Both Raspberry Pi’s accessible via VNC from any device (an iPad, or my iMac in the next room) from the WiFi access point 

- Z21 accessible via its own app, from the same WiFi access point

I hope it‚Äôs clear¬†ūüėÄ. I can make a schematic if useful.¬†

Edited by Madsing
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gavino200
4 minutes ago, Madsing said:

Two comments based on my experience:

- I use VNC (https://www.realvnc.com/en/) to remotely control my Raspberry Pi’s (all of them). VNC is free for personal usage and comes preinstalled on Raspberry Pi OS. You just have to enable it. Also enable SSH while you are there. Details here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/remote-access/vnc/

 

This part is clear. I like the idea of VNC. That great to know about!

 

4 minutes ago, Madsing said:

- I prefer wired connections (= wired Ethernet instead of WiFi) for time-sensitive communication. This includes communication between the Z21 and Rocrail. DR5000 and iTrain in your case.¬†It is more reliable. WiFi tends to be less stable, with devices that disconnect then reconnect, or with short delays that go unnoticed when you just browse the web but are ¬ę critical ¬Ľ when a sensor detecting the train reports feedback to iTrain.

 

I was wondering about that. Iron planet hobbies (the US Digikeijs dealer) seemed to be hinting at that. Currently I have a simple USB connection between iTrain and the DR5000. Do you think ethernet would be faster/more reliable than USB? I have a bunch of those cables lying around. 

 

 

4 minutes ago, Madsing said:

So my choice setup is:

- Raspberry Pi running the Tomytec buses and LED control application + Raspberry Pi running Rocrail + Z21 on a wired LAN, along with a WiFi access point. So Rocrail talking to the Z21 does have to go through WiFi.

- Both Raspberry Pi’s accessible via VNC from any device (an iPad, or my iMac in the next room) from the WiFi access point 

- Z21 accessible via it’s own app, from the same WiFi access point

i hope it‚Äôs clear¬†ūüėÄ. I can make a schematic if useful.¬†

 

Not fully clear. Let me retell that story as I understand it.

 

RasPi runs the following three things: Tomytec busses, LED control, and RocRail. These three plus the Z21 unit are on a wired Ethernet LAN. In theory this is clear, and I know what a wired LAN is, but I don't known what that would look like. Does the LAN have a control node or network Server? Is the control node the Pi that is running Rocrail? Does the LAN need special network software.

 

I'm not really sure what a wifi access point is, but I can research that. I'm guessing its like a hub or a router that allows the "LAN control note" talk to another system by wifi.

 

The Z21 is connected wirelessly to the the LAN. This confuses me, because I thought (from the first sentence) that the Z21 was connected to the wired LAN. It must be that you mean that the LAN is a "mostly wired" LAN except for the wireless connection with the Z21. Is it not possible to connect the Z21 via a wired connection? Why use wifi for this part? (By Z21 you mean the full DCC system, not just the Z21 multmaus?)

 

A schematic would be amazing. But that sounds like a lot of trouble. 

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chadbag
3 hours ago, gavino200 said:

 

 

RasPi runs the following three things: Tomytec busses, LED control, and RocRail. These three plus the Z21 unit are on a wired Ethernet LAN. In theory this is clear, and I know what a wired LAN is, but I don't known what that would look like. Does the LAN have a control node or network Server? Is the control node the Pi that is running Rocrail? Does the LAN need special network software.

 

This is not Windows, so there is no "control node".  If you need it you can run some "control node" type stuff like your own DNS, or LDAP, or other stuff, but you won't need any of that.    The LAN is just an ethernet (plus WiFi) with all the computers and devices hooked to it using the same "subnet", which is a range of IP addresses.  Something like 192.68.0.1 -- 192.168.0.255 or similar.  The "special software" is the normal "internet" software on the machine for setting up TCP/IP.  Your Pi and your Windows both have this built in.  As does your Android or iPhone, iPad, etc.

 

3 hours ago, gavino200 said:

 

I'm not really sure what a wifi access point is, but I can research that. I'm guessing its like a hub or a router that allows the "LAN control note" talk to another system by wifi.

 

An Access Point is merely something hooked to your ethernet that broadcasts WiFi in the same address range so that you can use wireless devices.   Your "WiFi router" is actually just a router and access point in one physical device.  The "router" takes all the network traffic from your house and "routes" it out onto the internet.  Most people's routers today also come with a WiFi access point built-in so that you can use wireless at home and wired stuff, as most routers gave a few ethernet LAN ports as well.

 

3 hours ago, gavino200 said:

 

The Z21 is connected wirelessly to the the LAN. This confuses me, because I thought (from the first sentence) that the Z21 was connected to the wired LAN. It must be that you mean that the LAN is a "mostly wired" LAN except for the wireless connection with the Z21. Is it not possible to connect the Z21 via a wired connection? Why use wifi for this part? (By Z21 you mean the full DCC system, not just the Z21 multmaus?)

 

He is using Z21 differently than you.  He has the Z21 command station -- like your DR5000.  That is hooked up wired.  Your Z21 WLANmaus is just a wireless throttle for the Z21 (and compatible) systems. and that you use wirelessly.

 

You can have your DR5000 use its built in WiFi or you can have your DR5000 connected with an ethernet cable to your home network and use your home WiFi to connect your wireless WLANmaus to the DR5000.  The DR5000 manual goes over both cases, though it may not be clear to a non computer person.

 

3 hours ago, gavino200 said:

 

A schematic would be amazing. But that sounds like a lot of trouble. 

 

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chadbag
3 hours ago, Madsing said:

Two comments based on my experience:

- I use VNC (https://www.realvnc.com/en/) to remotely control my Raspberry Pi’s (all of them). VNC is free for personal use with Raspberry Pi OS and comes preinstalled on Raspberry Pi OS. You just have to enable it. Also enable SSH while you are there. Details here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/remote-access/vnc/

 

 

yes, I forgot about VNC.  I use it as well occasionally and just plain forgot about the option.  Thanks for the reminder.

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chadbag
3 hours ago, gavino200 said:

 

 

The Z21 is connected wirelessly to the the LAN. This confuses me, because I thought (from the first sentence) that the Z21 was connected to the wired LAN. It must be that you mean that the LAN is a "mostly wired" LAN except for the wireless connection with the Z21. Is it not possible to connect the Z21 via a wired connection? Why use wifi for this part? (By Z21 you mean the full DCC system, not just the Z21 multmaus?)

 

 

He edited it afterwards to say that Rocrail does NOT talk to the Z21 command station wirelessly, while the thing you quoted shows him saying it does.

 

So the Pi is wired to the Z21 and talks to the Z21 over ethernet for Madsing

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gavino200
27 minutes ago, chadbag said:

 

This is not Windows, so there is no "control node".  If you need it you can run some "control node" type stuff like your own DNS, or LDAP, or other stuff, but you won't need any of that.    The LAN is just an ethernet (plus WiFi) with all the computers and devices hooked to it using the same "subnet", which is a range of IP addresses.  Something like 192.68.0.1 -- 192.168.0.255 or similar.  The "special software" is the normal "internet" software on the machine for setting up TCP/IP.  Your Pi and your Windows both have this built in.  As does your Android or iPhone, iPad, etc.

 

 

 

I see. They're all connected and communicating. No particular one "in charge". Like a neural network. 

 

 

 

27 minutes ago, chadbag said:

An Access Point is merely something hooked to your ethernet that broadcasts WiFi in the same address range so that you can use wireless devices.   Your "WiFi router" is actually just a router and access point in one physical device.  The "router" takes all the network traffic from your house and "routes" it out onto the internet.  Most people's routers today also come with a WiFi access point built-in so that you can use wireless at home and wired stuff, as most routers gave a few ethernet LAN ports as well.

 

Thanks. Awesome description. 

 

 

 

27 minutes ago, chadbag said:

 

You can have your DR5000 use its built in WiFi or you can have your DR5000 connected with an ethernet cable to your home network and use your home WiFi to connect your wireless WLANmaus to the DR5000.  The DR5000 manual goes over both cases, though it may not be clear to a non computer person.

 

 

Thanks. What would be the advantage of using the home network? Greater range?

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gavino200
14 minutes ago, chadbag said:

 

He edited it afterwards to say that Rocrail does NOT talk to the Z21 command station wirelessly, while the thing you quoted shows him saying it does.

 

So the Pi is wired to the Z21 and talks to the Z21 over ethernet for Madsing

 

Thanks, I didn't see that. Now, that makes perfect sense. 

 

So its: Madsing -> VCN -> wirelessly to all Pi's -> to Z21, LEDs, and Tomytec busses.

(Rocrail is on one of the Pis connected by wire to the Z21). 

 

Very nice. Everything comes together on whatever machine is used to access VCN

 

The Pi with RocRail is "locally headless" under the layout. But it has a "remote head" through VCN. 

 

That's awesome!

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Madsing
Posted (edited)

Hello,

 

Thank you @chadbag for the details.

This is a quick diagram I just did during my lunch time (it's already Wednesday 1pm here in Asia)

 

584917295_Screenshot2021-06-09at1_20_06PM.thumb.png.7a1ea57bbe0bd6e9a4de663e059fd9b9.png

 

Additional remarks:

- The Z21 does not have any USB port so the only way to connect it to the computer (Raspberry Pi) is with Ethernet (LAN port). I have no indication that this works better or worse than the USB connection of the DR5000.

- The four devices are connected altogether using the simplest cheapest unmanaged network switch. I think I paid $20.

- The Z21 comes with a WiFi router which is pre-configured to create its own WiFi network. I have used it in that way for a while, but didn't like it. The reason was that since I use either a tablet, phone or computer (Raspberry Pi or PC) to control the Z21, I had to disconnect that device from my home WiFi to connect it to the Z21 WiFi. This means disconnecting it from the Internet. Not ideal. Constant change of WiFi settings. So I reconfigured the Z21 to use a fixed IP address on my home's network and purchased a cheap TP-Link AC750 Wifi Range Extender, which is the only one I have found on the market that can work in Bridge mode. i.e. connecting the devices connected to its only Ethernet port to an existing WiFi network. This has been working extremely well for me for years now.

- Rocrail runs on the first Raspberry Pi, I access it using VNC. It can talk to the Z21 on the network through the switch without having to go through WiFi.

- The Z21 app runs on my phone and tablet, which is connected to my home WiFi, and can talk to the Z21 wirelessly.

- My Tomytec bus and LED control application (written in Python) runs on the other Raspberry Pi. It has its own HDMI display, but I can also access it via VNC for programming.

Sorry, I realise that this may not be as straightforward as I thought at the beginning but maybe some pieces of that will be useful.

 

Marc

Edited by Madsing
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gavino200

Thanks so much, Marc, for this description and for the schematic. It’s clear now. That’s a very clever setup! Thanks for taking the time to explain everything!!!!

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chadbag
8 hours ago, gavino200 said:

Thanks. What would be the advantage of using the home network? Greater range?

 

Marc explained it -- access the internet from your PC at the same time as being connected to the "train network" of stuff. They all live on the same network and so you are not having to connect purposefully to the trains and disconnect from your normal networking including the internet when you want to connect to the trains.

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gavino200
Posted (edited)
On 6/9/2021 at 1:50 AM, Madsing said:

Hello,

 

Thank you @chadbag for the details.

This is a quick diagram I just did during my lunch time (it's already Wednesday 1pm here in Asia)

 

584917295_Screenshot2021-06-09at1_20_06PM.thumb.png.7a1ea57bbe0bd6e9a4de663e059fd9b9.png

 

Additional remarks:

- The Z21 does not have any USB port so the only way to connect it to the computer (Raspberry Pi) is with Ethernet (LAN port). I have no indication that this works better or worse than the USB connection of the DR5000.

- The four devices are connected altogether using the simplest cheapest unmanaged network switch. I think I paid $20.

- The Z21 comes with a WiFi router which is pre-configured to create its own WiFi network. I have used it in that way for a while, but didn't like it. The reason was that since I use either a tablet, phone or computer (Raspberry Pi or PC) to control the Z21, I had to disconnect that device from my home WiFi to connect it to the Z21 WiFi. This means disconnecting it from the Internet. Not ideal. Constant change of WiFi settings. So I reconfigured the Z21 to use a fixed IP address on my home's network and purchased a cheap TP-Link AC750 Wifi Range Extender, which is the only one I have found on the market that can work in Bridge mode. i.e. connecting the devices connected to its only Ethernet port to an existing WiFi network. This has been working extremely well for me for years now.

- Rocrail runs on the first Raspberry Pi, I access it using VNC. It can talk to the Z21 on the network through the switch without having to go through WiFi.

- The Z21 app runs on my phone and tablet, which is connected to my home WiFi, and can talk to the Z21 wirelessly.

- My Tomytec bus and LED control application (written in Python) runs on the other Raspberry Pi. It has its own HDMI display, but I can also access it via VNC for programming.

Sorry, I realise that this may not be as straightforward as I thought at the beginning but maybe some pieces of that will be useful.

 

Marc

 

Marc, I hope you'll excuse another annoying question about this. Networking is the aspect of computing that I understand least.

 

There are two reasons for the wifi bridge as I see it. 

1. So that you can interact directly with the Z21 (ie when you're setting something up - not just controlling it through Rocrail).

2. So that older non-wifi Raspberry Pi can be controlled through VNC

 

My RasPi has wifi so I can control it through VCN without the wifi bridge. It only needs an ethernet cable to the DR5000. 

 

I'm assuming that my DR5000 works the same way as your Z21 in that it is designed to be a wifi router that creats it's own little wifi LAN, rather than being able to connect directly to my home network. I'll research and check this but likely I'll be configuring it to work with a Wifi access point as a bridge. 

 

Since, likely I'll need the wifi bridge anyway, I should be able to use older and therefore cheaper RasPi's to work on the system. What do you think are the pros/cons of using smaller/lighter/ less powerful Pi's in a system like this. My hunch is that having a newer faster Pi might be good to run iTrain on. Is there anything to that or is it overkill. What's the simplest Pi you'd use to run a program like iTrain or RocRail on? 

 

For anything else I'd do on my layout - Displays, LEDs, Sound, I think I could probably use the oldest and simplest Pi's I could find without even taxing them.  What are your thoughts on that?

 

Edited by gavino200
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gavino200

I'm feeling fairly confident about iTrain now, so I'm stepping aside to consider the detection system. I'm seeing how these train systems are all basically specific computer networking systems. While I understand very little about networks, I'm beginning to think that I might be capable of understanding it. 

 

I'm wondering whether there's any advantage to using LocoNet. The LN equipped devices are a tad more expensive. But as I'm not using any Digitrax equipment it's not clear that there's anything special that it offers me. S88 seems like it works for detection as well as LN. Also, since my Digikeijs LocoNet units also have S88 jacks I wouldn't have to change them even if I decide not to buy any more of them. It seems that with the Digikeijs system you can even daisychain S88 and LN units. 

 

The detectors themselves are a simple concept. They're basically a bunch of ameters in a box. It seems like these could be made very inexpensively using arduinos and such. The networking part isn't clear to me at all. I need to learn more. 

 

I found this video about the the DR4088OPTO unit. In this case it's being used with IR sensors. I have one of these units already. I've also used these sensors in an Arduino speed detection device. They're not hard to use. The main limiting factor using Arduinos to control these is the number of GPIOs. Still it would be al lot cheaper. The main thing for me to try to understand at this time is how these devices communicate with the DR5000. 

 

 

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gavino200

I found this excellent video about using arduinos with LocoNet. I'm not sure if this is Peter Giling referred to by @Dani in his excellent Arduino blog entries. I suspect it is him, as he refers to his boards in the video. 

 

This is a link to Peter Giling's boards btw. They can't be ordered directly from the US but a buying service in the NL or Germany should work. 

 

I'm more enthusiastic about LocoNet if I can work with it myself.

 

 

 

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Madsing
19 hours ago, gavino200 said:

 

Marc, I hope you'll excuse another annoying question about this. Networking is the aspect of computing that I understand least.

 

There are two reasons for the wifi bridge as I see it. 

1. So that you can interact directly with the Z21 (ie when you're setting something up - not just controlling it through Rocrail).

2. So that older non-wifi Raspberry Pi can be controlled through VNC

 

My RasPi has wifi so I can control it through VCN without the wifi bridge. It only needs an ethernet cable to the DR5000. 

 

I'm assuming that my DR5000 works the same way as your Z21 in that it is designed to be a wifi router that creats it's own little wifi LAN, rather than being able to connect directly to my home network. I'll research and check this but likely I'll be configuring it to work with a Wifi access point as a bridge. 

 

Since, likely I'll need the wifi bridge anyway, I should be able to use older and therefore cheaper RasPi's to work on the system. What do you think are the pros/cons of using smaller/lighter/ less powerful Pi's in a system like this. My hunch is that having a newer faster Pi might be good to run iTrain on. Is there anything to that or is it overkill. What's the simplest Pi you'd use to run a program like iTrain or RocRail on? 

 

For anything else I'd do on my layout - Displays, LEDs, Sound, I think I could probably use the oldest and simplest Pi's I could find without even taxing them.  What are your thoughts on that?

 

 

Yes. It is very likely that even the older Raspberry Pi will run iTrain and RocRail perfectly fine. However:

- I do not like when the user interface lags. i.e. windows move slowly or dialog boxes take time to open.

- Unless you want more memory, I think that newer Raspberry Pi's are not more expensive. The launch price of each model was $35. Now, maybe you can get older models for a cheaper price now...

- So I have always purchased the latest model whenever I started a new project. I purchased a Raspberry Pi 4 last year when I decided to move Rocrail from my main computer to a Raspberry Pi.

- One notable exception: The Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W (WiFi + Bluetooth version). This one has a slower (single core) processor and no Ethernet port, but it is cheaper ($10) and much smaller (it could fit in larger buildings). That's my go to model for driving large displays with high-resolution video, such as in this (future) project:

 

 

I hope this helps

 

Marc

 

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Madsing
13 hours ago, gavino200 said:

I'm feeling fairly confident about iTrain now, so I'm stepping aside to consider the detection system. I'm seeing how these train systems are all basically specific computer networking systems. While I understand very little about networks, I'm beginning to think that I might be capable of understanding it. 

 

I'm wondering whether there's any advantage to using LocoNet. The LN equipped devices are a tad more expensive. But as I'm not using any Digitrax equipment it's not clear that there's anything special that it offers me. S88 seems like it works for detection as well as LN. Also, since my Digikeijs LocoNet units also have S88 jacks I wouldn't have to change them even if I decide not to buy any more of them. It seems that with the Digikeijs system you can even daisychain S88 and LN units. 

 

The detectors themselves are a simple concept. They're basically a bunch of ameters in a box. It seems like these could be made very inexpensively using arduinos and such. The networking part isn't clear to me at all. I need to learn more. 

 

I found this video about the the DR4088OPTO unit. In this case it's being used with IR sensors. I have one of these units already. I've also used these sensors in an Arduino speed detection device. They're not hard to use. The main limiting factor using Arduinos to control these is the number of GPIOs. Still it would be al lot cheaper. The main thing for me to try to understand at this time is how these devices communicate with the DR5000. 

 

 

 

Hi Gavin,

 

Difficult choice I think. I have zero experience with LocoNet. I purchased my Z21 six years ago at the very beginning of my model railroading adventure and at that time Digikeijs just had the RB (Roco Bus) version of their feedback module. That's the one I have. The Roco Bus is proprietary, very very basic so it's definitely not a good choice for future expansion. Similarly to yours, the RB feedback module also has an S88 extension bus, so I probably could have daisy-chained one RB and multiple (cheaper) S88 modules.

 

LocoNet looks interesting. It's patented by Digitrax but seems open for non-commercial use. I have looked at the protocol a while ago and I liked it. However, since the feedback modules I have work well I never felt any reason to study LocoNet more. Something to consider maybe: Use the LocoNet bus for controlling signals and switches, and keep DCC for locomotives only.

 

Yet another bus: the CAN bus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN_bus) seems to become more popular in Europe. It is well supported by the Z21 (but not by the DR5000). It is an international standard used in many industrial and automobile applications and I'd like to study more about it, but never took the time.

 

Marc

 

 

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gavino200
6 hours ago, Madsing said:

 

Yes. It is very likely that even the older Raspberry Pi will run iTrain and RocRail perfectly fine. However:

- I do not like when the user interface lags. i.e. windows move slowly or dialog boxes take time to open.

 

That's good to know.

 

6 hours ago, Madsing said:

- Unless you want more memory, I think that newer Raspberry Pi's are not more expensive. The launch price of each model was $35. Now, maybe you can get older models for a cheaper price now...

 

The board I got was a Pi4 with 4GB. I was fairly sure that memory was overkill. I know the 8GB was. I think I'll retreat back to a 2GB model for the time being. If I need more RAM for a project I can always use the 4GB model. The ease of doing that with the memory cards is one thing I love about the Pi's.

 

6 hours ago, Madsing said:

 

- One notable exception: The Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W (WiFi + Bluetooth version). This one has a slower (single core) processor and no Ethernet port, but it is cheaper ($10) and much smaller (it could fit in larger buildings). That's my go to model for driving large displays with high-resolution video, such as in this (future) project:

 

 

Great idea. Passing all those wires into a building could be a bit tough. placing the Pi inside would be much better. I'll be setting up my ILI9341 soon. I'll use that to get familiar with the zero. 

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gavino200
6 hours ago, Madsing said:

 Similarly to yours, the RB feedback module also has an S88 extension bus, so I probably could have daisy-chained one RB and multiple (cheaper) S88 modules.

 

That's probably what I'll end up doing, if I continue to use the Digikeijs modules. Unless I find some kind of advantage from using all LocoNet modules. 

 

 

6 hours ago, Madsing said:

LocoNet looks interesting. It's patented by Digitrax but seems open for non-commercial use. I have looked at the protocol a while ago and I liked it. However, since the feedback modules I have work well I never felt any reason to study LocoNet more.

 

 

I agree, it seems like an excellent communication system. Perhaps overkill, for me as I don't plan on running trains in a club setting. For me it's been my limited general knowledge that has kept me from understanding it better. But I'm starting to get an idea of what's going on with this stuff. 

 

 

6 hours ago, Madsing said:

Something to consider maybe: Use the LocoNet bus for controlling signals and switches, and keep DCC for locomotives only.

 

Yes, I agree. However as the DCC communication goes through the detection modules, I'm using DCC and LocoNet together. The Digikeijs Switch and Signal module runs on a track feed. However I'm using a trick from @chadbag to take a low current copy of the track signal from the Loco net output. So I'm "sort of" using LocoNet. 

 

However, signals and switches seem to be one thing that really don't need something as sophisticated as LN. I looked at LCC before but it was too complex for me (lot's of arduinos etc). But what was previously a disadvantage, may now be fun!

 

It seems like I have a few options. And I know I can get everything I need done using all Digikeijs equipment. I may be starting to develop a slight Arduino addiction¬†ūüėĪūüėĪ

 

 

6 hours ago, Madsing said:

 

Yet another bus: the CAN bus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN_bus) seems to become more popular in Europe. It is well supported by the Z21 (but not by the DR5000). It is an international standard used in many industrial and automobile applications and I'd like to study more about it, but never took the time.

 

 

That's interesting. I'll look into it, if only out of curiosity. Who knows, Digikeijs will probably eventually support it keeps it's foothold. That seems to be their business model. "Assimilate, assimilate"

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gavino200
On 6/9/2021 at 1:50 AM, Madsing said:

 

 

584917295_Screenshot2021-06-09at1_20_06PM.thumb.png.7a1ea57bbe0bd6e9a4de663e059fd9b9.png

 

 

 

 

Making some slow progress trying to replicate a similar setup. More learning than progress really. 

 

So far.

 

1. I got a small range extender, the same one (TP-Link AC750 Wifi Range Extender). Mine doesn't really work in true bridge mode. But I can use it as an extender and plug a switch into it's ethernet port to use it as an access point. I have a little pseudo bridged LAN set up to play with.

 

2. I realized that I don't really need the range extender, as my Ras Pi's are wifi equiped. I can just access them directly on my home network. 

 

3. iTrain works fine on a RasPi. Once I got it set up it's no different to the Windows version other than the graphics are a tad more basic.

 

4. Surprisingly, Digikeijs doesn't support Linux, or even Mac. They're PC only. I was shocked by this and couldn't believe it at first, but after searching the Digikeijs forum it's definitely the case. A LOT of people are unhappy about this. So whenever I need to access the Digikeijs units directly, I'll have to plug in a PC. No big deal. I did find descriptions of people who have been successful getting a RasPi loaded train control software package to talk to the DR5000, so I know it's possible. I just haven't worked out how to do it yet. 

 

5. At this point, I got side-tracked. I learned enough about networking to realize I don't know enough about my own home network and security. So I've been learning about my own network, to make sure that our household setup is secured optimally. Networking is very complex and has it's own language. Thankfully, it seems that there's no knowledge these days that can't be found on YouTube. Home network is secure. Back to the trains now. ūüôā

 

 

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