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Model Railroader electronics & sofware

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Model Railroader electronics & sofware
Posted by Marc_Magnus on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 3:09 AM

Hello,

Long time away, some of us will remember there was a topic in MR named " Symposium of Electronics" and at this time MR published a few books about simple electronics devices we can build .

These topics were very interresting and helpful for many devices, they were easy to build and easy to use.

I remember an article about how to use a single chip to trow a series of Tortoises switch machines in a yard ladder with one button and aligned all of them; I have used this device during many years.

Now MR offer good articles about special decoder mounting in locomotives and some tunning for DCC special features....that's all if I can say.

Many things have changed for now like the use of servos and animations on many layouts.

I didn't have see a real article about servos use in MR, just little approach of the subject.

Many companies offers servos as a substitue  for switch machine, none layout equiped with servo's in the each year build MR layout....but many of us use them as seen on the only MR forums.

Not a lot of article about Arduino and JMRI software and the endless possibilities it offer, just again a light approach of these devices.

As I see on brothers forum and other publications even here in Europe, the subject and the use of Arduino and JMRI software is discussed heavily and the forums debate each day about them including this one about new possibilities.

Knowing these devices open endless posibilities like detection driving motor and a long list of other capabilities which could be associated with our DCC system, with a cheap rate which is may be the best, I think is time to go for my lovely MR on these modern subjects.

Marc

 

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 7:26 AM

 I have a feeling the Kalmbach folks are a little gun shy about putting detailed electronic articles in the magazine. Only because of the insane amounts of complaining they've gotten in the past. In the past, they've run everything from detailed articles on detection systems (like Twin-T), incredibly advanced DC throottles (the TAT series), TWO complete pre-DCC command control systems, a full layout automation hardware/software system (the CMRI), a build your own DCC system (well, buy kits from CVP and here are the instructions), and more recently an article on using RFID. 

 The complaints aboout all this "electronic gobbbledygook" seem to be endless. Well, Mr Complainer, I'm not much of a scenery guy, perhaps I'm tired of seeing the 20th article on how to make a dirt road.

 A feature similar to the old Symposium would be great - but what are they to cut to make it fit, since they aren't about to add 4 pages to the magazine every month, unless they really can sell 2 more pages of ads (not a knock, a reality. To add even a 1 page column adds 4 print pages to the magazine).

 But would it matter? Or would it just be another source of complaints about too much technical 'garbage'? Frankly, I'm surprised (and pleased) they've continued with The Operators column after Andy's passing. Not too long ago someone posted right here about how much they didn't like the trend towards more realstic operation the magazine took during Andy's tenure as Editor. I'm paraphrasing, that's not a direct quote, but that was the gist of it. 

 The sad reality is, you can be all things to all people. Put in too many advanced articles, the beginners will complain. Put in too many beginner articles, and the more advanced modelers will complain that it's just the same old beginner step by step over and over. What to do? If you abandon one market, there just aren;t enough of the rest to carry a print magazine and the required production staff. It's this balancing act that has kept MR going thus far. What do they do? Pick a starting date, and from that point on, the articles get more advanced, and offer books for newcomers to catch them up? Drop advanced articles almost completely and offer that material as books, keeping the magazine beginner to intermediate level? 

 At one time, I subscribed to both MR and RMC. MR for the wide variety and depth of knowledge, and production quality, RMC because they covered more railroads in my area, since I am more or less in their backyard. With the change of ownership it seems that's the case any more. Would it surprise some that one of my favorite columns in RMC and now MR is Keith Willis'? I don't collect trains, everything I buy is to actually run on my layout. I only have one tinplate train, my Dad's old lionel from 1948. But I love reading the history.

                                 --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by Marc_Magnus on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 8:50 AM

Thanks Randy for your answer and your excellent point of vue which I agree everywhere.

There are almost complains about everything of course; this guy want a scenery article, this one an electronic one and  a third something else; the demand is endless, of course

My purpose is just a question why the best know world train magazine is like missing " a train" if I could say.

There are no one week when I see on the MR forum people asking about servos for first about switch machine and a few other wanting some details about Arduino and JMRI use.

When I see so much talking about them on forums including the MR ones and publications about the subject in many magazines, I can't understand why MR didn't be more involded in these subject.

Future of our trains is whith computer and electronics, DCC is the first big entry in this world and the Arduino and JMRI approach is for sure the second one.

This approach is also quiet cheap and give us a really independance to manage our trains .

Don't miss this train....

 

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 11:57 AM

 Again, not knockign Kalmbach, but outside of the things developed by Linn Westcott (a true genius and innovator), most of the more complex electronic things in MR have been the work of someone who is also selling the devices talked about. I'm not judging right or wrong on this, but with CMRI, Bruce is the only source of pc boards and the programmed microcontroller, as well as detailed documentation beyond what was in the magazne articles. From CTC-16 to Easy-DCC to the SDH-1 diesel horn and more, CVP is the source of the components. Some of the later Easy-DCC articles were little more than instruction manuals to assemble the kits. More recently there have been a few true DIY electronic bits but not too much that's truly groundbreaking in any way, except maybe the RFID article. "The other guys" have now at at least 3 in-depth articles on MRR use of Arduinos.

 Perhaps keeping the more detailed stuff out of the magazine is the way to do it - the Canadian Canyons series on MRVP has had a coupel of good videos now on wiring up DCC stationary decoders and building a local control panel for them. I also like that they don;t edit out every little mistake to create purely pristine videos. Even the experts goof up now and then, so don't feel bad if you don;t get it perfect the first time you've ever attempted something. 

 All in all, it comes down to keeping the largest percentage of the audience satisfied. Like it or not, people interested in this stuff like you and I are the minority, at least among MR subscribers. At least we have the forums to talk about projects and ideas. The other guys have that too, I'm just not particularly fond of the way their forum software effectively treats everything as a blog. I am the anti-blog - look at when my web site was last updated LOL. 

                                --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by gregc on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 5:27 PM

I don't think there would be a problem with having well written technical articles on electronics, software and interfaces at a variety levels: novice thru expert, perhaps every other issue.

But technical articles require background information and therefore need to be well focused or maybe two part.    They would need to be well written in order to cover the topic properly without discussing a topic incompletely -- small bytes ;).   (Would MR have published Bruce Chubb's 10+ part series on signals).

The past few technical articles I've read have been written by amateurs trying out the technology.   I don't need a technical degree to build benchwork, lay track, do scenery or scratchbuild structures.  But a technical degree is helpful to write about reliable and safe electronics or easier to understand well structured software.   (Would Linn Westcott be writing Arduino articles if he were the editor today)?

But MR's recent technical articles could have been better written, focused and more accurate.   A recent Arduino article never discussed the software and the code was posted as an unusable .pdf on the MR website (took me a bit of time to reformat it).

I've seen various magazine articles on what Arduino's can do, but no good articles on a design and maintainable software for a specific project that is easy to understand.

I don't believe MR's staff has the technical understanding to review or present technical articles (it's complicated).   I think MR could benefit by having articles reviewed by some of the people on this forum who have a technical background.   Simply questioning specific statements that are confused or less than accurate would be a first step to make sure everything is accurately explained.

perhaps a few good articles would demonstrate the scope and level of detail of articles that work and encourage others.

MR has been publishing articles on benchwork, trackwork, scenery, ... for decades.   There's a market for good articles describing new techniques/technology that wasn't available 10 years ago.

greg

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 7:54 PM

 Frankly, I think if Linn were around today he WOULD be writing Arduino articles. Maybe not today - he would have written about uses for Arduinos years ago whent he Arduino first appeared on the scene. Part of why they seem to be new, at least amoong technical people, is that technical people weren't the original target audience.

 That's why the articles I've seen elsewhere have just some basic explanations of how to get the IDE loaded and talking. There is some explanation of the code and the circuit it controls, but there isn't any attempt to teach you everything about programming, or circuit design. The circuits are simple enough that even those with limited electronic knowledge should be able to follow - we're talking various simple LED blinking types of things to simulate TVs, or welders, or fires, or else servo drivers with and without pushbuttons or toggles. 

                     --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by Mark R. on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 10:15 PM

I'll play devil's advocate here .... I believe the problem is not the content (or lack there-of), but the lack of contributors. The guy who originally wrote the Electronics Synposium (which I looked forward to more than anything at the time) just didn't have the time for it any longer. MR didn't axe the column, the guy who wrote it quit.

If someone were to step up, take the flag and run with it by committing themselves to write the column on a monthly basis, MR just might go with it.

It's no different than sitting back and complaining about politics, municipal affairs or anything else. Until somebody steps up and actually does something about it, it will still carry on the same old way whether you like it or not.

But, like a lot of the above mentioned situations, even if you do step up and try to help / create change, it may still fall on deaf ears .... but at least you tried.

Magazines today are fighting a losing battle with online content. The only way to survive is to provide content not found else-where (not easy). As much as I loved the old Electronics Symposium, I can Google anything electronic imaginable and have a circuit diagram for it in minutes. 

Considering the online competition, they are probably right about where they need to be. The more seasoned modeller can admire some other people's layouts they would likely never see in person (or online) - the new guy who hasn't discovered online forums yet or what to even begin Googling gets his feet wet and the guy in the middle can pick up a few tid-bits at either end.

It's a different world out there for print content now than it was ten years ago. 

Mark.

¡ uʍop ǝpısdn sı ǝɹnʇɐuƃıs ʎɯ 'dlǝɥ

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, August 10, 2017 6:44 AM

 I haven't even gotten a print copy of MR in a long time, my subscription is digital. Even the special issues like MRP, I usually just get the digital one. The books I buy, I'll get the digital if offered, a few of the newer ones weren't initially offered that way so I do have print copies. I was an early adopter of ebooks for all my reading - some of the newest print books I have now are more than 5 or 6 years old.

 That said, since MR is primarily still a print publication, it's hard to have direct links in stories to related things. There's a huge change coming and I think it will only accelerate as the older readers drop off. They seem to be the ones most die-hard about having a real piece of paper in their hands. Partly due to not being computer literate like just about any kid these days, partly due to vision issues - though with my eye issues, I find the ability to instantly make the text bigger in an ebook to be a huge benefit. I somewhat straddle the line, I pre-date personal computers (I'll be 51 soon) but I was yooung when they first appeared and took to them like a duck to water.

 As for contributing - I would love to share my designs, but between the lead time and the requirements, I can share them in a place like this forum much easier and faster. Plus - I went into engineering because I hate to write. Worst part of my job is writing up the as-built documentation at the end of a project. The text I findmyself writing here every few months (and always complain I should save so I can just copy and paste it) on basic Ohm's Law stuff - maybe that should be an article? Would it expose more people to an understanding of basic circuits, or would those people already be on here and have seen that, and the rest will just skip that article? I don't like to lecture to people, I prefer to show people how to do things on their own, and a magazine is definitely not the format for that. A forum like this where there is instant feedback - that's the place for that style of thing.

                              --Randy

 

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Thursday, August 10, 2017 7:13 AM

rrinker

Plus - I went into engineering because I hate to write.

All evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Let's see . . . 22000 posts, average post 400 words . . . Good thing, you hate to write. Big Smile

Robert

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, August 10, 2017 7:19 AM

 Yes but I've been here what, 15 years? And I cheat to get the word count up. If I write it as 12 V then it will likely count as 2 words instead of one if I would write it as 12V. Big Smile

 Oh and is that counting the signature part? That gets my word count per post up as well. And I'm sure it counts the fact that I sign every post as another word.

                             --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
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  • 350 posts
Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Thursday, August 10, 2017 8:44 AM

rrinker

 Yes but I've been here what, 15 years? And I cheat to get the word count up. If I write it as 12 V then it will likely count as 2 words instead of one if I would write it as 12V. Big Smile

 Oh and is that counting the signature part? That gets my word count per post up as well. And I'm sure it counts the fact that I sign every post as another word.

                             --Randy

Okay, so maybe I should edit my post to add "Average number of posts per year, 1500".

The point being: you probably could write a decent 2000-word article about the state of things in the electronic segment of this hobby. No need to go crazy and delve into the intracasies of Ohm's law or anything. Just a basic primer on what's what and where to find additional help if needed.

Robert 

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Posted by gregc on Thursday, August 10, 2017 9:09 AM

i don't believe there's a need to describe various EE principles in depth.  references to wikipedia or other sites can provide details.

one approach is to describe a relatively simple project and discuss where various EE laws used in the design (again with a reference for more detail).  The same can be said for software structure and techniques.

in other cases, more advanced projects would discuss designs w/o worrying about EE or SW princples.

BMMECNYC
This is why Im not really interested in Arduino.  I have no desire to write or debug 100s of lines of code,

i don't think it's good enough to describe a design or software that works but is excessive and very hard to read and understand.   Articles need to decribe good implementations that not only work well, but are readable and maintainable, possible to change/extend the design for other applications.

this is one of the differences between describing electronics/software and scratchbuilding techniques.

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, August 10, 2017 10:01 AM

HEY GUYS, don’t stop writing or even slow down for that matter . . . . I really enjoy your in depth posts.
 
 
Mel
 
Modeling the early to mid 1950s SP in HO scale since 1951
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
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Posted by carl425 on Thursday, August 10, 2017 10:34 AM

ROBERT PETRICK
All evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Let's see . . . 22000 posts, average post 400 words . . . Good thing, you hate to write. 

I think the evidence absolutely supports the fact that Randy hates to write.  Writers proofread their content and use spell checkers. Smile

I think Randy likes to communicate.

I have the right to remain silent.  By posting here I have given up that right and accept that anything I say can and will be used as evidence to critique me.

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, August 10, 2017 8:45 PM

 I rarely misspell things. I was once a spelling bee champ. My TYPING however...

Luckily I have a mechanical keyswitch keyboard - on the chicklet kind, my typing is even worse. And all this with two fingers and a thumb for the spacebar! 

                               --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Friday, August 11, 2017 9:19 PM

Why does your keyboard have a thumb for a spacebar?  My keyboard has a spacebar for a spacebar.

 

Michael Mornard

Bringing the North Woods to South Dakota!

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, August 12, 2017 4:03 AM

ROBERT PETRICK
 
rrinker

Plus - I went into engineering because I hate to write. 

All evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Let's see . . . 22000 posts, average post 400 words . . . Good thing, you hate to write. Big Smile

Robert 

I will start criticizing Randy's post count when my posts become more interesting than his posts. Everyone else ought to feel the same way.

Rich

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Posted by gdelmoro on Saturday, August 12, 2017 6:25 AM

Sadly, Randy is right.  

However, All the things they have cut are the very subjects (operations, DCC Decoders, electronics, switching options, etc) I cant get enough of. Scenery is very nice and adds a lot to the experience but the "experience" is realistic operation. after all, what do you do with a layout after you finish scenery?

If I had it to do over again, all the electronics stuff, track work, wiring CB's, AR's, cabs, boosters etc would be done before any scenery.  I would make sure all the electronics and operating capabilities run smooth and reliable and all the industries have operational access to pick-up and drop off cars.

IMHO these days, you would think there was as mutch of an interest in operations and electronics as there is building structures, scenery and detailing/weathering.

for me the right answer would be a mix of what Randy eluded to. One month "Running your Trains" (operations) for newbies and some reference material (books, past articles, websites, videos) the next more advanced operations with references. Same for electronics, scenery, structures and rolling stock. Mix it up, vary the subject matter. Not that an issue has nothing on a subject but that the focus articles change.

I like the magazine but honestly, I get more from this forum, google and YouTube. I always check the DCC corner and any wiring articles.

Complainers will always be complainers but I hope most of us are not in that category.

Gary

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