Software situation around direct-drive wheels (drivers etc)

dud

924
208
Theoretically I am ready to buy a direct-drive wheel.

Trouble is, I react very emotionally when I have to deal with screwed up software that I cannot change. That includes software that isn't updated after a certain point. I am very reluctant to buy hardware that needs drivers that are closed-source and where the required documentation to implement new drivers is not available. Closed source firmware is OK, it is not invalidated by operating system changes (which can invalidate drivers and make you dependent on the OEM giving you new drivers).

So I'm happy to buy expensive pedals, because they just work. But a force-feedback steering wheel is a different matter entirely.

Last I checked even OSW wheels did not have open-source drivers, but I would like to look into a bit more detail. I would like to invite random comments on these thoughts:
  • Is the software at least a bit modular, e.g. split up between the control and feedback part? It would help a lot if you could tackle steering and force-feedback separately.
  • I assume the state of affairs still is that open source software was once considered, but then dropped because of fear of cheaper hardware (copies) coming along re-using the same software. Is that still the case?
  • Is there a bit of choice about controllers? It would improve the situation if a driver SNAFU would force you to get a new controller box, but you could re-use all the mechanical and electrical components.

Thoughts?
 

sdubbin

Premium
291
158
I have a simucube, best item I’ve brought, the software is easy to use, just download it into a folder run it, then when they update the software it usually updates the firmware also. Sim racing bay I where I brought mine from yes granite software
 

dud

924
208
I have a simucube, best item I’ve brought, the software is easy to use, just download it into a folder run it, then when they update the software it usually updates the firmware also. Sim racing bay I where I brought mine from yes granite software

What happens when they stop updating the software?
 

dud

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208
I do not spend $1000+ on hardware that can be invalidated and made useless by the vendor going away at any time.
 

EsxPaul

Premium
1,111
858
Essex, UK
I wouldn't think any of the 3 or 4 companies that make DD bases would be going away any time soon. That's not something we can have any control over anyway.

With respect, I think you are over thinking this. If you have the disposable funds, pick the DD that you feel best suits your needs and just enjoy it. They are a great upgrade to the overall experience :)
 

RaceNut

Premium
1,667
983
Central Wisconsin
There's not much that is totally future-proof. In the event that manufacturer support ends for a product, there's often a work-a-round or a generic solution as is evident by the current DIY trends in tactile and motion hardware.

In regard to the OSW firmware, it is somewhat open but, certain aspects remain locked for obvious reasons. To date, no one has taken on the task of developing more options for tuning as GD had hoped. I tend to think that if they (GD) were to end all support, someone would step up to find solutions being that there are many users out there and the hardware will last a long time. Even when GD or the game developers haven't provided direct support for some titles, others in the community have provided solutions.
 

dud

924
208
Actually it would be 100% future proof if the hardware and controller would be documented enough so that other people could write drivers. What do you think how Linux or FreeBSD work?

Same for the pedals. No vendor drivers needed because the hardware-software interface is documented.

As for vendors being around, let's look at my SoundDevices USB interface. Vendor is around. Latest drivers are XP. No 64 drivers at all.

Spending $1000+ under those conditions is foolish.
 

EsxPaul

Premium
1,111
858
Essex, UK
I don't feel foolish at all for spending more than that amount for my DD. The amount of immersion and enjoyment it's given me in just a few months has been well worth the cost to me personally.

I really don't think you are going to find the solid assurances you are seeking, in which case, you've answered your own question and they are probably not for you.
 

RCHeliguy

Premium
3,800
2,260
United States
FWIW I've noticed that Fanatec seems to continue to update it's drivers and include previous models in their releases.

For example you download the same update for all of the CSW wheelbases.

You might extrapolate that their direct drive wheels will do the same thing.
 

dud

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208
I won't think that what I want is so outrageous. Let's leave aside that the documentation to write drivers is available for everything that runs under Linux, which is a lot. You wouldn't do much on the Internet without it.

A DD wheel has these software components:
  • 1 - Firmware inside the controller
  • 2 - OS-level driver to get input, usually interacts with the firmware but might also go directly to hardware
  • 3 - OS-level driver to make the wheel turn (feedback), usually interacts with the firmware but might also go directly to hardware
  • 4 - Software that translates game feedback into what exactly the game is doing on feedback. Likewise, such software could also process input.
  • 5 - Assorted misc like configuration and calibration software

The requirement here is that 2 and 3 can be reimplemented without the vendor. For that there needs to be documentation about either the hardware/software interface or the firmware. Source code for the firmware is not required. Drivers, like 2 and 3, are more or less "mechanical" programming work without much finesse or research.

Much of the intellectual property is in 4. That is where the magic happens, and when DD wheels compete that is where a competitive difference comes from. This is where research happens - playtest, compare with real cars, adjust, make the software more complicated etc.

I don't need 4 to fulfill my requirement. In case the vendor goes away I want to be able to use my hardware. I can re-implement such a translation software, because it uses documented interfaces. I cannot re-implement OS-level drivers (2 and 3) without documentation.

It really is about concentrating effort and secrecy where it matters. The OS-level drivers are chickenshit - if you have the information to write them.
 

Terje Helle

Premium
128
161
You could always build your own...

I think if you go with Fanatec, you are pretty safe for a good while.

OSW wheels are also becoming more common. And as you say, they are almost open source.

Accuforce have been around for a long time, and I would guess they still be in business for many years to come.

It’s a difficult decision; either way, you probably end up as a happy chap.
 

dud

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208
Just wanted to update this thread. I bought a SimXprerience Accuforce.

It actually does precisely what I want. If you just plug it in it does steering, buttons and force feedback through standard software interfaces. I have it for a week and never installed any of the software they recommend you use.

Very happy. This is exactly how I want it. If software support collapses I won't be any worse off than right now, and it is working great already.

Also, do not let that thing kick you in the chin. Ask me how I know.
 

dud

924
208
Yeah. I outright forgot about about the fact that there is software. And that they gave me a fancy license key as a jpeg only :)

I mean I am a gearslut, so sooner or later I'm gonna try it, but for now I'm actually driving. Without any drivers, no pun intended. Neither for the pedals. The racing sim industry is actually much more software-sane than I thought.
 
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