Surface and Orbit Authority

Idea: Hotbar scheme

After Incident 20890622-1, there were a number of recommendations, including:

  • Engineers should ensure that documented pre-flight steps place the ship in a flight-safe configuration.
  • Engineers should ensure that documented post-flight steps return any uncommon flight configurations to a default that is appropriate for the pre-flight steps.

I’ve come up with a scheme for my hotbars that helps make this possible, so I wanted to share it.

I’m using hotbar 1 for common in-flight things (running drills/tools, turning headlights on/off, etc), and I’ve reserved hotbars 2 and 3 for launch and landing, respectively. This is a change from how I used to do it, where a single hotbar was used for both, by running through the numbers in reverse for landing, and using “toggle X on/off” actions. This was far too error prone, and had issues with things like toggling all thrusters, if some other action had turned on/off a subset of thrusters. (eg. after turning off reverse thrusters for coasting, “toggle all thrusters on/off” doesn’t behave well if you forget to turn those reverse thrusters back on.)

By using 2 hotbars, I can use “turn X on” and “turn X off” actions instead of toggles. This removes one source of errors.

My hotbars look something like this:

Hotbar 2 (launch)

  1. Turn reactors ON
  2. Set batteries to AUTO
  3. Turn gyros ON
  4. Turn ALL thrusters ON
  5. Turn H2 tanks stockpile to OFF (otherwise thrusters can’t use H2 from them!)
  6. Connector UNLOCK
  7. Landing gear UNLOCK
  8. Unused
  9. Unused

Hotbar 3 (land)

  1. View from landing camera
  2. Connector LOCK
  3. Landing gear toggle auto-lock
  4. Landing gear LOCK
  5. Turn H2 tanks stockpile to ON
  6. Turn ALL thrusters OFF
  7. Turn gyros OFF
  8. Toggle batteries recharge (there is no on/off for this, sadly)
  9. Turn reactors OFF

The camera and toggle auto-lock take up extra spots on the landing hotbar that are free on the launch hotbar, which doesn’t leave any space for more things, if needed. (eg. H2/O2 generator) If that’s needed, then the “definitely absolutely ALWAYS do these” actions could be delegated to a timer block. Some things like batteries and reactor you may want to skip when landing, if you’ve landed somewhere that you’re not receiving power, but turning gyros and thrusters off, and setting H2 tanks to stockpile, you probably want to always do.

Anyway, this is what’s been working really well for me lately, so I wanted to share it.

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I really like this.

I’d ended up doing a very similar thing with my own craft, with bar 1 for free flight and mission equipment, and bar 2 for docking/etc. However, I’ve never been quite that organized about button sequencing (I tend to group by theme, which often means my takeoff sequence is 1-2-9-8-7-6-5, for example).

I’m pro this idea, and will probably rework my buttons accordingly.

You’ve made me realize that most of my designs have distinct flight phases. Even basic roundabouts have at least a pre-flight phase, a free flight phase, and a post-flight phase. Having the hotbars embody procedure for each phase makes sense, as does treating free flight as a special case (since every craft has it) and putting it in 1 rather than in order with the other phases.

Is there a good way to document this? LCD panels embedded in the craft, maybe?

The built in cockpit LCDs would be a reasonable place to document this, I think. Just as free text, or scrolling via Auto LCDs 2 even.

I’ve been using this for quite a while now, and I’m super happy with how it’s working out. It’s saved me from a number or crashes due to fumbling wrong buttons on the keyboard.

By never flying with the “landing” hotbar active, except during final approach, I (nearly) eliminate the risk of doing something by accident, like turning off thrusters or setting batteries to recharge, and then having to scramble to figure out what it was that I did, so I can undo it, before I crater. I say “nearly” because the in-flight hotbars may still have things that could lead to crashes if I bump a number. However, the procedure for fixing this is “switch to the take-off hotbar and slide my finger across the numbers from 1-9”. As long as the take-off hotbar truly sets everything to be ready for take-off and flight, that should undo whatever I bumped.

I’m a huge fan of using “on” or “off” actions on the take-off/landing hotbars rather than toggles, since these set things to absolute known states. If, while in flight, I turn off a subset of thrusters (whether to save fuel, or lower TWR when lightly loaded), I can be assured that after running through the take-off hotbar, all thrusters will be on. With toggle instead, this can end up with things in a very weird state.

I’ve started running into cases where my take-off/landing checklists are bumping up against the limits of a hotbar, so I’m planning to put some of the items onto timer blocks (with 0 seconds) as a way of “multiplexing” the buttons.

For documentation (as derspiny asked) I’ve been using Automatic LCDs 2 and putting this in my cockpit block (font size 1.7, 4% margin):

@1 AutoLCD
Echo Controls
Echo Pg1: Flight
Echo Pg2: Takeoff
Echo - Activate left-to-right
echo Pg3: Landing
Echo - Activate left-to-right

The 1 puts it in the top-center LCD on the industrial cockpit, which is what I mostly use. I found that when I just added it to the public text of the LCD, it would sometimes just disappear, like the game wasn’t saving it. :man_shrugging:

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