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Using The DCS Loader
by Dave Hikel
The following article was written by Dave Hikel, a custom layout designer from Washington who deploys both DCS and Lionel's TMCC command control system on the layouts he produces. Special thanks to Woodshire Bill and John Lovell for their assistance in creating this article. Bill has a fabulous outdoor railroad. You'll find more information about his talents by visiting the Woddshire Railroad. John is a software developer who can be found at Widgetsware
This is part one of a two-part tutorial on how to install the DCS Loader software and how to get the most reliable performance from each feature. It's been over two years since there was a major update to the DCS software for the TIU and remote. The upcoming upgrade from V3.10/3.11 to V4.0 will be the first time many people will have attempted to use the DCS Loader program that makes it possible to update your DCS components and PS2 locomotives with your home computer. In part 1 we'll cover the basics of what you need and how to diagnose problems. In part 2 we'll take a look at some of the "geekier" aspects of the DCS Loader program that explain why some computer systems have trouble using all the features of the loader and how to correct some of the more serious problems.
The knowledge shared in this tutorial is an amalgam of information from MTH, other members of the OGR forum and of personal experience over the last five and a half years of running the DCS Loader software on several different computer systems. I want to thank my friends Woodshire Bill and John Lovell for their extensive assistance in testing the DCS Loader software. Much of the technical detail I have learned has come from working with them to diagnose and correct problems we have encountered with the software. Woodshire Bill has an outstanding outdoor O-gauge layout, which I was privileged to help build. If you haven't yet, I invite you to check out his layout website here: Woodshire Railroad. John Lovell is a good personal friend of many years who has his own software development business, Widgetsware. I also want to thank Jason Wenzel of MTH Electric Trains for helping to clarify some information about the DCS Loader program that has made this tutorial more accurate. But enough shameless plugs, lets get down to business.
The first thing you will need to do is download and install the DCS Loader program from the Protosound 2 website. Be advised, if you are running Windows 2000/XP/Vista, just as with any other piece of software, you will need to have administrative permissions to install the DCS Loader. Unlike most programs, you will also need administrative permissions to run the DCS Loader after installation. The current release is Version 1.83, which will be required to update to DCS V4.0. If you take your TIU and remote to an MTH dealer for upgrading they may be using the DCS Dealer Loader Version 0.25. Both programs will be capable of updating your hardware.
The DCS Loader is available as a free download from the MTH Protosound2 website. The website can be a little confusing because you have to add the software to a shopping cart, but the price is $0.00. Follow through the steps to checkout and you will get the program at no cost. If your computer has Windows Vista the Protosound2 website includes special installation instruction on downloading a .dll instruction library that is necessary for the DCS Loader to operate on your computer. Be sure to note where the DCS Loader file is downloaded in your computer (desk top, my documents, etc.). Find the file and double click on its icon. That will open an installation wizard that looks like this:
Follow the instructions on the loader step by step. If your computer has Windows 95/98/98SE, when you reach this screen:
Do not use the BROWSE button to create a custom folder for the DCS Loader or redirect the Loader to an existing folder. Let the installer create a new folder using its default setting. If you do attempt to change this setting, the installer will not place a program icon on the desktop or a link in the PROGRAMS section of the START menu. Computers with Windows 2000/XP/Vista are not affect by this bug.
Now that you have the DCS Loader installed double click on its icon on the desktop or in the START menu to open the program. If the installation was successful you should see this:
In some cases you may see the following error message:
This message will appear if your computer is lacking the MSCOMCTL.OCX instruction library. Earlier versions of the DCS Loader would install this library for you, but V1.83 does not. A Google search will easily locate numerous websites that offer free downloads of this common library. Unfortunately, all of these sites offer versions of this library that are too new for the DCS Loader program. The downloads will get the DCS Loader to run, but it will not be able to reliably perform a sound file download to a locomotive. If you?re computer already had a newer version of the MSCONCTL.OCX library when you installed the DCS Loader the program will open and seem to be fully functional, but it will fail to load locomotive sound files. MTH is working on a correction for this problem, and I will post on this forum when the correction is made. In the mean time the best solution I can offer is that I will personally e-mail copies of the earlier DCS Loader V1.57 that you can install to get the correct library. If you then install V1.83 it will work properly.
The next step in getting started is to download the new TIU and remote software from the Protosound2 website. Again, observe where on your computer the file is downloaded. The file comes "zipped," and must be unzipped. Use whatever utility your computer has to decompress the files and they will automatically be placed in the "system downloads" folder inside the DCS Loader program file.
You will also need three types of cables to update your TIU and remote. If you need to make a shopping trip, I've included the Radio Shack part numbers in the list below for cables that will do the job, but comparable products are available at many other stores.
1) M/F 9-pin serial cable RS#26-117
2) 4-wire telephone handset cord (the curly cord) RS#279-291
3) 1/8inch M/M stereo audio patch cable RS#42-2497
If your computer does not have a 9-pin serial port you will also need to acquire a serial port adapter that will connect to a port that your computer does have, like a USB, PCMCIA or Express port. The particulars on using these adapters will be included in part 2 of this tutorial. If your computer does have a 9-pin serial port you are now ready to start using the DCS Loader software.
UPDATING A TIU:
To update the software on a TIU you will need to connect the TIU to your computer using the 9-pin serial cable. You will also need a power supply that can be attached to the Aux Power Input or Fixed Channel 1 and the 1/8inch audio cable. Open the DCS Loader and click on the "UPDATE TIU CODE" button and precisely follow the instructions. At this point your set-up should look something like this:
When the program asks you to select the file to download it should default to look in the "System Downloads" folder. If when you downloaded and extracted the files you allowed them to go to their default locations the TIU code should already be in the window, which looks like this:
In this case we'll be downloading the version 3.10 software, which it titled "TIU3_10c.tiu". If the file is not in that folder you'll need to locate it before proceeding. Once located double click on the .tiu file and the download will begin. If all is working properly you should see this message within a couple minutes:
But, as we've already seen, things don't always go properly. If the Loader isn't able to initiate communications with the TIU it will stall at "STEP 1" and repeatedly flash "Opened Comm Port 2" and "Opened Comm Port 4." This is what you'll see on the screen:
If you encounter this problem double check that the TIU is powered, the serial cable is securely connected on both ends, and that you inserted the audio cable as instructed. If the problem persists it is likely that the serial port has the wrong settings in your computer's BIOS. Most computer users never have to make changes in the BIOS. Since this is a "geekier" problem to correct I'll cover it in part 2 of this tutorial.
UPDATING A REMOTE:
To update the software on a remote you will still need to have the TIU connected to your computer with the serial cable. Be sure to remove the audio cable and cycle TIU power after completing the TIU update. Also, make sure that the remote has batteries with a good charge. Connect one end of the 4-wire telephone handset cord to the jack at the base of the remote and insert the other end into the "Remote Input" jack on the TIU. Your set-up should now look something like this:
Open the DCS Loader (if its not already running) and click on the "Load Remote Code" button. Follow the on screen instructions precisely. Just as with the TIU update, when the program asks you to select the file to download it should default to look in the "System Downloads" folder. Locate the .rem file and double click on its icon. Be prepared to hold down the remote's on/off button for approximately four minutes. If you have more than one remote to update you may want to add a small bar or spring clamp to your shopping list. If at anytime during the remote file download you should loose your grip on the on/off button the download will fail and trigger this error message:
Start the download over again, follow the instructions, and you shouldn't have any problems. I have never come across a computer configuration that would successfully update a TIU, but not a remote. If you were able to update the TIU, but the remote download continues to fail, double-check the following items:
1) The telephone cord must have four wires (black, red, green, and yellow) inside each crimped end.
2) The telephone cord must be plugged into the "Remote Input" jack on the TIU, not the "AIU INPUT."
3) Look for a bent contact tab in either the remote or TIU jacks.
4) Replace the batteries in the remote.
5) Make sure the on/off button is held down without interruption.
If all of these conditions are satisfied the remote should update successfully. To close the DCS Loader program you must hit the "EXIT" button in the middle of the Loader's window. The normal "X" button in the upper right hand corner of the window is not functional.
COPYING A SOUND FILE FROM AN ENGINE:
To copy the sound file that is already installed on a locomotive you will again need the TIU connected to your computer with the serial cable. You will also need to put the PS2 locomotive on a powered track that is connected to the TIU. The best practice is to set-up a simple track section connected to the Fixed 1 Output and power the TIU via the Fixed 1 Input. Your set-up should look something like this:
Open the DCS Loader and click on the "UPLOAD SOUND FILE FROM ENGINE" button. As always, follow the on screen directions precisely. You will be asked to give the engine sound file copy a name. The default for the Loader is to put this sound file in the "My MTH Files" folder. Feel free to save this file wherever you wish. In the screen shot below you can see that I have chosen to name the file "Amtrak SW-9 #565," which is the engine shown in the photo above. Once you have named the file press "Save" and follow the on screen directions.
The uploading process takes approximately 18 minutes for locomotives with 5 volt and 3 volt PS2 electronics. More recently delivered locomotives with 3 volt 2X electronics require approximately 36 minutes to upload. These times are estimates only. Actual load times can be longer. If all goes well you will see this when the upload is complete:
There are several points at which uploading a sound file can fail. If the process stalls at step 1, refer back to the section on updating a TIU (but ignore the use of the audio cable). If the Loader fails at step 3 it has failed to initiate communications with the locomotive. Here's what you'll see:
Check that the track is powered and that the track, locomotive wheels, and pick-up rollers are clean. When you apply power to the locomotive (as instructed on screen) be sure you hear the relay inside the locomotive click. If the Loader still fails at step 3 change the locomotives address in the remote to #1. If you have followed all the other recommendations to this point the loader should now get past step 3. Failures beyond step three are caused by interruptions in track power or the connecting cables.
It's good practice to copy a locomotives sound file before downloading a new sound file for several reasons.
1. You will debug most problems that can occur with either an upload or download.
2. If the upload fails for any reason the locomotive will still have an intact sound file and will be fully functional.
3. It's good to have a copy of the original sound file on hand in case you ever wish to restore the original file.
4. Not all locomotive sound files are available for download on the MTH website.
DOWNLOADING A SOUND FILE TO AN ENGINE:
The set-up for downloading a sound file to a locomotive is the same as copying a sound file. Be advised, for the locomotive to be properly loaded with a new sound file it must have a fully charged battery. You can acquire sound files to download from the MTH website. There are several ways to locate a particular sound file. One of the easiest is to find the product page for a locomotive that was originally delivered with the sound file you want. You have to take into account what generation of PS2 electronics is in the locomotive you will be loading. Five volt engines can only accept 5 volt sound files. First generation 3 volt engines can only accept standard 3 volt files. Newer 3 volt 2X engines will accept any 3 volt sound file. Unfortunately the file names do not always indicate what type of file you are trying to download. Most sound files intended for PS2 upgrade kits end in "3V" and can be downloaded to any 3 volt engine. Other than that the best way to determine ahead of time if the sound file is compatible with your engine is to look at the catalog in which it was offered. Anything before 2001 v2 will be 5 volt. Anything after 2004 will be 3 volt. In between there was a transition period that began with Premier steamers and ended with A-B-A diesel set moving to 3 volt electronics. If you select a sound file that is incompatible the DCS Loader program will stop the download and inform you of the incompatibility without harming your locomotive. For the purposes of this tutorial let's use my Amtrak SW-9, which I know to be a 5 volt locomotive, as an example. Go to the MTH home page and click on the "Product Search" option. That will take you to this page:
If I knew the locomotive's item number I could type it in the top box, which is the most reliable form of search on the MTH website. Unfortunately I don't recall the item number and the box is packed away, so I'll have to use the other search parameters. The search feature of the MTH website is very literal about what you type in, so it's best to be very general. I know it's a Diesel\Electric Locomotive, it's a Railking product, and that its road name is Amtrak, so those are the items I've entered. That search returns four pages of items, which is pretty easy to go through. I could refine the search by also typing in SW-9 in the "add a description box", which returns just two locomotives, including mine. However, if I type in SW9 in the same field the search returns no matches. Once you find the desired locomotive click on it and you'll go to a page just for that locomotive. Scroll down to the bottom of the page. If there's a sound file available for the locomotive you'll see this symbol:
Click on the logo and download the file. Observe where the sound file is downloaded. You now have everything you need to download a sound file.
Open the DCS Loader program and click the "DOWNLOAD SOUND FILE TO ENGINE" button. As always, follow the on screen instructions precisely. A window will open that allows you to select the sound file you wish to download. In the image below you can see that when I downloaded the sound file I placed it in the "My MTH Files" folder. The file name is R042PF5SW9____ALL040909aFIN.MTH.
Double click on the sound file and the loading process will begin. If all goes well the Loader will pop-up this prompt after step 14:
Hit "OK" and the erasure of the existing sound file will begin with step 15. The new file is written in 11 "sectors" (0-10). When the file has finished writing, the Loader will cycle power to the locomotive and then write the locomotive's name as it will appear on the remote. If all goes well you will see this message:
Unfortunately there are several points at which the Loader may fail during the download process. If you select to download the wrong type of sound file for your locomotive the load to fail at step 7 and trigger a message similar to this one:
If you select the correct file type and you were able to copy a sound file earlier, you should have little or no trouble getting to the prompt after step 14. From step 15 on the Loader is performing a different process than the upload. For this process to function properly it is vital that you have an older version of the MSCOMCTL.OCX library, which we covered earlier. If you have a later version installed it is highly likely that the download will fail. Even with the correct .OCX library it is still possible for the download to stall or fail at any time past step 14. We'll get into more of the details of how and why this happens in part 2 of this tutorial. If the load does fail at step 15 you will see this message:
Start the load over again, but be advised, it is possible that if the load fails during step 15 it may not be possible to get a sound file re-loaded unless you are using a Windows 95/98/98SE computer. Again, we'll cover this in more detail in part 2, just understand that there is a difference in how these earlier operating systems work that makes the DCS Loader more reliable than on Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista computers. Following step 15 the Loader will begin writing the new sound file (sectors 0-10). While the new file is being written the Loader can stall. If it does the status bar in the image below will no longer advance.
Most often this stall will occur in sectors 0, 3, or 4, but it can happen at any time. In some cases after the program has stalled for several minutes an error message like this one will be generated:
If the loader does not generate an error message it can be stimulated to trigger an error by turning off power to the TIU for over 10 seconds and then back on. You can then get back to Loader's main screen and try the process again. It can take several tries to get a sound file to load successfully on a Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista computer, but if you have followed all of the recommendations in this tutorial it will likely work within 3 attempts. If more than three attempts are unsuccessful your best chance to get the file loaded is to seek out a Windows 95/98/SE computer. To date I have not had a failure with any one of four properly configured Windows 98 computers.
Lastly, if all the sectors load correctly, but the engine has a dead or low battery an error message will be generated at step 23. The Loader will tell you that the engine has not been programmed, but in fact the entire sound file has been installed. All that will be missing is the engine?s name. When you load the locomotive into your remote all of the correct softkeys will appear, but the name will be blank. You can edit the engine name manually with the remote, or you can charge or replace the battery and reload the sound file.
Hopefully all of this info will be useful to some of you out there. If you have any questions I'll be happy to answer them here. If you want more details on why Windows 95/98/98SE work better, why the sound file download is less reliable than the other features, or about changing your BIOS settings please wait for part 2 of the tutorial.
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