Handbell Manager (Version 1.2)

Copyright © Graham A C John 2009
graham@changeringing.co.uk

Handbell Manager enables up to four USB motion controllers to be used as dummy handbells with change ringing simulators for Windows i.e. Abel and Beltower currently. Other simulators may be added in future versions of Handbell Manager with the cooperation of their authors.

Licensing

Handbell Manager is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public Licence as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the Licence, or (at your option) any later version.

Handbell Manager is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  See the GNU General Public License for more details at www.gnu.org/licenses.

For developers who may be interested, the C# source code for this program is available from www.sourceforge.net/projects/handbellmanager.

The author would be pleased to receive feedback on Handbell Manager, and will attempt to assist users with problems if advised by email.

Prerequisites

·         Abel version 3 (from www.abelsim.co.uk) or Beltower version 10 (from www.beltower.co.uk)

·         Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, 7 (other versions of Windows will also work if USB support and .Net Framework are available)

·         Microsoft .Net Framework (from www.microsoft.co.uk)

·         One to four USB motion controllers. Handbell Manager has been tested with the wired and wireless (“FriiHand”) motion controllers manufactured by ActionXL (available from www.actionxl.com or www.changeringing.co.uk. Other joystick devices that generate a movement signal in an X, Y or Z axis will also work with Handbell Manager.

Getting started

1.       Download and run HMInstall.exe from www.changeringing.co.uk/handbellmanager  to install Handbell Manager.

2.       Plug in your motion controllers.

3.       Run Handbell Manager.

4.       Press the buttons on the controllers. If working correctly, the on-screen counts will update with an orange highlight to show the stroke, and which buttons are being pressed.

5.       In Handbell Manager’s menu, click on Run – Choose Simulator and click on your simulator software (either Abel or Beltower).

6.       Either Run – Abel and

·         In Abel’s menu select Options – Ringing Options and check the option Bell Keys: up/down action.

·         If you have Abel version 3.6.2 or later, uncheck the option Bell Keys: with Start.

·         Check that the bells sound if you press the “J” and “F” buttons on the keyboard.

7.       Or Run – Beltower.

·         Set the following options in Beltower’s Options – Ring Options:

o   Multi keys to “JF” for two bells or “JFRU” for four bells and Ringers’ Bells to the bell numbers corresponding to those keys.

o   Timing Options to Hand Bell Sensor(s) with Animation

·         If you have an earlier version of Beltower than 10.27, in Handbell Manager’s Options – Beltower Settings, change Buttons 1 and 3 from “¬” to “F5” (Start).

·         Check that the bells sound if you press F5 then “J” and “F” buttons on the keyboard.

·         An option worth trying is Co-operative Timing, as following bells will hold up for you to ring. To use it, you will also need to untick Auto-strike + Animate, tick Animate on Input, Hand/Back Alternate, and tick Flip Handbells in Animation Settings.

8.       Hold the ActionXL wired controllers like the handles of handbells, with the buttons facing upwards underneath your thumbs and the wires pointing towards your wrist, or turn on the ActionXL wireless controllers and hold them in the palm of your hand with red light horizontal and pointing forwards. Swing the controllers like handbells.

9.       If your controllers aren’t recognised or the bells don’t ring, check out the troubleshooting section.

10.   If your bells ring, but not when you want them to, check out the calibration section.

Using Handbell Manager

If you plugged in your controllers prior to starting Handbell Manager, you should see a panel appear as shown above. If you plug in or remove your controllers after you started Handbell Manager, you will need to press the Check for Controllers button to find them. The handbells are shown right to left, to match the clockwise arrangement of the bells on your simulator’s display.

Handbell Manager counts each handstroke and backstroke and press of a controller button, and highlights in orange which stroke the bell is currently at. The button counts will also show in orange when they are pressed. These counts can help you determine whether the bells are configured properly. If you press the Reset Counts button to zero the counts, then swing a few handstrokes and backstrokes with each bell alternately, you should expect the counts to be equal to the number of strokes you rang.

If they appear to be functioning as expected, then it is worth trying them out with the simulator before changing any options. To start your simulator, you can click Run on Handbell Manager’s menu, or start it in the usual way.

This dialog window needs to remain open while you are using the dummy handbells, but you can move it or minimize it to hide it.

Handbell Manager has a number of tools to help you configure your dummy handbells for the best possible operation. These are described in the following sections.

Monitor

To help fine calibration of the controllers, Handbell Manager provides a Monitor (Tools – Monitor) which shows a graph of the handbell movement in real time. Each handbell is shown in a different colour. Two horizontal lines are drawn in the same colour as the respective handbell to show the point in the swing where the clapper strike is triggered. When the handbell’s position crosses these lines, Handbell Manager determines whether and when the bell will strike. For example, it will only strike a backstroke after a handstroke and visa versa. Also, it will not initiate another stroke within the debounce delay period. This prevents unwanted strokes being triggered while the controllers stabilise after a sudden stop, such as if you hit your hand on your knee. In addition, there is an option to introduce a strike delay for fine tuning of the handbell. When Handbell Manager actually issues the keystroke to Abel to strike the bell, a vertical line is drawn on the monitor showing the timing of the clapper strike.

The monitor can be frozen and unfrozen by pressing the F3 Key, or by right clicking and selecting Freeze from the context menu. Options are also available on this menu to turn any of the monitor lines on or off.

Calibration

Most users should find the default calibration satisfactory for ActionXL wired controllers, since it has been chosen to reflect the dynamics of the clappers of real handbells, and normal handbell usage. Try the controllers with the default settings for a while before attempting any changes to reflect your own ringing style.

If changes are required because the bells don't sound at the right times for your style, select Tools – Options from the menu to show the settings dialog. The first tab contains the handbell calibration options.

 

If the backstroke sounds too early/late then make the backstroke calibration value more/less negative, by manually typing in the Backstroke strike position box below each bell.  If the handstroke sounds too early/late then increase/reduce the Handstroke strike position in the same way.  Any changes made to values will be effective immediately so you can try the bells and continue fine tuning.

 

Once you are happy with the settings, click on OK to permanently save them, or Cancel to revert to earlier settings. If you wish to revert to Handbell Manager defaults for all options (Handbell Calibration and Abel/Beltower Settings), press the Default Settings button.

More on Calibration and Fine Tuning

If you wish to calibrate your controllers, select Tools – Options from the menu to show the settings dialog. The first tab contains the handbell calibration options. The screen shows the current axis (tilt position) of each controller as values between -2048 and 2047. Negative values occur when the buttons are on the upper side of the controller and positive ones when the buttons are on the lower side, and are zero when the controller points either upwards or downwards.

The ActionXL motion controllers use tri-axis accelerometers to determine their position and are factory calibrated to 2g. Handbell Manager is only using one axis to determine the up down swing of a handbell. When you tilt the controller to its upper or lower extreme, it has only moved half as far as it can (because the Earth's gravitational pull is 1g, half of the maximum). In motion higher Z-values will be recorded, particularly on the downswing where the acceleration is in addition to the pull of gravity.

An option to change the Handbell swing axis has been included for experimentation with different controllers, or more unusual handbell swing actions. In the case of the ActionXL controllers, the Z-axis is up/down, the X-axis is left/right, and the Y-axis is back/forward. The remainder of this section assumes that you are using the default i.e. the Z-axis.

For dummy handbells to function reliably, the strike positions need to be set close enough together to ensure that the controller will trigger them even if they are swung very gently i.e. they must be within the range of the resting positions at handstroke and backstroke. The strike positions can be close together towards the middle of the swing, but the backstroke Z-axis position must be a lower value than the handstroke position, unless you wish to use the controllers upside down, in which case the handstroke will be the lower value. Handbell Manager uses this difference to distinguish handstroke from backstroke.

Each bell has a Calibrate button that helps you capture a backstroke and handstroke strike position by holding the controller in the position you want and pressing a button. Note that you can hold the controllers either way up (e.g. buttons facing down, if this is more comfortable) but you must calibrate them as you intend to use them as the Z-axis position for handstroke and backstroke would be reversed, and will have a different sign and size.

When using the Calibrate buttons, the controllers must be held completely still when the button is pressed, because any movement or jolting will result in incorrect calibration. Also, do not calibrate the controller with it held below a horizontal position (This is because the controller interprets angles below the horizontal identically to those above the horizontal.)

As an alternative to using the Calibrate buttons you can manually type in the Z-axis position in the Handstroke and Backstroke strike position boxes below each bell. You may find it easier to start with the default values as shown above, then manually fine tune the values up or down in increments of ten until your bells strike at the desired position. You can have the monitor window open while you are making these changes to show visually what effect the changes are having.

If the bells are striking too late, you need to adjust the strike positions to be closer to one another (i.e. earlier in the swing), by making small adjustments to the numeric strike value, or by pressing the Calibrate button to set new values. Also ensure that the Handstroke strike delay and Backstroke strike delay are set to zero. Changes are effective immediately, so you can keep ringing the bell to see whether you are getting the desired result.

If the bells are striking too early then there are two options. First try adjusting the strike value. If the bells are still striking too early, you can then introduce a Handstroke strike delay or Backstroke strike delay by setting an appropriate value in milliseconds. Note that the same delay will be applied to all bells.

Handbell Manager will not strike the same bell twice before the Debounce delay period has passed. This prevents multiple strokes occurring in quick succession when the controller signal bounces after a sudden stop. Experience has shown that 350ms is a good value to cure this problem, while still allowing you to ring the bell twice in a second.

Simulator Settings

The settings for controlling your simulator software can be configured using the Tools – Options – Abel Settings or Beltower Settings tab. Note, the current simulator being used is selected from the Run menu. Handbell Manager works by sending messages to the simulator as though you had pressed the keys on the keyboard. The keys to be pressed by Handbell Manager can be changed here.

The key for ringing each of four bells is initially set to the default used in Abel (J, F, R & U). Beltower can be configured to use the same keys. However, if the keyboard mappings have been changed in your simulator, they have to be changed in Handbell Manager to match.

The buttons on each controller can also be configured to trigger simulator functions, such as Start, Go, Rounds, Stand, Pause, Bob, Single etc. As well as individual keys, you can also type “F1” to “F12”, “Esc” or “End” to operate the function keys.

ActionXL wired controller has a Left (1) and Right (2) Button. The ActionXL “FriiHand” wireless controller additionally has an Upper (3) and Lower (4) button on the nose of the controller. Handbell Manager button defaults are:

Simulator

Abel

Beltower

Handbell

1 & 3 (Right hand)

2 & 4 (Left hand)

1 & 3 (Right hand)

2 & 4 (Left hand)

Left button (1):

Start/Stop (F9)

Bob (A)

Start/Stop (¬)

Bob (B)

Right button (2):

Go (G)

Single (;)

Go (G)

Single (S)

Upper button (3):

Start/Stop (F9)

Bob (A)

Start/Stop (¬)

Bob (B)

Lower button (4):

Go (G)

Single (;)

Go (G)

Single (S)

 

To prevent your dummy handbells and simulator getting out of sync (e.g. you bell is at handstroke and the simulator is displaying the bell at backstroke), you can use the up/down keyboard action in Abel. With this option, Abel and Handbell Manager cannot get out of sync as a keyup is used for a handstroke and a keydown for a backstroke. The Use bell keys up/down action must be ticked both in Handbell Manager and in Abel (under Abel’s Options – Ringing Options) for this to work. Conversely, both should be unchecked to use normal keystrokes.

The Process Name is the executable name for the version of Abel or Beltower you are using e.g. Abel3 or Beltow95. It is the name of the executable file without “.exe”. This is also the name of the shortcut to Abel you should place in Handbell Manager’s installation folder (“C:\Program Files\Handbell Manager” is the default location) to allow it to be started from Handbell Manager’s menu. You may need to be logged on as an administrator to access Program Files folders.

Reassigning Controllers

Handbell Manager cannot identify controllers uniquely and stores the configuration settings by handbell number. If on subsequent use, controllers with different configuration characteristics are identified in a different order by Windows, the controllers may not be assigned to the same handbell. To overcome this problem, choose Options – Assign Controllers from the menu.

In the example above, another joystick is connected and was automatically assigned to Handbell 1. By clicking on this controller to highlight it, and clicking the green down arrow twice, it can be reassigned to handbell 3, or not to a handbell at all had four other controllers had been active. The two motion controllers appear identical, but could have different calibration settings. These could be swapped by clicking on the second one and clicking on the green up arrow to move it up the list.

Troubleshooting

Some possible reasons for problems are listed below to help with troubleshooting.

Cannot run Abel or Beltower from Handbell Manager

·         Shortcut not present or its name doesn’t match the process name in Abel/Beltower Settings. Create a new shortcut to the Abel/Beltower executable and copy it into Handbell Manager’s installation folder. Rename it to the Abel/Beltower Process Name (e.g. “Abel3” in place of “shortcut to Abel3.exe”).

·         Shortcut not setup correctly to run Abel/Beltower. Confirm that it works if you double-click it.

No Motion Controllers Found

·         Only ActionXL motion controllers are fully supported.

·         The ActionXL are plug and play devices, so installation is automatic. Windows should recognise them as a game controller with specific description of Motion Controller. If they are being recognised as a generic joystick or are not being recognised at all, then there is a configuration problem in Windows.

Bells do not ring

·         Abel/Beltower is not running. Check that the bells ring when the simulator is used with the keyboard.

·         More than one copy of the simulator is running. Close all but one instance.

·         Handbell Manager is not running.

·         The wrong simulator is chosen in Handbell Manager. Reselect using Run – Choose Simulator.

·         The Process Name in Handbell Manager Tools - Options - Abel Settings or Beltower Settings is not the same as the instance of Abel/Beltower that is running.

·         The keyboard mappings for the bells in Handbell Manager don’t match the simulator’s keyboard mappings.

·         The option Use bell keys up/down action setting is not the same in both Handbell Manager and the simulator.

·         The backstroke and handstroke strike positions are set too high or too low.

·         The wrong Handbell swing axis is being used (should be “Z” for ActionXL controllers).

·         The controllers are not assigned to the correct handbell. Use Tools - Options – Assign Controllers to change.

·         Wireless controllers are not switched on, are not communicating with the correct dongles, or the batteries are flat. Remove a battery to fully reset.

Buttons do not work

·         The keyboard mappings for the buttons in Handbell Manager don’t match the simulator’s keyboard mappings or Function Keys.

·         Wireless controllers are not switched on, are not communicating with the correct dongles, or the batteries are flat. Remove a battery to fully reset.

Bells strike too late

·         Backstroke and/or handstroke strike delay are not set to a low enough value. Set to zero.

·         Strike position is set too late in the swing. Fine tune by making small adjustments to the strike values.

·         Incorrect calibration. If using the Calibrate button, hold the controller absolutely horizontal for the backstroke strike and absolutely vertical for the handstroke strike, then make fine adjustments manually to the strike values. 

Bells strike too early

·         Strike position is set too early in the swing. Fine tune by making small adjustments to the strike values.

·         Incorrect calibration. If using the Calibrate button, hold the controller absolutely horizontal for the backstroke strike and absolutely vertical for the handstroke strike, then make fine adjustments manually to the strike values. If the bells still strike too early, use the backstroke and/or handstroke strike delay.

Bells strike erratically or multiple times

·         Debounce delay too small. Set the debounce delay to a value that eliminates multiple strikes (e.g. 350ms).

·         Backstroke and handstroke strike positions are too close to one another. Recalibrate.

·         Controllers are upside down, and have not been calibrated for upside down use.

·         Inconsistent handbell swing. Swing the controller so that the arc it makes is in the vertical plane that is in line with the wire, and the upper flat side (with the buttons) is always approximately perpendicular to the vertical plane.  Although other motions of the controllers can make the bell sound, the calibration may not be correct.

·         More than one copy of Abel or Beltower is running. Close all but one instance.

Simulator pictures are at the opposite stroke to the controller

·         Hold the handbells at handstroke and press F4 to reset Abel bells. This problem can be eliminated if the Use bell keys up/down action is checked both in Abel and Handbell Manager. Warning: Although you can get the handstrokes and backstrokes back in phase by turning the dummy handbells over, this disrupts the calibration and the striking points will be incorrect.

·         For Abel or Beltower, type “J” or “F” on the keyboard to switch the stroke of the bell independently of the controller.

Bell is ringing but Abel images are not rotating

·         Hold the handbells at handstroke and press F4 to reset Abel bells.

Error message displayed when Handbell Manager opens or saves settings

·         Settings file corrupt, or an incorrect version. Delete it and it will be automatically recreated with the default settings.

·         Incorrect file access permissions. Handbell Manager is designed to work under Vista and Windows 7 with standard user access permissions. Check that you have read access to the installation folder and write access to the user’s application data folder.

Motion controllers don’t feel like handbells

·         The motion controllers are too small and light. Try attaching the controllers to pieces of wood, or to the handles of handbells with the clappers removed.

·         The ActionXL wireless controllers are larger and heavier than the wired controllers.

Handbell Manager crashes with an error message

·         If it occurs more than once, report it to the author.

Handbell Manager Version History

Version 0.1

·         First test release.

Version 0.2

·         Abel can be run from the menu.

·         Menu Help loads this readme file.

·         Menu icons added.

·         Email link added in About box.

·         Consistent background colour for Count textboxes.

Version 0.2.1

·         Extra information in help file

Version 0.2.2

·         Calibration defaults improved

Version 0.3

·         Dialogs reorganised.

·         Handbells reversed in Handbell Manager windows to correspond to your left and right hand and the clockwise arrangement in Abel.

·         Calibration method changed to set strike points directly, removing references to resting position.

·         Strike values can be adjusted manually.

·         Handstroke and Backstroke delay period added.

·         Monitor added to display handbell motion in real time.

·         Abel interface changed, and will work even if Abel is not the foreground window.

·         Abel’s Up/Down Key interface support added.

·         Buttons can be configured for Esc and F1-12 keys.

·         Button added to reset options to default values.

Version 0.3.1

·         Problem running on 64-bit windows operating systems resolved.

Version 0.4

·         Can check or uncheck handbell lines, striking points or calibration lines for all bells simultaneously.

·         Handstroke strike positions moved above backstroke strike positions in the Options dialog.

·         Number editing improved in the Options dialog.

·         Strike position defaults changed to -600/100.

·         Use Abel bell keys up/down option default changed to Checked.

·         Confirmation message box is shown if Default Settings button is pressed.

·         Bells no longer sound immediately after controller initialisation.

·         Another Abel process instance is automatically discovered after the first one is closed.

·         Installer/uninstaller provided.

Version 1.0

·         First official release.

·         Installer optionally creates startup shortcuts for all users.

·         Installer optionally creates desktop shortcuts for all users.

·         The settings file is now user specific and is located in the user’s application data folder.

Version 1.1

·         Any joystick will be identified by Handbell Manager, not just those labelled Motion Controllers.

·         An Assign Controllers option has been added to allow controllers to be reassigned to different handbells.

·         The controller Swing Axis can now be specified and saved for each handbell.

·         Support has been added for four button controllers (such as the wireless ActionXL “FriiHand” controller).

Version 1.2

·         Support for Beltower added, and the option to choose which simulator to use. Each simulator has its own set of configurable options.

·         Process Name is now case insensitive.

·         A new settings file is created when its format is changed by a new version of Handbell Manager. Previously set options are carried forward.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Chris Hughes, Simon Humphrey and Richard Johnston for their assistance in design, testing and documentation for Handbell Manager and Derek Ballard for his assistance with Beltower. I would also like to thank Jay O’Leary of ActionXL for his interest in and support for the Handbell Manager project.