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> Z21 early experiences, dcc noob gets it going
kristopher1805
post 21 Oct 2013, 11:02
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Ok folks time to talk about the experiences with Roco/Flieschmann Z21.

Initial effort[
I bought the unit from Osbornes of Bideford for 300 which seemed a good price for what you get, as a leaving present from Oman I had been given a Samsung tablet 10.1 that I really had little use for as I am still a macbook user primarily.

Setup 9/10
In order to get going I made a temporary track and this let me fit decoders and then register the loco, this was easy enough to do, there is an option to use either the main track or the programme track but I did not see much use with this option and 'programmed on main' more of this later.

Instruction Manual 3/10
This is the usual effort part propaganda and part self back slapping, it gave the very basic information and left me feeling frustrated when I had issues to resolve, nothing unusual but as is often the case in order to have 97 languages the section you want (in English) is cut down to the minimum.

Connecting the setup 8/10
Very easy, the feed wires to the track is simple just 2 screw clamps for modest size wire, another 2 are needed to feed the programme track, when building the railway I have used Peco droppers from the rail joiners and made a strip connector block under the layout ready to run on to the next set of droppers.

Registering Locos 7/10
This was also very easy, simply put loco on track, add the details which are limited to identity, max speed in kph, CV address and away it went, you can add a photo which is taken either from a library or with a photo from the tablet, this is sized and then posted to the relevant page line for that loco, without a pic you get a white German DB diesel.

Graphics 9/10
This is quite good, because it is a tablet it is quite pictorial and the loco photos are ones you take yourself so that part is up to you, the train op page however features two controls one either side each with two options but there is an issue here as below, the quality of the graphics is good and there must be lots of development scope.

Menus 6/19
This is where it starts to get more involved, the system has a main page with a number of sections, top left is the loco library but this has now been changed to include other stock, you register the loco etc. here then have to come back to the main screen in the middle of which is a play button, this takes you to the operating screen. There are other items some yet to explore but the other initial interest is the CV programme page, this allows the loco to be identified and can be done on either the main track or a programme track, clearly if there are lots of locos on the main track you may end up changing all of them.

Loco Programming 5/10
I mark this down because of a glitch, I found that all the locos have a default address of 3, what it does not tell you (as a noob) is that this is CV1 and here values that can be awarded are dependent upon the decoder capability but generally up to 128, I'll research this in a while and as I have at least 119 locos to go on the system then this is a restriction I could do without.
I found it impossible to code CV1 and the programme came up with error messages, after talking to Graham at ZTC and Osbornes it was apparent that the Android version was not the same as the Apple version, I searched the Z21 website and found a download upgrade issued on 1st October and promptly installed this and the problem went away, also the CV programming track now had an additional feature that the apple version already had.
It still tells me that the programme has not suceeded but it works anyway so another minor glitch there, this means that it is necessary to go back to the registration and reset this information as well, cannot see why we need such multiplication but that is what you get.

Operational Control 8/10
Once this lot is sorted out the system operates nicely and is smooth, slow speed control very good it has such features as telling you the scale speed and this seems to vary a little bit between decoders but not enough to spoil things generally very good.
Where it can get confusing though is on three counts;
1. The loco list on the settings gives the info, name of the loco and address so perhaps we have 3F 43747 as a name but this will have 47 in front on the list on CV1 is set to that or 3 if that is the default address, when you are on the operating page the loco list becomes a series of small photos along the bottom but here as one Black 5 looks like the other 6 I have, and the 4F looks like a 3F etc then finding the correct one is a bit of a pain, out of nowhere came an alternative display on the left control but I have no idea how to call this up every time this was much bigger and included the name and CV1 address. Sadly this is not easy to get up when needed.
2. The next issue is that the controller has two control stations and each has two options, you would think this would allow 4 locos to be worked and easy to access but no, you bring up a loco and it goes to both, it is not easy to find a loco which might be running and you want to stop but the controller is reading another one so you have to find this from the tiny pics at the bottom, fixing a crisis is thus unduly long winded, a shame as this must be easy to change.
3. If you are running say 45156 then take it off it may be that somewhere in the background the controller is still sending it a signal to operate and when it returns to the track or the power restored to the section off it goes and then its a scramble to find the loco and reset its operation.

Basically if you could have a screen that showed all the locos that are running with name, CV1 address, photo and speed bar you could probably get 12 on a page and that would be enough for most people, 4 is not enough and then it obviously has a glitch anyway.

Shorts 10/10
If the box detects a short it goes red on the light (normally blue, green if registering) and makes a buzzing sound, this can easily be reset on the tablet and is effective.

Overall an 8+ and it could easily be a 10, I have not explored the point decoder yet but I have a Roco 10775 costs 60+ quid and this will operate 8 points so my approximately 100 points will cost over 700 plus other accessories so a 1,000 bill beckons, anyway that is the scope there.

Overall though I am impressed but these glitches need sorting and the problem of the operating page being made easier to call up locos, its nice if you have multicoloured locos but a fleet of similar dirty weathered steamers makes it too unclear.

Sorry if my descriptions are not very technical I am still a dcc noob however
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Richard Johnson
post 21 Oct 2013, 12:25
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*** The first place any loco should go after installation is the programming track. That way if you have an error in installation (and never mind hard wiring jobs...sometimes there are problems with dcc ready loco wiring) you will get a warning and the program track power will not blow the decoder. No such luck if you use the main initially.

You can only read decoder addresses consistently with all decoder brands on the programming track.

Address can be to 9999 with the Z21 - it is only short address that has the limit. If you read the basic information offered here on MRZF a zillion times, and the instructions for the decoders you buy, then default address 3 would not be a surprise, and nor would the fact that it is CV1 :-). It simply makes sense to use the 4 digit addressing based on cabside numbers.

Actually, you should never need to use CV1, the system (and most others) can set the address without going to the bother of looking at CVs as such.

The standards work well so there is no need to use the expensive Roco point decoder... there are better decoders at lower prices per point. Our ADs8 for example is only a fiver per point approximately... and works super reliably with Peco, Seep or Hornby motors etc..

regards

Richard



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RFS
post 21 Oct 2013, 13:18
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I think it's fair to say that most DCC systems can run more locos simultaneously than any single human operator can keep track of, especially when you have a large layout like yours and are planning to operate all the points via DCC as well. If I try to operate my layout manually, rather than using RR&Co automated schedules, then 2 (or at a pinch 3) is the most I can cope with before trains start hitting each other or short-circuiting the system on wrongly-set points. So having a maximum of 4 in your system's display may not be quite the limitation you envisage!


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kristopher1805
post 21 Oct 2013, 19:53
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Hi guys thanks for the reply, I claim no experience in this matter, I am trying to learn and am short of some information, learning all the time, however there are glitches in Z21 most of which have been fixed now and I have great confidence that the whole will be really good indeed very soon.

I agree the Z21 can take the addresses to 9999 but can the decoders? I get that
CV1 is listed as the address by the decoder makers so which do you use?
Richard you retail Z21 - have you used it?
Point decoders yes no doubt I will look around, I bought one 10775 to try out.

Yes I have the system running 5 locos so far at the same time and this will possibly be 10 or so once Towcaster is complete, I might do more but really that will be enough I think, a quick method of jumping between trains would be welcome as I said one small pic of a dirty loco looks like the other dirty locos I have as I said 7 Black 5's, 5 8K/O4, 6 9F, 4 B1 etc. and some like the B17 looks like a B1 on a small pic.
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reddo
post 22 Oct 2013, 04:21
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Interesting write up Kris - thanks for taking the time to post. Did you have any pics of the droppers you mention and the terminal blocks under the test track - all adds to my next step of layout wiring. Cheers
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Nigel2001
post 22 Oct 2013, 07:22
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QUOTE (kristopher1805 @ 21 Oct 2013, 19:53) *
Hi guys thanks for the reply, I claim no experience in this matter, I am trying to learn and am short of some information, learning all the time, however there are glitches in Z21 most of which have been fixed now and I have great confidence that the whole will be really good indeed very soon.

I agree the Z21 can take the addresses to 9999 but can the decoders? I get that


Just about every decoder on sale will accept Short (1-127) or Long (1-10,000+) addresses. There are one or two absolute antiques which still kick around shops with old stock which cannot do Long addresses.

QUOTE
CV1 is listed as the address by the decoder makers so which do you use?

CV17 and CV18 for the address, and CV29 to tell the decoder whether to use Short or Long.
BUT you DO NOT need to know this. Any DCC system will work out how to program the CV's for Long addresses for you.

If you care about the underlying "how it works", then I've written some of it up, but I repeat, you shouldn't need to worry about this detail:
http://www.2mm.org.uk/articles/cv29%20calculator.htm



QUOTE
Richard you retail Z21 - have you used it?
Point decoders yes no doubt I will look around, I bought one 10775 to try out.

Yes I have the system running 5 locos so far at the same time and this will possibly be 10 or so once Towcaster is complete, I might do more but really that will be enough I think, a quick method of jumping between trains would be welcome as I said one small pic of a dirty loco looks like the other dirty locos I have as I said 7 Black 5's, 5 8K/O4, 6 9F, 4 B1 etc. and some like the B17 looks like a B1 on a small pic.


Is the solution to your pictures to take a shot of something distinctive on that loco, or even to manipulate your own picture so it is clear on the Z21's Icons. Thus, rather than shots of dirty black locos, take a picture of the cab only (showing the number or other detail which distinguishes one from another), or overlay some text in large print which can be seen when an icon, or similar. Then the meaning of the image on the Z21 will be clear to the operator.


- Nigel
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kristopher1805
post 22 Oct 2013, 10:59
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Hi there Nigel, thank you for the information, I understand Maths pretty good as my degree is in Mechanical Engineering, anyway I still have a lot to learn, clearly what I have done works whether it is technically 'elegant' or not, I see that there must be a better way and I note CV17 is one of those that can be changed on Z21, the device picks out 4 numbers including 1, 17 and 29, on one of the programming options, not sure of the other just now.

I may retake the photos but put a big digit in the background, I assume there must be a sort facility on there somewhere but I have not found it that would be helpful, on my stock spreadsheet I now have added decoder type and CV1 address and have ordered this by BR numerical number so 1006 is at the top and 92233 at the bottom and the other 117 in between except for a few with SDJR or pre-grouping numbers.

Phew you have to remember a lot of numbers these days, father who worked on locos and who has many more model ones than me cannot recall too many numbers, he's OK with those that had special connotations such as LNER 6166, 1157, 1162 etc and he looks at me with open eyes when I quote numbers.

Anyway for any lurkers from Roco or Flieschmann out there please assume your customers are idiots and put more detail into the manual so such matters can be understood and set correctly, it would be most appreciated.

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Richard Johnson
post 22 Oct 2013, 13:14
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*** Hello Kristopher - yes, we have the Z21 connected and working on the office test track. I'd strongly recommend it against the Hornby elite/e-link/railmaster option - even at its higher price, it is significantly better value.... and is certainly a significantly better product overall.

As Nigel said, decoders all take the full address range, so you can expand the addressing horizons... his idea about photographing cab-sides and yours about adding numbers to the images will both be of help, but in the end, if you use cab-side numbers a "list" within the system in itself becomes a littleless important anyway - after all, all you (or any guest operator) need do is look at the cab-side of the loco you want to control and select it manually.

Sometimes the simple common sense approach is superior to adapting technology for the sake of it :-) :-)

FYI we also have the other controller brands all linked to Iphones / android pads/phones... all work very well in the same way that the Z21 does.

regards

Richard


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Nigel2001
post 22 Oct 2013, 19:15
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Kristopher,

if it's not clear how to enter a "long" address into the Z21 for programming, then contact either the supplying dealer or the maker. (I suspect you just type an address above 128).


For your loco fleet, and if it is 117 locos, I think you need something other than a side-photo of each loco. They'll never be distinctive enough. Instead, you need some methodical way of sorting locos. I'd be tempted to suggest a big, organised print out on the wall, with the DCC address beside each, and just use that (ie. much the same as Richard's "keep it simple" suggestion).

If wanting to use the visual icons in the Z21 system for identification, I'd suggest you need a coded system to break the locos into groups. If the Z21 supports grouping of locos, this might help. But if not, an example scheme might be:
Coloured fat bar to left of image, five colours - Red, Blue, Green, Black, Yellow . That would allow you to group locos into one of five blocks. Hopefully the block sizes would be between 10 and 35 locos (average should be about 23).
Coloured square, next to bar, perhaps three or four colours to further break down the locos.
Then the photograph taking the remainder of the space might be easier to identify.
There are numerous other coding schemes which might work, but I doubt that just having 117 photos of locos will be usable to identify them.



- Nigel
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kristopher1805
post 22 Oct 2013, 23:54
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Nigel I expect you are right, one thing I have found is that the other tabular system in the operating page is brought up by a tiny tab which is quite indistinct, once pressed you get a much better identification as you get two columns of photos and it gives the CV1 address and the name allocated for instance 45455 a Black 5 comes out as CV1 = 55 (as I set it) so the screen will show that loco as 'hash symbol 55 Black 5 45455.' You then tap the screen for the loco you want and it shows this on the operating page and below reverts to the strip of photos obviously with the chosen loco in the centre in the list position, I am sure there must be a sort facility in there, if I could get them in BR number order I could find my way around a lot easier.

Another silly thing is when I put say BR 9F, but it then comes up with British Railways instead of BR, you would have thought a good German programme would be trying to make it a BR 52 or something but no so something is pre-programmed here. I have to use Std 9F instead.

Anyway now just arrived back in Malta so only remote research for the next couple of weeks.
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David Todd
post 29 Oct 2013, 10:42
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"ON TRACKS"..........IS RUNNING A COURSE. for Z21C (Roco) users,......Nov. 28/29 13.

For details Telephone.......01981 241268


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Link below,is to my layout, Dover Priory and Town Yard.Kent Uk
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]Click this link and watch my Naff Video Company,clips,of my layout
http://www.youtube.com/user/ferriesdover/videos
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kristopher1805
post 29 Oct 2013, 17:10
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David thanks for the info on this, whether I can get there will depend upon work commitments here in Malta and my General Manager back home.
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kristopher1805
post 29 Oct 2013, 17:20
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One issue I did not air before is not really much of a problem.

If you have an apple tablet/iphone to operate the system you need go to an apple site to download the information/operating program. As my Samsung tablet uses Android then it was necessary to get the download from Google Play, this in turn meant opening an account, doing this has in turn screwed up my You Tube account because I now have a Gmail account which has taken it over, grrrr! so what should be simple has had knock on bother.

Why oh why can we not simply download the thing from www.z21.eu which would seem simple enough.

When I found out about the glitch I found I had to walk back to the house, connect with the general internet (which does not reach the railway cabin ) and then remember my Gmail account which otherwise I do not use nor need, then I could connect and download the upgrade released on October 1st and though this was almost instant so it cannot be a big program, then go back to the railway cabin and try again. Basically making an easy thing a bit involved, no Roco you are not being hip and whizzo, you are being a pain, after all you buy the Z21 unit, the software is no good without it so the download is free anyway, stop being silly and get back to the basics!
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kristopher1805
post 29 Oct 2013, 20:52
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Reddo, missed your post, I am using Peco PL80's this time around, seen here loose on Towcaster. Look by the tunnel mouths the red and black wires soldered to rail joiners.




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dwb
post 29 Oct 2013, 21:23
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QUOTE
If you have an apple tablet/iphone to operate the system you need go to an apple site to download the information/operating program. As my Samsung tablet uses Android then it was necessary to get the download from Google Play, this in turn meant opening an account, doing this has in turn screwed up my You Tube account because I now have a Gmail account which has taken it over, grrrr! so what should be simple has had knock on bother.

Why oh why can we not simply download the thing from www.z21.eu which would seem simple enough.

When I found out about the glitch I found I had to walk back to the house, connect with the general internet (which does not reach the railway cabin ) and then remember my Gmail account which otherwise I do not use nor need, then I could connect and download the upgrade released on October 1st and though this was almost instant so it cannot be a big program, then go back to the railway cabin and try again. Basically making an easy thing a bit involved, no Roco you are not being hip and whizzo, you are being a pain, after all you buy the Z21 unit, the software is no good without it so the download is free anyway, stop being silly and get back to the basics!



Been there, done that, had the heartache but it's not Roco you should blame as they have no choice in the matter. If you create apps for Apple they must go on the Apple Store. If you create apps for Android they must go on the Android market. This is then compounded by Google not making it clear, at least it wasn't clear to me, that you really only need one identity in their universe which includes Youtube, gmail and the world of Android. I think I have three ids on Google and they play the three shell game; I never know which one is current and my Android phone never succeeds in connecting to the account in any case.

We can live in hope that one day Google will get its act together.

David


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