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Controller FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

How do I monitor messages sent over an MQTT connection (for example, to M3)?

One of the most powerful features of the BAC is the ability to send messages over a network connection to game control software. One of the most popular protocols for this connection is MQTT, which is a simple industry standard designed for sending short messages between two points. Because the BAC is built on MQTT, you have the option of using off the shelf packages like M3 or creating your own control solution using a tool like Node-RED.

Because MQTT is an open standard, you can also connect to the server and monitor the ongoing communications using desktop tools. This can be a great option if you’re having trouble getting a link established and are not sure where the problem is in the system.

We recommend the MQTT Explorer project for most users; it’s a convenient graphical browser for MQTT messages and is available for most major platforms. If you prefer the command line, we recommend the mosquitto_sub tool available as part of the Eclipse Mosquitto project.

While you can run MQTT Explorer from the same computer as your MQTT server (also known as a broker), the best test results will come if you can use a second computer on the network, as this will validate that your firewall and network are configured correctly.

To set up MQTT Explorer to monitor your BAC, install it from the link above, then open the application. You’ll see a server connection window:

In this window, set the “Host” field to the network address of your MQTT broker. (For most people with M3, this is the address of the computer running M3.). Then, click Save and Connect.

MQTT Explorer will connect to your server and display a tree view of topics and messages that updates live as messages are sent:

If MQTT Explorer gets stuck on the connection page and never connects, eventually showing a “Disconnected from server” bar in the bottom corner, it’s likely that your MQTT broker is misconfigured. One common possibility is that the server computer is running a firewall that’s blocking access from other computers (to disable Windows Firewall, follow these instructions). Another possibility is that you are using Eclipse Mosquitto 2.0 as your server; the new 2.0 version has default security settings that disable access from remote computers. The Eclipse project has instructions for enabling remote access here.

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Controller FAQs

How do I set up a BAC if I can’t plug it into my router?

The best way to set up a BAC’s network connection is to plug it into your main router, or to a connected Ethernet switch. This allows the BAC to get an IP address from your router’s built in “DHCP Server”, which is a piece of software that controls your network and hands out IP addresses. It ensures that any other computer on your network will be able to access the BAC, making it easy to integrate with M3 and other software packages.

Sometimes, you might need to configure your BAC without access to your router, though. If you’re using a phone hotspot for connectivity and don’t have an office network, or if you’re setting up a BAC in a new location before a network is available, you might need an alternate approach.

In these situations, you can connect your BAC directly to your computer via an Ethernet cable. In some cases, this will just magically work – so we recommend you start by simply connecting the cable and opening Bad Ass Manager. If you see your controller there, you can skip the rest of this article.

Unfortunately, sometimes just making the connection isn’t enough – both your computer and the BAC will make up random ‘local’ IP addresses, and they won’t be able to find and talk to each other.

The solution is to “share” your Wi-Fi connection temporarily to your Ethernet port. This causes Windows to set up its own local server to hand out addresses, and enables BAM and your BAC to find each other and communicate. We don’t recommend this arrangement for more than temporary setup – you’ll want to invest in a router, perhaps a small travel router like this one that can connect an Ethernet device to a Wi-Fi network – but in a pinch this can get you up and running.

Before getting started, make sure to download BAM from our Downloads page; it’s possible that in some situations this process will cause your computer to not connect to the Internet properly until you’re done configuring your BAC and disable the sharing feature.

  1. Find the Ethernet port on your Windows 10 computer and plug in your BAC using a standard cable. If your computer is a laptop without an Ethernet port, you can buy an affordable USB adapter like this one from TP-Link.
  2. Open your Start Menu. Search for “Network Connections”, and when “View network connections” appears, select it.

3. In the window that appears, examine the network connections. You may have several, but you’re looking for two connections: your standard Wi-Fi connection that connects you to the Internet, and the second Ethernet adapter that is connected to the BAC.

The Wi-Fi adapter should be easy to find; the Ethernet adapter might be a little harder, but it probably will have “Ethernet” in the name, potentially followed by a number. If you see other items in the list with words like “Virtual” or “VPN”, you can ignore them.

4. Right-click your Wi-Fi network and choose Properties. (It’s very important for this step that you select your upstream Internet connection and not the wired connection linked to your BAC.)


5. Click the Sharing tab.

6. Check “Allow other users to connect through this computer’s connection”. Then, in the dropdown box, choose your Ethernet connection that is plugged into your BAC. Uncheck “Allow other users to control or disable the shared Internet connection.” When you’re done, the dialog should look like this:

7. Click OK.

8. Launch BAM. When it opens, you may be asked about firewall access; make sure to permit it to communicate on all network types:

9. BAM should open. If it does not open, follow the tips in How do I access Bad Ass Manager? When I open it, all I see is a black screen.

10. If all goes well, you should see your BAC in BAM. If not, try clicking Discover; if it still doesn’t appear, unplug and replug the power to your BAC and wait two minutes, then click Discover again.



Still no luck? Contact our support team and we’re happy to help.

11. Important: when you’re done configuring your BAC, reverse the process by right-clicking your Wi-Fi adapter and unchecking the options on the Sharing tab. If you forget this step, your Ethernet adapter will no longer work for other network connections, and you may even cause problems if you attempt to plug your computer into another network (because your computer will be competing with the network’s router to hand out IP addresses).

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Controller FAQs

How do I access Bad Ass Manager? When I open it, all I see is a black screen.

Not to fear, this happens sometimes depending on the configuration of your computer. There’s an easy workaround that will get you up and running quickly.

This window is the core of Bad Ass Manager. As long as it is open, you can rest assured the background code that communicates with your controller is up and running.

In the window that appears, look for an IP address labeled BAM URL. This is the web site you will visit to access BAM:

Once you’ve found this highlighted address, simply enter it into the address bar to load Bad Ass Manager:

Now you’re ready to go! Don’t forget to keep the black command prompt window open while you’re using BAM; the web page will stop working if you close it.

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Controller FAQs

How do I prepare an SD card for my Audio BAC?

The SD card that comes with your Audio BAC is prepared at the factory with the correct file system, but if you need to prepare another card, it should be formatted with the FAT16 or FAT32 file system only.

Do not use NTFS or exFAT, and do not store files on your card other than audio files intended for playback via the BAC. Many SD cards ship from the factory with an exFAT file syste

Warning

The act of formatting a storage card erases all data on it permanently. Before formatting your card, back up any files on it that you wish to save.

Exercise special caution when formatting your storage card to ensure you don’t accidentally format the wrong device – if you aren’t careful, you could accidentally format other external storage devices or even your computer’s secondary hard disk or recovery partition. When in doubt, stop and consult your operating system manual for assistance.

Files should be named with short filenames – 8 characters or less with a 3 character extension. We recommend simple numbers (for example, 001.wav).

The Audio BAC supports .WAV, .MP3, .OGG, .AAC and .WMA file formats. We recommend the industry-standard 44100Hz 16-bit stereo .WAV format for shorter sounds and 192Kbps CBR MP3 for longer sounds, but most sample rates and formats should work well.

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Controller FAQs

What’s the difference between a Bad Ass Controller and an Arduino?

Great question! While both can be used to build your escape room technology, we designed the Bad Ass Controller to solve several key problems we frequently encountered when using Arduino-based controllers.

At the core, both are surprisingly similar devices – both the Arduino and the Bad Ass Controller are based on industry-standard Atmel microcontrollers.

Arduino microcontrollers are generic control devices designed to be used in a wide variety of DIY projects. They operate at a low voltage – typically 3.3V or 5V – and have pin connectors designed for temporary breadboard assembly of circuits. While they offer a great deal of flexibility, the responsibility is on you as the user to design circuits to integrate them with other devices you want to control and to write software implementing your game logic using C++ or a similar programming language.

The Bad Ass Controller builds on this foundation. We designed it to be a turnkey approach, and the BAC improves on the Arduino for escape room use in several ways:

  • The BAC can be configured to run most common escape room game scenarios right out of the box, no programming required. Our easy-to-use configuration tool, Bad Ass Manager, makes configuring game behavior an easy point-and-click operation.
  • The BAC comes with a built-in Ethernet port and integrated support for common escape room software platforms, allowing custom game logic and easy integration with other sound/lighting/gameplay elements. Adding network support to an Arduino requires extra costly hardware and time-consuming software development.
  • The BAC uses industrial screwdown connectors that ensure a safe, secure connection. Loose or poorly soldered wiring is one of the top causes of unreliable escape room props.
  • The BAC uses higher voltages (12V or 24V DC), which better withstand long wiring runs. 3.3V or 5V signals like those generated by an Arduino are not intended to travel more than a few inches from the circuit board and are unsuitable for long in-wall wires.
  • BAC inputs and outputs have extensive protection against electrical faults, protecting your controller in case of wiring mistakes or transient electrical noise. Most Arduino boards have no protection and the controller can be easily damaged by electrical noise.
  • The BAC includes high-current driver circuitry and multiple relay suitable for controlling magnetic locks, which are commonly used in escape rooms. Arduino boards require additional modules and custom wiring to control locks.

We love the Arduino platform, and in fact many elements of the BAC are inspired by its foundation. (In fact, the BAC can actually be used as a fancy Arduino for complex projects, so please reach out to us if you’re interested in that option!)

But our years of experience building escape rooms have taught us there are many challenges encountered when using Arduino devices as the core of an escape room, and we’re proud to have solved many of them with the BAC.

While the upfront investment may be a bit more expensive, we’re confident the time you save by using our products will pay for itself many times over by helping you get up and running faster and by keeping your games reliable over the lifetime of your experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions RFID FAQs

Can my sensor or RFID sensor be fully enclosed?

In almost all cases, they can be fully enclosed. All electronics, when they are on, generate heat. However, the power these devices draw is very minimal and there is not any concern enclosing them as long as they are not located next to another heat source.

When in doubt, please contact us and we’ll be happy to offer safety advice specific to your situation.

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Frequently Asked Questions Magnet Sensor FAQs

How do I select a magnet to use with my FX51 Magnet Sensor?

Tips and Tricks:

1. Magnetic field is not linear

Its works more like a flashlight against a wall. The closer you get, the brighter, but at a faster rate than the distance [inverse square relationship]. What this means is that as a magnet gets closer to the sensor, the magnet field gets much larger than the distance. Here is a quick table of our 1/2″ cylindrical magnet.

Distance between sensor and magnet (closest surface)Magnet Field
1.25″68 Gauss
1.00″93 Gauss
0.75″231 Gauss
0.50″549 Gauss
0.25″1751 Gauss

We have this all outlined in a Google Doc for you. Or if you want to experiment more, K and J have a nice calculator.

2. Don’t get them too close or too far away from the sensor

Based on the above information, we can see that the sensing distance is important. Think of the magnet as the signal to the board. You don’t want a weak signal (like under 50 Gauss) and you don’t want to overpower it (1000 Gauss is the sensor limit).

3. Use the appropriate magnet size

This brings us to the last bit. If you are not happy with the range a particular magnet gets you, use a different magnet! A smaller magnet of the same type (there are different types, so please consider what kind you are using) will be weaker up close. If you need more range, get a larger magnet and move it away further.

The newest versions of the FX51D have a built in feedback mechanism to show you when you are too weak or over powering it.

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Controller FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal network setup for my controller?

The Bad Ass Controller is a standard Ethernet-enabled device, just like other home networking products you might be used to. To keep it connected and running smoothly, we recommend:

Physical Connection

Connect your controller via a high quality (CAT5e or better) cable directly to your router or switch only.

Connecting it directly to your computer requires complex setup steps and is not recommended or supported. If you want to try anyway, we’ve documented one approach here: How do I set up a BAC if I can’t plug it into my router?

Protocol Configuration

The Bad Ass Controller acquires its network address (“IP Address”) directly from a special service called a DHCP server built into your router. In most cases, this is automatic and you do not need to take special action for it to work.

While Bad Ass Manager can detect when your controller changes IP address, we still recommend using your router’s “Static” or “Fixed” reservations feature to assign it a consistent address that never changes. This setting can usually be found in the “Advanced”, “LAN” or “DHCP” section of your router’s configuration page.

Firewall issues

To ensure your computer can talk to your Bad Ass Controller, some additional configuration steps may be needed. Most computers come standard with a ‘firewall’ that blocks communication on your local network – great for security, but bad for connecting to a controller!

For Windows users, be sure your network connection type is not Public. Setting to Private or Domain is the recommended setting. Windows networks marked as Public with extra security which hinders controller communications. If you do need to have your network type Public, then contact us for how to configure your firewall – we’re happy to help.

Typically, selecting the correct network setting will get everything working – but if you’re a firewall configuration wizard, the short answer is that you need to add a inbound firewall rule allowing UDP traffic to the BadASSManager server application.

Security

As is typical for industrial automation, the Bad Ass Controller is designed to be used on a trusted local network and does not have required authentication. This means anyone who has access to your network can use Bad Ass Manager to control your games.

If you provide Wi-Fi access to your guests, we strongly recommend that you use your router’s guest network feature to create a separate Wi-Fi network that only allows access to the Internet, blocking access to other local devices.

You should also ensure devices on your local network are inaccessible to inbound traffic from the Internet. In nearly all cases, this will happen automatically if you are using a standard router.

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Controller FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

When should I upgrade the software for my controller?

The Bad Ass Controller can upgrade its internal software (known as firmware) over the Internet (with bootloader versions 1.2 and greater). To upgrade, simply go to the system screen in Bad Ass Manager and click the firmware update button. New firmware will automatically be downloaded and installed, which may include bug fixes and new games or capabilities. 

But should you upgrade your controller at all?

While we make every effort to improve our products with each upgrade, new versions of software may cause subtle changes to how your escape room operates. We recommend only upgrading your firmware when necessary, and doing so during a time when you have enough time to resolve any issues that may arise before your next booking.

After a firmware upgrade:

  • A game you are using may need to be reconfigured.
  • New features may not carry over from previous configurations..
  • A game may work differently or have other nuances that are unexpected.

If you need an update, we recommend:

  • If your budget permits, keep a spare controller on hand to test any new upgrade with. After you have validated your new gameplay with the spare controller, update your live game.
  • Do not upgrade controllers in live games without a backup.
  • Update during slow times, like Monday morning. This will give you time to address unforeseen issues.
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Controller FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

How do I factory reset my controller?

Sometimes, a factory reset of a Bad Ass Controller is necessary. Perhaps you are repurposing it for a new room, or maybe you want to start fresh as a troubleshooting step.

The reset procedure uses the buttons visible inside the recessed holes on the faceplate of the controller. They are accessible by pushing a long, non-conductive object through the holes to press the button underneath.

To reset the Bad Ass Controller:

  • Press and release the reset button.
  • Press and hold the IN-0 button. The status light will start flashing.
  • When the status light stops flashing, release IN-0.
  • Press and release IN-0 twice within 2 seconds.
  • The status light will go solid once the memory is reset. Your controller is now reset!
Video Demonstration