Serial Spaceball and Spacenavd

I finally got my hands on a serial spaceball device. Apparently non-USB devices are literally given away on ebay for ridiculously small amounts of money, so I managed to get this wonderful Spaceball 4000 FLX for 12 pounds a couple of days ago!


I wanted a serial spaceball for two reasons: first of all I meant to add support for serial devices to spacenavd for a long time now. In fact John Stone was kind enough to send me his code to interface with serial spaceballs a long time ago, but not having such a device myself, for testing, I wasn’t very keen to hack at it blindly. Also, I wanted to be able to use a 6dof input device with my SGI Octane2, which doesn’t have any USB ports.

So finally, as soon as I got my hands on the serial spaceball, I went on and added serial support to spacenavd. I haven’t released a new version of spacenavd yet, because I want to iron out some details first, but you can always get the new serial-capable spacenavd through subversion if you need it.

6 Responses to “Serial Spaceball and Spacenavd”

  1. Raoul Duke Says:

    cool! do tell more — how close are you to making a public release? i have several old spaceballs, and several machines of various religions dying to use them (irix, hpux, winxp, linux, yadda yadda yadda). :-)

    and i have to be sad because i bought my spaceball 4000 back when they were like $400 on ebay. :-(

    • Nuclear Says:

      I have released spacenavd 0.5 which comes with serial device support about a month ago. Go ahead and try it out :)

      At the moment I’m only supporting linux, but that’s just because I haven’t taken the time to make the USB code work on other UNIX systems. The serial code should work fine on other platforms as is; so I guess it wouldn’t be to hard to cook up a version of spacenavd that supports serial devices on IRIX, FreeBSD, etc…

  2. Raoul Duke Says:

    ‘nother question: is there an easy way to use the linux driver to then support the spaceball in a hosted virtual windows os? a way around the problem that serial spaceballs aren’t supported in windows so much any more, perhaps?

    • Nuclear Says:

      I can’t see how that would be possible. The only thing you could do is start with spacenav-win32 (I have nothing to do with that port so I can’t help there) and hack it to try and add serial support, maybe consulting the relevant spacenavd source or libsball in order to figure out how to parse the serial protocol packets.

      If you do add serial support to spacenav-win32 make sure to send your patch to the maintainer for inclusion.

      • Raoul Duke Says:

        i was probably totally unclear, or my idea is just insane :-) i was more wondering if magically having linux already know all about and supporting 6dof serial devices would automagically show up in a hosted win on top of linux. like keyboard and mouse are supported up through the virtualization layer.

        i assume the answer is no way, there would have to be work done in the virtualization software to make it support and ‘thread’ through the 6dof device, but i figured it was worth double-checking :-)

  3. Raoul Duke Says:

    in case you (or others reading here) haven’t seen it yet:

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