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Mission Statement 

The purpose of FLAPS-2-APPROACH is two-fold:  To document the construction of a Boeing 737 flight simulator, and to act as a platform to share aviation-related articles pertaining to the Boeing 737; thereby, providing a source of inspiration and reference to like-minded individuals.

I am not a professional journalist.  Writing for a cross section of readers from differing cultures and languages with varying degrees of technical ability, can at times be challenging. I hope there are not too many spelling and grammatical mistakes.


Note:   I have NO affiliation with ANY manufacturer or reseller.  All reviews and content are 'frank and fearless' - I tell it as I see it.  Do not complain if you do not like what you read.

I use the words 'modules & panels' and 'CDU & FMC' interchangeably.  The definition of the acronym 'OEM' is Original Equipment Manufacturer (aka real aicraft part).


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If you see any errors or omissions, please contact me to correct the information. 

Journal Archive (Newest First)

Entries in FDS (9)


B737 NG Display Unit Bezels By Fly Engravity 

I recently upgraded the display unit bezels (frames) on the Main Instrument Panel (MIP).  

LEFT:  The bezels that have replaced the acrylic bezels made by FDS. The landing gear, clock annunciators (korrys) and brake pressure gauge are OEM parts converted for flight simulator use - First Officer side (click to enlarge).

The previous bezels, manufactured by Flight Deck Solutions (FDS), lacked the detail I was wanting.  Increasingly, I found myself being fixated by glaringly incorrect hallmarks that did not conform to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) – in particular, the use of incorrectly positioned attachment screws, the lack of a well-defined hinge mechanism, and the use of acrylic rather than aluminum.

Although it is not necessary to have replicated items that conform to a real part, it does add to the immersion level, especially if you are using predominately OEM parts.  The MIP in my case is pruelly a skeleton on which to 'hang' the various real aircraft parts that have been converted for flight simulator use. 

This is not a review, but more a reason to why sometimes there is a need to change from one product to another.

OEM Display Units

The OEM display units used in the Boeing Next Generation airframes comprise a large rectangular box that houses the necessary avionics and glass screen for the display.   

LEFT:  The OEM display is a solid unit that incorporates the avionics, display and bezel in the one unit.  This unit has the protective plastic attached to the screen.

The display unit is mounted by sliding the box into the MIP along two purpose-built sliding rails.  The unit is then locked into the MIP by closing the hinge lever and tightening the thumb screw on the lower right hand side of the bezel.  The hinge mechanism is unique to the OEM unit in that once the thumb screw is loosened; one side of the lower display adjacent to the hinge becomes a lever in which to pull the unit free of its locking points in the MIP.

The units are usually manufactured by Honeywell.

The display unit is one piece which incorporates the bezel as part of the assembly; therefore, it is not possible to obtain just the bezel – this is why a reproduction is necessary.

Reproduction Bezels

Reproduction bezels are manufactured by several companies – Open Cockpits, SimWorld, Fly Engravity and Flight Deck Solutions to name a few.  As with all replica parts, each company makes their products to differing levels of accuracy, detail and quality.

I looked at several companies and the closest to the  OEM item appeared to be the bezels manufactured by Fly Engravity and CP Flight (CP Flight are a reseller of Fly Gravity products).  

The main reasons for changing-out the FDS bezels were as follows:

  • FDS bezels have two Philips head screws in the upper left and right hand side of the bezel.  These are used to attach the bezel to the MIP.  The real bezel does not have these screws.
  • FDS bezels are made from acrylic.  The bezels in the real B737, although part of a larger unit, are made from aluminum.  Fly Engravity make their bezels from aluminum which are professionally painted with the correct Boeing grey.  
  • FDS have not replicated the hinge in the lower section of the bezel.  Rather, they have lightly engraved into the acrylic a facsimile of the hinge .   Fly Engravity fabricate a hinge mechanism, and although it does not function (there is absolutely no need for it to function) it replicates the appearance of the real hinge.
  • FDS use 1mm thick clear Perspex whereby the real aircraft uses smoke grey-tinted glass.  Fly Engravity bezels use 3 mm smoke grey-tinted Perspex.
  • The Perspex used by FDS is very thin and is attached to the inside of the bezel by double-side tape.  The thinness of the material means that when cleaning the display it is quite easy to push the material inwards which in turn breaks the sticky seal between the Perspex and the inside of the bezel.  Fly Engravity use thicker Perspex that is attached to the inside of the bezel by four screws.  It is very solid and will not come loose.

Table 1 provides a quick reference to the assailant points.


Attaching the Bezels to the FDS MIP

The FDS and Fly Engravity bezels are identical in size; therefore, there is not an issue with the alignment of the bezels with MIP – they fit perfectly.

LEFT:  Detail showing the hinge mechanism in the Fly Engravity bezel.  Although the hinge is non-functional, the detail and depth of the cut in the aluminium frame provides the illusion of a functioning hinge mechanism (cilck to enlarge).

Attaching the Fly Engravity bezels to the FDS MIP is not difficult.  The Fly Engravity bezels are secured to the MIP using the same holes in the MIP that were used to secure the FDS bezels. However, the screws used by Fly Engravity are a larger diameter; therefore, you will have to enlarge the holes in the MIP.  


For the most part the holes align correctly, although with my set-up I had to drill two new holes in the MIP.

LEFT: Detail of the hinge thumb knob on the Fly Engravity bezel.  Although the internal screw is missing from the knob, the cross-hatched pattern on the knob compensates.  The knob is screwed directly into the aluminium frame and can be loosened or tightened as desired.  The circular device is a facsimile of the ambient light sensor (click to enlarge).

The Fly Engravity bezels, unlike the FDS bezels, are secured from the rear of the bezel via the backside of the MIP.  The bezel and Perspex have precut and threaded holes for easy installation of the thumb screws.

LEFT:  Cross section of the Fly Engravity bezel showing the detail of the Perspex and attachment screw (click to enlarge).

Upgrade Benefits - Advantages and Disadvantages

It depends – if you are wishing to replicate the real B737 MIP as much as possible, then the benefits of upgrading to a Fly Engravity bezel are obvious.  However, the downside is that the aluminum bezels, in comparison to acrylic-made bezels are not inexpensive.

The smoke grey-tinted Perspex has definite advantages in that the computer monitor screens that simulate the PFD, ND and EICAS appear a lot sharper and easier to see.  But a disadvantage is that the computer monitors colour calibration alters a tad when using the tinted Perplex.  This is easily rectified by calibrating your monitors to the correct colour gamut.  I was concerned about glare and reflections, however, there is no more using the tinted Perspex than there is using the clear Perspex.

The Fly Engravity bezels have one minor inaccuracy in that the small screw located in the middle of the hinge thumb knob is not simulated.  This is a small oversight, which can be remedied by having a screw fitted to the knob.


A possible improvement to the Fly Engravity bezels could be to use flat-headed screws, or to design a recessed head area into the rear of the Perspex (see above photograph which shows the height of the screw-head).  A recessed area would allow the screw head to sit flush enabling the monitor screen to be flush with the rear of the Perspex. 

The inability of the monitor screen to sit flush with the Perspex does not present a problem, but it is good engineering for items to fit correctly.

Final Call

Although the bezels made by FDS do not replicate the OEM item, they are still of good quality and are functional.  However, if you are seeking authenticity and prefer an aluminum bezel then those produced by Fly Engravity are superior.

Endorsement and Transparency

I have not been paid by Fly Engravity or any other reseller to write this post.  The review is not endorsed and I paid full price for the products discussed.


EICAS – Engine Indicator Crew Alert system.
MIP – Main Instrument Panel.
ND – Navigation Display.
OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer (aka real aircraft part).
Perspex - Poly(methyl methacrylate), also known as acrylic or acrylic glass as well as by the trade names Plexiglas, Acrylite, Lucite, and Perspex among several others.
PFD – Primary Flight Display. 


Primary Flight Display (PFD) - Differences Between Sim Avionics and ProSim737 Avionics Suites

As I work on a slightly more technical post, I thought I would post some images of the Primary Flight Display (PFD) belonging to two of the most popular avionics suites - ProSim737 and Sim Avionics.  I am not going to compare avionics suites in this post as both have their pros and cons and specific features.  What is important, is that the reliability and graphic output of either suite is second to none and exceeds that of many competing avionics suites.

Sim Avionics is owned by Flight Deck Solutions (FDS) in Canada and simulates both the B737 NG and the B777.  ProSim737, developed in the Netherlands, is dedicated solely to the B737 NG.

In the interests of disclosure, I own both suites, however, use ProSim737. 

A post located on the ProSim737 forum discusses the various PFD differences.  The post can be read here: 'Comparing the ProSim PFD' (thanks Jacob for sending this to me).

BELOW:  First image is a screengrab of the PFD from ProSim737.  Second image is a screengrab from Sim Avionics, while the third image is a photograph of a real B737-800 PFD.




Replacement Sidewalls for FDS MIP

I have mentioned in my earlier post discussing the Main Instrument Panel (MIP) from Flight Deck Solutions, that the unit was a little wobbly due to the thin metal used on the side-walls.  Whilst this is not a huge problem and certainly not an issue when the MIP is "locked" into a shell, it does pose a minor issue when used without a shell.   Therefore, I decided to fabricate some replacement side stands for the MIP from 3mm aluminium sheet.

AutoCad was used to copy the dimensions of the original FDS sidewalls, and a lazer cutter cut the aluminium sheeting to the exact measurement.  Using a standard pipe bender, I bent the sides out at 45 degrees to allow slightly larger spacing for the rudder pedals.  I also increased the surface area of the metal which is used to attach the MIP to the platform, this ensures a more stable and secure attachment point for the MIP.  To replicate the MIP side-walls exactly, I TIG welded the narrow section that folds behind the stand.

Currently the aluminum is unpainted.  At some stage in the near future I'll either have the two units powder-coated in Boeing grey to match the colour of the MIP, or more than likely I'll prime and paint them myself.

The MIP is now very stable and does not wobble at all.


Digital Chronograph Running ProSim737 Software

The Main Instrument Panel (MIP), unless a special order is made, usually will not include a chronograph.  Depending upon the MIP manufacturer, the MIP may have a cut out for the chronograph, a facsimile of a chronograph or just a bezel. 

The Next Generation aircraft use digital and mechanical chronographs.  However, for the most part all late model Next Generation airframes use digital chronographs.  The classic series airframes usually use (unless retrofitted) mechanical chronographs.

After Market Chronographs

There are several after-market chronographs that can be purchased.  SISMO Solicones produce a mechanical type that replicates the real world counterpart quite well, despite the awful orange-coloured backlighting.  Flight Illusion produces a quality instrument as does Flight Deck Solutions (FDS).  FDS replicate the digital chronograph. 

No matter which type you decide, be prepared to shell out 250 plus Euro per chronograph; for an item rarely used it's quite a financial outlay.

Whilst converting a genuine B737 mechanical chronometer is a valid option, finding one is difficult, as airlines frequently keep chronographs in service for as long as possible.  Converting a digital chronograph is an option, however, the initial price of the item and then conversion make this an expensive excercise.

Another option is to use a virtual chronometer (as included with Sim Avionics and ProSim737).

ProSim737 Virtual Chronograph

ProSim737 as part of their avionics suite have available a virtual chronometer.

LEFT:  Screen capture of ProSim737 chronograph.  ProSim737 have a Chronograph that can be used for the Captain and First Officer side of the MIP.

The display is very crisp, the size is accurate (1:1 ratio), and the software allows complete functionality of the chronograph. 

To use the virtual version a small computer screen is needed on which is displayed the virtual chronograph.


A friend of mine indicated that he wanted to make a chronograph for the simulator and use the virtual ProSim737 display.  He also wanted to incorporate the four setting buttons and have them fully functional. 

The components needed to complete the project are:

(i)    A small TFT LCD screen (purchased from e-bay);

(ii)    A standard Pokey interface card;

(iii)   Several LEDS; and,

(iv)   Four minature tactile switches and electrical wire. 

The screen used was 5.0" TFT LCD Module with a Dual AV / VGA Board 800x480 with a 40 Pin LED Backlight. 

The screen was small enough that it just covered the circular hole of the cut out in the FDS MIP.  The TFT LCD screen uses a standard VGA connector cable, 12 Volt power supply and a USB cable to connect the POKEY card to the computer.  

Two-part Fabrication

FDS supply with their MIP a bezel with four solid plastic and non-functional buttons.  The bezel does not support direct backlighting, nor does it have enough space for tactile switches or wiring. 

LEFT: The holes in the box provide ventilation for the Pokeys card.  The only portion of the box that is visible from the front of the MIP is the bezel and four buttons.

Therefore, the bezel must be modified to accommodate the wiring for the switches and LED illuminated backlighting. The easiest way to approach this modification is to use a Dremel rotary tool with a 9902 Tungsten Carbide Cutter.

Place the bezel on a hard surface using a towel to avoid scratching and damaging the bezel.  Then, with 'surgical' accuracy and steady hands carve out several channels (groves) at the rear of the bezel.  The channels enable placement of the miniature tactile switches, small LEDS and wiring. 

Space is at a premium, and to gain addition real estate, the LEDS were shaved to remove excess material.  This enabled the LEDS to fit into the excavated groove on the bezel.  Be very careful when using the carbide cutter to not punch out onto the other side of the bezel. 

The four solid plastic front buttons on the bezel were carefully removed.  each button was attached to the front of a miniature tactile switch, and using common ground leads, connected with the Pokey card.  26/28 AWG wire was used to connect the switches to the interface card.

Box Fabrication

A small box needs to be fabricated to house the Pokey card.  The size of the box is controlled by the size of interface card used and the length and width of the LCD screen. 

LEFT:  The box is not seen as it's attached to the rear of the MIP.  My friend's humour - several warning signs suggesting that I not tamper with his creation :)

The material used to fabricate the box is plastic signage card (corflex); real estate agencies often use this type of sign.  The main advantage of this material is that it’s not difficult to find and it's easy to cut, bend, and glue together with a glue gun.    

After the Pokey card is installed to the inside of the box, and the LCD screen attached to the front edge, the bezel needs to be secured to the front of the LCD screen.  The best method to attach the screen and bezel is to use either glue or tape. 

A hole will need to be made in the rear of the box to enable the fitment of the USB and VGA connectors.    Small holes punched into the side of the container ensure the LCD screen and Pokey card do not overheat.  To conform to standard colours, the box is painted in Boeing grey.

LED Backlighting

Careful examination of the backlighting will show that the light coverage is not quite 100%.  There are two reasons as for this.

(i)    There is limited space behind the bezel to accommodate the wiring and the LEDS; and,

(ii)   The material that FDS has used to construct the bezel is opaque.  The only way to alleviate this is to replace the stock bezel with another made from a transparent material.

Potential Problem

An issue can be the limited space to mount a a small LCD screen behind the MIP.  If you're forced to use a smaller screen, the outcome will be that you may see the screen edges within the bezel.  For the most part this is not an issue, if you ensure the desktop display is set to black.  Remember, you are looking at the chronograph from a set distance (from the pilot seat) and not close up.

ProSim737 Virtual Chronograph (position and set-up)

This task is straightforward and follows the same method used to install and position the PFD, ND and EICAS displays.  

Open ProSim737’s avionics suite and select the virtual chronograph from the static gauges:  resize and position the display to ensure the chronograph conforms to the size of the bezel.  To configure the buttons on the bezel, so that ProSim737 recognizes them with the correct function, open the ProSim737 configuration screen and configure the appropriate buttons from the switches menu (config/switches).

The four functions the buttons are responsible for are:

(i)    Chronograph start;

(ii)    Set time and date;

(iii)   Expired Time (ET) and Reset; and,

(iv)   +-

NOTE:  The above functions differ slightly between the panel and the virtual chronograph in use.

Chronograph Operation and Additional Configuration

The chronograph can be initiated (started) by either depressing the CHR button on the top left of the clock, or by depressing the CLOCK button located on the glarewing of the MIP. 

LEFT:  Captain-side CLOCK start button (FDS MIP).


Connecting the CLOCK button to the chronograph start (CHR) function is straightforward.

Connect the two wires from the Captain-side clock button to the appropriate interface card and configure in the switches tab of ProSim737 (config/switches/CAPT CHR).

The same should be done with the First Officer side CLOCK button and chronograph, however, ensure you select the FO CHR function in switches to be done for the First Officer side chronometer if fitted.

If configured correctly, one press of the CLOCK button will start the chronograph, a second press will stop the chronograph, and a third press will reset the chronometer to zero.


Here is a short video (filmed at night) showing the new chronograph running the virtual ProSim737 software.



NAV 1/2 & M-Comm Radios by Flight Deck Solutions - Review

This short review is for the NAV 1/2 Radio modules and M-COMM communication module produced by Flight Deck Solutions. 

As both modules are similar in construction, I will discuss them together.

The NAV module is a stand-alone USB driven Radio Management Panel. This single channel radio unit is designed to handle NAV frequency selection and management.

The M-COMM, a Multi-Channel Communications Radio is a highly detailed replica of the late model communications radio that incorporates COM 1 and COM 2 within the same module, thereby giving greater application to the crew.  For simulation purposes the M-COM is an advantage for those who only wish to purchase one module rather two seperate COM1 and COM 2 modules.

Construction and Appearance

The modules are constructed using the same technique that FDS construct their Main Instrument Panel.  Each upper panel is made from CNC machined acrylic which produces a very crisp finish and allows any lettering cut-outs to be very well defined.  The modules incorporate dual concentric rotary encoders with stainless stems.

High Quality

The knobs and switches, which are custom machine injected, are true to life and are tactile in feel.  As you click through the frequencies the movement is stable and well defined.  There is no catching as the knobs are turned.  The push keys on the units are plastic molded, back-lit and work flawlessly; they do not stick in the down position when depressed, and click back into position when pressure is released.  The frequency displays are 7 segment digits and are very easy to read.  Digit colours are in amber yellow for the NAV units and warm white for the M-COMM unit. 

The upper panel of the module is attached to the electronic circuitry within the lower section by a metal backing plate; this increases the strength of the unit and assists in the dissipation of heat.  An electronics friend had a look at the modules are seemed impressed with quality of the electronics board.  What this amounts to is a well presented piece of avionics that accurately replicates a real B737 module 1:1 in size.

No Interface Card Needed

The modules do not require control boards or interface cards - they are stand-alone USB devices.  The decision to incorporate all functionality within the modules minimizes the wiring required and the problem in finding space to attach a system board.  This is a very important point that needs to be reemphasized, as finding places for various system and I/O cards can be very challenging within the confines of a flight deck.  FDS’s decision to incorporate most of the electronic components into the actual module, by layering boards within and under the module, is to be commended and seen as a positive step forward in flight deck building.


ABOVE: You can observe the very cleanly constructed dual layer (triple?) electronics board and push clip which connects 5 Volt power for IBL.  Note that the electronics board is not flush to the edge of the module; thereby, allowing the module to drop easily onto DZUS rails (drop & fly).  Also note the inclusion of genuine DZUS fasteners.

Boeing Grey

All FDS B737 series modules and panels are professionally painted in Boeing grey.  Rather than one coat of paint which can easily be chipped, FDS utilises several thin coats to increase the durability of the unit’s finish.  Although this last comment may appear token, the quality of paint is important.  The modules will be used for many years and during the course of operation, you will be placing pens, clipboards, charts, coffee cups, etc on the center pedestal and the modules.  Further, as the units are flat, dust will accumulate requiring dusting and cleaning.  Low quality paint will scratch, fade and wear thin with time.

DZUS Compliant

If you are utilising real aircraft parts in your simulator, in particular a center pedestal, then any module that is DZUS compliant is advantageous as it allows for the module to be dropped directly onto the DZUS rails and secured by the DZUS fasteners.  All modules produced by Flight Deck Solutions can be secured using DZUS fasteners.

Integrated Back-Lighting (IBL)

IBL (proprietary design) is supplied with all FDS modules.  Real aircraft bulbs are used to illuminate the panels and modules.  One of the main advantages of IBL is the “throw of light” produced from a bulb in contrast to that of a LED.  The area of coverage from bulbs is relatively even; where as the light spread from an LED is minimal– almost pinpoint.  This is because LEDS are a very precise light source.  The only way to achieve a similar light coverage to bulbs is to use several LEDS mounted in close proximity to each other.  One area where the use of bulbs verses LEDS is obvious is the back-lit lettering; bulbs allow all the lettering to be evenly lit.

Other manufacturers of avionics modules use LED lights which do not replicate the same colour temperature or appearance of real aircraft lighting. 

The IBL is superb.  The only downside of IBL (if there is one), and this really doesn’t deserve mention, is that the bulbs generate quite a bit of heat.  The life of a bulb is also less than a LED. FDS claim their bulbs have a life span identical to that of real aircraft bulbs which is ~40,000 hours.

To view a good video of how FDS install IBL into the modules, check out the FDS IBL video here.

Set-up of Modules & Software

The modules require software which can be downloaded from the FDS website.

The software is very easy to use and installation self explanatory.  Configuration of the modules is done via the software and involves indicating which NAV module is operated by which pilot (Captain or first Officer).  The M-COMM module uses the same software and you check the option for this module during set-up.

LEFT: FDS IBL Panel Power Distribution Unit - the size of a credit card.  red wire connects to 12 Volts and coloured wires connect to 5 volts for IBL.

Once installed, a sub menu will be created in the FSX menu visible on the main screen.  This sub menu identifies the FDS modules you are using, facilitates module set-up (which radio handles what frequency) and allows a method to restart the module should a failure occur with the Tekworx software during flight.

Connection to the computer is via USB.  Back-lighting requires a 5 Volt power source and installation of a FDS IBL Panel Power Distribution Unit (FDS IBL DIST).  This small card is needed to share the power between the various modules.  It’s all pretty straightforward and involves connecting some prefabricated wires with clips to the rear of each module and to the card.  The card is then connected directly to the 5 Volt power supply.  I secured the card I have within the innards of the center pedestal.

Reliability and Performance – Software and Modules

Software - Instability Causing Module Disconnection (Drop-Outs)

The software that FDS uses (Tekworx) to operate the modules, for the most part, operates well. 

However, I do have issues with the software maintaining contact with the modules via USB.  For some reason, the software will drop out and the modules require re-starting.  I worked with Steve Cos in an attempt to solve this issue, and despite not discovering the reason for the drop outs, a new release of the software (V 1.9.9) appears to have partially rectified the issue. The issue still does occur, but not as frequently.

If the radios do drop out, it’s easy (but annoying) to re-open them by "mousing" over the FSX menu and selecting the FDS radio and multi-radio sub menus.  This will re-start the radio software.

Steve Cos has worked tirelessly with me over a period of 12 months to solve this issue, however, a solution to the drop outs and disconnection of the software has not yet been found.  I doubt that the problem is being caused my particular computer set-up and specifications, as I've installed the modules on another computer running different specifications and the same issue occurs.  It maybe a Sim Connect issue or a an issue with Tekworx software (?)

If the problem is not rectified by the time the simulator is completed, I will replace the FDS modules and move to another vendor to supply the various radios for the center pedestal.  Instability (no matter what the cause) is an annoyance and becomes intolerable after a considerable period.  It's a pity that the software that FDS uses to control the modules "appears" to be unstable (at least with my system) as their product range is beyond reproach when it comes to quality.


I've used modules in the past that when altering the frequency there is a very slight time lag for the frequency digits to catch up with the turning rotary. This time lag may well be system dependent and/or a response to the limitations of USB.  This delay is not evident with the FDS modules.

As mentioned earlier, the frequency digits are super sharp, well lit, and the knobs and switches very well made and tactile.

Comparing the modules I've used over several years (open cockpits, CP Flight, SISMO Solicones and Go Flight), those produced by FDS are probably the best on the market - second to the real thing.


Support from FDS is either directly via e-mail or by a dedicated forum.  The support provided by FDS is outstanding and all e-mails are answered in a timely manner.

Quick List – Pros & Cons


  • Well designed & constructed
  • Excellent workmanship
  • Superior product in many ways
  • Realistic Integrated Back-Lighting (IBL)
  • Realistic quality machine-injected switches & rotaries
  • 1:1 to the real B737 series aircraft
  • Very high attention to detail
  • DZUS compliant (drop & fly)
  • Easy to use and set-up software
  • M-COMM radio ideal if space is limited in pedestal


  • Expensive price (subjective)
  • Tekworx software (V 1.8.8. & V 1.9.9) causing module disconnection (drop-outs)

Overall Opinion

I am very impressed with these modules.  They are solid, well constructed and the attention to detail is as you would expect from Flight Deck Solutions.  The quality of the modules is very high and suits the high end enthusiast to professional market.  I's a pity that the software FDS use lowers their reliability (at least on my system)

My rating for the software is 5/10  (V1.8.8. & V 1.9.9)

My rating for the modules is 10/10

Please note that this review is my opinion only and is not endorsed.