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Graeme Wright

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About Graeme Wright

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    Flight Student - Groundwork
  1. Boy I remember the days when you were considered crazy not to have an ISA or PCI based expansion sound card, particularly a sound blaster based chipset one. A bit like having anything but a 3D Voodoo card when they came out. I've been using a Xonar D2X for quite a while now, after breaking away from Creative due to their ongoing issues with the Vista and then Win 7 platform, and have been extremely happy with it. It's a native PCI-E card and pulls its power direct from the PSU just as most PCI-E video cards do. It certainly suffers none of the popping you traditionally got from the creative cards under Vista and Win 7, and the only real problems I've experienced is when I forget to disable the GX mode after playing an odd game such as Diablo II and a more modern game might get a little out of sorts (Asus's GX mode allows you to replicate the basis of EAX effects within many of those older games designed for the Audigy and X-Fi cards, though these days they are few and far between). I've certainly never ever heard any noticeable earthing style noise you could get at times from the older generation of PCI cards either. The biggest kicker for me, and one of the largest determining factors for purchasing the card, was that the card comes completely licensed with both the Dolby Digital Live and DTS Interactive live encoding drivers. Which means that I don't need to mess around with a multitude of cables running off to each speaker in a multi speaker system direct from the sound card, I can instead feed the output via coax or optical straight into my receiver (with up to 7.1 reproduction) and the receiver then does the channel decoding, which results in far superior reproduction and also LFE reproduction where it should be (I tested it out for curiosity when I first got it). The process doesn't cost any noticeable resources or invoke any delay at all either, and it takes what ever is going, it's not single application dependant, I can run a game and play music at the same time, and it sends it all through. The sound card of course has the software based enhancements for specifying things such as your speaker distances around the room, so that you can counter the positional sound delay of the various speakers. However just feeding off to the receiver means you can let it do this itself as well, so if you've calibrated it all yourself, or used the auto calibration feature of modern systems, it will look after all that for you and help you offload that small amount of processing from your computer so it can be put to better use on other things like games. You can of course also feed straight out via S/PDIF if your software already sends native Dolby or DTS audio, though there's not too many games that do this yet, mainly just media players and audio apps. The only thing I normally get the drivers to do is fill out stereo or pro-logic sources into the surround channels (which it does a pretty good job of), so that when I'm doing things like listening to music you get a room full of music instead of just your normal front left and right channels. The other upside which many will report for FSX, is that if you enable your onboard sound (and it has no issues with drivers etc), you should be able to use your dedicated expansion card to reproduce your environmental sound from FSX, and then route your ATC to a set of headphones or differing set of speakers via the onboard card. Since many motherboards come with sound whether you like it or not, it's a little bonus if you wish to make use of it. Given how much many other PC components cost, if you're budgeting out a new gaming or media workstation, it can be a worth while investment to just tack on that bit of extra cost to get yourself a dedicated sound card while you're at it. Just be sure to math out your expansion slots on the motherboard, and also the spacing of them, since not all motherboards will happily accomodate a modern PCI-E video card hard up against something like a PCI-E sound card, and you also don't want to go stacking too many heat generating components too close to each other and restricting airflow if you can help it.
  2. That will be a joy in itself, not having to remember to go back into the fsx.cfg file and reset the max texture limit to 4096 every time you change settings in the program and forget to reset it when FSX rolls it back to 1024. bionicCrab is obviously the expert here as far as Prepar3d goes, I'm just dipping toes in the water until I can get more time. But as he pointed out REX does use 2048 and 4096 textures in FSX, and ORBX also do as part of their scenery too or at least the aero tool for runway and taxiway textures etc. Though as bionicCrab also rightly pointed out in an earlier post, it'll probably be only a matter of time before FSX becomes the new FS9 in that regard, where limits eventually exceed capability, or the amount of work to back port it will exceed the value to be gained by developers (much like we've seen over the last year with some developers and their support of FS9). I'm not sure if this will be more accelerated within Prepar3d, given that it's an active project, where as FSX isn't. (Just think of the hurdles for those when SP2 and Acceleration came out, and those who did not have it.) From what I've been reading over time for Prear3d though (I get the opportunity to read the odd stuff between work ATM, just not enough or access to play unfortunately) LM have essentially pulled all the bottle necks on ESP as much as they can, a bit like getting a car and pulling the cat convertor, ABS circuits etc to get what you can from it as it stands, and now they've got it up on the hoist to do the serious work. Mind you the whole water thing is a pretty huge venture in itself which they've done already. Obviously a targeted market their for them there. Maybe we'll see the new generation of submariners training on Preapr3d. That's a hell of a lot less frightening than it was for me to hear the USN were looking at using MS Windows to drive central control systems on some subs and carriers. @Eric: I should get in an add some info to my profile as well shouldn't I. I always end up procrastinating about what to enter which won't be too cliche, and never get to adding anything at all. Edit: One thing I forgot to mention, was that ORBX and their current way of handling the use of FSX scenery in Prepar3d via their side by side licensing add-on will probably be a good barometer of when things get difficult to port between the two. From the looks of it they can directly reference most of what they have in FSX without an issue. Though I guess once we see the tool developing into a huge diff style patch which needs to append and copy hundreds of megs, there's something going on between the two which doesn't meld
  3. Thanks bionicCrab. I was pretty hopeful that Prepar3d might be the better way to look as far as starting into development again, rather than FSX (I won't be doing it for profit, just interest and education value, so it's not as if I need to appease a wider market or anything, just myself). The guys at Lockheed Martin do seem to be pretty open minded and also reasonably transparent in how they answer questions in the forums, not tending to try and pull the wool over peoples eyes. If they have no intention of changing something, or in all reality it'll be a long while before they look at doing it, then from what I've seen they seem to just tell everyone that straight up. Gives you a pretty honest idea about where things are heading anyway, and from my past experience teams that worked in that way seemed to nurture the best productivity in such a communal sense, as well as enjoyment for all as well. And as you say, there's good scope for working in newer technologies, which will definitely be the way to go as far as making the most use of new skills being acquired. Even though I may use FSX for my general flying for a while yet, I'd say I'll end up spending a fair bit of time in Prepar3d if I get back into trying development on scenery / airports etc. You just end up spending hours focusing on your own little patch of the world when you're creating, loading, changing, reloading things, and don't really care about any other nuances of the aircraft and wider scenery, only trying out what you've created to see if it's good enough, and finally having fun with it when (or if) it is finally good enough. So on that side of things alone I predict I'll probably spend many an hour in Prepar3d, hopefully quite enjoying myself. My thoughts were to try and just do some simple things like bush or rural strips around the area here, so it's more realistic in scope for me to start out on, and also a bit of a personal connection and enjoyment factor. I've just got to try and clear some of these longering commercial projects off the table and start getting some time back for myself to spend on such lost luxuries in life as enjoying hobbies
  4. Hehe, might it be a good candidate for an easter egg in their next Office product? Was it Office 95 that had the flight sim easter egg in it where you typed in a certain equation into a cell in Excel and it would open? Duke Nukem Forever has just come out this year, so it'd be a good nostalgic venture for MS to do something the same from that era too I will admit though that it scares the socks off me every time they announce a road map for a game or piece of software and it seems to be online centric. I get visions of having an America's Army style scenario where if I'm not online, all I can do is play the training level. It's my pleasure conversing with folk such as yourself too. I've been using flight sims since about 93 I think, but only really forcing myself now to spend more time to try and interact with a few more online regarding it. We've done the whole tree change thing, and I'm hoping to replace that 19 hour day caper with some time of my own to enjoy life, and maybe do a bit of development just for the fun of it (which was actually the first reason I started following Prepar3d back around April this year, figuring if it's new, it might be where the new skills need to be learnt). The last time I did development for fun though was for add-ons to ID Software's Quake (if you know what that is, you know how long ago that was). We actually do have a pretty good view out a few of the window here , including Kangaroos, Koalas, and hand tame Rosellas, but unfortunately it's not quite as close to any major aviation hubs, so this is my access for now to more regular flight fulfillment (as much as it can be anyway). Thankfully I do enjoy photography and outdoor adventure as well, and there's certainly a lot of space for it around here. We just need to keep an eye on the bush fires in summer. Mind you, the poor guys in the outer suburbs of Sydney and Canberra do now just as much too, so not necessarily much different there.
  5. Odds are pretty good I'll be chugging along on FSX for a while yet Mind you given that Lockheed Martin here were still using Windows NT4 boxes to drive their Satellite tracking station last time I stuck my head in the door, the old horses for courses obviously works on both sides of the fence To be honest I don't hold too much hope in MS Flight. I've worked with MS in other channels of development and administration far too long to be anything less than skeptical about how things tend to go over there in Redmond. But I'm always open to being pleasantly surprised, so MS please, do surprise me! However given the thousands of dollars I've invested thus far in software and hardware for my current FSX setup, and the level of realism I can now attain from many of the add-on products developed for FSX, I'll need to see Prepar3d get to a point where it's really capable of taking over all these aspects of wheather, aircraft, scenery etc, with no risk of LM pulling the rug out as well. Even if Prepar3d does perform somewhat better than FSX at the moment, the current level of hardware available now allows me to run my three monitor eyefinity setup with adequate enough frames for my satisfaction, and at the end of the day it's all about enjoyment and education for me. I'm not going to spend too much of the rare recreational time I do manage to get in a week doing anything which doesn't deliver me 100% satisfaction. So given that I can fire FSX up any time I like, fly some pretty darn realistic (Aerosoft, PMDG, A2A, Dodosim, VRX) aircraft along with wheater, IFR ATC, and real schedule traffic integration, all without any fuss, I'm going to be a bit of a sell out to that factor for a while to come I'd say. I'll tinker with things like Prepar3d and X-Plane as they progress, but just so I know where they're at and if they're at the stage of replacing my FSX set up. Still, it's worth $10 a month for me at the moment for tinkering and education value.
  6. I really think the potential Prepar3d has is undoubtably good. The main concern I do have for the longer term future of it completely replacing what we have at present with FSX (particularly those of us who really focus pretty seriously on realistic stuff in the league of PMDG, A2A, Dodosim) will be the stability and direction of the project as far as where Lockheed Martin sees it going. Ironically, the greatest success of add-ons for FSX has probably come most from the fact that although the engine is obviously not the most optimised, it's a rare product which the MS corporate monster decided the leave alone and not continually mess with. Thus it has meant that the code base has remained 100% frozen and stable (stable in development release terms) for a very long time and studios such as A2A, PMDG, Dodosim, and also recents such as Aerosoft's Huey X have made use of this to develop additional libraries and alternative layers of interface to construct a very technical layer of realistic behaviour and interaction within the underlying simulator. This has allowed for a lot more gamble to be made by these developers with little risk of loss, and far greater winnings for us, since the developers can know for sure that once they get it working and fix any bugs, they know it will remain that way. I really don't know how much of a challenge it would be for these guys to develop the same such products in a profitable sense if there's no gaurantee that Lockheed Martin will maintain a focused support of this sector of the market, and a fairly transparent long term development road map. For example Lockheed Martin would be well within their rights to completely re-write the turbo-prop modelling within the ESP framework to better meet their needs, which would also obviously be beneficial for us in the long run, however it's quite likely this would break a lot of these existing code layers used from FSX to add such full realism in the add-ons mentioned, and how much cost and time will this cost these developers to re-engineer their products so that they continue to work. It obviously wouldn't be a well received by customers for them to tell us to just continue using for example Prepar3d 1.3 for the next six months while they work on fixing it. So it really will land hard on them in this regard if not designed to support their market. That change is a fairly extreme example, however quite feasible within the items flagged as things which should be changed in FSX, but it seems that even small iterations at present are capable of causing enough issues as well. For example I'm pretty sure Pete Dowson has had to make a number of revisions to FSUIPC over the life of Prepar3d so far, in order to make it work with new iterations. Which doesn't seem like much, but it's all spanners in the works for development teams trying to focus on building new products if they have to yank staff from projects to work on bug fixes such as this. Again, it all comes back to what are Lockheed Martin's goals are for this in the long term? We need to remember that by default the industry they are targeting works more around installed solutions which are developed to work as required and then installed, not in the same very fast progression and dynamic level of software updates we are used to receiving as a consumer market. If we're lucky Lockheed Martin will see some good value in embracing our consumer level market for the long term, and they'll be very focused on maintaining that stability in growth for add-on developers, however I don't think it could really be said that we have this gaurantee at the moment. It will be the decision of developers such as Aerosoft, PMDG, A2A etc on whether the cost of developing and supporting the changing product which Prepar3d will be, is worth the profit received for this. ORBX has obviously decided that they see enough of a commercial market who will wish to purchase the software for thousands of dollars to use in flight training setups, that they are making the jump and the cost in additional support for this product will be covered by this commercial return, and we're just benefiting from this as consumers. However will products such as Huey X, 737 NGX, Spitfire, B377 etc be able to return enough profit to cover the additional support and development required to ensure they work under Prepar3d, given that they are probably unlikely to be used within authorised flight training aids such as scenery will, and thus not as open to the same level of income which ORBX is looking at gaining from Prepar3d. Many development companies have a pretty long term road map for FSX at present though, in the realm of five years. Plus with hardware now finally catching up and able to drive FSX much better, along with add-ons poping up such as Shade and ENBSeries which kind of fill some of the void for the more advanced shader and bloom functionality we see in other more modern games, I think FSX is going to be pretty solid product for a while yet. The sheer managability of development and support for it as a product will probably ensure this as well, since it's a known quantity which once add-ons are made to work under it, will continue to work. Again, horses for courses at the end of the day though. Always been the way with simulators though. I don't think I've ever sat in a full airline or airforce simulator where the scenery looked anything close to what you would consider great, and pilots have lived with this for years because the other benefits were an extremely accurate flight model. This same train of thought will be what will keep FSX rolling along for a while yet I'd say, for all of us who can't live without as close as it gets flight. Once one of the others establish themselves as the good stable contender for consumer level add-on developers to start using for their add-ons, we'll know which one to use.
  7. Just in addition. I think some of the confusion and contention about the adoption of Prepar3d probably comes from the fact that FSX has developed into somewhat more of an underlying base which is only then completed by the add-ons around it for many users. So when looking at Prepar3d this is the criteria which gets applied to it as well. I imagine there'd probably be quite a few serious simmers out there that wouldn't be really happy or satisfied about using even FSX vanilla by itself anymore, as it's the suite of add-ons on top of it which has really made it what it is now for them, and at present this is the bit that's missing from Prepar3d for most them. I'd say by the sounds of the posts for us, the fun of testing and trying to make it all work sounds like it's par for the course, but on the other side of the fence paying $10 per month for something which may or may not run better for them at this point in time, and may not work with a lot of their add-ons that are very centric to their flying, is something I can find understandable and a fair reasoning enough for others to consider even the $10 per month too much, if you simply just want to fly and enjoy a solid and stable offering of add-ons to provide this.
  8. Mine certainly isn't. I personally think the option of being able to have access to a product such as Prepar3d for $10 per month is a pretty good deal. But I'm a bit of a tinkerer and enjoy working with things as they evolve, even if there's no gauranteed list of reasons why it's better than FSX and that we'll still have access to it at that price in the long run, and that all add-on developers will be happy to price the software within consumer realms. For those though that seem to be more under the impression that Prepar3d is the replacement for FSX, then it seems to be a point of confusion and the general consensus seems that they feel $10 per month is too much. Which I think tends to demonstrate the divide there, and the lack of understanding of what it really is at this point in time. Those that are really into it all and know what's behind the sim, and what shackles should rightly be shaken in order to make it better, see $10 per month as a minimal expendature to have the chance to start trying to make things better. Though those who want it to run better, but need it now and don't want to have to deal with the usual BETA type things of aspects breaking for a while after a version iteration, see it all as a waste of their money and time. Horses for course at this stage I think. Though it's much the same with add-ons isn't it. Some people want to BETA test and discover the envelope on new products and help ensure things head in good directions, while some people just want it stable and staright to the point in operation and explanation. The fact as well though, is that it's not something that has to replace FSX is it, the same with X-Plane, so we can quite safely run the both side by side, in fact we'll need to in order to use ORBX products with it at the SBSL pricing scheme. Which makes it a pretty tempting item to even just buy for a month or so if you're not sure what is it and give it a try. Most folk would probably pay $10 to get a magazine with it on a disc stuck to the front if it was available that way, so it really is an animal that if unsure, don't fight and complain about it, sign up and give it a try and find the answers for yourself. It's been out long enough now that it does have a lot of forums now devoted to it, so you don't have to be the expert anymore, you can find a lot of help even if you're half adventurous.
  9. From my perspective, watching what add-on developers have been doing over the last 6 months and the potential target marketing and pricing for Prepar3d and its add-ons. I definitiely agree with Snave on the fact that it's all still in its early days yet as far as telling us if it's going to be the direction that's worth sinking a lot of money into for the long run. I don't think I could really sell any kind of convincing argument to anyone at this stage of the game that any one of these upcoming products, be it MS Flight, Prepar3d, X-Plane, are going to be the definitive replacement for our current offerings on a users perspective. That's going to take definite time, probably another year even before we start to know for sure. It's just a game of time, staff and cost benefits. Just think how long some of these developers have current project timelines backed up on just existing FSX projects alone. Let alone choosing if they want to devote time and resources, and how much of it, to development and support for either Prepar3d, X-Plane or MS Flight. I'd dare say many are sitting and waiting just as we are to see exactly what we're asking, which is going to be the next best horse to back. The best value of it all at the moment though is definitely for the tinkerers and BETA testers. The guys like those in the automotive field who love spending their weekends doing things such as adding turbochargers, raplcing extractors, changing your shocks etc on their cars, for no other reason than to see if it makes things perform better for what they want to do, or simply if they can. I think if you enjoy messing with something new like this and consider the time spent venturing into areas of seeing if you can tinker and tweak add-ons to make them work with it all, and actually benchmark any improvements yourself on your own rig, then you're going to find that the money spent on things like Prepar3d is probably still worth it, if for nothing else but the experience along the way. However if you're in the market for a zero effort out of the box solution as the next replacement for FSX, but really need to know every dollar is providing a measurable return, then it's probably not the best time for you to jump onto the wagon at this stage. There's simply just no such gaurantees at point in time. Most of what people are buying into at the moment is the chance to be part of something new and un-explored, to start tinkering, with merely the hope that maybe the ride's eventually going end up taking them to a stage where we do have stuff like full DirectX 11 support and a 64-bit code base which will be likely to give us the benefits we crave. Trying to get value out of it as being the definite replacement for FSX and worth sinking money into on that reason alone at this point in time is probably a little akin to going to the horse races and needing a gauranteed win to enjoy yourself for the day. It's just going to be a sad and sorry day if that's the only criteria for happiness. If however you're the type of character to enjoy the buzz of just being there either way, win or not, then maybe it's for you, and even if it goes nowhere in the end the fun of just being part of messing around with something new and what you've learnt along the way will be worth the cost.
  10. I think regardless of the sims we end up using the most, it's really tremendous to see such a great re-surgance in the flight simulator as a product in general. It's certainly painted a smile on my face to see things now vs those years of the later 90's and early 2000 where things were looking pretty glum as far as companies willing to gamble on investing and promoting the simulation market. Even though we do have a few various products that we'll all undoubtedly be scratching our heads over in choosing which way to go next, though many of us will probably own a few of them anyway given the fairly reasonable pricing. Hopefully at the end of the day it will mean that our add-on developers have a much greater market of customers to ensure that they are able to viably stay aloft and continue offering services whilst making a profit. Like for example REX and Carenado, who are now providing products for both the MS Flight Sim franchise as well as the X-Plane series. I really hope that it all leads onto the continuation of this great and developing simulation market we now currently enjoy, rather than any downturn into savage competition between the products.
  11. I've been watching the developing pathways of Prepar3d for a little while now as well, deciding if there is a viable enough add-on future to begin planning to adopt it, and the impression that I get from Lockheed Martin are that they are very concious of licensing implications for them and their customers, and are very quick off the mark to warn any user within the forums of potential EULA infringements through use of third party add-ons within their software. So I would factor that they would exhibit the same awareness of their own standing as far as their EULA with users of Prepar3d as well. If you are really really concerned, then simply ask John Nicol on the Lockheed forums, or via e-mail, the Lockheed Martin guys appear to be really accomodating regardless of your skill level or position as developer or potential user, so I don't think you need to really worry about getting flamed about asking. It's really encouraging that organisations such as Aerosoft have such a positive perspective on Prepar3d though, in the way of they might not officially support it, but if you wish to try your Aerosoft product out under the Prepar3d system then by all means go ahead, and let us know how you go. This great attitude, combined with some tutorial tips posted on the Prepar3d forums by some of the guys on how to setup FSX and arrange your AppData, ProgData paths and cfgs, seem to be allowing some of the guys to run a lot of FSX stuff without too much trouble. Unfortunately not all the FSX big names look to be road mapping in this similar style though. I know that another reasonably large scenery developer (which I'll leave unamed so we don't needlessly get off topic here) who has also started working with Lockheed Martin, however they are road mapping from a more high level commercial perspective. So the products that we would pay about $100 - $200 to purchase to run under FSX will be marketed on a commercial basis for Prepar3d in the $4000 to $7000 realm, and they are also very specific in saying that their products for FSX are not licensed to be used under Prepar3d. Lockheed Martin expect to soon release their DRM software distribution system too, which will help protect the intellectual property interests of these commercial developers as well. So I think the real end game decider of whether Prepar3d will be a viable alternative to those more serious simmers / home based procedural trainers will probably more land in the laps of what you would consider your essential add-on developers and their perspective of how they wish to license and sell their products, rather than the price point Lockheed Martin is currently licensing Prepar3d for, and any risk that Microsoft will try to clamp down on the ESP resale agreement. I really think that given the feedback I've seen so far, the guys they'd lose to Prepar3d from their pending MS Flight product would probably be quite inclined to just continue using FSX for a long while yet otherwise, or trial the jump across to X-Plane 10 given the uptake of add-on development for that product as well. So far though companies such as Aerosoft and a few other key essentials in the FSX community are being very positive about it all with Prepar3d, and may hopefully allow for a pathway under which the guys who are pretty serious about their sims and don't flinch at the $500 or $10 per month fee to obtain much of our add-on components we now consider essential within FSX, for roughly the same pricing (or possibly even at cross upgrade fee, or even no cost at all).
  12. Thanks Mathijs for taking the time to get such feedback from the user base. I think Aerosoft are really pushing ahead, both themselves and the sim community in general, with their focus on increasing quality whilst also keeping things pretty even keel for both the avid and experienced enthusiasts, as well as those not so experienced or just for the fun of it users as well. To me this really shows in both your products, current and pending, as well as in the whole website and your forums. So congratulations for the great work and many thanks for all the Aerosoft guys perserverance and patience in providing for and supporting such a avid and diverse International community of users, who often aren't always that easy to keep happy.
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