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HarryO

CumulusX community networking software

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Hi there

I am more talk than action. I apologize for this fault in my personality unsure.gif CumulusX is so good that honestly, there should be whole communities of virtual sailplane pilots happening. Perhaps it is, but I am not seeing it. I think we need more software tools perhaps.......I do not want to disturb the absolutely stable and almost perfect CumulusX DLL, and so I suggest an alternative software idea for networking CumulusX pilots together.

Someone writes a CumulusX tray icon application where registered users of CumulusX can see on a global map, where other pilots want to fly and at what GMT time (point on the map see the attached graphic). It is from the points on this map that the arrangement is agreed and the common flight files downloaded (uploaded by the originator). The software allows users to see how many pilots will be taking part and other details. The software is used to make the initial detection of logged on users that match with that arrangement. The software shows the readiness of parties to start the networked session, and from there users load up the flight plan and flight file and begin the networked session.

Just a scratchpad starting point for ideas. I have not researched it yet, but I think the Facebook API could possibly do the trick and the advantage is that the developer get's to use the latest toys!

Cheers

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Harry O

I agree with you. I think there is a basic pool of pilots but if more pilots were aware of the great tools available then there would be a lot more.

On the subject of getting them all together for a fly my view is that getting them coordinated with all the international time differences has been a problem which has restricted simultaneous flying competitions in the past.

It seems to me that the existing software with CumulusX, WinchX when combined with b21's Simlogger (which has security built in to minimise cheating by way of setting changes); is the way to go. As long as the task has been put in the format of a mission, it becomes very user friendly for everyone to fly at any time that suits them and IGC files submitted to all pilots and the competion coordinator to determine results. The great thing about this current technology is that we are no longer flying alone. All you have to do is download a few of the pilots IGC files and strap yourself in low and behold you are flying in real time against all the field and able to see all the other gliders in the air.

I know this is a bit different to what you had in mind but anyway these are my thoughts. :rolleyes:

Jeff

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Hi Jeff

Yeah the simlogger approach is really laterally thinking and a very good idea. It's just a fraction cold for me. Since we are both in Aus, seperated by a mere 3,500km smile.gif, maybe we should get together sometime in CumulusX/FSX, go for a fly and perhaps it might trigger some ideas in our heads on what could be done (email me any time). The scenery for Australia in FSX is just so good and frame rate so friendly in the bush, it's absolutely begging for us sailplane simmers to go fly CumulusX. I have no experience in the networking aspect of FSX so there would probably be a learning curve and what.....more bugs in FSX to discover as well!? :)

Cheers

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Harry O

Good idea. Where in Australia are you? I'm in Perth and have had a great time over the past few years flying soaring missions in FSX. The only problem at present is that there is only a very few people like B21 and Spud who have become proficient at creating missions, and regretfully I have not been up that learning curve, but I love flying the missions. Spud of course has just become a RL glider pilot like B21 and is busy doing that.

Jeff

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Spud of course has just become a RL glider pilot like B21 and is busy doing that.

Wow good stuff. I think even Peter who wrote CumulusX is a sailplane pilot as well. That is exactly why this software is as good as it is. It's just a question of how to get the enthusiasts more active like you and I already are (I live in SE QLD). If the population of the planet is 6 billion and let's for argument sake say that just 1 in every 100,000 people like CumulusX, there should be at least 60,000 active enthusiasts like you and I....But where are they? By my calculation there should be at least 200 hundred active CumulusX pilots in Australia alone. Enough to form a virtual club. Missions would happen if there was a club. There would not be preprogrammed missions necessarily, but there would be things like fun virtual activities (not necessarily competitions) once a month that would be as much fun as missions anyway.

Does anyone know the networking side of things? Questions I have from basic to less simple are:

1) How many pilots can fly in an FSX/CumulusX session simultaneously over the net?

2) How do they connect to each other? Easy or not?

3) Can real weather be shared between pilots? Do they all need ASE or does a common save game file work?

4) Does CumulusX distribute it's thermal information across machines?

5) How easy does the network connection drop out?

6) Does the lag time kill the whole idea?

There's more questions but I better shut up because if the answer is not positive on any one of these questions, I am wasting my virtual breath :)

Cheers

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Harry O

Have you flown any of the already created missions eg b21's virtual competition of the real US Nationals or Spuds recent LSMC flyoff? The latter as I am sure you are aware used Cumulus X, the SoarDG, Winch X and Simlogger and flew out of Ulrichen in Switzerland. A great mission except I didn't see you up in the air. All the IGC simlogger files are posted as zip files in the races and contests section (LSMC flyoff) if you want to have a crack. My winch launches were crap but I am hoping to do better in the future after Peter gave me some tips.

Jeff

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Harry O

Have you flown any of the already created missions?

Ok thanks for the tip I'll check it out. From the questions I asked about networking and the predominance of simlogger, I think I can infer what the answers will be.

Cheers, enjoy.

Harry

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Someone writes a CumulusX tray icon application where registered users of CumulusX can see on a global map, where other pilots want to fly and at what GMT time (point on the map see the attached graphic). It is from the points on this map that the arrangement is agreed and the common flight files downloaded (uploaded by the originator). The software allows users to see how many pilots will be taking part and other details. The software is used to make the initial detection of logged on users that match with that arrangement. The software shows the readiness of parties to start the networked session, and from there users load up the flight plan and flight file and begin the networked session.

Does anyone know the networking side of things? Questions I have from basic to less simple are:

1) How many pilots can fly in an FSX/CumulusX session simultaneously over the net?

2) How do they connect to each other? Easy or not?

3) Can real weather be shared between pilots? Do they all need ASE or does a common save game file work?

4) Does CumulusX distribute it's thermal information across machines?

5) How easy does the network connection drop out?

6) Does the lag time kill the whole idea?.

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1) How many pilots can fly in an FSX/CumulusX session simultaneously over the net?

2) How do they connect to each other? Easy or not?

3) Can real weather be shared between pilots? Do they all need ASE or does a common save game file work?

4) Does CumulusX distribute it's thermal information across machines?

5) How easy does the network connection drop out?

6) Does the lag time kill the whole idea?.

1) Not limited by CumulusX!. Depends on server capacity and network bandwidth. Native FSX supports 99 at most. VatSpy reports 412 pilots on the VATSIM network when I write this.

2)

a) Easiest connection is by GameSpy though loss of connection is frequent. Only FSX is supported. Voice client is included. MP planes motion is smooth.

b ) VATSIM requires some extra client software (FSINN or Squawkbox 4, all FS versions) which is (partly) painful to install. Once achieved connection is easy and the network runs 24/7. No kidding, though, VATSIM people are serious (but not unfriendly). Voice client is included. All recent FSX versions and X-plane are supported. MP plane do stop-motion frequently (like 5 FPS). There is a way to improve it, but highly router dependent. Didn't got mine working that way.

c) FSHOST requires an easy-install client for FSX, too. Connection is easy by centrally managed serverlist. Appr. 60-100 different servers wordwide running 24/7. No voice client. Plane motion as with VATSIM, no chance of improvement. Extra Teamspeak for voice client required. Supports FS2002-FSX. Software (incl. server) for free. Also server set-up is easy, though critical on correct open ports on routers. Malconfigured clients can crash a session.

d) Aerosoft recently came up with some proprietary MP software solution for Andras Field. No idea so far on that.

e) IVAO exists, too, but no own experience.

3) If in an FSX-MP session weather is distributed by the host. No idea if ASE-weather is distributed, too, or alters weather on client side, when installed there. For best compatibility it might be recommended not ot use weather tools, unless everybody has.

Situation with alternative MP software is different. Depending on client and sometimes server configuration, clients may have their own weather. In such case it's best either using RW weather on all of them or share a predefined flight file, containing weather information. Again ASE and similar tools may alter the weather experience still.

4) CumulusX! does not communicate with other MP clients. However, the pseudo-random parts in the thermal creation are seeded with the date, scenery and weather situation. As long as these are the same on all clients, thermals will be the same, too. Weather and time are normally the same in FSX MP sessions, but not automatically in other MP systems. CumulusX! contains a time-synchronization helper.

5) Network connection tends to drop frequently with GameSpy, much less with VATSIM and FSHOST. Moreover, the alternative MP software allows reconnecting "on-the-fly" while native FSX resets your flight conditions more or less upon logon. One can host FSX native sessions also without gamespy by announcing the IP-address of the server, but no experience with that.

6) As said above, plane motion tends to be stuttering in alternative MP systems. Native FSX is by no means smoothest. Lag is not a relevant issue, except for those doing formation flying, e.g. aerobatics. At the end of the day, a flightsim is not a first-person-shooter.

regards,

Peter

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Wow thanks!

Bingo moment for me:

4) CumulusX! does not communicate with other MP clients. However, the pseudo-random parts in the thermal creation are seeded with the date, scenery and weather situation. As long as these are the same on all clients, thermals will be the same, too. Weather and time are normally the same in FSX MP sessions, but not automatically in other MP systems. CumulusX! contains a time-synchronization helper.

Yeah I have experience with pseudo random seeded data on a multiplayer environment. In this situation with CumulusX I can see how it makes sense and is simple and should be reliable. The interesting thing is that with ASE it is currently the only weather engine that supports historical data. So if CumulusX ASE pilots were to all agree on the same historical date and time and all were to point to that data, I doubt ASE produces truly random data, and so all pilots having the same weather and thermals should happen as far as I can think. However a pre-defined flight file with a snap shot of real weather stored in all the global FSX weather stations would be equally good for short multiplayer sessions of a couple of hours (but not as good for a day session where a CumulusX club might try for a cross country attempt. Over a day, ASE historical data reliably updates after a defined period of time. So long as all pilots had set up the same update interval, that should be ok......?!?!?

The other interesting things are the numbers of pilots that could fly multiplayer is pretty good! Didn't realise it was that much. It looks promising with a lot of reservations. We do need a reliable way to advertise and organise groups of fliers with the required flight files and we need a reliable network. I'm not sure, but the Facebook API could be the way to go. Personally if there were a virtual CumulusX club model that could be used globally for all the different regions, and my virtual club were to meet just once a month, I certainly would join in. A regular once a month get together for a CumulusX club day would be just ideal for a busy lifestyle we all probably have.

For the moment, if someone were in my similar GMT (+10.00), we could walk through some rudimentary attempts to connect and fly a common CumulusX session (email me). I'm sure many have flown CumulusX multiplayer before and I am once again behind the times, but then again there is nothing new with that! rolleyes.gif I have no experience with FSX multiplayer but no better time to learn. My broadband connection could be a good test case because at a guess, it would be slower than most installations.

The big question in my mind is now:

"What is the consequence if one player's network connection drops out?" It would be nice if club fliers could reconnect to the session again. The way the club days are organised would have to compensate for this possibility.

The other question is:

"what the hell happens with WinchX in a multiplayer environment at the same airport?" That could be fun to see! smile.gif

The whole idea is not about being competitive for the sake of competition (because competition in a virtual environment is kinda self defeating if you take it too seriously). It is about having fun and sharing the experience of virtual CumulusX soaring. Limited competitiveness in a spirit of fun and being care free at the same time is great! That is all.

Cheers

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"What is the consequence if one player's network connection drops out?" It would be nice if club fliers could reconnect to the session again. The way the club days are organised would have to compensate for this possibility.

The other question is:

"what the hell happens with WinchX in a multiplayer environment at the same airport?" That could be fun to see! smile.gif

Hi Harry,

well, drop of native FSX MP connection lets you proceed with the current situation. However, on reconnect it resets you to some "airborne near host" or some airport, which is a disadvantage. The other MP tools, VATSIM (which is basically FSD with FSINN or SB), FSHOST (and IVAO I suppose), let you reconnect with the current situation. Anyway, CumulusX! would phase into the actual situation within a minute or so.

WinchX! will work in MP as well, however you won't see the individual winches and parachutes, just the glider being launched. I did'nt invest effort in making those visible over MP servers. There is concern among FSX server operators regarding glider operations as the usual tow plane pops up on the server and every client. That's not too bad, but it's never removed. So by time the server is totally overcrowded with Maule's and gets completely stuck. That's apparently the reason why gliders are currently not tolerated on many public FSX servers.

regards,

Peter

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So by time the server is totally overcrowded with Maule's and gets completely stuck. That's apparently the reason why gliders are currently not tolerated on many public FSX servers.

Hi ya Peter

Hmmmmmm......blush.gifthat's not a nice situation thanks for informing us of that scenario. Yes the invisible WinchX winch would be fine. I can totally understand not trying to develop multiplayer winches.

One really interesting aspect of FSX multiplayer is that two pilots can share the same plane from what I understand. That could be absolutely brilliant for teaching virtual sailplane pilots how to catch thermals and stay in them. If that actually worked in the way that I imagine, it would be a very nice thing for virtual clubs to offer some basic training that way. Probably will not work as I would dream it to work but who knows.

Cheers

Harry

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Well, there is a function Pete Dowson's FSUIPC which could delete the Maules on the server side, but many operators simply ban the gliders.

Shared cockpit seems very easy in native FSX MP sessions. There is even a way to do this on VATSIM with FSINN, though much more complicated. Both I never used so far, though.

regards,

Peter

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Ok thanks for that information. It would be awful to be stigmatized as a multiplayer glider pilot, when soaring in FSX is one of the most beautiful activities you can do in it.........Somehow I will do more research into multiplayer and see how it goes. Nothing is as simple as it seems. I cannot understand why servers do not just delete stationary multiplayer planes after a certain amount of time? This would seem to clean up the situation on the server.

Cheers

Harry

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Hi there

I am posting over at the soar forums but might as well do it here too:

Just as a hypothetical ideal situation, let's imagine we obtained decent server hardware on the fastest possible broadband non-commercial link that we restricted to 100 simultaneous registered CumulusX pilots and could run 24/7.

1) How would FSHOST server go under that hardware? Would multiplayer pilots still get serious stuttering (answer yes because of the network infrastructure bottle necks?)

2) Could the accessory software needed to connect and supply consistent glider friendly data be written to wrap up the FSHOST client software into a nice package that is easy to use and easy to connect? (yes but clumsy?)

3) How much bandwidth would the server link need minimum?

Cheers

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Hi there

Ok I'll ask another question. What about setting up CumulusX! gliding clubs on a VPN such as:

http://gurus.wordpre...-over-internet/

https://secure.logme...ducts/hamachi2/

The idea would be to set up a secure VPN network that hooks directly to FSX via it's built in LAN (directIP) hosting system. In other words secure LAN equivalent CumulusX multiplayer across the internet that is managed by Hamachi or equivalent. Is this idea flawed? If the freeware version is too restrictive (16 pilots) then there surely must be ways to fund the smallish annual fee that would apply to a club. Access to the VPN has to be restricted to registered users of CumulusX. Not sure how to do that.

Perhaps there are better solutions that cost nothing for greater numbers of pilots?

Cheers

Harry

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Hi Harry,

I think that the VPN is not necessary. As long as you provide the IP address of your server it can be done anyway without GameSpy. Maybe something like dyndns could be used, too.

regards,

Peter

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Thanks Peter. I'll try to set up a DynDNS and do a rudimentary test. The CumulusX!/FSX experience in single player is such a thing of goodness and so reliable, we should at least try to match and extend that experience as best we can into multi-player. There are many potential faults and limitations. Who knows, we see. I can see a picture in my mind that people who have not flown virtual gliders before, might be drawn into it if they know they can get assistance. The CumulusX! simulation is complex enough that the skills that are acquired are not superficial but generally rewarding.

Cheers

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Hi there

I'm experimenting now with establishing an internet based community LAN for CumulusX! pilots. The test bed is nice. Two FSX/CumulusX machines on the bench next to each other with completely separate internet connections. If you need anything tested in MP, there is at least a chance.

This is what I have done so far:

1) DynDNS: if you ping cumulusXclub.dyndns.org, you get the IP that I used in the last cumulusX multiplayer test session

2) Tested FSX/LAN/DirectIP using that IP across the two internet connections (when they were live). Framerates seemed very reasonable.

3) Tried Hamachi - As Peter says, it is not needed but does work

Questions I now have:

1) Can FSX simconnect set up a client LAN session in FSX if the simconnect application knows the required IP? Would be very surprised if it could, because of security issues.

The idea is to develop a simple web based application that advertises times when FSX LAN hosts will be hosting live CumulusX sessions and what the details of that session will be. Clients would connect with a client app that at the very least supplies the basic details like the IP address, but preferably automates the process as much as is possible. To alleviate security issues as much as possible, clients do not get access to the CumulusX session specifics, unless they are registered users of CumulusX. Hosts would be able to register their interest to advertise sessions based on a history of good behaviour.

Any thoughts?

Cheers

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1) DynDNS: if you ping cumulusXclub.dyndns.org, you get the IP that I used in the last cumulusX multiplayer test session

2) Tested FSX/LAN/DirectIP using that IP across the two internet connections (when they were live). Framerates seemed very reasonable.

Questions I now have:

1) Can FSX simconnect set up a client LAN session in FSX if the simconnect application knows the required IP? Would be very surprised if it could, because of security issues.

Hi Harry,

you may also try using the DNS-name cumulusXclub.dyndns.org instead of the IP-address. If your server has a fixed IP address the dyndns-approach is also not necessary. If the server is hooked to a subscriber-line which terminates the connection at least once in 24hrs (like mine), then the problem is that at this moment all clients will be disconnected, and as said before, it will not be possible to reconnect seamlessly. One has to consider to plan the participation such, that the termination will not fall in the expected session duration.

to your question:

AFAIK, simconnect clients cannot initiate a regular MP session because there are no function calls in the SDK which allow interacting with FSX' program user interface. All the function calls just interact with the simulator function, as setting control surfaces and manipulating virtual objects.

Another option for automatic logon might be using the windows scripting host, which provides automation of windows programs.

Regarding securtiy risks, they exist very well. A DLL-based FSX Add-on (including .gau-files) inherits the firewall settings of FSX itself, which usually allows opening (at least certain) ports into the internet. So every FSX Add-on can include a safety risk, when it is running as an FSX-DLL. In difference, an EXE-Add-On will be detected by the firewall, when it opens a port into the internet for the first time and the user will be announced unless the setup-routine configures the firewall silently (which for example FSX setup does).

best regards,

Peter

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Thanks Peter

Appreciate your thoughts. They are acting as a catalyst. The dyndns approach allows a static IP and that is very hopeful. It is a pity that FSX does not allow users to enter in a domain name into the LAN setup but there is a possibility that client connection could be automated to some degree as an option for those who want to simplify that connection process (via windows scripting). The idea I have is to use other types of "live" technologies that integrate with a central web site and database, so that CumulusX clubs can be be organised, planned and to know the readiness of the host at flight time. Client pilots need to know that the host is live and ready to start the club session. The web page tells the client pilots the session details (training, cross country etc etc) as setup by the host. The web also tells client pilots about other participants like instructors involved in the session, if for example it is a training session. The list of possibility goes on and on.

The central way that I think the club approach holds itself together is in two ways:

1) Somehow, I want to restrict client pilots to be registered users of CumulusX! I think that is a critical path because it will tend to filter out uncooperative client pilots. It also provides a funding path to the developer of CumulusX!

2) Hosts gain reputation when client pilots later rate the session at the central web site. This way clients get a feel for the likelihood of a reasonable experience the next time that the host conducts a session. What does the host get for all the work? What does any volunteer get for all their work? My personal motivation would be as a host. Why would I bother? Because CumulusX! is about learning about the natural environment and having fun. Any contact with the natural environment, even virtual contact, means that awareness about the natural environment increases. This is fundamentally good. I mean yesterday was a ridiculously good session. Not a cloud in the sky and difficult to find lift, but found some ridge lift at 15 knots off a 2000ft hill just enough to stay aloft but nothing more. This gave me the time to wait for a blue thermal and away! Now that is cool to be able to have fun like this in a simulator. This scenario would be possible in reality and now it is possible in a simulator.

So unresolved questions now are:

1) How to detect that clients are registered users of CumulusX!?

2) Now that "MS Flight" has been announced and that the first prototype is in the development stage, how long until release and does it matter for CumulusX! anyway? How long is the development cycle for a complicated flight simulation assuming that it would actually have a thermal/ridge simulation as useful as CumulusX is now?

Cheers,

Harry

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