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Behind the Screen : January 2024


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Behind the Screen : January 2024


It's a fresh new year! Like I mentioned going out of 2023, I was going to do a complete clear out of my current X-Plane Application setup. It's a brave decision to be honest. The last month or so of November, and into December, then X-Plane v12.0.09rcWhatever was running famously really well. So do you upset the "apple cart", "ask for trouble" and "can set you back" with loads of more quotes that could cause you problems and issues, and ones you just don't need when you hit the heavy workload of a New Year.


But the problem is that, X-Plane can get very grubby, fill itself up with tons of useless files and even files that fail. I'll explain that one. 


I found, that if a file is written over so many times on your storage, then slight bits of it's data can be lost. This goes back to those platter hard drive disks, in rewitten data being damaged, or the platter itself being worn by overuse. You of course do a defragment run and clean it up. I don't think it matters so much now with SSD drives, being the data is now hardwired. But if drives are saving multiple fragments across the drive, then sometimes bits, (pun intended) do get lost, things that should work, then don't


I do, over the year, usually do a new "vanilla", or clean install of the X-Plane Simulator, but move only large portions of the segments. I just transfer from one install to the next one. Like the main content folders; Global Scenery, Aircraft, Custom Scenery and the current Plugins. But several transfers are the settings, like the X-Plane/output/preferences of "Keys" and "Joystick Settings"...  why, because my keyboard and aircraft preference settings are complex and the layouts are numerous. But the problem is both settings are year on year old, transferred from one installation to the next, even from one computer to another. The data within them is tired, and I noted several times last year that the settings (preferences) were failing, mostly singularly, but still noticeable, in that I had to keep resetting the preferences.


And this is where I get to the nervous bit, I needed to throw these tired old preference files away and do them all fresh from scratch, It sounds simple, but it isn't...  there are a lot of hidden key tools set out in those settings, like swapping from a fixed wing aircraft to a helicopter, refined over the years to perfection. So I was contemplating doing a the full "Vanilla, Vanilla" reinstall.... the absolute clean slate one.


Laminar Research has since added into the "X-Plane Installer" application, an option to "Install a Second Copy of X-Plane", which makes creating a new version easier. The old way was to download the "Demo" version, and add in the Global Scenery to make it a full Simulator version. This new way is not actually much different with a Second Copy, as you still transfer over the Global Scenery and main Aircraft, Custom Scenery and Plugin folders to create the running full version.


But that original X-Plane Application was still very old, running nicely or not. You want to get the process done in a quiet time, as between reviews or content creation, then that is not the best time to start fixing and getting a non-working Simulator. So the down week between Christmas and New Year was the only option to get the rebuild done...  so I pressed the "Install a Second Copy of X-Plane" and started the Download.


The point to make in this article, it is not the main downloads that can cause you the heartache, actually it is the easiest part of the process.


When I install a new X-Plane copy, I then run it, in it's basic form. Yes I transfer over the Global Scenery folder to make it a full Simulator, but I run it from scratch, with only loading in a default aircraft, usually the Cessna 172. First job is to update the New copy to the latest X-Plane version, which can take as long as the copy download...


...  then test the framerate (usually off the scale) as the graphic settings are also set at their default settings. First things were to set up is my hardware, Joystick, throttle and rudder pedals. In the past I had just transferred the "Joystick Settings" prefs, and it was usually set ready to go. But here I was setting the prefs from a clean set of preferences.


Part of the new installation is to find out if my Throttle hardware is playing up? 2023 was a difficult year with the Saitek X56 Throttle system. First it had a "Ghosting" issue (fixed by using a more powerful USB port), but from the middle of the year, the second throttle lever was not holding it's settings, but switching to the first throttle lever in the left lever, in then setting both throttles together. To separate them you had to pull out the throttle hardware USB plug, and move it into another (live) USB port, and it reset itself back to the separated dual levers. My thoughts were if the worn preferences were the cause of the issue (they weren't).


With the hardware setup, I then reset my Graphic Settings. I always have a screenshot of my most efficient graphic settings, as if I want to experiment, I know how to get back to my best efficient setting layout.


Running the new "vanilla" version is interesting to note the framerate (gains or losses thoughout the year), usually a gain. But it's also "fun", the return to your very first moment you flew the X-Plane Simulator, basic, but a fulfilling flying experience, with no distractions.


Then you start adding in all the external extras, Plugins, Aircraft and then the massive Custom Scenery folder. Run it again...


The trickiest part was after the main install. You have to calibrate all the external factors to the new installation. In fact this was the hardest part, resetting addresses to go to another destination. Navigraph, Charts, Skunkcraft's updater, Traffic Global, ToLiss data. Some were a pain, like Aerosoft (One) which wouldn't recognise the new install, and kept installing in the older one...  the only option was to redownload every single scenery to the new location, time consuming, and in reality it shouldn't have needed to be done, as all the old stored scenery then had to be thrown away.


In the New Year Laminar also did a overhaul of the dsf scenery, it was a big one, but not the full install. But the new install would not accept the partial update, only the full reinstall...  64Gb of it, but I pressed the "Update Scenery Online" and did it in three hours, but when running X-Plane, it noted it still required the new scenery install, so I did it again, with the same result, then I pressed it again and it did the full install again, now nine hours and 192 Gb of the same scenery three times over...  thank god I have an unlimited download limit on my internet account, and unlimited patience...  finally it registered it was installed.


Then came the slow work of authorising all the aircraft in the new install, this adds up to around the 30+ aircraft plus plugins that needed to be reactivated, then the slow work of resetting the FMS Data Manager to new addresses...  and on and on it went, two weeks into the New Year and I was still activating or changing addresses to the new install...  haven't finished yet?


My keyboard settings were all blank, that took a few hours to reinstall all the commands, then my Joystick slider and switch settings, another hour for that one, and the tons of small fixes like my FMS flightplans, Screenshot destinations, WebFMC.....   agggh!


Finally it was all done, a clean sweet install, and all new.


Even now a month after there is still the odd address or aircraft to be reset, it's fix, fix, fix... I love X-Plane, but it is now so horribly complex, on how it all works is a miracle, but it does.


Would I do this sort of extreme reinstall again, I'll be honest and I would think twice before I pressed the download button, but last year's version was burnt out and full of debris, it's what you have to do every few years.


This Behind the Screen Edition is a little late, but reviews don't wait. Over the last weekend there was the announcement from Laminar Research at the Montreal developers conference, is that in the new X-Plane series (v12.1.0), Laminar they are inserting a store directly into the Simulator, a la MSFS. 


The ramifications of this change are quite significant. This will not be just a new added store to the X-Plane Universe, as the current set up is that the .Org (Store and .Org forums) are one planet revolving around the parallel Laminar Research planet of development. In the past Laminar didn't do the commercial side of the Simulator, except for selling a few cups and mugs, but are now moving into the commercial aspect, and one that could seriously upset the natural balance of the past...  we will see how this significant aspect plays out, but my gut says Laminar has underestimated the complexities and the demands of users in running a store. I know, I have seen it first hand for a decade.


There will be no "Behind the Screen" article posted for February 2024. I'm going on a well earned break for two weeks (floating around the Pacific), so the next BtheS edition will be posted on the 1st March 2024. Bon Voyage!


Stephen Dutton

6th February 2024

Copyright©2024 X-Plane Reviews


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I decided to do something similar, today  (6, Feb). Uncanny, right? I renamed my X-plane 12 folder and downloaded a 2nd copy to the original location: E:\X-Plane 12. My initial goal was to rebuild the sim over time, as I've done in XP11, once. However, I wanted to make sure I had all my preferences and profiles available so that I could drag stuff over to save time. That didn't work.

I should mention that I was compelled to perform these steps. My last flight ended in a CTD 3/4 into a 2-hour flight. Arggh! I'd had enough and was tired of these seemingly random CTDs in 12.9.x. After spending a bunch of time working I get the feeling that I wasted my time. In my haste, I wound up dragging my Aircraft folder, Custom Scerney folder, and Plugin folder, as well as parts of my Preferences folder back to the new install. Thus, I didn't actually fix anything and am still getting CTDs occasionally. I did, however, delete a bunch of plugins I rarely use. Log.txt and Log_ATC.txt do not provide a consistent cause of the CTDs. I'm hoping that 12.10 will fix my sim. If not, I'll have to roll-up my sleeves and rebuild everything from scratch.

Thanks for your post. I'm right there with you.

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Great comment, go back to the core set up, see how it runs, then add in one component at a time, certainly with Plugins, the cause will stick out, I will say a few plugins that are essential like SAM are currently very buggy and are having no updates is a problem, this is causing a lot of anguish. But like I said do a core flight with a LR default aircraft A330 or B737, and see if you get the full clean Simulation, then work forward from there...

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