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Behind the Screen : October 2018


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Behind the Screen : October 2018


It is not you, but it... what ever it is!

In my early days of learning the X-Plane simulator, I took everything for granted that X-Plane was correct and any mistakes were solely your own fault. From this distance and experience that is known as "Going up totally the wrong road". But the point is you were not to know, you were learning and gathering experience. To say I was not just focused, as I almost laser like in wanting to be really, really good at this simulator, flying thingy. So when somthing went wrong I automatically assumed it was my fault, I was to blame, and I was totally hopeless absolutely at this simulator thingy. Yes I even beat myself up that mistakes are the result of my own inexperience and total ineptitude.


To a point a lot of my poor flying was down to mistakes and inexperience, but I still remember significant points that I beat myself up badly and now realise that the issues and problems back then were simply not of my own doing. The X-Plane simulator is a fluid thing and it changes or morphs itself from month to month, and you have to adjust to it's certain idiosyncratic and eccentric behavior.


I had one moment the last month that brought the past back into the present. I was doing my usually first flight check of a new aircraft file, and as I left the runway the aircraft felt horrible, really horrible as with the wings were flapping like angry birds and I was instantly fighting the aircraft at the controls, It was simply unflyable, but somehow I got it around a circuit and actually landed it again (big pat on the back and a victory lap around the room), if badly... as in the real world it would have been a walk away from the wreckage Neil Armstrong style. First reaction was to blame the developer on this piece of non-flyable crap...  I tried it again and it was doing the same sort of aeronautical theatric's, so the aircraft was closed and my note's were not pretty. You would usually then send the report back to the developer, and it wouldn't have be of a lot of praise in this case, and worse it was a first time developer. He was lucky in that I had another review to do and so I loaded in the required scenery and took to flight again, and the same thing was happening to another aircraft, as it was totally unflyable as well...


As to the head of this segment then where does the blame lie, my flying, my setup or something else? In the old days the blame would have been certainly on the first two areas and both related to me. But experience can change that perception and instead it was Sherlock Holmes mode, more than the usual self whipping of my own ineptitude.


I loaded up my Carenado Bonanza F33A and took it down the runway, once airborne it was a total handful, this was not the the usual Bonanza dynamics, it was all over the place and was simply unflyable, it was a mess and was reacting badly to the airflow.


An X-Plane restart or two and nothing changed, the F33A was still wanting to do itself in...  Now the rule I know is that little Bonanza is correct, as an aircraft and in the way it flies, so the issue is not the aircraft, it is now X-Plane itself...


The problem with X-Plane is that even if the base primary set of files are correct, there is still a lot of changes going on through the simulator on a day to day basis, plus the fact that you are putting a lot of stuff in there and trying also to form it into something that is someways not like the core of the simulator itself. This is mostly through scenery files and plugins, and even tinkering behind the scenes with the actual core files themselves. To be fair I never touch the main core files of X-Plane's inner workings, if anything I like the clockwork in that it all runs efficiently, so the core is left alone unless there is a major reason to do so. Plugins however are a major factor. The trick with plugins is not to have too many of them, and the ones that are in there are tried and tested. That way you can eliminate them when something goes weird. But here it did go weird... first point was to pull out all the plugins, but after a restart still I had the bad airflow? Next was a dump of all the preferences, and always a biggie when something goes wrong... still the airflow was crook? So it was my usual "Nuclear Option" in a complete re-download of the X-Plane from Laminar's servers to give me what I call a "Clean" version, and guess what the airflow was still bad.....  agggh!


I made one small mistake in that in the "clean" version I had reinstalled a few plugins that had in the past been tried and tested, and one of them was xEnviro. I pulled out all the plugins again, and it still had bad airflow... but once out I mistakenly looked at the standard X-Plane weather and the settings were really odd and off the scale (to a point in my defence xEnviro masks the default weather settings)...


I reset the weather settings and it all went finally back to normal flight... put xEnviro back in and it all went seriously wonky again? The issue was that the METAR weather data from xEnviro had been totally wrong with extreme high winds at almost ground level, but here was the really odd thing, in that the METAR data should change every thirty minutes, so it should have corrected itself on the next upload report, but somehow it didn't. and strangely it infected the native X-Plane weather settings as well, so this one file was in there and it was duplicated itself over and over or got stuck in some preferences somewhere so even though I had completely cleaned out the system and even when there was now installed a completely new "Clean" version, then that METAR report had mistakenly reinfected the whole thing again when I rerun it...


It is very easy to say the data had may have been stuck in xEnviro preferences, or as I think it was just a server error that re-downloaded the same wonky data again when I started up xEnviro, personally I feel it was still the original bad weather data that came back again (again), and xEnviro was not overwriting it. So even if xEnviro was removed from the plugin folder then X-Plane still acted on the same bad weather data... even the programmer would say, that couldn't happen, but it did, and that is what caused the confusion. Then as quickly as it came, the data in xEnviro was overwritten and everything quickly went back to total normality. xEnviro themselves have lately just moved over to a new server? maybe or maybe not?


The point of all this text is that even though you think it is you that is making the mistakes, then the more complex X-Plane gets you have to assume that this is not always the case, and the cause might be hard to find and fix. Code is a very weird thing and there is the factor that some written code in one area like the core of X-Plane could be infected by code of another remote set of instructions, yes they are supposed to work closely if intimately together, and that is why many plugins are buggy bastards, as unlike aircraft or custom scenery which have to, to a point follow X-Plane conditions and rules, then the code in plugins can be a bit more aggressive and creative. I don't think there was or is anything wrong with xEnviro's plugin, as it has worked fine before and very well ever since that bad data dump and it was the most tried and tested of the xEnviro versions in v1.07. It was like mad ghost had taken control of X-Plane for awhile...   thankfully it is now all gone....   poooof!



The above was the start of October 2018, but as months go, the October just gone was just plain weird. I am used to periods of oddness, as that is just the cause of normal life... but in X-Plane life it was simply a month to forget.


Did the eminent release of the new X-Plane beta of 11.30 cause the weirdness, maybe a little. Pre-Black Friday/Thanksgiving heads down time, also maybe yes...

First announcements from Laminar noted that the 11.30 beta was planned for around early September, fair enough as this is development hell, and beta building is not a precise art. But then September came and went and far into October we then went, and the more that each day passed then the less and less the world of X-Plane slowed down...  you were for days sometimes just looking at a blank canvas.


Weirder was the fact everywhere you went on planet X-Plane during October it was either raining or stormy? xEnviro only runs with the current live weather, great for total realism, but bad for trying to do a review in dark murky wet conditions, worse as you where halfway through a review and the damn sunshine comes out...   So your sitting there thinking, why use xEnviro? Good point, but only currently does xEnviro give you that realism in weather conditions, sometimes it is all a little too realistic


A lot of developers have access to the new beta, but as I have found is that in having access doesn't means you can actually use it, as it is still buggy and elements are missing. So what do you do? Some developers just gave up and went on holiday/vacation instead of pressing the keys. Some got blindsided by a Hurricane, yes it was that sort of month.


A lot of developers have been caught out before at the initial release of X-Plane11. It came out of the box pretty good, but the beta process then ran on for months (and months) and the release went mostly backwards and so you were caught? Update and you were out of date at the next well...  update. Hold off until X-Plane 11 went final and you were waiting months before getting a final layout of the simulator, then you had a lot of work to update. In reality you can't win either way. So obviously Beta 11.30 will start the whole process all over again.


To be fair in the fact that Laminar Research is now a very different place than it was say five years ago. For one they now actually have staff, unlike back then it was a totally caffine intoxicated Ben Supnik pounding along, and Austin Meyers making performance changes on the fly....  most of the other contributors were still mostly outside this inner two man circle...  until Supnik brought in Chris Serio to take on a bit of the coding overload off his shoulders.


Now Laminar is starting to feel like a business and not a hobby, it even has a PR person. The release of beta 11.30 was nothing like the buggy messes of the past X-Plane10 era, yes we had to wait, almost to the end of October and almost two months longer as the first date it was to be first expected, but it came very smoothly out of the box, it is a sensational update and as good as promised, it has it's quirks as I will address in the analysis, but they are not the beta itself, but the changes that are required by third party addons... yes there will be bugs, and yes there will be updates, but I am very sure that 11.30 will go final well before the end of the year. Is this the same Laminar Research we are talking about... even that could you even mention they are now very professional in their approach to the simulator? You can, but I hope that none of the original pioneering spirit is still also not lost, and with this beta release I think that is very much still in evidence.


First thoughts are that X-Plane11 has gone to another higher level, even at this early stage. And again seriously ignore the total idiots that note they are getting poor framerates and bad crashes from the beta and shouting and complaining about their own self ineptitude, as "Stupid is as stupid does"... 

And could you seriously believe that so many actually complained when xVision was rendered disqualified because of the new 11.30 Vulkan shader system...  they were told, from the start, and on why it was free in the first place, dummies.


It is very good, but be aware it will take time to sort all the small details out, and yes you will have a cliff face of updates to climb through, but the efforts in doing so will be well worth it.



A lot of plugins have had updates lately and plugins more that other areas of X-Plane were the busiest over the last month. There is now a growing gap between what I call "Pro" plugins and the rest. Where as before all plugins were really all the same and experimental. Certainly if you are paying for a plugin it should be a Pro version, but quality is the key if the plugin is pro or not. But some pro plugins are really expensive in the $50-$60 range like RealityXP's GTN750 FMC, and are they justified at that sort of price, xEnviro's environmental engine is insanely expensive, but I can't live in X-Plane without it? so it is all relative.


But good and even great plugins are certainly worth the expense if they deliver. WebFMC is simply brilliant and more so now updated and when used with Rotate's MD-88. X-ATC-Chatter and X-Camera are both excellent, not to say with BetterPushBack and TerrainRadar. GroundHandling Deluxe has had an update, but a poor one in my view, but it is still well worth the cash. WorldTraffic3 is still the plugin of all plugins, and like xEnviro I just could not use X-Plane without out the WT3 activity it delivers.

XPRealistic Pro is also brilliant, but it is seriously hampered by the use of it's FlyWithLua installation, FlyWithLua conflicts with everything and everything because it uses the same coding as most SASL plugins that run, well everything and everything, and FWL is always my first visitor when X-Plane won't load or run correctly, for now FlyWithLua is out of my plugins folder because it is just conflicting with too many other plugins...  a really big shame because I really love the XPRealistic effects...  but my sanity comes first, and add that in with this past mad...  odd, weird October there is not much of that left either...  roll on November!


Stephen Dutton

1st November 2018

Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews


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