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  1. Behind the Screen : May 2016 How far should you go before you go too far? When is the line of obsession passed and you are in the position of complete neurosis in the fact that it could even be a serious addiction. I think I went very close to that line on a Saturday afternoon when I did actually have some spare time after a long week. Any normal person (are X-Plane users normal?) would have done something to make life fun and enjoyable, in going shopping, eating out, playing golf, watching a movie, reading or spending a nice time with the wife or girlfriend… fun things. Me no, I spent two and a half hours looking for a misguided lost object. Not a thing object like shoes, phone, hat or something made from physical atoms but a .obj in a scenery. No, as a sensible person would just yank the problem scenery out of their custom folder and fix the issue of it ruining the flight by constantly bringing up the bad scenery alert box. But this scenery is Aerosoft’s LSZR - St. Gallen–Altenrhein Airport and the problem with LSZR is that it’s position at the foot of the Swiss Alp’s would mean that the scenery was a major annoyance in that if you flew north-south over the alps, west - east from France to Austria or was flying anywhere in southern Germany, northern Italy, most parts of eastern France and any part of Switzerland then the painful annoying LSZR would ruin your flight. In the last few months I have reviewed Joe’s excellent LSGG-Geneva and Aerosoft’s excellent updated LSZH - Zurich and this damn LSZR scenery was always causing me to tear my hair out… It is in the wrong place or the right place if you like Swiss scenery. So I had to fix it. Why not just throw it away? Well it is great scenery, brilliant in fact and if you are flying over this area of which I do very regularly, then the scenery is very good there visually, certainly if you are flying VFR in a nice general aviation aircraft. There was a few terrain files but they were easily found and deleted. The main culprit however was a small .obj file called XP_LSZR_Ter_005.OBJ. I tried just deleting it, and that didn’t work, pull it out of the files and no that didn’t work either. Opening LSZR - St. Gallen–Altenrhein in WED just crashed it, and so the last resort was the venerable overlay editor. But finding a small .obj spot in a terminal building was like looking for an ant in a woolly carpet. I looked everywhere and restarted X-Plane maybe 20 or 30 times to get the still same annoying alert box… aggggh. I crawled the scenery almost pixel by pixel till I saw the tell-tale stripes of the offending .obj sitting by the entrance of the terminal. It was hard to see as the awning of the terminal hide the .obj from the direct above position, only with a slight angle and crawling bit by bit over the scenery did I finally see it, a delete, a restart and finally no alert box and all was right with my Swiss X-Plane world. But I lost a good two and a half hours of my life I won’t get back… do I need help yet? The point of all this is that you can’t cheat in fixing wayward things like this because I tried every single trick in the book, and in the end it really all came down to one thing… finding the offending .obj and then deleting it is the absolutely only way to fix it, I hope there is a lesson in there somewhere. I like things to surprise me and I got a few this month. VflyteAir’s excellent Piper Cherokee PA 28 140 was a real big one. I will be honest and when I opened the aircraft up for the first time I admit I was not very impressed, it looked average to be honest. But this amazing aircraft peeled itself back like layers of an onion and just kept on giving, and totally proves that first impressions are not always the right ones. X-Plane aircraft like that sometimes, as you are at first looking at something that you feel is quite average. But the PA28 140 is anything but average and I take my hat off the the developers in getting the aircraft so right and making it a really great aircraft to fly. You must sometimes dig deep and use some aircraft to understand how really great they are, in doing reviews you are lucky in a way because unlike just a purchaser you have to keep on going and keep on flying the machine to find out every last bit and item that makes up the package. Some are not great, they do happen… but some are amazing, and the more you dig, the more you fly you create a relationship with an aircraft that goes beyond just enjoying a product, they become part of you, when you fly, when you enjoy being high at night above your X-Plane world and just bouncing along and hoping the flight or this feeling won’t end…. You just want to fly forever (well till the fuel runs out). An aircraft doesn’t have to be the best, or the most featured or even the most expensive to find a way in to your X-Plane soul. The Avro Project is one constant that has continued for as long as I have been in X-Plane. The heart is in this aircraft, certainly it is a constant always being upgraded project that will never ever really be finished, a lot of things don’t actually work either and it is far from perfect, but a lot does work as well. But the point is that it doesn’t matter as this aircraft has soul, and it is fun to fly and it just keeps having to come back for more and more flights, and really is that what X-Plane is all about… I think so. For really never ending projects the CRJ-200 was back into my radar again with Blue Sky Star Simulations latest sound package, and wow that was that an ear opener. JRollon’s CRJ-200 and myself have a bit of a history going back over the years. I bought it years ago when the aircraft had just been released, but our relationship was… let us say rocky. It spent a lot of the last few years just sitting in the hangar and too a point I could have spent my money at the time on something more usable. I just could not get my head around the aircraft’s slow speed flying, I found it complex and confusing. I would pull it out and usually put it away again, but in my defence I never gave up on it. It was in the end the X-Plane learning curve. Learning how to program a FMS system correctly, knowing how to use the correct speeds for landing (and taking off), knowing how the aircraft’s complex systems work and on and on the learning goes. But at a point it did all come together to allow me to find myself suddenly flying the CRJ-200 well, really well and finally I could understand the accolades that the aircraft had gathered over the years. Then you add in those amazing sounds from Blue Sky Star Simulations and you can’t believe how good simulation is today, yes I admit the CRJ-200 would benefit from a little bit of updating and love from Javier, but this is still an outstanding aircraft and it dominated my flying month this past May, and I enjoyed every last minute. If you have the CRJ-200 then go and get the BSS sound package, you would be crazy not to. There is no doubt the impact that Blue Sky Star Simulations has made with these outstanding sound packages. Every aircraft these packages are released for is then amazingly transformed into a completely higher orbital level of simulation. I was not a big believer in great sound, but I have now been totally converted to the amazing aspects that these sound packages can deliver, they are not cheap, but they are certainly the best thing to have come to X-Plane in a long time. Crazy is a word sometimes on what you have to fly next in reviewing. One moment you are skimming the sky above Dallas Fort-Worth (Uncle Tom’s great DFW scenery) in Rotate’s MD-88. The next you are with wind in the hair and going full speed at 100mph in a World War One Tri-Plane! It was such a disjointing of the senses flying the Fokker dr.1, but I can’t say it wasn’t fun because it was, and a very different flying experience, and all in a day's X-Plane flying. Didn’t end there either because then next I had to then take the controls of Felis’s outstanding Tupolev Tu-154M. A great aircraft but very hard to understand in the Russian systems approach and the flying aspects as well. It will take time to learn this one and I doubt I will really be able to understanding at a realistic deep level for a few months either, but I am looking forward to the challenge as the aircraft is another great outstanding simulation for X-Plane. An observation to note… If you look at the lower left of the portal window of the X-Plane.Org you will see that the .Org now has (to last count) 385627 members, When did we just only pass the 300,000 mark, well it was just the middle of last year and that means we are now closing in on the 400,000 mark of users signed up to the simulator, granted not all are active, some even for years. But a gain of 85,000 members in not only a year means we are growing still very rapidly, and who says Simulation is dead… long live X-Plane. With this post it will be quiet around X-PlaneReviews for a week. I am taking a break and going to Tasmania, that Apple shaped island at the bottom of Australia. Flying for the first time on the B787 Dreamliner is something I am very excited about, and hey let someone else do the driving for a change, but if they need any help then ask the guy in seat 33A. I'll be back on the X-Plane ride on the 9th June. Stephen Dutton 2nd June 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
  2. Behind the Screen : April 2016 Some months you breeze through, and some months you cover most of what X-Plane can throw at you with a smile and a lot of flying. But April 2016 was nothing like that, in fact it was the total opposite. With the purchase and setting up of the new Windows power monster I went into the month behind anyway, three weeks behind and it just went downhill from there. Easter was a blockbuster of releases, you would think that X-Plane would be slowing down as it got comfortable and running into 2016 and settling down nicely into a smatter of releases. Wrong. Fighters were falling out of the sky. Bam, bam, bam and there was three in as many days with first Colimata’s F/A 18-F Super “Rhino” Hornet. I like Colimata’s aircraft and the F18 was no exception, just a few more weeks of development would have made it more functional, and it fell just slightly short that way, but X-Plane now finally has an exceptional F18 which was badly needed. If you look at the images of the review It was amazing in the twilight, a really beautiful aircraft. The new Windows multi-core processors have done great things here on bringing up the quality of the details at close inspections, but it also shows and highlights poor detailing (joins, gaps & textures) as well so the reviews will get even more critical. Overall as you can see the very high quality you get with current designs in X-Plane today, most are exceptional. Second release was MLADG’s Messerschmidtt Bf 109-G2, One aircraft that stuns the senses and at US$18 a real bargain to boot. Third aircraft was another X-Plane stalwart in Khamsin and he finally released his magnificent North American P-51D Mustang. Oh the “power” of the thing… it is amazing to fly low and fast with no armament and a light fuel load, I wished there was more liveries and was quite disappointed in the fact I couldn’t fly the aircraft in a more modern sense, but overall this gem was another great aircraft from the master. While still bombarded with all these fighters another one then came back into view with X-Trident’s Tornado. The project was originally put on hold to deliver their excellent AB-412 Huey helicopter, which is a masterwork, but then late last year the project was then reborn and I got a taste of an early beta. Still a fair way to go, but this is a fighter going to be worth your flight commander stripes. Amazing machine and it is really great in quality and design. So watch out for details of a release of the Tornado, with my guess is going to be around mid-year. Still the releases kept coming with next Aerobask with a sort of hybrid of the Epic 1000 and the internals of the Epic Victory in their version of the Dynon Avionics Skyview system. Once G1000 systems were as rare as a drive-in movie theatre in Casablanca. But they are now everywhere in X-Plane lately these days, Still not sure that I like these G1000’s as much as I should do, its all those menus to branch and root through. I like the good old dial and lever sort of flying. Hop in and go and twiddle the knobs to find your way there as you hold the yoke in one hand and a map in the other and then hone into the nearest VOR radio waypoint. The lovely Carenado F33 Bonanza is still my absolute favourite to get away from the real world and potter across a country to… well nowhere and then just come back again. Scenery was also dropping into the custom scenery folder with scary regularity as well. To be honest I had fell behind and paused on all sceneries in March so I could use the immense power of the Windows to create a better environment around the packages, as the iMac’s power just couldn’t deliver the correct views that the work deserved. The wait was certainly worth it, as the sceneries could now be used to their full advantage and the sheer quality of the work was heightened to the ninth degree. In other words it looked incredible, and shows how really good the X-Plane simulator is now, if you can run the settings at there almost full whack. The promise of Laminar Research’s next v10.50 beta release and the fix and development of the default autogen (tall buildings) has me in euphoric anticipation of the sheer wanting of it all. The stalled scenery reviews got back into the swing with Joe’s Pilot+Plus LSGG Geneva. It is lovely place to visit and I know the area well around Lake Geneva. A new scenery developer in JustSim really surprised me in the quality of their work, it is exceptional and I am now a huge fan, however there is a need of a bit of life in the scenery, as this emptiness takes away the sheer good work everywhere else. I liked LOWL - Linz better than LEGE Girona, but at these prices you should be gobbling them up and using them, they in the quality to value ratio are great deals… more to come and visit there for me on JustSim. Rio… There is something in the water down there in that Southern Continent. Passion no doubt, but those Brazilians are a do or die lot. The problem is there is too much passion, in fact too much of everything. The great SBGL - Galeão from Richard G Nunes had so much in there that my iMac had a coronary and simply rolled over, now there is another level of added heavy scenery with SBRJ - Santos Dupont going into the same area and the detail is so overwhelming you can want to buy an ice cream in there to look over it all. It is brilliant work and now we do have a Rio to match X-Plane’s quality… but you need a power machine to run it all…. A bit like the Brazilians. Tom Curtis released his huge KDFW - Dallas Fort-Worth. That for me came out of nowhere. DFW is an airport I fly through a lot and enjoy its position in the X-Plane world, and Florida to DFW and then onto the American West coast is a favourite route that I do east or west bound. It is one of the few remaining Qantas (QF) ports as well, but I strangely even after all these years in X-Plane I have still not flown directly from Australia across the pacific, it is on my long to do list. I covered a lot of ground (excuse the pun) in April but there a few sceneries still to catch up, I hope to cover them through May. Two projects far apart in design and even that one was freeware and one is payware, but both have a commonality of being Boeing 737’s. Both after five and six years of development they were also released only a week apart, so if there is something in astrology and planetary cycles then this one bares it out. The IXEG B737 Classic and the EADT B737-800 are worlds apart in many ways, but are both filling a hole needed in our X-Plane universe as this is one of the most successful range of aircraft ever produced. I was in the beta team on the EADT B738 and there is nothing so frustrating in flying and testing an aircraft and not shout in this site “This is totally brilliant” and want you all to share in the EADT dream. Month after month the aircraft grew and just got better and better and I had to keep my trap shut. To stop wayward copying and pirating EADT created login serial numbers that were ingeniously clever and not even Apple Computer (even under a government order) could crack them open. But the final result is a landmark for freeware in X-Plane… and I can now shout my love for it all as well, and throw some donation money to the talent at EADT... it was well earned. So for X-Plane April was a huge month and now we soon will be going into a new beta cycle with v10.50. There are a lot of goodies coming, with that new autogen, ATC fixes, New Manipulators, apt.dat changes to sort static aircraft out around airports and the default KingAir and Baron having had upgrades. But it is not the candy store aspect that is good about X-Plane betas, it is the constant refinement of the underlying code that makes the simulator as powerful and efficient as it is. Only area that needs urgent attention is the cloud system, brilliant as it is, it is not very efficient and needs a refinement to make come more into line with the other features. Will the clouds be updated (refined) in v10.50? Well you don’t know until Laminar Research open up their box of tricks, but I hope so. There was the sad announcement that Aerosoft is closing their ASN review site, but Angelique is vowing to go it on alone, and good luck to her in that. ASN had been part of my growth and in a way allowed me to create X-PlaneReviews as my experience grew. So when something significant goes that touched your life, it is always going to be a moment of reflection. Stephen Dutton 6th May 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
  3. Behind the Screen : March 2016 As I sailed into the beginning of March 2016 I was totally unaware that I was going into one of the most significant periods of my life in X-Plane. Change? A big change. At the other end of the (very, very long) month my world had changed beyond every aspect of the way I interacted with the simulator, it was a good change, but also one well overdue. Overall the changes around you with X-Plane happen at a small snails pace, but it is relentless in moving forward, changing and using more and more of your resources and it is bit like climate change in that suddenly you find yourself knee deep in water were as not very long ago there was plenty of the higher ground between yourself and drowning... In X-Plane terms this climate change is called... headroom. When I was a simple novice and X-Plane9® was all the rage then my humble but then powerful iMac "27" could fly with abandon, headroom was a laughable 60frames of carefree living... and then came X-Plane10®. At first X-Plane10 was a shock to the system with its gorging puffy clouds and framerate wrecking deeply layered data tiles and not to mention the high killing HDR lighting engine. But overall with a lot of fine-tuning (autogen low) and keeping the cloud count down with rarely running the HDR the iMac was in reality very quickly back into the green zone. And over the years it has performed very well at that level. But the tide was very quietly and slowly coming in on me. Not to mention the above X-Plane10 features, it was the subtle effects that hurt the most. Those data tiles went even more heavier and then to the maximum in HD (High - Definition) and finally they were extended to over double the visual distance and that was not just a lapping of the water but a small wave coming in. Then the scenery started to get serious. Addon payware scenery was once very, very light was now getting very, very heavy and complex with hundreds and thousands of objects, great textures and loads of brilliant animations. Then the third aspect of the triangle in that the aircraft went from being really cardboard thin to airline complexity and then the inclusion with small recreations of real world systems that became seriously complex and the development of complete 3D virtual cockpits that had you working just as hard as the real jockeys do in the real world (There is the two of them remember to your one here). Put the three together and that is over the last few years a big movement of change. To be fair developers have done wonders to keep their work framerate light, but complexity is still more complexity and if you want realism it has to be done and adding in more and more to the thickening mixture and yes don't forget those 4K livery textures... But it is the scenery that usually breaks the dam. Late 2014 I burnt out my 512mb graphic chip trying to grind out images of extremely heavy scenery. It was replaced and upgraded to 2gb of graphic power and a 512gb SSD drive that did wonders for my machine. I had some headroom back. But the problem was in there I still had those old 2009 i3 processors to do the grunt work, so it was like funneling the lake through a small tunnel and in time those generators are not going to spin enough to clear the overwhelming flow. First signs that they were in real trouble was when Carenado created their own data set for their G1000 gps system. It is a huge thing of data and stored in your X-Plane root folder. It worked but you could see the numbers were getting line ball. By this time most of my significant scenery packages like Aerosoft's Heathrow, New York's JFK, Dubai, Sydney and the worst in Aerosoft's EHAM Schiphol which always brought my iMac to its grinding knees anyway were mostly left unused and had been for long time. Lots of autogen and objects... in your dreams. Very quickly in early march two occasions showed that finally the game was up and I would soon be needing scuba gear to keep my head above the waterline, or below it. One was the release of Carenado's Sirrus SR22 and again it was a G1000 data glut that did it. To be fair and using very low light scenery and being mostly overwater. The iMac did do a great job in processing it and the review was not compromised, But you could note it wasn't happy with the sheer weight of the work it had to deal with. Another aspect was Richard E Nunes excellent Galeo International Airport SBGL. And for some reason my iMac just simply hated the scenery, it was a horrible torrid time to process that scenery (over two weeks?) and the worst scenery review I have done (not in content but effort), so when Richard released his latest work in Santos Dumont airport SBRJ I found myself again trouble, to be fair both sceneries are what I reviewed and SBJR airport is quite framerate light (The city buildings behind are not) but the overwhelming factor is that to continue to review these ever heavier and more complex sceneries then a line had been crossed. Almost everything else was totally scaled back to get these sceneries just to run, and the point here is it was me and my equipment that was the issue here and not the scenery (or aircraft). To be fair to the reviews and give a more accurate description of the full effects with X-Plane running at higher settings then the iMac just simply couldn't cut the mustard anymore and it was showing with the very early signs it was pushing my graphics card too hard and it could fail again. A lot of discussion and a straight point was made by a developer friend that the game was up. Apple Mac's that have been my life, income and soul for decades were off the table because of simple mathematics, they are simply too expensive at that level of performance in Australia, but the aspect of updating them is even a worse problem and you just can't fit a huge graphic engine into Jonny Ive's sleek curved masterpieces. There was also a major factor that many developers of X-Plane product who will only develop in Windows (all product should be multi-platform), so a lot of product that needs to be reviewed or mentioned can't be done on the review site, and this was one of the main reasons I had to go windows. So a crash course on the wonders of windows was required. It is far more difficult than you can imagine because of not just simply changing to a new system platform was required, because that is quite easy as most computer OS's and mostly structured the same with just different titles for different things and different inputs to get the same results, so that part is easy. The hard part is constructing a machine (dubbed early on as Frankenstein) that can do the work that needs to be processed and more importantly can have the power to survive anything that X-Plane, developers and the world of simulation can throw at it for a few years at least (headroom), but my view is that with all the huge change that simulation has gone through the last few years I think we are in a sort of slightly more level period of change and the needs of ever more huge amounts of chip processing and graphic power, but virtual reality headsets could prove me very wrong there. So it comes down to the classic Einstein equation... The maximum power you can get = The least amount of cash I can actually afford You know it will end badly, and I am also lucky as I can live on baked beans and toast for months to recover. Both came true... The biggest problem is that you just can't with X-Plane be... well compromised. You need what you need and this will mean taking a serious crash course in the thousands of different system options to get that one system that will deliver the goods at that right affordable price. You need the newest fastest chips? and an i7, the biggest most powerful graphic engine you can shove under the bonnet and an SSD drive. The SSD drive I installed last year in the iMac has made me a total convert, and I needed a 512gb minimum as my current X-Plane needs 300gb and more just to be installed so a 256gb is just too small. Like an Olympic sport once your off you are off and the race is on to get the right deal. Fully built systems on the web are very price competitive, made for gamers and are packed with power. One stop shop. But they don't actually deliver (In Australia) because you can't specify certain items or are paying for features and items you don't need, so in most cases you overbuy to get the specifications you want and are stuck with the rest, underbuy (to your cost) and you have to severely make compromise on items you do want in say the chip power (i3) or an average graphic engine. The only option is to have the machine ( Frankenstein) built up locally of the many diverse parts that your require. You can at least control the price that way, as in this case of either broke or bailiffs. In most cases you would recycle your old machine to support the purchase of the upgraded one. But I still need my iMac as it is still my preferred machine for editing and building the reviews and has a decade of applications that are just too valuable to lose. This will make the windows just a X-Plane dedicated workhorse and nothing else going in there in time to dilute the simulator application. So the huge choices start. Chips or processors was quite easy as a powerful i7 was the go until they had to be changed as we will see in a moment. The graphic card is of course the major component of running X-Plane and you have a lot of choice. All GTX 900 series cards are good, but would an early GTX-960 be already to old? GTX-970? I wanted the GTX-980 then there was the choice of the GTX-980Ti. A first quote sent my jaw to the ground and jail suddenly seemed a good option. The problem with the Ti is that it does give you a whopping 20% more power, but comes with a 40% more cost? I settled for the GTX-980, now I also wanted to over clock, and that adds the K to the GTX-980K graphic engine specs. Then the chip is required to go K as well and then your calculator burns up as with just adding in that one single letter as it sends your costs spiraling skywards. The guy at the computer stores starts shaking his head in an expensive pattern and starts rolling his eyes in an "oh dear" moment. Upping to the "K" means a far bigger chip, a more expensive GTX graphic card, a more far larger power supply to keep the monster running and then the extra component of a water cooling system to keep the machine from not blowing its innards up like a Vietnam movie and cool enough to not make your room look like a Ridley Scott set... in other words expensive. The word "dedication" comes into the story here, dedication to the review site and dedication to the X-Plane simulator. Frankenstein's final specs are: Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz /64bit - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD for the major components and a 700w power source and a water cooling system that could run the Queen Mary 2. Victor the computer creator looks me in the eye and says "What the hell are you going to run on this thing... It is a monster!" and it is. But for the "The maximum power you can get = The least amount of cash I can actually afford" equation it is not a bad price under the AUS$3000 mark. "dedication" that word again... So a small apology in the amount of reviews that were quite slow during March, but there was a huge amount of running around and a lot of extra fixtures to buy and more time getting the machine hooked up and running X-Plane in a basic form. It is slow work and none more so just resetting X-Plane to run on a different platform. Getting the Apple and the Windows to say hello to each other was a nightmare just in itself, it is still a face-off in the fact that one machine's firewall will not get through the other machine's firewall and so everything still at the moment has to shifted via an ExFAT drive. 1 million 600 thousand! X-Plane files had to be transferred twice on in first to the drive and then secondly into the SSD over a full day and a half, yes that is progress, but X-Plane and little X-Planes in the folders are hundreds and thousands of little small files that all takes a slow time to move. All, yes all payware and plugins aircraft had to be re-registered with keys that some serials have not been used for years or forgotten. Many still are not running. Another of the window features is the required "Microsoft C++ Redistributable 2013 64bit" for the SASL plugin, easy yes... well no. There are more than one C++ components to be installed. In fact you need the C++ 2012, C++ 2013, C++2014 and C++2015 components in there is you want to make your aircraft fly again. Finally there is the Python application and CustomSBDatarefs to be installed and finally X-Plane will work? Well no... because you can't just move your Mac X-Plane app to WIN and it will work? A trick from Ben Supnik is to create a double X-Plane root folder (name it "X-Plane 10.45 WIN") then run the latest X-Plane installer app, select the new X-Plane root folder and in the "Options" section you can change the basic X-Plane app from Mac - Windows - Linux as you require. Then you can move it over to the Windows machine and then rebuild up your X-Plane root folder with all the major working components of Global scenery, Custom scenery, Resources, Aircraft and other two thousand and more items that makes X-Plane work. And you wonder why I was sleeping and collapsed at my desk... And finally it all works and I am now flying X-Plane. No time yet to fine tune the systems or X-Plane and I will cover that and performance in this forthcoming April edition. Early signs are good. Take a look at the early release preview post of Pilot+Plus's Geneva News! - Airport Release! - LSGG Geneva from Pilot+Plus with the review windows version: Scenery Review : LSGG - Geneva Airport by Pilot+Plus And you will see the difference some powerful computer power can make, and a word to the developers in that a slow computer and low resolutions can also hide a lot of flaws, so even very small texture mistakes and not aligned objects now really stand out. The point to all this is there is a line to performance and dedication to X-Plane. You can still try and keep the flame lit and still use X-Plane9® before upgrading to X-Plane10® and I certainly understand as you can see above in getting a machine to be competitive with the simulator is very costly and most don't have these sums available or want a loan round your neck to achieve it. Most give simulation away because of the cost and I can understand the sad fact of that. No doubt Laminar Research try their best to make X-Plane as efficient as possible and in fact it is in its basic form, but it is everything else that is blowing that ever decreasing headroom into the teens of framerate stutter hell. My position is slightly different, as I review on this site and beta test aircraft and scenery. It is only fair to not only yourself and the developers to see and understand the aircraft, scenery and thousands of different aspects that go to make up the X-Plane simulator in its correct context. Sadly my beloved iMac can't do that anymore and it is only fair that I do deliver the right points and images that are required for running a review site. I don't think at any point in the past I did under-serve in a review or test the correct aspects of what was require for the correct judgement, but I am wise enough to know when the line has been passed over and was willing to change for that. These changes have to be the benefit of this review site and X-Plane as a moving forward simulator. X-Plane11® still maybe a twinkle in Laminar's eye. But it is coming and when it does then what extra power will you need to process it, my guess (and it is still a only a guess) is that 2017 will be the year. So if you are looking forward and in one of the earlier considerations of this windows computer upgrade was now would be the right time to start saving. ______________________________________________________________________ So very little actual flying got done in March and I am slightly behind with reviews, most were put on hold as they were sceneries and I thought that the benefits of waiting now to do better justice visually for the hard work that developers do was worth the wait. Long distance flying is one thing I been restricted from doing for a few years because it closes down the computer for a full day. I try to minimise that a lot by flying overnight while I am sleeping on tried and trusted routes that I know I won't get nasty scenery crashes, it is flying high mostly in the dark or over water anyway so you are not missing anything visually. Now with the windows extra machinery that can change things a little bit in that I can fly on one and edit and do the site on another computer and so I am now more productive than ever. As many of you know I follow the Formula One circus around the world with shipping the cargo (and cars) from race to race or port to port. So it was time to dust off the old B777 and put it to work. I found it earlier to be slightly old, but a current update v1.8.3 (available now from your account at the X-Plane.OrgStore) has breathed new life into the old girl. First race was in Australia, so the haul from London (Heathrow) to Melbourne via Singapore is a dozy of huge nautical numbers to cover and takes two full days (In this case nights) flying. Second lift was from Avalon (YMAV) by Melbourne to (OBBI) Bahrain was a crushing 14 hours flying time to where the race is this weekend (2-3rd April), then on to Shanghai in China in two weeks. Huge distances to cover in a short time, twice now on the iMac and next on the Windows to China will be a great comparison. One thing that really stretches X-Plane is long haul, It is good to run the simulator over long distances and you really learn on how the simulator is really performing in these runs, I will note the results next month. So March became a watershed month in change for me and this X-PlaneReviews site. The benefits of this computer upgrade when fine tuned will be to the benefit to all in the developers and you the users in that we all want the best and deliver the best in great editorial and great visual images and of course the best information on the X-Plane simulator. But March kept on delivering right to the very end and died not quietly but with a great sadness... We lost David Marshall (dkm) as one of the great contributors to our X-Plane community. It is an extremely sad loss as a friend as these sites and reviews are built on their work and their opinions and their experience that was very much always appreciated though our correspondence. Our final notes were not of aircraft or scenery but banjo's, because that was another of David's great talents and what a way of remembering him... Thanks David and god bless you. Stephen Dutton 2nd April 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
  4. Behind the Screen : February 2016 For being the shortest month of the year. Then February feels the most longest in terms of being the busiest, packed, squeezed, no time, full on month of the X-Plane calendar. As January 2016 was almost an empty oasis of nothing, then the short February calendar certainly made up for it all. The Rotate MD-88 dominated almost the whole month as I wanted to dig down into this aircraft to find the truth in why it made 10% of users to throw tantums. Not just flying the aircraft to almost destruction in (and I counted) 43 takeoffs and landings, there was a lot of discussion and feedback through the beta channels with constant updates to the aircraft and working through the bugs. Most of the major bugs had however already been addressed so it was down in the fine tuning you found with the devil in the detail. Never be a beta tester, it is a long hard slog of repeatable fights to get down to the problems, and the aircraft are undoubtably... well buggy. But it is your job to weed out the real from the false. Going up blind alleys is a constant source of pain. But you have to give major awards to the developers behind the scenes. You know them by name, but not personally. They are shadows really moving around the background, but their skills and pure professionalism is what delivers those amazing experiences on your desktop. It is an horrific job of complexity to get everything right and working as it should, as they disappear for years to cover all the hundreds and thousands items of code and modeling to produce the best machine they can. Changes are usually swift, but developers are not perfect, but we expect them to be. Complexity means spending hours with your head in manuals, real and produced by the developer. Hours of watching real cockpit video's and making notes on every task, action or changes the pilots do in flying the real aircraft. Then it all has to be translated to the virtual version and getting your flying profiles honed down to almost perfection (which in the MD-88 case meant it was in getting absolutely no alarms). The thing that made really hot under the collar with the MD-88 was that as I have repeated ad nauseam through out these reviews is that these complex aircraft cannot be judged on just a few hours or even a few days of flying. But to squeal that it is a hopelessly bad design and not well put together is going to hurt developers in thinking "what have I got myself into" and the sales to go south just as quick. In this MD-88's case a very loud minority (10%) did a lot of damage, but when they scream and squeal like this when their own incompetence is mostly the base problem is to show their own ignorance of their own skills and the professionals they are not. Myself I did not judge too early to make a clear statement on the aircraft, yes it had issues, but 90% of users were certainly more professional in their evaluation towards the aircraft and the released v1.1 update shows they were correct in that evaluation. You would think I wouldn't even want in any form position myself again in front of the MD-88 yoke for awhile. But nothing can be further from the truth as this complex and demanding aircraft is always a challenge, but so rewarding to fly, and is still easily the top of my list every time when I want to hit on X-Plane again. No doubt Rotate's MD-88 is addictive, complex and I love it. On developers, one is again creating a masterpiece. Ddenn created the sublime Challenger 300 Personal jet of which is certainly the best personal jet in X-Plane and has been for years. There was a feeling that Ddenn's Challenger 300 would become his only masterpiece as his output dried up except for the odd yearly Challenger update. But last year Ddenn announced his next project in another personal or really large executive jet in the Bombardier Global 6000 (earlier called Global Express). Your dream was for the aircraft to match the quality of the Challenger 300, but again the grand master is producing... well a masterpiece. Go checkout this internal cabin video and be ready to be totally amazed in the quality of this work. I hate the expression "Awesome" but it fits here as the interior work is above anything I have yet seen in X-Plane. Who says that X-Plane does not deliver in quality aircraft. Noted is the Global 6000 will also have a fully functional FMC as well and no doubt this will be an amazing machine once it is released, I was simply astounded. There is speculation that JARDesign's next project is the Airbus A340 to match up with his excellent A332. Some images on facebook and a few rumors abound, so watch this space. However I feel the A320neo needs a bit more loving care before a new release, it feels old now compared to the higher quality A332, but I have had notes the update is coming later in the year. The lovely Victory VLJ (Very Light Jet) by Aerobask was a shock on how good it was. Aerobask turns out very complete aircraft these days and the Victory was very complete. To note some developers tend to hold their releases until they are very polished and Aerobask is one of them. Aerobask was very proud of their work on the Dynon Avionics Skyview feature, and I was impressed on the way it was so functional. I'm not a big fan of menu driven panels, and I am still not converted to the cause, but it was very well done. Another developer that impressed me was also new to X-Plane. Under the Aerosoft banner was Omar Masroor that created the excellent KRSW - Florida Southwest. The release version had a few areas that needed attention, but some points were my own fault in not setting up X-Plane to cover for them in the "Anisotropic Filtering" setting. I don't use the setting high as it is really heavy framerate filter killer, and I just don't have the headroom for that much of a loss. But clever ideas to adjust the amount of objects (using WED) is thinking out of the box and allows for scenery to be tailored for your capacity of use. I was very impressed on Omar's professional dialog and the way they responded to the issues, I had to amend the review three times to cover the changes, and it is now a high quality scenery that you should have in your custom scenery folder. A lot of noise was around releases that were announced as coming "Very soon" and failed to appear. IXEG B737 Classic is still very non-existent, and I was disappointed on how many features on that extensive published list were missing after the aircraft has been in development for almost over half a decade... could that be a reason for the continuing delay? The EADT x737 v5 (Virtual Cockpit) is still also a missing fixture, but I have a very good source the aircraft now well down the road in completion and it was real world distractions that have been the cause of the delay, certainly a release will be in the next yearly quarter Q2. PMDG, for X-Plane... god knows? The upgrade to JARDesign's excellent "Ground Handling Deluxe" plugin gave me lots of pleasure and spurred me into action to create some liveries for my own use. You can download my handywork for Qantas, British Airways, Emirates, Delta, Alitalia and United, and thank you for your kind comments. The van is almost impossible to recolour as the images are taken from a real vehicle, white is a "just get away with that" but I spent hours trying to recolour the thing, I doubt I could get say a yellow or harder colour. There is a paintkit (no van in there) and it is a big help, but you really do bring your ramp activity alive with this extraordinary plugin, great price and certainly a must have if you do spend a lot of time around the ramps and gates of X-Plane. I will try to do some airport sets, but time is time and finishing repeatably late at 2am in the morning is reflected on the bad flying skills the next day. I flew FlightFactor's Boeing 777 Worldliner from Dubai to London in a fit of finally having a few hours to fly long-haul. It was nice to spend time with the big twin Boeing and to cover some serious distance that is becoming harder to do with all the time constraints. Overall the experience was overwhelmingly great, but the extended X-Plane scenery seeded to heavily see-saw between brilliant 50fr-60fr to marginal 20fr-19fr depending on the amount of visual terrain on the ground. I never had this before as once to cleared 30,000ft as I usually sat in the 50fr to 60fr range until descending into using a heavy airport scenery and a lot of autogen on landing. Worrying is that the FlightFactor B777W is very efficient on framerate, so I need to redo another long-haul to see if that is common now. The Boeing felt a little tired as well and in need of an update, but usually FF are very good in keeping their aircraft up to date, and it notes how very quickly something in X-Plane can now feel a little dated, I hope an update is due for 2016. Another note is when I updated to the latest X-Plane v10.45 the simulator started to throw out errors of custom scenery at an alarming rate. Scenery that has been part and parcel of my X-Plane world don't work anymore (KFMY - Page Field is one) and open them up in WED and they look a mess of faults, worse in KFMY's case the developer has long gone. I am hoping this is a bad X-Plane version glitch because if it is not you could have a serious loss of great scenery that is instantly thrown out as the simulator just crashes to the desktop. X-PlaneReviews are always looking for new reviewers to give their views and points on X-Plane. We have not issued any invitations before now as the changes in versions to the newer IP.Board v4 was complete. It has a vastly improved editor which vastly helps in the time required to create your reviews or comments, if you are interested then send me a message by the messages (envelope icon at top of the page) and leave your email address. High Flying Stephen Dutton
  5. Behind the Screen : January 2016 I'm going to try in 2016 to do a Behind the Screen as a monthly column, as I like the idea of reporting of what goes on behind our website and what is happening in X-Plane as much as the reviews we do. You can give out a different perspective on what is highlighted or what is not by having a more non-ridged way of talking about X-Plane which is hard with such a structured Review post. Top of the month was that I installed the BlueSkyStar Simulation sound package on JARDesign's A320neo. Oh wow, stand back people. I called it "Extraordinary" in our heading and extraordinary it is, amazing, can't believe this... and so on. These sounds have totally absolutely changed my perception of how sound relates to the aircraft's simulation and to your overall experience, and still weeks after the installation I am running the A320neo every moment I can to just rerun over and over again that feeling of a A320 on my desktop. No one, I mean no one who owns or buys the JARDesign A320neo should be without this BSS sound package installed. I found out later that the FlightFactor B767 has the same BSS sound sets and if you read the B767-300ER review I noted I really loved the sounds in there as well, those sound sets just stand out so well. The BlueSkyStar A330 sound set is originally a basic set that is reflected in the price, but a more full comprehensive set is noted as coming, so is a set for the JRollon CRJ-200. No matter, and any sound set from BSS in the future in my books is a certain must have... start your wish list here. A lot of forum noise was made on the JRollon CRJ-200. Most noted the aircraft was out of date now, and be prepared to see it sent out to Victorville for storage. Myself I still think their is still a lot of life left in the old girl, I certainly don't want it sitting out there in the desert with weeds climbing up into the wheel-wells. The coming BSS sound set will maybe be the aircraft's savior, but JRollon will have to give the aircraft a magic wand wipe over to convert it to the current X-Plane v10.45 conditions. The BIG question is he willing to do that, no word or hints yet if he will. So maybe we should start a "Save the CRJ-200" campaign! .... crowd-fund? The start of the year had another source of confusion in the updated SASL 2.4 plugin and X-Plane v10.42 or 43 or 44 or 45, now in beta 45b1. But confusion reigns that even I myself have lost all total proportion on what I have in my aircraft folder is legal and current. The SASL 2.4 update is an important one that is the fix for all those crashes in Mac El Captain 10.11 OS. Myself I am still on 10.10 Mavericks OS because I am still waiting for the 10.11 OS to become stable and now the problems are worse as I have no idea what SASL changes in aircraft have actually been done and what has not, there is no guide unless you go to the X-Plane.OrgStore and check the version number and update. Then Laminar Research noted to developers to fix the " torque bug fix" in planemaker (you can do it yourself by re-saving the aircraft in Planemaker v10.42 or higher) and the developers have had to do it all over again and resubmit their aircraft with the upgrade. No doubt a few developers where not happy to say the least, and total compliance confusion reigns. I have simply no idea what aircraft in my folder is compliant and what is not and is faced with at least months of downloads to correct it all. My current feeling is leave everything as it is, as it is all thankfully at the moment all running smoothly and that I doubt I will be able to install El Capitan at all and just move straight on to the next Mac OS in September 2016. Laminar Research in X-Plane v10.50 has finally seen the light. I love the "Global Airport" idea but it hopelessly didn't work for me. Almost every airport I landed at had two airports merged together in some sort of of drug fueled hallucination. I got to the insane point when I just threw out the Global Airport folder to reinstall it again only for X-Plane updates. Laminar's Ben Supnik expected all developers to fix their exclusion zones, but I thought that was a never, never land expectancy because many airport developers are long gone, most can't be actually bothered and the rest did have a half-hearted go at fixing the zones. I foresaw this issue well before the Global Airport feature was installed and noted forthwise. The solution is as simple as it is easy, If the ICAO code is noted on the installed scenery then the Global copy will ignore it... beautiful and it works and only a global perspective could have fixed the issue. There are a few poor set out custom sceneries without ICAO's , but you can't cover every bad developer can you. Now my "Global Airport" folder stays right there in its rightful place and I can thankfully use its extra wonderful selection of fill airports. Six weeks on and the hairs on my neck still get angry with the comments on the Rotate MD-88 that was released in early December 2015. Still users are complaining that the aircraft is not sorted and you would think the aircraft is some sort of lopsided disaster. It goes beyond belief that this ranting is still going on and mostly because it is not warranted. I myself will admit that the aircraft is not absolutely totally not perfect, but hail Mary's it is not that bad either. I find it (and so do many, many) other users a great experience and a far better aircraft than any aircraft that was released to acclaim only a few years ago. But let us get some perception here of what the situation is. First Rotate is a first time release developer (He has been part of a team on other projects) so his learning curve is stratospheric. It is a very small team (Not even close to the mega team FlightFactor uses as one scribe commented) and any product today in this scale in X-Plane needs many updates after its release to bring it up to cover all the different aspects of running on different computers to different specifications. Rotate has already listed a long list of updates on his v1.1 notes and I will confirm the beta is very good. Finally I will repeat the point also that a purchase today of a payware aircraft is not just limited to the release download, but included in the cost is also years of updates and extra features. You are not buying an aircraft but a large investment that a developer has to maintain at no extra cost for years, and that is where a large percentage of your money goes... support. JARDesign gave us another significant update to his excellent "Ground Handling Deluxe" plugin and I am really loving it with the changeable livery feature. I did over the weekend a few "liveries" for Alitalia, Qantas and British Airways, and you can see the huge potential in the idea. I am debating of if airline colours or airport logo's are the best sets, but for the moment I am leaning to airline colours, because they can be spread and used over more than one airport like all around the airports in Australia. More ideas are flowing in this area. Sitting the JARDesign A320neo at Heathrow and spending the time setting the aircraft up. I found I was quite busy in calling all the action around the aircraft as much as getting the A320 ready to fly. With Greg Hofers WorldTraffic running solidly at full throttle and the Aerosoft EGLL airport's vehicle animations you are not short of action on the ground. Yes I was contented and happy little bunny with my little X-Plane world and all the action turned on again at my arrival at LIRF (Rome). How far we have come in a few years in this area were as I would have landed and parked up and just sighed.... and then turned off the computer. Now after landing you just leave the X-Plane world running on and on, hey you now have a plane to unload... contented is the word. Over a month I usually get to cover and fly a wide section of aircraft, but this month was for one cut short in half by a nasty cold, with two weeks off the computer and 13 days without leaving my home and I was crawling up the walls. "sick as" as the Queenslanders state, this was not "Manflu" but a full on head and chest killer in 40º heat (yes it is hot here in Australia at the moment). I survived to fly another day, but it did restrict my flying exploits. But JARDesign's switch that resets X-Plane's "Cold and Dark" setting would mean that 90% of the months overall flying was from "cold" and a lot of setting up before each flight. But I was willing to practise hard these constant routines over and over. You get very good at it and understand the aircraft better every time you totally redo the same sequences. One thing that has been my biggest learning lesson in X-Plane was that good flying is created by good practice, discipline is paramount to get the very best out of yourself and the aircraft. I was never ever a practise to refine person, I wanted everything and usually wanted it right now. I have learnt to learn and take slow steps and my discipline has been rewarded by my self-esteem on how really good I have got at something I love to do. So Practise does make perfect and in aviation it is paramount to fly at the very best you can achieve. I also spent a lot of time just flying between just three ports in KATL, KDFW and KRSW. Refining the way to do the same routes with different aircraft, and you do notice the differences between the different A320, A330, x737, E175 and MD-88 machines doing exactly the same route. It was more fun than I expected as I did expect a sort of monotonous repeatable sort of flying experience, but it proved overwhelmingly not to be the case. Which brings me to another interesting fact that in X-Plane less is certainly more, keep your flying and routes simple and refine those ideals better. ' Ciao! Stephen Dutton
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