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  1. 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
  2. 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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