Thursday, March 30, 2006

Adam's GDC Presentation now at FSInsider

It took a couple of days, but Adam has managed to get his presentation from this year's GDC posted as an article on the FSInsider website. Some of this tech talk is above my head - I'm not a scenery guy by any means - but it is very interesting how all of this is done to create a highly convincing virtual world.

If you have not had a chance to watch the video, I invite you to have a look at it. Most impressive to me is the very noticeable curvature of the earth toward the end of the video. Realistically, the aircraft that will be able to really attain any altitudes to really be able to notice this are the SR-71 and U-2 spyplanes. Perhaps SpaceShipOne would be a good candidate, though I'm not sure what the flight characteristics will be at such high altitudes, as this hasn't been modeled in MS FS before.

Thanks for your efforts in getting this posted permanently on the site, Adam!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Looking for some structure in your FS experience?

Often people find it a challenge finding some structure and purpose to flying in Flight Simulator. Thankfully, the developers of MS FS are addressing this with "missions" in the fourth-coming FSX. Those of you who just can't wait for the holiday release of FSX, I invite you to explore the huge world of VA's. What is a VA you ask? VA is short for Virtual Airline. Here's a short blurb describing a VA I found on Wikipedia:

A virtual airline is an Internet organization dedicated to the hobby of flight simulating.
Virtual airlines are non-profit organizations, although most attempt to replicate real airlines in terms of organizational structure. The most common organizational structure often includes one or more of the following positions: CEO, COO, President, Vice-President, Customer Relationship director, Operations director, and virtual pilots.
While a wide variety of virtual airlines are fictional in name and operation, other virtual airlines take the name of a real world airline (with approval from the actual corporate entity to which they virtually represent). Some airlines have been known to discourage those using their name (or other copyright material) and have even threatened legal action. Others (such as United Airlines) have encouraged them; in fact, United has a virtual division, complete with real world airmiles and a subdomain. Additionally, there are virtual airline conglomerates that run several more or less independent virtual airlines under a common brand, site design, or name.
"Pilots" who "work" for these "companies" must have a flight simulator and other computer equipment in order to perform. Usually, the airline's website keeps a record of the hours "flown" by each "pilot".

AirNet has a fairly exhaustive list of VA's available to join. Many are tailored for heavy iron flying, but there are a few that are unique. For example, Virtual Executive Jet Aviation is geared for those who prefer to fly business class aircraft. Their fleet is composed of a variety of aircraft from LearJet, Raytheon, Gulfstream, and Cessna. There is even a Virtual Pilots Association available.

Ever wanted to try multiplayer while communicating with real tower operators? VATSIM is the place for you. You'll want to be sure and pick up Squawkbox (it's free) if this sounds like fun.

As a developer, I don't get the opportunity to fly exhaustively enough to really benefit from joining a VA - that doesn't mean that I have not wanted to. It's a decision I make: either create new and exciting enhancements for FS or fly for hours on end. I can't have my cake and eat it to, so for the enjoyment of (hopefully) many, I choose the creation path.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

ACES at GDC - Adam's presentation online!

Earlier I wrote that two ACES studio members would be presenting at GDC. Well, now that GDC has come and gone, Adam Szofran's Powerpoint Presentation of his talk is available for download. He's also posted a very cool video showing what going from the ground to an infinite altitude will look like in FSX. Very exciting!!

EDIT: Due to high bandwidth limitations, Adam's ISP shut his file links down. But there is good news as he reports that they should be placed on the FSInsider website within the next couple of days.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bill Dance outtakes

Bill Dance has always been a significant player in the world of B.A.S.S. fishing, and has had a long career as a television angler always seen proudly wearing his Tennessee orange "T" hat. I ran across this great video clip of some outtakes from his show, and thought that I would share it. You thought that the "...squeezed his hamburger!" video was funny - you haven't seen anything yet!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Having fun in the swing!

click for a bigger pictureChristy Lake was feeling rather playful after breakfast yesterday, so we thought that she would like to play in her swing. She was making all sorts of cute faces, so I just had to grab my camera for the photo-op. Here is my favorite from the lot! Time to go to church...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

March Madness is upon us

That favorite time of the year for college basketball fans is upon us, finally. It seems that this year's "March Madness" is a bit late, I mean it's March 16th for crying out loud. At work, we've got a friendly pool going with the brackets. It's always interesting to see who picked who to win each round. So far, I'm not doing so great. I was certain that Oklahoma would have beaten UW-Milwaukee, but that's another part of the excitement - the upsets! Well, we all have until April 3rd to find out the fate of the championship. May the best team win!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An Airbus A380 built in 7 minutes!

Watch this amazing 7 minute time lapse video showing the complex logistical achievements of Airbus in constructing the new A380.

I am uncertain of the time frame that actually takes place, but the ballet of workers that coordinate and place this monster together sure make it look easy!!

Just look at the torque wrenches being used to attach those Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines! I'm particularly impressed with those large main gear mechanisms. The doors are quite complex - a great challenge for anyone wishing to recreate them within an environment such as Flight Simulator.

I'm not too much into heavy iron, but I just find this aircraft to be simply amazing in design and aeronautical achievement. This aircraft is something that was illustrated as a hypothetical "cruise liner of the sky" in Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines that I often read in my younger years. I never really thought would become a reality. I guess that's what I get for thinking.

ACES presentations at GDC

I was browsing the Game Developers Conference sessions for familiar names from the ACES camp, and low and behold, I found two! The conference will be March 20-24 in San Jose, California.

Adam Szofran will be speaking about "Global Terrain Technology for Flight Simulation"

This talk presents some of the terrain engine technology developed by Microsoft Game Studios. Of particular interest are techniques for handling the large amount of geospatial data required to represent the Earth from the surface up to orbital altitudes. Also discussed are fiber- and thread-based technologies for composing surface textures on the fly at run-time using a variety of geospatial data. The last part of the presentation focuses on how to triangulate a global, multiresolution terrain mesh requiring double-precision coordinates when the rendering hardware only supports single-precision coordinates.

Graphics guru, Adrian Woods, will be speaking about "The Make Art Button: Batches, Actions, and Scripts"
Do something once, it's creative. Do something twice, it's repetitive. Do something three times, you can probably automate it.

This session gives artists tools they can use to help minimize repetitive tasks and maximize creativity and iteration. Using the dreaded DOS prompt, Photoshop actions and droplets, and MaxScript, the speaker shows how technical ability can actually unleash creativity. For example, you can use MaxScript to enable in-game visuals never seen before. You can use Photoshop actions to speed up production time. And you can use the DOS prompt. Spend less time getting carpal tunnel syndrome, and more time creating beautiful artwork.

Since this year's GDC is in California and I am in South Carolina, I will not get the opportunity to attend. I really would be interested in seeing Adrian's session, as it is geared exactly toward what I do as a third party content creator. A lot of the work I do is quite repetitive in nature, and having tools that streamline tedious tasks is exactly what I've been looking for!

I hope that these guys post transcripts, or perhaps powerpoint presentations of their sessions after the conference. Adrian has his own blog - seems like a great place to post it *hint, hint*. :-)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bob Hoover's amazing aerobatics

Thanks Mike for linking me to this incredible video showing footage of R.A. Bob Hoover in a BBC documentary describing and showing how he performs incredible aerobatics first with engines off in his North American Rockwell Shrike Commander 500S, and then he performs a loop while pouring a glass of tea...without spilling a drop!! I sure wish I were able to have seen this first hand!

Advanced Garmin 480 feature

I was browsing a few aviation related blogs that I enjoy reading from time to time, and I ran across this interesting article describing the hold function of the Garmin 480. I find it quite interesting to note the Garmin 480 is the "...only panel mounted GPS with WAAS that is IFR certified under TSO C146 for use as primary navigation." John goes on to describe this as being able to navigate along airways, such as a VOR, even if the waypoint is out of service. Interestingly enough, the Garmin 430/530 and G1000 are certified under TSO C129 for IFR flight, meaning that they cannot be used as primary navigation if any navigational aid is out of service.

He has several nice screens showing what a hold looks like, and how if the aircraft is so equipped, can be flown with the autopilot. This is quite interesting, as I have done several practice holds with Roy in his Twin Comanche, and he just so happens to have the Garmin 480 in his plane.