Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Crow anyone?

ACES dev Adrian Woods just posted a rebuttal of some of the comments he has received recently regarding FSX performance. It is an excellent post with a lot of thoughtful perspective that is well worth a read. ACES is listening...

On a side note, it appears that Mike Gilbert, a.k.a. tdragger, is bowing out of the FSX public eye and moving on to his new responsibilities. His blog is now closed to comments. Best of luck, Mike!

Friday, October 27, 2006

"Official" support site for FSX

Tdragger was kind enough to point us to the official MS technical support site for FSX. You'll have to register a Live log-in if you do not already have one before being able to access it. There is a lot of good information that should be updated on a regular basis, as more and more feedback is registered through support.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Comprehensive FSX Tweaks blog article

Courtesy of Matt Fox, he has compiled an un-official tweak guide for FSX. He covers everything from slider suggestions, AutoGen mods, FSX.cfg edits, texture replacements, and has a section started for moving vehicle tweaks (though none have been found -- yet). He warns that these tweaks are to be done at the users risk, but I understand that many have been very effective at improving performance.

Monday, October 23, 2006

FSX podcast today on ANN Internet Radio!

I ran across this podcast today featuring Brett Schnepf, Hal Bryan, and Mike Singer from ACES published by Aero-News.Net Internet Radio. Check it out!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Autumn is here!

Click for larger versionThe other day before going to church, I snapped a few pictures of Christy and Christy Lake on our porch. Do you like Christy Lake's rocking horse dress? It's perfect for the autumn season!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Eaglesoft Beechjet 400A & Hawker 400XP Complete!

After many months of revisions to just about all facets of the project, I'm very glad to see the project completed and available for purchase. I was responsible for revising the exterior and VC with numerous improvements including, but not limited to:

* Remapped fuselage across two 1024x1024 bitmaps for improved resolution
* Added authentic representations of vents on rear of fuselage
* More accurate clamshell design
* Revised and added accurate representations of antennae
* Added a cargo bay with luggage
* Reworked cabin seats to look more accurate (with moving headrests)
* Fully positionable window visors
* Revised VC gauges, adding depth where appropriate

I'm thankful to the team at Eaglesoft for working so well together to get the job done!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What's your framerate, part 2

My colleague Bill Leaming, with the assistance of Burkhard Renk, has put together a great tutorial on how to actually measure video card memory demand that FSX is exhibiting in real-time. If tuning FSX to run reasonably well is a challenge, I recommend using this advice to help tailor your experience.

iblueyonder has a new home

I just got a quick note from Bill Womack, author of iblueyonder, that he's orphaned blogspot for wordpress. Bill, the new site looks nice. Is that Mt. Hood off your wing?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Flight Simulator X commercial

I haven't had a chance to catch this on cable, so I was pleased to run across it at Youtube. I sure hope that Baron pilot has his seat belts tightly fastened!

Monday, October 16, 2006

What's all of this about framerates anyway?

The single most discussed topic regarding performance of Flight Simulator has to be FPS (Frames per Second) or framerates. Exactly how this all works has been a bit of a controversial topic, especially with the new version because it is so resource hungry. Well, ACES is to the rescue with their first featured article.

There's much more to what makes up framerate performance that the number itself. Something that most do not realize - framerate performance should be measured only when the sim is in a paused state. To determine how a setting change has affected FPS, it is best to pick a single location at around 1000 feet AGL. The area between KSEA and KBFI has been a good benchmark area for me. Panning around the aircraft while in pause gives a good representation of the performance you should expect.

In the article, ACES explain that it is not only the framerate itself that makes FS fluid, but also avoiding what they call volatility, or, better known to the on-line community, the dreaded "stutters." I found a tip by an ACES dev on the AVSIM forums that gives us a way to improve volatility that is worth repeating here:

If you're getting stutters/"pops" during turns or when pan your view around, try adding this to your fsx.cfg (located in yourprofile\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX):


The default pool size is 1 million but sometimes (If a lot of things are drawing like autogen) that isn't enough. Increasing it to 5 or even 10 million trades off some of your video memory against having to re-allocate these things all the time.

-Brian @ Aces

Of course exactly what size the PoolSize should be increased should be tailored to one's specific PC, and experimented with. If you take away too much from the video card's buffer, then other areas of the simulation will suffer.

They explain how FSX analyzes your PC upon installation and determines the best settings for optimum performance. Certainly users are free to experiment, but the state that is first implemented should be the benchmark. ACES also emphasize the importance of striking a balance to gain a satisfactory sim experience. If the simulation experience is not to your satisfaction, experimentation is the answer. I also suggest creating setting profiles based on the type of flying you will be doing. For example, if you are planning to do an IFR flight, it may be beneficial to turn off all of the AutoGen, since your attention would be centered inside the cockpit. We have Mike Gilbert a.k.a. tdragger to thank for that added config saving feature.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Pumpkin Festival in Pumpkintown, SC

Click here for larger version!Christy had a brainstorm this morning, and decided that we all should go and visit a pumpkin patch. I looked on the internet to find some local pumpkin patches in the upstate, and found one in Easley. So off we go in the car and head towards there mid-morning. We arrived in Easley around lunch time, so we grabbed a bite to eat. As we arrive to the farm, it becomes apparent that there is nothing there, so we turn around and call the number listed. It turns out that the farm in fact had no pumpkins this year. According to the woman who answered the phone, she hadn't produced pumpkins in 3 years!! Sounds like that website needs a bit of a revision.

I know the area fairly well, so I suggested we head up toward Pumpkintown (yes, there really is a place called Pumpkintown). Christy and I kept seeing signs about a Pumpkin Festival that was happening today, but didn't know exactly where it was. Well, the closer we got to Pumpkintown, cars were lined up for miles, and then we saw huge numbers of cars parked all over the place. It was becoming quite obvious that the festival was in Pumpkintown. As we slowly approached the festival grounds, we saw tents, horse-drawn carriages, and lots of people (there must have been thousands there).

Where have we been - under a rock? Christy and I had never heard of the Pumpkin Festival, but it was obvious that many other had. We had a great time walking around and seeing what all the vendors had to offer. The food sure smelled great! Christy Lake enjoyed herself, helping us pick out a pumpkin to take home (I mean, c'mon, you can't leave the pumpkin festival without a pumpkin!). So next year, if you happened to be in the upstate of South Carolina mid-October, be sure to attend the Pumpkin Festival! We'll sure try and be there in 2007!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Flight Simulator X featured on CNN

On CNN.com tonight, I was having a look at the Tech column to see what is going on in the world of technology, and I was pleasantly surprised to see this small review of Flight Simulator X there. This is the first I recall the Flight Simulator franchise ever getting any notice from a large news organization, even more so since the news media wrongly accused the Flight Simulator franchise being used to train terrorists back in the days of 9/11. I'm glad to see that perception has been extinguished with this unbiased look at FSX.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The new and improved FSInsider.com online!

I'm proud to report that the promised new-and-improved FSInsider website has been published and is available! Be sure to check out the message from the ACES team and see who the featured FSInsider is (I couldn't have picked a better person myself!). They have also put up a page specifically for MS FS MVPs - thanks guys! Wow - I am exploring it as I type here, and I just cannot begin to touch everything they have done to improve the site. The best advice I can give is to check it out for yourself!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Follow the 500th Columbia

Spawning from Lancair, Columbia Aircraft Corporation in Bend, Oregon has a long history of making composite GA aircraft that is continually recognized for excellence. To celebrate their 500th production aircraft off the production line, Columbia has created a web portal to follow it along the production process. It is quite interesting to see how composite aircraft are created in an assembly line - I invite you to have a look.

Paul to the rescue!

Paul Lange has taken the initiative to give us even more control over AutoGen. Take a look at his latest post! Thanks much, Paul!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

FSX a bit sluggish for you?

FSX has been out in several places around the world already, and the forums are buzzing with FSX related discussions anywhere from extreme praise to extreme disappointment. I remember this sort of views back when FS 2004 and FS 2002 went public. I often sit back and watch, letting the dust settle a bit (and it will), but I thought that I would voice some of my own thoughts here while the air is thick...

I'm of the opinion that the technological advances we are presented with in FSX are much like the advances made if we were to have gone from FS98 straight to FS 2004 -- that much has changed. So, essentially we are faced with a platform that puts an incredible load on the CPU and GPU, simply because of the sheer volume of 1's and 0's being processed many, many times a second. We have gone from a program previously using 4 ~800MB to two DVDs totalling 8 GIG of data!! FSX is simply way ahead of its time with regards to hardware, as it has been in the past, but with such a huge leap in data content, that jump in demand on the PC has grown exponentially.

So, what do we do as a community? We dig deep and find areas that can be optimized to help our PCs of today run FSX at acceptable levels. One of the great things I enjoy about the FS community is the diverse number of sleuths who investigate all nooks and crannys to find tiny performance gains. Combine these gains, and noticable performance improvements are bound to be found.

Over at AVSIM, these sleuths have already been doing a good job, and have been posting their findings. I recommend following this thread in the coming weeks. I'm sure there will be many more performance tweaks to surface...

In two years, I'll revisit this and see how the perception has changed... It will.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Okay, so what exactly is an MVP?

Now that I've gotten the award, several people have been asking me exactly what makes someone an MVP. To be quite honest, I wanted a bit of a more concrete answer myself, so I did some hunting. I stumbled upon this article "What Is an MVP, Anyway?" written by Jonathan Goodyear, and found some very good answers there. I'll quote a few paragraphs here to highlight his findings:

"...As an experiment, I asked numerous other MVPs, Microsoft employees, and other influential people in the industry their definition of a Microsoft MVP. The range of answers I got was pretty broad. I heard everything from “MVPs are super talented developers” (Microsoft employees are pre-programmed to use the word super in every other sentence) to “MVPs are developers who contribute to newsgroups a lot.”

While either of the previous statements may or may not be a quality of a particular MVP, it does not define what an MVP is. I didn’t have to look much further than the official Microsoft MVP Web site to track down the “party line” on their MVP definition (http://mvp.support.microsoft.com). It defines an MVP as:

'...recognized, credible, and accessible individuals with expertise in one or more Microsoft products who actively participate in online and offline communities to share their knowledge and expertise with other Microsoft customers.'"

Jonathan goes on to explain how the online community has transformed its definition recently...

"...I went directly to the source and spoke with Sean O’Driscoll, Senior Director of the Customer Service and Support Community and the MVP Program. Sean started off by saying that the MVP program is an “award and recognition program.” While a certain amount of technical skill is usually needed to accomplish the tenets of MVP membership, the MVP program is in no way a measuring stick of the technical merits of its members. Myth debunked.

When I asked Sean for details regarding how to become an MVP, he gave me some historical context. He said that the program was started more than 10 years ago as a “thank you program for outstanding contributions to the community.” At the time, “community” meant newsgroups. In my opinion, that narrow definition made the ambitious term MVP a bit of a misnomer. About three years ago, Microsoft decided that they should let their customers define what “community” is. As a result, several other community contribution avenues were added to the MVP selection criteria. Some of these are forum postings, books, articles, blogs, and speaking at and/or leading user groups and other community events.

I guess that's how I've managed to do it, because I admit that I am not very active in public newsgroups, but I am very active in forum posting, attending community events, and using my blog as a portal of communication regarding Flight Simulator.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I made MVP!!


I was delighted to find in my email inbox this message from Microsoft...

Dear Owen Hewitt,

Congratulations! We are pleased to present you with the 2007 Microsoft® MVP Award!

The Microsoft MVP Award is our way of saying thank you and to honor and support the significant contributions you make to communities worldwide. As a recipient of Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional award, you join an elite group of technical community leaders from around the world who foster the free and objective exchange of knowledge by actively sharing your real world expertise with users and Microsoft. Microsoft salutes all MVPs for promoting the spirit of community and enhancing people’s lives and the industry’s success everyday. To learn more about the MVP Program, visit: http://www.microsoft.com/mvp.

Your extraordinary efforts in Windows - PC Games technical communities during the past year are greatly appreciated.

I would like to publicly thank Hal for the nomination of this award, I am deeply humbled by this!

[EDIT]: I would like to also congratulate Joel DeYoung, Norman Blackburn, and Dudley Henriques who made it in for 2007 as well!