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a blog by ken pardue

Archive for the 'The Hangar' Category

MS Flight Simulator Dead?

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

I have been a Mac user for years, but have continued to play Microsoft Flight Simulator on my old PC from time to time.  Flight Simulator was one of the first titles that I invested in when I first got a PC in 1997, and grew to enjoy being an armchair pilot.

Now, I’m reading reports as well as an official confirmation that Microsoft’s Aces studio, the development team responsible for Flight Simulator as well as global environmental simulations based on that engine, has been completely axed as a result of Microsoft’s recent layoffs.  All that remains are six staff members to archive the code and maintain contractual obligations.  These efforts are anticipated to last about six months.  This means that Train Simulator 2 will likely never see the light of day and, more importantly, the future of the MS Flight Simulator franchise itself has been thrown into doubt.  This is very surprising to me, since Flight Simulator has been published by Microsoft since 1982.

However, if there is any good to come out of it is the opportunity for smaller developers to make new, (hopefully) Mac compatible cross platform flight simulators to pick up the baton.  Several civilian and commercial flight simulators have cropped up over the years, the Fly! and Flight Unlimited series, but none was able to make significant market penetration into Microsoft’s 500-pound-gorilla franchise.  The only exception to this has been X-Plane, which has continued to see constant improvement over the years, but lacks the marketing polish and training/documentation for real mass market adoption.  Let’s hope that the dedicated community surrounding civilian and commercial flight simulators pull together to carry on a tradition.

 

Migrating to WordPress

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

I’m back! I realized that my blog has been sitting idle for some months, primarily because I moved to a new server that supports Ruby on Rails, and I’ve been too lazy to migrate my blog with the site.

But, it was this morning while migrating my blog postings for the past year+ that I realized how valuable this blog is. It really doesn’t matter to me that no one reads my blog (assuming the scant reader sees this, my apologies for calling you no one!), what matters is that I’ve captured some stuff that I personally find interesting, such as my thoughts on the media during the Katrina crisis. Then looking at the dates and times that these entries were posted, it really adds an interesting perspective to things. I mean, here I am less than a year since my “Considering a Mac” post, and now I have not just an iMac, but a MacBook and an iPod as well.

With all that said, with the transfer I thought I’d try something a bit different: moving to WordPress. WordPress is one of the de facto standard open-source blogging softwares, and it has some features that my former blog, Nucleus CMS, didn’t have. If nothing else, I’d like to make sure that the MySQL that my entries are in are supported enough to be flexibly moved.

I’ve got quite some catching up to do, as many of the last things I’ve mentioned have changed (PULSE is FINALLY released, but founding member Syd Barret has sadly since passed away, Star Trek XI is confirmed to be un-stalled–with teaser poster no less, Dreamworks have released a teaser trailer for the upcoming live-action Transformers movie, Airbus has fallen into a bit of a crisis and are now playing up the A350XWB, Fox News and Newt Gingrich have declared World War III, and so on). Additionally, I’ll need to migrate the look and feel of this blog back to being similar to my main website at www.kenpardue.com. Shouldn’t be too hard, but I’ll have to put my CSS hat on again.

Fly! Legacy

Sunday, October 2nd, 2005

I just read about an extraordinarily interesting project that has sprung from the ashes of the old Terminal Reality Fly! community. For the non-flight sim savvy, Fly! was a general aviation flight simulator released for PC and Mac OS in the late 1990’s. It had a sound foundation with unheard of realism in simulating cockpits and systems, and though it was clearly a 1.0 release, garnered a great deal of fandom. They followed on with a release of Fly!2K, which addressed some of the shortcomings of the sim, and in 2001 released Fly! 2.

Fly! 2 suffered from a rushed release schedule and high performance requirements, and shipped before it was anywhere near ready. Terminal Reality couldn’t shell out the cost to get actual manufacturer names on the aircraft, so instead of a Cessna Skyhawk we would be flying a Skyhawk, etc. As with the original Fly!, most of the airports in the world didn’t have scenery or accurate taxiways.

Sadly, the lead developer, Richard Harvey, passed away from cancer. He was a great guy, even replied to me personally in an email once. Truly, he was the lifeblood of the project, and with his passing and the dismantlement of Gathering of Devleopers (GoD), Fly! 3 never began serious development. A fairly active fan community has remained with the project at AVSIM, and I check the forums occasionally to see what’s going on.

Today, I noticed Chris Wallace’s post annoucing Fly! Legacy. Fly! Legacy is an attempt to build an open source flight simulator around the foundations of Fly!. It’s extrememly exciting, because the framework of Fly! is in many ways superior and more refined than that of the only other open-source flight simulator, FlightGear. Chris goes on to explain that he had once considered donating his source code to the FlightGear project, but found many fundamental differences between what he was trying to do and FlightGear.

To this point, there isn’t a great deal that is “consumable”. There are SourceForge project and public pages set up, and the project status is only roughly about 20% complete. There are two screenshots posted:

Fly! Legacy - Seneca V Over Lake Tahoe
ROTW’s Seneca V visits Lake Tahoe

Fly! Legacy - Flyhawk Panel
The trusty old Flyhawk panel, gauges are under construction

I’m just hoping that all this isn’t coming too late to save the spirit of Fly!. There have been so many other advancements in the Flight Simulator world since Fly! made its splash… AI traffic, Air Traffic Control, 3D “virual cockpits”, and of course refinements to scenery. I would certainly hope that Fly! can continue on as a reverse-engineered open-source framework, whether in conjunction with or a successor to FlightGear.

Flight Simulator 10

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

AVSIM has concluded its annual Flight Sim Convention and Exhibition in San Diego over the weekend.  One of the lectures was brought by Microsoft’s Flight Simulator team.  They went over a lot of the technology and process of developing a Flight Simulator, showed some specs about what planes people fly (a surprising majority don’t use Microsoft’s default planes at all; they use third party add ons), and finally some notes on where the technology is going.

They showed some screenshots that are presumably from the next version.  They were captured by someone with a still camera and posted here.  For the most part, they are very impressive.  Of particular interest were the More Shaders and Environmental Reflection and Integrated Renders shots.  Since Microsoft hasn’t said anything about a 2006 version, I have assumed up until now that they were working on something that looked visually dramatically better than 2004.  Seems that’s the case.

One of the Flight Sim developers has a blog, and has referenced the link with the posted photos.

In an unrelated Flight Sim event, Microsoft has updated their FS Insider site as well as the Microsoft Flight Simulator product page to include information about the flight deck of the upcoming 787.  I wonder if this is indicative that a 787 will be included as one of the new aircraft in FS 10?

A disturbing trend?

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

I wonder if anyone has noticed the recent increase in air travel accidents? Over the past month, there have been five major accidents:

On August 2, an Air France Airbus A340-400 overshot a runway in Toronto, everyone miraculously survived.
On August 6, a Tunisia Tuninter crashed off the coast of Sicily, killing 16.
On August 14, a Helios Airways Boeing 737 crashed north of Athens, Greece, killing 121.
On August 16, a West Caribbean charter aircraft crashed in Venezuela after the pilot reported both engines died.
On August 23, a TANS Peru aircraft, another Boeing 737, crashed in the Peruvian jungle and split in two.

I know it’s coincidence, but that really makes August a bad month for air travel!

Son of Concord

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Japan and France just announced that they will work together to develop a successor to the retired Concord. That’s a pretty amazing feat, considering that the Concord lost money and never recouped its development costs. Still, 35+ years is a long time for engines to get more efficient, and Japan’s Trade Ministry says that they have tested an engine that may eventually get up to five times the speed of sound.

“The new plane will have 300 seats and cut the flight time between New York and Tokyo to six hours, reports said.”

Boeing and Airbus pulling out the big guns

Thursday, May 12th, 2005

While Airbus has been doing the first test flights of its new Superjumbo, the A380, Boeing has been solidifying orders for its medium-sized, technologically advanced jet, the 787, to begin flight in 2008.

Boeing has received a huge contract with Northwest Airlines, the 4th largest carrier, for 18 of the new 787’s with purchase options for 50 more. That gives Boeing 82 firm orders and 173 commitments, while Airbus’ double-decker is sitting with 154 orders as of late-April.

The sales of the Airbus has been described as “disappointing,” but I can’t help but find an aircraft that may eventually carry more than 1,000 people as a marvel of engineering. But, while the A380 is beautiful because of it’s size, the 787 is just beautiful period.

NWA’s 787 livery:NWA's 787 Livery

FS2006? I wish!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

It’s getting later on in the year of 2005 now, and if Microsoft is going to keep with their every-two-year release schedule and release a Flight Simulator 2006 then they’d better get on with announcing it! I found a video, direct link here, on the web that I quickly became excited about, until, of course, I realized that Microsoft would never include an Airbus as a default aircraft (they wouldn’t want to slight their next door neighbors, Boeing).

It was an impressive piece of work, and something to hope for in future flight simulators. But sadly this solution is a commercial grade sim used by actual airlines. See more videos from CAE here. Might we see graphics like these in 2006? I certainly hope so, but Flight Simulator has always been an evolutionary thing, not a revolutionary one.

I remain hopeful, though, because it’s been known for months that the guy that wrote the book on DirectX 9 shaders is presently working at Microsoft as “a graphics developer for the upcoming next release Microsoft Flight Simulator”.