Announcing The Glideslope Forum

For several months I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a forum for the site so that readers could connect directly with each other about their general aviation home cockpits and flight simulation. This morning I finally decided to give the idea a go, so I’m announcing the On The Glideslope Forum, which you may find here. Nothing complex, just a few spots to talk construction, controls, software, or chew the fat. The main thing is to have a place to exchange ideas and lessons learned, and I hope you’ll do so.

There are more than a few forums already out there for home cockpit construction, but very few, if any, for GA cockpits like the Basement Sim. So that’s the focus of the OTG forums, and I hope it fills a niche. Registration is not required to read posts, but you do need to register to comment or PM other users. You may register here.

Post-script: The forums involve a whole new set of software and coding for me. I know there will be bugs, but we’ll get them worked out. I also intend to improve the styling over time, but likely not today …

No Upgrade Fee For ORBX On P3D V4 (P3D)

AirDailyX is reporting that ORBX won’t charge users to upgrade their scenery to the new (and one presumes soon-to-be-forthcoming) Prepar3D v4. Quoting ORBX head John Venema:

There’s been a bunch of speculation about our pricing policy for the next version of P3D, likely based on my previous posts back in December.

Let me clarify: we will NOT be charging anything for our products for the next version of P3D. They will be 100% free to use on the new platform. Better still, through the magic of FTXCv3 you won’t even need to re-download them.

File that under “Good News.”

US Orthophotos For Download (X-Plane)

As more simmers have made the jump from P3D and FSX to X-Plane I get more questions about orthophoto scenery, how to make it, and how to get it. Many ask where they can download it rather than make it, but sources haven’t been available as much of the underlying imagery is copyrighted. But now on X-Plane.org a user has put some tiles online for the Southern California area based on public domain imagery and free for downloading. So if you like flying in that part of the US West, go get it.

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REX Worldwide Airports HD On Sale (P3D, FSX)

REX Worldwide Airports HD On Sale (P3D, FSX)

REX has its Worldwide Airports HD texture package 50% off until this Monday. I have this for Prepar3D and like it. While it’s not revolutionary, it does transform default airport buildings into a much more modern and higher-quality look, and includes some full airports (like KSLC) in the process. Prior REX customers get 20% off as well.

Is Prepar3D 64-Bit On The Way?

Sim forums have been ripe with speculation that Lockheed Martin is working on a 64-bit version of Prepar3D for many months now, but in recent weeks the intensity has increased to the point of suggesting a new version is already in beta. It may be, and I hope so, as a 64-bit sim based on the FSX code is about 10 years overdue. I’ve chosen not to link to the post from which most of this speculation has grown, as to me the original Facebook thread does not read as authentic. But you can judge that for yourself.

More interesting to me than 64-bit capability, though, is the extent to which the underlying code will get a thorough rewrite. Much of my frustration with P3D was not actually tied to out of memory errors. Instead, it was its overall speed of use, stability, and the constant tweaking I needed to do to get it to preform well and look great. Beyond this, having used X-Plane 11 for a few months now, in my view the P3D flight models, UI, and lighting engine also need to come up to current technical standards. Candidly, I’m doubtful that LM will go this far, and if P3D 64-bit is nothing more than a marginally improved Preapar3D under the hood with greater memory access, I’ll keep doing most of my simming on X-Plane. But if they DO give P3D the rewrite it needs? That would be fantastic. Nothing could be better for the hobby than to have multiple platforms competing to lead the technology forward. So let’s keep watching and  hope for the best.

Bonners Ferry With Orthos

Reader Peter was kind enough to send along screen caps of the Bonners Ferry and Thompson Falls scenery with orthographic scenery underneath. It looks great, and I was very happy to see it. I particularly like how the forest patches I recently added to Bonners set up with the real world terrain.

Thanks, Peter. Now I’ll get busy generating some ortho scenery for this part of the world!

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Why I Switched To X-Plane 11

Why I Switched To X-Plane 11

I was asked that question today in the YouTube comments, and I thought it was a good one. Why DID I switch to X-Plane 11?

I use a Mac at home, and have had X-Plane on my system for at least 10 years. I flew FSX before that, but with Mac X-Plane was the only option and I liked it. But when it came time to build the Basement Sim I knew that I’d be looking at the most powerful possible rig I could afford, and that rig would almost certainly be running Windows. And so it was, and with that being the case, I was left to choose between FSX and P3D. I picked P3d because it’s a platform under ongoing development.

And I love P3d. Let’s be clear about that. It’s an awesome package, and with ActiveSky and ORBX and REX it’s astonishingly good. But I kept hearing about X-Plane from simmers I respect, and more so, I noticed that many of the real pilots I follow online who also sim were X-Plane advocates. So maybe six months back I downloaded X-Plane 10, and it lasted on my system for about 10 minutes. As soon as I figured out that I could not easily run with multiple screens it was clear X-Plane 10 was a non-starter for the sim. So I happily stayed with P3D.

But when the X-Plane 11 beta was released I learned that it had native multi-monitor support, so I decided to give it a go. I was very taken with several aspects of the X-Plane 11 experience. The fast loading time and modern and easy-to-use user interface were great. The default scenery had come a very long way and looked great. And it never crashed. But initially, what really got my attention were the graphics. Without even full sliders the visuals in X-Plane 11 – the night lighting, the reflections, the way light moves about the scenery – were stunning. And thanks to X-Plane being 64 bit, there was no scenery popping, or scenery resolving into a less-blurry resolution, to break the immersion.

I loved what I saw, and it was enough to get me to spend some time with it, and in that process I was very taken with the X-Plane flight models. X-Plane models flight in a fundamentally different way than FSX or P3D, and at least to me, the way the airplane moves both on the ground and in the air feels much more realistic than in P3D. That means something to me as a student pilot, but it means a lot as a simmer, too – I want the sim to be as immersive as possible, and with X-Plane 11 it was as immersive as I’d seen it. That was enough for me to figure out a solution to the nettlesome (and frankly disappointing) fact that X-Plane does not allow separate eyepoints for each monitor. And once I had that nut cracked I was sold.

I never intended to switch to X-Plane 11. I was just checking it out based on the passion demonstrated by other simmers and pilots I follow online. But once I used it, I stayed with it. And with about a month of time under the belt, I continue to stay with it for the UI, stability, and flight models as noted above. But I’ve also come to love several other aspects of the X-Plane ecosystem:

  • Great default aircraft with excellent flight models
  • Tons and tons and tons of excellent freeware aircraft, airports, scenery, and plugins
  • Free HD mesh
  • The simplicity of installing (and uninstalling) add-ons and managing the file system
  • No configuration tweaking
  • Did I mention no configuration tweaking?
  • Thanks to xEnviro, great real-world weather
  • The ability to easily create and share my own airport scenery
  • The ability to create photorealistic scenery
  • The ability to have autogen appear on-top of said photorealistic scenery

And finally, the ability to access the full breadth of the PCs RAM can’t be overstated.

I still have P3D on my system. I do miss its great AI aircraft from time to time, and I do love ORBX. But I booted it up a few weeks ago with a friend, and in comparison to using X-Plane it felt archaic. I even got an OOM to boot. I will keep following P3D, will fly it from time to time, and eagerly await the 64 bit version that will certainly come this year. But unless that version includes a significant re-write of the now ancient Microsoft code, I’m not certain that 64 bits in P3D will counter and exceed the things I enjoy so much about X-Plane. In fact, I’m nearly certain they won’t. I will hope to have Lockheed Martin prove me wrong, because if they do, it will mean only spectacular things for our community and our hobby. But in the meantime you will probably find me in X-Plane, cruising over some stunning photorealistic scenery, enjoying the flight model, and probably, talking to the controllers on PilotEdge.

A General Update

It’s been a bit quiet around here recently so I want to provide a bit of an update on things On The Glideslope …

First, the guide to building your own basement GA sim. My original hopes of having it done over Thanksgiving were nowhere close to realistic, but I have been working on it here and there and really trying to make it useful (especially if I’m going to charge for it). It’s currently 28 pages long, and I’ve been filling in sections and it’s getting closer all the time. I hope it’s done in a month or so.

Second, videos. I’ve not made any for several weeks. Some of that is because of my schedule, some of it is because I got interested in scenery design over the holidays, and some of it is because of the transition to X-Plane (which took a fair amount of my sim time). I do plan to get back to it next week, though, and have several videos in the queue that I hope to make over the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience.

Third, scenery design. I really have enjoyed making the few airports I’ve made for X-Plane. The first three (Brandywine, Chester County, and Lloyd Stearman) all turned out pretty well, and the next project is Wilmington. This is a big field, and it’s going to take some time. In the meantime, I plan to make versions of those first three that are suitable for upload to the X-Plane Scenery Gateway. They won’t be as close to the real thing as the originals as I’ll be limited to the native X-Plane objects library, but this way they have a chance to be included in future releases of X-Plane, which will benefit everyone. So that’s something I want to do.

Finally, the X-Plane migration. I’ve loved it, and am glad I did it. I’ve held off on the releases of betas 4 and 5 based on the problems they seemed to create, and think it’s generally a good idea to wait a few days when any new release comes along to see how it plays out. That said, beta 6 looks solid, and I’ll probably update when I have the chance. I also have learned enough about creating photorealistic scenery that I’ll probably make a few tiles, covering parts of the world where I want to fly but don’t have photorealistic so far (Scotland in particular). I also am going to try flying the sim WITHOUT World2XP America. The underlying textures and autogen of X-Plane 11 are pretty good, I already have HD mesh, and I just find that too many of the buildings in W2XP America don’t jive (they still look too European). I do want to get better European scenery, though, and will probably get W2XP Europe and see how it looks.

So that’s the latest. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading.