Well, That Was Frustrating

Thanks to those who joined for the PilotEdge event today. We had a few aircraft go out of KSUN and it was fun to see others on takeoff, and to pass one of you at the same altitude with ATC separation. I rocked my wings in case you were looking.

But on the whole, this was a very frustrating experience in the Rift. Things started off well, even with clouds, and it was really pretty stunning from 9,500 MSL. But for some reason the Rift stopped working about half-way through. Initially I thought it was a USB issue, but I think SteamVR crashed. In trying to fix it X-Plane crashed. I reloaded from Milard to fly in to SLC from there, but the frames were never smooth, even when locked to 45 FPS. I killed the weather and it didn’t help. I searched for other things hitting the CPU in Lasso – MS Edge was running at some points, so lord only knows what was going on behind the scenes. But by the time I was approaching the KSLC downwind it was unusable. Total slide show. I quit it in frustration.

In retrospect, it felt like a memory leak. Performance just slowly got worse and worse. Who knows, but thanks to those who started the flight and I hope you had a great time. When I looked there were 59 people on the network, and long streams of aircraft inbound to KSLC. It was really pretty cool and I look forward to the next one (which will be in February).

Fly With Me Tomorrow On PilotEdge

Fly With Me Tomorrow On PilotEdge

Tomorrow PilotEdge is getting back in the swing of monthly fly-in events with a takeover of Salt Lake City (KSLC), with directions to plan an arrival in the window of 13:00-13:30 PST. They have suggested inbound routes from Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle, which are also towered fields in the PilotEdge network.

Given that these are bizjet / airliner routes, I suggested on the PE Discord server a GA / VFR flight set to arrive at the same time: Sun Valley / Haley ID (KSUN) to Salt Lake City (specifically, KSUN BYI OGD KSLC to allow for a little VOR navigation practice). In a 172 that flight should take about 1:45, and in a faster aircraft (I may be in the new JustFlight Turbo Arrow) about 1:20. This should provide some inbound traffic for runways 17/35 at KSLC, which serve the GA side of the field, and may make some of the arrival work a bit more interesting for the controllers handling all those 737s. Should be fun.

If you’ve wanted to do a group flight together, consider joining me. I’ll probably be on the ramp at KSUN around 11:30-12:00 PST / 2:30-3:00 EST. You will need a subscription to the PilotEdge Western US Expansion to make this flight, but given its continually growing coverage, I think that’s money well spent. I will probably fly it in VR to see how well I can actually manage ForeFlight and charts while under the hood, and I might video some of the flight as well. I hope to see you there.

Oculus Third Impressions

I upped the OTT Supersampling to 1.6 and it seems to have not hurt performance at all and makes things sharper. Things are running very smoothly on the settings described in the prior post, and I was able to run things at night with HDR and basic AA in the sim at about 45 FPS. HDR night lighting on the ramp at KSBP blew my MIND. SOOOOO good looking! A few judders, but so what? I’ll turn HDR off during the day and on at night.

I also did a quick flight in the default MD 80. HOLY COW! Such scale! So many things to look at in the cabin! And not any harder on frames than the 172, really. It was so cool it’s hard to describe. Now that things are dialed in my mind is officially blown. And this is only the first beta. It’s pretty hard to believe …

UPDATE: Seriously. I am sitting here shaking my head over this. It’s really pretty astonishing …

Oculus Second Impressions

Spent some time this morning updating settings, thanks in part to James’ guidance here. The result is something quite flyable, with me getting around 90 FPS in the sim at Mr. X’s KSLC with autogen on the second-highest setting (which is where I usually have it for non-VR flight, and which translates into 45+ FPS in the VR headset). Here’s the process and settings:

  • I downloaded the latest NVIDIA driver.
  • I went into the SteamVR settings and:
    • In the Developer settings turned the Supersampling down all the way.
    • In the Performance menu unchecked “Allow asynchronous reprojection and Allow interleaved reproduction.”
  • I downloaded the Oculus Tray Tool (here) and set Supersampling to 1.3 and turned off ASW.
  • I used Project Lasso (here) to dedicate X-Plane to cores (real and virtual) 2-7 and all the Oculus and SteamVR apps to cores 0 and 1. I also used Lasso to mark XP and the VR programs as high priority and high performance programs. There’s a nice video on this here, and note that “game mode” is now “high performance” mode in Lasso.
  • In the sim I set reflections off, shadows off, lighting effects to the first notch below HDR (as HDR gives us two suns in VR at the moment :-), and autogen to the second notch from the top. I also have AA set to 8x, as lower settings actually seem to give me more judders.
  • I turned of xEnviro as it only works in one eye. This also saves me some frames.
  • I did nothing in NVIDIA Control Panel, running only with stock XP settings there.

I also started with a fresh set of XP preferences. All told, this is giving me nice performance. KSLC is a very taxing airport, and sometimes when I move my head quickly I get a lag or a few judders, but overall it’s really cool. I also haven’t played with weather yet, and that will probably cause me to drop my AA settings. I did fly around in an F-18 and it was harder on the performance, so I will expect less of complex aircraft. But looking around that cockpit at 35,000 feet was nothing short of amazing. I can’t wait to do a carrier approach.

In terms of screen setup, I learned that if you press the W key while in the cockpit X-Plane will center the view wherever your headset is pointed. This is an easy fix if you are a bit at an angle from your yoke. After getting my view pointed in the right direction, I then used the keyboard keys to move the viewpoint around so that my real-world yoke and glare shield were  about the same size, height, and distance to my eye in the headset as they are to my eye in the real world. This put the real-world yoke about where it should be, and the throttle and mixture about where they should be … and led to the amazing effect of putting one of the VR controllers on the VR glare shield and having it sit there. Same with the seats – they are in the VR about where they are in the sim, which makes it easy to put something there without taking off the headset. I have some things to do this afternoon and then I’m going to give it some more time, including upping my Supersampling in OTT to 1.6.

Oculus First Impressions

I started to set it up mid-afternoon and spent a few hours getting things going. I’m doing this in the cockpit so I can use my yoke and pedals, and the sensor setup seems to have gone pretty well actually, given the cramped confines. I have one sensor at the top front left corner pointed at the pilot’s seat, and the other at the top back right corner pointing at the panel. I still have quite a bit of work to do to get the visual alignment correct so that when I’m sitting in the chair using the yoke things match up well with the X-Plane visuals, but it’s a starting point.

As for the visuals … things are juddery. I’ve been tweaking settings per what I can find online, but so far, I’d call it un-flyable for anything other than testing so far. I have things pretty smooth, but there are judders and lags and it’s just not where it needs to be. Looking at the XP graphics settings (which I’ve turned down a lot) I still had two monitors set to show the sim even though they were turned off physically. I deactivated them. Next I’ll delete preferences, and do some research on how to use Lasso to set CPU affinities and how (and if) to use hyperthreading. Doing all that stuff is one of the reasons I left P3D, but so be it. Candidly, the 908ti still holds it own as a beast of a card. Mine runs 30-50 FPS running four screens in the physical cockpit and when I only run one screen I get 90 FPS. It should be able to run the Oculus at 45. So I have more learning and tweaking to do.

THAT ALL SAID … I get it now with VR. Just the Oculus training program had me grinning ear-to-ear. And once I had the sim running at least fairly well, it blew my mind to look out the left side of the windshield and see all the wing, and it REALLY blew my mind to open the door in flight and stick my head out the door and look down at the left-side gear. And when I set things to nighttime and all the stars came out? WOW.

From a safety and training perspective will it replace my physical sim? No. At least, not yet. It’s too impractical to manage charts, write down clearances, etc. But I can already tell you where the Oculus will be helpful from a practical training perspective: pattern work. I did one landing in it and it was much more like the real thing. I can’t wait to get it dialed in and get started.

In the meantime, I’ll be starting a Virtual Reality forum in the forums section so VR users can share tricks and settings …

UPDATE: That forum is up and running here.