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dmaher

### IMPORTANT FOR ALL AIRCRAFT DESIGNERS ###

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It has been brought to my attention recently that there is a new program in development called"Aircraft Container Manager" with some nice features and some bad.From the ACM web site: ACM Features:ACM is a tool that allows you to organize aircraft in MS Flight Simulator 2002.Features (amongst others) are:- organizing the aircraft folders- change data in .cfg files- export 3D-models in Wavefont .obj format- view and export aircraft texturesAs you can see this program claims to be able to export both Textures and 3D-models. I have tried the beta that is available and it can indeed read the model files of most FS models. If as it claims it can export them as well as it can display them then myself and I'm sure many other FS designers are not going to be pleased. With only a few clicks of the mouse anyone that wants the source files for any aircraft released can have it with very little fuss. If this program is released then I for one will no longer work with FS. If I wanted people to have the model source then I would release it as some do but that should be the authors choice. I can see very little use for such a feature in a program other than to misuse peoples work. Maybe it's just me but if not then something needs to be done to persuade the author not to release ACM with the export function. I will write to the author to express my concern about this and hope he is supportive to designers if not the I will be very sad to have to leave the FS community I have been apart of for many years. The ACM web site is at http://www.dvdata-sys.at/acm/ or you can e-mail the author at support@dvdata-sys.at .I would like to hear peoples views on this as I am very concerned personally.David GarroodAllied FS Group

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I completely understand your concern regarding this feature. However, as you pointed out, one can only hope that the author will agree not to release such functionality. If the beta can already export, then it's probably too late. Either way, since the sim can read the model data, others may also make such exporters.Essentially, it boils down to the issue of digital rights management--an issue that is nowhere near resolved and always sparks heated debate. Without some way to protect your work, you either have to stop creating anything in digital form (or in a form that can be converted into a digital one) or you just have to live with the fact that if your stuff is good, pirates will get and exploit it.Having worked on commercial products and seen them pirated not just on the net but in pirate software stores to boot, I know how you feel.

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After reading the manual on that site, it says that the function to export 3D obj files is only available when you purchase the software. (the beta, it states, does not have this option) This means that this function is payware, and on top of that, it breaches the Microsoft copyrights. I said it's payware for a reason, since that means there can be legal action taken against the company that created this software. (it can be done against an individual as well, but there isn't much to gain in that way) The domain name is held by an individual, and since there is no info yet on that site how the payments are going to be setup, there is little you can do at the moment, except turning this information into the proper legal hands, most likely Microsoft would like to see this...Although there is little information on the site in regard of a companyname, a normal 'whois' does provide a name and adress that appears to be an individual. On the main site it mentions "Firma dvdata" at the same adress...I share your concerns against this kind of software, and therefore the community should consider letting the 'big boys', the like of Microsoft and Discreet, handle this "company".

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I think it's appalling news and if the release of the software to do this can be prevented it should be, but unfortunately the development of a utility such as this was probably inevitable. With an open-ended game the chance of someone producing a program to reverse engineer the MDL files is going to be fairly high. Indeed this isn't the first time this has happened - isn't there a program to convert early MDL files to DXF files, and I think there's a tool to disassemble BGL/MDL files to SCASM files as well? I've also heard that there are tools for TrainSim to reverse engineer trains - anyone here know how that community coped with it?I don't see any real use of this other than plagiarising parts of other people's planes, but I doubt it's illegal to produce the software to do this. People can already make minor changes to textures and call them their own, and I guess this takes it into the 3D models as well - something that I think will be much harder to spot or prove.Have funFinn

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Although for sure the primary concern with the release of such a tool is piracy of others work, the good side as exposed on this web site is to allow one author to seamlessly convert his FSDS model to GMAX (automatically). This is good because a lot of airframes authors can now focus in enhancing their models and make it compatible for the standards of the next FS generation, without wasting time redoing everything from scratch.For sure, as always, some would use it for other purpose, but this is not the tool that makes the criminal, this is the criminal that uses it.As for the "legal" stuff, I don't know where this company is located in the world, but they offer the manual in both German and English. If it is located in Germany, the laws might be slightly different than in the US and might allow such a tool to exists.Besides, I'm thinking of a way to "hide" some digital markings in a model to trace it back to some extent. Double some vertex there and there at known locations (many of them). If one converts and tweaks the model, there would still be a great chance these duplicates are copied as well. Then, you would know it is from your original model because you have put duplicates in places you can trace back. The "would be" pirate would not even notice the duplicates while viewing the wireframe model.This is just an idea. Hope it helps!

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I totally agree that it will start off a bunch of pirates. I mean if we already have things like PSS and LAGO stuff on P2P and newsgroups then literally giving people who do that a program to rip peoples work is going to crash the community.People will take payware ac, rip say the best parts, add them to their own and basically take advantage.Although like the last post a good idea would be to like distinguish your work by copying a vertex or putting a minute box inside a fuselage model etc; but people will latch onto the idea.Even so I don't think MS or Discreet will allow it. If they can stop someone who has the legal rights to one of thier products (another thing i wont go into; pocket pc name originality etc) then they'll sure as hell stop a program that can reverse- engineer their and others work.If people DO start ripping others work though what will be the point of making an original aircraft. Say if I saw my landing gear from the lightnign on someones tornado (after using this program etc) that'd basically make me want to forget it all; or sue them to hell!Too much of a liability to go playing with other peeps stuff anyway. I don't see a use for the program apart from to do such a thing anyway. Just fuel for the pirates and plaguerists out there. :(

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FACT: 251110 registered gmax users - August 21, 2002 @15:10Zulu from the discreet website. This can make them all designers overnight. I bet 251110 minus approximately 100 will be happy to see this program. Change the 100 to 1000 and you still have 99.6% happy gmax owners.Don't get me wrong, I hear what your are saying and understand your alarm. However, if you are going to stop modeling due to this development, you probably should have never started. I say this because:Take a look at the import ability you currently have in gmax. This "child" of 3ds max, will import Autocad DXF and 3ds files as shipped. I think if you look at most graphic/engineering design programs they will have plugins available to make file format conversions. Here are the plugins currently available.http://www.gmaxsupport.com/html/download.aspNendo and Quake is in the list. Now how are you going to convince someone that FS2002 should not be in the list?Maybe not to you, but to the world as a whole, the number of original designs in just DXF, Nendo, Quake, and 3ds, which, as you know, gmax can import, are in far greater number and much more valuable then a FS2002 mdl file.With that in mind, if the conversion program is redone into a plugin for gmax, I can't see any precedent or grounds to stop it. Few lay people would see anything wrong with a plugin that is designed to read the final data set that it generated. Especially when discreet provided means to read DXF and 3ds files. I don't think this one can be won. We all better adjust.Have fun!BobGuess we know how the monks felt when the copy machine became available.WTIC I think I will start a "used-before" tire store for gmax users. Got over 1/4 million potential customers.

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yep, saw it all. Too many polygons in the POSKY for my little machine. ;-) You may want to take a look at the new FSG DC-10-10. They don't show anything. Bob

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Hi,(I just took your message Sambob, since your the last in the list for now, and to make clear where I think the problem is...)> I say this because: > Take a look at the import ability you currently have in > gmax. This "child" of 3ds max, will import Autocad DXF and > 3ds files as shipped. I think if you look at most > graphic/engineering design programs they will have plugins > available to make file format conversions. > Nendo and Quake is in the list. Now how are you going to > convince someone that FS2002 should not be in the list? Simple, this is not a plugin to allow gmax to import either generic (DXF, 3DS) or program specific fileformats (Nendo, OBJ or MD2).This is a program, apart from the pirating thing, the only existence, according to their website, is to be able to convert FSDS files into gmax...by using the FS2002 MDL file format.The problem is not in what the mdl file shows in the sim, but the fileformat/structure...If I remember correctly, the native FSDS fileformat and the FS MDL file format are both under copyright...otherwise he could have requested the fileformat licence from the makers of FSDS (probably have to pay a licencefee), and he would have native support for it...(since I think you meant otherwise, Nendo is a graphic design program, not a game FWIW)And like its done in other 3D or design programs, they pay each other the licencefee to give their program the ability to open and save in another programs fileformat.> With that in mind, if the conversion program is redone into a plugin for gmax, I can't see any precedent or grounds to stop it.I can, it's importing a fileformat that is under copyright, meaning a breach of MS copyright policy. It doesn't import FSDS files (otherwise FSDS would have aproblem with this software), it imports the copyrighted MS mdl filestructure, and makes you pay for that possibility. How those mdl files are generated is not of interest, but just to make sure, as far as I know, all mdl files out there are created with MS software, meaning the gamepack. This doesn't mean that the resulting mdl file from a gamepack is automatically owned by MS, but the fileformat is...> Few lay people would see anything wrong with a > plugin that is designed to read the final data set that it > generated. Especially when discreet provided means to read > DXF and 3ds files.Both DXF and 3DS are Discreet/Autodesk formats. With DXF even an semi-open format. If you pay royalty's, and in some cases you dont even have to do that, you can get the filestructure from discreet support for those fileformats. So to make sure, this 'software' doesnt read the final data set that is created with discreet software, it reads the file format that is created with the Microsoft gamepack.I do have one hope though. The flightsimming public has a strange acceptance of people who are stealing work of others. So maybe it gets unsocial to use this program and steal things...provided off course that it gets out in the open with proof...

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I am not sure what all the fuss is about. Since M$ issues SDKs to allow development of add-ons, it is NOT a closed environment. If you design an aircraft or scenery or a gauge and decide to post it on a public site or even sell it as a software download or cd, you might as well resign yourself to the fact that someone will try to hack it. I know you all probably think that because you design something that it is your sole property, but life doesn't work that way and once you make it public, no matter what you put in a "copyright" notice, you had really better consider you have just made it public domain. It's like a lock, it keeps honest people out.Look at the way we now have XML gauges and fx files, basically just text files. How are you going to "copyright" them? The whole "community" has been based on the sharing of information and in my mind, those that get so indignate about this "hacking" of anything are just really either kidding themselves or "glory seekers" in the first place. We generally can recognize non original work and if you look at the download stats for a particular item you can tell which ones are well accepted by the community. So aren't we all sponges in one way or another?Ruthless and unethical as it may seem, reverse engineering has been around for a long time and isn't likely to go away. If you stop and think about it, it is one of the things that drives competition and progress ( sounds capitalistic huh? ). Imagine how much your CD-ROM drive would cost you if all you could buy was a Sony ( I believe they like... invented it )and we were subject to only their improvements? Imagine where we would be today with FS if we didn't have an open environment. I am NOT condonning someone that takes credit for the work of someone else. All I am saying is that it is not a perfect world we live in and this is not a matter of life and death but more of pride. You have two choices, to publish or not to publish. Be a sharing member of the community, regardless of the end results. Or if your pride gets in the way, don't. Keep your work to yourself and you won't get upset over it.

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Yep. Until there's some way to ultimately protect digital works, you just have to assume that some percentage of it will be pirated. Embedding traceable tidbits is a good strategy and has been used for many, many years. Did you know that some streets on roadmaps have errors just for the purpose of catching copyright infringers?As for file formats, I don't recall there being restrictions on accessing a particular file format. Perhaps a big company's threat to sue if you use their format would "restrict" its use purely from a financial standpoint but that's an extreme example. Look at all the apps that can read/write Word, Excel, and GIF files. They don't pay license fees. In the case of GIF, you would have to pay fees to use their compression (which is patented) but I don't know of any fee to read/write their file format.Finally, the whole world is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. So, even if one person/company is stopped from making a converter because of local laws or public pressure, there will be others. That's just the way it is right now.

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I think you miss one tiny fact that is vital in this discussion, it's not true that the MDL file format is publicly known, the structure of that file is kept secret by MS, and is not discussed in the SDK's...So in this respect, it IS a closed enviroment...There is no need to copyright the filestructure of XML or FX files, since both fileformats are open source. What this program maker seems to be doing is opening up the possiblity for someone to 'borrow' parts of someone else's design. I agree with you in regard wether or not you should release stuff if you create something...I do hope that every one keeps creating stuff...wether this program gets released or not...

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Precedents are the key. With a very little looking you can find a $250 model here:http://www.righthemisphere.com/products/dexp/index.htmTrue, it won't do FS2002 mdls, but it sure will do all of the high rollers in 3d. Just look at all the files it will open and all of the formats it will save them as. Surely someone would have gotten real upset by now in this large group of high rollers. I bet they did get upset, council probably ask them to save company money and get some fresh air. File converters exist for all of the big formats and will continue.Did you look at all the plugins that are available right now for gmax?Someone mentioned Napster. Have you heard of BearShare? As I see it, the only recourse you have is putting ident marks on your work. Write a script so that when you are finished with each group all you have to do is press a button and it will write it for you. The trick Peter mentioned of making an error in spelling or a feature slightly misplaced has been used a long long time.Wonder what happens when they "dumb-down" the hijacked model slightly and then smooth it. I bet all footprints are lost. This one is not going to be won. Punch, kick, spit, and pile on me if you like, but it is not going to stop file conversion programs.Just looking at it in a realistic view.BobEDITED..Here is the low cost version that has been out a long time.http://w1.970.telia.com/~u97009239/mdl/mdl.htmSeems as if any action by MS was going to be taken, this certainly would have been enough to provoke them into the action some seem to think they will take. Precedent. The question would be:Mr. MSFS Flightsim manager, why did you wait until now to stop the reverse engineering of your aircraft? This other program has been available since you released FS98. Games over. Turn off the lights.So what can you do? Well as I said earlier, they don't all convert. The new FSG DC10-10 will not render. So it looks to me like if you are concerned, you get the new program and get the DC10-10 and figure out why that file won't load. Could develop into a constant battle between converter man and gmax user. I would bet on the converter man. It is his game field you are playing on.

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It's not the fact that work made public gets hacked (or whatever) that's a fact of this digital world. It's more that someone is writing and selling a program that makes it so easy. Most hacking takes time knowledge and a certain level of skill and if people are using the common hacking tools around most people/company's have some form of protection. With this ACM any monkey that can click a mouse 3 or 4 times will manage it and that makes it even more likely to happen. As yet I haven't found a way to combat this and until the program gets canceled or away of protecting models from it is found I will keep my designs for my own collection and I know others that will do the same which would be a real shame for all.

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What you're saying is all well and good Lou. But I just can't get past the ethical problems and questions this program creates, being able to so easily decompile your's or my MDL files and hack them and claim them as their own.As you suggest, I guess I'm too thin skinned for this hobby.Dee WaldronHistoric Jetliners Group

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You're completely justified in your concern over this "tool". What its presence means, provided it comes to fruition, is that you will now need to spend a portion of your resources protecting your work.Since there's no support for copy-protection in FS (until now, MDL files simply employed "security by obscurity" which is essentially no security), the alternative is embedding things to detect plagiarism. Then, of course, you'll also have to spend resources enforcing your rights which, in some countries, amounts to nothing.All in all, it becomes a tradeoff between how much time you spend protecting your creation versus creating it.

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If you look at this slightly different, there may be a massive benefit to the whole community (speaking as a designer for many years as well as a consumer of others fine works):Mayhap this will encourage true Free Software in this community: in place of its Freeware tradition. With Free Software, anyone and his brother are allowed - nay, encouraged - to make any changes to something you release. Depending on the license you release under, this could also include the full ability to sell such works commercially once modified - with an extremely important caveat: that ANY AND ALL internal changes, textures, etc, etc. are released back to the author and the community itself - fully and completely!Of course, the original author retains his/her absolute and full copyright on his/her original work (and of course reserves the option to not release future versions under a Free Software license). And the license he/she does release under must be followed (eg: GNU GPL or LGPL, etc). If it is not followed by some crook, a massive, wide and extremely vocal community of GPL supporters is ready at your back to help you out. And believe me when I say: the GNU GPL (GNU Public License) is vehemently enforced by said community (and thats a HUGE understatement). If this community adopted such a model, it gains the full backing and power of millions of Free Software developers worldwide (and the companies who support it).Now truly take a moment to think about the above.Just think how MUCH this community would grow with such a model as its basis! The knowledge shared between developers would simply fly through the roof... The encouragement of non-developer users to actually participate and become developers in their own right increases ten-fold... The entire community spirit would be improved in unmeasurable ways.Every cloud has its lining (and its shadows). The death of Freeware may not be such a bad thing in such an instance... It just depends upon the mindset of developers and how they wish to react. Not only would this particular instance of "trouble" be cured, but many recent "troubles" as well (such as Ferdy, etc).Food for thought,Elrond

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You know, Elrond, I was contemplating GPLing some stuff. I think that's a great idea. It sure saves having to write up distribution and copyright info on stuff.

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Ah! but to find that information you would have to do the very thing you are trying to prevent. Hack the new FSG DC10-10 to see why it doesn't transfer.

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I tried this software now, and I think some major work is needed for his intended release. Of the default MS planes, not one was converted correctly. All have some kind of artifact on screen, or parts are not aligned correctly. I tried it on my own planes, and was amazed that mine didnt show up in the software at all. So apparently I have created models that are not to this program's liking...only problem is I dont know what I did to get that result...maybe because I only use gmax to create dynamics in and use the gamepack to create the MDL file. For 3D work I use Rhino, not gmax...dunno if thats a clue though...

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Hi Peter,I couldn't recommend it enough and am glad to hear you are ready to do so yourself. It solves so many problems this community has been facing for the past few years - increasingly more lately. And it opens up our closed systems and methods to each other for the benefit and learning of all. I too am contemplating going back and re-releasing all of my previous FS works under some form of GPL license. Any future FS work of mine will be Free Software as well.Take care,Elrond

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Hi Elrond,Could you help me out here, I dont get it what your proposing...probably my lack of the english langauge...Could you explain this in simpler langauge...??Thanks..

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Hi Hent,Well, basically, Free Software is exactly like it sounds. You release your work fully and completely out in to the wild. Your package may be exactly like it was before with only pre-compiled binaries (bgl's, mdl's etc)... But by releasing as Free Software, you also commit to providing any of the original source working files made during its development such as the gMax model itself, the custom or stock textures used, uncompiled air files, etc, etc. Each type of project has its own types of source files that go into it of course. As long as you provide the source to your works to anyone who requests it, and release it under one of the many Free Software licenses such as the GNU Public License, Lesser GNU Public License, Mozilla License, etc, etc, you have now enter the Free Software world. You of course retain the full copyright to all of your works. So, thats your part of the bargain.Now whats in it for you?Multiple things. Once you release as Free Software, absolutely ANY changes or improvements made by anybody else to that work MUST be given back to you and the community - its a requirement of all Free Software licenses. Since all of the source to your project is freely available and encouraged for others to build upon, it completely negates the "pirates" because there is nothing to pirate. Anybody and their brother is encouraged to improve your works in any way they see fit: including any commercial enterprise! That may sound strange for a second, but think about it... If the source to your work is freely available, and all changes made to your work by absolutely anybody (commercial or otherwise) MUST be returned back to the public, it completely negates the value to a commercial enterprise or even thieves because its already freely available!And because your work is fully public, others may also learn by example from your work (and you in return of course): they download the sources and open them up in gMax, C++, whatever. Learning by example is the BEST way to foster a huge increase in understanding throughout a community.This also encourages anybody who has a mind to get into development work as well... Since all things become "open", the learning curve is drastically reduced for both newbies and long-time developers. This almost always fosters a boom in quality and quantity of works in such communities.Beyond that, it also fosters team work between once individual or even solitary developers. This and many forums at AVSIM are an excellent resource to learn new tricks and the like, but it can still be a very hard process to track down information or methods from the specific people who have it. Since Free Software is completely open, it makes it much easier to learn by example from your fellow developers... Community spirit is usually lifted in leaps and bounds as well, and improves such valuable resources as these forums.Finally, and to many the most important aspect, the Free Software community is absolutely HUGE... There are millions of Free Software developers worldwide, including many extremely successful commercial enterprises such as Red Hat, Mandrake, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and the list goes on and on. Once a community joins the Free Software way, this extremely large and extremely vocal community stands behind you when thieves and crooks attempt to break your Free Software license. Instead of a tiny niche of developers that exist for Flight Simulator (and believe me, we ARE tiny), we "join" with a huge quantity of well organized members worldwide. Any shenanigans the likes that Ferdy pulls would gain worldwide audience to ALL Free Software developers: great and small. I can't stress here how vocal they can be when someone intentionally breaks a Free Software license... It can be astounding.If you'd like to learn more, here are a few resources to check out:A very good definition (that blows mine away :-)) is here:http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.htmlOne of the most popular Free Software licenses, the GNU GPL (among many to choose from that fit your needs):http://www.opensource.org/licenses/gpl-license.phpA list and reading for a wide variety of Free Software licenses:http://www.opensource.org/licensesThe home of the free software movement:http://www.gnu.orgA massive, massive collection of Free Software projects of all kinds:http://www.sourceforge.netOne of the best sites on the net to keep abreast and learn about the Free Software issues (and many, many other things):http://slashdot.orgSorry for the lengthy reply, but hope that helps,Elrond

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Hi Elrond,What you are saying here is actually rather fantastic...You're right, a change of thinking IS needed, and you certainly got ME thinking! Mind you, I'm not an FS designer in any way (I have often thought of trying it, but there never seem to be enough time :), but I am a software developer, who would also hate to see MY programs hacked and sold (or maybe I should consider it a compliment :)Anyway, your input got me thinking - a lot! Thanks!BRGDSSven Sorensen, EKCH

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