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PeterR

The Future of FU3: Where do we go from here?

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I love FU3. Don't we all? That goes without saying. With the amazing talent of the folks here, FU3 has been enhanced beyond anything we could've thought possible. Why do we love FU3? There are many reasons including, in no particular order, but not limited to:- Flight modeling- Satellite terrain textures- Water effects- Vertical air current modeling- Dynamic weather- ATC- Looking Glass made great games- All the add-ons and tools are free (thanks to the FU community)But, as time goes on, there are things that we wish we had including, in no particular order, but not limited to:- Helicopters- Multiplayer- 24- or 32-bit color- Higher display resolutions- Larger "world"- Multi-monitor display- Modern visual effects- Fully interactive 3D virtual cockpitUnfortunately, there are some things that simply can't be changed in FU3 because they require access to the sim's code. So, do we have a viable alternative? After reading , could it be FU3's successor? Or how about MSFS?Considering that FU3 has been expanded and enhanced by a community that does it "just because", no commercially available sim could really be a worthy candidate. There would always be something that couldn't be touched, something that was off-limits. Also, proprietary formats and hidden capabilities would hinder the progress of the talented folks that want to get such-and-such feature or add-on implemented.I feel that the only current candidate that could possibly be a successor to FU3, that could provide the flexibility, openness, community spirit, functionality and future-proofing that could satisfy our ideals, is the [link:www.flightgear.org|FlightGear Flight Simulator] (FGFS).I've been monitoring the development of this open-source sim for several years now and with the recent announcment of a new version, I really think that it deserves a serious look. Here's an example list of some things that make FGFS so appealing:General- Free. No financial barrier to entry. Everyone can enjoy it. Everyone that contributes to it benefits the entire community.- Runs on multiple platforms. Everyone can enjoy it on just about whatever OS they like (currently Windows, Linux, Mac OS-X, FreeBSD, Solaris, and IRIX).- OpenGL. Supports a variety of hardware accelerators for the latest and greatest 3D features.Aircraft- Multiple flight models. Currently uses three different models including tabular (like FS) and airflow (like FU3).- Smooth and fluid instrument animation that updates at the same rate as the 3D display.- Supports fully animated, fully operational, fully interactive 3D cockpits that update and display correctly even from external chase plane views.- Real-world instrument behavior. Instruments that lag in real life, lag correctly in FlightGear, gyro drift is modeled correctly, the magnetic compass is subject to aircraft body forces.- Instrument and system failures. If the vacuum system fails, the HSI gyros spin down slowly with a corresponding degradation in response as well as a slowly increasing bias/error.Scenery- Over 20,000 airports with correct runway markings and placement, correct runway and approach lighting, taxiways for many larger airports, sloping runways, directional airport lighting that changes intensity as your relative view direction changes.- Worldwide scenery mesh (11 CDs worth) based on the most recently released SRTM terrain data. 3 arc second resolution (about 90m post spacing) for north and south america, 30 arc second resolution (about 1km post spacing) for the rest of the world.- Scenery includes all vmap0 lakes, rivers, roads, railroads, cities, towns, land cover, etc.- Satellite terrain textures can be applied to mesh. Make FU3-quality textures for whatever part of the world you can get photos.- Scenery night lighting with ground lighting concentrated in urban areas (based on real maps) and headlights visible on major highways.- Accurate time of day modeling with correctly placed sun, moon, stars, and planets for the specified time and date. FlightGear can track the current computer clock time in order to correctly place the sun, moon, stars, etc. in their current and proper place relative to the earth. If it's dawn in Sydney right now, it's dawn in the sim right now when you locate yourself in virtual Sidney.Networking- Communicate with other instances of FlightGear, GPS receivers, external flight dynamics modules, external autopilot or control modules, as well as other software such as the Open Glass Cockpit project and the Atlas mapping utility.- Generic input/output option. Allows for a user defined output protocol to a file, serial port or network client.- Multi-player protocol. Multiple aircraft flying together and/or tower simulation.- Synchronize several instances. Set up multiple computers for additional external views with tightly synchronized display.Development- Open source. Infinitely tweakable and always accessible, now and forever.- Open file formats. Make add-ons, tools, models, etc. without wasting time reverse engineering.- Standard 3D file formats. Easily make use of existing 3D models and modeling software.- Access to a very large number of internal state variables via numerous internal and external access mechanisms. State variables are organized into a convenient hierarchal property tree.- Remotely control FlightGear from an external script.- Create model animations, sound effects, instrument animations and network protocols for about any situation imaginable just by editing a small number of human readable configuration files.So, you're probably wondering why everyone isn't using it. I can think of three primary reasons: publicity, maturity and eye candy. Not too many people know about FGFS even though it's free. But, probably the overarching reason more people don't use it is that it's perceived to be behind the times because it doesn't have the eye candy that MSFS does. The highest priority of the FGFS developers has been the simulation of flight and accuracy of things directly related to flying rather than the view out the window. This is not to say that they haven't done much with the exterior. After all, they even have headlights appear on freeways and directional airport lighting! The beauty is that anything that could be desired, including all the eye candy that anyone could ask for (and a modern PC could hope to generate at a reasonable frame rate) can be implemented. It just takes the hands to get it done.I often wonder what FGFS could become with all the talent I see in the forums and in the file library. How many more aircraft and scenery objects it could have. How much better it could look. What fantastic new levels of realism could be realized. Hopefully, what I'm sharing with you all today will at least spark some curiosity. FU3 will always have a special place in our hangar but as time marches on, at some point we need to realistically think about how to take the next step--build the FU4 that we all wish we had. It can be done.http://www.flightgear.orgPeter http://bfu.avsim.net/sigpics/PeterR.gifBFU Forums ModeratorRenegade/Seawolf Design Group (RSDG)[table border=2 cellpadding=0 cellspacing=1][tr][td][table border=0 cellpadding=8 cellspacing=0][tr][td bgcolor=#6f0000]http://bfu.avsim.net/sigpics/logo75t.gif[/td][td align="center" bgcolor=#FFFFF6]Bush Flying Unlimited"At home in the wild"Looking for adventure? Come join us![link:forums.avsim.com/dcboard.php?az=show_topics&forum=108|Forums] * [link:bfu.avsim.net|Web Site] * [link:www.cafepress.com/bfu,bfu2,bfu3,bfu4|BFU Store] * [link:bfu.avsim.net/join.htm]Join!][/td][/tr][/table][/td][/tr][/table

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Peter; Well put I must say . I'll have a look see . AS far as The Global aspect of it . I fell in love with the Western US for Flying in And if I could live for 100 more years I would like to fly All The airports in the world . So it is nice for every one who lives in different time zones to fly where they live . And if it is as you say,Eye candy can be made easy enough. Flight physics and realisim are a must . I will Stay with FU3 untill there is really an FU4 . But who knows ?? this might be a good prospect. Time and technology will tell . I Thought about trying out Elete flight sim . Not cheap but used for real life training.All you Bushers have a nice one .!!!BYECaptRolo

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Thanks Cap. Here's the short descriptions on the flight models that FGFS currently uses. Other FD engines can certainly be used with the sim either on the same computer or a separate one via network.From the FGFS web site1. JSBSim: JSBSim is a generic, 6DoF flight dynamics model for simulating the motion of flight vehicles. It is written in C++. JSBSim can be run in a standalone mode for batch runs, or it can be the driver for a larger simulation program that includes a visuals subsystem (such as FlightGear.) In both cases, aircraft are modeled in an XML configuration file, where the mass properties, aerodynamic and flight control properties are all defined.2. YASim: This FDM is an integrated part of FlightGear and uses a different approach than JSBSim by simulating the effect of the airflow on the different parts of an aircraft. The advantage of this approach is that it is possible to perform the simulation based on geometry and mass information combined with more commonly available performance numbers for an aircraft. This allows for quickly constructing a plausibly behaving aircraft that matches published performance numbers without requiring all the traditional aerodynamic test data.3. UIUC: This FDM is based on LaRCsim originally written by the NASA. UIUC extends the code by allowing aircraft configuration files instead and by adding code for simulation of aircraft under icing conditions.UIUC (like JSBSim) uses lookup tables to retrieve the component aerodynamic force and moment coefficients for an aircraft... and then uses these coefficients to calculate the sum of the forces and moments acting on the aircraft.Peter http://bfu.avsim.net/sigpics/PeterR.gifBFU Forums ModeratorRenegade/Seawolf Design Group (RSDG)

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Peter,I have been following FGFS for a while now, with a view to transforming everything I've ever done for FU3 into that! As you mention, it is possible to add ground textures and of course, what better place to start than Seattle, WA? This would give us a great benchmark (FU3 itself) and, quite frankly, no shortage of eye-candy either. All of my models are retained in 3DS, as are the textures in uncompressed bitmaps (1024x1024x32bit) so it should be easy to convert to any other format quite easily. Once we get FGFS up to FU3's standard, we can then all go off in separate directions and do our own things for the sim.Personally, I see this sim as the only way 'up' from here, unless one wishes to pay lots (now and later) to have the latest M$F$ :-( Meanwhile, FU3 is about to get an unpowered glider or two ;) M$F$ users will have to wait for 2005 to see if the modelling will be altered - rumour has it that, with the proliferation of small gliding sims around, they are not going to do it. Adding ANOTHER flight model method to M$F$ would be too cumbersome and there would be no way for existing craft to use the new model - unlike FGFS :-):-waveJon Point*************************(effyouthree@hotmail.com)*************************

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Peter,First of all, thanks for the in-depth analysis of the sim! :)I know the FG project quite well, I have followed it for years, and I tried every major version (I couldn't try the last yet). In my opinion though, the biggest thing which stops its expansion, is the almost complete lack of a nice User Interface.In that sim, everything has to be done via configuration files. Or by command-line. You can't just start the sim then select an aircraft or airport "on the fly", you have to pass the parameters via command line, or to edit a config file. And, it lacks good, easy "overview" documentation - something like some easy steps to "quick-start" the sim, and a list of all the keys, something like that.Many users are extremely annoyed when they have to edit config files (this is also why they don't want to use Linux, even though now things are changing and you can use Linux without editing config files, and without (almost) using the Console at all).And I myself have to admit that it's slightly annoying having to exit the sim and change something just to switch aircraft...I think that if a nice, FU3-like User Interface is developed, that sim can be a lot more appealing to many people... Too bad I don't have the skills to develop it myself! :)Cristian

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I checked out Flightgear some years ago and found it very crude and unfinished. I still check their website every now and then but for it to be a viable alternative to FU3 for me, they need to add more eye-candy and better scenery. Sure, flight modelling is very important, but so is the view out the window (or monitor). Both need to be decent for the sim to be convincing and fun to fly, and you need good panels, ATC, weather etc as well.The latest screenshots still don't look that spectacular. There are some shots with satellite scenery used, but it's an extremely small area (only San Jose airport and immediate surroundings). If it's possible to add larger scenery areas (ie. importing FU3's SFO, Sea and UKS regions), it would be a lot better but then there's AI and ATC, weather modelling etc. The potential is there, but it would take a lot of work and time to make the sim into what the FU3 community wants it to be.I'm having a lot of fun with X-Plane right now. It's a great sim. However, it's not THE sim all FU3 fans have been waiting for. It still lacks a few things (proper night-lighting, detailed scenery and mesh) and some things are a bit crude (very repetetive autogen and generic textures, no LODing of mesh or scenery textures, crude ATC and AI). Maybe in two years, with X-Plane 8, it will be good enough to replace FU3 completely.FS2004 is actually the biggest contender to replace FU3. It has the eye-candy, ATC, weather and flight modelling (with third-party payware planes) to compete with FU3 and there are some nice photo scenery available (most of it payware).However, there's still life left in FU3. The UK region is comming together, which adds a fairly big region for us to fly over. The airports that have been released so far also look very good with paved taxiways and detailed buildings.There is also talk about improving the cloud textures, and it has been discovered how to change the scenery colours to create different seasons.When you think about it, FS2004 is the only sim with interactive 3d cockpits. X-Plane and Fly2 do just fine without them. The panels for some FU3 planes are very good and can compete with the best FS2004 planes. The sim still has very good ATC, and when if someone does some voices and more AI traffic for the UK region, it will be great.I don't really miss 32-bit color and high resolutions. Thanks to the Anisotropic Filtering and FSAA of modern videocards, FU3 looks great at 1024x768 16bpp. It's completely different from what I saw with my Voodoo3 or Geforce256. Shimmering textures, ugly dithering and nasty jaggies.In fact, I play most of my games, including X-Plane and FS2004, and action/rpg games at around 1024x768 with 4x or 6x FSAA and 8x/16x Anisotropic.

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Frankly, the only flight simulator that I am prepared to accept after FU3 is FU4. That might mean that I am limiting my options to a certain degree :-) but I would rather not use a flight simulator AT ALL if the rest do not match up to my (admittedly fussy) requirements.Chris Low.

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Just to correct my post above... I just checked the detailed info about the newest version (which I haven't tried) and it seems that they added a "launcher" to easily select aircraft and location.And they also added a quick-reference sheet.I'm downloading the new version right now... I hope it's easier to use! :)Cristian

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I downloaded Flight Gear several weeks ago and have been playing with it. I agree with you that it has potential but it's not ready for prime time just yet. Most of the interface requires a knowledge of XML and if you know XML you can change a lot of things. I plan to pick up a book on XML and see what I can do with it. As far as being a replacement for FU3 I don't think so. FU3 was the best sim of it's time but for me it's time is past. FS9 is in my opinion the best flight simulator available and I don't see that changing anytime in the near future. The flight models and panels are not very good but I make my own panels and there are lots of good flight models available with more coming. I still fly FU3 because it is fun but when I get serious I fire up FS9. I make my own custom scenery with FSSC and Landclass Assistant and panels with Paint Shop Pro and Notepad. You just can't beat MSFS when it comes to flexibility and availability of add on's. Richard

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First lookI downloaded and installed 0.9.3 last night and it's much improved. The launcher still needs you to select the directory where FGFS is installed (hopefully the install program will do that by the time 1.0 is here). Nevertheless, through the launcher you can now configure most of the sim and select the plane and airport you want. Also, there's a menu in the sim for accessing weather, airport, ATC, etc. I also noticed in the launcher that you can enable 3D clouds ;-)Anyway, I'm currently getting over 40 fps at 1280x960, almost 60 at 800x600, with all the visual features turned on. Of course, since there isn't a ton of detail, I would expect the rate to be pretty high.As for the XML files, at least it'll be easy for nice tools to be developed since the file format is well structured and an open standard.To those that are waitingFrom an end-user point of view, it is too early. From a developer point of view, it's just right. My plea really is targeted toward the developers in the FU3 community. Folks such as Jon Point (that's great news about your scenery work!) whose talents can make FGFS what we want. I've done a little paint, panel and scenery before but it'll take more hands than mine. And it'll certainly take some time but it has to start somewhere. If everyone that does coding, scenery, panels, aircraft, etc. simply dismisses it as "it's not there yet", it'll never get there in any reasonable amount of time.If we can start a movement to get more projects going in FGFS (at least along with ongoing FU3 projects), then the entire flight sim community will take notice at the marked improvements and more people will start using it. As an FU3 developer, I'm sure you could add a dedication to FU3 in your source files, comments, readme, etc.At least some stiff competition in the sim market will be good for everyone. Remember when a certain large software company used to laugh at Linux? They're not laughing anymore. ;-)Peter http://bfu.avsim.net/sigpics/PeterR.gifBFU Forums ModeratorRenegade/Seawolf Design Group (RSDG)

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Rich,The best flight simulator on PC is a question very much based on subjective opinion. I have never tried FS2004, but I find it extremely unlikely that I would consider it to be better than FU3. It may well be a considerable improvement when compared to FS2002, but I suspect that it would still fail to match FU3 in my eyes.I could be wrong....but I doubt it :-)Chris Low.

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Dear Peter,thank you very much for that very good and useful reminder!We "key developers" sure know flightgear, but simply must reorganize and look if we can "jump over" to didn

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I just tried some wild maneuvers with the default C172 of FGFS... After banking it over than 60 degrees or so, the artificial horizon goes awry - it just can't follow the aircraft's bank - and when you go back to level, it still shows some residual bank. And it took quite a long time of level flight, for it to re-synchronize.This was quite realistic! :-) And the gauge's update rate was fantastic...Cristian

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FGFS is a great example of success in open-source software, and if development continues at its current rate it will soon be a very prominent force on the flight sim scene. But if I can humbly offer a suggestion, if your goal is to preserve the special, unique qualities of FU3, you may find it more productive to embark on your own completely new sim that is closely aligned with FU3's ways of doing things. Remember that you can still pick and choose things out of FGFS or the libraries it uses (plib, SimGear, etc.) for re-use in your sim; so long as the new sim is also GPL'd of course. I would just caution you that in cases where your desired implementation differs from how FGFS has already implemented something, you may find it very difficult to either adapt your implementation to FGFS's way of doing things, and/or to influence the core development team to change the way FGFS works...in any case, good luck with whichever route you choose.Chris WallaceOttawa, Canada

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Very true, Chris. There are two ways to work, as part of the existing group of developers or completely independently. The GPL does give you the flexibility to take the entire project and run it in your own direction if you so choose. I don't know if that'll be necessary but it exists if needed.Peter http://bfu.avsim.net/sigpics/PeterR.gifBFU Forums ModeratorRenegade/Seawolf Design Group (RSDG)

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Dear Peter and all interested...,here is a long report now.As stated above I used my time last week to download flightgear again (last version 0.9.3, windows binaries) and the additional scenery e000n50.tar.gz for an actual testing of their status. The last time I used it extensively I tried to compile it under Linux Suse 6.1. That one was horrible buggy and I only could run it after several bugfixes in the source by myself. The experience of flight at that time was: ....hmmmm it has somewhat to do with fly, but not more... -> a lot of basic functions doesn

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Hello Ansgar.Well I have never tried "Flightgear", and with that complex install-operation I think I will not use it.I have always said, and I say again.We are all blessed having people like you in this forum as expertguidetelling what is possible/not possible from the current sims available.My dear old IBM computer had A complete HD crash and 9GB FU3 stuffvanished out of the window without warnings.I am waiting to get it back from the mechaniks in short time with newHD.My new XP- computer is running FU3 without problems with a new Radeon 9600 videocard, but my old win 98-SE system is,- belive it or not mutch better and balanced to use with older software like FU3.Using a VOODOO5 videcard here is like heaven!!I hope some Company will struggle to do another high end GA sim soon.This will again wake up the competition and again have a lot of users.Best regards.Lars Peter.:-wave

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Hi Ansgar!Thanks for your report. I agree with many of your statements and it's because of these things that FGFS needs help. Coordination and planning is key to effective use of resources during development of anything, big or small, but especially when it's as big and complex as a flight sim. I don't know if the FG team has experience developing games or stuff for other flight sims or not.I too tried out the latest version on Windows which resulted in a joystick issue with hat on the Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro Plus. I found out that Windows and Linux don't always report nor interpret joysticks the same way. Even the joystick name can be different. Apparently, no one used this stick on Windows so they didn't realize that the hat was misconfigured. Many of the joystick configurations appear to be optimized for non-Windows platforms (since most people use FGFS on non-Windows operating systems). Changing the axis assignments (e.g. hat on 6 and 7 for Windows instead of 4 and 5 for Linux) in the config file for my stick fixed the control problem.I didn't try all the planes, just the 3D Cessna 172P with the virtual cockpit. It was pretty cool as all the controls were operational with the mouse. I agree that there are too many so-so planes instead of just a few really good ones. But from what I saw, they don't seem to have people that are really into making high-res planes. A lot are ported from FS '98.The 3D model for the plane is easily painted using Paintshop Pro (or any other program that reads/writes SGI bitmap format) and I was able to double the size of the aircraft texture without having to touch the 3D model. Voila! More texture detail. That was nice. Straight stripes were a problem on the C172, as I've seen happen on planes for other sims, but that needs to be corrected in the 3D model.512x512 original size texturehttp://forums.avsim.net/user_files/46467.jpg1024x1024 texture replacement. Stripes are same number of pixels wide.http://forums.avsim.net/user_files/46468.jpgI'm not sure what you meant about needing a Java editor for the XML files. I just used Notepad. However, jEdit is a fantastic Java-based editor that I use for programming and HTML on Windows and Linux. I highly recommend it, especially if you do cross-platform work like I do. It's better having the same tool on all platforms. (http://www.jedit.org)Since this sim hasn't yet reached version 1.0, there's of course more to be done but, as you said, it sure has come a long way. Focusing their efforts on showcasing the sim's abilities would be good for drawing end users but I find the platform itself is okay for development.Remember that since it is under GPL, if a group of people want to build it differently (e.g. concentrate on a few planes, key features, smaller area), then they can take the source code and go in their own direction. I don't know if there are enough people to cover the various parts in order to do something like that.Even though I'm not affiliated with the FG team, I appreciate the time you spent on it. It would be great if more people could help the project in order to more quickly get the sim to the point we wish it was at already. Imagine what FU3 life would be like without Gideon's tools!Peter http://bfu.avsim.net/sigpics/PeterR.gifBFU Forums ModeratorRenegade/Seawolf Design Group (RSDG)

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Hello Peter,the thing with the joystick was even more difficult at my first attempts under linux. ;-) So I didn

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I agree that more focus would certainly help. As you said, it's similar to what happened with Linux when a few companies decided that variety is nice but some decisions had to be made on what would be in a distribution to lock it down into a product. Well, there are still more iterations before 1.0.Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. :-)Peter http://bfu.avsim.net/sigpics/PeterR.gifBFU Forums ModeratorRenegade/Seawolf Design Group (RSDG)

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Hello Peter,by the way - and last but not least - I forgot an important feature of FSGS!!! : They also have some helicopters in their hangars - and I was surprised how easy and realistic they fly compared to that default ones I tested from FS2002! Only the animation of the rotors and sound still doesn

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Hi Ansgar,Actually, I haven't tried the helicopters. Thanks for reminding me! I've flown a lot of helicopter games and sims so if they're better than FS, that should be a lot of fun. That's a big benefit of supporting a variety of FD engines. The beauty of the system is that the individual aircraft defines which engine to use. So, the user doesn't have to deal with those details. FGFS just runs the plane with the required FDE.I think it's a great idea and a wonderful experiment to port one of your aircraft to FGFS! At least the model and FD. It would certainly be a good looking one.It would be nice if the FU scenery could be ported but I don't know if the mapping systems are compatible. I think the FGFS world is curved vs. the flat one of FU.You know what would be an interesting direction to take FGFS? Make a version that could read FS mesh, scenery and aircraft models and textures. Of course, the FD data would not be portable but you can't have everything ;-). However, being able to leverage all the existing freeware for FS would be a big leap forward!Anyway, with regard to FU 2&3 scenery development in the early days, all we had was FLED. I don't know if you've used it but it's clunky and crashes easily if you're not extra careful. I guess the state of FGFS is kind of like that too--a work in progress with lots of potential but not yet for the masses. Then, when Gideon started releasing his tools, things really started to take off. Remember that 747 that someone ;-) ;-) ;-) was able to coax out of the sim? Who would've thought we'd have something like that!If you do embark on that experiment, I'll be very interested to hear all the gory details! A little experiment here and there could result in surprising revelations.Peter http://bfu.avsim.net/sigpics/PeterR.gifBFU Forums ModeratorRenegade/Seawolf Design Group (RSDG)

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Folks,I was serious about porting my stuff to FGFS but I'd like to be able to happily fly it first. At the moment, I don't know where to start, apart from stripping everything from the model and sticking it in there - not much fun. I started investigating doing a 3D panel for the Dash-8, complete with 3D gauges etc. I reckon there's 12 month's work in the cockpit alone!Maybe, when it's a bit more mature, there'll be some powerful utilities to make life easier. I've done my days in Perl. Compared to FGFS's approach, FU3 (and it's utilities) are much easier to drive.When games are developed, utilities are usually written to save developers time when doing repetitive jobs. LGS didn't need Resviewer, they had a more poweful set of scripts that could create any resfile you want, however you had to be pretty smart to drive them. I must admit I prefer the start screen in the current version - even if I cannot actually take off from any airport :-grr:-waveJon Point*************************(effyouthree@hotmail.com)*************************

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