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  • RC Sims Reports on X-Plane Devcon

    Tom Allensworth

    Bob Sidwick, who owns RC Simulations in the U.K. attended the X-Plane DEVCON held in Columbia, South Carolina, earlier in April and sent us this today. We think you will  enjoy the read.


    Bob’s Newsletter, from the US, X-Plane conference


    Most of you by now will have a view about X-Plane (except those who have not tried it or have decided to stay with Microsoft FS9, no matter what). I take the view that X-Plane 10 is a "sea change" as far as this platform is concerned. It also has a number of downsides as well as upsides and for some, the former exceeds the later. For example, the options in X-Plane 10 that you need to change in order to set it up may seem bewildering to the casual user or FSX user and it lacks detailed airports, varied AI traffic and much more; but not for long, as you will see.


    Austin Meyer is the driving force behind X-Plane 10 and he is ably assisted by his friends and colleagues, Ben Supnik, ( scenery and tools) and Randy Witt, (tech support). At all times at the conference these guys were receptive to new ideas and were accessible. They actually listened!! Various companies were represented including Just Flight, Aerosoft Germany and Flight 1.


    The result of all this will be the following:

    The next large update for X-Plane 10 will be version 10.10. It should address many of the things that users may hate or view as being show stoppers. We should see for example much better performance with ATI cards, especially when AI traffic is turned up and clouds have textures increased. In the meantime, expect a small bug fix update. These are available via the X-Plane updater at www.X-Plane.com


    X-Plane 10 has improved immeasurably since its release and continues to be refined. There is little point in waiting to buy X-Plane 10 until it is completely finished. All versions will be the same when the X-Plane update program is ran, so even if you are an early adopter, you will miss out on: Nothing, Zilch, Nada.

    You might just as well get started with this new adventure now or you will be missing out. You can get a demo that runs for about 15 minutes from www.x-plane.com. However, I would wait until they post 10.10 though before you do that although even the demo can be updated to the latest iteration. We have X-Plane 10 in stock in a collector’s metal tin and we will even do you a deal on postage i.e. it will be free.


    So how do we end up with the scenery that we really want with X-Plane10?


    Very soon there will be a FREE program called WED 1.2 or World Editor to give it its full title. This amazing program by Ben Supnik and others.WED simply lets you build an airport in minutes and you don’t need to be an artist or a programmer. WED 1.2 contains a database of custom objects made by Tom Kyler. You select your area and simply place high quality objects from lists, you simply point and click on a map to place them and they appear in X-Plane10!. Works is in progress to have a repository for those with no time or are impatient to simply download what they want for FREE. In a short time large areas of the world will gain airports. These airports look great and are "plausible" but will not compare with commercial offering such as Schiphol airport as these are custom made and you can reasonably expect the high standards (and better) of those airports currently available for FSX. This system will work with our UK Photographic Scenery. WED 1.1 is available now if you can’t wait for WED 1.2


    I was privileged to fly in the Cessna Corvalis TT, Columbia 400 low wing aircraft with Austin Mayer and he even allowed me to fly it. When you see Austin in action, you realise that he is a pilot on top of his game. He makes a very complex aircraft look very simple to operate and in the last year as put in around 300 hours in this aircraft alone ( It took me 10 years to do that). What I saw looking out of the window though was X-Planes "plausible world" and whilst American style X-Plane scenery doesn’t look very realistic in the Home Counties, it does look remarkably like the real US from the air. The default worldwide scenery is based on Open Street Maps www.openstreetmap.org .





    Austin Meyer’s Cessna 400 Corvalis

    (Click for a larger Image)

    Things that I learned that you might not know:

    1/ All the third party scenery goes in the X-Plane/Custom Scenery folder and the priority of one scenery over another is determined by its alphabetical position in this folder. So if you can’t see a object, change the name of its folder to an "a".

    2/ There may well be at least 100,000 X-Plane10 users by the end of 2012. This is important for third party developers as it ensures a profit for them and choice for others. Expect to see lots of new planes and scenery. I saw a 737 aircraft that seemed to me, both technically and visually the equal to anything available for FSX at present.

    3/ Expect products such as Traffic X and FS Commander to be converted/created for X-Plane 10 sooner rather than later. Some companies have already started converting their products and those that don’t.....well! We will convert VoxATC to X-Plane 10 but it will take time, maybe lots.

    4/ WED (provided for free) is very similar to AFCAD in its operation. You can set ATC, taxiways, runway info and traffic flow information.

    5/ You can add airport objects to scenery but you cannot move the base mesh in WED. You can however set an overlay and an exclusion area and build on that.

    6/ Commitment by Laminar Research for long term compatibility i.e. objects and scenery for X-Plane 9 will continue to work in X-Plane 10 after updates. Obviously you will keep the old features but the add-on will not benefit from new features unless it is upgraded. The important thing though is that it will continue to work as before.

    7/ The Dataref Editor is a free tool. When you think of it, think FSUIPC. There are 3000 plus variables that may be accessed.  

    8/ The plug-in system is one system that covers everything it is really fast and totally integrated into X-Plane 10. Programmers use C and C++ to create plug-ins. Remember, Ben Supnik and Sandy Barbour wrote the code for X-Plane plug-ins. If you get stuck, you can even contact Ben on Skype. What other company would be so accessible. Don’t reinvent the wheel!

    9/ Is my graphic card maxed out? If you make your window smaller and the graphics speed up it is. If this makes no difference, think about a processor upgrade.

    10/ The rough equivalent to FSUIPC is XPUIPC. I have managed to drive Project Magenta software with this.  

    11/ You can’t design for X-Plane with Gmax. 3D Studio is the best platform for professionals but it is expensive at around $3500. Other options are AC3D and "Blender" which is free and open source. Ben said that G Max is a dead end program for third party X-Plane10 development. It was discontinued in 2005 at version 1.2. Ben said that Blender and AC3D do not share code and Blender 2.4 and ver.2.5 require different exporters.

    12/ If you are running out of space on your PC or Mac so that you can’t load our VFR Photographic scenery (230GB), fear not! After update 10.10 you can "alias" a hard drive in X-Plane/Custom Scenery so that you can load it onto an external drive.

    13/ I left the best info until last. X-Plane 10 is getting an attractive new user interface (UI) so that anyone who downloads the demo will be able to enjoy X-Plane 10 immediately without the frustration of complicated setup screens for graphics, controls and aircraft sensitivity. So X-Plane will become accessible to all flight sim enthusiasts but still retain the existing engineering options for the more technical user.

    We hope to expand the functionality of SimCAT5 modules within X-Plane 10. For those that don’t know SimCAT5 is a system that contains a board called the "Master Board" and a number of switches and knobs called Twisters . They are inexpensive and a complex set of cockpit controls can be built up piece by piece until your cockpit is complete and as you can afford it. P C Pilot has just awarded our system a score of 90% and a Classic Award! In. The great news is that the SimCAT5 system requires very little technical skill to set up and is really plug and play. Apart from the usual avionic functions, we intend to create the ability to do the following:

    1/ Slew the aircraft up or down or forward and back from a single knob.

    2/Alter the RVR (runway visual range) and cloud base with a single knob

    3/Move the time forward or back

    4/ Alter the Instrument panel lighting brightness so that a knob behaves like a rheostat as in a real aircraft cockpit.

    Cadet Controls now have an 8 week lead time. We are supplying a considerable number to various training organisations as well as individuals. If you need helicopter or light aircraft controls please ring. One of our customers rang up to say that his controls were actually better than he had hoped for.

    If you would like to make a convincing instrument panel which runs either on a single PC with a second monitor or on a separate PC with its own monitor we have a solution called Panel Builder Pro. This runs with X-Plane 10, FSX ,Prepar3D and so with the DSC range. Watch out on our website and we will post a video soon."


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