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Flight Simulator X review

Here is my latest addiction or hobby for those interested.
(Disclaimer: Last year was the first I got back into it and only have limited experience. YMMV caveate emptor and all that. Some of you are real pilots in real life and will laugh at me showing off my shiny new tricycle and you'd be quite justified. But for others it might be something you might want to get into.)

It's great for the cold boring homebody Michigan winters around here at least, and I'm busy re-learning some of the geography lessons missed in my youth. It's a way of 'traveling the world' without having to go far. It's harder to learn these days and so I need a moving map with a lot of time to absorb it all. Go ahead and research stimulating brain development with adult play activities which are found to be beneficial for the health just in case ya need to get all scientific for any justification or self-rationalization.
I definitely got the flying bug young, even though I have acrophobia like dad. He mentioned getting an ultralight a few times and there was a grass airport within walking distance of our lakeside house where he split with mom and went his own way. For his 70th birthday which his uncle flew, we went up on a B-17 ride in the Yankee Lady at Willow Run airport, where B-24s were once produced at the rate of one per hour.
In early days I played some boring early such as FS2004 and ProPilot but it wasn't until last year and this game when it started to feel truly immersive and interesting and 'real'. The computer tech of today is simply amazing. Today's flight simulators sitting on any commoner's desk today is far more powerful than the best our USAF elite had back in the 1980's.

Some of you do online gaming. Maybe I should have started with that but didn't. My criteria was to fully own my own game, which is my own software, and my own property, after my own extensive purchases, and paid for with my own money. To be able to play offline and have backups in case any particular company or the entire internet went out of business and I lose the game, uh, because those things happen.

Old 02-05-2018, 07:52 PM
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There are a couple of flight sims out there:
1). Microsoft Flight Simulator X Gold/aka FSX. (all my pictures are with this program) $180 on Ebay I bought for a hundred on sale, or $20 on Steam spyware service which I won't use. It is 32bit, old gen, buggy, and simply awful right out of the box without extensive modification. It covered the entire world reasonably well though and was a great program for the time. I have spent many months of fixing and tweaking and am still not done. Aftermarket photo-scenery and aircraft can get quite expensive fast but there is still a lot of nice freeware. I am loving this program. A2A especially and Milviz Carenado make some high quality and accurate aircraft. My go-to flyer these days is the Milviz P-38 with her beautiful turbocharger whine and that sensual cascade of reflections caressing across the field of rivets.

2). PREPARED P3D addon from Lockheed Martin "for professional use only, not for entertainment or gaming" looks nice but restricted I think. I got scared after reading all the legalese and ran away.
Requires online.

3). OrbX addon from Google which I also know nothing about but looks nice.
Requires online.

4). X-Plane11 $60 (which I should have bought) looks very nice.
X-Plane is less expensive than FSX, it is 64bit so it's able to utilize more than one CPU core and more than 4MB RAM, the autogen looks quite decent out of the box, and most of all the photo-scenery is free using the Ortho4XP down-loader.
Requires online.
Old 02-05-2018, 07:53 PM
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Hardware
A big hard drive is absolutely required for photoscenery. I have much of a 4TB platter filled up but it has a very slow transfer rate. I still need more. PCAviator has awful customer service and sells DiskTrix defragmentation utility but the offline installation code didn't work and they haven't responded to emails so far.
Photo-scenery loads slower initially but supposedly game play is faster. Loading FSX with photo-scenery sometimes takes my computer 30 minutes and I'm still looking into tweaks. One recommendation is to turn off all enabled FSX scenery except where you are flying that day. The solid state drives now in 2018 are only affordable up to about 1TB before the prices go vertical. In ten years it will be different I'm sure. For the operating system and game this might be a good choice and then perhaps you could store scenery on separate hard drives? I don't know if that is the faster way and probably could give it a try myself. Bit of a computer brick wall of knowledge here.

You'll need big memory. 8GB minimum but hey it's not that expensive in the long run and ya don't ever want to run out. Go for it. I've got 16GB which is still not enough I guess.
PCAviator sells PrimoCache which supposedly allows using a fast SSD drive to act as a huge Level2 virtual memory buffer. I think that's how it works. It's another rube goldberg crutch but definitely seemed like an improvement in overall speed. The computer did 'run out of memory' and crash once when I flew Drzewiecki Design's New York City, despite what should be 80GB RAM total, but I am using a memory stick on a semi-broken exterior USB 2.0 port instead of mainlining onto the motherboard.

My CPU is only a single core Intel i3 3.4GHZ and it slows down a bit with a lot of autogen in the field of view. Remember FSX is 32-bit so it can only use one core and 4gb memory.

A good video card is required. I'm not sure which is the best value vs. speed. I did buy a nice $500 8GB GTX1070 from Microcenter but if you're going to be using VR goggles get the GTX 1080 I think. GPU prices have gone back up unfortunately and the 1070 is supposed to be pretty fast except for the very high end stuff. YMMV. HDMI cables are a faster route to the monitor for video output transfer of course. My crappy LG monitor has ugly screen-tearing and brightness-pulsing issues which I still need to figure out and change.

My Joystick is an Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS (hands on stick and throttle) setup which was an incredibly stupid and expensive mistake. I walked into that piranha river with my wallet open and my thing swinging in the water. I still haven't been able to program most of the multitude of switches which were not made intuitive or correctly. The CH pedals took a while to break in and still have a clunk at center but they work and are essential for flying the whirlybirds. Get the good USB splitters and extensions while you are at the store. For a starter kit you can get a Thutstmaster t-flight stick for $50 with t-flight pedals for $60 so a decent combo setup is available for a hundred ten bucks or so.


I sometimes use TrackIR5 on a baseball cap but it makes my eyes tire out very quickly these days despite the radiation being adjusted to the lowest setting. It is a cool idea and device but version five still doesn't work correctly for me, at least. It's probably operator error. It usually is. The view screen jumps around spasticly at the edges of travel (but this may have to do with memory resources on shared USB ports vs. their own memory space and non-overlapping affinity masks whatever that means), the unit sits loosely on top the monitor and slips off the magnet base(tape the wire at the back to prevent it falling or moving), aligning the movement parameters takes some fine tuning skills when there already should be default standards in place, duh, there's no mesh collision properties with FSX native aircraft so your head can travel through the sides of your vehicle, and the software sometimes crashes and won't shut down until the dang thing is unplugged from the back of the computer after fishing around on the floor in the dark.
"But other than that, how did you like the play tonight Mrs. Lincoln?" [/rant]
Old 02-05-2018, 08:00 PM
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Flying over 'real terrain' is essential for me personally. No fake allowed even if there are image flaws. I want to learn about geography and the real world while I am flying. I've been able to virtually go back to some of the places I visited before:
Here is near Nice, France.


Here is Venice, Fl. There is a dog park near the airport where you can swim or run with pup and watch the cows come home. It's a crappy small parking lot and thin bit of beach and difficult to find.


Here is Paris of course losing my virtual pilot's license. Actually an allied pilot once flew through it during WW2. The Golden Gate Bridge was also barnstormed.
Old 02-05-2018, 08:08 PM
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And a few pics on the bucket list
Getting to know the layout of freeways and the neighborhoods around Miami.


Maybe a Caribbean helicopter tour while on vacation in St Barthelemy to check out the island. Actually we did take one on Kauai and it was absolutely amazing. Hey now I can take one anytime eh?


A certain spot at a certain track in Germany


****Here is Montreaux Switzerland on Lake Geneva, where David Bowie had a studio and recorded "Under Pressure" with Queen. My father once played there at the jazz fest. You can get a small understanding of the inspiration just from this virtual view and it's definitely on the bucket list.


Genoa. A young Boris Becker drove his 959 down from Milan at 200mph according to his Top Gear visit.


I'm particularly fascinated by this Swiss Alps valley spot where the Rhone River goes east to Lake Geneva, turns south at Lyon, and then south to the big port of Marseilles. In the other direction the Rhine River starts travelling east, goes up and exits the alps at Lake Constance, doubles back west to the Black Forest(where the Danube begins through to Romania) and travels all the way northwest to Amstrerdam.
It's like the whole of Europe is tied together with rivers at this one spot.

Old 02-05-2018, 08:17 PM
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(Some random basic tech info which is probably wrong)
The basic components of the FSX environment are:
1)3D polygon mesh surface which creates the profile of the earth.

2)Textures. are laid over this mesh. They can be fake computer-generated vector surfaces or raster satellite photographs stitched together. Some photo-scenery is only mesh and is completely smooth in desert environments.

3)Autogen objects such as buildings, bridges, airports, cars, boats, etc. are placed on the mesh and are a separate thing.

4)Water effects are created.

5)Lighting effects are created.

6)weather effects such as cloud behavior over time are computed. There are actually companies such as REX that keep track of real-time individual cloud formations happening everywhere in the world right now. Yeah. Technology is getting sweet.

As example of the parts, here is a coastline between Nice France and Monaco. The satellite photo tiles are pretty crisp and of high resolution but the mesh is blah. You can see there is only a few buildings ahead but this area would look so good if it was heavily populated with quality autogen objects as in the straight out of a James Bond helicopter chase kind of good. The only thing holding it all up from the very start is the awful mesh quality. But for other high flyover photo-scenery areas they don't need any autogen at all to look good.
It's all a bit of artistic magic I think to balance it out.
Old 02-05-2018, 08:21 PM
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Flight SimulatorX stores the photos and actually most of the landscape information I think as .BGL files in the "scenery" folder of the state/country/area folder. I'm not sure about the entire structure of the game programing. There are other places such as "Global Scenery" and others where files need to be distributed or it doesn't work correctly.

The registered listing of all installed areas is accessed through the "Scenery Library" from the main menu. They have to be check-marked to become active otherwise FSX default scenery takes over that area. The ones higher up on that list (with a lower number) get precedent when displayed in the game so if there are two overlapping areas in dispute you want the better looking one higher up. To install new scenery manually if there is no installer, you just drop your scenery folder into "Addon Scenery" folder inside the Windows FlightSimulatorX file, restart game, go back into the main menu to "Scenery Library", click "add", find the location of your new folder in "Addon Scenery", click ok, and then (very important FSX bug which is unfixed and needs to be bypassed!!) click on the white blank space instead of "ok" or double clicking. Accept. It compiles and spits out random error messages because Microsoft and that area is good to go with photographic ground textures the next time you want to fly it. Hopefully.

(I think this is how it works)
With satellite photos there are various 'Levels Of Detail' (LOD) that basically represent the number of pixels per square meter and how sharp the picture is. Generally the scale used is 10 to 18, with 10 being huge blurry smears at low altitude and 15 being able to almost recognize the brands of automobiles.

When it comes to large areas like an entire continent, the difference in file sizes on your hard drive is quite staggering. I like the idea of a cheap blurry LOD10-12 map covering everything first, and then getting fancy and creating specific areas covered with LOD15-18 with crafted custom autogen. There is a way to have your cake and eat it too but nobody seems to follow that logic. Companies sell airports with highly detailed lampposts but they ignore the rest of the airport map completely.

A better detailed discussion of the subject can be found here: https://www.avsim.com/forums/topic/423417-lod_radius15-but-its-not-about-distance/?page=2

Here is another example of LOD. The company FranceVFR sells high quality but very expensive France maps, but recently also an inexpensive $40 map of OZ called 'High Altitude', which would be awesome except they ruined it on purpose.
1). Here is a low LOD at first round of loading (it goes to higher LOD after a moment but the hole effect also appears). This is still preferable to default FSX scenery in my opinion.


2). Here is after their their software removes the photo tiles underneath, which makes helicopter flying not very enjoyable. The light tan puke is default FSX artificial textures which only get worse in larger amounts.


3). Now here is some freeware of beautiful Alice Springs. It's actually still not very high LOD, but you can just imagine when the entire continent is like that.
Old 02-05-2018, 08:29 PM
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Paid Photoscenery:
I bought most of my FSX photoscenery from MegaSceneryEarth and PCAviator and it's been a love hate thing. They sell huge whole country coverage areas that nobody else does at very affordable prices and some areas are absolutely beautiful, but there are often stupid installation or rediculously bad obvious map flaws. And the customer service is virtually nil. But some of the maps are absolutely gorgeous and it's like briefly envisioning Heaven through a telescope while on vacation in hell.

Actually most of the Microsoft FSX experience is a long journey of patching up various rotten eggs throughout the entire damn game. For every hour of flying you will spend five to ten hours fixing FSX. So why not start off with X-Plane?

Some freeware photoscenery links:
France here: France Photoreal scenery - Freeware Scenery Submissions - OZx Forum. These are very nice tiles. The company FranceVFR has various paid versions which look decent, but the complete autogen map is upwards of $500 and the cheaper maps don't cover the country. YMMV.
Israel/Hungary/Cyprus/Montenegro/Albania/Serbia/Kosovo/Macedonia/Austria/Slovenia here: FTXDes: POS_Hungary_2005 These are very nice tiles.
Greece here: FSX Greece sceneries These are nice tiles but the colors look slightly muddy. Don't use the Attiki/Athens autogen buildings as they look like war zone and turn the computer into a slug. You'll have to find all the sections to have contiguous photo landscape but they are all there.
Most of Europe here: Download photoreal scenery - Italy Photoreal These are lower quality sat tiles but large file size which would need serious tweaking to all match and look contiguous, but they are free offering, and clouds can be turned way up to soften the effect. For myself I just needed a few missing areas not available as payware yet so I placed these lower on the scenery list. You download a separate clickable map which has links to a whole bunch of 1-1.5 GB sections with slow d/l speed. Expect to spend 3-4 days babysitting the computer and write it all down to keep track.
Misc freeware links
FSX & Prepar3D freeware scenery list
https://simcatalog.com/flight-simulator/78-best-freeware-scenery-s-for-fsx-europe.html
FSX - P3D - Rikoooo
https://library.avsim.net/
Try to give back and support these nice people of course.

You can create photoscenery:
I haven't tried it yet, but with all the time spent fixing FSX I havent have time to delve into this fully. Using Tutorials and https://www.gimp.org/downloads/ you can go online, download tiles from a server like Google maps or Bing maps, trim them so they're neat(some sellers don't bother and there are horribly sloppy maps out there for sale), and turn them into .bgl scenery files for FSX to use.
Old 02-05-2018, 08:30 PM
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Very cool.

Enjoy.

One thing, STEAM is not spyware.

Completely legitimate company and actually had done more prevent pirating of PC games than nearly everything else combined.

They are the reason you have so many choices for quality PC product.
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Old 02-06-2018, 03:52 AM
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You can ask our fr ind gh85carrera about the topology maps.

Pretty sure he does aerial photogrammetry.
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Old 02-06-2018, 04:01 AM
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Still prefer the real thing
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Old 02-06-2018, 06:20 AM
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you might be a victim of vr immersion.

do you fly solo, no air traffic? or atc communications?

No air sickness with vr? that's no joke.

plan to purchase a vr headset very soon with an Alienware Aurora R5 rig.

any opinion on the which vr headset is best?

Do you have multiple monitors still?

happy landings
Old 02-06-2018, 11:39 AM
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That looks fun. I had flight simulator for my Commodore 64 back in the day. It totally sucked compared to what your doing now
Old 02-06-2018, 11:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by petrolhead611 View Post
Still prefer the real thing
Yes, but i use X-Plane to practice emergency procedures and touch up on IFR stuff and it is a whole lot less expensive.

It is also fun to build stuff and try it out, especially with the kids involved. You would not want to fly some of their designs in non-virtual reality.

I use a Track-IR 5 and it works great, especially in the flight combat sims. YMMV.

I also have all CH products so I can have full programability of the controls. I had the old Thrustmaster HOTAS but their Thrustmapper software deosn't work in Win 7 or newer so that went to my daughter.
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Old 02-06-2018, 01:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ramonesfreak View Post
That looks fun. I had flight simulator for my Commodore 64 back in the day. It totally sucked compared to what your doing now
I had that one too and many since.
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The X15 was the only aircraft I flew where I was glad the engine quit. - Milt Thompson.

"Don't get so caught up in your right to dissent that you forget your obligation to contribute." Mrs. James to her son Chappie.
Old 02-06-2018, 01:10 PM
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why bother with defragmentation utilities.
We are 2018, buy 2 cheap as piss SSD's and put them in a Raid 0 stripe set
100 bucks for the pair
https://www.amazon.de/SanDisk-PLUS-120GB-Internal-530MB/dp/B07621PNWC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1517953349&sr=8-2&keywords=ssd+sata

You'll have more throughput then you can dream off

EDIT, just reread it..
4 TB ?? whoot?
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Old 02-06-2018, 01:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flipper35 View Post
Yes, but i use X-Plane to practice emergency procedures and touch up on IFR stuff and it is a whole lot less expensive.
I have at least a thousand hours in military flight sims...they are the best workout for emergency procedures, odd systems failures, etc.

I remember the first time I flew in a dome, with color. Crazy.

The stuff out there now is better.
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Old 02-06-2018, 02:13 PM
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I will have to look at the logs. I started with X-Plane 7 and then upgraded to 9 years ago. I would guess close to 700-800 hours between the two.

I did look at the combat sim. 240 hours. 75% mission success. 25-1 air to air against the computer on normal and 2.5-1 against other humans. I fly lots of eras against the computer but the people I go up against all like the newest stuff and in a furball it is tough to defeat the new missiles. Except out 8 year old boy. He likes the Corsair C with the 20mm cannons. He can reach out a long ways compared to the .303 or .50 of some of the WWII aircraft. The daughter loves the Eurofighter Typhoon but will take the Viper if she has to.
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The X15 was the only aircraft I flew where I was glad the engine quit. - Milt Thompson.

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Old 02-09-2018, 02:07 PM
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https://www.flightsimulator.com/ MSFS2020 is still in beta stages and uses photogrammetry.
Expect very large file sizes.
For flight sim gamers it will be simply amazing.

Now:
I use various photoreal scenery for FSX landscape textures. Complete areas are difficult or impossible to find and often don't have autogen.

I use REX4 Home | REX Simulations | Global Leader in Flight Simulation Software for clouds and artificial runway textures.
It is an okay program and vastly improves the OEM FSX experience.
(It will probably interfere with FSDreamteam/GSX/Couatl/whatevertheycallit airports. That prog was advertised as a total fix but it's only a hub to purchase individual airports which quickly become pricey. A bit fraudulent. I also experienced numerous bugs. It was difficult to uninstall. I do not recommend GSX.)

Another program which I highly recommend is http://www.ezdok-camera.com/
It's not only camera views.
It also recreates wing shake and the pilot and wing stress loads.
Even more so, it calculates airflow and effect on the aircraft with conditions. Even air flow over terrain with high/low pressures.
I crashed in a mountain valley after it accurately said the Cessna 172 had no power and lift at 9,000ft for stunt flying.
It's a very very big 30MB program.
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Last edited by john70t; 01-16-2020 at 06:41 AM..
Old 01-16-2020, 06:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stomachmonkey View Post
You can ask our fr ind gh85carrera about the topology maps.

Pretty sure he does aerial photogrammetry.
What GH85carrera is involved with will soon become an infinite development in the progress of humankind:
1). Bing/Google Maps give an accurate flat world map based on satellite images.

2). Photogrammetry turns that flat map landscape into an accurate 3D world.
Buildings, trees, and elevations are all there just like in real life.
That is huge.

3). At the street level, and beyond, countless cell phone images will turn the entire world into an explorable environment.

4). Imagine virtual travel in first-person and real-time.
With a few clicks of a button, a person will be able to travel anywhere in the world as a virtual tourist.
Crowds and traffic recreated. Every single object on earth recreated. Those dumpsters exist in real life. Those parking lots exist in real life.
a). Want to take a stroll through downtown Hong Kong?
Or through the Louvre?
Or through a department store to check out merchandise?
Or have a business meeting (or romantic stroll) with someone in a distant place? You can.

b). Go along along with a virtual guide Avatar....Real people or AI.
Labels for everything can be filtered and outlined/glowing so you can find anything you need.
(Smithsonian's "The Guide to Essential Italy" video uses short clips of that in their video.)

c). A handicapped person can 'walk' through Yosemite and climb Half Dome.
Every crack in the rocks is recreated.

d). Need to find an emergency room fast?
Your dash sat/nav will give you a quick fly-through preparation with what street signs to expect along the way.
A supplement to a standard verbal guidance system.

e). Want to buy or rent a property from far away?
You can recreate the drive and the views from anywhere within the house.
Travel through the neighborhood.
Changing architecture and landscaping is as easy as drag-n-drop

f). Turn into superman and fly around from ground to the stratosphere.

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Last edited by john70t; 01-16-2020 at 08:44 AM..
Old 01-16-2020, 06:40 AM
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