I made a decision a few years ago not to attempt to become a “Breaking News” blog site. I just don’t have time and I’m just one guy. Most of the flight sim related content I write about either has to do with my own involvement in the hobby or news/information about products I own and use in my sim. Sometimes I comment on newsworthy items within my writings as I often have opinions regarding these things. After all, my experience in this hobby goes back a long, long time. The title of this writing is called “FSLabs Making News – Once Again”.
If you search my blog site using FSLabs, you’ll find two articles. You can read article one here, and article two here if you desire. In each of these articles I more or less refer to the news from earlier in the year where FS Labs got caught inserting malware into their Airbus A320 aircraft. This action according to FS Labs was in an effort to catch would be software pirates.
Before I continue any further, allow me just to state that I’m well aware software piracy runs amuck not only in the flight sim community, not only in the gaming community…but is an issue across the board for all software developers. While more needs to be done to stop this behavior and bring those who commit these crimes to justice, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. The steps FS Labs initially took was very much the wrong way.
FlightSimLabs (FSLabs for short) is an payware, add-on aircraft developer who has been around for a few years. One of their first products was the Concorde-X. The Concorde-X was developed for Microsoft FSX and was quite popular. Those who have been around for a while may remember the Concorde was a featured, default aircraft in FS9, but removed in FSX. Since the Concorde-X product, FSLabs have been working on developing near study level replicas of the Airbus A320 and A319 aircraft. It’s their A320 product which first got FSLabs into a bit of hot water with the FS Community.
The Malware Debacle
As I mentioned earlier, FSLabs first ruffled some feathers in the FS Community back in the February 2018 timeframe. The story was so big that even bloggers, writers who would never even think to write about flight sim news covered it. Here’s one of those articles. In a nutshell, FSLabs wrote a bit of code which installed a “Chrome Password Dump” which was hidden inside the A320 installer. This bit of malware could extract users personal information which is stored within the Chrome browser including passwords and billing information.
The founder of FSLabs (Lefteris Kalamaras) did apologize for the including such intrusive code in the A320 download and stated “I want to reiterate and reaffirm that we as a company and as flight simmers would never do anything to knowingly violate the trust that you have placed in us by not only buying our products but supporting them and FlightSimLabs”. He further stated “While the majority of our customers understand that the fight against piracy is a difficult and ongoing battle that sometimes requires drastic measures, we realize that a few of you were uncomfortable with this particular method which might be considered a bit heavy handed on our part.”
My Opinion Thus Far
As many others have pointed out in various articles and blog postings, the action taken by FSLabs and its founder Lefteris Kalamaras is disturbing, highly unethical and while I’m not a lawyer, I would even think this action borders on illegal behavior. While much of the flight sim community compares FSLabs and their A320 to the likes of PMDG and their lineup of Boeing study level aircraft, with the right apologies and follow-thru, I personally could have considered giving them a second chance. After all, forgiveness right? But as the weeks and months from the initial news regarding the malware unfolded, it has once again thrust FSLabs into the news and once again it appears they are not doing the things they need to do to win trust within the community.
One might think if FSLabs were sincere in their apologies they would just ensure everything they did going forward was 100% positive within the flight sim community. They would keep their heads down, develop the finest Airbus products available and provide awesome support to the community. Then hope, pray and beg for the forgiveness from the community. But no…in recent days two additional little bugbears have popped up which have further ruffled feathers in the community.
The first installment of how bad can you run a flight sim add-on company was how FSLabs and their founder have been threatening some folks over in the Reddit community and perhaps other bloggers/writers. The second major mess-up appears to be in how their A320 installer is writing a cmdhost.exe file under the Windows system32\ and SysWOW64 directories.
While I’m not an application developer, I do understand enough about the Windows operating system to know that these directories are no place for third party installers to write anything to. From previously published articles it appears this action was a necessary part of its eSellerate infrastructure and provides communications between the eSellerate servers and the FSLabs installed product in an activation interface scenario.
Final Thoughts on this matter
Again, it’s not my intent to report news. I would much rather spend my time flying and writing about all the wonderful things taking place in the flight sim community. However, as I often receive emails asking for assistance and advice related to various subjects in the hobby, I felt I wanted to at the very least share my thoughts on all this. The very sad part of this entire story is FSLabs have done a remarkable job (from all that I’ve heard) on developing a near study level Airbus A320. I actually would have loved to own this product, but as I previously stated, I will NEVER purchase anything from FlightSimLabs. Of course, I don’t believe my reluctance in purchasing their products will bankrupt them. However, while I will not outright say you should avoid purchasing their products, I will just encourage you to conduct your own research and just be very careful if you do decide to purchase any FSLabs product.
Are you an Airbus Fan?
I’ve got to admit that my passion for tubeliners isn’t in the Airbus camp. I’m a Boeing guy. But while I may prefer Boeing to Airbus, I do enjoy from time to time flying the smaller Airbus A318/A319 & the A320/A321 aircraft variants as this opens up a totally new and different world to virtual aviation. It allows me to simulate airline operations for the likes of Frontier, EasyJet and many others who are 100% operating Airbus aircraft. Or it allows me to simulate the Airbus operations for American and British Airways who both operate a mix of Boeing and Airbus aircraft within their fleet. The wait will soon be over as I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Aerosoft A318/A319 & A320/A321 series of aircraft will be released for Prepar3D v4. I owned these for FSX and earlier versions of P3D and have missed them in P3D v4. Aerosoft is a software developer we can trust to not only develop and support a quality aircraft simulation product but do it without playing silly buggers with us in the process. The Aerosoft Airbus series is scheduled to release on 26 June and once I make my purchase, download and install…you can expect a full review here on my blog. Of course, as it’s been over a year since I’ve operated an Airbus aircraft, I’ll need some time to come up to speed on them. But hopefully it’s just like riding a bike.
As always, thanks for reading. Look for my blog report from the first leg of my WorldFlight GBS 2018 tour to drop on Wednesday. It was a fun flight from Sydney to Cairns and as I type this, I’m actually flying leg 2 from Cairns over to the western corner of Australia and the city of Broome. I hope you’ll return to Planes, Trains and Automobiles (and Farming too) to catch up on all the action.