Introducing Flight Sim Helpers

I’ve created a new Facebook Community for like minded flight simulation enthusiasts with a focus of helping others get the most from the hobby.   The plan is to support all major flight simulation platforms including FSX, FSX Steam Edition, Prepar3D and X-Plane. 

Backstory for anyone interested.  I’ve been involved in the flight simulation hobby since the early 1980’s.  In those early days, support was often only found in a few BBS (bulletin board systems) and on early computer networks like Compuserv, PlayNET and later AOL.  It truly was member helping members back then. 

Today’s Internet has most certainly helped to both grow our hobby and aid in spreading knowledge.  However, its also given rise to the amount of “keyboard warriors” who simply prefer to disrupt, agitate and ridicule those who are seeking assistance.

I grew up being told there was no such thing as a stupid question and sometimes even a savvy Internet/Google search pro like myself may still have a question or two after spending time trying to find the answer myself.  The focus of Flight Sim Helpers is to help those who need it without the attitude found in other support groups. 

If you’re new to the hobby or a seasoned pro, please consider joining Flight Sim Helpers.  I’m looking to add new moderators who can help keep everything with the group running smoothly and smartly.  If you’re interested in helping, please message me. 

Thank you for your time and I hope to see you in the new Facebook Flight Sim Helpers group.   

Jerry

A Pilot’s Life – Review

Something very cool has recently made its way onto the flight simulation scene and I’m truly excited to have the opportunity to showcase it here for your review.  It’s called A Pilot’s Life.  A Pilot’s Life is a payware software application available from SimMarket which was developed by Simbitworld.  The cost of the software is $19.49 US (15.05 GBP, 16.75 EUR).  The description as stated on SimMarket reads “A Pilot’s Life application has the aim of giving purpose to flight simulation enthusiasts.”  In the short time I’ve had access to it, I can certainly say that it lives up to that claim 100%.

Before I start this product review.  Please allow me to get the fine print out of the way.

The product I am reviewing was purchased by me and for my own personal use.  I receive absolutely no compensation of any form (cash, credit, discounts, promises) for reviewing this product.  I have not contacted, nor have I been contacted by the vendor to provide this product review.  The opinions expressed (good or bad) are my own, your mileage may vary.

I’ve been involved in flight simulation since the early to mid 1980’s.  I’ve talked about how in the early days (before the Internet as we know it) my friends and I would fly our aircraft on our Commodore 64 computers and track our flights on a Big Chief tablet, using a #2 pencil. (Hey it beats slate and chalk)  As the Internet age developed, Virtual Airlines (VA’s) roared onto the scene which (at the time) also “gave purpose” to the hobby.  Over the years I’ve been involved with many great (and some not so great) VA’s and held just about every staff position from Pilot to CEO.  Virtual Airlines are a fantastic way to experience the life of an airline pilot and also meet likeminded individuals who in my case have become dear friends in the process. 

A Pilot’s Life

I’ve thought a lot about how I would attempt to describe A Pilot’s Life.  While it’s not a virtual airline in the way you may think and it’s also not an airline simulation type program similar to Air Hauler 2.  In very simple terms, it’s a personal virtual aviation career simulation.  But I might be placing the cart ahead of the horse…allow me to first talk about the system requirements, purchase, setup and use of A Pilot’s Life.

System Requirements

Of course you’re going to need a flight simulator.  A Pilot’s Life supports FSX, P3D and X-Plane.  The only add-on that’s required is FSUIPC (FSX/P3D) or XPUIPC (X-Plane) and the free versions of both will work.  Finally, a permanent internet connection is required which is pretty much standard flare when using ACARS type programs.  The only current operating system supported is Windows. 

Purchase

As previously mentioned, the A Pilot’s Life application is available from SimMarket.  The cost as mentioned in the first paragraph is (in my opinion) fair for what you get and for what it offers.  Keep in mind that the price includes both the software and the services behind the scenes that essentially drive the mechanics of the program. 

Download/Installation/Activation

If you’ve purchased add-ons from online retailers before (especially SimMarket) then you already should be familiar with how it all works.  Basically you purchase A Pilot’s Life via SimMarket and after the financial transaction is complete you’ll be able to download the application from your SimMarket account.  The application download is just under 4 MB in size.  Once downloaded, just launch the installer.  During the installation process a shortcut icon will be placed on your desktop.

Once the installation process is completed (don’t blink, because you’ll miss it), just launch A Pilot’s Life via the desktop shortcut.  The application will prompt you to enter the serial key to validate and installation and activation is complete.  A Pilot’s Life will proceed to request a few additional pieces of information so an account can be setup.  This includes you selecting a username, adding your email address and setting up a password.  Remember, A Pilot’s Life is both a software front-end with a supporting web accessed back-end. 

Support

Support is available via their homepage or email address simbitworld@gmail.com.  An active Discord Channel is also available which has been setup by the developer.

Initial Setup

Hats off to the developer for developing an easy and intuitive setup process for the application.  Being the typical guy who refuses to stop and ask for directions, when I see a software application that I can setup without having to read a manual, I’m a very happy person.  A Pilot’s Life is just such an application. 

Really the only initial setup which needs to be done is to tell the A Pilot’s Life application which type of aircraft you desire to use with the system.  For obvious reasons, only tick the boxes for the aircraft you have in your virtual fleet of aircraft.  All the common types of aircraft which are represented in the payware and even some freeware types are available to select.  This includes aircraft such as the Boeing 737, 757, 767, 777, 787 and 747 (including all variants).  In addition, the popular Airbus aircraft including A318, 319, 320, 321 etc. in all variants are also available to select.  Just select the aircraft you desire to fly and that’s about all there is to it. 

The main settings screen where you can change password and other account variables.  Click the “SET” button to access the licensing and certification screen.  See next screenshot.

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The Pilot Licensing and Certification screen is where you select the aircraft you would like to use with the application.  For obvious reasons, only select the aircraft you have in your sim and those you desire to fly.

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After completing the aircraft selection, click Save and really the setup is all complete.  It’s time to go get a job!

A Pilot’s Life – Your New Career

A Pilot’s Life career system assumes you’ve already completed all your flight training and considers you as a junior first officer.  So there is no requirement to further grind the hours away in a Cessna as you work to get your PPL.  You already have been there, done that and have the t-shirt to prove it.  But you are unemployed and most likely need to start paying off those student loan debts.  Great News!  Employment offers await you. 

Unlike your typical virtual airline where you move up the ranks based on flight hours alone, A Pilot’s Life is based on XP or Experience Points.  XP is earned (or lost) based on flight time, pilot rank and landing rate.  The longer the flight the greater the XP earning potential.  In addition, the higher the pilot rank you have, the more XP you’ll earn.  But keep in mind that landing rates will also influence XP gain per flight negatively.  Basically, keep those landing rates under –300 ft/min and your XP modifier will be 100%.  Anything greater than –300 and your modifier percentage drops.  This is all covered in the user manual. 

In the screen below, just click View Offers.

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Now here’s where things became slightly confusing for me.  Because I’m the typical guy, I do first and read the manual later.  By the way, the user manual can be found by clicking HELP or via this link.  Anyway, I wanted to start my career with a US based airline.  Ideally that airline would have been American Airlines.  American would give me the complete line of aircraft options I enjoy flying and as I’ve been involved with American VA’s in the past, I’m fairly familiar with their route network.  However, I failed to remember that I’m a junior first officer and not only that, I’m an un-employed junior first officer.  The system considers American Airlines to be a full five star airline and again…I’m just an unemployed junior first officer.  So come on Jerry.  Let’s work our way up. 

When you first get started, you’ll always have a few offers available which you can apply for and start your career immediately.  I really wanted to start with an airline where I could fly at least the Boeing 737/738.  I don’t own any descent regional jet payware aircraft and I didn’t want to spend the money and take the time to learn any just to get things started.  So I kept restarting my career (this option is available in Settings) until I had a US based airline which operated the Boeing 737-700 and 737-800.  This US based airline is Sun Country.  I also found a Sun Country livery for both the 700/800 variants via PMDG’s livery manager.

From what I was told on Discord, if you apply for an airline which you haven’t received an existing offer for, these applications are reviewed every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.  So the likelihood of a one star pilot being hired by a 4-star or 5-star airline was highly unlikely.  Understandably so!

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After accepting the offer with Sun Country Airlines, I was presented with a contract of employment (see below).  While there’s really no “fine print”, one very key point to understand is you can’t apply for, nor will you be offered any additional job offers for a period of 7 days. 

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With a signed employment contract in hand, I was eager to get my first flight underway.  As my time is somewhat limited, I selected the option for “short-haul” flights for my schedule.  My first schedule was assigned to me and as I’m based in Minneapolis KMSP the first flight is a flight down to Atlanta and back. 

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The SimBitWorld – A Pilot’s Life application is basically an ACARS system and tracks all aspects of your flight via the FSUIPC integration.  It works just like any other ACARS system where you’ll need to click a button on the application to start the flight tracking (typically done while at the gate, engines off and parking brake set) and then click a button at the completion of your flight (again typically done once you arrive at the gate, engines have been shut down and parking brake set). 

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As you can see from the image below, I’ve completed my very first flight with Sun Country airlines.  I operated this flight in the Boeing 738, had a landing rate of –89 ft/min, earned 2.99 XP. 

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Below is my overall career progress with Sun Country.  Pay checks are issued at the first of each month.  So I may need to survive on pretzels and water…but I think I’ll make it.

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As I arrived into Atlanta a bit late, I’ll layover in a hotel and fly the flight tomorrow back to KMSP.  Then it looks like I’ll be going to Denver and back, then Dallas/Ft. Worth and back and so on and so on.  From what I understand, you can skip next flight only 5 times per month.  As I typically always fly from the last point I landed, it’s unlikely I’ll cancel flights returning back to base.  However, I might skip flights to airports from time to time where I don’t have any add-on scenery.  We’ll see….

As I stated near the top of this writing, A Pilot’s Life is like a virtual aviation career simulation more than it is a virtual airline or complete airline simulation.  While I used Air Hauler 2 for a few months, I neglected it and didn’t make any money as I forgot to keep my hired pilots busy.  SimBitWorld’s – A Pilot’s Life is just about YOU and your career!  

As for me and my career?  I’m going to spend the next week flying for Sun Country and see what offers I  receive.  My ultimate goal will be to work hard and get hired at American Airlines.  How long this takes is unclear at this time.  But I’ll certainly update you as I progress.  I suspect I’ll need to just pay my dues and grind it out by either staying at Sun Country (pending I continue to get the type of routes I like) or bounce around based on pay/route opportunities as I continue to progress from JFO, FO and SFO.  Remember, it’s all about the immersion.

Until next time…

Happy Career Building!

Jerry

Prepar3D – To Update or Not To Update

As the title line reads, Prepar3D – To Update or Not To Update….Yes, Ladies, Gentlemen and Children of all ages…That is the question and the subject of this blog posting.  For the record, I recently updated to the latest and greatest version of Prepar3d version 4.5.  I’ve also taken the time to prepare an updated “How to update Prepar3D” tutorial document.  While there really was nothing wrong with the older document which I published in June 2018 (discussing updating from v4.2 to v4.3), I figured…Oh why not!  Anyway…

Not all Games are created equal

Generally speaking, with many of the other simulation based titles I enjoy playing…there’s usually never hesitation to apply a patch or game update.  For the record, and most of my regular readers will know that my gaming collection only consists of a few titles including Farming Simulator 19, American Truck Simulator, Euro Truck Simulator 2 and a few others.  My main gaming interest is in simulation based games.  All the titles I’ve just mentioned (and everything else for that matter) with exception to Prepar3d are Steam based games.  So the update process is automagical.  Being an IT Professional, I’m fairly diligent in keeping backups of the various “game specific” folders where things such as mods and profile game saves are stored.  While I do hear reports of some folks experiencing a game save malfunction during a patch update, I’ve never personally experienced it.  I’ve also successfully moved my original game saves from one machine to another as I did last summer when I built the GBS Beast Mark V.  Which by the way is still purring along just fine.  (knock on wood)

Back on Subject

I’ll be honest, while the Prepar3d (P3D) update process isn’t rocket science…I won’t lie to you and say that it doesn’t make me nervous.

In and of itself, the process to update P3D from version 4.4 to 4.5 is easy.  Actually it’s very easy as I’ve documented.  Follow these steps and the process is quick and easy.  However, transporting dynamite is also a straightforward process as well.  After all, just load it in a truck and drive down the highway.  What could possibly go wrong?  Exactly!!!!

So Many Moving Parts

Unlike all the other simulation games I mentioned before, 3rd party add-ons or mods for Prepar3d are as cantankerous as that load of dynamite.  Bad things…really, really bad things can go wrong anytime you start messing about with the foundation of the sim.  Especially when you are like me and have over 175 different add-ons which are installed to make my P3D experience “As Real As It Gets”.  If something goes horribly wrong with the update process, the side effects can mean I’m spending the next many, many, many hours rebuilding my PC and my Sim from scratch.  This fact would almost make any sane person steer so far clear of an update or change.  But who said we’re sane???

Of course, all these bad things can also occur each time we’re alerted to an upcoming Windows 10 update.  As President Ronald Reagan once said, the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.  Well…not sure how that stacks up against that dreaded message that states “Windows 10 has downloaded updates”.  These are the things nightmares are made of.  But here I go again….digressing.

It’s All Part of the Experience

For me, and since I do enjoy helping others…staying on the cutting (and sometimes bleeding) edge is all what it’s about.  Prepar3D version 4.5 was released on 9 April 2019, between work, the sudden death of my mom and many other factors…I opted to delay the process by about two weeks.  This delay did work to my advantage as it allowed me to spend some time updating many of the add-ons which required updates to even work with 4.5.  With all that done, I set aside some time to perform the update just as I described in the updated tutorial and I was back flying in no time.

Final Thoughts

I’ll begin my final thoughts with a question which perhaps you’ve been pondering.  Why do some people have so many terrible things go wrong when they update P3D?  If you drop into some of the Flight Sim Facebook groups or forums, you can spend the next (how ever many hours you want) reading sob story after sob story about how everything went sideways with the update and now they are left to having to do a full install again.  Why is this?

Again, being an IT Guy I have a just a little bit of experience with this question and unfortunately there’s not just one single answer.  The answer…most likely could be any number of reasons.  But let me further bang on and I’ll let you get back to your day.

If even before you make the decision to update P3D and you’re encountering the occasional crash to desktop (CTD), experiencing errors or have a really difficult time with overall performance…then these factors will play a really BIG role in whether or not your upgrade experience will be a positive one.

Just as important to the overall health of your current installation of Prepar3D, how’s Windows running?  Are you experiencing the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) events?  Do you experience issues running other Windows based applications?  When is the last time you physically cleaned out your PC?  See where I’m going with this?  If you’re having issues today, these issues should really be addressed before you pile on even more variables that can further cause problems.

My gaming machine is used for one purpose and one purpose only…to play games.  I don’t use it for anything else and while I built it just last summer, I’m fully aware that most likely sometime later this year or sometime in early 2020…I’ll need to do a complete rebuild of Windows and everything else just to keep it performing at 100%.  This process will have me out of commission for at a minimum of several days and most likely a full week.  But it’s a necessary process to having a stable gaming machine.

Well…that’s all I really wanted to say at this time.  Bottom line, I think the benefits of Prepar3d version 4.5 make it worth the effort and outweigh the risks.

Until next time…

Good luck with the update.

Jerry

How to update Prepar3D–v4.5

Just less than a year ago, I wrote a similar tutorial when version 4.3 was released.  I began that article with the words “There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding how to update Prepar3D”.  While ten months may have passed, the confusion hasn’t.  So as I stated before, I’m going to do my best to provide you a step-by-step guide for how to update Prepar3D.  Or at the very least, how I update my own instance of Prepar3D.

About This Guide

This step-by-step guide was written specifically for the Prepar3D version 4.4 to 4.5 update and written/published in mid April of 2019.  Lockheed Martin released P3D v4.5 on 9 April 2019.  If you are referring to this guide anytime after version 4.5 (v4.6, v4.7 etc.) then this method should also work as well.  Unfortunately my crystal ball isn’t working for peering into the future, so who knows how the update process will work for P3D v5 (if there is such a thing).  What I’m trying to say here, is content on the Internet tends to live forever and you might be stumbling on this writing a year, two or more from the time I wrote it.  Just keep that in mind.

The Update Process

Just a little background for those that may not be aware.  I believe, starting with P3D v3.x, Lockheed Martin developed P3D to be somewhat modular in the way one can update and maintain the simulator.  This modular setup consists of three main files with the first being the Client, the second being the Content and the third being the Scenery.  When Lockheed Martin develops, tests and deploys an updated version to us, we no longer need to completely uninstall the entire P3D application just to take advantages of the updates.  In many cases, only the “Client” portion of the update needs to be applied.  But you should do your homework to best determine exactly what you need to update to take advantage of all the new bells and whistles available.

Prepar3D version 4.5 Change Log

To aid you in understanding all the changes included in the P3D v4.5 update, please follow this link.  Use this information to determine what you want to update.

My Update Process

As I do each and every time a new P3D update is released by Lockheed Martin, I study the change log to determine my action plan.  As was the case with the version 4.4 update, I personally am not interested in the updates which have been made to the Content and the Scenery.  So this update will be super simple for me, as I’ll only be updating the Client portion.  If you desire to update either the Content and/or the Scenery…then go ahead and do so.

Step One

Make note of P3D Settings.  Before I perform an update, I typically will start up P3D and take screen captures of all the settings screens.  This way, if anything gets changed during the update process…I’ll be able to quickly reset everything back to the way it was before.  I like to run P3D with the updated version with the same settings I ran on the previous version first, before tweaking anything.  This way I have a better determination on just what improvements were made and how these improvements impact my setup.

Step Two

Download the update files required.  As I previously mentioned, I’m only planning to update the Client for v4.5.  You’ll need to login to the downloads section of the Prepar3D website with your license or account credentials.  Once there, click to expand the individual component downloads section and download the following file:  Install_Client.msi.   Once downloaded, I typically place all the files into a new folder I create on the Windows desktop for ease of access.

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As a side note, if you were interested in updating the Content, you would also need to download the Install_Content.msi along with BOTH the cont1.cab and cont2.cab files. Same would apply for Scenery.  You would need to download the Install_Scenery.msi along with all seven of the sceneX.cab files.

If you are planning to update Content and/or Scenery, then just place the .cab files in the same location as you’ve downloaded the Install_Content.msi and/or Install_Scenery.msi files.  When you go to run the install on the content/scenery the .msi files will automatically access the .cab files during the process.

Step Three

This is a really important step to focus on.  Regardless of your overall plan, you want to uninstall one component at a time.  I’ve found this to be the least error prone way of performing an update.  On your Windows gaming PC, go to Control Panel > Programs and Features.   From here we’re going to uninstall the P3D CLIENT ONLY.

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When prompted “Would you like to deactivate your P3D installation?”, Click NO!

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Step Four

Next, we’re going to install the updated P3D Client which we downloaded in step two.  As previously mentioned, after I download all the appropriate files, I create a folder on my Windows desktop and place all the downloaded files in that folder.  Right-click on the Install_Client file and select Install.

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Pay very special attention during the install to make sure the updated client is being installed in your specified P3D install directory.  In my example, everything defaulted in just as it should have.

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If you are planning to update the Content and/or the Scenery parts of Prepar3d, then return to step three and repeat the process but this time uninstall Content, then install Content and finally uninstall Scenery and then install Scenery.

Step Five

Pending everything installed successfully, reboot your PC.  While the P3D update/install files will not prompt you or even require you to reboot, it is ALWAYS in your best interest to reboot after installing software and we’re wanting a trouble-free upgrade…so just reboot!  Trust me, I’m an IT Guy!

Step Six

Once your Windows gaming PC has successfully restarted, launch P3D.  Don’t be alarmed if P3D takes a little longer than normal to launch the first time.  P3D is doing a lot of work behind the scenes and in my experience it took perhaps an additional 1-2 minutes than normal.

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Step Seven

Hopefully your update was successful.  Congratulations!  Pat yourself on the back as you’ve just successfully updated P3D.  At this point, I close out of P3D as I still needed to perform a few other updates to software accessories such as ActiveSky, Envtex, FSLabs Airbus etc.

Note:  If you use Orbx Global Textures, you most likely will need to perform a Force Migration after performing an update.   This is a very simple and quick process to complete.  Just launch the FTX Central application.  Go to Settings then look for Force Migration.

The End Result

Upon completing the client update for P3D version 4.5, I’m experiencing absolutely nothing but positive results.  The P3D load time has slightly improved and I’m not seeing any noticeable performance degradation.   From everything that I’ve seen, P3D v4.5 is absolutely fantastic and the enhanced night lighting actually has me wanting to fly more at night which I rarely would do in the past.

Benefits to Updating?

I’ve recently written and published an article I’ve titled “Prepar3D – To Update or Not To Update” which I discuss the benefits and also some of the concerns to updating P3D.   Only you can decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.  Of course, there’s also nothing wrong with waiting a few weeks until more of the add-ons have been updated for the newest version.  What ever direction you decide to go, best of luck to you.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Default/Freeware Aircraft in P3D v4

Before I get going with this article, let me just clarify who the target audience is for this default/freeware aircraft in P3D v4 article.  I’m NOT writing this article for the seasoned, hard-core flight sim enthusiast who most likely will read the title of this piece and even without reading the article immediately pass judgement on the author and/or on others who may actually benefit from the information it contains.  I’m writing this piece for those who don’t buy into the hype that only sophisticated, complex, study-level, payware aircraft is the end all, be all in our hobby.  Not every individual who is new to our wonderful hobby can immediately afford to drop money for whatever sim platform they have chosen, then turn around and drop even more money on payware aircraft.

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time all we had available to us were default aircraft.  I spent dozens, hundreds of hours back in the early 1980’s flying around Meig’s Field on my Commodore 64 in a Cessna.  It’s all we had and we made do.  I vaguely remember at some point subLOGIC released additional scenery disks which included more airports and larger regions to explore.  As I moved from the C-64 to a PC in the early 90’s things began to change.  But change really didn’t start happening until the dawn of the internet age and around the time of Flight Simulator 95 (1996), Flight Simulator 98 (1997) and then Flight Simulator 2000 (late 1999).

Actually, I believe it was the release of Flight Simulator 2000 which we owe the biggest amount of gratitude for as it was this particular release which brought about the largest amount of improvements and helped to launch the online network SATCO, which eventually became VATSIM in 2001.  It was also FS2000 which brought us the Concorde and the Boeing 777 as default aircraft.

Freeware is Cool

Freeware began making the flight sim scene through early websites created by Avsim and Flightsim.com.  Even online networks like CompuServe offered the ability to upload/download and share various freeware add-ons.  My earliest memories of good, quality freeware aircraft was from a group called Project OpenSky or POSKY for short.  I believe of all things (not including Microsoft Flight Simulator) that could be singled out as the #1 draw of bringing more enthusiasts into the flight sim community, it would be POSKY.  POSKY had the very best freeware models available anywhere.  You wanted to fly a Boeing 727, 737, 747, 757 etc.  POSKY had it and the community supported them.  Some of my fondest and earliest memories of flying on the VATSIM network in the early days were flying POSKY aircraft.

Birth of Payware

I honestly can’t remember when I first began to see payware aircraft hitting the market.  I can tell you the first payware aircraft I ever purchased was the Level-D 767 and I absolutely loved it.  I would take a wild guess and say it was around 2002/03 timeframe.  Next was the iFly 737 NGX as it was released before PMDG released their NGX and honestly the rest were purchased as they became available.

Payware kill the freeware star?

Just a little play on words there and another musical reference.  The more you read my articles the more you’ll see small references to my favorite decade of music.  But in all seriousness, there was a period of time where both the freeware and payware markets were healthy, vibrant and lived together in harmony.  But at some stage the unfortunate thing began to happen.  As payware aircraft began to gain in popularity, the decline of good, quality freeware (and those who were developing it) also began the slow decline.   Today, it’s difficult to find descent looking and performing freeware aircraft for Prepar3D (especially v4).  But I’ll share a website with you shortly that may be changing all this.

The Advancement of Default Aircraft

If you look back at the different versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator, each new release offered something new.  The earlier versions all focused around single engine aircraft.  Today I view this as all part of my overall sim-based learning as one must crawl before we can walk.  I think it was sometime in the very early 90’s before the 747 appeared as a default aircraft in MSFS.  One thing I remember about the MSFS default aircraft is they always performed really well.  Some of the POSKY aircraft I mentioned earlier was more or less based on the default aircraft and performed equally as well.

But if you’re a fan of the tubeliner, and you’ve just purchased Prepar3D…you’ll be disappointed as you won’t find a Boeing 737, 747, 757 etc. in the fleet of default aircraft.  But of course, there’s an important reason for this…as P3D isn’t licensed for entertainment purposes even though I firmly believe the majority of licensed users fall directly into that category.  But let’s not go down that rat hole.

Freeware Still Lives Here

As I mentioned at the top of this article, not everyone can afford to shell out the cost of the new sim (P3D v4), then rush out to purchase their favorite Boeing or Airbus airliner.  While I’m of the opinion that most payware (even study level category) is far superior in performance and provide a higher level of immersion and overall enjoyment than freeware, I must admit that I’m impressed with the selection of freeware aircraft available from Rikoooo.com.   I’m not really sure how long this site has been operational, but I see more and more folks posting screenshots on Facebook from some of the freeware aircraft options available.  There’s even a pretty descent Airbus A380 which I’ve installed and spent a little time playing around with.

No Time for Study

As I was writing this article, I saw a Facebook comment posted in one of the flight sim groups I follow.  The individual posting mentioned the fact that he really didn’t have time to study, the study level aircraft.  He didn’t want to spend the necessary time to flip switches, program a complex FMS.  He wanted to basically fly and that’s how he defined his level of enjoyment.  I take my hat off to this individual for recognizing what he wants from his time in the sim.  But if did get me thinking and I’ll share my thoughts next week.  I also plan to document/create a short series of tutorials breaking down how I learn and fly the more complex, study level, payware aircraft.  After all, if I can do this….anyone can do this.

Final Thoughts

I’ve already started drafting the frame work for next weeks article.  I think the title will be something like “The Joy of Study Level Aircraft” (or something like that).  It’s shaping up to kick start a short series of tutorial articles on the processes I go through when flying these types of aircraft.  Yes, you’ll need to devote a bit more time….as one does need to do a little switch flipping and FMS programming, but I believe the satisfaction is much greater in the long run and I’ll explain why I believe this as well.  But between now and then, let me leave you with something most of my YouTube viewers will have heard me say more than once in my videos.

There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy a simulation based game.  Only each individual (YOU) can determine what they want from the time they spend playing.  If a default or freeware aircraft model does that…then you’ve checked all the boxes and don’t let anyone tell you different.

Until next time…

Enjoy Flight on YOUR TERMS!

Jerry

How to update Prepar3D

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the process of how to update Prepar3D.  While the geniuses at Lockheed Martin have created a super easy to follow instruction manual, the confusion regarding this process seems to run rampant on social media.  I’m not sure why really.  Perhaps it’s the reluctance of reading the manual or perhaps the manual just contains too much detail and not enough step-by-step-by-step guidance.  In any event, I’m going to do my best to provide you a step-by-step guide for how to update Prepar3D.  Or at the very least, how I update my own instance of Prepar3D.

About this guide

This step-by-step guide was written specifically for the Prepar3D version 4.2 to 4.3 update and written/published in late June of 2018.  Lockheed Martin released P3D v4.3 on 25 June 2018.  If you are referring to this guide anytime after version 4.3 (v4.4, v4.5 etc.) then this method should also work as well.  Unfortunately my crystal ball isn’t working for peering into the future, so who knows how the update process will work for P3D v5 (if there is such a thing).  What I’m trying to say here, is content on the Internet tends to live forever and you might be stumbling on this writing a year, two or more from the time I wrote it.  Just keep that in mind.

The Update Process

Just a little background for those that may not be aware.  I believe, starting with P3D v3.x, Lockheed Martin developed P3D to be somewhat modular in the way one can update and maintain the simulator.  This modular setup consists of three main files with the first being the Client, the second being the Content and the third being the Scenery.  When Lockheed Martin develops, tests and deploys an updated version to us, we no longer need to completely uninstall the entire P3D application just to take advantages of the updates.  In many cases, only the “Client” portion of the update needs to be applied.  But you should do your homework to best determine exactly what you need to update to take advantage of all the new bells and whistles available.

Prepar3D version 4.3 Change Log

To aid you in understanding all the changes included in the P3D v4.3 update, please follow this link.  Use this information to determine what you want to update.

My Update Process

I’ve studied the change log and have determined my action plan.  In short, I don’t see enough value add in the Scenery updates to worry at this time with updating.  That’s really the beauty of this modular update system.  However, I will of course update the client and also the content.  If you are not interested in flying the six different versions of the C-130, then I suppose you can simply skip the content portion.  But as I previously stated, my update plan is to update both the client and the content portion of P3D.

Step One

Make note of P3D Settings.  Before I perform an update, I typically will start up P3D and take screen captures of all the settings screens.  This way, if anything gets changed during the update process…I’ll be able to quickly reset everything back to the way it was before.  I like to run P3D with the updated version with the same settings I ran on the previous version first, before tweaking anything.  This way I have a better determination on just what improvements were made and how these improvements impact my setup.

Step Two

Download the update files required.  As I previously mentioned, I’m only planning to update the Client and the Content.  So you’ll need to login to the downloads section of the Prepar3D website with your license or account credentials.  Once there, click to expand the individual component downloads section and download the following four files:  Install_Client.msi, Install_Content.msi, cont1.cab and cont2.cab.  Once downloaded, I typically place all the files into a new folder I create on the Windows desktop for ease of access.

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Step Three

We’re going to uninstall one component at a time.  I’ve found this to be the least error prone way of doing this.  On your Windows gaming PC, go to Control Panel > Programs and Features.  From here we’re going to uninstall the P3D Client ONLY.

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When prompted “Would you like to deactivate your P3D installation?”, Click NO!

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Step Four

Next we’re going to install the updated P3D Client which we downloaded in step two.  As previously mentioned, after I download all the appropriate files (in this case four), I create a folder on my Windows desktop and place all the downloaded files in that folder.  Right-click on the Install_Client file and select Install.

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Pay very special attention during the install to make sure the updated client is being installed in your specified P3D install directory.  In my example, everything defaulted in just as it should have.

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Step Five

Return to Control Panel > Programs and Features and locate the P3D Content component and just as you did before, uninstall this component.

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Step Six

Again, as before…right-click on the Install_Content file and click Install.  The Install_Content installer will automagically access the two cab files (cont1 and cont2) as necessary to perform the updated content installation.

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Step Seven

Pending everything installed successfully, reboot your PC.  While the P3D update/install files will not prompt you or even require you to reboot, it is ALWAYS in your best interest to reboot after installing software and we’re wanting a trouble-free upgrade…so just reboot!  Trust me, I’m an IT Guy!

Step Eight

Once your Windows gaming PC has successfully restarted, launch P3D.  Don’t be alarmed if P3D takes a little longer than normal to launch the first time.  P3D is doing a lot of work behind the scenes and in my experience it took perhaps an additional 1-2 minutes than normal.

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Once P3D launches, pay special attention to the screen below.  If all was successful with your update, you should see the new “Add-ons” button at the bottom.  If so, SUCCESS!  Pat yourself on the back as you’ve just successfully updated P3D.  At this point, I closed out of P3D as I still needed to perform a few other updates to software accessories such as ActiveSky, Envtex etc.

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Additional Notes of Interest

I’m writing this just a little over 24 hours from when Lockheed Martin released the update for Prepar3D v4.3.  At the time of this writing, third party developers are working hard to update all the various add-ons which required some level of change due to the new P3D update.  Within just hours of the P3D update, ActiveSky, Chaseplane, Envtex/Envshade all had updates available for P3D v4.3.  Once I updated these add-ons, these along with all my other 3rd party add-ons work including all my PMDG aircraft, QualityWings 787, A2A aircraft, Carenado aircraft and sceneries including Orbx, FlightBeam, FSDreamTeam etc. etc.  all worked as expected.  In other words, I did not need to reinstall any add-ons.

Benefits to Updating?

After I managed to get everything updated and launched P3D, I noticed a much faster load/launch time and I’m seeing a very slight increase in FPS performance.  The amount of time it took me to perform the update process was about 15-20 minutes.  But I can certainly understand ones reluctance to updating…especially if your current v4.2 setup is running stable.  To my knowledge, no 3rd party add-ons at this particular time require version 4.3.  However, if you’re an Aerosoft Airbus fan and are anxiously awaiting the release of the A318/A319 and A320/A321, then you may need to update to 4.3.  But as the release date for the Aerosoft Airbus has been pushed to sometime in mid-late July, you have plenty of time.

Final Thoughts

Over the past 24+ hours I’ve seen a lot of frustration from others who have attempted to update P3D to 4.3.  This is one of the reasons I decided to document my update process in the hopes it helps others.  However, let me say this.  My gaming PC is 100% rock solid.  I was experiencing zero issues before deciding to update to v4.3.  P3D v4.2 was stable and the only CTD I’ve experienced was caused by the wx radar in the QW787.  If you’re experiencing issues with your gaming machine, if you’re experiencing issues with Windows on your gaming machine and especially if you’re experiencing issues with v4.2, then your upgrade/update process may not go as smooth as mine did.  While this process is super simple (especially following my method), it won’t solve problems which exist in your system.  These problems (what ever they may be) may result in a less than desired outcome.

I wish you the very best of luck.  I truly believe if you follow my guide step-by-step as I’ve laid it all out, you’ll have the very best chance for a successful update.  Again, the best of luck to you and I hope to see you in the virtual skies very soon.

Until next time….

Happy Updates!

Jerry

P.S.  After I have more time to spend flying in P3D v4.3, I’ll post an updated settings post.  I don’t anticipate anything changing, but need to update the page anyway.

Did the Community Kill Flight Sim World?

At the end of the day, are we to blame?  Did we, the flight simulation community play a role in the demise of Dovetail Games Flight Sim World?  For the record, while I only spent about 12-15 hours in Flight Sim World and most of these hours were spent playing back in the June/July 2017 timeframe…I have made every effort to keep my eyes and ears open to the news regarding updates, future plans etc.  From much of the information I read prior to the announcement FSW would be cancelled, I found both the progress and the direction the game was headed to be mostly favorable.  While I personally don’t mind owning early access game titles, I never saw FSW (in its current state) as a viable replacement to Prepar3D which is my flight simulator of choice.  But this certainly doesn’t mean it couldn’t at some point became a replacement for P3D.

A Brief History of Flight Simulation

For me to truly do this article justice and hopefully communicate my thoughts appropriately, especially considering the title of this blog post.  I would like to briefly share the history of this wonderful hobby.  I promise it will be brief…

Really it all goes back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and a game developer called subLOGIC founded by Bruce Artwick.  The first generation subLOGIC Flight Simulator was originally offered for the Apple II (1979) and TRS-80 (1980) computers.  The second generation came about in December 1983 (again for the Apple II) and eventually for the Commodore 64 in June of 1984.  This was my first experience AND when the passion of flight simulation hit me as a teenager.

In the early 80’s (81-82), Microsoft obtained the license to port the subLOGIC Flight Simulator to IBM compatible PC’s.  This would be called Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 and was released in November 1982.  I’ve often heard this was at the direction of Bill Gates and this is an important fact to remember as I’ll reference this again later in this article.

Between the release of MSFS 1.0 (1982) and the year 1995, Microsoft released versions 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and 5.1.  Between the years of 1996 and 2012, Microsoft released Flight Simulator 95 (mid 1996), Flight Simulator 98 (mid 1997), Flight Simulator 2000 (late 1999), Flight Simulator 2002 (October 2001), Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight (FS9) (July 2003), Flight Simulator X (FSX) (October 2006) and finally Microsoft Flight (February 2012).

The year 2006 is an important year to focus on during our little history lesson.  Not only was Microsoft FSX released in 2006, but it was also the same year Bill Gates announced he would transition from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time.

Each of these official Microsoft releases, spanning over 30 years, continued building on the progress from what subLOGIC released in 1979.  We can argue that really FSX was the final true simulator Microsoft released….but that is a discussion for another time.  The key point I am wanting to make here is between MSFS 1.0 and MS Flight, 30 years of development, 30 years of improvements and simply…30 years of enjoyment passed by.

Remember… THIRTY YEARS!

Before we depart from our walk down memory lane, let me just throw out a few additional dates.  In 2009, we learned that Lockheed Martin purchased the IP and source code for Microsoft ESP (commercial use of FSX) and in 2014 we learned that Dovetail Games had a license agreement to distribute FSX Steam Edition and develop further products based on Microsoft’s technology (spanning 30 years) for the entertainment market.

Now Prepare Yourself

When Lockheed Martin released P3D version 1.0, it pretty much was a rebranded FSX.  While we can assume LM may have applied some fixes which hadn’t been addressed in the FSX SP2 update, very little was done to the core application.  Actually, almost the same can be said for P3D versions 2.x (2013) and even to some extent version 3.x (2015).  The major shift didn’t really occur until 2017 when LM released the 64bit version of Prepar3D version 4.x.  But let’s now add another 5 years to our original MSFS timeline and we get a total of 35 Years.

Remember… THIRTY-FIVE YEARS!

Born Yesterday?

While we’re still somewhat in our history lesson, let me just remind everyone that X-Plane wasn’t born yesterday or even the day before.  Interestingly enough, when researching information for this article, I have found it somewhat difficult to nail down exactly when the first version of X-Plane was released.  Even Wikipedia fails to provide any exact dates.  I did find one fan created website which identifies X-Plane version 1 with a release date of 1994.  X-Plane v2 released in 1996 with v3, v4 and v5 releasing in 1997, 1998 and 1999.  X-Plane v6 through versions 10 released between 2001 and 2011.

Even most die-hard X-Plane fans admit that it wasn’t until the current release of X-Plane 11 (May 2017) when X-Plane really began to shine.  So if we calculate the amount of time in years for X-Plane we have 23 years between X-Plane v1 and the current version 11.  23 Years!

Are we responsible?

Yes, I believe so and here’s why.  I’ve just spelled out 35 years of blood, sweat and tears which have passed by from MSFS version 1.0 and Prepar3D version 4.x.  Everything that is wonderful about P3D v4.x is tied back to MSFS 1.0, actually further…but for the sake of this article we’ll start with 1.0.  All the goodness, all the beauty, all the awesomeness is THIRTY FIVE YEARS in the making.  As I just pointed out, even X-Plane’s development spans over 20 years.

So Dovetail Games comes along and announces they are developing a next generation flight simulator, it’s released (early access) in May of 2017 and less than 1 year later the project is mothballed.  Why did this happen?  How could this happen?

Some will tell you it was because Dovetail Games refused to listen to the flight simulation community.  Not true!  There is evidence (lots of it actually) that this couldn’t be further from the truth.  We the community asked Dovetail Games to include missions.  Dovetail Games did just that.  We the community asked DTG to include jetliners and DTG was working on adding jetliners.  We the community asked DTG to include helicopters and DTG was also working on adding helicopters.  Many more examples of DTG actually listening to the community.

In addition, some in the community were led to believe that DTG were forcing 3rd party developers to market their add-ons exclusively through Steam.  This has also been proven to be false.  At the time I wrote this piece, I could purchase add-ons for FSW directly from any of my preferred online retail stores.   For the sake of full disclosure, I checked both JustFlight and The FlightSim Store.  Both online retail stores have add-ons available to purchase for FSW.

In the end I believe that we the flight sim community killed Flight Sim World and that my friends is a bad, bad thing.  The reality of it all is we have two major players now representing the flight sim community.  There are a few other titles which have been around for a number of years but I don’t see a lot of 3rd party development support available at the present time.  I think AeroflyFS is gaining some momentum.  Orbx has a few add-on airports for the platform and I believe a few add-on aircraft have been developed by Just Flight.

Controversial

I know this blog post will be viewed by some as controversial.  Many will agree with me and many will not.  At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.  We all share a passion for flight simulation and we’re all striving to have a platform that will not only be around for many years to come, but also striving for a platform that can help introduce this wonderful hobby to the next generation of virtual pilots.  Unfortunately, with Flight Sim World ending the way it has….we’ve potentially shut the door on some of the newcomers and to me this is the saddest part of this story.

Until next time…

Jerry

Windows 10 Updates

While I’m sure you’ll find many differing opinions on Microsoft’s current OS, I must say that Windows 10 is perhaps the best thing that has happened in the PC gaming industry since sliced bread or a pocket on a shirt.  But the Windows 10 update process does lack a lot to be desired.

My PC gaming experience dates back to the early days of Windows.  Over the past couple of decades (geez, I’m getting old), Microsoft Windows has released some excellent operating systems and a few not-so-great versions.  In more modern times, Windows XP (with service pack 3) was a fairly reliable OS and performed well in its day.  Then there was the infamous Windows Vista (barf) followed by Windows 7.  Windows 7 (64bit) was also a very reliable and solid performer.  In my real life day job, we still have a fairly large number of workstations still running Windows 7.  However, over the next 18 months most of these will be decommissioned.  After Windows 7, we endured the Windows 8 fiasco (big barf) but thankfully Windows 10 came along quickly became the go-to OS.

You Get a Copy, You Get a Copy and You Get a Copy

Sometime in the summer of 2015, Microsoft began handing out free copies of Windows 10 much the same way Oprah handed out cars many years ago.  Licensed users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 could download/install Windows 10 without charge for one year.  I must admit that I was a bit reluctant to upgrade my gaming machine to Windows 10.  After all, I had a pretty reliable process for building/rebuilding my Win 7 system and everything (including all my Steam games and Prepar3D v3.x) was dialed in pretty solid.

However, I had been testing Windows 10 at work and had also updated one of my other home PC’s to Win 10 and was starting to see that Windows 10 was going to be the future of PC gaming.  My current instance of Windows 7 was starting to slow down and things were getting cluttered on the system.  I wanted to take the free Windows 10 update, but didn’t want to hassle of inheriting all the little issues I had been having with the Win 7 setup.  So I formatted my main SSD drive, reinstalled Windows 7 and then applied the Windows 10 update.

Time Flies when you are having fun…

For the past 18+ months my gaming machine has performed flawlessly.  Prepar3D version 4 (64 bit heaven) worked beautifully and all my Steam games performed like a dream.  While this particular gaming machine is approaching 4 years old, I built it with the future in mind and pending no hardware failures, should still handle my gaming needs for another year or two.

Windows 10 Updates

Having the IT background I do, I’m a firm believer in applying updates/patches etc. in a timely manner.  I began experiencing an issue shortly after the new year where my machine wouldn’t/couldn’t install Win 10 updates.  I did some research and tried all the usual things.  Nothing I did worked…but it was only a minor nuisance until about a week ago.

Last Saturday morning, with coffee in hand I went down to my basement office to play a little Farming Simulator 17 and record an episode.  I guess Microsoft was hell bent on changing my plans, because for the past 2-3 months these updates wouldn’t install, but magically they did…but to my fear it left my system in a terrible state.

I did manage to repair Windows 10 to a point where most things worked fine, but I ran into issues with Prepar3D and I just can’t live with that.

I’m a Perfectionist

I really don’t know if being a perfectionist is a good trait or a bad one.  I think it can easily go both ways.  In my real world job, I suppose it’s a good thing as I typically don’t settle for anything less than perfection.  In my personal life…well…it absolutely drives my wife crazy.  But the problem with little nagging issues is they can quickly become really major showstoppers and as I have just less than three weeks worth of recorded content ready to go, I figure now is a good time to fix this mess.

A Change is a coming…

Shhhhh, don’t tell my wife….but I’m about to plop a new 500 GB SSD in my gaming machine.  As I previously mentioned, I did build this machine with the future in mind.  At the time, I installed three 250 GB SSD drives in the machine with the idea that SSD #1 would run Windows, SSD #2 would be for all things P3D and SSD #3 would be for Steam Games.  In addition to the SSD drives, I also have one 500GB SATA drive that I use to capture my video recordings and also use it as a backup drive.

The new plan is to rebuild Windows 10 on the current 250 GB SSD.  The primary Windows drive doesn’t need to be massive and I feel 250GB will be fine.  The new 500GB SSD will contain all my Steam games as I’m quickly approaching the point where 250GB won’t hold everything.  P3D will continue to live on its own 250 GB SSD and finally, the older 250GB SSD will  contain nothing but the Documents folder.  After all, so many of the games I run utilize the “Documents” folder to save files, mods, aircraft, scenery etc.

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

After backing up my precious game saves for FS17, ATS, ETS2 and other important items I began the process by kicking off the built in Windows 10 reset tool and selecting the option to delete all personal data, files, settings etc.  After all, I’m wanting to start from scratch.  This is a excellent feature of Windows 10 and it worked just as intended.  Less than 30 minutes later, Windows 10 was perfectly reset with all patches and updates safely and securely applied.  I then proceeded to update my Nvidia GPU drivers and a few other critical device drivers.  Another 30 minutes or so and I was ready to start installing games and other applications.

Steam – I love it!

I know a lot of people loath Steam and Steam games.  For me, I absolutely adore it and in a rebuild scenario it is your best friend.   As my primary recorded content on my YouTube Channel is FS17, FS17 was the first to get installed.  I changed the install directory to the new 500GB SSD drive and allowed Steam to download and install FS17.  Once FS17 was installed, I launched it so it would create the appropriate folders in the Documents directory (living on its own SSD drive) then shut down FS17.  Next I copied over the saved folders/files from the previous Documents installation.  This brought over all my mods and the appropriate game save folders.  It also pulled in the much appreciated keybindings file which worked perfect.  I fired up FS17, loaded up my new map game save and everything was just like it was on the old setup.  Love it!

Next I installed ATS and ETS2 and followed much the same procedure as I did with FS17.  I’m pleased to report everything is 100% like it was when I last played.  Fantastic!

Finally, I got OBS, TrackIR and a few other things I need to be able to continue producing my  video content on YouTube.  I highly recommend you backup your OBS configurations as it is super easy to import these back into OBS when performing a rebuild like this.  I’m now 100% ready to resume recording my game content for what I’m currently featuring on the channel.  From start to finish, I’d say I reached this point within less than 2 hours from the time I started the rebuild process.  Awesome!

Are we there yet?

My gaming rig wouldn’t be complete without my flight sim setup installed and dialed in to perfection.  While it only took me about two hours to completely refresh Windows 10 and get the rig back to a point where I could play and record FS17, ATS or ETS2.  Two hours is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of time required to get fully airborne.   In February, Lockheed Martin released version 4.2.x of their 64 bit Prepar3D Flight Simulator.  I had been running 4.1.x so I took advantage of this re-birth to go with the latest and greatest.  I installed P3D v4.2.x onto its own 250GB SSD drive and verified all was working by loading up the sim and choosing a default aircraft.  Success!

Next comes all the add-ons.  Now for those of you who enjoy FS17, ATS and ETS2 and enjoy those games with mods, you know we simply need to find the mod we want, download it and drop it in the mods folder.  Launch the game and a few clicks the mod is enabled and hopefully it’s everything we had hoped it would be.  The process for flight sim just isn’t that simple.  Every, single, add-on has its own .exe or some can only be downloaded/installed via a central application (as is the case with Orbx).  Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the new Orbx FTX Central.  Not only does it automate the download, install and updating process…it’s just really cool.  I’ve already praised this new application in a blog post last year.

But to put things into perspective.  In FS17, I have well over 150 mods.  Most likely closer to 200.  Getting FS17 downloaded, installed and running again just where I left off only took me about 2 hours and this included the Windows 10 refresh process.  But Flight Sim is much, much different.  On my mod spreadsheet for P3D, I have approx. 100 add-ons.  Again, each of these are .exe’s that need to be checked if they are the latest versions, downloaded if not, then installed.  With scenery add-ons, it’s advisable to restart the PC and load up the sim between each install.  I would estimate (and this really is a guess), but it most likely takes me well over 24 hours (I really don’t think this is an exaggeration) to get P3D running with absolutely everything I own running and dialed in.  This also includes configuring all my external controls including yoke, rudder pedals and various button/switch panels.  Very little is simply “plug & play”.

My typical approach to reinstalling P3D (which I do every 18-24 months) is to do a little at a time.  I typically install all the Orbx ground texture applications (base, vector, openLC etc.) then proceed to the Orbx regional terrain (Cen. Rocky Mountains, Southern Alaska, NoCal etc.).  Then I install the other add-ons like Weather, Sky Textures, VATSIM etc.  Then I proceed with payware aircraft.  Typically I always install the PMDG 737 NGX first along with add-on airports of KDEN and KDFW.  Then I typically begin installing other airports and aircraft as I fly around the virtual world.

Whew….well, I need to get busy again installing scenery and aircraft.  After all, it’s not gonna get done all by itself.

Until next time….

Jerry

Razer Orbweaver

I recently picked up a new toy called the Razer Orbweaver.  Now I must admit, I have been looking at these types of programmable keypads/gameboards for sometime.  I had been seriously looking at the Logitech G13, but eventually decided on the Razer Orbweaver as I felt it gave me the greatest flexibility.

Essentially this is a USB enabled game pad which gives you 30 fully programmable keys and an 8-way thumb pad.  The primary use (for now) is with flight sim to control my camera views via the add-on Chaseplane.  Chaseplane is a great add-on which allows me to control my camera angles and create cinematic shots while I’m flying in Prepar3D.  But I do have plans to add a few extra key commands for Farming Simulator 17 and both American Truck Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator 2.

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While there are many alternatives in the form of button boxes and other programmable controls, I felt this would serve me best for my intended use.  Of course your mileage may vary.

Until next time…

Happy Simming!!!

Jerry

Which Flight Simulator Software is right for you?

Back in the early days, we didn’t have much choice when it came to selecting flight simulator software.  When I was a teen back in the early 80’s, I had a Commodore 64 computer.  I had a version of flight simulator which ran on the Commodore 64 computer.  In those days you only had a small selection of airports to fly to and from and typically only one type of aircraft.  I spent many, many hours flying the Cessna around Meig’s Field in Chicago.

As time passed, the sophistication of the various flight simulator software titles evolved from just one aircraft and a few airports to any aircraft one could imagine and an entire globe full of airports with tons of eye candy to look at while flying from point A to point B.  Today, flight simulator enthusiasts have many different software platforms to choose from when it comes to setting up their flight simulator.

I’m going to break down the options you have in the various flight simulators available today and provide a brief description and even some opinion regarding each of the available options.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

I’m starting off with Microsoft Flight Simulator since I very much consider this the grandfather of all today’s flight sim applications.  While Microsoft discontinued their popular Flight Simulator franchise many years ago, many enthusiasts continue to use their two previous editions of Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9) and Flight Simulator X (FSX).  Actually, the first several titles I’m going to list below were all born from much of the original FSX code.  As I stated, many still use both FS9 and the original FSX boxed edition today.  However, due to their age…I feel for those looking to get started in this exciting hobby entertain other available options.

Dovetail Games – Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition

In July 2014, Dovetail Games announced a licensing agreement with Microsoft to distribute the popular Microsoft FSX via Steam.  Dovetail Games made a few minor tweaks to the application to help improve performance and fix many issues which Microsoft had failed to patch before they mothballed the flight simulator projects.  The Dovetail Games Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition (FSX SE) is still available to purchase via Steam for $24.99.  Since the release of FSX SE, many third party payware add-ons or DLC have been made available.

While FSX SE remains a 32 bit application, with the impressive list of available add-ons (which most have been optimized to function well with FSX SE) this simulator remains an excellent starting platform for the brand new flight sim enthusiast.

Dovetail Games – Flight Sim World

Around the same time Dovetail Games announced their licensing agreement to distribute the above mentioned FSX SE, they also announced they had plans to develop their own flight simulator platform.  Just last month, Dovetail Games announced and released Flight Sim World as an early release (beta) product.  Flight Sim World currently sells for $24.99 on Steam.

At this point in time, not a whole lot is known about the future of Flight Sim World (FSW).  There’s a wide variety of opinions regarding this simulator and how much support it will receive from 3rd party developers.  I recently wrote an opinion piece regarding my experience with FSW which you can read here.

In a nutshell, Flight Sim World is not a complete re-write.  There’s still a lot of the old FSX baseline code which exists within the sim.  However, Dovetail has developed it into a 64 bit application and of course this is great news from a systems performance perspective.

Unfortunately, the “what we don’t know” about Flight Sim World is about the only thing giving me some pause.  The way I see it, (and this is just my opinion) but as FSW is born from FSX…if Dovetail doesn’t get the 3rd party developers involved and allow them to develop the content we all expect to see in a sim, then this may never get off the ground.

The Importance of 64 Bit

Before I proceed with my article, I just want to touch on one very important piece and that is the importance of a 64 bit application in today’s modern technology world compared to the older 32 bit architecture.

I’ve written many pieces regarding the obstacles we’ve all faced in trying to wring out as much performance as we can from the older 32 bit applications like FSX (and early versions of P3D).  As we drifted further and further away from the date the original FSX code was developed, we’ve pushed harder and harder on that ever important envelope referred to as VAS or Virtual Address Space.  Essentially available RAM.

Unfortunately, simply adding more RAM to a PC isn’t the solution.  A 32 bit application (like FSX) will only utilize up to 4 GB of available RAM regardless of the amount available in the PC.  Running down to the local hardware store and buying an extra 8 GB of RAM will do nothing to help prevent those pesky OOM’s or Out Of Memory Errors.    Of course, these OOM’s are (for the most part) self-inflicted by piling on visually stunning add-on payware in the form of ground textures, enhanced airport scenery and highly detailed study level type aircraft.  In other words, for the most part….the base FSX application works well until you begin adding the eye candy.

Let’s continue with the list….

Lockheed Martin – Prepar3D

In 2009, Lockheed Martin announced they had negotiated with Microsoft to purchase the intellectual property (including source code) from the Microsoft ESP side of their flight simulation division.  ESP was the commercial side of Microsoft’s business in developing flight simulation applications.  Prepar3d version 1.1 was released in 2011, P3D v2 in 2013, P3D v3 in 2015 and finally Prepar3d version 4 (64 bit) in May 2017.

For me, P3D v4 has become my personal standard and it is what I use for my day to day flight simulation enjoyment.  While P3D v4 (just like versions 1-3) still very much contain original baseline ESP code, and much of the base scenery hasn’t been updated since the days of FSX….the 64 bit architecture is a noticeable “night versus day” difference maker for this very popular flight sim application.

Unfortunately, the only real drawback to P3D comes down to their EULA or End-User License Agreement.  To put it mildly, it’s confusing.  Essentially, P3D is licensed under the following structure:

Academic – ($59.95) Designed to offer the academic community a platform to develop hands-on STEM lessons.  While the academic version of the software is the same as the professional version, there is a watermark visible  signifying the acceptable use of the license.  The academic license is provided at a discount for students.  Currently, there are no requirements to prove eligibility for the academic license.

Professional – ($199.00) The P3D Professional license does allow for training, instruction, simulation and learning.

Professional Plus – ($2300.00)  The P3D Professional Plus license is designed for real world business customers who are going to use the software for extensive training purposes.

Developer – ($9.95/Month) Registered software developers can subscribe and receive two full copies.

I’ve written about the confusion of how the P3D EULA simply doesn’t offer a license for basic entertainment purposes only.  It is for this purpose, I personally purchase the “Professional” level which does specifically identify simulation as part of the acceptable use of the software.  I feel this is also the right thing to do considering that I do often stream and record my flights on YouTube, Twitch etc.  Plus….I’m not a student.

All versions of P3D are still available for purchase on the Prepar3D website and all are offered at the same price.  So if you are truly interested in the P3D platform, I would saddle up with the brand new P3D version 4.

Before I venture away from the topic of P3D allow me to address one thing.  Many are upset, disappointed etc. with the fact that Prepar3D version 4 is simply a 64 bit update of the original ESP code.  Meaning, much of how P3D looks by default hasn’t changed since FSX hit the store shelves almost a dozen years ago.  While I truly understand what many are saying….I must also remind everyone that P3D has never been directly marketed to the general consumer for mere entertainment purposes.  The real target audience of P3D is the commercial, professional and academic side of things and I suggest that perhaps…just perhaps the criteria is just different.

Needless to say, I for one am extremely pleased with P3D v4.  If Lockheed Martin had followed the suggestions from those demanding a new game engine, the wait would be much, much longer.  P3D v4 is performing extremely well on my gaming system and is allowing me to finally enjoy ultimate realism without the need to worry about the crash due to running out of memory.

X-Plane

Just a reminder, my list is not ranking the titles in any particular order.  X-Plane has been around for a number of years and it should be noted that X-Plane was the absolute very first to release their flight sim platform built on the 64 bit architecture.  Their recent release of X-Plane 11 has been making news and is certainly a worthy consideration.  One of the great things about X-Plane is the community behind it.  It truly reminds me of the old Microsoft Flight Sim days where the community truly worked together to develop quality freeware add-ons.  Unfortunately, for the FSX, FSX SE and P3D titles….most add-ons will be payware (with a few exceptions).

For me personally, while I do own X-Plane 11, I’ve really found it to be a struggle to forget the old Microsoft ways of controlling the sim application.  Fortunately for my old mind, much of how FSX was controlled (again from the application level) is absolutely the same in the most recent version of P3D v4.  Plus my extensive collection of add-ons continue to work well.

Freeware/Open-Source Alternatives and a warning

There is an open-source alternative to flight simulation software available from FlightGear.  While I’ve never spent any time testing or flying using the FlightGear flight simulation software, I know others do use it and there are methods of importing planes from Microsoft Flight Simulator into FlightGear.  In addition, there is also an on-line client for the VATSIM network called SquawkGear that will allow you to use FlightGear to fly on-line.  It is extremely encouraging to see developers like FlightGear contribute to the flight sim community with their open-source program.

Unfortunately, there are some individuals who have taken the open-source code from FlightGear, made a few minor modifications and are attempting to market the product under various names such as Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator etc.  I first learned about this back in 2010 and blogged about it here and here.  But please….don’t take my word for it.  Read the official statement released by FlightGear and judge for yourself.

What should you choose?

Unfortunately, we all have different interests and we all have different budgets.  If you’ve previously been involved with the flight simulation hobby and are looking to get back in…then I would recommend either Prepar3D v4 or X-Plane.  What we know about these two platforms should prove these will both be around and will see continued improvements and enhancements for many years to come.

However, if you are brand new to flight simulation and are looking for simply an entry level starting point to help you understand some of the basics of flight and serve as a litmus test if you want to pursue the hobby further, then I suggested giving the new Dovetail Games Flight Sim World a solid look.  While this sim is in early access (beta), the current price of $24.95 won’t be money wasted even if you decide in six months you want to move to P3D or XP.  I’m very impressed with the tutorials in FSW and believe they can be most helpful in helping you achieve a better level of understanding in the principles of flight.  I believe this to be extremely helpful.

As time permits, I do plan to feature more flight simulation content on the GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel.  Most likely, I will provide some videos from Flight Sim World and of course also Prepar3D v4.  While I do own XP 11, I’m really just not comfortable enough with that platform to do it justice.

I hope this information has helped you.  As I recently discussed, I truly believe 2017 will be a great year for flight simulation.  I wish you the very best in your new aviation adventure.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

GrizzlyBearSims

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