FlightGear Newsletter July 2011

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Welcome to the FlightGear Newsletter!
Please help us write the next edition!
Enjoy reading the latest edition!


We would like to emphasize that the monthly newsletter can not live without the contributions of FlightGear users and developers. Everyone with a wiki account (free to register) can edit the newsletter and every contribution is welcome. So if you know about any FlightGear related projects such as for example updated scenery or aircraft, please do feel invited to add such news to the newsletter.

Release status

On July, 17th, the release branches were created in the GIT repositories of the source-code and data. This was the last major step in our Release Plan before the actual release of FlightGear 2.4.0. During the next weeks, we are working hard to remove the last known bugs in the code before we start creating the packages for the major platforms. To get an impression of what has changed since our last release (which was version 2.0.0), a changelog is currently being written at Changelog 2.4.0 (work in progress).

Development news

Snapshot releases

Some of you might know that James and Gene have spent a lot of time assembling a nightly build server for the FlightGear project. This monitors the git repository for any source code changes and then spawns builds for Windows, Linux, and Mac.

You can find the build server at http://build.flightgear.org:8080/

This is really great work and a huge contribution to the FlightGear project. Unfortunately, to run a nightly build from the build server, you still have to pull the latest data tree from the git repository. That's not all that hard, once you work through the details, but it's a bit "fiddly" for some folks.

So Curt has been playing around with creating a developer's snapshot release which would be similar to our official release. It is one big setup.exe that includes all the programs and the data. We are hopeful that this will eventually make the current development version of FlightGear more accessible for "joe average" users which would then in term hopefully give us more feedback and bug reports ahead of our official release.

None of this would be possible without the "Jenkins" (formerly Hudson) build server that Gene and James set up.

There are a couple things that are done with this snapshot package:

  • An unique app name of the form FlightGear YYYYMMDD is assigned so you can have multiple versions installed concurrently and they don't step on each other and don't step on the official release. If people maintain multiple snapshots installed on their systems, that might help narrow down when a bug was introduced.
  • The openal installer "oalinst.exe" is included and vcredist_x86.exe ... neither of these may be required in the long term if we can just ship the needed dll's, but that probably needs further testing.

Does it basically work? Are there any major packaging blunders? Please note, FlightGear bugs and feature request should still be handled through normal channels. But I am interested in packaging issues right now.

To provide feedback please use this forum thread.

For downloads please see: this location

New software tools and projects

FGAnswers

top-left

Michat has been working to start a questions and answers (Q&A) service for the FlightGear community based on Shapado AGPL.

FGAnswers is an attempt to provide an easy way to find first hand brief information around the massive info-data that FG generates. Michat designed the basis of the system, giving space to a broad range of languages, in order to reach as many pilots and developers as FG used to enjoy.

FGAnswers, offers all kind of services: Live Chat Support, Flight Center, Training Center, FGSoft Center, ATC Center, VA Center. From easy FAQ's to the deepest Q's. Classic routes, flying techniques, school, fly essentials, dedicated Wiki pages for ATC, VA's, Pilots, or Simply for How to's.. writters-readers, video makers.... and many more.

With almost infinite possibilities, for sure that FGAnswers will need your help, but how? Easy just using it for free, with honor and honesty. Make your questions here.

Happy answers, have a good summer.

In the hangar

New aircraft

Over on the forums, Intel-Qube has released a near-completed Kfir C2; an Israeli-made plane based on the Dasault Mirage 5. It features a highly detailed full 3d cockpit, although not all of the instruments are complete. The fdm is "fun to fly," but may not be particularly accurate.

Updated aircraft

Boeing 747-400

The warning and advisory system of the Boeing 747-400 has been dramatically improved. The new system is derived from the 777-200ER's but has been fine-tuned for the 744. Besides this, the landing gear failure system is now more "realistic", as it supports single gear failures. The simmer can decide what gear will get stuck (and thus no longer listen to control inputs). When the gear is extended above the maximum extension speed (270kts), all gear units will automatically get stuck.

The Captain's and the First Officer's dashboard of a Short S.23 Empire flying boat.
An example of a image-only page (DHC-6).

Eurofighter Typhoon

Algernon is planning to publish a new alpha release of the ongoing Eurofighter Typhoon project. This will coincide with the next release of FlightGear, and will only be compatible with that new version - some code is used which is not backwards compatible (development of the aircraft for version 2.0 and earlier is not currently taking place, and may not be resumed if FGFS 2.4 is widely adopted). New features include a revised flight control system and autopilot, improved Multi-Function Displays and HUD (good approximations of the real aircraft), and a pared-down Manual Data Entry panel which gives mouse control over navigation systems, autopilot, radar and communications equipment. More comprehensive information of the systems found in the upcoming release can be found in the Flight Manual article.

Short S.23 Empire flying boat

The Short Empire flying boat has been updated by Anders. The flight model has been tuned to match know performance numbers, the fuel system more completely modeled, a number of controls has been added to the flight deck, new propeller and cowling gills models and, finally, flare paths have been added to selected staging posts.

Liveries

The livery database's functionality has been extended. Visitors can now finetune the looks of the livery and aircraft lists. One can choose between a text only, or a image only layout. Besides that the number of liveries to be shown per page can be set.

Checkout for yourself at liveries.flightgear.org

Scenery corner

Belgian scenery

It's still all work in progress, and still not yet available in the official FlightGear scenery (nor TerraSync). But of course, it's licensed under GNU GPL v2 and its goal is to be included into the official scenery, or at least stay GPL'ed. If you are curious, you can look at the work in progress which is available through Git.

Some more work has been done at the EBBR airport. Some texturing has been started to a few buildings to improve this airport and at the same time Brussels got its turn too. Thanks to http://imageafter.com website, the "Heysel palais 5" got a free photo realistic texture!

EBBR.png EBBR terminal 1and2.png Brussels.png Heysel.png

The EBGB airport, which is really near the EBBR airport got also some more improvements and is near to being completely done. An EBBR-EBGB could be a cool sight-seeing tour.

EBGB.png

Have fun in our little country :)

New SketchUp exporter plugin

SketchUp models which are completed using the existing SketchUp to AC3D exporter are rendered in FlightGear with double sided faces. Though there is nothing wrong with double sided faces, there is a considerable saving in FlightGear processing if single faces can be used. This affects frames per second and is particularly noticeable when entering an area which is heavily inhabited by buildings/models.

It is possible to export SketchUp models with single faces by using a new version of the exporter (adapted by VicMar and i4dnf). This new version is named ac3dS_export.rb and is available for download from http://vicmar.weebly.com/downloads.html

The ac3dS_export.rb file should be placed in the same folder/directory as the existing exporter. In the SketchUp ‘Plugins’ menu, it will appear as “Export to AC3D (Single_Faced)” and will appear with the existing exporter.

The new version is recommended for use with SketchUp models which DO NOT have any see-through (alpha) textures. It is also not recommended if your model has apertures like hangar doors, which allow a view inside the building, as the opposite walls will be invisible.

There is a work around for models which have see-through textures, but it is a chore to do, so it is recommended you use the existing exporter. If you would like details of the work arounds, yes there are two, just ask.

Any feedback will be welcomed at the forum.

Screenshot of the month

The newly generated scenery of eastern Poland

Suggested flights

The west coast of Scotland offers some stunning scenery and a number of small airfields and airports to land at on both the mainland and the small islands the dot the coast. The distances between the various airfields are quite small, and some of the runways are on the short side, so STOL or GA aircraft are ideal. The tour suggested here follows part of a microlight trip I made this month, photos of which can be found here.

Oban airport (EGEO) lies on the west coast of Scotland, and offers fuel (both AVGAS and AVTUR) and a North/South tarmac runway.

From Oban it is just a 10 minute flight west to the grass airfield of Glenforsa (EG45), on the north-east coast of the island of Mull. Due to the hills and water channel, this airfield often gets quite strange wind patterns - the weather can be perfect in Oban, but much gustier and windier at Glenforsa. At times the windsocks at either end of the runway can blow in completely opposite directions!

Some distance north of Oban lie the airfields of the Isle of Skye (EG57) and Plockton (EG81). This is an excellent place from which to explore the mountains of the Isle of Skye, known as the Cuilins.

Heading south from Oban, one can follow the coast to the island of Jura, with it's distinctive hills (The Paps of Jura). From Jura one can head south to the island of Islay with its numarous malt whisky distilleries (many of which are modelled in FG). Islay Airport (EGPI) has extensive runways. From Islay head north east to the tiny island of Gigha. Despite it's small size, it too has an airfield (EG44), though the FG version is tarmac rather than grass.

From Gigha head east over the Mull of Kintyre, to the hilly isle of Arran, then north east to the Isle of Bute. Both islands have very small grass airstrips, which are sadly not present in FG. From Bute you can head south east to Prestwick International (EGPK), famous for being the only place Elvis touched down in the UK, and a fine place to end our tour.

Wiki updates

The FlightGear Wiki used to block open proxy IP adresses. Several people reported that they were unable to register an account because of that. Such issues should be solved by now. So, if you were unable to register before, please try again.

Community news

FlightGear on youtube

And finally ...

Contributing

One of the regular thoughts expressed on the FlightGear forums is "I'd like to contribute but I don't know how to program, and I don't have the time". Unfortunately, there is a common mis-conception that contributing requires programming and lots of free time. In fact, there are a huge range of ways to contribute to the project without needing to write code or spending days working on something.

For ideas on starting to contribute to FlightGear, you may want to check out: Volunteer.

Call for volunteers

  • The OpenRadar project is looking for a new maintainer.
  • The FGFSPM (FlightGear Package Manager) is looking for a new maintainer.