FlightGear Newsletter March 2010

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


Another month's over, another newsletter is written. Compared to last month's edition, we have a lot more content. Ranging from scenery improvements, to virtual airlines and from landing lights to a new multiplayer server. We hope this letter is interesting to read for anyone, both developers and users.

We would like to emphasize that the monthly newsletter can not live without the contributions of FlightGear users and developers (thanks to everyone that contributed this time!). Everyone (with a wiki account, free to register) can edit the newsletter of next month and every contribution is welcome.

Happy Easter everyone!

From the developers

The experimental urban effect. Notice how the 2D city textures appear to be 3D!

Shader experiments

FlightGear developer Fred has been experimenting with the shaders recently. Although he is not yet completely satisfied with the results, the video examples below are worth watching.

Given the increasing importance of shaders in FlightGear, there is now a also new wiki page collecting links to tutorials about GLSL Shader Programming to help FlightGear contributors develop their own shaders. If you have any useful links to contribute, please do feel free to add these to this list. For FlightGear specific issues, you will want to refer back to Howto: Shader Programming in FlightGear which is currently work in progress and is meant to cover the FlightGear specifics of GLSL programming. So if you have any questions that are specific to GLSL use in FlightGear, please make sure to add these to the list of topics that shall be covered.

Basic map display.

Map Dialog

James is working on a GUI navigational map, which shows information from the GPS and navigation/airport database in a dialog box - similar to the map windows in other flight-simulators. In its current form this is not intended to render terrain like in Atlas, but instead shows a navigational display (ND) which is already useful for quickly finding a nearby airport or navaid, and for graphically showing waypoints from a route. The code is also a test platform for creating in-panel "glass cockpit"-style displays using similar technology in the near future, and it's already possible to switch the map to show the aircraft track (from the GPS) heading 'up' the screen. In the mode the map can be used as simple navigation display, to stay on a route or align with a localizer.

See this wiki page for further information on the current status (and bugs) of the code, and some basic instructions.

Google Summer of Code

GSoC is an effort by Google, Inc. to promote Open Source Software and education by bringing students together with experienced developers as their mentors for the summer (northern hemisphere). Google pays the student a stipend, the student learns by participating in real software development, the project gets code and maybe a new developer who'll stay around and benefit the project into the future.

It seems like each year since GSoC started, someone says "Hey, wouldn't it be great if FG participated?" Then several people agree but all quickly realize it's too close to the application deadline to get anything done. Curt agrees that we should make a serious effort to prepare for the 2011 GSoC well in advance, stating "We need a couple dedicated people to step forward and take charge here. Otherwise we'll be sayin' the same things at this time next year."

Willie has stepped forward in an organizational role, forming a sister IRC channel, #FG-GSoC irc.flightgear.org, looking around for would-be mentors and working on our GSoC participation strategy.

The F-117 Nighthawk with the experimental lights.

Light cones

Until now, aircraft landing lights in FlightGear were not much more than a decoration since they did not cast any light on objects in their path. Lauri has implemented experimental light cones which illuminate everything within their range. It's a great step forward for realism, but we have to say that it is not a solution for the real problem. For example, other aircraft turn white when they enter a light cone. Some of the remaining problems will not be solved by this method, and thus require a different approach. Nevertheless, this is still an exciting development, which might inspire someone to work on a permanent solution.

In the hangar

New aircraft

The following aircraft were added to CVS in March and will be available for the masses with the next stable release of FlightGear. Some of them might be available in private hangars; downloads links are between brackets.

The Concorde in the new Qantas-Livery.

Concorde liveries

EA-7201 worked on extra liveries for the Concorde, making the liveries of almost all Concorde operators available! If you have the newest version of the Concorde (version 2.6) you are able to use them. See the Concorde in new liveries from airliners like Lufthansa, United Airlines, Japan Airlines and even Air Canada! You can download all these beautiful liveries at this link.

New Warbird

The IAR-80 just after take off.
The current state of the IAR-80 cockpit.

Emilian Huminiuc (aka i4dnf) is nearing completion of the IAR-80 (Romanian produced WW2 fighter). Hopefully a beta release will be available by late April.

It also features high detail (high vertex count) exterior and cockpit models, high detail textures, and a bumpshader. So far the exterior model is quasi finished, some minor details left to be implemented, and some tweaks to the animations and effects (engine smoke, con-trails, prop-wash, etc...), also a damage model is in the works.

The cockpit will be full clickable, will feature custom build instruments and will also make use of the bumpshader for added detail and realism.

More info on development progress, as well as more pictures can be found on the forums here and here.

A New Old Cub

Don Lavelle (aka karla) has been updating the Piper J-3 Cub which was initially built by David Megginson and Jim Wilson in 2002. Don has totally rebuilt the aircraft using Blender 2.49a knowing that most FlightGear users' PCs can accommodate models with a high vertex count and he has also made minor changes to the xml files. A great deal of detail has been added with a high (4096 by 4096 pixel) texture map which adds greatly to the realism of this aircraft; approximately 65 hours has been spent on it so far. Don is a previous user of FSX and wanted his Cub "to equal - or better - the offering from Micrsosoft". We'll have to wait until April for the release but Don has promised us a 'plane that he "is proud to offer to the FlightGear world".

Features include: animated pilot (slightly modified Baranger and Augras' version), detailed cabin interior, detailed canvas wings, 'high tech' fuel indicator, optional anti-collision strobe, optional tyre smoke, spinning wheels, tailwheel and rudder link, undercarriage suspension, user input registration markings, paint guide and water spray on wheels.

Creation of the livery is continuing and images will be uploaded to the forum shortly (unless someone can help upload here) http://www.flightgear.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=6890.

Decal Editor in Planning

Planning has started for a flightgear decal editor. rico001 has made an algorithm for a decal editor and livery templates to be used on existing aircraft or vehicular models. Kyokoyama has drafted a picture of the conceptual layout as well.

More info can be found in the official flightgear forums at: http://www.flightgear.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7075

Scenery Corner

One of the palms at the coast of Dubai.
The other palm of Dubai.

Dubai is coming up

Thanks to a couple of inovative projects, including the Palm Islands (islands in the shape of a palm) and The World (islands together forming a worldmap), Dubai has one of the most recognisable coastlines in the world. In FlightGear none of this was visible though. Gijs started drawing these islands and the ever growing populated areas, to be used in FlightGear. A preview of the yet to be released scenery can be seen in the screenshots on the right.

Multiplayer news

Another multiplayer server

Thanks to Charles Ingels (cbz026), there is another multiplayer server in France! This brings the total number of servers to 13, of which 10 in Europe, two in North-America and one in Asia.

Again, we would like to emphasize the importance of connecting to the correct server. The multiplayer servers are interconnected, so you do not need to connect to a specific server in order to see other pilots who are on that server. However, since server02 is overloaded (too many people use that one), not all pilots are shared between the servers. For best performance it is very important connect to the server that is geographically closest to you, has the lowest latency (ping time) or is the least busy.

The complete list of servers and more information about multiplayer is available in the Multiplayer howto.

TransGear Airways last vintage event held

TransGear Airways (TGA) held possibly its last, original-format event on March 13th. Despite being plagued by new glitches in 2.0 and the MP server, the event was a technical success. Organizer Rob Shearman (MD-TERP) plans for a bold, new format for upcoming events, involving two, intermediate-stop airport hubs instead of one, final destination hub. Alternatives had been looked at, such as a European Hub, but the airline is now committing itself to the new format. Updates can be found at its website.

Community news

Changes in the forum

Gijs de Rooy has become an administrator at the FlightGear Forum. In addition to moderating the forums (surely a maddening task at times), Gijs has already made some significant improvements to the forum organization. A re-styling of the -currently default- forum look is in the works.

Since March 24th, the forum is hosted at a new server, resulting in much shorter loadtimes.

FlightGear wiki moved to a new server

Many FG wiki users have recently been annoyed by frequent 503 errors when attempting to view a page. The reason for this was the large number of daily visitors to the wiki. Many visitors is a great sign of health for the project, but it was just more than the server could handle. After three months of this, the wiki was moved to a new server on the 10th of March. This appears to have eliminated the 503 errors. Please contact the wiki admin if they or any other problems with the wiki occur.