Phi

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Early Phi screenshot

Phi

Phi is an HTML5/JavaScript/CSS based multi-platform user interface and instructor station. The implementation uses some state-of-the-art JavaScript libraries, most notably jQuery, knockoutjs and requirejs (files included for offline usage). Phi is capable of being run on any device that has a web browser or web app's like Apple's iPad without the browser decorations. See Usage section below for further details.

Background

Direct quotes from Torsten. Original Phi developer

While working on the new radio/atis implementation, I rediscovered the internal httpd (aka web-server) to browse the property tree. It's much easier to have multiple browser windows open and point to various locations in the property tree than to reopen the internal property browser and navigate to the locations after each sim restart. After a while, I got disappointed by the functionality, look, and feel of the http property-browser. So I had a look at the code to see if it could be improved. I quickly realized, that the implementation was simple but not scale-able. I looked for alternatives already available on the GPL market. I found Mongoose as a well maintained, feature rich and yet simple implementation of a web server and started to embed that into FlightGear. [1]

FI = Flight Instructor (you sure know that), or FlightGear Interface. In Deutsch (my native language) the spoken FI sounds like the Greek letter Phi. And I like the uppercase letter of Phi for it's symmetry. It's vertical bar reminds me of the projector screen in a simulator, watched from both sides: the trainer and the trainee. For the less philosophical meanings of Phi, check out Phi This is a link to a Wikipedia article and pick the one that suits best ;-) [2]

Usage

Qt5 Launcher

1rightarrow.png See Integrated Qt5 Launcher for the main article about this subject.

To use Phi you need to start the internal httpd server before FlightGear is started. The easiest way to do this is using the built-in Qt5 launcher and add the following line to Settings > Additional options.


Qt5 launcher option for Phi

FFGo

1rightarrow.png See FFGo for the main article about this subject.

Add the --httpd command switch somewhere in the config file.


FFGo launcher

Console

run fgfs with the command line switch --httpd Example.

 fgfs --httpd=8080


Once FlightGear is up and running we can access the Phi user interface from the main menu in FlightGear. Select Equipment > Map (opens in browser) or launch a web browser and enter the URL

 http://localhost:8080

Phi UI Features

Phi is at foremost a multi-platform user interface that has two-way data binding with FlightGear via the internal HTTP web server. This allows Phi to be a fully functional user interface that can directly control FlightGear. The following list is a set of features that are currently implemented and working.

Aircraft

This is where you will find all things related to the currently selected aircraft in-sim, if available.

  • Help - Displays the aircraft help file Help > Aircraft Help
  • Mass & Balance - Displays aircraft specific fuel and payload options Equipment > Fuel and Payload
  • Checklist - Displays aircraft checklist Help >
  • Failures -
  • Panel -
  • Select - Known bug in FG for windows versions 7+, assume this feature to not work anytime soon even if you see a list of planes to install

Environment

  • Date & Time - Change in-sim time of day and current date
  • Weather -
  • Position - Interface where you can search for airports via ICAO codes and then select a runway/parking spot to load into FlightGear Location > Select Airport

Map

Loads an OpenStreetMap as the background and updates your current position around the world in real time while you fly. Allows one to not only track current flight, but the ability to drag the plane icon around the map which will instantly update FlightGear with the new lon. and lat. coordinate position.

Tools

Things that make for a more realistic experience. Not exactly needed to fly a plane, but these tools will add to the realism.

  • Holding Pattern - A tool to help one understand how to enter the holding pattern. Enter in the Heading and Inbound Track and the diagram will show you visually the Holding pattern.
  • Wind Calculator -
  • Vertical Navigation (VNAV) - from my understanding not anytime soon, needs FG integration first
  • Stopwatch - Self-explanatory

Simulator

  • Screenshot - Set the time between screen updates. See Phi#Screen Shots
  • Properties - In-sim property tree, two-way data binding, good for debugging!
  • Config - In-sim config settings
    • AI - Enable/Disable AI
    • Multi-Player - Enter callsign and select which server to connect to on the multi-player network.
  • Reset - Reset the FlightGear Sim
  • Exit - Quit

Property Plotter

You find the property plotter here:

  • start fgfs with --httpd=8080 (or any other port)
  • open browser at http://yourfgmachine-or-localhost:8080/
  • click Tab "Simulator"
  • Select button "Properties"
  • Navigate the property tree to the property of interest
  • click the little image symbol just left of the properties value
  • you have your plot The code lives in $FGDATA/data/Phi/topics/Simulator/Properties.[js|html]

You need some background knowledge of http://knockoutjs.com/ (HTML data binding) and http://www.flotcharts.org/ (Chart drawing) Let Torsten know if you need some more information [3]

Screen Shots

You can access the new screenshot handler after starting FlightGear per instructions here Usage

 http://localhost:8080/screenshot

It understands some request parameters:

  • type: either png or jpg (guess what this does)
  • window: the name of the window to capture (for those with multi screen setups)
  • stream: provide mjpeg stream

Examples:

Single screenshot

send png instead of jpg (jpg is default)

 http://localhost:8080/screenshot?type=png

send a png screenshot from the window named "WindowA" as defined under rendering/camera-group/window/name in your screen configuration.

 http://localhost:8080/screenshot?type=png&window=WindowA

use default jpg encoding

 http://localhost:8080/screenshot?window=WindowA

Motion-jpeg

Send a motion-jpeg encoded video stream.

 http://localhost:8080/screenshot?window=WindowA&stream=y

Can be used by ffmpeg to directly encode various video formats.

 ffplay -f mjpeg http://localhost:8080/screenshot/stream=y

Compression level for PNG is hardcoded to 9 (highest) and JPEG_QUALITY hardcoded to 80. These seem to be a good balance of performance vs. quality

Web-based EFIS

The web-based EFIS is created from a scale-able vector graphics (svg), is animated by JavaScript and driven by properties from FlightGear over websockets. The same svg files that are used for the FlightGear internal canvas based instruments can also be used for the browser based display, so both instruments (that of the 3d model and that in your browser) look 100% alike. Web-socket properties are exchanged at frame rate making animations as smooth as they can get. Because it uses SVG, instruments are always rendered at the highest available resolution of the device without scaling artifacts. [4]

The most exciting part is, the web based instrument runs on any modern platform without the need to install any spooky software. It also runs flawless on my Android phone and tablet and of course in a standard browser (Firefox and Chrome tested). On mobile OSes, you can add it to your home screen, making this a full-screen web-app to get rid of the browser navigation and toolbar (like shown in the screenshot). There is not much required on the FlightGear side - recent 2016.1.1 has all it needs. Workload for FlightGear is negligible, for the current EFIS, on page load a few hundred kilobytes of static files are transmitted and once fully loaded, 10 (ten!) properties are observed and transmitted on change. All the rendering takes place on the web browser's device. [4]

Probably, a video is more descriptive, here is a shot of an earlier (incomplete) version:

You can see a FlightGear instance on the top right of the big monitor and Firefox on the left showing the EFIS. Both run on the same computer. Below the monitor are an old iPod touch (left) and a Nexus 7 (right), both running the EFIS as a web-app in full screen mode connected over WLAN. The EFIS in the FlightGear window is based on Canvas/Nasal. The other EFISes are 100% Nasal free, just HTML/SVG/CSS/JavaScript[5]

Making Web-Panel instruments

Note  This section should be considered unfinished. If you have something to add, please do so

I use Inkscape to draw the SVGs. The objects to animate are selected by their id attribute, so you should set a reasonable name for those. To get proper scaling of the SVGs, you need to set the viewBox: width,
height, and preserveAspectRation of the <svg> tag element. It should be also possible to draw SVG's on the fly e.g. from svg.js and animate this as well. Not much has been on this front. [4]

Examples

Here you can find code examples that have been added to the Phi project

 https://sourceforge.net/p/flightgear/fgdata/ci/next/tree/Phi/examples/

The Horizon example is a fat free, stripped down basic idea of a web based instrument for Phi.

 https://sourceforge.net/p/flightgear/fgdata/ci/next/tree/Phi/examples/horizon.html
 https://sourceforge.net/p/flightgear/fgdata/ci/next/tree/Phi/examples/horizon.js

Future Development

Note  Nothing concrete
  • improve the aircraft specific plugin system to allow special widgets and pages for aircraft (thinking of the shuttle here)
  • make layout and theme configurable
  • keep settings persistent between sessions
  • write a tile renderer to create map tiles from scenery
  • better support for touch events
  • together with ThorstenR: UI to configure a 3d weather model

References

References