FSWeekend Road Report 2019
As I am writing this, FSWeekend 2019 is already two days in the past. If I recall correctly, last weekend marked our 15th consecutive presence at FSWeekend. For me personally, this also marked the fifteenth edition. Last year we had a different spot, near the Lockheed Constellation, where we drew quite a bit of attention with our home-built kiosk style cockpit and a fully working home-built 737 cockpit. Compared to that feat, this year’s presence was a bit more conventional. We were back at our traditional spot in the ‘Uiverzaal’, a convention type hall that is named after the famous Dutch DC2 “Uiver” that did very well in the classical 1920s London-Melbourne air race.
This year’s team consisted of old-timers Gijs, Isaak and Michael (and myself, having been granted the honorable title of ‘Dinosaur’, because of my 15th anniversary...), and new members Henning, Daniel, and Alan. Since I’ve been exceptionally busy in the months leading up to FSWeekend, I hardly had any time to coordinate anything, but thanks to the wonderful talent of the team everything organized itself pretty much. In addition, I had fatal hard-disk crash two weeks before FSweekend, but managed to get everything working again in time. Even though I had expected that we needed to scale down a bit, we eventually ended up with quite an impressive collection of equipment. Also, we had an internet connection this year, which made it possible to demonstrate the multiplayer and real-world weather features (sadly though, last weekend was one of the worst days imaginable in the Netherlands, so flying in real world weather was quite a challenge).
One of the things I’ve noticed over the past couple of years is that we have a consistently increasing number of visitors who were genuinely interested in FlightGear. Even though I feel that I didn’t talk to that many people, the conversations I had were always thorough and quite long. As far as I can tell, the other staff members shared this impression.
The combination of my busy work schedule and my computer crash prevented me from spending much time in discovering the latest and greatest highlights of FlightGear, but the fact that I had to reinstall everything also provided an ample opportunity to test FlightGear’s usability from a regular user’s perspective. Overall, this went pretty well, except for a few minor glitches. Incidentally, part of my observations in this respect were shared by visitors at FSWeekend. Notably, the current location selection tab in the launcher caused some confusion, because is not immediately clear what “back” means. On a similar note, one user was struggling with setting up multiple screens. I know how I need to do this for my machine, but this is not something that is immediately obvious and it took me also a couple of hours last week to get it right (and, I’m at a complete loss when I have to do this on a different OS). Somehow, if somebody could manage to write a completely intuitive tool for that, that might be an asset to the project.
Being back in the Uiverzaal hall also brought some interesting new contacts. One of the most prominent ones was the official Laminar Research booth, who were presenting the latest version of X-Plane 11. I had a brief chat with one of the developers who was there, a Dutch guy who, as it turned out, had been very actively monitoring FlightGear as a teenager, before turning professional software developer. So, all in all, this turned out to be a very nice and friendly interaction between X-Plane and FlightGear, continuing to establish the long-term relation that we have with them.
Secondly, our other neighbors were from a German Flight Simulation magazine, called FSMagazin. A couple of years ago, they featured an article about FlightGear and they would like to feature us again in the not too distant future. I agreed that I’d provide them with some bullet points and a load of great screen shots, from which they would compile and article in German. I’ll probably ask for some input for this later on. See http://www.fsmagazin.de for more info on the magazine.
Thirdly, about a week before FSWeekend, I was contacted by a member of a Dutch Flight Simulation Club, who is currently working on an open data bus between custom built hardware and Flight Simulation software. She presented an early Alpha version at FSWeekend. At her request, I won’t give too many details yet, because it’s all in quite in quite an early stage of development and there is not a firm timeline established yet. The basic idea of the open Flight Simulation Bus is that all data transmission between the Simulator software and the hardware is streamed across an ethernet connection using the UDP protocol. For FlightGear-based home-cockpit builders, this might provide an interesting opportunity and to my knowledge, this should be fairly trivial to support this in FlightGear. More information can be found on the website: https://openfsb.org
Fourth, while it is typically not my habit to mention the main sponsor of FSWeekend, I’m very willing to do so this year. A new startup hardware company called Honeycomb Aeronautical has built a very nice Flight Yoke and Throttle quadrant. If you’ve seen pictures of last year’s event, you may recall that my Saitek Gear is on the brink of falling apart. My throttle quadrant has been replaced by a cheap piece of cardboard with some potentiometers on it, my pedals gave in after last FSweekend, and the Yoke is still reasonably functional, but also showing some wear. With this in mind, I had an interest in testing out Honeycomb’s Gear. While they don’t have a set of rudder pedals yet, I was highly impressed by the quality of their yoke and throttle quadrant; both in terms of workmanship and smoothness of operation. I’m seriously considering getting myself a set, and hopefully later a set of pedals as well. Around takedown on Sunday the guys from Honeycomb were kind enough to let me check whether the pedals were detectable by FlightGear, or at least by the js_demo utility which I had running on my mac. That all checked out positively, so supporting their gear in FlightGear should be trivial. In the rush of taking down our booths, I didn’t have a chance for an in depth conversation, but I got a business card and will probably drop them a note later this month. More information on the Honeycomb Yokes and Trottle Quadrants can be found here: https://flyhoneycomb.com
To wrap up: FSWeekend was again a great experience. I’m sure I forgot to mention stuff, such as the fact that FlightGear contributer Gin Gin’s Space Shuttle abort to launch site video, that we played throughout the entire two days on a big projection screen was a huge eye catcher, Alan’s great stories about flight simulation in the 1970s or his genius tricks for obtaining 3D cockpit measurements. All in all, this made FSWeekend again very memorable. Many, many thanks, to the entire team for making this possible!