FlightGear Newsletter March 2010

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Welcome to the March 2010 edition of the FlightGear Newsletter.

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 of next month and every contribution is welcome.

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.

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. The results aren't as beautiful as Atlas, but are useful for quickly finding a nearby airport or VOR, and for graphically showing waypoints from a route. The code is also a test platform for creating in-panel cockpit 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 at irc.flightgear.org, looking around for would-be mentors and working our GSoC wiki page.

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 there is still some work to be done. For example, other aircraft turn white when they enter a light cone. This is still an exciting development and we can be sure that the dev team will work out the kinks in short order.

In the hangar

New aircraft

The following aircraft were added to CVS in March and will be available for the mass 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.

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

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 screenshot on the right.

Wiki News

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.

Virtual Airline News

Atlas Virtual Airlines talks and hearings begin

  Well, folks, the talk of the Multiplayer forums for the past month or two (and not all of it's been nice!) has been revolving around the new, "super-VA" of FlightGear: Atlas Virtual Airlines. Intended to solve the increasing issue of underpopulation throughout the FlightGear Virtual Airline world, Atlas Virtual Airlines (AVA) has merged almost all active/idle VAs into one, drastically lowering the number of Virtual Airlines. AVA is now well into the planning stage, and many important aspects of the airline have been decided; the original hub, for instance, will be Frankfurt au Main (EDDF). Talks have now moved off-forum to a secret location due to numerous attacks and incidents on the public forums. Currently, AVA is being led by three co-leaders: SkyWlf77, Armchair Ace, and Kyokoyrama, with support from other pilots such as MD-TERP, ACE007, and ChocBoy. If Atlas Virtual Airlines is successful, the VA community will likely be left with only three Virtual Airlines (as of March 24th, 2010): AVA, TransGear Airways, and Star Alliance. The latter two have been largely successful and are not required to join AVA.
  Despite the relatively quick takeoff of the VA, plans have been slowed by opposing views of a universal airline. Critics like Wookierabbit argue that "AVA will eliminate free market competition and pilots' choice, giving the few airlines left uncontested authority to not shape to pilots' demands. Counter-critics of this continue to attest that the FlightGear Virtual Airlines are living on borrowed time, meaning that a merging solution must be passed. Either way, months of work have been put into AVA, and the airline is nearing its opening. 

A sneak preview of the current livery for (if chosen) the Beechcraft B1900d: [1]

TransGear Airways Last Vintage Event Held

  In other news, TransGear Virtual 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 [transgear.treborlogic.com]. 

Despite VA Underpopulation Crisis, Multiple VAs spring up in AVA turmoil

 The disease that is sucking the life out of the FlightGear Virtual Airline industry has been diagnosed as underpopulation; too few pilots, too many airlines. To combat this problem, one of the variables must be addressed. The easiest thing to do is to lower the number of VAs, which has been started with the merging of Atlas Virtual Airlines. During the sometimes confusing debates over AVA, one thing appeared to be agreed on: the creation of new VAs had to stop. However, this did not prevent two, new airlines from rising up: Triangle Airlines, COed by Jericho, and Sandy Oceania Airlines, owned by QF52. Both are facing increasing pressure to terminate their new airlines or merge into AVA. 

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.

Another multiplay 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.