Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Recovery of the Eurofighter Project...


As promised here is a status report of the Eurofighter project after the "ransomware" incident that wiped out all of my source files. Basically you can indeed use ModelConverterX by Aron (great tool...THANK YOU ARNO) to open the .mdl files and convert them into .3DS format, and then reimport it into 3DS Max or Gmax (or other applications....3DS is a very popular format). In principle you loose the animations, smoothing, the materials and the XML taggin but preserve the geometry and the texturing coordinates - as side effect, the geometry is not super-clean nor flawless.
Unfortunately, in the case of the Typhoon, a number of minor details were lost in the process - such as the landing gears, some engine details and the pilot helmet.
So... the external model is recoverable...but will require several weeks of work - not good, but could have been much worse.
Unfortunately, most of the Virtual Cockpit is garbage. A lot of the geometry of the switches and levers is lost or corrupt and require more work than I expected.

Here is the status:

LOST:

- 3D source models (both external and VC and custom weapons)
- Source texture sheets and paintkit (layered PSD)
- Part of the XML code
- My standard templates for things such as HMD projection etc.

INTACT:
- External .mdl was almost finished (maybe I can use it as it is...)
- Incomplete virtual cockpit (is missing the ejection seat and some other details)
- Latest avionics code (HUD almost complete)

RECOVERED
 - (Partial) geometry and texture coordinates. Need to redo part of the geometry, animation etc.

 Long story short... I need to evaluate my options carefully. One possibility is to use the external .mdl as is (missing a number of eye-candy features, and the custom weapons) and redo the missing parts of the VC.
More news soon.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ransomware infection update

 

First, THANK YOU ALL for the oustanding support and encouragement I have received - the flight simulation community has always been very kind and positive to me and my projects and it is awesome to know I have such a loyal and appreciative user base.
I have thought a lot on what to do next - and what would be the best thing for me. My final decision is as follows:

- The ransom WILL NOT be paid. It is not a question of the money per se - I am lucky enough so that 500 USD would not make a big difference for my bank account. It is just that I do not like giving money to criminals.

- The hard disk with my source 3D models has been segregated and kept in a safe place. Hopefully, sooner or later, a decryption tool with a key database will pop up. This was the case for similar malwares in the past few years - so there is a small hope. Very small. But it is defintely worth preserving the encrypted data.

- My system has been formatted and it is being rebuilt (with a much needed switch to a SDD). I have already installed Win 8.1, P3D, Tacpack and the P3D SDK. I will restart with a pristine system.

- Once the system is restored and all my design tools are in place, I will see what to do next.

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT:

Apart from my personal files (pictures, savegames etc.) I lost access to ALL my 3D source files and all master texture sheets. This includes pretty much 95% of my past work in terms of work hours. The files installed in the simulator were not affected (the ransomware did not touch the Program folder) so my latest flight version of the flight models and XML/avionics code are still available. Current situation is as follows:

AVATAR PACKAGE (payware) - Losing the source files for this project is quite saddening in particular the animation/bone system I created. I planned to update the current version and expand it with additional models, or create a "civilian" package. But given the small user base, and the amount of work needed decision is to TERMINATE the project and any further update. Sales will continue with current distributors 

F-35 LIGHTNING II (payware) - I was working on a significant upgrade with would include some bug fixings and some new functionalities. Lucklily the modeling work was finished, and the compiled models are safe - and so are the latest avionic files. Therefore the decision is to CONTINUE the development of the update.

EUROFIGHTER TYPHOON (payware) - This is probably the biggest loss. I will try to recover the geometry by decompiling the current .mdl and see what can be reused and what not. For the moment this project is ON HOLD.

T-45C GOSHAWK (freeware) - I don't know if I could add anything to this project - but it has always been by test bed and loosing it has more a sentimental value than anything. But there is not place for sentimentalism in the modern world so this project will be TERMINATED - version 2.83 is be the final version.

MB.326 (freeware) - An update was in the works with minor bug fixings...The update is CANCELED and the project will be TERMINATED.

S-3B VIKING (freeware) - An update which would have included some minor bug fixing, addition of TFLIR functionalites and a AI-Tanker model was in the works. I'll try to salvage the tanker model, but I cannot guarantee anything. Apart from that, the update is CANCELED and the project will be TERMINATED.

F-14D Super Tomcat (freeware) - There was actually a plan to develop a new, better payware version of this project. Maybe I'll pursue that in the future. As for this freeware rendition, any further update is CANCELED and the project will be TERMINATED.

Also, preliminary work on Aermacchi MB.339 is lost,
there is some undisclosed work done on the E-2/C-2 project in cooperation with another developer which - for a pure chance this is safe.

FUTURE PROJECTS:

It is still unclear to me if I have the time and will right now to embark on new projects - at least for the moment. I am looking into some very small, very quick projects to develop - just to check that everything is working. I have some ideas... but they are just ideas for now.

That is it for the moment. THANK YOU AGAIN for your support.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ransomware infection


Unfortunately, my Flight Simulation computer has been infected with Cerber Ransomware - which is basically a malware that sneaks into your system and encrypts all your data and then asks for a ransom to get a software to decrypt them. More information here:

http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/the-cerber-ransomware-not-only-encrypts-your-data-but-also-speaks-to-you/

After a full night getting documentation and trying any possibility I could read of, it is my understanding that, at the moment, there are no known solution for my case but paying the ransom - which right now I am not willing to do. I may change my mind when I'll be more calm.

Currently, after running several recovery softwares, it seems that all the critical files (mostly source 3D models, animations and textures) are compromised and I cannot access them anymore. The only exception being the files that were actually already installed in the simulator, which have not been touched - that basically means the F-35 update I have been working on.

Therefore, as of today, I have no choice but suspend ALL my projects indefinitely with possible exception of the F-35B update.

I am evaluating all the options I have - in the very worst case, all my current project may be canceled.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

T-45 Goshawk version 2.83


As much as I'd like to abandon the T-45C, some minor and annoying inaccuracies pop-up... hence here we go again with a new release... in this case, I was notified that the MFD-ADI sky/ground colors were reversed (due a wrong interpetation on my side of the NATOPS graphics). Cockpit videos show the real thing very clearly - so here we go again - sorry for the inconvenience.

VERSION 2.83
- Fixed ADI graphics (light area = sky, dark area = ground)

Download link on the side bar as usual.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

T-45C Goshawk version 2.82 release - sorry for the inconvenience!

 
Following a report from an user, a significant bug has been identified on the latest release of the Goshawk - basically the latest Virtual Cockpit was built with the wrong ModelDef.XML file (which is the file that governs the associations between the 3D model and variables, click spots and visibiliyu conditions during MDL compilation...I have several for the various aircrafts). As result the Data Entry Panel was mostly unusable. It was not my intention to released yet another update to the Goshawk but this is a show-stopping issue to me and I felt it needed to be fixed.
Here is a new version that should fix the problem. Download link on the side bar. Once it is confirmed to work it will be uploaded to Avsim and Flightsim.
Sorry for the inconvenience!


VERSION 2.82 - Released on April 2nd 2016

- Previous build was compiled with wrong Modeldef.xml resulting in several Data Entry Panel issues. Rebuilt with correct XML coding.
- Fixed minor bug with DECLUTTER function in DEP
- Fixed minor bug with DEPRESSION function in DEP


Saturday, March 5, 2016

T-45C Goshawk version 2.81


Here is a small update to the T-45C to fix a couple of minor defects that I felt a little annoying... Probably I should not waste my time with such small issues, but if you are not a maniac on small things probably you would not venture in a crazy hobby like this...
The main change is that now, by default, the glass refection effects on HUD and gauges glasses has been removed - this is because with the new dynamic enviromental mapping of P3Dv3.1 they looked odd (they were reflecting the runway, for example)... old model is provided a backup.

VERSION 2.81
- Fixed bug in visual model that caused an attempt to load a non-existent texture sheet.
- Removed dynamic glass refection effect in VC, as it looked weird with P3DV3.1 dynamic environment mapping (old models are supplied as backup)
- Added option VC model with no geaometry (only HUD) for cockpit builders, along with some information on local variables used in the code

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Eurofighter Project (and a couple of notes on DCS and other things)...


 
 
A quick post to officially introduce the new Eurofighter Typhoon project I am working on to people which may not have a Facebook account. The main scope of this project is to create a detailed Eurofighter model for use in FSX / P3DV2 / P3DV3 environment - including support of Tacpack for weapons functionalities. This is not an easy task as most of the data on the Typhoon is still classified. I managed to get my hands on some very detailed avionics documentation, but performance data is hard to find (and will be guesstimated). I also had the chance to test the EADS rapid-deployment simulator of the Typhoon... which was very interesting in terms of handling (although I have no idea on the actual dynamics accuracy as it is a simulator conceived for area familiarization).

Here are the main features I am working on:
- Highly detailed visual models (external and VC)
- Realistic (although guesstimated) flight model and dynamics
- Realistic avionics (at least for HUD and MFDs), and pilot interface including BAe Striker HMD Helmet
- Support for Tacpack weapons (AIM-9L/AIM-120/GBUs)
- Realistic procedures based on real-world checklists

Aside, I'd like to implement also other features...but these are kind of "nice-to-have" things...but I cannot confirm them at the moment:
- Support for IRIS-T and ASRAAM missiles
- PIRATE implementation (most likely for P3Dv2 / v3 only)
- "Naggin'Nora" implementation
- Custom sound package based on real-life audio samples

At the moment, the external model is almost complete...but still unfinished.
I do not think we'll have a Beta before this summer... so release may well be in August/September.
...below are some other screenshots of the latest build.

Now...some other things...

DCS Compatibility:
I have received several emails and messages asking for DCS support and long story short DCS support will not happen, at least in the foreseeable future. For one, I do not have the time. Then DCS does not offer an open, royalty-free and publicly accessible SDK and requires developers to be highly qualified and acceptance of very stringent requirements.
Note that this does NOT mean that you are entitled to try your own conversion and share them. Sure, you can do whatever you want for your personal use, but converting and than sharing the models and artwork or other stuff is not allowed (see the reasons why below...).

Other Simulators...and exporting my models:
I have also received requests to support other simulators (e.g. FlightGear and XPlane)...but again, I lack time and resources. Then there are a number of users that converted the data of my files and want to share them on the Internet. Again... THIS IS NOT ALLOWED - and it is explicitly forbidden in the documentation of my projects.
The main reason for this is not that I am jealous of my work or anything like that...but the fact that most of my project contain data and artwork from a variety of sources: there is a lot of work from yours truly, but there is also stuff from contributors and (most important) vendors. My models or parts of them are often based on commercial data which I paid for and it is quite expensive. You cannot use them in your projects - as it is a copyright infringment. Full stop.

Project updates:
As usual, I am working on updates to all of my projects... I have spotted a minor flaw to the latest T-45C package, and I'll relase an update which will also contain some special files for cockpit builders. The Military Avatars package and the F-35 also need some bug-fixing... although they have very minor flaws, and there are no red-alerts.
Sooner or later I'll also need to release the long-awaited Viking update.

Future projects:
A quick recap of other stuff I'd like to work in future... but God knows when I'll have time to work on it. And then I am an atheist... so this is more a "wish list" than actual projects:

MB.339 - I have an extrenal model 60% ready, but needs textures...and then there is no VC at the moment. On the good side, flight model and sound package could be reused from the MB.326.

E-2 / C-2 Package - I will soon have some news on this project...

F-14D Tomcat 2016 - I am not happy yet...

So...as you can see there is A LOT of stuff going on. Much more than what I can actually handle... So we'll see. For now Eurofighter Typhoon is the top priority.