Sunday, April 21, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions

...Unrelated to the post, but I always add a here is the S-3 model so far. Hopefully it will be flyable in October/November or so. 

Browsing on the internet, and looking at the emails I get, I believe it is worth to write down an FAQ post which will hopefully cover some of the most recurrent questions. So, here we go:

Your aicrafts don't work and crash my computer! Why?

In 99% of the cases is because you are using an unsupported version of FSX. My projects require either FSX:Acceleration or FSX:Gold Edition (which is basically FSX SP2+Acceleration in the same box).
My projects will not work correctly or at all with out-of-the-box FSX, or with Service Pack 1 or 2.

Wait, but isn't SP2 the same as Acceleration minus the additional planes, sceneries and missions?

No, it is not the same. Acceleration has some additional, hardcoded features which may make Acceleration aicraft incompatible with other versions of FSX. Aside, some of my projects are aliasing assets from the stock F/A-18 Hornet in the Acceleration package.

I can see you planes in the game but the MFDs are not working...why?

Same as above - Acceleration (or Gold) versions of FSX should be correctly installed. Some of my projects are aliasing the MFD code from the stock Hornet in the Acceleration package. So, cases are two:

1) you do not have Acceleration package installed but the aicraft does not crash (I believe this is the case of the current T-45 version)...if it is so, FSX does not find the Hornet code so leaves the MFDs blank.

2) you are sure you have Acceleration installed, but still MFDs are blank. In this case you need to check the default Hornet MFDs. If they work, also the T-45C or F-14D ones should. If stock Hornet's MFDs do not work, you may need to reinstall/repair Accerelation which may be corrupt. I've seen several users with corrupt Acceleration installation (not caused by my planes) which lost MFD functionality.

This problem is anyway limited to the T-45C and F-14D, and should not affect the F-35 (and the S-3) as they do not rely on external code. This may change in future, as I may want to write new code for the T-45 and the F-14. Please note however that all the projects require Acceleration.

Can I use your planes in Lockheed Martin Prepar3d?

Answer is yes *BUT*... In terms of functions and functionalities Prepar3d expands on FSX:Acceleration. So my planes should load and be compatible. But Prepar3d does not include the stock F/A-18 Hornet, so the current F-14D and T-45C will show blank MFDs.
If you have a valid installation of FSX:A, you can fix this as follows:
- Navigate to your main FSX installation folder, and then in the Gauges subfolder.
- Locate the FA-18.dll file (which is the file that contains the Hornet MFD code) and copy it
- Paste a copy of that file in the Prepa3d/Gauges subfolder

Do not ask me to provide that file. This would break the EULA and I will not do that, sorry.
F-35 should work fine in Prepar3d - no action required.

Your F-35 is nice and everything... but it cannot make short takeoffs and landings! Should I buy a separate module or what?

The freeware installation of the F-35 is perfectly capable of making STOVL flights. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BUY ANYTHING. Please read the manual or look for tutorials on youtube! I know nobody does read the manual. I am an engineer, which means I don't. BUT the manual is there for a purpose: you can find it in the /docs folder of the F-35A installation folder. There are some conditions for the STOVL module to work and load, but if you do see the green message when you load the F-35, everything should be OK. If the message does not show, please read the manual.

Now: assuming the STOVL mode is correctly loaded (green message appears) here is some essential information which IS in the manual, but anyway...

- Only the F-35B (I believe the community nickname is converging to "Bee" for this version) is STOVL capable. It may sound obvious but it seems it is not, so make sure you have a -B version loaded. On the -B version, the HOOK/STOVL button activates the conversion.

- You must be below 240kts to activate the conversion. If the a/c is not able to convert because of its current attitude/speed or anthing, the conversion is rejected.

- On pressing the button the aicraft converts to "slow flight" mode: that is controls are the same of any other aicrafts. This mode is used for short take-offs, and for approaches prior to HOVER mode conversion. This is NOT the vertical landing / takeoff mode.

When you are is "slow flight" mode, you can convert to HOVER mode only if your TOTAL weight is below 40600 lbs (like in the real deal). You may want to activate an FCS portal in the MFD - once you are in slow flight mode, you will see an "HOVER" indication. If it is RED you are too heavy, and you may want to DUMP fuel. When it turns CYAN, your weight is OK and you can convert by clicking the HOVER indication itself (NOTE this is not like the real thing - in the real thing you would click a button on the throttle).

- Control scheme in HOVER mode changes and is somewhat like an helicopter. See the manual for details.

Is there a good scenery for Eglin AFB? 

Not that I know of. There is a payware photoreal that covers the area, but it is not that good and not worth the money IMHO. I made my own with FSET, but I have never adjusted the runways nor placed much autogen. I am improving it from time to time, but I am not sure I will ever release it publicly.

Can you PLEASE do (insert name of your favourite aicraft here)?

Unfortunately I do not have much time for FSX and that will not change in future. So my bandwith is roughly 1 new aircraft every 8-10 months (best case) + upgrades to the existing fleet. Sorry...but I have a job and a social life.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mini-review: Frank's Dolomites

I love my country (Italy, that is)! Surely it has its own share of problems, but it is a wondeful and incredibly diverse and culturally rich country.
Unfortunately for our hobby, the great variety of the landscape means that it is not easy to develop complete scenery for the whole country - let alone the ugly FSX default rendition that looks nothing like the real thing (colors, vegetation, buildings...everything is not only ugly, but completely wrong).
Several people tried to create very large sceneries to cover the whole country - but failed. On the other hand, few dedicated developers created wonderful sceneries for specific parts of Italy - which resulted in true masterpieces, like the freeware rendition of Isola d'Elba and Northern Tuscany, or the amazing rendition of Venice from Aerosoft.

In this scattered coverage, Frank Dainese's wonderful rendition of the Dolomites is an authentic masterpiece. Frank has been developing mountain sceneries for quite a while, and its sceneries are works of pure love for our mountains.
His sceneries are simply breathtaking: detailed, crisp and amazing. With an almost unique feature: 3D modeled mountains. That is, instead of relying on FSX's terrain engine, most of the mountains are sculpted in 3D and then textured with high-resolution pictures straight from Frank's camera. The result is incredibly realistic and the washed-out effect of the default engine at high slope angles (where the engine must stretch the photo-texture) is gone!
Also, its sceneries are completely covered with Autogen buildings and trees (both accurately placed down to the individual building) and there are lots of custom building.
The current scenery covers the airport of Bolzano (which is however on a corner of the scenery), the airstrip of Dobbiaco and the (abandoned) airport of Cortina D'Ampezzo (a much popular winter resot whose airport has been closed and abandoned for several reasons, including the fact that the approach is challenging and dangerous - it is worth googling for its story!).
Frank is also constantly upgrading and expanding his sceneries, which however are only distributed privately by email.

- 3D sculpted mountains with custom, high resolution textures are incredibly detailed and realistic.
- The whole scenery is covered with accurately placed Autogen (including alternate textures for better color match)
- Custom buildings where needed
- Freeware does not get much better than this

- As with all photoreal sceneries at a certain point it comes to an end. And this means to see the ugly FSX default.

To get this scenery, you must go and visit Frank's blog, navigate to Frank's profile and send him an email requesting the scenery. Frank's blog address is this:

Happy flying!