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Open Source Simulator FlightGear Releases v2.4

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the punctuated-equilibrium dept.

Open Source 70

mikejuk writes "The latest version of FlightGear, 2.4, has just been released — and it has some significant improvements. Now it simulates weather so that you can ride the up draft from a range of hills and seek out thermals — but watch out for the simulated fog! For the future the implementation of an HLA interface means that you can build clusters of interacting simulators and perhaps even work with commercial flight simulators." The FlightGear website has gotten a long-deserved upgrade, too.

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Not... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37228712)

first!

Flight simulators are still allowed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37228762)

I thought Jack Thompson proved flight simulators caused 9/11 [sk-gaming.com] .

How irresponsible!

Graphics artifacts (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#37228764)

I was watching the video full screen at 720p and noticed quite a lot of weird artifacts to do with the Harrier model. Displays from the HUD were bouncing around outside of the HUD extents, and at one point I thought I saw some huge gaps in the body. So I suppose I have to question where this was coming in. Is it the plane model, Flight Gear itself, or the hardware that created the render?

Re:Graphics artifacts (3)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 2 years ago | (#37228964)

There are a handful of different HUD modes, the one the harrier is using has been bouncing around like that for a few years now, so I guess it's an issue within flightgear itself rather than the flight model, OSG, or what have you. It only tends to happen when you are yawing around at a fairly low airspeed. It's particularly annoying in the helicopters at times.

Re:Graphics artifacts (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#37228998)

There are a handful of different HUD modes, the one the harrier is using has been bouncing around like that for a few years now

Surely that is an easy fix? I tend to wonder about software where the easy things are overlooked, as then I start to question about how well they handle the harder stuff

Re:Graphics artifacts (3, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37229436)

Well that is the thing about volunteer made software isn't it? While I have nothing against Open Source I've found when it is volunteers like the user generated models in something like Flight Gear you run into the age old "Nobody pays for the boring stuff so that don't get done" problem.

Lets be honest folks, bug fixing in software is like cleaning the shitter, it is a long boring nasty thankless job. Nobody volunteers to clean your shitters at the office right? Nope you have to pay someone to get that done or they will look like the shitters at a truck stop in Alabama pretty soon. That is the problem with the community model. It is simply more fun to make something new than it is to go over old code, especially someone else's old code, and fix the messes.

How do we fix it? Fucked if I know, the only way i know how is to either pay someone to clean the shitters or maybe take donations so you can offer a bug bounty, ala Google? because checking out software made by the community i've noticed that pattern is pretty consistent, someone reports bug, users confirm bug, bug gets ignored for years while new versions come out that add....well more bugs.If you don't pay someone to fix the bugs they just don't get fixed, it is more fun to create than to clean. it is just human nature.

Re:Graphics artifacts (1)

Warwick Allison (209388) | more than 2 years ago | (#37231774)

Actually, you just need to watch that each person contributing is making clean tidy contributions. With open source or any software, there is no reason not to put the contribution point right in the middle of the factory floor for maximum visibility. Doesn't translate for you analogy.

Re:Graphics artifacts (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37233098)

Uhhh...what EXACTLY does that have to do with bugs and how nobody likes fixing them? it isn't like the developer, whether volunteer or not, said 'I need X number of bugs per LOC" no what happens is the bugs are found later by which time the original developer has done moved on or is working on something new and don't really care.

So you are back to my analogy. you have code that may have worked perfectly on the developer's system that for whatever reason is sucking the big wet titty now. Maybe he only had a single core CPU, maybe he was on Intel and the bug only pops up on AMD, maybe he was running "hey lets all be admins!" XP and not an OS like 7 where there is data sanity, who the hell knows why.

I just don't see how your suggestion helps shit. he could have wrote code so clean and tidy it makes baby Jesus weep and that still don't change the fact that when bugs are found someone has to fix them just like you need someone to clean the shitter. By your analogy it may be a NICE shitter, with stainless steel faucets, but that don't make the job any less nasty or unwanted.

Oh and for the other poster that said "Commercial has as many bugs"? yeah but the difference is when bugs are found someone is paid to fix them whereas with the FOSS model if the developer has moved on or just don't give a shit tough luck buddy, hope you are a coder or you are SOL. look at the post that started this, the bug has been known for at least 3 releases now yet it is still there. that means the guy who made the original models isn't there anymore and nobody wants to clean the shitter, so it don't get cleaned JUST AS I SAID.

I really don't know why this surprises anyone, it is simply human nature. Nobody likes the lousy jobs, you don't see kids saying "I want to clean shitters when I grow up!" but the job still needs doing which is why we pay someone to do it and while RMS and wax on about communist ideals it don't change the fact that humans don't like crappy jobs. That is why in the USSR they had to order soldiers to work in the fields for so many months. they called it "potato duty". No money? no clean shitters. it really don't need Kojack to solve the case.

Re:Graphics artifacts (4, Insightful)

wrook (134116) | more than 2 years ago | (#37232006)

While there isn't a lot of research on the topic, what there is seems to indicate that open source software and "commercial" (i.e. not open source) software have similar defect densities. Here's a paper on the topic:

http://www.reasoning.com/pdf/MySQL_White_Paper.pdf [reasoning.com]

I've worked on both "commercial" projects and opens source projects. My personal experience has been that willingness to fix bugs is much higher on the open source teams. Usually the authors actually use the product in their everyday life and bugs affect them personally. They are highly motivated to fix them. On "commercial" software projects, my experience is that the authors of the software rarely use it in their every day life. Selection of bugs to fix usually comes from a project manager.

Both open source and "commercial" projects usually have large backlogs of bugs that never get fixed. The difference is that open source projects usually fix bugs that directly affect the authors, while "commercial" projects fix bugs that directly affect customers who have bought enough units to gain the right to complain (i.e. thousands of copies). However, with an open source project, if the authors decide not to fix a bug you usually have a number of options. You can complain on the developer's mailing list and plead your case. If that doesn't work, you can fix the bug yourself, or hire someone else to do it. With "commercial" software once you file your bug you usually don't even know if they will decide to fix it. You usually don't even know if it was fixed in the next version without buying it and trying it for yourself. If the program manager decides not to fix your bug, you have no recourse at all unless you have already bought thousands of copies of the software and can threaten not to upgrade to the next version unless they fix your bug. Even then they might decide not to.

"Well that's the thing with volunteer made software isn't it?" is what you wrote. Yes. That's the thing with volunteer made software. You have direct access to the developers to report your bug. You get informed whether your bug when your bug is being looked at. You can make a case for having your bug fixed. And if that doesn't work, you can fix it yourself. What is there that needs fixing again?

Re:Graphics artifacts (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37235018)

Oh lord spare us the bullshit!! You can fix it yourself? Right, did you perform your own brain surgery perhaps? because while, and I'm just SURE you'll find this like, you know, totally shocking, 99.9999995% of the planet are not fucking programmers. In fact i think from now on the arrogant "You can DIY" should be met with a hearty "Go fuck yourself" because it is arrogant, douchebag elitist horseshit to think the entire world knows how to code in C/C++. Finding bugs? Easy. Having the several years of college CS to give one the capability to debug and fix the code? Not part of the skillsets of even 70% of the guys here, and this is a programmer heavy site.

That doesn't change the fact that for your data to work it requires one little thing, that the developer hasn't moved on which unless he considers it his baby is more often than not the case. Look at what we are talking about here and YOU explain how "Open Source fixes more bugs" when we are talking about a serious show stopping graphics fuckup that has been in three previous releases already and is STILL there in a fourth.

How is this possible? i'll tell ya how, the developer who wrote the original code has moved on and nobody wants to clean the shitter so it don't get clean EXACTLY AS I SAID. You can create ALL the flaming hoops and studies of some subsection of software that you want, you can't change human nature. It is always more fun to create than clean and that is a simple fact. do you see little kids going "I wanna grow up to clean shitters!" of course not, yet they still need cleaning. Same thing here, you have code that the developer has walked away from that now doesn't run right yet nobody wants to fix it because like cleaning a shitter it is a long, slow, nasty, thankless job.

And those kinds of jobs, like writing the docs, fixing the bugs, regressions testing, etc simply don't get done in FOSS because THOSE JOBS SUCK and people aren't doing suck jobs for free. it is just human nature dude.

Re:Graphics artifacts (1)

Dozy Lizard (1708728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37239078)

What you've missed is that the developers of proprietary software move on too (sometime the individuals, sometimes the whole company). Generally the customer does not pay the developers. The developers company pays the developers, and they will only pay them to fix your bug if there is nothing of higher value to the company for them to do. Yes, if it is product which makes the company money, and a lot of customers experience the bug, and it is serious, then it will probably get fixed. Otherwise maybe not. The way bugs get "chosen" to be fixed for FOSS software is different, but it is not clear in general whether it results in more buggy code. Unfortunately, "common sense" about these things is often wrong, which is why people do studies and try and get objective data.

Fixing FOSS yourself is an option, so is paying someone else to fix it and so is complaining, waiting and hoping. Granted, these approaches all have problems: requiring skills and application; requiring deep pockets; or are unlikely to be successful. With proprietary software, you are pretty much restricted to "complaining, waiting and hoping". You might hope that your complaining will have more effect, but that is really only true if you are a big customer or there are lots like you.

When I was young I proudly identified a bug in a proprietary compiler. The company I worked for hadn't bought the support contract. I naively thought that the vendor would want to know that their compiler had a bug (with a nice test case) but they wouldn't even take the bug report without a support contract, let alone fix it!

Re:Graphics artifacts (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37248230)

There is again a BIG difference you seem to be missing,either you simply don't see it or are trolling, can't be sure. you see if a proprietary software house ignores the users? Well then they lose money and sometimes a LOT of money, and that tends to put the fire under one's ass! Hell it even works on the big companies, look at MSFT. Vista sucked, users wouldn't have it, MSFT went back and gutted it and rebuilt it and voila! Windows 7 which is actually awesome.

And is there room in candyland for me too? is there ponies? I can pay someone to fix it? do you have ANY FUCKING IDEA what even a SINGLE coder worth a shit costs? Even a clue? who the fuck is gonna pay that? i'll tell ya nobody is gonna pay that so again we are right back where we started and you STILL haven't answered my question!

Last time, and I'll even highlight it: If FOSS fixes more bugs, why is this SAME bug been in FOUR versions now? You can't answer it because you know I'm right. The developer has moved on and nobody wants to fix the shitter so after FOUR versions it STILL hasn't been fixed! I'll even make a prediction, in the next 3 versions? this bug will STILL not be fixed!

How do I know this? It is again human nature. it is more fun to build than to fix, nobody likes to do dirty jobs, so if the only thing you get offered is a "gee thanks!" then they won't get done, period. Sorry to burst your bubble, that is just the way things are.

Re:Graphics artifacts (1)

Dozy Lizard (1708728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37250616)

There is again a BIG difference you seem to be missing,either you simply don't see it or are trolling, can't be sure. you see if a proprietary software house ignores the users? Well then they lose money and sometimes a LOT of money, and that tends to put the fire under one's ass!

That is pretty much the "product which makes the company money, and a lot of customers experience the bug, and it is serious" case I mentioned. So yes, I do see.

The developer has moved on and nobody wants to fix the shitter so after FOUR versions it STILL hasn't been fixed!

Actually I do agree that is probably the case and I never said I didn't. What I don't agree with is your claim that this one anecdote somehow proves the general case and your dismissal of the one study cited as being less relevant than your opinions on human nature.

Re:Graphics artifacts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37229674)

I tend to wonder why they're introducing massive new features like weather when they haven't even solved basic bugs like the HUD rendering issues.

Re:Graphics artifacts (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37229924)

I tend to wonder why they're introducing massive new features like weather when they haven't even solved basic bugs like the HUD rendering issues.

Because people who want a realistic flight simulator probably care more about weather simulation than HUD bugs?

Re:Graphics artifacts (2)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#37229026)

Most likely the model. Most of the models are user generated, so some are very pretty with a bad cockpit interface, some are ugly with good physics, etc etc. The real pity is the fact that there have been some awesome flightsims from the Atari ST (F19), through 486 machines and all the way up, but these days they all rely on high-end graphics cards and processors far too much. Come on, give me a good military flightsim like F19 that will run on my netbook, I know you can do it! (OK, yes, an emulator plus F19 does the job very nicely, but come on, I shouldn't have to resort to that!). Get the physics right first, then make "pretty" an optional extra.

Re:Graphics artifacts (1)

jgrahn (181062) | more than 2 years ago | (#37230960)

...Come on, give me a good military flightsim like F19 that will run on my netbook, I know you can do it!

F19 Stealth Fighter? It was a good game, but not so good as a flight simulator. Ugly, and with not very realistic physics. And at the time, bombing Libya seemed unlikely and cruel. Sigh.

Re:Graphics artifacts (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 2 years ago | (#37230388)

Flightgear is an awesome piece of work being an all-volunteer project and I enjoy taking it for a spin every now and then. But my biggest gripe about modern PC flightsims is this: 3D cockpits.

I can understand completely why some people want them. They look pretty and (if done well) give you an idea of what it's like to actually sit in a plane. But for the most part, I've always found them to be a hinderance to interacting with the simulated aircraft. In most real planes, there are instrument panels situated everywhere along the pilot. Ahead, off to the side, between the seats, over head, and so on. A real pilot in a real plane has easy access to all of the controls because all he has to do is glance and reach down to flip a switch. A PC sim user, however, has to shift his entire view over, which moves the windscreen and primary indicators completely out of view.

3D cockpits also take a lot (and I mean a *lot*) of work to get right. As a result, many end up being quite bad (I daresay "ugly") and those that are done well still miss a lot of the detail and information present in a real plane anyway.

But my biggest problem with 3D cockpits is that they make it extremely hard to directly read and interact with instruments. Manipulating controls with the mouse is hit-and-miss, and the details on indicators gets lost completely due to the comparatively low resolution of today's monitors vs real life. Compare the following screenshots to see what I'm talking about:

http://www.tok2.com/home/avionics/msfsx/c172sp-cockpit-cgx1.jpg [tok2.com]
http://cdn.freedownloadsplace.com/screenshots-1024/FlightGear-2.png [freedownloadsplace.com]

Ignoring for the moment that the former has a lot more artistic detail, the 2D cockpit simply has more information because use of the PC screen's resolution is maximized. Each instrument is easier to read, has far more detail, and most likely does a lot more. (I.e., half the buttons aren't just eye candy.)

Re:Graphics artifacts (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#37230576)

Agreed - I love flight sims and hate 3D cockpits. I also hate 2D cockpits that don't have some view that at least gives me a reasonable amount of outside view. Yes, I know a real instrument panel takes up more space than a 19" monitor, but I don't want to have to set up a 14-monitor system to use the thing. Sometimes realism alone isn't the goal - you need to work out the aspects of realism that fit the genre. I wouldn't want a 747 simulator that required 100k pounds of jet fuel to operate either.

Re:Graphics artifacts (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37232056)

Meigs Field doesn't look so great in that first link...

watch out for the simulated fog (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 2 years ago | (#37228770)

watch out for the simulated fog

Wouldn't that just be "fog"...'cause the whole thing's a simulation...

Re:watch out for the simulated fog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37228842)

You simulate someone playing a flight simulator, like in another innovative game [youtube.com] .

Gets better and better (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | more than 2 years ago | (#37228850)

As the years go on, FlightGear gets better and better. I remember when it resembled, graphically, FS95 / FS98 years ago, now it looks so much more realistic, etc... if only they'd fix the damned taxiway textures so turnoffs looked right. That's one thing that never changed in all these years.

Re:Gets better and better (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 2 years ago | (#37231240)

Is the scenery and texturing used open source? If so, just fix it yourself :)

Mars maps please (2)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#37228900)

Can I fly across Mars now? It'd be cool if they could integrate the NASA(?) maps...

Re:Mars maps please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37230470)

Go get X-Plane. They modeled the Mars atmosphere.

Re:Mars maps please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37231722)

Google Orbiter 2010. Nice free spaceflight sim.

Re:Mars maps please (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 2 years ago | (#37232546)

Better yet, just go right here [ucl.ac.uk] . Orbinauts represent - hail probe!

Re:Mars maps please (1)

caseih (160668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37231808)

I think $60 for X-Plane isn't bad, and it comes with Mars maps and special planes for Mars. I'm all about OSS, but X-Plane was one package I bought and am glad I did.

For fuck sake, this is a company (1)

BlackTriangle (581416) | more than 2 years ago | (#37228912)

Not a cult. Do you think some twat some bike the Nike symbol for free?

Re:For fuck sake, this is a company (0)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 2 years ago | (#37229046)

...what?

Re:For fuck sake, this is a company (1)

JonJ (907502) | more than 2 years ago | (#37229814)

Someone commented on the wrong article :P He's probably meaning to comment on the Apple-bike-run-whatever article.

Re:For fuck sake, this is a company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37230006)

I think that was meant to go to Apple (1up) :D

Just stick with MS Flight Sim (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37228930)

Honestly, it's still a pale imitation of MS Flight Sim. Definitely an area where open source fails.

Re:Just stick with MS Flight Sim (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37229588)

Microsoft doesn't even make Flight Simulator anymore.

Re:Just stick with MS Flight Sim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37231234)

Uh, yes they do.

http://www.microsoft.com/games/flight/

Re:Just stick with MS Flight Sim (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37231342)

Uh, no they don't. The new "Flight" [wikipedia.org] product is apparently written from scratch and doesn't use the add-ons of the old Flight Simulator [wikipedia.org] .

Yeah, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37229590)

It still is worth every penny you don't have to pay for it.

Also, when you can do better, I'm sure they appreciate the help.

Re:Just stick with MS Flight Sim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37231830)

Isn't MS Flight Sim less a flight sim and more of a flying game? From what I've read, they've dumbed down the physics and plane models, and put more effort into graphics. Is this not true? (If so, can you cite some unbiased sources? That'd be great. I'd rather have some accurate information than some crap on the internet.)

Re:Just stick with MS Flight Sim (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | more than 2 years ago | (#37234762)

Are graphics of a real-life activity somehow not at all important for a computer simulation to fully, you know, simulate that activity?

You can have the most amazing physics and weather simulation capabilities around, but if the cars in a racing simulation sound like they're being generated by the PC speaker and the graphics look like Pole Position or something, I think that would be pretty damn pathetic now in 2011. IMO, while graphics are not absolutely critical in a simulation, better graphics can only improve the overall feel of the simulation.

To be fair, you also mentioned "dumbing down" the physics and plane models. I'm not exactly a pilot myself so I can't say how realistic it really is, but I do know that the game is totally full of assists and handicaps that are on by default, but can be turned off. I tend to leave many of them on myself, but I want to have fun and relax for a while--not get pissed off and quit in five minutes. So I guess there's the "game vs. simulation" aspect. I prefer game, so I don't turn every assist off (although in a racing game I most certainly do--except for the automatic transmission).

Also, it helps to have things to actually *do* in a simulation, so you don't get bored too easily. Adding objectives might make it more game-like in that you're trying to achieve something, but if you don't like the idea of them don't use them. I don't; I just choose a place to start and go on a peaceful flight wherever the hell I want for a half-hour or so.

Graphics weren't its weak point (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 2 years ago | (#37228952)

Flightgear's weak point was always its usability. Weird proprietary interfaces, be it menus, keyboard inputs, or control system, with little help or even information scent to help you take off or let you explore common options. For example it has always been easier to adjust HUD configuration than it has been to even change to a different aircraft. Lots of tempting screenshots and videos around the net, but very little in the way of guidance as to how to get there.

Re:Graphics weren't its weak point (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37229138)

Yeah, I remember playing it way back (around the turn of the millennium), and it required use of a middle mouse button for some common function. Of course, this was back in the day well before optical or scroll mice were, well, existent, so using it with a 2 button mouse involved hitting both buttons at the same time (and hitting only one button accidentally of course did something you didn't want to do). And it was a common function (maybe accelerating?), too. Terrible interface design.

I don't even remember how I discovered this, since I don't remember there being a manual.

Re:Graphics weren't its weak point (1)

Paul Jakma (2677) | more than 2 years ago | (#37231658)

3 button mice existed long before mice with scroll wheels were common. Unix systems nearly always had 3 button mice, and PC Unix/Linux users usually managed to get their hands on such mice too. (E.g. Logitech made the mice for SGI and for later Sun boxes, and made PS/2 versions). Flightgear of course started out as a Unix/Linux flight sim.

What you're complaining about isn't bad UI design per se, but that you were using a windows port of software designed for Unix user hardware.

Re:Graphics weren't its weak point (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37232198)

No, I was using a Linux native non-port on PC hardware. Which is, generally at least in my experience, what a lot of people have. And when making what is essentially a game, you should aim at what most people have. Yeah, I have an 8-button mouse now, but in 2000 most Linux users (probably) didn't.

Which is one reason Flightgear has never really made a major impact. Or, for that matter, Linux gaming in general.

Re:Graphics weren't its weak point (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#37235764)

Which is one reason Flightgear has never really made a major impact. Or, for that matter, Linux gaming in general.

What, because you were the last person in the world too stingy to go out and buy a mouse with a middle button, and couldn't figure out how to enable ChordMiddle?

Re:Graphics weren't its weak point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37230648)

Not to mention having a few different physics engines to pick from. Some aircraft would have models made in two or three different engines, others just in one. What's the difference between the physics engines? Who cares?

Lame link is lame (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#37229212)

OK, I presume the slashdot editor that posted this ADDED the link to the actual website - for which we're grateful - but why even bother to include the original submitter's link to (presumably his own) blog?

What about Collision Detection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37229218)

What about collision detection? One of the most challenging things about flying is trying to land without killing yourself. Not having collision detection makes FlightGear only a partial simulator.

I hope they have this bug fixed. Realism is being able to fly into buildings (no matter how politically incorrect that now is).

Re:What about Collision Detection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37230482)

What about collision detection? One of the most challenging things about flying is trying to land without killing yourself. Not having collision detection makes FlightGear only a partial simulator.

I hope they have this bug fixed. Realism is being able to fly into buildings (no matter how politically incorrect that now is).

It's not a bug, it's an integral part of the flight simulation. If they enable collision detection that way for rookie pilots it's no longer a flight simulator, it's a crash simulator. And that's what led to 9/11!

best sim ever! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37229242)

at least in my opinion, way to go flight gear team. good job by curt and team :-)

Comparisons? (2)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#37229284)

How does it stack up against X-Plane or MS Flight Sim?

Does it support things like the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke, Pedals and switch panels?

The "features" page doesn't really cover stuff like that.

Re:Comparisons? (2)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | more than 2 years ago | (#37230342)

How does it stack up against X-Plane or MS Flight Sim?

Earlier versions of FlightGear (I haven't used 2.4.x yet) aren't as good as X-Plane or MS Flight Simulator when it comes to graphics or ease of use on a PC. The overall experience has tended to be more polished with X-Plane or FS. I don't know about non-PC (e.g. actual flight simulator hardware), and, again, I don't know about FlightGear 2.4. The other thing is that X-Plane and FS have the better graphics if you can get them to work at all - X-Plane, for example, only gives me white rectangles instead of textured surfaces, probably because of issues with my video card driver. FlightGear works fine on the same setup, though. All in all, YMMV.

As for accuracy of the simulation, I can't really judge, because I don't have a lot of experience flying actual planes. I am told X-Plane, FS, and FlightGear are all very good, though. And certainly all of them are used in professional simulation environments.

Does it support things like the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke, Pedals and switch panels?

FlightGear supports several kinds of joysticks and pedals. Don't know about switch panels. It looks like the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke is supported: https://gitorious.org/fg/fgdata/trees/master/Input/Joysticks/Saitek [gitorious.org]

I guess the best way to figure out if FlightGear works for you is to simply try it out.

Re:Comparisons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37230632)

its better, and free and open!

Re:Comparisons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37230674)

FlightGear 2011 looks worse than MS Flightsim looked in early 2000. Then we have X-Plane, pretty much programmed by _ONE_ person and it which blows all other PC sims out of the water. Now I love OSS and I try to use it when I can but FlightGear really is a pile of crap.

Re:Comparisons? (1)

fat_mike (71855) | more than 2 years ago | (#37234824)

The new version of X-Plane that the ONE person has been developing looks like its going to take Flight Sims to a whole new level. I love MS Flight Simulator and am hoping Microsoft Flight will be as good as advertised but there is nothing, NOTHING that comes close to X-Plane and its community.

PC Based Flight Simulators just dont cut it (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 2 years ago | (#37230794)

I have tried them all and except for IFR (and that is not even that good, but passable, barely ) practice they do a poor job.

And yes, I am a pilot.

I have yet to use one that accurately reflects the maneuvering and performance of a real airplane, not even a Cessna 152 much less a hi performance prop plane like a Mooney or a Bonanza.

I think the basic problem is they but way to much work into "pretty" and not enough work into actual flight dynamics. I will admit that it is hard work to accurately capture that data and for how far they have come they deserve a great deal of credit but they all end being way to much like a video game. Perhaps placing a 4 axis set of accelerometers, control position and rate of control input senors, and engine sensors and recording that data while a plane does maneuvers would help. If someone could come up with the equipment I would be happy to burn a few hours in the air doing all the basic stuff and a few things close to the edge of the envelope to help them work on that particular problem.

Re:PC Based Flight Simulators just dont cut it (1)

caseih (160668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37230894)

The problem with most simulators, including a lot of the engines in X-Plane, is that they are essentially table-driven simulations. They don't compute forces, aerodynamics, and so forth on the fly. The models only fly as realistically as the aircraft designers tune their tables.

Now this is obviously getting off-topic, but I'm very interested in hearing the specifics of your experience with X-Plane. Austin Meyer claims that the X-Plane flight model can be used to simulate certain aircraft very accurately.

Re:PC Based Flight Simulators just dont cut it (1)

caseih (160668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37230936)

I also neglected to add that I find simulators hard to fly because there are no frames of reference. You basically have tunnel vision and only one eye, so it's really hard to look out a window and orient yourself as you might do on a real airplane in VFR. As well, simulators maybe cause on to focus too much on instruments. I've only gone flying once and that was in a small canadian ultralight (US sport class equivalent) and I found that flying in real life was somewhat easier than on the simulator as I had a better sense of reference, if that makes sense.

As well RC flight simulators are much more difficult to fly than a real RC airplane, at least for basic flight, for the same reasons.

Re:PC Based Flight Simulators just dont cut it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37232066)

FlightGear supports a couple different 3d modes if you have 3d glasses ... that can help with the one-eye'd tunnel vision.

Re:PC Based Flight Simulators just dont cut it (2)

grumbel (592662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37232758)

There exist partial solution for that problem, such as TrackIR, which tracks your head movement and thus allows you to look around in the cockpit without awkward keyboard shortcuts. Also most advanced flightsims support multiple monitors, so throwing a bit of money at the problem can help as well.

Re:PC Based Flight Simulators just dont cut it (1)

itismike (582070) | more than 2 years ago | (#37233440)

I used FGFS to practice touch-n-goes during rainy days early in my flight training and also found the frame-of-reference to be a problem - I couldn't look out the window to see when I was abeam the numbers. So I modified my Extreme Pro joystick to use the 'twist' feature as turning the head instead of changing the rudder (since I have pedals) and find it much easier and almost natural to use now. The file I use is located on DropBox as mentioned on this thread: http://www.flightgear.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=9635 [flightgear.org]

Re:PC Based Flight Simulators just dont cut it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37231480)

"The problem with most simulators, including a lot of the engines in X-Plane, is that they are essentially table-driven simulations. They don't compute forces, aerodynamics, and so forth on the fly. The models only fly as realistically as the aircraft designers tune their tables."

That right there tells me that you have no idea what you are talking about. If you're going to spread FUD, at least have a clue. X-plane does not use tables like MSFS does (or at least did). It uses blade element theory. You design your plane and the software break it down into smaller pieces, looks at the aerodynamic forces acting on those pieces, and then figures out how the whole thing is (or isn't!) going to fly. It's not just a bunch of lookup tables. Hell, in the game you can turn on the visual indicators and see the flight model in action.

Re:PC Based Flight Simulators just dont cut it (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37232112)

Essentially what X-Plane does could be considered an extremely crude, low-density real-time CFD (computational fluid dynamics.) The problem is that even extremely well done CFD's that run offline on super computer clusters can't compute all the effects and aerodynamic interactions of an airframe. X-Plane is pretty good for what it does, and it's been tweaked and refined over the years to account for a lot of different effects ... but at the end of the day, "blade element theory" is a fancy word for "really crude CFD".

On the flip side, I don't know why people knock table driven models (except for maybe that Microsoft game them a bad name.) Very serious aeronautical engineers seem to prefer this approach because it's a way you can deterministically represent everything you know about exactly how an airplane behaves.

The problem with things like blade-element theory is that after punching in all the physical geometry of the airplane, if it doesn't fly right what do you do? Basically you start fudging the mass and geometry and using other tricks to try to get it to fly right ... not exactly science.

Blade-element theory might be decent if you have a brand new design and you have no idea how it will fly and you want to see approximately what might happen. But then if you decide to stake your life on the results, good luck to you!

There is a lot of FUD that gets spread about different simulators and how they model flight dynamics.

Here is another thing to consider ... blade element theory is kind of a cookie cutter approach ... it makes many assumptions and often you end up with all the airplanes flying roughly the same, just with the speeds and weights scaled differently. Once you get the hang of flying one of them, all you have to do is scale your basic piloting strategies to the speeds of the other aircraft and you pretty much have them handled. It's really hard to account for specific bad habits and flight regimes that cause specific problems for specific airplanes. Table driven models can actually account for the idiosyncracies of individual aircraft if you know what you are doing.

Remember, table driven models are just as physics based as blade element theory. There is a physics engine at the heart of them that is integrating forces and accelerations and computing velocities and rotations and positions ... all based on accurate physics and sometimes some very advanced numerical integration schemes. The difference is that the tables represent how to compute what the actual forces and moments are in any situation, rather than estimating them the way blade element theory does.

Anyway, I don't want to take away from the effort that X-Plane has put in to creating a nice sim, but much of the hoopla about blade element theory is exactly that ... marketing hoopla that gets repeated over and over and over again so many times I almost want to believe it myself! :-)

Re:PC Based Flight Simulators just dont cut it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37232558)

That's certainly true. However even some of the basic things aren't well modelled. On some planes for instance, you use the fuel pump to build pressure for starting the engine, and turn it back off after pressure is built. But on every flight sim I've tried, the pressure is never maintained (totally inaccurate). In fact, there is plenty of dodginess with the starting procedures in every flight sim I've tried.

Even worse, the air traffic controllers in the sims don't give a damn what you do in the flight sim (there is no concept of controlled airspace), and radio calls are probably totally wrong for every country but US. Airplanes don't really spin properly, and their flight characteristics are generally pretty funny (at least on the single engines I have tested, which most are 3rd party).

Here in AUS, one of our busiest airports in every sim I've tried (Moorabbin), doesn't have critical VFR waypoints (in fact, even ORBX haven't done it properly either last I tried). So yes, for IFR it might work, but VFR, the sims seem totally useless.

But at least there seems to be plenty of accurate cloud sim addons available :/

To get Flight simming back on track:
1) Give the Flight controllers some kind of AI. At the moment, they don't care.
2) Provide a "flight sim addon store" which is integrated, for localised airport procedures and easy access to better models in the routes you want
3) Localise the call procedures, and if you are on the wrong frequency, as in real life and its getting desperate, maybe get ATC to try other common ones. At some airports here in fact, ATC sometimes provides clearances slightly before they are requested (when they aren't busy).
4) Fix startup procedures. The flight models are half of the story, but I wanted to practice startup procedures, which are currently a joke (at least on the models I have tried).Either the planes I fly in real life are rubbish, or Microsoft/Luiminar research has invented a new type of engine starter that is perfect too! No priming needed on X-Plane/FSX
5) More work on the flight models, and on blackouts. When people blackout on these things, time should also accelerate a bit. When things go fuzzy, they also start happening a lot quicker. Currently, it feels as though you still have full control when you black out in these sims.
6) More commonly used aircraft. It's great to add stuff like 747's, etc. But, add some more common planes like the Piper cherokees/archers too. You might attract the "gaming crowd" by adding random jets, but, if you'd like to attract pilots, you need to add planes we actually fly.

And yes, then when you get down to the flight model, that is simply inaccurate too.

Fun flying games? (1)

cooldev (204270) | more than 2 years ago | (#37232052)

A bit off topic, but something that may have broad interest... I'm not at all a hard-core gamer, but gleefully recall being a little kid playing F/A-18 Interceptor and messing around: learning to land on the carrier, and going off-mission to shoot at buildings and do tricks like fly under and around the Golden Gate bridge.

I would love an Oblivion-style open world game where you fly various modern planes and fighter jets and can go off the primary mission to tackle side quests or just mess around. Even better if it's on Earth with some reasonable combination of 3D geometry and satellite imagery.

It would also be nice for the capabilities of the planes and fighter jets to resemble their real-world counterparts, but I care 0% about having the act of flying the plane itself be anything like the real world; simple game-like controls would be fine. Oh, and while I'm at it, ideally it's a modern game with good graphics.

Does anything like this exist? I've played various demos of flying-related games on my PC and XBox 360 and nothing has really clicked.

Re:Fun flying games? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37232722)

Pilotwings goes into that direction, only problem is that the last version for home consoles was on th N64. There also has been a recent one on the 3DS.

i can't even figure out how to take off in fg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37233318)

I can't figure out how to take off in fg. I've read all the docs and howtos and still can't do it

OpenStreetMap tie-in? (1)

Baloo Uriza (1582831) | more than 2 years ago | (#37236148)

I wonder if it's possible to get realistic ground mapping based on OpenStreetMap data.

Re:OpenStreetMap tie-in? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37241512)

http://wiki.flightgear.org/index.php/FAQ#Where_is_the_moving_map.3F

UI Interaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37249130)

Here's what's really needed: Wearable video glasses tied to the Kinect or the Wii positioning system so the pilot can "look out" of the plane just by moving his head.

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