Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Gone Fishin'

I'll be out of the office for the next eight days; please be patient with bug reports and scenery questions. An X-Plane RC should come out soon and we'll let it sit a bit to see how it does. I think we got the fog bug fixed!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Disappearing Objects Take 3

In version 840 I tried to fix a persistent bug in X-Plane where objects sometimes randomly disappear...turns out I got the math wrong.

The next 840 beta (which I think will be called "RC1", but I am a poor predictor of these things) has a bug fix to the bug fix. I don't know how many of these bugs this will fix (some appear to be due to driver issues) but I think we'll be closer.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The data wants to be free!

I try to avoid politics in this blog, but this article that Jonathan Harris posted to the scenery list is pretty topical to X-Plane.,,1726985,00.html

Of course I am biased - low-cost high quality data (SRTM, Tiger, etc.) make it possible for a small company like X-Plane to create high quality scenery. But I would also add two more thoughts:

1. Knowledge is crucial to the healthy functioning of a democracy. Without good digital maps, you can't apply modern tools to understanding regional trends, environmental problems, electoral districts, etc. Knowledge shouldn't just be for the rich (or big companies).

2. Geospatial data is infrastructure - free or cheap GIS data make a country a better place to do business. I think in this global economy every national government needs to be asking "what are we doing to make sure our citizens will be competitive on a global level." There's no question that having good roads and transportation infrastructure are important for a national economy, but I would submit that having good digital infrastructure will become important too; in that context it's appropriate for a government to make the data free (and take the local loss in the providing agency) to foster growth, employment, and the well-being of its citizens.

Just my 0.02...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

apt.dat - a fundamental shift

Long time no post - it's been a busy few weeks, helping friends with projects and traveling. There have been some lively discussions on the scenery list though!

I've been tossing around the idea for a fundamental change in the way the apt.dat format handles metadata. It's subtle but I think it has some far-reaching implications.

Right now the apt.dat format is pretty high level. Let's use taxiways as an example: a taxiway has a light code that indicates whether the taxiway has blue edge lights. This has two effects:
1. The information about whether the taxiway has lights is preserved.
2. You can't put blue edge lights down without a taxiway.

I am exploring the idea of entirely separating edge-lights/lines* from taxiways. This would mean that:
1. We'd have no idea about whether the taxiway has lights. There may happen to be lights nearby, but we can't be sure of where they come from and
2. We can put lights anywhere.

The shift is fundamental because it is reducing the amount of high level data and increasing file size in return for gaining flexibility with a simple system.

Anyway, email me if you have thoughts on for thought.

* The exception will be runways. We will be supporting all existing data in the apt.dat format - nothing's geting dropped, and there isn't a real replacement for runways. Generally runways will still be built by saying "this is a runway and these are it's many properties" and letting the sim do the rest.