I am trying to run this data through an algorithm called Iterative Snap Rounding (ISR) to reduce this mess of vertices, and for the purpose of this blog article there's one thing you need to know about ISR: it is really, really slow. So for the next few minutes, I figured I'd start poking at some of the issues that came up at the X-Plane Congress in France this summer.
One question that came up was whether/when X-Plane will go 64 bit. Here's my current thinking:
We can't drop 32-bit X-Plane. Too many users have a 32 bit operating system, or a 32-bit CPU. One thing I have been resisting for X-Plane 10 is a ratcheting up of the system requirements to only top-end game machines. While 64 bit is becoming more prevalent and has the potential to be a big win for users who load the sim up with third party add-ons and have a high-end graphics card, plenty of people buy a computer first and then discover X-Plane. Those users will often have a system that is low end (by X-Plane standards).
If we start cranking the system requirements (you have to have 64-bit, you have to have a DX10 class graphics card, you have to have 2 GB of RAM) then more users who might discover X-Plane won't even be able to run the demo, and that will be bad for X-Plane's growth.
So the question is not "when will we switch from 32-to-64 bit" - it is "when will we support both 32 and 64 bit."
I think we will get there during the version 10 run, but I don't think it's that likely that we'll ship 64 bit right out of the box. 64 bit is more of a performance enhancement* than a new feature. The features we have strong motivation to get into 10.0 are:
- Anything that raises the system requirements, because we don't want to raise system requirements after we ship in a free update.
- Anything that enhances the authoring SDK, where it might be useful for authors to know that every version of X-Plane 10 has a feature.
- Of course, we want to ship any feature that looks really good and gets people excited.
- Foundation features that support other featuers have to go in first. So some enhancements that will ship in 10.0 are there because without them other tech couldn't be rolled out.
(At this point I expect the various 64-bit OS users who have been asking for a 64-bit app for years to flame the heck out of me and point out that I am a cranky old bastard who doesn't realize that 64 bit is now everywhere and totally pervasive and that this is therefore the most important thing we could possibly do. Before you dig in, hang on one second, let me put on my asbestos flame-retardant jacket. Okay...fire away. :-)
Oops...ISR just finished...with a seg fault. Gotta go!
* As a performance enhancement, 64 bit is a weird one; because a 64-bit app uses more memory for pointer-based structures, the same data structures become larger, thrashing on-chip caches more. The real benefit to 64 bits is to allow X-Plane to use more than 3 GB of physical RAM.