Andy Colebourne Takes Over AC3D Plugin Development

As some of you know, it was my plan to end-of-life the AC3D exporter for X-Plane; the decision was based on having limited resources to develop exporters.

The good news is: Andy Colebourne of Inivis has taken over development of the plugin, and has released the latest version of it – you can find it here. I am linking our download page to his forum link for easy access.

The AC3D plugin shares OBJ import/export code with WED and the rest of the Laminar Research C++ tools; my goal is to not break Andy’s work when working on WED. We use this code not only for WED object preview and the AC3D plugin, but for internal tools that pack up art for the iPhone version of X-Plane, so hopefully there will be some good leverage between the AC3D plugin and other Laminar scenery tools.

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Posted in Development, News, Tools | 12 Comments

X-Plane 10.50 Release Candidate on Steam, WED Soon

First, X-Plane 10.50 release candidate one is now available to Steam users.

X-Plane 10.50 release candidate 2 should be out Monday for DVD and digital download users, and a few days after that on Steam. I am hoping that 10.50 rc2 will be the final build. See the release notes – the list of bug fixes in RC2 is already posted.

If you know of a bug and it is not marked as fixed in RC2, file a bug ASAP.

For users who are having problems with real weather: we are still looking into this, but the problem looks intermittent and may be a problem with the servers. We are trying to gather more diagnostics, but whenever we try to reproduce it, the servers have a good day. (These are not our servers, they are NOAA.)

Finally, we have the code done for WorldEditor 1.5 beta 2 – Ted’s fixing his last few bugs and I am hoping to cut that Monday or Tuesday.

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Posted in News | 18 Comments

More Airports in X-Plane 10.51

Our original plan for adding more X-Plane scenery gateway airports to 10.50 was to add two batches: one at the beginning of beta and one at the end.

We are changing that plan – I think our new plan is going to be an X-Plane 10.51, a week or two after 10.50 goes final, with new airports.

The reason to wait is that X-Plane 10.50 is further along than WED 1.5 – we have an RC for X-Plane but we’re still on beta 1 for WED.

New airports uploaded for X-Plane need to come from WED 1.5 (for both new features and much stronger validation checks) but they also need to come from a better tested WED 1.5. So we’ll wait for WED to be a little bit more mature.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: don’t panic if your airport isn’t going to be ready; X-Plane 10.51 will not be the last time we add more airports to X-Plane.

For now if you are working on an X-Plane 10.50-compatible airport my suggestion is:

  • Use WED 1.5 beta 1 and X-Plane 10.50 rc 1.
  • Don’t upload to the gateway yet.
  • Do test your airport and report bugs against WED and X-Plane – especially X-Plane.

I will post here when we have a WED that we think is solid enough to upload airports with.

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Posted in Development, News, Scenery | 24 Comments

X-Plane 10.50 Release Candidate One Is Out – Steam Soon

X-Plane 10.50r1 is out – we should have a Steam build some time this week depending on when people can get it uploaded to the servers.

For users seeing missing runways when flying, we will have a special build for you to try soon if you filed a bug report.

If you are working on a WED 1.5 airport layout, please re-try your AI traffic in 10.50.

The release notes have a complete fix list.

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Posted in Development, News | 23 Comments

A Few Quick Notes On Bugs Fixed

The next beta will be out in a day or two, and it will be 10.50 release candidate 1 – that is, I’ve just finished off the last few bugs holding us back. A few quick bug notes:

  • Beta 7 has a major bug in how AI airplanes can park at airports – this should be fixed in the RC, resolving a lot of confusion by authors.
  • The KLAX tall-buildings-in-the-approach path are fixed – this is an art fix.
  • Alignment of water reflections with the terrain is slightly better.

On this last bug, three things can go wrong with the water reflections, and only one of them is fixed:

  1. The Earth is round, but X-Plane has to pick an arbitrary flat plane to pick as “the water”. If this flat plane isn’t pretty close to the triangles where the reflection is closest to land, then this can cause error.
  2. Similarly, since the Earth is round, any time the water isn’t perfectly flat, weird stuff happens.  This is normally not a problem, but sometimes if airports have been flattened this can cause crazy reflections.
  3. There was a small permanent offset in the reflection noise texture, partly due to mipmap rounding error and partly due to a 0.19% rounding error.

This last one is what’s fixed in 10.50 and it should remove small errors where the reflection plane is picked right in (1) and there isn’t goofy shaped water (2) – which is to say, it should help some of the time.

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Posted in Development | 33 Comments

X-Plane 10.50 Beta 7 and Airports with Static Aircraft

X-Plane 10.50 beta 7 is out. There are a few fixes that I hope make this finally a “solid beta”: no more flashing airport lights during the day, normal maps back on aircraft, and liveries should work correctly.

We have a fix in the works for tall buildings blocking the approach path at KLAX; I’m hoping to get that into beta 8 some time next week.

Creating New Apt.Dat Layouts

WED 1.5 beta 1 is out; please do not upload revised airports with WED 1.5 yet. If there are still bugs in X-Plane’s handling of the new apt.dat data, then you have no way of knowing what your airport will look like after we fix those bugs.

X-Plane 10.50 adds a new rule: AI aircraft will not be born or land at airports where there isn’t a parking spot wide enough for the aircraft to park. So if you have an airport with a 11,000 foot runway and no size-E or F parking spots, the 747 would have landed in 10.45 but will not land in 10.50.

AI aircraft will land even if the parking spots don’t match the needed aircraft type – in other words, if you have a size E parking spot for helicopters only, the 747 will still land (and try to park there). Here’s why I didn’t stop this case: without static aircraft, the equipment codes on parking spots is likely to have errors; it’s hard to know you get everything right. So if we start requiring equipment code matches to land an aircraft, we may end up with no AI aircraft at lots of airports.

Once static aircraft have been deployed and authors update their airports to use them, the equipment codes should become much more accurate, and at that point we can prevent the AI from landing if it can’t find an equipment code match on a parking spot.

We also do not limit landing by taxi route width; the assumption is that if you have a width-E parking spot, you have a width-E route to the active runway somewhere on your layout.

Starting with beta 7, you can now debug ATC AI placement decisions by setting the art control atc/debug/log_spawn to 1. After it is set, future spawning decisions will be heavily logged under the “ATC” log tag. If an AI isn’t placed at an airport, you’ll see exactly why.

Note that currently the takeoff/landing requirements for the aircraft tend to be inaccurate. (They are computed from some properties of the aircraft, not flight testing.)

Flow Problems

From my examination of the small set of airports that I run across while debugging (with something like 3000 airports, I am at best “sampling” the gateway airports), it appears that authors don’t understand how ATC flows work. We’re working on new documentation to try to explain this, and I’m thinking that some very basic flow errors could be caught by WED. For example, I saw one airport that had this in WED:

Airport XXXX
   Flow "east/west"
     Runway Use: 9 (arrivals, departures)
     Runway use: 27 (arrivals, departures)

This is almost certainly a mistake. This is a single flow for the airport that says “when this airport is in east/west mode, aircraft may take off or depart from either runway 9 or 27!”  In other words, airplanes can use the runway from either direction at the same time.

I know of no real-world example where this actually happens, and if there is one, it has to be super-rare. The author probably meant to do this:

Airport XXXX
  Flow "east"
    Wind rule: wind must be coming from the east
    Runway rule: 9 (arrivals, departures)
  Flow "west"
    Wind rule: wind must becoming from the west
    Runway rule: 27 (arrivals, departures)

In this case, the airport is using either 9 or 27, but not both at the same time. A few things to remember about flows:

  • Only one flow is ever in use at a single time. That’s why a flow can have more than one runway.
  • All of the runways within a flow are in use at the same time when that flow is in use. So never put conflicting runways in a flow!
  • X-Plane picks the flow by looking at your flows in the order you put in WED. It takes the first flow where all of the restriction rules (time, wind, visibility) can be met. So put the ‘preferred’ operations for your airport first in the list.
  • If you have more than one rule of a type, only one must be passed. So for example, you can have a “rush hour” flow with two time rules, and it will be picked if either is picked. So you can make morning and evening. Similarly, you can make a wind rule for “strong from the east” and “calm wind” and if either is picked, the flow is picked.
  • If you provide no rule for a category, the flow is never disqualified by that rule. So if you have no time rule, the flow can be picked at any time.

Here’s two more art controls:  atc/debug/rwy_flow debugs how X-Plane picks its flow – turn it on and then go to your airport and you can see in the Log why the flow was picked. atc/debug/rwy_selection shows how a runway was picked for an airplane given an existing flow.

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Posted in Air Traffic Control, Development, News | 58 Comments

WED 1.5b1 is out now!

The first beta for World Editor 1.5 is now available to download.

This version features numerous bug fixes, along with major improvements to make editing airports easier and faster by providing more visual clues. It’s also the first 64-bit version of WED!

Some highlights of this version include:

You can see the full list of bug fixes, improvements and new features in the README.WorldEditor file found in your downloaded WED folder.

Please try the latest version as soon as you can and let us know if you find any bugs by filing a report on the Scenery Tools tab of the Gateway (not the desktop bug reporter for once!).

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Posted in Development, News, Tools | 31 Comments

X-Plane 10.50 Beta 6 – Moar Bug Fixes

X-Plane 10.50 Beta 6 is now live. Here’s the full notes. As always, please report bugs via the bug reporter, not in the blog comments. (And if you blog about a bug in the forum, you might as well be reporting it to your cat – we do not have the resources to scrub dozens of forums for bug reports! You are welcome to discuss bug with other users in forums, but if everyone assumes someone else is going to write the actual report, X-Plane stays borked.)

A few high profile fixes:

  • The black texture/crash loading airplanes bug is fixed (again – hopefully!). If you see any pitch black textures, crashes loading aircraft, or cryptic error messages about “negative reference counts”*, please report this ASAP!
  • I found a race condition in the art asset loader. This is the kind of thing that would cause a crash very rarely, but the results would be inexplicably bad when they did happen. So that was exciting.
  • A bunch of random crashes that we found by the auto reporter are all fixed. If you are on Windows and X-Plane 10 crashes, please click the auto-report – while we don’t have time to look at every crash report, we can look at the highest frequency crash reports and fix them, so complete data really helps.

Async ATC

For X-Plane 10.50 I restructured the code that loads ATC “controller cabs” (that’s the simulation of the actual control tower, and it contains the data X-Plane needs to route AI aircraft on the ground) to be fully asynchronous. In X-Plane 10.45, building cabs can cause the sim to stutter for up to 1/4 of a second as the cabs are loaded.

What I discovered last week is that while I had written the code, I hadn’t actually included it in 10.50. So it’s in beta 6; I’ll keep an eye on the automatic crash reporter; this is the kind of thing that is supposed to go into beta 1 (so that once we are stable, the sim stays stable), but it’s also a key fix.

The new ATC controller cab loading code is stutter free. But – please do not report “the sim stutters” as a bug. The rest of the sim is not guaranteed to be stutter free; it depends on the scenery you use, the rendering settings, your hardware, etc. Until we have evaluated everything the sim does while flying and rewritten everything that can stutter, we don’t guarantee locked fps and smooth flight. The rewrite to ATC controller cabs is a big victory (we also removed a stutter for pro customers using USB keys and made the static aircraft stutter free) but there is still more to do.

Becoming completely stutter free using multi-core is a long term goal that we need to keep making strides toward, but it’s not a “do it in one patch” kind of thing.

Third party developers – please try your aircraft on beta 6! If the black texture bug really is fixed then our bug list is now very short, and the beta won’t last much longer. Please make sure your add-on works, so that you don’t find out about bugs after we go final.

 

* For the programming nerds reading, when it became clear from automatic crash reporting that we had a reference counting bug that was causing crashes, I made the reference count sanity check assertion run in full release builds, so we could get a guaranteed reliable crash and auto-report instead of depending on all hell breaking loose due to doubly-freed objects.

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Posted in Development, News | 30 Comments

X-Plane 10.50 Beta 5 Is Out

Note: beta 5 came out before the long weekend and then I managed to not publish the announcement. Sorry about that! Since the original writing of this it has become clear that only some of the no-texture objects were fixed, and the throttle reversers are borked. Beta 6 should be out in a day or two addressing both.

Update: just to clarify, since this post kind of freaked people out: We are not closing off the scenery system. We are not changing or hiding any file formats. We are not removing any scenery tools. If you’re using a supported part of the scenery system now, you can keep doing what you are doing.

X-Plane 10.50 beta 5 is here – see the release notes for a complete list of bug fixes. There are some big bug fixes here including a few big ones:

  • Fix for fuel consumption (which was tied to the number of physics cycles you had set).
  • Fix for backward control surfaces (which was intermittent based on what aircraft you had loaded before).
  • Black textures and crashes loading airplanes are now fixed. (This case was getting hit only when the right combination of untextured objects was used.)
  • Fixed some crashes loading scenery.

On this last bug: it looks like the w2xp “net” sceneries are responsible for virtually all of the crash on scenery load bugs I’ve seen in beta 5. The problem is that w2xp doesn’t pre-process and sanitize raw OSM data before sending it into the sim; the result is that a small number of weird OSM roads are causing a cascade of ever-weirder data in the rendering engine, eventually resulting in a crash.

I’ve gone to the extraordinary step of programming X-Plane to attempt to clean up the road data on DSF load. You’ll see a log warning with w2xp net scenery when this happens telling how many road chains had to be deleted. Even with this, I can’t guarantee that there isn’t some OSM data out there, when dumped directly into the simulator, that won’t crash.

I’m not sure what the long term fix to this is, but it did make me question our scenery strategy. We’ve always tried to keep the scenery system open, and I think it’s fantastic to see third party developers doing things that we’ve never done with X-Plane. But I also don’t know how we can guarantee X-plane’s stability when this kind of unmetered low level access to the rendering engine is provided.

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Posted in Development, News | 33 Comments

X-Plane 10.50 Beta 3 is Dead, Long Live Beta 4

My son is five and he really wants to participate in conversations at dinner. “Daddy, what are you talking about?”

So I tried to explain to him that we had worked all week to get X-Plane 10.50 beta 3 ready and that we wanted it to be really good, and then at the last minute we discovered it was broken, so we had to go back and fix it and try again.

Gabe: What are you going to do if it’s broken again?

Me: Probably cry.

Gabe: No!  Daddy, you’re not going to do that! I said no joking!

Me: No, I’m being totally serious. I’m going to sit down in that corner and wimper with my head in my hands.

X-Plane 10.50 beta 3 fixed a lot of big bugs – several crash bugs fixed, etc. It unfortunately also had a small problem where it wouldn’t start without blowing up. (This one got by us because it only happens at some airports, and it requires a clean release machine to see- it doesn’t happen on developer machines or some of the more heavily loaded installs that Jennifer tests with. The breaking change also went in late in the game, and thus missed screening.)

So we turned around beta 4, and if it’s unusable, I’ll have to reconsider my life choices.

Crash Fixes!

We fixed three high profile crashes in X-Plane 10.50 beta 3 (now available to you without brain damage in beta 4):

  1. Crashing at DSF load time if a DSF mesh has a crack in it.Apparently some G2XPL-made meshes have tiny hairline cracks in them. They’re almost impossible to see but they were enough to crash the road code. DSF mesh cracks are illegal (per the DSF spec) but X-Plane now handles them anyway; I don’t think anyone wants to stop using this category of scenery.
  2. Crashes reading real weather when the .grib2 files are missing on Windows. I’m not sure of all of the different ways this was happening, but it should be fixed.
  3. There was a memory scribble in the scenery loading code for some scenery pack configurations.

That last one is in its own category of badness. A memory scribble is when a piece of X-Plane code just goes off and writes over random memory (in X-Plane’s memory space – X-Plane can’t splat the memory of other apps on your computer). Once this happens, pretty much anything can explode at any times ,and often it does.

We can’t know how many of the crashes we were seeing via auto-reporting were due to the scribble, so:

  • Please do get X-Plane 10.50 beta 4!
  • If you reported a crash bug and you still are getting a crash in beta 4, please re-report it.
  • Please keep on auto-reporting crash bugs on Windows and Linux – this is hugely helpful. The auto-crash reporter gives us a statistical picture of what’s going on with the beta.

Scenery and Aircraft Authors: I think 10.50 beta 4 should be stable enough to look at your add-ons; airport lights should be fixed and working normally, scenery should not be crashing, and missing taxiways are fixed.

Scenery authors in particular: 10.50 contains extensive changes to the rendering engine under the hood, so please take a careful look at your scenery packs and make sure they haven’t mysteriously changed in how they look compared to 10.45.

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Posted in Development, News | 61 Comments