X-Plane 10.30 Beta 7 Is Out – Fixes Scenery Load Issues

X-Plane 10.30 beta 7 (finally) went live this morning.*  More bug fixes made it in, and the bug in the airport library that was stopping so many scenery packs from loading is now fixed.

* The master server was busy doing a backup and thus took forever to push out the beta to the download sites – I actually cut the beta Sunday night.  I ended up pausing the backup temporarily but not until we’d lost a day.

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X-Plane 10.30 Beta 6 – a Hilights Real

X-Plane 10.30 beta 6 is out; as with the entire 10.30 beta 6 run, complete release notes are here.  The release notes are meant to be a complete reference; what follows is a few of the major things you might notice in beta 6 (if you’ve managed to update).

Frame Rate

Beta 6 fixes a major performance problem from the X-Plane 10 betas.  Beta 6 also sets the cloud graphic settings to match 10.25, so at this point 10.30 should be as fast or faster than 10.25 in all cases.

Airports

We used the X-Plane Airport Gateway to consolidate over 750 airports that users sent to Robin since X-Plane 10.25.  These updates include over 300 new airports and hundreds of updates. You’ll get these lego-brick airports automatically with the update.

I’ll post more about the gateway in a future post, but I believe that at this point WED 1.3 and the gateway are ready to go into beta shortly.

Please do not send any more airport updates to Robin; the gateway will go into beta soon, and we’d like to use it to collect all future changes.  (You can only imagine how much work it was for Robin to gather up 750 airports by hand!  We imported them into the gateway ourselves to test the gateway and get control of the process.)

GPS In the Default Aircraft

With beta 6 we now have the new GPS in the C172, the Kingair, and the Baron; all have the full res GPS in the 3-d cockpit, and the Kingair even gives you dual GPSs.

Still More On the Todo List

There’s still more bugs to fix.  On the top of my list is fixing bugs with the cloud visuals, and with their base height (which sometimes doesn’t match what you set in the weather settings).  I am also working on getting a few majorly borked DSFs fixed in the next beta (Sydney, Rio, etc.).  I’m hoping for another beta by Tuesday, which will also fix the auto update bug.

Where to File Bugs

I say something about filing bugs using the bug report form in every post, and yet readers try to post bugs on the blog.  Since writing “don’t do that” in each post clearly doesn’t work, I’m going to try it using the Swedish Chef translator.

Fur zee lufe-a ooff ell thet is mooppet, pleese-a du nut pust boog repurts tu thees blug. Pleese-a use-a zee boog repurt furm – a furm dedeeceted tu nutheeng boot…boog repurts. Iff yuoo pust a boog repurt tu zee blug, I veell delete-a it. Bork Bork Bork!

So…you have been warned – keep posting bug reports to the blog comments and things will only get sillier.

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How To Update X-Plane 10.30 Beta 5 to X-Plane 10.30 Beta 6

I just discovered that apparently automatic update is broken in X-Plane 10.30 beta 5.*  If you are participating in the X-Plane 1030 beta program, then when you receive an automatic notification of a newer beta, then installing the beta will fail with an error number 2 or 3 (depending on what OS you are on).

Update: many users are not affected by this problem.  The reason: older auto-updates leave the installer in the right place, so this bug only hits you if you haven’t done a recent, functional auto-update, e.g. from beta 1 to beta 2.  Since my X-System folder was relatively clean (due to my recent C drive face-plant) this bug did hit me.

If you see this bug, here is how you can work around this.

  1. Launch X-Plane.  When X-Plane tells you there is a new beta, click “Get Beta”.
  2. When the installer downloads, click “Update”.
  3. When you hit the error message, click “ok”.
  4. When X-Plane finishes launching, quit.
  5. Go to your Output/preferences folder and locate the installer.  It will have a name “X-Plane 10 Installer.app” on Mac, “X-Plane 10 Installer Windows.exe” on Windows, and “X-Plane 10 Installer Linux” on Linux.
  6. Move the installer out of Output/preferences directly into your X-Plane folder, so that it is next to the X-Plane application.
  7. Re-launch X-Plane.  When X-Plane tells you there is a new beta, click “Get Beta”.
  8. At this point, auto-update will work normally.

A few notes on beta 6 coming shortly…

* There are two things that are particularly annoying about this kind of bug: first, you can’t just get an auto-update to get the bug fix, because auto-update itself is broken, and second, because we didn’t find out that auto-update was broken until shipping beta 6, the bug is still in beta 6, so it’ll take another update to fix it.  However, you will only need to use this ‘fix-it’ procedure once.

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Fixing X-Plane 10.30 Performance

This week I received my new PC, set it up, and was able to actually look at 10.30 performance problems with AMD hardware on the Catalyst 13-9 drivers.  With the actual “problematic” configuration (and a hard drive that wasn’t barfing up sectors like an infant with reflux) it only took about 15 minutes to find the actual problem.

Which was…face palm…a GL drawing code path that I had disabled during private testing (due to low performance) was actually not disabled at all due to a lack of parenthesis.  So I’m an idiot.

What’s interesting is the relative effects of this code path on multiple platforms.

  • On OS X, this code path runs at pretty much full speed, so having it in the beta didn’t reveal any actual problems.  Hence while my PC was dead, my few attempts to reproduce the reported behavior on my Mac totally failed.
  • The code path is slower on both Nvidia 331.88 drivers and AMD 14-4 drivers.  But…1030′s basic performance is faster than 10.25, so the two canceled out, yielding somewhat reasonable looking fps tests.  That’s why when I asked Philipp to try to reproduce things on an NVidia windows box, he told me things didn’t look broken.
  • On the AMD 13-9 drivers, the code path is absolute death.  I believe that this is where the majority of bug reports were coming from.
  • The actual total performance win from 10.25 to 10.30 appears to be quite a bit bigger on NVidia hardware than AMD hardware. For some reason, one of the modernization changes in 1030 is more important for NV than AMD.  I don’t know what the specific changes that are helping are – the goal of 1030 is to simply use the best code paths we can find.

Here’s an excerpt from my performance testing numbers – this is with fps test 3 with the 747 replay.  The hardware for the test is a GeForce 680 GTX and a Radeon HD 7970.  Expect better fps with the NV card – it’s a generation newer than the AMD card.  Numbers are framerate, probably good +/- 1 fps.

Driver/hw   10.25       10.30b5      10.30b6 (fixed)
NV 331.88   34          34           42
AMD 13-9    28          11           30
AMD 14-4    27          28           29

So you can see here that on better functioning drivers (331.88, 14-4) even with the performance problems of 10.30b5 the net change in framerate from 10.25 was positive. But once I remove the stupid code path, things get a lot better.

That 11 fps in 10.30b5 with 13-9 is the bad code path behaving badly.  That will be fixed in the next beta.

I am hoping that this code path is also responsible for the remaining “low fps in local map” reports, but I haven’t confirmed that yet.

Your Mileage Will Vary

One of the problems with performance testing is that X-Plane’s content varies by add-ons, so how much the problems with 10.30b5 affect you will have a lot to do with which aircraft you fly. This is why some users already thought 10.30 was a win over 10.25 performance wise, and others thought the build was totally unusable.  How much speedup you get will depend on the kind of content you use.

AMD: What Drivers Should I Use

The 14-4 drivers are slightly slower than the 13-9 drivers for either shipping X-Plane 10.25 or 10.30b6 (not yet released).  I believe this represents a fundamental (small) loss of performance with the newer drivers. The loss is actually smaller than it looks if you view the raw fps numbers with fractions, and the precision for the tests isn’t better than 1 fps.

If you can run the 14-4 drivers you should – they fix a bug in sRGB blending with HDR that makes the 13-9 drivers look rather weird with HDR mode.

If you are stuck on the 13-9 drivers because you have old hardware (the oldest GPU the new drivers support is the HD 6000 series – so if you have the HD 5870 or older you need the older drivers) at least 10.30b6 will improve performance.

Clouds Are Their Own Performance Problem

The other big performance problem that I am aware of besides this one is that clouds use a lot more fill rate than they used to.  This is my next bug to try to fix – it is totally separate from this one, and affects all platforms.  My goal is to get the clouds to use the same fill rate as they did in 10.25.  That work isn’t done yet, but at least now I have hardware to work on.

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X-Plane 10.30 Beta 5 Is Out

It should fix the crash on startup for 32-bit Mac that was in beta 4.

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X-Plane 10.30 Beta 4 Is Out

A few notes on beta 4, which went live today:

  • Austin fixed a bunch of METAR parsing bugs.  As before, please include the METAR and airport any time there is a METAR parsing issue.  There were a few common cases that were broken in beta 3 that caused most of the bug reports, so we should be in better shape now.
  • Philipp fixed a pile of bugs.
  • I did not.  My C drive died again, and I am ordering a new PC now.  So unfortunately I can’t look at AMD or Windows performance bugs until I get new hardware.
  • This build contains a rework of our cylindrical projection code – this is a feature that our Pro key enables; we’ve been working with customers for a while now to design the new system.  We’ll be working out the kinks over the rest of beta.

One last note on METARs: when X-Plane finds a METAR with “unlimited” visibility (e.g. 9999, CAVOK, etc.) it will look at the temperature-dewpoint spread to determine the humidity, and then pick a visibility distance that is lower when humid and higher when dry.  So under truly dry conditions you should get a less hazy view, while visibility will continue to be constrained on humid days.

Update: the 32-bit Mac version of beta 4 won’t run due to a build configuration problem. We’re working on it now, but I’m guessing it will be 36 hours before we get beta 5 posted. :-(

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X-Plane 10.30 Beta 3 Is Out

Beta 3 just went live.  Release notes are still here – the document grows!  When the beta is done I’m going to have it printed and use it as a weapon to squash house flies.  Bug reporter is still here.  Bug reporter is still not the comments section in this post.*

The short summary is: Philipp crushed a huge pile of GPS bugs, and I crushed none of the cloud-related bugs.  So please read the bug fix list carefully before you report.  We try to make sure there’s a bug list bullet for every single fix in the beta, so that you don’t have to waste your time (or ours!) re-reporting a bug that isn’t fixed.  If you reported (hypothetically :-) that cloud performance makes you weep (and not in a good way), there’s no need to re-report, I haven’t gotten to it yet.

If you have not tested your payware add-on with X-Plane 1030, please do so ASAP!  We do not have a pile of known issues with third party drawing, so if you see something, say something.  (We have a number of possible bugs that aren’t reproducible yet – so your bug report might be what lets us get to the bottom of things efficiently.  Only you can prevent forest fires!)

* This post comes with an extra helping of snarkiness…Chris and I made the really poor decision to try to debug part of the X-Plane airport gateway deployment from 11:30 PM to 3:30 AM land night.  Since we both have small children who didn’t get the memo and woke up at their normal time, I am, at this point, pretty much unaware of what I am typing.

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X-Plane 10.30 Beta 2 is out

I’m a little slow at blogging this, but 10.30 beta 2 is out – beta 1 users received an auto-update notice.

Please report bugs here.  Starting now I am going to delete comments that are bug reports.  I really can’t be any more clear about this: please report bugs in the bug report form and not on the blog post.*

The release notes are here.  I broke up the bug fix section by beta so you can see what is new in beta 2.

I have already received reports that the “fix” to the slow local map is not actually a fix at all. Unfortunately my C drive lost sectors (again) so I am behind in investigating both this and general performance complaints.  I’ll need to rebuild the machine before I can get to these things.

* Why am I being such a jerk about this?  Two reasons:

  1. I don’t want bug reports to get lost.  Sending me a private email, posting on a blog, etc. — these are all recipes for bugs to get lost.
  2. Efficiency.  I just spent an hour triaging X-Plane 10.30 bug reports and that was only bugs that actually went into the bug reporter.  Those are the fastest bugs to triage because we have an efficient system to deal with them.  Every bug that is in the wrong place takes twice as long for me to deal with.

So bugs posted to forums, blogs, email, these are at best slowing down the beta process and at worst getting lost.  (Especially forums – since I don’t read them, they are by definition lost.)

And as a final rant: emailing with “should I file a bug about X” is inefficient for everyone. It takes as long for you to write the email as to file the bug.  It takes us time to read the email, answer, then get the bug.  Just file the bug!

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Some Notes From Beta 1

The next X-Plane 10.30 beta should be out tonight (or maybe tomorrow morning); the release notes are already updated with the latest fixes, and we’re just waiting on upload.

There were some “boneheaded” bugs in beta 1 – things that just didn’t work, should have worked, and were easily fixed; we have addressed all of those that were reported for beta 2.  Despite about half a dozen boneheaded bugs, I actually think the quality of public beta 1 – relative to the amount of source change – was pretty strong.  Remember that 10.30 has perhaps 2x the amount of code change of a normal major patch, so if there isn’t too much nuclear then I think we’re doing okay.

Aircraft Authors: please test beta 2!  I think we may be able to keep 10.30′s beta period down to 4 weeks, which is a lot shorter than normal.  And the remaining bugs are all in clouds and performance, so please do not wait to test your aircraft.  Eugeny contacted me on problems with the A320 Neo on beta 1, and we have X-Plane fixed for beta 2. Don’t wait!

Performance: there have been all sorts of performance comments from users.  I think there are three separate things going on:

  1. For general use, X-Plane 10.30 is faster than 10.25.
  2. X-Plane 10.30′s clouds are definitely slower/more fill rate intensive than 10.25.
  3. There’s something wrong with some combination of AMD drivers and 10.30 that can cause total framerate death.

I am investigating both points 2 and 3, but neither are fixed for beta 2; we wanted to get some of the stupid things fixed ASAP (e.g. the ATIS not working).

To make matters worse, my PC’s SATA controller seems to have finally lost it’s mind. Philipp had to cut the Windows build, and this has halted me from investigating AMD performance problems.  (In my initial tests I couldn’t repro anything but now I’m stuck.)

Clouds: The other area of bug fixing on my plate that simply isn’t addressed in beta 2 is the cloud locations; several users have correctly reported that the bases of the clouds are simply not where they expect.  Since there is an unfortunate link between rendering settings and fixing this bug (if the puffs we use to visualize clouds change, it effectively moves the cloud bases) I have to fix both cloud performance and cloud bases at the same time.

The expected behavior for the clouds, I think, is that if you set a stratus layer with no storms and fly an ILS, you should “break out” (that is, make visual contact with the runway environment) right around the elevation set in the weather screen.  (This is not what is happening now, which is why there is an open bug.)  If you set more ‘creative’ weather, X-Plane will start to vary things and you won’t get “reliable” break-outs.

METARs: One last note on weather: if you find that X-Plane has misinterpreted a METAR (and my sympathy is with X-Plane, because METARs just contain the most random stuff in them sometimes), then please be sure to include in your bug report:

  1. The actual METAR.rwx file!  No METAR file, no way we can possibly debug.  To everyone who has sent METAR files, thank you!
  2. The location of the aircraft.  A fairly precise latitude/longitude, or a FIX or navaid that you are over is good.  The easiest is when you are at an airport and can send us an ICAO code.
  3. A description of what weather you actually got.

X-Plane 10.30 does have a new METAR parser so we’re trying to catch the bugs.

Airports and DSFs: we are looking at including both some fixed DSFs and additional 3-d airports in 10.30.  Both depend on the tech being ready; the airport gateway is in the deployment phase and if it goes smoothly, we could be ready to post airports.  I’m still trying to get to the bottom of DSF bugs, but I am close.  If either of these content updates miss 10.30, we’ll release them in a small patch as soon as possible.

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X-Plane 10.30 Public Beta 1 Is Available

The first public beta of X-Plane 10.30 is here.  To get it, go to update an installation of X-Plane and click the “get betas” check-box of the X-Plane installer or demo installer.  (As this is a first beta, you should probably run 10.30 on a copy of your main X-Plane folder; it’s premature to run 10.30 as your main install.)

Release notes here.  Bug reporter here.  Do not report bugs on the blog comments.

We do not read the various third party X-Plane forums.  If you find a bug and you discuss it on the org or avsim or fs.com for 10 pages and do not report the bug in the form, we do not know about it.  Please do not assume that someone else will report the bug – you’d be amazed how often everyone thought someone else would make the real report.* Also, while I’m ranting, please do not link to forums that require logins or memberships with bug reports; a forum discussion is not a clean bug report!

What’s In The Beta

The release notes are four pages long, so let me try to summarize what we’ve done.  There are really four major areas of this beta:

  1. The new GPS.  The new GPS is the driver of this beta – it’s why Austin called me from the airport this morning to find out “is it out yet”?  It’s the big news of the beta, and it’s something we’ve wanted to bring to X-Plane for quite a long time.
  2. A pretty long list of bug fixes and usability improvements.  We held back on a lot of these to get 64-bit out quickly, so with 10.30 we’re finally putting out the door a lot of work we’ve done.  There’s a lot of attention to detail in these fixes.
  3. Improvements in clouds and sky.  This work is only partly done – I have some fog work that is not in the beta because I did not want to hold the new GPS (see point 1) up.  It is even possible that if everything else is done, we do a 10.35 for fog or something.  The GPS and fog work are independent from each other (and driven by different engineers), so my thinking is that if one is done and the other is not, we should not hold back the GPS unnecessarily.
  4. Lots of under the hood changes.  This isn’t particularly interesting for users or authors, but it is necessary for the long term development of the sim.  I mention it to try to give you a sense of the scope of the changes.

Here are some numbers: from X-Plane 10.11 to X-Plane 10.25, we had 404 commits in GIT, including betas and patches.  From X-Plane 10.25 to X-Plane 10.30 beta 1, we have 1113 commits, and we haven’t even run the public beta.  This is a big release in terms of work!

Aircraft Authors

If you are making a third party aircraft, please do test your aircraft with 10.30 and report a bug if we broke something!  You can also begin work on supporting the new GPS.

But, for the love of all that is beta, please do not release 10.30 aircraft!  We’re in public beta and the way the new features work are likely to change.  During 10.20 we had developers release 64-bit plugins mid-beta, and they had to immediately redo their release because the beta changed.  The safe time to release a 10.30 aircraft will be when 10.30 goes final – no sooner!

(If you are releasing a new product during beta, release it for X-Plane 10.25, then please report a bug if it doesn’t work with the beta.)

* If you are part of a discussion with ten people on a website and you all see a bug, you can pick one person to be ‘the reporter’ – what drives me nutty is when everyone assumes someone else will report and, with no coordination, no one ever does.  There have been a number of times recently that I’ve discussed a bug with a third party author and heard “we’ve known about this on XYZ website for months.”  I’m sorry, but there are too many third party web-sites and not enough hours in the day for the dev team to scan every forum post for hidden bug reports.

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