Scheduled Maintenance and Free Passes

This may have happened to you: you import the latest approved airport scenery pack from the X-Plane Airport Gateway and modify it. When you go to export your improvements back to the gateway, WED says your work is invalid and has a problem -- but not in the changes you made!

Huh? If this was the approved airport on the Gateway, how can it also be invalid in WED? How did that other author upload the airport before?

You Get a Free Pass

What do we do if we find that scenery and airports have bad data that is causing bugs? What if we can't just fix the scenery pack for you? The policy we've been using is: "you get a free pass until your next scheduled maintenance; then you have to fix the bug."

The X-Plane Scenery Gateway is a good example of this. Sometimes we find new categories of authoring mistakes - I write improvements to WED's scenery validation function to catch these authoring errors. These are errors like:

  • Typos in taxiway signs - the old syntax makes a sign with incorrect letters.
  • Overlapping ATC routes - with the overlapping routes the AI aircraft do not taxi correctly.

In other words, these are situations where the WED scenery pack, if left alone, is causing clearly bad things to happen inside X-Plane. This isn't a case of "old style or new style", it's a case of "broken or fixed."

So what we do is we set WED to reject these scenery packs on future uploads, but we do not delete the airports from X-Plane itself. In other words, the airports with serious mistakes get a free pass until the next time an author does scheduled maintenance.

Then when an author is working in WED and is going to update the airport anyway, the author must fix the problems we have found.

No One Likes a Fire Drill

This strategy is a compromise between two extremes:

  • If we force you to fix your airport right now (e.g. "fix the airport or we remove it from X-Plane"), that's not fun, that's a fire drill. And having been exposed to plenty of fire drills myself dealing with the new OS X 10.11 and Windows 10 releases, I'm sympathetic to authors not wanting to have to stop everything to deal with an issue ASAP.
  • If we never require that these kinds of problems be fixed, they simply won't be fixed. The overwhelming evidence that I have seen from working on authoring tools for X-Plane for over a decade is that some authors won't fix problems unless the tools force them to do it.**

So requiring the change when the author does maintenance but not requiring the existing shipped scenery pack be modified strikes me as the best possible compromise: we still get quick responses to serious bugs, but we don't force anyone to drop everything.

 

* I do realize that some authors are incredibly diligent about getting their scenery to be correct even if the tools don't force them to do so! But the goal here is to have all scenery be correct; it only takes one broken scenery pack in the hundreds a user installs to crash X-Plane.

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About Ben Supnik

Ben is a software engineer who works on X-Plane; he spends most of his days drinking coffee and swearing at the computer -- sometimes at the same time.
This entry was posted in File Formats, Scenery, Tools. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Scheduled Maintenance and Free Passes

  1. Jan Vogel says:

    Hi Ben,

    do authors get an email or other notification if their airport needs to get fixed? Otherwise it might take literally forever for the airport to get updated, if an author never touches it again...

    Cheers, Jan

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Not right now, no.

      One thing I'd like to do is start using tags to flag airports that need work.
      Emailing authors would be good (because the author might be inspired to make a fix) but if the entire set of airports needing work could be flagged, one enterprising author could potentially knock off a major chunk raipdly.

      • Tyler Young says:

        To clarify: authors *do* get an email when a bug is filed for *their* specific scenery pack. In the case that Ben's talking about, where we tighten up the WED validation rules, we have not filed bugs (though we could potentially do so in the future).

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