Thursday, July 17, 2008

Six Monitor Flight Sim Goodness

I finally got my second nVidia GeForce 8800 GT card in, so that I could run all 4 virtual monitors (two 15" touch screens, one 8" touch screen, and the three 19" monitors that make up the virtual TH2Go main display) in Vista. After multiple fatal crashes with just about every nVidia driver I could use when running FSX, I finally disabled DX10 preview in FSX and it all works just fine. Frame rates seem moderately stable with my medium high to high detail settings (no AA or anything fancy) in sparsely populated areas at 10-15fps...not great...but tolerable. I'll go work on tweaking and overclocking for performance later.

I've really been irritated fighting having to resetup all my flight panels on the auxilliary monitors each time after you crash (grin) or restart a flight. I've been running in full screen and saving the setup, but when you reload, all the panels popup onto the main display (????). I'd read a lot about trying it in "windowed" mode, but also a lot of cautions that this can hurt performance too (ESPECIALLY if you have a window even SLIGHTLY over lap from one monitor onto another), but that it seemed to fix the save issue (though you have to always launch the same flight, and then load new plane, location, time, flight plan, etc.). Still a little bit of a PITA, but not nearly as much as having to drag all the panel and resize them onto all the auxillary monitors. And performance doesn't seem too bad, and you can mostly hide the window top frame off the monitor edge and have the windows start bar "autohide" down to get 99% of the visual (yeah, there is a slight issue with the border all around that you can see, but it isn't bad).

And, OMFG, how much do I love having the DECM (Dual Engine Control Module) and AutoPilot on that 8" touch screen, and I wont even start in about how beautiful the 15" touch displays with all the interactive touch glory of the PFD/MFD is. For now, the Baron 58 Beachcraft is one of the BEST planes I've found with a full compliment of glass cockpit and all the other stacks. Many of the others default FSX planes, it seems, have skimped on the 2D panels available in favor of the virtual cockpit (which is ok for most setups on a single monitor, the VC is better). I'm sure a little work can drag most of the panels up to snuff on many/most of the planes, it just does suck to have to do it for planes that should have a pretty complete set already. I love tapping the AP vertical speed rate up and down and having it control my climb outs and everything. Even get to see the little trim wheels on the panels twirl. Becareful, though...grin, NAV autopilot will turn you right into a mountain if you aren't up at altitude yet (a problem when climing out on runway 30 in Cascade, ID U70).

Now, my biggest problem is not having monitor cables long enough and enough desktop realestate for all the monitors to be positioned appropriately. It is close to getting time to begin the garage prototyping of the cockpit, I think.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Touch Screen Goodness

I finally gave up (for now) getting twin video cards (of different vendor/chipsets) working in Vista (even with old XPDM drivers, as lots of stuff native to Vista quits working when you do that, if you can even get them installed). And I just focused on getting ONE of my flat panel 15" touch screens working. It frustrates me that I can't seem to save the position of the instruments on the second monitor, so I have to resize, move and orient the PFD onto the second panel every time (even if you crash, it is like quitting and reloading back in, and all the panels are reset). I haven't found anyone else able to size them and place them onto second monitors by default yet, but I'm playing with the SDK to look at the panel/guage config files to see if there is something I can do in there. So far, it is only sizing/moving initial location on the primary display.

But, the good news is, once you get them moved over there, the touch screen 15" display if flipping awesome with the PFD on there. The twin dials (inner/outter ring) sometimes can be a little touchy (no pun intended) to get exactly what you want, but it isn't too bad. And the soft menu keys and headding dial and everything else, including the nav/com tuner buttons all work flipping great! Also, I've begun to like putting the autopilot panel up at the top of the 15" as well as the toggle switch pannel (starters, mags, lights, de-icers, flap controls, etc.). It is so cool to just touch the toggle, and have it respond. And the auto pilot controls are excellent on a touch screen. I think these will ultimately reside perfectly on the 8" LCD touch screen, so I'll have the twin 15" touch screens with the PFD and MFD displays, then the 8" will have the Autopilot, toggle/ignition panel, and probably the fuel mixture/cowl controls (I'm even playing around with the XML gauges, to see if I can just make them all rolled into one custom panel). So far, I don't see a whole lot of down sides to running "virtual" instruments in my cockpit design, and ultimately, it seems the most flexible way to get different cockpit orientations (i.e. fighter jet, private twin prop, and commercial airliner).

I plan to just probably run XP and then I can run two video cards of non-homogonous manufacturer/chipset, which should support the TH2Go, twin 15" touch, and 8" touch very nicely. With the TrackIR, each touch screen, yoke, throttle quad, rudder pedals, jet TQS, and fighter stick each using a USB port, I think it is obvious I'm going to have to invest in a single 8 or 10-port powered USB hub too, just to simplify some of the cable routes and connections to the PC.

Also, I just got up a screenshots page of some of my in flight pictures.