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Victor_Sullivan added a topic in Everything & AnythingVendors - The Good, The Bad, And The UglyI'd been mulling this over for a few days now, trying to come up with the right way to address this, because as a concerned customer, in the FS community, recent events pertaining to a vendor has me throwing up my hands. I won't name names, as it wouldn't do any good and since most of the time, we only get half the story, but the truth is, how can we as customers be assured that what we purchase online, from a vendor, will maintain the integrity and high standards set by the vendor?
Allow me to explain: A recent customer of a well known FS content business had been desperate to receive communications from the vendor over an issue concerning an activation (stop me if you think you've heard this before). Supposedly, the customer claimed to have submitted a ticket to address the issue, only to be ignored. Further emails and ultimately, shaming the business on various FS community sites, proved less than fruitful but what it DID do, is raise awareness over EULA. The EULA, or End User License Agreement is anything but boilerplate. Every business has one, that sells content...heck, just about any business online who distributes license for digital products has one, and with that, they all vary in their liability for themselves, as well as the customer. Point #1, everyone should read through an EULA, because it is more than just legal mumbo jumbo, it contains certain protections for the vendor and the customer, so in case something goes wrong, arbitration can be expedited.
Long story short, that customer was dealt with, but only after choice words flew back and forth, worse than a political campaign. Throughout it all though, there were several other customers who came forward to back up the claims made by the customer, as well as customers who came to the defense of the vendor, but all in all, those who read everything who weren't involved, appeared to be either confused or downright settled on the fact that they wouldn't purchase any content from the vendor. It wasn't that long ago, that another big name vendor in the community came out with harsh and sweeping changes to the way they did business, and in turn, the public was upset. Most of that has died down now, and I think it's mainly to do with the market this vendor has cornered, knowing full well that upset customers would ultimately return. Again, the EULA was at the heart of the discussion, and while the sweeping majority of customers complained about fairness and value, the vendor ultimately won out.
I'd been using the term "voting with your wallet" as of late, and there is a lot of truth to that. We are a part of a niche market, but that also doesn't mean that we don't have choices. When a developer creates something and chooses to sell it, they too have choices, but it is the terms of sale that dictates who gets a bigger piece of the pie and whether customer's experiences will be an easy or difficult one. Take the previous case I mentioned, in that a product was purchased, but with a clear stipulation that there would be limited activations. Now I know things can happen on a computer, and usually at the most inconvenient time, which requires a reinstall of a product, so having extra activations are necessary, but to cap them at such a low amount and on top of that, if you exhaust them, you are required to jump through several hoops to get a reset, and that can take days. We all live in the "I want it and I want it now" world, and no one wants to have to wait for anything, so a lot of the anger vented by the irate customer stemmed from that fact, but some folks claimed to have waited several weeks, which in my opinion, there is a severe disconnect in communication.
The point to all of this, Point #2, is that customers, whether new or old, need to stay in the know when it comes to what is going on with the vendor. If the vendor is having staffing issues, or authentication server issues, or any issue that would hamper the proper and timely delivery of digital products to the consumer. I think this is a fair trade off, sicne the user must pay for everything up front and expects to get what they pay for, which brings me to Point #3, piracy.
This is the ringer that no one was fully aware of in the case I've been discussing. it appears that the piracy, widespread and somewhat out of control, has taken hold at this vendor's site, with many customers complaining about activation are really just pirates who are trying to get a free product. The sharing of codes, license keys, customer info is pretty bad right now. We all know that no one or no thing is truly secure from the likes of pirates...if they want something bad enough, they will get it. I looked into this further and found three separate forums whereby customers were complaining about the same exact thing. More in-depth research uncovered more truth and back and forth claims from the customer to the vendor about who legally owns the license, the terms of activations, who's been sharing information and who's been cut off from activation altogether. now I could easily side with the vendor, considering they have rock solid statements of knowing exactly who the offenders are, being able to trace IPs and/or requests for resets from different parts of the world. Bottom line: the vendor appears to have enough security in place to thwart any further piracy, but that still doesn't guarantee it'll cease completely.
Now, from my own standpoint, I have one product I purchased a license for, and had been bugged incessantly to upgrade for a nominal fee. After reading about all of this shady business going on, it did have an impact, in that negative attention had been brought forth, which could hurt the vendor. The other problem I see is that there are several great products this vendor sells, due to the developers agreement with the vendor for sales, but if the vendor cannot honor the claims they make in handling customer service, it could lead to lower sales, developers getting upset that their products aren't selling due to the negative attention and customers upset that they cannot get certain products anywhere else.
On the other side of the fence though, are a good deal of developers who sell their own products but don't have any security in place. A keycode or license key is sent via email and could easily be shared between many people, but is never followed up on or monitored. The developers choice is their own, but when you stop to think about it, there could be a lot of lost potential sales because of their simplified methods of distribution. More often than not, these simplified methods are embraced by small businesses who cannot afford to have a staff of c/s people to field emails about activations or they just plain don't want to overly complicate matters.
What COULD work though is an independent organization, designed to arbitrate disputes between customers and vendors to resolve issues that may arise, including piracy. I know it sounds like a monumental task, but considering that the FS community is large enough to drive some serious revenue around, preservation of digital rights as well as customers' wallets are equally important. It's just a wild thought, but after I read everything that was out there about the aforementioned case, it has me concerned, worried and angry that for a FS community, the exposure of seedy, dirty and shady dealings are tarnishing our beloved hobby and now has me thinking twice about purchasing anything for flight simulation now, because I may be selling my soul, or having to have a lawyer on retainer.
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Victor_Sullivan added a topic in X-PlaneX-Plane 11: An Op-EdI've noticed how sparse things are in this forum and I will make every attempt to fill it with useful information.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the direction flight simulators are going these days. The history, in a nutshell, is that we have about four different branded simulators that exist in the flight simulator ecosystem. There is Flight Simulator X, Prepar3D, X-Plane and AeroFlyFS. The first two mentioned are currently developed in a 32-bit environment, while the last two are developed for 64-bit (X-Plane made the switch recently while AeroFlyFS emerged in native form). When you account for all of the total development for these four simulators, the results are resoundingly in favor of FSX and P3D, which is logically so, based on the fact that the native code has existed for over 10 years now. The problem, which many refused to address in a logical fashion, that 32-bit code is limited by VAS, or Virtual Address Space. This space is governed not by the user's total physical memory in their rig, but the environment's ability to write to memory the 4gb of data. If you are like me, you've invested heavily in the 32-bit flight simulator ecosystem, because for far too long, we were told this was all there is to be and you made whatever sacrifices, tweaks, adjustments necessary for it to work efficiently on your system. The key phrase here is "what we've been told", but the reality is that with the technological advancements that have taken huge leaps forward in the past decade, we're essentially sitting still, when it comes to using the full capabilities of our systems.
"I have a Ferrari sitting out in my garage, just itching to race on that road, but the potholes are numerous, so now it just sits"
It's an odd, but relevant metaphor, for what we are going through right now. We have the Ferrari, being that of a new add-on aircraft or butt-kicking scenery, but nowhere to run it at it's full potential, due to the potholes, cones and condition of the road. The road needs an upgrade folks!
We now have a new road, and it's 64-bit. now, before everyone starts waving their arms about "it's not all about 64-bit!", allow me to enlighten you. While it is factually true that a 64-bit environment is no longer constrained by VAS limits (at least none that would be caused by the fastest of systems), and it would take full advantage of all of your system memory, thus enabling you to last through a long haul flight, it also opens up a window of opportunity for developers to expand their work, incorporating more detail, more functionality, as well as less tinkering, tweaking or adjusting of settings within the sim to accommodate those who have issues running the software. My system is not the latest screaming system, loaded to the teeth with a beefy cpu and gpu with max memory and storage, but it does run a 64-bit simulator better than a 32-bit one. When I got back into simming heavily, my primary usage was FSX. After a while, the tinkering and tweaking got old, and fast. About that time, P3D emerged and it was marketed as a very stable, reliable and in-depth sim. Unfortunately, it was simply running the ESP code from FSX, so nothing really changed all that much. Over time though, P3D did get better, but that looming issue of VAS was nagging me and I would still succumb to crashes. A little later, I unfortunately learned to live with the issues by way of keeping my settings down and in turn, missing out on all of the great extras programmed in to the add-ons I had.
One quick note: Running FSX and P3D, with NO add-ons will give you stellar performance...that's a fact. As soon as you start adding add-ons, that's when the trouble begins, so when you feel that something is wrong with your sim, it's not the sims fault, it's the addition of add-ons.
Sorry, I digress. So here we are, 2017, and we have better news emerging. X-Plane 11 is in Beta and so far, I love what I see and I love what I experience now. it is only going to get better and knowing that, gives me a better sense of hope for the future of flight simming. We will eventually break free of 32-bit and bask in the glory of unhindered flight, with the only restriction is what we have under the hood. Ten years ago, i started with what I thought was fast technology, but after putting my system through the paces of flight simulation, I started my painful journey into upgrading. In that time, I've upgraded six times, with each time getting slightly better than before, but not so significant that I could stick with what I had for long. Granted, this is coming from someone who occupies the .1% of flight simmers who use a laptop. I know, I know, for shame, I'm using a laptop, but the reality these days is that laptops are being designed and loaded with tech that rivals desktops, so we're no longer the red-headed stepchild. My current rig can hold it's own in X-Plane, and I get great visuals and great performance...what I'd been wanting for ten years has finally happened. Unfortunately, I spent thousands of dollars on hardware and software, to help fix one problem after another, when all the while it was based just the operating environment. Sure, I learned quite a bit over that time, with one of the major lessons being "not to hedge my bets on anything for flight simulation". Clever marketing was always a key to a successful business and as a result, I bought into it all. Looking at those beautiful screenshots made my mouth water and my wallet recoil in horror.
So you may ask me, what I've done with all that I bought? I still have it, archived on an external HDD. Whether I use it ever again is another story for another time, and while I still suffer bouts of "buyer's remorse", the good news is that I put a stop to it, or a "freeze", if you will. See, this the reason I believe so many still stick with certain developers or even a particular sim. They have buyer's remorse: knowing that they've spent a boatload of cash on content, and that content may not have worked like they had hoped or not at all, but they own it and would hate to delete it because it would prove they were fooled or they made a bad choice. Yes, I have felt that way, but at the same time, I knew that if I found a way out, an outlet that more than makes up for the bad financial choices I made in the past, then I could move on and be happy. This is where I am right now, currently utilizing a wonderful simulator that works out of the box, and so far, 90% of my content is totally free, thanks to the gracious talents of people around the world. I never progressed this fast and this far with the other simulators. I was always of the mind that you had to use payware to get the best experience in a sim, and while that has some truth, the whole truth is that you should research, ask questions, stay informed and then make your decision.
There are a lot of people out there who still treat X-Plane as a niche simulator, and believe the current metrics that usage isn't going to pick up, when in truth, right now, X-Plane has the largest user base than it's ever had. Every new version and the intermediate milestones have made XP better than before. I've flown GA and tubeliners across so much of US (more than I did with FSX and P3D), as well as more of Europe. The only issue I have with XP these days, is where I want to fly.
In closing, and I apologize if this post looked like a lengthy rant, is that X-Plane deserves everyone's attention. Give it a try, since there is a free demo for it. Experience what it can do for you, and then make the decision if you want to use it. If my laptop can run XP just as good as a desktop (and that's saying a lot), then you have nothing to lose to try it out. As for content, there is a lot of great freeware and payware available. The most work you'd have to go through for setting up XP, is the mesh and textures, which comes down to how detailed you want the Earth to be for you. The quality of aircraft is just as good as for the other sims (though perhaps not yet equal to PMDG standards), but that's what makes XP unique. Developers have a new approach with no boundaries. The same holds true for scenery and airports. Yes, there are still some aspects of XP that need attention but LR is aware of it and it'll get sorted, but there are third party devs out there that are making great strides in developing their own standards and it works out really well.
I'm here a lot, so if anyone has questions, concerns or just wants to chat, you know where I'll be.
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Victor_Sullivan added a topic in X-PlaneFriday Beta UpdateMorning Folks,
Well, today's Friday, and you know what that means right? Well, ok aside from going out on the tiles this evening, it's Beta Friday! Anyone who's part of the Beta for X-Plane (that would pretty much entail anyone who's using Xp11), then you know that every Friday, Ben and Austin release their Beta updates. We're working our way to 10, which oddly enough, can be addressed as XP11BX (sounds like an experimental aircraft). Anywho, since the team at LR have been working feverishly to get this Beta through it's paces and ultimately set for RTM, there are still many aspects of XP that need addressed...seriously addressed. Now, this is all contingent upon the roadmap that Austion and Ben are following for what XP11 will offer us pilots.
For starters: weather. This has been a thorn in my craw for quite a long time now, and considering that if you wanted really good and accurate weather (not to mention better looking clouds and fog), you needed a 3rd party add-on, such as SkyMaxxPro. Recently, some folks came out with a competitive product called XEnviro and from what I hear, it's blowing the socks off SMP so you now have two really good add-ons to choose from. Anything right now, is better than default and if any of you beta testers out there know, the default clouds were less than desirable.
For me, being a bit of a purist, I took a different route, via a utility called FlyWithLua. The utility makes use clever scripts that run in the background at startup, allowing users to program whatever they like, to be integrated into the XP. I chose to create my own script for changing the clouds and the sky, and so far, it makes the default weather look a whole better. Of course, FlyWithLua is completely free and the only thing you have to spend is time to learn it, but once you get the hang of it, it is very powerful.
At any rate, a recent blog entry for XP Development, shed some light (no pun intended) on weather and it seems that this is finally being addressed. Aside from the look of clouds in the sky, I have found the METAR data download in XP to be capable, though there are times of sudden weather changes, not an ActiveSkyNext type of transition, so you may find yourself abruptly placed in a storm or worse, clear skies. Understanding that there were significant changes to the UI and with that, a whole new way of adjusting weather during a flight setup, the team are addressing the fine points right now and hopefully, will lump those changes in with the next beta.
Second on the list was an announcement that the settings.txt file, which is integral to XP's operation, will remain open to "hacking". Now calm down, not THAT hacking, but the ability for the user or 3rd party developer to make changes to the file to accommodate a desired effect or function. I opened mine last night and had a look, so let me tell you right now, if you don't know what you are doing or know how to make the changes correctly, don't fiddle around with it because it can have disastrous results. As is always the case, there are tutorials and videos online to explain how to make whatever changes are necessary, so proceed with caution if you are feeling bold.
Another big step in development is the inclusion of AMD-based gpus. This one will obviously catch some attention from those folks who felt left out in the rain. Long story short, there aren't any specific details on how they got them to work, so be satisified that both the green team and the red team can now enjoy XP11 properly. The AMD fix is implemented currently with Beta9, though not fully, so I suspect further development and fixes coming in Beta10.
All in all, there appears to be more graphic visual fixes coming, with small fixes for bugs reported by the community. As for me, being a rather active beta tester, I try to keep my testing constrained to mostly default, while at the same time, enjoy the fruits of LR's labor with some enjoyable flight time. I currently sit in the default C172SP, with default weather generation (XP METAR downloads). For global scenery, AIPilot's HD Mesh is indispensable though it takes quite a while to download the tiles, and then for airports, it's a no-brainer to pick up the vast amounts of freeware out there. I may expand on that in another post. Back to the Beta, the things I'm hoping for:
I'm gunning for the landing light switch fix myself, despite being able to get a fix from a user elsewhere. I also hope they fix the "moving ground", while parked. This gets highly annoying while sitting in the cockpit A fix for the grainy, static appearance of shaded textures within the cockpit. This was gone at one point and now has reappeared.Wind-vanning. Not a proper term, but basically, while you are parked in a light GA aircraft, such as the C172SP, surface winds will play havok with the aircraft, once the parking brake is off. Again, there is a modified fix created by a user online that seems to tone down this effect and no one is sure if Austin will fix it. He's the flight model boss right now and incorporated a slew of more realistic effect to the models, but some would argue they are unrealistic or too drastic. There are still ways to counter the P-Forces, but it becomes even more challenging during taxi and takeoff.Well, that's it for now folks. Hope my info helped.
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Victor_Sullivan added a topic in X-PlaneReturn Of An Old FriendGood Evening Friends,
The name's Victor and I'm just your run-of-the-mill grey haired, mustachioed, cigar-chomping pilot who loves nothing more than to fly low and slow. I've been a bit of a shadow here, in the past couple of years, but I'm back (half of the "return") and will be a regular contributor here, at this forum. Why may you ask? Because out of the three major sims out there, X-Plane has treated me well...very well. After the successful run of X-Plane 10.50, Laminar did it again with the introduction of their next incarnation: X-Plane 11. Without getting into too much detail, what is important here is the experience, with the first word that comes to mind is magnificent. This evening, I thought I would put together a few screenshots, to help those who may be on the fence about purchasing X-Plane. Trust me, you won't regret it. Even if you still have some reservations, one sweet deal is that LR allows you to download the demo for free. Though there are some caveats to this demo, you can at least get a first hand perspective on the UI Interface, which is greatly improved, as well as the environment. Have a look below and judge for yourselves.
Credit where credit is due: KBUR by GPB500 (courtesy of X-Plane.org), AIPilot's HD Mesh V3, default weather and aircraft
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