I was really hoping this would be a better version than AC3 was. Unfortunately, I have been let down again. If you haven’t already read my review on AC3, check it out. I go into great detail about why the game was ruined. AC4 is more of the same.

The fighting mechanics are now boring, and consist mainly of blocking an enemy, then pressing X to kill them. You can’t attempt to fight and block at the same time, because if you do, you’ll miss your opportunity to block the enemy’s incoming attack, and you will die. Period. This game is all about defensive fighting rather than offensive fighting. It leave a lot to be desired in comparison to the AC2 trilogy. They ruined this game by redesigning that.

Free-run is still broken. The fact that you can’t differentiate between run and climb mode, means that you are constantly climbing shit when you don’t want to. It’s stupid, and another thing that has ruined this game in comparison with the AC2 trilogy.

Bugs are still rampant. I took down a fort, then a ship outside that fort. I attempted to board that ship before going to the fort. Game got stuck, and I had to restart the mission. Had a couple other times where I Had to restart the mission because the game was totally lost. Bummer.

I don’t care what anyone says, I think the naval missions are stupid. This is not “Pirate’s Creed”. This is ASSASSIN’S CREED. I don’t want to be a god damn ship captain. I want to do what I did in the first 2 versions of AC. I want to kill people and climb on call buildings and stuff. That’s all gone now, and is hardly the majority of the game. It sucks that you can’t play the game without doing naval missions. I just want to be an assassin. Besides, the naval stuff is BORING, and extremely slow moving. Taking down ships takes forever, and you have to take down tons of ships to be able to upgrade your own ship to be able to continue to do missions. I think Ubisoft should make a pirate game. People would love it, but I wouldn’t buy it. I’m not dogging the gameplay itself, because they did a great job with the naval portion of the game… it’s just not my “cup of tea”.

Lots of great new things in this version of the game, and a lot of other great fixes compared to AC3. But the attention to being a pirate has brought me extreme boredom.

Windows 8 Review

Posted: January 10, 2013 in Rants & Raves, Technical

Windows8I’m a Windows application developer, and I’ve been playing a bit with the developer previews and betas of Windows 8 over the last few months. I’ve been working with the Windows 8 release version since its release, to consider upgrading. This is likely going to be an extremely negative review, with not a lot of positives, since all I’ve seen is everything that is negative in comparison to Windows 7. I suggest you get some popcorn, or maybe an entire meal, since this will not be a short review.

First, I’m an early adopter of Microsoft’s OS’s. Many people bitched about Vista, which I actually found to be a far better OS than XP, aside from its extremely obvious memory leakage. It was more stable, and overall a better UI than XP. But then, I tend to run a very specific set of 3rd party software. I run mostly Microsoft software that is designed to run properly in the current OS’s. Visual Studio, Office, etc. I use very little external hardware aside form printers, some bluetooth hardware, external hard drives, etc. All these items were very compatible with Vista, and therefore, I did not have the problems with Vista that many other users reported. Lastly, I don’t use anti-virus software. THE #1 item that causes the most issues with Windows, of EVERY version, is anti-virus software. IMO, anti-virus software, especially Norton software, is a virus itself. If users weren’t so lost and clueless, and they actually read messages before blindly clicking “YES”, they wouldn’t need anti-virus software. User Account Control (UAC) helped this in many ways, then they turn around and blame Microsoft for the OS problems from installing some stupid search bar into Internet Explorer. End users are generally oblivious, and will install anything onto their computers, because they just assume everything is OK to install. The fact is, the more crap you have on your computer, the worse it’s going to run.

Windows 7 then came out, and I was more than excited. It fixed all my issues I had with Vista, and finally brought us an OS that was far more stable, and wasn’t a memory hog. Also, by that time, driver developers had gotten past the hump of developing drivers for their hardware for the new driver structure of these Vista+ Operating Systems. Much more was compatible, and it was possible to use Vista drivers on Windows 7. I’ve run Windows 7 since the day it was released to MSDN subscribers, and have never been happier with any of Microsoft’s OS’s.

Now, on to the topic of Discussion: Windows 8. I have hated this stupid Metro looking (Modern UI) interface from the start. I’m annoyed by the loss of the start menu, and many other changes like GIANT buttons and other stupid stuff. Great concept, but some users don’t have any desire for that. I liked that in previous versions, I could disable the start screen and get the standard start menu, and I’ve wondered why they didn’t make that an available option in Windows 8. Now in the RTM, that ability is gone. You must use the start screen to do everything you want to do, which I find pretty stupid. I was so frustrated by trying to figure this out, that I actually went to Microsoft and opened a support incident to talk to someone well versed in all things Windows 8.

First, to educate all on proper terminology: The newer applications in Win8 are not called “Metro Applications”. Many people all over the internet are improperly educating people that they are called Metro applications, but they are not. Microsoft employees have been specifically told NOT to use the term Metro, when speaking of Windows 8 design. The proper term is “Modern Application” or “Desktop Application”. There are two types. What we know as a normal windowed application, is a desktop application, and these lame new full screen applications are known as modern apps. There are many arguments that these are or are not “tablet apps”, and the people at MS indeed confirm that the idea behind these apps is for “finger use”, or touch screen environments. That could be a tablet, or that could be newer touch screen laptops, and they also work fine on a desktop with a mouse.

Now, to explain the fine line between modern applications and desktop applications. Many applications that come with the OS that are on the start screen, are modern applications. One application that is both, is Internet Explorer 10. Personally I’ve hated IE for quite some time. I use it as a secondary for web sites that work better with it, but Google Chrome is my primary browser. I’m annoyed by the fact that I can’t start Internet Explorer as a desktop application from the start screen, without it opening up the modern application version of it. The only way to open the desktop version of IE is by having it pinned to the taskbar. I hate IE enough that I don’t want it pinned to my taskbar. This is easily solved by creating a shortcut to “c:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe” in any location (i.e. the desktop), then right clicking that new shortcut and clicking “pin to start”. OR, you can go directly to: “c:\users\%username%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs”, and create any shortcut you want, right in that folder. Coincidentally, going to the start menu\programs folder is how you also rename shortcuts within the start screen. There is no way to rename a shortcut on the start screen, from within the start screen itself. LAME!!!

What if you hate the modern applications from the start screen, and only want to use desktop applications? Just right click a tile on the start screen (make sure you have only right clicked ONE tile, since you can right click and check multiples at a time), and choose uninstall. This uninstalls the modern application version of that program. IE is an exception to this, as you can’t uninstall the modern IE without uninstalling the entire IE package.

When you bring up the start screen, you can just start typing on the keyboard to start searching for anything you want to use. A game, a file, an installed program, a news article, or whatever. This makes it easier than having to move to the right hand screen corners and click the search bar to start searching. However, this search routine is NOT capable of searching for the name of the program group in which a program is installed. So, if you install The “XYZ Program” and the “EFG Program” from “ABC Corporation”, and you know it’s in the ABC Corporation program, you cannot search for ABC. You must search for XYZ or EFG. Why they did this is beyond me.

Why the hell do I have to perform 132 different steps just to shut down the machine? Microsoft’s answer to this is that the Operating System no longer “shuts down”. Everything happens through hibernation, and sleep. When you click shut down, your computer actually hibernates. Microsoft’s shift in this area is to move towards leaving computers on all the time. They suggest changing the power settings to have your PC handle shutting down. If you want to have a way to quickly sleep or shut down your machine, they recommend setting your computer’s power button to perform that quick action, rather than having a shortcut to it on a menu somewhere. Another thing I find pretty LAME.

For those that aren’t familiar with what Aero is, it was an addition to Vista that caused window drawing to be offloaded onto a capable GPU, rather than being rendered by the CPU. This made windows operate more quickly overall. In Windows 8, Aero still exists, but they’ve scaled it back to become this 2D, flat, ugly interface with no transparencies, no rounded corners, and 2-tone lack of beauty. The explanation from Microsoft was that this is for lowering the number of GPU/CPU cycles needed to render windows elements. That’s great and all, and I get the idea, but I am working on an extremely powerful desktop computer with a somewhat powerful video card. I hardly need to save power in that case. However, I would love to have that option. If Microsoft had been smart, they would have tied these things to power plans, and allowed the user to select a power plan to change the look of windows. On a laptio, when I’m plugged in, it resembles Windows 7 Aero with transparencies, curved edges, shadows, highlights, etc. When I unplug and go to battery, it removes all these effects to gave GPU cycles, and give me greater battery life. Unfortunately Microsoft decided that it was better to NOT give people choice, and to give them what they thought was best… a disappointment in my eyes.

The start screen is definitely something that I love and hate all at the same time. I absolutely love the idea of live tiles, and at-your-fingertips information. The problem is, my name is not Michael J Fox (apologies for the tasteless joke), and I have exceptional mouse handling skills, and certainly can click on a tiny icon. I don’t need Duplo, infant sized blocks to start my programs. I was just fine with smaller versions of application icons within the old start menu. Why they would force this upon me, is confusing. Again, a lack of CHOICE from Microsoft. These tiles also cannot be resized if they are not a tile for a modern application. If they are, then they only get two sizes anyway. Large and small (rectangle and square). Even then, they are still tiles that are 4 times as large as my finger, no matter what resolution. I can fit all 5 fingers on one tile on my 22″ widescreen monitor at 1680×1050 resolution. That’s hardly an efficient use of space. Where’s my CHOICE to make them smaller? Very unfortunate that I have no options at all. But strangely, go to the all applications section of the start screen (right click a blank area of the start screen, and click all apps at the bottom right), and it’s small icons with titles next to them. Interesting change.

Live tiles are awesome, but why is it that ONLY Windows Store, Modern UI apps can have live tiles? Why can’t an application be a desktop version, and have a live tile? Why can’t I build an app for my end users, and give them a live tile, without it having to go through the windows store. My applications are, after all, privately developed and privately used only by employees of this company. I find it extremely odd that this requirement exists.

Modern apps can be shown to you in two ways: full screen, or docked. full screen lets you only see that application, and nothing else. You can’t put anything on top of it to see two things at once. You can drag it to the right of left of the screen (if you are using a widescreen monitor) and then run a desktop application in a square resolution, or another modern UI app, but that’s it. It’s like taking a step back to the days of DOS, and giving you the ability to switch back and forth between DOS applications. Wow, what innovation. Now, for a tablet, this makes perfect sense. For a desktop, it makes absolutely no sense at all. I would literally never use any of these modern applications. Even the new version of Skype is absolutely terrible in this modern mode. I prefer the desktop version of skype, and will never consider anything else.

What I want it CHOICE! I want the choice to use the start screen, or the start menu. To use only desktop apps, or modern apps. The choice to launch a desktop version of an app from the start screen, or the choice to launch a modern UI app from the taskbar. I have started using Start8 from StarDock Software, which is a fabulous solution for these problems, and a steal at only $4.99 for the full version. The only thing this application doesn’t give is the ability to better customize the Aero look of windows. This is nearly enough for me to consider upgrading my primary desktop machines to Windows 8.

Now, all of that terrible stuff said, most people are going to argue that it’s not that big of a deal. That I’m just complaining about a newer interface that I’m not willing to get used to. That I fear change, or something ludicrous to that effect. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m all for change, but this is one change that I really don’t care for. I’ve given it a chance, and every time I get back to my Windows 7 computer, it’s a relief that I don’t have to deal with that Duplo Blocks Windows 8 nonsense anymore. Windows 7 is prettier, cleaner, and just as fast. There are even many benchmarks out there that show games running more slowly in Windows 8 than Windows 7. There are no benchmarks showing a Windows 8 machine running better than a Windows 7 machine, aside from startup times, which is a joke since they are just looking at how long it takes to un-hibernate the machine. Do a true restart and there isn’t much of a difference between the two.

OK, time for some positives to Windows 8. I feel like this article has been loaded with shit talking, so now it’s time to point out the things I actually like about the OS.

I love that they’ve finally replaced MS Virtual PC with Hyper-V. This makes it easy for me to run smaller machines on my desktop machine, then move them off onto one of our servers that also runs Hyper-V. Hyper-V is more configurable, and a better overall setup than Virtual PC. Nice job Microsoft!

Multi-monitor support is definitely great in Windows 8, aside from a few flaws. I love that you can have multiple taskbars, and have each configured to have different programs, and then easily move the program from monitor to monitor, and it stays on that monitor. The annoyances I found were usually in animations. Click on an app icon on monitor, and the window animation comes from the start button location on monitor 1. But minimize an app, and it goes to the proper location. You also can’t run two modern apps on both displays, and due to this, when you have multiple displays, the start screen no longer scrolls left to right by simply moving the mouse to the side of the screen. You must click and drag, or use a scroll wheel. You can’t choose specifically which monitors you want the taskbars on. It’s either primary or all. In my case, I’d love to have it on monitor 1 and 2, but not 3 or 4. You can’t make the start screen span multiple displays. What in the hell is wrong with Microsoft? They definitely went half way on this multi-monitor support.

The new Task manager is pretty cool, adding the ability to see disk and network usage all in one place, rather than multiple tabs. I’m disappointed they took away the ability to see the activity of each CPU core. For this, you must use the more processor intensive Resource Monitor. The Task Manager also now adds App history, showing the usage levels of past running applications, including network usage amounts. You can now see windows startup items, and their impact on system startup. Processes are now better filtered by user, rather than just being sorted by a user. And you get an at-a-glance view of service status.

Reset and refresh is something I’ve wished Microsoft would add for years. I’ve always found it stupid that I must format and reinstall to get a clean system. Reset is the equivalent of taking a smartphone and resetting it to factory defaults, deleting all user specific data. Refresh removes all programs, but no personal data. This is a feature that IT departments will LOVE.

Windows to go is awesome, and it’s great to be able to have a small version of windows on a jump drive. Another feature that IT departments will love. Especially companies that use secure rooms for working on government projects. Long ago when I worked for Hughes Aircraft, they would install windows on Jaz (1GB) disks, and they would remove those disks each day and put them in a locked cabinet, in a locked safe, within a locked room. Each employee could use a different or same computer each day, and just drop in their Jaz disk. Now it’s all in a keychain. This even means you could have your own computer on your keys, and when you show up at a friend’s house, you can just boot into your own custom copy of Windows.

ISO disc images can now be mounted, and not just burned. This will save me tons of time by not having to extract an ISO file to disk just to be able to grab a single file off of it. Being an MSDN developer, MSDN stores EVERYTHING in ISO format, including something as simple as Office or even just Visio. Now I can extract a single file from that ISO without having to install winrar or something similar.

That’s it for now. If you are thinking about taking the plunge, I highly recommend not overwriting your Windows 7 install. There’s a high likelihood you will hate the new OS.

Assassin’s Creed III Review

Posted: November 27, 2012 in Rants & Raves

Where do I even begin with this review? I guess I should start with saying that I absolutely loved Assassin’s creed 2, Brotherhood, and Revelations. I couldn’t get enough of them. Evenwith their minor quirks in the climbing system, and the occasional frustration with some missions, I never grew tired of the games by the time I was finished. I was wishing the story would go on, and I would have paid money to download more DLC’s had they been available. They were fabulous games that had a gripping story, and even better characters even with the occasional cheese. I never played the original Assassin’s Creed, but my understanding is that it was also a very good game, just not nearly as cool as the following 3.

Now, on to Assassin’s Creed III. I pre-ordered the game the absolutely second it was announced and could be reserved at Game Stop. I knew that I would love it the second it came out. I was even crazy enough to go to the midnight release and stand in a line for 20 minutes to be one of the first to get home and play it before having to go to bed on a work night. Needless to say, I was excited. My wife too. She’s played the games since the beginning, and was the one who got me into them in the first place.

I had the understanding that AC3 would have many changes to it. Climbing would be different, combat would be different, and biggest of all, it would be set in the time of revolutionary America. That said, I will continue on to why I think AC3 is the WORST of all of the AC games that I have played.

First, the game is rife with glitches and bugs all over the place. There are so many, that I can’t even begin to name them all as I played the game. Once I had to restart a mission because I had assassinated 2 guys in a ship, and the game thought the 2 guys were still alive, which wouldn’t allow me to go incognito so I could continue. What frustration that has never happened in any of the previous games. While playing Sleeping Dogs recently, I kept saying how much fun the game was even though it was so glitchy. I constantly compared it to the AC games, saying how non-glitchy they were, and how I thought the Sleeping Dogs developers could have done better. I honestly now think that AC3 is as glitchy as Sleeping Dogs, if not more so.

Now, don’t let that distract from the fact that this is still a very great game, and a lot of fun. I finished it a few days ago after giving up to wait for their SECOND patch since release, which was supposed to fix a bunch of bugs, and it did. Now, on to all the rest of the crap that really pisses me off about this game.

Free run: Free run used to require you to hold the right trigger and A (Xbox 360) at the same time. right trigger allowed you to run, and A allowed you to do the climbing or jumps and other special moves in the middle of climbing. This was redesigned and replaced with a BORING, non-technical version of the free run system. Now you just hold the right trigger, which causes you to run and climb. There are numerous problems with this, including the fact that it now causes you to climb when you don’t mean to climb. Get too close to the edge of a building while chasing someone down within one of the cities, and the character starts to climb, causing you to lose your target, and having to restart the memory. There is no longer a way to run without climbing. And now while climbing, there is absolutely no interaction to climbing like there used to be. You just press up, and he climbs. No special tricks or moves to long jump. Also, their claim that you won’t jump to your death while holding the right trigger, is absolutely not true. It’s true maybe 90% of the time, but I killed myself many times by falling off of rock cliffs and not using the A button even once. This redesign of the free run system made things worse in this game, and made it less involved. It also created many situations where you’d be hanging on the edge of a roof, and he simply would not climb on to the top of that roof. You’d have to move around to the other side of the building to get on top. This made me give up on chasing almanac pages because often the climbing system just didn’t work as well as older games.

Combat: Combat is still pretty cool in this version, but has been seriously dumbed down much like free run. It’s no longer a button masher, like it used to be. In the past you could just mash X and still win a battle, but you also had the capability to be a bit more calculating and use your special “trained” moves. You were actually taught how to do certain moves with certain button combinations and timings, which made the game a ton of fun. Going back to training made it easy to re-learn the moves you had forgotten after long periods of non-play. AC3 combat is so lame, it’s pretty much just A, X, and B. You must hit X only when you actually are ready to attack, and you can’t press press press press to endlessly attack until someone is about to attack you. If you press X after the red icon pops up over someone’s head, you’ve already screwed up your opportunity to block, even if you are capable of pushing the B button to block, a thousand times before the character actually attacks you. This made combat very slow and frustrating. When 2 characters would attack you at the same time, pressing block took away ALL control from you, and would assassinate the two characters in style. The only problem was that you didn’t have any control over it. It was just cinematic joy, and nothing more. Often someone would attack you, but the little icon would not pop up over their head, giving you absolutely no way to block their incoming attacks. To be honest, this was a terrible change to the game, and made it less enjoyable than previous versions.

Health and armor: I seriously hate the regenerating health setup. It wouldn’t be so bad if you had the capability to carry around some extra health for those moments when you are in dire need, but that’s long gone. If you can’t do it with the health you have, then too damn bad. Try again. There are no armor upgrades that you can purchase from shops in the game, which makes upgrading your character non-existent. It’s 300 years after the previous games, and we have LESS than what we had back then. It simply doesn’t make sense. I would love to say that you can get armor by crafting it, but unfortunately I can’t say that I know that for sure since the artisan part of the game must be done at specific points, which I’ll get to later on.

Weapons: BORING, BORING and BORING. I honestly expected better weapons in this game, but I really only bought a couple through the entire game. There was no reason to buy new weapons as you progressed, because new weapons really weren’t much better than the ones you already had. Personally, I’d just kill a Jager, steak his axe, and run around killing people with that. It was one of the best weapons I had. Previously, you were excited to make enough money to finally be able to buy that $50k sword, or armor, or pouch, or whatever. In this game, not so much. Every time I went to a store, there was nothing worth wasting my money on. So I ended up with tens of thousands that I never used for anything other than ship upgrades for the Aquila.

Homestead missions and crafting: I spent literally hours after finishing Sequence 8, working on getting my assassins recruited and upgraded. Then trying to do all the side missions, and trying to understand how crafting worked. I had only done a couple homestead missions prior to this, but wanted to play more of the story first. After countless searching, and reading threads about this, it seemed most people didn’t understand how this was supposed to work, and why homestead missions wouldn’t always be there when you wanted to play them. Come to find out, that if you miss one of the homestead missions, and go on to the next sequence, there is absolutely NO WAY to go back and do those missions without either finishing the game, or restarting. I even resorted to calling Ubisoft and asking them about this, and I was told that even after finishing the game I wouldn’t have access to the homestead missions if I didn’t do them at the right time, during each sequence. This was not something explained by the game, and I think it should have forced you to do those missions before continuing on to the next sequence if they are so specifically time based. NEVER have I played any open world game that would let you do what you want to do, but penalize you for not playing missions in the order they determined, and not giving you a way to play those missions if you had gone too far. Come to find out that even the guy at Ubisoft was flat out wrong, and after finishing sequence 12, all of the homestead missions I had missed, started popping up. I am still working on finishing them, but damn they did a terrible job of explaining how to actually do the “Encyclopedia of the Common Man” mission, and that it had to be done at specific times. What a failure by Ubisoft.

Assassination contracts and delivery requests: In previous versions of AC you were given an assasination contract by someone telling you a quick story like “This one guy stole my stuff”, then you go after that person and kill them. Or One would say “Can you deliver this letter to my great aunt in another place?”. In AC3, this is slightly improved by allowing you to do the task whenever you happen to be in that area, rather than having to do it immediately. However, now when you accept each of these the person says nothing more than “Thank you”, then an icon appears somewhere else on the map, which could be even in a different city. However, the game doesn’t tell you where that new icon has shown up. You basically have no choice but to hit every single icon for deliveries and assassination contracts, because it’s difficult to tell what is the contract, and what is the task itself. It’s strange, and a huge loss from previous versions. Most people who have never played AC wouldn’t understand what just happened after a guy just says “Thank you”.

Connor: What a douchebag. It’s like watching Heather Graham in Austin Powers. Terrible acting and voice overs, and it’s as if the lines being said just don’t fit well with the intonation of the conversation. Other characters seem to have no problem with this, but Connor seemed lost and acted like he was better than everyone else all throughout the game. Altair and Ezio were undoubtedly not this way. Even Haytham was a FAR better character than Connor. They should have done a better job on his character voices.

Graphics: This game definitely looks much better than many of the past games, including people’s faces. They made a huge difference in the world, and made it look beautiful. My one big complaint about this game is shadowing. The shadows are the worst I’ve seen of any game I’ve ever played on the xbox 360, and I could probably even include the original xbox in that as well. The original Halo had better shadows than AC3. Shadows on people’s faces are grainy and extremely noisy. It really ruined many of the cinematics of the game because it made everything look so terrible. I don’t know how they got this one SO wrong.

Glitches: I ran across many glitches in this game. So many that it drove me nuts. The second update didn’t really do much to fix the game much. Here’s an example of one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_3pRBvLJFo.

I know I’m forgetting something, but there are just SO many terrible things about this game, that I can’t remember ALL of them. I purchased the season pass when the game came out, so I’ll play all of them through to the end, as they come out. I hope they take the time to fix many of the issues with the game, because really it’s beyond terrible in comparison to the older versions. It’s as if a completely different development team worked on this team, and not one single person from the previous games was part of that team. Very sad. I know that this is likely the end of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, but if there is another one after this, I’m not so sure I’ll buy it without it returning to what made the older versions of the game so great.

Comments? Feedback? I’d love to hear it.

AirTrack for iOS devices

Posted: October 21, 2012 in Flight Simulation

I’ve been looking at all the iOS apps available for iPads and iPhones for use with FSX, Prepar3D and X-Plane. I looked at the app store, and all the reviews, and finally settled on looking at AirTrack, written by IP Objects. I had a few issues using it with Prepar3D, and had issues with multicast, but through fabulous support from the developer, I’m extremely impressed with the response time to inquiries, and all the great help they have provided. Since I’ve got 2 iPads (1st gen and 3rd gen) and an iPhone, I wanted something I could use on all of them at the same time, and maybe even add more iPad in the future. AirTrack meets those capabilities.

If you are an avid sim pilot, and have any iOS devices, check out AirTrack. It’s $24.99 as of posting this article, and worth every penny! I have only used it for about an hour of sim flight time, so I’m not even fully familiar with all its capabilities, but if the support response is any indication of how well the app works, and how they’ll respond to suggestions and new features, there is no need for any other sim app for iOS. This beats them all!!!

Here it is in the iTunes App Store

I’ve been through a lot in the aviation world, but not enough to ever get my pilot’s license. I started working on it about 9 years ago, and after doing a couple solo flights, I had an accident in a Mooney during takeoff. It was a bit windy, and the older Mooney’s have a very squirrley nose gear compared to a Cessna. I had a crosswind below my limits and it changed during my takeoff. This caused one wing to lift before I had enough speed for takeoff. As I started to correct for this, the wing dropped, and the nose gear touched again, causing me to head off the runway. I over-corrected, and went the other way, and went towards the opposite side of the runway. At that moment I had just about enough speed to take off, but I decided it was best to ride it out, and stay on the ground. If I had lifted too quickly in my panic, I could have stalled the plane and come crashing down, seriously injuring myself. I made the proper decision, and while I did a massive amount of damage to the plane, I came out completely uninjured. I was a bit shaken, but I knew that one day I would have to get back on the horse. The following summer, I started flying again, to get over my fear. It put the love of flying back into me, but things had changed, and I couldn’t keep up with the lessons due to finances. I decided to quit flying.

I did, however, stick to my simulator, and when Flight Simulator X came out, I was hooked to all the new features. A few years back I started looking into CH Products yoke and pedals. Then I discovered the Saitek equipment and was in love. I started by purchasing the yoke with throttle, and pedals. Then I purchased the multi-panel, then the radio panel, then an additional throttle quadrant, then the switch panel. I also purchased the TrackIR device so I could easily look around the cockpit without the use of a HAT switch on the yoke. I wasn’t satisfied, and hated the way it was set up, and wanted a more realistic experience without having to spend the money to fly for real. I knew it was time to work towards a real flight sim setup.

Since then, I’ve purchased a USB flight headset adapter made by Flight Sound, FS Panel Studio for FSX, some 737 throttle knobs for the saitek throttle quadrant setup, and a couple other random items. I haven’t had the space to build a cockpit until recently when I moved from my tiny townhome, into a new house with my wife. I’ve now got a full basement that I can use for whatever I’d like. It’s time for me to continue collecting and get started on building this thing. Unfortunately, I have a new baby on the way in just under a month, so I might have quite a few delays in this project.

I plan on purchasing the following additional items for the Simulator setup:
-1 or 2 32″ LCD TV’s to use as the windshield, rather than an external screen or projected image. This is more cost effective. Though I might just break down and purchase a 1080p projector…
-Additional Saitek radio panel for dual radio setup
-Saitek Backlit Information Panel
-MAYBE a Saitek instrument information panel or two, but probalby not since for the price of one, I can just buy a 22″ LCD monitor.
-Some car seats from a junk yard or universal racing seats off ebay. I’d like to find a car seat that has height adjust-ability if possible, for my step-son.
-A backlit keyboard for use within the cockpit when it’s dark
-An LED controller with some RGB LED strips from Oznium.com for in-cockpit lighting. Then I can make red, white, blue, green light, or whatever, and dim to a specific level.
-X-plane 10, or another sim alternative like Prepar3D from Lockheed Martin
-FSX Real Environment Extreme for FSX/Prepar3D, for greater ralism
-Maybe some additional plugins and extra planes to fly, including FSUIPC if necessary

I then plan to follow the recommendations of the guy who makes the 737 throttle knobs, and build a cockpit much like his setup. I will likely build from the ground up, by first building a rolling platform that can contain seats and a center console, then build up from there. Task for this weekend is to go seat hunting!

Stay tuned for my future posts!

I have an iPad 3, and an iPhone 4. with iOS 6 just coming out, and me upgrading to an iPhone 5 on Friday when it’s delivered, I decided to upgrade everything to iOS 6 before the rest of the world bombards Apple’s servers with downloads. iPad upgrade worked flawlessly, my iPhone upgrade did not. Thankfully, I have iCloud set to back up the phone every night, except for my pictures. I have a feeling I just lost all my shit, as it’s restoring right now.

Don’t make the same mistake I did by trusting that the iOS upgrade process will work flawlessly.

I’ve been working with the HAI SDK for a couple weeks now, slowly building an application for myself, and that I can share with the public as it gets a bit better. This past weekend, things got ridiculous. I had this bright idea to add Kinect voice detection capabilities to the HAI application. Still a lot of work to be done to make it better, but so far this is pretty freakin cool. Eventually I can also use the Kinect to detect motion, and act based on certain rules (i.e. if security armed and motion detected, take video then send email notification)

The volume of the computer is a bit low, and this should be watched in 720p full screen to really be able to see what’s going on. But here’s my first version of Kinect and HAI together.