It’s a Christmas miracle! After ten days of feeling like someone parked a tractor on my head, I’m finally able to breathe, think, and blog. It’s a good thing, too, as Santa’s bag is brimming full of some highly anticipated releases. Pour yourself a glass of egg nog and gather ’round the fire as I hand out the packages, kiddies…
Look, up in the sky… it’s a bird! It’s a dog!
I know this is going to make the GA nuts grin from ear to ear. Sibwings has just released their long-awaited Cessna Bird Dog. I’ve been on the beta team for ages (though they probably didn’t notice due to the lack of feedback), and it’s been fascinating to watch this plane progress. I think I can honestly say it’s got one of the best VCs in the business – if not the best VC. Actually, there are several of them, and they’re all masterpieces. For those who bought their Safir, this model is very similar in overall tone and feel, albeit with much more advanced modeling and textures. I was in such a rush to get this post out that I haven’t taken the final version for a spin yet, but even the release candidate was a joy to fly. I imagine the final is even better. If you can stand a plane that flies at around 100mph, and don’t mind looking at an eye-popping realistic cockpit, give it a try.
By the way, this one would make a dynamite bush plane. Repainters, get your brushes ready.
Stealth Fighter: Old School
For years, my friend and publisher Francois Dumas has been threatening to put together the definitive Westland Lysander for FS. Lately, he and his elves have been burning the midnight oil, and the result is Lysander Special Operations, a package including the Lysander (duh), but also a set of saved flights, scenery, and documentation that will allow virtual pilots to relive the white-knuckle flights into and out of occupied France under cover of darkness. The work done by these bold pilots during the bleakest days of the war is nothing short of phenomenal, as is the plane that got them safely there and back.
I’ve always thought the Lysander (or Lizzie, as she’s affectionately known) was about the plug-ugliest thing that ever took wing, but apparently its abilities in the STOL department are breathtaking. Already, I’ve seen a report that one customer has manage to take off, fly a full pattern, and land again without ever leaving the length of the runway in Hawaii’s Dillingham airport. I expect that if you were a resistance fighter looking for backup or a quick escape, that bulbous form would be about the prettiest thing you’d ever seen. And thanks to developer Chuck Jodry and painter extraordinaire Jan Kees Blom, it’s available for FSX now.
A Tinkerer’s Buddy
And now for something completely different… this week, scenery publishers Orbx released a tool that’s a little off the beaten track, even for them. It’s a little utility called “FSX Go“. Essentially, it allows FSX users to preconfigure their sim with any number of custom parameters before launching into a flight.
Rather than try to explain what that means, let me give you an example of how I use it: I have two FSX Go profiles that I use most frequently–one called “Scenery Testing” and one named “Flying”. The scenery testing profile is configured to launch FSX in windowed mode (so I can use Instant Scenery to place objects) with a number of the “sliders” such as terrain texture resolution, water effects, mesh resolution, etc. set to full so I can see the full frame-rate impact of anything I do.
In the “Flying” profile, certain things, such as autogen density, water effects, and ground scenery shadows, are set to lower levels for smoother flying. This profile also launches in full-screen, and could (if I chose to) also use the DX10 preview mode. Basically, anything you can set in the fsx.cfg file can be set automatically in FSX Go.
The other nicety is that you can associate a profile with a particular flight. That means my scenery testing profile will automatically launch my current Stark’s Twin Oaks saved flight whenever I double-click it. Is this revolutionary? Not at all. But the time it saves and flexibility it offers is more than worth the meager price of less than ten bucks, US. If you tweak much with your sliders or your fsx.cfg, you’ll like this.
Say Hi to Bob
ORBX has another little goody for you, and this one’s free. They call him Bob, and he’s basically an “airplane” that allows you to travel on foot through the FSX world. Bob’s very helpful when you’ve just gotten some new high-detail scenery and want to have a look around, or for hanging out on the ramp and plane spotting. He can walk, run, and even walk on water. Sorry, you’ll have to bring your own wine. Get to know Bob on the ORBX freeware downloads page.
I could go on about the great add-ons that continue to spew forth, but my meds are wearing off and I’m starting to see double. Have a most excellent Christmas and enjoy your time with family, friends, and maybe a new toy or two. You could do worse than pick from the above.