Thursday, July 20, 2006

The hazards of cleaning your windshield

It's the time of year when my morning commute has me driving into the sun most mornings. At some point I notice how dirty my windshield is, so I will clean it. But the problem is that when it gets cleaner, you start to notice the small streaks and smears from the cleaning job. So you wash it again. Still, there are some smudges and streaks. The closer you get to perfection, the more each minor imperfection irritates. You find it hard to focus on traffic because of that fingerprint in the lower left corner.

I got a catalog for high-end audio components the other day (not sure how I got on that mailing list). It's fun to look at the lengths to which folks will go in the quest of sonic perfection. Is a $2500 CD player that much better than my $100 model? But some, maybe most of this stuff is downright ridiculous. For example, look at this, which is a set of wooden blocks to keep your audio cables off the floor. A set of six for only $62. Hmmm, I had no idea that the sound quality of my stereo was being compromised because my cables are touching the floor. Sometimes I wonder if these folks (I almost typed foolks, Freudian slip!) ever hear Music, or if they spend all their listening time wondering if there highs are as clear and crisp, and their lows as thrillingly room-filling as they can possibly be.

So what does this have to do with flight simming? If your an avid flightsimmer, you've probably already guessed where this is going. The more you tweak, with hardware and software, and the more realistic you can make the game, it is all too tempting to get caught up in the quest for perfection. If you improve the sky, the ground looks too simple. If you improve the ground textures, the autogen buildings can look cartoon-y. Then there's planes, AI traffice, etc...

Besides the appearence, you can find yourself obsessing about performance. Are my FPS as high as they can be? Have I eliminated stutters and texture loading delays as much as I possibly can? Would the video driver that came out yesterday be better than the one I installed last week?

All if this is fine if you enjoy the tweaking process (and I do, to an extent). But you shouln't let it distract you from what brought you to the hobby in the first place-- the love of airplanes, the thrill of flight, and the rewards of improving your knowledge and skills. So stop tweaking and go practice those cross wind landings!

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