Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dad's computer, part 2

I ran into a little frustration trying to aquire the computer. I called my local Microcenter store, and it was out of stock. I asked if she knew when it would be in, and she said she didn't know, that they had deliveries every day and they never knew what was coming in. So, I called every day for a week with no luck. Then I called last week, got a different person, and found out that the model was discontinued!

Anyhow, I ended up ordering it online. They no longer had a special on it, and I had to pay shipping, grrrr. However, even with the standard shipping option, I was pleasantly suprised to find it was delivered by Saturday. I spent a good part of the weekend getting it ready.

The computer (a Powerspec 6002) seems to be a good machine given its low price, ~ $350. I threw in another 512MB of RAM (total 1 gig now), put in my old Radeon 9600XT, and recycled a CD/RW drive. My only complaint with the quality (so far, and hopefully forever), is that the ribbon cable for the optical drives was rediculously short. I barely got it to plug into the second drive. When I booted up the computer, it didn't see either drive! After a moment of panic, I reopened the case and determined that the ribbon cable had pulled out of the mobo. Fortunately I found a better ribbon cable in the deceased machine, and was soon back in business.

One other thing I liked is that, as a bare-bones system, it wasn't cluttered up with a lot of try-me software or useless Info Center stuff.

Once I got FS9 installed, I found it ran quite well. With all of the display sliders on highest or next-to-highest settings, I usually get frame rates in the mid to upper 20's with traffic, in all but the most dense areas. In rural areas it can run at 32 FPS (which I have it locked at).

Then it was tweaking time! My plan was to put some addons in, then make a copy for a Golden Wings version, and then put more addons in the separate versions. For the general addons, I put in reduced cloud textures, Freeflow New Enland, improved mesh for the northeast, the RealAir 172, and some Cub repaints. A couple of my favorite freeware planes (Eckert's Stearman, Lyons' Tripacer, etc) were installed so they would be available in both versions. Also, two indispensible utilities, F1view and the Recorder Module.

Next, I copied the whole shebang, renamed the copy to Golden Wings, and added that package and its updates. Then, I installed more planes to both versions. I added some AI airplanes and some traffic I had created for southern New England where we live. Finally, I added the superb Boston Logan airport scenery by George Grimshaw to the modern version.

In case you are not aware, all of the above is freeware.

I am very pleased with the end result. Both versions of the sim run well at fairly high settings. It runs at least as well, if not better, than my own system. In my next post I will report on the delivery and include a few screenshots.

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