Sunday, August 26, 2007

The website-driven life

If you will indulge me one more time I'd like to discuss a topic which is only tangentally related to flightsimming, and is really more about hobbies/obsessions in general. As I find myself getting deeper and deeper into music again, the more I realize that much of it is driven by things that have been made available on the web. And this is very similar to how the whole flightsim experience started. I am sure that my experience is not unique.

It goes like this. You have your hobby. Maybe it's something new, or maybe something you've been doing for years. One day you go to your favorite search engine to answer some question regarding this hobby, and in the process you find not just the answer, but one or more interesting web sites. Over the following days and weeks you find that there is an incredible amount of wisdom, not to mention free stuff to download, and suddenly you find yourself committed to the hobby like never before.

If you're reading this page most likely you know about some of the better flightsimming sites. So, you know how something you read about in one of the forums can send you racing to the download page. Or, you read a thread about something you'd never really given much thought to, for example scenery design, and to your surprise you feel yourself being drawn into a new area of the hobby. Your to-do list gets longer and longer.

The site that's really gotten me going with music, classical guitar in particular, is called See the forums here. After spending some time reading these forums, I'm excited about new practice ideas, new music to check out, et cetera. Also, there's lots of sheet music to download and print out for free, the ultimate guitar "add on".

I think this is a curious phenomenon. Contrast this to the way life was only a decade ago. If you had a hobby, chances are your sources were very limited. Information was either very local or very centralized. You may have been dependent upon your local teacher, club, or hobby shop. Or perhaps a certain magazine or catalog defined the universe of what was available to enhance your hobby. Now, we are not limited by geography or institutional authority. An amateur musician or flightsimmer can get helpful advice from another amateur on the other side of the planet, within hours of raising the question.

Gotta go print out some more music...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's all about time (it always is)

I think I should clarify what I was saying in the last post. After a rather enjoyable flying session last night, it became clear to me that it wasn't so much that flightsimming is losing its luster, but rather that it is now facing more fierce competition with regards to me free-time choices. If days suddenly got twice as long, I could happily spend hours a day flightsimming. It's still a lot of fun.

However, with life as it is, time spent flightsimming is time NOT spent on music, or reading, or sleeping. And right now music has gone up a few notches in priority. This is a good thing.

Last night being Flying Night, and having pretty much finished my recent music project, which was adaptating a couple of of Mozart piano sonata movements for two guitars, I decided to take another stab at the flightsim. I went to my favorite place (Alaska)with the now seemingly low-maintenance FS9, and had a very nice time. First, I tooled around Atlin a bit in the Cessna 150. Then I switched to the Aero Commander and flew from Atlin to Skagway, following the path shown below. This was a thrilling scenic route; it was especially fun descending through the valley into Skagway. I will surely fly the route again, in different times and seasons, perhaps try the reverse direction. . I got some nice screenshots along the way, but refrained from adding them to this post, since I've had too many similar pictures here already.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Throttling back

Believe it or not, I've done very little flying lately, even though I have had the usual trickle supply of free time. Another hobby has started to demand more time. This is my first love, music. I am a classical guitarist, and have played at varying levels of intensity for more than 25 years. Having kids cut way into practice time, and for quite a while I hardly played at all. Recently, though, I've started playing duets with a couple of different folks and that has re-lit the spark.

Part of the "problem" is that I have found a number of different ways to use the computer for this other hobby. This has opened up whole new avenues. For example, I have been dabbling a bit using an open-source music typesetting program called Lilypond. An example of the work I've been doing is in the screenshot below. This is a movement from a Mozart piano sonata that I am adapting for guitar duet.

Lilypond is a fantastic product, and if any of my readers share my interest in music you may want to check it out. The learning curve is a bit steep, but a great help is available in a plug-in for the open source text editor jEdit (it's called lilypond tools). Then there's Audacity, an open-source multi-track recording software...

But this is a flightsim blog, so I will cut the digression there. The thing of interest here is that I have actually found myself with a block of free time, the simulator up and running, and yet a little voice in my head is saying "wouldn't you rather finish working on that score?". So, control-C, Yes, and I'm off working on the other hobby. Can you believe this actually happened during the flight in which I captured that beautiful image below?

Of course, this is how normal people live. But its a little disturbing for the flightsim fanatic. The magic is gone! Well, yes and no. I'm sure I'll keep simming, and I'm sure I will develop new fascinations with various parts of the simming hobby, but for now it's going to get a bit less time from me. Keep checking back here, because I will try to update at least once a week, and you never know when something will draw me back in full throttle.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Autogen City

Here's a quick tip: If you want to get a good look at cityscapes, but don't have a system that can handle New York, Seattle, Tokyo, etc, then why not try a second or third tier city? The pictures here are from Worcester, MA. It looks like there are not any custom buildings here, just autogen. I get low but manageable framerates with this autogen, totally flyable compared to Seattle.
I was very pleased and somewhat surprised by the quality of the textures. I've flow a bit in urban areas, but usually the big cities, but this is the first time I've tried a city like this, flying low and slow, taking time to notice the details. For example, the roofs have a nice 3D shape now, and what's more, they are landable!