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turbofandude

We are often asked by virtual airlines, “why doesn’t smartCARS have an AFK check or check-in feature?” For those not familiar with the term, AFK means “away from keyboard.” Below, I’ll explain why we have not yet implemented (and will not be adding) such a feature.

Some virtual airlines want an AFK check to ensure that their pilots do not walk away in the middle of a flight. This concept works when everything goes as planned, but let’s face – we all have lives outside of flight simulation. Sometimes, these lives get in the way of the flights we planned on doing and we have to leave our computers unattended. Allowing a program to nag its users to ensure they’re providing 100% focus at all times is unfair.

Our goal with smartCARS has always been to provide a friendly and easy experience for all users. There are some very dedicated simmers who DO stay in sim, at the computer, for the entire flight – power to them. Others can’t do this and we don’t feel that they should be punished for it. As well, adding such a feature may deter pilots who have other commitments or who are unable to guarantee their availability from joining (or staying with) your virtual airline.

Ultimately, we all sim for the fun and for the love of aviation – we feel that putting these sorts of requirements on how we (virtually) fly detracts from the experience.

turbofandude

It’s been awhile since our last major update on the 717, but we’re back with some exciting progress.

 

Sounds

717_tss_2

First and foremost, we’ve officially announced our cooperation with Turbine Sound Studios for the internal/external sounds. The 717 will ship with their soundpack specially fitted into our aircraft (at no additional charge to the customer, of course). This, paired with our realistic cockpit ambience and mechanical sounds (fans, avionics, switches/handles, etc.) will be quite an experience.

Note: the cockpit sounds heard in our last video (“717 Flight Controls Overview”) are not final and may be improved as development continues.

 

Systems

PFD

Since our last post, we’ve implemented three important pieces of the 717’s systems – the primary flight display, electronic instrument system (EIS) alert system, and display unit reconfiguration system. Without further ado, here is our primary flight display:

pfd

We’ve gotten the majority of its function and visual effects complete. The captain’s and copilot’s displays are completely independent – including separate minimums callouts, giving us a very robust foundation for the more complex display options. The next major step, display-wise, will be implementing the navigation displays (activating the last currently inoperable main displays).

 

EIS Alerts

One of the most complex pieces of the 717’s EIS is the alert system – it displays logically arranged messages on the engine and alert display (EAD) and the respective system display (SD). Here’s a screenshot showing this – in the first screenshot, the aircraft is running properly on APU power with all transfer buses automatic.

eis_alerts_0

In the second screenshot, I’ve turned the left transfer bus to open (preventing power flow), which has isolated the left AC bus, causing the following alerts:

eis_alerts_1

As well, you can see that the “ELEC” cue switch has become illuminated on the pedestal. Pressing this switch, as this point, will acknowledge the new electrical warning messages and move them entirely to the electrical SD and extinguish the light.

 

Display Reconfiguration

The other new system we’ve implemented is the automatic switching of displays. When a display unit is turned off (or is off due to insufficient power), the system will reconfigure which displays appear on which physical screen. This can be seen in the following screenshot set. In the first shot, all displays are turned on.

display_switching_0

In the next shot, I’ve turned off display units 4 and 5, causing the system to move the SD to display unit 2, instead of 4.

display_switching_1

 

The Near Future

I won’t be including any new cockpit screenshots here, as we’re not quite ready to show it off yet. That said, Brandon Filer (our resident graphic/texture guru), has been hard at work crafting some considerable visual refinements for the cockpit. It is very likely that our next major post will be chock full of nice new things to see.

We’re moving closer to considerable project milestones and have also been slowly preparing our internal infrastructure for the inevitable testing period over the last few months. Of course, we don’t give release estimates until they’re sure enough for us to bet on, but we are moving along quite a lot, especially in some areas you can’t see just yet (FMS/AFS, etc.).

 

Wrap up

That’s all for now and we’re looking forward to bringing this aircraft into the sky.

turbofandude

The smartCARS Mobile app is now available!

 

Overview

The mobile app will allow you to view your flight data in real-time, chat with other smartCARS desktop and mobile users, and stay ahead of flight problems from your mobile device. Whether you’re planning a flight with friends, keeping track of your flight from another room, or making sure nothing unexpected happens while multitasking on your flying computer, smartCARS Mobile and smartCARS Premium have you covered.

 

Screenshots

phone-acars2  iphone-acars1  ipad-chat  phone-settings

 

Availability

The mobile app is available for iOS 6 and later, Android 2.1 and later, and Windows Phone 8 and later. The app is free to download, as access to it is included in a smartCARS Premium subscription.

If you are a smartCARS Premium subscriber: visit one of the following links on your mobile device(s) to access the app store page for the app.

iOS App: http://smartcarsfs.com/premium/ios

Android App: http://smartcarsfs.com/premium/android

Windows Phone App: http://smartcarsfs.com/premium/wp

 

If you are not a smartCARS Premium subscriber: we encourage you to give Premium a try. More information on smartCARS Premium is available at http://smartcarsfs.com/premium.

 

If you own an active smartCARS license:  you can use coupon code SMARTCARSCUSTOMER to purchase smartCARS Premium for 20% off (indefinitely). If you purchased smartCARS Premium before this discount was active, contact our sales department at sales@tfdidesign.com to get the discount applied to your account (do not cancel your current subscription and repurchase).

turbofandude

Update: As of 7/26/2015, we are no longer accepting beta applications. Thank you to everyone who requested access and has participated in helping us to improve the apps! We are aiming to submit the apps to their various app stores during this next week.

smartCARS Mobile is now available for beta testing! With smartCARS Mobile, you can:

  • Monitor your flight, in real time, from any supported mobile device
  • Pause/unpause your sim and remotely enable/disable pause at top of descent and abnormal flight prevention
  • Receive notifications for abnormal flight on your phone
  • Chat (both globally and privately) with other smartCARS uses across all supported platforms, desktop included

Supported platforms:

  • Android 4+
  • iOS 7+
  • Windows Phone 8.1

Participating in the Beta:

To get started in the beta, email admin@tfdidesign.com and request beta access. Please be sure to include the platforms you’ll be testing on. You will need a smartCARS Premium subscription to use and test the mobile app(s).

Issues and requests can be submitted via the smartCARS Mobile development tracker, available at https://tfdidesign.com/index.php?m=devtracker&p=viewrequests&id=3.

turbofandude

The time has finally come to show off smartCARS Mobile! In a sentence: smartCARS Mobile will help you stay active and engaged in both your flight and the community from the palm of your hand. Without further ado, let’s break into some pictures. I’ll explain more about each feature below.

 

First up, the “ACARS” system.

Photo Jun 12, 3 14 39 AM Photo Jun 12, 3 14 48 AM

There are a few key features to note here. The first and foremost is that this data is in real time. Unlike almost all other solutions (live maps, etc.), this is a live feed straight from your flight to your phone. This allows you to monitor your flight as it’s happening, and if you feel the need to intervene, you can pause your sim from the same location.

The other main feature of this system is the “Pause sim under abnormal conditions” system. Checking this box will enable an intelligent flight monitor (which will also be available to smartCARS Premium users via the smartCARS desktop client upon the release of 2.1). If your flight deviates from standard”conditions (there’s unusual altitude deviation, drastic heading variation, etc.), your flight will be paused and you will receive a push notification on your phone. This means you will never again sit back down in the cockpit to find your plane suddenly descending 500NM early – now, you’ll have the chance to step in.

This poses benefits to both the hardcore simmer who never leaves his flight unattended and the more casual simmer who’s life interferes with flying. Whether you’re there with the simulator (FS9, FSX, X-Plane, or Prepar3D) minimized, or you had to run to the store, you can be confident that your information is up to date.

The mobile flight tracking system will automatically track your active flight from any smartCARS desktop client, assuming you’ve logged in to your Premium account.

 

Next up, chat.

Photo Jun 12, 3 07 48 AM photo3[1] Photo Jun 12, 3 08 45 AM

The smartCARS Mobile chat supports both global (inter-airline and now, inter-phone) and private messaging. Private messages will deliver push notifications to your phone. There is also an option to have the smartCARS chat show you as online even when you’re not in the app (again, this is optional), so that your friends or fellow airline-members can reach you via smartCARS mobile.

All private conversations are synced across any mobile device logged in to your account – start a conversation on your Nexus and finish it on your iPad. Use of the smartCARS Mobile chat does not require a virtual airline account or an active instance of smartCARS desktop.

 

“Leaving the Cockpit”

smartCARS Premium and smartCARS Mobile both work toward saving flights from computer issues, sim problems, and unpredictable changes of plans from ending a flight unexpectedly. Quite a few virtual airlines have policies against “leaving the cockpit” during flight. Sadly, that isn’t always possible and life does get in the way sometimes. We encourage virtual airlines to look at smartCARS Premium/Mobile as a way to keep flights that otherwise may have been lost. We believe that leveraging the features of smartCARS Premium, over time, will help to make flying more convenient while retaining quality flights and realism.

 

Some Extra Images

Here are various images to show different tabs in different orientations.

photo1[1] Photo Jun 12, 3 09 01 AM photo6[1] photo5[1]

 

Availability

The apps are currently “finished” as far as core functionality and design. They are operating on their native platforms and working as expected. We are planning to enter beta within the next week (and we will post information about beta when it becomes available). A smartCARS Premium subscription includes access to the smartCARS Mobile app ($3.99/mo).

smartCARS Mobile supports any modern Android, iOS, or Windows Phone device.

 

Wrapping up

As a disclaimer, we will likely modify or improve various elements both visually and functionally between now and the release of the apps, but the pictures above are a good indication of what smartCARS Mobile will be. We’re looking forward to putting the “smart” into smartCARS and putting that intelligence in the palm of your hand very soon.

 

Edit:

This app is NOT a flight tracker for mobile flight simulators. It extends the features of smartCARS Desktop and allows you to monitor and attend to your desktop simulator from your mobile device. There was some confusion regarding this topic, so I wanted to clarify.

turbofandude

For almost the last two years, JetStream Radio has provided quality content and a strong community outlet through Flight Unlimited. We worked closely with the Flight Unlimited team to build JetStream Radio and it’s with pleasure that we can announce that TFDi Design will begin directly running JetStream Radio, effective immediately. As part of their evolution, the Flight Unlimited team has passed JetStream Radio to us.

Over the next few weeks, there will be changes to JetStream Radio’s website and social media to reflect this change. Another notable change is that the current Flight Unlimited TeamSpeak has been converted to the JetStream Radio TeamSpeak and will operate as such, again, effective immediately.

The biggest change, and something I want to explain ahead of time, is how we intend to run and manage JSR. We will not be running JetStream under a business-model – instead, it will be a community project. What this means is that we will be allowing members of the community to play an active role in both management and operations of JSR. We will allow all content (DJs, articles, radio shows, etc.) to be reviewed and adjusted based on reviews. This allows both the JSR team to be in touch with the community and allows the community to help maintain JSR content. If you’re interested in becoming part of the JetStream team, email admin@jetstreamradio.com or reach out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RadioJetStream.

With JSR directly under our wing, we’re going to be able to integrate much more with smartCARS and potentially our partnership system. We’ll dive into more detail regarding that as details become available.

turbofandude

If there’s one thing we try to avoid when working on anything, it’s tediousness. Sometimes it’s as simple as using Notepad to replace all instances of a line of text. In the case of the displays on the 717, we wrote a program to design the gauges visually rather than in code. Why, might you ask? To answer that, allow me to give a bit of an overview of gauge development.

One of the options when programming gauges in C++ is to use Direct2D for the visual components. Direct2D is a 2D graphics API that’s part of the DirectX libraries. It’s a modern API for rendering 2D shapes and text to make up a digital display in FSX. Normally when testing out a program, it’s quite simple to launch it, try out your new code, and shut it back down to make a tweak. However, this isn’t so quick or simple in FSX. To test a change to anything, let’s say, the shape of the attitude indicator on the PFD of the 717, we must first switch to a different aircraft so that our gauge (a DLL/GAU, you’ve probably seen them in your FSX folder before) is not being used by FSX, “build” (essentially means our code is being converted to its final usable format) the new copy of the gauge, then open up our aircraft menu and select the 717 again (and of course click through that annoying dialog that asks us if we want to run the new DLL…). Those aren’t a lot of steps, but when you need to do this hundreds of times AND edit things point by point, it can take up a lot of…time. Above all, it’s just tedious and annoying to do. While powerful, Direct2D can be unpredictable in the way its shapes are rendered, which just makes this worse. We thought, there must be something we can do to make this easier? That’s when it dawned on us.

Direct2D isn’t just an API for use in graphics engines/games. It can also be used to render shapes in a standard desktop program. After a bit of research and some planning, we set to work on what we call D2D Studio (seen below, with the 717’s PFD loaded up). Keep in mind that the screenshot below demonstrates a work-in-progress version of the PFD and is by no means final.

D2D Studio Main Window

Rather than having to build our DLL and switch out of/in to the 717 every time, we can design most of the major shapes in real time. This makes it very quick to draw arcs, lines, and place text.

D2D Studio Line

We also implemented a feature where we can add a background image behind the display. This is helpful since we have real photographs of every display in the plane. We can set the background and start designing based on the actual locations of components of the displays. Below is an example of this – all of the PFD components we’ve drawn so far, with our photograph behind it.

D2D Studio PFD Background

Once we have what we need “drawn out” in D2D Studio, we have a feature for generating C++ code based on what we’ve made. We can then directly copy and paste this code into Visual Studio (an application/programming tool). Once we have the code in, we can then start adding functionality to our creations.

This program took us about a week to make, but saves us potentially months of development time.

turbofandude

I’m finally breaking our silence on updates. We were planning to wait until our current list of changes was complete, but we’re finding that some of these changes are going to be larger undertakings. One of the main things I’ve been working on recently is the electrical system. The electrical system and its associated controls and data is really the foundation of the rest of the aircraft’s systems, so it was something I was excited to get working.

As of now, it works as it should with the exception of a few edge (non-standard operation) conditions. The way we did it, it’s much more than just a “if(power) do_stuff();” sort of system. I spent some time working with one of our colleagues, who is a 717 crew member, to nail down the 717’s automatic No-Break-Power-Transfer (NBPT) system. I’ll use a picture to illustrate how this works. Note – the area around the display unit is graphically botched in this picture as we are re-texturing it (it had to be redone so we could correct the aspect ratio of the displays). Similarly, we remodelled the overhead switches and are in the process of re-doing the artwork for them, hence their oddness. Without further ado, here’s the electrical synoptic display page with the APU running, the engines off, and all electrical control switches in their standard (automatic) position.

Screenshot 2015-05-12 16.00.44

Each small T-shaped line represents a relay in the electrical system. The hardest part was getting those to open and close properly to allow power to flow through the system – this lets us both determine what buses have power and how. Here’s what I’m talking about. In the next picture, I turned off the left AC bus tie, which means it will open the relay and prevent power from flowing.

Screenshot 2015-05-12 15.59.54

You can see that the left AC bus is no longer powered because there isn’t a way to get power to it anymore (the APU power input is fairly central, it has to flow through the bus tie relays). On the other hand, the left DC bus tie relay and auxiliary DC bus tie relay have closed to supply the left DC bus with power. It is this transfer of power and manipulation of these relays that gives us the simulation of the NBPT system – a loss of regular power to one system, in our 717, will not interrupt service as long as an alternative is available, like the real 717.

 

We will be doing something to simulate the electrical load values and generator input and frequency, they’re just not present in these pictures. Similarly, the warning message system is on its way – step one was getting power to the rest of the systems.

turbofandude

smartCARS 2 Released

smartCARS 2.0 has been released! The official release trailer is below.

Starting today, virtual airlines around the world will begin migrating to smartCARS 2. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to create a flight tracker/pilot client that exceeds expectations and allows us to deliver more than ever before. We’ve listened to feedback, suggestions, and complaints alike and implemented the best of them into what we hope to grow into a powerful application experience. In addition, we’ve implemented smartCARS Premium – a new system that allows us to offer extended features to all smartCARS pilots (per their desire, of course). More information on that is available via the product page (links at the end).

As of now, we have the release and development of smartCARS 2 planned in three phases. I’ve detailed them below:

  • Phase 1: Initial rollout. Starting today, we’ll be getting virtual airlines converted from smartCARS 1.X to 2.0 and getting any initial bugs squashed.
  • Phase 2: Immediately following the holidays, we’ll be working with translators and our team to offer a unified, localized experience for users of many different languages. We’ll also be finishing the smartCARS mobile apps during this phase.
  • Phase 3: Approximately 90 days from now, we’ll begin phasing out smartCARS 1.X and removing legacy files and support from our servers.

An official change log from smartCARS 1.47 to smartCARS version 2 is available here http://tfdidesign.com/forums/index.php?/topic/571-change-log/.

Availability

Starting with smartCARS 2, you can purchase a smartCARS license for either a $69.99 up-front fee, or for $5.83 for 12 months. The smartCARS product page is available at https://tfdidesign.com/?p=smartcars2.

smartCARS Premium is available for $3.99 per month for the pilot. The virtual airline does not purchase Premium. The smartCARS Premium product page is available at https://tfdidesign.com/?p=smartcarspremium.

The Future

As always, an initial release is never the end for us. This is a community platform and now that it’s in full view of the community, we have so many things we look forward to adding to smartCARS and smartCARS Premium (such as a fuel planner… except, it’ll be better than expected). We look forward to hearing community feedback and continuing to impress with the smartCARS platform.

turbofandude

smartCARS 2 Unveiled

We’ve unveiled smartCARS 2.0 and its features and improvements. The live stream video is available below (smartCARS 2.0 is seen running).

UI Enhancements
The first and most noticeable change you’ll probably see when opening smartCARS 2.0 is the brand new user interface. smartCARS has always been about effective simplicity. With version 2, we wanted to take the simplistic approach on version 1 and modernize the look and feel even further. This began with doing away with a standard Windows-style form border. Starting with smartCARS 2.0, complete translations will be available. The further details regarding language availability are to be determined.
 
Airline Customizations
Our custom form design lets a virtual airline specify a color for their ACARS’s form without the end user’s Windows color scheme affecting the intended look. The flexibility of color customization extends into the program’s controls as well. Certain UI components, such as buttons, progress bars, and notification icons will match the selected color as well.Additionally, the ability to specify an icon and logo upon ordering smartCARS returns in 2.0. There is also an option to have a separate icon that shows on the form border itself. This is important if you want an icon that is solid white to better match the overall style of the program.
 
On top of the color customizations, the same functionality-related customization options from smartCARS 1.x will carry over to 2.0 (for example, disabling of new bids, displaying the time in UTC, and showing all weights in kilograms).
 
Powering all of these customizations will be an easy to use backend. As an airline administrator, you will be able to edit all settings (minus airline name and shortcut icon) without the trouble of a smartCARS redeploy. As well, for airlines who have in the past been forced to use a different ICAO than they preferred, this limitation is now gone.
 
Web-savvy airline administrators will appreciate the steps we’ve taken to open our airline-side back end to customization. The new smartCARS PHP files require less configuration and allow for more customization than ever before. We’ve implemented several requests we’ve received over the last two years and created a class framework to easily allow smartCARS to work with non-phpVMS/IPS websites.
 
Improved Information Display
Redesigning the UI for smartCARS 2.0 let us return to the drawing board with many of the pages in the program and implement requested features, as well as display certain information in a cleaner/more logical way. For example, when selecting a flight that you have bid on, you can now easily see the departure and arrival time, as well as what days of the week that flight is meant to be flown. Previously, the departure/arrival times were crammed next to their respective ICAOs and the days of the week were not even visible.
 
Premium
With smartCARS 2.0, we’re introducing smartCARS Premium, an optional per-pilot subscription-based service that provides the user with a variety of new features. The most notable feature is our new mobile app, which will be available on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. From this app, a pilot can check the current progress of their flight remotely, as well as receive notifications if their aircraft goes off course, or even if their flight simulator crashes.
 
Also coming with Premium is a flight recovery system. In the event of a flight simulator crash or computer malfunction, smartCARS will be able to restore a pilot’s aircraft (minus aircraft systems) and flight tracking information.
 
For those that enjoy flying at night, Premium offers an option to set smartCARS to a dark theme, which is much easier to look at during evening hours. The white form background will change to a dark gray and all text to white. The pilot will be able to specify a time range in the application settings for what time of day they want smartCARS to be dark (this can also be set to static, for no automatic changes).
 
Community Feedback
This project is community driven and we take all feedback into consideration. During our live stream, several ideas were posed that were added to our list of items to review. If you have any ideas or worries, please be vocal with us. We respond to every question directly.
 
Developer Preview and Beta Access
You will be able to apply by registering at our internal virtual airline test bed. It is available at http://scdc.tfdidesign.com.
turbofandude

Resolving bugs in the application’s code can be a tedious process, but there are several things you can do to help us do so faster. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Bugs are not always caused by part of the application obviously connected to it.
  • Bugs tend to be very specific, and can vary between users.
  • There is no way to test a fix for a bug we cannot reproduce.
  • With this understanding, there is more than a simple description and the version number of the problem that can help us fix the bug. Things that will help us solve your problem faster include:
    • Event viewer logs (see below), exception messages, or error messages
    • Situation specifics such as flight location, aircraft, antivirus software, etc.
    • A screenshot of the problem (if possible)
    • Your smartCARS log file (a guide to finding them is available here: https://tfdidesign.com/knowledgebase/5/Finding-and-Benefiting-from-smartCARS-Logs.html)
    • Steps you can take to reproduce the problem
    • Operating system and hardware installed to the computer

There are some problems that are caused by obvious problems (such as an incorrect label) that do not require this level of detail, but as a rule, the more information you can give us, the easier it is to track down the cause of the issue, and the faster it will be fixed. Posts in this forum do not require moderator approval as we want users to be able to read other support requests immediately. This reduces the chances of the same issue being reported multiple times, and fosters potential discussion among users regarding the issue, which can lead to the discovery of additional helpful information.

Unhandled Exceptions
An unhandled exception screen looks like this:

Unhandled Exception Image

If you see this, please click details, and copy the information in the text box. Paste these details into your bug report/support request

Event Viewer Logs
As mentioned above, event viewer logs can contain detailed reports about an application crash. To get to the event viewer log, go to your start menu, type “Event Viewer”, and click on Event Viewer.

Start Menu Event Viewer

Then, in the window that opens, click the arrow next to “Windows Logs”.

Event Viewer

Double-click on “Application”. In the screen that comes up, search for entry with “Error” in the “Level” column. If the error details are at all relevant to the product you’re experiencing a problem with, please copy and paste those into your bug reports as well. Also, there may be more than one; if so, please copy them all.

turbofandude

We’re back with another monthly update! We’ve finalized the virtual cockpit and finished all of our tweaks (pictures attached – in-sim). The systems are underway and making progress, the virtual cockpit is done, and the exterior is nearly done. For the texture artists: once we finalize the exterior, you’ll be hearing from us to get you your copy and the information you need.

Without further ado, here are the VC shots (in HD). As a final word, the “missing text” panels will be fixed later on – we’ve intentionally left that out.

TFDi Design 717 VC (July 2014) TFDi Design 717 VC (July 2014) TFDi Design 717 VC (July 2014)

TFDi Design 717 VC (July 2014) TFDi Design 717 VC (July 2014) TFDi Design 717 VC (July 2014)

turbofandude

We have launched our web hosting service for virtual airlines and flight simulation organizations! We feel that as a virtual airline software provider, offering web hosting solutions will allow us to help consolidate virtual airline infrastructure. There are several key features about our hosting platform that should prove appealing to virtual airlines and I have outlined them below.

Our web hosting system is run and managed by flight simulation professionals. We know what virtual airlines and flight simulation communities need to succeed and we’re doing our best to provide it. This includes the way we’ve chosen to integrate and manage our billing system and control panel. It also includes what software we’ve installed on our server (such as the Softaculous one-click installation system, which allows for easy installation of software like MyBB or phpBB).

Free off-site backups that users can restore. This means that every day, our server takes a complete backup of all user files and database information. Then, you as a user can choose to restore some or all of this data at will via cPanel. For example, if you accidentally delete an important file, or you delete the wrong database table, you can fix it immediately. It also means that even a complete TFDi Design server failure cannot lose your data.

Account migration services. Switching web hosts can be a nightmare, we know. We’ll move your website and databases to our servers (and configure them) when you order the $5 account migration service.

Two virtual airline-tailored plans. We offer a Standard and a Plus plan. The Standard plan offers 5GB of disk space, one addon domain, and unlimited resources – this allows a VA to start and grow without restriction. We also offer a Plus plan with 10GB of disk space and unlimited addon domains. Airlines that require large amounts of space or have more than two domains on their account can utilize this option to meet their needs.

Free phpVMS installation and configuration services. Looking to get started with a new airline or you don’t quite know where to start? We’ll do it for you and guide you through the process.

Get started with Standard Hosting for $6/month at https://tfdidesign.com/accounts/cart.php?a=add&pid=5

Get started with Plus Hosting for $9/month at https://tfdidesign.com/accounts/cart.php?a=add&pid=6

The product page for our web hosting is available at https://tfdidesign.com/index.php?p=hosting.

turbofandude

We’ve been quiet for a while (like always – our progress tends to come in waves), but I want to break the silence to give everyone some information regarding the 717’s progress. Today’s update won’t have pictures, but there is some information I want to share.

As it is, the virtual cockpit, external model, systems, and flight dynamics model are being developed by different team members at the same time. We will continue this throughout the development, which will let us move faster without loosing quality. As promised from the start, we’re pushing development speed as hard as we can without sacrificing quality. In addition to the amount of people working on the project, we have thousands of pages of reference material and countless pictures taken by 717 crew members specifically for us that have been our guidelines while making this airplane.

On that note, I want to talk about our “lite” simulation plans. Originally, that idea was intended as a way to deliver the 717 to our followers faster, as well as involve the community (which we will still be doing). As progress has become more reliable, we’ve been able to reconsider our plans. As of now, the initial release is no longer planned to be lite. This decision was made as a result of the speedup in development (which we alluded to when we announced our contract with Milviz), a growing library of resources (which were not available when we planned the lite release), and our utilization of new technology.

This “new technology” will remain secret until release, however, it has allowed us to do a few things that users will appreciate. Our systems will be very detailed and accurate (for instance, our primary flight display is currently accurate within a pixel of the real one – less than 0.2% difference), and we will continue to go the extra mile to match small details. Something that this new technology delivers is the ability to have such details with next to no impact on the framerate. Now, we can develop a higher quality visual model and still end up with better performance than the old technology would have delivered. Similarly, we will be able to introduce new features which were previously considered impossible due to their performance overhead.

So, although we’ve been quiet, it is for good reason. We are making progress very quickly and look forward to sharing pictures in one of our next progress updates.

turbofandude

We are proud to announce the release of our 737 Extreme Sound package! We knew our sound pack needed some love and attention to bring it into the modern flight simulation world and up to our product quality standards, and that’s exactly what we gave it. Although we reused many of the original sounds, almost everything surrounding them has been redone or improved.

This package brings:

  • a totally improved interior spool sound flow
  • a revised external spool sound flow
  • a new and much improved buzzsaw sound
  • utilization of FSX’s sound cone technology on the exterior sounds
  • a brand new set of gauges to increase your immersion

Customers of previous iterations of our sound pack will receive a 50% discount on their order (with is claimed by emailing support@tfdidesign.com with your previous registration key). We have spent weeks perfecting the sound.cfg, writing the code for the gauges, and improving the audio files in the sound pack and we feel that it is fair to regard this as a new product based on a previous one, rather than an update or upgrade.

Thank you for your support and we hope your enjoy the sound pack! You can get it at https://tfdidesign.com/?p=737xs

turbofandude

The time has come for us to put our feet down. Over the last few months, we have battled with support for Windows XP in our software, and in some cases, we’ve been forced to lessen the overall quality and consistency of the product. It is this, in combination with Microsoft’s imminent end of support for it, that have resulted in our decision to end Windows XP support.

We know this is a decision that will not be easily accepted by everyone, but it is a decision we have to make. Targeting an operating system that is a decade old creates unneeded challenges. Among these challenges are:

  • Inconsistent library and framework availability. For example, the MediaPlayer class that smartCARS uses to play radio content is unavailable on Windows XP, but no comparable library is readily available. When we developed this feature, we had two options: make a Windows Vista or later only version or develop our own, in-house radio streaming system. Although we are fully capable of the latter, it would turn a two week development effort into a two month effort. This, in turn, creates additional costs and increases our development time considerably. The MediaPlayer class, of course, is not the only feature lost by supporting XP.
  • Testing. Windows XP accounts for only 17% of the global market and finding a substantial test-user base is difficult. Most of the people who volunteered to help us test XP compatibility with smartCARS did not have Flight Simulator installed (which reduces testing to merely “does it open?”). Mostly, we, have only been able to test in a virtual machine or remote-desktop environment.
  • Security. Let’s face it – as software is updated, it becomes more secure. The hundreds of “Security Updates for Windows” that you see in Windows Update throughout the year help to keep you safe from new threats. Similarly, operating without these updates renders your system less secure. Windows XP was created before many of those threats were even imagined. Although there may be an update now, there will come a point when there are flaws that cannot be fixed practically. As a side note, about two years ago, I worked at a local computer repair shop part-time, and approximately 80% of the computers that needed virus removals were running Windows XP. That’s not really a fair arguing point, but especially when you consider that XP users hold a minority of the market share, it’s something to consider.

When we initially released smartCARS, it was only compatible with Vista or later, but due to user feedback, we expanded our support to include XP. As development continued, we began to realize we needed to make a change again. We may be one of the first developers in this community to make this decision publicly, but we are confident that we will not be the last. We are not alone in our end of support for XP outside of the FS market, either. Microsoft has officially announced that they will no longer support XP after April, 2014. This means that they will not issue security updates, they will not fix problems, and they will offer assisted support.

What does this mean for TFDi projects?

Starting with the official smartCARS 1.3.3 release, Windows XP users will no longer be offered support. We will not prevent our installers from installing on to a system running XP, however, we will utilize whichever Vista or later-only libraries we deem necessary and we will not test on Windows XP. It is still too early to tell how the 717 will operate on Windows XP, however, its performance on XP-based systems will not be a concern to our developers.

We offer our apologies to any Windows XP users who feel abandoned, as this is not our intent. We seek only to be able to develop our software to its full potential. By supporting such an archaic system, we limit that potential. As Microsoft has said, we encourage our followers and the followers of our partners to upgrade to a modern operating system.

To read more about Microsoft’s official end of support, click here.

Edit (6/8/2014): New versions of smartCARS do indeed prevent installation on Windows XP as we have started using libraries not available on it.

turbofandude

It has been about four months since we announced the 717 project, and it’s time for us to let you know what’s been happening. While we were working on smartCARS, progress was being made on the 717. As of now, we have an animated 717 external model ready for exporting to Flight Simulator. This means that texturing will begin shortly, and you will start to see in-sim screenshots. Below are our second, and likely last set of 3DS renders of the 717 before you start in-sim previews.

 

post-1-0-00296500-1354418016 post-1-0-80659400-1354424943 post-1-0-16604600-1354418025 post-1-0-14310200-1354418029

 

 

Now, we have some things to tell everyone.

  • We are expecting a completed external model, including animations and textures in early 2013. We will, at that point, begin showing in-sim videos and more screenshots than before.
  • We have begun collecting the resources for the sound package, and but we have no estimate on completion.
  • We have purchased manuals and resources needed for the systems. This means that we will begin the instrument programming soon.
  • We are going to follow through on our concept of an initial ‘lite’ release, followed by the full release later on.

I’m leaving this unlocked for now, so feel free respond. Thank you for reading, and we hope you’re enjoying your weekend!

turbofandude

TFDi Design is proud to announce the release of the smartCARS Virtual Flight Tracking Software, making it available to virtual airlines for purchase. smartCARS is a state of the art Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) developed for Microsoft Flight Simulator X and Lockheed Martin Prepar3D. smartCARS was designed with an easy-to-use and extensible user interface.

Benefits for Pilots

  • Fluid, dynamic user interface
  • High speed connectivity
  • Straight forward and informative flight information
  • Detailed flight log
  • Multi-bid support
  • In-app route search and bid management
  • GPWS callout system (with two different callout types)
  • Flight attendent announcements
  • Chat with the whole smartCARS community, or just your airline
  • Automatic login
  • Extensive options

Benefits for Virtual Airlines

  • Web License Management (not available for the November 4th release)
  • Cloud-based pilot chat (driven by the smartCARS™ Cloud_x64 System)
  • Automatic updating (web script and pilot clients automatically update)
  • Extensive logging options (not available in November 4th release)
  • Customized login screen (your logo and airline name)

For more information, visit the official smartCARS product page.

The journey begins here!

turbofandude

TFDi Design is proud to announce the TFDi Design 717 project!
We are working hard on the new 717 project, and it is farther along than expected.

Why the 717?
The 717 is a very fun airplane to fly, and is different than any other aircraft. It has a unique design, both externally and internally, and will be a pleasure to design and fly. The flight simulation community was in desperate need of a quality 717, and we feel we can fulfill that need.

How far along is it?
The 717 is currently about 20% of the way completed. Currently the external model is mostly completed, and the flight dynamics are mostly complete as well. We are in the process of texturing the external model and collecting resources for the virtual cockpit. We are planning a rapid development cycle for this project, and plan to push it as fast as we can without sacrificing quality.

WHEN CAN WE GET IT?
As always, TFDi does NOT make any projections on release dates, as they are subject to enormous change. We will keep everyone updated, and the best place to stay up to date is right here!

Want to contribute?
TFDi needs resources and information from real pilots and crew, and we would love any help any of our fans could give us. If you or someone you know can help, please email us at admin@tfdidesign.com!