Review of the Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals

Today at we review the Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals.

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How much did you spend building that simulator?

This is probably the most common question I’m asked about the simulator I built, with many of these questions originating from my related YouTube video.

Most people seem to assume that I spent some silly sum putting this thing together, but that’s simply not true. The truth is that this project was mostly about recycling a lot of older electronics and materials that were just lying around. It’s true that I did spend a decent sum building a high-end gaming computer for FSX. However, outside this computer and the flight controls (purchased from Saitek) the simulator itself only cost about $150.

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Review of Virgin America’s In Flight Entertainment System – RED

Today at we take a step out of the virtual world and into the real world as we review Virgin America’s in-flight entertainment system.

Whereas travellers were once satisfied with a free newspaper, today’s tech savy population increasingly demands high quality customizable content delivered directly to their seat.

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FSX Animation of the US Airways Flight 1549 Landing in NYC’s Hudson River

For an HD version, use this link and select ‘Watch in HD.’

I had wanted to put this together a bit earlier, but have been traveling and without access to my FSX computer… as they say, better late than never.

Anyway, I spliced the above FSX footage together to reenact the amazing events that took place above and around New York City on the afternoon of Friday January 16, 2009. By now, most everyone is familiar with what happened, but if by some chance you’re not:

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Microsoft apparently pulls the plug on Flight Simulator… shutting down Aces studios

It appears that Microsoft has decided to close a major gaming division and as a result pull the plug on its longest standing Windows product – Microsoft Flight Simulator. Flight Simulator has been part of Microsoft’s software lineup since 1982!

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Using Quicktime Broadcaster to stream live video across your home network

This video is quite self explanatory, but here are a few additional comments to consider if you want to try it out:

All the required software is free (see below for links). Both Quicktime Player and VLC Movie Player work equally well in playing the live streams.

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When HDTV isn’t so HD – Why the cable company’s compression algorithms can really ruin your day (and your hardware investment)

During the recent holiday break, I took part in that great American pastime of lounging around watching the variety of college football bowl games. Having recently moved into the HDTV arena myself, I was anxious to see the action in all it’s 1080i glory.

I traveled to a friend’s house to watch one of the big games on ABC. On a side note, ABC currently broadcasts in 720p and not 1080i (like NBC, CBS and many other networks), but on most ‘normal’ size HDTVs the difference is not really noticeable. Anyway, as the big game came on a few people started asking ‘Is this HD? Do you have the HD feed on?’

Although the image was obviously better than standard definition (SD) television, and in the widescreen format, it didn’t really look that clear. It wasn’t the television, in fact the TV was a new beautiful Sony Bravia and we had just seen it in action with a Blue-ray disc before the game. No, it was Comcast and an obviously ambitious attempt to broadcast ‘HDTV’ using the absolute minimum amount of bandwidth possible.

Back in the old days with analog TV, the signal you got was essentially always the same regardless of who you were getting your signal from and regardless of if it was over a cable wire or antenna. The digital revolution has changed all that. Now, many homes have a single ‘data’ connection to the outside world which carries phone, video and the Internet all over the same wire. In fact, so far as the data network is concerned these things are all basically one in the same… just different streams of data all flowing over the same connection, which eventually gets split up inside your home by various end devices (cable box, cable modem and VOIP connection).

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Adapting a toggle switch to a ‘keyboard hack’ (toggle on/off to pulse)

Probably one of the most common questions I’ve received via comments, PMs and e-mail is ‘so how to you use standard toggle switches with a keyboard hack’?

I won’t go into too much detail about the keyboard hack here (and there are plenty of other websites that described it in detail), but the basic principle is that you find an old keyboard and remove the controller chip inside. When you press a key on the keyboard, the key squishes together two conductive surfaces printed onto layers of plastic. These conductive lawyers are arranged in lines across a grid-like pattern. Each key corresponds to a unique set of coordinates in this grid. For example, pushing down the ‘A’ key might have the coordinates A1-B3 corresponding to the A1 and B3 pins on the controller chip.

There are generally three different ways to figure out the ‘map’ for the controller chip (eg which combination of coordinates equals which keys).

– Search the web and see if someone else has mapped the same chip (long shot)

– Carefully trace the the lines on the conductive layers to figure out each key’s coordinates (possible, but likely to give you a huge headache)

– Test out each combination of pins by systematically crossing each combination from the two sets of pins

The third method is probably the quickest and easiest. Generally I will just make a grid pattern (with the top and side corresponding to the two sets of pins on the chip). Small wires can be placed onto the pins and then quickly tapped together to simulate the pressing of a key. If you have a word processing program open, you’ll quickly be able to see which pin combinations correspond to which letters. Some, such as ‘shift’ or ‘ctrl’ won’t be obvious, but just ignore any combinations that don’t produce a letter or number response (as you generally won’t need that many different keys to map).

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FSX Virtual Plane Spotting at Princess Juliana International

Here is a fun little FSX video I made around Princess Juliana International Airport (TNCM) in Saint Martin:

nVidia Drivers for Vista-64 and FSX Crashing (BSOD)

Well during some of the gap since I last posted an entry I’ve been literally pulling my hair out over the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) with FSX in Vista-64. In short, I was experience constant random crashes with FSX (and several other games) leading to the BSOD. These crashes would occur without warning and at seemingly random intervals. Vista was generally useless when it came to diagnosing or fixing the problem simply, occasionally, stating that it was a problem with the “graphics driver.”

Obviously this leads to a totally useless situation when it comes to FSX since about 50% of the time my system would crash in the middle of a flight (talk about frustrating! 😉 ). My system is essentially state-of-the-art so there should be no issues with components not being able to handle the rigors of FSX (see previous entries regarding my system specs).

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