Let’s try this again

Hello again.

I know it has been an incredibly long time since I last did anything with this blog. Well, I’m going to give it another go. I know that a sizable number of people have signed up as subscribers, but I have no idea how many people are actually reading this. If you do read this, and want to see me posting more often, let me know. Post a comment and let me know what you like/hate about my blog.

I recently updated my About page to show where I am now in my career. In case you missed it, I am now working at Epic Games as a contractor. I have been there for almost a year, and it has been an absolutely amazing experience so far. I work with an incredibly talented group of people who are helping to support everyone who is using Unreal Engine 4. If you have any interest in creating video games, then you should definitely check it out (though I am obviously biased).

Since I am working with UE4 every day, helping people work through some of the problems they are experiencing when making their games, I was thinking about possibly writing an occasional tutorial. Is that something that would be of interest to anyone? If so, post a comment and let me know. I will say however, that any tutorials that I do write will most likely be focused on programming, since that is what I know. I leave the magic of modeling, texturing, animation, etc. to others.

Let me wrap up this post by mentioning that GDC will be starting tomorrow. There will be a lot of great stuff being shown off this week, as well as announcements from Epic and many other companies. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for these announcements, because they will be exciting.

One last note for subscribers. As I mentioned above, I have no idea how many of you are actually reading this. I am thinking about wiping the database clean and starting over from a fresh slate. IF I decide to do that, I will make a post letting everyone know a couple of days before I actually wipe everything. Any subscribers posting comments will be kept in the database, and anyone removed from the database will be free to re-subscribe. I just want to make sure the only people receiving notifications of new posts are people who actually want to receive those notifications.

Posted in General | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Starting Again

It has been a great long while since my last post. Ironically, that was a post where I said I was going to try to post more frequently. Well, I’m going to give this another shot. I will (hopefully) be putting up a longer post soon, but for now I wanted to let anyone who still cares know that I am getting back into this.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Beginnings

I am a bad blogger. It has been far too long since I last posted anything new on my site. There are reasons for this, some of them may actually be good reasons, but I should not have gone this long without posting something.

Yes, I have been busy with school, and that has taken up a great deal of my time. Yes, I have also been busy with a new job, and that has taken up even more of my time. However, I have also hesitated to post when I did have time, because I wasn’t sure anyone really wanted to read what I had to say. That doesn’t really matter, I’ll say it anyway.

What’s all this about new beginnings? Well, I am hoping I can get myself into the habit of posting at least somewhat regularly. New posts about aviation, virtual aviation, gaming in general, and whatever else happens to cross my mind. I will do my best to be as informative, and entertaining, as possible.

I have also started a new job. Well, it has been a few months, but I have settled in and believe that I have managed to successfully get a new career started. I am now working as a customer support representative for Funcom. Before the questions begin, let me refer you to the About page of my site. Let me also re-iterate that I will not allow any bickering about Funcom or any of its games on my site. This is not the place for that, and it will not be tolerated.

Having said that, Funcom announced today that the NDA for our newest game, The Secret World, has been conditionally lifted. We are now allowed to talk about the game and content that is present in the current beta version, and any future versions leading up to launch, which is scheduled for July 3rd. If you have any legitimate questions about the game, I would be happy to answer them as best as I can. Keep in mind though, that there are still a lot of things that I simply cannot talk about.

Since I am now working in the video game industry, I will probably be posting more content related to video games in general, so don’t be surprised if that happens. I will still try to keep my roots in aviation, though I have found I have much less time for that now. Along the lines of virtual aviation, make sure to check out the folks over at Fly Away Simulation. I have only recently become acquainted with their site, and have barely scratched the surface of what they have available, but so far I have really liked what I have seen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

SkyDrift: A Review

This gallery contains 6 photos.

A friend of mine gave me a copy of the new game SkyDrift for my birthday (thanks, Graham!). Before I get started, let me confess that as a pilot I hold any game that involves flying to a very high standard. … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

LightSquared prepared to sue FCC

It appears that LightSquared is prepared to sue the FCC if the FCC does not issue approval for the company to begin installation and operation of approximately 40,000 towers in the US to provide universal 4G data service across the country. At a glance that may not seem like a big deal, and may even be considered business as usual. However, the issue is a much more complicated one since the network LightSquared is proposing uses a band of frequencies right next to the frequencies that the GPS system uses. During testing, it was demonstrated that there was considerable interference with the operation of some GPS receivers when the receivers were in proximity to the proposed towers.

A number of industries that rely on GPS have been watching this process with considerable unease. The aviation industry in particular is concerned, since the NextGen ATC system that the FAA is working on will rely heavily on GPS. In many industries, interference from LightSquared’s proposed network could cause problems of varying severity, but in aviation any GPS interference could have disastrous consequences.

On the other side of the coin, LightSquared blames the interference on GPS receivers that “hunt” for signals and pick up signals from frequencies that are outside those used by the GPS satellites. They state that the manufacturers of the receivers have ignored standards to prevent receivers from picking up frequencies from outside the GPS band of frequencies. They certainly have a point if, in fact, current receivers do pick up signals that are not coming from the GPS satellites, and those signals are causing interference with the ability of the receiver to calculate an accurate position.

LightSquared actually claims to have a “Simple, Affordable Solution” to the potential problem of interference. However, they make no mention of exactly what “affordable” is. They also seem to imply that existing GPS receivers can be retrofitted with their solution, but given the millions of receivers currently in operation, from cell phones all the way up to airliners and military equipment, will all of the existing receivers be able to be retrofitted? LightSquared claims that the fix will not “increase the selling price” of new receivers to the consumer, but how much will a retrofit of an existing receiver cost?

LightSquared’s simple solution was “developed in a matter of days,” and apparently tests were positive for reducing or eliminating interference. However, I am somewhat skeptical of a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, especially where aviation is concerned. GPS receivers intended for use in navigation of aircraft are extremely fine-tuned. If the solution created by LightSquared is limited to blocking any frequencies outside of the GPS spectrum, then it may very well work as intended. It will, however, need to be tested in every GPS receiver approved for use in aviation, in every configuration. LightSquared may find their house coming down around their ears if an airliner full of passengers crashes and it is determined that LightSquared’s network was responsible for sending the aircraft off course.

Posted in Aviation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

FAA Releases Emergency Airworthiness Directive Regarding 737 Classic Models

Yesterday, the FAA released AD 2011-08-51 in response to the in-flight fuselage rupture experienced by Southwest Airlines flight 812 an April 1st. The AD calls for NDT inspections of 737 classic models (-300, -400, -500) with more than 30,000 flight cycles, and every 500 flight cycles after that.

So, what does that mean? A flight cycle is essentially the same as a flight. When an aircraft takes off, climbs to cruise altitude, descends and lands, that is all counted as one flight cycle. So this AD only applies to aircraft that have performed 30,000 flights or more (the Southwest aircraft involved in the fuselage rupture incident had accumulated 39,781 flight cycles).

What about the NDT inspections? When checking for cracks in metal that cannot be detected by the naked eye, a technique called eddy current testing is performed. Essentially what happens is a low electrical current is put into the metal at one point, and the current is read at another point. By knowing what the current should be in a new piece of metal, the tester can determine if there are any flaws or cracks in the metal being tested, and the severity of any flaws or cracks.

Why weren’t these aircraft already being checked for cracks? Well, they were. They just weren’t being checked in the location where the problem occurred last Friday. Why not? The simple answer is that no aircraft had experienced problems with fatigue cracks in that area before, so no one thought to look there. It is unfortunate, but a lot of the regulations involving aviation are written in blood. Typically someone has to be hurt or killed, or placed in a dangerous situation as happened on Friday, for attention to be drawn to a previously unknown and unconsidered problem. Thankfully Friday’s Southwest flight ended without any injuries, and hopefully the inspections required by the FAA’s AD 2011-08-51 will catch any more problems before they get to the point where the tops of aircraft are peeling open in flight.

Posted in Aviation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

UPS Crash in Dubai (Update)

The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) released an update to the preliminary report on the crash of a UPS Boeing 747 freighter just after takeoff from Dubai International Airport last September. It appears that, at least for now, suspicions of terrorist involvement in the incident are no longer being considered, even though Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the crash.

The update indicates that shortly after takeoff, a fire started in the main cargo hold of the aircraft. The smoke and fumes from the fire entered the cockpit, where the crew’s oxygen and air conditioning equipment failed to provide adequate protection to the crew. The captain was apparently forced to leave the flight deck when his oxygen mask failed to provide sufficient oxygen. The report goes on to state that the smoke and fumes in the cockpit were so dense that the crew was unable to see their instruments in order to descend and return to the airport.

The next question to be answered is what caused the fire in the first place.

Posted in Aviation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gulfstream G650 Crashes, Kills Four

A Gulfstream G650 crashed in Roswell, NM yesterday morning, killing the two pilots and two engineers who were on board. Gulfstream confirmed the incident yesterday, and today released the identities of the four employees that were on the aircraft.

Gulfstream G650

Gulfstream G650 (image courtesy of Gulfstream)

The G650 is Gulfstream’s flagship design, and is its newest offering in the ultra-large cabin segment of the business aircraft industry. The model is still undergoing flight testing, and the aircraft that crashed yesterday was undergoing takeoff performance checks at the time of the incident. Initial reports indicate that the aircraft lifted off of the runway briefly, before descending to a hard impact that collapsed the landing gear. The aircraft then burst into flames.

My deepest sympathies go out to the families of those men who tragically lost their lives yesterday.

Posted in Aviation | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Teledyne Continental Motors Set to be Acquired by AVIC

Yes, I know. This is somewhat old news, but I only just learned about it yesterday. It seems that Teledyne Technologies Incorporated (NYSE: TDY) has agreed to sell its subsidiary Teledyne Continental Motors to AVIC International Holding Corporation, a large Chinese company that has been given charge of designing and manufacturing Chinese commercial aircraft.

TCM is one of two major manufacturers of aircraft piston engines in the US (the other is Lycoming, a subsidiary of Textron). As such, the company has about half of the market share for piston engines in aircraft in the US, and roughly the same market share for general aviation aircraft around the world. TCM employs about 400 workers in Mobile, Alabama, where the company is based.

At first glance, this seems like another bunch of jobs that are being swept off to China. However, AVIC appears to be interested in keeping TCM’s production facility in Mobile, and actually increasing the number of workers as demand for piston aircraft is expected to increase throughout the world, but especially in China.

So it would seem that this is actually a win-win situation for both TCM and AVIC. AVIC gains access to a well-known, well-respected piston engine manufacturer, and TCM gains access to not only a well-known, well-respected supplier for aviation companies around the world, but also a potentially huge market for piston engines in China. There are currently fewer than 1,000 general aviation aircraft operating in China and, as the aviation regulations in China are gradually loosened, that number could see explosive growth in the next ten years.

The sale is expected to go through in the first quarter of 2011, after receiving anti-trust clearance and approvals from both the US and Chinese governments. Since TCM is not involved in any defense-related manufacturing or technology, there should not be any objections to prevent the sale from being completed.

Teledyne has an interesting PDF document detailing the benefits of the sale, and it is well worth reading.

Posted in Aviation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Game 5: Koala-BR8

I have completed my fifth game, and uploaded it to the site. This game is called Koala-BR8, and no, I did not come up with the name. Koala-BR8 was actually quite a lot of fun to put together, as well as quite frustrating at times.

Koala-BR8 is a puzzle game, in which you are trying to move a number of Koalas around in each level, avoiding hazards while trying to get them to the exit. Sound simple? Not quite. The catch is that when you press one of the arrow keys, all of the Koalas on the screen move in the same direction (unless there is something in the way that would prevent one or more of them from moving in that direction). It still sounds simple, but with exploding TNT and moving circular saws to avoid, it can present a surprising challenge.

I enjoyed making this game primarily because, as with Super Rainbow Reef, all of the levels that are included are entirely my own design. That was also what made this game frustrating to make. There are currently only five levels included, with increasing difficulty as you progress through the game. However, I made two or three times as many levels, and discarded them after realizing that they simply cannot be completed successfully. This was a problem that I ran into with the last level of the game, but I liked that one too much to throw it out, so I ended up making several changes to the level to enable the player to complete the level. In doing so, I think I actually decreased the difficulty of the level quite a bit (though it is still quite challenging).

Go ahead and give it a try and let me know what you think. Feedback is always welcome. As with the previous games, just unzip the file you downloaded, read the ReadMe file, then run the executable file. There is nothing to install.

As always, a big thank you to The Game Maker’s Apprentice for providing the graphics and audio for the game.

Posted in Games | Tagged , | Leave a comment