In last month’s blog post, we covered the heartbeat of Talking flight monitor and what it will take to address existing bugs and to do an in-place upgrade of the entire system. This week, we will update everyone on my surgery and provide some important news about supporting P3D and Navigraph.
Surgery went well. The doctor wants me off my feet for at least four weeks. This means I can do light weight activities inside. He put a limit on how long I can be on my feet, including how long I can sit at a desk during the day. As a result, I had limited time with my laptop, until my wife found a workaround. Now, I can “sit at my desk” as long as possible. This still means limited times because sitting on the couch with my feet up on my desk chair stresses out my back after a while. At least it is as many times during the day as I want. Doing flights is easy because I can be at my desk until autopilot takes over, then move to the couch. I will keep everyone updated on the next stage of recovery with the next blog post.
Talking flight monitor is now added to the Navigraph HUB. Anyone with a subscription should be able to add the current cycle. This is only for the source builds though. If you would like to build from source to test bleeding edge code, follow the directions found at Building TFM from source. We are currently adding support for the database, so no new features will arrive until this is finished and tested.
P3D 6 was released sometime last month. Some significant changes were made to improve the P3D framework and scenery. However, these changes broke support for the PMDG line of aircraft. In other words, PMDG aircraft do not work in P3d6. PMDG announced that after trying to add support for P3D 6, they had deeper problems than just changing some installer files. In the same announcement, they stated that revisiting this problem wouldn’t happen until the 777 and 747 were added to MSFS. This puts the timeframe sometime in mid or late 2024. As reported in the announcement, PMDG most likely won’t continue support for P3D if the changes require too many resources or too much time. Since MSFS arrived on the scene, the market share for P3D 4 and later has significantly declined. Even though more addons and scenery exist for P3D than MSFS, more addons are being altered or newly developed for MSFS. This brings us to Talking flight monitor’s placement in the market.
Talking flight monitor strives to support as many simulators as possible. However, we are also limited in time and resources. Since market value of P3D is declining in favor of MSFS, and PMDG doesn’t support P3d 6, we are not supporting P3D 6 nor continuing new development on P3D 5. Any new development in Talking flight monitor will be focused on MSFS. Keep the following in mind.
- When features are identical in both simulators, we will support P3D5 and earlier.
- If Talking flight monitor works in P3D6, it is at your own risk.
- As long as the PMDG SDKs are the same or close to the same, we will support the P3D versions.
- When the PMDG SDKs are drastically different, the MSFS versions take priority.
- Navigraph support is independent of a simulator, so works in both P3D and MSFS.
- We will not support Aerosoft products.
- We do not support FS2Crew or similar products.
- We do not support the PMDG DC6, TS4xxx, or similar aircraft.
- Support for Osobo aircraft requires an evaluation.
Again, we will do our best to keep P3D5 and earlier support going. However, we can’t make promises to the effect. We hope everyone understands our decision to back off on P3D support. In the event PMDG does support P3D 6, we will reassess the situation.
Welcome back. Last time, we covered important info about Flight sim expo, some Talking flight monitor updates, and that there is going to be down time because of my surgery this week. Before that happens, I would like to take a little time to explain what will happen with updates going forward. So, let’s start.
The heartbeat for Talking flight monitor monitors aircraft and simulator state, then announces changes based on some user settings. This heartbeat also gives pilots the ability to press a key command to open dialogs or get aircraft information on demand. We also have some utility or satellite systems to help the heartbeat do its job. The previous version of the user interface library we used forced us into a specific coding pattern, which was less than desirable. In the process of building Talking flight monitor over the past three years, we built its heartbeat into a single block of code that is over 5400 lines of related and unrelated source. All together, our code base has over 25000 lines of source that needs to be sorted out. Our plan is to fix as many current bugs and add as many new features as possible while reorganizing the code base. This may take some time since we also have to convert the existing source into the new framework version and move the dialogs and windows over to the new user interface library. The process may take a decent amount of time. However, the plan is to do an in-place upgrade. This means that pilots will not be interrupted with down times or lack preview builds to test. The entire process is always ongoing, so an estimated time is unknown at this time. Starting today, I will not be actively working on Talking flight monitor until my recovery process allows me the comfortable time to do so. I will keep everyone updated on the process and how things are going, especially with Talking flight monitor.
This will most likely be the last blog post for the week. I will evaluate the ability to write one next week and go from there. I hope everyone is having fun flying with Talking flight monitor. It is always our goal to make more and more systems or simulator features accessible with Talking flight monitor. If you have any ideas, feel free to send them through the contact form, and one of us will get back with you as soon as possible. Good luck on all your flights, and I will see you on the other side of surgery.
Welcome back! Last time we covered the new PMDG 737 cockpit panels window and our intent to list all converted panels in each update. During our time off, we went to Flight sim expo and had a great time. There is a little to cover, so let’s get started!
Flight sim expo
Flight sim expo was a great experience, and we plan on doing it again next year. The museum staff and expo volunteers did an excellent job helping out and accommodating us as blind visitors. We took a look at several exhibitors and have things to report.
One of our main stops was the Navigraph booth. Everyone there had great things to say about Talking flight monitor. We had the time to explain what Talking flight monitor did for the BVI pilots community, which was one of the problems they had when we applied for access to the Navigraph database. As a result of talking to them in person, we are ever so close to getting access. At this time, I am in conversation with their CEO on where to save the nav data when it is available. He also pointed out that since FMS data manager is going away at the end of this year, and since it is not accessible for us, they are going to include us in the Navigraph HUB. We will keep everyone up to date on this matter when something new comes around.
Fly by wire A320N support
A new development came out of visiting Fly by wire’s booth. After talking to
their head developer, we discovered that we could support the A320N and the A388 when it is released. This would require pilots to make use of a helper utility called sim bridge. It comes with the A320N and is the mode in which we would access the FMC. The Fly by wire SDK is complete and well documented. The only thing we are waiting on is access to the EFB. Without it, it is impossible to set your Sim Brief user ID and access settings.
The Beyond ATC booth had a few things in store for us as well. After talking to the lead developer about accessibility problems BVI pilots ad with ATC software in the past, he was interested in making Beyond ATC completely accessible for assistive technology. We will see what is in store for us when it is released.
Talking flight monitor presentation
Our presentation went better than expected. I don’t know the final count on attendance, but we had a few key people present. Among them were the Navigraph CEO with two other managers, some active-duty pilots, some retired pilots, and some interested hobbyists. You can access the presentations from expo by accessing your flight sim expo account or waiting until the no-share clause of our agreement is no longer valid. Once this done, anyone can watch them on YouTube for free.
Talking flight monitor’s 3rd anniversary event
Talking flight monitor is now three years hold! Happy birthday TFM! This year’s event will take us from George Bush International (KIAH) to Toronto (CYYZ) on September 2, 2023. This is the first Saturday in September. Everyone should start parking at KIAH between 11:30AM and 12:00PM EST. We hope to have everyone off the ground no later than 1:00PM EST. This is a Vatsim event, but is not required for those who don’t want to use Vatsim as their ATC. For those who want to watch the event streamed live, we will stream it live from our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/@talkingflightmonitor).
Development down time
I am having surgery on August 2, 2023. There will be at least a week of down time for initial recovery, so there will be no development progress during this time. I will reevaluate my recovery progress after the first week to see if resuming work is possible. I will keep everyone updated on my progress. My problem is not serious or critical, so I will remain stable through the recovery time. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers – I hate general anesthetic!
Talking flight monitor updates
Now, on to Talking flight monitor updates. July has been busy, so not much in terms of development has happened. We do have a new jump to runway, jump to gate, and destination runway dialog available. We will cover jump to gate and destination runway. Jump to runway has no new features at this time.
Jump to gate
Jump to gate is a dialog where pilots can enter an airport code and get a list of gates and ramps available at the given airport. In the current release of Talking flight monitor, pilots have to sift through gates and ramps to find a suitable gate or ramp to park. In the new version, pilots have the ability to narrow down the list of interested gates or ramps, making it easier to find one to use.
Destination runway is a feature that gives pilots the ability to track ILS landings with heading and altitudes instead of percentages. In the current release, pilots enter their destination airport code, choose an ILS runway and press OK. When the ILS becomes active, Talking flight monitor will start reporting ILS tracking information in heading and altitude values. In the event the system crashes or restarts, pilots have to choose their destination runway once again. This could cause problems on descent or on final approach. In the new version, pilots still enter their destination airport code and choose an available runway. However, we expanded the list of runways to include ILS and LOC only approaches. New in the destination runway dialog is a checkbox allowing the pilot to save their current destination runway for future use. When checked, the system will save the chosen airport and runway. We also included a new key command ‘destination runway info’. To access this new feature, press right bracket (]), then the letter N on the keyboard. This will announce information about the current destination runway. Now, there are safety nets in place if the system crashes or the pilot is forced to restart.
We don’t have a release date for the new Talking flight monitor, but we will keep everyone updated as we make progress. We hope to see you in the next blog post. Happy flying, and if you need anything, send us a contact us form on the website.
Welcome back to this week’s blog post. There is a lot in store for this week, so let’s get started. We put some heavy work into the PMDG 737 cockpit window, and got some panels converted. We will take a look below.
Tracking panel progress
It isn’t easy keeping track of panels and their progress when they are scattered over several blog posts. So, from now on, each blog post will list all of the completed cockpit panels, even if they were mentioned in previous posts. This will make it easier for everyone to keep track of a single list. Here are the finished panels at this point.
- Overhead: ADIRU.
- Overhead: CVR (formerly flight recorder).
- Overhead: Dome lights.
- Overhead: EEC.
- Overhead: Gear.
- Overhead: Oxygen.
- MCP box: Altitude.
- MCP box: Heading.
- MCP box: Speed.
- MCP box: Nav aids (formerly navigation or flight controls).
- MCP box: Vertical speed.
- Transponder window.
- Trim window.
PMDG 737 cockpit window
We spent a lot of time working on the PMDG 737 cockpit window and came up with some features that make the cockpit panels easier to use. Here is a list of them. Watch the video to see a demo of them at work.
- Search for panels by keyword (F2)
- Focus the panels tree (F3).
- Clear search results (F4).
- Factory reset panels (F5) [see below].
- Rearrange panels (CONTROL+UP/CONTROL+DOWN).
- Sort ascending or descending (Panels tree context menu).
- Save layout (Close the window or panels tree context menu).
We look forward to seeing you for the next blog post. Don’t forget to register for FlightSim expo going on later this month in Houston TX USA. We hope to see you there!
In last week’s blog post, we described TFM’s new user interface layout. In this blog post, we will cover what has happened since then, and cover new features. The newest: Key command help for the new TFM windows.
PMDG 737 FMC/MCP
The new PMDG 737 FMC and MCP boxes are complete. They have the same keyboard commands as before, with some additions. The FMC has two new commands: Focus line select mode indicator and toggle line select modes. As mentioned in last week’s blog post, the line select mode indicator is a constant reminder of the active line select mode. It has the following indications.
- D – Default line select keys. These are CONTROL 1-6/ALT 1-6.
- A – Alternate – These are F1-F12.
Toggle line select keys will switch the FMC between the default and alternat key sets. To access the available keyboard commands in the FMC, press CONTROL+SHIFT+F1 from anywhere in the FMC window. The PMDG 737 MCP boxes are now complete. The key commands are the same as before, with the following additions.
- Auto brake – Use the auto brake key commands from anywhere in the speed box. There is no need to focus on it first.
- Speed brake – Use the key commands for the speed brake from anywhere in the speed box. There is no need to focus on it first.
To see the key commands for any of the MCP boxes, press F1 while in an MCP box. Example: When in the altitude box, pressing F1 shows all key commands available for the altitude box. Until next week… happy flying!
It has been a while since we last posted. We have been quite busy getting some fun and interesting things done with TFM. The big news: A new user interface! The rest of the blog post will explain.
Upgrading to dotnet 7.0
TFM currently uses dotnet framework 4.8, which is fairly old. The concern is when Microsoft discontinues support for dotnet 4.8, TFM will no longer get security fixes and critical bug fixes in its underlying libraries. Some time after that, TFM may no longer be safe to use from a security standpoint. Considering this, it would benefit us to upgrade TFM to dotnet 7.0. It is the newest .net framework, is more secure, implements current programming practices, and is generally faster than .net 4.8. We recommend anyone who uses or is interested in TFM, install the dotnet 7.0 runtime.
A new user interface
Along with the dotnet 7.0 upgrade, we are switching out TFM’s current user interface elements for new ones. As a result, you will notice a few things.
- We have to back track through TFM and rebuild its UI, so new features are currently on hold.
- The current preview is no longer supported. When we get significant portions of the new TFM done, we will release preview builds as before.
- Portions of the new TFM are the same as the current version, and other portions are significantly different than before.
- Any bugs reported on the official and preview builds are held for historical sake, and won’t be fixed in 23.3 releases. They will be carried over to the new TFM, provided they are present going forward.
Users should see a significant increase in speed, less errors and bugs, and more stability from the new user interface. We are also increasing TFM’s accessibility with assistive technology such as screen readers, braille displays, and magnifiers.
There are limitless possibilities with the new user interface elements we are now using. The below list outlines some new features in the new user interface.
- It is generally faster than the old one.
- If a control has a key command, it can be clearly labeled.
- Generally, we can fix long standing bugs in the old TFM.
- New features are easier to build, and will take less time.
- TFM won’t be as resource intense as the old one.
We aren’t putting any deadline on the conversion. We ask everyone be patient and wait until we say that the new user interface is safe to use.
New TFM features
As already mentioned, TFM can bring you new features with the new dotnet upgrade and user interface rebuild. Here are some of the new features we are working on.
FMC new features
- Faster performance. The new FMC is roughly 3 times faster than the old one.
- Increased refresh rate from 30 seconds to 10 seconds.
- The caret remains at its current location in the display after an auto refresh.
- Includes an indicator that displays the current line select keys in use. A = alternate; d = default.
- Change line select key sets on the fly with CTRL+L while working in the FMC.
- All controls have clearly labeled names and key commands.
- Pressing ENTER now types the scratchpad text into the FMC.
- Pressing the clear button clears the TFM and PMDG scratchpad. When the scratchpad is cleared, TFM announces that it is now clear.
- The font size increases or decreases as the FMC window size changes.
In general, you will see some of the following new features.
- Controls in a window, especially small ones, will resize as the window resizes.
- New controls such as a toggle button. Instead of using the words ‘on’ or ‘off’ for on/off controls, TFM can now use the pressed state of a toggle button to indicate the on/off state of an aircraft switch. An example is auto throttle. If TFM announces ‘auto throttle button pressed,’ it means auto throttle is turned on. Otherwise, it is turned off. This eliminates the old indicators which were bulky and time consuming to use.
- TFM can now indicate the state of an aircraft switch with color. If the switch is on (toggle button pressed), it changes the background color to green and the text on the button to white. This makes it easier for sighted users to spot turned on switches.
There is much more possible than what we can put in a blog post. However, we will keep everyone updated on the current status of the new TFM redesign.
Don’t forget FlightSim expo on June 23-25, 2023. We are presenting on Sunday June 25 at 10:00AM EST. The entire weekend of presentations is streamed live if you register for online access. We hope to see you in person. If not, we will see you online!
Welcome back to another blog post. It has been a few weeks since the last post, so let’s get caught up. We don’t have any newly completed features to show. However, we do have some points to consider when creating a balance between functionality and ease of use in TFM’s user interface.
More features aren’t always better.
For the past few weeks, we have been working on the SimBrief flight plan features. Several areas of the flight plan have lists of things like airports, aircraft settings, waypoints, etc. One could say that it is better to build a nice looking user interface which has all of the bells and whistles. On the other hand, a balance between user interface and ease of use is in order. Creating a highly complex user interface to allow column reordering, hiding and showing different columns, and allowing these settings to persist across restarts is good to have. It means the user can customize as much of the user interface as they wish. However, we don’t want to create busy work for the user, forcing them to lose the whole point of TFM or the SimBrief flight plan features. So, what does this mean for TFM? Read below.
The SimBrief window
The SimBrief window is split into different sections. The window mirrors most other TFM windows with the tree view on the left and the content on the right 2/3rds of the screen. Our focus today is the SimBrief navlog.
The navlog window
The navlog window has a list view that displays the waypoints in the flight plan. The most commonly used columns are present. They are ident, type, name, distance, and altitude. There are around 40 other columns that aren’t included in the list of waypoints. To access them, bring up the context menu for the navlog list, then click on more details… A new window will open. The remaining information will appear in the text field in the more details window. To close the more details window, press ALT+F4. You will also have the ability to hide and show columns that are included in the navlog list. To show or hide them, bring up the navlog’s context menu, navigate to show/hide columns. Open this menu to see the columns and their current state. Click on a column name to show or hide it in the list. The other sections of the SimBrief window will have similar features to help customize the user interface.
The next preview build
The next preview build will come when the SimBrief window is mostly finished. We hope to have it done and released as a preview before Flightsim Expo in June.
Life has been busy over the past few weeks. Most of it related to TFM. This week’s blog post isn’t going to be very long. However, it has important points to take note of during the next few months. Our main topics this week are concerns about first officer pro/next, SimBrief, and SimFlight Expo in June 2023.
What about the PMDG 747?
We will continue support for the PMDG 747 series. However, other matters take priority. We will continue the 747 later this spring/summer. See the following sections for the reasons why we postponed the 747 cycle.
Concerns about first officer pro/next
We aren’t involved with first officer pro/next development. However, we did make some recommendations some time ago on how to make FSO more accessible. Unfortunately, most of those recommendations weren’t implemented, nor plan to be implemented any time soon. This is a cause for concern in the future. To address those concerns, we started working on our own first officer. So far, it is for the PMDG 737. We are starting with manual flows, then will work into auto flows later on. There isn’t a time on when it will be finished, so stay tuned in for future updates. The reasons why we pushed first officer/flows to the top of the list are below.
- Accessibility is an unknown in future first officer updates.
- It appears that first officer pro/next is expanding into other things, straying away from a first officer addon.
- First officer seems to progressively get more difficult to understand and use.
We are starting support for the popular SimBrief flight planning service found at www.simbrief.com. To support the first officer features in the PMDG 737, we have to move SimBrief support to the top of the list, pushing the PMDG 747 down to the bottom of the to-do list. So far, TFM has support for the basic parts of the navlog in the flight plan. For those who build TFM from source, you can find the navlog by validating your SimBrief user ID (a 6+ digit number) in TFM settings, then pressing right bracket, then CONTROL+SHIFT+B to open the SimBrief flight plan window. Note that the SimBrief flight plan window is under development and will change before it comes out in a preview build.
Flight sim expo
We are getting ready for Flight Sim Expo in June of 2023. The Expo takes place in Houston Texas, United States from June 23 – 25 2023. We are on the schedule and will give an update on TFM since the last time it was presented at Flight sim expo. For those attending in person, we will be there to meet you face-to-face. We hope to see you there. Updates on presentation time will be announced when we are close to that time.
Introducing weather center
Talking flight monitor would like to introduce its new state of the art feature called weather center. Weather center allows pilots to check the weather at their aircraft’s current location. It will track temperatures, wind, and clouds. It also features a customizable wind command, allowing pilots the ability to choose which wind conditions to include in the wind command’s output. Other customizable features will come in future preview releases as time permits. Each of the sections of weather center are covered below.
Wind layers are those atmospheric layers that have different wind conditions. Pilots can explore each layer of wind conditions in the weather center by pressing right bracket, CONTROL+W to start weather center, then navigating to the wind section. When pressing TAB, each pilot will be presented with a list containing the wind layers. Using up and down arrows will navigate between the layers. Each layer has seven different elements that represent the wind conditions. They include upper altitude, direction, speed, gusts, turbulence, visibility, and wind shear.
Temperature layers are those atmospheric levels representing the temperature at a given altitude range. Pilots can open the weather center and navigate to temperatures to explore each atmospheric layer of temperature. When focused on the list of layers, using up and down arrows will navigate between each temperature layer. Each layer has different elements associated with it. These elements include base altitude (lower altitude of the layer, day temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius, and the nighttime variant.
Pilots can explore cloud conditions after opening weather center by navigating to the clouds section. When focused on the cloud layers list, pilots can explore each cloud layer by using the up and down arrows. As with the other layer types, the cloud layers give different elements to the weather conditions at each cloud layer. Some of these include cloud type, icing conditions, turbulence lower and upper altitude, cloud coverage, and more. Altitudes. In future releases, pilots will be able to press a keyboard command to check the cloud conditions at their current location.
Wind command settings
Previously, pilots could press right bracket, I to get a wind report at their current position. It included a fixed set of elements. From now on, pilots can choose what elements are included in the output from the wind command. To do this, navigate toTFM’s settings area, then find the weather section in the tree. Expand the weather category and then navigate to wind command (output). When navigating through this window, check the boxes for the elements you want included in the wind command, and uncheck the ones you want excluded from the wind command. These settings will persist across TFM restarts.
The weather center also features an automatic refresh rate. To set this, navigate to TFM settings area, find the weather category and expand it. Navigate to auto refresh and set the refresh rate in number of minutes. For example, setting the refresh rate to 10 will set the refresh rate to 10 minutes.
The weather center will also feature automatic announcements of different weather conditions such as entering and exiting clouds, different icing conditions, turbulence changes, shear changes, and others as time permits. To turn these on or off, navigate to TFM settings area, expand the weather category and navigate to automatic announcements. Navigating this area will allow pilots to turn these on or off. Check the boxes for the elements you want TFM to automatically announce, and uncheck those boxes for the elements TFM should not automatically announce.
Future updates will continue after the first release of the weather center. Some of them include the ability to provide an airport ICAO code to check weather conditions at an airport, or even a GPS coordinate pair to check conditions elsewhere. Other updates and features will depend on community feedback. If you wish to contact us, do so at www.talkingflightmonitor.com, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.